‘Run Girl’ by Eva Hudson

Run Girl
Run Girl

FBI agent Ingrid Skyberg is in London for a conference, but when a young American woman goes missing in the City, Ingrid is recruited to help find her.

The cover and the title drew me to this one and as I didn’t lose interest on the first page (which is always a positive sign), I’m happy to say I continued reading and finished the book without feeling I’d been duped. Though nothing very much happens in terms of action or excitement, I thoroughly enjoyed this novella and the banter between the main characters. As a prequel, it sets up Skyberg for her later adventures. However, though I liked the characters and warmed to the less-than-thrilling storyline, I did get a sense that she’s a bit of a clutz, so I can’t help wonder how she’ll manage when they put her in situations that are actually dangerous.

I’m not really sure about my rating, but I definitely want to read the next one (Fresh Doubt) before making my mind up completely.

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‘No Good Deed’ by MP McDonald

No Good Deed
No Good Deed: A Psychological Thriller

When photographer Mark Taylor finds a camera that takes unusual photos, he realises he can stop bad things happening – but there’s one disaster he’s unable to change: 9/11. Taken into custody, Taylor is not charged with any crime and doesn’t get the chance to have his day in court. But his captors want the truth and they don’t seem to care how they get it. With no-one on his side, Mark Taylor’s future looks bleak.

MP McDonald tells a good story – she had me gripped from the first page with an attention-grabbing plot that kept me reading. Her main character is well drawn and realistic, as are the ‘bad guys’, and the torment he goes through is all too believable. There were one or two typos and a couple of things that felt a bit clumsy, but on the whole, I enjoyed the story very much – it left me feeling that for a piece of fiction, it was also scarily real.

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‘Elizabeth, Just 16’ by Cecilia Paul

Elizabeth Just 16
Elizabeth: Just Sixteen

When teenager Elizabeth Appleton seeks medical advice to find out why her periods haven’t started, she is dealt a shocking blow – she can never have children. It transpires she has Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome (MRKH) – a congenital disorder affecting the female reproductive tract. The discovery throws the young woman into turmoil, questioning everything she has assumed about herself and her body thus far. How can she be a ‘normal’ girl if she can’t do the things other girls her age can do? The horror of the situation even prompts her to beg her parents not to tell anyone. In time, however, and with the support of her family and through sharing experiences with another young woman who also has MRKH, Elizabeth is able to begin to look to the future with hope.

First-time novelist Cecilia Paul explores this unusual condition in a bid to raise public awareness of MRKH and its sufferers. While the book is informative and educational and gives a rare insight into the difficulties facing women with MRKH, the writing was rather dry and matter-of-fact and for the most part didn’t engage me. To be honest, the book wasn’t suggestive of a novel at all, and often felt as if I were reading a well-researched article in a medical journal. For anyone with a particular interest in the syndrome, I’m sure it’ll serve as a valuable and positive account of this life-changing condition, but as a novel it didn’t work for me.

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‘Sandlands’ by Rosy Thornton

5 stars copy

From ghostly whisperings in a run-down Martello Tower (‘Whispers’) and the solemn toll of Old Jack’s bell in ‘Ringing Night’, to the unearthing of a strange talisman in ‘The Witch Bottle’, Rosy Thornton tells ordinary stories tinged with more than a hint of the odd and the unusual. In this magical collection of sixteen tales, she effortlessly weaves the present with the past, creating characters who leap from the page and lay their emotions on us like old friends.

Having spent a few years in Suffolk, I’m familiar with the geography and landscapes Ms Thornton’s characters inhabit, though her talent for description creates images that need no introduction – we’re right there in the scenery as if watching her stories unfold before our eyes. My first impression was of a writer who, as she says herself, has a preoccupation with nature and landscape, and while many of her stories reflect this, she also has an unerring talent for the peculiar. Her tales are beautifully crafted, moving the reader from laughter to tears in an instant and I found myself a little overawed at her ability to create such flawless prose.

Imagine writing that mixes Susan Hill and Gavin Maxwell with a hint of Edgar Allen Poe and you’ll be on the right track. This is an outstanding collection of stories from a woman who is clearly a master of the form. If Rosy Thornton doesn’t win some major literary prize very soon, I’ll be very surprised.

