Playlists of my Life: A Guest Post by Katie Marsh, Author of This Beautiful Life

this beautiful life

On Tuesday I was thrilled to attend a drinks party to celebrate This Beautiful Life by Katie Marsh. It was so exciting to meet the author of a book that has touched me so completely. I posted a review of This Beautiful Life on publication day yesterday and you can read that review here. I have also reviewed Katie’s other books My Everything here and A Life Without You here.

Today, as part of the launch celebrations of This Beautiful Life I have a brilliant guest post from Katie all about the music that had impacted on her life.

This Beautiful Life is published by Hodder and is available for purchase here.

This Beautiful Life

this beautiful life

What happens when you get the second chance you never expected?

Abi is living her happy ending. She’s in remission and is ready to make the most of her second chance at life. But during Abi’s illness her family has fallen apart. Her husband John has made decisions that are about to come back to haunt him, while her teenage son Seb is battling with a secret of his own.

Set to the songs on Abi’s survival playlist, this is the story of what happens next as Abi tries to rebuild her family. Can she bring the people she loves most in the world back together again… before it’s too late?

Playlists of my life

A Guest Post by Katie Marsh

It all started with the tape recorder.

It was silver, and weighed nearly as much as our dog, but it had a bright red ‘record’ button and that was it – I was off. I saved up my pocket money and bought a stack of Maxell C-60 cassette tapes, and from then on I was the mix tape queen of Somerset, in my head, anyway. No one was safe. I dragged that recorder around the house, taping my mum talking on the phone or the dog barking or me reading my diary (cringe) and ‘mixing’ these sounds with songs by ABBA and The Beatles and U2. Some of those tapes still survive now, and I laugh at my careful writing on the inserts – ‘Katie’s break-up tape (I hate him)’ or ‘Mum’s relaxing Sunday tape’ (I remember forcing her to sit there and listen as the ABBA she loathed blasted through the room).

Life was better when it was set to music and that has never changed – revising to Blur, gossiping to The Bangles, or the buzz as I pressed play and set off on a cross-Canada road trip with the Barenaked Ladies and my best friend. Smiles as the radio served up the perfect Beatles song on a summer evening. Group whooping as ‘Love Shack’ by the B-52s came on in a club.

I have always wanted to write about music. I dance to it, I drive to it, I swim to it and I sing badly in the shower to it – but I have always been terrified of trying to put it on the page. Then some close friends got cancer in their thirties, and one of them told me how much music had helped. How it had lifted them on the good days and consoled them on the bad. And so it was time – time to choose twelve songs to be the soundtrack of my novel This Beautiful Life. One year. One song per month. Songs that remind my main character Abi of the people she loves and the life that she doesn’t want to leave when she is diagnosed with cancer at thirty-six.

Abi is like me – she has playlists for every occasion. She charts her life in songs and melodies. Mine are pretty varied. There’s one named Wow, it’s too early, for 5.30am encounters with my chatty four year-old, when I can barely open my eyes and she is merrily bouncing on my head (starts with ‘Children’ by Robert Miles, ends with ‘Umbrella’ by Rihanna, with some Abba in between to keep the little one happy); or Gym – you know you want to, full of pumping tunes (thank you Katy Perry, Madonna and Kelly Clarkson), which I listen to all the way to the door and then turn up even louder as I remember I hate it in there and jog slowly home instead. Sunday Morning features Nittin Sawhney, James Bay and Nora Jones at their soulful best, while Road Trip includes a lot of treats from my teenage years, to help me rediscover that teenage sense of adventure, and the feeling that the world is at my feet (Blur, Oasis, The Kooks and – of course – Faith Hill’s ‘This Kiss’).

Nearly ten years ago I met a man who made me laugh and loved me no matter what, and I got to make a playlist imaginatively titled Wedding. Tracy Chapman sang me down the aisle and the BBC Cricket theme tune bounced the two of us back down again and Belinda Carlisle’s ‘Heaven is a place on earth’ proved the ultimate crowd pleaser as the entire guest list took to the floor to throw some of those shapes their kids will be embarrassed by in future years. And then two years after that I painstakingly made a Birth playlist (subtitle: Keep pushing, Marsh), full of soothing and empowering songs by Sara Bareilles and Joni Mitchell. I’m sure it would have really helped had my daughter not chosen to arrive at the speed of light, meaning she entered the world to the sound of swearing rather than the gorgeous notes of ‘Morning Morgantown.’

