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I am delighted to welcome you to another Celebrating Indie Publishing post and share an interview with a lovey and interesting author. Today’s author sitting squarely in the spotlight is Chris Parker, someone with an impressive back catalogue and equally fascinating life.
Read on and see what you think!

Chris Parker is a specialist in Communication and Influence. His fascination with the power of words and how they can be used to create intrapersonal and interpersonal change began in 1976. It became a lifelong study that has underpinned almost four decades of work in a variety of professional roles and contexts. A Licensed Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Chris is a highly experienced management trainer, business consultant, lecturer and writer. He has more lines on his face than most and is afraid to read them.

Faith, the thrilling final book in the Marcus Kline trilogy, published in September 2018.

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

That’s a challenge to answer because there are so many things I love about being an author!
I really enjoy every aspect of the writing process, from idea conception to editing the proofs. I love the relationship you can build with a creative and committed publisher – and working with Kerry-Jane and Matthew at Urbane Publications is just a delight! To date, Matthew has published seven of my books and every one has been a collaborative and positive experience.
I absolutely love the challenge and thrill of the blank screen or the empty sheet of paper before I begin writing. I see that space as an invitation to explore and create. I also very much enjoy the diversity of my writing work. I’m lucky enough to spend my time writing novels, poetry and non-fiction, and I find them all equally rewarding in very different ways. 
Overall, though, if I have to select my most favourite thing about being an author, it is the countless opportunities it provides to research and learn about people and things that I would, otherwise, have never encountered.
Most recently, as research for my new novel, ‘Monk’, I was fortunate enough to spend several days at The West Midlands Police Dog Training Centre, learning how to train dogs to the highest possible level.
For the Marcus Kline trilogy of novels, I spent literally hundreds of hours learning from a highly experienced former Detective Chief Inspector and one of the country’s leading QCs.
Beyond the fiction, I have studied, learnt from and written books with, or about, some amazing experts. For example, I co-wrote ‘Campaign It!’ with Alan Barnard, who is one of the world’s leading authorities on campaigning communications, and ‘The Brain Always Wins’ with Dr John Sullivan, a highly experienced Clinical and Sports Psychologist. In-between writing those two books, I spent four years studying three of the best restaurants in Britain and came to know some unbelievably talented and motivated people. 

So, I guess the short answer to your question is: My favourite thing is the learning that writing enables and the brilliant people who have welcomed me into their world and who have inspired me enormously.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?
Identifying my least favourite thing is easy – although, I do have to say it is a thing that does also have a positive side. It’s this: I still get angry with myself when I read some of my published work and realise that I could have written it better. I hate the feeling that I’ve let down my publisher, my audience and myself. On a positive note, though, if I can recognise errors that I previously couldn’t, it does mean that I have improved as a writer.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

‘Catch 22’ by Joseph Heller. I think it’s as close to perfect as it’s possible to get. I have long been of the opinion that writing a necessary and brilliant first chapter in a novel is about as difficult as anything can be for a writer. The reason for this is, that if the chapter is vital, characters and/or the narrator will refer to the events that happen in it as the book progresses and the plot unfolds. Given that, you probably don’t need the chapter in the first place! Conversely, if the chapter isn’t vital it won’t be referred to and, therefore, is unnecessary. ‘Catch 22’ not only has a vital and engaging first chapter, it has my favourite opening sentences of any novel.
They read:
‘It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain, he fell madly in love with him.’
I would be thrilled if one day I could get close to starting a novel as well as that.

How do you spend your time when you are not writing?

I am one of those very lucky people who is living a life doing what he loves!
I lecture part-time at Nottingham Trent University. I teach on undergraduate and postgraduate courses, focussing primarily on Sport and Leisure Management. My particular area of study is interpersonal and intrapersonal communication and influence.
On a personal note, I have been studying and practising Malaysian martial arts and meditation since the mid 1970s. They are both still part of my daily routine.
Most important of all, I spend as much time as I possible can with my wonderful wife, Mairi.

