Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Summer Book – Tove Jansson – Review

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“The Summer Book is a fresh, vivid and magical novel about seemingly endless summers of discovery. An elderly artist and her six year old granddaughter while away the summer together, on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland, their solitude disturbed only by migrating birds, sudden storms and an occasional passing boat. Gradually, the two learn to adjust to each other’s fears, foibles and yearnings for independence, and a fierce yet understated love emerges – one that engulfs not only the summer inhabitants, but the very island itself. Tove Jansson writes with a special toughness, and with a quiet, dry sense of humour, about a small girl and her grandmother, who as kindred spirits share the long days together.”

3 of 5 stars

This review first appeared on the Trip Fiction website.

I received a copy of this book from Trip Fiction in exchange for an honest review.

This is the first book I have read by Tove Jansson, better known as the creator of the Moomins.

The Summer Book is the tale of an elderly woman and her granddaughter, whiling away the summer months on the family’s island in coastal Finland and is based on Jansson’s own summers of youth.

The book has an otherworldly quality to it, insular in a lot of respects, the language used between the two main characters a personal thing. It gives the impression that the island itself is similar, remote, isolated and understood only by those who live there.

Grandmother and Sophia have a strange relationship. Grandmother seems detached sometimes and never seems to treat her like a child but is unconsciously considerate in other ways, for example she rebuilds a miniature Venice she had made for Sophia when the original is washed away in a storm, ensuring that the new model looked like it was the original, with a little storm damage.

The book was also written some years ago, 1972, which adds to the slight feeling of displacement, but you could easily imagine that life on the islands is much the same now as then.

Whilst it gave a valuable insight into coastal life in 1970s Finland, the idiosyncrasies of island life were fascinating for example, I don’t think it expanded my overall idea of what Finland is like. It did, however, make me keen to visit, and sooner rather than later I hope.

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Unthology 4 – Edited by Robin Jones & Ashley Stokes – Review

Unthank Books

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“UNTHOLOGY 4 Continues Unthank Books’ Celebrated Series, Drawing Its Energy From The Wanderlust And Shape-Shifting Tendencies Of The Contemporary Short Story. Its Thirteen Stories Involve Cats, Crows And Angels; Moments Of Realization And Moments Of Doubt; Bad Moves, Wrong Turns And Trips Across The Border. A ­ Re-Scarred War Veteran Enters The Domain Of A Coked-Up Yuppie. A Blind Girl Wakes Up To ­ Nd That The Birdsong Has Ended. A Lad On The Slide Dates A Cosseted Schoolgirl And Ends Up Teetering On A Church Roof. Safe-Cracking Stories By Bold And Stealthy Writers.

Stories by 

Joshua Allen | Sarah Bower | Carys Bray | Ruby Cowling | Michael Crossan | Sarah Evans | Rodge Glass | Marc Owen Jones | Rowena Macdonald | Aiden O’Reilly | Adrian Slatcher | Barnaby Walsh | Melanie Whipman”

3 of 5 Stars

I was provided with a copy of this book by the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

This is a collection of 13 short stories dealing with a variety of themes. There are stories of love found and love lost, lives rebuilt in different ways, of doing wrong and making amends.

The more I read short stories the more in awe I am of writers who can use a finite number of words and turn them into compelling reading. It takes skill to write any story, long or short but knowing you are limited to a few hundred or thousand words must make it difficult sometimes.

This collection is easy to dip in and out of and perfect for taking to work to read at lunch time. I enjoyed some stories more than others, but that’s the joy of an anthology, you never know what you’ll get and if you find any hidden treasures. I’ll be looking out for more anthologies from Unthank Books in the future.

 

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Death in Pont Aven – Jean-Luc Bannalec – Review

Hesperus Press

Translated by Sorcha McDonagh

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“A baffling murder in an idyllic French seaside village, a tangle of family secrets and a puzzling mystery await Commissaire Dupin in this captivating whodunit thriller.

Commissaire Georges Dupin, a cantankerous, Parisian-born caffeine junkie is dragged from his morning croissants and coffee to the scene of a curious murder. The local village of Pont-Aven – a sleepy community by the sea where everyone knows one other and nothing much seems to happen – is in shock. The manager at the Central Hotel has come downstairs that morning to find ninety-one-year-old owner Pierre-Louis Pennec dead on the restaurant floor.

Dupin and his team identify five principal suspects, including a rising political star, a longtime friend of the victim and a wealthy art historian. Further incidents – first a break-in, then another death – only compound the mystery. As Commissaire Dupin delves further and further into the lives of the victim and the suspects, he uncovers a web of secrecy and silence that belies the village’s idyllic image. “

3.5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Georges Dupin has been Commissaire of Concarneau, Brittany for a few years, transferred from Paris after a ‘disagreement’ with his superiors. Not one to bow to authority, he never the less has grown to love his new surroundings, though even now is not considered a local by the Bretons he lives and works with.

