The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen | @wordsofhelen @MichaelJBooks @sriya__v | #blogtour #guestpost

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen. My thanks to Sriya at Michael Joseph for the invitation to join! Author Helen Cullen visits my blog today to talk about the importance of music in her novel but first, here is what The Lost Letters of William Woolf is all about.

Author : Helen Cullen
Title : The Lost Letters of William Woolf
Pages : 416
Publisher : Michael Joseph
Publication date : May 2, 2019 (paperback)

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Inside East London’s Dead Letters Depot, William Woolf unites lost mail with its intended recipient. White mice, a miniature grandfather clock and a full suit of armour are among the more unusual items lost then found thanks to William’s detective work.

But when he discovers a series of letters addressed only to ‘My Great Love’, everything changes. Written by Winter to a soulmate she hasn’t yet met, her heartfelt words stir William in ways he has long forgotten. Could they be destined for him? But what about his troubled marriage?

William must follow the clues in Winter’s letters to solve the mystery of his own heart.

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

| GUEST POST |

The importance of music in The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen

One of the great joys of writing my debut novel, The Lost Letters of William Woolf, was undoubtedly creating the soundtrack to accompany the story. This curation of songs allowed me to indulge in the perfect intersection of my two great loves; music and literature. 

It was a moment of great revelation for me as I was developing each character when I realised who each of their favourite artists were; knowing what music they chose to listen to at pivotal moments in the narrative. Understanding, for example, that William Woolf was listening to The Smiths as he strolled through Dublin city made the whole scene crackle with life for me; I could place myself in the very heart of him. Understanding that Clare’s musical heroine was Kate Bush gave me insight into the longings she nursed in private; the artistic instincts that she was working hard to oppress. Discovering that Winter’s favourite band was The Cure reinforced in me her melancholic disposition, and how art could articulate sadness for her in a way that was restorative, uplifting and ultimately joyful. Situating the novel in the late 80s allowed me to revel in the music that I loved from that time.

Every day, before I began to write, I would choose a song to listen to that encapsulated for me the energy or the feeling of the scene I wanted to work on. Sinking into the music, the physical world around me would slip away, and I was able to cross the bridge from the reality of life to the imaginary world of the novel. It’s a practice I have continued now while writing my second novel.

The William Woolf playlist is an eclectic one; I would love to think that as readers follow the story, they might pause and look up the songs that are mentioned and play them as they read, to experience the music as the characters do, to activate their aural senses as their imaginations conjure the world before them. If they do, I hope they enjoy the musical rollercoaster and that it deepens their connection with the narrative. The playlist follows and you can listen to it on Spotify here. I hope you enjoy it! 

The Lost Letters of William Woolf Playlist

1. Chet Baker – Old Devil Moon 

2. David Bowie – Wild is The Wind 

3. Nina Simone – My baby just cares for me 

4. The Cure – Pictures of You 

5. Kate Bush – Hounds of Love 

6. Beethoven – Moonlight Piano Sonata

7. Culture Club – Karma Chameleon 

8. Sonny & Cher – I got you babe 

9. Madonna – Like A Prayer 

10. The Platters – The Great Pretender

11. Leonard Cohen – Suzanne 

12. George Michael – Careless Whisper

13. Michael Dees – What are you doing for the rest of your life?

14. The Undertones – Teenage Kicks

15. The Bangles – Eternal Flame

16. The Smiths – There is a Light and It Never Goes Out 

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Helen Cullen is an Irish writer living in London. She worked at RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) for seven years before moving to London in 2010. In the UK, Helen established a career as an events and engagement specialist before joining the Google UK marketing team in 2015.

The first draft of her debut novel THE LOST LETTERS OF WILLIAM WOOLF was written while completing the Guardian/UEA novel writing programme under the mentorship of Michèle Roberts. Helen holds an M.A. Theatre Studies from UCD and is currently completing an M.A. English Literature at Brunel University.

Helen is now writing full-time and working on her second novel.

White Leaves of Peace by Tracey Iceton | @BultiauwBooks | #blogtour #guestpost

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for White Leaves of Peace by Tracey Iceton. My thanks to Karen Bultiauw for the invitation to join. White Leaves of Peace is the final instalment in the Celtic Colour Trilogy and today, Tracey visits my blog to talk about the research that went into this series.

Author : Tracey Iceton
Title : White Leaves of Peace
Series : Celtic Colours Trilogy #3
Pages : 200
Publisher : Cinnamon Press
Publication date : March 4, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

The final part of the explosive Celtic Colours Trilogy. When the big men get around the table on Good Friday of 1998 and sign up to peace in Northern Ireland nine year old Cian Duffy’s story should have ended. Instead it is the beginning of a decade of Troubles for him. Haunted by his mother’s IRA past and chased by present day violence sectarianism, Cian ends up being forced to flee peace-torn Belfast. Facing a life in exile, he reconciles himself the past and makes a new life for himself, somewhere he feels he belongs. 

Then Britain votes for Brexit; the old adage of England’s difficulty being Ireland’s opportunity is tabled yet again and Cian has to confront the past and the future. 

White Leaves of Peace is a stark reminder that ending a war takes more than the signing of a treaty. Peace is hard won. You have to fight for it.

Available to buy from Amazon UK

| GUEST POST |

Researching the Celtic Colours Trilogy

The Celtic Colours trilogy has been my most heavily researched fiction project, weaving real historical events into the plots and using real people as characters alongside invented characters and imagined storylines.  Doing so I discovered the advantages of research-based fiction writing.