Do you have a set routine for writing? Rituals you have to observe? i.e specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

Whenever possible, I write early in the morning immediately after my first meditation session of the day and late at night before my second meditation session. However, sometimes my schedule allows me to go into what I think of as ‘writing camp’ for six or seven weeks. Then I focus full-time, without distraction, on writing whatever manuscript I’m working on. I really enjoy the intensity of ‘writing camp’, but my brain is always ready for a rest once it is over.
Beyond scheduling, the only other answer I can offer is that I have a Dupont fountain pen that I am hugely fond of and that I use on a daily basis. I always have a notebook with me and I take every chance I get to handwrite rather than type.

What’s on the horizon?

I have just signed a contract with Urbane to write my book on interpersonal communication and influence. It is called ‘The Power of Words’. Essentially, it’s a distillation of my forty-plus years of study, practice and teaching on the subject. It will be a practical, easy-reading and, hopefully, engaging book that will be of value to anyone who needs to influence others positively, powerfully and ethically.

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be?

Ha-Ha! I really don’t think I have anything I dare offer. So instead, if I may, I will quote the very wonderful Middle Eastern mystic and martial artist, Epiah Khan. He wrote many things that have influenced me profoundly.
One of his sayings is:

‘Treat your name as a verb
  rather than a noun;
whenever you say or hear it
remember you are a work in progress.’

I’ll offer that as a ‘pearl of wisdom’ from a much wiser source than me.

Can you tell me a little about your latest book? How would you describe it and why should we go read it?

My new novel, ‘Monk’, the first in The Dark Steps Series, published by Urbane Publications, has been described as a ‘compelling, clever and page turning thriller in the best traditions of Dan Brown and Michael Byrnes’.
I would say it’s a fast-paced thriller based on historical and religious facts and secrets. It incorporates plot twists to the very end. It is filled with interesting characters, including some amazing dogs. There are some challenging relationships. There’s plenty of action and, ultimately, it addresses an issue of worldwide significance.
It’s a story I first developed in the early 1990s. Matthew Smith and myself talked about it quite a few years ago. Now it’s here. And I have to say, I’m delighted with the result. For me, at least, it’s definitely been worth the wait. I hope readers think so, too.

My thanks to Chris for taking part today and being so open about his life, his writing and thoughts.

 

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  • Title: The Crown Agent
  • Authors: Stephen O’Rourke
  • Publisher: Sandstone Press
  • Publication Date: 7th November 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:
In 1829, disillusioned young doctor, Mungo Lyon, is recruited by the Crown to investigate a mysterious murder and shipwreck off the coast of Scotland. His adventures lead him on a pursuit across the Scottish countryside, to kidnap and treason, an unwanted trip to the West Indies, an insurrection and love.

My Thoughts:
I can see why Stephen O’Rourke won a a short story competition in 2012 when he used the basis for this story as his submission, and I am mightily glad that he went on to write The Crown Agent in all it’s glory. This is a stunning book, the plotting is superb, characterisation is brilliant and I loved the style of writing.

Every so often, there’s a book that blows you away and I admit, I have been pretty lucky recently as there have been a few books that have stopped me in my tracks and pulled me in to discover the worlds inside their covers. The Crown Agent is one of those books, while I read it I was very aware of how invested I was in the story, feeling a great intrigue about the characters and their schemes, wondering what was going to happen to our disillusioned protagonist and how would he get out of this seemingly impossible situation!

Dr Mungo Lyon becomes involved with an investigation of murder and shipwreck on behalf of the Crown after those in the medical profession find their reputations blackened after the fallout of the body snatching escapades of Burke and Hare. But he has no idea of the danger that lies ahead on his journey, nothing is as it seems and help comes in the most unlikely forms. Weaving through the Scottish countryside, readers are treated to some wonderfully atmospheric scenes, and the vivid descriptions allow crisp mental images to form of the barges used, the rugged terrain and the ports of call along the way. I found myself carried off with the descriptions, I could imagine it all so clearly and it had me keen to go off and look up images online to compare.

Historical tales are always fascinating when they cover aspects I’m not always overly familiar with and I have to say that I felt I’d learned something from reading this book. Although this book is a work of fiction, a lot of research has gone in to making it fit the period of the setting, and making the characters feel authentic and realistic. The plotting is clever, the writing is crisp and O’Rourke sets a pace that keeps readers turning pages as they devour the information to find out the fate of Dr Mungo Lyon.

I think this is a book that fans of historical fiction will be desperate to get their hands on!

