Rock Beats Paper – Getting to Know You with Mike Knowles.

Today I’m very pleased to welcome Mike Knowles to Liz Loves Books – this is a post that was meant to run during the blog tour but slipped through the cracks – huge apologies to all concerned but better late than never!

Tell us a little about your current novel, and what readers can expect from it.

The current book is titled Rocks Beat Paper. The novel is the sixth in the series about a career criminal named Wilson. In Rocks Beat Paper, Wilson goes to New York to meet with nine other men about a jewellery store heist. At first, Wilson can’t see a way to make the job work — there are too many people vying for control and too many layers of security protecting the diamonds they are out to steal. The death of the inside man derails the job and sends everyone walking — everyone but Wilson. With the crew gone and the diamonds still locked up, Wilson is free to execute the job his way. Wilson assembles his own team and sets a con in motion that will walk the stones out of the store and into his hands.

The plan took everything into account — everything except the number of people out to steal the diamonds. Everyone is playing to win and no one is willing to walk away because the job is about more than money, the job is about diamonds. And in this game, rocks beat paper every time.

Academic or creative at school?

Looking back, I would say creative. As a kid, I took a by-any-means-necessary approach to doodling. I had stories floating around in my head and I loved to put them down on paper. I didn’t consider using words instead of pictures until I was a lot older and it was less socially acceptable to doodle all day.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

I wanted to be a police officer when I was younger. I think it was less about the job and more about the stories. I liked thinking about being a police officer and the kinds of things that could happen in a job like that. Most of my interest was in the daydreaming about the job rather than the job itself. I didn’t go that route when I got older, but I never stopped thinking about cops and robber type stories.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

I think I realized that I wanted to be a writer later than most. I always loved books and I spent most of my youth reading, and looking for, every crime novel I could get my hands on. I didn’t realize that I wanted to write my own stories until I took a creative writing class in my fourth year of university. I think the course had such an impact on me because I had been on a steady diet of writing about things other people told me to write about for years — the sudden freedom to write whatever I wanted sparked something in me and I never stopped writing.

Who are your real life heroes?

I geek out pretty hard for other writers. I really admire people who have the ability to consistently push boundaries with their work. When I was younger, I would find a series and devour it as fast as possible. There were times when I would find a book that strayed from a series; that used to drive me nuts. There was a formula that worked, and that I loved, and I was always disappointed when a writer went in another direction. After writing a few books of my own, my opinion has changed. I’d like to think that I have developed a greater appreciation for the craft of writing and I am a bit more aware of the writer’s presence in the book. What used to bother me is now something that I admire in other writers. There are a lot of fantastic writers who seem to push against the idea that they have to be a certain kind of writer, or the idea that they have to stay faithful to a particular character or genre. That ability to be fluid and the skill to craft something unique is something wonderful to find and something that I take inspiration from.

Thank you!

About the Book:

A phone call brought Wilson and nine other men to a job in New York. At first, he couldn’t see a way to make the heist work, but the score — millions of dollars in diamonds — kept him looking. Wilson came up with a plan he knew would work . . . until the inside man got killed and took the job with him.

With no way inside, the crew walks away without the diamonds. Alone, Wilson is free to execute the job his way. Wilson sets a con in motion that should run as predictably as a trail of dominoes — except the con doesn’t rely on inanimate tiles, it relies on people.

Wilson pushes all of the pieces across the board only to find out that there are other players making their own moves against him. Everyone is playing to win and no one is willing to walk away because the job is about more than money, the job is about diamonds. And in this game, rocks beat paper every time.

About the Author:

Mike Knowles lives in Hamilton with his wife, children, and dog. His Wilson mystery In Plain Sight was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel.

You can Purchase Rock Beats Paper HERE.

Happy Reading!

Taking a Few Days Off…AKA its time for Crimefest.

Yep it is that time of year again so there will be no new blog posts for a few days. First up for me in London the Orenda Roadshow – then all being well I’m off to Crimefest. Look out for live reports via my  Twitter and Facebook pages and a host of features in the next few weeks about what happens.

I’m hoping to interview some lovely authors and spend quality time with the bookish crew- no alcohol will be involved.

One of those things might be a lie.

Find out more about Crimefest Here

See the brilliant programme Here

Read about my adventures last year Here.

Happy Reading!

 

Getting to Know You with Grace Coleman.

Today I am happy to welcome Grace Coleman to Liz Loves Books, telling us about her novel Walking Barefoot and a little about herself. Thanks Grace!

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it..

Walking Barefoot explores the life of Will Balston, past and present. As the story unravels we try to come to terms with the source of his unhappiness. It’s a brooding dystopian novel; more character-driven than traditional Speculative fiction with an intriguingly headstrong but flawed protagonist. Set in the futuristic, but broken, city of London, it paints a vivid portrait of what the world could look like.

Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

The majority of my childhood (6+) was spent in Sussex in a town not quite big enough to be interesting and not quite small enough to be quaint. My family life had ups and downs but there was always a lot of love there, so I count myself very lucky. I’ve always been very close to my big sister too, although five years older she really is my best friend.

Academic or creative at school?

I was a bit of a brown-nose at school so did well in most subjects. I loved the thrill of acting in front of the class in Drama as much as I loved the satisfaction of working out a tricky maths equation. I chose History to study further and now work in the business side of television, so I think I’ve always put myself in situations that combine the academic and creative.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

I wanted to be a generic business woman for a large part of my childhood. This involved carting round a plastic pink phone having imaginary but very important conversations, writing endless notes at my writing desk and answering our home phone with ‘Miss Coleman speaking, how can I help you?’

