Thursday, 29 January 2015

Are You Making the Most of Your Opening Chapter?

Good morning to all my bookaholic friends. Lovely to see you all here on this dreary winters morning. However, we all know that reading, and writing, can cheer up the bleakest of days. Today on the post we are going to be talking writing, opening chapters in particular.

I have been reading K.M. Weiland's excellent post on the perfect ingredient for Opening Chapter. This got me thinking about what I and others think about what should be in the opening chapter of a book. I am sure we all know the importance of a cover in attracting readers, but once they open the words on the page need to speak for themselves.

I was fortunate to attend a workshop, on creating a killer first line, led by highly talented crime author Alex Gray. If you are not familiar with Alex, or her works, you can find out more here. Following this I am always conscious of the importance of the first line in drawing readers in to the story. I examine the first line from every angle and try it out on the lovely authors in my writers group. This would be my first definite must have for my chapter. A killer first line. Nothing to do with crime writing, this is the same for all writers.

Secondly, as I write crime, I will always make sure that the first murder is seen in the opening chapter. I combine this with ensuring that there is a level of tension which will keep readers wanting more. 

In the article above, it is suggested that the protagonist is always introduced in the first chapter. This is excellent advice and should always be followed. Or should it? The difficulty with lists is that one can often follow them slavishly to the exclusion of creativity and original thought. I have read some exceptional books where the killer is introduced in a very short first chapter. This has me hooked and wanting to find out more. However, I will add, that the reader will get bored if the protagonist, in my case the detective, doesn't tip up fairly quickly.

So what do others think? What are your tips, or go to's for the perfect first chapter? 

So it is farewell from Scotland. Have a great day wherever you are in the world. Always remember, whatever the weather may be like outside your window, it is always a perfect day to keep reading and/or writing. The picture at the top of the mage is to remind us all that even though we are in the grip of winter, summer is just around the corner.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Guest Post: Review of YA book What If?

Today I welcome very special guest to Bookaholic. 13 Year old Zoe has agreed to review a superb new Young Adult book for us. I am sure all Bookaholics will join me in extending her a very warm welcome.

Hi! I’m Zoe and I’m 13 years old. I am reviewing What If? by Caroline Johnston.

What If? is a really interesting and worthwhile read for any teenager who has been thinking about God. Caroline Johnston presents an interesting view point about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

The story is about 14 year old Rachel Anderson, a shy girl who has gone to church her whole life. She faces a lot of interesting challenges and opportunities, including auditioning for the school play, and imagining that Jesus is one of her friends at school.

I really like this book as I find a lot of teenage fiction is dark and heavily layered with deep traumatic issues. Although this book has some big questions in it, it is basically positive, and it has a nice storyline.

Rachel is a character who I found easy to relate to and understand. She is not a generic teen fiction heroine either. Unlike most of the main girls in recent YA book, she is not ridiculously brave, nor totally quiet and shy. She is not a two dimensional character, but neither is she impossibly deep as some heroines are. She has some friends, but isn’t the most popular kid in school. I think most girls my age will be able to relate to her, and like her. It is easy to believe that Rachel lives in your town, or goes to your school. The author has really nailed exactly what it means to be a teenage girl.

I would recommend What If? to girls (and boys who don’t mind reading about girls) aged 11 – 15. It is not hard to read, or too long, but it is thought provoking, and stays with you a long time. This book is a very good specimen of Christian YA fiction.

Thank you Zoe for an excellent review. Zoe, as well as being a reviewer, is also a writer in her own right. I am sure we will be sharing a lot of Zoe in the future.

What if? is a book which is well worth buying for all young women. It will make them think about what they are doing and the way their faith plays out. If you would like to buy the book it is available from Amazon in paperback in UK. This would make a fabulous present for any Christian teenage girl.

Also available as an ebook from EatACD

That brings us to the end of another Bookaholic blog. I look forward to seeing you all back here soon. Until then keep reading.

