I was pretty certain I was going to like this book even before I started reading it. First up, it’s a Christmassy romcom that manages not to have ‘little’ in the title! The author could have jumped on the bandwagon with ‘Christmas at the Little Village Pub’ or similar, but thank goodness she doesn’t! ‘Little’ is currently one of the most overused words in book titles, or at least I think so. Instead we have ‘Christmas at the Dog & Duck’, and the novel is as unpretentious and down to earth as the pub’s name, although we get our magic sprinkling of festive happiness at the end which we and the protagonists all deserve.

As well as the title, the book cover is also distinctive. There’s a definite craze for Christmas romcom covers to be shades of blue with a snowy house in the centre. At the bottom of this review you’ll see four such covers that I found within a few minutes of searching! Christmas at the Dog and Dog bucks this trend. We have a striking, unique look for this book, and it’s equally as Christmassy as all those snow scenes.

The book turns out to be equally as impressive. The story is beautifully and intelligently written. I notice some reviewers have grumbled about this not being a very Christmassy book as a lot of the action takes place during the months preceding the festive season. The plot of this novel is such that this needs to be the case, and quite frankly it doesn’t disqualify it from being a seasonal story at all. We see characters and their relationships develop over time, and a chain of events unfold. The action culminates on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in a superbly warm and cosy way. This is most definitely a Christmas romantic comedy.

Heroine Ellie is smart and sensible, and taking time after a redundancy to sort herself out. She’s returned to the village she grew up in to housesit for her absent parents and sets up a dog walking business to tide her over. She also works at the Dog and Duck, and the pub is central to the story. The main love interest comes in the form of Max, a local landowner. They first bump into each other in less than flattering circumstances, at least for Ellie, and we get our share of mishaps and misunderstandings that are crucial to the romantic comedy. There are some endearing animals in cameo roles, but we stay well clear of the mawkish cutesiness that’s all too rampant in this genre.

This a measured, classy and immensely enjoyable novel. Three cheers for Jill Steeples, and five stars for her book.

 

Here are those other covers I mentioned earlier:

nineladiesNine Ladies Dancing by Cat Lavoie is a complete delight!

It’s everything you want from a Christmas novella – a seasonal setting (the office party in this case), charming and quirky characters, a handful of mishaps but a happy ending. The bonus is that the writing is sparkling and witty. The author comes up with some wonderful words – adorkable and Quinn-tervention (they’ll make sense when you read the book!) – and gives us, I suspect, an insight into her own creative process when Casey, the heroine, who is a closet would-be novelist, talks about how her characters ‘take on a life of their own … and move on to another story’!

This is a little gem of a Christmas book and your twelve days of Christmas just won’t be complete if you don’t read it.

Available as an ebook from all the Amazons for 99 cents or as a Kindle Unlimited book to ‘borrow’.

I’m chuffed to welcome indie author Nicholas A. Rose to Books Are Cool for a friendly interrogation. Nicholas writes fantasy and is two-thirds of the way through his second trilogy. Markan Throne, Markan Empire and Markan Sword make up the first, and Gifted Apprentice is being followed by Gifted Hunter in the second. I discovered Nicholas through the very enjoyable Gifted Apprentice so that’s the starting point for my questions to him.

 

1. Tell us briefly about Gifted Avenger

This novella continues Sallis ti Ath’s story. Sallis is a bounty-hunter with a strong belief in justice. He is also blessed with the Gift, which means he can “see” where a criminal he’s pursuing has passed. But murder sets Sallis on a path of vengeance and he’s forced to challenge his beliefs concerning justice and the Gift.

 

2. Who’s your favorite character?

In the novellas – Sallis ti Ath.

 

nick photo3. Which character is most like you?

In the Markan Empire Trilogy, there is a sylph scout named Neptarik. People who know me and have read these books assure me that he displays a lot of my own character traits. Basking in sunshine and a weakness for chocolate, to give two examples.

