Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

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My enormous thanks to Sara Darcy at Penguin Random House for an advanced reader copy of Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent in return for an honest review. Lying in Wait will be published by Penguin Ireland, an imprint of Penguin Random House, on 14th July 2016 and is available for purchase from Amazon, W H Smith, Waterstones and from all good bookshops.

Lying in Wait

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‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’

The last people who expect to be meeting with a drug-addicted prostitute are a respected judge and his reclusive wife. And they certainly don’t plan to kill her and bury her in their exquisite suburban garden.

Yet Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimons find themselves in this unfortunate situation.

While Lydia does all she can to protect their innocent son Laurence and their social standing, her husband begins to falls apart.

But Laurence is not as naïve as Lydia thinks. And his obsession with the dead girl’s family may be the undoing of his own.

My Review of Lying in Wait

From the moment Andrew Fitzsimons’ hands grasp Annie Doyle’s throat the lives of many people are going to change irrevocably.

Just a month after I began blogging, Liz Nugent’s debut novel Unravelling Oliver was one of the first books I reviewed (here) and since then I’ve been desperate to read more from her. It has been worth the wait.

Even before opening the book, Lying in Wait had me intrigued. The jacket cover has a dark and Gothic feel to it and the greys suggested to me that there would be no clear cut black and white presentation in the plot, themes and characters. I was right. The title gives us the hint – there is both physically awaiting and ambushing in Lying in Wait as well as so many characters behaving mendaciously to themselves and others. This is psychological writing at its finest.

From the dramatic opening line to the bleak final sentence Liz Nugent’s plot had me gripped. The events reminded me of one of those fairground halls of mirrors from my childhood where nothing is quite what it seems. Elements shift, distort and fragment with just a word or phrase so that the reader’s perspective alters frequently until they are almost being lied to by the first person narrators as much as the characters are in the story. Small, seemingly throwaway, lines are slipped subtly into the story and I found myself thinking, ‘Hang on. What did they just say?’ or, ‘No! Don’t do that. Don’t say that.’ and my stomach did a little flip with my pulse increasing. The chapter endings are incredible and even if Lying in Wait wasn’t already completely enthralling, those alone would compel any reader to read on.

Narrated in a conversational first person tone from the three perspectives of Lydia, Laurence and Karen, each has a distinct voice that reveals snippets of information. There is an underlying malevolence so that in the end I wasn’t sure at all how I felt about Lydia. I couldn’t decide if she was evil, insane or merely a damaged product of her past who deserved some sympathy. Indeed, I found all the characters made me think hard and change my opinions frequently.

What really played with my mind, however, was trying to decide just what I thought was a crime and just who the guilty people were. It is no secret that a murder has been committed and there is a murderer, but other crimes abound too, from the way society (especially in the 1980s when the book is set) treated those suffering dyslexia, or treated unmarried mothers, or how the police regarded those in prostitution and how society frequently bullies those who are obese or physically different. I was enraged by the behaviour of Declan O’Toole and Lydia’s obsession with Laurence is terrifying.

I consumed Lying in Wait over a weekend as I found it so compelling that I could not stop reading. Lying in Wait is disturbing, enthralling and utterly brilliant.

You can follow Liz Nugent on Twitter and visit her website and I’m delighted that I’ll be interviewing Liz about Lying in Wait nearer to publication day so do call back and see what she has to say.

Guest Post and Giveaway from Adam Maxwell

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When I discovered Adam Maxwell has a brand new adult novel, The Dali Deception, that was released on 20th June 2016, but that he is also a children’s author I was intrigued. So I invited him on to the blog to tell me all about the challenges of writing both adult and children’s fiction.

The Dali Deception is available in e-book for purchase here, but Adam is kindly giving away an e-book to one of Linda’s Book Bag readers at the bottom of this blog post.

The Dali Deception

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Five criminals. Two forgeries. And one masterpiece of a heist.

Violet Winters—a professional thief born of a good, honest thief-and-con-artist stock— has been offered the heist of a lifetime. Steal a priceless Salvador Dali from the security-obsessed chairman of the Kilchester Bank and replace it with a forgery.

The fact that the “painting” is a signed, blank canvas doesn’t matter. It’s the challenge that gives Violet that familiar, addicting rush of adrenaline. Her quarry rests in a converted underground Cold War bunker. One way in, one way out. No margin for error.

But the reason Violet fled Kilchester is waiting right where she left him—an ex-lover with a murderous method for dumping a girlfriend. If her heist is to be a success, there will have to be a reckoning, or everything could go spinning out of control.

Her team of talented misfits assembled, Violet sets out to re-stake her claim on her reputation, exorcise some demons, and claim the prize. That is, if her masterpiece of a plan isn’t derailed by a pissed-off crime boss—or betrayal from within her own ranks.

