An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘fiction’

URBANE PUBLICATIONS – The Life Assistance Agency by Thomas Hocknell

Today is my second book review for the 52 Books by 52 Publishers reading challenge, and this time the publisher is:

 

 

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Urbane Publications!

 

 

About Urbane Publications:

Are you always searching for that next great book, the joy of discovering a new author, a new plot, thrilling new worlds and characters, or simply enjoying the printed and digital page?

We are. So much so that we decided to start sharing our love of words with you. Urbane Publications is a new and exciting independent publisher dedicated to developing and producing the books you want to read – hip, contemporary, groundbreaking  fiction and non-fiction designed to entertain, excite, and engage.

Our team has been involved in the publishing industry for over 20 years, as booksellers, publishers and even authors. It seemed a natural step to bring all that experience to bear in an exciting new venture to introduce you to the best new creative ventures and valuable content out there.

Words always have the power and potential to excite, involve, inspire – and we live them at Urbane Publications. This is a journey of discovery, finding new voices, defining new genres, and most importantly creating the words you want read.

Urbane Publications is a proud member of the Independent Publishers Guild.

Learn more about Urbane Publications on their website here.

The Book I’m Reviewing From Urbane Publications is…

 

life-assistance

 

Do you want to live forever? is THE question facing anyone pursuing immortality. But what happens when eternal life is disappointing, and everyone around you keeps dying?

Ben Ferguson-Cripps, a struggling writer with a surname that gets more attention than his creative endeavours, sets aside his literary ambitions to join the mysterious Life Assistance Agency. Their first case is to trace a missing person with links to the Elizabethan angel-caller Dr John Dee.

Pursued by a shadowy organisation – and the ghosts of Ben’s past – the trail leads through Europe into the historic streets of Prague, where the long-buried secrets of Dr Dee’s achievements are finally revealed, and Ben discovers there is far more to life than simply living…

This book is fab! It’s so rich in culture and magic and intrigue and mystery. The contrast between the mundanity of Ben’s life against the strange world of alchemy and scrying and angels works really well in this book.

I felt a lot of sympathy for Ben throughout the story. He is a bit lost after experiencing a failure after a short-lived rise to fame, and then becomes even more completely out of his depth when he joins the Life Assistance Agency as a staff member and finds himself in danger. He isn’t perfect and makes a fair few mistakes, but he’s still likeable throughout. I would have liked to learn a bit more about Scott, Ben’s co-worker, but the rest of the characters in the book (Dr Dee, his accomplices, Mr Foxe and others) are very well developed.

The narrative is broken up throughout with diary entries from Dr Dee’s wife, written back in the 1500s. This keeps the story varied and intriguing, with a good balance between modern day and the past. The book also has plenty of action and dialogue and lots of varying scenes and settings, which helped to keep it moving forwards.

You are kept in the dark quite a lot throughout the story, despite one or two moments of explanation and clarity, but that only adds to the mysteriousness element. Why is Foxe following the steps of a man who lived centuries ago? Why does he want to scry and communicate with angels? What is he trying to achieve by becoming a modern day alchemist?

There are some very interesting twists at the end of the book that I just didn’t see coming (and one that I kind of did, but only right before it happened) and really breathes a new lease of life into the story. Some are subtly done; some are serious and dramatic. The twists are what stayed in my head long after I finished reading.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It’s quite unique and breaks the mould. I would certainly recommend it if you’re after reading something a bit different from the norm.

All I will say is that the book really is in need of another round  of proofreading (this probably won’t bother a lot of readers and a lot of readers would probably be unlikely to notice all the missed mistakes that I did. But I’m a freelance proof reader and in-house editor by trade, so it affected my reading) which is really the only reason I’m giving it three and a half stars. This doesn’t discredit the story itself though: once its issues are tidied up on the next print run, it’s definitely a four-starrer for me.

 

three-and-a-half-stars

 

 

 

I’m back with an awesome reading challenge

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote, right?!

