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  • Title: In Alexa’s Shoes
  • Authors: Rochelle Alexandra
  • Publisher: Author Academy Elite
  • Publication Date: 25th June 2019

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

Description:

In Alexa’s Shoes – a dramatic, uplifting true story of a teenage girl overcoming great odds to survive. A historical novel that beckons the reader to follow in the footsteps of a real-life individual one step at a time. Based on the true story of the author’s grandmother.

In the autumn of 1940, thirteen-year-old Alexa’s happy life is ripped from her as she, her mother, and many of the locals are rounded up by the Nazis in Poland. Loaded into trucks, they are transported to an unknown destination. Terror and uncertainty become the new normal. Life is a continuous nightmare as she is selected by the Gestapo officer’s wife, destined to become little more than their slave.

Separated from everyone she loves Alexa relies on her Christian faith, inner strength and courage, to endure through her long nightmare. Her story takes her on a treacherous journey across war-ravaged Europe in search of her family and the life she once knew. Despite living through unimaginable hardships and life-threatening danger, Alexa feels that someone or something seems to be looking out for her. Years later, she finds out that not all was as it seemed, as hidden secrets from this dark period in history are revealed to her.

My Thoughts:

I read this book over the course of a weekend, once I picked it up I was unable to put it down for long. The story of Alexa’s life is a heartbreaking one that begins as the young teenage girl is taken from her beloved Poland at the hands of the Nazis and is separated from her mother.
Her childhood innocence and naivety are soon comforts of the past when she has to adjust to a massively different life as a slave for a Gestapo officer and his family. The events that take place around Alexa and the things she sees in those early days after her forceful removal from Poland are heartbreaking, but we all know that worse events would occur after 1940.

Life living under the roof of a Gestapo officer is far from easy for Alexa, long hours and backbreaking work are hard for an adult, but for a teenager this must have been so much to contend with. But her Christian faith helps her through the tough times, reciting Psalm 91 to herself whenever she feels it will help. Her family and homeland are never far from her thoughts, something she clings to throughout her days in Occupied lands, hoping that she may once again see Poland and be reunited with her mother and sister.

Alexa shows courage and strength throughout her time in captivity, she continues to put one foot in front of the other, moving closer to a life that she hopes will lead her to freedom. But she never turns to hatred towards those who force these limitations and conditions on her. As her story moves on, Alexa’s freedom comes and life takes on a safety that she has longed for.
Life after WWII is hard but Alexa makes it work, she makes many journeys both physical and emotional that lead to the uncovering of secrets that change her views forever.

The style of writing makes this quite an addictive read, readers feel drawn to Alexa and her story. As you read through the pages, you become more and more invested in the story, holding your breath in places as the tension increases and worrying about the fate of Alexa. A truly thrilling and captivating read. My thanks to the author for sharing her grandmother’s tale with us.

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Hard to believe that we’re half way through the year already, and as we’ve hit this milestone, I figured that it might be a good time to round up some of the great indie books that I’ve featured so far and some of the great authors who have given their time to take part in author interviews or written guest posts for us to read.

Links to each of the Friday features are below, or alternatively if you want to use the search function at the top of the page, just type in the name of the book or author to bring up the relevant page.

Feature Links:
Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech (book feature)
The Twitches Meet a Puppy by Hayley Scott (book feature)
Fractured Winter by Alison Baillie (book feature)
Inborn by Thomas Enger (book feature)
Roz White (author feature)
Beton Rouge by Simone Buchholz (book feature)
The Courier by Kjell Old Dahl (book feature)
The Red Light Zone by Jeff Zycinski (book feature)
A Letter From Sarah by Dan Proops (book and author feature)
The Silver Moon Storybook by Elaine Gunn (book feature)
Runaway by Claire MacLeary (book feature)
Sunwise by Helen Steadman (book feature)
The Lives Before Us by Juliet Conlin (book feature)
The Red Gene by Barbara Lamplugh (book and author feature)
Death at The Plague Museum by Lesley Kelly (book feature)
Heleen Kist (author feature)
White Gold by David Barker (book feature)
Sonny and Me by Ross Sayers (book and author feature)
Claire MacLeary (author feature)
A History of Magic and Witchcraft: Sabbats, Satan and Superstitions in the West by Frances Timbers (book feature)
The Killer Across The Table by John E. Douglas & Mark Olshaker (book feature)
Maggie Christensen (author feature)

Today I am thrilled to welcome Maggie Christensen to join me to share a piece that she’s written about her life, her writing and the connections in her stories.


