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Posts Tagged ‘Celebrating Indie Publishing’

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

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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.

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  • 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.

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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

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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

Check out the blog tour!

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Today’s Celebrating Indie Publishing features the third book in the Gaia Trilogy, a series that I stepped out of my comfort zone to start reading and have loved. Science Fiction is not something that I regularly read, but this was a series that grabbed my attention and I have eagerly anticipated each of the books being published.

  • Title: White Gold
  • Author: David Barker
  • Publisher: Urbane Publications
  • Publication Date: 9th May 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

VENGEANCE ALWAYS HAS A PRICE

Sim Atkins, Overseas Division agent, returns to Earth, having saved the Moon base from a deadly terrorist plot (see Rose Gold). All Sim can think about is finding the criminals responsible.

But his fury and lust for revenge are put on hold when a nuclear warhead is stolen by Terra Former leader Matthias Larsson. Can Sim and his colleagues track down the terrorist cell and disarm the device in time?

White Gold is the gripping finale in the compellingly original Gaia Trilogy, page-turning thrillers that provoke as well as excite.

My Thoughts:

After finishing Rose Gold on such a cliffhanger, I was almost pacing around waiting to see what David Barker had lined up for Sim Atkins and the rest of the Overseas Division. This is a series that readers really need to read from the beginning to get a better grasp of how the events and characters are linked up and how they have progressed to where they are now.

In this instalment, Sim Atkins has returned from the base on the moon and is coming to terms with the events that took place whilst he tried to save the lives of many people in Rose Gold. Sim feels that his world has turned upside down, not truly knowing who to trust and where to turn, he tries to use old connections as a means to get information about the investigations that he cannot be part of. Sim wants answers, and vengeance but what price is he willing to pay for them? Life back home in the Scottish highlands is not the same for Sim, and so the opportunity to be part of a separate investigation gives him the chance to feel useful and find out what’s going on.

As well as catching up with Sim, readers also get to follow in the timelines of three other characters, Freda, Gopal and Rabten, who have grown and become integral parts of this series over the course of the three books. I especially liked Freda, her knowledge of films and fast thinking were qualities that made her stick in my mind from the very beginning. She’s a character that I think many readers will like and will become invested in. Following her through the books and seeing the scrapes she ends up in makes for some thrilling reading. Equally, watching the transformation in both Gopal and Rabten has been wonderful, these strong characters are fascinating and be delving into their respective histories and cultures, readers are given a colourful and well rounded cast of personalities to get to know.

David Barker manages to weave in an incredible amount of detail into the narrative and even though some things were new to me, some of the technologies mentioned were not things that I had encountered, I didn’t feel that I couldn’t enjoy reading this book. Indeed, I found that at times I paused my reading to head off into a rabbit hole of googling, keen to find out more. The atmospheric details that he writes into each scene are fantastic, Barker knows how to set the scene so vividly, be it on a submarine in the murky depths, a peaceful park or the offices of a government agency. There is so much here to stimulate the mind of the reader and have them feeling as though they have been transported to the location in the book!

Often people say they would love to see a book played out on TV or made into a film, and I have to admit that this is definitely one that I would really like to see brought to life on the big screen. It’s an adrenaline packed, taut and clever plotted read that has the reader desperate to find out what happens next.

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I do love when I can combine Celebrating Indie Publishing with a blog tour for a book that I have really enjoyed, and today is one of those happy days. I initially got an early copy of this book to read and I felt hugely honoured as I am a fan of this author and I think that everyone should read at least one of her books (or maybe all of them, it’s hard to pick just one). Scottish crime fiction is always a winner with me and this book is definitely one of those that will stay in my head for a while!

  • Title: Death at The Plague Museum
  • Author: Lesley Kelly
  • Publisher: Sandstone Press
  • Publication Date: 18th April 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

The pandemic is spreading.

On Friday, three civil servants leading Virus policy hold a secret meeting at the Museum of Plagues and Pandemics. By Monday, two are dead and one is missing.

It’s up to Mona and Bernard of the Health Enforcement Team to find the missing official before panic hits the streets.

My Thoughts:

For those not familiar with Edinburgh and the Health Enforcement Team team in Lesley Kelly’s Health of Strangers series, this is the third book in the series, the first two being The Health of Strangers and Songs by Dead Girls. Information about these can be found on the author’s website or your book buying website of choice. This can be read as a standalone, but to get a real feel for the the characters and the storyline, I would recommend reading th series in its entirety.

