Monthly Archives: February 2015

A Place Called Winter – Patrick Gale – Review

Tinder Press

Publication Day – 24 March 2015 (Hardback)


“To find yourself, sometimes you must lose everything.

A privileged elder son, and stammeringly shy, Harry Cane has followed convention at every step. Even the beginnings of an illicit, dangerous affair do little to shake the foundations of his muted existence – until the shock of discovery and the threat of arrest cost him everything.

Forced to abandon his wife and child, Harry signs up for emigration to the newly colonised Canadian prairies. Remote and unforgiving, his allotted homestead in a place called Winter is a world away from the golden suburbs of turn-of-the-century Edwardian England. And yet it is here, isolated in a seemingly harsh landscape, under the threat of war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism that the fight for survival will reveal in Harry an inner strength and capacity for love beyond anything he has ever known before.

In this exquisite journey of self-discovery, loosely based on a real life family mystery, Patrick Gale has created an epic, intimate human drama, both brutal and breathtaking. It is a novel of secrets, sexuality and, ultimately, of great love.”

5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and this is my honest opinion of the book.

Harry Crane is born into a life of privilege. The eldest son of a wealthy man, he is left motherless at a young age. With his father often absent, he finds the love he seeks from his younger brother. Harry provides the foundation Jack needs, and Jack provides Harry a window to the outside world, a lifeline for the extremely shy young man. Almost unconsciously aware of his wealth, but well aware of the lack of direction his life takes, he soon finds himself married. A daughter soon follows. Then he falls in love with the wrong person. Forced to give up his life in England, Harry seizes on the chance to farm land in Canada. Harry’s journey brings him into contact with people who will change his life irrevocably. Sometimes it takes a change of pace and a change of place to find yourself. For Harry Cane that place is A Place Called Winter.

Sometimes I review a book I’ve read and think ‘Am I being too harsh with my ratings? Should this book be rated higher? Why do lots of people often give 5 stars and I rarely do?’ Then I read a book like this and realise why. I read many books. Some ok, some good and others great. But what can I do to show that I think a book is truly outstanding, one that stays with you long after the final page has been turned? One that you wish would not end, just so you could stay with the characters a little longer. That’s when I realise why I rarely give 5 stars. Because I need to save them for such a book as this, and A Place Called Winter is such a book.

Not one word is wasted. Literally. Each page holds something to savour. I didn’t care if the narrative was at a crucial juncture or simply giving a glimpse into farming in turn of the century Canada. Each page was fascinating. I found myself completely absorbed in Harry’s world from first page to last.

Patrick Gale’s writing is vivid and engaging. My heart wept and soared as Harry’s did. I could picture each scene vividly. I was on the sea voyage with Harry, tilling the fields and building his home with him. I was willing him to see the dangers ahead. I have only read one other book by Patrick Gale; Notes on an Exhibition. Though a completely different story to this, what I brought away from that was Gale’s skill in characterisation. That skill is equally evident in A Place Called Winter. Each character was vividly portrayed. Those I loved, I did so with a passion, those I hated equally so.

If I find a book I am passionate about I will happily suggest it to anyone looking for a book in that genre. Rarely do I find a book I would recommend to anyone regardless of genre. This is one of those books. It is saga, romance, historical fiction and a story of self-discovery all tied up in one outstanding novel. There’s even a hint of crime in there.

What makes this story all the more fascinating is that it is loosely based on real characters. This makes the story all the more poignant and the characters all the more real.

Having used up my superlative allowance I will end the review here.

A book to submerse yourself in and to finish slightly dazed to realise you are back in the real world. A book I will re-read again and soon. If you take a chance and read it and like it half as much as I do, you’ll love it.


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The Birth of A Book Baby – SJI Holliday -Guest Post

Today I’m pleased to welcome SJI Holliday to the blog. Her debut novel, Black Wood, is published by Black and White Publishing on 19th March 2015.

The Birth of A Book Baby

By SJI Holliday

You might’ve heard people using the analogy of the ‘book baby’… the nice idea that you talk about in the pub, that causes a lot of discomfort as it grows, leading to panic, frustration and many hair-raising moments – coupled, of course, with the sheer happiness of seeing what the pen-and-ink child has become. So, with that in mind, on the eve of its electronic birth – here’s a list of what I imagine to be the parallels between actual human children and their counterparts: the fictional characters that live inside writers heads.

Will it hurt? (AKA – “trying to get published”)

No matter how long you spend writing and editing, no matter how many of your friends and family tell you how great your book is, getting published is not easy. There is no ‘overnight success’. It takes a long time and it takes a thick skin. However, you will be able to save money on wallpaper if you paste up your rejection letters. Of course there are exceptions – like Posh Spice, who pops in for a quick C-Section between shopping trips, there are always the Publishers’ Chosen Ones who are plucked from obscurity and destined for instant adulation. These are the exception, not the rule. In short: yes it will hurt.