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

I really don’t. Writing has always just been there; whether it was presenting my mum with stories about magic frogs, hours of not-so-veiled teenage angst poetry or a way of imagining the Californian record-label hotshot I would become (spoiler alert – I didn’t make it), writing has always been a way of exploring and expressing myself and letting my imagination run wild.

Who are your real life heroes?

I tend not to hero worship, but I’m very proud of both my grandmothers. One for her strength and smarts in pulling herself out of working class Belfast to a career in fashion in the city at a time when it couldn’t have been easy for a woman trying to make it in the working world. The other for successfully raising a family of seven (and uncountable grand and great grand kids) with endless love and patience that is still felt in the family today.

Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?

If my mum reads this I’m dead.

Coming back from a night-out, alone tripping in heels and wearing an over-sized coat, I eventually gave up on walking (I think I was heading in the wrong direction anyway) and hailed a taxi. I was a bit perplexed when he said ‘It’s OK get in the front seat’ and even more concerned when I couldn’t see a metre anywhere. After a few comical back and forths it became painfully apparent that I thought he was a taxi, and he thought I was a prostitute. Of course my reaction was to burst into tears. His was to drive me back to my house (well, near my house) giving me lectures all the way about stranger-danger. At the time I was pretty shaken up, but since then I’ve taken a more philosophical approach to the encounter: First, don’t get into strangers’ cars. Second, even old men who pick up prostitutes can be nice people.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

I like to be self-reliant and hate asking for favours; so if I ever have a DIY need I do it myself with a hammer. I’m not very patient or precise so my attempts usually end up in gaffer tape solutions.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

There’s something intrinsically more exciting about the night-time but I’m definitely more melancholy in the evening. Plenty of sunshine and natural daylight keeps me on an even keel. I like the to think this means I’m a typical Aries, but it probably means I’m a typical human.

A book that had you in tears.

I cry quite easily but I remember being really affected by the final lines of Phantom of the Opera. I like books that twist your expectation, where the line between good and evil are blurred and there’s such a broken tragedy to Eric.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

I stumbled upon Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on our family bookshelf before going on a long haul flight. I don’t even know what it was doing there (no one in my family appears to be a fan) or why I decided to take it with me. I stayed up the whole, overnight flight with my little reading light on, chuckling away (much to the annoyance of my neighbours). Every word was so purposeful. It reinvented what writing (and reading) could be for me.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

Be kind.

Thank you!

About the Book:

Set in a futuristic London in a world ravaged by war, Walking Barefoot explores the life of Will, past and present. The cocksure eighteen year old who, in a bid to find himself, goes travelling and the city-living adult, who despite his well paid job, upper quadrant apartment and sexy girlfriend, struggles to be happy. When nightmares begin to haunt his sleeping and waking life Will is unsure whether he is suffering from the illness that killed his father or being led by unseen forces to uncover a city-wide conspiracy. As his paranoia heightens he must ask himself – is he willing to lose himself to find the truth?

Find Out More

Follow Grace On Twitter

Purchase Walking Barefoot

Happy Reading!

20 Questions For…Peter Laws.

Next victim on my 20 Questions is the rather lovely Rev Peter Laws author of one of my favourite books of the year so far, that would be Purged, a shoe in for my top ten in December so I had a load of fun with this one. Not sure how much fun it was for him but I don’t care so much about that. So here you are…

So go on then tell us about Purged. Only 5 sentences though (these questions have very random rules that I make up as I go along)

Okay, so Purged is the first in a series about an atheist ex-vicar turned University Professor. He spends his time writing books that debunk the Christian Faith while also helping the police solve religiously motivated crimes. In Purged he’s trying to catch an evangelical serial killer who baptises his victims before killing them – he figures that’s the most caring way to fast track people to heaven. It’s crime fiction with a healthy dose of horror and spookiness. Ooo…one sentence left…it’s got a green cover.

When the world throws a sudden shortage of Marmite at you (yes this is a question so related to my career choice) how do you cope?

I drop to my knees and praise the sweet lord for ridding humanity of Satan’s hair gel. Seriously, that stuff is rotten and probably demonic in origin.

Later this year (and VERY SOON FOR ME I hope) you’ll be unleashing Unleashed which will once again feature Matt Hunter, a man very much after my own heart. Do that thing where you give away a little about Unleashed without in any way spoiling Purged. It’s a challenge.

Unleashed takes place a few months after Purged, and kicks off with a horrific dog attack at a primary school open day (I wrote it because my life consists of constant school runs, so you’ll appreciate my need to unleash some mayhem into that scenario). It’s through this attack that Matt is made aware of a fifteen year old poltergeist case, which seems to be returning – with homicidal consequences. While Purged explored the concept of Baptism and ideas about salvation, Unleashed explores the human desire to see patterns in life and how that can lead to a clash of worldviews. The book is filled with people having different opinions on what is killing people. I really like Unleashed. It’s a meaningful story to me.

Normally now I ask the cheese question but I’m over cheese so given your Horror credentials I think this will be harder. One Horror film. Definitively. Can be old can be new but only one. (Remember the random rules thing)

That’s like getting me to choose between my two kids…but that’s fine because I only like one of them anyway (that’s a joke by the way). But yeah, to choose one film’s tricky, but I’ll do it. I’ll opt for The Changeling from 1980 starring George C Scott. It’s my favourite haunted house movie and it influenced the writing of Unleashed because I listened to the soundtrack to that film on a loop while I wrote it. Amazing film, that is, which so many other horror movies copied.

Oh go on then what IS your favourite cheese?

I’m really getting into Blue Cheese and Stilton. It’s because I follow that Joe Wicks guy who suggests it in recipes a lot. It tastes like old lady’s tights, which at first was the attraction because it was so rough it made me only eat tiny bits at a time. Very slimming. Now I’ve got a taste for it I’m eating chunks of the stuff, so maybe it’s time to find a more disgusting cheese. Like Marmite flavour, perhaps.