Parts one and two, Green Dawn at St Enda’s and Herself Alone in Orange Rain required extensive research.  Green Dawn, set 1911-1916, tells the story of fictional schoolboy Finn Devoy who ends up fighting in the Dublin Easter Rising.  I knew little about the topic so read widely and visited relevant places, including the Pearse Museum in Dublin which is as it was when it was St Enda’s.  This all helped recreate period and place in the book and ensure accuracy.  Orange Rain is set during the 1980s, when I was a child.  The book centres on Caoilainn Devoy, Finn’s granddaughter, and her experiences as an IRA volunteer.  Again it needed much research, reading accounts by/about IRA women and uncovering pertinent facts.  I also talked to people who lived through this period and drew on that during the writing.  Though somewhat problematic, this firsthand research added an extra dynamic, bringing the story to life for me; I hope this comes over in the novel.

Set in my own lifetime, I thought White Leaves of Peace would require the least research.  I was wrong.  When did ipods come out?  What was the craze in kids’ toys in 1998?  Who was in the charts in the early 2000s?  I made work for myself by having the main character, Cian Duffy (Caoilainn’s son) be a computer nerd and I’m expecting letters from IT experts pointing out my ‘tech’ errors.  More significantly, reading around events in Northern Ireland during the period I realised how much I didn’t know, news that didn’t cross the Irish sea.  It was a lesson to never assume I know what I need to in order to write about something.  I also did more firsthand research, talking to people who knew what Cian’s life would have been like which was invaluable.  And I was able to draw on my own experiences, particularly for the Australia section of the novel – I lived there for a year.  If you can use what you know you should, although I wouldn’t let lack of knowledge restrict me.  If a topic interests me enough to write about it, it interests me enough to research it also.

So to anyone considering research-heavy novel projects I say don’t be deterred.  Researching can take fiction to exciting places, uncovering unexpected angles to stories and introducing writers to people who will make for engaging characters.  Researching, although time-consuming, can make writing easier, giving you a framework for the story.  And truth really can be wilder than fiction so why not use it to your advantage?

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Tracey Iceton is an author and creative writing tutor from Teesside who completed a PhD in creative writing at Northumbria University. An English teacher experienced in delivering creating writing courses and workshops, Tracey won the 2013 HISSAC short story prize for ‘Butterfly Wings’, was runner up in the 2013 and 2014 Cinnamon Press short story competitions with ‘Slag’ and ‘As the world (re)turns’, which appear in the anthologies Journey Planner and Patria. She also won the 2011 Writers Block NE Home Tomorrow Short Story Competition and has been shortlisted for the 2012 Bristol Short Story Competition with ‘Apple Shot’ and the 2015 Mslexia Women’s Short Story Competition for ‘Ask Not’. 

Green Dawn at St Enda’s, her debut novel and part one of her Celtic Colours Trilogy, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2016 followed by Herself Alone in Orange Rain in 2017. White Leaves of Peace is the final part of the companion trilogy. 

Tracey regularly reads at literary events. Her stories have appeared in; Prole, Litro, Neon, Tears in the Fence, The Momaya Annual Review, The Yellow Room and Writer’s Muse. 

You can find her online on her website www.trywriting.co.uk.

Toys in the Dust by N.M. Brown | @normthewriter @Bloodhoundbook | #blogtour #guestpost #extract

It’s a real pleasure to welcome author N.M. Brown to the blog today to talk about what inspired him to write his latest book, Toys in the Dust! I’ll also be sharing a teaser but first, let’s see what his new book is all about.

Author : N.M. Brown
Title : Toys in the Dust
Series : Leighton Jones #3
Pages : 252
Publisher : Bloodhound Books
Publication date : March 20, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Two seven-year-old girls, Tina and Suzy, are playing in a dusty creek when a stranger appears and strikes up a conversation. He is sad that he doesn’t have a doll to play with like the girls do, so Suzy hurries home to fetch one. When she returns, Suzy discovers both Tina and the stranger have vanished. 

A short while later, traffic officer Leighton Jones, who is fighting his own demons, is driving home from the scene of a near-fatal accident. When Leighton sees a young girl race out in front of his car and vanish into the countryside, he reports the sighting. Unfortunately, his superiors, who are increasingly concerned about Leighton’s mental health, doubt the child exists. 

But after Tina’s mother confirms her daughter’s disappearance, Leighton risks his job by pursuing his own investigation of the case.

Meanwhile, in the Californian countryside, a child killer is relentlessly searching for the one who got away. 

Leighton has his work cut out. But can he prove his sanity and find Tina before the stranger does?

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Wordery

| EXTRACT |

The loss had broken him; as a man and a husband he had failed. His wife had drifted out of existence, and he felt that he had allowed it to happen. This left his daughter without a mother, and stuck with a dysfunctional father. And yet this single fact – his sole responsibility – made it necessary for him to somehow make things okay for Annie. If it had been his fault that things were bad, it was also his duty to put things right. That was his only means of redemption. Now, in the absence of anyone else to share the roles, Leighton stared through his windshield and figured he would have to commit to learning how to braid hair and paint nails, and make it through. 

It was then, when Leighton was caught up in his critique of his inadequate parenting that it happened.

