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Liz de Jager’s Banished: Book launch and review

Last Thursday, Squizz and I boarded our trusty steed, megabus, and headed to London for our first book launch of 2014.

It was for Liz de Jager’s debut YA novel, Banished, the first book in The Blackhart Legacy trilogy, and was held at one of our favourite bookshops, Foyles, on Charing Cross Road. I took full advantage of that and had a thorough browse before heading to the cafe to meet up with our favourite launch buddy, JayneFerst.

The launch itself was held in Foyles’ Gallery and by the time we arrived, it was packed full of people and there was a great buzz. We said hi to Liz, who took Squizzey’s photo, which he loved, and then we left the lovely lady author to meet and greet while we sampled the delicious wine on offer and some of the launch booty. And, as you can see from the picture above, there were some terrific Blackhart (the fae-fighting heroine’s family) cookies and different flavours of popcorn to satisfy even the weirdest most discerning of palates.

It was a terrific evening, full of friendly faces and there was a whole lot of warmth and love for Liz in the room. If you follow her on Twitter, you’ll know that she deserved nothing less than every bit of that to see her first novel, Banished, launched out into the book world. I wish it and Liz every success.

And now to the book itself. Here’s what I made of Banished: Read more

Tony Hogan Blog Tour

I’m thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Kerry Hudson’s debut novel Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma. Kerry was one of my early follows on Twitter and, having enjoyed her updates on writinglife and the cake essential to both of those, it’s especially lovely to help her celebrate her first novel coming out. Here’s what Tony Hogan is all about:

When Janie Ryan is born, she’s just the latest in a long line of Ryan women, Aberdeen fishwives to the marrow, always ready to fight. Her violet-eyed Grandma had predicted she’d be sly, while blowing Benson and Hedges smoke rings over her Ma’s swollen belly. In the hospital, her family approached her suspiciously, so close she could smell whether they’d had booze or food for breakfast. It was mostly booze.

Read more

My Dream of You Launch

Today sees the online launch of writer pal Denyse Kirkby’s second novel, My Dream of You, and I’m very excited to be a part of the Online Launch Party. Having read and enjoyed Denyse’s debut novel Without Alice and her memoir From Zaftig to Aspie, I’m currently engrossed in reading My Dream of You. Here’s a taste of what it’s all about:

Crime of passion or cruel twist of fate? 

One summer’s day Betty let love carry her a step too far. That exquisite sun dappled afternoon became one of her best memories but also the catalyst for the worst experience of her life. Now elderly, Betty has been running from her past since she was a teenager, and it’s about to catch up with her. Will the experience be as awful as she fears or wonderful beyond imagining? 

Read more

When Dreams Come True

Today sees the launch of lovely writer pal Rebecca Emin’s second book When Dreams Come True, which is for readers age 10+. Here’s what When Dreams Come True is all about:

Charlie is happiest when biking with Max and Toby, or watching films with Allie. But when Charlie reaches year nine (age 13), everything begins to change. 

As her friends develop new interests, Charlie’s dreams become more frequent and vivid, and a family crisis tears her away from her friends. 

How will Charlie react when old family secrets are revealed? Will her life change completely when some of her dreams start to come true?

Read more

Housewife with a Half-Life Blogsplash

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the Blogsplash for Housewife with a Half-Life today. It’s the debut novel from the extraordinarily talented A.B. Wells, who I know through Twitter and the #fridayflash community of writers. To celebrate the launch, she’s running activities on her Author Page on Facebook, on Twitter and on her main blog Head Above Water. There will be giveaways, the shortlist and results of the 42-word flash fiction competition and a fun treasure hunt where you have to hunt Housewife with a Half-Life related web activity to find the answers to some clues!

But first, here’s what you need to know about Housewife with a Half-Life:

Susan Strong is a suburban housewife who is literally disintegrating.
Read more

Freaks: Invisible

An exciting new collection of short stories is released today. It’s a collaboration between two remarkable writers, Caroline Smailes and Nik Perring, and comic book illustrator, Damien Craske. There are over fifty freaks and misfits in this collection and each story features a character with an unusual superpower.