And then there are my writing playlists. After my first two novels were roundly rejected I nearly gave up, but first I put together a I’ll Show Them playlist, featuring uplifting songs from my favourite shows, like ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’ or ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite.’ And now I am a published author I start each book with a playlist, woven around the moments and emotions I want to include. If I’m writing a break-up scene I get Dido on and remember the day I split up with my first love at Thame train station with a bag of Quavers in my hand. If I’m writing about a child I put on Harry Belafonte’s ‘Jump in the Line’ and imagine my daughter bouncing on the bed, head thrown back as she laughs.

Writing is a solitary activity, but with music I am never alone. It connects me to a feeling or a moment or a memory – and to the hundreds of thousands of people who love a song as much as I do. Nothing is more powerful – nothing is more evocative and I am so happy that finally I have been able to express my love of music on the page in This Beautiful Life.

(What a wonderfully evocative post Katie. Thanks so much for being on Linda’s Book Bag today.)

About Katie Marsh

katie

Katie lives in south-west London with her family. Before being published she worked in healthcare, and her novels are inspired by the bravery of the people she met in hospitals and clinics across the country. Her first novel My Everything (available here) was picked by the Evening Standard as one of the hottest summer debuts of 2015.

She loves strong coffee, the feel of a blank page and stealing her husband’s toast. When not writing, she spends her time in local parks trying and failing to keep up with her daughter’s scooter.

You can follow Katie on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Katie Marsh TBL Blog Tour

This Beautiful Life by Katie Marsh

this beautiful life

Oh I love Katie Marsh’s books and was terrified when I was offered This Beautiful Life for review and to be part of the paperback launch celebrations (come back tomorrow for those when I’ll have a fabulous guest post to share from Katie) because I was terrified it might not live up to expectations. It didn’t. It exceeded them as you’ll see in my review.

I have reviewed Katie’s other books My Everything here and A Life Without You here.

This Beautiful Life is published by Hodder and is available for purchase here.

This Beautiful Life

this beautiful life

What happens when you get the second chance you never expected?

Abi is living her happy ending. She’s in remission and is ready to make the most of her second chance at life. But during Abi’s illness her family has fallen apart. Her husband John has made decisions that are about to come back to haunt him, while her teenage son Seb is battling with a secret of his own.

Set to the songs on Abi’s survival playlist, this is the story of what happens next as Abi tries to rebuild her family. Can she bring the people she loves most in the world back together again… before it’s too late?

My Review of This Beautiful Life

Oh my goodness. What an emotional read. I loved every word of This Beautiful Life. I don’t want to write a review as I don’t feel I have the language to convey how it made me feel.

Katie Marsh has the ability to grab my heart in a tight fist and squeeze and squeeze until I’m not sure if I can bear to read on. Having loved her other books, I think this might well be the best yet.

I want to say so much more about the plot of This Beautiful Life than I can because I don’t want to spoil the story for other readers. Just know that the events that take place could happen to any family at any time and that you will live through them with as much involvement as do Abi, John and Seb. Their relationship is at the heart of the story so that whilst this is a book with cancer as a catalyst, it is also a book about those who love one another not always being able to do the best by those they love. My heart went out to absolutely every person in this story, even the most minor characters because I felt I knew them intimately and I cared so utterly deeply about what happened to them.

The way in which Abi’s first person letter to those she loves intersperses the third person narrative is completely poignant. After I’d read the whole story I went back and read the letter entries again and they affected me just as emotionally. However, that isn’t to say that This Beautiful Life is unremittingly sad. Katie Marsh has that deftness of touch that enables her to make her readers smile as well as cry. Her writing is amongst the most human and humane that I’ve read. She deals with themes that can impact on any of us with grace, conviction and stunning realism so that, having finished reading This Beautiful Life a while ago, it resonates through my days and dreams even now.