Will I get fat? (AKA – “Writers’ Arse”)

Quite simply, yes. Just as those mothers-to-be are eating for two, so are you, dear writer. The physical you, and the mental you. The physical you can survive on very little, especially when it is jammed into a seat/on a bed/sprawled on the sofa for twelve hours a day while you bang out your next big thing. You should really consider wearing support stockings. Mental you, however, can only survive on caffeinated beverages, alcohol, toast and chocolate; and as much as you might think you’re exercising via the brain gym, your body will soon tell you otherwise.

Will it make friends? (AKA – “reviews and recommendations”)

It might do, depending on how pushy a parent you are. You might think that telling everyone that Little Johnny is a masterful recorder player as well as top of the class in every subject and able to bake the best cupcakes is a good thing, but the other mothers might not be so happy to hear you bleat on all the time. How about just letting Little Johnny make his own friends? He’ll soon meet like-minded folk if he tells them about how he doesn’t really like baking cupcakes but that he’s quite fond of watching daytime TV and having his writing time thwarted by twitter. Be yourself and be nice, and friends will soon come your way… and if they like your book, they’ll tell you – and they’ll tell others too.

Will it get bullied? (AKA – “jealousy”)

See above. If you don’t push anyone around in the playground, there’s a good chance that no one will try to beat you up. There’s always one though. The kid who would rather call other kids names than join in and have fun. There are adults like this too – they want your success, but they’re too scared to achieve it themselves. If this happens, and you get a horrible review, the only thing you can do is ignore it. Or find out who they are, steal their clothes after gym class, and throw them in the showers.

Will it change my relationship? (AKA – “the writers’ widow/er)

All I can suggest here is that you find a partner who likes making endless cups of tea, and doesn’t mind being ignored mid-conversation while something they’ve said has triggered an idea that you must tap into your phone immediately.

Will I have another one? (AKA – “the difficult book 2”)

Once the dust has settled, and the nice reviews are in – and the launch parties are over… and the 20 author’s copies you’ve been sent are firmly ensconced on your bookshelf, it’s time to reflect. It wasn’t so hard, was it? That nine months of carrying that thing around inside you… the stressful time before the birth, when you weren’t sure if you could carry on. The birth itself – the panic, followed by the excitement and delight that it was finally, after all that, HERE. You’ll have forgotten the sleepless nights and the despair. You’ll have forgotten how your skin turned grey from too many white carbs and a complete lack of Vitamin D. You’ll get a nice review one day, or you’ll spot someone reading your book on a train – and you’ll think, “aww, how lovely… I think I’d like another one.”

* * *


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SJI Holliday grew up in Haddington, East Lothian. She works as a Pharmaceutical Statistician, and as a life-long bookworm has always dreamt of becoming a novelist. She has several crime and horror short stories published in anthologies and was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham Prize. After travelling the world, she has now settled in London with her husband. Her debut novel, Black Wood, was inspired by a disturbing incident from her childhood. You can find out more at

About the Book:

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“Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story. 

Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. 

But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man? To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?”



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Culture and Conflict in Fantasy Fiction – Stephen Deas – Guest Post


Today I’m pleased to welcome Stephen Deas to the blog. Stephen is a prolific author, writing Fantasy novels as Stephen Deas and Nathan Hawke, Historical Fiction as Stephen Deas and under the pseudonym S. J. Deas  and co-writes Science Fiction with Gavin Smith as Gavin Deas.

Today he talks about culture and conflict in Fantasy. At least that’s what I think it’s about. That or giving all the characters weapons….

The Crimson Shield was my first fantasy novel aimed squarely at being more sword-and-sorcery than epic. The two sequels duly followed in subsequent months. It did well enough, but I’m not here to try and sell it to you (buy it, buy it now!), rather to share a couple of lessons I learned from the writing of it.

The Crimson Shield centres around Gallow, essentially an angry white dude with an axe. He’s a bit more three-dimensional than that, but for the purposes of this, angry white dude with an axe will do. He makes a friend (sarcastic white dude with an axe) some allies and some enemies (more white dudes with various edged weapons and in various states of mental stability). Entertaining mayhem ensues. I think I do a decent enough job both of angry white dudes with axes and of entertaining mayhem, if that’s what you want, but for the second volume it seemed a good idea to mix things up a bit, so I threw in an angry white lass with a bow and a pacifist alchemist with a satchel of interesting powders. In part I hope I was driven by a writer’s instinct for variety and to keep exploring new spaces. In part I know I brought them in to honour the call for diversity in fantasy, and in way that was shameful, bringing in the token “minority” characters in order to have some token minority characters. Generally speaking I try not to be anything that ends in -ist, but underneath that trying there’s clearly still a middle-class white dude with a bunch of middle-class white dude attitudes lurking in corners that haven’t been cleaned out yet. Sorry about that. Work in progress.