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I am so utterly thrilled to be able to share my thoughts on Barbara Henderson’s latest book today. I first discovered Barbara’s books back in 2017 when I fell in love with her writing in Fir for Luck, absolutely entranced, she managed to transport me to the mind of a twelve-year-old girl at the time of the Highland Clearances in Sutherland, and since then I have eagerly awaited news of each new book that Barbara writes. Today is publication day for Black Water, the latest bookish wonder that Barbara has crafted, and I think audiences of all ages are in for a treat!

  • Title: Black Water
  • Author: Barbara Henderson
  • Illustration : Sandra McGowan
  • Publisher: Pokey Hat (an imprint of Cranachan Publishing)
  • Publication Date: 31st October 2019

Copy received from author for review purposes.

Description:

Down by the coast, black water swirls and hides its secrets…

Dumfries, 1792. Henry may only be thirteen, but he has already begun his training in the Excise, combating smuggling like his father does. But when a large smuggling schooner is stranded nearby, the stakes are high —even with reinforcements, and the newly recruited officer, a poet called Robert Burns.

Musket fire, obstructive locals, quicksand and cannonballs —it is a mission of survival. As it turns out: Henry has a crucial part to play…

My Thoughts:

If you didn’t get an idea from the introduction above about how excited I was for this book, then let me say once again, how much I absolutely adore Barbara Henderson’s writing and the tales she weaves. The intriguing description promised a tale of excitement, adventure and a young protagonist who would learn along the way that life can be a tricky balancing act.

Henry is a young lad keen to make his father proud and be seen as a responsible, trusted … and his training in the Excise is slowly culminating in a career that will see him follow in his father’s footsteps. He fights an internal battle with seeking praise and acknowledgement from his father, he needs this to feel a sense of worth at times, he wants his father to see his as a young man making decisions, taking action … not just a foolish young boy who should be seen and not heard. This exploration of Henry’s character is done with great care and sensitivity, reminding readers that the mind of a thirteen-year-old is a complex and confusing place at times. Henderson takes readers right into the moment, giving them a wonderful insight of what it’s like to be Henry as he grows in confidence, learns vital information and becomes, ultimately, more sure of himself.

The spellbinding details that are woven throughout the exciting story give you a real treat, you can smell the briny air of the beach, you can hear the squelch of the sodden sand, and experience the trepidation of the men and the horses as they carry out their mission.
As the story builds, the level of adventure and pace increase. This goes from an exciting story to an intense read that you cannot put down. You need to know what happens next, you need to know whether Henry and the excisemen succeed and what becomes of that poet called Burns.


Guest Post:

What does a writer do on book launch day?

7.00 alarm goes. I go down in my pyjamas, throw some clothes over and walk the dog. There has been a hard frost and the city looks magical and spooky, with fog hanging low. The frozen spiders’ webs are particularly gorgeous.
8.00 A hundred little tasks before everyone is safely out of the door to school and work. Oldest is home from uni and appears, bleary-eyed, just as everyone else is leaving. I head out to shop for baking ingredients.
10.00-13.00 Most of the morning is spent on making and decorating biscuits for the launch: I’ve set my sights high: I want to make tail-less horse biscuits to represent Grey Meg from Burns’ Tam O’Shanter, as well as spooky smuggling schooners for Black Water. I use up the rest of the dough on wee anchors which work out surprisingly well.
14.00 After proof-reading a university essay for oldest, I take her to the train. I’m on my own.
14.30 Following the next dog-walk, it occurs to me that I should probably prep some dinner and get out of my pyjamas
15.30 Gathering props for the launch: a lantern, smuggling barrels, a hobby horse and an antique teapot and nautical telescope. The next conundrum: how on earth am I going to carry all of this down to Waterstones.
16.30 Dressed and showered, I begin to field some social media. To my utter consternation, there are several messages from key players at this evening’s launch. Traffic is a nightmare! Don’t think I’m going to make it. Flight’s been cancelled… My stomach knots.
17.15. Like a glittering pack-horse, I set off, carrying biscuits, props and goodness knows what else. It’s a horrible night Will people show up? Most kids are going to be guising or at school discos. My stomach knots again.
18.00 The event is supposed to start and people are filtering in. Eek, our Burns performer is not in yet, although, mercifully, the chairperson has arrived. I walk along the rows, chatting to all in an attempt to distract them from the fact that we’re running 15 minutes late.
18.15 Phew, ready to go. Actor and fellow Cranachan author Joe kicks off with his recital. Alongside Richmond Clements, whose graphic novel of Tam O’Shanter is launching at the same time, it’s not too stressful. A few questions between us before I read an extract of Black Water and get the audience to smuggle some contraband across without the Exciseman noticing. Some more questions, some more poetry, and then we’re done. There are signing queues! Actual signing queues!
20.00 The evening is far from over! All 14 #ClanCranachan authors, managers and some partners are heading out for a meal. It is so rare to get us all together; what a privilege to hang out with these guys and be part of this wee family!
22.30 When I get home, the fire is on and there are flowers and a card on the table. I am, officially, the luckiest girl alive!  