After a career in education, Maggie Christensen began writing contemporary women’s fiction portraying mature women facing life-changing situations. Her travels inspire her writing, be it her frequent visits to family in Oregon, USA, her native Scotland or her home on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast.

Maggie writes of mature heroines coming to terms with changes in their lives and the heroes worthy of them – heartwarming tales of second chances.

From her native Glasgow, Scotland, Maggie was lured by the call ‘Come and teach in the sun’ to Australia, where she worked as a primary school teacher, university lecturer and in educational management. Now living with her husband of over thirty years on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, she loves walking on the deserted beach in the early mornings and having coffee by the river on weekends. Her days are spent surrounded by books, either reading or writing them – her idea of heaven!

She continues her love of books as a volunteer with her local library where she selects and delivers books to the housebound. Maggie enjoys meeting her readers at book signings and library talks.

When I emigrated from Scotland to Australia in my mid-twenties, lured by ads to Come and Teach in the Sun, featuring a man wearing swimming trunks and a gown and mortarboard, I had no idea that, fifty years later, I would be writing novels set in my native land.

When, as I neared retirement, I did begin writing fiction, I set my first novels in Australia where I lived and in Florence, Oregon where my mother-in-law lived and where we often visited. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to set my books in Scotland.

However, I was often asked at book launches and book signings why I didn’t set any books in Scotland, and there was a story an aunt often told me of her ill-fated romance which I knew would make a good novel, if only I could find the right way to tell it.

So, when I was writing Broken Threads, which is set in Sydney, I introduced Bel, a secondary character who had an aging aunt in Scotland with the idea that – maybe – I would find a way to write my aunt’s story.

After several false starts, two years later, Bel’s story became my first Scottish novel, The Good Sister, with my aunt’s story fictionalised into that of Bel’s old Aunt Isobel. The story takes place in Glasgow, set mostly in the same street and in a house similar to one in which I lived as a student. But while I lived in a tiny bedsitter, Isobel MacDonald owns the entire house.

The Good Sister is the only historical novel I’ve written so far. It is set across two timeframes – contemporary and WW2 – which entailed a lot of research. I really enjoyed delving into the past for this story, searching the Internet, talking to older members of my family, and rummaging through old photographs of my parents and their generation.

As I wrote The Good Sister, I found many places of my childhood and teenage years came alive for me again. Much of my research took me back to the Scotland of my youth. Even words and phrases I hadn’t heard for years came back into my mind as I wrote.

I loved writing this book as I became totally involved in the lives of Bel and Matt who feature in the contemporary part of the book. I’d never intended this to be anything but a standalone book. But Bel and Matt took hold of me, and I began to wonder what the future held for them once Bel returned home to Sydney. This led to the sequel Isobel’ Promise which is set in both Scotland – on Loch Lomond where Matt lives – and in Australia – in Sydney where Bel lives.

Isobel’s Promise took me back to Scotland again, to the beautiful Loch Lomond where Matt lives, to the Glasgow of my student days – Byres Road, the pubs, now much gentrified, and into the heart of the city whose renaissance I had first researched while writing The Good Sister.

Bel and Matt became part of me – they were like good friends – so I continued to write their story. A Single Woman picks up the story of Alasdair, Matt’s son-in-law and takes place two years after Isobel’s Promise.

In A Single Woman, Bel and Matt are relegated to secondary characters along with Alasdair’s children Robbie and Fiona. Twelve-year-old Fiona is in a wheelchair and has proven to be popular with my readers.

The main characters in A Single Woman are Alasdair MacLeod and Isla Cameron –one reviewer described it as the thoughtful and touching story of the developing relationship between two rather damaged people (Put it in Writing)

The name Isla Cameron had been in my mind for some time – I had a picture of this tall, slim, dark woman who led a very insular life with a touch of mystery about her– but I didn’t know what her story would be. When I decided to write Alasdair’s story, I realised She was the perfect foil for him, and A Single Woman became her book.

I really enjoyed the trip down memory lane while writing this one. Isla lives in the same part of Glasgow I did as a student and in my early years as a teacher, so it was fun to revisit my old haunts – and to discover how much they’d changed since I lived there.

During my research I discovered some delightful nuggets of information. I was thrilled to discover The Willow Tearooms. They are based on the original Mrs Craddock tearooms from the early 1900’s in which the waitresses were called Mrs Craddock’s young ladies. The tearooms were inspired by the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and one of their offerings is Hendrick’s Ginn n Tea which, of course, Isla and her friend had to indulge in.