When I was at your book launch t’other week I asked you whether you thought genuine possession ever happened (or something like that I had after all had a glass of wine or two) – I remember everyone being fairly fascinated by your response so I’m asking again for readers of this madness.

The Bible is pretty clear that demonic possession is a phenomenon that can happen, but I do think we need to be extremely cautious in this area. Some forms of mental illness (such as epilepsy, tourettes syndrome, alien hand syndrome etc) could have been seen as demonic in ancient times. Thankfully, we’ve stopped stigmatising these natural conditions, and treat people accordingly. So I’m extremely reluctant to label someone as possessed, especially when some of the signs of possession are so easy to fake (such as increased strength, aversion to Holy symbols etc).

However, there are other signs that have been reported that are not as easily mimicked. I’ve heard reports of people levitating for example, or their eyeballs turning completely white. Plus there are cases where a subject has knowledge they wouldn’t naturally have known – so when the so-called possessed person starts spouting out secret (and specific) information on the Exorcist it’s scary. Like if a subject mocked the priest by saying, ‘Ha…I know you tried to kill yourself when you were seventeen, on the trainline to Leeds. I was there.’ If that turns out to be true and nobody knew it, it’s pretty freaky – though I guess it could be a form of telepathy and not demonic. Still though, with all these cautions in place I’m open to it happening and the Matt Hunter books certainly explore the subject of demonic influence in the world. It’s going to be a running theme, that behind every crime there may be a mundane explanation, or a sinister more supernatural one. I leave that to the reader to decide.

In a very loosely connected to the above question – How much of you is there in Matt Hunter and how much of Matt Hunter is there in you?

To be honest with you, there’s quite a bit of me in Matt Hunter. For a start he’s a trained church minister, like I am, though he’s jacked his faith in while I haven’t. He’s also a bit of a geek, which I’d say I am too. He’s more intelligent than I am, younger and more handsome, clearly. But we share a quirky sense of humour and a fascination with the bizarre.

Lettuce. Why. Just WHY?

Ha ha! So many people have spoken to me about the lettuce scene in Purged. It’s given people nightmares, which for a writer is a punch the air moment. Funnily enough the bits with the possessed Nigerian woman and the lettuce are linked to a real-life case where some nuns ate some unblessed lettuce. Afterwards they started acting crazy and were considered to be possessed. So basically I picked lettuce because it has a historical precedent and…most importantly…it freaks people out.

Last book you read that you wanted to recommend to everyone. That wasn’t one that you wrote.

I just read a great Australian thriller called Fear is the Rider by Kenneth Cook. Sadly Cook passed away some years ago, but the manuscript for this novel was found in his belongings, and thankfully it got published. It’s a read-in-one-sitting horror thriller where two urban professionals are chased across the Australian outback by a feral man. It’s got very little character development or extra detail – it’s just 200 pages of pure action and adrenalin. I’d also recommend Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, Strangers by Taichi Yamada and On Chesil Beach by Ian McCewan. All of which made me cry – which is good. I like books that move me.

As a Rev I know you go and give guest sermons. Having heard you speak about your novels I’d definitely be interested in hearing you in “other” professional mode (assuming that is I could walk into a church without immediately being struck down) so how do they come together? Obviously with a different approach than writing or talking about writing and horror stuff – or is it significantly different?

I speak in a lot of churches on Sundays (and am available for anybody out there, if they want to get in touch!). I don’t tend to write and deliver horror sermons (though I can occasionally drop in a few creepy facts now and again). But on the whole I just look at a Bible passage and examine what it meant when it was first written to the ancient world. I was taught a bit of Greek in Bible college so sometimes I’ll translate some of the words from the original text, so I can stay close to the original intention. Then I spend a bunch of time trying to bring the message of that text into modern life. So much of the Bible can speak into our everyday challenges. I like sermons that are fun and down to earth but that raise big questions, sometimes from unusual angles. Writing a sermon can be hard work, but when I’m delivering it, it feels kind of special. Like I’m doing something important and meaningful for both me and those who are listening.

Also, you could definitely walk into a church without being struck down. Some people get the impression that God is like a ticked-off headmaster annoyed with anybody who knocks on his door – but in my opinion he’s like the best, most loving, perfect Father who sees his prodigal son on the road and rushes out to hug him and throw a party. I was very anti-Christian up until I was in my early 20s. I’d constantly pick on my Christian R. E. teacher for her ‘pointless and outdated’ religion, and I was even in a band for a while which sang about spitting on God and the Bible. Yep, I wrote that one. Then I started going to church in my early 20’s and I didn’t feel like God was waiting with a cane to whack me. I felt him throw his arms around me and my life changed forever. I know this sounds a bit whacky, but my life really has changed in so many wonderful ways because of my faith. But I hate the idea of forcing my beliefs on anybody, hence why Matt Hunter is a staunch atheist. In fact, some readers have said that Purged comes across as really anti-Christian, ha ha!

That was a bit deep that last question so let’s get back to the important stuff – if you were stuck on a desert island for no apparent reason whatsoever except that I say so and could choose 3 famous people living or dead to be stuck there with you who would you choose?

William Shatner. Without a doubt. He’d be first on the list, because I’ve loved that guy since I was a kid. Then I’ll have Stephen King because as everybody knows, he totally rules. Let’s have Elvis Presley too, cos I’d love to chat with him. Aw, hang on…I’ve used up my go’s and I ended up with all men. Bummer!

What one food did you try once then immediately wish you could delete from the planet?

I think I already answered that above. But if you want another it’s liquorice. That’s dirty food, I’m telling you.

On that note – tipple of choice?