One morning he is called to the Central Hotel in Pont Aven, a picturesque seaside village. There he finds 91 year old owner Pierre-Louis Pennec stabbed to death. At first Dupin and his colleagues Le Ber and Labat are puzzled as to why anyone would want to kill Pennec. They soon begin to suspect that there was more to Pennec and the history of the Central Hotel than meets the eye. They are met with secrets that stretch back over the years. Their investigation is compounded when there is a break-in in the hotel and another mysterious death.

This is the first outing for Commissaire Dupin and I look forward to reading more of his investigations. He has his own investigative style, scribbling in his notebook, asking seemingly unconnected questions and often keeping Le Ber and Labat out of the loop, much to their obvious annoyance. I hope in future books the relationship between Dupin, Le Ber, Labat and Dupin’s secretary Nolwenn develop as I’d like to see more of these characters, especially Nolwenn, who seems to know how to keep the Commissiare in line. Clever use was made of the location and the artistic history surrounding Pont Aven. I always like a novel that is set in a seemingly beautiful, peaceful setting. There is an interesting juxtaposition of the quaint sea-side resort and the secrets and lies underneath the surface.

The investigation unfolds at a gentle pace, the break in and second death adding clues to the motive for the murder and the identity of the killer. Whilst all this i son going Dupin also appears to set out on the romantic path, which will be hopefully continue and be interesting to see develop over the next few books.

All in all an enjoyable, gently paced murder mystery.

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The Forbidden Tomb by Chris Kuzneski – Blog Tour

Today is my stop on the Chris Kuzneski The Forbidden Tomb blog tour. Here Chris discusses a writer’s infidelity…

 

Have you ever cheated on somebody that you loved?

I cheated last year for the very first time. And let me tell you, I don’t regret it at all. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to do it again.

Before you judge me and call me a jerk (or something much worse), please let me explain my situation. Once I’m done, I’m confident that you’ll see things my way….

After years and years of the same old thing, I needed something new and exciting in my life. As much I hate to admit this, my passion was dwindling. Things got so bad that our time together seemed like work. And when that happens, you have two choices: you can call it quits, or you get something on the side to raise your spirits.

Well, I’m not a quitter, so I chose option #2.

Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t rush into anything. That isn’t my way. Although I was desperate for answers, I refused to do something rash that would haunt me for the rest of my life. I know how great I had it, and I didn’t want to throw that away unless I was 100% sure that I was making the right decision.

After many sleepless nights, I decided to run my problem by a few of my friends—guys who had struggled with the same issue in recent years—and I was stunned by their reactions. All of them—every single one—encouraged me to do it. One of them (let’s call him “Jeremy”) was so proud of his behavior that he filled me in on all the fake names that he had used in recent years. I have to admit: I was stunned. I had known him forever, but until that moment, I never knew the true depths of his deception.

I’m not sure what it was—maybe it was the glee in Jeremy’s voice or maybe it was the devil on my shoulder whispering in my ear, urging me to take a chance—but from that moment on, I knew what I had to do: I had to cheat on my main characters.

Seriously, that’s what writing a book without them felt like.

Cheating.

And for good reason.

Since the beginning of my writing career, Jonathon Payne and David Jones have been the main focus of my life. I’ve written eight thrillers about them, including some that you may have read (Sign of the Cross, The Lost Throne, etc.) Though they aren’t as famous as James Bond or Jason Bourne, their antics have entertained billions of fans around the world during the last decade or so.

Did I say billions?

Sorry, I meant dozens.

Anyway, despite my love of Payne & Jones, I needed to cleanse my literary palate and try something new before I did something crazy, like… dropping them into a wood chipper.

The first book in the new series—called THE HUNTERS—features a brand-new cast of characters that I quickly fell for. Financed by a billionaire philanthropist, this elite team—a soldier (Jack Cobb), an historian (Jasmine Park), a computer whiz (Hector Garcia), a weapons expert (Josh McNutt), and a thief (Sarah Ellis)—is tasked with finding the world’s most legendary treasures.

I enjoyed writing THE HUNTERS so much that I actually looked forward to doing the follow-up. It’s called THE FORBIDDEN TOMB, and it may be my best book yet.

Shortly after their first mission, the Hunters are asked to find the legendary tomb of Alexander the Great—and the extraordinary riches concealed within. While following ancient clues in Egypt, they encounter hostile forces that will do anything to stop them. Before long, the treasure hunt becomes a deadly rescue mission that will take the lives of hundreds and leave a city in ruins. As the danger continues to mount, they will have to rise to the challenge to find the ultimate prize.