In this instalment of the series the HET have a mammoth task on their hands, tracking down a missing official who is a key member of the Virus policy, as well as their day to day job enforcing health checks for the residents of the city to restrict the spread of the deadly virus.
With the HET taking centre stage in this book, the reader gets to know the individuals, their lives and their backstories. A focus on Bernard and Mona in Death at the Plague Museum gives a wonderful human side to the story here, allowing readers to explore their individual stories and leaving them wanting more. This step into the personal lives of the team members allows for some fantastic character development, you get to see the side of them that isn’t the business persona, the organised HET professional, but instead the person with their own troubles, heartaches and wants. I do love a character that can come alive from the pages, the more complex the better and here I felt that these guys were so real, so vivid, and I was rooting for them to find happiness.

The two unexplained deaths and a missing official makes for an exciting plot, and with the investigation taking place over a week, the pace is spot on which is sure to keep readers hooked. The dark humour expertly woven throughout the narrative is pitched perfectly, and the inclusion of difficult themes is what makes this stand out, Kelly has a flair for writing stories that engage the audience and ensure they cannot put the book down.

As with many books with a mystery, it’s hard to say too much about the actual story, there’s always the worry about giving something away, and this is definitely a clever plot that you need to discover for yourself. It’s well structured and leaves the reader breathless as they race through the book. Such a wonderful series from an amazing author, and if Lesley Kelly isn’t a name on your list of authors to keep an eye out for, then I highly recommend you add her name!

Check out the blog tour!

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Today’s Celebrating Indie Publishing features both a book review and an author interview, and I am thrilled to share my thoughts with you about The Red Gene.

  • Title: The Red Gene
  • Author: Barbara Lamplugh
  • Publisher: Urbane Publications
  • Publication Date: 18th April 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

When Rose, a young English nurse with humanitarian ideals, decides to volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, she is little prepared for the experiences that await her.
Working on one front after another, witness to all the horrors of war, she falls in love with a Republican fighter, Miguel. In 1939 as defeat becomes inevitable, Rose is faced with a decision that will change her life and leave her with lasting scars.

Interspersed with Rose’s story is that of Consuelo, a girl growing up in a staunchly Catholic family on the other side of the ideological divide. Never quite belonging, treated unkindly, she discovers at a young age that she was adopted but her attempts to learn more about her origins are largely thwarted.

It falls to the third generation, to Consuelo’s daughter Marisol, born in the year of Franco’s death and growing up in a rapidly changing Spain, to investigate the dark secrets of her family and find the answers that have until now eluded her mother.

My Thoughts:

The Red Gene is an impressive journey through the history of three distinctly different women, all of whom are linked by a connection and are completely unaware of it.
Rose, a young woman makes the decision she must volunteer, her nursing skills would be of great use to those fighting in the Spanish Civil War and give her the glimpse of the world that she so desperately wants. For Rose, this begins as an adventure, not aware of the harsh realities she will face so close to the fighting. The injuries she sees, the lack of supplies and the constant fear of bombardment take their toll on Rose, they change who she was, and in turn begin a transformation into a woman who takes chances and knows her worth.

As readers get to know Rose and her story, they are immersed in the early life of Consuelo. She is a troubled young girl, feeling that her place in her family isn’t as valued as that of her siblings, always feeling that she is on the receiving end of her mother’s disappointment. Learning that she was adopted as a baby, things begin to make sense for her but this also leaves her with so many questions. Where did she come from? Who were her biological parents and are they still around?

The lives of both Rose and Consuelo play out over the course of their narratives, and so does the exploration of their personalities. In these two women we witness great humanity but also pain, we see them grow, watch them take on challenges and thrive under the pressures placed on them. Just as their lives reach a certain place, a third narrative is added in by way of Marisol, Consuelo’s daughter, a confident but somewhat youthfully naive girl who questions everything around her. Her inquisitive mind illustrates the movement of both time and society, why does her mother do everything for the family, why don’t her male siblings help out around the home instead of expecting the females of the family do it it all … she demonstrates the change in thinking that drives the modern world and in turn gives readers another strong female character to fall in love with.

Barbara Lamplugh has written a strong yet beautiful story that brings to life the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War, the stolen babies of the Franco era and the turmoil associated with them both. She approaches the subjects with sympathy and sensitivity, not shying away from the realities, yet she manages to portray them in away that gives readers an understanding of the situations. The confusion and turmoil faced by her characters is so vividly described in The Red Gene, the sense of loss and longing that is depicted is very real and it’s hard not to be moved to some extent by it.
Whilst being a very interesting read and very well written, there is a subtle message that this book bestows upon the audience, the importance of family. It reminds us that family is not just those who you are linked to by blood or genetics, but those who you choose to to bring into your life.