I also discovered a number of speciality ice cream shops and thanks to my cousin’s daughter – who has teenagers – led my teenage characters to enjoy ice cream churros from what is labelled as the UK’s first ice cream and churro bar.

While I’ll never go back to Scotland to live, I may set more books there. It’s too tempting a prospect to once again steep myself in the countryside I still love and to bring back memories that I’d all but forgotten. While Scotland may be a world away from where I live on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, I can open my computer and be there in a flash – enjoy the scenery, hear the dialect, and visit all my favourite places with my characters.

A huge thank you to Maggie for joining me today, it’s a huge privilege to welcome indie authors to The Quiet Knitter blog to speak about their books, their writing habits and find out what their next project might be about.

To find out more about Maggie and her books, check out her social media links!

Website  http://maggiechristensenauthor.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/maggiechristensenauthor

Twitter   https://twitter.com/MaggieChriste33

Instagram  https://www.instagram.com/maggiechriste33

Goodreads  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8120020.Maggie_Christensen

Amazon Author Page  https://amzn.to/2Lt8fkL

Buy link for A Single Woman  books2read.com/ASingleWoman

  • Title: Code Name: Lise
  • Author: Larry Loftis
  • Publisher: Mirror Books
  • Publication Date: 9th May 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

The year is 1942, and World War II is in full swing.

Odette Sansom decides to follow in her war hero father’s footsteps by becoming an SOE agent to aid Britain and her beloved homeland, France. Five failed attempts and one plane crash later, she finally lands in occupied France to begin her mission.

It is here that she meets her commanding officer Captain Peter Churchill. As they successfully complete mission after mission, Peter and Odette fall in love. All the while, they are being hunted by the cunning German secret police sergeant, Hugo Bleicher, who finally succeeds in capturing them.

They are sent to Paris’s Fresnes prison, and on to concentration camps in Germany, where they are starved, beaten, and tortured. But in the face of despair, they never give up hope, their love for each other, or the whereabouts of their colleagues.

This is portrait of true courage, patriotism and love amidst unimaginable horrors and degradation.

My Thoughts:

When I first heard about this book I was instantly intrigued, Odette Sansom was a name I had heard of in passing but wasn’t the most familiar with her tale, something I was only too pleased to clear up by reading this book.

In Code Name: Lise, the reader meets a young Odette in France and learns about her early life. We also learn about the sort of person she was, determined, tenacious and above all one that never gave up in the face of a challenge. As she gets older, she meets a man and falls in love, moves to England and life is going well for her, until the outbreak of World War II. Feeling guilt at being in the relative safety of rural Somerset, she immediately jumps at the chance to do her bit by supplying photographs of various locations in France to aid in the war effort, which leads to her becoming an SOE agent.

Odette’s first mission is in occupied France, but her journey to France gets off to an incredibly shaky start. The missions that Odette and the team complete are fraught with tension and make for utterly thrilling reading. The danger of agents being captured and killed was something Odette was very aware of, as was the threat of agents around them having being turned into double agents by the enemy. Fearing cover has been blown, Odette and her commanding officer, Peter Churchill flee for safety. But soon they are caught up by the cunning skills of German secret police sergeant, Hugo Bleicher. Interspersed with the tale of Odette and Peter, is information about Hugo Bleicher, his life to this point and what he faced to get to where he was.

Life as a prisoner of the Nazis and SS wasn’t easy for Odette, but through it all, she never lost her spirit or determination to survive. The treatment she received was horrendous, the physical torture methods used were brutal but the psychological torture was something else, often leaving the prisoners questioning reality and their grasp on sanity. But reading through these awful details, my admiration for this character grew. Seeing what Odette endured and how she survived, I felt levels of emotion bubbling up and realised that I was holding in tears, screams of frustration and anguish and the feeling of utter helplessness.

Code Name: Lise is a truly remarkable tale, poignant and yet empowering, and combined with the writing of Larry Loftis, this reads as a thriller. It’s explosive, it’s gripping and the sort of read that gets under your skin.

Celebrating Indie Publishing has a review of a book that I found impossible to put down. This was a read that I found equal parts fascinating and harrowing, but I needed to keep reading, I needed to find out how the cases being discussed unfolded, in the words of the author.