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One of the things I love most about this feature is that it brings my attention to books that I might not have normally picked up or discovered otherwise, and today’s book is one of those. Tam O’Shanter is a tale that I’ve always been aware of, indeed I heard about it at school when I was young, various aspects of it woven into other stories and popular culture but the presentation of this book really intrigued me. Adapting the work of Robert Burns and turning it into a graphic novel makes it infinitely exciting, vibrant and accessible for younger readers.

  • Title: Tam O’Shanter
  • Author: Robert Burns
  • Adapted by: Richmond Clements
  • Illustration : Manga artist Inko
  • Publisher: Cranachan Books
  • Publication Date: 31st October 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

When Tam has one too many drinks on a big night out, his journey home turns into a terrifying ordeal as he runs into witches, warlocks—and the devil himself—in the local graveyard… Will Tam live to tell the tale?

This vibrant and appealing adaptation of Tam O’Shanter brings one of Roberts Burns’ best-loved works, and the Scots language, to life for a new generation through the medium of Manga.

My Thoughts:

I’ve been aware of the tale of Tam O’Shanter for years, but never actually read it fully, so when I heard that Cranachan Books were publishing a Manga style graphic novel of the tale, I was really intrigued. Would this make reading the story easier? Would the storytelling be improved with the illustrations?

As I read through the book, I was thrilled to see it come to life through the vibrant and fun artwork, the Scots language flows well and carries the reader off on the exciting adventure that Tam and his trusty mare embark on. The beasties and ghouls that Tam sees on the ride home after a skinful of drink intrigue and worry him. But our intrepid and inebriated hero soon calls out and draws attention to himself when he calls out to the dancing witch, Nannie. The ensuing chase towards the River Doon sees Tam fleeing for his life and brings about the reason for Maggie losing her tail.

I enjoyed exploring the story, finding out details that I’d not known before. The vibrancy of the illustrations makes the story easier to read and understand, the Scots language is often hard to interpret written down and so the artwork by Inko gives great context to allow readers to grasp what’s happening even if they don’t fully “get” what the words are telling them. I raise my hat to the the team behind this publication, it’s fun and accessible so that youngsters might feel an excitement at learning a tale from Burns, unlike the dread I and some of my classmates felt at school when we learned we were to study Burns. The language was like wading through treacle and we didn’t have the wonderful illustrations like these to capture our attentions.

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First Monday Crime is back after the summer break and November is set to be an exciting event with some great authors and there’s bound to be amazing chatter – head along if you can!

Date: Monday 4th November at 6:30pm

Location: College Building, Room A130, City University London

Tickets are free, but you must book so that the organisers can ensure they have enough seats for everyone.

Reserve your seat here

So who’s appearing I hear you ask … well

The moderator for the evening is Sophie Goodfellow, and the authors taking part are:

Alex North – The Whisper Man

Alex North was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son. He studied Philosophy at Leeds University, and prior to becoming a writer he worked there in their sociology department. The Whisper Man was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, and has been optioned for film by the Russo Brothers.

Louise Candlish – Those People

Louise Candlish is the bestselling author of twelve novels. Her thriller Our House was a number one bestseller in paperback, ebook and audiobook and is shortlisted for a 2019 British Book Award – Crime & Thriller Book of the Year. It has been optioned for TV by Death in Paradise producers Red Planet Pictures, and was picked as a Book of the Year 2018 by the Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Real Simple, the Guardian, the Daily Mail, the Sunday Express, Red and Heat. Louise lives in London with her family. 