Fortunately a story-maker is blind to most -isms. My token sidekick characters quickly made it clear that they had no interest whatsoever in being bland-assed henchmen and set off on their own trajectories, ignoring the arcs of plot I had planned for them and making up their own. My angry white dude was left without any sidekicks at all, and you know what? His story was the better for it. Team Former-Sidekicks went off and had their own major plot. The second volume in that series was better (I think it’s the best of the three, which is perhaps unusual for the second volume of a trilogy, although Elizabeth Moon did much the same to me as a reader once with the Deed of Pakksenarrion). So that was a good thing, but why did it work out that way? I’ve given that a lot of thought since, and here’s how all that thinking ended up, brought to you now so you don’t have to.

Drama is driven by conflict. Obvious, yes? And different types of conflict are more or less dramatically interesting. Also obvious, I hope. Start with the easiest: Angry Dude wants to be king because reasons. Other Angry Dude also wants to be king, because (different) reasons. This a conflict quite capable of sustaining a novel (or indeed a Shakespeare play). It’s as simple as conflict gets, really, with an external antagonist and a black-or-white resolution that involves a fight to the death. Yes, you can do lots of things to make it more complicated, but why would you . . . oh, right, to make it interesting, because without some sort of nuance, the only drama here is which angry dude will win. Now I can work very hard to make you care about that outcome, and maybe I’ll succeed, but if that’s all I have to offer then frankly I’m being lazy.

What makes this sort of drama engaging (or not) are the obstacles that Angry Dude has to face and how he overcomes them. What makes it much more interesting is how he deals with the dilemmas he faces; typically Angry Dude has some sort of code of honour: he must stand up for those less able to defend themselves. Included in this are the sick, the poor, the crippled, the weak, family and any friends who aren’t other angry dudes. It’s a basic trick of drama (and a good one too) to strongly establish two of those moral traits, push Angry Dude into a corner where those two traits are directly in conflict with one another and then force him to make a choice. This sort of internal conflict tends to be more rewarding because it doesn’t have a “right” answer, and the way Angry Dude deals with it reveals more about him and evolves him and so makes him more interesting. The drama is no longer about which angry dude with an axe gets to sit on the throne at the end, but how

far our protagonist is prepared to go to get what he wants, what moral compromises he makes, the delicious dilemmas we manage to skewer him with and how he resolves them. The question isn’t just will he win any more, but also and if he does, will I still like him? and what sort of person will he have become? Much better.

(I use the word skewer and dilemma together with good reason. If the dilemmas you set up don’t leave your characters feeling eviscerated, you’re not trying hard enough).

For added fun you can do the same with the antagonist. Give both of them moral codes and skewer them with equally hard dilemmas. Maybe the assumption that we should all root for the “hero” goes out the window entirely. We have a different story. This can work fantastically well, but there are two big drawbacks with doing this to the antagonist: the first is that you have to spend a deal of page-time with him/her in order to fully realise them as a character and make the whole thing work. The second is that there isn’t a clear black and white any more. There’s no obvious side to root for; and maybe that’s not the story you wanted to write.

A diversity of cultures can be a shortcut to setting conflict without throwing away the black and white and without distracting from the central protagonist. Give your protagonist a small cast of supporting characters who broadly share the same objectives, but whose moral priorities are different. So one of Angry Dude’s allies is an alchemist who’s a pacifist, but the alchemist is in love with the archer, who will do almost anything to defend her people. What does the pacifist do when his love is threatened? A few chapters later both the alchemist and Angry Dude agree that the approaching army must be stopped, but each finds the others’ methods abhorrent. And then after the battle Angry Dude wants to burn the bodies of his fallen friends and press his advantage but the archer has an obligation to take the necklaces of the dead back to her tribal homeland – for one this is a distraction from their objectives that might threaten their overall goal, but for the other it is an absolute priority. These sort of conflicts help to define the central character through how he or she resolves them; yet the Big Bad is still the Big Bad – everyone can still agree on that – and the drama remains firmly centred on the protagonist because the conflicts are all are his/hers to resolve. These are more satisfying to explore because every resolution shapes and defines and the characters involved – we see them more deeply for what they are, and we see them evolve (or not) with each compromise (or lack of).

Obviously using diverse cultural backgrounds isn’t strictly necessary to achieve this end – you can have another angry dude with an axe who happens to be a pacifist if you want – but they provide a shortcut. We immediately expect two characters from different cultures or with different religions to have different beliefs (and if you put this in and then don’t explore them, then why did you put them in in the first place?) while we expect characters from the same cultural background to broadly believe in the same thing, and thus, if that’s not the case, page-time must be devoted to their back-story to explain why they’re different, and that’s page-time not being spent on the central character, plot, and drama.

One other thing I’ve found: it’s all very well having characters who are the best swordsman/archer/ huntress/wizard/whatever for miles around – and yes, in fantasy, sometimes you need to go that way for at least a few characters because they’re the ones with the ability to make a difference – but these skills run the danger of being a crutch and a means to define a character instead of defining them by their beliefs. Sometimes the most interesting characters turn out to be the ones who can’t rely on brute force or raw power. Just beware though or you may find, as I have found, that secondary characters in whom you invest time and thought turn out to start having a will of their own . . . And stories too.