The playlist of songs that weaves through the story is crucial in the creation of the various emotions and so effectively written. It has made me want to create my own life’s playlist too as Katie Marsh shows us the power of music to move us and indeed to make us who we are.

I don’t feel my review has done justice to This Beautiful Life so let me just say it is a wonderful, wonderful book. Read it.

About Katie Marsh

katie

Katie lives in south-west London with her family. Before being published she worked in healthcare, and her novels are inspired by the bravery of the people she met in hospitals and clinics across the country. Her first novel My Everything (available here) was picked by the Evening Standard as one of the hottest summer debuts of 2015.

She loves strong coffee, the feel of a blank page and stealing her husband’s toast. When not writing, she spends her time in local parks trying and failing to keep up with her daughter’s scooter.

You can follow Katie on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook.

The Effects of Crime: A Guest Post by Helen Fields, Author of Perfect Prey

perfect prey

It’s not often I’m star struck but I have to confess that today is one of those days as I welcome Perfect Prey author Helen Fields to Linda’s Book Bag with a guest post all about the effects of crime. I’m also somewhat excited to be starting off the launch celebrations for Perfect Prey.

Perfect Prey is the second in the terrifying DI Callanach crime series, published by Avon, an imprint of Harper Collins and is available for purchase through the publisher links here.

Perfect Prey

perfect prey

In the midst of a rock festival, a charity worker is sliced across the stomach. He dies minutes later. In a crowd of thousands, no one saw his attacker. The following week, the body of a primary school teacher is found in a dumpster in an Edinburgh alley, strangled with her own woollen scarf.

DI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach have no motive and no leads – until around the city, graffitied on buildings, words appear describing each victim.

It’s only when they realise the words are appearing before rather than after the murders, that they understand the killer is announcing his next victim…and the more innocent the better.

The Effects of Crime

A Guest Post by Helen Fields

I’m often asked if I have nightmares. I have frequent dreams about getting stuck in large, dark houses and trying to escape, but I think these are stress related. For me, crime writing is more of an outpouring. However gruesome the content, I feel better once I’ve produced my daily 2,000 words. Usually I can switch off from the subject matter of my books easily. It’s the real life perpetrators that bother me. The mechanics of a crime are one thing – weapons, injuries, forensics – these things should shock us all when a life is taken. But for me the horror is found within the heads of the attackers. If you could hear their inner voices, listen to the vicious, disturbed jumble of thoughts, planning and justification, you might never read crime again. I worked in the criminal justice system for 13 years, prosecuting and defending. I spent time with both victims and perpetrators. What I can say, is that some of the latter seem not to occupy the same world as the rest of us.

The books I write are often described as dark and disturbing. They’re meant to be, but never gratuitously. I write with an understanding of how it feels to be a victim. I write having spent time with parents whose children were the victims of serious crimes. I never forget that there are real people out there who have suffered. But readers like to be scared, shocked and horrified. That’s why crime is the biggest selling genre. So do I have boundaries, things I just won’t write about? As a mother, I find it incredibly hard to write scenes where children are hurt. It’s too close for comfort. That’s not to say I’ll never find a storyline where I won’t find it necessary but to date I haven’t. Sexual assault scenes are rightly sensitive. So many women (and increasingly more men) are the victims of sexual assault that it’s a difficult thing to use the subject matter as something we regard broadly as “entertainment”. For me, those scenes in literature have to have a clearly defined purpose and are usually better explored “off camera”. You don’t have to show a rape scene to have your police officer/profiler/friend character investigating the rape.

When I’m in the flow of writing and describing a particularly awful event or scene, I’ll sit with tears streaming down my face. That has to be the case, I think. If I can’t move myself while I’m imagining torments, then I won’t be able to adequately affect my readers. Also, we shouldn’t grow too tough to be moved by such things. Crime books should push us to our emotional limits, not dull our senses.

