The Follower by Koethi Zan
Today is my stop on The Follower blog tour and I have for you all a wonderful guest post by Koethi Zan to share with you all.
First, here’s some info on the book!
About the Book
Julie has the perfect life.
A kind boyfriend, loving parents and good grades. She has everything ahead of her.
Cora’s life is a nightmare.
A psychopath for a husband, a violent father and a terrible secret. There’s no way out.
But one night, their worlds collide.
Locked in an isolated house together, they must work out what has happened – and who they can trust to set them free.
From the bestselling author of The Never List, this is a breath-taking new thriller about the wife of a kidnapper and her relationship with his last victim.
Five Thrillers That Have Inspired Me
By Koethi Zan
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS by Thomas Harris.
What can I say? This is the crime thriller that started it all for me. I was a teenager when this book was first published, and it planted the first seeds of terror in my innocent young heart. Thank you, Thomas Harris, for this brilliantly constructed book, the epitome of page-turners. Anyone who hasn’t read this classic of the genre should put everything else on hold and dive in.
A JUDGEMENT IN STONE by Ruth Rendell.
It’s hard to choose which Ruth Rendell novel I love the most, but I read this one recently and my jaw dropped as I ploughed through it. She turns the story on its head, telling you from the first line how the book ends, which paradoxically increases the suspense. She is a genius.
SIDETRACKED by Henning Mankell.
The fifth book in the Wallander series is my favorite Mankell novel. In it, Wallander chases a sadistic serial killer while, as usual, balancing the complex and thoroughly engrossing issues of his personal life. Both moving and fast-paced, this novel is Mankell at his best.
CRY OF THE OWL by Patricia Highsmith.
Not as well known as the Ripley series, this truly strange psychological thriller challenges narrative conventions by turning the victim into the hunter. Unpredictable and devastating, this novel’s suspense builds up slowly to a shocking and gory ending.
WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE by Shirley Jackson.
Always on my list of favorites, this brilliant novella puts the reader within the distorted reality of Merricat Blackwood’s head years after the murder of most of her family. Beautifully written and uniquely disorienting, it is to my mind an absolutely perfect work of fiction.
About the Author
Follow the Tour
All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
Today is my stop on the All is not Forgotten blog tour and I have for you a wonderful guest post by Wendy Walker and a chance to win a copy of the book too!
First, here’s more information on the book.
About the Book
Until one night when young Jenny Kramer is attacked at a local party. In the hours immediately after, she is given a controversial drug to medically erase her memory of the violent assault. But, in the weeks and months that follow, as she heals from her physical wounds, and with no factual recall of the attack, Jenny struggles with her raging emotional memory. Her father, Tom, becomes obsessed with his inability to find her attacker and seek justice while her mother, Charlotte, prefers to pretend this horrific event did not touch her perfect country club world.
As they seek help for their daughter, the fault lines within their marriage and their close-knit community emerge from the shadows where they have been hidden for years, and the relentless quest to find the monster who invaded their town – or perhaps lives among them – drive this psychological thriller to a shocking and unexpected conclusion
Altering Memories of Violent Crime – Choosing Between Justice and Forgetting
One of the most compelling issues that I came across while writing my thriller, All Is Not Forgotten, is the very real possibility of being able to alter or erase the memory of a violent crime. Scientists now understand how memories are transferred from short term to long term memory. They also know how memories are recalled and then restored back to the many places in the brain where they are held. Today, they can alter certain components of those memories, like emotional and physical pain, and they are using this knowledge to treat victims of trauma and crime who suffer from PTSD and other emotional disorders. Many scientists believe that they will, one day, be able to target and erase the factual components of memories as well!
Now, the most successful treatments for trauma that target memory are administered immediately following the event – before the short term memory is consolidated into long term memory. And the reality is that prosecuting violent crime often requires the testimony of the victim, and that testimony is subjected to rigorous scrutiny by defense attorneys. So there it is – the question that became the driving force of my plot – what would you choose if you were the victim of a violent crime? Would you choose to forget? Or would you seek justice? Even more mind bending – what would you choose for your child?
Treatments for trauma using memory alteration are on the rise and have been the subject of numerous print and television reports in the past year alone. As these treatments become more widely available, they are sure to pose serious moral, ethical, and personal dilemmas within our criminal justice systems.
So I have three copies of this gorgeous book to giveaway to three UK winners!
And all you need to do to enter is comment below with your favourite (or one of your favourite!) thriller authors at the moment!