 

4. What makes Gifted Avenger stand out from the crowd?

That it is part of a trilogy linked to all the other trilogies that are, or will be, written by me. In many ways, the Gifted Trilogy is a prequel to the Markan Empire Trilogy, but is also completely independent from it.

 

5. Why did you choose to write fantasy, or did it choose you?

Probably because I read so much fantasy as a youngster. I loved being able to escape this world, and wonder what if? I suppose writing fantasy is just a natural progression from that.

 

gifted apprentice6. How did you come up with the cover design?

Joleene Naylor does all my covers. I just give her the rough outline of what I’m looking for and leave the rest up to her. I said I wanted Sallis on Glyder riding through a forest, pretty much what I’ve got. I leave the detail up to Joleene and she often surprises me with what she comes out with.

 

7. What are you working on now? Will it be out soon?

When people contact me about characters, the two they mention most are Sallis ti Ath and the ship’s sylph Cloudy. The next trilogy covers the ship Flying Cloud in her early days, how Cloudy came to be the ship’s sylph and some of her early adventures. I’m halfway through the first draft of The Ship And Her Sylph and finished the plotting and set pieces for the second in the trilogy, The Ship and Her Dolphin.

Fingers crossed, I’m hoping to have these two out in 2014.

I’m also (slowly) working on the next Markan Trilogy, following on from where the first left off. There may also be more Gifted books, if more plots present themselves.

 

8. What are you reading at the moment?

Factual books. The Ship (Landstrom), Seamanship (Harland), and The Age of the Galley (many contributors, published by Conway’s).

All dry stuff, all bought for research, but also fascinating (to me).

 

9. Do you write every day? Is it hard to find the time?

Every day, though I sometimes miss the odd day here and there. It can be hard to find the time, but more a matter of self-discipline and sacrificing other things I perhaps ought to be doing. One must keep the creative thoughts flowing!

 

10. What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

Keep going, never give up. Learn from your mistakes. OK, that’s two.

 

11. What ereading device do you have? And why did you choose that one?

The ubiquitous Kindle. I bought that one because it was the only one available in the UK at the time. I also have an ipad.

 

12. Do you dress up or dress down to write? Or maybe you don’t dress at all?

I write in whatever I’m wearing at the time. Though I always am wearing something at the time. Jeans and t-shirt usually and often barefoot.

 

13. Where can we find your website? And other social media?

My website is at: http://www.ilvenworld.com/

My blog: http://ilvenworld.blogspot.com

On Twitter I’m Nicholas A. Rose

And I’m nickandyrose on Facebook

 

14. Anything else we need to know about you?

Happiest outdoors, where I’m free to think. Love mountains, the sea, good company and real ale.

 

15. Your favorite “knock knock” joke?

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Me.

Me who?

Seriously, me, I’m just telling a knock-knock joke!

 

For those of you who don’t know, i.e. anyone not based in the ever-extending and loosely defined Eurozone, Eurovision is a huge annual song contest for European nations plus a few friends to join in. It began in 1956 as a way of strengthening the ties between countries in Europe, which was still recovering from the ravages of the Second World War. It’s grown and grown since then and as far as I’m concerned is an unmissable spectacle of national pride, fun and lots of talent. As ever, I was watching last night and enjoying every minute.

Now, a lot of people love to rubbish the Eurovision Song Contest, saying it’s naff and amateurish, so that immediately suggested a link to me with indie authoring. Too many people, including a lot of mainstream publishers, are all too quick to denounce all self-publishing writers in the same condescending way. And when you start to look, there are a lot more similarities between this joyous, optimistic musical event and today’s enthusiastic indie authors.

ryannolanLast night, poor old Ireland came last. That was tough, and was felt strongly in our Anglo-Irish household. Ryan Dolan gave a brilliant performance – polished, professional, pleasing – but didn’t pick up the popular vote. That happens so often with indie authors. They do absolutely everything right and have a good product but can’t seem to find readers. Ireland had plenty of points in common with the winners, Denmark, namely a good looking singer, catchy music, a prominent role given to drummers and a well-choreographed stage show. Similarly, an indie author can produce a book that is every bit as good and worth reading as one by a best-selling paperback author but can’t get the recognition it deserves. However, Ireland will dust itself down and try again next year, and that’s what indies do. They don’t give up.