I am constantly impressed by our police and our legal system. When I worked inside it, all I saw were the holes and flaws. Now, researching from the outside, it’s easier to be kinder about it. It’s a bloody job. There is very rarely a win. Getting a conviction after a successful case is wonderful, but there are still victims. A prison sentence may fulfil a need for justice but it cannot erase the memories or the scars or give a life back. I do prefer to have a sense of natural justice to my books, but it’s with a nod to reality. In the real world, things never work out quite perfectly. They shouldn’t in books, either.

About Helen Fields

Helen fields

Helen Fields’ first love was drama and music. From a very young age she spent all her free time acting and singing until law captured her attention as a career path. She studied law at the University of East Anglia, then went on to the Inns of Court School of Law in London.

After completing her pupillage, she joined chambers in Middle Temple where she practised criminal and family law for thirteen years. Undertaking cases that ranged from Children Act proceedings and domestic violence injunctions, to large scale drug importation and murder, Helen spent years working with the police, CPS, Social Services, expert witnesses and in Courts Martials.

After her second child was born, Helen left the Bar. Together with her husband David, she went on to run Wailing Banshee Ltd, a film production company, acting as script writer and producer.

Beyond writing, she has a passion for theatre and cinema, often boring friends and family with lengthy reviews and critiques. Taking her cue from her children, she has recently taken up karate and indoor sky diving. Helen and her husband now live in Hampshire with their three children and two dogs.

You can follow Helen on Twitter.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

PP blog tour

Watercolours in the Rain by Jo Lambert

watercolours-in-the-rain-cover-medium-web

My grateful thanks to Jo Lambert for a copy of Watercolours in the Rain in return for an honest review and a huge apology that it has taken so very long to reach the top of my TBR pile.

Lovely Jo has previously featured on Linda’s Book Bag, telling us about writing in the first person and you can read that blog post here. There’s also more information about another of Jo’s book, The Other Side of the Morning, here.

Watercolours in the Rain is available for purchase here.

Watercolours in the Rain

watercolours-in-the-rain-cover-medium-web

What happens to the future when past and present collide?

JESS:  Six years ago Jess’s relationship with Talún Hansen was torn apart by one night of deception. He disappeared from Lynbrook village and she headed for university vowing never to let anyone break her heart again. Now a teacher, Jess returns from holiday to an unexpected phone call and life changing news which will eventually bring her back home once more.

TALUN: Six years on Talún Hawkeswood, as he is now known, is heir to his grandfather’s Norfolk farming empire. When he hears of trouble in the village due to Lynbrook Hall being put up for sale, going back is the last thing on his mind. But staying away is not an option either, not when someone he owes so much to is about to lose their home and their livelihood.

LILY: Splitting with her husband after her son Josh’s birth, Lily now works as part of an estate agency sales team.  She has always held onto her dream of finding a wealthy husband and a life of self-indulgence. When the sale of an important property brings her face to face with Talún once more, she realises despite the risks involved, the night they spent together six years ago may be the key to making those dreams come true.

As Jess, Talún and Lily return to Lynbrook and the truth about what happened that summer is gradually revealed, Talun finds himself in an impossible situation. Still in love with Jess he is tied into to a trade off with Lily: his name and the lifestyle she craves in exchange for his son. And when a child is involved there is only one choice he can make…

My Review of Watercolours in the Rain

When Jess begins a new life, little does she realise the past is not so easily left behind.

I have a confession. Watercolours in the Rain has all the elements I often don’t like. It’s a follow up to another book, Summer Moved On, which I haven’t read. It has multiple narrators which I usually find irritating. It has a very prominent child character and I’m not keen on children. So much is written in the continuous present tense that I normally don’t enjoy and yet… I really, really enjoyed this read.

Jo Lambert weaves the back story so well into Watercolours in the Rain that I was at no disadvantage in understanding what had happened previously and how it impacted on the present. In fact, I think not having read the first book was actually an advantage as there was so much to discover. I thought the plotting was great. I kept exclaiming aloud, telling Talún in particular, ‘Oh. No. Don’t do that.’ The more I read, the more I wanted to read on.

I thought the three main characters were exceptionally well portrayed and at times I wanted to dive into the pages and give Lily the hardest possible slap. I hope she gets everything she deserves in her future after the pages of Watercolours in the Rain and I find it hard to believe that she isn’t a real person. Each of the three narrators has a very distinct voice and it is as if they are addressing the reader directly which drew me in to the story even more. I appreciated the full range of female personalities too from the vacuous Georgie and Danni through the mature Anna to the steadfast Bella.