I will then close entries on 9th March 2017 at 5pm and choose the three winners! They will have 28 days to respond to the e-mail that I will send them before new winners will be chosen!
So, good luck!!
Follow the Tour
Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Today is my stop on the Wintersong blog tour and I am here today to share with you all a very exciting excerpt from the novel!
Before you get to see this exclusive sneak peak though, here’s some more information about the book!
About the Book
All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.
But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.
Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.
I whirled around. Sitting on my bed were a pair of goblin girls. They stared at me, tittering behind their hands. With a twist of the stomach, I noticed they had too many joints in their long, twig-like fingers. Their skin had the greenish-brown tint of a spring wood just waking from its winter slumber, and their eyes had no whites about the pupils.
“No, no, mustn’t touch.” One of them waggled an unsettlingly long finger at me. “His Majesty wouldn’t be pleased.”
I dropped my hand to my side. “His Majesty? The Goblin King?”
“Goblin King,” the other goblin girl scoffed. She was the size of a child, but proportioned like an adult, a little stocky, with shining white hair like a thistle-cloud about her head. “King of the goblins, feh. He’s no king of mine.”
“Shush, Thistle,” the first goblin girl admonished. She was longer and thinner than her counterpart, built like a slender birch tree. Her hair was branches wound with cobwebs. “You mustn’t say things like that.”
“I’ll say what I want, Twig.” Thistle crossed her arms with a mutinous expression on her face.
Thistle and Twig carried on as though I were nothing more than another fixture in the barrow. Even among the goblins, I faded into the shadows. I cleared my throat.
“What are you doing here?” My voice cracked through their conversation like a whip. “Who are you?”
“We are your attendants,” said the one called Thistle. She grinned, her smile row upon row of jagged teeth. “Sent to prepare you for the fête tonight.”
“Fête?” I did not like the way she said prepare, as though I were a kill for the feast, a roast to be trussed. “What fête?”
“The Goblin Ball, of course,” said the one called Twig. “We host revels each night during the days of winter, and tonight promises to be special. Tonight Der Erlkönig introduces his bride to the Underground.”
“I must speak with Der Erlkönig,” I said. “Immediately.”
Twig and Thistle laughed, branches rubbing against each other in a sudden storm. “And so you shall, maiden. So you shall. All in good time. You are his guest of honor at the ball tonight, and you shall meet with him then.”
“No.” I tried to impose my will upon them; I was bigger, after all, although not by much. “I must speak with him now.”
“All you mortals are so impatient,” Thistle said. “I suppose that’s what comes with feeling the hand of Death upon your neck at all times.”
“Take me to him,” I demanded. “Right now.”
But both Twig and Thistle were implacable, ignoring my words and circling me with curious eyes. I wanted to shy away from their scrutiny, from their judging eyes, from the sense that they were measuring me against some invisible mark.
“Not much to work with,” Thistle remarked.
“Hmmm,” Twig agreed. “Don’t know what we could do to improve her appearance.”
I bristled. Plain as I was, at least I wasn’t grotesque, not like these goblin girls.
“I shall address him as I am, thank you,” I said sharply. “My appearance needs no improving.”
They gave me a look of pity mingled with contempt. “It’s not your choice, mortal,” Thistle said. “It pleases our esteemed sovereign to have you properly dressed tonight.”
“Can’t this wait?”
Twig and Thistle exchanged looks, then laughed, another burst of branches in a storm.
“There are rituals, and there are traditions,” Twig said. “The Goblin Ball is a tradition. There is a time and place for boons and audiences, and the Goblin Ball is not the appropriate time or place for either. You are Der Erlkönig’s guest of honor; this night is for you. Enjoy yourself. All other nights belong to him. And to us.”
About the Author
Born and raised in sunny Los Angeles, she lived in New York City for ten years before relocating down to Dixie, where she is comfortably growing fat on grits and barbecue. When not writing, she can be found rock-climbing, skydiving, taking photographs, drawing pictures, and dragging her dog on ridiculously long hikes.
Follow the Tour
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
Today is my spot on the The Keeper of Lost Things blog tour and I have for you all something a bit different. The lovely Ruth Hogan is sharing with us one of her prized possessions and where she got it from.
First up, some info on the book.
About the Book
Bone china cup and saucer—Found, on a bench in Riveria Public Gardens, 31st October.Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancée, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidently left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.