“Adam Maxwell is the indie writing scene’s sharpest wit, and the Dali Deception is his slickest, funniest – and surrealist – caper yet.” – Damien Walter, Columnist for The Guardian.

Rising to the Challenge

A Guest Post from Adam Maxwell

“Do any of you know any writers for kids aged 5+ that aren’t complete and utter crap?”

This was the Facebook post that started my foray into writing kids books.

“And I don’t mean Roald Dahl and the classics. I want new stuff. Stuff that kicks arse. I want the attitude of Buffy The Vampire Slayer but for five year olds.  And no princesses and definitely no bloody fairies.”

The response was swift and damning.

“No,” they said.  “You’re supposed to be a writer. Why don’t you do it yourself?”

And so I did.

Of course it wasn’t easy.  Writing for kids requires a whole different mindset to writing for adults and after much research I discovered it requires something even more important and, you must remember this next point, it’s VERY important… You can’t swear.  At all.

I know!  I was as shocked as you.

But I’ve jumped forward a bit.  I’ll rewind.  You see, I’d written a lot for adults.  Flash fiction, short stories, the odd novella.  And at that moment I was in the final stretch of writing what would turn into my first novel for adults (coincidentally the very same I am currently hoping to convince you to buy).

My then 5 year old daughter was a voracious reader and was rapidly moving into chapter books and I wanted to write something that would inspire her but also wouldn’t turn her into an international jewel-thief.

And so The Lost Bookshop was born.  And there was a hidden room in there.  And when the children went inside they were transported into the pages of the book; to the circus, to the wild west, into a Grimm tale.  No princesses and definitely no bloody fairies just kick-butt girls with heaps of attitude and a massive dose of adventure.

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I found that the two things began to inform one another.  Both series had female characters front and centre and in charge.  Both series had a healthy dose of laughs.  But only one series features a dwarf shooting someone’s face off.

Since starting the two series I’ve been a stickler for outlining and I suspect that’s helped to keep focus when it was needed.  Whatever book I’m working on right at any given moment will have an outline I’m working from but any ideas for scenes or stories for the others will just go into a folder on my laptop ready to be examined when I go and visit those characters again.  Keeping them separate is usually just a matter of discipline.  That and having a distinct cover style for each genre I’m writing in.

So I’d definitely recommend it.  Even with a full time job and a family it’s totally worth genre hopping.  And not just because of the reaction I get from my daughter when we’re reading a book written by her Dad with her as the main character.  Although I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a big part.

The book I’m currently working on is the fourth in The Lost Bookshop series and then I’m going to do a sequel for The Dali Deception.  After that maybe I’ll write an Urban Fantasy novel I’ve already outlined but whatever I decide on I can tell you two things…

There won’t be any princesses and there definitely, positively, will not be any bloody fairies.

About Adam Maxwell

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Adam Maxwell has written for a plethora of publications including Dave Eggers’ McSweeney’s. His first book, a collection of short stories and flash fiction for adults Dial M For Monkey was published in 2006. Most recently he has been working on a series of stories and novellas about a narcoleptic detective called The Defective Detective and has branched out into children’s fiction with The Lost Bookshop.

Adam spends a great deal of his time in the attic on his own and is cultivating a fear of crowds. He has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Northumbria University, and lives in the wilds of Northumberland. If you wave to him he is unlikely to wave back.

If you are a fan of his work he would most likely congratulate you for your impeccable taste and secondly he would suggest that you visit the website where you’ll find that new stories appear on a regular basis as well as a short story podcast and loads of other things that, as a reader or writer, you might be interested in. He is far more likely to wave at you through the internet.

You can find all Adam’s books here. Find out more about Adam on his website and follow him on Twiter. You’ll also find him on Facebook.

Enter to win an e-book copy of The Dali Deception by clicking here. Open internationally until UK midnight on Monday 4th July 2016.

Spotlight on Learning to Love by Sheryl Browne

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I’m delighted to be supporting Brook Cottage Books in spotlighting the gorgeous Learning to Love by Sheryl Browne. Learning to Love has been revised, edited and republished by Choc Lit on 114th June 2016. Learning to Love can be bought here.

I have a super extract and the chance for you to enter to win a paperback copy of the book in the UK or an e-copy open internationally.

Learning to Love

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Sometimes help comes from the most unlikely places …

Living in a small village like Hibberton, it’s expected that your neighbours help you in a time of need. But when Andrea Kelly’s house burns down, taking all her earthly possessions with it, it’s the distant and aloof Doctor David Adams – the person she would least expect – who opens his door not just to her, but to her three kids and slightly dotty elderly mother as well.