Friday, 9 January 2015

The Snake Pit: Jr. High Can Be Torture

Good morning my bookaholic friends. It's a wild and windy day here in Bonnie Scotland. Perfect for curling up with a good book. Today I bring you a YA book. Yes I know that's un usual but I did promise you an eclectic selection. This one deals with the issue of bullying, hence the reason I have read and reviewed it here. 

This book has to be, without question,  one of the best books on bullying I have ever read. It should be obligatory reading at all secondary schools. Cinda is different as she has a facial deformity. On her first day at school she trips and falls in the cafeteria and is the laughing stock of the whole school. This gives the queen bee and her followers reason to feel they can mercilessly bully her. 

Cinda is a great character and Donna Dillon does a superb job of showing the full range of her emotions. She also shows the emotions and characteristics of all the main characters. It is a short book but the author, who is an adept writer, draws the characters well and keeps the story taut. It takes a unique approach to telling the story, which works well. It takes the form of interviews of all the key players. Although you know they are being interviewed you don't know why and this makes you keep reading. The author pulls no punches in telling the story and at times it can be a bit distressing. However this is necessary in order for the reader to get a sense of the impact of bullying. 

I enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to all teenagers and adults. It is available in all Amazon stores but here are the links for UK and USA

Donna has also written several other children's and YA books including a follow up to this book. These can be seen at her Amazon Author Page These are superb books and it is well worth taking a look. 

There we have it for another day bookaholics. Who knows what will appear next. Keep watching to find out. Above all, keep reading

Thursday, 1 January 2015

A Happy Crime Writer's New Year

Good afternoon Bookaholics and welcome to the first blog of 2015. I trust you all had a great Christmas and New Year and that you got lots of lovely books for Christmas. I was fortunate to get a few so watch this space.

So what has this Crime Writer and reader been up to over Christmas and new year? Firstly I am sporting one of my Christmas presents. I love this T-Shirt and the perfect present for me. In case you can't read it from the picture it says "You are Dangerously Close to Becoming a Body in my Next Novel." You do not know how true this is. As a crime writer I am always one step away from planning the next murder. Seriously, never upset a crime writer. They can bump you off in ways that are too horrible for the human mind to imagine. Unless it's a crime writer's mind that is.

So what of 2014. The most exciting part of this had to be the launch of the first book in the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries. Shona is keen, eager and ready to prove to the world what she can do. So far she hasn't disappointed with the book being warmly received. The book launch at Waterstones Bookstore was so much fun and very well attended. Definitely a great way to launch my career as a published author.

Unfortunately I haven't had huge amounts of time to read recently as I have been knee deep in all things Christmas and New Year related. Much like the rest of the world. I am waiting for my family to arrive so we can have our New Years Day Dinner together. That brings me neatly to the end of my post as I have a steak pie to carve up, er. sorry cut up and serve. See you all back here very soon my bookaholic friends. My wish for you over the coming year is that you will have everything you need. See you all soon. 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman

Hello my bookaholic friends. I know it has been a little while since I brought you a good book but this book is worth the wait. Today I bring you a quirky and yet engaging mystery which is translated from the Spanish.

At first glance it would seem that this book is a Spanish crime novel but you soon find out it is so much more than this. you know the book is going to be good when the Inspector in charge of a missing persons case has changed his name to Manchego rather than the more humdrum (in Spanish quarters) Jandalillo. The inspector is an engaging chap who seems to play fast and loose with giving out privileged information to whomever he likes. Although the storyline had the possibility of being somewhat disjointed, the author holds it all together so well that it flows together and works. The storyline itself is good but the characters are where this book really comes into its own, they are larger than life and appear to be charicatures, but ones which work. The English characters are quinissentially upper class English with myriad eccentricities. The Spanish are flamboyant and the numerous gypsies, dark but lovable and over the top. I loved every one of them. The mystery is good, it rattles a long at a fair clip but at the same time is laugh out loud funny. It is a long time since a book has engaged me this much. I would definitely recommend it to all lovers of a madcap mystery. I shall certainly be looking out for more books by this author.

