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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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The second of my reviews today comes from a vastly different book, this time a book called The Silver Moon Storybook written by Elaine Gunn and illustrated by Megan MacPhie.

  • Title: The Silver Moon Storybook
  • Author: Elaine Gunn
  • Publisher: Self published

Early copy received from the author for review purposes.

Description:

What darkness lies in the past of a little witch, cursed into the shape of a giant? Who will save a magical unicorn, imprisoned for generations in the castle of a tyrant? As the silver moon rises in the sky, an enormous clown and a powerful siren join a humble weaver and other enchanting characters in these haunting tales of illusion, discovery and love.

An exquisitely illustrated bedtime story for the age of #MeToo, The Silver Moon Storybook transforms themes of modern feminism into touching fables full of the magic and shadows of traditional fairy tales.

My Thoughts:

The words of Elaine Gunn are brought to life with the impressive artwork of Megan MacPhie in what I believe is Gunn’s first published book. And what an intriguing book this is, with a cast of characters that are crafted with detail and clear personalities.

Each of the tales within this book features a strong female character that found a sense of freedom from the ties that bound her in the beginning. There are also themes of love, loss and relationships throughout the tales, which make for thought provoking reading.
The notion that these are modern feminist tales will attract many readers, the magical creatures and wonderful illustrations will also appeal to the audience, but there is a feeling of reality in all of this. Stick with me on this train of thought, but even in a tale featuring witches, unicorns or giant spiders, there are characters who can rely on each other, support each other or just be allies in times of need. These characters can be all female, they can be all male or they can be a mixture of both sexes and show an accurate portrayal of modern struggles – therefore making this feel very current and real for modern life.

I this book would be worthy addition to any bookshelf, the tales themselves are magical and entertaining for readers who just want to read the story, but perhaps for those who want to read between the lines, who want to explore the themes and deeper meanings of the text then this is also an idea read. There are so many different things you can take from The Silver Moon Storybook. It’s one of those that I read at leisure, taking the time to enjoy each story, think about what I read and the meanings behind it before moving on to the next story. The handy note section at the back of the book providing ample space for me to jot down thoughts about what I had read, and means that when I undoubtedly go back to read this book again, I will be able to see if the story still conjures the same ideas as before.

I don’t often mention the cover of books, but in this case I want to make an exception. The Silver Moon Storybook is an exquisite book, from the beautiful purple cover, to the flowing silver image and font … it’s eye catching and hard to resist.


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I’m thrilled to welcome you to a special Indie Publishing Friday , today I have two fantastic books that I want to share with you. Two vastly different books, but two brilliant ones.

I’ve also got a great Q&A with one of the authors to share.

The book in this post is A Letter From Sarah by Dan Proops. It was published by Urbane Publications on 7th March and is available from Waterstones, Amazon etc.

  • Title: A Letter From Sarah
  • Author: Dan Proops
  • Publisher: Urbane Publications
  • Publication Date: 7th March 2019

Early copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Adam’s sister, Sarah, has been missing for seven years, but he hasn’t given up hope of finding her. He is a sculptor and lives with his bedridden father who is a bully and a curmudgeon.

One morning, as the anniversary of Sarah’s disappearance nears, Adam receives a letter from her and she is apparently alive and well, living in New York. Adam travels to Brooklyn to search for Sarah as he’s desperate to see her, but she seems determined to avoid him.

Sarah’s letters arrive weekly, but she continues to remain elusive. Adam is perplexed by Sarah’s requests for secrecy, as is his father and his girlfriend, Cassandra.

He is determined to find her, whatever the cost to his wellbeing, health and sanity….

My Thoughts:

A Letter From Sarah is an exploration of human emotion and the bonds of family/friends. In this book, Dan Proops takes great care to weave a story that illustrates the best and worst character traits a human can possess. There is obsession, love, betrayal, faith, and loyalty to name but a few, but somehow Proops manages to balance these perfectly to showcase a cast of characters that are distinctly different from each other, acting in ways you might not always agree with or understand. With such strong characterisation it’s hard not to feel some pull towards Adam, through his desperate need to find answers about his sister Sarah, readers watch him slowly become obsessed with the letters that begin to arrive. The very idea that his sister is alive and living in New York buoy him up, but at the same time, he guards his heart against being hurt. There have been plenty time wasters over the years, ones who have pretended to be Sarah or have information about her and left Adam and his father no better off for answers.

