Liz Currently Loves….The Man from Berlin by Luke McCallin

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Publication Date: 27th November 2014 from No Exit Press.

Source: Real Readers.

Yugoslavia, a German officer has been shot and killed. Along with him a young, beautiful filmmaker and photographer—a veritable hero to her people—has been brutally murdered.
Assigned to the case is military intelligence officer Captain Gregor Reinhardt. Already haunted by his actions in war and the mistakes he’s made off the battlefield, he soon finds that his investigation may be more than just a murder.

Part crime drama and part war story, The Man from Berlin is a tremendously good read, involving and intriguing with some wonderfully drawn characters not least of which is our main protagonist, Gregor Reinhardt.

During World War 2, Reinhardt is tasked with finding the murderer of a German Officer – found with him, Marija Vukic, a young and free spirited filmaker – in order to solve the crime, Reinhardt must battle his own demons whilst dealing with both political and personal agenda’s which may allow the killer to escape punishment. Determined not to accept a quick and convenient “solution” he finds himself in all sorts of trouble.

I loved the fact that this was what I call a “meaty” story – there are a lot of layers to it, all very well plotted and a bit like a literary jigsaw puzzle, you find yourself slotting the pieces together, not always in the right places. Add to that the very “noir” feel that the author brings to his prose, the absolute depth he gives to all the characters and the really fascinating backdrop and you have a winner.

Descriptively speaking, the war torn Sarajevo comes to life and the exploration of the various political and military groups working in and around the location in 1943 are compelling, realistic and add an intensity to the story which raises it above the level of standard crime and mystery thrillers. Overall I found it to be extremely readable and very very addictive at times, that thing where its 3am and you are thinking “just ONE more chapter then I’ll go to sleep”…

It is not perfect – there are times when you feel less could have been more – but those times are rare, overall the ebb and flow of it is wonderfully accomplished and if you are a fan of tales set in this era you will find a lot to love here. Crime and Thriller fans will also be happy, the “whodunnit and why” portion of the story is brilliantly done and will test your mettle when it comes to working out what may be going on.

All in all then a first rate read and as a start to a series (so pleased that Gregor will return!) I can certainly highly recommend it.

Find out more here: http://lukemccallin.com/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/mccallinluke

Pre-Order information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1843445476/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=04ZCS90V8JV5PS0WK5PB&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=455344027&pf_rd_i=468294

Happy Reading Folks!

Liz Currently Loves….The Soul of Discretion by Susan Hill.

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Publication Date: October 2nd 2014 from Chatto and Windus.

Source: Netgalley

DC Simon Serrailler is faced with his worst crimes yet, and Lafferton is left reeling.

I love the Simon Serrailler novels. Always have done from the moment I picked up “The Various Haunts of Men” all those years ago, and fell in love with a character, his family and the place in which they reside, a town called Lafferton.

Without doubt, whilst every single novel has been brilliant, this  was the best one for me since the original – the plot is poignant, scary, heart wrenching and horrific, with some extremely dark themes at the heart of it and a series of events that sends our well known characters into a place of shadows, and will leave you bewildered and overwhelmed. Stunning in its emotional resonance, whilst often being very matter of fact, in a lot of ways with “The Soul of Discretion” Ms Hill has given the series a completely new lease of life and when I put this down my first thought was “how in the HECK am I going to wait until the next one?”. Which says it all.

The writing really is sublime, especially when you think that most people would call this Crime Fiction. I’m not sure I would give it that label, even though there is always a crime and a mystery within the pages. For me it is really more of an ongoing family drama as we watch events unfold around Simon, Cat, Judith, Richard et al, sometimes life affirming, sometimes completely awful, but actually when taken overall pretty close to life. There are ups, there are downs, good things happen, bad things happen, and throughout it all the characters we come to know and love cope with it all or don’t – the sideline that Simon is a Police Officer is really just an anchor around which to base things.

That is not the say the Crime/Mystery elements of the Serailler series are not the very best anchor to have – every single time Ms Hill manages to comes up with an intelligent, emotive and intriguing storyline that adds to the series as a whole whilst allowing her characters to move on in life, with new experiences that always have resonance in the next novel – as such, taken as a body of work, this is really really excellent.

