Crushed Blog Tour – Guest Post from Eliza Crewe.

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I am very pleased to welcome Eliza Crewe to the blog today – I have not yet had a chance to read her novels, but I am very much looking forward to them and her story is interesting – originally with a publisher until they closed their doors, she had embarked on a mission to self publish, most especially for her readers who having read Book One were REALLY keen to read the follow up…


Eliza Crewe: The Path to Self-Publishing

I never planned to self-publish. I’d planned to go about publishing the tried-and-true route–get an agent, then a publishing deal, maybe sell a few international rights, publish the sequels, etc. Plod down the straight and narrow.

Instead my publishing path has been as warped as the morals of my people-eating monster MC.

Step 1

The Plan: Get an Agent

The Reality: Accidentally sell book in India

I queried agents (a lot of agents) and bombed spectacularly. Every single agent rejected me, most (if not all–I blocked the memory) sent a form rejection. It wasn’t going so well.

Then, just by chance, a stranger in India read a version Cracked I posted to an online critique forum. He liked it, and is friends with an editor at Penguin’s Indian branch, so he forwarded it on to her. She emailed shortly thereafter and offered for Cracked’s Indian rights.

Step 2

The Plan: Find a domestic publisher

The Reality: Find an agent

Months before anything happened with India, I had participated in an online competition called The Baker’s Dozen at Miss Snark’s First Victim’s blog. The Baker’s Dozen is a competition where agents bid to read pages on entries that they’re interested in (it happens every year, and is just about to start–so go check it out!). It doesn’t mean the winning agent will sign you, just that they’ll read a certain number of pages and consider the possibility. The agent who won my entry, Victoria Marini, was sort-of-maybe interested. She asked to see revisions, and I was waiting to see what she thought of those when India offered. Fortunately, the India offer tipped her over the edge, and she took me on.

Step 3

The Plan: Sell international rights

The Reality: Sell domestic Rights

Since I already had an international deal, the next step was to find a domestic publisher. I was in an odd position in that Penguin India wanted to publish Cracked fast, as in, 6-months fast, (for comparison, most US publishers take at least two years to publish). PI was launching their first YA-only imprint in the spring and wanted Cracked to be an inaugural title. As a result, we needed to sell Cracked fast, preferably to a publisher with a short turn-around, so I wouldn’t be releasing book 3 in India before book 1 was ever released in the US.

Fortunately we were able to sell the rest of Cracked’s rights to Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint of Sci-fi/Fantasy publisher Angry Robot, and they agreed to release it shortly after Penguin India.

Step 4

The Plan: Smooth sailing–Fulfill my contract by traditionally publishing my series

The Reality: Up the creek without a paddle–Strange Chemistry folded

We signed in September of 2012 with Penguin, then October with Strange Chemistry. Cracked was released in India in April, then in November in the rest of the world. I turned in my drafts of the sequel, Crushed, and everything was going along swimmingly.

Until it wasn’t.

In June, about 6 weeks before Crushed was to be released, my agent called. An agent calling (at least my agent calling–we’re email people) is either very good, or very, very bad.

It wasn’t good.

I got the news that Strange Chemistry was closing their doors and Crushed wasn’t going to be released after all. I was left six weeks before the release with no publisher, and no rights to my own books. We had a reversion clause in the contract of course, but it didn’t cover every contingency (and took time to kick in), so things were really up in the air. We were told that I would at least get the rights to Crushed back, but the person who told us that no longer worked for the publisher, and we had nothing formal. And, even if I had the rights back to Crushed, I didn’t know if Angry Robot would keep selling Cracked. I could be publishing a sequel to a book that, for all intents and purposes, no longer existed. No answers were forthcoming, so we just had to…wait. Wait and see whether Crushed would ever see the light of day.

Finally, about two months after Strange Chemistry closed, and six weeks-ish after Crushed was supposed to be released, the reversions appeared in my inbox. I’m pretty sure I squealed.

Since my fans had already been waiting forever (and because I was paranoid something else would go wrong!), I gave myself three weeks to figure out the self-publishing game and get this bad boy out there.

There is certainly a learning curve to self-publishing. There are all different platforms, all different formats you need to use, different royalty rates and different requirements for different distributers. I’m still figuring it out, but fortunately, there are a lot of awesome people out there who have already done it and are willing to share their experiences. The writing community is full of awesome folks.

Step 5

The Plan: Write books , Live Happily Ever After

The Reality: Done.

So far, my publishing story has been more of an adventure tale than a non-fiction anecdote, but that’s okay. Adventures have always been my favorite.

Thank you Eliza!


Find out more here:

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Happy Reading Folks!

Normal Service to be resumed….



So the blog has not been as active as usual and those of you who follow me on various social media outlets will know why, it has been an insane, stressful and uncertain time for me over the last couple of weeks. I will not go into it again but I leave this today for anyone waiting for new content…


I am taking the weekend to breathe in and out for a while and then from Monday normal service WILL be resumed. Kicking off with a guest post from Eliza Crewe all about her publishing journey, then on Tuesday, I am part of the blog tour for “Eren” a magical novel from Simon P Clark. Wednesday will see a review of The Playground by Julia Kelly and after that….well who knows? I shall not give everything away.

