Sunday 27 November 2016

The Hippo Hands Over . . . . to Amanda Laneley

Today I'd like to introduce you to the author of What I Love About Dublin, Amanda Laneley.

Amanda is passionate about writing and exploring the world. She has travelled through five continents, collecting anecdotes and stories that she turns into novels.
She loves the movies of Meg Ryan and the novels of Jane Austen. She adores learning and thinks that there aren't enough hours in the day to do it. She loves to dance, laugh and share a beer with good friends.
She was a professor, entrepreneur and holistic therapist before devoting herself to writing. She started writing because, one night a romantic story appeared in her dreams and wouldn't let go of her. That story became her first novel. The curious thing is that as soon as she finished it, another story appeared and then another. Since then she hasn't stopped writing or dreaming.
Amanda loves to hear from her readers and you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and her website.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Laneley
Published in October,  What I Love About Dublin is Amanda's debut novel and she's very kindly sharing an excerpt from the opening chapter with us today.


Let’s suppose you are a heartbroken woman trying to get over the pain of a failed relationship. You’ve always wanted to see the world. What do you do? Perhaps you would do what Sarah does: travel alone to Dublin and leave your worries behind. She wants to start from scratch, to forget about it all; to enjoy the lush green countryside, the Celtic music, the famous pubs. However, her life turns upside down when she finds herself living under the same roof as Daniel, a handsome yet stubborn Irishman.

Both Daniel and Sarah have their reasons for not falling in love, but love has other plans.

Things become more complicated because love affairs are prohibited between housemates. This is an unbreakable rule that also applies to the three other residents: a shameless womanizer, an absent-minded musician and a new female best friend, intrusive and meddling. It’s a fun and exciting intercultural household for Sarah to adapt to! And as if that wasn’t enough, she also has to deal with Daniel’s heated misunderstandings, with an insistent ex-boyfriend and some compromising situations with a very sexy Frenchman.

This is a new life in Dublin and there is certainly a lot to love!

Chapter 1

“Welcome to Dublin.”

The welcome came over the loudspeakers as soon as the plane landed, and Sara unfastened her seatbelt with impatient fingers. She breathed out, filled with a mixture of apprehension, weariness and sadness. Barely past her mid-twenties, she was going to step onto European soil for the first time. She was finally going to become acquainted with the ancient continent she had fantasized so much about in the novels she devoured. What she wanted most was to repair her broken heart after what had happened with Antonio, to start over again surrounded by the greenery of Ireland.

“Greenery?” she wondered, disillusioned, as soon as she had left the airport and caught a glimpse of the bleak surroundings. “More like grayness.” The sunset, weighed down by black clouds, frigid gusts of wind and an incessant rainfall that spread in all directions, wasn’t exactly the cordial welcome Sara had hoped for. But, truth be told, nothing about the past forty-eight hours had been cordial. She never imagined she would hurriedly leave Chile. She had only long enough to say good-bye to her parents, whose worried faces reflected their opinion, repeating a thousand times that her going off to Ireland was a huge mistake.

Sara replayed in her mind the whole argument with Antonio, and as she rolled her luggage toward the taxi stand, her eyes filled with tears. She felt so alone! And the worst part was that now she really was alone. She didn’t know anyone in Dublin, neither family nor friends. All she had was the hope of a new beginning and a piece of paper with an address written on it, which she clung to for dear life.

The arrival of an empty taxi made her swallow her tears. She held out the address to the taxi driver and, twenty minutes later, found herself in the front yard of a narrow red house with a pointed roof while the darkness surrounded her and rain mercilessly pelted her and her luggage. As fast as she could, she rolled the suitcase to the front door and rang the bell.

No answer. She rubbed her hands together and blew on them to heat them up. She rang a second time. Nothing. He teeth chattering, she peered through the stained glass windows of the front door. She couldn’t make out anyone, but a light was on, so someone must be there. Lord, at least she hoped there was; if not, she didn’t know where else to go.

She knocked and, after a minute that seemed like an eternity, the door finally opened.

 “Hello?” said a beautiful brunette of about her age, half greeting her and half inquiring.

 “Hola, I mean, hello. I’m Sara and. . .”