The figure of what appeared to be a child, if that was what the apparition was, burst suddenly out of the tall grass at the side of the road and ran blindly across the road in front of his car. In that instant, Leighton saw nothing more than a momentary orange blur in the shape of a child – there for a moment, then gone. In instinctive response, he slammed on the brakes of his car. It skidded to a squealing halt on the hot road surface. The momentum threw him forward, his seatbelt digging painfully into one shoulder. Leighton let out a deep sigh, and his hands, still fastened on the wheel, began to tremble.

‘Jesus,’ he muttered.

Having managed to coax one hand off the wheel, Leighton switched on his hazard lights, and unclipped his seatbelt. He then opened the door and climbed out. The road and the surrounding area were so quiet he could hear the faint hushing sound of the restless surf, punctuated by the chirrup of bugs in the grass. Wandering around the car, Leighton peered into the long grass, door handle-high, at the side of his car. It had been less than a minute since the child had slipped into the grass, yet the area appeared undisturbed. Leighton took a cautious step into the dusty wilderness and called out across the parched landscape.

‘Hey, kid, are you okay? Is someone with you?’ Leighton’s deep voice carried on the warm air.

He waited for a moment, standing on the road, listening intently and staring out into the panorama of grass and trees stretching toward the rocky distant hills. 

‘Can you hear me, kid?’ he yelled, and held his hand up to shield his eyes from the low afternoon sun. 

There was no answer other than the slow ripple of the needle grass and the relentless creak and whirr of the hidden oblivious insects. Staring into the wilderness, Leighton wondered for a moment if he had somehow imagined the child.

| GUEST POST |

Toys in the Dust – inspiration 

Whilst researching the other Leighton Jones novels – both of which involve people disappearing, I spent much of my time listening to true crime podcasts. These programmes covered every situation from recent abductions to historical cold cases, many of which were utterly captivating. 

Listening to programmes such as Crawlspace or Generation Why, pulls me into a rabbit hole of theories, suspects and secrets. It is perhaps the greatest possible stimulus for Crime writers. 

Occasionally, I would encounter cases that were hard to shake off. There were a couple that were particularly haunting for me. The first involved one of the most famous cold case in the United States, involving a young girl who was abducted from outside her home on a snowy afternoon.

The second case involved a group of three children who vanished from an Australian beach in the late 1960s. At the time of the disappearance kids could wander freely around, but this case shocked the nation and changed the way in which people now parent. 

Both these cases seemed to stay with me until I knew that I had to write about a child being abducted, but somehow escaping and turning the tables on her abductor. So partly, the story was driven by my own personal need to make things right – at least in the fictional world.

I also wanted to write a paired down story, which revealed a less experienced cop stumbling through things personally and professionally.

Finally, much as my first novel The Girl on the Bus is full of hidden references to serial killers (Eddie G’s diner at the start is named after Ed Gein – the real life Norman Bates, etc) in Toys in the Dust there are numerous fairytale elements, but I’ll let the reader discover them, hopefully.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Norman! I think Leighton is the perfect person to (hopefully) find Tina.

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Norman has enjoyed writing for more than two decades. He has always considered a combination of decent fiction and good coffee as providing the best way to unwind and slip out of ordinary life for a while.

Having grown up Central Scotland, he studied English at Stirling University, where he began penning poetry, drama scripts and short stories. However, his real commitment to writing resulted from spending a snowy winter attending a series of fireside writing workshops in Perth.  

More recently, Norman’s love of crime fiction led him to create the weary detective Leighton Jones. Having based his debut novel around this character, Norman felt so intrigued by him that he decided to give Jones at least two more outings.

Aside from his family, Norman’s other passion is cooking, which may explain why culinary elements always seem to creep out of his kitchen and into his stories.

Get in touch with Norman via Twitter

Punch by Kate North | @katetnorth @BultiauwBooks | #blogtour #Punch #guestpost

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Punch by Kate North! My thanks to Karen Bultiauw for the invitation to join! Author Kate North visits my blog today to talk about short stories but first, here is what Punch is all about.

Author : Kate North
Title : Punch
Pages : 114
Publisher : Cinnamon Press
Publication date : March 4, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Punch is a collection of stories exploring the uncanny, the uncomfortable and the surreal in the everyday, at home and abroad.

Whether its a man with a growth on his hand, a couple trying for a baby, a woman finishing a book, a pope with penis envy, or a bullied girl, characters throughout the collection assess their surroundings and are often forced to reassess themselves. 

Punch offers the reader a humorous and disturbing take on life in the twenty-first century.

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon UK | Wordery

| GUEST POST |

Hi, I’m Kate North and I’m absolutely thrilled that Eva has handed over the blog spot to me today for the blog tour of my short story collection Punch

I love writing short stories.  I think they are the perfect vehicle for diving into action just before the crux of things.  They also allow you to get out when you have given the reader just enough so they can imagine what might happen next for themselves.  I like short stories that stay with me, stories that unsettle or calm me in some way.  I enjoy working out how and why later.  Writers like Anna Kavan and Ali Smith are really excellent at doing this.  When I was younger I enjoyed the TV shows Tales of the Unexpected and The Twilight Zone for the same reasons.  

