Happy New Year


Wishing 
all readers 
of my bookblog 
a very 
Happy New Year.



Especial thanks to the fantastic authors I interviewed in 2014:

Andrew John Rainnie
Jeffrey Perren
Jenny Worstall
Julia Hughes
Kath Middleton
Lizzie Lamb
Matt J. Pike
Rob Sinclair
Saskia Tepe
Wendy Percival

Thanks very much for reading my bookblog in 2014 and hope to see you back in 2015.

Death Is Overrated by Jeffrey Perren

I've had Death is Overrated by Jeffrey Perren in my Waiting To Be Read Folder ever since I finished reading Clonmac's Bridge by the same author. 

It's the third novel by Jeffrey Perren that I've read and it shares with the others the author's intention to tell a good yarn. Unlike the others it isn't historical either in part (Clonmac's Bridge) or in whole (Cossacks in Paris) but just like the other two novels it has a wide ranging plot and a cast of unusual and original characters.

There is a dramatic opening scene where the main character, Professor Thomas Paine, is falsely identified as a corpse and has great difficulty proving his identity to the police. The situation is made more complex as Thomas is a visiting American Professor and the police force are in Wales.

An emerging romance between the Chief Inspector's daughter, Terri, and Thomas is thwarted at every turn by a conspiracy of competing interests including other academics and scientists and Thomas' own father.

Moving rapidly between Wales, Ireland and Scotland Thomas is determined to re-establish himself and find out the truth behind the allegations.

This is good escapist fiction ideal for holiday reading or whenever you want to get lost in a long, convoluted plot in which all the threads are skilfully tied up by the end.

I really enjoyed the author's descriptions of the various locations visited in the course of the story. I also liked the juxtaposition of the Welsh voices of some of the characters with the American English of Thomas and the narrator which gives the novel an interesting writing style which is sustained throughout the book.

I was delighted when earlier in the year Jeffrey Perren agreed to an interview for my bookblog and you can read his fascinating answers to my questions here.

For more details about all Jeffrey Perren's novels, check out his Amazon Author Page in either

or

UK.

Maureen's Christmas Carol by Jonathan Hill

Fans of Jonathan Hill's "Maureen" will be delighted to have another opportunity to read about her exploits in this newly published novella, Maureen's Christmas Carol.

As the title suggests Maureen is preparing to celebrate Christmas. Since losing Roy she has evolved into a thwarted and Scrooge-like character in her attitude to the Festive Season.

This latest novella from Jonathan Hill is a Maureen-specific take on the classic Dickens version of "A Christmas Carol" although the ending is rather less happy-ever-after than the original.

Maureen's lusty, sherry-fuelled encounter with Tiny Tim, the heating engineer, is Maureen at her hilarious, foot-in-mouth best.

The visits of the Three Spirits are three short stories worked into the structure of the novella. They reflect Jonathan Hill's masterly ability with the short story form that was demonstrated so well in Eclectic and Beyond Eclectic.

I liked the way the First Spirit illuminates Maureen's earlier life giving the reader insights into Maureen's past. This provides a surprising contrast with her more recent present explored in all the other novellas.

The Second Spirit leads Maureen to her local supermarket and her grumpy, clumsy self is an amusing counterpoint to the festivities although there is a lot of truth in what she thinks.

Finally, Maureen is presented with a vision of a futuristic hell and the Third Spirit advises her to make some serious changes to her life-style. This section reflects some of the more macabre tales in Jonathan Hill's short story collections and provides a very different sort of Maureen story.

Maureen's Christmas Carol is very engaging and readable. I got it as a free download so many thanks to Jonathan Hill for a generous pre-Christmas present.

You can read my reviews of other Maureen novellas if you click the links below and you can get details of Maureen's Christmas Carol and all Jonathan Hill's books on his Amazon Author page.




Miss Peach's Dream by Jenny Worstall

Indie author Jenny Worstall published a new collection of short stories last week. Miss Peach's Dream is another charming collection which is the latest instalment in her "Quick Coffee Break Reads" series.

From the Amazon book page:

The first story introduces Miss Rosie Peach, a young teacher keen to sort out other people's problems. In 'Best Song in the World', Celia tries to intervene between her son and daughter-in-law; she has to revisit sad events in her own marriage in order to help the young couple. The heroine in 'The Lady with the Funny Hair' has had enough - after all, even a worm will turn in the end.

As I've come to expect now from Jenny Worstall, the stories are well written and pack into a relatively few words a full and complete story with an unusual or quirky aspect. I enjoyed reading all three and they certainly do what's on the tin and enhance your coffee break.

You can read my reviews of Jenny Worstall's earlier short story collections if you click on any of these links and you'll find further details of Miss Peach's Dream and the other titles on Jenny Worstall's Amazon Author page.





Accursed Women by Luciana Cavallaro

Luciana Cavallaro is the author of a series of short stories about the lives of five amazing women from Ancient Greek History. I read the first one, Aphrodite's Curse, several weeks ago and enjoyed it so much I downloaded the complete series, Accursed Women.

I've just finished reading the collection and re-read Aphrodite's Curse, which is the death-bed memoir of princess Phaedra in which she reflects on her own life and describes the events of the day. I think I enjoyed it even more than on the first reading especially for its detailed background.

The second story is the life of Helen as told to a self-styled professional historian who visits Helen towards the end of her life and records a whole new version of events leading up to the wooden horse of Troy saga. Helen comes over as a really strong character who is determined to tell her story to posterity and set the record straight about what she regards as a distorted reality. Whether the author is making this up or not I don't know but it makes for a very readable and engaging story.