 “You speak my language,” the young woman interrupted, switching to Spanish with a Central American accent. “Are you looking for one of the boys, Sara? Because no one is here; they all went out.”

 “No, actually, I came about the room for rent. I reserved it a few days ago.”

The young woman shook her head in unequivocal negation.

 “That’s impossible; there must be some error. The ad clearly says we rent only to men. Better luck next time,” she said, starting to shut the door.

Sara’s stomach tied up in knots as she imagined herself looking for a place to stay somewhere else, in an unknown city, in the middle of the rain and darkness.

 “Stephen Brennan gave me the address!” said Sara hurriedly. “He told me to come here.”

The young woman opened the door again and studied her, frowning.

 “Stephen? He told you to come? Are you sure?”

 “Yes, he gave me the address. I came straight from the airport.”

The young woman looked at Sara’s luggage, which was collecting water, forming an enormous pool. When she saw that its owner didn’t seem to be in much better shape than the luggage, her expression softened.

 “Come in while we clear up this misunderstanding.” She opened the door and gestured to a spot near the entrance. “If you like, you can leave your things there. I’m Fran, by the way.”

 “Thanks, Fran.” Sara obeyed, taking off her coat. She suddenly sneezed several times.

 “You’re drenched. Would you like a cup of coffee?”

 “Yes, please.”

She followed Fran to a spacious wooden kitchen. She didn’t much care for coffee; still, she was willing to swallow anything that might raise her body temperature by a couple of degrees.

Her hostess put on water to boil.

 “How do you know Stephen, Sara?”

 “Actually, I don’t know him, at least not personally. I’m going to teach at the same university he does, Spanish classes, and he was my contact for arranging all the paperwork. He was very kind in recommending somewhere to live; he did not need to do it.”

 “Yes, he’s kind when he wants to be; at least when he can make the effort to listen. I’ve told him a thousand times that the room isn’t available to women. Sometimes what I tell him goes in one ear and right out the other. Men!”

 “Are you his girlfriend?” Sara guessed, from the annoyance and familiarity she heard in Fran’s voice.

 “Yes. Let me call him and see what we can do.” Fran dialled a number and started speaking in English. “Stephen, it’s me. Sara, the girl you gave this address to, is here. Yes, but I told you we would rent the room only to a man. What? But I told you a thousand times!. What? No, it has to be right now! At least speak to her! What do I care if you’re in a meeting? No, Stephen. . . don’t you dare hang up on m. . . Hello? Hello?”

Fran suddenly slammed the phone down on the table. Sara didn’t dare breathe; she didn’t know what to say.

 “Always the same thing!” complained Fran, exhaling a weary sigh. “I’m sorry, Sara, but you can’t stay here. I’d be very happy to rent you the room, but it isn’t up to me. It’s up to the boys.”

 “But maybe I could speak to them, somehow convince them,” said Sara, feeling her throat close up.

 “Don’t waste your time. You wouldn’t be the first one to try it and fail. I’m sorry, Sara, I wish I could help you, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to go someplace else.”

Sara agreed quietly, feeling her eyes fill with tears. “I understand,” she said in a hoarse voice. “It’s just that I don’t know where to go. I don’t know anyone in this city. Stephen was the only contact I had.”

 “You can go to a hotel,” suggested Fran, observing Sara sympathetically.

 “Yes, of course, that’s what I’ll do. . .” Her voice was about to break. “It’s just that, well, I didn’t feel like being alone today. . .” She remembered how alone she was. She thought of Antonio, of her uncertain future, and she couldn’t hold back a pair of silent tears. “Fran, excuse me, you barely know me and here I am crying in front of you. It’s just that the past two days have been the worst of my life, and all I want is a warm bed, a place to sleep and to forget about everything for a while.”

Fran gave her a sad look.

 “Don’t tell me, problems of the heart, right?” When she saw Sara agree, Fran went on. “I’ll bet some man cheated on you and broke your heart.”

It hadn’t happened quite like that, but, yes, her heart was broken, so Sara just replied. “Something like that.”

 “Well, what woman hasn’t been in that situation? You can’t imagine what a state I was in the first day I arrived in this city, and all because of a wretched man. . .” Fran seemed lost in thought a few minutes, lost in her memories; then she looked up with a kind expression. “Look, Sara, out of female solidarity, I don’t have the heart to tell you to leave right now. If you want, you can stay in the room for tonight, but you’ll have to leave tomorrow.”

