Guest Post: Reviews: Life or death for books! by Zoë Markham

Guest Post: Reviews: Life or death for books! by Zoë Markham

Zoe and I were ‘noob’ authors together and I remember fondly the many shared “Gaaaaaaahhhhh, what fresh hell is this?” moments that we somehow managed to find way of laughing at. Her books are cracking, please give them try – yes they are YA, but I’ve read them and I haven’t been a YA since God’s dog was a puppy. Also follow her on twitter, she’s got the most wonderful sense of humour – and if you’re a writer and need an excellent editor, she also does that too! While I’m at it, if you’re stuck for a book ( because you’ve read mine and feel so bereft… 😉 ) check out BrizzleLass for some of the best, most honest recs and reviews around.

BrizzleLass Books

I am stoked to welcome the superb YA author, Zoë Markham, to the blog today. I am a huge fan of Zoë’s and will happily lead the fan club for her horror inspired books. She has written this awesome post on how important reviews are, especially to fledgling authors such as herself. If you do take the time to drop a review of books you have read onto Amazon, it is such a huge help to authors, Zoë explains more, and for fellow bloggers don’t miss the opportunity to grab an ARC of her latest book further down the post!

You can find my review of Zoë’s first novel here, and my review of Her second novel will be out on Tuesday next week as part of her next blog tour!

I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did!

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At long last…

At long last…

Hello! Please accept my apologies for my despicable neglect of this blog – truth is I’ve not had much to post lately, life has been…well, life and I’ve had nothing funny or exciting to shout about for some time. But things change! (Thank goodness)

So, here we are trying to fight off the January blues. I can’t do too much about January, except suggest that if you haven’t already you might like to read The Lost Child to give things a boost, but I can certainly help with your February funk – my second book, The Silent Girls will be released on the 18th just in time to kick Valentine’s day in its hearts and flowers emblazoned arse, and distract you from the fact that all the shops are shoving easter down your throat at every turn! ( OK, romance and chocolate are never a bad thing, but some of us of the more curmudgeonly bent might prefer our enjoyment on the darker side of things 😉 )

Can I tempt you? It’s up for pre order now and will pop up on your e reader on February18th at the stroke of midnight – just like a glass slipper, or a pumpkin or in all my sincerest hopes a darned good read 🙂

 

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What if everything you knew was a lie…

This house has a past that won’t stay hidden, and it is time for the dead to speak.

Returning to Number 17, Coronation Square, Edie is shocked to find the place she remembers from childhood reeks of mould and decay. After her aunt Dolly’s death Edie must clear out the home on a street known for five vicious murders many years ago, but under the dirt and grime of years of neglect lurk dangerous truths.

For in this dark house there is misery, sin and dark secrets that can no longer stay hidden. The truth must come out.

Finding herself dragged back into the horrific murders of the past, Edie must find out what really happened all those years ago. But as Edie uncovers the history of the family she had all but forgotten, she begins to wonder if sometimes it isn’t best to leave them buried.

An unforgettable and addictive story, perfect for fans of Lesley Thomson, Diane Chamberlain and Tracy Buchanan.

 

Happy new year everyone!

Cafe culture…

Cafe culture…

I have noticed that there are a huge number of books set in cafes, all of which have beautiful covers, ooze vintage charm and exude a yumminess that provokes the kind of salivation that would knock Pavlov’s dog into a cocked hat. Titles such as Heidi Swain’s The Cherry Tree Cafe, Milly Johnson’s Afternoon Tea at the Sunset Cafe, Ann O’Loughlin’s The Ballroom Cafe, Jenny Oliver’s The Grand Reopening of the Dandelion Cafe, Lucy Diamond’s The Beach Cafe, Jenny Colgan’s Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe, Rebecca Raisin’s Gingerbread Cafe series, and Samantha Tonge’s Game of Scones ( to name but a few) all make me feel that there is a romance and seductiveness attached to cafe’s which is the stuff of warm, romantic and cosy fantasies. That’s brilliant, I used to think that too and when I moved to Devon I had lovely ambition to one day own a little cafe, where I would bake delicious cakes, be charmed by my quaint and quirky customers and generally lead a blissful, satisfying and profitable existence surrounded by bunting, the aroma of fresh espresso and the thrill of being my own boss. I’m so glad those lovely ladies didn’t see fit to approach me for a professional consult before writing their beautiful books. Some of them I am privileged to have become friends with, I’m confident that wouldn’t have happened if we’d ever discussed cafes.