Mrs Gallow’s specialist skills, for example, largely seem to consist of bloody-minded stubbornness and scathing sarcasm. Her novelette, The Anvil, is available as an e-book from 26th February. Damn but she was fun.

The Fateguard Trilogy featuring Gallow are available now.

The Crimson Shield


“Fantasy needs a new hero. Meet Gallow – Truesword, Griefbringer and trouble for anyone who crosses him.

I have been Truesword to my friends, Griefbringer to my enemies. To most of you I am just another Northlander bastard here to take your women and drink your mead, but to those who know me, my name is Gallow. I fought for my king for seven long years. I have served lords and held my shield beside common men. I have fled in defeat and I have tasted victory and I will tell you which is sweeter. Despise me then, for I have slain more of your kin than I can count, though I remember every single face.

For my king I will travel to the end of the world. I will find the fabled Crimson Shield so that his legions may carry it to battle, and when Sword and Shield must finally clash, there you will find me. I will not make pacts with devils or bargains with demons for I do not believe in such things, and yet I will see them all around me, in men and in their deeds. Remember me then, for I will not suffer such monsters to live.

Even if they are the ones I serve.”

Cold Redemption


“Fantasy needs a new hero. Meet Gallow – Truesword, Griefbringer and trouble for anyone who crosses him.

I fought against your people, and I have fought for them. I have killed, and I have murdered. I betrayed my kin and crippled my king. I led countless warriors to their deaths and fought to save one worthless life. I have stood against monsters and men and I cannot always tell the difference.

Fate carried me away from your lands, from the woman and the family I love. Three hellish years but now, finally, I may return. I hope I will find them waiting for me. I hope they will remember me while all others forget. Let my own people believe me dead, lest they hunt me down. Let me return in the dark and in the shadows so no one will know.

But hope is rare and fate is cruel. And if I have to, I will fight.”

The Last Bastion


“Fantasy needs a new hero. Meet Gallow – Truesword, Griefbringer and trouble for anyone who crosses him.

The last battle for the fate of your country is coming. My kin are out for blood and revenge. Another empire sees a chance to come in and pick up the pieces of our war. Most of your warriors are stuck hiding in the swamps, always aware that they do not have enough numbers to win a straight fight.

And from over the seas, my people bring their most deadly weapons, the Fateguard. Living suits of armour, imbued with mystical and deadly power. The end times have come for your land. I have fought alongside you, I have bled for you, I have made myself a traitor to all I believe in for you. And yet you still do not trust me.

But you have no option.

This will be our last battle, and there is only one place that it can be fought. We must defend our stronghold, no matter how many lives it may cost, no matter how hard it is. For if we do not, there will be no mercy and no relief from the terrors to come.

Good thing I’m on your side.”

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Winter Siege – Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman – Review

I reviewed this book for Shaz’s Book Blog when it was released in hardback. The paperback is now published so here’s my review again, in full.

I also have a copy to giveaway.



It’s 1141 and freezing cold. Gwil, a battle-hardened mercenary, watches in horror as a little girl with red hair is dragged away by his own men. Caught in the middle of the fight for England she is just one more victim in a winter of atrocities. But a strange twist of fate brings them together again. Gwil finds the girl close to death, clutching a sliver of parchment – and he knows what he must do. He will bring her back to life. He will train her to fight. And together, they will hunt down the man who did this to her. But danger looms wherever they turn. As castle after castle falls victim to siege, the icy Fens ring with rumours of a madman, of murder – and of a small piece of parchment the cost of which none of them could have imagined . . . Ariana Franklin’s final, brilliant standalone novel, left incomplete at the time of her death, now finished by her daughter.

4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publishers via Net Galley and this is my honest opinion of the book.

1141 and England is in the grip of another war. King Stephen is battling for the crown of England against Empress Mathilda. Gwil, a mercenary, wanders the country, becoming dissillusioned with fighting. One day he watches in horror as a young girl is dragged away by his own companions. He later stumbles across her, near death, and nurses her back to health. Trauma has caused her to forget her past. With Gwil’s help she trains to fight. With a new identity Gwil and the girl now known as Penda, travel across the country on the hunt for the man who attacked her. On the way they become embroiled in the war between Stephen and Mathilda and their lives are to never be the same again.

I am a fan of Arian Franklin’s previous novels feature Adela Aguilar and was saddened to hear of her passing in 2011. I am a fan of historical fiction and Franklin had a style that drew you into a story without even realising it. This story, a standalone novel, completed by Franklin’s daughter, Samantha Norman, is no different. I soon found myself absorbed in the book, eager to find out what had happened to Penda and how her story and that of the other characters would meld together.

I did feel at times that I was not as deeply entrenched in the story and the characters, almost like I was skimming over the surface. That said, I did like some of the characters almost immediately, in particular Gwil, Penda, Maud and Alan so there was obviously enough character drawn narrative to work.