Andrea needs all the help she can get, dealing with aftermath of the fire and in the suspicious absence of her husband, Jonathan. But, as she gets to know David and his troubled son, Jake, she begins to realise that maybe they need her help as much as she needs theirs …  

Read an extract From Learning to Love

I don’t know how you feel, David, do I? I don’t know you, other than what you’ve told me.’

David looked at her levelly. ‘The truth.’

‘The truth?’ Andrea was really incredulous now. ‘Apart from the one or two inconsequential little things you forgot to tell me? Or was it more than that, David? Three? Four? A hundred?’

‘Two! Twice. Bloody hell, Andrea …’

And that made it all right? She forced back the tears she desperately didn’t want to cry in front of him, again. ‘And I thought Jonathan was being devious. You take the biscuit, David, you really do.’ Shaking her head, Andrea moved to walk past him.

‘I’m nothing like Jonathan, Andrea,’ David said quietly. ‘I care about you.’

Andrea turned back. ‘And Jonathan doesn’t?’ She knew in her heart that her relationship had been floundering long before the fire that had blown her world apart, before David … She didn’t believe Jonathan’s tale about why he hadn’t been able to contact her any more than his claim to have found Dougal in the park. He’d been piling lie on top of lie since that dreadful night, and she would tackle him. Right now, though, she was more interested in what lies this man might concoct to extract himself from his mess.

‘Did he tell you the assessors had been?’

‘I haven’t had a chance to speak to him yet.’ Andrea walked on.

‘He’s hiding something, Andrea,’ David called after her. ‘I’m not sure what, but the fire, his preoccupation with Dee’s mental state, his story … It just doesn’t add up.’

Disbelieving, Andrea whirled around. ‘You’ll stop at nothing, will you? You paint yourself as a poor wounded hero, torn apart by grief and guilt and the havoc you created, and then you have the nerve to point out other people’s failings? Why?’

‘Andrea, I … I don’t know.’ David shrugged hopelessly. ‘I just want you to be careful, that’s—’

‘I mean, I’m no great catch, am I?’ Andrea went on, her fury growing. ‘Was what just happened between us another one of your mistakes, is that it?’

‘No!’ David fixed angry eyes on hers. ‘Dammit, Andrea I do care about you. I—’

‘I’m going.’ Andrea turned away.

‘Andrea, don’t.’ David caught her arm. ‘Please. The kids …’

‘Don’t you dare, David,’ Andrea warned him angrily. ‘Don’t you dare try to manipulate me through my children!’

‘They’re getting ready for bed, Andrea. There’s no point in upsetting them tonight.’

‘Me upsetting them?’ Andrea was flabbergasted.

‘Jake …’ David swallowed. ‘Give me a chance to speak to him, Andrea. Please, I’m begging you.’

Andrea felt her heart break inside her afresh, for Jake, for David, too, who was going to have to live with the devastating consequences of his actions; for Sally, who would surely need her friendship now, but which this man had made impossible. For herself.

‘Stay,’ David implored. ‘Please? For tonight, at least.’

Andrea studied his face, saw the desperation in his eyes; eyes where so many conflicting emotions played out. How little did she really know him? She could have loved him. Did, still. Yet hated him.

‘For Jake’s sake,’ she said, dropping her gaze to his hand still on her arm.

Relief flooding his face, David released his hold. ‘Thank you,’ he said, closing his eyes.

About Sheryl Browne

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Heartache, humour, love, loss & betrayal, Sheryl Browne brings you sassy, sexy, heart-wrenching fiction. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and shortlisted for the Best Romantic e-book Love Stories Award 2015, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.

Recommended to the publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer, Sheryl’s contemporary fiction comes to you from award winning Choc Lit.

You can find more about and from Sheryl using these links:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Buy | Buy US | Pinterest

Loveahappyending Lifestyle

Choc Lit | Romantic Novelists’ Association

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 For your chance to enter to win a print copy of Learning to Love in the UK or an e-copy open internationally click here.

My Husband’s Wife by Amanda Prowse

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I was thrilled to receive a copy of My Husband’s Wife by Amanda Prowse in return for an honest review. My Husband’s Wife is published in e-book and hardback by Head of Zeus on 14th July 2016 when I hope you’ll return to Linda’s Book Bag to read an interview with Amanda to celebrate publication day.

My Husband’s Wife is available for purchase here.

My Husband’s Wife

My husband's wife

Once a week, Rosie Tipcott counts her blessings.

She goes to sit on her favourite bench on the north Devon cliffs, and thanks her lucky stars for her wonderful husband, her mischievous young daughters, and her neat little house by the sea. She vows to dedicate every waking hour to making her family happy.

But then her husband unexpectedly leaves her for another woman and takes the children. Now she must ask the question: what is left in her life? Can Rosie find the strength to rebuild herself? More importantly, does she even want to?