Some countries go for a safe approach in the Contest and jump on the current popular bandwagon. Germany’s song was very heavily inspired by last year’s winner by Sweden, ‘Euphoria’. A musical version of fanfic perhaps? In their case it didn’t win, but they didn’t do disastrously. For some writers, following the trend is enough. Think of all the erotica that’s appeared in the wake of 50 Shades. It may not be what the authors really wanted to write, but they knew it would probably sell, so they had a go. That makes commercial sense, if not artistic sense, some might argue. And by all means, be like Azerbaijan and Georgia and play safe; go for something a little predictable and non-ground breaking but still thoroughly commendable and enjoyable.

Other countries don’t want to fit in with the herd. They go for originality and dare to be different – extremely and dramatically different in Romania’s case yesterday! You don’t get many male contraltos in vampiric oufits. Cezar had incredible talent and an astounding vocal range, as well as showiness, and really shook things up. Fabulous. This is precisely what many indies do, and is why they’re indies in the first place. Their books will never fit in with a conservative ‘traditional’ publisher so they take the responsibility for launching themselves and their unconventional ideas. But they have to write is well worth reading and makes us think. Who wants to be stuck in a reading rut?

Greece gave an energetic performance that defied any categorisation. What else would you expect from a group of men, each dressed in what looked like a sports shirt and a pleated skirt (a traditional podea, I believe)? Many indies are like this. The appearance of their books may be a little unconventional and not very slick, but there’s a lot of heart and soul inside. These authors give you their all, and you can take it or leave it.

Which brings us full circle. Take it or leave it is the Eurovision Song Contest’s robust attitude. And that’s shared by indie authors. Love them or hate them, they don’t care, but at least give them a fair chance. Like the Song Contest, they’re here to stay. They make a valid contribution to culture with their genuineness and the fact that artists who might never make it in the mainstream of their art form get a chance to surprise, shock, baffle, delight, horrify and maybe gobsmack, but above all to shine.

 

giulia cover I always enjoy discovering writers from other countries and so was delighted to come across Italian novelist Giuila Beyman whose novel Words in the Dark, the first in the Nora Cooper mystery series, has recently been translated into English.

When Nora’s husband Joe, a soon-to-be-retired cop, is shot inexplicably during a bank raid when he’s not on duty, that is only the beginning of her troubles. She discovers that he’d sold the dream cottage they’d only recently bought to see out their twilight years on Martha’s Vineyard. She’ll have to move out in a few weeks’ time. Once she’s over the shock, she realises that there has to have been some sort of mistake. Joe could not possibly have done this to her. And with the help of some Scrabble letters she starts to work out what’s going on.

Nora isn’t the only one who’s dealing with what looks like betrayal. Her daughter Meg, now separated from her husband, has met a charming man but he’s not necessarily dating her for the right reasons.

This book is about seeing below the surface and uncovering the truth, however unlikely and unwelcome it may seem. Nora realises, like Hamlet, that there are more things in heaven and earth than we might realise.

Nora is a tenacious person, who doesn’t falter from confronting the difficult and disturbing truth. She makes new friends along the way and begins to fully value a lifelong one, Steve, who worked with Joe. Meg is also a strong character, stubborn and proud, but also very vulnerable. All the people we meet in the book are complex and believable. Many have dark or sad memories that they are trying to deal with. Occasionally these almost overwhelm them but, as we do, they keep doggedly on.

There are plenty of lighter moments in the story. Nora in particular can see the ridiculousness of her situation at times, and her love for Martha’s Vineyard and her friends and families never ceases to shine through.

