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.

An Interview with Author Wendy Percival

Wendy Percival is the author of the Esme Quentin mystery stories. The second book The Indelible Stain was published a couple of weeks ago. I was delighted when Wendy Percival agreed to answer some questions about her first book, Blood-Tied.

Why did you write Blood-Tied?

I’d been cutting my writing teeth on short story writing but, as with most aspiring writers, I guess, I really wanted to write a novel. Writing Magazine was running a short story competition using a photograph as the prompt. Although I mapped out an idea for a story, for one reason or another I never actually wrote it and the closing date passed by. But the idea stayed with me. This coincided with a trip to Shropshire to take the first steps into my family history research. As is often the case with family history, certain little secrets came to light. That concept – of not knowing things about family which had been taken for granted – along with the idea from the photograph somehow merged together and began to develop into a plot which grew beyond the initial short story. Blood-Tied was the result. Of course, it wasn’t as completely straight forward as that and took a lot of reworking before the final version was complete, but that was its beginnings.

What kind of reader would enjoy Blood-Tied?

As you once said, Cathy, anyone who loves family history, would enjoy Blood-Tied. As well as the subject matter, perhaps it’s the similarity of following of a trail and uncovering information which is the buzz family historians get from their research. But even without an interest in family history, it would appeal anyone who likes a mystery and enjoys an intriguing plot. Another appeal is that it’s not ‘hard boiled.’ Although I aim to build tension and suspense into a story, I like to do it subtly, without graphic detail. So someone who doesn’t like ‘blood and gore’ can be reassured they won’t be put off their lunch!

How did you develop your characters?

Names are immensely important and I give a lot of thought to which ones to use before I start. I can’t remember where the name Esme came from but once I’d thought of it, her character seemed to grow from there. I try not to have similar names in a story (unless that becomes a plot point in itself!) so that it’s not confusing. Which is even more important when different generations might be part of the cast list.

Once I’ve got a name which sums up the character I’m trying to convey, it’s much easier to visualise that person and, because by then I’ll know their role in the story, their character develops somewhere deep down in my subconscious. That’s one of the exciting parts of writing – the magic which takes over once the ingredients are fed in! I then try and pick out something about them which is key to who they are, something visual and behavioural, to put in the text to help the reader see them the way I do. Some writers start with a detailed biography of each character but although I do use that sort of thing as a prompt, it’s not something I do rigidly before I begin writing.

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

As far as influential authors go, there are many, but most noteworthy over the years are probably Catherine Cookson, Susan Howatch, Robert Goddard and Elizabeth George. Writers’ News and Writing Magazine have been very important to me since I started writing, both for guidance in the writing process and an insight into the world of publishing and the writing life. Without them, I’m not sure I’d have even got started! I have the late David St John Thomas, the founder of Writers’ News, to thank for that.

Are you working on any new writing at the moment?

Having just published the second Esme mystery, The Indelible Stain, I’m currently busy with the promotional side of things. I’ll also be doing more research of my own family history and writing posts for my blog, Family History Secrets.

Ideas for the next Esme novel are already buzzing around in my head and I’m making notes and doing background reading while that particular ‘soup’ matures.

But it’s nice to have a clear head for a while, as once the novel gets underway, it can be all consuming and I get sucked under pretty easily. Right now I’m enjoying the freedom to lift my head, visit new places and take in what’s going on around me. Besides, it’s all good fodder for plotting!

☺☺☺☺

Thank you so much Wendy for appearing on my blog. I bet it won't be long before you start drafting out your next Esme novel. She's too strong a character to remain in your notebook! Meanwhile I'll continue enjoying your Family History Secrets blog.

Click here for links to Blood-Tied and The Indelible Stain on Wendy Percival's website and here for her author page at Amazon.



Peaches in the Attic by B. A. Spicer


Peaches in the Attic by B. A. Spicer is a short story which I downloaded as a freebie and enjoyed reading.

I've already read several books by this author and know that she writes well.

Peaches in the Attic is almost a fairy story but it's got a twist. It merges reality with a child's story sessions with Grandma and in places it feels like fantasy and at times a bit like a ghost story. The lines are blurred and the unexpected ending leaves the reader feeling slightly uneasy.

There's some lovely descriptive writing and in places the spirit of childhood is beautifully encapsulated.

A very enjoyable quick read which is on a free special offer until 11th October (2014) so I would grab it now while you can!

Check out the author's Blog or Author Page at Amazon for the links to the book.

After I'd finished reading Peaches in the Attic I looked to see what else B.A. Spicer has published that I haven't read. 