The style for the third story, A Goddess' Curse, is a complete contrast and a big surprise. It combines the ancient and the modern, the mythical with reality and works really well. I think this is my favourite story in the collection: it's informative and insightful but entertaining and amusing. The goddess Hera gives a candid interview to daytime chat show host, Drake Drabbler. She shares what it’s like to be a goddess and wife to Zeus, the King of the Gods. Drabbler thinks that his exclusive interview with Queen Hera is a cert for a daytime TV award but he gets a lot more than he bargains for!

Boxed in a Curse is a fresh take on the well-known story of Pandora's Box. When two precocious children ask their grandfather for a story he's got a good one up his sleeve which seems to have more than a little relevance to their own lives.

Everyone must have heard of Medousa, the hideous Gorgon with the human face and snakes instead of hair who will turn you into stone if you look into her eyes. In the final story, Cursed by Treachery, Luciana Cavallaro explains how Medousa becomes this terrifying monster and by the end of the story, amazingly, the reader is full of sympathy for Medousa's plight.

All the stories are well written and packed with information. They are highly readable and entertaining. I'm sure if school Classics lessons had been this interesting I would have paid more attention. Well done author Luciana Cavallaro for bringing such originality to some very ancient tales.

The stories are available to download singly or as a boxed set and there are details on the author's page at Amazon, Smashwords or on her website.





Magnificent Britain by Michael Murray

Here is one of my occasional promotional pieces for the books I publish at www.spurwing-ebooks.com.

Magnificent Britain by Michael Murray

It is 1971 and Nigel Lush’s official biography of First World War hero, Sir Maurice Brearley, is ready for publication.

Brearley had been a revered establishment figure, arms manufacturer and founder of the Magnificent Britain gardening competition.

At the last minute, Nigel receives some startling and unexpected allegations about Brearley’s conduct at the Battle of Loos.

“The man’s a fraud,” says Leonard Stidges, “a liar and a fraud”.
When confronted with these allegations, Maurice’s widow produces even more extraordinary revelations about her late husband’s behaviour. This places Nigel in a terrible dilemma that forces him into a decision which changes his life forever.

Michael Murray’s epic novel questions the relationship between biography and truth and explores the hypocrisy, class consciousness and prejudice that permeated British society during the Twentieth Century.

"Addictive reading"

"A stunning must-read"

"Magnificent Britain - magnificent story"


Faust 2.0 by Michael Brookes

When I read The Cult of Me by Michael Brookes I was right outside my usual reading zone but I enjoyed it so much I read the second book in the trilogy Conversations in the Abyss a few months later. I'm still waiting for the final instalment in the saga but meanwhile I downloaded Michael Brookes' Faust 2.0 which apparently is the first in a series featuring Morton and Mitchell.

I didn't quite know what to expect. The opening line of the book page description tells the reader that "A new entity is born into the internet" and poses the question "Is it the rebirth of an ancient evil in a new realm? Or something much worse?"

Author Michael Brookes has written his own take on the Faust story with strong overtones of The Godfather. A clutch of disparate characters are seduced by the aptly named Misty, the Mephistopheles in this version of the story. It falls to Internet expert Sarah Mitchell to work out what's going on and to finally start asking who the mysterious lawyer is who keeps showing up every time something goes wrong.

I read Faust 2.0 more-or-less straight through in one go. The plot moves forward strongly and the reader is rapidly page-turning to find out what's coming next. There are some unexpected developments and at times the suspense level is very high.

What Michael Brookes does so well is give you a proposition in the opening of the book which is off the scale of fantastical in such a way that you totally believe it. This has been done even more successfully in Faust 2.0 than it was in the other two books and that's a great achievement.

I really enjoyed reading Faust 2.0. It's set in a high-tech world far outside my personal experience but it's been written about so well that it's comprehensible and plausible. Overall I would describe Faust 2.0 as a thriller but its setting and some of the characters, especially the ever present Misty, take it into Science Fiction and Fantasy. One of the categorisations on the book's Amazon page is "technothriller" which is not a term I'm familiar with but I think it describes it perfectly.

Faust 2.0 is a great start to the series and the ending is left wide open for the next book which I'm looking forward to reading when it appears.

You can find more details of Faust 2.0 and all Michael Brookes' other books on his Amazon author page or on his excellent Cult of Me Blog.

An Interview with Author Lizzie Lamb

If you've read Boot Camp Bride you'll know how entertaining it is so you can imagine how delighted I was when its author Lizzie Lamb agreed to answer some questions.

Why did you write Boot Camp Bride?

When I was working full time as deputy head teacher in a large primary school in Leicestershire, escaping into the world of books was my way of relaxing at the end of a long day. Too tired and brain dead to reach out for War and Peace or Dostoevsky, I wanted something light, witty and entertaining to read instead - and rom coms fitted the bill.  As that was the genre I enjoyed reading, it seemed natural to me to write in that genre, too.

Also, I spend a great deal of time in north-west Norfolk and, one day when I was sitting on a bench overlooking the marshes, the whole plot for Boot Camp Bride unfolded before me. The heroine, Charlee, had been in my head for ages, begging me to write about her – and, sitting there on that bench, it occurred to me that the marshes were the ideal setting for a romantic comedy. Added to that, I’m one of those writers who has to fall in love with the hero before she can start writing her novel. Luckily, my head is full of gorgeous heroes just waiting to be written about and sexy, temperamental Rafa who is the perfect foil for Charlee, demanded that I tell his story, too!