Please note I was given an advance copy of this book from the publishers in return for a fair and honest review. My review is based upon my reading of, and enjoyment of, the book. The book will not be available until January but you can preorder from the links below

Amazon UK

Amazon US

There we have it for another day my bookaholic friends. It will soon be Christmas and my hope for you is that Santa brings you lots of books.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A Winter Murderland by Juliet B. Madison

Today I’m pleased to welcome fellow crime author Juliet B Madison back to my blog to talk about A Winter Murderland, her recently released DI Frank Lyle novellas collection.

Can you briefly sum up A Winter Murderland for those who haven’t read it?

Juliet:  It’s winter and DI Frank Lyle, along with his team, are hoping for a crime-free season.
DS Thomas Fox feels threatened after a chance encounter with someone from his past. Can he and his boyfriend, James Lyle, deal with the emotional consequences of both the encounter and a revelation it forces Thomas to make?
John Cassidy is found dead. As DI Lyle and his team investigate they uncover sinister secrets and darker motives as they are drawn into the unfamiliar world of pharmaceutical malpractise and the minefield of murder by prescription.
A Winter Murderland also includes two DI Frank Lyle short stories: Wishing on a Star and The Dare.

I haven’t read the book as yet, but I believe it includes your NaNoWriMo piece?
Juliet:  Yes, that’s right Wendy. I’m really very proud of Prescription for Murder. I had to do more research than normal as I had to find out about pharmaceutical practise and prescription drugs, including ones which contraindicate one another. Cathy Goddard, the palliative care pharmacist where my mum works, was incredibly helpful and her husband, Tim, features in a cameo role as a paramedic (his real life profession)

Do you think DI Frank Lyle learns anything new as a result of this investigation?

Juliet: I don’t think he learns anything new police procedure-wise as he’s already an experienced detective, but he learns about prescription drugs and gets an insight into more of the darker facets of the human psyche.
Why did you include short stories in this collection?
Juliet: Originally the first novella, A Murder-Free Christmas, was to be published separately, but I decided to put two novellas together. Wishing on a Star is a story set in 1977 when James, DI Lyle’s son, is only six. The other story, The Dare was published in the Shadows & Light charity anthology to promote the work of Women’s Aid and to raise awareness of the more subtle aspects of domestic violence. James is sixteen and it’s a kind of emotional maturity coming of age tale (although not legally coming of age as no one turns eighteen).

I understand that DI Lyle is a big fan of Joan Baez and his colleague, DI Redfern, is into Bruce Springsteen. Do your characters’ musical tastes reflect your own in any way?
Juliet: When it comes to a character’s preferences in matters like music, reading matter, gastronomic tastes and even sexual tastes I think a lot of the author’s personal preferences do tend to creep in. Yes, I do admire Joan Baez and have seen her live twice. The fact that she is still doing live performances at the age of 73 shows incredible resilience. How many X factor winners will we remember even a year from now? I suspect that there is probably quite a bit of you in DI Shona McKenzie as well.

I know from previous interviews you’ve done that you enjoy reading crime fiction, but what’s the last book you read that wasn’t in the crime genre?

Juliet: I’m currently reading “My Life”, (David Jason’s autobiography), which I’m really enjoying.  I’m a huge David Jason fan and I think that DI Frost was the best part he played. I learnt a lot from watching that series and paid homage to the airing of the first ever episode in my last novel Best Served Cold. David is one actor I would love to meet.

Do you think DI Lyle & DI Frost would get on?
Juliet: On a personal level maybe, But DI Lyle would definitely be a straight man to Frost’s constant flouting of procedure and rule-breaking. I think he would really disapprove of Frost’s methods. They both get results in different ways.

Do you think that the crimes DI Lyle investigates will change as you move the series closer to the present day?

Juliet: There will ALWAYS be murderers, but yes, I suspect he will start to investigate things like Internet crime and identity theft as time moves on.

What’s next for DI Lyle & his team?