To celebrate the launch, I’m hosting one of the stories from the collection right here, so you can all get a sneak peek:



[Super Power: The ability to make oneself unseen to the naked eye]


If I stay totally still,

if I stand right tall,

with me back against the school wall,

close to the science room’s window,

with me feet together,

pointing straight,

aiming forward,

if I make me hands into tight fists,

make me arms dead straight,

 if I push me arms into me sides,

if I squeeze me thighs,

stop me wee,

if me belly doesn’t shake,

if me boobs don’t wobble,

if I close me eyes tight,

so tight that it makes me whole face scrunch,

if I push me lips into me mouth,

if I make me teeth bite me lips together,

if I hardly breathe,

if I don’t say a word.


I’ll magic meself invisible,

and them lasses will leave me alone.


Freaks is a collection of short stories written by Caroline Smailes and Nik Perring, and illustrated by Darren Craske. It is available as a paperback and also as an ebook


99 Reasons Why by Caroline Smailes

Author Caroline Smailes publishes her new novel today. 99 Reasons Why is a book with a difference. It is only being published as an ebook and comes with 9 different endings which readers can navigate using multiple choice questions on their Kindle or via a spinning story wheel on their iPad or iPhone. There are also two additional endings. One will be handwritten by Caroline and auctioned for charity, the other is being shared here for you to read…


99: the reason why I was only worth ninety-nine quid

It’s been six days since the little girl in the pink coat went missing and me Uncle Phil’s in me bedroom.

We’ve been watching the little girl in the pink coat’s mam on the news. She was appealing to the public for witnesses.

‘Didn’t realise she had a mam,’ I says, looking at me telly.

‘Everyone’s got a mam, pet,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘She sold her story to The Sun,’ I says, looking at me telly.

‘Got a few quid,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘She wanted nowt to do with that bairn before all this,’ me Uncle Phil says, looking at me telly.

‘Do you know where she is?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘Belle?’ me Uncle Phil asks me.

I nod.

‘She’s safe,’ me Uncle Phil says to me. ‘Your mam’s keeping an eye on her.’

‘Can I be her mam?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘No, pet, you’re a filthy whore,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘Can you make Andy Douglas come back, Uncle Phil?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

Me Uncle Phil shakes his head.

‘I love him,’ I tell me Uncle Phil.

‘Andy Douglas is your brother, pet. You didn’t seriously think Princess Di was your mam, did you?’ me Uncle Phil asks me.

I nod.

‘You’re a cradle snatcher just like your mam,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘Your mam miscarried when she found out I’d been banging Betty Douglas. Betty was expecting you,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I don’t speak.

‘When you was born, your mam went mad and I ended up buying you from Betty Douglas for ninety-nine quid,’ me Uncle Phil says.

‘Ninety-nine quid?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘I paid a hundred but got a quid change for some chips for your mam and dad’s tea,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘You bought me?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

I’m a little bit sick in me mouth.

‘It was the right thing to do,’ me Uncle Phil says to me. ‘I got Betty Douglas pregnant straight away with Andy.’

‘I’m pregnant,’ I says to me Uncle Phil. ‘I’m pregnant with me brother’s baby,’ I says, and then I throws up on me purple carpet.

‘You’re a filthy whore,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘What am I going to do?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘You’re going to have the baby,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘Have me brother’s baby?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘Then I’m giving it to Betty Douglas to bring up,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘You what?’ I says to me Uncle Phil.

‘It’s the right thing to do,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘I can’t—’ I says to me Uncle Phil.

‘It’s either that or I’ll make you disappear,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I don’t speak.

I’m thinking, they’re all a bunch of nutters.


99 Reasons Why is available as a Kindle edition and an iBook edition.

Caroline Smailes is the author of Like Bees to HoneyBlack Boxes and In Search of Adam. You can find out more about Caroline and her books on her Author Website, her Blog or by following her on Twitter: @Caroline_S.