The writing is pitched just right, at times it feels as though events are seen through the eyes of Adam, it feels as though you are following his muddled train of thought as he tries to piece together information from the letters, memories of childhood and process events around him. It feels like his mind is unravelling at times, and his slow descent into a dark abyss feels all too real, the people around him taking advantage of his generosity or kind nature make this all too brutal to witness sometimes.

It’s an addictive read and one that I found myself thinking about when I wasn’t reading it, why was Sarah keen to evade him, why was Adam treated so harshly by his father, how would this all impact on Adam’s relationship with his girlfriend Cassandra … so many questions swirled around in my mind about this book and haunted my thoughts as I read.
A truly remarkable read and one that I think would be perfect for book groups, the possibilities for discussion are endless!


Author Feature:

Dan Proops has been a full time writer for six years and has completed four novels and a memoir. Previous to this he was a professional artist, organising a one man show at the age of fourteen. He has had many exhibitions over a long career and his artwork was purchased by internationally acclaimed art dealer, Eric Franck. His artwork appeared frequently in the national press and his painting was featured in Image of the Week in the Times. One of his exhibitions was previewed in the Telegraph by columnist Colin Gleadell.

Dan is a Twitter influencer and has a following of 22,000; last year 1.2 million people read his tweets, and he currently attends the advanced writing class at Morley College, run by the renowned radio four dramatist Mike Walker. Dan Proops is also the grandson of legendary advice columnist, Marjorie Proops. He lives and works in London.

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

I love being an author. I can create a place, populated by characters and wonderful locations. It’s like creating my own world where I control the actions of my people, their dreams and ambitions. I give them dilemmas, emotions and difficulties that are sometimes hard to overcome. And their unique traits are woven into the fabric of my story.

I can envisage, in detail, my characters’ tone of voice, how they act, and their demeanours. And I love description, perhaps a building painted liquid bronze in the sunshine. Characterisation, description and plot all intertwine to create my own personal universe.

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

As I write a lovely sentence, at the back of my mind, I wonder if anyone has Tweeted on my notifications page, so I’ll just have a five second peek. (really, this time just five seconds).

An hour later, I’ve lost my place and can’t remember what I was writing about! The other problem I face as an author is strict discipline, which involves sticking to only five double espressos a day, which is hard at the best of times. Coffee is the fuel of writing.

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

A novel that I would love to have written is Orwell’s first novel, Burmese Days. He served as a policeman in Burma and the descriptions of the Burmese jungle are beautiful and evocative. I particularly like the protagonist, Flory, a vulnerable character who’s beleaguered with the racism of his members club; he struggles to find his footing as he’s close friends with a Burmese doctor.

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

I enjoy reading, and meeting up with friends. I also enjoy meeting with fellow authors to discuss writing.

I’m also an avid PC gamer and enjoy story-run fantasy games that draw me in o a fascinating narrative.

Now my first novel has been published I’m really enjoying promoting A Letter From Sarah and am thrilled that an Indie bookshop is stocking the novel. For me, seeing my novel in a bookshop is as important as my online presence, connecting with my Twitter followers and making sure my website is up to date. And I’m really excited about blog tours.

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

About ten in the morning, I go to a particular café that I like, flick through a newspaper, then I read some fiction for an hour. After that I begin writing. I work for four hours, then I take a break and try for another hour.

What’s on the horizon? 

I’m currently working on a new novel. I’m always excited about the book I’m currently writing, and this particular manuscript needs a thorough edit. I’m quite ruthless when it comes to editing, and can spend up to eight months perfecting a book. The first draft feels like having fun at a party, after a few beers, when you can say anything you want, without worrying about the consequences!