I hope you enjoy the new characters as much as I do. With any luck, they’ll be around for many more adventures. (And if they fail, I can always send in Payne & Jones to save the day. Despite my cheating, those guys are still willing to kill for me!)

 

 About the author:

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Chris Kuzneski is the international bestselling author of The Forbidden Tomb, The Einstein Pursuit, The Hunters, The Death Relic, The Secret Crown, The Prophecy, The Lost Throne, Sword of God, Sign of the Cross, and The Plantation. His thrillers have been published in more than twenty languages and are sold in more than forty countries. To learn more about him and his novels, please visit: http://www.chriskuzneski.com.

About the book:

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“THE HUNTERS

If you seek, they will find…

 The treasure:

 For over two thousand years, the legendary tomb of Alexander the Great – and the riches concealed within – has evaded discovery. Now, after centuries of searching, an ancient map has come to light that could hold the key to finding the fabled vault. Only one team has the skill and the expertise to solve the mystery once and for all.

The mission:

 It’s up to The Hunters – an elite group assembled to track down the world’s greatest treasures – to find the tomb. But on arriving in Alexandria, it quickly becomes clear that hostile forces are on their trail. And when one of the team is captured in cisterns deep below the city, what began as a treasure hunt becomes a deadly rescue mission.

 For there are some who will use any means possible to destroy The Hunters’ efforts, and now there is more at stake than they ever could have imagined.

 High-octane action. Brilliant characters. Classic Kuzneski.”

Check out all the stops on the blog tour:

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Emma Chapman – My Journey to Publication

 

On the day her novel How To Be A Good Wife comes out in paperback, Emma Chapman tells us about her journey to publication…

 

When I was at university and I’d tell people I wanted to be a writer, they would inevitably ask me what I’d already written.

“Nothing,” I’d say. “I just know it’s what I want to do.”

Usually, they’d look at me like I was a terrible fraud. But it was the truth. Apart from adolescent diaries, I hadn’t written much of anything before I enrolled on a Masters course after my undergraduate degree.

How did I know with such conviction that writing was for me? It was an odd, overwhelming feeling I would get from reading: a desire to achieve what those storytellers had. I wanted to make people feel the way I felt when I got lost in a brilliant novel. I was also attracted to the freedom of being a writer: the flexibility of working for myself and being able to travel.

When I arrived in London at the beginning of my Masters course, I was buzzing with anticipation. I looked around at the seven other people in my group, and wondered which of us (if any) would end up published. (Four out of eight of us have deals to date, and the others have agents – not bad going.) I wanted to get on with it: to learn the skills I needed to give myself the best chance of success. We all set to work. We were taught about point of view, voice, character, place, and a million other technical terms. We were sent away to write, and then brought back to be critiqued. This was the most daunting: the exposure of finally been held accountable for things I had written in secret.

In my interview, Andrew Motion – the then poet laureate – told me that I would probably find the year challenging. He’d read my short stories, hastily written to submit for acceptance to the course: and he said I had work to do. I nodded eagerly, my heart beating fast in my chest. I’ll do it, I thought as I left, I’ll do whatever it takes. I applied myself, listened to critiques and tried to improve. Over the course of that year, my novel – which would one day become How To Be A Good Wife – started to take shape.

I also worked three days a week at Toby Eady Associates – a small, delightful literary agency near Hyde Park – where I learnt about the business side of publishing. I learnt the realities of what it meant to be a writer: how they got paid, how to make up contracts, what foreign rights were and how they were sold. I did a lot of filing in that office – after all, I was still a student – and every time I would slip a royalty statement into someone’s folder in the filing cabinet I would hope against hope that one day there would be one with my name on it.

After my Masters, I went to Australia to ‘visit’ my boyfriend. When I finished my manuscript, I sent it to Toby Eady Associates. It was perhaps the most terrifying moment of my entire writing career. At that point, I had no idea if I was any good at all, or even whether I had the potential to be. I only had the words of my creative writing group, which meant a lot, but easily became twisted in my mind until they were little more than smoke. I’d seen so many submissions come into that agency, and so many end up in the recycling bin. Plus, I’d got to know these people: they were my colleagues, and I really wanted them to like it.

When I met with them a month after I’d sent the manuscript, they were very positive. Over lunch, they talked about ways the manuscript could be improved. But they never came out and said they wanted to sign it. I thought perhaps they were being polite: giving me pointers before sending me on my way. On the way back to the office, I asked them straight out. Will you be taking me on as a client? They laughed. Of course, they said, did we not already say that?