Then the serious business of writing Boot Camp Bride began.

What kind of reader would enjoy Boot Camp Bride?

Readers who want to escape from the demands and tedium of everyday life and have a romantic adventure without leaving the safety of their sofa. They’d like feisty heroines who struggle to get what they want from life, but who never lose sight of their goal – or their sense of humour. They’d fall in love with heroes whose love for my heroines is central to their character; my heroes only want the best for my heroines, although the course of true love never runs smooth. My ideal readers would enjoy sparky dialogue between the hero and heroine and love every second when they’re together ‘on the page’. They’d become best friends with some of the secondary characters who act as a foil for my heroine, and would love to sit down and share a glass of wine with them. Finally, they’d love to laugh at some of the incidents which befall my characters - and enjoy a great romantic ending which promises the hero and heroine will live happily ever after.

How did you develop your characters?

I know this might sound a bit mad, but I have imaginary conversations with them in my head! For some reason, my most productive thinking time is when I wake up first thing in the morning or when I’m in the shower. I also find that my brain works most creatively when I’m cooking or doing something else mundane. I go into a dream world very easily and that’s when my characters become real people, take on a life of their own and take the plot down roads I’d never thought of.  

What has been the biggest influence on your career as a writer?

I have always wanted to become a writer, but this, inevitably, was put on hold while I was in full time employment. Being able to take early retirement from the teaching profession after thirty four years and having the time to pursue my dream of becoming a published author has been a major factor in my life as a writer. Secondly, the invention of the Kindle and other e-readers and the rise of sites likes Amazon and Create Space has enabled me to share my novels with readers around the world. Both of those factors, linked with my determination and the desire to tell a good story has enabled me to reach the point where I am today. And, last but not least, the support, friendship and boundless enthusiasm of New Romantics Press, the indie group I have formed.

Are you working on any new writing at the moment?

Yes! I’ve almost finished the first draft of a new romantic comedy set in Scotland and I’m very excited about that. I hope it will be ready for publication in February or March 2015. My ambition is to write three novels set in Scotland and three set in Norfolk and to publish them as box sets over the next few years.

☺☺☺

Thanks so much Lizzie for answering my questions. I couldn't agree with you more about rom-coms being a great way to relax at the end of a busy day at work. I'm looking forward to reading Tall, Dark and Kilted and good luck with your next book.


Whom Evil Touches by D. E. Royce

Whom Evil Touches by D. E. Royce is a well-constructed murder mystery novel with a page turning plot and plenty of twists and turns.

The victim, Judy, has a difficult relationship with her husband, Will. When her body is found piece by piece Will is seen as the likely perpetrator. However, there is more to Judy's life than Will realises. Her colleagues at the bank are none too innocent either.

Several possible suspects are gradually whittled down to two and I thought I'd identified the murderer. Then events took an unexpected direction and I wasn't so sure. The reader is kept in suspense as to who the perpetrator actually is right until the end when all is suddenly revealed and an action packed, exciting final scene brings the story to a satisfying conclusion.

The characters in Whom Evil Touches are very convincing. The web of deceit and betrayal that permeates the plot brings out some of the worst aspects of human behaviour, not just by the murderer. Every character has an interesting back-story which is explored as the novel unfolds. Contrasting with this is a romantic sub-plot which weaves in and out of the main plot enriching and complicating Will's side of the story.

The police procedures are realistic and authentic and the police characters are interesting and engaging.

Dialogue is sharp and focussed driving the plot forward and making the novel real and convincing.

The setting for the novel is New England and it's not a part of the world I've any experience of whatsoever. Having finished reading Whom Evil Touches I feel as though I've been to live there for a while. The novel opens with a beautifully written section describing and explaining the area before moving smoothly into the story.

Throughout the novel there are descriptions of, for example, the landscape, the sky and sea, the weather which are like lovely paintings and it is no surprise to read in the author biography that D.E. Royce is an artist as well as a skilful writer.

I thought Whom Evil Touches was an interesting and original take on a novel which is a good example of its genre and I enjoyed reading it very much. You can sample and download Whom Evil Touches in the Kindle Store at Amazon UK or get more details from D.E. Royce's author page at Amazon.com.

The Funny Business of Life by Jenny Worstall

I think I've read and enjoyed everything that Jenny Worstall has published including several short stories and her novel Make a Joyful Noise. Consequently, I was very pleased to be alerted by A Raucous Time author Julia Hughes that a new Jenny Worstall novel was imminent. I was also delighted when Jenny Worstall agreed to answer 5 Questions for my blog in the days immediately after publication of her new book The Funny Business of Life.

I know that Jenny Worstall is / was a music teacher and this shines through in The Funny Business of Life. From the name of the school at the centre of the book - St. Cecilia's -  to the names of some of the characters, the descriptions of instrumental lessons and concerts and the idiosyncrasies of the teachers, music in one way or another appears on just about every page. "All musicians love Bach, don't they?" says one of the characters and I imagine that all music teachers will love this book.

It's a lovely, charming, easy-to-read novel that draws the reader into several interconnected plot elements most of which have a romantic aspect. At the heart of the novel is Miriam's Story and about three quarters of the way through you have a fairly clear idea of where it's going but you can't quite fathom out how the author is going to get there!

As the story evolves Miriam and all the other characters are skilfully and subtly developed to become real and engaging. Some of the characters have appeared before in Jenny Worstall's previous writing notably Miriam in her early adult life and the little girl who loves music.