I’m into Whiskey at the moment. I tend to drink Bourbon with just ice. Not only does it make a cool clinking sound in the glass, it makes me feel like J.R. or sumthin. I’ll also take Red Wine, lager and beer if you’re asking.

I know you compose – but what type of popular (using the term loosely) music do you enjoy just chilling out to?

I’ll listen to anything, me. My daughter loves Little Mix for example, and I’m happy to have it on in the car. I also think Bruno Mars writes some brilliant songs. But on the whole tend to listen to a LOT of film soundtracks. I like electronic music too, especially people like John Carpenter or Carpenter Brut. I’m back into Vinyl so have been buying some great albums on that. Oh, and I like cheesy lounge music too. Bit of metal, bit of funk, and I really love music from old Blaxploitation movies. Heck, I pretty much like everything.

Guilty pleasure – that one thing you feel you really shouldn’t enjoy but do (Me, its singing very loudly along to Taylor Swift songs with the windows open in Summer)

Well I’m not sure if I should feel too guilty about this, but I really got into the TV soap opera Nashville recently. My wife was watching the first season and I wandered by and just casually watched the last ten minutes of an episode. Then we both avidly watched all the seasons. I wasn’t really into country music much, but that show had me loading up my Spotify list with the Nashville albums. Which is kinda cheesy, but hey. It’s odd because I have zero interest in the popular British soap operas – but when it comes to stuff like Dallas or Prisoner Cell Block H or Dark Shadows I TOTALLY get the appeal.

What on earth made you decide to write fiction? You KNOW it’s hard right, and yet so many of you do it. And do it so well…

Hey, thanks! I just had as notion to write a novel, while I was walking in a field with my wife. The idea was for a book called Congregation – which will actually become Matt Hunter 3 if the first two sell enough and the publishers want more. Writing fiction is hard, but I’m currently writing a non-fiction book for Icon books called The Frighteners and that’s even harder! It asks why human culture is drawn to the morbid so there’s a lot of fact checking on that one – but at least I’ve been able to hunt werewolves, be chased by zombies, stay in haunted ruined churches and be surrounded by wild dogs in Transylvania for it!

The most irritating thing you can think of (please don’t say wonky wheeled supermarket trolleys I obviously do my best but I’m only one employee…)

The slap of a flip flop against the underside of a foot. That sound is like Chinese Water Torture to me.

Last thing that made you laugh.

I watched a bit of Smokey and the Bandit the other day and that always makes me chuckle.

Last thing that made you cry.

A friend of mine has been through a horrendous time of stress recently and my wife and I went to visit him for dinner the other day. We prayed for him, and as soon as I closed my eyes I felt myself filling up. Prayer’s pretty interesting – it can be boring sometimes, but at others it’s really powerful. Oh, and on the same day I took my kids to see this film called The Boss Baby, which has a scene where an older brother is lying in bed waiting for his parents to read to him, but they’re fast asleep on the couch because the baby brother is taking up all of their time. The film was trying to say that sometimes you get left out and forgotten and that got to me a bit. Maybe it had echoes of the last five years and me trying to get a book deal, ha ha!

How much do you hate me right now?

My hate levels for you are at the same zero percent they always are. I’ll let you know if they change, but let’s face it, Liz, I seriously doubt it.

Thank you!

Thank YOU!

About the Book:

Read my review HERE

Find out MORE

Follow the author on TWITTER

To Purchase Purged clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

Getting to Know You with Vera Brook. Sand Runner.

Today I am very happy to welcome Vera Brook talking about her YA novel Sand Runner and a little about herself – the book is available for pre-order and if you are in the US or Canada as I know many of my visitors to this site are, there is a goodreads giveaway going on as well, linked below.

 

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it…

SAND RUNNER is a YA science fiction novel. It’s set in a dystopian future, and it follows a 16-year-old Kaiden Reed—or Kai for short—who gets recruited for the No Limits Race, a brutal competition that’s the most popular sports event on the planet. The winners become instant icons and get insanely rich. But there is a price to pay. The runners have to upgrade their bodies to qualify for the race. And, of course, there is more to the No Limits Race than Kai expected from years of watching it on TV, and he has to make some difficult choices along the way.

In terms of what the readers can expect? High stakes, a fast-paced plot, and lots of suspense. SAND RUNNER was inspired by science and technology—specifically 3D printing and bionics. But that’s just the background. The story is really about a group of characters who have to learn to trust and rely on one other in life-or-death situations, even though they don’t always see eye to eye. And Kai is at the center of this. The story is about him finding out what he’s made of. And also what he wants in life, what he values, and how far he’s willing to go to fight for his dreams.

Academic or creative at school?

Can a person be both? I was always a bookworm and interested in every subject, so I did well in school. I’m a very curious person by nature, so I was motivated to learn. But I also kept notebooks with story ideas and took black-and-white photographs. So I always had a creative side, too.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

When I was a small kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals and my family always had dogs. I thought a veterinarian was someone who talks to animals and they talk back. Once I discovered that wasn’t true, I lost interest.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

Good question. Depends on what you mean by “write.” I started keeping notebooks with story ideas in 4th or 5th grade, I think. So I wrote, and I wanted to be a writer, for a long time. But I wasn’t serious about it at first. I never finished things. I would start a story, and then jump to a new one.

It was pretty recently—maybe 3 or 4 years ago—that I got serious about writing. The biggest difference is that now I set writing goals for myself and I push myself to finish things. So for me, writing is more about discipline than about inspiration. I always have more ideas than I know what to do with. The trick is to resist the temptation to stop writing, or to jump to another project, when I get stuck.

Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?