My Review of My Husband’s Wife

Rosie Tipcott has it all in a perfect family unit, but history may be about to repeat itself in a manner she couldn’t have foreseen.

I’ve expressed before how anxious it makes me to read the latest book from a favourite author just in case I’m disappointed, but I was confident about Amanda Prowse and I was right! My Husband’s Wife has all the features an Amanda Prowse fan expects and loves.

I have to comment on the title My Husband’s Wife as it can refer to Rosie, obviously, but it has echoes both before and after the main setting of the novel and many of the more minor characters have a link, often through divided loyalties. I thought the title embodied the concept of the novel perfectly.

The warmth of writing is so difficult to define in Amanda Prowse’s narratives, but I think it is that she manages to convey perfectly exactly how the reader would respond in similar situations so that it really is like reading about yourself for the duration of the book. Even though Rosie’s life is nothing like mine I understood completely how she felt as I was transported to become her as I read. The plot is relatively simple with a couple of large events that drastically alter Rosie’s life and this exactly what any reader can relate to. We are never quite sure just what fate has in store for us to knock us from our path.

The creation of settings also adds to the familiarity and attraction of the narrative. There are vastly different properties described but they are depicted so clearly that it is akin to looking through a magazine and seeing photographs of them. Similarly, I had a real sense of Woolacombe from the writing too.

But the greatest strength in My Husband’s Wife is the creation of character and Amanda Prowse’s total understanding of humanity. I often find children in fiction irritating and unrealistic but both Naomi and Leona are completely believable and I found myself glad I didn’t have to look after them. They also help provide the underlying humour that balances the emotion of the story. It is Rosie, however, who is the star. She is exactly how we can imagine ourselves to be; a friend, a mother – someone’s wife. She’s perfectly drawn so that it is impossible not to be wrapped up in what happens to her and how she reacts. I promised myself I would read My Husband’s Wife dispassionately and not become emotionally involved with the characters. I lied. I cried – again.

My Husband’s Wife is emotional, amusing, heart-warming and entertaining. Think of all the positive words that apply to women’s fiction and it ticks every one. It is another Amanda Prowse triumph.

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You can also read my review of another of Amanda Prowse’s books, Another Love here.

About Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse

Amanda has always obsessively crafted short stories and scribbled notes for potential books. A few years ago, she quit her job as a management consultant and began writing full time. Her first book, Poppy Day is a contemporary novel following an army wife whose incredible love for her husband gives her the courage to set out to rescue him after he was taken hostage in Afghanistan. Originally self-published in October 2011, Poppy Day quickly became a bestseller and Amanda joined the prestigious Head of Zeus publishing house.

Amanda’s ambition is to create stories that keep people from turning the bedside lamp off at night, great characters that ensure you take every step with them and tales that fill your head so you can’t possibly read another book until the memory fades…

You can follow Amanda Prowse on Twitter and visit her web site here. You will also find her on Facebook.

All of Amanda Prowse’s wonderful writing is available here.

Guest Post and Extract from Nick Bryan

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Having only relatively recently become involved in the online world through blogging I’m intrigued to be featuring Nick Bryan with a guest post all about the benefits and disadvantages of social media and it’s interesting to see how authors can agonise over a tweet or two!

Nick Bryan’s novel The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf  is published in e-book and paperback and is available for purchase hereThe Girl Who Tweeted Wolf is a darkly comic crime novel with YA crossover potential. Nick’s second book in the series, Rush Jobs, is available for purchase here.

As well as finding out about Nick’s books and reading his guest post, you can also read an extract from The Girl Who tweeted Wolf.

The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf (Hobson & Choi #1)

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“If we get 400 followers, John Hobson will solve that nasty wolf-murder case for free! Fight the thing himself if he has to! #HobsonVsWolf!”

Angelina Choi was only trying to drum up some Twitter followers and make a good impression on her first day interning at John Hobson’s one-man detective agency.

But the campaign went viral and now they have a murder to solve, no money coming in, and an unwilling Hobson faced with battling some enormous beast.

With both follower and body counts rising, can they crack the case without offending everyone or being eaten by a huge dog?

The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf is the first case starring Hobson & Choi, a bickering, mismatched detective duo for 21st century London. This book collects the debut storyline of the hit darkly comic crime web serial, extensively rewritten and improved for this definitive edition.

Rush Jobs (Hobson & Choi #2)

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“Sometimes #crime feels like the Matrix. Or the #patriarchy or #porn. It’s everywhere, even in people you trusted, and there’s so MUCH of it.”

Angelina Choi returns for her second and final week of work experience at John Hobson’s detective agency, ready for anything after their first successful murder solve.

