Editor? Proofreader? What’s in Your Indie Budget?

Brilliant post, great advice!

Take Five Authors

So you’re hot on language, your grammar is impeccable, your style puts Strunk and White to shame and like Akeelah you could win any old spelling bee. Why would you, as an indie author, need to pay for outside help? Well, you only have to read a few Amazon reviews to know that readers can be an unforgiving bunch, quick to spot a typo or a missing space between paragraphs. As an indie author you have to make some difficult choices about how much assistance you can afford to enlist. We wrote a whole post on the importance of a good book cover and we still feel that unless you’re amazingly hot stuff at art, you’re probably wiser to leave that to a professional. But here’s Ellie Campbell’s take on things.

 

Having a good editor is brilliant. Our first editor, Emma at Arrow Books, was instrumental in whipping How…

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Love and a Dozen Roast Potatoes – My Book Review

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Love and a Dozen Roast Potatoes by Simon Wan

Publisher – Urbane Publications

You know the hero always gets the girl right? Well, what if the hero gets the girl but she’s not the right girl? Worse, what if the girl doesn’t actually want the hero?

Such is the life of our romantic hero as he negotiates the triple threat of trying to becoming a cheese ball superstar, finding his cartoon princess, and bringing her home for a perfect Christmas roast potato. It’s a life tale of comic disasters, sex (lots of weird sex), relationship nightmares and discovering your nakedness in a world full of people wearing the same old clothes.

Honest, warm, funny and very hip, this is David Nicholls with the tears, the pain and the naughty bits put brazenly on display for the world to see.

My Review

If you like the idea of reading something a little different then this is just the book. Honest and warm with lots of laugh out loud moments plus a couple of weird ones to boot (check out the acknowledgements to give you a bit of an idea), this is the story of one man’s quest to find true love.

As Shakespeare himself famously wrote, “the course of true love never did run smooth” and never has there been a more appropriate turn of phrase when it comes to the complicated love life of Mr Simon Wan. Beginning at the tender age of eight, the author takes us right back to the 1980’s and the first girl he fell in love with, Claire. Having only been at his new school for a couple of days, Claire and her friend feel sorry for the half-Chinese boy being teased by the other boys. In a bid to make him feel better, the girls kiss him on the cheek. “The next playtime, the boys who called me ‘chinkychong pong face’ were a little more interested in being my friend…and that probably set the precedent [for my life] for the next thirty two years.”

With an obvious zest for life and an honest love and appreciation of women (all kinds of women), as well as music and fashion, not forgetting the roast potatoes of course, the writer then proceeds to walk us through three colourful decades of his life and the never ending story (and yes, that sentence is alluding to a friend of said author who gets a mention in this book – think eighties pop icon with spiky blonde hair) of his search for true love. And it’s all there, the long hot summers, public transport, the video player, mix tapes, skateboards, drink fuelled fights and drug fuelled raves – “we drove around the country lanes in the middle of the night searching for phone boxes that would lead us to hidden rave arenas and when we got there we danced until it was a different day. Life was fast. Life was about lasers and ecstasy, nothing could stop us. We had the keys to a brave new world. We were invincible.”

Snappy, fast paced but easy to read, Wan is masterful at painting pictures with words. He is also brutally honest about himself and although, on the whole, the book remains upbeat and wonderfully witty throughout, Wan doesn’t sugar coat his faults or his mistakes, which in a way only makes him more endearing. He is human and doesn’t try and hide it. Written with great humour and sincerity, if you’re looking for something a little different then I’d definitely recommend Love and a Dozen Roast Potatoes. But be warned – be prepared to feel very worn out after reading it.

 

JAWBONE LAKE – MY BOOK REVIEW

 

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Jawbone Lake by Ray Robinson

Publisher – Windmill Books

Ravenstor, the Peak District. New Year’s Day.