I’m terrible with names. So any time I run into someone and they address me by name, and I frantically search for their name and nothing comes up. Until I have to say, “Sorry, remind me of your name again.” It’s very embarrassing.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

Depends on what’s broken. If it’s something like my car, then I wouldn’t even dream of trying to fix it. But if it’s something I’m trying to do on the computer – like format an ebook, or write a line of HTML code—then I’m going to give it a try first, before asking for help.

Also, it’s amazing to me how many online resources there are. People are very generous with sharing their knowledge and information. Indie publishing community is wonderful for that. You just poke your head into one of the Facebook or Goodreads groups and ask your question, and without fail, several people will respond and help you out. It’s nice.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

Definitely a night owl. I love the sun. But I’m just not a morning person. Everything takes me twice as long in the morning, pre-coffee. But at night, I can stay up until late and get a lot done. It’s also my favorite time to read.

A book that had you in tears. A book that made you laugh out loud.

Actually, one and the same book had me in tears and made me laugh out loud. Or a series of seven books, to be precise. The Harry Potter series. I love J. K. Rowling’s writing. I love the characters, the magic, the humor. But I love the darkness in these books, too.

Thanks Vera!

About the Book:

Welcome to the No Limits Race.

In the near future, 16-year-old Kaiden Reed makes a bold and dangerous decision to enter the most brutal sports competition on the planet. One in which he will undergo a radical upgrade and become a new kind of athlete and a new kind of hero.

Part human. Part machine.

All Kai wants is a shot at a better life and to impress the girl of his dreams. But the stakes in the Race are higher, and the choices tougher, than Kai ever imagined. The physical challenges are just the beginning.

Ten days. Ten contenders. One winner.

Does Kai have what it takes to compete? How far will he go to win? And should he trust the person who recruited him in the first place – or is she using him to carry out a bold and dangerous agenda of her own?

Find Out More

Follow Vera on Twitter

Purchase Sand Runner

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway

Happy Reading!

 

Dog Fight Michael J Malone. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Contraband

Source: Review Copy

When Kenny’s cousin, Ian, comes to the aid of a fellow ex-squaddie in a heap of trouble, he gets caught up in the vicious underground fight scene, where callous criminals prey on the vulnerable, damaged and homeless. With Ian in too deep to escape, Kenny has no option other than to infiltrate the gang for the sake of his family. Kenny is an experienced MMA fighter, as tough as they come, but has he found himself in the one fight he can never win?

Loved Dog Fight – gritty, realistic and with a sharp edge of gulp, Michael J Malone takes us and his series character Kenny into the dark underbelly of underground fighting. It is visceral and visual, you’ll feel every punch. So to speak.

Its the perfect mix of thrills and character moments, I’m a bit of a fan of Kenny – in fact any of you who like the bad boys, Dog Fight is chocka block full of them, it is a real rollercoaster of a read with some really cool descriptive prose and a hell of a lot of oomph.

Michael Malone brings a lot of emotional themes into his narrative too, its not all about the adrenalin moments and I have to give him huge points for managing to write a non annoying child character. The feeling underneath it all is cleverly portrayed, especially in relation to PTSD  – you want to growl at those evil doers who take advantage of the vulnerable, the whole story just pops off the page and drags you right in.

Dog Fight is fast, gripping, decisively authentic and a real proper page turner. Anyone wanting to just get their read on should pick up this novel and dive right in.

Recommended.

Find out More

Follow the author on Twitter

Purchase Dog Fight

Follow the Tour!

Happy Reading!

Sometimes I Lie – an Interview with Alice Feeney.

Very happy to welcome Alice Feeney to Liz Loves Books today answering some questions about her wonderfully tense and brilliant psychological thriller, Sometimes I Lie. I should apologise that this was supposed to be part of the blog tour but me being me I missed my spot. But maybe better late than never!

Thanks so much Alice.

Thanks so much for agreeing to answer some questions for me on the wonderful “Sometimes I Lie” I’m a huge fan of it, especially of the main character here, Amber Reynolds. Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind her, what originally started the journey?

Thank you! It’s so lovely to hear that you enjoyed it!

The idea for this story literally came to me in a dream! I scribbled it all down at about 3am one morning (I do this quite often) and when I woke up the next day, it still seemed like a good idea (this happens less often). I couldn’t stop thinking about Amber and so in the end, her story just had to be written.

Sometimes she lies – books with unreliable narrators are hugely popular as are psychological thrillers generally right now – In “Sometimes I Lie” the narrator herself tells us she is unreliable right from the start. How do you then go about weaving a plot that is realistic (it is!) yet still surprising to the reader?

I’m a planner. I think about a story for a really long time before I’ll commit to writing it – my stories often spend months simmering away in the background before I begin. I have a giant corkboard at home covered in different coloured cards – each one represents a chapter and I can’t write a word until the whole thing is planned out. That plan may change during the writing, and in my experience it always does, which is absolutely fine – it’s quite fun when the story starts to write itself. There is no right or wrong way to do it though, I think it is just about finding whatever way works best for you. There are authors who can just sit and write and I think they must be far cleverer than I am. For me, starting without a plan would be like setting off on a long walk with the dog to somewhere we have never been before without a map – I’d be worried the whole time about getting lost!

Can we talk about endings for a moment without actually giving the ending away – apart from to say I thought it was spot on – was that always the ending or did it change? Did you know how it would end when you started writing it or was it hard to find the right finish given the twists and turns that led up to it?

No, that wasn’t always the ending! In earlier drafts the story ended a little bit sooner than that. It felt like something was missing and so I wrote the chapter called Later. I’m delighted that you enjoyed the ending – thank you!

Can you tell us anything about your next project?

I can tell you that the first draft of book two is written, which I’m so happy about! The next book is another dark and twisty tale and will be published by HarperCollins in the UK next year.

Finally a question I like to ask – are there any books you yourself have read recently that you would like to recommend?

