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Saturday, 23 June 2018

#BlogBlitz The Note - Andrew Barrett





I'm delighted to be one of today's stops on the blog blitz for The Note, a novella by Andrew Barrett.


This was my first encounter with Eddie Collins and what an encounter it was!

Eddie is a CSI and he's been sent to a pub car park where a man's body has been found. It's late, it's dark and the car park is full of drunken onlookers but he can't seem to shake the feeling that someone is watching him. Maybe the killer is amongst the crowd, admiring their handiwork.
When he finally gets back to the office someone has left him a note. . . . . well to be more precise - a death threat.

What follows is tense and atmospheric and I'm glad I wasn't reading it late at night!

In a way I'm pleased that this was my first meeting with Eddie. Being written in the first person gave me a great insight into his sarcastic, but very humorous character and I'm really looking forward to getting to know him better by adding all of the Eddie Collins books to my TBR.

Even if you're not a fan of short stories I would urge you to give this one a go as it genuinely doesn't read like other short stories. The writing is superb, the characters are true to life and the story is gripping - what more can you want from a book?



Author bio

Do you like your crime thrillers to have a forensic element that adds to the realism? Do you like your lead character to be someone intense and unafraid to take on authority?

Andrew writes precisely that kind of crime thriller, and has done since 1996, about the same time he became a CSI in Yorkshire.

He doesn’t write formulaic fiction; each story is hand-crafted to give you a unique flavour of what CSIs encounter in real life – and as a practising CSI, he should know what it’s like out there. His thrillers live inside the police domain, but predominantly feature CSIs (or SOCOs as they used to known).
 
Here’s your chance to walk alongside SOCO Roger Conniston and CSI Eddie Collins as they do battle with the criminals that you lock your doors to keep out, fighting those whose crimes make you shudder.

This is as real as it gets without getting your hands bloody.

Find out more about him on his website where you can sign up for his newsletter and claim your free starter library.



You can follow the rest of the blog blitz with these fantastic blogs!


With kind thanks to Sarah at Bloodhound Books and author Andrew Barrett for my review copy.

Friday, 22 June 2018

The Hippo Hangs Out . . . . with Andrew Barrett


I'm thrilled to welcome author Andrew Barrett to The Hippo today, on the eve of the start of the blog blitz for his novella The Note. So let's not hang about, here's an introduction to the lovely man himself.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Barrett


Author bio

Do you like your crime thrillers to have a forensic element that adds to the realism? Do you like your lead character to be someone intense and unafraid to take on authority?

Andrew writes precisely that kind of crime thriller, and has done since 1996, about the same time he became a CSI in Yorkshire.

He doesn’t write formulaic fiction; each story is hand-crafted to give you a unique flavour of what CSIs encounter in real life – and as a practising CSI, he should know what it’s like out there. His thrillers live inside the police domain, but predominantly feature CSIs (or SOCOs as they used to known).
 
Here’s your chance to walk alongside SOCO Roger Conniston and CSI Eddie Collins as they do battle with the criminals that you lock your doors to keep out, fighting those whose crimes make you shudder.

This is as real as it gets without getting your hands bloody.

Find out more about him on his website where you can sign up for his newsletter and claim your free starter library.

                                                    *    *    *    *

Do you often hear from your readers and what do they say?
I have a very healthy email list of about seven thousand people, and I’m lucky enough to run several Facebook groups and Pages, not least is my Advance Readers Team.

It makes me feel very humble that people will take time out of their busy day to get in touch. More often than not they’re contacting me to tell me they’ve enjoyed a book – and there’s no greater compliment to a writer than that, and I’m very grateful to them. I’m grateful because a little bit of praise really does help me write more.

The worst email I had argued – constantly - that there was too much swearing in my books, and that no one swears that much in real life – they weren’t very pleasant at telling me either! I countered with: yes, they do, and my books try to emulate the life I lead! They should try living in my boots for a day if they didn’t believe me. I live in a very sweary world, both out in public where complete strangers will swear at you with malice. Swearing forms a basis in our private working environment, too; it’s just everyday banter. My advice to him was to put my books away, and go read something cosy instead.