Recovering from a bad divorce, Laura, in some ways, is one of Anthony’s lost things. But when the lonely woman moves into his mansion, her life begins to change. She finds a new friend in the neighbor’s quirky daughter, Sunshine, and a welcome distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As the dark cloud engulfing her lifts, Laura, accompanied by her new companions, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish: reuniting his cherished lost objects with their owners.
Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.
As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?
The Keeper of Lost Things is out now, priced £16.99, published by Two Roads books.
If You Go Down the Woods Today…
by Ruth Hogan
This teddy bear was one of my early finds and I rescued him from a shop doorstep in town on the way home from the Bedford River Festival one year. My husband said that I should leave him there in case someone came back looking for him. But the bear looked so forlorn that I couldn’t bear (no pun intended) to leave him there. He is now part of the KEEPER window display in The Eagle Bookshop in Castle Road, and it would be lovely if the person who lost him saw him there and came to take him home.
Follow the Tour
It Was You by Jo Platt
Today I am on the It Was You blog tour and I have Jo Platt on the blog with a great guest post for you all!
First though, here’s some info on the book!
About the Book
Fast-forward three years and Alice has been happily single for some time after having her heart broken by a lying ex-boyfriend. But when her best friends in The Short Book Group offer their match-making skills, she decides to take the plunge and start dating again. From a handsome pathologist with a penchant for battle re-enactment to a suave businessman with a beautiful car, Alice is inundated with prospective suitors. But things soon unravel as she uncovers the secret heartache, calculating lies and hidden hopes of those closest to her. And her most surprising discovery is the life-changing truth which she has kept hidden even from herself…
Can Alice face up to her own shocking secret – even if it means hurting those closest to her?
The Accidental Author
By Jo Platt
Do you ever sit back, take stock and think, ‘How on earth did I end up here? Doing this?’ I do. In fact, I think it about once a day. It’s not that I don’t enjoy where I am and what I do – I absolutely love it. It just all feels slightly surreal.
My journey began in 2012, when a Bristol friend suggested that I write a book. What she actually said was, ‘Why don’t you write something longer? I’d definitely read it.’ Up until that moment, my writing had been confined to local newspaper articles, short pieces to entertain family and friends and a couple of sketches and plays I’d penned for my daughters’ school assemblies. I’d had an idea for a longer story (inspired by my friend growing a moustache for charity and my sister telling me a rather distressing tale about her neighbour and a Flymo), but sitting down to write it felt a bit too, well, self-indulgent. Nevertheless, my friend telling me to write ‘something longer’ proved to be the perfectly-timed push I needed and so, unbeknownst to her, or to anyone else, save my husband and my children, I went home that day and started to write. A year later, after much furtive typing, my first novel, Reading Upside Down, a romcom about a jilted woman, her beardy neighbour and a rather unfortunate incident with a lawnmower, was complete.
On reflection, I realise that revealing to my friends and wider family that I’d written Reading Upside Down, and then letting them read it, was actually the biggest hurdle I have had to overcome throughout the entire literary process. Because not only did I still view my writing as a self-indulgence, I also had no clue whether what I had written would entertain anyone other than myself. But I took the plunge, sharing it with friends and with my mother-in-law. As it turned out, the reaction of the latter, in particular, was so aggressively enthusiastic, that the idea of self-publishing the novel (which had been lurking at the back of my mind for some time), suddenly seemed a lot less scary than doing nothing and facing her wrath. So with the help of a local friend who created a cover, and then gave me some shouty advice about getting some sort of marketing act together, I self-published Reading Upside Down in February 2013.
From there, things moved rather rapidly. The book received some positive reviews online and, most significantly, in a small local magazine. This lead to a radio interview, following which my interviewer, Steve Yabsley of BBC Radio Bristol, encouraged me to send the book to an agent. I did so the next day, and by the end of that week was already getting to know my lovely agent, Camilla Wray of Darley Anderson. Within four months, Camilla and the Darley team had found publishing homes for Reading Upside Down in six countries. It was a whirlwind ride, which left me breathless, and which has continued to do so ever since.
Without a doubt, one of the best consequences of being signed by Darley Anderson was the transformation of my mindset. Writing was no longer a guilty pleasure, but simply a pleasure. Of course, with my agent and editors on board to ask questions and offer support, the experience of creating my second novel was very different to the first. But It Was You, a romcom about the feelings we keep hidden, and the unexpected consequences of falling for a friend, was every bit as fun to write as Reading Upside Down. And, fingers crossed, will be every bit as fun to read.