The book has been newly proofread to deal with the errors in tenses that a reviewer on Amazon referred to so this is now a very polished and extremely enjoyable novel. It has an excellent cover and is very well presented.

In Through the Withering Storm, author Leif Gregersen bravely describes his descent into mental illness. Takes a lot of courage since as he says in the book, it’s hard to reveal how “I was slipping into a deep cloud of near-desperation and depression.  I didn’t want to admit any weaknesses.” Any family that has been touched by mental illness of any kind knows what a difficult time this can be for everyone concerned, but obviously most of all for the sufferer. Books such as this are so incredibly valuable since they are a ray of hope, a reminder that there is light at the end of the long, dark tunnel, and sharing someone else’s experiences helps keep your own in perspective.

Leif Gregersen describes how the bipolar disorder slowly but surely took a firm grip on him and how he behaved as a result. There are touches of humour in the book, and it’s healthy to be able to recognise the fun moments even though they’re the result of a sinister illness. There’s shocking behaviour too. Generally the author has a very robust attitude to the problems he went through in the past, and I think it’s this clear, no-nonsense retrospective view he gives that highlights how confusing and frightening it must have been at the time .

Drink, depression and despair swamp Leif Gregersen’s life, interspersed with miserable stays at an antiquated mental hospital. However, courage wins through and the author finally emerges from the prison his mind has thrown him in and begins to build a healthy, rewarding life.

There is a real need for books like this one given the widespread occurrence of mental illness. There often isn’t much support from the professionals for the families involved – if any frankly – so ‘from the horse’s mouth’ accounts like Through a Withering Storm are invaluable in the insights they give. They boost you with a new lease of energy to continue supporting and loving through the stormy times.

22042_283509832161_1352577_nAbout the Author: Leif Gregersen

“I grew up somewhat isolated from the harsher forces of the world in St. Albert, a small town just outside of Edmonton, Alberta. Most of my younger years were filled with images of very happy times – trips everywhere from California to Copenhagen, constant school successes and football games in the field near my house that seemed to last forever.

“But all was not okay. There were times when my father would discipline me severely or I would come home to find an ambulance in our backyard taking my mother to the hospital for yet another suicide attempt. Although I knew that depression ran in our family, I had no clue of the fearsome beast that was growing inside me.

“At that time, I was more concerned about my growing collection of comic books, bought with money my sister would give me for doing her dishes or earned as a bean-picker or weed- puller on a farm not far from town. To be able to buy more comics, I even lied about my age to get a paper route and picked up more money by shoveling walks that hadn’t been done on the route.

Somewhere after the end of elementary school, there was a profound shift. It seemed the wind ran out of my sails and the transition to junior high was not a smooth one. I gave up on sports and I began to hate school and the people in it.

The remaining school years became a painful, out-of-control descent into madness. Gripped by mental illness, my thoughts, actions and behaviours became increasingly bizarre. My world became a true life horror movie of growing up mentally ill. Despite delusions, fights, arrests, reprisals and being institutionalized, years were wasted fighting any form of treatment, denying the illness and refusing medications.

Fortunately, for the past 15 years, my life has stabilized. I have accepted treatment and medications. Today, I have steady work and can afford some of the things I only dreamed of before. My computers, my 1994 VW Golf, a decent apartment and, above all, my books. From the age of three, my father exposed me to literature of the highest quality. Today, he is a much kinder, gentler and alcohol-free 72 year-old. I have him to thank for my passion to read and write.

Buy the book

The book is also available here.

Find Leif at www.facebook.com/leif.gregersen

Leif has a website at www.valhallabooks.com where you can find out about his other books and read sample chapters.