The depth of characterisation is sensational, the prose is gorgeous and flowing, bringing to life the story being told. In the case of this particular instalment there are some truly breathtaking moments – towards the end, as things came together,  I was on the edge of my seat…the author achieves a slow but sure build up then BAM, suddenly you are off on a race against time where you are honestly not sure if there will be a happy ending. Clever and boy did I enjoy this one!

This is actually one series that I would highly recommend you read in order rather than dip in and out of, it is one of my collection series (yes chronic impatience meant I devoured the story via netgalley but I will certainly be buying a physical version to accompany the others) and one that in a few years, perhaps when it is done, I shall look forward to going back to and reading start to finish.

Highly Recommended. Especially as a series.

Find out more here: http://www.susanhill.org.uk/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/susanhillwriter

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Soul-Discretion-Simon-Serrailler-Book/dp/0701187646/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411816366&sr=1-1&keywords=the+soul+of+discretion+susan+hill

Happy Reading Folks!

 

Why we Write – Drop in Feature – Guest post from Mark Edwards.

 

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Why We Write – Mark Edwards

 

When I was nine or ten years old, my mum left a copy of The Fog by James Herbert lying around. I think she even told me some of the things that happened in it. Intrigued, I picked it up and found myself reading about schoolboys butchering their teacher (the scene with the garden shears will stay with me forever) and various people running murderously amok. It was a bit of a change from the books I’d read before then, like The Wombles.

 

Around the same time, my parents got divorced and, wanting company, my mum let me stay up late. She would fall asleep on the sofa and I’d stay up watching late-night TV: Death Wish, the Hammer House of Horror TV series, Zoltan Hound of Dracula in which a vampiric pooch goes bonkers on a caravan park (sigh, they don’t make ’em like that any more). I also started to read 2000AD and other similar comics. Not long afterwards, the video revolution happened, and I was able to walk into my local video rental shop and hire such movies as City of the Living Dead and American Werewolf in London (I’m still slightly in love with Jenny Agutter after that shower scene).

 

Of course, I turned out to be a psychopath, roaming the streets of Hastings with a huge knife in my pocket and my own trained troupe of killer rats… Oh, not really. I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t psychologically scarred at all by my early exposure to horror and mayhem. But it definitely had a lasting impact on my imagination and influenced my tastes for, well, the rest of my life.

 

As a teenager, I returned to James Herbert (terrible prose, great stories) and discovered Stephen King. I think the first King I read was Salem’s Lot, and over the next few years I read all of them – speeding through his back catalogue and buying every new book as it came out. It was around this time that I decided I wanted to be a writer. At school, I excelled in English while being rubbish at most other subjects. My English teachers would raise their eyebrows at my stories about werewolves and blood oozing from walls, but they always gave me good marks. I wanted to be a horror writer, unaware, and not caring, that it was almost impossible to make a living writing in that genre. I wrote my first novel when I was sixteen. It was bloody awful. Thankfully, it is long lost but it was about a boy who finds a mysterious box that contains demonic powers. Like I said, bloody awful.

 

When I went to university, I started reading more literary stuff: Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Bret Easton Ellis, William Boyd. Much of it was still pretty dark, but for the first time I discovered the pleasure of reading not only for the story but for the language. Story was still my main interest but by moving beyond the limits of the horror genre my eyes were opened to a whole new world of books and I became a full-on addict, filling my flat with contemporary fiction, cult classics and even the occasional proper classic (though I am still allergic to anything written pre-World War 2).

 

In 1992 I read the book that would have the biggest influence on me, the book that I still think is the greatest novel ever written: The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I was utterly blown away, immersed in this incredible, atmospheric masterpiece for a week. I pressed it on all my friends, talked about it all the time. Suddenly, my ambition to be a writer was reborn. To make someone feel a fraction of the way I had felt when I read The Secret History…that was my dream. (As an aside, last year I heard Donna Tartt read from TSH at an event in London. Afterwards, I spoke to her and she shook my hand. I was trembling with excitement.)