I read a lot. I live in a tiny Victorian house and there are bookshelves in literally every room except the bathroom! There are so many books I would like to recommend, but the one that has stayed with me the most after reading it recently is This Must be The Place, by Maggie O’Farrell.

Thanks so much!

Thank you for the interesting questions!

About the book:

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:

1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Read my Review

Find out MORE

Follow Alice on TWITTER

To Purchase Sometimes I Lie clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

20 Questions For – Matt Wesolowski. Six Stories.

In the final part of Six Stories with Matt Wesolowski, I’m asking him my 20 Questions. Pop back tomorrow so you can read my review of the novel as part of the blog tour.

And the biggest thanks to Matt for taking part over the last few weeks with his great guest spots.

So up to now we’ve been discussing Six Stories over the course of a few posts – So lets just do this. Tell me Six things about Six Stories…

1. It was my first attempt at a crime novel.

2. The manuscript was nearly consigned to my hard drive as it was just an odd little experiment that I never thought would go anywhere.

3. I had to re-read the manuscript before I pitched it at Bloody Scotland festival as I had completely forgotten whodunnit and why!

4. I had no idea whodunnit or why as I was writing it until the end of episode 5.

5. The original title was ‘Five go mad on Scarclaw Fell’

6. One of these answers is a lie.

Favourite flavour of crisps…

Ready salted. You don’t mess about with crisps. Pitta chips if you can get them. Heavenly.

An author whose talent you envy…

Lauren Beukes. If that woman wrote the text for a bus ticket, it’d still be enthralling…

When writing Six Stories what was your main inspiration…

It was the Serial podcast, beyond anything else, the rest of the story just fell out of my brain.

Favourite type of cheese…..

I don’t eat dairy products so cheese is a no-go for me…Violife do a good smoked vegan cheese though!

Planned plotting or to hell with it lets see what happens…

I never plan anything. If I plan, it tends to kill the story dead. There’s a little graveyard of planned stories on my hard drive, all of them terrible.

3 famous people you’d like to be stuck with for a day just to see what they are really like….

Marilyn Manson – they say don’t ever meet your heroes, but Mazza’s the only one who I think wouldn’t disappoint.

Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark – the hosts of the ‘My Favourite Murder’ podcast; I think we’d have a great time chatting about true crime.

Stephen King – like Manson, King transcends the ‘don’t meet your heroes’ rule.

You are published by the amazing Karen at Orenda books. How much do we love Karen?

We adore Karen for being so much more to us than a publisher. I have never felt so supported before; so valued for what I do. She is a phenomenon.

The best thing about the road to publication….

The anticipatory, abject terror of those first reviews coming in…

The worse thing about the road to publication…

The anticipatory, abject terror of those first reviews coming in…

Awesome chef like skills or stick something in the microwave….

I actually used to be a chef and interestingly, have never owned a microwave (that’s not terribly interesting is it though really?)

One teaser sentence on what you are writing next….

Serial killer goes Wendigo…

You recently went on an Orenda road trip – how much fun was that?

It was amazing, the other Orenda authors are all lovely people and made me feel welcome and worthy in their company. It was an experience I’ll never forget, sitting on a train with some of my literary heroes.

Easter soon. Chocolate person or not a chocolate person..

I do love a bit of dark chocolate but I’m more of a savoury snack man.

What small irritating thing irritates you beyond all reason…

Oh so much, can I have a few? All are terribly inconsequential: Poor punctuality, apostrophe abuse, ‘expresso’ instead of ‘espresso’…I could go on…

Favourite day of the week (If you say Tuesday we can’t be friends. Tuesdays should die)

Saturday – it’s the day outside of school holidays that I get to spend all of with my son.

A book you recommend to everyone…

The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe…I’ve been pushing that one on everyone since I was 16!

Last thing that made you laugh stupidly…

My five year old son is the funniest person I know, he often comes out with the most hysterically funny things; the other day he turned around and said to me, apropos of nothing “Dad, I’m going to feed you to a bat!”

Most idiotic thing you have done….

Oh man, there are so many to choose from. I did a lot of idiotic things as a teenager; once sneaking into my friend’s school under the fence, wearing his spare school jumper and pretending to be a pupil. It was only when one of the hard kids threatened to batter me that I had to sneak out again and run…

How much do you hate me right now?

You’re a book blogger, I have not the capacity to hate you…

Thanks Matt!

About the Book: 

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame…

As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

Follow Matt on TWITTER

To purchase the paperback clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

 

Six Stories with Matt Wesolowski – Charlie Armstrong.

Today part 5 of Six Stories with Matt Wesolowski, this time he tells us a little about another character in the novel – Charlie Armstrong. We are nearly at the end of this now – Part Six on Friday when Matt will be answering my 20 questions brave soul that he is, then it’s my turn on the blog tour at the weekend when I’ll review the book. But if you haven’t got your hands on it yet – go! It is truly superb.

 

Charlie Armstrong.

Matt Wesolowski

Charlie was seen, not only by the other teenagers, but also by the accompanying adults as the ‘alpha’ of the group. Perhaps even more than that: he was revered by the others, looked up to and followed.

Charlie meant a lot to those who knew him.

We all knew that one lad. We were never that lad, but we all had a Charlie Armstrong somewhere in our life.

You remember your Charlie, he didn’t give a shit what anyone thought of him, he had his own style which you feebly attempted to mimic, he was funny, charismatic and everyone who encountered him was in love with him. That Charlie, you remember now, right?

Charlie was always into the best music you’d never heard of, he knew how to smoke, how to inhale properly without coughing; he could spit out a ball of chewing gum at hit it on the volley dead-on. Charlie didn’t get picked on, he slouched at the back of classrooms and hung round the end of the field at lunchtimes with the bad kids. Charlie had a darkness, deep, unfathomable, wore it like a cloak, streaming out behind him.