I enjoyed the setting and the time of the novel. I found the historical aspect interesting, with Franklin and Norman dropping interesting little facts about the time into the story to create a fascinating insight into 12th Century life and the hardships faced. In particular I found the aspects of war to be very interesting, the whole idea of Parley and fighting to cease at night etc a strange and unknown piece of history. Reading this book made me keen to read more about this period of history.

All in all I enjoyed this novel very much and found myself racing through the last half. I could not tell where Ariana Franklin left the novel and where Samantha Norman’s work began. In the end I think this is a fitting tribute made by Norman to her mother and a great final piece of work from Ariana Franklin.


For a chance to win a copy just answer this question:

What is the name of the heroine who featured in Ariana Franklin’s series of novels? Just leave a comment below with your answer. (I’ve specified a question for comment here so I can keep a track of entrants :-))


A few terms and conditions.

Giveaway is limited to the UK and ends at 9pm 18 February 2015. The book will be sent direct from the publishers and neither they nor me accept any liability for it getting lost in the post.


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Obsession in Death – J.D.Robb – Review




“There’s a thin line between hero worship and dangerous obsession . . . the explosive new Eve Dallas and Roarke thriller

A crisp winter morning in New York. In a luxury apartment, the body of a woman lies stretched out on a huge bed. On the wall above, the killer has left a message in bold black ink: FOR LIEUTENANT EVE DALLAS, WITH GREAT ADMIRATION AND UNDERSTANDING.

Eve Dallas is used to unwanted attention. Famous for her high-profile cases and her marriage to billionaire businessman Roarke, she has learned to deal with intense public scrutiny and media gossip. But now Eve has become the object of a singular and deadly obsession. She has an ‘admirer’, who just can’t stop thinking about her. Who is convinced they have a special bond. Who is planning to kill for her – again and again…

With time against her, Eve is forced to play a delicate – and dangerous – psychological dance. Because the killer is desperate for something Eve can never provide – approval. And once that becomes clear, Eve knows her own life will be at risk – along with those she cares about the most.”

3.5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publishers and this is my honest opinion of the book.

Eve Dallas has an admirer. Not the first, but this one is willing to go the extra mile for her. This one is willing to kill for her. When Eve attends the scene of the brutal murder of a criminal defence lawyer, she finds a grim message. Her ‘one true friend’ murdered the lawyer, for Eve. Eve and her team know this won’t be the last, and that the killer won’t stick to just killing ‘the bad guys’. They have to unmask the killer before Eve’s friends or family, or Eve herself becomes the next target.

J.D. Robb has to be the best known pseudonym in the book world. A pen name for prolific author Nora Roberts, Obsession in Death is the 40th book in the In Death series. I had read some of the earlier books, and enjoyed them, but for some reason stopped reading the series.

This was an enjoyable crime novel, with engaging characters and a fast paced storyline. You find the clues as Eve does so there is no guessing of ‘whodunit’ until the reveal. To use that cliché it is a ‘quick read’. Once I started I did find myself flying through the pages.  If you were to start to read the Eve Dallas series I would recommend that you read them in order. There are a number of re-occurring characters that feature and the relationships are already developed. The author relies on the reader having read the rest of the series to recognise these characters without much explanation. Similarly there are references to previous cases that will have featured in other books, so avoid if you haven’t read them and don’t want any spoilers.

The fact that the stories are set in the future gives the books a slightly off-kilter edge to them. The New York depicted in the series is familiar yet different. Sometimes the technology referred to seems to not fit, almost as if it’s a vision of the future taken from a 1960’s SciFi TV series. However it does make the series different from others of its ilk, and allows the author some creative leeway in how the direction of the series will go.

Part of the worry with such a prolific writer is how can she come up with so many ideas, so often. Part of the flexibility of setting the Eve Dallas series in the future is that methods of murder can be more creative and ‘unreal’.

Fans of J.D. Robb will love this latest in the series. It is a great piece of escapism and has certainly peaked my interest again in Eve Dallas and I’ll look out for future novels featuring her.

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Once Upon a Now – Emma Calin – Guest Post

Once Upon A NOW! – Emma Calin + Giveaway

Award-winning bestseller Emma Calin has released a brand new series of modern day fairy stories for younger readers and is introducing them to the blogging world over the next few weeks. A host of talented reviewers will be giving their thoughts on theillustrated, interactive, magical bedtime story chapter books so look out for the special guests, posts and giveaway.

Also, keep your eyes peeled as the books will all available for FREE at different points!