I tell you, trying to be so IN with the publishing community is absolutely amazing. It also gives me so much to do and so many ideas, with so little time to actually get it done. But I’m going to try my best to continue blogging this year.

I’ve started an AMAZING new job as Assistant Copy Editor at a new mental health publishing company called Trigger Press, so there’s that to deal with too. I will blog more about it later, so watch out for that.

Amazingly, on top of all of this, I’ve given myself quite an ambitious reading challenge for 2017, too, despite having ambitions to do a million and one other things and still find time to work, eat and sleep.

I know a lot of people scoff at the idea of new year’s resolutions, but I love them. One of them for this year is to travel all around the UK and learn about the different places in my own country. I realise I know so little about the UK and so I want to remedy that, and enjoy life outside of work a bit more. Perhaps I’ll blog about that too, maybe. Or I’ll just keep a personal diary for that. I don’t know if I can possibly start a travel blog as well as a fairly quiet publishing one 😮 I’ve done quite well with that so far, as I’ve already planned quite a few trips and already taken my first one to Sheffield.

What I’ve also decided to do is set myself a “52 Books by 52 Publishers” reading challenge. Averaging at one per week obviously, but some of that will have to involve binge-reading on my holidays, but that’s OK. It’s 52 by the end of the year, not 1 a week.

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Apologies for the rubbish picture. These will improve.

 

So far I think I’ve read around 6 or 7, so I’m kind of on target, but I will post the first review up shortly.

Any genre goes. I am mainly concentrating on independent publishers, but the Big 4 will show up some places too. The only rule I’ve set myself is that different imprints that belong to the same publisher do not count. They have to be 52 completely different publishers. Makes things more interesting and more challenging that way.

If anyone feels like being a nosy bugger, here’s my amazon list that shows you the ones I’m looking at buying/asking friends and family to buy me for birthday etc. over the year. I won’t necessarily get them from Amazon every time, as I am trying to visit lots of indie shops this year or buy from the publisher’s website where possible, but Amazon and Goodreads are the easiest place to make a wishlist and probably the easiest way to get others to buy for me (I can just point them towards a list and they can pick which one they want to get me.)

http://amzn.eu/6L8JH2r

If anyone has any recommendations of books or publishers, PLEASE, holler!

Follow the journey on Twitter @cox_stephanie  #52booksby52publishers

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/publisherstephaniec/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Girl Gone by Alexandra Burt

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I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying they’re tired of hearing about books with ‘girl’ and ‘gone’ in the title – but ignore them. This book is powerful and breathtaking and you’d be missing out on something very special if you didn’t pick it up due to its title!

A baby goes missing. But does her mother want her back?

When Estelle’s baby daughter is taken from her cot, she doesn’t report her missing. Days later, Estelle is found in a wrecked car, with a wound to her head and no memory.

Estelle knows she holds the key to what happened that night – but what she doesn’t know is whether she was responsible…

Little Girl Gone is another one of those books where I completely forgot to make my usual notes as I go along because I was just far, far too engrossed in the plot line and the story. It is a harrowing tale of a woman who suffers badly with post-partum depression and it sends her spiralling into a pit of despair and desperation. Somebody has taken her baby, quite possibly murdered or hurt her, and even Estelle knows that there is a distinct likelihood that she has done it.

Waking up from a horrific car accident and finding out that her baby has gone missing, Estelle doesn’t remember a single thing about the whole episode. All she knows is that there is no sign of Mia anywhere and very few clues as to what might have happened. As a result, she is admitted into a psychiatric ward and must probe into the depths of her psyche, with the help of her counsellor Dr Ari, to figure out what happened and if she is responsible for her baby’s disappearance, or whether there is someone else involved.

Delving deeper into the labyrinth of Estelle’s mind is an emotional roller coaster and just endlessly fascinating and intriguing. This book encapsulates perfectly just how complicated and mysterious and fragile the human mind can be, especially when that person is going through depression or an incredibly difficult time. It explores the different psychological mechanisms and afflictions that are associated with trauma and actually teaches the reader a lot about the human condition.