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So have a great weekend everyone….And I’ll see you on Monday. Happy Reading!



Hide and Seek Blog tour with Amy Bird. Guest Post from the Author.

Postcard2_HideandSeek_PAGE1Shareable_HideandSeek2 Enter the competition…


Book Trailer:




Digital innovation in practice – the chucking structure of Hide and Seek


My third novel for carina uk is being sold using the relatively new digital practice of ‘chunking’. That is, it will be sold in the three parts. The first part will be free, the second 99p, the third £1.89. They will each be released a week apart.


In a sense, there is nothing new about chunking. It is a digital way of approaching the serialisation method that has been used ever since Dickens published instalments of his novels in newspapers. But there is one critical difference: the graduated pricing, starting from free. If you want to read part of a serialised book in a newspaper, you have to buy the newspaper. With the current digital pricing, you don’t even have to do that. The first part is completely free. All you need is your existing smartphone, e-reader, tablet or computer. This is incredibly empowering of readers – you don’t need to make any financial outlay and get a third of a book for free. This goes beyond the one chapter sample that is often available. You can then decide if you wish to invest in the next third, and then the next third. The computer games industry, and now app-developers, have been doing this for years – start with a free or ‘light’ version, let the player enjoy it, then allow them to have the full experience for a nominal fee. The digital revolution has now progressed to allow book lovers to take advantage of this model too.


As a writer, I admit it is slightly nerve-wracking – there is that fear that people won’t move onto the next thirds of the book. However, it is also an opportunity. You know that if you can rise to the challenge of making the first third of your book as compelling as possible and get readers hooked, chances are they will download the next chunk, and then the next.


Chunking may not be suited to all genres. But for my genre, psychological suspense, it has the potential to work well. Hide and Seek is about a lifetime of secrets that Will’s family have hidden from him, and his obsessional drive to uncover the truth. The chunking structure certainly focused my mind when I was editing successive drafts of book – I knew I needed to highlight the twists and have some real cliff-hangers. And in this genre, that leads to a stronger novel. It’s also exciting when the chunks reflect the novel’s (novel) structure. A piano concerto and the mysteries it conceals are at the heart of the novel, and so I wrote the novel mapped to the three-part concerto structure. Each part of the novel reflects a concerto movement. Readers, then, should have their experience of the book’s structure enhanced by focussing on the three parts.


For me, then, in Hide and Seek ‘chunking’ is an exciting modem approach that empowers readers, but also a literary tool that supports the work itself. Here’s hoping readers will be just as gripped as Dickens’ were.



Amy Bird


Amy is the author of the thrillers Three Steps Behind You and Yours Is Mine, and now Hide and Seek.


Having moved all over the UK as a child, she now lives in North London with her husband, dividing her time between working part-time as a lawyer and writing.


You can find out more at or follow her on Twitter @London_writer


Rejection – Guest post from Joanna Courtney.


Today I am very pleased to welcome back Joanna Courtney, telling us more about her writing journey…




I am an expert at being rejected. I’m a top reject. As a short story writer I’ve long learned to accept that you’re lucky if you sell even half of what you write and if there was a ‘most rejected’ prize I’d win it. It seems, though, that if there was a ‘get up off your arse and go again’ prize I’d be in with a shout at that too and hopefully that’s why I’ve finally secured a novel contract with Pan Macmillan.

I’m well aware that there could – will – be plenty more rejection around the corner and in all sorts of delicious new forms (poor sales, bad reviews, historical inaccuracies, the scary second book) so I’m making the most of it at the moment and why not? Does anyone really have a tough skin? I doubt it. Some of us are just better at pretending and if there’s one thing a writer can usually do well, it’s pretend.

I like to think of myself a little like an Anglo-Saxonshield wall. (I think a lot about Anglo-Saxons – ask my children who groan whenever I say ‘did you know that in 1066…’) As a writer I line up for battle with my front line of stories and I drive forward. Sometimes I make an advance (literally if I’m really lucky) but sometimes I take a spear in the heart. That story falls but the army pushes on. It’s fanciful, of course, but at least it helps me to think of my writing career in terms of an overall, possibly even vaguely controlled campaign, rather than just a singular one-on-one combat.
I have been close to giving up no end of times (my husband would be rich if he got a pound for every time I’ve flouncingly announced I’m ‘going to get a proper job’) and perhaps never more so than when the third novel my lovely agent, Kate Shaw, and I had painstakingly polished and sent out looked like failing. I was getting so many replies saying: ‘loved it but we have something similar’ or ‘fantastic work but we don’t think we can sell that era’ or the classic, ‘I liked so much about this but just didn’t love it enough to take it on’. It felt like I was never going to make it to that last level of publication.