I loved the concept of the title. Just as watercolours run, smudge and blend in the rain, so the main themes of Watercolours in the Rain explore the blurring of truth and deception, of assumption and expectation so that I found the whole experience of reading Jo Lambert’s prose thoroughly captivating and rewarding.

Watercolours in the Rain is a charming, entertaining and delightful story that I can heartily recommend.

About Jo Lambert

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Born and raised in rural Wiltshire, Jo Lambert grew up with a love of books and a vivid imagination. As a child she enjoyed creating her own adventure stories similar to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. Writing always stayed with her, but college, work and eventually marriage found it was kept very much in the background. However in 2009 she finally had her first novel – When Tomorrow Comes – published. Three other connected books – Love Lies and PromisesThe Ghost of You and Me and Between Today and Yesterday followed. They became collectively known as the Little Court Series.

In 2013 she decided to give up full time work to concentrate fully on her writing. Two other books have been written since – The Other Side of Morning which is the final book of the Little Court Series and Summer Moved On, a love story set in South Devon. Jo describes her writing style as drama driven romance.

Jo is married and lives in a village on the eastern edge of Bath with her husband, one small grey feline called Mollie and a green MGB GT.  She loves travel, red wine, rock music and has a passion for dark chocolate…

You can find Jo Lambert on FacebookGoogle+ and her web site. You can also follow her on Twitter and read her blog.

A Writer’s Toolbox: A Guest Post by Seb King, Author of City Affairs

CityAffairsFrontCover

One of the frustrations of blogging is that there simply isn’t time to read every book that comes my way and City Affairs by Seb King is one such book. Fortunately, however, I do have a guest post from Seb today all about the writing process and I’m delighted to share that with you.

City Affairs is published by Revival and is available for purchase here.

City Affairs

CityAffairsFrontCover

Felicité has a reasonably successful career, working in London’s Canary Wharf financial district; and is a faithful, doting wife. Her husband is an author and serial cheater. After catching him cheating for the umpteenth time, she sets him an ultimatum. Meanwhile, a dreamy mega-rich hedge fund manager has been showering her with attention. A chance encounter one lunchtime will have profound ramifications beyond her wildest imagination.

As she struggles to make sense of everything, she is forced to confront her inner demons and grapple with the difference between fate and destiny. A strange confluence of circumstances conspires to present her with her greatest dilemma yet.

A Writer’s Toolbox

A Guest Post by Seb King

I have been overwhelmed by the initial reaction to my debut novel. Without any publicity or marketing, it has an all-five-star rating on Amazon. True, only nine ratings but as an unknown first-time Indie author I’ve been taken aback by private messages of appreciation.

A reader stopped me in my favoured coffee shop while I was sipping on a latte and asked for writing tips. I’m not sure I qualify to be dishing out advice, but I’ll happily present you a glimpse into my toolbox.

Identify your audience

What makes an enjoyable novel will depend on the genre and target audience. A mass-market beach-read will likely be unenjoyable for someone looking for a sophisticated spy-thriller. Why is this important? Because the words, phrases, similes, metaphors, scenes and characters you bring forth will vary accordingly.

Language is about communication. In our quotidian life we employ different lexicons according to the audience. The language I employ while speaking to my toddler is vastly different to that I use with my wife which is different to that I use with my car mechanic.
Let’s take a real life example. Fifty Shades of Grey was slighted by literary critics yet has sold over 100 million copies. What’s good for the goose isn’t good for the gander.

Less is more

Don’t over tell. A poem should ignite a little light bulb in one’s mind that sends one’s imagination running wild. I once read a short love poem that kept me agitated all evening as my mind grappled with it.

Let the story tell itself by offering up select vignettes that come together to form a coherent story. A master story should be open to interpretation, not a cinematic reel that replays every moment of the protagonist’s life.