I’ve known and heard about people who have had such massive traumas in their lives that their minds have just completely wiped their memories of them in order to cope. But what this book does is show us how and why that process happens. In the book, we have no idea what to believe and whether or not to trust Estelle’s version of events. She can’t even trust herself.

My heart bled for Estelle with every syllable of this book that I read. She hasn’t got a clue what is up or down any more. She feels like she wants to hurt her baby, but we know that it is just the depression getting to her and she’s aware that these thoughts are horrifying and wrong. She can’t trust anybody around her and she can’t trust herself. The author has done an amazing job on conveying what it is like inside her head: you can almost feel the despair weighing on your own shoulders and wrapping itself around your heart as you read through the book.

Estelle’s husband Jack is a difficult man to weigh up: he most definitely has his faults in that he can be controlling and condescending, and throughout the book he does often come across as a real jerk. But I did also feel a strong degree of sympathy for him. Though he handles it utterly appallingly, he does also suffer when Estelle’s depression hits and, having dealt with family depression in the past, I know only too well how upsetting it is. It is not always within the family member’s power to get everything right: they are suffering too. For that reason, I did understand Jack more than I really wanted to. After all, it is also his baby daughter that has gone missing and his instinctive inclination to blame Estelle can’t be entirely blamed.

I won’t give away what actually happens to Mia, but my god, the story is just mind-blowing. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the whole thing. There are few books where I have wanted to skip to the ending as much, although I did restrain myself.

You will adore this book, especially if you are a mystery or crime fiction fan. Little Girl Gone is action-packed, tense, and leaves an impression on you long after you finish reading. It is a stunning book.

Secrets of the Tower by Debbie Rix

Thank you to Kim Nash of Bookouture for providing me with a kindle copy of this book. I very much appreciate it!

This is a beautiful historical fiction novel, and one which I enjoyed a lot.

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Loosely based on real historical people, the novel features two love triangles – one set in Pisa in 1171 between Berta di Bernardo, a rich merchant’s wife, her young lover Gerardo di Gerardo, and her maid and Gerardo’s secret love, Aurelia. The other occurs in the 1990s, between Sam, who is a married mother, her ailing husband Michael and an Italian man named Dario who helps her with a project on the Tower of Pisa.

They are not just merely fluffy love triangles, however – their stories affect and reflect the deeply important work that the individuals are undertaking. Berta falls deeply in love with Gerardo, a young man who strives to follow in his architect grandfather’s footsteps, and the fiery, dominant woman manages to get him his dream job helping to build a magnificent campanile – The Leaning Tower of Pisa. But although Gerardo loves Berta in a way, he is deeply in love with Aurelia and yet cannot find a way out of his predicament: Berta essentially commissioned the Tower project and if he can’t keep her happy he will lose his dream job.

In the present day, Michael is working on a documentary about the history of the tower and the story of its construction, but when he flies out to Italy after confessing to having had an affair, he has a stroke which renders his work incomplete. Having worked in film and TV in a previous life, Sam steps up to the plate and takes over the project, and with the help of Dario whom she meets in Italy she begins to uncover the truth behind the amazing building: the mysterious BB who funded the project and the men around her who received the credit.

I loved Sam’s character and her strength despite being under severe stress and having been heartbroken by her husband. She shows determination and it is mostly borne out of her craving an identity and profession that she lost when she had children. This contrasts nicely with Berta’s story – a woman living in an age when a woman couldn’t realistically have a career and is also unable to have children. How can both women influence what is going on around them? And why is the Tower so vitally important to both of them and the men in their lives?

Berta is an interesting character. For the most part I found her bratty and unlikeable, but I can’t deny that she is impressive in her power and her determination. She also shows a compassionate side which peaks out every now and again and takes you by surprise. Aurelia I found to be charming but a bit whiny, but this just accurately reflects her age and the situation she finds herself in.