The author handles the deeper, more poignant aspects of the novel really well exploring illness, death and tragedy with sensitivity but without sentimentality. I don't want to reveal the plot but I felt really moved by Brunhilda and Harry.

The author makes a clever use of a choral speaking device where, for example, a group of unidentified students comment on the action and move the story forward. It is this sort of deft, light touch that makes the writing so interesting.

I really enjoyed the references to wonderful music that occur throughout the novel. After reading Make a Joyful Noise I listened to Belshazzar's Feast by William Walton several times. The Funny Business of Life has reminded me how much I like The Messiah and put me onto something new: Sea Interludes by Benjamin Britten.

I thought The Funny Business of Life was really enjoyable. It's unusual and original and well worth reading.

You can try a sample and download the book at the Amazon Kindle Store or do what I did, and borrow it on a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

An Interview with Author Andrew John Rainnie

I'm delighted that Andrew John Rainnie, author of Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits, has agreed to answer some questions about his writing.

Why did you write Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits?

Spirits of Vengeance started life out as a screenplay that I had to write while I was studying Screenwriting at Bournemouth University in 2004. I wanted to write something grand and epic like Lord of the Rings, but it soon ballooned beyond the remit of my course, so I ended up writing a small, Scottish crime thriller titled Safeguard.

But Spirits stuck with me, and I started to develop the story as a book, but it was a few years later before it really took the shape and style it has now. I had a very empty concept, but when I realised that the protagonist should be Kamina, and not her older brother Kaedin, it really came into focus for me. One of the best rules of screenwriting, and any writing I guess, is that the main character should be the person with the most to lose, and that was Kamina. Once I made it about her, it became something more personal and character-driven. I was no longer writing a fantasy book for the sake of doing something big and epic, but I had a great character with real emotional depth. I wrote it because of her.

What kind of reader would enjoy Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits

That’s a tough one. I guess it is what we would consider Young Adult because Kamina is herself a young adult (she is 14). But many of my friends that have read it are in their thirties and forties, and they have really engaged with the material. I think anyone who likes epic fantasy will enjoy it, but the themes of Spirits is universal. It deals with issues relevant to a modern audience: racism, sexism, endless wars fought over religious beliefs. The core concept always comes back to Kamina, it is her story as she discovers truths about her life, but also truths about herself, and the courage she does not realise she has. It is about finding the strength of character to stand up for what you believe in, and I think everyone can relate to that.

How did you develop your characters?

The initial idea was a young boy who dreams of going off on an adventure with a famous warrior having his wish granted. And it sucked. There was no drama there. So I went back to square one and looked at the story, asking myself “Who has the most to lose?” The answer was Kamina, who had been a bit younger in the original story. I made her older, but retained what made her great; she starts off very timid, and wants to stay within the safe confines of her home. To really reinforce this dramatic point, I changed them from humans to elves. In the world of Spirits of Vengeance, the elves have fought many wars with the humans, but around 200 years from the event in this book, they retreated to the safehaven of Elgrin Forest, removing themselves from the world. This means that when Kamina is forced to go on this journey, against her will, she is not only leaving her home, but in a sense her entire world, to explore somewhere that is largely alien to her.

Once I knew who she was, I was able to write the other characters around her. Kaedin, the former protagonist, became her troubled older brother. He wants to be the first elven Ranger, a nomad warrior race that I saw as like the Jedi. However, he is also romantically linked to a human girl, and he’s torn between these two choices. Kaedin’s journey is, in a sense, the mirror opposite of Kamina’s, and I really enjoyed crafting that parallel. When they reach the continent of Zalestia, they encounter the warrior princess Jazintha, who again is a reflection of Kamina in a different way. She is outwardly brave and fearless, and prides herself on that reputation, but inside she is an emotional wreck, seeking the approval of her hard-hearted father, Zahyr Zaleed Khan. Again, her story is about finding the strength from within and having the will to act upon it.

The Ishkava Ranger, Callaghan Tor started out as a very empty character, a pale imitation of Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. I can’t really talk about his development without ruining the plot, but he went from being a typical warrior archetype to someone who Kamina initially hates, but who she comes to adore and respect.

What has been the biggest influence on your career as a writer?

Steve Spielberg. I’m a child of the 1980s, and the first film I ever saw (that I remember) was Back To The Future, which he produced. My mum had sat me down to watch it and I was entranced by this amazing, sharp, witty story. Then I saw ET and Jurassic Park and I knew I wanted to be a storyteller. There have been hundreds of other influences over the years, but Mr. Spielberg is definitely the one who left the biggest imprint on my creativity. I would love to work with him one day.

Are you working on any new writing at the moment?

I’ve just finished writing a trilogy of short films, called The Illuminant Midnight Project. I have a storyboard artist currently drawing scenes out so that we can launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise the budget to go and film them next year. I have also been hired to write a sports drama feature film set in India, which is quite exciting because it’s not a genre I have ever attempted before.

And I am already writing the sequel to Stone of Spirits, which is called Spirits of Vengeance: The Assassin of Araneque.

☺☺☺

Wow Andrew! What a lot of writing projects you've got on at the moment. Thank you so much for taking time out to answer my questions. And, good luck with the launch of Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits on November 14th.

My review of Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits is here and Andrew John Rainnie's website is here.

An Interview with Author Jenny Worstall

Jenny Worstall is the author of several short story collections and the novel Make a Joyful Noise which I enjoyed reading several months ago. My review of Make a Joyful Noise is here. I'm delighted that Jenny has agreed to answer some questions about the book and about her writing.

Why did you write Make a Joyful Noise?