With hindsight then, it’s clear that my entire journey, from ‘write something longer’ to the publication of It Was You in Europe and now in the UK, would not have been possible without the support, encouragement and kindness of others. Left to my own devices, and to my own insecurities, Reading Upside Down would probably still be languishing in my underwear drawer, and It Was You may not have ever been written at all. So, as I sit here with my cup of tea, tapping away at my laptop and wondering how on earth I got here, I am certain of one thing: it wasn’t on my own.
It Was You was published by Canelo on 31st October price £1.99 as an ebook. Visit canelo.co or follow #ItWasYou on Twitter.
About the Author
Jo Platt was born in Liverpool and has lived in Wiltshire, London, Seattle and St Albans, before settling in Bristol with her husband and two children. She studied English at King’s College London and worked in the City for 10 years before becoming a pre-school teacher in the US and then a mother and secretary. Her debut novel Reading Upside Down was self-published in 2013, selling over 15,000 copies and has since sold to publishers internationally.
Follow the Tour!
Will you be reading the book? How did your writing journey begin?
Lie Kill Walk Away by Matt Dickinson
Today I am here to share with you all a brilliant guest post by Matt Dickinson to celebrate the release of his newest book, Lie Kill Walk Away! Hope you enjoy.
But first, here’s some info on the book!
About the Book
I check the Range Rover dash. The keys are in there.
The sirens are closing in. There s a police helicopter coming over the hospital
I have to decide. Decide right now. I can keep out of trouble. Not get involved. Just run away through the park and go home and pretend none of this has happened.
Or I can help Becca.
I stare into her eyes. Those deep blue eyes. Just for a split second.
I tell her, get in the car .
Joe and Becca uncover a deadly secret. A lethal bioweapon is about to be unleashed. Millions will suffer a terrible death.
Now they are being hunted down.
And their problems have only just begun …
Guest Post by Matt Dickinson
BUILD A BIO-WEAPON FROM THE SAFETY OF YOUR OWN BEDROOM!? THE TERRIFYING RISE OF DIY KITS WHICH MAY UNLEASH SUPER CHARGED PATHOGENS
Imagine you have a grudge against the world. Imagine you have a pathological desire to get revenge. An agenda to spread mayhem. A burning need to harm.
This is the mindset of Jon Melzack, the antagonist in my new thriller Lie Kill Walk Away.
Melzack is a cult leader, hiding behind a wall of religious rhetoric. But behind the scenes he is working with a lab to create a deadly new bioweapon. A weaponized form of the Ebola virus which can kill in hours. He is the leader of a clandestine terror group.
He wants revenge on the western leaders who have destroyed his life.
And a superweapon may be within his grasp.
During the research for the book I discovered some truly terrifying things.
It is now possible to buy a ‘starter kit’ to mess with the DNA of certain life forms – even if you have no experience and no laboratory of your own.
One example is the CRISP-CAS9 kit which costs about £100. It’s widely available and many medical research organisations are already warning that it is potentially lethal. Google it and you’ll find out more.
You can now play God with the E.Coli bacteria in your own house, giving this potentially dangerous organism the ability to resist antibiotics, or even more dangerous scenarios, which might be completely impossible to predict.
Basically it is a gene-altering kit for a simple bacteria.
It seems harmless perhaps. The new bacteria will just die in the test tube won’t they? Maybe not. The peril is real, as explored in my thriller Lie Kill Walk Away.
The question is: where does this all end? Will it soon be possible to buy a kit to alter the structure of human DNA?
Will commercial organisations begin to market ‘do it yourself bio-terrorism kits’ on the dark net?
This is the brave new world that my two teen heroes Rebecca and Joe are plunged into. Where millions of lives may be at stake from a single vial of a brand new pathogen.
Playing God? Anyone can now do it. We have to wonder where tinkering with genetic information will end.
Follow the Tour
Will you be reading this book?
Making Arrangements by Ferris Robinson
Today is my stop on the Making Arrangements blog tour! I have for you a great guest post by Ferris Robinson on her favourite things about the book.
About the Book
Devoted to him, she reels from the loss, focusing on her precious granddaughter but struggling with her bossy only child, Teddy, and his aloof girlfriend, Sarah.
With her historical family estate in jeopardy, Lang realizes her husband wasn’t as perfect as she thought.
The secret he carried to his grave can ruin her life.
If she lets it.