The novel is written beautifully, with such vivid imagery that makes you feel like you’re really in Pisa in 1171, and also in the 1990s. The contrast in time periods works really well. This book is a great read!

Room by Emma Donoghue

This book kind of precedes itself, especially since it has now been made into a major film! So I will keep this review short but very very sweet.

 

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There is a reason this book is now a ‘modern classic’. Because it is just outstanding in so many ways. I received it in my delegate bag at the Society of Young Publishers conference in 2015 (one of many pluses of being involved with the committee!) and I am so glad I did.

Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra. 

Jack lives with Ma in Room. Room has a single locked door and a skylight, and it measures eleven feet by eleven feet. Jack loves watching TV but he knows that nothing he sees on the screen is truly real – only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits there is a world outside.

Yes, the story is about abduction and imprisonment, but what makes it so magical and unique is that the trauma and horror of Jack and his mother’s predicament is far less a focus of the novel than their amazing connection and relationship with one another. For this reason, the book is a incredibly fascinating insight into how circumstance can shape human relationships.

Room makes you re-evaluate the world around you, and how much of it you take for granted. Reading it, you feel claustrophobic for Mum, at the same time as feeling liberated and free for Jack. Room is their world now, but Jack has grown up knowing nothing else whereas his Mum knows how devastating their situation is. However, life in captivity has almost become normal for Jack’s Mum too, and her relationship with her captor who comes regularly to bring food and other supplies, starts to resemble an old, stale and boring marriage. It’s so fascinating to see how Donoghue has turned this horrifyingly familiar tale into something completely different by turning it on its head.

The fact that its written in the point of view of Jack makes it all the special: he sees the wonder of everything around him for what they are, and not what he is missing. It puts a whole new perspective on life and material possessions.

If you’re planning on watching, or have watched the film: brilliant! I’m yet to see it but will at my earliest opportunity. But it you haven’t read the book yet, I urge you to do so. As has already been recognised, it truly is a classic and one I know I will keep coming back to and recommending to people as much as possible.

 

 

More of Me by Kathryn Evans

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Ohh, I enjoyed this book SO MUCH.

“The world must not know about our freakery”. 

Teva’s life seems normal: school, friends, boyfriend. But at home she hides an impossible secret. Eleven other Tevas.

Because once a year, Teva separates into two, leaving a younger version of herself stuck at the same age, in the same house…watching the new Teva live the life that she’d been living. But as her seventeeth birthday rolls around, Teva is determined not to let it happen again. She’s going to fight for her future. Even if that means fighting herself.

If you want to read a book that is utterly unique (and I mean UNIQUE) and really fascinating, pick up a copy of this. More of Me is unlike any other book I’ve read and I absolutely sailed through it.

Teva has to battle with the every-day problems of your typical teenager: struggling with school work, getting into a good college, making friends, and keeping her relationship on track. She even has to deal with arguments and tensions that come with a large family – pretty normal for someone whose family is not mostly duplications of herself.

The book keeps you gripped throughout as Teva searches not only for answers as to why she is afflicted with this appalling condition, but for ways to stop it happening again so that she doesn’t end up like her former selves: imprisoned in a house while the newest Teva gets to go out and life a normal life, for just one year. Sixteen-year-old Teva is determined to not let it happen again to her. She wants to keep hold of her life and keep going.

The brilliant thing about this book is that the author, Kathryn Evans, has managed to take such a unique concept – one that obviously took some amazing literary imagination to begin with – and make it completely believable. She’s also managed to imagine how this condition would affect a young girl and put it in such clear and poetic language so that by the end of it Teva has your heart in the palm of her hands. Even the language that describes Teva’s love for her boyfriend Ollie is beautifully unique in its style:

“Walking up to Ollie was like being pulled into his orbit of normal. He looked up and saw me, his face cracking into the widest smile…I couldn’t help but be lifted by it….

when he gently touched the tip of his nose to my nose; when he twined his fingers into mine, our hands palm to palm, and held me in his gaze…sometimes I thought he half powered my life.”