In reality as Natasha, the angel editor who finally did ‘love it enough’ pointed out, if I’d stepped back a little these comments would have shown me just how close I actually was. Giving up would have been like sitting down 50m from the finish line of a marathon. With the long run to publication, though, there is one significant difference – you don’t know where the finish is going to be until you get there. Now I’m here it seems so obvious, so natural even that all my past learning has built neatly to this point, but if you’d asked me two months ago I’d have (grumpily – very grumpily) told you I was further away than ever.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s a long, long way to go yet. I’m at the start of a whole new course but it feels slightly lighter and I’m not running it quite as alone as before. I’m not a big fan of self-help books but if there’s one I’d recommend to anyone it’s Dame Kelly Holmes’ – ‘Just go for it!’ It’s honest, open and helpful and the central message is spot on: learn from your mistakes, adapt, be realistic, but don’t ever give up.

So all I can say to those writers busting a gut to get to the elusive ‘offer to buy’ finish line is: take heart at any successes, however small they may seem; set mini-goals to keep motivating (something as simple as finishing the story before you finish the choccie digestives will do); and keep moving forward. You might be closer than you think…

Liz Currently Loves….Dare Me by Megan Abbott.


Publication Date: Available now from Picador

Source: Purchased Copy

Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy’s best friend and trusted lieutenant. Beth calls the shots and Addy carries them out, a long-established order of things that has brought them to the pinnacle of their high-school careers. Now they’re seniors who rule the intensely competitive cheer squad, feared and followed by the other girls — until the young new coach arrives.

As a reviewer I get sent an awful lot of books which I will always be eternally grateful for, and an offshoot of that life is that I also get a great many recommendations from readers in the online community each month all of which I consider carefully but often never get around to reading. Dare Me from Megan Abbott had been recommended to me several times, which is always a good indication that it has that special “something” so it was one of my book budget picks last month and I loved every minute of it.

There is a quote from it that sums things up perfectly. There’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls.  And often there is, there really really is…

In “Dare Me” we meet Addy, a popular girl, second in command to main popular girl Beth, and for a long time they have ruled school life and the cheer squad with relentless charm and ruthlessness and lived their lives by a certain order and routine that outwardly looks pretty cool but both of these girls have a lot of inner turmoil. Some of it standard teenage angst but some of it a lot darker…

When Colette arrives to coach the team everything changes – in a lot of ways she is like an older version of the girls she teaches, with added life experience and not necessarily their best interests at heart. I found her to be a particularly fascinating character as she draws the team into a more adult world, one they really are totally unprepared for. Her agenda is unclear, but everyone gets caught up in her maelstrom with often devastating results.

Megan Abbott writes with a beautifully dark and intense prose that draws you into the world she has created and gets you right to the heart of the matter. Her characters are insightfully drawn with a real depth of feeling so that you believe you understand them and their actions…until the rug is pulled out from under you and you realise that things are not that straightforward. Intelligently done and with some very dark themes bang at the centre, I found this to be a highly intriguing, emotional and captivating coming of age tale.

Characterisation really is key here, as understanding grows as to the true nature of the players, it is compelling and often downright scary reading. The things that are hidden just below the surface of the glitz and glamour of the cheerleading life are thought provoking and terrifically gripping, I could barely put it down.  I’m loathe to give anything away, but the story flows in an engaging and captivating way that makes this easily a one sitting read and as things unfold, you may often be on the edge of your seat.  This is a disconcerting, often startling and very unsettling read but absolutely riveting and with a real psychological depth especially when it comes to manipulative personalities. Be afraid…be very afraid…

Find out more here:

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Happy Reading Folks!



New Release Spotlight: See You Tomorrow by Tore Renberg.


Publication Date: Available now from Arcadia Books.

Source: Publisher Review Copy.

Pal has a shameful secret that has dragged him into huge debt, and he is desperate that his teenage daughters and ex-wife don’t find out. Sixteen-year-old Sandra also has a secret. She’s in love with the delinquent Daniel William, a love so strong and pure that nothing can get in its way. Cecilie has the biggest secret of them all, a baby growing inside her. But she’s trapped in her small-time, criminal existence, and dreams of an escape from it all. Over three fateful September days, these lives cross in a whirlwind of brutality, laughter, tragedy, and love that will change them forever. A fast-paced, moving, and darkly funny page-turner.

An absolutely fabulous book that really shouldnt work but does, manages to gently roll along whilst at the same time being fast paced and highly addictive, and to top it all off it is at times hilariously funny. Sometimes in that way where you know you SHOULDN’T be laughing but you will anyway. Sometimes because it is just simply ironically humerous in that way that touches you on a human level. It was described as 600 pages of pure energy and that really about covers it.

At its basic level it is simply a story of people. Lives that clash unexpectedly and suddenly over the course of a few days, changing those lives forever. A more eclectic and strange yet wonderful group of characters you will be hard put to find anywhere else, but they are all intriguing, full of depth and substance and will become as real to you as anyone in your life over the course of that few days you live with them. I read about half of the book in one huge gulp then forced myself to slow down, not wanting it to end, not wanting to leave them behind me but to keep following on with them. One of those novels that won’t let you go even when you put it down, here is yet another strong contender for my top 10 of the year.

There are many themes interwoven into the narrative – addiction, violence, love, loss, the things we will do for those we care about, the lengths we will go to in order to protect our self image and self worth. It is often brutal, occasionally heart wrenching, a real window into the soul of humanity in all its forms. Intelligently done and beautifully written with some stunning prose, chapter after chapter you will fall more and more under the spell of the world the author has created here. Authentic, genuinely fascinating and with great psychological depth, it is a truly amazing reading experience.