  • Title: The Killer Across The Table
  • Authors: John E. Douglas & Mark Olshaker
  • Publisher: William Collins
  • Publication Date: 16th May 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

In The Killer Across the Table, legendary FBI criminal profiler and number one bestselling author John Douglas delves deep into the lives and crimes of four of the most disturbing and complex predatory killers he’s encountered, offering never-before-revealed details about his profiling process and divulging the strategies used to crack some of his most challenging cases.

Former Special Agent John Douglas has sat across the table from many of the world’s most notorious killers – including Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, ‘Coed Killer’ Edmund Kemper, ‘Son of Sam Killer’ David Berkowitz and ‘BTK Strangler’ Dennis Rader, and has also been instrumental in the exoneration of Amanda Knox and the West Memphis Three. He has gone on to become a legend in the world of criminal investigative analysis, and his work has inspired TV shows and films such as Mindhunter, Criminal Minds and The Silence of the Lambs.

In this riveting work of true crime, Douglas spotlights four very different criminals he’s confronted over the course of his career, and explains how they helped him to put together the puzzle of how psychopaths and predators think. Taking us inside the interrogation room and demonstrating the unique techniques he uses to understand the workings of the most terrifying and incomprehensible minds, The Killer Across the Table is an unputdownable journey into the darkest reaches of criminal profiling and behavioural science from a man who knows serial killers better than anyone else. As Douglas says:

‘If you want to understand the artist, look at his art.’
If you want to understand what makes a murderer, start here.

My Thoughts:

For fans of Mindhunter and behavioural science programmes, this is a book that you will want to add to your reading list.
This book takes an in-depth look at four serial killers and their paths towards becoming some of the most notorious killers in America. The way that Douglas gets people to open up to him is something incredibly fascinating to witness, indeed the snippets of previous cases he has worked on with the likes of Ted Bundy and Charles Manson provide another layer of insight that demonstrates the psychology of interrogation techniques and the human brain in those being interrogated. These conversations becoming the basis for some training material that the FBI would use to identify certain individuals in the future. His ability to keep his own emotions hidden at the revelations he heard took nerves and I was amazed that he could hold them back in light of the severity of the murders.

Breaking the book down into four sections, each serial killer is presented with detail and a professional detachment by Douglas. The cases are harrowing and not the easiest to read in some instances, but the exploration of the killer in each instance is exceptionally well detailed, giving readers a glimpse into their journey to the point of the interview with Douglas. Being able to follow the narrative through the thoughts of whether each individual is a case of nature versus nurture, whether there was key factor that triggered their killing sprees, if the killer knew their victims or picked strangers, makes this quite a disturbing but engrossing read.

  • Title: A History of Magic and Witchcraft: Sabbats, Satan and Superstitions in the West
  • Author: Frances Timbers
  • Publisher: Pen and Sword Books
  • Publication Date: 3rd April 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.


Description:

Broomsticks and cauldrons, familiars and spells: magic and witchcraft conjure vivid pictures in our modern imaginations. The history of magic and witchcraft offers a window into the past, illuminating the lives of ordinary people and shining a light on the fascinating pop culture of the pre-modern world.

Blowing away folkloric cobwebs, this enlightening new history dispels many of the misconceptions rooted in superstition and myth that surround witchcraft and magic today. Historian Frances Timbers brings together elements of Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, Christianity, popular culture, and gender beliefs that evolved throughout the middle ages and early modern period and contributed to the construction and eventual persecution of the figure of the witch. While demonologists were developing the new concept of Devil worship and the witches’ sabbat, elite men were actually attempting to practise ceremonial magic. In the twentieth century, elements of ceremonial magic and practices of cunning folk were combined with the culturally-constructed idea of a sect of witches to give birth first to modern Wicca in England and then to other neopagan movements in North America.

Witchcraft is a metaphor for oppression in an age in which persecution is an everyday occurrence somewhere in the world. Fanaticism, intolerance, prejudice, authoritarianism, and religious and political ideologies are never attractive. Beware the witch hunter!

My Thoughts:

The study of witchcraft is something that I find fascinating, especially the origins of the ideas behind myth and fable that have evolved over many years to form the images we know now, and so when I saw this book I was delighted to build upon the knowledge that I already possessed.

With an engaging level of detail, A History of Magic and Witchcraft explores the many different ideas of witchcraft, the practices, the acceptance of information that has long been considered the truth about this such as witch trials and the subsequent executions, but also the subjugation of the masses through the fear of witch-hunts. It is also interesting to discover that Frances Timbers has, through so much research, found out that in some areas the percentage of men executed outnumbered that of the women. An exploration through the various ages and interpretations of witches give readers a glimpse into the ever changing mindsets and terminologies prevalent at the times as well as practices.