	

Thomas Ryan is one of the reasons I love my job so much. I’m a freelance editor working exclusively with indie authors these days and relishing every moment of it. There is so much talent out there and Thomas is one of these incredibly gifted writers whose work deserves a huge audience. There are a lot of generalisations made about the quality of self-published writing by people who don’t actually know what they’re talking about. I’m there on the pit face, and have been for 25 years now, and I can tell you that while there is undeniably some poor work produced by indies, there is far, far more of an impressively high quality. Like this book.

thomas ryanThe Field of Blackbirds begins in New Zealand where ex-Special Forces soldier Jeff Bradley has taken over the Boundary Fence, a vineyard he inherited from his Croatian grandparents. (His soon-to-be ex-wife has her eye on this as the divorce settlement between them is thrashed through.) Jeff has hired a Kosovon Arben Shala, an experienced winemake, to be his manager and advisor. He soon becomes his friend. Bad weather has meant a bad yield this year so Jeff sends Arben to Kosovo to source bulk wine. Arben falls foul of corrupt officials and ends up in prison. Jeff and Arben’s family don’t know where he is, only that something is wrong, so Jeff sets off to find his friend.

Once he gets so Kosovo, which is under UN administation, he begins his detective work. He runs into an American aid worker, Morgan Delaney, and UN worker Barry Briggs and his Kiwi girlfriend Bethany and they become a tight team. But Jeff is making as many enemies as he makes friends. as he gradually discovers that a huge property scam is being perpetrated with links to international terrorism. Throw in the Kosovon Liberation Army and a mysterious private security agent, plenty of suspense, action and an intriguing plot, and you have a breathless read that provides a sharp insight into post-civil-war Kosovo and introduces us to some memorable characters.

It’s brutal in places, but also moving and inspiring since although difficult political and economic circumstances can bring out the worst  in people, time and again they bring out the best. This is as much a story about loyalty and self-respect as it is about corruption.

I asked Thomas some questions about his powerful novel.

1.     What’s the story behind the Field of Blackbirds? Why did you write the story?

I spent many years in Eastern Europe, mostly the Balkans. Made many friends amongst the locals and monitored their trials and hardships experienced by all peoples who live in developing nations. Distrust, dishonest politicians and ineffective, corrupted, and hated legal systems.  Money ruled. Those who ended up on the wrong side of the law were guilty until proven innocent, and that came down to bribes – an absolutely brilliant environment for a storyteller looking to create a good yarn. Then, throw in the UN, NATO and organised crime and along came ‘The Field of Blackbirds’.

2.    What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
I wanted to weave a fast paced yet complex story with lots of interesting characters and still be easy for the reader to follow. I wanted the baddies as well rounded as the goodies but a clear line between the two groups. I believe in heroes conquering all and getting the girl. The story should be fun and an enjoyable read. I believe I achieved this.

3.    Who’s your favourite character and why?
This is a hard question. It took five years to write this book and I rewrote it more than fourteen times. I came to know all the characters so well. They’re like family. All have quirky endearing traits. In the end if I have to show favouritism then it must be for my main protagonist Jeff Bradley. It took a long time to develop Jeff. As a character he changed many times. For so long I never really had a clear picture of him. When it finally came I think I created a man I would be proud to call my friend. I think he is best summed up by the words of a reader ‘Not too macho and not too new age, a good mix of masculinity and sensitivity, loyal to his friends. A male character most women would love to meet.’

4.    Do you prefer creating villains or good guys?
There is no doubt you can have more fun with the bad guys. Within reason, almost anything you have your bad guy character do is acceptable to the reader. Also, when it comes to killing them off the writer can be hugely imaginative in fact readers expect ‘spectacular’ when it comes baddies end. Writing goodies is a tortuous journey. Each word is carefully measured as is the sentence as is the paragraph. For the reader it is the main protagonist taking them on the journey and expectations are high. Early on an image is imagined and any deviation from perceived characteristics will not be tolerated. Any sloppiness with this character and the book is closed and tossed back onto a shelf or sent off to the second hand bookshop. No doubt about it. Baddies are much more fun.