Abir Mukherjee – Death in the East

Abir Mukherjee is the bestselling author of the Wyndham & Banerjee series of crime novels set in Raj-era India.
His debut, A Rising Man, won the CWA Endeavour Dagger for best historical crime novel of 2017, was shortlisted for the MWA Edgar for best novel, was a Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month, and Waterstones Thriller of the Month. His second novel, A Necessary Evil, won the Wilbur Smith Award for Adventure Writing, was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of 2018, and was featured on ITV as a Zoe Ball Book Club pick. His third novel, Smoke and Ashes, is out now. Abir grew up in Scotland and lives in London with his wife and two sons.

Victoria Selman – Snakes and Ladders

After graduating from Oxford University, Victoria Selman studied Creative Writing at the City Lit and wrote for the Ham & High and Daily Express newspapers. In 2013 she won the Full Stop Short Story Prize, and her first novel, Blood for Blood, was shortlisted for the 2017 Debut Dagger Award. Victoria lives in London with her husband and two sons.

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I am thrilled to welcome another fantastic author to join me today for a chat about books and writing processes, what’s on the horizon and cause some giggles! Today’s author is none other than the lovely Gina Kirkham, the woman behind the Constable Mavis Upton series. Her previous books are Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – The Further Adventures of Constable Mavis Upton, both are available via these Amazon links.


Gina was born during the not-so-swinging 50s to a mum who frequently abandoned her in a pram outside Woolworths and a dad who, after two pints of beer, could play a mean Boogie Woogie on the piano in the front room of their 3-bed semi on the Wirral.

Trundling a bicycle along a leafy path one wintry day, a lifelong passion to be a police officer gave her simultaneously an epiphany and fond memories of her favourite author Enid Blyton and moments of solving mysteries. And thus began an enjoyable and fulfilling career with Merseyside Police. On reaching an age most women lie about, she quickly adapted to retirement by utilising her policing skills to chase after two granddaughters, two dogs and one previously used, but still in excellent condition, husband. Having said goodbye to what had been a huge part of her life, she suddenly had another life-changing epiphany. This time it was to put pen to paper to write a book based on her experiences as a police officer. Mavis Upton was born, ready to star in a humorous and sometimes poignant look at the life, loves and career of an everyday girl who followed a dream and embarked upon a search for the missing piece of her childhood.

Constable Mavis Upton is back in July 2018 in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

The lovely people I meet, either in person at events, LitFest, talks etc., or through social media, has got to be one of my favourites. Being an author has gifted me that opportunity. The reading/blogging/writing communities are not only supportive, they’re great fun too!
I love being able to create and describe characters too, give them a voice, express feelings, sights and smells through words and if a reader gets my sense of humour or suffers a bout of watery eyes at a poignant moment, it makes the many hours of self-doubt worthwhile.
To have someone say they enjoyed my book, that it cheered them up or made them giggle is the icing on the cake.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

Oh gosh, I think it’s got to be when you get a not so good review. You know you will get them, but if you’re not naturally comfortable in putting yourself out there, then it can really knock what little confidence you have. Having said that, reviews can be negative but still constructive so you can learn and develop your writing with help from the readers and reviewers. It’s the ones that are a little mean that sting, like when someone hasn’t enjoyed your book, calls it a ‘turkey’ and tags you on Twitter to let you and the world know how dreadful they thought it was…….
…..I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy a Christmas dinner again (unless we have chicken) without squirming in embarrassment at the memory of that one!

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. I read this in my English Literature class at high school and it made such a huge impression on me. It is such a haunting tale of courage and passionate principles through the eyes of a child. I remember alternating between great sadness and anger that there were people in the world who could actually carry such prejudice in their hearts and act upon it. I think growing up with a mum who taught me to
be inclusive and accepting of everyone, it was such a shock to immerse myself in a story that was educating me to realise that not everyone thought or felt the same way as me.

How do you spend your time when you are not writing?

I am incredibly blessed to have three wonderful grandchildren, Olivia 10 years, Annie 7 years and a new addition this year, Arthur who is just 5 months old. They fill my hours with laughter, fun and silly games, I’m often squished into their Wendy House/teepee/pirate ship with my knees wedged under my chin drinking pretend tea and savouring mud pies. Hubby and I are very keen gardeners too, so we’re often found wandering around garden centres looking bemused whilst clutching money off coupons
and borrowing each other’s glasses to read how much spread a plant (not our waistlines) will have.