This point overlaps with show don’t tell. Many preach it, few feel it. Here’s an example in action from City Affairs:

End of Chapter 14 [narrator: philandering husband holidaying with his mistress in California]:

A flock of brilliant white Snowy Egrets hover above creating a cacophony of chirping as they swoon down on stray fish. I feel the taste of a film of sweet white wine coat my tongue as I lean over and kiss Sarah, basking in the sunshine, revelling in gaiety.
California!

Opening of next chapter [narrated by Lissie – his wife]:

I’m working from my makeshift home in Cathy’s loft today because there are emergency gas repairs going on. Real reason: depression. I look in the mirror and let out a soft sigh. There are more bags under my eyes this morning than in my gym locker.

Now, imagine if instead of the above, I had written something like, “I didn’t go in to work today because I’m desperately depressed. I’ve been gorging on chocolate all morning and crying till my eyes are sore…’

Boring.

By juxtaposing her husband living the life of Riley, philandering with his mistress in sunny California, with Lissie struggling to get into work, I’ve attempted to engage the reader’s visceral emotions. It’s hard not to feel for her. Yet none of this is stated. Indeed, the entire purpose of Chapter 14 was to generate sympathy for Lissie by showing her husband’s blithe indifference to the state of their marriage. Engage your readers’ emotions; point them in the right direction to the hallowed land, don’t drag them there.

Further, a short descriptive paragraph is sufficient. Don’t overdo it. Let the reader fill in the gaps. The late Ludlum is one author who, despite his pre-eminence in story-telling, fell foul of over-describing. Hemingway lies on the other extreme.

Location, Location, Location

No, I’m not talking about buying a house! We all like going on holiday. The joy of new places, novel cultures, languages, foods and customs is what enriches our lives. If it’s not construed, why not set an otherwise mundane scene in a foreign city? It’s a free lunch. The plot continues apace but the reader’s imagination is stimulated.

Be careful, though. Get it wrong and it will come across forced. If in doubt, leave it out.

Diction

Effective description is about evoking the strongest emotions with the least number of words. Mot juste is key, and this comes through reading, writing and practice. Here’s a secret: read poetry. Poetry is all about word choice and sentence construction. Study poetry and your scenes will be more vivid.

Here’s a scene I enjoyed writing: [Lissie narrating their flight]

I peer out of the window as our climb continues unabated. The last remnants of the fiery sun lingers on the horizon, leaving a blaze of warm oranges, pearly pinks and gentle purple. The milky outline of a full moon appears with growing confidence as the pale stars slide into place. Cars thin and merge into a continuous thread as fields separate into distinct blocks of brown and green.

Last but not Least…

You need a story to tell, the provenance of which will be your life experience or your imagination. The corollary is that you must be constantly reading on a wide range of topics and genres in order to feed your imagination. Those who are not widely read struggle to write anything original. Their stories are rehashes of the same themes, replete with trite clichés and stilted dialogue.

I’m constantly reading on topics as disparate as gardening, the weather, quantum mechanics, love, politics, finance, economics and fitness. You want to be that person at the party who has something meaningful to proffer on any given topic.

A reviewer said of City Affairs:

This book incorporates a little something for everyone: cityscapes, money, politics, art, and relationships intertwined with all the feelings that go along with those subjects

I hope I’ve provided food for thought in this brief post. Perhaps my greatest tip of all would be: have confidence. Confidence not to be shackled to stereotypes, tropes or conventions.

City Affairs is out now on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. I’d love to hear from you; do get in touch and tell me whether you enjoyed it.

My next novel is a contemporary thriller set in London about a sophisticated Islamic terrorist cell with grand designs.

My sincere gratitude to Linda for affording me the opportunity to introduce myself and my novel.

Seb King

(My pleasure to host you Seb and thank so much for providing some very interesting food for thought for those of us embarkinng on a writing career.)

About Seb King

seb

Seb was born and raised in the environs of London in the county of Essex. After a decade in investment banking, punctuated by a healthy dose of international travel (lived in Damascus, Zurich and Cairo) he found his real passion in life is writing. This is his first fiction novel.  He is currently writing a thriller, set in London.