A young woman stands on the shore of a frozen lake and watches a Land Rover crash off the bridge wall and into the ice. Two hundred miles away, a young man is woken by a devastating telephone call. The accident, and what it brings to the surface, will change both of their lives for ever.

My Review

Set in a small town in Derbyshire’s Peak District, Jawbone Lake is a compelling and cleverly woven thriller about a young man’s search for the truth behind the disappearance of his father. However, it is also a heartfelt look at life after death and the impact of such on those left behind seen through the eyes of the story’s two main protagonists, Joe Arms and Rabbit.

Living in London, Joe is the successful owner of a thriving software company he set up from scratch after leaving university. However, Joe has had enough of London life and his manic work schedule. He decides to sell the business and leave London for a while. Early one morning Joe receives a phone call from his mother, Eileen, telling him there’s been an accident. His father’s Land Rover, which crashed into a frozen lake off a bridge, has been found but his father, CJ, is missing. With no idea if any other vehicles were involved and no apparent witnesses, the police are somewhat baffled by the circumstances surrounding the accident. Joe’s father is missing, presumed dead. Distraught, Joe sets out to find the reason behind his father’s disappearance only to uncover some unsettling truths along the way. This was the man Joe thought he knew but his quest leads him to a past that began in Hastings and another life in Andalusia in Spain, which throws up the age-old question – does anyone ever truly know someone?

The story’s second protagonist is Rabbit, a young woman who works in the local ice-cream factory who, unbeknown to anyone else, was standing by the lake when CJ’s car went into it. She also witnessed the presence of another car and a man with ‘a dark shape silhouetted in his hand.’ Hers is a mundane existence and one where she is still coming to terms with the loss of her baby son. ‘Sensing the vastness of the water out there, it’s pull, she was reminded how, towards the end of her labour last year, it felt as though her stomach had created it’s own field of gravity…And even though he was now gone from her world, she still felt him inside her, floating like a tiny underwater astronaut.’

Although Jaw Bone Lake delves into the murky dealings of the criminal underworld this is not a fast paced action thriller but rather a look the aftermath that crime and the loss of a loved one leaves on those left behind. The characters are well rounded and the narrative moves along at a steady pace. Robinson’s use of language is beautifully evocative and his description of places and changing scenery simply breath-taking. Robinson is clearly a writer who understands the art of writing and this is definitely a book I’d recommend.

In The Shadows – My Book Review

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In The Shadows by Tara Lyons 

Publisher – Tara Lyons

Detective Inspector Denis Hamilton is tasked with apprehending a brutal murderer stalking the streets of London – and leaving not a shred of DNA evidence. As the suspect list mounts, his frustration and pressure from his superiors intensify.

Grace Murphy, who is dealing with the recent loss of her beloved grandfather, falls deeper into despair when her friends’ bodies are discovered. Fearing she may be the killer’s next target, she begins to question if her horrifying nightmares are the key to unravelling the murderer’s identity.

How far would you go to uncover the truth? Would you venture into the shadows to unmask a killer?

My Review 

In The Shadows is the debut novel by crime writer Tara Lyons and what a gripping read and great start to her writing career it is. Set in present day London, a serial killer is on the loose and young women are being murdered. The opening sentences of the prologue introduce the murderer and leave little room to doubt the state of their troubled, deeply disturbed mind:

They never found the first dead body. I didn’t want them to. I was in control, powerful, and important. My fingers tightly gripped the smooth black knife handle, and I felt the rush of excitement as the sharp tip pierced her chest. All my energy, power and hate spurred me on, telling me to push harder – so hard that I saw the last breath escape her dark lips and mingle with the frosty midnight air…It was the first time I took someone’s life and the rush was euphoric.

The story unfolds through the voices of three main protagonists, namely the assistant director of a local theatre, Grace Murphy, Detective Inspector Denis Hamilton and, faceless and nameless, the murderer themselves. However, Grace was the character I felt most drawn to throughout the book.

