Sunday, 31 March 2013

Mirrors (London Town #1) by Damien J Nash

This is the first / pilot(?) episode of the London Town series which introduces us to Jackson Rockstone, a physicist / scientist who discovers lots of parallel universes, but takes interest in one of them.

The word that springs to mind whilst reading this was "fast-paced".  I've no idea where this is going, but this short episode (again with a ?) sets the scene.

I've not read Damien's fantasy novel, but he certainly knows how to ramp up the tension.  This story finishes with a monstrous cliff-hanger, but knowing that this is the start of many stories, I think that Jackson might be OK.  But what do I, the reader, know? Hahaha,

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Ballet of the Bones by David Haynes

Ballet of the Bones kind of follows on from Mask of the Macabre in that it is set in the same time and is another quartet of creepy stories, although these can be read on their own.

As with the first book, the stories have links to each other and are just deliciously macabre.  I especially liked The Bone House, but they are all of top quality.  Again, you can just feel the atmosphere of the times in the author's writing.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Interrogating Nick Wastnage

Interrogating crime writer Nick Wastnage

How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?

I write for myself.
I once heard an interview with a famous American author who’d written many books over a long period of time, each of them very successful. He was asked the same question. He answered by saying he wrote for himself, and never paid any attention to his critics. He wasn’t being arrogant, just confident in his ability and wanting to continually improve his writing. He went on to say that you have to find your writing voice, believe in yourself, and write.
This isn’t being complacent. I read and rewrite what I’ve written until I believe it’s as good as I can get it, but I don’t write in a certain way or style to please a particular audience.

What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in?

I write crime thrillers about seemingly normal people who, because of life-changing circumstance, become involved in crimes – like murder, extortion, and blackmail. These things happen in life, and I try to create compelling stories built around believable, fictional events and real life characters. The appeal is the challenge of starting with the gem of an idea and turning it into a full-blown novel.

Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them?

Oh yes. A very big one, and I’m very nosey. I take cuttings from newspapers, I make notes all the time, and I’ve been known to eavesdrop on peoples’ conversation when I think I’ve heard a good line of dialogue. I always have a notebook with me, and use the note facility on my phone. When I want to create a character, I take time looking at people in busy places. I have a name in my head, and know what that person does in the book, but I don’t know what they look like, their occupation, and they’re lifestyle. I see a face I like, note it down – or, dare I admit, take a picture – and then start to invent that person. I build up a template for each character: how they look, talk, the clothes they wear, their occupation, their background and education, likes and dislikes, and who they live with, if anybody. I pin the image – either my own photo image or one taken from a newspaper or magazine – to a sheet of paper and refer to it often while I write.

How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed

Shoot them! They pop up all the time, and can take me off down a different road. I don’t ignore them completely. Some can be quite useful, and have potential as good sub-plots. Most of the time, I jot them down on a scrap of paper or a stickie, and carry on writing. Later, I go through them, chuck away the ones I figure are irrelevant, and try to work the ones I like into the story.

How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the one that you’d most like to be? Or be with?

Well, I’m a crime writer, and I write about criminals, so none of me is in them in the sense of committing a crime, but I do try to get into my characters’ heads, and have them doing some of the things I do: like the clothes I wear, the coffee and whisky I drink, the food I cook and eat, the movies I see, the music I listen to, and other behavioral traits. Although they’re villains, I have some sympathy with most of them. Not the real, nasty, violent ones, but the regular guys who find themselves in the depth of despair, and resort to crime to bring their lives back on track. Cameron in The Wrong Menu comes to mind. He’s ditched by his wife, locked out of his home, hunted by his brother-in-law – who’s intent on killing him – and turns to crime to survive. 
Most of my characters end up having a rough time and coming to sticky ends, but if I had to choose one who I’d like to be, I guess it’d be Barry Carter in Electronic Crime in Muted Key. After successfully faking his death and pulling of a multi-million scam, he reinvents himself on an idyllic, sun-drenched island. The first bit would be great, but I’ll miss out on what happens to him.
I’d like to spend some time with Max in Murder He Forgot. He only has a small part, but enough to make him a likeable guy. He’s lively, fun and he turns out to be a loyal friend.

Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?