I particularly enjoyed reading chapter seven, The Tree of Life and Death, Persecution through Prosecution. In this chapter there are details of how prosecutions were held in the various parts of Britain, France and The Holy Roman Empire (“present day Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Alsace, Lorraine, northern Italy, and parts of Poland and the Czech Republic all came under the jurisdiction of the Holy Roman Emperor”). The history of the Scotland was a section that I found intriguing and found myself taking notes to look up certain things later for more research.
The role of the Inquisitions is also discussed in this chapter, as are the methods used to extract information from the witches whilst they were in gaol.

Torture was used as a means to extract information from the accused, and the author does caution readers “the extreme violence directed towards witches needs to be viewed in context. Certainly, torture is sadistic, but it was not particularly misogynistic. Authorities were torturing witches not women. And torture was not reserved just for suspects of witchcraft.” Therefore highlighting that during this time period that the examination methods used were not thought of as outlandish. The tools and methods used are detailed in this section, as are the punishments meted out, with note about how it differed between the different locations. Witches in England were hanged and not burned at the stake, unless she was guilty of killing her husband by witchcraft “which was considered petty treason”. However on the Continent and in Scotland, witches were burned at the stake, although interestingly if they confessed they were shown a form of mercy and garrotted before the fire was lit, the obstinately uncooperative were burned alive in public as a deterrent to others. Death was not the only punishment for witchcraft, excommunication from the church was seen as the damaging spiritually, but there was also penance, either privately or publicly.

For readers looking to do further reading or build upon the information here, the author has included a hefty reading list which covers each of the sections with in the book, and I will definitely be adding a few of these to my bookshelf! If you’re looking for something that’s different from other books out there about magic and witchcraft, then I would highly recommend this. It gives the reader lots to think about and asks then to really consider what they already knew, reassess what they already know and view it with fresh eyes after reading some of the information in this book.

  • Title: Breakers
  • Author: Doug Johnstone
  • Publisher: Orenda Books
  • Publication Date: 16th May 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

A pulsatingly tense, deeply moving psychological thriller from the Number One BESTSELLING Scottish author of Fault Lines

Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings, he’s also trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addict mum.

On a job, his brother Barry stabs a homeowner and leaves her for dead, but that’s just the beginning of their nightmare, because the woman is the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord, Deke Holt.

With the police and the Holts closing in, and his shattered family in devastating danger, Tyler meets posh girl Flick in another stranger’s house, and he thinks she may just be his salvation … unless he drags her down too.

A pulsatingly tense psychological thriller, Breakers is also a breathtakingly brutal, beautiful and deeply moving story of a good kid in the wrong family, from one of Scotland’s finest crime writers.

My Thoughts:

When you pick up a Doug Johnstone book you know that you are going to be spoiled with some incredibly atmospheric writing that will utterly blow you away.
In Breakers readers meet Tyler, a seventeen-year-old lad who is struggling with the harsh realities of life and things are only going to get harder for him. The shining light in the darkness for Tyler is his little sister Bean, who he loves and will do anything to protect her, even hiding their mother’s drug addiction from her so as not to shatter her childhood entirely. Part of his survival depends on his participation in robberies with his older siblings, his lithe movements being useful for fitting through tight spots and another pair of hands is always useful when you’re robbing the homes of the wealthy. His illegal activities should cause a reader to dislike him, but instead Johnstone manages to turn everything on it’s head and causes the reader to feel empathy towards Tyler. The writing portrays a character with more than you first realise, Tyler has many sides to him but underneath it all is a deep sense of caring.

The most profound thing that I found when reading this was the idea that one decision can be the turning point life, and that you never really know where the road will take you. And we never truly know what happens behind the facades that we see, but what is clear is that Johnstone will draw emotions out of readers so effortlessly with his excellent writing.

I love how much this Friday feature has grown and the support that it’s had out there from bloggers, authors, publishers and readers has been amazing, and it’s a huge honour to be able to shine a spotlight on some wonderful books and the authors behind them.

Today I am thrilled to shine the spotlight on Claire MacLeary, author of the Harcus and Laird series. The series includes Burnout, Cross Purpose and Runaway, links to the reviews of these can be found here.


