Monday 26 September 2016

The Factory - Mark West

If you like books that give you shivers down your spine then Mark West's latest novella, The Factory, could be just what you're looking for.

Gwen, Paul, Martin, Tom and Jane were all friends at university and members of the GLUE Club (Gaffney Legendary Urban Explorers) which was set up by Tom. Twenty years have passed and although still in touch, albeit intermittently, they've all moved on with their lives.

Paul is the only one who still lives in the area and when he finds out that the old abandoned Pocock factory is finally accessible his first thought is to contact Tom and tell him the news. Tom quickly rushes back to Gaffney but unfortunately Paul is unable to accompany him. Unperturbed by this Tom decides to go it alone and a few days later Tom's mother calls Paul to pass on some sad news, Tom has died.

The GLUE Club are reunited at Tom's funeral and between them they decide to do one final exploration in memory of Tom and they set off to the Pocock Factory.

This book will give you the heebie jeebies! The hairs on the back of your neck will be standing on end, you won't want to walk around your own house without switching the lights on! This is the kind of horror story I enjoy reading, where you don't actually see any monsters or ghosts but you know that they are there. A strange noise that could so easily be a voice, that imagined touch behind you and the feeling that someone or something is watching you, it's all here in this book.

The Factory is a quick but gripping and heart racing read. The author has done a great job of making each characters sense of unease palpable to the reader, yes there is some gore but that's why you read horror books isn't it? Will they make it out of the disused building, what actually happened to Tom when he ventured in alone and are the stories about the Pocock's true or just an urban legend? Well lovely readers to find out the answers to these questions you'll have to read it for yourself but just remember, the nights are drawing in so don't forget to turn on those lights!

If you'd like to find out more about Mark's books check out my feature post here.

With kind thanks to author Mark West for the review copy.

Sunday 25 September 2016

The Hippo Hands Over . . . . to Elle Wild

The Hippo is going international! We're off to Canada today and I'm delighted to be handing over to Elle Wild author of Strange Things Done.

Photo courtesy of Elle Wild

Elle Wild grew up in a dark, rambling farmhouse in the wilds of Canada where there was nothing to do but read Edgar Allan Poe and watch PBS mysteries. She is an award-winning short filmmaker and the former writer/host of the radio program Wide Awake on CBC Radio One. Her short fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Magazine and her articles have appeared in The Toronto Star, Georgia Straight, and Westender. Wild’s debut novel, Strange Things Done, won the Arthur Ellis Award 2015 for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel, and was shortlisted in multiple contests internationally. Recently returned from the U.K., Wild currently resides on an island in the Salish Sea named after the bones of dead whales.

As the title of Elle's debut novel is titled Strange Things Done she's written a wonderful post about some strange things she's noticed on her publishing journey.

                       Strange Things Learned on the Road to Publishing

People say the damnedest things when you tell them that you’re writing a book. Maybe you’ve heard some of these comments too? “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” “You must talk to my great aunt/cousin/friend of friend who wrote about/is writing about her real life miserable childhood/tragic personal experience.” (Sometimes followed by, “You should read it.”) Then there’s the classic, “If I had the time, I’d write a book too.” (This one is really stellar if you want to wind up an author.) And finally, the pertinacious, “It’s really hard to get published these days/in this market.”

 Whether or not there is any glimmer of truth to the latter comment, I cannot say, but I can say this: people throughout the ages have always wanted to hear great stories, and someone has to create them. I believe that people will always want the escapism and adventure of a good story. (*The key word being “good”.) It has probably always been difficult to get published, but people keep doing it. I’ve done it! So, it’s possible for you to do it, too, if you’re dedicated enough to make time every day to work at it.  Yes, that’s right, the “w” word. Contrary to the implication in response #3, writers are generally not people who have a lot of time on their hands, who lounge about in velvet dressing gowns all day eating boozy choco bonbons. (I wish.) Published writers are people who have worked relentlessly, draft after draft, polishing their stories like stones until they shone brightly enough to garner someone’s attention.

If I haven’t put you off yet with the “w” word, and you’re still interested in learning about the road to publishing, I can tell you about my own strange trip into unchartered terrain and what I learned along the way. (Thus far, at least.) After all, if I can do it, you can too.