Definitely wrapped up! I leave weird notes around the house with things written on them like, Kill Sebastian tomorrow, Will Harry survive? Does Kate sleep with him? What type of gun? Does The Greek guy smoke? and many more. When I reach a crucial part of a book, I go for days getting up early and going to where I write, closing the door, and writing until I can’t write any more, or when I do it comes out as garbage. Then I stop, have a drink, and look around the house for my wife. She’s not there, and has left a note saying she’s gone to a movie with a friend and will see me later. I don’t know if she thinks she’s married to one of my characters, but I do become pretty wrapped up, and know she thinks I’m strange.

What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?

I read all sorts. I do read crime thrillers, but not all the time. I read general fiction, strong character driven books – often with deep emotional highs and lows – and non-fiction.

What lengths do you go to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?

I start by creating a compelling, unique story with plenty of suspense, some surprises, and several twists. Then I work on my characters, and make them real and life-like, not cardboard cutouts. I do some research where necessary, and then start writing. I try to make my dialogue gritty and easily associated with the character that’s speaking. I edit and rewrite continuously as I write. I have beta-readers reading each chapter as I complete it and giving me their feedback, and I’ll write as many drafts as necessary until I believe it’s as good as I can get it.
After that, it’s down to the readers and promotion. I prefer the writing process to all the marketing and promotional stuff, but I know it has to be done.

How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

Appalled and annoyed that I’ve missed them. They’re not professional and shouldn’t be there. I have an editor who usually picks them up, but I still check the manuscript one more time when it’s back from her. I once, mistakenly, uploaded the wrong version of book, the unedited one. Whoops! Luckily with kindle you can upload the right version.

What do you like most about visiting KUF/GR/forums?

Well, UK KUF is friendly, humorous and a source of information on almost anything. I’d say similar about Goodreads, but not all is good there as we know, so I’m a bit wary about which groups I join and what I post.

What is on your near horizon?

I’m just finished writing the first draft of the second book in a three-book trilogy, The Harry Fingle Collection. The first book is called Playing Harry. The second one – the one just finished – is called Assassination Continuum, and is about an assassin and his target who discover they share the same lover. That’s due to be published this summer. While I’m writing the second and third drafts and doing the edit process, I’ll also be writing some short stories, and then, after Assassination Continuum is published, I’ll be writing the last part of the trilogy. When the complete trilogy is done and dusted, I’m going to write a book in a new genre, general fiction. It’s probably going to be called Thirty Years, and is about the sometimes funny, often dramatic, and certainly turbulent life of a man who took thirty years to decide he wanted to be a writer. Here’s the first line: It took me thirty years to figure out what life was about, and the same time to work out what I wanted to do.

Where can we find you for more information?

Assassination Continuum: 1st unedited draft on Wattpad, 

Monday, 18 March 2013

Jake by Michael Cargill

Now here's a book of two halves.  This is the tale of Jake.  He's a teenage boy with two parents and a little brother.  He has a nice life, home is great, he has some friends in school, he isn't really bullied, so far so boring.  Most of this book is just Jake's day to day life.  I'm not a teenage boy and have never been, nor wanted to be, a teenage boy, so even though it was a nice read, it wasn't anything special.

The characters in this story are really well written.  Little brother Ben is just so delicious and gorgeous and I couldn't resist falling in love with him.  I loved Jake starting to really notice him and fall in love with him too.

It would, of course, be really boring if this was all this book was.  I'm still feeling the effects of reading this book a day later.  I'm not going to give any spoilers away, but it really affected me.

Michael Cargill - I hate you.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Third Rule by Andrew Barrett

I bought this book in it's 3 parts.  I thought it would be like the author's other trilogy, where I'd read one, then read another then come back to part 2.  Nope.  I might as well have bought this version as I couldn't stop reading it.

Some stories with multiple characters' lives beginning to come together have chapters for each character and flit back and fore.  This story spends a lot of time with a set of characters before going onto the next.  Sometimes you forget some of them as the story hasn't dealt with them for a while, but it gives a good depth to parts of the story.  In the first part, there were some characters that I didn't see the point of but after a while they became quite important to the story.

I did find the writing quite visual.  I could see the bruises and the rain and (unfortunately) the mess that the drunken characters got into.

The premise of this story was intriguing.  Three strikes and you are out.  Surely that would stop crime in its tracks.  But things aren't so black and white when there are people after more power.

This was one of those books that I couldn't put down.  My kindle came with me everywhere so I could catch another chapter or even paragraph.

This book is over 800 pages long.  I have been reading more and more shorter stories recently as there's so much good stuff about.  I'm not sure I would have started the omnibus, knowing how long it is, so approaching it in parts got me started.  But as it was, I read all three after each other and it didn't feel like a slog.


Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Interrogating P.A. Fenton

I now get to interrogate my new favourite author, Paul Fenton.  He'd love to join in a bit more, but is always late to the party.

How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?

That's something I'm getting my head around, and a balancing act I'm hopefully getting better at.  In my earlier books, before this whole ebook business became so prevalent, I was far less concerned with worrying about what might be marketable.  I suppose I thought: that's for the editors and marketing staff at the publisher to worry about, if I ever find a publisher.  Now all the roles normally performed in the publishing process are often covered by a team of one.  It's not enough to write what you want to write, you do need to compromise to fit reader expectations.  Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and other reader feedback has been invaluable in making that shift.  I don't think it's something you can do with a small circle of friends or beta readers, it's a process which requires some brutality: I didn't like it because of X, it should have done more of Y, it sucked because of Z.  As long as you get that X, Y or Z, you can take something out of it if you pay attention.

It's not enough to just be the creator.  You have to be the creator and the marketer, and the hardest part is keeping them separated.  If you let the marketer in too soon, he will basically piss all over everything you're doing and you will get nowhere; if you let him in too late, you'll have ninety-thousand words of blog material.

What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in?

Before I can answer that, someone's going to have to tell me which genres I write in.  When it comes time to tick the boxes for genre selection, I'm invariably drawn to comedy, and sometimes mystery/suspense.  Often I just toss a coin.  I like stories which straddle genres, or slip between them, or sprawl across four or five of them like child choosing his own ice cream toppings.  I like the comedy aspect of writing.  I like to make myself laugh, and other people if possible (unless that involves them laughing at me, which is just mean).  A story which promises laughs is usually the one I'll gravitate towards.  But if I look back at the books I've written, and think what I've got in the pipeline, I'd say I'm drawn to stories which are essentially about change, often transgressive change.  But funny transgressive, nothing too gruesome or, you know, kinky.  If Amazon would let me create my own genre, I'd take transgressive comedy.

Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them?

I've had notebooks and document folders for all that sort of thing, but bits and pieces are invariably lost.  Now I use Evernote for all my note-taking.  I have a bit of a geek streak, and the idea of a cloud-based idea repository appeals to me and my several gadgets.  I like being able to jot down ideas while at work, on my own laptop, with my phone, with my tablet, and have them all recorded in a single place.

How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed

Are you kidding?  Bunnies are so cute,  I let them all in.  I might be forced to cull many of them once they're in, but I can hire people to do that who are much better shots than I am.

How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with?

Hopefully not too much, but it's hard to avoid sometimes.  I'd like to say all the bad stuff is complete fiction, and the positive attributes are reflections of my essential goodness ... but that would be a lie.  In the beginning I might substitute bits of myself into a character's personality, just until they find their feet.  Like training wheels.

Picking one of my characters I'd like to be is risky, because some of the stronger, more admirable characters have been female.  I'd like to be friends with Sara from Cellar Door -- she's a magnified blend of characteristics from some of my actual (and best) friends.

Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?

My wife put a pillow between us for a few nights after she read Punchline.  Yes, I would tell her, the protagonist is a writer, but he's NOT ME!  Usually she just wishes I'd snap out of it for a second ever now and then to answer her damn questions.

What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?

I like comedy, black comedy, and miscellaneous.  Original story ideas always grab me, I don't read a lot of genre ... though I'll always read whatever Elmore Leonard publishes, and I do have a soft spot for Stephen King and Jim Butcher.  I'll often browse bookstores and pick up anything from the general fiction section which catches my eye.  That's how I stumbled upon Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis, one of my all-time favourite finds.

What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?

I suppose that's what every author tries to do, but I'm terrible at it.  I majored in marketing at university, but I'm loath to promote my own books.  Perhaps that's because self-promotion doesn't work on me, so I can't see it working on anyone else.  I try to focus on making the story as tight as possible, and representing the story as best I can in the blurb.  Weak, I know.  When I stumble across an approach which works for me, I'll let you know.  If I get really stuck for ideas, I might adapt the Homer Simpson approach to bowling promotion (strolling around outside the bowling alley, firing a shotgun into the air and shouting, "Bowling!  Get your bowling here!").

How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

Grateful, every time.  You can have ten pairs of professional eyes go over the manuscript prior to publication, and blips will still slip through.  The beauty of ebooks is that we can fix  things, and quickly.

