Synopsis

Encounters with a pair of supersized Y-fronts; a humourless schoolmarm with an unfortunate name and monstrous yellow incisors; and a tut-tutting, big-breasted, modern-day gorgon are the norm for Ruth Roth. She’s used to crazy.

Her mum squawks like a harpy and her dad has a dodgy moral compass. Add in daily face-offs with a relentlessly bitchy mirror, and Ruth’s home life feels like a Greek tragicomedy.

She hankers for the ordinary. But blah is not a good fit for someone who doesn’t fit in. And isn’t meant to.

Ruth’s vanilla existence is an issue for her besties—her hot-looking, obsessive-compulsive cousin and soul mate (who needs to do everything twice-twice), and her two closest girlfriends.

With their encouragement and a good homoeopathic dose of ancient mythology, Ruth embarks on an odyssey to retrieve her spirit. She’s confronted with her biggest challenge ever, though, when one of these friends sends her spiralling back into a dark place.

The decision she must make can either bring her out or launch the mother of all wars in her world.

My review

I love books with fascinating titles and this is definitely one. An odyssey is a long and eventful or adventurous journey or experience and is forever associated with classic Greek literature. A teacup is, well, a teacup. We have a lovely juxtaposition of the epic with the everyday, the Homeric with the homely. The teacup suggests everydayness and triviality, and much of the story is at heart every day and trivial as it recounts the experiences of the unimaginatively and economically-named Ruth Roth (no middle name) growing up. However, this wonderful character with her surrounding cast of eccentric personalities, tells us a tale that is far from mundane.

To say her family is dysfunctional is something of an understatement. As part of her journey, Ruth learns that her ‘normal’ really isn’t. Sylvia and Joe are way off base, but that makes them fascinating characters to meet, although fortunately not to have to live with. She thus has to fight rather harder than most of us to fit in with her peers, and get to do all the things they get up to.

Ruth is a witty narrator, able to laugh at herself. Which is just, as well as things never go completely smoothly for her. She’s strong, as a result of her criticism-laden upbringing, punctuated regularly with the words ‘oeuf’ and ‘pest’, and courageous. She has a sharp eye and sees through pretence and posing, and strips humanity down to its ridiculous inner workings. Her observations are brilliant, wry and sharp. It’s heartening to see that her boldness and unconventional pass down to her children too.

We join Ruth on her journey from childhood through to adulthood and to a surprising but wonderful ending slash beginning. On the way we come across clever echoes of and references to Homer’s ‘Odyssey’, and to Greek mythology. It makes this book even richer.

It’s a fabulous book, riveting from the first page. Ruth frequently has us laughing, but there’s sadness too as we join her for a bumpy ride in her little teacup being buffeted by a rough ocean and challenging winds. Really memorable.

 

Purchase from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Odyssey-Teacup-Inspiring-Chick-Novel-ebook/dp/B0153VEB2I  

Author Bio

Paula Houseman was once a graphic designer. But when the temptation to include ‘the finger’ as part of a logo for a forward-moving women’s company proved too much, she knew it was time to give away design. Instead, she took up writing.

She found she was a natural with the double entendres (God knows she’d been in enough trouble as a child for dirty wordplay).

As a published writer of earthy chick lit and romantic comedy, Paula gets to bend, twist, stretch and juice up universal experiences to shape reality the way she wants it, even if it is only in books. But at the same time, she can make it more real, so that her readers feel part of the sisterhood. Or brotherhood (realness has nothing to do with gender).

Through her books, Paula also wants to help the reader escape into life and love’s comic relief. And who doesn’t need to sometimes?

Her style is a tad Monty Pythonesque because she adores satire. It helps defuse all those gaffes and thoughts that no one is too proud of.

Paula lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband. No other creatures. The kids have flown the nest and the dogs are long gone.

Social Media Links

Twitter: https://twitter.com/paulahouseman

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/PaulaHouseman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PaulaHousemanAuthor

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulahouseman

 

Synopsis: lies and misdirection rule the game

To some, Fiona O’Dell is clever and manipulative. To others, she is a dangerous sociopath. One thing is certain – she’s trouble wherever she goes. Now she has vanished from her job, but not before being seen leaving a motel room where one man is found dead, another on the edge of death. Is this grizzly crime scene a BDSM encounter gone wrong? Or is it related to a company data breach where all three are employed?