I have always been interested in writing fiction and when I was at home with my first child on maternity leave I attended a creative writing course. The first story I wrote was accepted by ‘The People’s Friend’ which was so encouraging. This story (now slightly modified) appears as Infant Barbarian in one of my short story collections. I continued writing short stories and found one of them about a choir rehearsal just refused to end. I sought advice from the creative writing tutor who said it read like the beginning of a novel – and so Make a Joyful Noise came into being.

What kind of reader would enjoy Make a Joyful Noise?

Make a Joyful Noise (Book 1 in the ‘Sing with the Choir’ series) is a musical romantic comedy and appeals to readers of all ages who like a light hearted read with plenty of fun along the way. Anyone who has been involved with teaching, particularly music teaching, or has an interest in choirs and choral music will probably recognise some of the characters from their own experience, but I think the story has relevance to a wider audience, with its themes of unrequited love and making the right choice of partner. The backdrop to the book is William Walton’s choral masterpiece Belshazzar’s Feast and the chapter headings are taken from the libretto. I like to imagine readers listening to Walton’s music at full volume while they make their way through the book. The first word of Make a Joyful Noise (Slain!) is taken from one of the most dramatic parts of the music. It is also the last word of the novel and becomes significant in my next novel, The Funny Business of Life, but more about that later.

How did you develop your characters?

The characters grew from tiny seeds in my mind, planted there from something I had heard (for example, one mother accusing another of being a member of the ‘food gestapo’) or something I had noticed, like an unusual pair of shoes. I made a plan of action for my characters – and then they did their own thing. That’s when I knew they had come alive. Some characters made their way from my short stories into the novel, for example, Elinor, a ballet accompanist in one of the stories in ‘Lemon and Lace’, was determined to feature in Make a Joyful Noise.

What has been the biggest influence on your career as a writer?

The biggest influence on my writing is my love of music. Sometimes I try NOT to write about music and have managed it in a few stories (like Dolls’ House from my collection Jubilee Violin), but once I get beyond 2,000 words or so, the rhythms and patterns just creep in. My characters seem to need it.

Are you working on any new writing at the moment?

I have just published my second novel, The Funny Business of Life (Book 2 in the ‘Sing with the Choir’ series). The opening scene is set in 2014, eleven years after the end of Make a Joyful Noise. Both books can be read either as part of a series or as standalone titles. I was going to call the new novel ‘Slain!’, as it opens with a brutal stabbing (poor Tristan – what a fate), but I thought it sounded a bit gruesome and so took the title from dialogue later in the book, when the mystery at the heart of the book is being solved.
The Funny Business of Life is a not entirely serious murder mystery – or is it? You will have to read it to find out.
☺☺☺

Many thanks Jenny for taking time out of your busy life to answer my questions. I certainly intend to read The Funny Business of Life. In fact, at the time of publishing this blogpost I'm just about to begin and I'm looking forward to reading it.


You can find details of all Jenny Worstall's book on her Amazon author page. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jenny-Worstall/e/B007IVNY1G/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1415374749&sr=8-1

Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits by Andrew John Rainnie

It's been many years since I've read an epic fantasy novel and when author Andrew John Rainnie offered me a pre-release copy of his new book Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits I wasn't sure that the genre was still to my taste. However, having come to the end of the book it obviously is and I've enjoyed the time I've spent lost in the distant land of Enara in the continent of Amaros.

This really is an epic novel, almost five hundred Kindle pages in length, which stretches over land, sea and air in a totally imagined world on a huge scale.

The story centres around two tree elves, Kamina and Kaedin, who join up with the Ishkava Ranger, Callaghan Tor, in a quest to find the ancient Stone of Spirits and use its power to prevent the total destruction planned by the zealous Malenek and his spirit army.

The plot is complex and there are a considerable number of subsidiary characters. Some of these offer assistance to the two elves and the ranger; many do not. All the characters have invented names, as do the various locations in which the story is set, but they are not difficult to remember. This is one of the strengths of the book and comes about because Andrew John Rainnie has written the book in a very visual style. Consequently the reader encounters new characters and destinations with explanations and descriptions that work well to create images that ensure they are fixed in the reader's imagination.

In addition to the heroic elf-girl, Kamina Elloeth, there are other strong female characters in Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits. I particularly liked the "princess" Jazintha and her idiosyncratic way of speaking.

The narrative voice has an olde worlde, timeless feel which is often poetic and lyrical and draws the reader subtly into this other world where there are two suns and two moons and a complete acceptance that it should be no other way.

While reading the book I sometimes found myself remembering other long forgotten fantasy novels. I thought I could sense the influence of Tolkien and Philip Pullman although at times there were overtones of the biblical as well. I don't mean that Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits is in any way derivative but that it is placed in a long tradition of epic fantasy writing.

My only reservation about the book is that the version I was reading contained a number of typographical errors and I really hope that these have been rectified. They didn't spoil the story but they can be irritating.

The ending of the book is very well constructed bringing resolution and closure to the story but opening out naturally into a sequel. Overall I really enjoyed reading Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits and am grateful to author Andrew John Rainnie for offering me the chance to read the book. It is released on November 14th and you can find it in the Kindle Store http://www.amazon.co.uk/Spirits-Vengeance-Andrew-John-Rainnie-ebook/dp/B00ODCK768 
or download a free sample now from Smashwords. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/483591

Blogs News

Copyright Christian Schnettelker CCL  
I've been catching up with the latest blogposts from my favourite indie authors today. Here are links to some of them …..