Deeply sensitive, Grace is clearly struggling after the recent death of her beloved grandfather. It also becomes apparent she was either a friend or colleague of some of the murder victims, which of course gives Grace grave concern for her own safety. Does she know the killer and if so is she the next victim? Her sleep becomes plagued by nightmares and more often than not Grace reaches for alcohol, seeking solace at the bottom of a wine bottle, or two. Of course, as should be the case with any good whodunit story, Lyons does a great job of offering the reader a selection of possible suspects including her slightly creepy, slightly inappropriate boss Michael, and Grace’s love interest Eric, who thinks nothing of using women, Grace included, for his own gratification.

At the insistence of her stricken mother, Grace seeks psychological help to try and make sense of her troubled dreams. She agrees to undergo hypnotherapy in the hope of providing some understanding, some link to the murders still taking place around her. With no real evidence or DNA will be Grace be the one to help DI Hamilton and his team?

I became quite invested in the characters of the story, particularly Grace, and my only small criticism is that there was not enough background information on them. Grace was clearly close to her grandfather and there was no doubt she was affected by his death so it would have been both helpful and interesting to have a bit more information as to why, the recollection of important or special memories. However, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Grace Murphy so perhaps the writer will tell us a bit more about her in her future novels. Nonetheless, fast paced with plenty of intrigue and suspense, In The Shadows is a great psychological thriller and a great read.

 

Boadicea – The Warrior Queen

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Illustration courtesy of Pixabay

The Warrior Queen

During recent research for my second novel, due for release in autumn this year, I found myself gathering some interesting facts about Boadicea, or as she is recently referred to, Boudicca. On-going debate as to the correct pronunciation of her name still continues, my children having been taught at school that the latter was correct, and I the former. I personally prefer Boadicea so from hereon in will refer to her as such. And no, just for the record, in case anyone is wondering, I haven’t switched genre to write about historical fiction for my second novel. Like my debut, my second novel is also a work of contemporary fiction, I just happened to come across Boadicea in my search for inspirational women of history. Boadicea demonstrated strength of character and endurance at a time of great adversity, both for herself and her daughters, as well as the people of her kingdom. History teaches us that all did not end well for Boadicea but she did not take her humiliation lying down. And, more importantly, she reminds us that once upon a time, before the Roman invasion of Britain, women were part of a social structure that encouraged equal rights.

Not much is known of Boadicea’s early life and her birth date is not recorded but general consensus suggests she was born into a royal house as a member of the Iceni tribe, based in the area now known as Norfolk. Manda Scott’s modern novel’s based on Boadicea’s life suggest it likely she was brought up in a largely peaceful environment where both sexes would have taken similar rolls in the running of the lives of the Iceni tribe, including mastering the skills necessary to defend themselves. This way of life was then threatened after the Roman invasion of Britain around 43CE. Boadicea and her husband Prasutagus, King of the Iceni, found ownership of their land and wealth threatened. A deal was struck and Prastuagus was allowed to remain in control of his land and money, but only with the status of ‘Client King.’ However, Prasutagus drew up a will leaving half of everything to his wife Boadicea, and their daughters, and the other half to the Roman Emperor. This did not sit well with the Romans because women in Roman society had no rights of ownership or inheritance. After the death of Prastuagus in 60CE the Romans refused to honour his will and Boadicea’s attempts to claim her rights were viciously denied. She was whipped, her estates confiscated, and her two daughters raped. The Romans may have left us with a rich legacy of innovation and invention including straight roads, sewers and sanitation, hot baths and bound books, but they also destroyed a social structure that had been so important to the women of the tribes of Britain, namely equality.

During Victorian times a memorial of Boadicea was commissioned and still stands today. Somewhat overshadowed by the London Eye on the opposite bank of the Thames, she can be found on the north-east corner of Westminster Bridge. Next time you are visiting London why not take a look at the statue of the ‘Warrior Queen.’ Driving her carriage, arms aloft, defiantly holding a spear with her daughters standing behind her, she looks very formidable. She also serves as a reminder that there was a time in bygone history when men and women in Britain had equal rights to property, power and inheritance. This does leave me wondering what recent historical relations between British men and women would have been like had we inherited the sexual politics of the Celtic tribes rather than those preferred by the Romans.