I walked home from that meeting in a state of airy disbelief. I’d climbed one step on the ladder, I thought. Although I knew there were changes needed to the manuscript, it felt like everything else I’d wanted couldn’t be that far away.

Fast-forward two years. I’m living in Australia: working in a gift shop full time, and editing the book before work and at the weekends. My agent has just told me he thinks we’re ready to go to publishers with the manuscript. Did I imagine it would take this long? I knew it might: three years is a normal length of time to spend writing a novel. But I’d hoped, as I’m sure everyone does, that I would be some sort of genius exception. That perhaps all that ‘hard work’ wouldn’t be applicable to me.

Then came the second terror-filled moment. Close to the anxiety-inducing intensity of first sending the book to my agent, submitting to publishers was nerve-racking. At every moment, you know that someone could be reading and liking (or not liking) your manuscript. Someone with the power to make something happen. And there’s not one tiny thing you can do about it.

We heard within forty-eight hours that someone liked it. But I didn’t realize that it’s not enough for an editor to like the book: they then have to convince the rest of the publishing house – sales, marketing, PR etc – that it’s a good investment. There are meetings and people need time to read it. It took two weeks in total, and every day felt like a year. The only things I found took my mind off the fear were romantic comedies and Bikram yoga. In that sweaty room, I couldn’t think about anything except my own aching muscles.

Of course, this story ended happily. Picador pre-empted the novel, and I accepted their offer. But it so easily could have gone the other way. If none of the editors we sent it to had connected to it, or had connected but not quite enough. If the other people at the publishing house had said no. I know how lucky I am that it did work out, and I remind myself of it, every day.

When you hope for something for so long, there is a strange period of disbelief after it has actually happened. A blankness, which is broken every time you remember, and you are thrilled to the very core. I never thought that ‘being published’ would become normal: in fact, I was determined for it not to, to keep appreciating it. And today, as we reach another milestone and the paperback is put out on the shelves in bookshops all over the country, I’m sure I will feel that surge disbelief, amazement and happiness, and I’ll ride it as long as it lasts.

 

About the author:

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Emma Chapman grew up in Manchester.  After attending university in Edinburgh and London, she travelled in Scandinavia, then moved to Perth, Western Australia, where she lived for four years.  She now lives in Jakarta, Indonesia. How To Be A Good Wife is her first novel, a ‘creepy little chiller’ (Hilary Mantel) about a terrible secret between a husband and a wife.

About the book:

Paperback UK

” ‘I know what my husband would say: that I have too much time on my hands; that I need to keep myself busy. That I need to take my medication. Empty nest syndrome, he tells his friends at the pub, his mother. He’s always said I have a vivid imagination.’

In How To Be a Good Wife, Marta has been married to Hector for longer than she can remember. She has always tried hard to be a good wife.

But now Hector has come home with a secret. And Marta is beginning to imagine – or revisit – a terrifying truth.”

– See more at: http://www.picador.com/books/how-to-be-a-good-wife#sthash.5mOkIZUA.dpuf

 

 

You can find out more about Emma and How to be A Good Wife  at www.emmajchapman.com and www.howtobeagoodwifebook.com

How To Be A Good Wife is published in paperback by Picador and is available from Amazon and book shops now.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Good-Wife-Emma-Chapman/dp/1447216199/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_pap?ie=UTF8&qid=1398324353&sr=8-1&keywords=how+to+be+a+good+wife

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Mandy James – Q&A

Today on the blog Mandy James author of A Stitch in Time, Righteous Exposure and Dancing in the Rain talks about her the inspiration behind her new novel, Beyond the Sea.

1. Your new novel Somewhere Beyond the Sea was published on 7th April. What’s it about?

It’s about secrets, mystery, and suspense set in the idyllic Cornish village of Kelerston. When Dr Tristan Ainsworth takes his wife Karen and their young children back to Tristan’s beloved Cornwall he is overjoyed. He has always wanted to return and when a post as a local GP turned up he grabbed it like a shot. He firmly believes that Kelerston is a wonderful place in which to live and raise children, so he can’t understand why Karen is gradually becoming more withdrawn and unhappy. She won’t, or can’t tell him what the problem is and soon their marriage begins to feel the strain. One of them is not being honest. One of them has a dark secret, and soon Karen and Tristan face a difficult question. Is their love strong enough to face the truth when the truth might cost them everything?

2. Your previous novels, A Stitch in Time, Righteous Exposure and Dancing in the Rain are all different stand alone novels. Where do you find the inspiration for your work?