Favourite Things about Making Arrangements
by Ferris Robinson
The protagonist is older, has a large behind, and sneaks caramel cake when her fit husband isn’t looking.
The spectacular flower arrangements she makes are with common things growing in her yard.
Lang’s preconceived ideas about a coarse, shallow woman change as the grammar-butchering fashion plate befriends her, and is steady and encouraging and loving.
Lang found romantic interest at older age.
Even though Lang Eldridge was helpless as far as finances and dependent and trusting of her husband on those matters, she figured it all out after his death.
The protagonist makes the best caramel cake in the world, and I have the recipe! (And I share with newsletter subscribers!)
The story touches on what makes a family; sometimes the most unlikely connections can turn into something familial and important.
Just when Lang’s arrangements are absolutely perfect – from the caramel cake in the freezer for her husband’s first birthday without her to the love letter for the anniversary he must mark alone after impending death – they fall completely apart. But sometimes that’s a good thing.
The little mute stray dog that stationed itself at Lang’s front door the day of her husband’s funeral ends up rescuing her, instead of the other way around.
A little six-year-old granddaughter teaches Lang the importance of forgiveness.
About the Author
The author of several cookbooks, including “Never Trust a Hungry Cook,” which she wrote in college and the “Gorgeless Gourmet’s Cookbook,” Ferris was featured on the cover of Women’s World magazine. Promoting her super-easy but healthy recipes, she made numerous television appearances and sold 10,000 copies of the Gorgeless Gourmet’s Cookbook, pre-Internet. Paid subscribers from every state in the U.S. received her newsletter featuring “practically fat-free recipes for super-busy people.”
Her book “Dogs and Love – Sixteen Stories of Fidelity” has 94 reviews on Amazon, and her other books include “Authentic Log Homes.” “Making Arrangements” is her first novel.
Follow the Tour
Will you be reading Making Arrangements?
Super Awkward by Beth Garrod
Today I have for you all a guest post by the wonderful Beth Garrod as part of her Blog Tour!
But first, here’s some info on the book!
About the Book
1. I once got my tongue stuck to a box of Calippos in a supermarket.
2. I accidentally called my geography teacher Mum. Twice. He wasn’t impressed.
3. I’m a geek. And not in a geek-chic kind of way, but in a secretly-caring-about-failing-maths-and-science way.
4. I always fail maths and science.
So it figures that when I meet the FITTEST BOY IN THE WORLD, Zac, I’m doing solo star jumps. While dressed as a cereal box.
(NOTE TO SELF, fancy dress = HE-WILL-NEVER-EVER-FANCY-ME dress.)
Now I’ve got to somehow persuade Zac to come to prom with me while avoiding my evil ex and dealing with a secret so mega-awks I want to Ctrl-Z my brain… What could go wrong?
Oh yeah, that’s right. Absolutely everything.
Top 5 Super Awkward Moments
By Beth Garrod
Have you ever had a moment that was so Super Awkward you wished you could delete the memories of people who were there at the time, and put a worldwide ban on people ever thinking – let alone mentioning – it ever again?
Ok. Well then imagine that. And then imagine writing them into a top five list for the world to see. WELCOME TO MY LIFE.
(Although thanks for asking me, I’m actually quite excited). So here goes.
- I’m terrible at sports (I include bowling and Jenga in this). So a school ski trip was never going to be a great idea for me. However, what I didn’t know was that the mountain wasn’t going to be my biggest nemesis – the T-bar chair lift was. But with no other option, I had to face it. So, with the whole school trip watching (and all the tiny children that were already laughing at how bad I was at skiing), I balanced myself on it, alongside my best friend. But an overly large laugh, became a wobble, became the sticky out bit of the T bar getting hooked in my ski jacket. Which soon became one entire boot and ski being yanked off as I got dragged up the entire length of the mountain (my friend laughing too much to be able to stand up). I even went through those weird bars at the top, which are meant to act as a life-sort-of toothbrush to scrape off any morsels. But this human morsel made it through. And then I had to plod the entire way back down a mountain in one ski. And one sock.
- One year I truly believed I’d met the World’s Sexiest Man. He was super hot and super cool, so every message I sent was a carefully crafted group-approved effort to make me seem like the kind of person who doesn’t actually sometimes accidentally-clap when she sees a dog with really good eyebrows. One particularly helpful friend had a part time job at my local supermarket. So I text him ‘When can we hang out in the freezer department of Tesco and talk about the World’s Sexiest Man?’ But I sent it to WSM. Who I then had to pretend that I’d meant to send this too, and it was a genuine date idea, based around a discussion of a fit man, who wasn’t him. We never had a second date.