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

I’d advise any reader to try out books from different decades. I love Orwell, Grahame Greene, and F. Scott Fitzgerald as I really like the style of writing in those times. So, if you’re a crime addict, try an Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle or Daphne Du Maurier. For me, reading the classics is as important as perusing contemporary literature.

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

Here’s a brief description of the novel: for seven years Adam has been tormented by the disappearance of his beloved sister Sarah. And then, with no warning he receives a letter from her. She refuses to meet but won’t explain why. Adam fears she’s in trouble and sets off to find her, but the harder he looks the more elusive she becomes.

A Letter From Sarah is not autobiographical in the strict sense, but I was inspired to write it after falling out with my only sibling.

I think that anyone who likes psychological thrillers, mystery, suspense would enjoy the book.


A huge thank you to Dan 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 Dan and his books, check out his website or Twitter!
Website: http://dan-proops.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Dan_Proops




 


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I am thrilled to welcome you to another Celebrating Indie Publishing spot on The Quiet Knitter blog and share a review of a book that intrigued me and entertained me in equal measure! Today’s book in the spotlight is The Red Light Zone by Jeff Zycinski, an affectionate, humorous account of inside life at the BBC.

  • Title: The Red Light Zone: An Insider’s ‘Laugh ‘n’ Tell’ of BBC Radio
  • Author: Jeff Zycinski
  • Publisher: The Lunicorn Press
  • Publication Date: 24th January 2019

Early copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Stop! Danger! Sex for sale! A red light can signify any one of those, but in a radio station it means a microphone has gone live: the walls may be soundproof, but in studio space, everyone can hear you scream … or sneeze.

For twenty-five years, Jeff Zycinski worked for BBC Radio and became the longest-serving boss of Radio Scotland. He made the big decisions buying a new vacuum cleaner for the Selkirk office and chaired a meeting that almost erupted in violence when someone suggested cats were better than dogs. He has a lot to say about Brexit, Scottish Independence, football, BBC bias, Islam and strippers … but not in this book. Okay, he talks about them a bit … mainly the strippers. An affectionate, humorous account of inside life at the Beeb.

You will never buy chips in the same way again!

My Thoughts:

The radio has always been there in my life, whenever I went into the kitchen my mum had the radio on, in the car, even taking a wee battery operated radio outside into the garden when we played outside, and so when I saw the description of this book I was curious. What interesting nuggets of information would this book give? Would this give me a sneaky look behind the mysterious world of radio that I’d always wondered about?

With a very relaxed style of narration, The Red Light Zone is a very enjoyable read. Jeff strikes me as a very easy to speak to and listen to sort of guy, it feels as though you’ve sat down for a coffee (or a pint) with him whilst he regales you with tales of his career at the BBC. And I’m sure there were so many options of tales he had the choice to share, but the ones he chose make for fascinating reading. It’s interesting to watch the development of radio over the years, seeing how production of radio differs from TV and how the dynamics shifted.

Jeff’s frankness is refreshing, he is open about successes and failures over the span of his career, the impacts his career had on his family and indeed shares various anecdotes of family life, all of which endear him to the reader.

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  • Title: Where No Shadows Fall
  • Author: Peter Ritchie
  • Publisher: Black and White Publishing
  • Publication Date: 7th February 2019

Early copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description

Expose the truth or let the dead lie still?

Grace Macallan’s life is on an even keel – at last. But a 9-to-5 career away from the frontline isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

So when she’s sent to investigate a suicide at Glasgow’s notorious Barlinnie prison, Grace gladly escapes her desk. The dead inmate is Tommy McMartin, heir to a ferocious criminal family. His murder conviction saw Tommy’s fall from power; cast out not for violence but because the victim was his gay lover.

The investigation drags Grace into contact with her McMartin adversaries of old. But the gangland dynasty is under threat and, as it topples, secrets once dead and buried are unearthed.

As she unravels Tommy McMartin’s fate, Grace senses someone watching her from the shadows, someone who aches for revenge. An awful dilemma faces her: to expose the truth or let the dead lie still.