Often from the title. ( I can’t write without one) I think of a title, something catchy or familiar like ‘a stitch in time’ for example, and then I build the story around that. I was originally inspired by the writing of Dean Koontz. I love his paranormal suspense and therefore tried to write what I liked reading. I got the idea for Dancing in the Rain when I was travelling around Monument Valley Arizona and the one for Righteous Exposure when travelling in Texas. An idea just sparked and the whole story followed. Sometimes I really don’t know where I get ideas from. They just kind of pop up. Somewhere Beyond the Sea was a combination of a catchy song title, the fact that I was in the process of moving to my beloved Cornwall, and I also love writing about dark secrets and mystery!

3. Do you like to plan your new work in progress before you start or do you like to see where the story takes you?

I am definitely not a planner! I have the basis of a story and then sketch out the characters, jot down a vague idea of where they are going, and then I let them lead me. They often take me down roads I had never dreamt of travelling!

4.Can you tell us anything about your current work in progress?

I have just started one, literally only two chapters in. It is called Summer in Tintagel and is about a young woman’s quest to fulfil her grandmother’s dying wish. Rosa Fernley, a travel journalist, combines work with pleasure when she takes a summer trip to Tintagel. Once there, she gets

very much more than she bargained for. It is a little hazy in my mind at the moment, but there will be a paranormal aspect to it … I think! The inspiration for Summer in Tintagel came from a walk along the cliff tops. As I stood on the edge looking onto the rocks I thought how easy it would be to step off and end it all … if a person was so inclined. I’m not, in case you were wondering! Then it kind of came to me from there. I visited Tintagel Castle last month and thought that it was the perfect setting for a novel – full of history and mystery.

5. What’s your way of dealing with the dreaded writer’s block?

I don’t really get it, or if I do it doesn’t last for long. I try to not think about a new idea and then low and behold one appears. 🙂 

6. You must answer a lot of these questions. What question have you not been asked that you wish had been, and what’s the answer?

Where do I see myself in five years time? Across a desk from Steven Spielberg as we plan his adaptation of one of my books for the latest blockbuster! Dream big I say 🙂 

About the Author:

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Amanda James was born in Sheffield and now lives in Cornwall with her husband and two cats. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, singing and spending lots of time with her grandson. She also admits to spending far too much time chatting on Twitter and Facebook! Amanda recently left her teaching role (teaching history to sixth form pupils) to follow her ambition to live her life doing what she most enjoys—writing.

Amanda is a published author of short stories and her first novel with Choc Lit, A Stitch in Time was chosen as a Top Pick in RT Book Reviews magazine in the US in July 2013 and won a 2013 Reviewers’ Choice Award from Single Titles. Amanda’s Choc Lit novels include: A Stitch in Time and Somewhere Beyond the Sea (April 2014).

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Beyond the Sea is published by Choc Lit and is available to buy now. http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/somewhere-beyond-the-sea/

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Berni Stevens – Q&A

Today Bernie Stevens, author of Dance Until Dawn answers a few of my questions

Your debut novel Dance until Dawn was published on 7th April. What’s it about?

Dance Until Dawn is a paranormal romance. It features the new and fragile relationship between the powerful Vampire Elder of London and a new fledgling vampire.

Will has yearned for a love that will last for eternity, and in Ellie, he thinks he has found it. But as with any new relationship, there are many pitfalls, including Ellie’s fear of the dark and aversion to blood. She isn’t exactly enamoured with Will either, because she believes he murdered her for reasons of his own. All in all, things don’t get off to a very good start. When an old flame of Will’s comes to town with her bloodthirsty followers, things really begin to get ugly.

Did you find there was pressure to write a vampire novel in a new way given their increase in popularity and the obvious if unfair comparisons that will be made with popular vampire novels that have already been published, and why do you think vampire stories have held their appeal for so long?

The most famous vampire novel of all time, is of course, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Since it was published in 1897, it has never been out of print. To me, that says everything about the lure and popularity of vampire fiction. 

Paranormal romances burst onto the scene in the 1990s, long before Twilight became popular. Although I think it was really Joss Whedon’s first Buffy TV series in 1997, that set the ball rolling. I know I watched the first episode (Welcome to the Hellmouth) and was instantly addicted. Sharp, witty writing, fabulous storylines – and in the second series – Spike – what’s not to like?

There’s always pressure to be different and there will always be the danger of unfavourable comparisons with whoever had the first success. It’s inevitable.

But my book is for grown-ups, there’s no high school or prom parties, and no sparkling in sunlight. I am quite a purist when it comes to vampire folklore, and I like the whole creatures of the night legend. Fantasy can be written however any author wants to write it, but for me, I like keeping to the ‘rules!’ 

