The CWA Anthology of Short Stories – Judith Culter Q and A BLOG TOUR

I was delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour for the latest collection of short stories by Orenda Books, The CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour. For those who don’t know the CWA stands for Crime Writers Association and membership includes some of my favourite authors whose short stories appear in this fantastic collection. The book is a complete mystery tour that takes you from Glasgow to South Africa to the Ukraine. Each of the stories as you suspect has a rather murderous intention behind them, or do they? One intriguing story with a rather clever twist was from Judith Cutler and I’m delighted to welcome her to acrimereadersblog to talk about short stories.

Welcome Judith. I loved your story in A Mystery Tour. What was the inspiration behind it?

I just hope life doesn’t decide to imitate art, in this case. My husband, Edward Marston, and I are privileged to be invited to take on a lot of speaking engagements. We almost always do these together – we call ourselves Murder Ancient and Modern. Some call us the Morecambe and Wise of writing… However many events we do, and however well we’re prepared, there’s always a frisson of anxiety: is this the right day? Will we have an audience? Once I was ready to speak – to find an audience of zero. Last time I was in the USA I shared a signing session with C J Box and Jeffrey Deaver – an exercise in humiliation since none of my books had reached the conference and their fans formed queues pretty well round the block… So far, however, I’ve not turned up to find the event cancelled at the last minute.

It must be very nerve wracking doing events like that, fingers crossed your story stays as a fiction one rather than influencing real life! Do you prefer short story writing or full length novels?

Predictably, since I had success with the short form at the start of my career but didn’t feel I’d “arrived” as a writer till I saw my first novel on bookshop shelves, I’m going to say I like writing both. A novel is a Test Match of an endeavour: you’re going to live with characters who grow and develop over many chapters – and sometimes several novels. There is time to slow down, time to accelerate. I might be tempted to continue the image: a short story is more like T20 cricket –swashbuckling and speedy, with a rapid outcome. But I’d say a short story requires, in proportion, more concentration and effort than a novel. Each and every word must carry its weight – not a punctuation mark must be wrong. A story demands to be put away for a while to mature, so you come back with fresh eyes and can prune even more.

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

It used to be very much the standard 9.00 to 5.00 working day that thirty years of college work had got me used to. Sadly about three years ago I injured my right hand so badly (at a church fete – don’t ask!!!) that I’ve had to reduce my time at the computer. Now I limit myself to about a thousand words a day, and spend the non-writing time doing things to keep the rest of my body fit: Pilates, ballroom dance, gardening and tennis (I’ve taught myself to play left handed though thank goodness the right hand is beginning to work again).

An injury at a church fete sounds like an ideal short story plot, although glad to hear you are on the mend. How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

Having played tennis in the morning, I’d go on to a cricket match. I love the game so much I dedicated my latest book, Head Count, to the cricket charity for young people called Chance to Shine (www.chancetoshine.org). I’d round it all off with a concert given by the wonderful City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (with luck conducted by their brilliant young musical director, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla) in Symphony Hall.

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

Like many writers, I want to read a lot more than I do. One problem is that many writers are better than I am, so I end up feeling downhearted about my own work. One or two aren’t as good as me, so why read them? This applies at least as much to so-called literary novels as to so-called genre-writers. But for consistent pleasure, can you beat the dear late Reg Hill for his amazing use of language in entirely the appropriate setting? I also love Kate Ellis, Amy Myers, Martin Edwards, Priscilla Masters – and many others whom I’m honoured to call friends. Oh, and there’s Edward Marston, of course – and I get to read his before anyone else does! As for old favourites, Jane Austen and George Eliot take a lot of beating, and when I’m feeling down who better to cheer me up than Georgette Heyer?

I think that applies to us readers too, there are always too many books and not enough time. That’s why short stories are so great as they can be dipped in and out of. Finally, can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on next?

I’m working on the third in the Jane Cowan series I’m writing for Allison and Busby. Jane’s a survivor of extreme domestic abuse. Finally she’s building a life away from her ex-husband who’s currently serving a prison sentence for what he did to her. She’s now a headmistress in Kent, running not one but two village primary schools. Times are tough in education, with staffing and finances under enormous pressure. In this novel it’s not pupil behaviour that’s an issue, however – it’s that of some of her new neighbours…

That sounds really intriguing Judith, I’ll keep an eye out for it. Thanks very much for joining me.

The CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour is out now and is well worth a read.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime fiction Q&A

Hell to Pay by Rachel Amphlett – BLOG TOUR

I am a big fan of Rachel Amphlett and have read all of her series featuring detective Kay Hunter. Therefore it is a great pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for her latest book Hell to Pay. I’m very pleased to be able to welcome Rachel to acrimereadersblog.

Thanks for joining me Rachel. It must be incredibly exciting to have a novel published, so how do you spend the night before publication day and what do you do on the actual day?

Publication day for me is a bit weird, as I’m in a completely different time zone to a lot of my readers. I’m originally from the UK, but Australia is currently home. So, after I get up in the morning in Brisbane, feed the dog, and make the first cup of coffee of the day, it’s still late afternoon the previous day in the UK!
The night before, I’ll have checked all the links to my books are working on the different retailers, and I’ll prepare the newsletter to go out to my Reader Group, so I don’t have to worry about that – everyone who joins my Readers Group gets the chance to buy the book at a discounted rate, so it’s really important to me to have that ready to go.
For the past four releases, I’ve had a number of book bloggers kindly take part in a book tour for me, and by the time publication day comes around, that tour has typically been running for a week.
I get a flurry of activity on social media as the rest of the world starts to wake up (I’m a very early riser, so that means 5:30am for me!), but before I do anything else, I hit my word count on my current work in progress – that way, I can concentrate on the launch of the previous book without feeling guilty!
The rest of the morning is spent responding to emails and social media shout outs from readers and the incredible book bloggers that support my new releases.
The action really kicks off once the UK is wide awake and continues through the night as most of my book blogging buddies are in the UK and North America – I can get a bit overwhelmed trying to keep up with all the notifications, but it’s a lot of fun, and I really appreciate the support everyone gives to authors in this way.
I don’t get much sleep that night, either – again due to time differences, my Facebook launch party usually starts pretty early the following morning for me, even though it’s still only 8pm in the UK. I don’t mind though – I know for at least 48 hours I’m going to be running on pure adrenalin!
Once the Facebook party is over, it’s a case of monitoring emails and social media for any notifications – I try to respond to every shout out I receive from readers and bloggers, and I always respond to every email I receive from readers. I wouldn’t be here without any of them.
The blog tour runs for another week after publication day to help me spread the word about the new book, but in the meantime, it’s back to business as usual for me, and that of course means finishing the next book!

Sounds like a very busy day, but completely worth it of course. Hell to Pay is out now and is a great read either as a stand alone or as part of this excellent series. I would throughly recommend them, and a huge thanks to Rachel for taking the time to join me today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime fiction Q&A

Boundary by Andree Michaud – a review

Boundary by Andree Michaud is a story set in Canada in the late 1960s.  It’s the height of summer and families are arriving at the resort of Boundary for their annual holiday. The place is idyllic, despite the ghost stories surrounding one of the earlier residents Pierre, a trapper who lived in the woods. Unfortunately the peace and tranquillity is soon broken when a young girl called Zaza goes missing. Quickly the mood turns to fear and distrust when her body if found caught in a bear trap.

I have to confess I’m not sure this was a book for me, as I found it very hard to get into. The first half of the story is quite slow. It is very descriptive not only of the setting, but also the inner thoughts and feeling of the characters.  This made it feel very different to the normal edge of the seat thrillers I gravitate towards. However once I got into the rhythm of the prose, it did draw me in. I wanted to keep reading but this was because of the language more than to find out the crime solution.

The story is told mainly from the viewpoints of the detectives hunting the killer but we also hear from young local girl Andree who was fascinated with Zara and her friend. To Andree the girls were seemingly so grown up and glamorous she longed to join in. Unfortunately I didn’t feel that the distinction between the characters voices was particularly clear which meant that I had to flit back and forth in order to keep track of who was narrating. This could of course be also partly due to my habit of skim reading so isn’t necessarily down to the writing. It has also been translated from French so again some of the phrases used were a little unfamiliar.

One thing I did really like about the novel was the sense of a place that you got from it. You could feel the isolation of the lives of those who normally live in the area contrasted with the change during tourist season when it becomes a thriving lake side town. The characters themselves were interesting. I liked the way the detectives interacted with each other, and the pace of the investigation felt realistic.