My Thoughts:

The fourth book in the Grace Macallan series was a book that I eagerly anticipated, this is a series I’ve followed from the beginning and have become somewhat attached to the characters. The writing never fails to emphasize the danger or the hard conditions that Peter Ritchie has his characters working under, something that I suspect comes from experience as opposed to imagination.
An immersive and thrilling read, this series has taken readers on a journey into the darkness of the criminal underworld and the hierarchies of the powerful, and brought them face to face with some of the most terrifying and impossible situations.

Without saying much about the plot, I will say that the scenes set in Barlinnie prison are some of the most powerful pieces of writing from Peter Ritchie. He manages to set the scene perfectly, convey the harshness of the atmosphere and the bleakness of the situations facing his characters incarcerated there without being overly dramatic or taking away from the seriousness of it all. But for me, what really steals the show is the characterisation.
Being able to see another side to an already complex character such as Tommy McMartin when he’s in prison really fascinated me. Ritchie’s writing has this wonderful way of making a reader not only feel the emotions of the personas at play, but to feel as though they are there in the moment. Seeing this powerful and dangerous gangland figure unravel and became fair game in prison, the abuse meted out to him had a serious impact, both physically and psychologically, left him feeling there was only one course of action open to him. Being able to make me feel sympathy towards Tommy shows the skill of the author perfectly, his writing evokes great emotion for a character who has possibly carried out some of the most violent and deadly actions in the gangland setting, I applaud Ritchie for this impressive feat.

Macallan’s life has moved on somewhat from the end of book three, and the continuity of her timeline has been wonderful to watch develop. The way that she has been cast makes for engaging reading, not the stereotypical female in a male heavy workplace. She has earned her place and the respect of those around her through hard work and years of working in some of the most dangerous environments. Watching her life take shape outside of the job allows readers to get to know this character deeply, understand some of her motivations and why she will always remember those who’ve helped her get where she is.
She walks a dangerous tightrope, balancing what is right for her family and what is right for her, whilst fighting the good fight and finding justice.

A brilliantly gritty crime thriller that adds to the series perfectly, it examines the bonds between family, loyalty and friends, leaving readers questioning what will happen next.

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Celebrating Indie Publishing today sees The Quiet Knitter link up with Random Things Tours and Orenda Books, joining the blog tour for the latest publication by the indie publisher. Beton Rouge is the second book in the Chastity Riley series by Simone Buchholz and was published in ebook in December 2018, paperback publication is set for February 2019.

** My thanks to Orenda Books for my review copy of this book, and Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour **

Description:

On a warm September morning, an unconscious man is found in a cage at the entrance to the offices of one of Germany’s biggest magazines. He’s soon identified as a manager of the company, and he’s been tortured. Three days later, another manager appears in a similar way.

Chastity Riley and her new colleague Ivo Stepanovic are tasked with uncovering the truth behind the attacks, an investigation that goes far beyond the revenge they first suspect … to the dubious past shared by both victims. Travelling to the south of Germany, they step into the hothouse world of boarding schools, where secrets are currency, and monsters are bred … monsters who will stop at nothing to protect themselves.

A smart, dark, probing thriller, full of all the hard-boiled poetry and acerbic wit of the very best noir, Beton Rouge is both a classic whodunit and a scintillating expose of society, by one of the most exciting names in crime fiction.

My Thoughts:

Following the success of book one of the series, Dark Night, Simone Buchholz is back with the second offering in the German Noir series. Translation by Rachel Ward is once again on top form, none of the nuances of the German language feel that they have been lost in translation, making this feel like a wonderful cultural exploration as well as gritty crime thriller.

So Chastity Riley is back, and I am thrilled to see that she hasn’t changed between the books. There’s something so rich and entertaining about this character, her acerbic wit and and sharp tongue making for some wonderful exchanges between characters and internal monologues.

Not only is characterisation strong in this book, the plotting is superb. Buchholz leads her on a journey through the pages that twists and weaves expertly into the darkness of an individual who is hellbent on making a point with the torture and caging of two men. What is the motive behind these disturbing actions? Who is the unknown assailant carrying out these acts? What connects the victims? And how does it all tie in with the hit and run that Chastity Riley discovers in the opening chapter of the book?
The way that the strands of the plot pull together, coupled with short chapters and punchy writing, makes this a quick read. I found that I read this in one evening, racing through the pages to make connections and find out the links between the cases and the identity of the of the menacing figure obscured by the shadows.