Five years ago a I bought a cafe, painted it blue, put up some bunting and started baking. Two years later I sold it. The reality didn’t live up to the fantasy at all. Most days, after eight hours on my feet and reeking of the smell of bacon I would crawl home and collapse on the sofa wondering if I had the energy to whip up a quick carrot cake for the next day.

Oh, I had ‘quirky’ customers by the dozen, most of them ignoring my deli sandwiches and home made cakes and demanding bacon butties, English breakfasts and “those round things, what you toast, with the currants” ( she was a sweet old bird – her order for a beef burger was “those round brown things”, I was quite fond of her until she did something unmentionable in the toilet that required rubber gloves and cutlery for its adequate disposal. It was traumatic, I have never quite recovered). I think at one point I had over 100 items on my menu, but the ‘quirky’ regulars would always ask for the one thing they knew I didn’t do…usually at lunchtime, with 30 people queuing at the counter – I’m sure they just wanted to see me implode over the griddle. If I made lemon drizzle cake, they fancied carrot cake, if I made carrot cake they were in the mood for Victoria sponge, if I made all three they wanted fruit cake…God bless them… :/

Then there was the potential for romance. Now I am an exceptionally happily married woman, but you know, those books… Well, in my two years of sporting eau de chip fat, sweating like a navvy and wearing a particularly fetching striped apron and matching Crocs I attracted three potential ‘amours’. The first was a skinny, toothless little man who took rather a shine to me when he came in for his daily fried egg sandwich ( he would always ask for the crusts, and preferred margarine to butter) – he would invariably give me a lascivious wink and take the opportunity to stroke my hand when I took his money. My business head usually prevented me from telling him what he could do with his fried egg!. The other was a builder, who came in every day for an English breakfast and a mug of tea so strong I swear it melted my teaspoons! He was a starer, in fact he could stare with the intensity of a Marvel comic mutant. It was incredibly unnerving, and if forced to approach him with his order I was known to do a fine impression of Victoria Wood’s Mrs Overall. My third potential amour was a small, fat Londoner with a preponderance of tattoos, a mouth like a sewer and an addiction to brown sauce. He asked me out three times, and that was after he’d met my husband. Married or not, the prospect of wrangling with someone who looked like the love child of Bob Hoskins and Mrs Potatohead was not massively appealing. That cafe was a pit of unmet desire I tell you!  I was living the dream!

Let’s thank the heavens for those lovely books, they keep the fantasy alive and now that I am no longer encumbered with the need to feed the masses their daily dose of a heart attack on a plate, I too can indulge in the dream of fluffy cakes, vintage plates, bunting ( preferably not encrusted with grease after a week) and thoughts of raunchy romance amidst the rock cakes…

To your immense relief I won’t be writing a book set in a cafe, despite the mandate that we should write what we know there are some things it’s better to leave within the realms of fantasy. If I were to write such a book, the cover would not be a glorious riot of vintage loveliness and frilly aprons. No, to reflect my reality of cafe culture it would depict a half crazed, puce face harridan (looking vaguely like me) wielding a blood stained kitchen knife and holding the severed head of the unsuspecting customer who last asked me for a cup of Lapsang Souchong with freshly squeezed yak’s milk because they didn’t see it on the menu…

Read all about our readathon

Read all about our readathon

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On October 4th I’m going to be taking part in a sponsored readathon, which means I will have to read and review a book in 24 hours.

Why on earth would I be doing that?

To raise money to buy books for children who are in hospital.

I have a bit of experience of dealing with kids in hospital. When I was younger I spent time with one of my nieces while she recovered from major heart surgery, she was five, frightened and in pain – I used to read to her, and it calmed her down, soothed her and took her to places in her imagination where life wasn’t quite so frightening.

When I had my own children I spent a fair bit of time in hospital with them for one reason and another. My son had ear problems and had to have an operation – books were a salvation while he was in hospital for both of us. When my daughter was two she had a lump in her face which was suspected Hodgkins disease (fortunately it wasn’t) but while I sat in hospital with a fretful, frightened toddler, books were a godsend and helped us both to get through the ordeal. I had another boy too, unfortunately he didn’t make it, but while we struggled with that in the hospital I vividly remember a nurse sitting and reading to my older son to help him understand and cope with what was happening.

It will be 22 years since that awful time this October. So taking part in this event to raise money for books to help children in hospital seemed like a very fitting tribute and a way to give something back to the people who gave so much to me when my kids were sick, frightened, struggling and in need of the magic that can be found between the pages of a book.