Author Feature:

Barbara Lamplugh started out as a travel writer in the 1970s, inspired by a life-changing overland journey to Kathmandu in a converted fire-engine. Her love of adventure then took her backpacking around SE Asia via the Trans-Siberian Railway and Japan. Two travel books, Kathmandu by Truck and Trans-Siberia by Rail, were the result. Another new experience – motherhood – came next, putting an end to her extensive wanderings. However, she continued to write, turning now to fiction. In 1999, spurred by the challenge of living in a different culture, she headed for Granada, Spain, where along with the energising light of the sun, she found her dream job as a features writer for the magazine Living Spain, writing on topics as diverse as garlic, machismo, the life of a lighthouse keeper and the nightmarish experience of being trapped at an all-night drumming festival. Although her heart and home are in Granada, where her 2015 novel Secrets of the Pomegranate is set, she makes frequent visits to the UK to spend time with her children and grandchildren.
Her new novel, The Red Gene, will be published by Urbane in April 2019.

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

Nothing can beat the exhilaration of that moment when an idea comes to me out of the blue for a plot development, a scene or just a sentence that expresses perfectly what I want to say. But the thrill of getting feedback from readers that they’ve loved my book or been deeply affected by my writing comes a close second.

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

Sending my baby out to agents or publishers after years of hard work and emotional investment and getting no response or just a standard two-line rejection six months later. It’s hard not to get discouraged, to continue to believe in yourself and your writing.

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

That’s a difficult question, there are so many. I’m tempted to pick one of Roald Dahl’s for his brilliant imagination, creative way with language (Frobscottle! Whizzpoppers!) and the pleasure he’s given to generations of children. But I think instead I’m going to plump for one of Rose Tremain’s novels. I’d be proud to have written any of them, I so admire the way she gets under the skin of diverse characters and brings settings – from 17th century Denmark to gold-rush New Zealand to post-war Switzerland – vividly to life. If I have to choose one of her books, I’ll go for The Colour. It portrays a world previously unknown to me and reflects, as do all her books, her deep understanding of human nature.

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

I like to balance the solitary hours at my desk with socialising – seeing friends, spending time with my children and grandchildren in the UK, generally getting out and about – and to balance the sedentary task of writing with exercise – walking, cycling, swimming, dancing. I’ve always loved travel though I do less now than I used to. Reading also plays an important part in my life, as I imagine it does for most writers.

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

I’m at my most creative in the mornings and I need silence and solitude. Although ideas can come to me at any time, I never take my laptop to cafes as some writers do. I would find that far too distracting. If I’m stuck, I go for a walk, or to the beach in summer. That nearly always works but only when I’m alone. I’ll write my ideas down in a notebook or on any handy scrap of paper, to be transferred once I get home. Inspiration comes when I’m relaxed and tends to strike most easily when I’m in or near water: the sea, rivers, even the bath!

What’s on the horizon? 

While I’m in the full throes of promoting The Red Gene, it’s difficult to focus on a new novel. I need to have some writing on the go though, so in the meantime, I’m working on a memoir around the theme of migration – my family’s and mine – and how it has influenced our lives. After that, I hope to return to fiction.

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

Life is full of coincidences, missed opportunities, tragedies or serendipities of timing, often with momentous consequences. I’ve sometimes used these in plotting my novels. For example,
Secrets of the Pomegranate opens with Deborah, the central character, catching a train by the skin of her teeth. It happens to be one of the four targeted by Islamist extremists in the terrorist attack of 2004. The fact that she’s on that train sets off a whole chain of consequences, without which there’d have been no story. In The Red Gene, missed opportunities and accidents of timing were all that stood in the way of encounters that would have changed the lives of my protagonists. I’m often struck by how much in life is down to chance (call it Fate if you like): to being in the right place at the right time or the reverse.

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

The Red Gene is a novel about love and war and motherhood and identity, set in Spain and England between 1936 and 2012. It tells the story of Rose, a young English nurse who volunteers for Spain with the International Brigades at the beginning of the Civil War. The story spans three generations of women so it’s also the story of Consuelo, born in 1939 soon after the start of Franco’s dictatorship and of Consuelo’s youngest daughter, Marisol. Having lived in Spain for 20 years, I’m pretty fluent in Spanish and that meant I was able to interview older Spaniards on both sides of the political divide about life under the dictatorship. Their stories and what has emerged in the press in recent years showed me some of the less savoury aspects of recent Spanish history, including the theft of babies for ideological reasons. Both the interviews and the media articles were invaluable when plotting The Red Gene and fleshing out the background.