As usual there are interesting posts on Iridescent Publishing's (Travels in Elysium by William Azuski) website especially the quote from French-Canadian astrophysicist Hubert Reeves. http://www.iridescent-publishing.com/news.php

I've already got Accursed Women by Luciana Cavallaro in my WTBR folder and read one of the stories as a stand-alone a few weeks ago. (My review of Aphrodite's Curse is here.) Luciana Cavallaro is celebrating the anniversary of the publication of Accursed Women with a half-price sale through November and December which strikes me as a good offer. http://luccav.com/2014/10/31/where-did-the-year-go/

Michael Brookes' The Cult of Me Blog http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/ is bursting with stories and reviews as usual and this brilliant Shout Out for Indie Bookworm. http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/blog-shout-out-indie-bookworm-ebook.html 
Thanks very much Michael Brookes for the opportunity to appear on your blog.

Jonathan Hill has some more of his pithy reviews at http://www.100wordreviews.com/ and details of a GoodReads giveaway of his novel FAG. http://www.jhillwriter.com/blog/fag-a-paperback-giveaway The closing date is the end of November so still time to register an interest.

Lizzie Lamb, author of the hilarious Bootcamp Bride, has information about an author showcase at Waterstones in Kensington on November 13th. I would definitely be going along to that if I lived anywhere near London.

Kath Middleton, author of Ravenfold and Message in a Bottle, had a great story for Hallowe'en on her blog at http://www.kathmiddletonbooks.com/blog/a-haunting-for-halloween

It's been a while since I looked at Saskia Tepe's Surviving Brigitte's Secrets: A Holocaust Survivor. Her Daughter. Two Traumatic Journeys Blog and consequently have missed a fascinating story about a new source of inspiration to her: writer Irene Nemirovsky.

Family history mystery writer Wendy Percival (Blood-Tied and The Indelible Stain) has a great little story about one of her own family mysteries solved. http://familyhistorysecrets.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/the-lace-lady-mystery-solved.html

I enjoyed Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor by Matt J Pike and think his website is amazing. There are several interesting up-dates on the blog. http://www.mattpike.co/wp2/  Matt is also the author of Kings of the World which I've got in my WTBR folder and it looks like he's making good progress with the sequel already.

Author Julia Hughes invited me to Words Unlimited for an interview which was a fantastic opportunity and I was delighted to answer her questions about my own family history book. http://www.wordspi.com/home/interview-with-cathy-murray-historian-book-blogger-avid-reader 

And finally,

Jenny Worstall, author of Make a Joyful Noise, has released a new novel this week. I'm just about to start reading The Funny Business of Life and am thrilled that she has agreed to an interview for Indie Bookworm. Watch this space!

An Interview with Author Rob Sinclair

Rob Sinclair is the author of Dance with the Enemy, an action-packed thriller, which I read and reviewed a couple of weeks ago. (Click here for my review). You can imagine how delighted I was when Rob Sinclair agreed to answer some questions for Indie Bookworm.

Why did you write Dance with the Enemy?

Dance with the Enemy is the first of three thrillers I’ve written about intelligence agent Carl Logan. They’re each fast-paced, action-packed stories that will keep readers turning the pages. They’re the type of books that I love to read myself. And that was really the main driver behind me writing them! I started writing about five years ago now but it certainly wasn’t something I had always looked to do, it really came about quite randomly. I had made an offhand comment to my wife on holiday in Spain that I betted I could write a thriller. I think it was largely borne out of frustration with some of the books I had been reading that just seemed so formulaic and uninspiring. I don’t think either of us took my comment too seriously at the time, but when we got home I started drafting out some ideas. For Dance with the Enemy I really only had one specific scene in my head right at the start - the kidnapping scene - and a concept of what became Logan, but that was more or less it! The rest of it just grew from there.

What kind of reader would enjoy Dance with the Enemy?

I think it will appeal to a wide range of readers; young, old, male, female. Really anyone who likes fast-paced, thrilling reads. Page turners. Fans of James Patterson, Lee Child, Simon Kernick, Michael Connolly and all those other big names should find my work up their street. I guess Dance with the Enemy isn’t for the faint of heart, though. There are some pretty gruesome parts and perhaps more violence than some would like but I’ve not let those elements drive the story. I’m not out to shock people, just to keep readers gripped.

How did you develop your characters?

It’s hard to remember now, it’s been such a long process! Logan was of course the first character I developed. I think in many ways he’s your classic action hero and it was important that he fit that bill in order to make the book work - so he’s tough, unforgiving, dogmatic. But what I wanted to do with Logan was to make him vulnerable too. I didn’t want him to be this one-dimensional and completely indestructible guy, so Logan’s got this really dark back story. He’s been a black ops agent for years, he’s highly trained – essentially he operated like a machine, a robot. He’s a loner, someone whose job was his life, who was trained to feel no emotion or pain. But all that came crashing down some months before the start of the story after he was captured and tortured by a sadistic terrorist, Youssef Selim.

So at the start of the book we have Logan, this guy who has all this talent, but who’s really just in a bit of a mess, not sure where his life is going anymore, struggling with all these new found emotions. And then, as he’s trying to deal with all that, Selim mysteriously reappears in Paris linked to the kidnapping of America’s Attorney General. You then have Logan hell bent on getting his revenge, and his people struggling to keep their man under control as he rampages on in search of Selim. I don’t know why but all of my books deal a great deal with revenge and betrayal. They’re just such powerful concepts and I think everyone can associate with them on one level or another.