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‘Prisoner 4374’ by A. J. Griffiths-Jones

Prisoner 4374
Prisoner 4374
5 stars copy

Scottish-born Dr. Thomas Neill Cream is often suspected of being the face behind the Jack the Ripper murders, but has he been misrepresented? There’s no doubt he was responsible for several deaths, but does the fact that he spent time in an American prison during the Whitechapel killings let him off the hook, or could he have been otherwise involved in the legendary murders? Beginning with Cream’s early years in Montreal, the author of this fascinating book allows the Doctor himself to tell his own story, charting his many romantic liaisons as well as portraying his progression from supplier of dubious ‘cure-all’ remedies, to abortionist and murderer.

With a special interest in Victorian villains, Ms Griffiths-Jones has utilised extensive research, accessing previously unpublished photographs and documents to bring Dr Cream’s story to life. Adopting an unconventional autobiographical style, she perfectly captures the tone and style of the period, writing in a voice that screams with authenticity and truth.

I loved this book from the first page, found myself held in the Doctor’s evil grip, and was unable to put the damn thing down (expect for a little sleep!) until the very end. The author’s attention to detail only adds to the authentic feel of the work, sketching perfect images of the times, the people and the murderous killing spree.

A. J. Griffiths-Jones is a highly talented and clever writer and I’ll be looking out for the sequel to ‘Prisoner 4374’ with great eagerness.

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‘The Plague’ by Albert Camus

The Plague
The Plague

In the town of Oran, rats begin to appear – in the houses, in the streets and scrabbling around the dustbins. But the creatures bring with them a deadly plague that consumes and contaminates the population, forcing them into their beds, to the hospitals and finally the morgue. The central character, Dr Rieux, strives in his own way to make a difference, to combat the medical and psychological effects of the disease. With the aid of a few friends, he observes how each individual responds in different ways – with fear, isolation and apathy, while others surrender themselves to whatever is to become of them.

There’s no plot as such, and much of the book focuses on the organisational aspects of dealing with an outbreak, such as collecting the dead rats, arranging beds for the sick and dying, and placing the town under quarantine.

Although there are some beautifully written passages in ‘The Plague’, the characters are generally a little wooden and don’t really do much to promote themselves to a hopeful reader. Much of the dialogue is tedious and I was often distracted by a text that would have benefited from a bit of editing (though this may have been more to do with the translation).

So, on the whole, I found it a bit of a slog and I’m afraid the only thing I felt on finishing it was relief. Sure, it’s interesting and thought-provoking, particularly if you take on board the apparent allegory of the French struggle under the Third Reich, however, there was a cholera epidemic in Oran in 1849, which resurfaced several times (to a lesser extent) after the turn of the century, and as Camus knew about this, who’s to say what the real story is?

If you’re into existentialism and absurdist ideas, maybe this one will do it for you. I’m sure I’ll dip into the work of Camus again, but he’s no longer at the top of my reading list.

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10 Tweets I Hate About You

10 Things I Tweet 350
It galls me to admit it, but I absolutely love Twitter – I love the variety and randomness of it, the occasional surprises and the nice (or otherwise) responses I get when folks like what I’m putting out there.

However, there’s a ton of things I hate about Twitter too, or to be more specific, there’s a ton of things that annoy me about other Twiterrers (is that a word?)

Therefore, for no other reason than me needing to get it off my chest, here are the 10 things that irritate me about other users of the above-mentioned social media platform:

1 The non-linked image
I always like to hear about new books, but there are way too many tweets that tell me everything I need to know except where I can get it. Yep, that’s right, there’s no link. So the only way I’m going to find it is to look it up on Google, which obviously is considerably more time-consuming than if I could’ve just clicked on the damn link. I mean, it might take me maybe ten or even fifteen whole seconds to find out I can get the book on Amazon…

Okay, so it’s not that time-consuming, but the point is, if you’re selling or advertising something, you have to include a link, otherwise a whole heap of folks aren’t even going to blink before moving on to the next pretty little picture.

2 The Follow-Me/Re-Tweet Me Spiel
I don’t take kindly to being told (or even asked nicely) to follow someone back or re-tweet whatever garbage they’re churning out, so I usually don’t. Let’s face it, when you meet someone for the first time, you don’t immediately hand over your phone number and demand theirs in return, do you? So, no, get lost.

3 Tell Me Again Just in Case I Missed it
If you’ve read any of my posts before, you’ll know that poor spelling/lousy grammar gets right up my nose, and Twitter’s no different. But a more noticeable irritation is when someone’s bio simply repeats itself:

    Bob Smith
    Hi, I’m Bob Smith and I write under the author name of Bob Smith.