I also have people contacting me who would like to see certain things in the next book I write. And recently, someone pointed out to me that there was scope for another Roger Conniston book. I hadn’t even considered it, content to let sleeping Rogers lie, but it was true; there was one storyline I could develop further. So perhaps in the future I’ll do just that.

What did you edit out of your last book?
The last book I wrote was The End of Lies. In it was a scene where Becky fires an air pistol at a cat that is killing the blue tits who come to feed each day in her garden. I was advised to remove it at all costs! People are perfectly happy reading about gruesome deaths of people but are very offended by animal cruelty. And despite my wanting to a put a notice on the book saying ‘No animal was injured or killed in the writing of this novel’, I had to change it.

So I replaced the cat with a horrible youth with an air pistol. Our heroine fought with him and caused him severe harm, and stole his gun! I’ve never had a single complaint about it.



What do you think is more important: character or plot?
Character. Character. Character.

Even in a poorly told story, you can find empathy and compassion for a good, well-drawn character. Even if the plot sucks, your character can still satisfy and bring you back to the table for second helpings.

If your character is boring or unrealistic, no one can see the plot because of them.



If you could spend time with a character from your book who would it be and why? What would you get up to?
This follows on from the last question. I grew Eddie Collins from an arsenic seed injected with a sarcasm potion. He’s a git. He’s angry and he’s rude. And readers hate him.

That’s what I wanted. But he grows on them eventually; like a colleague at work who you grow to like the longer you spend in their company, learning about them. I’m sure readers can see a little bit of themselves in him. Perhaps they can relate to the situations he finds himself in, perhaps where his boss is berating him, and he always knows the best put-down line to shut them up.

I designed him to be abrasive, a loner who said things as he found them. But he’s honourable too, and he’s fiercely loyal to those who deserve it.

Eddie doesn’t like me much (he doesn’t like anyone much), and he calls me Spangly Carrot. I’d like to spend time with him to apologise for the bad times I’ve given him and the bad times I’m going to give him. I’d like to buy him an ice cream (rum and raisin, obviously), put my arm around him, and walk him through The Dales. I’d be interested to find out what kind of man he is when the blood, guts, and idiots of everyday life are absent.




You get a brilliant idea/thought/phrase at an inappropriate moment (eg taking a dump or enjoying your favourite pole dancer) what do you do?
I’ve reached the point in writing the new Eddie Collins book (about 35k-40k words) where it begins talking to me. I find myself thinking of scenes, of character motivation, of plot lines, all the time – completely unbidden. It’s the most enjoyable part of the writing process for me, where I’m so deeply involved in a story that we almost converse.

And yes, it happens all the time, so long as I’m not actively engaged with my job, the story will always nip at my heels like a terrier. When it does, all I keep doing is thinking about that idea until I have the time to write it down, or quickly type it into Evernote for later.

The most annoying time it happens to me is overnight. I’ve sat bolt upright countless times with a superb idea for the story. It’s so good, I tell myself, that I’m bound to remember it in the morning.

Fail.

I also remember trying out speech-to-text on my phone when this happened overnight about ten years ago. When I awoke the next morning and tried to read what the machine had written, it was utter nonsense. I was sick with loss.




You can find out more about Andrew, his books and connect with him using the links below:

I'd like to thank Andrew for stopping by to chat today, it's been great chatting to him and I'm looking forward to being a part of the blog blitz for The Note tomorrow.


Monday, 18 June 2018

After He's Gone - Jane Isaac


It's been far too long since I've had the pleasure of reading a book by Jane Isaac so I was delighted to be offered a review copy of her latest novel After He's Gone which is published today.