Vampire legends have been told and retold since the time of the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Egyptians, so the legends have been around for hundreds of years and not just since the Victorian era. I think part of the appeal is the thought of eternal life, and never aging. Eternity, however, is a very long time, and I have no doubt, could become very lonely.

Vampires dip in and out of popularity all the time. They may disappear from our screens sometimes, but they always come back with a new spin on the genre. TV and film producers are forever coming up with the definitive Dracula – or so they think – yet the only version that has been close to Stoker’s book, is the BBC’s version in 1977. (All the latter versions have shoe-horned in romance.) 

How long did it take you to write Dance until Dawn and how long did it take you to secure a publishing deal?

Dance Until Dawn started ‘life’ as a short story about ten years ago. It was published in an anthology for the Dracula Society. One of the editors said it sounded like the beginning of a novel, so I started to write more. I was commuting to the West End and working full-time at the time, so I used to write on the tube and in any ‘spare time’. It was shelved several times, rewritten a lot, and eventually uploaded to the Authonomy website in 2008. In 2011, it was published as an eBook and print-on-demand by a small American press. When the rights reverted to me last year, I was thrilled to be offered a contract by Choc Lit. To be published here in the UK was always my ultimate dream.

Can you tell us anything about your current work in progress?

The first draft of the sequel is finished. It is more of Will and Ellie’s story, but slightly darker and with even more problems. Although I can tell you there is a wedding too. I am working on the third in the series, which features a werewolf as the main character, although Will and Ellie play a big part in the story too.

Do you have any advice for anyone writing their first novel?

The best advice I was given was to keep reading and never stop writing. It’s hard work, there is no easy route. But don’t give up. If you believe in yourself and your work, it will happen.

You must answer a lot of these questions. What question have you not been asked that you wish had been, and what’s the answer? 

That’s really hard 🙂 As a cover designer, obviously I have worked in the publishing industry  for quite a few years. I always wonder why nobody ever asks me if I had a ‘way in’ to get published quicker or easier. 

The answer is, that by working on the ‘inside’ I always saw just how difficult it is to get published. It used to be that no publishers would even look at unsolicited work, so all manuscripts went via an agent to the publishers. At one point it was more difficult to get an agent than a publisher. It is slightly easier now, especially with self-publishing and eBooks. A lot of editors look at the authors who are doing well by self-publishing and some get a publishing contract that way. (Apparently Stephen King’s first novel was self-published.) 

A big plus I did have, was being able to run the idea for my first book past a few very experienced editors. In fact, one of my best friends who works as an editor in New York, went through the first (not so good) draft meticulously – then sent it back covered in red pen!  One of my proudest moments was after I had sent her a copy of the first eBook. She sent me a congratulations card, which simply said inside, ‘Berni, it rocks!’

Dance Until Dawn is published by Choc Lit and is out now. http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/dance-until-dawn/

About the Author:

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Berni Stevens lives in a four-hundred-year-old cottage in Hertfordshire, England, with her husband, son and black cat. She trained in graphic design and has worked as a book cover designer for more than twenty years.

Books and art remain her passion, and her love of the paranormal began when she first read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, aged fourteen. She is now on both the committee and the book panel of the Dracula Society, a society for fans of gothic literature and film.

Berni has had several short stories published, and her first novel, Fledgling, – a paranormal romance – was published in the US. Dance Until Dawn is Berni’s debut novel with Choc Lit and the first in a series of three.

About the book:

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“Do you Believe in Love After Life?

At twenty-five, West-End dancer, Ellie Wakefield should be having the time of her life. The only problem is, since waking up in a three-hundred-year-old vampire’s leaky cellar, Ellie’s been very much dead. And to make matters worse, she’s found that an aversion to blood and a fear of the dark aren’t very helpful – especially when you’re a fledgling vampire.

William James Austen has fallen hard. He’s spent the last year loving Ellie from afar and now he’s finally able to be truthful about who and what he is. As the most powerful vampire in London, he’s used to getting what he wants. But this time, Will might just have bitten off more than he can chew.”

 

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The Dead Wife’s Handbook – Easter promotion

THE GREAT EASTER GIVEAWAY WITH THE DEAD WIFE’S HANDBOOK
DWH cover 1.12.13        GetAttachment[1]
It’s Easter and those nice people at Amazon have reduced the price of both the Kindle and the BEAUTIFUL paperback of The Dead Wife’s Handbook.
So to celebrate, we’re combining the two things we all love the best – books and chocolate – in a great Easter giveaway.
Just purchase a copy of The Dead Wife’s Handbook on either Kindle (£2.62) or in paperback (£3.49), tweet a proof of purchase to @hannahbeckerman on Twitter, and you could win this DIVINE Hotel Chocolat Easter Bunny that will be delivered DIRECT TO YOUR DOOR (UK only)
What are you waiting for?!
 