Alf final 1st Oct Amazon Kindle smallAlf The Workshop Dog (Once upon a NOW 1) What they say: How could a scruffy dog in a bus depot and the call of crows, link back to another world of power and love? The ancient Kingdom of Zanubia and a stray dog looking for scraps in an inner-city repair garage, hold the secret. A wicked king, a beautiful girl, a young prince and the struggle between right and wrong maintain the fable tradition. Click Here To Buy This Book   Isabellas Pink Bike Kindle smallIsabella’s Pink Bicycle (Once upon a NOW 2) What they say:  There’s something strange in the woodshed… A poor little girl in a faraway land dreams of riding a pink bicycle. When she meets a strange animal, her dreams come true. Her happiness turns to sadness when a tragedy occurs in the town and her father doesn’t come home. Maybe her new magic friend can find him? Click Here To Buy This Book    Kool Kid Kindle smallKool Kid Kruncha and The High Trapeze (Once upon a NOW 3) What they say:  Charlie finds it tough when his parents divorce – but Auntie Kate helps him overcome his greatest fear. When Charlie has to move from the country into the city, he leaves behind his home, his mates and his beloved football team. He will need to make new friends. With his small size and red hair, some people aren’t kind to him. He wonders if he can face another day at school. A trip to the circus gives him the strength to see himself and others in a new way. Click Here To Buy This Book 

Once Upon A Bike?

Guest post by author Emma Calin I wanted a bike. Lance Armstrong wanted a bike. We were both innocent young kids once. He rode to the summit of fame and plunged into the valleys of infamy. I wobbled and fell off in blessed anonymity. Such is the stuff of life and stories. There are morals and lessons to learn in life and always a bike to balance. In “Isabella’s Pink Bicycle” a little girl dreams of the impossible. Who can’t empathize with her? As a writer it was easy to put myself in her shoes. My dreams are the realest part of me. The grown up world loves the packaged dream but not the dreamer. Here was my starting point for this story. In a poor mining community life is a struggle. A girl wants a bike so that she can ride away free from the grime and poverty of her environment. She knows there is a better place. Her parents grind out a dreamless life of acceptance. She needs a break! I know that feeling!! Now, sometimes in life you stumble on something that alters your perspective. It happened to me a few years ago when I met a man with a ferret. All the love for furry beasts in my heart poured out over this creature. It reciprocated by smearing me with acrid pure animal musk. Even so I loved the warm affection of it. I’m not sure if Disney has ever portrayed ferrets – but they’re missing a trick. They are adorable. I knew that I had a mission in the realm of fiction to bring out the truth of ferret love. When a sweet little kid meets Frankie the ferret godfather anything is possible – even a pink bike. When events call for action a little girl stands up with only her own belief.  I felt like cheering. I’m hoping that kids feel the love of the possible dream too.     emma calinAuthor Bio: Emma Calin was born in London in 1962. She currently lives part of the year in the UK and spends the rest in France. She has been writing since childhood and has won numerous local, national, and international prizes for poetry and short stories. Emma enjoys writing stories firmly rooted in social realism. She blogs about the contrasts in life on both sides of the English Channel, which she likes to explore on her tandem whenever weather and fitness coincide. She is a Lifestyle Contributor on Loveahappyending Lifestyle. She defines herself as woman eternally pedalling between Peckham and Pigalle, in search of passion and enduring romance.

Author Links:

Amazon USA | Amazon UK | Blog |Website | Facebook | @Emma Calin  | Pinterest | Goodreads

Listen to Audio Excerpts:

OUAN 3 audiobooks small

Alf The Workshop Dog

Isabella’s Pink Bicycle

Kool Kid Kruncha and The High Trapeze


Enter to win one of the following:

1 set of 3 audio books Once Upon a NOW Series
1 set of 3 paperbacks Once Upon a NOW Series
1 set of 3 Kindle books Once Upon a NOW Series

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1.  Promotion Description: The ‘Complete set of 3 audio books for the Once Upon a Now Series.’ (“Sweepstakes”) begins on 01/20/2015 at 12:00 AM (London) and ends on 02/28/2015 at 12:00 AM (London) (the “Promotion Period”). By participating in the Sweepstakes, each entrant unconditionally accepts and agrees to comply with and abide by these Official Rules and the decisions of Emma Calin (“Sponsor”), which shall be final and binding in all respects. Sponsor is responsible for the collection, submission or processing of Entries and the overall administration of the giveaway. Entrants should look solely to Sponsor with any questions, comments or problems related to the Sweepstakes.
2.  Eligibility: Open to legal residents of USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Europe who are Min Age 13 or older. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Sponsor and their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, distributors, retailers, sales representatives, advertising and promotion agencies and each of their respective officers, directors and employees (collectively, the “Promotion Entities”), and members of their immediate families and/or persons living in the same household as such persons, are ineligible to enter the Sweepstakes or win a prize.
3.  Winner Selection: The winner of the Sweepstakes will be selected in a random drawing from among all eligible Entries received throughout the Promotion Period. The random drawing will be conducted by 48 hours by Sponsor or its designated representatives, whose decisions are final. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible Entries received. Winner will be notified by email at the email address provided in the Entry Information on or about 48 hours after the random drawing. Potential winner must accept a prize by email as directed by Sponsor within 48 hours of notification. Any winner notification not responded to or returned as undeliverable may result in prize forfeiture. The potential prize winner may be required to sign and return an affidavit of eligibility and release of liability, and a Publicity Release (collectively “the Prize Claim Documents”). No substitution or transfer of a prize is permitted except by Sponsor.
4.  Prizes:
    –  1 (#) winner(s) will receive  [(1) Complete set of 3 audio books for the Once Upon a Now Series.] (approximate retail value or “ARV”: $20)
    –  1 (#) winner(s) will receive  [(1) Set of 3 paperbacks of all three books in the Once Upon a NOW series.] (approximate retail value or “ARV”: $25)
    –  1 (#) winner(s) will receive  [(1) Set of 3 – the Kindle versions of ‘The Once Upon a NOW’ series.] (approximate retail value or “ARV”: $10)
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    Prize will only be awarded and/or delivered to addresses within USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Europe. All federal, state and/or local taxes, fees, and surcharges are the sole responsibility of the prize winner. Failure to comply with the Official Rules will result in forfeiture of the prize.
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8.  Winner’s List: To obtain a copy of any legally required winners list or a copy of the Official Rules, send the applicable request and a self-addresses, stamped, #10 envelope to Emma Calin cc: Complete set of 3 audio books for the Once Upon a Now Series. at . Request must be received no later than 48 hours + 6 MONTHS for the name of the winner and, by the end of the promotion, for a copy of the rules. 
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Runaway – Peter May – Giveaway competition