The stories in Punch are set in a number of places throughout the UK and across various  European countries.  They are told from a range of perspectives, young through to old, male and female.  What they all have in common is the fact that they explore the weird and how it exists in and amongst the everyday.  I am fascinated by the strange and the un-nerving, how the uncanny can emerge in the most average of settings.  Those moments when you do a double take and say to yourself, ‘did I really just see that?’, the times when you are thinking ‘am I the only person in the room who thinks this is odd?’.  In these instances you can find yourself questioning your own sanity and even facts you know to be true.  These are scenarios that I explore in my stories. I write about how characters respond, whether on a first date or having just moved into a new home.

My stories have characters who are surprised and encounter the unexpected in some way or other.  How they react to a given situation depends upon personality and background, but also on the environment in which they find themselves.  The title story of the collection follows a girl being relentlessly bullied at school, but it isn’t until she finds herself outside of the school that she feels able to respond to her tormentors.  

I also write poetry and I think that may be another reason I am drawn to the short story.  The poem and the short story have a lot in common.  The intense and the lyrical are at home in a short narrative.   You don’t necessarily want or need the expanse of a novel to think about why a character makes a specific decision or how they may react in a particular place.  I think that commuters may like these stories, they are the ideal size for a train or bus trip.  They are short, sharp tales that pack a punch, they are written to make you think.  I’m really looking forward to people reading them.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Kate! I’m always quite impressed at how much information an author can pack into a short story.

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Kate North’s first novel, Eva Shell, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2008 and her poetry collection, Bistro, in 2012. She writes and edits for a number of journals and publications.

She has a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing from Cardiff University and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. She lives and teaches in Cardiff.

Visit her website:  www.katenorth.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @katetnorth.

East of England by Eamonn Griffin | @eamonngriffin @Unbound_Digital | #RandomThingsTours #guestpost

It’s a pleasure to welcome you all to my stop on the blog tour for East of England by Eamonn Griffin. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join. Author Eamonn Griffin visits the blog today and shares ten things you didn’t know about him, but first here is what East of England is all about.

Author : Eamonn Griffin
Title : East of England
Pages : 368
Publisher : Unbound Digital
Publication date : January 24, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Dan Matlock is out of jail. He’s got a choice. Stay or leave. Go back to where it all went wrong, or simply get out of the county. Disappear. Start again as someone else.

But it’s not as simple as that.

There’s the matter of the man he killed. It wasn’t murder, but even so. You tell that to the family. Especially when that family is the Mintons, who own half that’s profitable and two-thirds of what’s crooked between the Wolds and the coast. And who could have got to Matlock as easy as you like in prison, but who haven’t touched him. Not yet.

And like Matlock found out in prison, there’s no getting away from yourself, so what would the point be in not facing up to other people?

It’s time to go home.

East of England blends a rural take on the noir thriller with a fascination with the British industrialised countryside that lies east of the Wolds, between the Humber and the Wash. Unlit byways rather than the neon-bright and rain-slicked city. A world of caravan parks, slot machines, and low-rise battery farms.

The flatlands of the east coast; decaying market towns and run-down resorts, and the distant throb of offshore windfarms. Where the smell you’re trying to get out of your clothes is the cigarette taint of old phone boxes and bus shelters, and where redemption, like life, is either hard-earned or fought for, one way or another. 

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Wordery

| GUEST POST |

Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Me

1. I’m left-handed; we’ve evolved from the right-handers, you know.

2. I used to be in a church choir when I was a kid. There are incriminating photos of a cute nature held in the family archives in case I step too far out of line.

3. I’m a big fan of part time study. Love the Open University.

4. I once had a pee standing next to Antonio Banderas.

5. I don’t drive. I lack the gene necessary to pass driving tests.

6. I’m hard on laptops. I seem to be able to break them with unpractised ease.

7. I was a film extra once. In 1990’s Memphis Belle. I’ve looked, but I haven’t seen myself in the movie, though.

8. My favourite book? Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. It never fails to astonish and amuse me in equal measure.

9. One day I’ll do a photography book about buildings that used to be cinemas. Love former cinemas, both the derelict ones and the refurbished.

10. If I’m caught and sent to the electric chair for my crimes, then my last meal would be sushi. The good stuff.

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Eamonn Griffin was born and raised in Lincolnshire, though these days he lives in north-east Wales.

He’s worked as a stonemason, a strawberry picker, in plastics factories (everything from packing those little bags for loose change you get from banks to production planning via transport manager via fork-lift driving), in agricultural and industrial laboratories, in a computer games shop, and latterly in further and higher education.

He’s taught and lectured in subjects as diverse as leisure and tourism, uniformed public services, English Studies, creative writing, film studies, TV and film production, and media theory. He doesn’t do any of that anymore. Instead he writes fulltime, either as a freelancer, or else on fiction.

Eamonn has a PhD in creative writing with the University of Lancaster, specialising in historical fiction, having previously completed both an MA in popular film and a BSc in sociology and politics via the Open University. He really likes biltong, and has recently returned to learning to play piano, something he abandoned when he was about seven and has regretted since.

The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl | @HoZ_Books @alexdahlauthor | #BoyattheDoor #LoveBooksGroup #guestpost

Today, I join the blog tour for The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl. Thanks to Kelly at LoveBooksGroups for the invitation to join. Author Alex Dahl visits my blog with a truly wonderful guest post but first, here is what the book is all about.

