Indie Book of the Month; June “Smash All The Windows” by Jane Davis

How can it be July already? Seriously, I’m still getting used to May and suddenly we’ve whizzed right through June?

I’ve mostly been reading my own books lately, in terms of editing them on my Kindle, but I did manage to devour two gloriously long Stephen King novels and this gem of an indie book, Smash All The Windows by Jane Davis, which I have picked as my Indie book of the month for June.

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Here is the blurb;

It has taken conviction to right the wrongs.

It will take courage to learn how to live again.

‘An all-round triumph.’ John Hudspith

For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.

Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.

If only it were that simple.

Tapping into the issues of the day, Davis delivers a highly charged work of fiction, a compelling testament to the human condition and the healing power of art. Written with immediacy, style and an overwhelming sense of empathy, Smash all the Windows will be enjoyed by readers of How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall and How to be Both by Ali Smith.

And here is my review;

This is the third book I have read by Jane Davis, and it’s safe to say I am a fan. I enjoy her writing style, and I feel I am in safe hands when it comes to her delivering memorable characters. This new novel does not disappoint. Smash All The Windows is a complex and ambitious novel spanning the lives of several characters who have been affected by the tragic deaths of 58 people on a London Underground escalator. Much in the same way the victims were blamed by the authorities and the press after the Hillsborough tragedy, the people involved have had to fight tooth and nail to get justice for their loved ones. The timeline jumps back and forth. Sometimes we are in the viewpoint of a character who died that day, and sometimes we are seeing the impact of their loss on a relative or friend. I grew to love all the characters, those living and deceased throughout this book and I can confess to shedding a tear or two as I progressed through the novel. It’s a sad yet beautiful story about the human spirit and families search for truth and justice in the aftermath of a tragedy that should never have happened. Brilliant writing, perfect characterisation and a particularly perfect and poignant ending. Highly recommended!

You can find out more about Jane and her books by following her on;

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and via her website

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May Indie Book Of The Month;

It’s the end of the May (already!!) so that must mean it’s time for me to pick my Indie book of the month. Lately, I’ve been trying to stray out of my comfort zone with reading, and I’ve dived into a fantasy and a comedy, which are not normally genres I would pick. My pick for this month therefore is the epic Heirs Of Power by Kay Macleod. You can read the blurb and my review below. This book is the first in a very original and well-written series, so if you enjoy fantasy, I highly recommend you check it out.

Here is the blurb;

“After stumbling upon an otherworldly ritual, Kitty Fairlow discovers that her own incredible hunting skills are not merely due to a lifetime of training. She’s been gifted powers from an ancient spirit, passed down by her father. She is a Constellation. And she’s not the only one. A new generation of heroes have each inherited unique abilities to prevent the corruption of their world by the Tenebri, a race that thrives on life energy. Kitty, along with a high-born dancer and a snarky juggler, must find their allies before the Tenebri army picks them off. With the powerful enemy emerging, can the Constellations gather in time to put an end to the threat for good, or will their foe succeed and wreak the same destruction they have unleashed on their own world?”

And here is my review;

An original and riveting read which had me hooked from the first page. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this fast-paced and well written fantasy, which is the first in a saga. I don’t often read fantasy, but this reminded me just how wonderful it can be to truly immerse yourself in a fantastical world of magic and wonder. What really shone through for me in this novel, is how much I could tell the author enjoyed writing it. It just shines on every page and regularly made me smile. I could also tell how much the author knows about and cares about her characters. From Kitty, the tough but kindly girl who finds out she is a Constellation, to the snarky yet vulnerable Asher, I truly believed in them and was rooting for them the entire time. This book is packed tight with action, drama, intrigue and revelations and an epic journey which tests friendships to the limit. Fans of fantasy will adore this book and for people who don’t often give fantasy a go, I urge you to start here!

You can find out more about Kay and her books by following her on;

Facebook and Twitter

Kay has kindly agreed to an interview with me, so look out for that early next month!