Come on, guys, it’s not rocket science (unless you’re Bob Smith the rocket scientist, of course).

4 Hashtag Smash
I realise hastags are useful, but nobody needs to use more than two or three in a single tweet. When I see messages like this, I don’t even bother reading:

    #free #book #kindle #American #thriller #action #wartorn #soldierboy #killingspree #loadsabloodandguts #99c

5 Soon To Be…
Arrogance mixed with hope in a bio is never pretty, and this sort of thing isn’t likely to endear me to anyone:

    Soon-to-be Bestselling Author
    Soon-to-be Hollywood A-lister
    Soon-to-be Porn Star
    Soon-to-be Prime Minster
    Soon-to-be Millionaire

6 Egg-Face
And what’s with those folks who don’t have a pic on their bio? You may as well say ‘ Hey, I’m a nonentity, so don’t follow me.’ Nobody likes the invisible man (except Mrs Invisible Man), so show us what you look like, egg-face.

7 Hey, Guess What?
I’m not interested in how many folk you just followed/un-followed, so keep your numbers to yourself, dude.

8 I Thank You
I understand it’s polite to thank people for certain things, but if anyone seriously imagines I’m going to spend hours of my time thanking people for retweeting something, they can thank again (see what I did there?)

9 I (Robot), Thank You
When my phone rings at home and I pick it up and it’s a recorded message, I hang up. For the same reason, those folk who feel the need to acknowledge when someone follows them, but leave the actual ‘thanking’ in the hands of an algorithm, just get my goat. And frankly, my goat’s getting sick of it.

10 Direct Auto-Message
Direct Shite, would be more accurate. If someone wants to get in touch, that’s great, but if it’s automated, the only thing I really want to do is send them an automated reply, thanking them for their automated message and looking forward to an automated reply in return…

If any (or all) of this makes me sound like a whinger, that’s tough. I’m human, and I like human contact. Done properly, with correct spelling and good, clean links and…

Okay, I’ll stop now.

New Release by Rainy Kaye

new release rk
Today, we’re celebrating the release of THE DEEPEST BLACK by USA Today Bestselling author Rainy Kaye. THE DEEPEST BLACK is 99 cents for a limited time! Check it out, then scroll all the way down to enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card!



the_deepest_blackEmber has a little problem…fairies want her dead.

Ember spends her Friday nights lurking in the bad parts of town, killing fairies. It’s either that, or become a victim to their flesh-eating hunger.

Then she meets Remy, a fae who, despite getting on her nerves, isn’t evil. He tells her that a shadow has been consuming his world, changing its inhabitants and letting destructive beasts into his city. He is searching for his brother who went missing during the catastrophe.

When a team of mercenaries come for Ember, she has little choice but to join Remy in his quest. Together, they decide to bait a trap. What they find reveals the destruction of the fae world means the end of the human world, too–and it’s Ember’s fault.

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Rainy Kaye writes paranormal novels from her lair somewhere in Phoenix, Arizona. She is represented by Rossano Trentin of TZLA, and her Summoned series was acquired by Bastei Lübbe. In 2014, she reached the USA Today Bestseller list. Today, she’s taking care of her small zoo of furry animals and trying to remember where she left her coffee.
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How to Be a Crap Writer (Part 2)

In my previous post on the topic of being a crap writer, I looked at ways of identifying those among us who are not literary greats, and how those writers might justify churning out dross. This time, I’m interested in the kinds of basic errors many people seem to make between the title and the first page.

Now, rather than embarrassing anyone by holding up a giant pointy finger and including actual examples from the poor fools who cultivate such boo-boos, I’ll illustrate my points with instances from my own works, modified to show the kinds of blunders I’m talking about.

[NB If you can’t spot the mistakes, maybe you’re one of those poor fools!]

Title Errors
You’d think any author would be able to get the title of their book right, especially as it’s the phrase they most likely see at the top of the page every time they open the file to work on the damn thing!