Private security expert Lee Stone and NYPD Detective Belle Hughes are assigned to the case. In a race to find Fiona, they track her across four states and shocked to find men from her past are being murdered. With little information and even less evidence, each new crime scene brings more questions than answers.

While secrets are revealed, there is only one conclusion: Fiona controls the game, the players, even the course of the investigation. The danger escalates, and the game must be mastered, or all fall victim to it. As Lee and Belle struggle to put all the pieces together, the two investigators find their relationship heats up as they are drawn to each other. Looking for a murder mystery with a feisty female detective that’s filled with twists and turns? Explore The Last Lie She Told for a thrill ride that leaves you guessing until the end.

My review

This is a really polished and contemporary mystery novel. As well as the elusive Fiona, ex-cop Lee and Belle, mentioned in the blurb, there are two other characters we need to know about. First is Jackson, who has left the FBI and established his own security firm. Money’s been tight so he’s allowed Mary to buy an interest in the firm. Mary, the second person in question, is an elderly lady. She’s a fantastic character, surprisingly lively, quick-witted and astute. She’s a tough cookie but she has a soft side and is eager to find a love match for her colleague, Lee.

Jackson’s friend Benjamin Hightower comes to him with a case to solve. And to do so, Fiona must be found. Thus the hunt for her begins and we are plunged into the investigation which goes along all sorts of blind alleys and takes plenty of wrong turns before it reaches its tantalising conclusion.

The novel is written in the first person from the point of every main character in the book. This works really well, and adds depth and interest as we can compare and contrast what each person says about themselves with what the others tell us. This fits in very well with the general theme of things not being quite as they seem: there’s one than one side to every story.

The book is a true page-turner. The action isn’t always breathlessly fast but there’s a sense of increasing momentum as the story unfolds. The complex plot is very clever and there’s a lot to think about as you read. It’s an absorbing and hugely entertaining novel, and what’s best of all it’s only the first in a series so there will be more similar treats to come.

 

Purchase Links

Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FBSY51Y

Amazon UK  – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FBSY51Y

The Last Lie She Told is 99p/c for until the 14th August.

Author Bio – K. J. McGillick was born in New York and once she started to walk she never stopped running. But that’s what New Yorker’s do. Right?

As she evolved so did her career choices. After completing her graduate degree in nursing she spent many years in the university setting sharing the dreams of the enthusiastic nursing students she taught. After twenty rewarding years in the medical field she attended law school and has spent the last twenty-four years as an attorney helping people navigate the turbulent waters of the legal system. Not an easy feat. And now? Now she is sharing the characters she loves with readers hoping they are intrigued by her twisting and turning plots and entertained by her writing.

Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/KJMcGillickauthor/

Kathleen McGillick

@KJMcGillickAuth

http://www.kjmcgillick.com/

https://twitter.com/KJMcGillickAuth

11th – 13th August –  Three: Deception  Love Murder also by K.J. McGilick will be FREE

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B078VFT9PJ

 

 

Recently widowed Evie, who’s 75, realises she should never have sold her home and moved into a care home in Dublin. She’s bored and going into a decline. So, she absconds. A four-tuitous (four is her lucky number!) win on the horses gives her the funds she needs to head first to Liverpool and some other cities, and then south for some sunshine. And so she leaves the UK for France, where she encounters some fascinating people and situations. It’s an emotional and developmental journey for her as well as physical one.

Meanwhile, her son Brendan, whose marriage to Maura is floundering, takes it on himself to track hi mother down. He doesn’t have much to go on other than dogged determination. He’d rather go alone, but Maura insists on joining him in the ailing Fiat Panda. Time after time they narrowly miss Evie but in the process learn a lot about themselves.  

Part picaresque, part coming of age, and with a touch of travelogue, this book is a total delight from start to finish. Every character is fascinating, although none can outshine our ordinary yet extraordinary heroine. There’s humour and tragedy, conflict and love. It’s simply unputdownable. A grand old novel.     

 

You know, this book really works! I was a little worried to start with that it wouldn’t, since it quickly emerges that there’s a magical paranormal element, and yet the book has such down-to-earth characters and a plot that has financial concerns at its core. Can such prosaic realism and such imaginative make-believe act in harmony? With this author, most definitely.

Frank, the heir to the Jamieson ice cream fortune, disappears together with his trust fund leaving his wife, Christy, and his daughter, Noelle, at the mercy of Frank’s trustees. Their marriage wasn’t successful but Christy is genuinely worried about her husband and knows this behaviour is out of character. However, everyone else seems to accept it all at face value. She is desperate to find him.