Strange Things Learned:

#1 It takes a village to raise a child.
Finished your first draft? Congrats! This is your starting point on a long journey. Now what you need is a community of fellow writers – not just any writers, but writers who share your taste – to read your draft and tell you where you’ve gone horribly, horribly wrong. I found my community among cherished reader/writer friends, family, and the writing community at the University of British Columbia’s MFA Creative Writing program.

#2 Your reader is always right.
Never argue with a reader when they tell you that something isn’t working. If it didn’t work for them, fix it. I learned this the hard way. You likely will too.

#3 Mentors are key.
You will stand a much better chance of reaching your goal if you find “writing angels” to guide you on your journey. If you’re very fortunate, as I was, you will have more than one. I had the great privilege of working with writer-mentor Gail Anderson-Dargatz (author of international bestseller Cure for Death by Lightning) while I was an MFA student in Creative Writing with the University of British Columbia. I also participated in the Crime Writers of Canada’s Mentorship Program for new writers, where I was mentored by veteran writer Donna Carrick (author of First Excellence – Fa-ling’s Map, listed in the Top 5 “Canadian Literature for Kindle”).

#4 Skip the slush pile
I quickly learned that you do not want to be in the slush pile. “What is the slush pile?” you might ask. The “slush pile” is what agents call the huge, moldering stack of unpublished manuscripts sitting on their desks, which might be used to make paper airplanes or feed woodstoves. How do you skip the slush pile? See points #5 and #6.

#5 Enter writing contests, then “fail better”.
The second best thing you can do for yourself is to get shortlisted in a very visible writing contest. I found that once I was shortlisted in a couple of contests, The Telegraph/Harvill Secker Crime Competition and the A.M. Heath Criminal Lines Contest in the U.K., among others, agents began to find me on LinkedIn, Twitter or via my author web site. I didn’t win, but I persevered and wrote another draft.  Next time I “failed better”, earning a Silver in the SouthWest Writers Annual Novel Writing Competition (U.S.). I learned that rewriting is key on the road to publishing.

#6 Win a writing contest.
The best thing you can do to win attention from agents and publishers is win a writing contest. This will help you skip the slush pile and get your manuscript read. If you’re really lucky, the contest will be sponsored by a publisher who will consider your story if you win. I won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel, which was sponsored by Dundurn Press, who then offered a publishing contract.

#7 Publishers are a writer’s marketing partner.
Great! You’ve got a publisher! Now what? Remember that your publisher is your marketing partner. If they recommend that you do something, that means “do it”. I’ve learned that much of what happens next is up to you. Have you got a brilliant idea for marketing your project? Pitch it to the publisher. Once you’ve signed with a publisher, you will be given a publicist, and that person will ride shotgun with you on the final leg of your trip, listen to your ideas, and give you veteran advice.

#8 Money Matters
The most unfortunate thing I’ve learned in the process is that in order to really get attention for your novel, you need advertising dollars, which are difficult to come by these days. For example, the biggest market for people to find your book right now is on Amazon or Goodreads. Did you know that a Goodreads advertising campaign (where a book cover might appear when a user is looking for a new read) costs $5,000.00 in Canada? That’s a lot of money for a lot of publishers, or a self-published author.  I’ve learned, then, that it’s extremely difficult for debut authors to be found in this environment. I’ve learned not to expect my book to found on Top 10 lists of hotly anticipated fall releases, because chances are these lists are compiled by people/organizations who have never read my book, and the lists are largely populated by writers who have already had a big success in the past. (Which isn’t, of course, to say that they aren’t fantastic books, and I will certainly be reading many of them.)

#9 Be creative with marketing.
Writers are creative people, right? So, we should be good with coming up with creative ways to get around #8 and generate a bit of pre-launch buzz. Sadly, that isn’t always so. I am still learning about this particular challenge, though (with the help of good friends at White Crow Communications) we have recreated the fictional newspaper (from my book), The Dawson Daily, online and on Twitter to release news of Strange Things Done in Dawson City and provide a bridge for arts & entertainment journalists to discover the novel. (You can follow @TheDawsonDaily if you’re interested!)

#10 Partners in Crime
By this point in your journey, you should have a great community of writers to back your project. Guest blog for fellow authors and ask them to come along on the ride. Who doesn’t love a good road trip? If you’re reading this article, it’s because I’ve learned to ask friends and colleagues for help, and because some kind soul on social media has offered to lend a hand.