Teva’s mother has a difficult life: she has to look after, hide and protect all of the reincarnations of her daughter, at each different age of her life, and I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like inside her head. To begin with, it sometimes feels like she is distant or only thinking of herself; but it couldn’t be further from the truth and as the truth unfolds the reader realises just how strong the woman is and how much heartache and trauma she has had to suffer through. She is an inspiration of a female character.

Teva herself is a great character and what makes this book so brilliant is that, because each of her former selves has their own personality, we get to know her in every way that she has always been: the terrified little six-year-old, the nonchalant 14-year-old, the cheeky and overconfident 12 and 13-year-old and the fiery, dominant 15-year-old. No other book can quite show you the many personalities of one person all at once. It really is great writing.

The narrative flows easily, it outlines both the true dangers of today’s digital world and the dangers of a completely imagined and wacky scenario. For this reason, you HAVE to put it on your priority reading list for this year. I absolutely loved it.

Thank you very much to Kathryn and the publisher Usborne for providing me with a copy of this book. This book was released yesterday and you can buy a copy here. Follow Kathryn Evans on Twitter @mrsbung

 

Introducing Literary Agent Sherna Khambatta

Today’s interview is another international one, with a literary agent based in India. Here Sherna Khambatta discusses her role in the industry and the books and publishing landscape in her country.
SKLA Profhimalaya
Please introduce yourself and give a brief overview of your career.

I started the Sherna Khambatta Literary Agency in 2007 after gaining a Msc. in Publishing. The publishing system in India at that time didn’t have many agents and I thought it would be a good way to bring in a certain amount of structure into the industry and help authors get their work sold.
 

What were some of the challenges in doing so?
In understanding how the system worked/ works. The main challenge in India is distribution / visibility of books and marketing so for me, once the book has been published, that’s more of a challenge than getting a book sold.

Your website says “Literary agents are a new concept in Indian publishing.” How has the system worked previously and what do you feel your company brings to the indian publishing landscape?

There are a very few agents in India still, some publishers such as Hachette India now only work through agents so I think in a miniscule way we’ve been able to bring in some structure into the system. Previously authors could directly send in work to publishers by mail and now by email.
 

In what ways do you work as the liaison between the author and publisher?

I negotiate the contract, help out in editing the book, and if there are any issues whilst the publisher edits the work then I step in sometimes as a moderator between the two. I also help out in social media marketing, making sure the books are in store, sending out media copies, arranging interviews, organising events/book signings and with Literary festivals.
 

What is particularly exciting you about Indian publishing right now?

I think India is a country ever changing and there are so many stories to be told and so many individuals with a lot of talent so it’s always exciting!

How many submissions do you receive a month on average and what is it that you look for in a manuscript?

I receive about 70-100 manuscripts a week on average. I prefer working with non-fiction as I believe that no two people have the same experience and so that’s very interesting for me to see something written with a different perspective. I’m in search of well written narratives which I feel should be shared.
 

What’s been your biggest success so far?

I’m very proud to have worked on the newest book that we’ve released –  Himalaya Bound by Michael Benanav –  on a tribe in the Himalayas. It’s published by HarperCollins India and has been a very fulfilling experience.
 
The book The Nanologues by Vanessa Able, published by Hachette India, has had its rights sold in the UK & US by the publisher Nicholas Brealey and re-named ‘Never Mind The Bullocks.’ I feel this has been one of my biggest success stories so far.
You can follow Sherna on Twitter @ShernaKhambatta
Find out more about her company here: http://www.shernakhambatta.com/

Introducing Nathan Connolly, Publishing Director at Dead Ink Publishing

I was very happy to bag an interview with Dead Ink books, a publisher I’ve been following for a few years, since I met publisher Wes Brown at a Society of Young Publishers event, when they were an innovative new digital publisher. Here his partner at Dead Ink, Nathan Connolly, gives us an overview of the publishing house and how they went about building a community around their company…

Nathan Connolly Headshot

Please introduce yourself and give a brief overview of your career.