Christy and Noelle have to make big economies and so move to a smaller house, next door to the Armstrongs. Quinn Armstrong, a journalist, at first pursues Christy for a story since there are suspicions she’s involved in the money’s disappearance. To begin with she refuses to have anything to do with him, but soon she needs his help. In return for a scoop on Frank, he agrees to help her. More assistance comes from Stormy, Christy’s cat, who ends up on Quinn’s doorstep.

There is a lot for Christy and Quinn to deal with, not least the growing attraction between them. It all makes for a very enjoyable and innovative mystery.

My only quibble is with the title. There are an awful lot of books with the same title. I’ve mentioned this before in reviews, but it is vital for a book to be instantly findable. A distinctive, unique title is a must!

Now that the first draft of Haircuts, Hens and Homicide is in the bag, I’ve been able to return to part Deux of my memoir of our lives in France, Total Immersion. To whet your appetites here’s an extract from the chapter ‘2012: The Year of the Pig’.

The Big Freeze of 2017 is going on as I write about the Even Bigger Freeze of 2012 so it’s helping to put me in the mood. It’s brought back precise memories of exactly how flipping cold it was.

The year started off harmlessly enough. Once New Year was over, the kids headed back to école primaire (Rors), lycée (Caiti) and fac (Benj) and Chris and I settled into our daily routine of this time of years of jobs around the farm, lake maintenance and our online businesses. However, Chris’s inner swineherd was proving hard to ignore. He’d been becoming more and more interested in getting pigs, and talking about them to such an extent that some returning angling clients of ours gave him a book about pig ownership. Perhaps that was the deciding factor, or maybe he just felt ready for a new challenge as by now, between us, we’d mastered llama and alpaca, goat, sheep and poultry ownership. It was time to conquer another animal species.

Chris did some research and found someone who did pig management courses in Poitou-Charentes, about four hours away. He booked himself in on the next available session and sorted out a night’s accommodation nearby as there was an early start to the day’s training. All he had to do now was wait.

January was ridiculously mild, to the extent that the daffs were coming up, the chickens were laying fit to bust and buds were starting to appear on many trees. What a lovely short winter we’ve had this time, we thought with a smile. But Mother Nature had the last laugh.

Chris set off on a sunny Sunday afternoon, waved off by me and the two youngest. Once he was gone we pottered around in the warmth, doing the farm chores and getting some fresh air before focussing on getting everything ready for school next day. For Rors this was just making sure there were clean clothes ready and waiting, but for Caiti it was the usual painful process of packing the suitcase for a week of boarding. We should have had it down to a fine art by now, and we had done with Benj, but somehow every week seemed like the first with our daughter. She always left packing till the very last minute, long after parental patience had been ground down. I’ve never been a late night person and since moving to France and taking up a much more physically exhausting lifestyle, then bed starts calling at nine o’clock, sometimes earlier. So things would tend to get fraught on a Sunday evening. But Caiti inevitably produced the proverbial rabbit from the hat and was all ready for the off, although she regularly resembled the proverbial slow snail and reduced me to a nervous wreck on Monday mornings. However, as it turned out miraculously we only ever missed the bus once.

This particular Monday morning was very chilly but with Chris away I had no alternative but to load a warmly wrapped sleepy Ruadhrí into the car to be taken for the ride when delivering Caiti to the bus stop in Clugnat. The road sparkled with frost and it was nippy. One low, hill-bottom stretch of the road was, as usual, particularly cold. We called it the ‘frost bucket’. This arose from a very young Caiti mishearing us using the expression ‘frost pocket’. Well, since ‘frost bucket’ is so much better we adopted that one as a family saying. The car showed a temperature of minus three or so. Brrr.

Meanwhile Chris was getting up to minus five, which came as a bit of a shock. Fortunately he’d taken plenty of warm clothes with him as a lot of the training was done outside and the day itself was sunny and bright. He had a wonderful time learning about the finer points of pigmanship with trainers David and Lorraine. They specialised in English old breed pigs and so Chris got to meet Gloucester Old Spots, Berkshires and Oxford Sandy and Blacks. He got to eat them at lunchtime too but not the ones he’d just met, obviously! The whole point of getting pigs was to become self-sufficient in pork. We weren’t going to be a pig sanctuary – we were going into this venture with hardened hearts and a love of sausages.  Chris was immediately struck with how much nicer the pork from these old breeds was than what we were used to eating from the supermarket.

