April Writing Challenge: My Top 5 Authors (plus my top 5 books ever…and more…)

At the start of every month I ask my Facebook followers to suggest some writing prompts and challenges and then I post the one I chose at the end of the month. For the second time I was most tempted by a non-fiction challenge from Becky Bekstar Paroz: What are your top 5 favourite authors ever? This question led me to creating more than one list and turned out to be the most expensive blog post I have ever written. Read on to find out why!

Top 5 Authors:

  1. Stephen King – for his character driven stories, writing style, sheer volume and reliability and unforgettable horror! He really is the master and I got hooked on his writing aged 12.
  2. Charles Bukowski – for his raw, honest, beautiful words about everything. The only author’s words I have tattooed on me. I picked Ham On Rye up in a book shop one day having never heard of Bukowski. That soon changed as I worked my way through his novels, short stories and poems.
  3. Chris Whittaker – for the best, flawed, beautiful, heartbreaking and memorable characters you will ever come across. Plus his writing style and incredible plots.
  4. SE Hinton – for inspiring me to keep writing as a teenager, for characters I fell in love with, for teaching me the skills of creating believable characters you root for.
  5. Kate Rigby – for being my favourite indie author with a huge and varied catalogue of gritty, character-driven books.

Top 5 books:

  1. The Catcher In The Rye – JD Salinger – one of the only books I can read time and time again and still get something new from
  2. Watership Down – Richard Adams – for inspiring me to write as a child
  3. The Outsiders – SE Hinton – for luring me away from animal stories and making me want to write about harder hitting topics
  4. Ham On Rye – Charles Bukowski – for being the book that introduced me to one of my favourite writers and poets.
  5. IT – Stephen King – for just being utterly epic and a book I could read again and again forever.

Top 5 Need to Read More From authors

  1. Amy Reed – Nowhere Girls and The Boy and Girl Who Broke The World are two of my favourite books so I need to read more of her. After I wrote this post I ordered Invincible.
  2. Alice Feeney – recently read and loved Daisy Darker, so have just bought Sometimes I lie.
  3. Andrew Michael Hurley – I had The Loney for years begore I got round to reading it and after that quickly devoured the intensely creepy Starve Acre. I’ve just ordered Devil’s Day and I can’t wait. His writing and settings are so atmospheric.
  4. Amy Engel – I was blown away by the disturbing The Roanoke Girls, then mesmerised by The Book Of Ivy and heartbroken by The Familiar Dark. I need more!
  5. Sarah Pinborough – I absolutely loved 13 Minutes a few years ago then recently fell in love with The Death House. These are both YA books. I then tried one of her adult books, Insomnia, so have just bought A Matter of Blood to try!

(Thanks to this list I ended up ordering four books from four of these authors, hence this turning into an expensive blog post!)

Top 5 Everyone Should Read These Books

  1. The Hate U Give – to have a better understanding of racism
  2. Nowhere Girls – to have a better understanding of misogyny
  3. The Outsiders – to have a better understanding of class inequalities
  4. Tender Is The Flesh – to think about how we treat animals
  5. The Forcing – to face the frightening future of climate change.

Top 5 Books that are as good or better than the TV show/movie

  1. Lockwood and Co series – Season One was amazing and had me so hooked I bought the first book in the series. The writing is superb, and I’ve read the first three!
  2. I’m Thinking Of Ending Things – the book was strange but brilliant. For me, the movie was just strange.
  3. The Walking Dead comics – in some ways as good as the TV show, in many ways better
  4. All The Bright Places – I just much preferred the book! The movie was just missing something.
  5. Any Stephen King adaptation – many of them are brilliant but none of them will ever match the books!!

Fortune’s Well Book 3: Days End released today!!

And look out for a future post titled ‘how not to launch a book’!

Life has other plans, right? Life gets in the way.

Today was meant to be a big day for myself and my co-author Sim Sansford, as we released the final book in our YA trilogy, Fortune’s Well.