Author : Alex Dahl
Title : The Boy at the Door
Pages : 384
Publisher : Head of Zeus
Publication date : January 10, 2019 (first published in 2018)

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Everyone has secrets. Even those who seem to be perfect…

On a rainy October evening, Cecilia Wilborg – loving wife, devoted mother, tennis club regular – is waiting for her kids to finish their swimming lesson. It’s been a long day. She can almost taste the crisp, cold glass of Chablis she’ll pour for herself once the girls are tucked up in bed.

But what Cecilia doesn’t know, is that this is the last time life will feel normal. Tonight she’ll be asked to drop a little boy home, a simple favour that will threaten to expose her deepest, darkest secret…

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Wordery

| GUEST POST |

Not That Kind of Mother

It’s one of those days. You know, when you have so much to do at work your head is literally spinning. Your breath is shallow, your palms itchy, your entire being shaking with the ravages of your caffeine addiction. Then school calls to say your little munchkin is feeling iffy. You have little choice but to pick him up, but his illness magically evaporates as soon as you arrive home and the bored child then spends the rest of the day whinging. You wish you could stick him in front of Fortnite until two seconds before bed time, but you’re not that kind of mother, hell no, in this house there are rules and boundaries, and one of them is no gaming if off school sick. 

You put your head phones in and hope for the best. You dream about that big glass of Pinot Noir when the kids are in bed and then you remember it’s Dry January and you’re actually doing it, if only to silence the (alarming) number of friends who laughed in your face when you said you might. We all know the mummy-and-alcohol jokes- mummies love the vino a little too much because our little angels bleed us dry. But not me, oh no. I’m not that kind of mother, either. I don’t succumb to the dangerous clutches of alcohol to soothe my shot mummy nerves. 

Then your dog gets some kind of virus and stages an actual shit-show. It alternates between hysterical barking and literal general disgustingness. You clean up and plug the ear plugs back in. You’re just making a dent in your inbox when it’s time to pick up your other child. You walk, in torrential icy rain, dragging the half-squatting dog along, because you’re not the kind of mother who drives everywhere and spews more pollution into our children’s already doomed world. 

You drag the dog and the kid home, shouting snippets of French vocabulary over the downpour as you go along, why waste the opportunity to learn something? (Allez! Vite! Il faut manger! Repeat after me- mon chien s’appele Figaro, etc) You get home and decide to bake because your gluten-free low-carb six-seed paleo bread sure isn’t going to bake itself. While it is in the oven you check if anyone responded to your Mummy chat room bid for interesting vegan recipes for the whole family. And they did. Lots of them, in fact. 

What kind of psycho would make their kids go vegan? 

How the hell do your kids get protein? 

I am so sick of these goddamned vegans, go away, die, BURN! 

Your kids aren’t vegan, by the way. Perhaps you aren’t, either- it’s besides the point. The point is the fury. The judgment. The anger- the sheer, unbridled anger. It’s everywhere- in the media, in the chat rooms, at the school gates, in the way we make harmless jokes about ‘the kind of mother who…’ Why are we so angry? Why do we subject other women and ourselves to these insane, impossible demands? These questions are at the very core of my novel, The Boy at the Door. Cecilia Wilborg is consumed by appearances, obsessed with maintaining her flawless façade, at any cost. She may be an unsympathetic narcissist, but the point is that it is society’s entirely unreasonable demands on mothers that drives her to some very dark places. We are sold an idea of perfection, of having it all. We are expected to work harder and harder, while parenting our children in an ever more hands-on (smothering?) way, holding their hands well into adulthood. 

No wonder mummy needs a drink or ten to avoid cracking up. Just kidding- you’re not that kind of mother! 

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Alex Dahl is a half-American, half-Norwegian author. Born in Oslo, she wrote The Boy at the Door while living in Sandefjord.

Out of the Silence by Owen Mullen | @OwenMullen6 @Bloodhoundbook | #blogtour #guestpost

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Out of the Silence by Owen Mullen! My thanks to Emma Welton for the invitation to join. Owen joins us today to play a around of Dessert Island Must-Haves but first, let’s see what the book is all about.

Author : Owen Mullens
Title : Out of the Silence
Pages : n/a
Publisher : Bloodhound Books
Publication date : January 28, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Star investigative reporter Ralph Buchanan’s glory days are behind him. His newspaper has banished him to Pakistan, not knowing the greatest moment of his long career is waiting for him there.

When Simone Jasnin asks him to help expose a grave injustice, he finds himself embroiled in a harrowing tale that began in a dusty settlement in rural Punjab, setting in motion a chain of events that will change the lives of everyone involved.

Seven years later in the city of Lahore, members of a prominent family are being brutally murdered, one by one. The only clue is a hand-carved wooden bangle left at the scene of each crime.

As the list of suspects grows and the tension mounts, Ralph realises the answers might be closer to home than he ever thought possible.

Solving the mystery will put him back on top but at what cost?

Only when the smoke clears will the killing stop and honour be satisfied…

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Wordery

| GUEST POST |

My wife Christine set me this fun challenge… so I thought I’d share it with you.

Dessert Island Must Haves

You have been washed up on a desert island with no hope of rescue in the foreseeable future but before leaving the ship you have just enough time to grab 1 item from each of the following… Tell us what/who you would choose and why. 

A Book – I suspect that being on a dessert island may not be all its cracked up to be,  sure to be a few down days.  And,  as you’ve probably discovered, sand gets everywhere. With all of that going on I’m liable to need some spiritual uplifting.  The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho has helped me before and probably would again:  a simple tale,  simply told with a host of powerful messages on how to navigate the journey through life – and desert islands. Fantastic! 