I won’t give anything away. To do so would absolutely spoil the joy of this. But in summary, some quirky and original characters, an intense and realistic storyline and some absolutely incredible writing make this without doubt one of the top reads of 2014. Don’t worry what your comfort zone is – this book at some point will hit all reading comfort zones. Just let yourself go and enjoy.

Five shiny “do not miss this book” stars and an elephant for this one. Hey I can be quirky as well….

Tore Renberg shares his thoughts on the book in an interview with Foyles

Find out more here:

Follow the author on Twitter here:

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NB: The Hardback is absolutely gorgeous with its stunning red edged pages – if you are a collector and not just a reader I highly recommend you go for that version!

Happy Reading Folks!


Trilogy Spotlight: The Skyscraper Throne trilogy by Tom Pollock.

I have a secret love for Trilogies. Ok its not really secret, but give me a good trilogy (preferably once they are all available due to my chronic impatience) and you will find one happy reader. So my latest “Drop In” feature is a spotlight on various trilogies that I have enjoyed and I thought I would start with one I completed very recently, the Skyscraper Throne Trilogy from Tom Pollock.

So how did this one pan out for me then….


Well I started here…..


And I said this…..

Expelled from school, betrayed by her best friend and virtually ignored by her dad, who’s never recovered from the death of her mum, Beth Bradley retreats to the sanctuary of the streets, looking for a new home. What she finds is Filius Viae, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London, who opens her eyes to the place she’s never truly seen.


So, in my recent book buying spree,  one of the things I was specifically looking for was the next book in my quest for terrific Urban Fantasy – this one kept popping up and glaring at me so I took that as a sign that this was the one.

What a great choice that was. Phew. For this reader, there are two things that will ensure I love an Urban Fantasy tale – a world I want to see with my own two eyes and characters that I can fall in love with. The City’s Son had both of those things with bells on..

Beth is a graffiti artist, ignored by her grieving father and expelled from school after her best friend Pen caves to pressure, she is drifting..until an incident on the streets of London brings her into contact with Fil.  Son of a Goddess, Prince of London, he is about to be embroiled in a battle with the evil Reach, King of the Cranes, for his life and his City. And so Beth finds a new purpose…and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.

The world Mr Pollock has created here is weird, wonderful and entirely beautiful. Oh I wanted to dance with Elektra and her sisters, interact with the Pavement Priests, offer the spiders my voice and fight the good fight…the entire time I was immersed in Fil’s London I was drowning in the rich, often horrific,  yet always entirely exotic surroundings.  A city that lives and breathes, filled with bizarre and breathtaking characters who will steal your heart and touch your soul.

This author does not write from a place of safety and that makes this even more compelling – If you want a cheery tale where everyone lives happily ever after then this may not be for you – emotionally speaking it can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride. There is love and loss, sadness and joy, fear and bravery all within the pages – and the ending left me slightly tearful and overwrought in the best reading way possible.

Alluring and elegant writing, intelligent and dexterous world building and passionate characterisation make this a must read for any Urban Fantasy fan. Indeed for any fan of great storytelling.

I leave you with some quotes…

“Our memories are like a city: we tear some structures down, and we use rubble of the old to raise up new ones. Some memories are bright glass, blindingly beautiful when they catch the sun, but then there are the darker days, when they reflect only the crumbling walls of their derelict neighbours. Some memories are buried under years of patient construction; their echoing halls may never again be seen or walked down, but still they are the foundations for everything that stands above them.”

“Glas told me once that that’s what people are, mostly: memories, the memories in their own heads, and the memories of them in other people’s. And if memories are like a city, and we are our memories, then we are like cities too. I’ve always taken comfort in that.”

After that I was hooked….so next up for me was….


About which I said….

Pen’s life is all about secrets: the secret of the city’s spirits, deities and monsters her best friend Beth discovered, living just beyond the notice of modern Londoners; the secret of how she got the intricate scars that disfigure her so cruelly – and the most closely guarded secret of all: Parva, her mirror-sister, forged from her reflections in a school bathroom mirror.

So a little while back I read the first of the SkyScraper Throne novels “The City’s Son” – review can be found here and I entered the world discovered by Beth and Pen, getting utterly lost there for a wonderful few hours. So imagine my utter joy at being able to make a return visit.

Oh second books. They ALWAYS worry me especially if I have adored the first part with the whole of my reading soul, so yes ok a bit pensive going in – How on earth could it match the sheer addictive dancing joy of Book One? Well, I guess by doing exactly what Mr Pollock does here – take the strands of the tale told, give it a new perspective, a little twist, let the characters do their thing and open up the beauty of the world so far only partially discovered.

In this instalment we find Pen, dealing with the aftermath of previous events, trying to return to a normal existence but having to keep secrets…and when her mirror twin Parva goes missing, Pen must return to the magical underbelly of London and find a way to track her down. The cost however may be high…

When I use the dancing analogy in my description of these books that is the exact feeling the reading of them gives me – a fascinating, magical, magnificent jig of a story, taking you into a world beyond imagination that you can truly live in and let it become real around you. Following along on Pen’s journey, meeting up with both new and fondly remembered characters, it is a perfect adrenalin rush of experiences tempered by some downright emotional moments that cut to the heart.