Cameron swift is gunned down on his driveway early one Sunday morning. Initially the police think that it has all the hallmarks of a contract killing but then a photograph of the victim, taken at the crime scene, appears on Twitter with the message 'Who was #CameronSwift #bbcnews #c4news #itvnews' The picture had to have been taken by the killer but what exactly are they insinuating with their words as it seems to be suggesting that Cameron wasn't who everyone thought he was.

DC Beth Chamberlain is appointed as the family liaison officer. There to not only support the family but to try and uncover any useful information to help the team to catch Cameron's killer, it soon becomes apparent that Cameron had a lot more going on than anyone who knew him could have imagined!

Although After He's Gone is a police procedural, I loved the fact that it concentrated on the Family Liaison Officer as opposed to a detective and this for me was a refreshing change. I loved Beth's character right from the outset and grew to love her even more as I read on and found out more about her both in her personal life as well as professional.
This is a story about family, relationships and the secrets that people keep and it begs the question. . . . just how well do you really know someone? Clearly Cameron Swift was a character with many, many secrets and until his untimely death, he managed to keep them all extremely well hidden.
After He's Gone is a fantastic start to a new series, it was jam-packed full of red herrings and superbly written and I raced through it in a little over a day. I can guarantee that I won't leave it as long to pick up another book by Jane Isaac and I'd highly recommend this one to all fans of crime thrillers.


Sunday, 10 June 2018

The Hippo Hangs Out . . . . with Carolyn Hughes


Today I'm delighted to welcome the lovely Carolyn Hughes back to The Hippo. Carolyn's first visit was as part of my Southern Virtual Book Festival and you can read that post here and today she's here after having just finished a blog tour for her latest book A Woman's Lot. You can check out all the wonderful blogs who took part in the blog tour by heading over to Brook Cottage Books and there's still a couple of days left to enter the giveaway to win an e-book copy of  Fortune's Wheel: The First Meonbridge Chronicle so I'd definitely make sure you take a look!

Well I think I've left Carolyn waiting long enough so let me introduce her to you all and tell you about her new book.

Photo courtesy of Carolyn Hughes

                                                      Author bio
Carolyn Hughes was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire. After a first degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. It was fun for a few years, but she left to become a school careers officer in Dorset. But it was when she discovered technical authoring that she knew she had found her vocation. She spent the next few decades writing and editing all sorts of material, some fascinating, some dull, for a wide variety of clients, including an international hotel group, medical instrument manufacturers and the Government. She has written creatively for most of her adult life, but it was not until her children grew up and flew the nest, several years ago, that creative writing and, especially, writing historical fiction, took centre stage in her life. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

A Woman’s Lot is the second of the Meonbridge Chronicles, her series of historical novels set in fourteenth century England. The first, Fortune’s Wheel, was published in 2016. The third in the series is well under way.

                                                       Blurb

How can mere women resist the misogyny of men?


A resentful peasant rages against a woman’s efforts to build up her flock of sheep… A husband, grown melancholy and ill-tempered, succumbs to idle talk that his wife’s a scold… A priest, fearful of women’s "unnatural” power, determines to keep them in their place.


The devastation wrought two years ago by the Black Death changed the balance of society: more women saw their chance to build a business, learn a trade, to play a greater part. But many men still hold fast to the teachings of the Church and fear the havoc the daughters of Eve might wreak if they’re allowed to usurp men’s roles and gain control over their own lives.


Not all men resist women’s desire for change – indeed, they want it for themselves. Yet it takes only one or two to unleash the hounds of hostility and hatred…
 


                                            *    *    *    *



What book/books made you cry and why?
Helen Dunmore books: Most of them, probably, but The Siege in particular. This story of the siege of Leningrad is harrowing and deeply moving. Dunmore draws her characters so well that it is easy to empathise deeply with them, so that when they are put into such devastatingly appalling situations, when the struggle to find anything at all to eat drives them to extraordinary lengths, to be honest I was in pieces… And I think I would be again, if I read it now… Brilliant writing. 