An Album – So many to choose from, but I’d go with something from a time when music was very important to me. I was still at school when The Beatles double album – sometimes called The White Album came out.  And what an impression it made on me; great songs,  too many to mention.  Think I’ll put it on while I’m writing this. I remember teaching myself to play Blackbird in my lunchtime breaks and being over the moon  when I got it. 

A Film – Often comedy films don’t make me laugh. Having said that,  probably my favourite film of all time is…As Good As It Gets. Jack Nicholson is always great but in this movie Helen Hunt, Cuba Gooding Junior and Greg Kinnear all give him a run for his money.  The film manages to be cringe-worthy cruel,  sad and laugh-out-loud funny. No wonder it won 2 Oscars. I’ve seen it a dozen times and if I see it another dozen that will be fine with me. 

A fictional character – As a crime fiction writer I’m often asked who my favourite fictional character is and I always say Sherlock Holmes.  However,  old Sherlock would be heavy going on a desert island – out of his face on dope most of the time, because there would be no crimes to solve and he’s depressed. Then, when he gets started on his violin… couldn’t handle it.  So who would I like to be there with me?  No contest,  Patrick Logue from the Charlie Cameron series.  He would always make me laugh and if it turned out there were natives he’d soon be on first name terms. Might even keep us off the menu! Though I would have to keep my eye on him or he’d have the coconut milk out of my tea. 

A luxury item – There would be plenty of time to kill so I’d take a guitar,  I was always able to lose myself in music and I would maybe even discover that elusive 4th chord. 

A photograph – I’d take the photograph I took of Christine a few days ago in Chania. She was looking wonderful,  and I captured it. 

A weapon – I’d take a machete because it could double as a tool. And if it turned out that there were natives and they weren’t friendly, they just might think twice before attacking a mad Scotsman wielding one of these – in my head I’m seeing Braveheart🤣

One useful item – I could imagine mosquito repellent just might come in handy, but I’d go for matches to keep that signal fire burning. 

One food item – A big jar of curry powder for obvious reasons. Too long without a curry and I’d get withdrawal symptoms. 

One drink item – Coffee,  I’d definitely struggle without the bean! How could I possibly get into the day?  I’d need to get used to no Stevia though; not looking forward to that. 

One fun item – A football; nothing like a kick about on the beach! 

I already got stuck on the first question 😂. Great answers, Owen! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing this wish us!

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Owen Mullen is a McIlvanney Crime Book Of The Year long-listed novelist.

Owen graduated from Strathclyde University, moved to London and worked as a rock musician, session singer and songwriter, and had a hit record in Japan with a band he refuses to name; he still loves to perform on occasion. His passion for travel has taken him on many adventures from the Amazon and Africa to the colourful continent of India and Nepal. A gregarious recluse, he and his wife, Christine, split their time between Glasgow, and their home in the Greek Islands where In Harm’s Way and the Charlie Cameron and Delaney series’ were created and written. His latest novel Out Of The Silence is a truly compelling thriller set in Pakistan. 

The Disappeared by Sibel Hodge | @sibelhodge @Bloodhoundbook | #blogtour #guestpost

Welcome to my stop on the blog blitz for The Disappeared by Sibel Hodge! My thanks to Emma at Bloodhound Books for the opportunity join. Author Sibel Hodge joins me today to talk about her writing day but first, here is what The Disappeared is all about!

Author : Sibel Hodge
Title : The Disappeared
Pages : 318
Publisher : Bloodhound Books
Publication date : January 10, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

On a routine flight from Africa to England, Dr Mason Palmer is tragically killed when the light aircraft he’s travelling on crashes and disappears in dense bush land.

The Widow…

Ten months later, Nicole Palmer is still trying to block out the grief of her husband’s sudden death. Until one morning she receives a photo of Mason through the post, along with a cryptic message. A message only he could’ve written.

The Secret…

But when Nicole tries to find out if Mason is really alive and what actually happened to him in Africa, everyone she turns to for answers ends up dead.

Determined to find the truth, Nicole uncovers a conspiracy that spans the globe, and discovers there are powerful people who are prepared to kill to keep her silent.

Who’s lying? Who’s watching Nicole? And can she expose their murky secrets before they catch up with her?

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| GUEST POST |

My writing day…

I’m a morning person so I’m most productive first thing. My day starts at about 5 or 6 a.m., and after a cuppa while I’m checking out emails and social media I do a 30 minute yoga and meditation set. A banana and iced soya latte later and I’m good to go! 

When I’m working on my first draft I always aim to write 3000-5000 words per day. I’m a pantster, not a plotter, so I don’t have a clue what I’m going to write until the words tumble out of my head, and it’s not until I finish my first draft, when I really know I’ve got something solid, that I can properly relax. My first draft can end up anything between 45,000-70,000 words, and I tend to write shorter and add more later, rather than longer and cutting anything. Then for the editing process, which means going through it and through it, tweaking, filling plot holes, adding character’s personality, more dialogue, bits of research, etc.

Even when I’m not writing, you can often find me staring into space, thinking about the book—an idea, what I need to do next, working out a problem, imagining a character. And I can’t escape the book in my sleep because I dream about it too. There have been so many times I’ve woken up with my characters having conversations with each other, and I keep a notebook by my bed in case inspiration strikes as I’m falling asleep or during a dream. I’m living it full time, completely immersed in it. I always think being an author is like being an actor, except an author is playing all of the characters at once, getting inside all their heads and going through what they’re going through, and they’re in every scene, which can be exhausting mentally and emotionally at times. 