Chris learned about fencing, handling and breeding pigs, and about all the relevant legislation. There was plenty of hands-on experience of rounding up and feeding. He was struck with how intelligent the pigs are. You can interact with a pig. Llamas, alpacas, goats, sheep – not so much. The action with them is one way, i.e. from the human, with the creature in question simply regarding you vacantly as The Mysterious Being That Dispenses Food. A pig, though, will come over for a chat. A pig will listen. A pig will scrutinise you and size you up with those shrewd eyes, rather than just gaze dumbly at you. A pig is altogether a different kind of animal from other farm livestock.

Temperatures began to plummet as the day wore on. I distributed extra hay to the animals and took a hat for Rors with me when I walked to Nouzerines to meet him from school. It was the walking-to-and-from school season in the winter, but the rest of the year we cycled him in and out. Despite living the furthest away, and Chris and I being the oldest set of parents by at least a decade, we were the only ones who were able to get to and from under our own environmentally-friendly steam rather than resorting to car or bus. As well as allowing us to feel morally superior to the rest of the world, it kept us all fit and we enjoyed the exercise as a family activity.

Chris got back quite late and reported freezing fog and icy roads all the way. It was by now a good few degrees below freezing, and it was going to be several weeks before it warmed up. The Big Freeze had begun.

It seemed to come out of nowhere. Admittedly we didn’t watch the Météo, weather forecast, regularly. We’d tried and failed to adapt to French television generally. With its love of short and frankly bizarre (‘quirky’ doesn’t come close) vignettes, and its overly-verbose chat and quiz show hosts, it just wasn’t for us. The culturally divide turns into a chasm when it comes to the TV. But we soon started watching it every night. And the news, where ice-bound scenes from around the country filled most of the half-hour slot. However, we were far more concerned with our own ice-boundness, which was dramatic and wholesale.

(The artwork for the cover of Total Immersion is by the incomparable Roger Fereday. The photo is of our own Berkshire pigs, Rosamunde and Oberon.)

We all know how important a cover is for a book or ebook. Well, so is the title, but this doesn’t always get as much time and effort put into it as it should. And especially, authors don’t seem to be doing much if any research to see if the title they want has been used. It’s not a great idea to give your book the same name as one that’s already out there.

Recently I’ve read across the following books with titles that turn out to be very popular:

Scorpio Rising: I read the book of this name that Monique Domovitch had authored. But amongst many others, Alan Annand, R. G. Vilet, Daisy Denman, Rosie Orr, Alex MacDonough, Richard Katrovas, Ms Scorpio N and Mark Sheldon have also written books with this title.

The Wake-Up Call by Jonas Eriksson (excellent, by the way): Oral Roberts, Richard Copeland, John Mulinde, Penny Dawne, Edythe Draper, Kristen Bretweiser and Jeff Gunhus have their versions too. Again, that’s only some of the authors who had the same idea. There are a lot of Wake-Up Calls (plural) out there too that could get confused.

Passion in Paris: Rusty Blackwood, Adam Carpenter, Helen Hardt, Robyn Grady all have versions.

Losing It by Simon Lipson (do read this guy) has rivals by Zaria Garrison, Melanie Douglass, Lindsay Rech, Laura Fraser, William Miller, Valerie Bertillini – and those are just from the first page of results on Amazon.

The danger with using a title that’s already been employed is that it makes it harder for readers to find and buy your book. They might be looking up your Gardening with Nail Scissors but come across someone else’s tome of this name and buy that instead, not realising their mistake. Or, when they call up the title on Smashwords, they find six other books with the same name, all of which have snappier covers than yours and so one of them gets the sale instead. Heart-breaking isn’t it?

But other people have the same idea as you do, and sometimes at the same time. And there’s nothing you can do about that. My ‘The Witch’s Dog’ came out pretty much alongside Frank Rodgers’. And I’d checked to see if there were other ones out there before I settled on my choice. The stories are completely different, but they’ve got the same name. There’s an ‘Escape from the Volcano’ out there now, very similar to my ‘Escape the Volcano’. My ‘Oh Dad’ of 1999, has been followed by one in 2000 and another in 2008. ‘Oh Santa’, again the only one at the time, is the name of a Christmas collection of songs by Mariah Carey’s. OK, not a book, but the same title which gets in the way when folk are looking for my masterpiece. And ‘Beat the Hackers’ as a search term pulls up CDs by Beat Hackers, a rap group!