It’s an action tale, a love story and a family drama rolled into one, but set in a historical context that resonates today as we see fascism on the rise again in a number of countries. Readers have told me they found the book moving and hard to put down and that they learnt a lot too. I personally like reading novels that involve me emotionally but also make me think and I hope that’s what I’ve achieved in writing
The Red Gene.

A huge thank you to Barbara for joining me today for a chat, it’s a huge honour 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 Barbara and her books, check out her website or Twitter!
Website: https://barbaralamplugh.com


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I’ve been very lucky lately with some of the books I’ve read for sharing on this feature. When Celebrating Indie Publishing started, I don’t think I ever imagined how popular it would become, or how many different books I would end up falling in love with. Today’s book is one of those rare books that I started reading, not prepared for how deeply it would make me think or how much it would get under my skin.

  • Title: The Lives Before Us
  • Author: Juliet Conlin
  • Publisher: Black and White Publishing
  • Publication Date: 28th March 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

“I wasn’t sure I liked the sound of it. Even my vivid imagination could hardly fathom a place as tight, or dense, or narrow as Shanghai.”

It’s April 1939 and, with their lives in Berlin and Vienna under threat, Esther and Kitty – two very different women – are forced to make the same brutal choice. Flee Europe, or face the ghetto, incarceration, death.

Shanghai, they’ve heard, Shanghai is a haven – and so they secure passage to the other side of the world. What they find is a city of extremes – wealth, poverty, decadence and disease – and of deep political instability. Kitty has been lured there with promises of luxury, love, marriage – but when her Russian fiancé reveals his hand she’s left to scratch a vulnerable living in Shanghai’s nightclubs and dark corners. Meanwhile, Esther and her little girl take shelter in a house of widows until the protection of Aaron, Esther’s hot-headed former lover, offers new hope of survival.

Then the Japanese military enters the fray and violence mounts. As Kitty’s dreams of escape are dashed, and Esther’s relationship becomes tainted, the two women are thrown together in the city’s most desperate times. Together they must fight for a future for the lives that will follow theirs.

A sweeping story of survival, community and friendship in defiance of the worst threat to humanity the world has ever faced. From the author of the extraordinary The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner in Six DaysThe Lives Before Us will particularly resonate with readers of Jeremy Dronfield (The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz), Anthony Doerr (All the Light We Cannot See), Heather Morris (The Tattooist of Auschwitz), and Costa-winner Bart van Es (The Cut Out Girl).

My Thoughts:

I have to admit, that the journey to Shanghai was not one that I was familiar with, and indeed I wasn’t aware of the number of people who fled Europe for China around the time of WWII, so The Lives Before Us was a somewhat educational read for me.

Juliet Conlin crafts two wonderfully complex characters to make the journey from an unstable Europe to the haven of Shanghai in 1939. These women are brought to life through her eloquent and vivid writing, they are more than just names on a page, they are well rounded personalities with very real worries and problems, they are victims of decisions made around them and for them, but one thing is for sure, Shanghai will be a new start for them.
Esther and her young daughter Anni, are thrown somewhat by the arrival of a glamorous woman in their cabin aboard the ship in Genoa, Kitty’s appearance was not expected, but both women are given little choice about the arrangements and decide to make the best of a difficult situation. As they cross the oceans to Shanghai, Esther learns that Kitty is also a Jew, and fleeing persecution in Vienna. The pair strike up a friendship, a genuine bond forms between them and Esther is saddened when they lose sight of each other when they arrive at their final destination.
Arriving in Shanghai, Kitty is thrilled to see fiance Vitali and cannot wait to begin the rest of their lives together. She shows her to an apartment, introduces her to her young Chinese servant Yi (Wing as Vitali refers to him), and then drops the bombshell that life will not work out as Kitty had hoped.

What then follows is a rich and heartbreaking narrative from the perspectives of Esther, Kitty and Yi. Readers experience the adjustments to life that each of these characters faces, Esther trying to keep her young child safe and find work so that they can move out of a refugee centre, Kitty living an existence that doesn’t quite match up with the life she had envisioned, feeling alone and isolated, and then there is Yi. Yi lives in a kind of poverty that forces the reader to face the inequalities in society, he is treated with kindness by Kitty, a stark contrast to the way that Vitali treats him, and I almost gasped in horror reading the beatings he received at the hands of his Russian master.

As their lives develop and adapt to their surroundings, these characters grow, they find strength and courage, but the compassion they receive and show to others really sets these three out as special.