Overall for me this was a slow burner, that picked up pace in the later stages. However, if you like a well written, descriptive story focussing on people’s emotions and lives as much as the actual crime then this is well worth a read.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under book review, Uncategorized

Clipped Wings by Jennifer Gilmour – BLOG TOUR

Clipped Wings is not the usual type of book that is found on acrimereadersblog. This is a collection of true stories from survivors of domestic abuse.

Synopsis
‘Just imagine you thought that you had met the man or woman of your dreams. This person was charming and you thought they were the one or perhaps that this was fate; it was just meant to be.
But as the months go by things start to change. Their behaviour towards you isn’t the same, they are more critical, more particular about your appearance, what you do, how you do it, who you see. Time goes by and you feel isolated from your friends and family because that behaviour has now changed to threats, maybe violence and you feel that your identity is all but gone. But still you stay. Where would you go? Who would help you? You are not worthy.
But you are.’

When I was asked to review this I jumped at the chance. Many years ago I was on the Trustee Board of our local domestic abuse charity and saw first-hand people affected by this crime.  However reviewing Clipped Wings is actually quite difficult, suffice to say it is a book that everyone should read.
The stories in this book are disturbing and upsetting. Each story is different yet there are similarities in all the accounts. One thing that really stood out for me was just how isolating domestic abuse is. Often the perpetrator will have alienated their victims family and friends. They will controlling their partner’s every move, every penny and every minute having to be accounted for.
Whilst it is heartbreaking to read some of the accounts and what the people went through in their relationships, it is ultimately an uplifting book. The stories are as much about courage and recovery as they are about violence and abuse.
I would say this book is a must read for anyone who wants to hear first hand how people can survive such terrible abuse and come through the other side.
If you wish to find out more about domestic abuse or want to know where to go for advice and help then visit Yorkshire based IDAS. http://www.idas.org.uk

About the author

Born in the North East, Jennifer is a young, married mum with three children. In addition to

being an author, she is an entrepreneur, running a family business from her home-base.

Her blog posts have a large readership of other young mums in business.

From an early age, Jennifer has had a passion for writing and started gathering ideas and

plot lines from her teenage years. A passionate advocate for women in abusive

relationships, she has drawn on her personal experiences to write this first novel ‘Isolation

Junction’. It details the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally

abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life

and to love again.

Since the publication of her debut novel Jennifer has continued to be an advocate for

those in abusive relationships through her blog posts, radio interviews and Twitter feed.

Jennifer also gained a qualification in facilitating a recover programme for those who have

been in abusive relationships.

Jennifer continues to publicly support those who are isolated and struggle to have a voice.

Jennifer hopes that ’Clipped Wings’ give’s a voice to survivor’s experiences and raise’s

awareness further of the types of unacceptable behaviour which fall into the category of domestic abuse.

1 Comment

Filed under book review

You can run!

A couple of weekends ago I took part in the York 10 mile race. This was run alongside the Yorkshire Marathon. As you know a marathon is 26 miles (26.2 to be precise, why someone added an extra 0.2 is beyond me, was 26 not enough?) When you look at it in that context, 10 miles doesn’t seem far. If someone said lets go shopping, you’d jump in the car and happily drive off ten miles without thinking twice.

Well I can tell you now, covering ten miles on foot is definitely something to think twice about. In fact you should think three and four times about it, ideally whilst sat in front of the television with a glass of red so you are not tempted to think it’s a good idea. I never really thought it was a good idea, I just didn’t appreciate what a bad one it was. One friend suggested we sign up to do it. I then mentioned it to another friend who was already signed up. He said maybe I would need to train more and should wait until next year. Well that was a stupid thing to say, as obviously I jumped on my high horse and signed up straight away.

The training went quite well. I completed some nice long runs, in fact at one point I ran from pluto to the sun* So I turned up on the day confident I would complete it in my target time of 2 hours. As always before I signed up I checked the results from last year. I’m a very slow runner, but as long as I’m not going to be last then I’m happy to give it a go. Therefore with some 3 hour runners at previous events I was confident I’d be as usual in the middle average.