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Aidan Harte – Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Aidan Harte to the blog. Aidan is the author of the Waves Trilogy: Irenicon, The Warring States and the final installment Spira Mirabilis. I was lucky enough to chat to Aidan about sculpting, fantasy writing and the highs and lows of writing a series.

 

Not only do you write, you are also a Sculptor. Did you find that your other talent aided in your writing in any way?

 

When I sat down to write Irenicon, my academic training helped in that it gave me a method. Both are activities in which very little can be achieved in a day but great things are possible given a few months. Although my sculpture is rather surreal and mannered, my teachers in Florence were all first-rate realists. The basic philosophy is to work slow, and to keep standing back from your work so that you’re not distracted by detail. Only when you see your faults can you correct them. That method was my touchstone while writing the Wave Trilogy, and will remain so, I suspect, whatever I write next

 

Writing fantasy novels has to be descriptive, the reader perhaps relies more on the author to give them the ability to visualise the world they are immersed in. Do you find that writing fantasy novels gives you more freedom, with free reign to create a brand new world or do you find it brings more pressure?

 

I think creating a world from scratch provides freedom and imposes limitations. In a sense you begin by tying yourself up in knots, with the hope that the untying will be entertaining. But it also means much Fantasy is exclusively plot-driven and what little interior exploration there is of the most perfunctory sort. That creates a certain reliance of formula. Gene Wolfe said, “Magic realism is fantasy written by people who speak Spanish.” It’s a good line, (and he’s earned the right to say what he likes with his 1976 book, Peace) but Wolfe is an outlier. He’s one of the few Fantasy authors who even attempts characters with a fully realized interior life. Dan Simmons is another but quite often he’s content to write according to genre conventions. It seems obvious to me that Márquez and Rushdie have a very different project to Tolkein and George R. R. Martin. People sometimes get huffy and territorial at conventions and say that Katsuhiro Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is just high toned SF, but that’s willfully myopic. It’s a different thing. 

 

But I begin to think it’s wasted mental effort to tangle with these questions. Best to simply treat Fantasy as a wide embracing term, encapsulating yarn spinners like David Gemmel and surreal humorists like Mervyn Peake, and leave it at that.

You started to write Irenicon when you were studying sculpture in Italy. Did you find that your surroundings influenced you?

 

Yeah, I was studying in Florence when a lot of ideas coalesced. A feuding city state as a stage for a love story combined with the idea of rivers as medieval WMDs was the beginning. A sense of place is important in any story, but especially for Fantasy when you need something real to hang onto. I lived in the old city where the streets are narrow, and the buildings press in on either side making the sky a jagged sliver. The artificial twilight and closed-in feeling creates a unique tension. The density makes the rooftops an unbroken topography too, and – it occurred to me – a great landscape for running kung-fu battles. You’d often get parades though the city center led by the city fathers and behind them dozens of traditional flag throwers. It’s a great spectacle and that was the inspiration for the martial art practiced in Rasenna. 

 

While writing The Wave Trilogy, I also read a lot of Classical and Medieval History, so much that the antique notion of Providence became a central theme.

 

Did you find it easier to write The Warring States given it was the second in the series or does writing a series create problems in itself?

 

There’s definitively a different challenge to the middle book. You can’t rely solely on novelty to keep readers’ attention, so you have to go deeper. Irenicon introduced the turbulent citizens of Rasenna, and because The Warring States begins in Concord, Rasenna’s rival, there are new characters to meet. The Apprentices were previously a shadowy presence, but the threat they pose becomes more immediate as we follow the progress of young Torbidda from innocent to Machiavellian tyrant. When we return to Rasenna, it’s about discovering another side to characters we think we know: we see Sofia hiding her pregnancy, Fabbro corrupted by power, and Levi helpless as Rasenna’s peace unravels. 

 

I used to suspect, and hope, that a series was harder than a stand-alone but now I’m writing my fourth book, something totally unrelated, and it’s just as hard! I remember having the same expectation about drawing growing up, that one happy day it would become effortless. As I got better, I realised that the draftsmen I admired struggled too, albeit at a higher level. My admiration rose accordingly. Of course you acquire skills, but that’s just a polite way of saying you make less bone-headed mistakes. What’s easier about writing the second book is that it’s easier to ignore the doubt. That’s not nothing. The mile didn’t become shorter after Bannister ran it in four minutes but before 1954 was over, twenty-four others managed the same feat. If writing ever became effortless, I’m pretty sure I’d give it up. Cormac McCarthy, asked why he doesn’t write short stories, said, “Anything that doesn’t take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.” I second that.