Do you have a set routine for writing? Rituals you have to observe? i.e specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

Oooh, definitely a massive mug of tea (or bucket as my hubby calls it) to start. Then my two Westie boys beside me in their Home Bargain fleecy beds, a view of the garden, a sneaky packet of biscuits that I promise myself will last my whole writing session but in truth are normally devoured before I’ve even typed two paragraphs, my Harry Potter notebook hubby bought me and complete silence. I tend to write when my characters speak to me, I get an uncontrollable urge to put their words down and that’s when I have my most productive days. The downside is when Mavis decides to strike up a conversation in my head at 3 am and won’t shut up. I have to get up, find the bucket mug and a packet of Garibaldi’s and write to keep her happy.

What’s on the horizon?

I have been doing a lot of Speaker events for branches of the Women’s Institute over the last eighteen months, which have been great fun. I’m a terrible ‘people watcher’ which is probably quiet disconcerting for those who come under the focus of my gaze, but it’s where I get my inspiration for characters from. These meetings are always full of wonderful ladies with fabulous stories to tell. Cora and Agatha in Blues, Twos and Baby Shoes are based on two WI ladies I met at one of my talks. I really enjoyed developing these two characters who were not police related, so now I’m busy drafting a new idea for a series of mystery books, still with humour but a touch of pathos and quirkiness too.

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be?

I know from experience that life is incredibly fragile and comes with no guarantees. Have dreams, bucket lists and savings, but don’t wait for that rainy day to enjoy them. There are plenty of wonderful days with sunshine to live those dreams now.
Don’t ever find yourself saying ‘I could have….’
When the time comes you want to be able to say ‘I did…’

….. oh, and there can never, ever be too many books in a bookcase! ☺

Can you tell me a little about your latest book? How would you describe it and why should we go read it?

Blues, Twos and Baby Shoes (The Further, Further Adventures of Constable Mavis Upton) is the third in the series of books loosely based on my career as a Police Officer with Merseyside Police. The trilogy follows a ‘thirty something’ single mum of a little girl, who reaches for her dream and joins the police. The stories chart the highs and lows of juggling everyday life, love, career and family with humour and a little sadness.

In Blues, Twos Mavis is pregnant, as is her daughter Ella, and whilst coming to terms with becoming a geriatric mum and a grandmother at the same time, the last thing she needs is problems at work. But a new sexist dinosaur of a Sergeant is more bully than mentor, and a mysterious case involving a blackmailer sending poison pen letters is baffling the police and tearing the community apart.

Can Mavis juggle late life motherhood and her career, maintain a loving relationship with her other half Joe and deal with being a grandmother, all whilst solving the case?

Well, this is Constable Mavis Upton…literally anything is possible!

Gina’s books are a wonderfully hilarious escape from everyday life and came highly recommended to me by some friends, especially the lovely Jill over at Jill’s Book Cafe. I’ve bought copies of the first two books to read before I get reading this new book and I cannot wait to find out what Constable Mavis has been up to!

A huge thank you to Gina for joining me today for a natter and being so open about her writing and her life outside of her books. I do love a wander around a garden centre too, and I’m so pleased that her grandchildren keep her out of mischief with their tea parties!

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When I started this feature all those many moons ago, it was my way of shining a wee spotlight on a book or an author, and I had no idea about the many brilliant books or authors I would discover on this journey. But I am happy to say that the books I’ve bought have been fantastic, the authors who’ve taken part in the Q&As have all been brilliant and I’ve fallen in love with so many new books. I hope that others have found a new book or two to love!

Today’s book in the spotlight was written by a wonderful Irish author who I discovered a wee while ago, having read one of her recent books, I was keen to go back to her earlier books because I loved the way she could weave a tale effortlessly and bewitch me with her words.

  • Title: Betwixt
  • Author: Evie Gaughan
  • Publisher: Self published
  • Publication Date: 25th August 2015

Copy purchased via Amazon.

Description:

An atmospheric short story set in the Irish countryside.

Catherine returns to Hollowbrook Cottage on a cold November night, looking to escape her present life and lose herself in the past. However, her journey crosses the path of a mysterious stranger who will change her life forever.