To recap, as we were coming out of lockdown, Sim messaged me to see if I’d ever consider writing a book with another author. The answer was no – but Sim and I have similar writing styles and interests and get on really well as business partners and friends, so I said yes, why not?

He had a vague idea that struck a chord with me – the image of an empty jar, a jar full of nothing and two teenage protagonists battling with mental health and family drama. I quite quickly created JJ Carson and Sim created Darcie Duffield. I dived in and wrote the first chapter and from there it just snowballed! We were soon writing a chapter a day each, sending them back and forth via email and discussing our plans for the story via messages on Facebook!

The amazing thing was the lack of planning and plotting. It was all very fast and organic and seemed to just fly! We soon realised we had enough material for a trilogy and today the final book, Days End was released.

A few weeks ago we had grand plans of a launch event, competitions, sneak peeks, Facebook Lives and more! Unfortunately, with family drama/work pressures and every day stresses, neither of us have had the time. Amazon then did a spectacular number on us by deleting our preorder link! Sim dealt with this fiasco and there was no real reason given for it being deleted. Our preorders were lost, refunds issued by Amazon and we’ve been left hoping that those people went back and ordered again.

Not a great way to launch a book but it is always tricky with a series.

Anyway, that aside, we are hugely proud of our co-written trilogy and we have already started planning another book together. More on that another day! Right now I am having a glass of wine to celebrate the final chapter in JJ and Darcie’s intriguing story of superpowers, dark organisations, and family secrets and it would mean the world to us if you would consider purchasing the book. Both book 1 and 3 are currently just 99p for ebook!

Here is the link to Days End:

And the blurb:

All things must come to an end…

With the Organisation hot on their trail and their powers growing stronger by the day; JJ Carson and Darcie Duffield are more determined than ever to save Fortune’s Well from the looming darkness.

But when history threatens to repeat itself, and an unseen foe is watching their every move, who will make the ultimate sacrifice to save them all and bring about the end of days?

Days End is the highly anticipated conclusion to the Fortune’s Well trilogy.

The Joy Of Staying Childish

Confession: I never feel like I’m a proper adult.

I’m sure I’m not the only one. In fact, I know I’m not because this is a regular topic of conversation between me and my husband. We constantly look around at other adults and discern that we are not like them. They are indeed proper adults and we certainly are not.

I’m not sure we want to be. No, probably not.

I was never the kid who wanted to grow up in a hurry and I don’t think my husband was either. I think if he could have stayed a lanky kid playing football until it was too dark to see, he would have. And if I could have stayed a bookish kid reading and writing in her bedroom, I would. Oh that’s still me!

I don’t understand people who want to be adults. I don’t understand people who are adults. I find them really hard to talk to. Most adults I come across are really, really into small talk. Small talk about cars, mortgages, interest rates, remodelling their houses, shit like that. Shit I don’t give a shit about. I never know what to say in reply. I usually have to try and not laugh.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay (I love this photo. I feel like this will be us in the future)

I’m a giggler. And its getting worse. The older I get the more I want to giggle at everything. The slightest thing can set me off and my family know exactly how to get me going and make me choke on my tea. I’m not sure giggling with other adults happens much though? They all seem so serious. Or cheerful, about mortgages and new cars. I don’t get it.

Me and my husband just pretend at being adults. We both have jobs, though mine is one where I get to be silly with kids who love writing as much as me! My husband makes his job more fun by deliberately confusing customers or spouting random political opinions at them in a cheery manner.

As I type this I am laughing at a group chat we have on the go. I’ve got tears running down my face and my eyes sting. They don’t care though – they just make me laugh more. Sometimes I think they’re trying to kill me. My husband and I drove back from Wales yesterday after dropping our eldest back at University. I think we laughed the whole way back. At ourselves, at other people, at everything.

We look at other adults, other parents and then we look at each other, eyebrows raised.

We don’t mean to be mean, but we just don’t understand them, we just can’t gel with them. We both try hard not to get snared by anyone on the school run. Our tactics are similar. Stay in the car until the last possible minute, rush in, grab child, make no eye contact, rush back to car, phew! We don’t have a lot but we look at other people and feel glad we are not them.