5.    What are some of the references you used while researching this book?
Every location scene in this book is for real and I have visited. In Kosovo I met many members of the UN and still have friends who served there. I spent many nights in the Kukri Bar in Prishtina and walked through the streets and Bazaars. I learned of the legal systems from police friends and as an ex-soldier with combat experience I have an understanding of the nature of violence and how the military works. I have two SAS officers I lunch with on a regular basis and they helped me shape Jeff’s character and personality.

6.    What was the hardest part of writing The Field of Blackbirds?
For any book of this type continuity, planting seeds, and ensuring all data is correct is key. A wrong line, an expectation not met, a storyline or subplot not explained, a key message left out and the mystery falls apart and the reader is let down. The reader needs to be kept on the edge of their seat as the tale unravels. Not able to guess the likely outcome. Obviously the reader knows the hero will come out on top but not how. This is the where the writer needs to be so careful not to reveal too much. Padding, accepted in many forms of literature has no place in a thriller. I overcame many of these problems by constantly sending the manuscript out to readers for feedback. Each rewrite tightened the narration. And finally all the threads of the story must be tied off to satisfy the reader. I believe I achieved this.

ryan blackbirds7.    The book has a very striking cover. Did you design this yourself?
The cover was designed by a company called BookBaby in the USA. I gave them a free hand. The final editorial and formatting of the back page for the print copy I worked on myself with the aid of a formatter.

8.    When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?
I think from a very early age 7yrs maybe 8yrs old I was writing stories. Decades later when I finally had a short story accepted for radio production and was asked for more I looked at the payment cheque and decided it wasn’t worth it. Now years later I’ve decided it’s time.

9.    You’re a member of a writing group. How has this helped you with your writing in general and this book in particular?
I have been a member of a writers critique group for years. All emerging writers need one. If nothing else they keep you focused on producing work. This book would never have been finished without the support of my group.

10.    What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?
Self-publishing pretty much means you have to do everything yourself. The marketing and the writing. My observations to date are that when it comes to the self- marketing of eBooks it is new to everyone. As yet no perfect rules of action have been established and there are many supposed experts ready to tell writers how to succeed. Some good, some not so good. What everyone agrees on however is that just putting your book up on a reseller like Amazon is not enough. Readers need to know it is there. The social media and blogs are a first and reasonably productive step. But writers need to adopt a business mind set and establish long term realistic goals. Unlike print books, eBooks stay in the system forever a writer has time to build a platform. Gain reviews. Write the best book you can. There is a theory the more books on site the more sales and whilst this is true this only occurs in the long term if the writing is of reasonable standard. And most importantly, find a good editor. Without one, you have no chance.

11.    How do you feel about eBooks vs print books and self vs conventional publishing?
I think in reality this question is no longer relevant. EBooks are here and are not going away. The next generation of children are already using iphones and tablets daily. Print books will always be about but in what form remains to be seen. I think print book for self-publishers will be restricted. To successfully distribute a print book the writer would need access to a distribution network. An alternative option is to use a print on demand company like create space and they will make it available on Amazon. The decision on whether or not to self-publish or use a traditional publisher is nowadays a choice not available in the past. Most writers try for an agent or traditional publisher first and then go the self-publishing route. It is great there is the choice. Long may it continue. In New Zealand there was little choice. There are no literary agents.

chardonnay12.    Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer?
I think the man occupational hazard is fitness. Nowadays not only do we write on computers but they are the first step in research. No more walking to a library.  I have a daily exercise routine, two big walks per week and a round of golf. Healthy body, healthy mind.

13.    And finally what’s the ideal wine to accompany your novel?
Boundary Fence wines are not on the market as yet so I like to relax with a competitor’s vintage from a neighbour’s winery. I’m a Chardonnay man from way back. So a glass of chilled Soljans Hawkes Bay Chardonnay would do nicely. On colder nights, one of their cabernets.

Elizabethpic1

I’m delighted to welcome Elizabeth Lamprey, indie author of lively and intriguing whodunits. I asked her a few questions.