 

April Indie Book Of The Month; Rafferty Lincoln Loves…by Emily Williams

It’s Indie Book of The Month time again! And for April, I picked this glorious YA read by the very talented Emily Williams – Rafferty Lincoln Loves is an emotional and gripping contemporary young adult read. Both I and my 15-year-old daughter really loved this book. Having also read and enjoyed (and been slightly emotionally traumatised by!) Letters To Eloise , I couldn’t wait to read another book by this author. Rafferty Lincoln Loves was everything I look for in a YA read, which is why I picked it to highlight as my April Indie Book Of The Month.

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My Amazon review is below;

The following review is from my 15-year-old daughter. I have also read this wonderful book and will add my thoughts after hers. “I loved this book and it actually made me cry at the end. I liked how lots of normal teenage stuff went on among the unlikely friends in this book, such as trying to fit in, trying to get a girlfriend, bullying, drama at home etc, and that this was interwoven with the main storyline of the missing race horse. I was really rooting for all the characters and really want to read more YA books by this author!”
I read this book after my daughter and she described it as a must-read and one of her favourite books this year. I also enjoyed how the normal trials and tribulations of teenage life were entwined with the main drama of the missing race horse. Rafferty is a normal teenage boy who is slightly obsessed with the ultra popular Liberty Ashburn. When he comes across a missing racehorse, he sees this as a chance to get into horse-loving Liberty’s good books. Along with her younger brother Will, and Dexter, the scruffy outcast who is bullied at school, the unlikely friends secure a hiding place for Minty the horse and spend one long summer caring for him, falling in love with him and trying to hide their secret. I really liked all the characters, none of whom were perfect, but all of whom were memorable. And as my daughter mentioned, a truly emotional ending, so be warned! This is the second book I have read by Emily Williams and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

Interview with Mark Gillespie; Author Of Black Storm

Last month I picked Black Storm by Mark Gillespie as my indie book of the month. Mark is an extremely proficient author, with a terriific work ethic. He kindly agreed to an interview and here it is!

  1. For those who are not familiar with your work, how would you best describe your genre?

I call it Apocalyptic Pulp Fiction. But Post-Apocalyptic fiction is the most recognisable term for my kind of thing. There’s dystopian and horror elements in there too. I’ve dabbled previously with other genres (Alternate History) but if someone were to pin me to the wall, brandish a knife in my face and demand a straightforward answer (it could happen!), I’d look them in the eye and tell them that post-apocalyptic fiction is what I do.

  1. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always enjoyed writing but it was very much a background thing until I reached my early thirties. Stories and song – that’s been my thing in this life. Between the ages of 15 and about 30, I dedicated my life to song and to working as a musician in the UK and Ireland. I had a great time but the music thing fizzled out for me about 2010/2011. Work dried up. I fell out of love with the business of being a musician.

It was time for a change.

Later on, I went to uni as a mature student, studying English and History. When I picked up a book called The Heath Introduction to Fiction and read some of the short stories in there, a light bulb went on in my head. I felt the buzz again.

Real job? Forget it…I was going to be a writer!

  1. Can you tell us about your publishing experiences and journey so far?

I’m indie published. I’ve never submitted a manuscript to an agent or publisher because by the time I was ready to do so (2015), I felt that indie publishing was the best model for me. I wanted to make a living from my writing and I felt that indie was my best chance of doing so.

I’m not interested in sitting in anyone’s electronic slush pile.

Having said that, I accept that indie publishing isn’t for everyone. It’s so much work! I would encourage new authors to research their publishing options and figure out what’s the best model for them. Knowledge is power. Know what you’re getting into and why. If it’s indie, be prepared for a very steep learning curve and always remember to bring your creative and business hats to the table. And make sure it’s you’re A-game.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way but I think I’m getting better at this.

  1. Tell us about Black Storm, what inspired this book?

The initial trigger for Black Storm was something I read online a couple of years ago. I can’t quite remember if it was in a news article or on a forum or whatever – but I read something about a woman in America who’d been spotted walking through a town or a suburb dressed in old-fashioned mourning clothes. It sounded like she was doing an epic solo trek or something like that.

It was just so random and it struck me as noteworthy. I wonder sometimes if I imagined this because I can’t find any trace of it online (Yep, I just Googled it again!)