Our response to life is to take the piss out of it. Our reaction to this dying world is to poke fun and laugh until we cry. No one will ever listen to us anyway, even though we know we are right about everything.

When I see a hill, I want to roll down it. When I see a tree, I want to climb it. When I see rocks, I want to jump from one to the next. I’m glad these silly childish urges have never faded. I hope they never do.

How to adult?

No clue.

It’s just not in our genes.

But my question to you today, is this. Do you feel like an adult? Do you ‘adult’ well? Does society accept and recognise you as a fully functioning adult person? Or are you like us? Do you still feel the same inside as you always did? Do you look in the mirror and find it hard to reconcile your ageing face with the childish nature inside of you?

I hope so. It’s much more fun this way.

Character Interviews: Andorra Pett

Welcome to a new feature on The Glorious Outsiders where I’ll be interviewing unique characters from other people’s books! Today, I’m chatting to the intrepid intergalactic explorer Andorra Pett – the protagonist from Richard Dee’s unique series.

  1. What is your name?

I’m Andorra Pett, but you can call me Andi.

2. How old are you?

Oh dear, we’re not off to a good start, are we? I would have thought that you’d ask me some easy ones first before we got on to the personal stuff. You should never ask a lady her age. Let’s just say that my biological clock is ticking along nicely and leave it at that.

3. Where do you come from?

I’m a child of the world, my father was a diplomat, hence my name. Apparently, it’s where he was working when I was, well you know. My sister is called Argentia, enough said.

4. Where do you live? Describe it to us

I’m currently living on a space station, orbiting Saturn. That’s when I’m not off on one of my adventures. I came here for a new start after I caught my fella, Trevor with the person who’d been my best friend. Not my best day. I needed a change and together with my business partner, Cy, we left Earth for here. The station mines the rocks in Saturn’s rings for rare earth metals. I do a bit of that, as well as run a café. Life out here is quite fun, in a dangerous sort of way. We grow our own food on a farm, on part of the station, there are cows and crops, my boyfriend Derek runs it.

5. What do you look like?

I’m as tall as Napoleon. Alright, I’m short and curvy. My mother said my best feature would be my Queen Anne legs. I think it’s my hair. It can be a bit uncooperative, but there’s lots of it, it’s very dark brown and it shines. My appearance is not a subject I like to say too much about. On the space station, we don’t go in for showing off, it’s more a working gear place. Suits me, we can’t all be slim and sophisticated, like my sickening sister.

6. Who is your best friend and why?

It was Maisie. We grew up together and shared everything. There was a clue, if ever I saw one. We don’t talk now. You’d better ask the cheating scumbag, Trevor, why that might be. I don’t talk to him any more either. Now it has to be Cy. We’re not attached, he’s got a fella of his own but we’re best buddies. He’s been with me through all my adventures, knows all my secrets and has my back. Between us, we make a good team.

7. Who is your worst enemy and why?

That’s whoever fate seems to have put in my life at any particular moment. When I first arrived here it was Munro, the owner of the other café on the space station. After I found the body and people started to try and kill me, I’m not sure anymore. To be honest, it could be anyone.

8. What are your talents?

I discovered that, as well as being a pretty good clothes designer, I can fly spaceships. It’s nothing to be proud of but I also appear to have a certain knack for attracting trouble. From when I was at school, I excelled at saying the wrong thing, to the wrong person. Now, wherever I go, there seems to be a trail of dubious characters following me.

9. What are your flaws?

I’m accident-prone and can be a little slow on the uptake. On the plus side, I’m pretty good at spotting what others have missed, working things out and doing the right thing, eventually.

10. What do you think people think of you?

That I’m a dumb blonde who’s dyed her hair a few shades darker. I’m not complaining though, being thought of as stupid can have its advantages, especially when it comes to fighting crime, it’s good to be underestimated. Just ask Miss Marple.