- I’m a big believer in the ‘it gets better’ philosophy. However, in the case of me, and being awkward, this has just proved to mean I’ve got better at nailing the art of being awkward. Case in point – a big work event in Italy, a huge screen on the wall for the audience to stare out, a work laptop projecting our logo. All fine. Until I panic my phone battery is running out, plug it in, and oh guess what, NO ONE TELLS ME I’M NOW PROJECTING MY CAMERA ROLL TO THE WHOLE VENUE (or maybe they were telling me, but they were just doing it in Italian, and I thought they were asking for directions to the loo).
- This one’s I may have attributed to Bella – the lead character in Super Awkward. But sadly, it may, have hypothetically, been all me. And – yet again- it involves sport. Seriously – it’s bad for your health. It was the final Friday before a half-term, that was going to be full of seeing my friends, and going to parties – which was kind of a big deal when the height of my social life was normally helping my dad choose wall plugs in Homebase. But with the last lesson over, all I had to do was survive a rounders match and I’d be freeeeeee. In the safe – not much action – zone of deep field, I spent most of the match chatting to my friend. Until I heard my name being yelled and span round. Only to be whacked on my already large chin, by a rounders ball that seemed to be travelling faster than the speed of light. For all intents and purposes, the massive bruise that formed made me look I had developed an overnight beard. And it stayed the entire half term.
- Some words I don’t normally think of. So when my mum drove us home one day, and we popped into the local shop, it stuck in my mind when she said “Whatever you do, don’t look at the man behind the counter’s toupe’. Like a polite person, I totally didn’t, despite it being bright orange, sitting awkwardly on top of some sticky-out grey hairs. I saw other customer’s clocking it, but I was better than that. And I’d been warned. So, when I got to the counter and he asked what I wanted, it was a 100% accident when I replied clearly, loudly, calmly with ‘one toupe please’. The whole shop shut up. His wife gave me evils that melted actual skin cells. And I never – to this day – have been back to the shop.
Soooo, there is a tiny glimpse into the everyday danger that is being me. But I always figure that what doesn’t kill you, makes a funny story for someone else.
What are some of your super awkward moments?
YA Shot Tour: Maggie Harcourt
Today is my stop on the YA Shot Tour and I am here today with a brilliant guest post from Maggie Harcourt about her bookish inspirations!
by Maggie Harcourt
They say inspiration can come from anywhere, don’t they? And that’s largely true: you can find it in supermarkets, on trains, on your bedroom ceiling sometime around 3am when you’re having trouble sleeping and it’s the least convenient time imaginable to start Having An Idea… but every once in a while, it’s easier to pin down the thread of an idea. Every once in a while, it’s a book (or a film, or a television show) that starts you asking: “What if…?”
So here’s a couple of mine…
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
I don’t remember the first time I read about the Musketeers, although I have a feeling it was probably filtered through Dogtanian & the Muskehounds (because 1980s). What I do remember is that I really, really wanted to be one of them: getting into daring swordfights with the Cardinal’s Guards, carrying out extravagantly risky secret missions… and all with my best friends by my side. Because it wasn’t the swashbuckling or the intrigues (political or romantic) that really caught my imagination: it was the friendships. Athos, Porthos and Aramis. The three inseparables; the three Musketeers. All for one, and one for all. So important is their relationship that the story is even named after them; there’s not even a mention of d’Artagnan – the actual protagonist – in the title…
To let you in on a little secret, I never got Doctor Who when I was growing up. It didn’t help that I largely grew up in the gap when it wasn’t a thing: I think I vaguely remember a handful of Sylvester McCoy’s episodes as the Seventh Doctor, and I definitely remember sitting down to watch Paul McCann’s feature-length outing as the Eighth (even if I don’t actually recall any of what happened in it…). But ‘new’ Who? That is very, very much a thing. I love the Doctor. I love that he can change who he is without ever quite changing it. I love that he calls himself ‘Doctor’ and that he believes in trying to solve things by being clever; fixing them instead of breaking them further like any other hero might do. I love that however angry and frustrated he might get (especially when it comes to humans), he still keeps coming back to try and make things better. Plus, you know, aliens and the TARDIS and jokes.