I’m Nathan Connolly and I’m the Publishing Director of Dead Ink. I started in Publishing when I began The Night Light, an online literary magazine, after graduating from University. I’ve worked with The Big Issue in the North, Crécy Publishing and The Society of Young Publishers.

Tell us about Dead Ink Books – how did the company come about? What’s its premise?

Dead Ink started towards the end of 2010 and it was set up with funding from Arts Council England as a digital-only press. This was around the time that ebooks were really just starting to blow up and there was a lot of both panic and optimism in the industry. With Dead Ink we were experimenting with what a book could be – at a time when that really did seem to be a valid question.

As the industry started to come to terms with digital, Dead Ink released its first print titles. When Dead Ink began, it was the medium that we thought was revolutionary. As we developed it became clear that the biggest opportunity presented by digital technology wasn’t in restricting ourselves to solely digital books but in connecting readers to them.

Our focus now is based on two strands. The first is to develop the careers of new literary authors and the second is to do that through experimentation with digital technology in publishing.

What challenges did you face setting up Dead Ink Books?

The challenge of setting up a small press today is that the industry is becoming increasingly concentrated and homogenous in terms of both publishing and retail. We’re fortunate in that we are represented by Inpress books who fight our corner, but overall I think the industry is becoming harder and harder to survive in. I wouldn’t be surprised to see further concentrations taking place in terms of partnerships and mergers.

I think this challenge is also an opportunity, though: publishing needs challenging small presses and I think readers enjoy them too. Hopefully the tide will begin to turn in the next few years and the independents will win back some influence and breathing space. Maybe it’s already begun?

What kind of literature do you publish?

We’re interested mainly in literary fiction. Specifically, we want fiction that is challenging, brave and confident. I try not to define the specifics of what I’m looking for too much. I worry that I will put someone off who would otherwise have been great. I think all the books that I have published so far have surprised me. I wasn’t looking for them and I didn’t expect them.

What achievement to date are you particularly proud of?

We work almost exclusively with debut authors and I think that is something that I’m particularly proud of. We take a huge risk on every author that we publish and put all of our resources into making their book, and their career, a success. Receiving a manuscript and taking it through the long road to publication isn’t an easy process and there is a lot that can go wrong. When we finally receive those books from the printer and we get to give them to a writer who has spent years of their life trying to reach that point then it becomes obvious that all the sweat and tears were worth it. Each time we reach that point we’re reminded of why we started Dead Ink in the first place. Despite our commitment to author development and technological innovation we’ve always been motivated to take a risk on people that nobody else will. That’s what I’m proud of.

How have you managed to build a community around Dead Ink Books?

This is a huge question and one we still don’t have the complete answer to. In fact, this is one of the major questions that we have to ask ourselves every single day in order to make the press work.

I think that we’ve been lucky in that readers seem to get what we’re doing and completely engage with it. There are a lot of safe decisions being made in the industry and I suspect that they find it refreshing to see a small press based entirely on the concept of taking a risk. Authors frequently commit years of their life to working on a book which may never see the light of day. They’re innately risk-takers and when they see a press with that same conviction I think it is refreshing.

On the other hand we commit a great deal of resources to building that community. We get out there into the world and interact with writers at readings and events. We also try to treat our readers as a community not just customers. They’re the reason that we’ve got this far and every time they do buy a book they are having an impact. I think people appreciate that connection. We’re very much not faceless.

Why is it important to have a range of both digital and print books?

This question plagued us when we were digital-only and we always wondered if we were doing the right thing by focusing on a single medium. Eventually we decided that we weren’t. What is important about digital technology isn’t the end product. People want the option to choose whatever they individually prefer. The important part is how we connect. When we were creating just digital books we were holding ourselves back.

The success of that time was the community we had built. When we transitioned to paper books that became apparent and we’ve been growing steadily since. Readers want options and they want to feel involved.