What do you like most about visiting KUF/GR/forums?

I like the sense of community in the Goodreads forums, particularly the UK Amazon Kindle Forum.  I used to spend more time in there than I do now -- after moving to Australia, time-zone differences mean I only have a small window of overlap, and some of the best conversations in that group are the one which are live.  If I pop in and try to make a joke when everyone's sleeping, it usually goes stale within a few hours.  They're still a friendly, good-humoured group of people though, and very supportive of the writers onsite.

What is on your near horizon?

Secret projects!  Also, a not-so-secret project, a novel with the working title "The Brisbane Line".  The Brisbane line was a hotly-debated military strategy during World War Two, wherein the US and Australian forces suggested that in the event of a Japanese invasion, they would focus their defences on the cities and ports south of Brisbane.  The story I'm writing is set in the near future, wherein Australia has succumbed to economic collapse and is once again the target of an invasion.  The Brisbane line becomes a reality, and a high-profile Australian couple find themselves on opposite sides of the line when the order to evacuate is given.  The story is about the couple trying to find each other, with considerable outside help and interference.

Where can we find you for more information?

I have a blog which I'm generally rubbish at maintaining (, otherwise I'm on Goodreads.  I'm also totally loose when it comes to accepting Facebook friend requests ... yet I only have about a hundred.  This goes to show that writers are essentially friendless creatures, and so am I.  My Twitter handle is @p_fenton (I know, my creativity knows no bounds).

Cellar Door by P.A. Fenton

I can officially say, now, that P.A Fenton is one of my new favourite authors.  This is the third book I’ve read by this author and is a thoroughly fab read.

Zac and Sara have lived in their house for a few years when Sara loses her job (again).  They need some money, so she looks in the cellar for something to sell on ebay.  What she finds down there is beyond anything she could have thought of.  Obviously there’s a lot more story to my summary, but needless to say things don’t go quite right.

This is a story of obsession, of one-mindedness, when you can’t think of anything apart from what is in front of you and your life starts spiralling out of control.  There is some dark humour in here and some bad language (which is often used for comic effect).

I really didn’t know where this was going.  That’s the good thing about tasting a bit of an author, then blindly going into the next book without reading the synopsis, the twists and turns are even more twisty and turny.

I think this is probably my favourite book so far this year.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Chatting with Kaska

My next chat is with Kaska, another forum book addict.

If you could live in the age of a setting in a book , which book & why.

Oh definitely a time before TV & mobile phones. In fact any time before celebrities were born.
It would probably be a time of simplicity within a spiritual cult of some kind, maybe the Druids.
Katie Stewarts book TreeSpeaker comes to mind of a small village living in peace, with a little bit of magic & a lot of intuition & a connection to the earth & beyond. I think I could be feisty enough to battle evil Lords too :)

Does it annoy you the book finishes well before 100% because the author mentions their other works at the back of the novel. Do you mind if the author includes a synopsis or even an excerpt

No not at all.  I don't take any notice of the percentage. When the story's finished it's finished. It's my choice to read the extra bits or not. 

Are you put off if you see a book is part of a series? Or does that entice you, knowing that if you like it there are more books to enjoy.

Most respected series will give you a good & complete tale leaving enough room at the end for a follow on.  Very exciting. And you can choose to read on or not as it's not actually necessary.

But some indie authors haven't got the gist of this & just spread a very long book into a series of several books. I wish a good friend of relative would put them right.

Do you read the Look Inside before purchasing? Always? Sometimes, depending on the reviews? Never?

Always! I've been caught out before by purchasing on a good synopsis & reviews only to be disappointed when I actually come to reading it.

Do you read for hours at a time, or in short bursts, or a mixture of the two?

I try to space it out so that I'm not indulging wholly in one thing for a long period of time.  But i  can forget that rule at times. That also applies to other areas of my life.

How important are reviews of a book to you? Would they influence your choice to buy it?

Reviews can be a problem. Some help some hinder. I check the reviewers profile first before reading their review, then make a decision whether it's worth reading or not.

The only real way to  influence my choice to buy is by sampling it, but I guess seeing a lot of reviews under a book does encourage me to make that step.

Do you think you remain unbiased when reviewing books by people you know or interact with on the internet

No, I don't think I  do fully & I don't think I'm alone in that. 