This is one of those “I really ought to read the book but I’m just going to sit here and cradle the film to me, gently weeping,” sort of choices… because there is no way – no way – that I can watch this film without dissolving into an ugly-crying, snivelling puddle. I don’t even know why: I spend half of it shouting at Allie and Noah’s choices, and the other half sighing wistfully at it. I’m not saying I particularly endorse the whole “I’m going to hang off the bottom of this Ferris wheel cab until that beautiful girl agrees to go out with me, possibly suggesting I’m a tad unhinged…” episode, but if you can make it to the end of the story without even a single tear, you might be a bit broken. Also, that kiss in the rain? Wow.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke
I find it very difficult talking about this book (or the recent – brilliant – television adaptation of it) without… well, to put it bluntly, “going on a bit”. I wholeheartedly love this book. I love it – even the footnotes. Yep. (And, as I realised when I re-read it last year, if you want to find the rest of the women in the story, that’s where you look for them. Rather wittily, Clarke is making a pointed comment about the fact you’ll find many of history’s strong and powerful women hidden in the footnotes of the past.) I adore its layers: the alternate history, the scope and the prickliness of the characters… and the magic. I’m definitely a fan of the magic.
But what’s fascinating is that it has a lot in common with some of my favourite contemporary YA stories: if you strip it back to its absolute core, you can read it as Jonathan Strange’s coming-of-age story (which, while he feels a bit old to be a YA protagonist to our eyes, given the historical setting and his social class it sort of works). He’s dealing with authority, finding his own place in the world, falling in love, finding out who his true friends are… finding himself. And if he happens to encounter a shed-load of fairies and the Duke of Wellington while he’s at it, well, so much the better.
The thing that made me fall for it, irredeemably and head-over-heels, though, is that it’s also about books. Not just magic and power, but books and knowledge and what they mean – and what people will do to control them.
(By the way, if you can’t face the size of the novel – or the footnotes – do track down that recent BBC adaptation. It’s as perfect an adaptation as you’ll ever find of anything, both true to the spirit of the book and entirely its own thing.)
What are you bookish inspirations?
Ghost Target by Will Jordan
I’m here today on the Ghost Target blog tour and I’m here to introduce you all to Will Jordan as he talks about his Bookish Inspirations!
First though, here’s some information on the book!
Ryan Drake, once a decorated field operative, is now wanted for treason. On the run from the CIA’s corrupt Deputy Director Marcus Cain, he has spent the past six months in a remote French safehouse. Drake’s former life seems to be behind him, but the uneasy peace is shattered when Cain moves against him with startling force.
Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan is faltering in the wake of a devastating suicide attack. Cain though has a plan to find and destroy al-Qaeda’s top commanders. And nobody will stand in his way.
Backed into a corner, Drake turns to the deadly but unpredictable Anya – once Cain’s most promising agent, now his most bitter enemy. With tensions running high and their uneasy alliance threatening to tear itself apart, Drake’s hastily assembled team travels to Pakistan to intercept Cain.
With the fate of the War on Terror hanging in the balance, loyalties are tested and scores settled, as Drake embarks on the fight of his life. Only one side will survive…
By Will Jordan
That being said, I have and sometimes still do use other books to inspire me, to motivate me, or just to give me a different way of looking at things, so hopefully the list below reflects that blend of old and new.
1. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean Auel)
Having stumbled on it twenty years ago by pure fluke, Auel’s Earth’s Children series will always have a special place in my heart, because it’s basically the reason I got into writing in the first place, and it all began with Clan of the Cave Bear. Set during the last ice age at the dawn of human history, the book follows Ayla, a young girl who loses her family in an earthquake and is taken in by a clan of Neandertals. Forced to adapt to a shockingly different way of life, and to survive against the vindictive future leader of the group, it’s impossible not to root for her. The book makes no effort to romanticise that era, depicting life as hard, dangerous and unforgiving, which makes Ayla’s story all the more remarkable. I learned a great deal about character building from this book; so much so that one of my own characters in the Drake series is actually a tip of the hat to Auel’s classic protagonist.
2. Conrad’s War (Andrew Davies)
One of the earliest books I remember reading independently, Conrad’s War is told from the point of view of a young man growing up in the 1960′s who fantasises about WW2. Gradually his fantasies begin to seep into the real world, taking on a life of their own. Accompanied by his hapless dad, Conrad experiences everything from piloting a defective aircraft during a bombing raid, to an escape from a POW camp, to a desperate race for the French coast. It’s told with a wonderful sense of dry humour, particularly his relationship with his blundering father, but the most arresting moments are the serious ones, like when Conrad encounters a decrepit ambulance loaded with casualties and begins to realise war isn’t the glorious adventure he imagined.