He has published a best-selling non-fiction work on European Union Law (MiFID II: A Survival Guide) and regularly publishes articles on financial regulation. In terms of fiction, a few of his short stories have been published on Kindle. He also writes on being an author and the publishing industry.

You can follow Seb on Twitter @authorsebking and visit his website to find out more.

Introducing House of Lies by E.V. Seymour

House of Lies

One of the things I like most about being a blogger is getting to see and read books early. Today I’m delighted to be helping to reveal the new cover for House of Lies by E.V. Seymour.

Published by Harper Impulse under the Killer Reads banner, House of Lies is available for purchase here.

House of Lies

House of Lies

A sudden disappearance…

When Roz Outlaw’s partner Tom mysteriously vanishes, she knows his life is in danger. Tom has been distracted lately, afraid, as though he is being hunted…

A desperate search…

With the police showing little interest Roz knows it falls to her to find Tom. But as Tom’s secrets are uncovered nothing can prepare Roz for the dark lies and twisted truths she finds. She thought she loved Tom, but quickly realises she has been living with a stranger – a man with murder in his past.

A house of evil.

The key to unlocking Tom’s past lies in his childhood home – Vixenhead. A house of wickedness that keeps its secrets well hidden. Can Roz find Tom before it’s too late or will the evil within Vixenhead claim her too…

About E.V.Seymour

Eve Seymour

E. V. Seymour is the author of several novels and has had a number of short stories broadcast on BBC Radio Devon. Educated in Malvern at an girls’ boarding school, which she detested, she spectacularly underachieved. Sixth form in Cheltenham proved a lot more interesting, enjoyable and productive.
After a short and successful career in PR in London and Birmingham, she married and disappeared to Devon. Five children later, she returned and began to write seriously. In a bid to make her work as authentic as possible, she has bent the ears of numerous police officers, firearms officers, scenes of crime, the odd lawyer and United Nations personnel. She also works by day as a freelance editorial consultant, specialising in crime fiction.
Eve lives with her second husband and often has a houseful of offspring, sons-in-law, partners, and a growing tribe of little ones. Nomadic by nature, she is planning another move very soon.

You can find out more by visiting Eve’s blog, following her on Twitter, finding her on Facebook and visiting her website.

Giveaway and an Extract from Say My Name by Allegra Huston

say my name

I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Say My Name by Allegra Huston with an extract from the book and a (UK only I’m afraid) hardback giveaway that you can enter at the bottom of this blog post.

Published by HQ, an imprint of Harper Collins, on 27th July, Say My Name is available for purchase through the publisher links here.

Say My Name

say my name

‘This is the time to run away, she thinks, to call it a mistake, to race back to home and safety. If I don’t go home I will never feel safe again.’

On meeting Micajah Burnett, the son of an old school friend, Eve Armanton is faced with a choice. Years of a miserable marriage means she’s as broken as the beautiful antique violin she’s just found, and Micajah offers a spark of life, an opportunity to reawaken her sense.

If Eve takes a leap into this new world, she’ll be leaving behind her old self for good. Her happiness depends on forging a new life, but at the end of her journey who will Eve have become?

An Extract from Say My Name

There, under a table heaped with china of the sort nobody uses anymore, she spots it, almost hidden behind random objects carrying price stickers faded by time. Daylight filters through grimy windows onto worn green velvet, golden wood. Strangely, the case is open—as if it’s hoping to be found.

It’s bigger than a violin, much smaller than a cello. It’s fat, squarer than most instruments of its kind, with an elongated neck, and—this is what draws Eve in—encrusted with vines. The fragile carvings seem greener. They were once painted, maybe.

Eve moves the piles of junk aside so that she can crawl under the table. Usually she wears jeans for these expeditions, but it’s a hot New York summer, so this morning she chose a thin dress, counting on the intricate print to disguise any smudges. It will rip easily, though, so she tucks up the sides into her underwear to keep it off the floor.

As she crouches down, the bones of her knees crack. Though she’s fit and strong, her forty-eight-year-old body is starting to show age. Her brown hair has almost no gray in it—good genes, her mother would have said—but soon she’ll have to decide whether to color it. She’s never seen the point of lying about her age and, being married, she’s less concerned about looking young than she might be if she were single. Still, the ugly milestone looms. She’s tied her hair in a ponytail and covered her head with a scarf to protect against cobwebs.