Author Feature:

Glasgow-born Claire MacLeary worked in advertising, HR, and later as a training consultant in Edinburgh and London before her husband’s job entailed a move to Aberdeen. There she became an antiques dealer and entrepreneur. Back in Fife, she ran a number of successful businesses before studying for a MLitt degree in Creative Writing at the University of Dundee.

Her debut novel, Cross Purpose, was shortlisted for Harrogate New Blood and longlisted for the 2017 McIlvanney Prize. A sequel, Burnout, was longlisted for The 2018 Hearst Big Book Awards. Runaway, third in the Harcus & Laird series was published in March 2019.

Claire now lives in Glasgow and St Andrews.

When my first novel launched at Aberdeen’s 2017 Granite Noir, little did I think, a scant two years on, I’d have brought three books into the world and embarked on a fourth. The road to publication has been bumpy – jobs, kids and travel getting in the way. As my children grew, I enrolled in one evening class after another, tried my hand at short stories, had the minor thrill of seeing some in print. But it wasn’t until 2010 I set about writing seriously. A window of opportunity allowed me to study, full-time, for a year.

My first writing folio comprised a short story and an extract from a crime novel. Until that date, I hadn’t read much crime, but the genre seemed to suit my spare prose. That extract was to become the first scene of Cross Purpose, which I developed – with many re-drafts – in between business and family commitments over the next few years.

I submitted the finished manuscript direct to a couple of publishers, and was fortunate to receive an offer from Sara Hunt of Saraband Books, who was looking to expand her Contraband crime imprint.  What sold the book to her? I’d done extensive research, and decided there was a gap in the market which my protagonists – two non-professional women ‘of a certain age’ – might fill. Ordinary women, juggling homes and jobs and childcare. Women to whom readers could relate. I’d met many such women: resilient, resourceful, with reserves to draw on in a crisis. I wanted to give these unsung women a voice.

Happily, readers took Maggie and ‘Big’ Wilma, my unlikely duo of private investigators, to their hearts. But don’t be deceived, the series isn’t ‘cosy crime’. My books are dark and gritty, espousing big social issues.

I now write full-time, not necessarily every day. I have a dedicated study and write best in the morning, drawing inspiration from writers like Alice Munro, who describes beautifully the minutiae of domestic life. One of my favourite books on motherhood is Carol Shields’ The Stone Diaries.

Driven as I am, I don’t have down-time. If I’m not tapping away at my computer, I’m jotting ideas in black ink on a reporter’s notebook. When I’m ‘in the zone’ I often wake in the night with dialogue running through my head. Then, I might shrug on a sweater and go to my desk or put some lines down on an iPad to be copied and pasted next morning.

I thought nothing could eclipse standing on stage at the McIlvanney Prize award with some of crime’s most celebrated authors, but the very best bit about being an author is when a reader tells you they enjoyed your book. It’s heartening to think your story has captured someone’s imagination and your characters come to life for them.

The worst aspect is the blank page. Without grind, you can’t produce a first draft, which your editor will then proceed to slash and burn! For one as impatient as I, the whole process is tortuously slow. That said, I’m currently working on Book 4, which should launch early next year.

I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to think readers need my advice. However, having described myself as having “a full life to draw on”, I’d say my motto is, Do It Now!

To aspiring writers who opt to go down the traditional publishing route, success is 95% attributable to hard work and 5% to luck, so be persistent, keep chipping away.

The theme of my latest book, Runaway – another page-turner with the, by now, well-loved cast of characters – is homelessness.

Aberdeen housewife Debbie Milne abruptly vanishes, leaving behind a frantic husband and two young children, and Maggie and Wilma become embroiled in a covert investigation. But when a woman’s disfigured body is found in a skip, the PIs are dragged into a deeper mystery involving people-trafficking, gambling and prostitution – and they’re in deadly danger. With the police struggling for leads and the clock ticking, the race is on for Harcus & Laird to find answers.

If you’re already a fan of Maggie and ‘Big’ Wilma or new to the series, you can purchase a copy at your local bookshop, direct from Saraband Books saraband.net or via this link: clairemacleary.com/buy-runaway

A huge thank you to Claire for joining me today and having a chat, I am a huge fan of her writing so I have to admit to being a little start-struck when she agreed to take part.

To find out more about Claire and her books, check out her website or social media!