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This event isn’t my brainchild, it’s the work of the lovely lady and book blogger Jennifer Marston, who came up with this wonderful idea and invited people to take part. Jenny loves books, and loves kids and she, along with the other bloggers (and me) who are taking part, really believe that giving a child the gift of books is something quite special. Jen has organised a whole event around this where you can take part, have fun and help us to raise some funds for a fantastic cause. Before the event you can vote for which book you’d like us all to read and review here: https://www.facebook.com/events/806552436124798/

Plus you can sign up to join us for the big Facebook party where there will be fun, banter, giveaways and good times to celebrate the event.

If you’d like to donate Jen has set up a fundraising page here:

https://www.justgiving.com/Readathon-in-Hospitals-Bloggers

We’d really appreciate your support, help and company – so please join in, join up and help us to help out.

How low can self promo go?

How low can self promo go?

I love writing books, but in common with a large majority of my fellow authors I loathe having to promote them. I mentioned in a previous post that I come from a generation where we were taught to be seen and not heard, consequently schlepping about the place constantly touting my book is an uncomfortable experience. I loathe it because it feels pushy, cheeky and just a tiny bit needy. I do it because I have to. Any new author who thinks that just because they have signed with a publisher it means they don’t have to promote their work is barking up the wrong career. Unless your publisher has given you an immense advance, which they then need to recoup from your sales, the chances are there will be few bells and whistles for your debut. My publisher gives me the odd toot on the tin whistle that the marketing department put in their Christmas cracker last year, which is fine 🙂 They may parp the party horn a little louder if I manage to make them some money, which will only happen I sell lots of books 😉

Those of you who are familiar with me from twitter will know that I do promote my book there, I try not to do it too much and for the most part I enjoy twitter for the social elements rather than the marketing opportunities – but hey ho, needs must when the devil drives…which leads me to the point of this post, how low can self promo go?

Being a woman of a certain age I am now entitled to certain privileges at the expense of the NHS – one of those is the three yearly mammogram. I was called up for my first one this week. On Thursday afternoon I arrived at my local supermarket car park, climbed into the back of a truck and stripped off…yes, the NHS is cash starved! It’s not quite as bad as it sounds, there were chairs in the truck and a curtain (which didn’t quite fit) across the ‘strip off in there’ cubicle. Once I had got myself nice and half naked, a nice lady came to take my details – it turns out we share a birthday, so we got chatting while she was manhandling my middle aged mammaries into her x-ray device (emphasis on the vice…) Of course, we eventually get to the question ‘so what do you do?’

Yep, this is how low self promo can go – I flogged my book whilst one boob was clamped flat into an instrument of medically devised torture. I’m not ashamed (well, I am a bit) you have to grab these opportunities while you can! So while she grabbed leftie, I grabbed the chance to tell her all about my book… She’d better buy it, I sustained mortal injury to both my pride and my bosom selling that book!

A prize to anyone (who is also of a certain age) that can tell me which Derek and Clive quote is running through their head right now. I’ll give you a clue, don’t call me Mabel!  ;).

Things that I have lost and gained

Things that I have lost and gained

We’ll start with the gains. Since The Lost Child was published I have gained 515 followers on twitter, 101 likes on my author Facebook page, 80 new friends on my personal Facebook, 34 ratings and 27 reviews on Goodreads, 18 4&5* reviews on AmazonUK, 9 4&5*reviews on Amazon.com, a handful of sales in Germany and 7lbs of weight.

Now to the losses. Since publication I have lost the ability to tear myself away from the computer and move (hence the half stone weight gain), the propensity to have a conversation with anyone that doesn’t include the words ‘the book’, the art of functioning like a normal human being with a ‘real’ life ( i.e. one where they get dressed, go out and interact with the world without looking slightly crazed), the notion of a day off and portions of my sanity. Also my trousers no longer fit and I may need substantially bigger knickers.

The gains have been lovely, though I have to say that my previously pleasant, sometimes amusing, quietly unassuming Facebook feed has taken on a whole new life with the addition of the posts from the few erotica authors who have befriended me! Hubs has been profoundly shocked to discover me looking at pictures of half naked, buff young men who are probably younger than my son. There have been a few coffee spitting moments, and a new found hesitation to hit ‘like’ for fear of shocking my Labrador loving Pastor friend (Hi Ed) or scaring my step kids into thinking I’m trading their dad for a younger model (never going to happen guys – I’m a fan of vintage).

Yep, it’s a whole new world for me. Mostly virtual I admit, but it’s a lot of fun 🙂 The only thing I have any desire to change is the weight gain – there is enough of me online already without my backside being picked up as an uncharted land mass by Google Earth.