What lessons have you learned about marketing books – what works and what doesn’t?

I still don’t know the answer to what makes a book sell. I only know how we have made it work for us. We don’t have unlimited reach or resources. There’s very little that we can do to actually market the books in a traditional sense.
What has worked for us is to build a community and reward everyone involved for the contribution that they make. I think early on we realised that we couldn’t just treat someone like a customer and forget about them. We really owe everything to the people who buy our books, so it didn’t seem right or fair to just market to them. If someone buys a Dead Ink book then they are taking a risk – just as we are in publishing it – and I think that sort of commitment deserves recognition and reward. That’s what I’ve tried to achieve with the community aspect of Dead Ink and I think that is what keeps us going.

What are you looking forward to for 2016?

2016 is going to be a big year for us with a lot happening. We’re already looking for next year’s authors and hopefully it will be our largest list yet. There are a few authors that we’re already interested in.

There are also going to be further developments in terms of our organisation and technology. I’m still thinking about the relationship between all of the elements of Dead Ink, and in 2016 that should not only grow but also develop to include something completely new.

Readers should expect more books as always, but also a new way to engage with a new type of literature. That’s all you’re getting for now though. We have to maintain an air of mystery.

You can follow Dead Ink on Twitter @DeadInkBooks

Find out more about them at http://deadinkbooks.com/

BLOG TOUR GUEST POST – Tindog Tacloban by Claire Morley

Today’s blog tour stop is an incredibly important one: it’s about a book which tells the story of Typhoon Haiyan that devastated the Philippines in 2013. Here author Claire Morley discusses her knowledge and experience of the disaster and her reasons for writing her important book.

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Guest blog with Words Are My Craft

Thank you to Words Are My Craft and Stephanie for giving me the opportunity of a guest post as part of my mini virtual book tour.

In the aftermath of the fiercest typhoon on record to hit land, banners bearing the words Tindog Tacloban started to appear all over the city. Meaning “Rise Up Tacloban”, they were a testament to the determination and resilience of the Filipino people as they tried to rebuild their shattered lives.

For many, things would never be the same:

Izel Sombilon watched in horror as two of his children were ripped from his arms and swept away by the huge storm waves.

Eleven year old Lika Faye was plunged into the sordid underworld of Webcam Child Sex Tourism.

For Helen Gable, volunteering in the typhoon-ravaged area was a chance for her to come to terms with her own personal tragedy.

Making things real

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Tindog 3

I’ve often thought I would like to write a book. In my mid-thirties I spent 15 months backpacking around the world and I had always thought it would be something non-fiction, based on that experience, which would be the basis for my novel.

I had never credited myself with enough imagination to write fiction. I’m a practical, logical person, not a creative one. So it is still with some surprise I find that not only have I written Tindog Tacloban, but people have found it a good story. However, like most authors, I have drawn on my own experiences and those of others for inspiration. In the book there is a background character called Ian and I loosely based him on the founder of the charity I volunteered with, Andy.

I had spoken to Andy about Tindog Tacloban. I told him it was my plan for all profits to go those organisations I had worked with while I had volunteered and I asked him if he would be happy to help promote the book on his charity Facebook pages. He agreed, but asked if it would be possible to have an advance preview. Well, I could hardly refuse!

At this point in the life of Tindog Tacloban, it had only been read by my beta readers and my mentor, Anne Hamilton. Now it was going to be read by someone who ‘featured’ in the book and who had been through a similar experience to the characters I had written. I felt very vulnerable and emotional as I emailed him a mobi file of my ‘baby’. I waited nervously for this opinion and hoped that he wouldn’t be offended by my borrowing bits of him for my book. So it was with huge relief and much gratitude that I read the review he posted on Amazon:

Tindog Tacloban is a great story in its own right but deserves extra credit for handling two incredibly difficult subjects at the same time, and for doing so incredibly well. I’m a survivor of the 2004 tsunami and the opening chapters of this book, which describe the impacts of typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda in the Philippines), are accurate enough to be quite harrowing at times.