It's a bit like Come Dine With Me, in that the meal/book has been extended beyond the ingredients & your score accommodates the entertainment & such like.
The book itself becomes the person, a known person, a nice or nasty person & you weave that personality  & relationship into your reading. 

How do you feel about leaving negative reviews

If I don't like a book, I know early on & stop reading it. Therefore I don't normally write a review on the basis of only reading 10 pages. 

As I only usually complete books that are readable to me then my reviews are positive. I may within a positive review make a negative remark but I am comfortable with that.

Are you more lenient with regards mistakes if you know a book is self published, or do you believe the authors should have hired an editor to make sure it's the best it can be?

I think if an author has taken the time & dedication to write a book then he/she should see it through to the end & make the time for those final touches or get someone else to do it for them. 
A shoddy book cover & poor editing in my opinion ruins the hard work initially put in.

You wouldn't promote a suit with the stitching unfinished or a sweater that was unravelling regardless of the quality of materials used nor would you sell an part baked cake or a cold cup of tea. 
I think a quality & proud author will make sure his work will have a quality finish. 
I know this to be true as those such as Ken Maggee, Katie Stewart & David Wailing to name but a few indie authors on KUF have all taken great care & time with their finishing details. And damn good reading material they've produced too!

If something an author did upset or bothered you, would it stop you reading more of their work, even if you've read their stuff before and enjoyed it?

In a word.  Yes.


The Heist by Shaun Jeffrey

I've read just about everything by this author and the themes are mainly serial killers / horror / paranormalish.  This one is none of these.  It is a straight forward crime / chase story.  Well as straight forward as you'd expect in a Shaun Jeffrey novella.

It is not a long book, I read it in one sitting.  There are puzzles for the characters to solve and myself stopping to try and solve the puzzles myself didn't detract from reading the book.

As usual, it's an easy read.  The story just flows along.  I didn't know too much about it beforehand, so I didn't spot any of the twists along the way.  There is a bit of swearing going on, but I didn't feel this was as "18 rated" as some of the author's other books

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

A Letter for Maureen by Jonathan Hill

This is the second Maureen book.  This time Maureen is at home and at the book club meetings at the local library.  

I found this a much more satisfying story than Maureen goes to Venice.  In the early book, Maureen is just clumsy and somewhat obnoxious.  This story gives her a lot more heart.  Even though she is the one person you don’t want to spend too much time with, she only wants to do what is right and kind.

I loved the bit where she visits the ‘care home’.  I could really picture the scene.  I thought that was superb scene setting and writing.

As for the ‘letter’ of the title.  Gulp.

Copy by David Wailing

This is the fifth in the Auto series of short stories.  In saying they are short stories, they are all a decent length.  I really liked this one.  

The tech in this story is electronic books and yet again David Wailing seems to have nailed a future that sounds oh so true.

As with the other stories in this series, the story starts off gentle, introducing us to eeBooks (enhanced electronic books) before ramping the tension up.

I loved the autos in the car and also some of the book names.

Again, a wonderful if scary version of the future.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Lion and Unicorn Quest by Cecilia Peartree

This is a nice gentle story set in 1950s London.  We join the characters Oliver Quest and Flora after first meeting them in the Hearts and Arrows anthology.  Oliver is an ex-policeman and Flora was a spy in France during the war.  They then got together to search for missing works of art.

This story, however, starts with them having a tiff / misunderstanding and both starting their own quests and jobs which invariably merge.

The setting being 1951 certainly adds to the tone of the book.  Characters are always having to go and find a phone box – even for emergency and urgent calls.  Or catch a bus to get where they need to be.

Even though there is crime, murder, gangs and beatings, it is all done in a gentle manner.

This is certainly a very readable and enjoyable book and even though you want to give Flora a clip round the ear and tell her to listen to Oliver, the characters soon feel like old friends.

Diary of a Parallel Man by Mahershalalhashbaz by David Elham

This book is one of the joys I have had since owning my kindle.
I would imagine that it is one of those that just wouldn't get a place in a bookstore as it is just too "different".  Yet it is it's differentness that should be celebrated.

In essence it is a fish out of water story.  Baz live in paradise and spoke daily with God, but wanted to find out more and created a passage into our world.  He ends up going through this "wormhole" into Manchester and gets stuck in our times.

There is not much kindness in this other place.  Baz is such a good person who starts to get ground down with life here.

From my summary it sounds depressing, but this is not a depressing story, not by any means.  This is definitely one that I will read again.