I've got A Good Day for Jumping in my WTBR Folder but liked the look of Strings which is sub-titled "something big is about to happen…" 

It's another short story which mixes Science Fiction with some very plausible astro-physics. I don't know if it's true but it certainly reads most convincingly.

Professor Madeleine Happer is on to something. She's evolving an idea which takes String Theory to a new level. Unfortunately her husband thinks she's over-doing it because he has to listen to her talking in her sleep. What's going on? You'll have to read it for yourself and see!

I really enjoyed the contrast between Madeleine's home life and her discovery. Hopefully her husband is right and she needs to see a doctor but if Madeleine's right this is one scary story.

Another very enjoyable quick read with book links on the author's blog or her Amazon Author page.

I've read some fantastic indie ebooks over the last couple of years of which Bunny on a Bike (humorous memoir of a Playboy croupier) by Bev Spicer is one of the best. I'm re-posting my review in case you missed it.

When I first saw the title of this book I really laughed aloud; the image that it conjured up of a Playboy Bunny Girl riding a bicycle was hilarious. When I was growing up in the Swinging Sixties the Bunny Girl was the epitome of glamour and sophistication. This book certainly blows the lid off that idea!

I thought it would be an amusing book to read and it certainly was. But it's more than just a 'fun' read. Author Bev Spicer has created a wonderfully detailed picture of the Playboy world of the 1980s but Bunny on a Bike is also a charming evocation of that time in life when you think you can do anything you want and get away with it.

Carol and Bev are starting out and have no idea what they want to do to earn a living until they stumble into a job opportunity to train as croupiers for the international Playboy empire. The story of their initiation into that world is fascinating and often hilarious but at times you share their frustration and gathering unwillingness to participate further.

The era is the 1980s which is explored in many aspects throughout the book. The efforts by the two girls to find somewhere reasonable to live takes you into the dark and seamy side of unregulated private landlords and you feel positively relieved when they escape and get decent accommodation.

There are some interesting supporting characters in this memoir that hopefully don't all recognise themselves. They help to create the sense of the era as well as providing back-up for the two women as they work their way through the demands of their training and some extremely unhealthy life style choices.

Bunny on a Bike is a light hearted and easy book to read. The writing style gives a strong sense that the writer is talking to you directly. I really enjoyed reading it and recommend it highly.

You can find details of this and Bev - B.A. - Spicer's other books on her Author Page at Amazon or on her Blog.

Blogs News

Many of my favourite indie authors publish regular blogposts. Here are links to some of the good posts I've read this week. (I like the way Amazon has changed the Author Pages feature. Click the writer's name for a link straight to their Author Page for details of all their books.)


Don't miss the latest post at Bev Spicer Writer because there are details of how you can get a free copy of her short story Peaches in the Attic FREE until 11th October. I've just read it and it's a great quick read.


You might have already read Maureen Goes to Venice by Jonathan Hill but if you look closely at the photo captions on his latest blogpost, there's a hint of where she might be going on holiday next year.

Plus there's a new clutch of 100 Word Reviews here.


The latest blogpost at Eternal Atlantis, Luciana Cavallaro's website, is about Homer's Iliad. She starts by reflecting that its 3000 year legacy is an amazing achievement and one which Homer probably didn't envisage. As always the post is informative and entertaining and, whether your Classics is from schooldays or later, well worth a look.


I thought the story of Surviving Brigitte's Secrets: A Holocaust Survivor. Her Daughter. Two Traumatic Journeys had come to an end when I read Saskia Tepe's previous blogpost. Well now there is a further, rather amazing, development which she's written about here.


Does Michael Brookes ever sleep? His Cult of Me Blog is bursting with book excerpts, commentaries, interviews and his monthly short story writing competition. I noticed that Kath Middleton, author of Message in a Bottle, won second prize in the September competition with a macabre little tale entitled Arbow's Notebook. You can read it and the other winners' stories here.


I can sympathise with anyone who wants to throw Virginia Woolf's Orlando across the room but Kath Middleton wants to throw a few more books as well. She explains why in this blogpost. She's also written a fascinating piece about The Lost Metaphor here.


Julia Hughes is working on the third in the The Griffin Riders' Chronicles series and her most recent blogpost features an excerpt from this work in progress. You can find it here.

If you can't make up your mind about Kindle Unlimited, I've shared my thoughts here but so far, for me, the jury's still out. 

Thanks for reading my blog and hope you've time to check out some of these fantastic Indie Authors on their own sites. 