Will any of this make a difference? Will the book find its readers? I’m still at pre-launch stage, so it’s impossible to say, but if there’s one thing I’m trying to learn, it’s that – while there are no guarantees about where the road might take you – it is a good idea to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. It goes by quickly.

I hope this will help you on your own road to publishing. Good luck on your journey!

Since writing this post Elle's book has been released on it's journey as it was published yesterday and it's available on Amazon or from the publisher Dundurn.

If you'd like to find out more about Elle you can follow her on Twitter, visit her website or take a look at the other various tour events that she's doing.

I'd like to say a big thank you to Elle for taking the time out of her very busy schedule to stop by today and also to wish her every success with Strange Things Done.

Saturday 24 September 2016

**Blog Tour* Lost In Static - Christina Philippou

I'm thrilled to be today's stop on the blog tour for debut author Christina Philippou.

Lost In Static is a very clever story told from the points of view of Ruby, Yasmine, Juliette and Callum who are four students just setting out in their first year at university.

At the start of the novel we witness an accident and one of the characters is taken away in an ambulance, while the remaining three are watching events unfold in the crowd. We're then transported back in time to the beginning of the term when everyone is arriving at their new home.

We all know what it's like meeting new people, we want to make a good impression, try and hide our imperfections and keep hidden any little strange traits we might have and this is what these four young people do at the beginning but it soon becomes clear that none of them are quite what they seem.

Falling into a routine of drinking, smoking, parties and drugs they start to form friendships, some more successfully than others and you start to feel the tension building as the dynamics change within the group.

The author has done a magnificent job of telling one story from the point of view of four different protagonists while still keeping the story flowing and holding the readers interest. This is a difficult thing for any author to do convincingly and yet Christina does it with aplomb and in her debut novel. I loved the character development and it was like being a fly on the wall as you watched each individual struggling with various aspects of their lives and getting small glimpses into how they see each other as well as being privy to the thoughts going on in their heads all the while waiting to find out just how the accident at the beginning of the book came about.

This is a very convincing and extremely well thought out novel and I'm eagerly waiting to find out what's coming next from this very talented lady.

You can follow the rest of the Lost In Static blog tour on these fantastic blogs.

With kind thanks to author Christina Philippou and Matthew Smith at Urbane Publishers for the review copy.

Sunday 18 September 2016

The Devil's Work - Mark Edwards

So the wait is finally over and the latest book from Mark Edwards, The Devil's Work is here and I couldn't wait to read it!

I love the fact that Mr Edwards has a real talent for picking up on the everyday things or situations and turning them into something terrifying and The Devil's Work is a tale about just that.

Sophie Greenwood has just landed her dream job working at Jackdaw Books but after being on extended maternity leave it's only natural that she's nervous about starting her new role and getting back into the workplace.

After being introduced to her team Sophie soon bumps into the top man Franklin Bird, who is the grandfather of one of her old university friends Jasmine, and she's transported back to a time that she'd rather forget. After a slightly unnerving lunch with him she's soon back at her desk and trying to work out the dynamics between her new colleagues. When asking about Miranda, Sophie's predecessor, it's clear that no-one feels comfortable discussing it other than to say that she met a guy and left the country.  

It's not long before Sophie becomes suspicious of Cassie and she's convinced that her young, beautiful and well dressed colleague is the type that will stop at nothing to get what she wants and has an answer for everything. When it seems like someone is trying to sabotage Sophie's job Cassie is the obvious choice, but is it really fair to judge people on first impressions? As her suspicions grow stronger and things in her private life start to fall apart Sophie finds herself suspecting everyone around her and alienating herself from friends and family and questioning her own sanity.

The story is told between the present day and Sophie's university days when she was best friends with Jasmine, Franklin Birds granddaughter and it's one that flows effortlessly as we find out what went on between the two young girls.

Mark Edwards never fails to disappoint when it comes to writing a story that will creep you out and make you  feel truly uncomfortable but still compelled to read on. True to form, this is another fantastic book full of twists, turns and numerous red herrings, but don't ever think that you can outsmart this author as he will always be one step ahead of you ready to turn all your assumptions on their head!  If you haven't yet ventured into any of Mark's books then you really are missing out in my humble opinion.

With kind thanks to publishers Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for the review copy.