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Today I’m pleased to be able to offer you the chance to read Runaway for yourself.

I have one copy to giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning simply answer this question:

What is the surname of Jack, the narrator of Runaway?

Simply comment below with the correct answer.

A few terms and conditions – the giveaway is open until 9pm on Monday 9th February 2015. Only correct entries will be considered. The book can only be delievered to a UK address. The book will be sent direct from Midas PR and neither they or I take any responsibility for the book should it be lost in the post.






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Runaway – Review Roundup

A slightly different post today, here you can find blogger reviews of Runaway by Peter May. My own review will be up in a few days.

From Cleopatra loves books

“Peter May is a master at drawing a range of believable characters, and that is true in this book too with each member of the group drawn distinctly, I especially loved Jeff and his turn of phrase.”

You can read the full review here.

From Crime Fiction Lover

“The historical context is vividly sketched – there are even fleeting appearances by Bob Dylan and John Lennon. This is London in the Swinging 60s, and we are treated to glimpses of its seedy underbelly.”

You can read the full review here.

From Raven Crime Reads

“May captures perfectly the impetuousness of youth, and their black and white view of the world, after a series of hapless accidents mar their dreams of fame.”

You can read the full review here.

From Novel Heights

“Jack himself was a likeable character, it’s more his story than it is the others in the group, and he brings a sense of humour and pragmatic approach to the situations in which they find themselves.”

You can read the full review here.

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About the book:

“In 1965, five teenage friends fled Glasgow for London to pursue their dream of musical stardom. Yet before year’s end three returned, and returned damaged.

In 2015, a brutal murder forces those three men, now in their sixties, to journey back to London and finally confront the dark truth they have run from for five decades.

Runaway is a crime novel covering fifty years of friendships solidified and severed, dreams shared and shattered and passions lit and extinguished; set against the backdrop of two unique and contrasting cities at two unique and contrasting periods of recent history.”



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Peter May Week – Q&A with Peter May

This week my blog is dedicated to Peter May. Today I’m pleased to share this Q&A with you.

“Peter May was an award-winning journalist at the age of just twenty-one. He left newspapers for television and screenwriting, creating three prime-time British drama series and accruing more than 1,000 television credits. Peter now lives in France where he focuses on writing novels. Peter May’s most recent novel, Entry Island, was a top 3 Sunday Times bestseller and The Lewis Trilogy has sold over 2 million copies in the UK. In 2014, Quercus brought into print May’s Enzo Files, which have since sold over 140,000 copies. Peter has won numerous awards. In 2013 he won the ‘Best Crime Novel Award’ for ‘The Blackhouse’ at Bouchercon in the US. In September, ‘Entry Island’ won the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year and in October it won the Specsavers ITV3 Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read Award. See for more details.”


Runaway is inspired by a time in your life when you ‘ran away’ to London. Did this make it harder to write or was the experience always tucked away eager to be called upon as the basis of a novel?

I don’t think it was harder or easier to write than any of my other books.  Although it was based on personal experience it was a still a work of fiction.  I still had to develop the characters and the plot. The hardest thing about writing any book is finding the right story.  I’ve felt sure for about 30 years that I wanted to incorporate my experience of running away into a book, and I also knew I wanted to add to that the idea of these kids running away again when they were in their late 60s.  But it took me a long time to find exactly the right motivation and plot.  


The Lewis Trilogy was a best selling series, selling over 2 million copies. Your standalone novel Entry Island was a top 3 Sunday Times bestseller. Was it hard to move away from Finn Macleod or did you relish bringing new characters to life? Is there any kind of comfort zone in having recurring characters or do you find there is more pressure as readers come to love them?