After all that online buzz, they’re in phenomenal demand. Can Hobson & Choi solve a kidnapping, play chicken with corporate crime, beat back gentrification, save a dog from drug dealers and head off violent backlash from their last case?

Or will grim revelations about Hobson’s past leave them floundering in the chaos?

Rush Jobs collects the second major storyline in the Hobson & Choi saga, #1 on Jukepop Serials and #2 in Dark Comedy on Amazon, adding brand new chapters and scenes to the case.

The Benefits and Disadvantages of Social Media to an Author

A Guest Post by Nick Bryan

I’ve been on social media since long before I was any kind of “author” and have had a while to get used to its benefits and disadvantages. Yes, it’s an amazing megaphone for your work, but on the other hand, it’s also a great amplifier for any half-formed thoughts or stupid ideas you broadcast and then hurriedly delete, hoping no-one managed to screencap them.

Nonetheless, as an “author”, yes, you’re pretty much stuck with social media, aren’t you? Especially if you’re self-published and therefore are mostly dependent on your own savings to fund promotion. Ignoring a major free channel like social media isn’t really an option.

To be honest, and this is such boring received wisdom that I feel almost guilty typing it out, the closest I’ve come to a social media strategy is: “Try not to be boring but also try not to be stupid”.

Which is to say: post something other than “BUY MY STUFF” but also steer clear of getting into arguments you can’t possibly win. For authors, those arguments often take the form of disagreeing with the opinions of readers or reviewers, which almost always ends badly.

For some, there might be a sliding scale here – if a reviewer makes a genuine factual error which has led them to misinterpret the book, is it okay to contact them? Honestly, I still wouldn’t bother. I tried to put an “unless” in this paragraph, but couldn’t find a single one that I felt comfortable leaving in. If they’ve obviously written about an entirely different author’s book and mislabelled it as a review of mine, I might chance an email. Maybe.

But for the most part, if someone didn’t read your book in the way you dreamt, probably best to just accept that interpretations are subjective and anything could happen between page and imagination. If they’ve found it properly offensive and you feel an apology is required, then fair enough, but avoid any phrasing that says/implies their opinion is wrong or invalid.

Otherwise, it’s better not to wade in. If you can avoid the temptation to search your own name on Twitter, that might be better for peace of mind.

Still, even if you avoid upsetting people, there’s still the pressure to actively self-promote. The problem with books as a product is that most authors don’t produce many, due to their fragile human minds and bodies. After the inevitable blitz around launch day, you start to feel awkward about pushing the same thing at the same audience. Even if many writers (including me, hi) weren’t a bit shy or awkward, this would be a pain in the arse.

My Hobson & Choi book series used to be a weekly webserial, so this was less of a problem. Regular new material! Every week, something different to plug without feeling too bad about it! I still miss those days, even though the book incarnation is better. I sometimes consider starting a new webserial just so I have something to easily shill on Twitter.

But that’s probably not the best reason to do something – which leads into my last point on social media. If you’re not enjoying it, don’t force yourself into it. People can tell. If you can only find one or two interesting tweets a week, people would probably rather have them than a torrent of empty rambling or pointless self-promotion. There are a lot of issues on which I don’t feel the need to comment – even though I might get a cheap retweet out of it – because other people do it better and I don’t feel like I have much to add.

Of course, some people genuinely can do a load of self-promotion and it still sounds natural and good, alongside their regular tweets about other issues. If only we were all them, but alas, we are not. All you can do is try to find what works for you, seems to engage a few people and won’t take up all your writing time agonising about it.

An Extract from The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf

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Not only was there no name stencilled on the window of Hobson’s office door, it didn’t even have a window. Angelina was disappointed — what kind of crappy detective doesn’t have an office name stencil window?

Instead, it was a solid beige fire door. The only thing marking it out from the beige corridor was the change in texture from beige plaster to beige wood. Same old London office in a boring building. Clearly all her effort to dress interesting had been silly. The black floaty layers and purple tights looked ridiculous against all the nothingness.

Too late to change though, she was already five minutes late. She knocked on the hollow, cheap-sounding door, with the firmness of an adult, rather than a nervous sixteen-year-old. Or so she hoped.

“Yeah, come in,” said the hoarse yell from inside.

Angelina pushed the door open. Considering how long she’d spent staring at the tedious thing, it floated away easily.

The office behind was more interesting than the corridor, thankfully. Bright blue, two desks, a few filing cabinets. But no discarded whiskey bottles, nor a mattress round back where the detective slept.

“Good morning, Choi,” said a deep voice. The huge man behind the larger desk leapt up, revealing a pressed black suit and straight tie. Buttoned down to a fault, this guy could be a real veteran police detective, right up to the grey peppering his short dark hair.

And why was he calling her by surname?