Tell us briefly about One Two Buckle My Shoe and Three Four Knock On My Door. 

They are novellas, and whodunits in the Detection Club style, set in Scotland in the kind of retirement village I hope to end up in myself one day. Retirement villages aren’t old age homes – they’re designed for people in late middle age who are down-sizing into an environment that will be age-friendly when they get old.  My invented one is definitely eccentric.

What’s the story behind the stories? Why did you write the books?

My mother moved into a retirement village very reluctantly, after finally realizing she couldn’t cope with a big house any longer then absolutely loved it, she was always delighted and intrigued by her new neighbours. Sadly she took ill and died and I wrote a story where murders occurred in the village and she and  friends did a sort of multiple Miss Marple on them – it was a therapy for me, to fix her in my mind as having fun and lively friends and a bit of a challenge, like a never-ending murder dinner. I’d never written a whodunit before, although I enjoy reading them, and a year or so later the One Two title popped up out of nowhere and the idea for the series was born. I borrowed the basic story from her book, fictionalizing the characters and making them younger. She’s lent her name to the friend character – Vivian – but Vivian only borrows her voice and moments of her history, she isn’t a portrait.

Are they fun to write?

They’re great fun to plot – deciding on a murder and working backwards to set it up so that the reader and the characters can solve it, hopefully in a neck and neck finish. Setting up the clues so they are fairly presented but not screamingly obvious is the trickiest part.

12knockdoorWhich character are you most like and why?

I think I may be most like Katryn, the administrator who joins Grasshopper Lawns in the second book, after the death of the first administrator  – I grew up in South Africa, so I can identify with her, and quite enjoy having her around. She’s a minor role, very direct and pragmatic.

Dogs feature quite prominently in the stories. I’m guessing you’re a dog lover. Please tell us about your current canine companion/s. Dogs totally took over the second book, but they’re normally more wallpaper. There’s a cat coming into the third book – I do love pets, they really make a house a home, especially for anyone living alone. I became a cat person about ten years ago but there were always dogs in my life before. I took on a rescue dog with severe personality issues (she shares most of Maggie’s traits, and more) about six months ago and at first regretted it bitterly but wouldn’t want to be without her now. The cat is still reserving judgement.

Do you have any bizarre writing rituals?

I don’t think so – I had a foible about writing with purple ink and it reached a point where I could only write with purple ink, but finally trained myself to type direct, rather than write the first draft in longhand.  And breaking myself of the habit of smoking while I typed was mind-numbing for a while! I was quite stressed during the adjustment and held a pen between my teeth, sucking furiously when my mind went blank, until one burst and ink went everywhere. Cured.

Did you design your covers yourself? What was your aim in the designs?

I got really lucky with the covers, I might have tried some inexpert photo-shopping but I knew the first one had to be an abandoned shoe – trying photo-shopping that. I finally went onto Elance to find an artist.  Lacey O’Connor is practically psychic and can create more than I even realized I wanted, she’s absolutely brilliant.

34knockdoorWhen did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

Since forever, since before I even knew that daydreams and scribbling endless stories had a name. I thought the dream would only ever be that, a dream, when family problems meant I couldn’t go to university to read English, but reading and writing are two of my greatest pleasures, I just wish I could write as well as the authors I read!

What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

Don’t rush into self-publishing – I doubt anyone will listen, because I wouldn’t have listened, but in retrospect I threw away a lot of potential word-of-mouth goodwill from family and friends by putting out a sub-standard first book. The story itself hasn’t changed but there were so many glitches in the first edition, and the format was really amateur. A lot were picked up in the second, and I had already completed a complete loop on the learning curve by then! I feel really strongly about it, and am constantly meeting SP authors who simply don’t see errors as a problem, the important thing, they insist pompously, is the story. Putting out sub-standard books is bad for us all and with so very many books on offer your readers won’t get to the story because they will give up on the first page. I’m a copy-editor myself (granted, mainly business / technical stuff) and I thought I could do my own copy-editing. No-one can – your brain auto-adjusts and simply doesn’t see errors on work it knows well.