Whatever it was, that was the seed for the character of the Black Widow. I took note and it stuck. That was the beginning of Black Storm – it all began with the Black Widow.

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  1. You are a remarkably proficient indie writer, can you tell us how you manage to publish books so quickly? What is your process?

I’m lucky that I have the time to dedicate to writing. But I also make good use of that time. A regular working day is between 10-15 hours, which includes both creative and business stuff (creative early, business later).

I get up at 5.30am most mornings and go to bed about 11ish on average. Apart from walking the dog, exercising (super important for authors!) and eating, the work takes up most of my time.

I always have an A project (a book in the later stages of editing) and a B project (ideas, brainstorming) on the go. That’s important for moving onto the next thing. I would hate to finish a book and have nothing but a blank page waiting. That would probably floor me.

In order to be prolific, you have to make sacrifices. What’s eating up your writing time? What can you give up? Nobody said it was all fun and games.

Working long hours is a habit for me now. That’s probably how I get the books out so fast – I try to release something every two months. I also write shorter books at about 50,000 words average. I know that I can’t keep that pace up for the rest of my life however. And I wouldn’t want to. There’s more to life than just work. Much more!

  1. What usually comes first for you? The character or the plot?

I start with a situation that intrigues me. More often than not, it revolves around a ‘what if?’ question.

With Black Storm, that question is what if human beings had been targeted for extermination by an unknown power? We exterminate other species all the time, but what if the tables were turned. What if it happened to us?

With the Future of London books, it’s what if the London riots hadn’t stopped?

Answering the questions is fun.

Character and plot come later. But it’s that initial idea, that question that hopefully will get the juices flowing. If I’m excited there’s a good chance that someone else will be too.

  1. Do you write your books with a particular theme or message in mind and if so, what is it?

I never start with a message or theme. It’s only somewhere within the writing process that it becomes clear to me what that message might be. And there always is one, at least from my perspective. From another person’s point of view, there might be a different message altogether. That’s the joy of individual interpretation. We take the text, soak it up with all our baggage and find a meaning that’s unique to us.

I discover what I’m writing about by writing about it. But it always starts from an entertainment perspective. Is this fun? Is this worth reading about? Can I stay with this from start to finish?

Themes, messages, and the deep stuff – they come from the unconscious. They take care of themselves and appear when they’re good and ready.

  1. Do you have a day job and if so does it help your writing in any way?

My day job is writing.

I’ve done a few jobs now (worked in hardware, written freelance sports articles, been a bouncer). But I’ve never worked so hard in all my life as I do now. Music was tough. Writing is tough. Anything creative is brutal and yet some people look in from the outside and assume it’s a breeze because it’s a passion and it’s associated with leisure/entertainment.

A few years back I was amused to see that the readers of a major newspaper had voted being an author as their ideal job. No doubt they had visions of sitting in a log cabin surrounded by gorgeous scenery. They saw themselves sitting in front of a typewriter, a turtleneck sweater on, a pipe hanging out of their mouths, and a Che Guevara beret on their heads. And the words would pour out of their minds fast and easy. And that’s all there is to it – another masterpiece in the bag.

They haven’t got a clue.

  1. Tell us about your next release

Black Fever is the next release. It’s the second of the Black Storm books, which follows the fortunes of father and daughter, Cody and Rachel MacLeod, as they try to navigate their way through a mysterious apocalyptic event, the Black Storm, which has plunged the world into darkness and despair.

Fingers crossed, Black Fever will be out on May 15th.

  1. What is the most valuable thing you have learned as an indie writer so far?

The number one lesson is perseverance.

It’s so hard at times being an indie author and you’ll feel like giving up a thousand times. And that’s just in one morning! Too often, it feels like a mountain of work with only a crumb of reward in return.

But keep going. If you truly believe you’re on the right path, keep grinding it out. Work hard, but work smart. Learn from others. Join Facebook groups like 20Books to 50K. Read books on indie publishing, writing and story craft, marketing etc…

Absorb the wisdom of others. You’ll find it if you look for it. And if you have any to share, then share it. The indie author community is a friendly one and we’re willing to help those in need. This is how we all grow.

You can find out more about Mark and his books here;

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