I write mostly at a standing desk, which I love. It’s actually a really rustic piece of wood shaped from a tree trunk. Or sometimes I’ll be sprawled on the sofa with my laptop on my knees, and often accompanied by up to seven cats that all want to get in on the action and type gobbledygook on my keyboard just for a laugh. 

It’s got to be dead quiet when I’m working. No music for me. No one talking. I need silence and calm to concentrate. Although the calmness doesn’t extend to my work space. I’ve got notes everywhere when I’m writing a novel. Snippets of ideas and dialogue, bits of research, things I need to add in. Sometimes I can have hundreds of pieces of paper scribbled with stuff. 

At my house, we (read : I) call that organised chaos 😉. Thank you, Sibel, for stopping by and sharing your writing day with us!

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Sibel Hodge is the author of the No 1 Bestsellers Look Behind YouUntouchable, and Duplicity. Her books have sold over one million copies and are international bestsellers in the UK, USA, Australia, France, Canada and Germany. She writes in an eclectic mix of genres, and is a passionate human and animal rights advocate.

Her work has been nominated and shortlisted for numerous prizes, including the Harry Bowling Prize, the Yeovil Literary Prize, the Chapter One Promotions Novel Competition, The Romance Reviews’ prize for Best Novel with Romantic Elements and Indie Book Bargains’ Best Indie Book of 2012 in two categories. She was the winner of Best Children’s Book in the 2013 eFestival of Words; nominated for the 2015 BigAl’s Books and Pals Young Adult Readers’ Choice Award; winner of the Crime, Thrillers & Mystery Book from a Series Award in the SpaSpa Book Awards 2013; winner of the Readers’ Favorite Young Adult (Coming of Age) Honorable award in 2015; a New Adult finalist in the Oklahoma Romance Writers of America’s International Digital Awards 2015, and 2017 International Thriller Writers Award finalist for Best E-book Original Novel. Her novella Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave has been listed as one of the top forty books about human rights by Accredited Online Colleges.

Author links : Facebook | Twitter | Website

Facing A Twisted Judgment by K.J McGillick | @rararesources | #blogtour #guestpost

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Facing A Twisted Judgment by K.J. McGillick! My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources. Author K.J. McGillick joins me on the blog today to talk about how she tackles writing her books. But first, here is what Facing A Twisted Judgment is all about.

Author : K.J. McGillick
Title : Facing A Twisted Judgment 
Series : Lies and Misdirection #2
Pages : 270
Publisher : KJRM Publishing LLC
Publication date : November 16, 2018

What happens when tunnel vision clouds a police investigation? Is it true that once you are labeled a person of interest you really are the prime suspect? Can you trust the legal system? Probably not.

After a bitterly contested legal battle over inherited property, the hard-won art collection and its owner Samantha Bennington disappear. Both have vanished without a trace. 

When blood spatter is discovered under the freshly painted wall of the room in which two of the paintings were hung, the theft becomes the opening act in a twisted tale of jealousy, revenge, and murder leading to a final judgment for all involved. 

As the list of suspects narrows, the focus lands squarely on the husband. Some labeled Samantha’s husband a corrupt attorney, others an opportunist. Either way, he’s in the crosshairs of law enforcement and they are calling him a murderer. But is he the only viable suspect? What about the missing woman’s drug-addicted sister and her convicted felon brother? Both were furious over their loss at court and have more than enough reason to hate Samantha. 

Guilty until proven innocent leaves Alexander Clarke facing a twisted judgment.

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Do you outline books ahead of time or are you more of a by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer?

I have tried both methods and I can’t say I like one over the other or one works better. I believe the story choses the method as opposed to the writer.

My first book THREE: Deception Love Murder came upon the heels of months of research about the craft of writing. The research I did I saved at http://writingresearch.homesteadcloud.com/. Using all this research I felt comfortable to craft my novel. The first step involved meticulous plotting of the story chapter by chapter with lots of attention to detail. The second step encompassed the fleshing out of characters down to physical attributes, flaws and where they fell on the Myers Briggs testing. I could have drafted the novel at this point but instead purchased thirty poster boards, lots of tape and found pictures that story boarded how I wanted my story to progress. Now I was ready. The subject research came after twenty years of museum visits, many PBS documentaries, and many art appreciation classes. Once I started the novel, the story unfolded naturally. 

My second book TWO: Mind Games and Murder was a book written somewhat by the seat of my pants. Again, the subject matter research accumulated in my mind over many years and a few Google searches updated the statistics I needed. Although I knew about black market organ trafficking things had changed over the years and I needed new information. My outline was sparse and consisted of a page that included the seven points I needed to hit to provide plot development. This book was an easy write. My law practice exposed me to women who were victims of emotional abuse and gas lighting and thus my book gave them a voice. Complex characters who didn’t understand their own motivations gave me a great deal to work with and allowed my story to unfold as it wanted leading to a great story.

My third book ONE: Rage Vengeance and Murder was the most difficult to write of the long and grueling subject research. I chose not to do an outline for the book, felt I knew my characters from the second book. However, the lack of a formal outline led to two full manuscripts being trashed and unnecessary frustration. The only way to open my mind to complete the trilogy involved a trip to Denver for a few days and start the new and final version in a new place to allow my mind to breathe. 