By profession, Eve is a garden designer. Her husband, Larry, makes enough as a product development manager for a pill-coating supplier to pharmaceutical companies to enable him to treat her little business as, basically, a hobby. This annoys her, but the truth is, she treats it that way too. Taking it more seriously would mean confronting Larry and claiming ownership of her time and priorities, which she is not prepared to do. The status quo feels fragile, although it also feels as lasting as mortal life allows. All that’s required is that she keep the delicate political balance, and doesn’t rock the boat or disturb the sleeping dogs. She’s gotten into the habit of not pushing any communication past the minimum required for practical matters and the appearance of enough closeness to assure her that their marriage is sound.

On weekends, guiltless and free, she searches out treasures for her friend Deborah’s antique shop. Larry doesn’t com- plain; she suspects he’s glad to have the house to himself. For her part, she’s glad to be away from it. The strange objects she finds ignite her imagination, conjuring up lives more exciting, and more terrifying, than the low-intensity safety of her own. Today she’s exploring a northerly part of New York City that, like a tidal pool left by successive immigrant waves, houses people from nations that may or may not still exist: Assyrians, Armenians, Macedonians, Baluchistanis. The alphabets in which the signs are written change block by block. Neighborhoods like this are her favorite hunting grounds.

On her hands and knees under the table, she tugs at the instrument in its case. It shifts with a jerk, leaving a hard outline of oily dust on the floor. Probably it hasn’t been moved in years. She lifts it up onto a tin chest, keeping her back to the storekeeper to disguise her interest.

The vines twine over the body of the instrument and up its neck, stretching out into the air. Though the delicacy of the carving is almost elfin, it has the strength of vines: blindly reaching, defying gravity. The tendrils are dotted with small flowers: jasmine, so accurately rendered that Eve identifies them instantly. A flap of velvet in the lid conceals a bow, held in place by ribbons. It, too, is twined with curling vines.

She wiggles her fingers into the gaps between the instru- ment and the velvet lining, prying it loose. A moth flies out into her face and disappears in the slanting shafts of light.

Holding it by the neck, she senses another shape. With spit and the hem of her dress, she cleans away the dust. There’s a pudgy, babyish face, the vines tightening their weave across its eyes. Cupid, blinded by love.

Eve pinches up dust from the floor to dirty the face again. She has learned not to improve the appearance of things until after the bargaining is done and the money has changed hands. Then she turns the instrument over.

The back is in splinters.

Eve touches her finger to the ragged shards of wood, long- ing to make this beautiful thing whole again. The damage must have been deliberate: an accident would have broken off the vines. What drove that person over the brink? Musician’s frustration? Rage at fate? Heartbreak? She can almost feel remnants of the emotion stuck to the gash, like specks of dried blood.

If she had it repaired, the cost would almost certainly be more than the instrument is worth. And even an expert might not be able to restore it completely. It could serve as a decorative item, but only if the gash stays hidden. Deborah won’t want it—she has a rule against broken things. Also, she feels more comfortable with things that have names, like bowls and vases and candlesticks. Passionless things that sit prettily in nice rooms. The history that this object bears on its back would freak her out.

Eve moves to return the instrument to its exile, but she can’t bring herself to do it. Now that she has touched it, she cannot push it back into the shadows.

About Allegra Huston

allegra huston

Allegra Huston has written screenplays, journalism, and one previous book, Love Child: A Memoir of Family Lost and Found. After an early career in UK publishing, including four years as Editorial Director of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, she joined the film company Pathé as development consultant. She wrote and produced the award-winning short film Good Luck, Mr. Gorski, and is on the editorial staff of the international art and culture magazine Garage. She lives in Taos, New Mexico, with her 14-year-old son.

You can follow Allegra on Twitter @allegrahuston and visit her website.

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For your chance to win one of three hardback copies of Say My Name by Allegra Huston, click here. UK only I’m afraid, Giveaway entries close at UK midnight on Tuesday 1st August 2017.