“Good to meet you. I’m John Hobson, just Hobson is fine though.” And, when she didn’t immediately reply: “How are you? Good trip over?”

“Um, thanks, I’m fine, you too.” She forgot to punctuate any of that, blushing as soon as it finished.

“Good. Good. Well, welcome to our new work experience internship programme. I hope I’ll be able to show you something about the business in two weeks. As you can see, I’ve cleared a desk for you here.” He gestured at the smaller one in the room, with a wedge of papers recently shoved to one end.

“Looks nice,” she glanced down and nodded. “Lots of room.”

Another silence.

“So,” he was already standing up and hooking his jacket off the back of the chair, “I have to get moving for a lunch meeting, but I do have a job for you to get on with.”

Her ears pricked up, but expectations remained measured. She’d be filing all those papers away, wouldn’t she? Or running out to buy milk?

“I’ve noticed this social Twitter internet media thing seems to be taking off,” he said, gesturing widely at the computer on her desk, as if that explained everything, “could you create an account for me and get me some of those… followers?”

Angelina blinked. “I’m sorry?”

“Well, you know. I’ve just repainted my office, I want to be modern, and your lot seem to be familiar with this kind of thing.”

“My lot? What do you mean my lot?”

“No no no no no,” Hobson spun round, nearly whirling her across the room, “not Asians. Teenage girls.”

“Oh. Right.” Depressingly, she was relieved he’d even noticed she was Asian. “Well, sure. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thanks, Choi.” He shrugged his massive coat on, composure back in place. “Just a couple of hundred should do. Cheers, running late, back in an hour.”

With that, he waved and dashed out the door. And then popped his head back round. “Oh, could you also go to the shops and get some coffee? Ain’t much left.”

Angelina nodded, and kept her sigh inside until he’d definitely gone. This office was the size of a rich person’s cupboard.

*****

Picking up the coffee took a few minutes. The hardest part was checking out his machine and working out what type to buy. Now she was an intern, Angelina knew she had to do these menial tasks, so swallowed her pride and went to Tesco.

Not long after, guzzling a pack of dirt-cheap cardboard crisps, she plonked herself down in front of her computer. She had a job to do, so resisted the urge to head straight for Facebook and complain about her negligent boss.

Instead she went on Twitter and got to work. She typed, she schmoozed, she strived, she read blog posts about Social Media Success, many of which made her angry. Finally, several tweets and retweets later, something clicked.

Shortly later, so did the door to their office, as Hobson returned. His lunch meeting ended at a reasonable time and left him completely sober; again, both reassuring and disappointing. When did she get to sniff corpses and snort whiskey, delve deep into the underworld?

Instead, she had a presentable, clean shaven, punctual detective without a visible drinking problem. Should’ve been more specific on the form.

“So Choi,” Hobson said, his jacket flopping back over the chair, “am I… trending yet?”

He pronounced trending like it was the name of an alien planet.

“Um, sort of,” she said.

“Sort of?”

“Well, you’ve got 353 followers…” Angelina broke off mid-stream as a rectangular email notification popped up. “Well, 354 now. But I had to say some stuff to get them.”

Hobson fiddled with his own computer, not paying much attention. “Yeah? What kind of stuff?”

“I tried just creating an account and following people, engaging with other detectives, but it wasn’t working much,” she could hear herself talking faster in response to his blank stares, “so I found an interesting murder case and said that if you got enough followers, you’d totally solve it for free.”

And it sounded like a better idea at the time, she added silently, rolling her chair away from Hobson as his face turned red and he stood up, tie flapping wild. It was hard not to be scared when a man bigger than the room he was sitting in started yelling at you.

“You did what?” At least he’d noticed her. “Do you have you any idea how shitty that is? What if the press find out? What if the victim’s family find out? How do you know I even can solve it? How am I meant to pay my rent?”

“I don’t know, I’m sorry, I wanted to get it right and I just…” Angelina inhaled deep and snorted by accident. “I may have said something else too.”

“Oh God.”

“Yeah. If we get up to 400 followers, you have to fight a wolf.”

The email indicator leapt up again. Only forty-five to go.

About Nick Bryan

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Nick Bryan is a London-based writer of genre fiction, usually with some blackly comic twist. As well as the detective saga Hobson & Choi, he is also working on a novel about the real implications of deals with the devil and has stories in several anthologies.

When not reading or writing books, Nick Bryan enjoys racquet sports, comics and a nice white beer.

More details on his other work and news on future Hobson & Choi releases can be found on Nick’s blog or on Twitter. You can subscribe to Nick’s mailing list here.

Valentina by S E Lynes

Valentina

I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Valentina, the debut psychological thriller by S E Lynes which will be published in e-book and paperback by Blackbird Books on 1st July 2016. Valentina is available for order and purchase on Amazon, and from Waterstones and Barnes and Noble. You can read the opening of Valentina by clicking here.