My Thoughts:

I should admit that I’ve had Betwixt on my Kindle for a wee while now, I kept saying to myself that I would read it soon, but as we all know, the best laid plans and all that … so in an attempt to read more of what I fancy and when I hunted it out on my Kindle the other night and curled up on the sofa.

Although it’s a short story, only 36 pages, there’s a lot of detail and atmosphere packed into this story.
The emotions of the main character Catherine are so strong from the outset, taking readers along with her as she attempts to navigate the foul weather and reach Hollowbrook Cottage and the sanctuary it will provide, but first she has to contend with the owner of the cottage Mrs Donnelly. Mrs Donnelly is an old fashioned, perhaps brusque woman who is curious about the young woman renting her cottage in the winter season, but she’s not one for doing favours for anyone and soon makes it clear that the accommodation is barely adequate due to it being so out of season for rental.

Navigating narrow country lanes in pitch dark and torrential rain would be a challenge for any driver, but Catherine has a lot on her mind. She’s trying to remember exactly where along this unmarked stretch of road Hollowbrook Cottage is in relation to where she is when she happens upon another traveller on the road.

I’ll leave you to discover the plot for yourself, but I will say that I found myself utterly spellbound by this story. The scenes were brought to life with vivid descriptions, I could almost smell the peat that warmed the cottage, I could see the inside of the cottage, it all felt so real. The characters feel so real, their stories written in such a way that they come alive for the reader, even in a short story. I felt that I could understand the emotions of Catherine, make sense in the things she said and heard, absolutely loved one line in particular “Life doesn’t get easier, we get stronger”, so much sense in those seven words, a message from the author perhaps.

If you’re after a captivating tale to curl up with on an autumnal afternoon or evening then this is a book worth checking out. It’s packed with detail, beautifully descriptive and well written.

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Today on Celebrating Indie Publishing I am thrilled to share a mini review of a fun read that my little reader and I shared as a bedtime story this week and really enjoyed.

  • Title: Timothy Mean and the Time Machine
  • Author:William A.E. Ford
  • Publisher: Independently published
  • Publication Date: 17th January 2019

Copy kindly provided by the author for review purposes.

Description:

WINNER OF READERS FAVORITE SCI-FI FANTASY CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARD 2019
With Timothy Mean’s amazing imagination and time machine, anything and anywhere is possible!
Join Timothy on a magical rhyming adventure as he skips through time and pranks with pirates, gets daring with dragons, and even teases a T-Rex!
“It’s Monday. Hip hip hooray! Where shall we travel in time today?”
With Timothy Mean, every day is a rhyme in time!

My Thoughts:

We love a book that has a fun character, adventure and lots of moments for laughter, and so when we stumbled upon Timothy Mean and the Time Machine we couldn’t wait to read it! We enjoyed it so much we bought a paperback copy to add to our book shelf.

Fun illustrations help to bring the story of a bored Timothy alive as he adventures through time to visit different times and landscapes, causing mischief wherever he ends up. The pranks that Timothy plays in each new time gave us a great point for discussion as my daughter told me why she thought that some of his pranks were mean and how they might have affected people.
As well as speaking about the pranks, we also spoke about ideas the book brought on, where would we like to go if we had a time machine, what would we see? What is the moon made of? Where did the dinosaurs go? Were there dinosaurs around when daddy was a boy (he father was not so pleased about this idea), the list goes on and we’ve plans to use a box to make a time machine of our own for adventures.

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  • Title: The Scent of Death
  • Author: Simon Beckett
  • Publisher: Transworld
  • Publication Date: 3rd October 2019

Copy received from publisher and blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

Once a busy hospital, St Jude’s now stands derelict, awaiting demolition.

When a partially mummified corpse is found in the building’s cavernous loft, forensics expert Dr David Hunter is called in to take a look. He can’t say how long the body’s been there, but he is certain it’s that of a young woman. And that she was pregnant.

Then part of the attic floor collapses, revealing another of the hospital’s secrets: a bricked-up chamber with beds inside. And some of them are still occupied.

For Hunter, what began as a straightforward case is about to become a twisted nightmare. And it soon becomes clear that St Jude’s hasn’t claimed its last victim . . .

Chilling, visceral and masterfully paced, Simon Beckett’s new crime thriller will leave you gasping.