Juliet:  Another investigation involving people and drug trafficking, murder and corruption. I haven’t gotten very far with Dead on Arrival yet though.
Would you be prepared to share a short excerpt from A Winter Murderland with us?

JULIET:  Here’s a little bit from Prescription for Murder

Jean crossed the street and pressed the intercom button for Cassidy’s flat. The receiver crackled but there was no response. She swallowed hard.
“Mr Cassidy, are you alright?” she called. Ashbeck City Council paid Cassidy’s housing benefit direct to his bank account on a fortnightly basis and she came to collect. He had once been a lecturer at Ashbeck University, but about a year ago he had had surgery for a heart problem and not worked since. It seemed wrong to Jean, he was only in his early forties after all, but, she reminded, herself, when had life ever been fair?
There was still no response. Jean gave a glance at the leaden skies, before another tenant came out and held the door open for her.
“Thank you Mr Sakura,” she said, “Have you seen Mr Cassidy lately?”
“Not for a couple days, Miss Leyton,” he bowed respectfully as was Japanese custom.
“Alright, thank you.” she watched the Japanese walk across the road and down the street before ascending a flight of stairs to Cassidy’s apartment.
She knocked on the door, but there was no response.
She hated to invade a tenant’s privacy, but she had a need.
She unlocked the door and went in, calling his name. As she approached the door to the lounge she smelt an overpowering stench of decay. Almost afraid she pushed open the door and went in. She had not gotten more than two steps inside when the reason for Cassidy’s lack of response was made shockingly clear. Cassidy was slumped in the armchair, a bottle clutched in his hand. His dead eyes stared past her at nothing.

Where can my readers get their own copy of A Winter Murderland?

JULIET:  You can buy A Winter Murderland here

Thank you Juliet. It was a pleasure to have you on the blog today and to find out more about your latest book. I wish you and all the readers of Bookaholic a very Merry Christmas

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Is there such a thing as writer's block?

As this is the month of November I have been doing the annual NaNoWriMo challenge. As always there has been a mixed approach to this. Mostly the words flow and other times I feel like I have slammed into a brick wall. This got me thinking about writer's block and whether this really exists. 

There have been times in the month where the words just would not appear in my brain never mind the end of my fingertips. To put this into context I have had a busy month. I released my first book in the DI Shona McKenzie series and there has been all the attendant work which goes with this. My time has been taken up with Author events, book signings, and generally letting people know it has been available. Add to this that November is the start of the silly season which is the run up to Christmas. Add to this the stress of playing catch up with my NaNoWriMo word count and I think life just got a bit overwhelming for me. When I felt like this it was difficult to formulate words never mind put them into a coherent sentence.

It would be all too easy to allow this to take over and to say that I could not right. That things were just not working the way I wanted them to. This could quite easily lead to a protracted period of not writing which could be termed writers block.

However, this has taught me a thing or two about myself and my writing. Firstly, I get so many ideas when I am lying in the bath relaxing and not really thinking about anything. Obviously this blasts my mental decision that I cannot write and my mind, left to its own devices, takes over. Going out into the garden and staring at the burn (stream for anyone not in Scotland) has the same effect. It calms me down and allows my subconscious to strut its stuff. 

The second thing I have learned will make me sound plain weird. Still I will throw caution to the wind and tell you. I'm a writer after all and us writers need foibles. I write better if I go into my office and sit down at the computer, dressed in my work clothes and with a pair of shoes on. I think this has to do with the fact I have gone out to work all my life and my mind cannot get over the fact that I need to be dressed certain way to produce. Slippers and a dressing gown are all very well for relaxing, but if you want to do that writing thing, boy you'd better be dressed for the part. 

So overall I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as writers block. I just need to free my mind and out the words will tumble.

Now that my mind is unleashed from its fetters I am off to do some writing. DI Shona McKenzie is off on the trail of a killer in book 2 and she is champing at the bit for me to join her.

I would like to finish with a question. What do all you writers out there think about writers block? Is there anything you do to get yourself past it?

By for now bookaholics. See you all soon.