Never Coming Home… The ‘Wispa It …’ Blog Tour

The house was in a kind of mews, not directly on the river. Compact, made of old brick. It was a world away from the backstreets of Hackney where he’d grown up. That was an even longer time ago. Yet another name, and another life. He frowned. He didn’t need stuff like that surfacing. He was American, nowadays – it said so on his passport.

He’d asked the cab to drop him on the opposite site of the  road. Reconnaissance. Even now he didn’t have to knock on that neat, blank front door. Bobby’s words echoed. He would be stirring up something that maybe was better left. She’d made no attempt to contact him.

The paint on the house was shiny; the windows were clean, with boxes on the sills overflowing with spring stuff. He could recognise daffodils but the other things, blue and white, kind of like bells? No idea what they were. Pretty though. Like someone cared. There was a slim tree in a pot beside the door, with more daffodils. Someone had made an effort. Life was going on here.

That’s another taster from the first chapter of Never Coming Home. Keep following the tour for more.

Many thanks to The Nut Press for hosting the second stop on the ‘Wispa it …’ Tour. It’s good to be here, having met Kath and Squizzey at the RNA conference last year.

Almost the first thing anyone asks, after they’ve congratulated you on finally getting a publishing contract, is ‘What is the book about?’ This is the part where the author — me — shuffles, stutters and comes up with a cautious — ‘It’s a romantic thriller.’ Then there’s a couple of seconds of silence, that go on for about ten minutes or so, during which you can see it in their eyes. ‘Yes – but what is the book about.’

As you will have guessed, I’m not that good at what is known as the elevator pitch — the summing up of your carefully crafted masterpiece into half a dozen earth-stopping words that completely encapsulate its brilliance, relevance and the downright deliciousness of your hero. I find it extremely difficult. Some of this is down to natural ineptitude, but some of it is due to the fact that the book is a thriller, with quite a complex plot, AND I DON’T WANT TO GIVE TOO MUCH AWAY!

So, it’s about, um, well …

It’s about a young woman, Kaz, who is getting over the tragedy of losing her five-year-old daughter in a car crash. Six months after the crash, a stranger turns up on her doorstep, with an incredible story. As a result of that story, Kaz begins a quest that takes her to some of the most beautiful parts of Europe, in an attempt to find out what really happened to her daughter. Oh, and the stranger, Devlin, goes with her. And he is seriously hot — And Kaz has sort of noticed that he’s hot … and he seems to feel the same way about her. You get the picture. That’s what the book is about. But sadly that’s not an elevator pitch. It’s a summing up of a book that’s got a twisty plot and an edgy love affair bundled together in 300+ pages.

How they got bundled, I don’t exactly know. I can’t point to a particular thing that gave me inspiration for the book, and I don’t know how the plot got to be the way it did. I admire books by master plotters, like Robert Goddard, but I’m not one of those who do puzzles or cross-words or anything like that. When I stand outside the writing process, I think that I just sit down and write. If anyone asks, I’d say I was a pantser, not a plotter — I certainly get moments when the characters take off and I’m running after them — but I don’t think it can be like that — in fact, I know it’s not, as when I go back to check on something (like when an editor asks a particularly awkward question) I find that I have all sorts of pieces of paper with timetables and timelines, dates of birth and character motivation scribbled on them. As a result of this, I’ve reached the conclusion that I do a lot more plotting than I think I do.

An awful lot of it goes on before I even begin the book. At present, I’m in the very early stages of planning something that might possibly become something else at some stage in the future — precision stuff, you’ll notice. I’m watching the process a little more, and I think that’s what happens. If you write, then you research, and if you research, then you have to be open to what that research tells you. I think a lot of what I do comes out of that. And I do like timelines, slanting ones that go from one corner of the page to the other — Why do they have to do that? I have no idea.