 

THE VANISHING – MY BOOK REVIEW

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The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin

Published by Simon & Schuster

When runaway Annaleigh first meets the Twentymans, their offer of employment and lodgings seems a blessing. Only later does she discover the truth. But by then she is already in the middle of a web of darkness and intrigue, where murder seems the only possible means of escape…

My Review

I love historical fiction, Dickens, Conrad, Austen, Eliot, Gaskell and Shelley, not forgetting the brilliant Brontë sisters and yet, I have to admit, it’s been a while since I last read a book in this particular genre. However, after reading Sophie Tobin’s The vanishing, I had to ask myself why? Beautifully written, this dark tale of intrigue and deception is set against the backdrop of England’s nineteenth century eerie Yorkshire Moors. Add a brooding Byronic villain who (in the words of Lady Caroline Lamb when referring to Lord Byron) could be best described as “mad, bad and dangerous to know,” a persecuted heroine and a remote setting alluding to aristocratic decay and madness, this atmospheric tale of mystery also bears all the hallmarks of good gothic fiction.
Annaleigh Calvert leaves behind the hustle and bustle of her London life, including her beloved adoptive father, and heads for Yorkshire to take up the position of housekeeper at White Windows, a somewhat decaying mansion nestled among the remote Yorkshire Moors. Annaleigh is also fleeing heartache; only White Windows is not the sanctuary she hoped for. “I felt disappointed,” she said. “I had come here to escape from sadness, and yet the house in that moment seemed the opposite of a place where one could be happy. It seemed to crouch in the rugged landscape, as though cowering from the rain.” Her employers, the Twentyman’s, are a somewhat aloof brother and sister, Marcus and Hester. They appear pleasant enough however all is not as it seems. Hester, slightly melancholic and “colourless, like a water colour executed with too much water” relies on opiates to help her constant headaches. Her brother Marcus, at times arrogant and at others troubled, is a contradictory character yet Annaleigh finds herself strangely drawn to her broody proprietor. “He looked at me, and the keenness of his gaze, needle sharp and perceptive, startled me anew.” Nonetheless, Annaleigh struggles with the isolation of her new home. And why is she warned by the other two resident servants not to get too close to her employers? And, more importantly, where did the previous housekeeper Kate; disappear to – apparently without trace?
Although well paced, I did find The Vanishing somewhat slow to begin with. However, it quickly picked up pace keeping me gripped to the very end. Tobin’s characters are well drawn and her descriptive use of language while both beautiful and haunting is also, at times, amazingly brutal. Through Annaleigh, Tobin explores the historical entrapment of women within domestic space as well as their subjection to patriarchal authority. However, although subservient, as Annaleigh’s position would have dictated at the time, Annaleigh does discover a strong will and strength of character within herself that is refreshingly at odds with her place in society. The Vanishing is a story of love, betrayal and revenge and the perfect read for a cold day in front of a warm fire.

Summer Scorchers

Originally posted here, I am very pleased to announce that I will be one of the attending authors at the following event.

Summer Scorchers

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Bibliomaniac Presents:
SUMMER SCORCHERS 
What are the hottest books this summer?
Come along and find your perfect holiday read with the help of authors Jane Lythell, 
TA Cotterill, Helen Cox & Eva Jordan
Wednesday June 14th 
Harpenden Arms
8-10pm 
£10 (+VAT) 
Book your ticket at:
        Woman of the HourWhat Alice Knew183 Times a YearSecrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner (The Starlight Diner Series, #2)
Ticket price includes one free drink and entry to a raffle to win signed copies of the authors’ books. 
 
For more information check out bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.com or follow @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk) on Twitter.