 

I spent my twenties writing and trying to get published. I had the most horrible day jobs – answering complaints for the Child Support Agency and then Connex Rail. Writing was my escape, my weekends spent banging away on my Sharp Fontwriter, a cross between a typewriter and word processor on which you could only see three lines of text at a time and which took a week to print a manuscript. I couldn’t afford a computer (cue violins) until 1998 when I bought a blueberry iMac with a bank loan. I wrote and wrote. I got an agent but no publisher. The first drafts of The Magpies and What You Wish For were written during this period, along with a book called The Liberators which was, I admit, a copy of The Secret History set in London.

 

I didn’t really know what kind of books I was writing. I guess I would have called it contemporary fiction, with elements of horror and suspense. The Magpies was intended to be a non-supernatural horror novel; I was trying to emulate Stephen King, with terrifying things happening to normal people. But it was around this time that I started to read crime novels. Of course, I’d already read Thomas Harris, but I soon discovered James Ellroy, Michael Connelly and Michael Dibdin’s Inspector Zen novels. Books like The Poet and The Black Dahlia were a revelation. Utterly gripping, thrilling page-turners. There was a trend for psychological thriller films too at this time: Single White Female, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. Unknowingly, I was getting closer to finding my genre.

 

After meeting Louise Voss, we set about writing Killing Cupid. This was the first thriller either of us had written, although it wasn’t purely a thriller – it had a lot of dark comedy in it – which made it hard to sell to publishers even though we managed to get it optioned by the BBC. A few years later, I read The Da Vinci Code (like Herbert, terrible prose, great story) and Catch Your Death was an attempt to emulate that kind of fast-paced, pure thriller. After writing Forward Slash with Louise and then re-writing The Magpies, I finally knew what kind of books I wanted to produce. Psychological thrillers on my own, but with dashes of horror, and police procedurals with Louise. Our next book is our first out-and-out police novel.

 

Now I mostly read crime and psychological thrillers. This is mainly because they are the kind of books that draw me – along with my other favourite genre, post-apocalyptic dystopian novels – but also because I think it’s important to keep up with what your peers are writing. Occasionally I will read a book that’s so good that I will feel like giving up, but mostly I am compelled to raise my game. I have come across some novelists who claim that they don’t have time to read. This is insane. Reading is the fuel that helps you write. How can you hope to be a good writer if you don’t read a lot? I read every day. Books are like oxygen, like food and drink. Reading a great book still makes me want to write, just like the first time I read Stephen King or Donna Tartt.

 

That, in the end, is why I write: because I love books.

 

Find out more here: http://vossandedwards.com/

Follow Mark on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/mredwards

Try one of Mark’s novels if you havent already!

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mark-Edwards/e/B004PP3WV0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1411719308&sr=1-1

 

Out Now:

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A gripping tale of jealousy, obsession and murder, from the No.1 Bestselling author of The Magpies.

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?

Coming Soon:

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The first child was taken from her house.
The second from his mother’s car.
The third from her own bedroom…

When Helen and Sean Philips go out for the evening, leaving their teenage daughter babysitting little Frankie, they have no idea that they are about to face every parent’s greatest fear.

Detective Inspector Patrick Lennon is hopeful that the three children who have been abducted in this patch of south-west London will be returned safe and well. But when a body is found in a local park, Lennon realizes that time is running out—and that nothing in this case is as it seems…

Blending police procedural with psychological thriller, From the Cradle will have every parent checking that their children are safe in their beds…then checking again.

 

Happy Reading Folks!

Liz Currently Loves….The Playground by Julia Kelly

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Publication Date: Available Now from Quercus.

Source: Publisher Review Copy

Eve is putting her life together again.
Her partner has walked out on her. She’s moved into a tiny flat on the outskirts of Dublin. She has no job. But she does have her beloved baby daughter – and there’s a little playground across the street. It’s a tired spot for teenagers and tramps, but Eve is determined to make this new life work. Alongside her interfering lodger and a group of local mums she swings into action to make the playground the heart of the community.  But not all games are innocent – and not all friends are true. When a terrible accident is blamed on her, Eve must forge her own independence – and realise that the playground is not a place to hide from adulthood.