 However, the description is never gratuitous and it’s necessary for the reader to understand the typhoon’s wrath to fully appreciate the context of the subsequent issues of exploitation.’

help

The account of the typhoon taking place was drawn from the stories told to me by survivors. Several of them mentioned being spun around and around as if in a washing machine as the storm surges caught them unaware. The people of Tacloban are not strangers to typhoons, they get them every year, but never had they witnessed anything with the power of Yolanda and they had never experienced storm surges before. Many lost their lives by staying in their home to protect it and their belongings from looters once the typhoon had passed, only to be swept away by the water.

living conditions

I wanted to portray what it was like to be caught up in a typhoon and then try to give the reader an idea of how people survived the mayhem it left behind. Many of those who did are still trying to rebuild their lives and I hope my series of posts over the past five days has made people think, and perhaps buy Tindog Tacloban, so I can continue to help them do so.

Twitter: @clairemorley15

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clairemorleyauthor

Buy Tindog Tacloban at Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B014JGI0H0

You can watch the television interview with Claire about how Tindog Tacloban came about at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3tQbyPVpNw

Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, decimated parts of the Philippines on 8 November, 2013. Two years later, the people of Tacloban continue to rebuild their lives, many of them still living in tented cities with no electricity and no running water. All profits from the sales of Tindog Tacloban go to help the organisations Claire worked with while she volunteered in the Philippines.

Her mini blog tour is in memory of those who lost their lives and to remember those still rebuilding theirs.

The Crooked Beat by Nick Quantrill

The Crooked Beat

When Joe Geraghty’s brother finds himself in financial trouble, it’s only natural that he turns to the Private Investigator for help. But when it relates to a missing consignment of smuggled cigarettes, it’s not so easily sorted. Drawn into the murky world of local and international criminals around the busy port of Hull, Geraghty knows the only way to save his brother is to take on the debt himself. As he attempts to find a way out of the situation, the secrets and conspiracies he uncovers are so deeply buried in the past, he knows he’s facing people willing to do whatever it takes to keep them that way.

Writing this book review will be a little bit harder than others as I sailed through it so quickly I forgot to stop to make notes or highlights! So this review will be from memory.

First off, I should say I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read a book set in my home town of Hull (if you hadn’t guessed from many of my other posts that that’s where I’m from!) It’s also a little bit surreal. I’m used to having to picture and build locations in my own head from my imagination, but in this case I just had to picture places that I have known my entire life. Perhaps that’s part of what made it such an easy read (other than its readability, of course!)

What is interesting is that, conversely, it also showed me a side of Hull that I could never have imagined by myself: a world of private investigators and violent gangsters. It shone a light on how easy it can be for people to be unaware of the dangers that could be surrounding them.

The beauty of this book is that even though there is plenty of gangster-style action, which allows the book to keep a good pace and keep the reader gripped, interwined with this is real emotion, real love and loyalty especially between family members, and real depth. It is not violence or grittiness for the sake of it. Nick Quantrill makes the story real and convincing by making us really feel for his characters – and that includes both hating them or loving them. And another intriguing thing about the whole story is that no character is straight-up morally black or white. Good people make mistakes, bad people redeem themselves and some characters hide their true colours under masks that fool other people. I won’t give away which characters are which, as part of the magic of the book is discovering this as you read through.

I saw a hell of a lot of myself in Joe Geraghty, which is why I think I’ve grown to love him as a character. He has so much love and loyalty for his family, that he would literally sacrifice anything for them. Nothing is too much if it means he can protect them. He also has a very sharp mind, which makes the mystery and detective work all the more gripping. He isn’t infallible, however, and that is made clear too, which only makes him more human.

I really, really enjoyed this book. Nick Quantrill is big on the literature scene for a reason. His work is getting noticed. His books are brilliant to read. You would not regret giving this one a read, especially if you’re a crime fiction fan. I fully recommend it!

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