Missing Letters

  • The House Tat Wasn’t There
  • The Hounds of Hellerby all

Missing or Misplaced Apostrophes

  • The House That Wasnt There
  • The Hound’s of Hellerby Hall

Wrong Words

  • The House That Wasn’t Their
  • The Hose That Wasn’t There

Missing spaces

  • Chapter1
  • The WatsonLetters
  • Writing:Ideas and Inspirations

Lack of consistency can be distracting for readers, from interchanging basic titles (Mr/Mister), to using the wrong tense. Also, using the right version of a word particularly applies to made up names and places, as well as common place names. Accents and dialects, where the correct spelling may be uncertain, can also tie you in knots. In my ‘Maps of Time’ series, several characters speak in a version of London cockney:

  • “There’s somefing you ain’t tellin me, girlie.”

In an early daft, I discovered I was spelling ‘something’ as somefing, somfing and somfin. Doh.

Keeping your finger off the spell-checker can be just as difficult – in the world of my Watson Letters series (being set in an almost post-Victorian parallel universe) I spell England’s capital city as Londen. Naturally my own spell checker picks this up as an error, so I have to take especial care not to correct it.

This is where an apparently stray word has been dropped in the middle of a sentence, either through overconfidence in a spell checker, poor editing or just being a bit of a divvy:

  • “Christie, you surly hasn’t sold pork Mr Morrison a hag-written story?”
    (“Christie, you surely haven’t sold poor Mr Morrison a half-written story?”)
  • I began to list some as pets of the crimes reported via our fried Estrada.
    (I began to list some aspects of the crimes reported via our friend Lestrade.)

Bad Writing
And finally, some authors just need to write better – poor sentence structure, repeated words, ill-placed commas etc:

  • The murderer’s bodies Lestrade thought had incisions, made in them that made it look like a crazed doctor could, have maybe been responsible he thought for the murders of the victims.
  • (Several incisions had been made to the bodies of all the victims, leading Lestrade to believe the murders may have been committed by a crazed doctor.)

This may seem like an extreme example, but it’s nothing like as bad as some of the utter drivel that’s out there.

However perfect we think our work is, it’s always worth taking another look before touching that big Publish button – I find I’ll often notice glitches and inaccuracies in my writing just before that crucial point, and while most of these aren’t blatant blunders, they’re things I should have corrected earlier. Being a good writer means paying attention to the small things, and as Sergeant Phil Esterhaus didn’t used to say:

“Hey, hey, hey – let’s be careful with that detail out there!”

Rules for Writing (and Other Variables)

Charles Dickens Rules 350
A few years ago, American novelist Colson Whitehead published a piece outlining his simple rules for writing (New York Times July 26, 2012). While I don’t completely agree with him, I do have my own ideas on the thorny subject of what writers should and shouldn’t do:

1: Show and Tell.
No, actually. While I can see the point of encouraging young writers to brag about their projects, the point of the phrase Show, Don’t Tell (to show what is happening rather than merely recounting events like some simple-minded horse), is always worth reiterating.

2: Don’t go searching for a subject, let your subject find you.
Well, this’d be fine if you’re the sort of person who does actually receive inspiration on a daily basis, but the question most asked by novice writers (Where do you get your ideas from?) is just another way of saying What should I write about? So what I say is do search for something to write about, otherwise that best-selling novel might never get started.

3: Write what you know.
This is a great rule if you happen to have had a particularly interesting/exciting/
adventurous life, but if you’ve worked in an insurance office for 15 years, it’s a bit limiting. Clearly, you don’t have to commit murder to write about a serial killer and you needn’t have survived a nuclear holocaust to create a post-apocalyptic dystopian fantasy. Writing is about using your imagination.

4: Never use three words when one will do.
Okay, that’s a good one – too many writers blabber on inanely as if using more words will somehow impart greater meaning to their work. Less is more, as some famous person probably once said.

5: Keep a dream diary.
The only time I tried this, an idea that started as a dream turned into an unmanageable mess. Of course, if you ‘re lucky enough to have amazing dreams, maybe it’ll work out.

6: What isn’t said is as important as what is said.
Yup, that’s a good one.

7: Writer’s block is a tool — use it.
In this case, I defer to Terry Pratchett, who said: ‘There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.’ Nuff said.

8: Is secret.
I totally agree with this one, but as it’s a secret, I can’t tell you why.

9: Have adventures.
In this case, revert to Rule 3 – use your imagination. We aren’t all Ernie Hemingways, and while it’s good to write from experience, you don’t have to.

10: Revise, revise, revise.
Absolutely. Revise, re-write, edit etc. Do everything you can to make your work as good as it can possibly be.

11: There are no rules.
Er… Okay, do whatever you like. It’ll be fine…

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