Dark Night, the first book of the series was published in 2018. For those who are new to the series, you could read this straightaway, but I do think to get a better grasp of the protagonist and her motivations, her relationships with some of the characters, this is a series that merits being read in order. The writing is vividly detailed, readers can “see” the scenes that Chastity and partner Ivo witness, they get a great sense of the emotions that Chastity experiences, and feel immersed fully in the story.
The cover image of the book is simple but effective, giving readers a fantastic visual prompt, just such a powerful image and one that works perfectly with the writing.

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Welcome along to another Friday here on The Quiet Knitter, and I am delighted to share an author feature with you! The author in the spotlight today is the lovely Roz White, so grab a cuppa and join us for a wee chat!

Roz has written several books, including a Steampunk Phantasy (book two is currently in progress) and the Sisterhood series which follows the lives of five transwomen. The Sisterhood is the first book of the series and was published in 2015, you can purchase a digital copy via Amazon UK.


Author image & bio from Amazon

Author Feature:

I’ve been writing stories since my earliest memories: my first masterpiece was two pages of foolscap – with illustrations – about a television programme of the time, and contained more uses of the word “then” than any other. I’d like to think I’ve improved just a little since then; after all, I was only about five.
So, where to really begin? I’m already in my fifties, although I’ve no idea when that happened! I’m British, English by birth and currently Scottish by residence: I’ve been here for over fourteen years now. Until the start of 2018 I lived on a remote island that requires me to commute by ferry for the day job – one of the best journeys to and from work in the world, surely! My output over the last twenty years or so has included over a dozen novels and a handful of non-fiction texts, the latter being well-known in their academic field – something of a boasting point, I’m afraid! There have also been magazine articles and short stories scattered here and there. Some are on here under the pen-name of H. A. Douglas.
Now, I live in Invergordon, and work out of Inverness. I have lost my ferry-time along with a great deal else (long story, but it’ll make it into a book one day), so now Sunday tends to be Writing Day, and I can take all day, too.
However… if you look for some of these other books under my name, you won’t find them, and here we come to the part of this biography that, for all my years of dealing with it, I still don’t seem to have any proper sort of handle on.
I am transgendered. There, I said it! I am biologically male, psychologically feeling more and more female (whatever that means, but it feels that way to me) as the years go by. My writing allows me a useful window to explore this side of me, and undoubtedly helps keep me close to some semblance of sanity. My family (I’m married with children) are aware of this side of me, and have accepted it without question since the Great Secret coming out – for which I am incredibly, totally, grateful.
I have been full-time and in transition since March 2017. It’s a long process with a lot of waiting and far too much NHS Gate-keeping, Jumping Through Hoops and so forth.

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?
Telling stories! It’s something I’ve always done, ever since my earliest years – even pre-school. My second favourite thing is the assembling of all the separate chapters and seeing the whole thing finally come together.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?  
Not making any money from it! In all seriousness, that’s the Big Thing: I’d love to make a living doing this, and it hurts like anything that I don’t seem able to. On a good month, my royalties from my 20+ books might, if I’m lucky, buy me a bottle of cheap plonk…

If you could have written any book what would it be and why? 
Ooh, tricky! The thing is, if I had written them, then they wouldn’t be that book anymore, would they! Films are worse: I often sit watching them and think “it’s not what I’d have put in – what about this, or that, that’s barely even touched on?”

How do you spend your time when you’re not writing? 
Well there’s a mortgage to pay… so I work full-time, which after nearly a year involuntarily unemployed, is a relief – the bills are getting attended to again! Hobby-wise, I have too many: model railways in a number of scales and styles, wargaming and figure-painting… I love cooking, and used to brew beer too. I might get back into that if I ever have the money!