Valentina

When Glasgow journalist Shona McGilvery moves with her partner Mikey and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, they believe that all that lies ahead of them is happiness.

But with Mikey working offshore, the frightening isolation of the Aberdeenshire countryside begins to drive her insane…

That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina.

She has the perfect home, the perfect man, and a charismatic new best friend – or does she? As her fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood becomes the least of her fears…

My Review of Valentina

Valentina

Shona moves to Aberdeenshire with her partner Mikey and baby Isla to support Mikey’s oil rig work. Feeling lonely, she is delighted to meet the slightly exotic Valentina, but has no idea where this friendship will take her.

Wow. I loved this psychological thriller. From the perfect cover image (which I can’t say too much about without spoiling the plot, but let’s just say it fits the story perfectly) to the three separate parts of the narrative, I found Valentina gripping and absorbing.

SE Lynes writes pitch perfect prose so that each word adds to the build up of tension even when the reader guesses some of the plot outcomes.

The characters are few – mainly Mikey, Valentina and Shona – leading to a claustrophobic feeling that made my heart race. So too did the dual first person narrative which I really enjoyed as it was separated into three distinct, thrilling, parts rather than the frequent see-sawing backwards and forwards of many novels. There’s an almost chilling straightforwardness here that pierces the reader’s imagination.

The plot is so well planned with recurring themes and images that continuously build the tension and pace.  It’s only on reflecting at the end of this breathlessly exciting book that the reader fully comprehends what a stylish, intelligent and well crafted story this is.

S E Lynes made me wonder how well we ever really know those we love and caused me to consider the nature of identity. I found Valentina exciting and thought provoking and I was so completely absorbed in the story that time seemed to stand still as I read. Disturbingly, heart thumpingly psychological, Valentina is up there as one of the best thrillers I’ve read. Brilliant.

About S E Lynes

S E Lynes

After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London for a couple of years before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at the BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington.

You can find out more about S E Lynes by following her on Twitter and by visiting these other bloggers:

Valentina by S. E. Lynes _ Blog Tour

An Interview with Peter Jones

Charming man cover

I’m delighted to be featuring an interview with Peter Jones today. I ‘met’ Peter through the blogger and author Facebook group Book Connectors and wouldn’t let him get away without being interviewed on Linda’s Book Bag. Peter’s latest book The Truth About This Charming Man was released in e-book and paperback in March 2016 and is available for purchase here.

The Truth About This Charming Man

Charming man cover

All William Lewis ever wanted in life, was to be an actor.

That is until he met Rachel.

Beautiful. Beguiling. Sharp as a tack. Rachel’s almost as appealing as a life in theatre. Unfortunate then that she happens to be married. To cut-throat venture capitalist Michael Richmond. So that’s the end of that.

Or is it?

Although Will’s never actually been on stage, or immortalised in celluloid, or appeared in a TV commercial, he’s still made a reasonable living out of pretending to be people he’s not. So when two of his ‘roles’ collide – seemingly by complete coincidence – well, maybe there’s a way he can be with Rachel after all…

From best-selling author Peter Jones comes this hilarious romp about love, truth, deception, and the spaces in-between.

An Interview with Peter Jones

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Peter. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

My name is Peter Jones. I’m the author of several self-help books and two moderately amusing novels. I’m very tall. I became allergic to hops about ten years ago which explains why the cider market is a lot more buoyant these days. Occasionally I pretend to be a multi-millionaire tycoon and appear on a television show about dragons. (That last bit isn’t entirely true).

(You’re a writer – you’re allowed to make things up!)

When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

I wrote my first book when I was about four or five, and made the decision then and there to grow up, and make books. But I’m not sure it was a realisation. Some days I’m still not sure I’ve ‘realised’ the dream.

Tragic personal circumstances led you to follow your dream of becoming a writer. How cathartic has this process been?

Actually it was sort of the other way around; the cathartic process led to my life as a full time author.

Back in the bad old days I was a fix-it man in the banking community. I loved the people I worked with, loved the money I was earning, enjoyed the problem solving aspect… but as the years rolled by I became increasingly unhappy, and after the death of my wife I decided to do something about it. I used those fix-it man skills to put the smile back on my face.

Then one day somebody suggested I ought to write down some of the happiness ideas I’d been playing with… and suddenly I’d written a book. Then another. And another. Then a novel. And another novel. And now here I am. Author.

happy

If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?

For most of my teens I wanted to be an actor. My parents pretty much stamped on that. Not that I’m bitter. Much.

(That explains Will’s profession then in The Truth About This Charming Man!)

How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?