You followed Charlie round in adoration. You wanted to be Charlie, you adopted the same way of walking, the same way of talking, dropped band-names like chip-wrappers at parties.

When Charlie talked to you, when he chose to be seen with you, you lit up, you walked a foot taller, dropped your voice and octave deeper.

You hated yourself for how much you loved him, your Charlie.

Charlie was probably the most fully-formed character I had when I began writing Six Stories. I feel like in every friendship group there’s a Charlie and I wanted to reflect that without going over the top, without making him seem perfect. I guess Charlie is an amalgamation of many different people I’ve admired when I was growing up. It did make me wonder whether these Charlies we grow up alongside are ever aware of their prominence in the minds and hearts of their peers; whether they revel in it or are simply ignorant of the adulation that surrounds them?

Not being a Charlie, I’ll never know…

About the book:

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame…

As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

Follow Matt on TWITTER

To purchase the paperback clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

 

 

The Wolf Road – Neil White interviews Beth Lewis.

Today to celebrate the release of Wolf Road in paperback and the recent release of From the Shadows, I’ve got the lovely (mostly) Neil White having a chat to the lovely (all the time) Beth Lewis – all about Wolf Road and other things. Thanks both!

Over to Neil then….

Sometimes, the best thing about being a writer is coming across great books written by great people that perhaps otherwise I would have missed. So it was with The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis, my favourite read of 2016 and now due out in paperback on 23rd March 2017.

The Wolf Road and I, however, almost got off to a shaky start.

It was at the Harrogate Crime Festival in July that I came across Beth for the first time. As I squinted out my Sunday hangover in the July sunshine, Beth was sitting by a table with Liz, the host of this conversation, and Liz introduced me, finishing off with, ‘And Beth has a book out. It’s really good, and it’s in the book tent over there,’ and she pointed towards the canvas bookshop erected on the lawn of the Old Swan Hotel.

What could I do? I could hardly say, ‘Thanks for the tip, Liz, but I am not interested in the slightest,’ because Beth was sitting there, drinking tea and being all lovely and friendly.

I faked some enthusiasm and comforted myself with the thought that I might be able to bag it as part of a “buy one, get one half-price” sort of deal, and I shuffled across to the book tent.

At that point, I was committed. I could possibly lie and say it had sold out, but what if they checked it out? Imagine my utter horror, as a penny-pinching northerner, when I found out it was in hardback only, double the price of all the paperbacks in there.

I was trapped. I couldn’t go back and say, ‘I was slightly interested, but not at that price,’ so I harrumphed my way to the till and made my way back to Beth and Liz and pretended I’d never enjoyed spending cash as much.

I should not have been so stingy. When I came to read the book, I enjoyed it more than any book I had read for a long time. It wasn’t just the story, which was gripping and engaging, but the way it was told. I hadn’t enjoyed a book purely for the pleasure of reading for a long time, but I did with The Wolf Road, and I can’t wait for her next

one.

That rambling introduction brings me to Beth herself, and my first question.

Beth, before we learn about The Wolf Road, people might want to know more about you, so what’s your story?

Beth: Gosh, now I feel a touch guilty but it is very difficult to say no to Liz when she recommends books. My story, well, I grew up in a tiny hamlet in Cornwall. There was nothing but fields and moorland between our house and the sea, it was beautiful and wild and I’d spend any time I could outside. There were two WW2 watch towers on the headland so my brother and I would spend summers exploring, making dens, finding artillery shells and rusted up rifles, even found a helmet once. My mother was all about books. We had a room of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves stacked two-books deep and piles of books everywhere. She would tell me stories constantly. I’d write them down and soon started making up my own. When I was eleven or twelve I knew I wanted to be a writer and I knew I wanted to be published by HarperCollins because that’s who published all my mum’s favourite authors – Raymond Fiest, Clive Barker, Tolkien. Knowing also that I didn’t want to be a penniless writer freezing and hungry in a draughty garret, I pursued a career in publishing, figuring that even if I couldn’t write the books, I could at least work with them.

I can also juggle and will happily eat my bodyweight in cake.

Neil: Eating your bodyweight in cake is a noble hobby, because the very process will produce an ever-increasing target. One should always have a hobby with new goals.

It’s interesting that you’ve worked on “the other side” of the writing world. My only experience of publishing is as a writer, so what interests me is how it feels for you to be on this side. Do you view the publishing side differently now that you’ve experienced it from the writer’s view, and is the writer’s view what you expected?

Beth: I work in a very niche area of publishing so my experience wasn’t all that relevant to publishing fiction. I knew terminology and general stages of production – proofs etc. – but the finer details were lost on me so everything has been new. I’m not sure if it helped or hindered me that my partner works in marketing at Penguin Random House. I had a lot of insider information available to me, which was in parts really useful but in other parts, kind of disheartening. For every massive bestseller there are dozens of other books published that week that don’t get much traction or attention, especially from trade reviewers given how little space Books now receive in newspapers. The process hasn’t been wholly what I expected, it’s a strange thing to have a book published, but it’s an amazing experience and I’m hugely grateful.

Neil: This pre-amble brings me, neatly, to your fantastic debut, The Wolf Road, and I do have a few things to ask you about it. First of all, however, let me ask you the mundane questions: what is it about and how did you get the idea?