 And finally, anything else our readers need to know about you?

I have four names – apparently in some traditions a long name means good luck – and also a Twitter name (Elegsabiff) so in a weird way I have several lives. My professional life skips the second name,  I write under the first three (Elizabeth Joanna Lamprey), I am known by my first and last names, and I review and tweet under the elegsabiff name. Maybe one day I’ll settle on one version, but it could be boring. I was quite taken with the idea of publishing as Elegsabiff but KDP isn’t really set up for one name. Maybe that’s why Cher has never self-published?

About the books

One Two Buckle My Shoe

Detectives nearly always work alone, although some don’t mind an admiring sidekick as they deftly and efficiently go about their business. In real life, murder isn’t always straightforward and clues can be much more elusive. In this particular case, just finding out who exactly got murdered was the first challenge.

The residents at Grasshopper Lawns were closely interested, because the murderer could be among them, but hadn’t any intention of interfering in the solving of the case. Piecing together scraps of information was intriguing, though. And they did keep coming across facts that no-one had given to the police… This is the first in the quite light-hearted murder series based in a rather unusual retirement village in Scotland.

Three Four Knock On My Door

A dead body in the laundry sparks off the next murder mystery at Grasshopper Lawns. Once again Edge and her friends help the police with this investigation but there’s more to deal with. Throw in a badly behaved dog, a tall, shadowy figure and Death with his scythe and events get quite complicated!
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Three-Knock-Grasshopper-Lawns-ebook/dp/B00C4FE0TG/

ebyacodeThe eBay Code by Charles Salter (Volume 2 of The Ebay Detective) is every bit as good as the first book in this series. The author continues the theme of basing his novel on actual events, which makes it so immediate and that much more sinister. Major Brad Stout was appointed as an eBay Detective at the end of the last novel and the throws himself into his new role enthusiastically. Following up a terrorist threat he needs to decipher a code in order to intercept their deals on eBay. In this adventure Brad teams up with the interesting and complex Pierre, now his father-in-law, to try and prevent a horrendous international incident involving radioactive matter. Amidst the tension and excitement, there’s domestic happiness and tenderness, family commitment, frustration, moments of humour and much to enjoy.
Salter creates brilliant characters. Every one, however minor, is rounded and has a real role to play. Mary Lou and her parents bring some fresh interest in this story. The plot is exciting, built soundly on real events and everyone’s familiarity with Ebay. From these factual foundations a superbly imaginative story springs, and the action doesn’t end – even at the end. There’s a new development waiting for us there. Settings are superbly depicted, with great attention to detail and adding yet more realism to the story. I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this novel as it has all the ingredients an engrossing modern thriller needs. It’s a successful and riveting read.

The whole genre of detective fiction began with a lady author – Anna Katherine Greene – and it’s good to see that it’s safe and even more successful these days in the hands of other women writers such as Marcia Turner. Ill Conceived is the second in the Meredith and Hodge series and is every bit as good as the first book, Misplaced Loyalty. The characters we encountered previously continue to develop and we meet some interesting new ones. Relationships between them don’t always take the course we’d expect. There’s an intricately created and thought out plot with several strands to it.
Patsy Hodge is now working as a private investigator and her first job throws her in at the deep end. How come Stella Young, businesswoman and lesbian, is pregnant? To her certain knowledge she has never slept with a man. Meanwhile, Meredith and his team are investigating the murder of a young man in broad daylight for apparently no reason whatsoever. Why does all the evidence seem to point to a very unlikely suspect? How does the Sensations night club fit into all of this? And even after the self-confessed perpetrator is taken into custody, how come the deaths continue? The various story lines become intertwined meaning Patsy and Meredith are working together again but there are tensions between them, in both their professional and personal lives. Are they being completely honest with each other?
A truly absorbing book with an ending that takes your breath away, and leaves you eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.