As much as possible I base my books in and around a time and place that I’m familiar with – both my books are set in and around Essex and London at the turn of the 20th century.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

Easiest? Dialogue. Some days that’s all I write.

Hardest? Everything else.

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

A perfect day for me starts at 4am in the middle of the summer. No one else – apart from birds and my cat – is up at that hour. I open the door in my office to the balcony, scoff my breakfast whilst I look out at the sea, then go back inside and get writing. If it’s a REALLY good day I can knock out 2,500 words by midday – and by then my creative brain is usually empty. I make some lunch, and, whilst I’m eating it, check my email and post my writing progress on Facebook. In the afternoon I might go for a walk – or do a talk at a local WI. And after dinner I go to bed whenever I feel tired. That might be eight. It could be ten. I love responding to my circadian rhythm rather than being a slave to the clock. On days like that I never have any problem sleeping. I’m out for the count. And if it’s a really REALLY good day, I fall asleep knowing tomorrow’s going to be just the same.

(Sounds ideal!

You’re a man writing in a genre dominated by women. How has that affected your writing and publishing experience?

Not just a genre – the whole of the publishing industry is 90% female!!

From a writing perspective it hasn’t made a huge amount of difference. A few things might get tweaked in the final editing process. For instance, one editor suggested that I change the title of my first novel from The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting Girls to The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl which is a slightly more female-friendly title, and actually more accurate in terms of the story. My agent also asked me to tweak some of the naughtier scenes for the same reason. But pretty much I’m still writing the books that I want to write – books that I myself would buy.

girl

Your novels are both romantic and humorous. How do you get the balance between the two elements as you write?

Gosh. I have absolutely no idea. I suppose it helps that I personally find romance quite funny. Most interactions between men and women are pretty comical when you think about it. And I suppose I find people endlessly fascinating. How people think, how they communicate, the misunderstandings, the lies, the confessions… I basically just write it down.

How different or similar is the writing process for your fiction and non-fiction books?

Non-fiction is easier. I put my old banking head back on, and break the topic I’m writing about into a series of bullet and sub-bullet points. Then I flesh out the bullets in the most entertaining way I can.

Fiction however is a whole different thing. Most of the time I have a rough idea where I’m going, and I might have a bullet pointed outline, but it’s like sailing on choppier, uncharted waters. All manner of unexpected things can occur. Sometimes the plot won’t work. Or it doesn’t make sense for a character to react in a particular way. Or I need to insert more backstory so later scenes make more sense. Or the story’s taking too long to tell, or not long enough. It’s basically like trying to wrestle an octopus into a paper bag.

How did the cover  image for your latest book (The Truth About This Charming Man) come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

Ha! It came about after much gnashing and many sleepless nights. I still wake up screaming, and it would be difficult for me to summarise the experience without breaking down uncontrollably. But if you really want to know, I wrote a blog post about it here.

If you could chose to be a character from The Truth About This Charming Man, who would you be and why?

Zlata. I want her confidence!

If The Truth About This Charming Man became a film, who would you like to play Will and Rachel?  

James MacAvoy was pretty much my first choice when casting the story’s lead character in my mind. Though I know nothing about the man (other than his numerous screen appearances) I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if he’s as obsessed about his craft in real life, as Will is in the book.

When it came to casting the love-interest it really didn’t take me long to come up with a suitable candidate. Oh come on. Can you blame me? If I’ve got to write convincing love-scenes then when I glance up at the pin board I need to be looking directly into the face of a woman I could easily find myself falling in love with! That’s my excuse, I’m sticking to it.

(I notice you’re keeping quiet about who it is though!)

There’s a rumour that your third novel is on its way. What can we expect and when can we expect it?

That’s right. My third vaguely romantic, comedic novel should be out in January 2017 – but that’s all I’m saying for now!

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that The Truth About This Charming Man should be their next read, what would you say?

Watch this sixty second video here on you tube then visit buy the book today !

(I have watched the video and he’s quite right you know!)

Peter, thank you so much for your time in answering my questions.

About Peter Jones

Peter

Peter Jones started professional life as a particularly rubbish graphic designer, followed by a stint as a mediocre petrol pump attendant. After that he got embroiled in the murky world of credit card banking. Fun times.

Now, Peter spends his days – most of them, anyway – writing.

His latest book The Truth About This Charming Man is his second novel. Like The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl it’s really funny. You’d probably like it. Honest.

slim

He is also the author of three and a half popular self-help books on the subjects of happiness, staying slim and dating. If you’re overweight, lonely, or unhappy – he’s your guy.
dating

Peter doesn’t own a large departmental store and probably isn’t the same guy you’ve seen on the TV show Dragons’ Den.

You can follow Peter on Twitter, find him on Facebook and visit his website.

You’ll find all Peter’s books for purchase here.