Website: clairemacleary.com

Twitter: @clairemacleary

Facebook: www.facebook.com/clairemacleary

Goodreads: clairemacleary.com/goodreads

Celebrating Indie Publishing today has a book that I was so excited to read an early copy of and I was not disappointed. Cranachan Publishing are fast earning a reputation for great books that capture the imaginations and hearts of their readers, and they’ve well and truly secured mine with their marvellous books! And if the review wasn’t enough, the author has also taken part in a Q&A

  • Title: Sonny and Me
  • Author: Ross Sayers
  • Publisher: Gob Stopper (an imprint of Cranachan Publishing)
  • Publication Date: 16th May 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

FOURTH YEAR. TWO PALS. ONE MURDER. WELCOME TO BATTLEFIELD HIGH…

‘Whoever said yer school days are the best days ae yer life was at the absolute wind up. I hink maist adults dinnae mind whit it was really like. Wait til yeese hear whit Sonny and me got detention for…’

Daughter and Sonny are two best friends just trying to get through fourth year at high school. But when their favourite teacher leaves unexpectedly, and no one will say why, the boys decide to start their own investigation.

As they dig deeper into the staff at Battlefield High, they discover a dark secret which one person will kill to protect… Will they uncover the truth without being expelled? Can their friendship survive when personal secrets are revealed?

My Thoughts:

Ross Sayers was a name that first grabbed my attention with his debut novel Mary’s The Name in 2017, a book that I have read a few times since publication and somehow the magic from that story has stayed with me despite the numerous books I’ve read since.

As the first book from Cranachan Publishing’s new imprint Gob Stopper, Sonny and Me is the perfect book to set a high standard for others to follow. The writing is packed with humour and charming wit, an exciting plot and some fantastic characters that readers cannot help but love.

Battlefield High seems like an ordinary secondary school, full of teenagers all trying to find ways to be themselves and not stand out too much from the crowd. Two of these teenagers are best friends Daughter and Sonny, who are less than happy when their favourite teacher leaves and are the only ones not to know about the scandal that is rife through their school. Throw in a murder and you’ve got the makings of a madcap journey through the pages that will have readers racing through the book, caught up with the humour and the excitement of uncovering the dastardly figure behind the goings on.

Ross Sayers has the wonderful gift of giving his characters a unique voice, regardless of age or gender. And like in Mary’s the Name, he brings his main character to life so vividly, the voice of Daughter is realistic and clear. I cannot imagine that it’s easy to get into the workings of a teenage mind, follow the train of thought and stay rooted there throughout, but Sayers makes it seem effortless. What makes this a more impressive read is the fact that Sayers writes in dialect that brings the language alive. At times I felt like I could “hear” the conversations taking place between the characters and had to stifle giggles at their exchanges.

But aside from the humour and fun, there are some serious topics woven into the narrative. The exploration of the themes is done well and care is taken to handle them sensitively. Sayers demonstrates the intricacies of juggling life with what is expected of a young person with their want to do the right thing or stand against the grain to be their own person. And in doing this, he ensures that his writing is well rounded, easy to read and immensely enjoyable.
Although Sonny and Me is a Young Adult novel, I do think that this is a book that readers of any age can read and enjoy.


Author Feature:

Ross studied English in his hometown of Stirling. Not content with the one graduation, he completed a Masters in Creative Writing the following year. His stories and poems have featured in magazines such as Octavius and Quotidian. Ross also tried his hand at acting in the university’s Drama Society, which gave him valuable life experience at being an extra with no lines.

One of his short stories, Dancin’, was used on West College Scotland’s Higher English course. He only found out after a student tweeted him requesting a copy of the story so she could finish her essay.

Ross mainly reads contemporary and literary fiction, and loves it when a writer remembers to include an interesting plot. He heartily endorses not finishing books which bore you.

While researching Mary’s the Name in Portree, gift shop employees excitedly mistook him for Daniel Radcliffe; Ross had to burst their bubble. But at a football match in London, he agreed to have his photo taken with a wee boy, who believed he was Harry Potter, to save any tears or tantrums.

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

Probably seems obvious but when someone finishes one of my books and tells me they enjoyed it! It’s a lot of work and it makes it all worth it. Particularly the extreme reactions, either laughter or uncontrollable sobbing. Either’s good.

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

I’d say how long everything takes. In my experience there’s 2 years between starting a book and it being released. That’s a long time to re-read your work and convince yourself it’s rubbish.

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

I think something huge and epic like Game of Thrones. The world’s fantasy writers create are amazing and so thorough. I don’t know if I’ve got the stamina for that!

How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

I have a full time job so that takes up most of my time sadly. At the weekends I like to read, watch a bit of Netflix, and catch up with friends.