3. A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini)
If ever I learned a lesson from a book, it was this – it doesn’t matter what the situation is, how mundane or simple it might seem; if you care about the characters involved, then it becomes the most important thing in all the world. I learned that lesson from A Thousand Splendid Suns; the story of two women living through two turbulent decades of Afghan history, and their increasingly desperate attempts to escape their abusive husband. An absolutely gripping look at the enduring power of friendship, hope and sacrifice.
Taking my cues from this book, I’ve made a point of crafting compelling, relatable characters that my readers can genuinely empathise with and become attached to. That way they can be even more shocked as I start killing them off!
4. The Road (Cormack McCarthy)
As bleak and uncompromising as it is heartening and uplifting, The Road depicts the struggle of a father to survive and protect his son from the dangers of a post-apocalyptic world. More importantly, the book examines what it truly means to be human, and how far one can go in order to stay alive. The book’s central message took on new meaning for me when I became a father myself.
5. Any Clive Cussler book!
Well it doesn’t all have to be bleak and grim! Even a writer needs a bit of escapism from time to time, and truly there’s nothing better for me than to take off on another adventure with Cussler’s unflappable hero Dirk Pitt. Globe-trotting escapades, beautiful and exotic locations, over the top villains and ancient mysteries combine into a perfect blend of action and intrigue. Even if we work in somewhat different genres, I can’t help but add a pinch of Cussler’s style every once in a while, particularly by having Drake and company travel to far flung countries for their next mission.
I make a point of taking a Cussler book with me every time I go away on holiday. I dread the day when I finish them all!
6. My own online writing
It may sound self indulgent, but stick with me. Writing is like a snapshot of your life at a particular place and time, way more personal than a photograph because the words were crafted and developed entirely by you. For me there’s no easier way to evoke memories of a certain time in my life than to read something I wrote back then, and fortunately there’s a pretty big repository of my old work lurking out there in cyberspace to this day. And no, I’m not telling you where it is!
But it’s rather satisfying to be able to bring back some of the characters I created back then and work them into my present day Drake novels.
7. The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien)
Really doesn’t need an introduction, does it? Lord of the Rings is one of those books that simply is. Grand and sweeping in its scope, rich in its detail and backstory, yet somehow able to marry this to the most intimate and poignant character moments, it’s simply a masterclass in storytelling. It helped introduce me to fantasy as a genre, and actually taught me some important lessons about developing large scale, epic storylines across multiple volumes. Again, lessons I’ve been able to apply readily to the Ryan Drake series.
8. The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
The only book to ever make me cry. The story of an orphaned girl struggling to survive in wartime Nazi Germany, told with remarkable sensitivity and poignancy from the point of view of Death himself. The bleak setting only serves to highlight the tremendous humanity and warmth of the book’s characters, particularly the main character’s adopted father. The ending, when it comes, still gives me chills whenever I think about it.
9. Nineteen Eighty Four (George Orwell)
Never have I read a book so wonderfully open to interpretation. In a world where the very fabric of reality can be twisted and distorted by the sinister Party, there’s no way to truly be sure of anything the book throws at you. With a protagonist who is neither heroic nor noble, but utterly frail and human, this book still manages to evoke the same feelings of creeping dread and paranoia with every read.
Big Brother is watching.
10. The Inheritors (William Golding)
A novel I was introduced to back in high school, and one that has stayed with me ever since. Haunting and dreamlike in its telling, but brutal and savage in its concept, it depicts the last days of a group of Neandertals as they encounter and are ultimately destroyed by the newer and more advanced invading species – humans. The air of sadness and melancholy that permeates the book is almost palpable, and even if you know the fate that awaits the main characters, you can’t help but hope they’ll somehow make it through.
Anyone who’s read my latest novel Ghost Target can no doubt sympathise!
Will Jordan was born in Fife. Whilst completing his degree in IT he worked as an extra in television and feature films. Cast in several action films, he was put through military boot camp and weapons training in preparation. He used this experience as the basis for his first thriller, Redemption and followed up with visits to weapon ranges in America and Eastern Europe, as well as research trips to Washington DC, London and New York. He has also interviewed British armed forces who had served tours in Afghanistan Ghost Target is his sixth book in the Ryan Drake series.