Book Trailer FAG by Jonathan Hill

Regular readers of my blog will know that I'm a big fan of indie author Jonathan Hill. I reviewed his debut novel FAG earlier this year. 

Since then the novel has received considerable acclaim. If you look at the reviews page on this website you'll see what I mean.

The trailer encapsulates the atmosphere of the book and is well worth a look.



Message in a Bottle by Kath Middleton


Author Kath Middleton was first published as a contributor to collections of drabbles (100 words stories) and short stories followed by her novella, Ravenfold. I enjoyed reading Ravenfold and was interested to see where she was going next in her writing.

I'd rather assumed that historical fiction was this writer's forté but Message in a Bottle, another novella, is completely different to Ravenfold. 

It's a very contemporary story which starts on an ordinary Saturday when Liz, the protagonist, finds her world collapsing around her. The opening of the book is starkly poignant as Liz tries to cope but what happens next is completely unexpected. I can't say more because I don't want to spoil the story but several hours after finishing the book I'm still amazed at how the author shifts the direction of the story so completely.

For a book that is only 64 Kindle pages in length it certainly packs in a lot. The writing style is easy to read but the clever choice of detail provides a rich background which makes it feel like a much longer book.

The story is built around Liz, Gareth (her husband), Miles (a friend of both Liz and Gareth's from university days), Jude and Rob (a brother and sister encountered by Liz in unexpected circumstances). It's remarkable how in such a relatively short piece of writing such full and rounded characterisation has been achieved.

Message in a Bottle is a really good story with elements of romance, friendship and the feel-good, kindness-of-strangers woven into it. However it's also an exploration of loss, not only the loss of bereavement but also of trust and innocence.

There's some lovely descriptive writing in Message in a Bottle. The landscape and the flotsam and jetsam of the beach walks stand out along with the exploration of Liz's emotional state as the story unfolds.

It took less than a couple of hours to read Message in a Bottle. I can't say exactly how long as I was lost in the story which I just read straight through from beginning to end. A real merlot-green gem of a story, beautifully written and highly recommended.

There are details of all Kath Middleton's writing on her website and her author page at Amazon UK



The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival


I read Wendy Percival's first novel Blood-Tied at the start of the year and enjoyed the combination of mystery story and family history. The author writes a fascinating family history blog and I've enjoyed reading the stories of her ancestors. Blood-Tied introduces Esme Quentin, a successful researcher and family historian, who puts her skills to good use to find out the secrets of her sister's past. The Indelible Stain is the second Esme Quentin mystery and I've enjoyed reading it even more than the first.

In this new novel (released on September 26th 2014) Esme goes to Devon on a working holiday to assist with sorting out and organising the archives of a local charity. In a dramatic opening chapter, Esme discovers an almost lifeless body on the beach and the mystery begins as Esme listens to the stranger's dying words and finds an old photograph nearby. The dead woman is soon identified as Bella Shaw but the local police consider the death to have been accidental and Esme's concerns arouse little interest. After Esme has met Bella's daughter, Neave, her suspicions are confirmed and she is soon pursuing leads and trying to make sense of the course of events.

The author has made good use of her own knowledge of family history and research methods to devise a clever and well-constructed plot full of unexpected twists and turns. The reader quickly gets a good idea of where the plot is going and who has been the likely wrong-doer until the author changes direction, confounds the reader and forces a re-appraisal again, and again, and again.

The plot gets added complexity from the genealogical mystery that is integral to the main story-line but is a fascinating, stand-alone tale in itself. Meticulously researched, the story of Sarah Baker, convicted of theft and transported to Australia in 1837, gives the novel an enthralling extra dimension. As the novel unfolds over a hundred years of family history are revealed and Bella's is not the only suspicious ending.

Right until the final pages the reader is guessing who is responsible for Bella's death and all the associated misdemeanours. A strong cast support Esme in pursuit of the truth including childhood friends and various locals ranging from the eccentric to the corrupt and back to the genuinely good-hearted. However, this is pre-dominantly Esme's story. She is an unconventional sleuth whose qualities of tenacity, persistence and resilience are as essential for her day-job as they are for crime solving. She is a determined seeker of the truth which combined with her kindliness and concern for others makes her an attractive and appealing detective.

The Indelible Stain is a highly readable, well written and engaging novel which keeps the reader guessing right to the end. It is the second Esme Quentin mystery and I certainly hope it won't be the last. Highly recommended.

Check out the author's website for links to the book or sample and download in the Amazon Kindle Store.