Saturday, 25 May 2013

The Cult of Me by Michael Brookes

This is certainly a different kind of book.  The first part is where you find out about the protagonist's powers and how he came about building them up.  The middle is where other people take an interest in them and then it builds up to the finale.

Myself, I preferred the first part.  Perhaps it is because I like reading how evil works.  There are no "nice" characters in this story, but I did like Hammond.

Punchline by P.A. Fenton

With a tag line of "They say everyone has a novel in them. Luca had five, until they were stolen from him." I was intrigued.  Also the fact I'd read 3 of this author's other books and loved them helped.

As usual with this author's stories, the protagonist is down on his luck in his job.  Again, as with this author's stories things get wildly out of hand in their spiral downwards.  Just who is responsible for stealing Luca's novels?

This is the author's first published book and what a cracker it is.  Some things are a bit over the top, but this adds to the reading experience.  Yes, it is a bit vulgar in places, but if I was experiencing what Luca is, I'm sure I'd be a bit like that.

Another superb story.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Invitation to Die by Helen Smith

Invitation to Die is a cozy murder mystery.  The Romance Writers of Great Britain are about to have their annual conference and decide to invite some of their enemies - Bloggers.  Emily Castles was invited to be one of the writer's assistant in organising the event.

Being a murder-mystery, some characters die and suspicion goes back and forth.  This story flowed well.  We were drip fed clues and red herrings, throughout.  I didn't get it at all.

I understand this was originally a serial.  I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it as much.  I read this  as a book in one afternoon.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Conversations in the Abyss by Michael Brookes

This is the sequel to The Cult of Me, which I haven't read.  In saying that, it's kind of apparent there's history but I didn't feel that I was missing out by not having read Cult.

This is an age old story of good versus evil, angels, demons, souls, God, etc.  There are a few strands going on, which obviously come together bit by bit.  Sometimes I felt like there could be a fleshing out of various bits of the story.  I think I liked the Friar Francis bits the best.  I would have liked to have read more about his part in this story.

An enjoyable read and I shall have to read the first one now, to see if it enhances my enjoyment of this one.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Seance of the Souls by David Haynes

This is the next instalment in David Haynes' "macabre" collection.  And what an instalment it is too.

Again, I was drawing into this miserable London from the first chapter, I could feel my pores clogging up with smog as I read.  This story has hideous deaths, intrigue, horrors and evil.  Yet, because it is set in Victorian times and reads as if it was written then, it's not an 18 rated book. The horrors are chilling and creepy, but certainly not like modern day "snuff" stuff.

This is certainly an enjoyable read - the story as well as the writing.

The Million Dollar Dress by Heide Goody

At first look, this seems as if it's a chick-lit book.  However as you get into it, it's more than that.

Justine walks off with her employer's futuristic electronic dress.  She's never stole anything before and feels guilty, but just cannot resist wearing the dress that will make you look as fantastic as you want.

This story turns into a farcical chase story with baddies, goodies and mad aunties.  I really enjoyed the gentle humour and silliness that the characters get into.

But this book is spoiled for me, by ending at just 70%.  That is really one of my bugbears with kindle books, you pace yourself knowing how much is left, then BAM!  Story over.  Then approximately 60 pages of previews for other books.  I don't mind upto 5%, but 30% is just a joke.  If I'd read this before Clovenhoof, I probably wouldn't have bought that one, such is my annoyance.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Serpent in the Glass by DM Andrews

This book is the tale of Thomas Farrell, an orphan who, on his 11th birthday, gets invited to live at a boarding school.  There is a kind of magic about, but apart from that, this is not Harry Potter.

Now I've never read HP, but have half watched the films and this book is nothing like that.

I found this an interesting read.  Sometimes I thought the names of some characters and things a bit awkward perhaps for the audience it is primarily aimed at, but then, I'm not a teenager, so perhaps it's no problem for them.

The storyline was exciting and I liked the characters, especially the 5 young friends.  The descriptions throughout the book were good enough for me to visualise.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Interrogating Ray Kingfisher

And now I put one of my new favourite authors under the spotlight.  Don't startle him, he's very shy.

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?

There are 3 or 4 genres I enjoy writing in. The trick is homing in on the commercially viable one(s). At the moment I’m adopting a scattergun approach but I hope readers will choose ‘my genre’ in time. During the writing process itself I’ve tried to consider US audiences (setting Slow Burning Lies in the US) and readers who are put off by swearing (Matchbox Memories and my work in progress). I’m not sure whether any of that counts as compromising – I want to write what I want to write, but ultimately I want people to read it too. It’s easy to be precious and forget that storytelling is an arm of the entertainment industry.