 

Can you tell us what your next book is about?

 

My next book is still pretty fantastical so fans of The Wave should find something to like, but it’s SF. Certainly the “smart” thingwould be to write something in the same world or very similar. Sod that. The writers I mentioned earlier, Dan Simmons and Gene Wolfe, could have put their feet up and re-jigged the same old story for the same audience but they regularly switched it up instead. It’s healthy to leap off a cliff every couple of years. 

 

You must answer a lot of these questions. What question have you not been asked that you wish had been, and what’s the answer?

One question I can imagine readers of Spira Mirabilis asking is what the hell are cowboys doing wandering around Medieval Italy? Their appearance in Spira Mirabilis is admittedly anachronistic, but there are ox herders around Lazio called butteri. They apparently outwrangeled Buffalo Bill when his Wild West Show came to town, and I couldn’t resist squaring them off against medieval knights.  

 

 

About the author:

 

aidanharte

Aidan Harte studied sculpture at the Florence Academy of Art and currently works as a sculptor in Dublin. Before discovering sculpture, he worked in animation and TV; in 2006 he created and directed the TV show Skunk Fu, which has been shown on Cartoon Network, Kids WB and the BBC.

The Warring States

Jo Fletcher Books

Published in paperback 3 April 2014

“After the rout at Rasenna Torbidda the last surviving Apprentice is all that can protect Concord from the enemies it faces on all fronts. Nobody believes him capable of handling these crises – but Torbidda didn’t become Apprentice by letting himself be manipulated.

At the same time the City of Towers grows wealthy. Yet as Sofia struggles to understand her miraculous pregnancy the people of Rasenna start arguing again, and the city starts to falls apart once more.

Sofia realises she must escape Etruria to save her baby and when prophecy leads her to another cesspit of treachery, the decadent Crusader kingdom of Oltremare, Sofia begins to despair, for this time she can see no way out …”

Spira Mirabilis

Jo Fletcher Books

Published in hardback 24 April 2014

“Read the thrilling conclusion of The Wave Trilogy!

After the Concord defeated the fractious city-state of Rasenna using the magical science of Wave Technology The City of Towers fought back, and for a while Concord was halted.

But First Apprentice Torbidda regrouped, and is now plotting the final battle that will pacify Etruria … permanently.

Contessa Sofia Scaligeri is needed by her people but there is little she can do whilst trapped with her son by the tyrant Queen Catrina in the Crusader Kingdom of Akka.

Darkness is falling, the final battle must be fought and the tide must be turned; lest evil reign forever.”

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Cover Reveal: The Breakup Artist – Nichole Severn

CandleLit Cover Reveal Banner1

Hello and welcome to the cover reveal of The Breakup Artist by Nichole Severn!

The novella, from Beyond The Page Publishing, is set to release on 23rd April 2014 but Nichole’s giving readers a sneak peak of the fab cover and the book’s blurb. Full details below . . .

 

The Breakup Artist_Cover

 

About The Breakup Artist:

‘Demi Shepherd is going to jail.

As a professional heartbreaker, she’s been charged with the murder of one of her clients. She can’t explain how fifty thousand dollars ended up in her bank account, how her fingerprints were found on the murder weapon and who called in an anonymous tip labeling her as the murderer. Determined to clear her name and find out who uprooted her life, Demi goes on the run and turns to the least likely of allies: the man she believes set her up for murder.

Jack Austin is Demi’s only chance of clearing her name, but as an undercover organized crime agent, whose only goal is to bring down the organization laundering money through one of Vegas’ casinos, he’s not willing to risk his life or career for her. That is until Demi shows her innocence.

With former clients and victims on her trail and unknown shooters finding her every step of the way, Demi fights for her life and her damaged heart, but will Jack protect either?’

 

 

natty

About Nichole Severn

Originally from Las Vegas, Nevada where she spent most days at her grandmother’s house watching X-Men, Married with Children and The Simpsons, Nichole Severn migrated to the Salt Lake City valley to live life as scandalous romance author.

She graduated with a degree in psychology from Utah Valley University, which stemmed from her obsession with serial killers, and received her bachelors in English Literature from Nevada State. Over the years, she’s experimented with

selling jewelry, insurance, and clothing, but now she just sells books. The serial killer obsession has toned down…a little.

She resides with her very supportive, and patient, husband in Utah, where she constantly injures herself running, rock climbing, and snowboarding.

Nichole can be contacted through her website at http://www.nicholesevern.com, email at nichole@nicholesevern.com, Twitter at @nicholesevern or Facebook.

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