This sounds like just my kind of book so I’ll be adding it to my ever-growing TBR mountain!


Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Years ago, when I was writing contemporary women’s fiction (all unpublished), it was rather domestic noir-ish and I did wonder then about using a pseudonym if they were ever published, as I wasn't sure I wanted my family and friends to know I’d written such stories! Now, as “Carolyn Hughes” is essentially an historical novelist, I think that, if I ever did go back to those noir novels, I’d have to publish them under a different name, because the novelist personas would be so different.

What other authors are you friends with and how do they help you become a better writer?
Oh goodness, quite a few really! Having joined lovely Facebook groups like The Review, I’ve made quite a few author friends that way. But one author who is a “real” friend (in the sense that I’ve known her for thirty years) is Ann Swinfen. Ann writers historical novels, including, among others, The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez, stories of political intrigue and double dealing set in the 16th century, and the Oxford Mediaeval Mysteries, set in the 14th century, in which bookseller Nicholas Elyot is the sleuth. Both series are brilliant and well worth reading. However, as I’d known Ann for so long, when I was seriously contemplating trying to get published, I threw myself on her mercy for help on how to proceed. She gave me lots of great advice, and she still does. She’s an amazingly prolific writer herself, but never stints at sharing her experience and knowledge of the (self) publishing world. A good friend indeed!

What’s your favourite under-appreciated writer/book?
I don't think he’s really “under-appreciated”, but I do find quite often that, when I mention William Trevor, people haven’t heard of him. But they really should have! He’s always been one of my favourite writers. He’s absolutely brilliant at short-story writing, although I love his novels too. His characters are typically eccentrics or people living at the margins of society: children, the elderly, single middle-aged men and women, or the unhappily married. His stories have real atmosphere, superb dialogue, and are disturbing, affecting and amusing. The keenness of his eye and ear has brought to life some ordinary and yet extraordinary characters. A master!


I’m afraid to say that I’m one of the people who has never heard of him as well Carolyn, but I will be taking a closer look at his books now.


What do you think is more important: characters or plot?
For me, characters. Though of course there has to be “plot”, or storyline, otherwise the novel would have no momentum, no forward progress. The characters have to have something to be concerned about, a problem to solve!

But my books are definitely “character driven”, in that it is their personalities, concerns and motivations that really drive the story. I write my characters – or at least the main narrator characters – in a way that is very consciously intimate. And sometimes I get terribly drawn in to a character’s plight. And here’s the thing about “characters”: they no longer exist once you close your laptop lid… Except that, of course, they DO! They hang around inside your head. They talk to you in the middle of the night. They evolve from being just a name with a set of invented features and traits into a corporeal-seeming person with thoughts and feelings, worries and aspirations. Goodness! No wonder I think they’re important.



You get a brilliant idea/thought/phrase at an inappropriate moment (eg in the shower or driving) what do you do?
This often happens to me in the middle of a restless night, or when I’m out walking. Even when walking, it’s not always easy to stop and write in your notebook, but I do sometimes dictate my thoughts into my phone. If I can’t do that - for example, so as not to wake a sleeping husband - I say it over and over and over in my head, in the hope that it’ll still be in my mind come morning. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t…



If a genie granted you three wishes what would they be?
1. To slow down time. To enable me to write more novels.
2. To speed up my writing. To enable me to write more novels!!
3. To make me instantly the cello player I always wanted to be but for which in truth never had the talent. The cello still stands beseechingly in my sitting room but, although the spirit is willing, the flesh (i.e. the talent) is very weak. Sigh…


Maybe this could be an option to consider for your cello Carolyn! 😉




You can find out more about Carolyn, her books and connect with her using the links below:

Website
Amazon
Facebook
Twitter

Carolyn also blogs on the 20th of every month on The History Girls which is a great blog to visit if you enjoy historical fiction.

I'd like to thank Carolyn for taking the time to stop by and chat today and to wish her lots of success with A Woman's Lot.  🥂