My fourth book The Last Lie She Told was back to the tried-and-true formula that worked for me the first time. I opened my power point and completed in detail my one-page Essential Scenes in Every Story seven-point wheel and a character analysis. 

My fifth book Facing a Twisted Judgment I opened  my Word document and started to write without a safety net. I had no idea where I was going and the only thing I knew was the story’s main character would be a ethically challenged lawyer. I had no plot, story line or blurb and trust my mind to let the story unfold.   

I believe as Lee Child that some books need to be written by the seat of your pants so even you don’t know where the story will take you to keep your interest. 

K. J. McGillick was born in New York and once she started to walk she never stopped running. But that’s what New Yorker’s do. Right?

As she evolved so did her career choices. After completing her graduate degree in nursing she spent many years in the university setting sharing the dreams of the enthusiastic nursing students she taught. After twenty rewarding years in the medical field she attended law school and has spent the last twenty-four years as an attorney helping people navigate the turbulent waters of the legal system. Not an easy feat. And now? Now she is sharing the characters she loves with readers hoping they are intrigued by her twisting and turning plots and entertained by her writing.

Author links : Facebook | Twitter | Website

The Merest Loss by Steven Neil | @stevenneil12 @rararesources | #blogtour #guestpost

Happy Sunday and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Merest Loss by Steven Neil. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation to join. Author Steven Neil joins me on the blog today to talk about researching and writing historical fiction. But first, here is what The Merest Loss is all about.

Author : Steven Neil
Title : The Merest Loss
Pages : 368
Publisher : Matador
Publication date : November 28, 2017

A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.

When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet? 

Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father? 

The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet’s relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery. 

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Independent Author Network | Goodreads

Researching and writing historical fiction

In many ways, writing historical fiction is no different to writing any other fiction. The author still has to think about the five key elements of novel writing i.e.

  1. Point of view
  2. Plot
  3. Setting
  4. Character
  5. Dialogue.

In addition to these consideration however, there are particular issues which need to be borne in mind if the historical fiction novel is to come across as a credible representation of the period being described.

In writing 19th century historical fiction, as well as specific research in reference books, I always read widely the dominant fiction of the time e.g. Trollope, Dickens, Hardy, Thackeray, to assimilate the sound and feel of the age. I have also developed a number of questions I pose to myself whilst I am researching and planning my novel and I share some of them with you here.

Point of view

What point of view best suits the story you are telling? This seems a rather obvious question but there is a reason why Trollope and Hardy used the omniscient narrator: they wanted to be in complete control of the characters and to manage the reader by knowing everything, by contrast with their characters, who don’t. In this way there is almost a conspiracy between writer and reader at the expense of the characters.

Of course, Trollope and Hardy were living in the 19th century and could sustain an all knowing perspective with reasonable ease. What the contemporary writer has to ask, if they are to write credibly in a 19th century setting, is whether they have done the research necessary to replicate an omniscient narrator. It took me a long time researching to satisfy myself on that point.

Plot

Is this turn of events plausible and credible for the time?

What assumptions are being made about the law, the state of politics, the monarchy, the church, the class system?

Do the events fit with what is happening in the historical timeline and background to events e.g. war, peace, political turmoil, the economy, religion.

Readers will suspend disbelief up to a point (albeit different points for different readers), it is, after all, fiction but if it doesn’t ‘ring true’ you may lose your reader.

Setting

Did that park, that building, that street, that room actually exist at that time?

Would it have looked like that?

Would the flora and fauna have looked like that?

Would the clothing have been worn in that way?

Would the lighting, heating, glazing, transport means have looked like that?

There is a famous story told by Ian McEwan, who was assiduous in his medical research for the novel Saturday, who was berated by a reader because he had a driver easing his particular Mercedes 500 SEL into first gear, when, according to the complainant, this particular version only came in automatic, so the correct phrase would have been to put it into drive. Some people!

Character

Is it likely that someone would behave like that at that time?

What cultural norms and standards of behaviour existed and are the characters conforming to them?

Does the way someone is behaving fit with what you have already described about their education, social class, sex, prejudices, opinions?

Is there continuity of character; is the character suddenly and inexplicably behaving in a way that the reader will struggle to accept?

Characters can be complex and may sometimes behave unusually, but I am told that one of the most common phrases amongst book club members is along the lines of ‘I didn’t think he/she would have done that and that spoiled the story for me.’ Beware!

Dialogue 

Is this how people really spoke at that time?

Would they have used those words?

Are modern idioms creeping into your draft?

Is the way someone is speaking consistent with a character from the 19th century and from chapter to chapter?

As a rule, speakers in the 19th century did not preface their statements with ‘Do you know what’ and other ubiquitous, meaningless phrases but they are so wired in to modern expression that it can sometimes be hard to keep them out.

This is far from an exhaustive set of questions but asking these sorts of questions early in the research period and at the planning stage will save work later on when you are editing. It is very easy to become ‘snow blind’ during the editing phase and I find it much harder to catch glaring errors at a late stage than it is to filter them out at an early stage.

© Steven Neil

Steven Neil has a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics, a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the Open University and an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. In his working life he has been a bookmaker’s clerk, management tutor, management consultant, bloodstock agent and racehorse breeder. He is married and lives in rural Northamptonshire.

Author links : Facebook | Twitter