There is some great Irish fiction around right at the minute and this is an excellent example of that – my first read of Julia Kelly but certainly not the last.

Eve is not having a good time – thrust into having to find independance and having made a move in order to try and kickstart her life, she doesnt have a lot, but she DOES have her daughter and is determined to make a better life for her. Across the street from her is a small playground – something for Eve to focus on to make it part of the community. But is she trusting too much?

I loved Eve – her character had emotional resonance for me as, like her, I am in the midst of a new start – she is vulnerable yet determined and Julia Kelly has managed to give a beautiful poignancy to the range and depth of her feelings about what is going on around her. I followed avidly along with her, over the bumps in the road, through the turmoil and onwards towards a hopefully brighter future. In a way it is a coming of age tale for a woman already of age and as such it was absolutely compelling.

The sense of place is very evocative, wonderfully described and puts you right in the picture – there is a lovely flow and lilt to the prose that allows you to live in Eve’s world and see how she develops – it was one of those books that you are intrigued and touched by, especially when it comes to the hidden motivations of the characters within. Not everyone and everything is as it appears and you will find yourself avidly turning the pages to find out what will happen.

Overall then a lovely story, heart warming and heart wrenching, with some sublimely drawn characters and a very fascinating storyline, very enjoyable indeed.

Highly Recommended.

Find out more here: http://www.quercusbooks.co.uk/author/Julia_Kelly

Purchase Information: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/julia+kelly/the+playground/10708009/

 

Happy Reading Folks!

Eren by Simon P Clark. Blog Tour Stop.

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Publication Date: Available Now

Source: Publisher Review Copy.

People are keeping secrets from Oli – about where his father is, and why he hasn’t come to join them at his uncle’s house in the country.

But Oli has secrets too.

He knows what lives in the attic. Eren – part monster, part dream, part myth. Eren who always seems so interested, who always wants to hear more about Oli’s life. Eren, who needs to hear stories to live, and will take them from Oli, no matter the cost.

This was a gorgeous looking little novel with some wonderful illustrations and inside the pages a fairytale with a twist.

A beautifully written and haunting piece, where reality blurs into fiction while fiction can take over reality, it is an off kilter read with an eerie and nostalgic feel that holds you in a spell all of its own. I loved it and was disturbed by it in equal measure and even now a while after finishing, it stays with me.

Oli moves to the country with his mother, meets new friends but knows something is not right. As he tells stories to Eren, a creature in the attic, things clarify – or do they?  It is an intelligent tale to be sure – even now I would not like to tell you whether Eren is friend or foe, real or imagined, this is a winding road with many surprises and no promise of a happy ending. Some absolutely gorgeous prose adds to the overall magical feel, whilst some very down to earth and realistic themes are explored.

A wonderful read, no doubt about it, with some unforgettable characters and a world with no boundaries, if you like your fiction to grab you by the heartstrings and refuse to let go, this one is definitely for you. Highly Recommended.

Found out more here: http://www.simonpclark.com/

Follow the author on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sipclark

Purchase Information (I highly recommend you get a “real” book it is stunning) http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/simon+p-+clark/eren/10333816/

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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: http://www.elizacrewe.com/

Follow her on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/ElizaCrewe

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crushed-Soul-Eater-Book-2-ebook/dp/B00NQ2KX10/ref=la_B00IZNK176_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411372552&sr=1-1

Happy Reading Folks!

Normal Service to be resumed….

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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.

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Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3MYcX-ZOlM&list=UUC8gfusPVJPnlm70fV2fBZA

 

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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 http://amybirdwrites.com or follow her on Twitter @London_writer

 

http://www.carinauk.com/amy-bird

https://www.goodreads.com/AmyBird

https://www.facebook.com/amybirdwrites

 

Rejection – Guest post from Joanna Courtney.

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

 

Rejection

 

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.

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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: http://www.meganabbott.com/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/meganeabbott

Purchase Information: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/megan+abbott/dare+me/9367669/

 

Happy Reading Folks!