Leaving Finn Macleod and the others behind, was like suffering a bereavement, but it had to be done.  I had told their stories and it was time to move on. Of course, readers come to be very attached to characters and, like old friends, they want to see them again and again. As a result of that, publishers and writers face a dilemma: do they continue to feed the readers’ appetite even if the writer feels he or she has exhausted the story potential, or do they risk readers’ wrath by publishing books with different characters and different stories? 

I have created and written soap operas in my time, so I know well how to tell long-running stories, and live with characters on a long term basis, but it can be a monster that sets a terrible trap for writers.  I have twice walked away from well-paying TV drama serials because it’s a treadmill.  It drains you physically and mentally.  I don’t want to write if my heart isn’t really in it.  That’s why I wanted to return to writing books when I quit television. 

I was brought up on Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway.  They were magnificent storytellers, and you went with them wherever they wanted to take you, meeting new characters with every new story.  

If I have a story to tell, I want to introduce the readers to the characters, take them on a journey with those characters and when the journey comes to an end, I just hope the readers will say, “It’s been a great trip, I’ve really enjoyed meeting you, I have fantastic memories of our time together, goodbye,” and move on to a new adventure.

I’ve been incredibly lucky that my editor at Quercus, Jon Riley, has not just permitted but encouraged me to write standalone books after they published the Lewis Trilogy.  He’s a publisher that is willing to take risks… after all, he published The Blackhouse when it had been turned down by every other publisher in the UK!  In the crime genre, most publishers are insistent that their writers keep producing series, to build “brand loyalty”.  That’s fine if the writers are happy with the characters and feel there is still lots of story potential.  But I hope there is also room in the market for creating that same “brand loyalty” for a writer, just by using his name.  It used to work.  I just hope readers will trust me and go with me.  So far I seem to have been lucky, and they have.


You had a prolific career as at TV dramatist. How different is it writing for television compared with writing a novel?

Any kind of screenwriting means that the story you imagine in your head will be filtered through the entirely individual “visions” of producer, director, actors, set designers, wardrobe and make-up.  Sometimes it comes out looking the way you pictured it; sometimes these people bring it all to life in a way that makes it better than you ever imagined; and sadly sometimes it can get mangled into something that hurts your eyes and breaks your heart to watch!  

An old friend of mine used to say he preferred radio drama because the sets and costumes were always much better, well it’s a bit like that reading a book, the reader’s imagination plays a huge part in the end product.  In a way it’s much more satisfying that you get to communicate directly with your audience and tell the story straight to them. 

What is your writing process? Do you plan it all before you start or just sit and write? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel?

Although I wrote novels before I got sidetracked into a TV scriptwriting career, I really discovered the way to write that suited me best when I was working for television. As a result,  I brought techniques from screenwriting to my novel-writing when I quit television.  It’s normal, when plotting a TV serial or a movie, to write a breakdown of the story in detail, before writing the script.  Plotting the story, and writing the script are two separate processes, sometimes they are done by different writers.  I think it’s a good idea to iron out any story/plot problems before you commit yourself to the job of writing the novel.  

The process starts with several months of turning the idea and the characters over in my head.  I use a program called Scrivener and use it to collect all my thoughts.  I usually have a lot of research to do, reading, and visiting locations, and this feeds into the story and shapes it.  

Eventually I’m ready to write a storyline.  But it’s more than a skeleton.  It’s probably around 30,000 words, long, so when those writers talk about “seat of the pants” writing, this is my time to do that.  I write it very quickly, probably in a week, but the joy of it is, all I care about is the story and what’s happening to the characters. I don’t have to worry about the “writing”. I don’t have to care if it’s punctuated. It’s the white knuckle ride of storytelling, and I just go with it.  It is the bare bones of the story, the action, the drama, the themes, the characters and their relationships.  If I could return to the analogy of taking a reader on a journey, this is the road map, it’s the travel itinerary.

When I’m done with it, I leave it aside for a little while, then go through it as objectively as I can.  I try to identify anything that needs to be fixed, or areas that might need more detailed research.  It’s much easier to edit a plan that is 30,000 words in length, than to edit and manipulate a 120,000-word novel.

Once I’m happy with my storyline, I start writing the book.  Again, I write very quickly.  I get up at 6am each day and write 3,000 words each day.  I don’t stop until I have 3,000 done.  At this stage, all I have to concern myself with is the writing.  I know what the plot is.  So I never have writer’s block, because I know where I’m going each day.  I write Monday to Friday and take the weekends off.  This final process of turning the storyline into a book usually takes 7 to 8 weeks.  

I usually write one book per year but this year, I have to write two books, so it’s going to be tough going.

 I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. What question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?

The question I wish I had been asked is, “What would you like to do in the future?” and the answer is:

Retire. But no-one will let me!  I see all my friends beginning to take their pensions and work out what they want to do for the rest of their lives, and everyone says to me – “But you’re a writer, writers never retire! Anyway, what would you do?”  Well, I’d do lots of things, I’d read, I’d play music and make videos with my friend Stephen, like this one we did for “Runaway” .  I wouldn’t be short of things to do!

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Runaway by Peter May is out now (Quercus, £16.99).


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