11. What do you wish people knew about you?

What I’ve actually achieved. The biggest thing I’ve come up against is that when I’m wrong, nobody forgets and when I’m right, there’s always some reason why I’m not allowed to tell everyone how clever I was.

12. What’s your biggest fear?

I used to be frightened of spiders. I thought there wouldn’t be any on a space station. Wrong! I was cured of that phobia, in the best possible way, by Derek.

13. What’s your biggest hope?

That one day, I’ll wake up and there won’t be someone trying to kill me, or I won’t be in the middle of some ridiculous situation, wondering how I got there.

14. What’s your biggest secret?

I’ve accumulated some money that maybe I shouldn’t have. Not through doing anything naughty myself, it just came my way in the course of things and as nobody can claim it without admitting their own guilt, I decided it was best to keep it for myself. I used some of it to help friends and family who were having a rough time but the rest is my reward for a job well done.

15. What is the worst thing you have done to another person?

I’ve always tried to be a good person, even when people didn’t really deserve it. I might have made a few bitchy comments but that’s about it. Honest.

16. What kind of friend are you?

Probably the best one you could hope for, until you mess me about. You get one chance, upset me and you’re out.

17. Is there anything about your life you would change?

If you had asked me this when I first left Earth, I would have wanted to turn the clock back and try again. When something bad happens, people always wonder if doing something different might have been better. Now I know that it doesn’t matter, you’re where you are and can only ever go forward.

18. Where would you like to be in 5 years time?

If Derek’s reading this, isn’t it about time you put a ring on it?

19. Do you have any regrets?

Not really, like I said before, things happened and whether you think they were for the best or not, you can’t change them. I thought Trevor and I would grow old together, turns out I wasn’t the only one he convinced. I wish I’d listened to my mum more, I miss her advice.

20. How would you like to be remembered?

As a crime-fighting space hound, with killer wit and nerves of steel. Fat chance of that, Ha Ha!!!

21. What are your hobbies/how do you relax?

I’ve been spending time on the farm, with Derek. It’s surreal, farming on a space station but it works and is a great antidote to flying about mining asteroids. It’s fascinating trying to solve all the problems and produce food out here, I’ve even had a hand in inventing a way to produce Lobsters, which I’m really proud of.

22. What is your favourite food?

Anything that is moving slowly enough for me to grab. I’ve never met a calorie I didn’t like. My favourites are cake, chocolate, chocolate cake, you get the idea.

23. What is the worst thing you’ve had to eat?

My own cooking. Cy reckons that I couldn’t do toast without a recipe and a video. When you think about it, opening a café, selling food to hungry miners was the logical thing to do, wasn’t it?

If you want to find out more about Andorra and her adventures, here is the universal link to the first book in the series: http://mybook.to/Andorra

Here is the blurb for Andorra Pett on Mars

Andorra Pett shouldn’t have been on a space station. It was all Trevor’s fault.

But there’s no time to mourn her cheating boyfriend. She has to open her new café. And there’s a big problem, the freezer’s filled with the body of the previous owner. Everyone she meets is a possible suspect, from the customers to her rivals, they all have a motive.

Andorra discovers that the dead man had a book, full of secrets and gossip about everyone’s life on the station. It’s certainly not the quiet backwater she hoped for, out here orbiting Saturn.

The information in the book is a prize worth killing anyone for. And it’s hidden somewhere in the café.

It all means that Andorra’s in danger. Can she stop being out of her depth long enough to turn detective and find it, before anyone else does?

If not, she could be the next one in line for a long, cold sleep.”

And here is my review:

This is a must read for sci-fi fans! Andorra Pett and her friend Cy have just landed on a space station orbiting Saturn. The story starts with them taking over an abandoned cafe and promptly discovering a dead body in the old freezer. This discovery automatically propels them into several mysteries and imminent danger, as a stranger breaks into the cafe to attack Andorra. Who is the dead man? Who killed him and why? And who is now after Andorra?
As well as solving these mysteries, the story takes us on a fascinating journey around the space station, which has its own farm among other things. The world-building is sublime, the characters memorable and the plot fast-paced!