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

Emotional reaction, hands down. Many genres (such as police procedurals or anything trendy) bore the boxers off me. I like fairly traditional stories that put a smile on my face, or bristle the hairs on the back of my neck, or bring me to tears. Hence I try to write like that too. If readers think ‘ooh, that’s a clever plot twist’ then you’ve lost; they need to be so emotionally involved they can’t think that straight.
Having said that, perhaps subconsciously I want to highlight injustices of one sort or another and that comes through in this, my beginner phase. I’m not sure whether to nurture those thoughts or stamp on them and just ‘get on with the story’.

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 used to do a lot of this when I was writing short stories, and occasionally do now – usually on snotty scraps of paper or voice recordings on my phone. Less so now that I write most days and work on a single novel for months on end.
Getting into this habit is one of the often quoted ‘do’s of writing, but I think there’s a lot in the Stephen King philosophy: forget about the things you forget – it’s the ideas that you simply can’t get out of your head you should concentrate on, because if certain characters and scenes cling to your brain like stalkers to an A-list celeb perhaps there’s a good reason why.

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

The glib answer is ‘I don’t put them into the stories’.
The serious answer is that sometimes ideas that sound unrealistic or even preposterous can be the ones that give your writing that original twist if you can treat them properly.

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 ?

Two answers to this (again – sorry).
1 - Of course, the character I’m obsessed with is usually whichever one I’m writing about at the time – it’s currently Susannah Zuckerman – ‘The Lucky One’. In spite of her ordeal she’s a strong, brave woman who’s led a very full life.
2 - I conform to the clich√© of first novels being partly autobiographical. In 2010, like Ian Greefe of Matchbox Memories, I took time off work and went back to my hometown to look after my Mother, who has Alzheimers, while my father went into hospital. I’d already written a short story about a young girl who finds an abandoned baby and is haunted for the rest of her life by what happens next, so I put the two unrelated ideas together (a common writers’ trick). Of course, the experience merely gave me possible plot lines and scenes; most of the finished work is pure fiction.
Hence I still have a soft spot for Ian – the plan was always to write two sequels to Matchbox Memories, but I’ve simply moved on.

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

This is never really an issue as I don’t externalise my characters. The problem is that my mind is often elsewhere for days on end when I’m in the zone. Fortunately my wife is very understanding about my hobby/affliction.

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

People have a job accepting this, but for about 20 years I didn’t read any fiction – not one single word. My education and career has always been science and technology, I hated English Literature at school, and in my twenties I only read a handful of novels (mainly James Herbert, Tom Sharpe, and a few of those ‘Pan Book of Horrors’). I started writing fiction in my late forties (I still don’t really know why I did this – I’d just spent seven years renovating a house and was looking for a new hobby that didn’t involve me getting my hands burnt, cut or mangled), and soon realised I’d have to read fiction to be able to write it properly. I sometimes feel ashamed at my ignorance of fiction and wish I had more time to read. But between a full time job, writing, and all the other things in life I don’t get much time – and being a slow reader doesn’t help. But yes, I largely stick to the same 3 or 4 genres I write in, and I finish less than half the books I start.

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

None really. I hate self-promotion (as well as not having time for it). I don’t do the website/blog/twitter/facebook things – but I am starting to put more effort into book blurbs and covers.
In spite of often quoted advice to aspiring authors I do think the best form of promotions is to write more good stories – it’s also the most efficient use of my time because I get more product out there and develop my skills more quickly.
My marketing strategy is ‘write lots of stuff, make it as good as I can, and have faith that the reading community will do the publicity’. I know that’s not actually true, but it’s a healthy, honest philosophy for the long term.

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

Warm, because it’s selfless kindness.

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

Writing is one of the most solitary professions – which is ironic because unlike many other solitary professions, knowing and understand humans and their obsessions and power struggles is key.
Cyberspace (What an old-fashioned word that’s starting to be!) is a convenient way of squaring that circle. So, on a practical level KUF is an up-to-the minute knowledgebase for writes and readers, but beneath that is a community spirit. Those two virtues depend on each other so I value both equally.

What is on your near horizon?