Selim himself is an important character, as you can imagine, but actually I think he only fully developed late on in the process. You get to see real glimpses of just how despicable he is and I think that makes the reader want to see Logan achieve his desires all the more. He’s just an entirely unpleasant person!

On top of those two, you have Logan’s boss, Mackie. Where he came from I really don’t know anymore! Logan is very much a lone wolf – to some extent a lost child. But I wanted there to be more to his life, his back story, than just him and his assignments and that’s where Mackie comes in. He’s Logan’s tutor, his mentor, really a kind of father figure for Logan. In some respects his relationship with Logan is similar to what you see between James Bond and M, although the characters are quite different. Mackie is Logan’s biggest supporter and I think he makes Logan a more complete character and I really enjoyed writing the interactions between the two of them.

What has been the biggest influence on your career as a writer?

That’s a really hard question as I guess I’m only in the very early stages of my writing career. I never set out in life to be a writer – I didn’t write at all until five years ago, had never been on courses or anything like that. I thought I was going to become a big cheese in the accounting world and worked hard for a number of years building the foundations for that. So I’ve fallen into this career really. I do really love writing though – I love the process of weaving together plots, the excitement of writing out the scenes that will have the reader’s heart racing. It’s a bug that’s hard to shake off.

But I wouldn’t still be doing this without the support of my wife and my parents. I started writing at a really inopportune time. My wife was pregnant with our first child and we were both working hard at building our accountancy careers. With our hectic work life together with bringing up one and now two boys, it would have been really easy to just give up on writing before I’d really got started. There was just so little time to fit it in and, like many writers, the initial rejections from agents was really demoralising. But my wife, and later my parents, gave me great encouragement to carry on and I’ve just always thought if I don’t at least try, I’ll never know what might have been. So I’ve stuck at it and I’m really glad I have. It’s been a lot of hard work but hopefully that hard work will start to pay off soon!

In terms of literary influences, it’s pretty much the writers I mentioned earlier. All the big household names of the thriller fiction world. Those are the books I’ve always enjoyed reading.

Are you working on any new writing at the moment?

The second Carl Logan book, Rise of the Enemy, is more or less complete – final proofreading is the only hurdle now. I’m really excited about it and have had great feedback from the people who have helped me with the editing. It’s scheduled for release in March 2015.

Rise of the Enemy picks up after Dance with the Enemy and sees Carl Logan facing his biggest challenge yet; coming to terms with the betrayal of those closest to him. It’s told in the first person and so the reader gets really close to Logan and who he is. As a writer I enjoyed that book even more than Dance with the Enemy for that very reason. Hopefully readers will too!

I’ve also now drafted the third book in the Enemy trilogy; Hunt for the Enemy. It needs some work but my wife and parents have read the draft and all have said it’s my best yet which is just great to hear!

After that I’m torn. I’ve had an idea for a standalone book in my head for some time. It’s something I’ll definitely get to writing but more recently I’ve been thinking about an idea for a fourth Carl Logan book. I guess I’ve become close to him as a character over the course of writing the Enemy trilogy and there’s plenty of life left in him yet. I’m not sure which will come first. Maybe it depends on how the next two books are received by the public. I’m sure I’ll get them both out of me, though, just as soon as I find the time to write them!

☺☺☺

Thank you so much Rob for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. Living with Carl Logan must be a roller-coaster life and I'm really looking forward to reading about his next adventures when you publish Rise of the Enemy in 2015.

You can sample and download Dance with the Enemy by Rob Sinclair from the Kindle Store at Amazon.

Hocus Pocus 14: Spooky Tales with a Twist

I have an acquaintance in Twitterland who is one of the authors of Hocus Pocus 14. She told me that this anthology of "mystical short stories for Hallowe'en" was available in the Kindle Store and although I'd missed Hallowe'en by a couple of days I downloaded it anyway and enjoyed reading it.

The book is an eclectic mix of short stories and anecdotes plus a couple of novellas themed around the supernatural. They’re all well written but some appealed more to my taste than others.

A couple of the stories are specifically about Hallowe'en; the others are spooky for any time of year. The book description says " Spooky rather than gory" and that's accurate. I would add spooky rather than terrifying which I was pleased about because I don't really like being terrified that much.

The book overall is light-hearted and easy to read and it kept this reader interested and engaged for a couple of hours of non-stop spooky entertainment.

I haven't read a showcase compilation before but as a result of reading Hocus Pocus 14: Spooky Tales with a Twist I'll be looking out for some of the contributors next time I'm browsing the Kindle Store.

Seed of Doubt by Adrienne Vaughan
Letter for Ray by Carolyn Mahony
Heaven Must be Missing an Angel by Jules Wake
The Last Leg by S A Edward
Lovespelled by Jane O’Reilly
Clarissa by Lynda Renham
Orange Blossom by Mary Jane Hallowell (short novella)
Jumping the Queue by Lizzie Lamb
Haunted House by Alison May
The Soul Stealer by Tina K. Burton
Green Man Rising by Litty Williams
Insubstantial Evidence by Tracy Burton
When Dreams Return by Debbie Flint (short novella)
Bonus Material -– true life spooky tales & poem.

Each story ends with links to other books and the author's website and social media contacts and seems to be a great way to find new writers that will appeal.

I borrowed the book on my Kindle Unlimited subscription. I still haven't decided if the subscription is a good idea or not (see post on another blog) but I think it might be an influence when making that decision whether to download or not. Either way Hocus Pocus 14: Spooky Tales with a Twist is very good value as it's only £0.99p.


Click to go to the book page at Amazon.co.uk or at Amazon.com.