 “Really?” Sara asked, filled with gratitude.

 “Yes, but just for tonight. Daniel isn’t here, so there won’t be any problem with him, and I doubt the others will be back today.”

Sara felt like hugging her. She accepted the marvellous offer without any hesitation and began to feel a little better.

Now feeling a bit more like herself, she sat at the table drinking coffee. Sara learned that four people lived in the house: Armando, from Italy; Fran herself, from Venezuela; and Colin and Daniel, from Ireland.

 “This house is marvellous,” Sara observed, gazing around her.

 “It is. Spacious, well located and in one of the best neighbourhoods in Dublin, but you can’t imagine how expensive it is. To tell you the truth, everything in this city is quite expensive, but especially around here. That’s why we need to rent the open room right away; otherwise, the four of us will have to make up the difference out of our own pockets.”

 “Then why aren’t you willing to accept women?”

Fran sighed.

 “It’s all Armando’s fault. He got himself into a mess with the last renter and it poisoned the atmosphere. Finally the girl left, though it was his fault, since he’ll sleep with anything that moves. That’s why, no more women, to avoid risks. It’s strictly forbidden to get involved with anyone else in the house.”

Sara smiled sadly.

 “I doubt very much there would be any risk with me. Believe me, Fran, the last thing I want now is more romantic problems.”

 “Do you feel like talking about it? You can tell me about it, if you want.”

 “Thanks, but I’m not ready to discuss it yet. So, how long have you been in Dublin?”

 “Almost eight months. I had originally planned to stay for three, but I fell in love,” Fran said enthusiastically.

 “With Stephen, right?”

Fran blinked. “Yes, of course, with him too, but especially with the city. It has some lovely places and is filled with greenery everywhere.”

Fran told Sara that when she first arrived in Dublin, things hadn’t exactly been easy. She couldn’t find any work in her profession as an accountant, so she waited tables in a restaurant. She missed everything about Venezuela, especially her mother and girlfriends, but fortunately she had found a new family in her housemates.

 “Sometimes they drive me crazy with their jokes, it’s true,” said Fran, “but Armando, Daniel and Colin are fantastic, and I adore living with them.”

Fran described the domestic routine as a whirlwind of laughter, recitals and group outings, which made Sara wish all the more that she could be accepted into the house. The building itself was lovely, the available room was inexpensive and cosy, and the relationship among the housemates was fantastic, according to Fran. And Fran herself was the most charming and outgoing person Sara had ever met. Yes, this house was the perfect place for a new beginning. . . if she could only stay.

If you enjoyed that and want to read more you can buy it here and it's also available in Spanish here.

I'd like to say a big thank you to Amanda for stopping by today to give us a taste of her novel and I wish her lots of success with it. 😉

Saturday 26 November 2016

The Hippo Hands Over . . . . to Luke Smitherd

Today I'm delighted to be handing over to Luke Smitherd, the bestselling author of The Stone Man, which was shortlisted for Audible UK's Book of the Year Award 2015. Luke's other books include In The Darkness, That's Where I'll Know You and A Head Full Of Knives. If that's not enough his latest book, Kill Someone will be released on December the 6th.

 If you think it looks great, you should read the blurb as it sounds great too:

Here are the rules.

Method: you can’t use a gun. You can’t use explosives. You can’t use poison. It has to be up close and personal. You don’t have to worry about leaving evidence; that will be taken care of.

Victim: no one suicidal. No one over the age of 65. No one with a terminal illness.

Choose your method. Choose your victim.

Chris Summer was a 21 year old call centre worker and a drop out. A nobody, still living at home with his parents. Then one day the Man in White came to his family’s house, offering a seemingly impossible choice: kill a random stranger - one of Chris’ choosing - within twelve days in order to save the lives of five kidnapped siblings. Refuse, and they die slowly and painfully. The clock is ticking, the Man in White is watching, and Chris has some very important choices to make.

This is a tale of fear, indecision, confused masculinity and brutal violence; a story of a coddled young man thrust into a world of sharp metal and bone.

Ask yourself if you could do it. Then ask yourself who you would choose.