For me this is right at the top of the tree when it comes to Urban Fantasy – a series I wish would run and run, one that definitely has a lot more to offer and all I can say now is – WHERE IS BOOK 3 – it had better come soon. We don’t want a total Liz meltdown…


This…..the end. Sob.


Four months ago, Mater Viae, the Goddess of London, returned from London-Under- Glass to reclaim her throne. And ever since then, London has been dying.
Streets are wracked by convulsions as muscles of wire and pipe go into spasm, bunching the city into a crippled new geography; pavements flare to thousand-degree fevers, incinerating anyone and anything touching them. Towers crash to the ground, their foundations decayed.
As the streets sicken, so does Beth, drawn ever deeper into the heart of the city, while Pen fights desperately for a way to save her. But when they discover that Mater Viae’s plans for dominion stretch far beyond London’s borders, they must make a choice: Beth has it within her to unleash the city’s oldest and greatest powers – powers that could challenge the vengeful goddess, or destroy the city itself.

So here we are at the finale then and thank HEAVENS it doesnt suffer from what I like to call “lost the plot scenario” which sometimes happens (with one VERY well known trilogy for sure) where the writer seems to lose energy and have no real idea what they intended in the first place. Not in this case, I found it to be a highly satisfying end, although I am still a little sad that it is all over.

Tom Pollock weaves his magic once again, pulling together the various strands and offshoots that have appeared over the course of the story and setting up a thrilling and really quite haunting final confrontation in the style we have come to expect, by using stunning descriptive prose then letting his characters speak. As the streets shatter and the world tilts on its axis, Pen and Beth are right at the heart of it all, fighting for survival and to make London safe again.

An age old tale in a way – a true battle between good and evil – this is a fresh new take on the Urban Fantasy genre and one that will stay with me for a long time. Beth and Pen, like old friends who have moved away, will be missed as will the rich, imaginative environments they have inhabited. Whilst the story IS complete there is so much depth and emotion to this world that it feels like there are many more stories to be told – one might hope that the author will revisit it one day, perhaps with a new inhabitant or a new hidden layer.

To use the same analogy again, I danced through this book as I did through the others – it was a glorious, fascinating, magical rollercoaster ride of reading joy from the very first words of “The Citys Son” to the very last words of “Our Lady of the Streets”. A most amazing accomplishment where the standard never dips, the reader is never cheated and the whole thing is a magnificent, I cannot recommend this series highly enough. To ANY avid reader. And lucky LUCKY you, you can get all three and never have to wait…

I wanted to include something from the author in this feature, and he wrote a guest post for BRSBKBLOG which he has been kind enough to let me steal – original piece here. Tom Pollock on Trilogies.

The Rule of Three – Tom Pollock.

Three, that’s the magic number, especially when it comes to… well, magic. Trilogies are endemic in western literature (the Deptford trilogy, the Karla Trilogy etc) but they are extra-endemic (extrademic? ultrademic? MMMMONSTERDEMIC.*) in fantasy.

The Lord of the Rings? Trilogy His Dark Materials? Trilogy. Earthsea?  Quartet, technically, but the fourth book was written eighteen years later than – and was in part a comment and revision on – the first three, which were a trilogy. Lord of the extremely long form Brandon Sanderson has even said he envisions making his Mistborn sequence a trilogy of trilogies, to which I can only say, I admire the man’s stamina.

So what’s so great about three volume series? Is it just tradition? Or is there more to it than that? I thought I’d ask some people who’d written some. So I took to Twitter.

Joe Abercrombie talked about echoing the classics and said it felt ‘intuitively right.’ Sarah Pinborough and Jon Courtenay Grimwood both welcomed the opportunity to write longer story arcs and deeper character development than a single book allowed, while Patrick Ness even cited Aristotelian unity, which I admit I had to look up. Kate Elliott described her use of the three act structure as follows: 1. Set problem, 2. Complicate, 3. Resolve.’, while Sarah Rees Brennan has her own (tongue, if you’ll forgive the pun, in cheek) rule: ‘Book one: set up, Book two: make-out, Book three: defeat evil.’

Okay, so what’s clear here is that this isn’t, as the bishop said to the Forth Bridge engineer, only about length. It’s the fact of having three acts that’s doing the work. But what work? Obviously enough, that’s going to vary from book to book, but maybe we can generalise a bit.

Conventionally, the beginning of a narrative throws down a challenge: a murder to solve, a dangerous piece of jewellery to dispose of, whatever. The end of that narrative – again conventionally – answers that challenge, either successfully (Professor Plum, Library, Candlestick. *smugly dons deerstalker*), or unsuccessfully, (and the dark lord’s shadow covered all the lands in a second darkness, probably should’ve called in those Eagles earlier, huh Gandalf?)