Dance with the Enemy by Rob Sinclair

Dance with the Enemy is a thriller where the main character, Carl Logan, works for a murky government agency breaking most of the rules and inventing the rest. Not wishing to reveal any of the plot I quote from the blurb:

"Carl Logan was the perfect agent. A loner, with no real friends or family, he was trained to deal with any situation with cold efficiency, devoid of emotion. But Logan isn't the man he used to be, or the asset he once was. Five months ago his life changed forever when he was captured, tortured and left for dead by Youssef Selim, one of the world's most violent terrorists. When Selim mysteriously reappears in Paris, linked to the kidnapping of America's Attorney General, Logan smells his chance for revenge. Pursuing his man relentlessly, oblivious to the growing trail of destruction that he leaves in his wake, Logan delves increasingly deep into the web of lies and deceit surrounding the kidnapping. Finally, he comes to learn just what it means to Dance with the Enemy."

The book is certainly a page-turner and it's been written with a strong, fast pace that keeps the plot moving along from one exciting incident to the next. Some of the plot elements are predictable but there are good twists as the story evolves. I particularly liked the way the reader is left with some unanswered questions almost to the end of the book but ultimately there are no loose threads.

Some scenes in the novel describe torture in detail. However the writer has done enough to make this vivid and real without being extreme.

The characterisation is interesting for a number of reasons. Logan has been a cold and calculating secret agent until his imprisonment has exposed his softer side. He is trying to get back on track with the agency and needs to demonstrate he still has what it takes. These two contrasting sides of his personality contribute greatly to making the book interesting and credible. Logan's relationship with Selim is central to the plot which is well handled because the writer has successfully avoided creating a stereotype for this character. Logan's mirror character is an F.B.I agent who contrasts well with Mackie, Logan's handler at the agency.

Apparently author Rob Sinclair started his writing career when he promised his wife he would write a "can't put-down" thriller and Dance with the Enemy is the result. It's the first book in a Carl Logan Trilogy and overall I think the writer succeeded in the task he set himself. The second book Rise of the Enemy is scheduled for release next year and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Get more details of Dance with the Enemy on the author's website at  or his Amazon Bookpage.

An Interview with Author Kath Middleton

I read Message in a Bottle by Kath Middleton recently and really enjoyed it. I was delighted when she agreed to answer some questions about her writing for my blog.

Why did you write Message in a Bottle?

My first novella was set in the past and I wanted to write something contemporary. I’m always interested and heartened by the way people can come through impossibly difficult situations so I decided to put my character in one. She’s widowed very young. I’m not giving much away by saying that – it happens within the first few pages. Then I thought I’d like to give her yet another problem. I never said I was a nice person! It’s something she had no clue about and which knocked her sideways yet again. I’m rather proud of the way she dealt with it!

What kind of reader would enjoy Message in a Bottle?

Because Liz is a woman, I tend to feel that it’s the kind of fiction which would appeal mainly to women but I’ve had a number of men read it and say they enjoyed it. This includes my husband, whose eyebrows shot upward when he read the tagline – How well do you know the person you married? As soon as I said it wasn’t about him, he settled in and enjoyed it.

How did you develop your characters?

I began with Liz, of course. I wanted her to be a woman who was self-possessed, who had a career in which she worked for herself. She’s someone not easily fazed. Then, out of the blue, I gave her something I’ve never had to deal with. Then I thought, ‘How can I make it even harder for her?’ This brought in the other characters and I wanted to make it obvious that she wasn’t the only person struggling with grief. I was interested in how she managed to see things from someone else’s point of view. There’s probably a fair bit of me in her.
The brother and sister, Rob and Jude, had their own parts to play and I know that people can help one another from a distance, as Jude did in her emails to Liz. I added a bit of tension at that point, to make Liz uncomfortable again! The characters grew out of the situations I put them in, I think. I have to say that, unlike in my first novella, I actually like all these people. I missed them when I finished the story.

What has been the biggest influence on your career as a writer?

Most definitely other indie authors. I didn’t begin writing my own books until the end of October 2013. I review books, and a number of people had suggested I try writing my own. I wrote a couple of short stories then began to be fascinated by the drabble – a short story of exactly 100 words. I wrote a number of these which were published in a book by Jonathan Hill, a master of the craft, and it was my friendship with Jonathan which led to my own books appearing. He formats and publishes and creates my covers. He’s a massive help and a great friend. Several other author friends have been kind enough to criticise (in the nicest possible way!) my work, notably Andrew Barrett and Cornelius Harker. Without other authors cheering me from the side-lines I doubt if I’d even have tried. Indie authors are really the most supportive of people.

Are you working on any new writing at the moment?

I’ve really been bitten by the bug! I have about five or six completed (but unedited) books or novellas on my hard drive. The one currently being prepared for publication is novel length and is due out at the end of November, with a following wind. If I had to give it a genre, I’d call it humour but it has some dark passages. I have written a couple of supernatural novellas amongst others, and I’m now working on another humorous novel, less dark than the first.

I keep thinking I’ve had my last idea but… not yet. I know I’m very lucky to have so much time to write, as I’m retired. I’ve come late to the realisation that telling a story is the best fun you can have – apart from reading one.

☺☺☺

Thanks so much Kath for answering my questions. I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy writing schedule to share your thoughts. I've been pondering your question -How well do you know the person you married? - ever since I read Message in a Bottle; might have to write a book about that myself one day. Really looking forward to reading your novel and hope the wind blows in the right direction until November.


You can find details of books by Kath Middleton on her Author Page at Amazon or on her website.