Beth: The Wolf Road is about a young girl abandoned by her parents, who discovers the man who raised her is a killer so flees into the wilderness to find her real parents. It’s set in Canada, in British Columbia (BeeCee) and the Yukon after some kind of world-changing event. I got the idea from TV. I watch too much and there was a particular show I loved at the time about a girl and her father and whether she was a victim in his crimes or a perpetrator. I found that fascinating and wanted to explore the psychology of that girl and her eventual realisation of her involvement. I’ve also always loved Canada and Alaska and I am addicted to Discovery channel shows set in the Pacific Northwest, as well as survival shows so all my passions just fell into place and the story, and Elka, came to life.

Neil: The locations came across superbly-well in the book, and they gave me a real sense of place and wilderness. Also, I loved Elka’s description of the world-changing event as “the Damn Stupid”, as it summarised her character up so well.

Dealing with the location first though, it struck me when reading the book how you not only captured that wilderness so well, but also the frontier-feel, so much so that it could have been set just as easily in late-nineteenth century frontier Canada. What made you choose to set in the future, set back by this world-changing event, rather than simply in the past?

Beth: Firstly, thank you! Setting a book in a far-off area of the world is a risk in terms of authenticity so it’s been a big relief that people – even Canadians in British Columbia – have found the setting and wilderness believable. I did think about setting the book in the past, during the Alaskan gold rush of the 1890s but that time in particular has been well documented, written about by all sorts of writers for more accomplished than me, so I didn’t feel like I could bring anything new to that particular time in history. I also didn’t want to have to deal with the gender politics of the time. Lyon wouldn’t have been believable as the merciless lawkeeper, Penelope probably wouldn’t have been educated and Elka, well, she’d probably have been exactly the same. I didn’t want to write a book about women overcoming societal barriers or one examining feminism in that setting. I also didn’t want to do a lot of historical research because I’m quite lazy. I wanted the story to be about Elka’s journey and her friendship with Penelope so I decided to strip away all the politics, social expectations, world events, and start from scratch. It was freeing, not having any established rules to adhere to. I felt like the story that emerged, the relationship with Penelope, was purer for it.

Neil: That’s really interesting, and I like your honesty, as well as your logic. My mantra for research is that it should be directly in proportion to the amount of people who’ll know you’ve got it wrong, so I reckon you’d have been okay, but I prefer it the way you’ve done it, now that I understand it.

This brings me neatly to Elka, as what you do so well is the character voice. That is how it was sold to me back in Harrogate, that the voice was somewhat unique, and it is. Elka makes the whole book so engaging, but how did you settle on her voice? Is it possible to define this? Did you have to adopt her voice in your head as you wrote, or was it something you were able to do almost instinctively?

Beth: I love strong voices and accents in fiction, movies and of course, real life. As a young, unpublished writer sending out manuscripts to agents and reading all about what they were looking for, the one thing they were all after was a unique voice. Elka’s voice came so naturally to me, I could hear her inside my head for months. It took me a little time to work out how I wanted to translate that onto the page though maybe now, looking back, I would adjust it somewhat. It’s a risk to write a whole book in dialect but I’m glad I did. I ended up talking, texting, emailing, like Elka. Friends and family who read it early on were also talking in her voice, coming up with their own ‘Elka-isms’. Then when the book came out, people tweeted me in Elka’s voice. The response has just been incredible. I wish I had a clearer idea of where the voice came from. It’s kind of a mix between the American South, Appalachian, and the Yukon and probably comes from a dozen different movies and TV shows, but none of those at the same time. I think it’s what makes Elka unique.

Neil: That is very interesting, but it makes me think that you’ve created a whole new set of problems for yourself, because from other conversations we’ve had, your next book doesn’t involve Elka, and has a wholly different setting. What is it about and how did you fix on a whole new voice for it? And when can I get my mitts on it?

Beth: The next book is totally different. It’s set in the early seventies, in a small town in the American Midwest. It’s out in May 2018, I believe. It’s about four kids, best friends, who discover a body and set about trying to solve a murder but they ask too many questions and gain the attention of the town’s darker elements with nasty consequences. It’s set over three summers and is dark as hell. For me, it’s all about growing up, letting go of childhood and realising your parents, your town, your world, is not all sunshine and hazy summer days. It’s also written in the first person, from the point of view of one of the kids. It’s not dialect heavy at all, it’s quite the departure from Elka but I didn’t want to repeat myself. It’s always tempting as a writer to stick with what has worked for you in the past, but I always want to challenge myself. Each book I write has to have a point to it and has to be new, whether in structure, voice, setting, it’s got to be unique.

Neil: Thank you Beth, that sounds fantastic. It’s a long wait for me but all the best things are worth hanging around for.

To Beth, I say thank you for the chat and the best of luck with the paperback of The Wolf Road.

To everyone else, I say buy the damn book! You won’t regret it. It’s out in paperback on 23rd March 2017, and is already on your Kindle.

 

About the Books: 

27209140

Everything Elka knows of the world she learned from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her under his wing when she was just seven years old.

But when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper – Kreagar Hallet – is wanted for murder. Even worse, Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka.

Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move. There will be a reckoning, one that will push friendships to the limit and force Elka to confront the dark memories of her past.

Read My Review

Follow Beth On Twitter

Purchase The Wolf Road

He hides in the shadows, watching, waiting, until the time is right . . .

Mary Kendricks, a smart, pretty, twenty-four-year-old teacher, has been brutally murdered and Robert Carter is accused of killing her.

When defence lawyer, Dan Grant inherits Carter’s case only weeks before the trial starts, everyone expects him just to babysit it, but Dan’s not that kind of lawyer. He’ll follow the evidence – wherever it takes him.

But as Dan and his investigator Jayne Brett look into the case, they discover that there is more to it than meets the eye. In order to do their jobs they need to push the limits of the system, even if it means putting themselves in danger.

Together they will get to the truth – whatever the cost . . .

Read My Review

Follow Neil on Twitter

Purchase From the Shadows

Happy Reading!