But this kind of simple call and response, isn’t really that interesting. Why? Because if we grasp the challenge implicit in the opening act, then we know the sort of thing that’s coming in the final one. We may not know who the killer is, but we know there’s going to be one. So we need a middle act, to introduce an element of the unexpected, to destabilise the narrative a bit and throw us off our guard, as Elliott puts it – we need to complicate the problem, to escalate it, so that it makes us wince at the price exacted to solve it, perhaps even make us conflicted that we want it solved or not. If, for example, all the evidence begins to point to the killer being the detective’s mum, that raises the stakes.

Complicating the problem also necessitates complicating the solution, and since the solution usually comes from the actions of characters, the people in the story become complex too. Brennan’s second act ‘make out’ rule is a pretty good example of this, a romance not only complicates the problem by raising the stakes – because now it’s not just the world that’s in danger, it’s your boyfriend – but it also complicates the solution: is the hero strengthened by that relationship? Or fatally weakened by it? Either way it’s interesting.

Obviously, three acts isn’t the only structure you can do this in – five acts is also popular, and as Elizabeth Bear pointed out a lot of longer series use epic or episodic structures – but it is probably the simplest.

Equally obviously, not all three-act stories are sold and packaged as trilogies, but beyond a certain length, it just starts to make sense for both material reasons (there’s only so many pages a book can have before the binding disintegrates) and financial ones (if you’re going to write three times as much book, it’s nice to actually get paid three times.)

But why stop at plot? Act two of a trilogy gives you the opportunity to complicate so much more.

Like theme, for example. The trilogy I’ve just finished: The Skyscraper Throne is about cities and monsters and crane-fingered demolition gods, but it’s also about two teenage girls whose world is changing beyond all recognition. So the first book is about discovery, about finding a world that’s always been around you, that you’ve seen every day of your life, but is also impossibly strange and threatening. The second book was about testing your limits against that world, and deciding how far it’s going to shape you, and how much you can shape it… And the third book? Well, spoilers obviously, but the third book is about the fact that when you’ve done all of that, you can never go home again. Because encountering the fantastic -like growing up – isn’t something you can do as a tourist. There no magic wardrobe door you can run back through and slam to leave it all behind you. You do this, you give up home, you give up safety forever**

As it happens, each of these narrative arcs fits well with particular sub-genres. So the genre gets more complex with each book too – the first book is a (very) urban fantasy, the second book is a (very) urban fantasy and a dystopia, the third book is a (very) urban, dystopic, apocalyptic nightmare…

…with dragons made out of burning methane.

And that’s what the trilogy format gave to me: the opportunity to write three books about three different themes, in three different genres that taken together chart the shape of a young life in a very strange time. And monsters. Never forget the monsters.
*(Yep, that was an Unreal tournament reference)

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New Release Spotlight: Gleam by Tom Fletcher.

21855916Fletcher, Tom

So today you can get your hands on this BEAUTIFUL little hardback book – a great addition to any collection simply for the cover alone, but as well as that, there is a truly absorbing story inside. I adored it – review a bit further down, but first I asked Tom some questions about the book amongst other things and here is what he had to tell me.


Such an amazing world you have created in “Gleam” – tell us something about how that came about, where the idea took root.

Thank you. It feels like a world that I’ve been carrying around in my head for a long time – I struggle to remember where the ideas came from, now. I’ve wanted to write fantasy since I was very young, but it was always a dreamy, surreal kind of fantasy that appealed. I think the initial spark probably came from the BBC adaptation of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. After watching that, I read and fell in love with the books. But I never found much contemporary fantasy fiction in that vein – so much of it was set in a world much like ours, except with magic. There was no real magic in Gormenghast, but the world of it felt completely alien. I decided that one day I’d try to write something set in a world completely unlike ours, even though it would contain recognisably human characters.

The idea of a single huge structure also came partly from Gormenghast, and partly – I think – from the film Labyrinth, which came out a couple of years after I was born and seemed to be on the TV a lot when I was a child. I remember being scared of the goblins and making my parents change the channel, and then me wanting them to put it back on.

I didn’t want Gleam to feel like a historical novel, in the way that much popular contemporary fantasy can, and nor did I want it to be huge doorstop, laden down with excessive worldbuilding. Not that I don’t love reading that kind of book – I do – it just wasn’t what I felt compelled to write. So there’s technology in Gleam, as well as magic, and the sense of civilisations been and gone. The language is contemporary, and though I did plenty of work working the world out, the characters don’t stop to question or explain it for the sake of the reader, and so much is left mysterious. The characters are humans living inside (mostly) inhuman architecture, and although they know that Gleam must have been built for a purpose, they’re resigned to never knowing what that purpose was.

Though, having said that, Gleam marks the beginning of Wild Alan’s awakening to certain aspects of the world that he feels compelled to investigate, and so there might be a few answers by the end of the trilogy. (Might).



A terrific eclectic group of characters to follow as well, do you have a favourite?


I do. Bloody Nora. I don’t want a favourite, I really don’t, but I can’t help it. If she survives – and I hope she will – I’d like to write a whole trilogy with her as the primary protagonist. And if she doesn’t survive, well, that trilogy could always be a prequel. She’s done a lot of living even by the point of her introduction in Gleam.

But I do love them all. They’re all a bit outlandish and exaggerated, and were a lot of fun to write.