Of course when looking at previous results I’d concentrated on the slowest people without realising that there was still going to be a rather large number of fast people doing it. I don’t mind getting overtaken by speedy professional looking runners. That’s just part and parcel of being a bit of a fairweather jogger. However when you suddenly realise that you are actually being passed by Zippy and Bungle from Rainbow you do start to think it might be time to hang up the trainers. Luckily one of the best things about these runs is the constant supply of sweets that the kindly spectators are giving out as you drag yourself round. The man in the batman suit might have finished way ahead of me, but I bet I enjoyed my jelly babies more than him.

 The thing with this kind of event though is that as soon as you reach the finish line you forget everything. You forget about the fact that at the half way point you were ready to sit down and wait for a taxi. You forget about the fact that your face is that red you are stopping traffic as you go past. You forget about the fact your toenails will probably never be the same again. As soon as you get your finish time, which in my case was a very respectable 1 hour 44 minutes, you forget what a stupid idea trying to run 10 miles actually is. In fact once you are actually able to walk again you think, what’s my next challenge going to be all pain forgotten. One thing for certain though is I won’t be doing a marathon. 26 miles ok maybe, but 26.2, that’s just silly.

 

*York Solar System Cycle Path obviously!

Leave a comment

Filed under Hobbies

Death in the Stars by Frances Brody – a review BLOG TOUR

As anyone who knows me knows, I’m not normally a fan of historical fiction. Despite a degree in history, on the whole I prefer my crime to be a more modern gruesome experience. However I do like my crime to have smart powerful women and a good mystery, and the Kate Shackleton series most definitely has those.
I was lucky enough to read a previous novel by Frances and despite my initial reservations I absolutely loved it. Therefore I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour for Frances’ latest novel Death in the Stars.

Death in the Stars is set in 1927 and starts during the total eclipse. The enigmatic Italian singer Selina wants to view the eclipse from the Giggleswick School. According to the Astronomy Society this is going to be the best vantage point. She asks Mrs Shackleton to accompany her and her friend Billy on their flight to the school. During this visit Billy is found dead, which increases Selina’s fears that people close to her are dying in suspicious circumstance. Kate Shackleton runs an investigation agency so is clearly intrigued and starts to look into what is happening.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. This is the 9th novel in the series. I haven’t yet read all of them although am looking forward to going back to the start. However, each of her novels work just as well as a standalone one. I really enjoy all the background in the stories. The descriptions of places ranging from windswept Yorkshire Dales, to inner city Leeds variety houses really bring the stories to life. I think the character of Kate Shackleton is intriguing; although some of her back story has been revealed in the books I’ve read so far it is her that makes me want to start the series from the beginning to find out more about her life. She comes across as a Miss Marple type with added glamour and confidence.

Death in the Stars is an absolutely charming book, and its setting in the 1920’s is the perfect backdrop to this cast of characters. I would recommend to anyone who likes a bit of glamour and gentleness with their murders. This series has definitely changed my mind about historical fiction.

Death in the Stars by Frances Brody was out on the 5th October.

Leave a comment

Filed under book review

Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech – a review

I was sent this book as a surprise by the publisher. I have to confess to not really looking closely at it as I assumed it wasn’t really for me, the book not being a traditional murder mystery. However having recently seen some excellent reviews I decided to give it a go and I’m glad I did.
Sometimes as soon as you read the first page of a novel you can tell by the style of writing that it is going to be something special. This was definitely one of those books. Maria in the Moon is the story of Catherine. She is living with her friend Fern after her house was one of many flooded during the storms in 2007. She volunteers at the local flood crisis line. Until the age of 9 Catherine was always called by her full name, Catherine-Maria, however at some point during her ninth year people stopped using the Maria. She has no recollection of why or what else happened that year. However gradually she starts to remember things as memories of the past start to resurface.

This was a superb read that I genuinely stayed up stupidly late reading as I didn’t want to stop. It is utterly compelling and incredibly heartbreaking. Catherine is an interesting character. I flitted between feeling incredibly sorry for her and wanting her to just speak up for herself more. One of the elements I really liked about this book was that despite it being very disturbing there are also elements of humour that really bring the novel to life. The descriptions of the flooding are really heartbreaking, skips in the roads and people being displaced are quite upsetting especially when you know this actually happened. Yet this is what makes this book so great, it really is a superb read.

This is the first book I’ve read by Louise although I think it is actually her third novel and it definitely makes me want to read her others. Maria in the Moon is a heartrending book that will stay with you long after the finish, I thoroughly recommend it. 

Leave a comment

Filed under book review