The Hippo Hands Over . . . . to Frank Westworth

I'm handing over to Frank Westworth today. Frank is the author of The Killing Sisters novels and JJStoner crime thriller stories amongst others and today I've got an extract from his latest action packed short thriller, Fifth Columnist. First things first though, let's meet the man behind the books.

Photo courtesy of Rowena 
Frank Westworth shares several characteristics with his literary anti-hero, JJ Stoner: they both play mean blues guitar and ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Unlike Stoner, Frank hasn't deliberately killed anyone. Frank lives in Cornwall in the UK, with his guitars, motorcycles, partner and cat.

A new action-packed quick thriller out on 14 September. FIFTH COLUMNIST features covert operative JJ Stoner, who uses sharp blades and blunt instruments to discreetly solve problems for the British government.
A bent copper is compromising national security and needs to be swiftly neutralised, but none of the evidence will stand up in court. That’s exactly why men like Stoner operate in the shadows, ready to terminate the target once an identity is confirmed…

SNEAK PREVIEW! Here’s what happens when our military man meets the forces of law and order:-
‘Jack,’ announced the lady policeman, the DCI, and offered her hand to the upright man with the military bearing. He took it, squeezed it softly and released it.
‘Detective Chief Inspector,’ he said, after a pause.
‘No need for the formality, sergeant.’ She gestured at the chair vacated by the man from upstairs. ‘If we’re going to work together, we need to get along together.’ She smiled. ‘I’m Jack. Short for Jackie, short for Jacqueline.’ She looked up, smiling some more and waited.
‘Sarge,’ said the hard military man, slowly and politely. ‘Short for Sergeant. Short for Colour Sergeant.’ He may have smiled, though only a detective could have been certain.
‘No Christian name, sergeant?’
‘Not a Christian, ma’am. Jack. Shout ‘Sarge’ loudly and if I’m in earshot I’ll be there for you. Shout it into a radio, and I’ll be there, fast as possible. That’s how I work with others. You call, I come.’
She leaned her chair backwards onto just two of its four legs. ‘What do your friends call you, Sarge? I prefer to work with colleagues as friends if it’s possible. Teamwork is always best. So what do they call you, your friends?’
‘No idea. Nothing generous, that’s for certain.’
‘So you’re always so formal?’
‘You’re extremely attractive,’ he said, holding her eyes with his own. ‘For an older woman. Ma’am.’
She shrugged. ‘Good to know. OK. As the pompous jerk tried to tell you, we have a problem, a police problem.’
‘Ma’am,’ he acknowledged.
‘We’re going out to dinner this evening. It’s formal, so you’ll need a smart suit, a club tie, bow tie, something like that, and a full set of table manners. Can you do that?’
‘I have a few regimental ties, ma’am, a full dress Number One uniform, if that’s what’s required. I would need a haircut for that. Number Twos also, less need for the haircut.’
‘Civilian, please. That OK? Don’t shave. Look stubbly. Can the forces of disorder do stubbly as well as fully formal?’
‘I’m a master of disguise, ma’am. I could probably impersonate a human, given enough time to practice a little.’ He paused. ‘The dinner.’
‘You have a concern?’
‘If I’m to perform a duty beyond standing around like an over-muscled oaf, I need some background. All successful missions succeed because those involved – preferably just the good guys – have all the available information about the situation.’
‘And there I was, thinking you were just a hired gun.’ She smiled. He did not.
‘You want a gun, ma’am, I’ll bring one. I need to know the situation before selecting the weapon.’ He cracked the smallest of smiles. ‘An RPG is hard to hide in a tux, ma’am. No matter how pleased I may be to see you.’
She was quiet for a small while. Stood. Even standing, she found it hard to look down on the seated sergeant. He was a big man. And hard with it.
‘Fully tooled, ma’am.’ No trace of a smile.

                                                        *    *    *    *

If you like the sound of that then you'll be pleased to know that you can pick up a copy via the links below:

Amazon UK
Amazon US

While you're at it why not check out Frank's other books here.

If you still want to know more about either the man himself or his books then just use the links below:


I'd like to say a big thank you to Rowena for getting in touch with me on Frank's behalf and for letting me share a short extract from Fifth Columnist. It sounds like a great read! If you've read any of Frank's books please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts or even better leave a short review for Frank on Amazon or Goodreads, I'm sure he'd really appreciate it. 😉