I loved that Alan is really inherently selfish. Was it enjoyable to create a real “anti hero” who readers would still get behind? (I loved him!)


I’m glad you loved him! He is selfish, and I don’t quite know how he’ll go down with readers. But it was thoroughly enjoyable to write him. In my previous novels, which are all ‘real world’ horror, the characters are all deeply neurotic and confused, and though they’re far from perfect they’re almost completely paralysed by their own consciences. And by fear.

Alan came out of my desire to write a character who acts first and worries later, and who is confident enough in their own world to cope with the various threats that are levelled at them. And he ended up quite selfish and cocksure. But he’s not heartless – and he’s not really a killer.


There are many different “levels” to Gleam – if you had to live anywhere within that world, where would you choose?


Oh wow – I don’t know. Obviously I want to choose one of the various weird and exciting Discard locales, but in all honesty it might be the Pyramid. It means sacrificing all of your time and energy for the benefit of your superiors, but it’s safe. Although – no, because in the Pyramid the Astronomers choose your partner, and so they’d split my wife and I up.

In the Discard, I think I’d want to be quite close to the surface. They’ve got a good night sky. But then, deeper down, close to the swamp – that’s where the magic is…


Can you give us any hints about what is coming next? Without spoilers of course…


The next book is called Idle Hands, which is the name of a Discard disease. Some of the protagonists’ actions in Gleam threaten to cause full-blown gang warfare in the Discard, with the Mushroom Queen squaring up to her new challenger. The Bikers are gathering to discuss their allegiances. Idle Hands itself is back on the loose, stalking the ruins. Alan is trying to cope with the ending of the first book – perhaps relying a little too heavily on the drink in order to do so – and resolves to actually get back into the Pyramid now, cause some damage, and damn the consequences. And Bloody Nora has some family matters to attend to.


One book you recommend to everyone.


That’s tough. The Crow Road, by Iain Banks, maybe? I’m struggling to think of one that I could unhesitatingly recommend to everyone. But The Crow Road might just work.


3 people alive or dead you would love to have a drink with.


M.I.A, Nick Cave, and Iain Banks.


One thing you wish you were good at but are not.


I wish I could sing. It’s such a wonderful thing to be able to do. But – you don’t know what ‘can’t sing’ means until you’ve heard me have a go.


Thank you  Tom!

My Review:

In this Gormenghastian world the Factory is the law – but that does not
mean justice.
The Gargantuan factory of Gleam has seen a millennia of decreasing population. Now the central district is fully inhabited and operational; the outskirts have been left for the wilderness to reclaim. This decaying, lawless zone is the Discard; the home of Wild Alan. He’s convinced that the Gleam authorities were behind the disaster that killed his parents and his ambition is to prove it. But he’ll uncover more secrets than he bargained for.

Absolutely one of my favourite books of the year this, and one that is almost definitely heading for my top ten for 2014 when I do that in December, this is a sprawling, wild and highly engaging tale of a completely different world – one inhabited by the weird and wonderful, where dark secrets lie hidden and an eclectic and highly intriguing group set out on a quest to discover them. Well, kind of, it is what they end up doing anyway…

“Wild” Alan lived in the Pyramid in presumed relative safety, unfortunately he is still mad as a box of frogs about the death of his parents and the destruction of his village in “Discard” many years before and therefore is not terribly good at following the rules. Ejected from his home and having to leave his wife and son behind, he ends up in quite a bit of trouble as he is forced into action in order to ensure their safety. Alan is not terribly good at action frankly, he would far rather remain drunk, but needs must and off we go on a most tremendous adventure.

Firstly the world building here is superb – the world of “Gleam” has many layers, each described in beautiful detail so that they form in your head as you read. A lot of it is pretty insane but still strangely believable, the descriptive prose is pitch perfect from the first overview, which then leads to each very different environment that our characters encounter. Beautifully done throughout and ever compelling I was totally immersed into those surroundings.

Then we have our eccentric and kooky mix of characters, some who have a dark hint of danger about them, others who are often pure comedy genius. Like Mr Fletcher himself, my favourite was absolutely Nora – she is  tremendously well imagined and full of depth, I’m fairly sure we have only touched the surface there. I’d happily read a book where it was just her wandering through the world of “Gleam” and dealing in her indupitable style with whatever occurred. Alan himself is fascinating, very self centred, but good at heart really although he would like to think of himself as kick ass its more often HIS ass being kicked which makes him all the more enjoyable to read about. There are many more – all of whom I will leave you to discover for yourself.

So there you go – if you are a fantasy fan you should love this. If you are not usually a fantasy fan it is certainly worth becoming one temporarily in order to read this book – there is something and someone for everyone and it is all delightfully written. 5 “Gleaming” stars and a chocolate cake for this one!

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Highly Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

Why We Write – Drop in Feature. Guest Post from Sam Kates.


Why We Write

From the moment I learned how to read, I read. We’re talking more than forty years ago so my recollections are a little hazy, but the first books I can remember reading were by Enid Blyton. I guess I was around the age of five when I started to read The Adventures of the Wishing-Chair. When the wings first sprouted on the chair’s legs thus opening a world of adventure for the children who owned it (who probably had names like Fanny and Polly and Dick and James), something sparked inside me, something that still burns all these years later.