I’ve just released ‘Easy Money’, an irreverent comedy that pokes fun at just about everyone who doesn’t like being poked fun at. It’s unlike anything else I’ve written and is a gamble as that sort of comedy isn’t currently fashionable. But that’s out there, so what next?
One of my titles – a short story called ‘The Lucky One’ – seems to have gone bananas in terms of downloads and reviews and I don’t know why. Most of the low reviews (and a few of the 5* ones) say it’s too short and would make a great novel. I’d always resisted this, thinking it would be going backwards and would betray a lack of imagination. However, while Easy Money was at the editors a few weeks ago I was itching to start on something else. I started a thriller about six strangers stranded on Exmoor, but it just didn’t feel exciting, so I thought a bit more about The Lucky One and realised those reviews were correct – that there is a lot more story to tell. I got about half way through a very rough first draft by the time Easy Money came back to me, and I’ve just published that so I’m about to get back to my old friend Susannah Zuckerman. And I’ve missed her – which is a good sign.

And after that?

I take a break after each draft of a novel which I use to toss around ideas for the next project. That might be the six strangers on Exmoor. Or it could be a thriller about a newlywed couple being chased across America by killers where the wife knows why but can’t let on to her husband. It could well be something completely different like sci-fi – I don’t know until I get my teeth into it.
My thoughts were that if Easy Money bombs I’ll stop writing comedy altogether after two attempts, but Matchbox Memories seems to have been discovered after a year out there so we’ll see.
Slow Burning Lies was – word for word – the quickest, easiest thing I’ve ever written, and it’s been by far the best selling, so I’m most likely to concentrate on that genre.
But I probably won’t write any more short stories – which is a shame – because they just don’t sell.
In the future I’d like to write more from a female perspective. I don’t know why – perhaps I’m just at a funny age, perhaps I’m on the turn, who knows?

Where can we find you for more information?

You can email me at That’s about it.
Like my penname, I’m a bit elusive. Apart from my wife and two friends I never see anymore (and people I’ve met on writing courses), nobody knows I write. I like it that way.
Beyond earning enough to write full time I really, genuinely don’t hanker after riches – and I certainly don’t want fame.
I just want to write stories.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Easy Money by Ray Kingfisher

Wow!  Another superb story by Ray Kingfisher.  This time it is a comic caper.  Warwick finds  bag of money in the boot of his car and things go wrong after that.

I loved the way that Warwick kept innocently saying and doing the wrong things, from the interview for promotion via some misunderstandings and especially the scene after the petrol station, this book was a joy to read.  At times I was reminded of Tom Sharp's Wilt character (although I haven't read any for decades).  The comedy wasn't over the top, just extremely well done.

Another contender for my book of the year.

Rebecca by Adam J Nicolai

Rebecca is a newborn baby, Sarah is her mother, thrown out by her mother and having to live and cope alone in an apartment.  This story is set in the first month of Rebecca's life and tells Sarah's tale of how she just isn't coping.

I'm still thinking of this story hours after finishing it.  It's a strange one indeed.  This is a very claustrophobic story as Sarah doesn't get far from her home.  The intensity comes from the other people in Sarah's life hassling her and not helping her.   I certainly wouldn't recommend this to any nervous first time pregnant young girls.

This book is not for the faint hearted.  There's religion, homophobia, harassment and lots of crying.  But it is a compelling read.  I can't say "enjoyable", but it is very readable.

I Woke Up This Morning by Stuart Ayris

This is the third in the Frugailty Trilogy and  you need to have read the first two as this one follows on from both, even though the other two had nothing to do with each other.

I must admit, though, I didn't really get on with this one.  I think the author's flowery prose get on my nerves a bit too much and I did speed read it at times.  But in saying that, I did enjoy the overallness of it.  

I preferred the Rod and friends bits of the book to the Stuart bits.  I found the Stuart character to be extremely selfish and, to me, very unlikeable.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Tales of Loss and Guilt by Ray Kingfisher

My previous review of a collection of short stories stated that I thought I just "didn't get them".  Reading this collection of shorts showed me that I can "get" shorts.  They just have to be the right ones.  All of these had a proper ending, they didn't leave you thinking "what was that all about?"  They had a vague collective theme, yet were all different in themselves

I particularly liked Karen in "Hot Smoke in a Cold Climate" and Herbie in "Part of a Plan".  I was picturing Herbie as Jake in the American drama "Touch".

I rate Ray Kingfisher as one to watch for the future.