My Thoughts:

I absolutely love the Dr David Hunter series, there’s something so addictive about these books and I was thrilled to be offered the chance to read an early copy!

Although the the sixth book of this series, this can be read without having followed Dr Hunter through the previous books and cases. The author has ensured that the connecting story arc is detailed throughout the narrative to keep readers up to speed with what has passed before, without bogging down the longstanding followers with repetitiveness.

The discovery of an almost mummified corpse in an abandoned hospital building is bound to get the attention of the police, and when they bring in Dr David Hunter, you just know that there’s going to be more the case than first meets the eye. His intrepid sixth sense is practically screeching at the possibilities of what might have happened to the deceased when a catastrophic floor collapse unearths more corpses and mysteries, especially when they realise that the room has been bricked up and those people weren’t left there by accident …

As the investigation opens up, Dr Hunter battles to uncover the answers from the bones of those on his examination table, the impact that one set of bones has on him makes this such a moving and poignant read. The introduction of new characters brings much intrigue and it’s always exciting to see them develop throughout the pages, seeing how they interact with the existing cast and watch their actions.

Hunter’s personal life never runs smoothly, and Simon Beckett really puts his character through the wringer, and in turn his readers. This is an addictive and thrilling read that has you holding your breath in anticipation of what will be uncovered next. I gave up trying to guess where the plot was going and just sat back to enjoy the journey, greedily lapping up every twist and turn.

There’s something so wonderful about Beckett’s writing, you don’t realise how much you are learning while you read. I’ve picked up various nuggets of information throughout the series, things that I’ve gone on to research later and have found it really interesting. Don’t you just love a book that offers you the chance to learn while you read?

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Today I am utterly thrilled to share my review of Caroline Logan’s debut novel, the first book in the Four Treasures Series.

  • Title: The Stone of Destiny
  • Authors: Caroline Logan
  • Publisher: Gob Stopper (an imprint of Cranachan Publishing)
  • Publication Date: 1st October 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:
Ailsa doesn’t believe in faerie tales, only the monsters in them. But, with the mark on her face, most people consider her one of them—a changeling.

Her secluded life shifts when she rescues two selkies from bloodthirsty raiders. Now she must act as their guard as they travel to the capital and then, with the help of the Prince of Eilanmòr, journey north to find The Stone of Destiny—the only object protecting them all from the evil faerie queen.

But all her life a malignant creature has stalked her through the forest. Can Ailsa find The Stone of Destiny before something wicked finds her?

My Thoughts:
Before I say anything about the insides of this book, can we take a wee moment to appreciate the loveliness of that cover … it’s stunning! The moment I saw it, I was captivated and wanted to reach out and touch it. Just a hint at the magic and wonders that are contained within the pages of Caroline Logan’s debut novel.

From the moment we meet Ailsa, the reader can see that she is a strong character, one who can fend for herself and isn’t easily put off by hard work. And as you progress through the first pages, there is so much to take in, from the breathtaking beauty of the wild beach and surroundings, the intrigue of the screams Ailsa hears and the moments packed with action that have you on the edge of your seat.
The adventure that Ailsa and the rescued selkies go on makes for a highly entertaining read, a thrilling and addictive one that kept me turning pages long into the evening. I’d started reading The Stone of Destiny, intending to read a chapter or two in the evening, but was curled up on the sofa hours later, lost in the world of Eilanmòr and faerie tale creatures.

Strong and well constructed characters are a key element of this book, from the wonderfully heroic Ailsa, the humorous and quick witted Harris, the cool and calm Iona, each of these creations are superbly detailed, multidimensional, they become real as you read more about them and spend time in their company.
The vivid descriptions are not limited to the characters, the landscapes that appear in the book are so clearly described that it’s hard not to envision them, experience the merriment of ceilidhs, the luxury of the foods and the perilous dangers that our intrepid adventurers face.
Faerie tale creatures are always fascinating, and the cast that appear in this book are wonderfully captivating, and as the story unfolds we learn more about them and the folklore associated with them, opening up another thread of spellbinding storytelling from a very promising author.

Although this book is aimed at a Young Adult audience, readers aged 13 plus, it will appeal to readers of all ages. It’s the sort of magical read that carries you off on a wave of excitement and has you desperate to find out what will happen next!

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