I've read the opening chapter and it's a cracker! Kill Someone is available for pre-order now using the links below:


So that's the new book, but what about the man himself?

Photo courtesy of Luke Smitherd

Luke was born in the United Kingdom and has made his home town of Coventry the setting for most of his work.  He attended Coventry University, graduating with a BA in Theatre.  Prior to being a full-time novelist, he held diverse jobs ranging from copywriting to singing/ songwriting.  For a while, he considered trying to become a professional darts player, but decided writing was his true calling.  He hasn’t looked back since.

He entered the world of audiobooks in 2015 when he collaborated with British actor, Matt Addis, to produce the audio version of, “The Stone Man”.  This book went on to be shortlisted in the final 12 for “Audible Audiobook of the Year 2015” amongst such writing superstars as Stephen King and JK Rowling.  Luke has narrated all of his other audiobooks.

Luke now spends his time writing and travelling the world for inspiration.  He supports charitable organisations ranging from Water Aid to the National Deaf Children’s Society to end-of-life care institutions.

Luke has many exciting projects scheduled for the next year (which shall remain nameless). They are going to involve a lot of work, but he believes his fans will be happy with the end result.

Luke’s relationship with his readers is very important to him.  He knows their loyalty and excitement about his work allow him to continue to do what he loves.  He enjoys talking to fans on Facebook and Twitter, and he is famous for the “Afterwords” to his books, where he talks about how the story came about, as well as sharing personal details about what was going on in his life as he wrote the book.  His “Afterwords” are favourites of his readers.

To give you more of a glimpse into the man behind the words and to find out what goes on inside his mind, here are some questions that he's been asked by his readers.

What is it like narrating your own audiobooks? Is this something you will continue to do? I like the performing part, and getting to act out the character dialogue, but I don’t really enjoy doing the narrating itself. I talk very quickly normally and having to read at a narrator pace pretty much drives me insane.

Many of your books centre around the concept of death. Why do you think that is? Because I’m obsessed with dying and live in constant fear of it, if I’m honest ...

Which of your books are you most proud of? In terms of plotting, The Physics of the Dead for certain. As an overall book, I’d probably go with In The Darkness, That’s Where I’ll Know You.

You travel through Europe and the US a good deal of the time. What are your reasons for not staying in one place very long? I get very restless and hate the idea of wasting precious time (see question 2.) I’ve only got so long to see and do so much.

Your reviews often mention the “Afterword” section of your books. Was it a conscious decision to share so much of yourself with your readers or did it just happen naturally? Always, absolutely. Stephen King’s afterwords, both getting to know the man better and the ideas and thoughts behind the story, I thought that was fascinating, and couldn’t imagine writing a book and not doing the same.

What is the most frustrating part of being an author? Have you ever thought of giving it up? Many times, for the first few years. Trying so many things to promote yourself that never pay off, spending months on a book, releasing it and seeing it do absolutely nothing ...I’m glad to leave those years, for the most part, behind.

What made you go into writing? I’ve always loved making up stories, and I’ve always loved jobs where I don’t have to get up and go to work in the morning. More the latter than the former.

Did you read a lot growing up? Yes, I read all the time when I was a kid. To the point where I got a Christmas card from another kid at school when I was about ten-years-old. It was a picture of a baby penguin sitting on a block of ice; the gag being that the penguin was on the toilet, and the kid that gave me the card had actually drawn a book in the penguin’s hands because I read so much.

If you could change anything about your books, would you? I already did.  I published, “The Stone Man”, which is my biggest book and then last year I trimmed about ten thousand words out of it.  I’ve realised I have a tendency to be quite verbose so I’ve gone through one or two of the books and trimmed them a lot and I try to keep an eye on that as I write now.

How do you come up with the ideas for your stories and how do you keep the storylines straight as you write? I have a list in my phone for when an idea come to me. It’s always like a concept; it’s always like a “what if” idea, “what if this happened”, and I think where’s the story in that, and I sit down and thrash it out and note down stumbling blocks and try to keep it as straight as I can and as watertight in terms of logic.

If you'd like to find out more about Luke's book or connect with him you can use the links below:


I'd like to thank Luke for dropping by today. After reading the first chapter of Kill Someone I can't wait to read more and I wish him lots of luck with it 😉