I don’t sit down and write a synopsis first. I don’t do chapter plans. I don’t even write in chapters, except to mark the places where there is a good cliffhanger ending. I don’t fill in those questionnaires where you list your character’s favourite colour, her shoe size, name of childhood pet, etc. For years I felt incredibly guilty about not doing any of those things. But the words didn’t stop falling out of the pen and onto the page. Now, I let them get on with it. Everyone works in the way that is best for them. I think I probably plot a lot, but it’s a bit like the iceberg, most of it is under the water — I let the characters tell me details of who they are when they are ready – and I look up stuff, when I need to, but a lot of general research goes on before I ever get as far as writing.

How did I get here? I really don’t have a clue.

Never Coming Home is Evonne Wareham’s debut novel and is published by ChocLit. For more information, check out Evonne’s Author Website or Blog where she blogs on Wednesdays. She tweets (sometimes) at @evonnewareham. The next stop on the tour will be Love Reading, Love Books on Friday 10th February and you can find details of all the stops on the tour here: The Wispa It… Blog TourNever Coming Home will be available to purchase from 8th March. It will be officially launched in Waterstones in Cardiff from 7pm on Thursday 15th March. If you are in the area, you are very welcome to drop in.

For your chance to win a copy of Never Coming Home and a delicious Wispa chocolate bar to enjoy while reading it, ‘Wispa’ what your guilty reading pleasure is in the comments below, and Squizzey will choose a winner on Monday 13th February. 

Highland Storms Blog Tour

Betrayed by his brother and his childhood love, Brice Kinross needs a fresh start. So he welcomes the opportunity to leave Sweden for the Scottish Highlands to take over the family estate.
But there’s trouble afoot at Rosyth in 1754 and Brice finds himself unwelcome. The estate’s in ruin and money is disappearing. He discovers an ally in Marsaili Buchanan, the beautiful redheaded housekeeper, but can he trust her?
Marsaili is determined to build a good life. She works hard at being housekeeper and harder still at avoiding men who want to take advantage of her. But she’s irresistibly drawn to the new clan chief, even though he’s made it plain he doesn’t want to be shackled to anyone.
And the young laird has more than romance on his mind. His investigations are stirring up an enemy. Someone who will stop at nothing to get what he wants – including Marsaili – even if that means destroying Brice’s life forever …

Read more

If I Could Be Anyone, I’d Be…

Photo credit: Dave Hogan
Photo credit: Dave Hogan

… P!NK! Who wouldn’t want a name with a punctuation mark in it, for starters? I mean, isn’t that every writer’s dream?!

P!nk’s someone who I really admire. She always seems to do her own thing without bowing to peer or media pressure which is no mean feat these days; she’s ballsy, bolshie and smart but never takes herself too seriously; she appears to live life to the full and has an absolute blast while doing so; she clearly loves what she does and always seems to have so much fun at her concerts while putting on an incredible show for everyone there; plus, the woman is super-fit – I mean, she sings while twirling around upside down on an aerial silk, for pete’s sake! I SO want to do that! (Well, maybe not the singing part.)

Why am I declaring my girl crush on P!NK?

Well, Talli Roland, one of my favourite writer pals, launches her second novel, Watching Willow Watts, today. It’s a fun, fast-paced read that hurtles along as Willow’s life careens out of control after footage of her doing a Marilyn Monroe impersonation at the village fete is uploaded to the Internet. Willow becomes an overnight YouTube sensation and is propelled into notoriety, which may or may not be the answer to all her problems.

To celebrate the launch, Talli’s having an If I Could Be Anyone, I’d Be… blogsplash. She’s asked everyone taking part to blog or tweet who else they would like to be, if they had the choice. It can be someone you admire, envy or even just fancy being for the day. To check out Talli’s own choice, as well as everyone else’s, click on the link above or follow the #watchingwillowwatts hashtag on Twitter.

Watching Willow Watts is available now for Kindle. You can download it from both or Amazon UK and you don’t need a Kindle to be able to read it. It’s out in paperback on November 30th. 






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