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

Not really! I like to have the telly on in the background, something I don’t need to pay too much attention to. It tends to be at night after work. If I can get 1000 words done I’m happy!

What’s on the horizon? 

So I’m working on my third novel currently. It’s about a young woman who goes back in time 16 days on the Glasgow Subway and has to save a life to get back to her own timeline…

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

If you’re not enjoying a book, put it down and grab another! Even if it’s one of mine! As long as you’ve paid for it! Just don’t return it to get your money back or something silly like that.

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

Sonny and Me is the story of two boys in fourth year of high school who uncover a murder mystery within the staff at their school… It’s like Still Game meets the Inbetweeners and if that doesn’t sell it to you then I don’t know what to say.

A huge thank you to Ross for joining me today for a chat, it’s a huge privilege to welcome indie authors to The Quiet Knitter blog to speak about their books, their writing habits and find out what their next project might be about.

To find out more about Ross and his books, check out his website or his hilarious tweets on Twitter!
Website: http://rosssayers.co.uk/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sayers33

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  • Title: Black Wolf
  • Author: G.D. Abson
  • Publisher: Mirror Books
  • Publication Date: 16th May 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description

FROM THE AUTHOR OF SUNDAY TIMES CRIME CLUB STAR PICK MOTHERLAND.

A young woman is found dead on the outskirts of St Petersburg on a freezing January morning. There are no signs of injury, and heavy snowfall has buried all trace of an attacker.

Captain Natalya Ivanova’s investigation quickly links the victim to the Decembrists, an anti-Putin dissident group whose acts of civil disobedience have caught the eye of the authorities. And Natalya soon realises she is not the only one interested in the case, as government security services wade in and shut down her investigation almost before it has begun.

Before long, state media are spreading smear stories about the dead woman, and Natalya suspects the authorities have something to hide. When a second rebel activist goes missing, she is forced to go undercover to expose the truth. But the stakes are higher than ever before. Not only could her pursuit of the murderer destroy her career, but her family ties to one of the victims threaten to tear her personal life apart.

A captivating, pacy thriller that plunges right into the beating heart of Putin’s Russia.

My Thoughts:

After reading the first book in this series, I didn’t think that this author could possibly match the explosive and taut brilliance of Motherland, but I was wrong! Black Wolf is absolutely amazing, the plot is thrilling, the characters are superb and the pace is like a whirlwind!

Black Wolf sees the reader catching up with Captain Natalya Ivanova, a detective with a difference in the corrupt and often murky world of Russian policing. Following on from the politics in Motherland, life has become testing for Natalya. Wrapping up her previous case left her seeing the corruption that was rife around her within her department, and also made things difficult for her husband who worked in the office. A promotion means that her personal life is threatened with destruction, and so it’s good that she has a case to work on over the Christmas period.

The case that Natalya and her deputy are working on is a troubling one, a the body of a young woman has been discovered in the snow in the outskirts of St. Petersburg, but once the connection is made to a group anti-Putin protestors the case suddenly becomes a whole lot more dangerous. Something about the case soon catches the attention of the government security agency and Natalya is warned off, but subtle hints never work on the headstrong detective, ensuring that readers have an adrenaline packed read ahead.
Operating undercover, Natalya is never far from danger and although she tries to limit the involvement of her colleagues, there are plenty who will help her. They believe she is a good detective and will get the much needed answers to solve the case, even if they do end up risking their own necks in the process.

Much life Motherland, Black Wolf portrays a fantastic image of the Russian wilderness, the harsh and biting cold of the season is so well described that I felt myself shuddering at mentions of trekking through the cold, or removing gloves to be able to use phones. The feeling menace that lurked throughout the plot was enough to keep me on edge reading this but also ensured that I was hooked. The writing is taut and punchy, meaning that I could not put this book down, it’s one of those “just one more chapter” books, where you find that you’ve read well into the wee hours but you don’t care because you need to know what happens.

As the plot opens up and the characters continue to develop in complexity, the reader is rewarded with a truly exceptional novel that takes them on a journey into the dark and dangerous side of Russian corruption, the unknown looms menacingly as the reader turns the pages. Although some forms of corruption may seem obvious, their motivations albeit flawed, some believe their actions are the right course or the only course of action. Others are just morally corrupt, their motivations purely self-serving and acting in their own interest which makes things all the more frightening, wondering how far they are willing to go to achieve their goals.
Writing like this, Abson ensures that he snares the interest of his readers, grabs their attention and does not let up.

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