This is a really remarkable book, it takes a very dark part of history and together with compassionate and beautiful writing, transforms the story into an unforgettable tale that works its way into the hearts of readers and leaves them wondering “what if?” with it’s thought provoking prose.



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Today’s Celebrating Indie Publishing joins up with the blog tour for Claire MacLeary’s third book in the series featuring PIs Maggie Laird and Wilma Harcus in Aberdeen. Having read and loved the previous books, I was very excited to be involved with the buzz for the new book, Runaway. Claire MacLeary is a name you want to remember her books are fantastic!

  • Title: Runaway
  • Author: Claire MacLeary
  • Publisher: Contraband
  • Publication Date: 14th March 2019

Early copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

When Aberdeen housewife Debbie Milne abruptly vanishes, her husband is frantic with worry and turns to local PIs Maggie Laird and Big Wilma Harcus.

Maggie is reluctant to take on a misper case, but Wilma cajoles her into a covert operation trawling women s refuges and homeless squats in search of a lead. But when a woman’s body is discovered in a skip, the unlikely investigators are dragged into a deeper mystery involving people-trafficking, gambling and prostitution and they’re in deadly danger.

With the police struggling to make headway and the clock ticking, the race is on for Harcus and Laird to find answers, further straining their already fraying relationship.

With Runaway, Claire MacLeary delivers the goods again creating a surprising, gritty, fast-paced tale with the warmth and wit of women of a certain age.

My Thoughts:

Where to start … well if you’re unfamiliar with this series, I would highly recommend checking out the previous books, Cross Purpose and Burnout and getting to know the force of nature that is ‘Big Wilma’ and her business partner Maggie, they are by far some of the best characters I’ve ever met in a book.

In Runaway, the reader is faced with a frantic man searching for his wife who seems to have vanished, his phone call to the emergency services starts the book with bang. Who is the missing woman, what has happened to her, where has she gone, is there more to her disappearance than meets the eye … so many questions based on an opening chapter!
As the police investigation develops and the frantic husband, Scott begins to lose faith with the detectives and hires Harcus and Laird to look into the disappearance of his wife Debbie. Unbeknownst to Scott, the police investigation has picked up some speed and with information from another branch of Police Scotland, the case is soon escalated to CID which should mean that Harcus and Laird step back and allow the police to do their work. Big Wilma firmly has the bit between her teeth with this case and is adamant she will not give this case up. After the previous case that the agency worked on, the women are keen not to make the same mistakes again, and Maggie especially is wary of taking things at face value, and tries to push back on Wilma every time her dogged determination tries to take over or push her.

With two such strong characters it’s hard for readers not to connect with them. Billed as ‘women of a certain age’, they certainly don’t feel outdated or difficult to like, they are what I would think of as “normal” women, trying to make a living doing something they are actually good at whilst juggling running a household, family, life … admirable really. The thing I found most appealing about these characters is the way that they secretly want to be a little more like the other. Wilma, always impressed at the vocabulary that Maggie possesses, seems to want to expand on her knowledge, wants to use the intelligence she clearly already has and it’s wonderful to see this develop through the book. Maggie often seems as though she wishes she had Wilma’s confidence and sure-footedness in many situations and slowly begins to take chances with it.
Underneath their often heated exchanges, is a genuine care for each other, these women may not have started out at best friends, but there’s a strong friendship between them which has grown with each new book in the series, I’ve loved seeing how these two vastly different women have not only formed a lasting friendship but become the emotional support that the other needed.

If strong characterisation wasn’t enough to make this book a winner, then it has to be said that the writing itself is a thing of beauty! Hailing from the Granite City, I know a lot of the landmarks and settlements mentioned within the book and Claire MacLeary distills their essence perfectly. Even down to the little details such as the railings inside the Dutch Mill hotel and pub. She brings the people and the places of Aberdeen alive and shows that no matter the city, there is always a side to things you may not be aware of. And as Maggie and Wilma work their way through their investigation, their paths crisscross through some dark and dangerous streets, MacLeary ensures that readers can ‘feel’ the danger that lurks in the shadows ahead, she makes sure they can ‘sense’ the dread and anticipation, but most of all she takes some truly difficult themes and makes them understandable, writing them in a way that does not simplify or remove any of the severity surrounding them.

A gripping, dark and gritty read that is the perfect addition to the series and I truly cannot wait to see what Claire MacLeary writes next! If you ever get the chance to see Claire talking at a book festival, or even just see her in the crowd, do say hello. She is one of the loveliest people, and genuinely wonderful to speak to!

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