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 find silence disturbing these days, so the radio is usually on. My current circumstances have dictated that Sundays have become Writing Days, which is a luxury in itself; over Christmas, I had nearly two weeks in the family home (I am forced to live away in order to earn a living) with no real calls on my energies, and I got so much done on the current WIP!

What’s on the horizon? 
Well, my Sisterhood series rumbles on, and I am in the middle of the seventh full novel; I have a novella to revisit in the same series, and that might well grow into another novel. I am concentrating on the second in my Steampunk series right now, since in theory that’s due out first; oh, and my alter-ego H.A. Douglas, who is responsible for the Historical Fiction output, is likely to be busy this year too!

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be? 
Be open-minded. Try not to judge, or if you find that you have to judge, judge kindly. My Sisterhood  books deal with transgender characters (I am trans myself), and I would hope if anything that they help understand the condition a little better for those on the outside looking in

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

Well… The Challenge of Lady Ghast is my second foray into Steampunk Victoriana, and is due out this year – a mad romp through Vaguely Victorian England! The latest Sisterhood novel, Changes, follows my group of five transwomen as they forge friendships and try to help each other through life’s trials. Gritty, realistic, character-driven fiction that has been very well received by all its readers so far!

A huge thank you to Roz for joining me today for a chat, it’s always an honour to welcome indie authors to share something about their writing, their habits or a sneaky glimpse into their upcoming projects! I have to admit that before today I had never heard of Steampunk Phantasy as a genre, but looking up Roz’s books has me keen to find out more and I’ve bought book one of the series for my Kindle to read soon!

As Roz mentioned above, she also writes under the name H. A. Douglas, these books are Viking based fiction, the series is The Wirhalh Trilogy, and a must read for fans of Viking era tales!

To find out more about Roz and her books, check out her author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Roz-White-1567046250194474/

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** my thanks to Orenda Books for my copy of this and to Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blog tour **

Description:

What turns a boy into a killer?

When the high school in the small Norwegian village of Fredheim becomes a murder scene, the finger is soon pointed at seventeen-year-old Even. As the investigation closes in, social media is ablaze with accusations, rumours and even threats, and Even finds himself the subject of an online trial as well as being in the dock … for murder?

Even pores over his memories of the months leading up to the crime, and it becomes clear that more than one villager was acting suspiciously … and secrets are simmering beneath the calm surface of this close-knit community.  As events from the past play tag with the present, he’s forced to question everything he thought he knew. Was the death of his father in a car crash a decade earlier really accidental? Has a relationship stirred up something that someone is prepared to kill to protect?

It seems that there may be no one that Even can trust.

But can we trust him?

A taut, moving and chilling thriller, Inborn examines the very nature of evil, and asks the questions: How well do we really know our families? How well do we know ourselves?

My Thoughts:

When I heard that Thomas Enger had another book coming out I was eager to see if he could craft another character that would grab my attention as fully as Henning Juul and he has. In his latest thriller, Enger has brought a whole cast of characters that will haunt readers, that will get under the skin of readers and leave them questioning their motives and actions.

With a timeline that jumps between “then” and “now”, readers witness events in the small Norwegian village of Fredheim, and uncover secrets and suspicion rife in the community. A complex plot coupled with intelligent writing makes this an enthralling read and one that will pull readers in, tempting them to read another chapter, seducing them with the idea that knowledge about the dark secrets lies just ahead.
An atmospheric and often dark setting, Inborn is the sort of book that really has that something extra, that something you can’t quite put your finger on but it works so well.

The characters in this are multidimensional and whilst not always likeable, there is no denying there is a certain magnetism that emanates from them. It is impossible to read this without feeling some form of pull, needing to know more about their pasts, to know what drives them. The style of narration, hearing the voice of Even as he tries to make sense of events past and present, keeps readers on the edge of their seats.
It’s also quite interesting seeing things from the perspective of the investigating police officer, exploring the details of his private life as well as in a professional light. Without a doubt, he’s a character I would love to encounter in another book.
This all culminates in a truly thought provoking read that poses many questions to the reader, asking them what they believe, who they believe and how inexplicably connected the lives of the villagers are.

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