The flames were fanned by The Enchanted Wood and The Magic Faraway Tree. I moved on to her books for older children and discovered a taste for adventures. A series of books (that I read over and over) about four children and a parrot that started with The Island of Adventure and ended with The River of Adventure. There was even one (The Mountain of Adventure) set in my homeland of Wales.


And The Famous Five. I remember the first day of the summer holidays when I must have been six or seven, my parents taking me to Smith’sto buy the next book in the series. I recall it cost me £0.25, but that probably represented a month’s pocket money. I took it home, read it the same day, pined for the next one. I got them all – all twenty-one – and read each of them more than once. ‘Lashings of ginger beer.’ Did they really say that?



I discovered other authors. Run For Your Life by David Line. Wonderful; I read it until it was falling apart. Some classics: The Three Musketeers, Coral Island, Robinson Crusoe. There were more, but my attention was diverted.

A new teacher started in our class. One afternoon, she gathered us around and began to read a book to us. A book about a land of snow and magic that could be reached through the back of a wardrobe. I was instantly captivated. The sense of wonder that began with Enid Blyton, the sense that anything is possible within the pages of a book, was firmly entrenched by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I soon acquired the book and the six others in the series, and read them over and over. I read them to my daughters when they were growing up as an excuse to read them again.



On entering my teens, I discovered shock horror authors like Guy N. Smith. James Herbert struck all the right notes with books like The Rats and The Fog.

Then I hit the paylode. I bought a book by a writer I hadn’t heard of that sounded promising: Carrie by Stephen King. It was good, but it was Salem’s Lot that cemented my love affair with Mr King’s books that continues to this day.



And then there was Tolkien. My parents had a hardbook copy of The Lord of the Rings, complete with wonderful illustrations upon which Peter Jackson based many of the sets for his films. I now have my own copy and return to it every few years.

In my twenties, a friend lent me a book by someone called Terry Pratchett: The Colour of Magic. Instant addiction. Every now and then I give in to the urge to reread every Discworld book and fall in love with that world all over again.

And there are others, many others, way too many to mention them all. Here’s a few: Imajica by Clive Barker, anything by Bill Bryson and Iain Banks (and Iain M. Banks), Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantell, Shadowland by Peter Straub, Christie’s Poirot novels and short stories. And there’s John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut, Laurie Lee, Robert Heinlein, Gerald Durrell, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Frederick Forsyth, Philip K. Dick…

Reading has played such a big part in my life, it was almost inevitable that I would turn to writing fiction. My favourite books provide a means of escape from the trials and tribulations of real life. Writing serves a similar purpose, a sort of pressure-relief valve that also helps unclutter the jumble of my mind. And those authors and their books have had a profound effect on me, prompting awe, fear, sorrow, amazement, or simply entertaining me. I wanted to provoke the same emotions in others, though I’d settle for merely entertaining them. Sometimes mere entertaintment is enough.


Sam’s book – The Cleansing, which is superb is available now.


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Happy Reading Folks!

New Release Spotlight: Because She Loves Me by Mark Edwards.


Available Now.

Source: Author review copy

When Andrew Sumner meets beautiful, edgy Charlie, he is certain his run of bad luck has finally come to an end.
But as the two of them embark on an intense affair, Andrew wonders if his grasp on reality is slipping. Items go missing in his apartment. Somebody appears to be following him. And as misfortune and tragedy strike his friends and loved ones, Andrew is forced to confront the frightening truth. Is Charlie really the girl of his dreams or the woman of his nightmares?

So another madly addictive and excellent thriller from the pen of Mark Edwards who is fast becoming a favourite of mine when it comes to adult psychological fiction with those lovely little twists and turns and mad misdirection that make a reading experience so much fun.

In this novel we meet Andrew who believes he MAY have found the love of his life. But all is not right and as more and more things go wrong around him, he begins to wonder just who it is he has become involved with…

Another difficult book to review without spoiling it that is for sure – things ebb and flow and just when you think you have grasped the point it will slip away from you – hey even I did not work out the truth behind the web of deceit until VERY late on, ooh just a touch more Mr Edwards and you’ll be in my hall of fame. It is absolutely addictive reading, no way once you start you will want to stop and as usual the author has brought his unique style and depth to his characters making you either love them dearly or loathe them with a fiery vengeance. Not a lot of inbetween really, not even with the more peripheral supporting cast.

I often thought Andrew was a bit dim but he was very appealing, I really liked Charlie even though it is entirely possible she is a bunny boiler…and all those around them were integral to the plot often in ways you didnt see coming. All in all terribly well executed as ever and written in a brilliantly readable and engrossing style.

Highly Recommended for fans of pyschological thrillers and crime. Perfect way to while away an afternoon.

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Look out for the new novel from Mark with his partner in crime Louise Voss coming soon….I’ve read it and will be talking about that one soon.



Mark Edwards will be back on the blog soon telling us why HE writes as part of my ongoing “Why we Write” drop in feature and I’m going to be tracking him down to ask intelligent (well, possibly intelligent) questions about “Because She Loves Me” as soon as I can so look out for that as well.

Happy Reading Folks!