So, you can’t avoid the problem happening completely, but I would strongly advise you to come up with as original a title as you can to keep your book totally unique. Maybe others of the same name will come along later, but at least you got in first!

I’ve blogged about using the Kindle as a proofreading tool before. You can use it for editing too. I find this is incredibly useful. As a freelance editor, there are times I have to be away from my desk, but I have some work to be finishing, and it’s not practical to take my laptop with me. As with the proofreading, using MobiPocket Creator I format the Word file of the MS I’m working on – either all of it, or just the section I’m currently working on – into  a mobi document, and then I email that to my Kindle.

Reading through the document, I use the note and highlighting tools on Kindle to mark where I need to make changes. To make a note, you bring the cursor down to the appropriate spot (I have a Kindle 3 so use the 5-way device, but on the later models you use the stylus I believe) and start to type to make your note. You can also tag a word by clicking the central button of the 5-way to begin a highlight which you end by taking the cursor to the finish spot and clicking again.

When I’m back home, I fire up the Kindle and work through with it next to my laptop. When I reach my note or highlight, I make the necessary change to the MS on the computer. Then, when I’ve finished, I simply delete the document from the Kindle so it’s not taking up valuable space there.

Simple but effective!

Don’t get bogged down at your writing desk. For many of us with limited time for writing, it can easily become stressful when we fire up the computer, knowing that we’ve got to get that next bit written NOW before life gets in the way again.

So here are 5 suggestions to help you stay zen in your writing den.

1. Wear something bright or silly. Don’t just plonk yourself down to write in your work clothes. Pin on a fun brooch or put on a stupid tie or slip into a garish cardi. A bit of fun will brighten your spirits and loosen up your fingers.

2. Smile. Seriously, a little smile will lift your mood and make you feel good. OK, you may be about create a heart-rending scene or a truly horrific one, but a smile will help you get underway.

3. Make your work area pleasant. A potted plant, cheery family photos or a stuffed toy will jolly it up nicely. If it looks nice, you’ll feel happier there and maybe want to put in a bit of extra time if you can.

4. Stay serene and focussed. A scented candle or incense stick or a bowl of pot pourri will make for a peaceful atmosphere and help your concentration.

5. Stash a few secret goodies in a desk drawer or other hidey hole to give yourself a little treat once in a while – when you’ve written those 1,000 words or finally got the plot sorted. Boiled sweets or chocs are just the thing, or for you healthaholics, a handful of sawdust or seeds or whatever is a bit naughty but still good for you!

It’s time to meet two strange words. First up, NaNoWriMo, which begins in just 31 days time. What is it? NaNoWriMo is the shortened form of National Novel Writing Month, although really that should be International Novel Writing Month as it’s open to everyone. The aim of the catchily named event is to produce a 50,000 word novel during November, which works out at 1,667 words a day. It’s a tall order, but the thrust is to simply get people to sit down and write. Write rubbish if necessary, but write! It will get you into good habits for the future.

Last year, everyone who completed the challenge got a free proof copy of their book from Amazon’s Createspace. I don’t know if the same is planned for this year, but even the possibility would certainly be an incentive.

I’ve signed up. I’ve joined 1831 other France-based WriMos. I might use the event to get my long-planned YA fantasy novel written, or maybe the upbeat knitting mystery which is crashing around in my brain at the moment. Decisions, decision!

So on to ‘Blovel’, a combo of Blog and Novel. This is a great invention by Stu Noss! Check out his site here. Stu is serialising his novel Life on the Suburban Fringe on his blog. What a great idea. Stu is following in famous footsteps. Charles Dickens’ novels came out in serialised form originally, and he hasn’t done so badly over the years has he? Stu’s a talented writer and I’m sure his Blovel idea will inspire a lot more to appear.

Today is Super Thursday, the day when publishers launch their best hopes for the Christmas market. According to the BBC, more than 500 books in all formats, amongst them 200 hardbacks, are being published today, including a good helping of comedians’ autobiographies, and of course a Jamie Oliver cookbook, Jamie’s Great Britain. This latter is the hot favourite to the Christmas bestseller.

Getting the Christmas books out today gives publishers and authors enough time to do lots of promotion and for word of mouth to kick in and the power of reviews to kick in. The next best day will be in a fortnight, October 13th, so if you were hoping to make it big this Christmas, get your skates on! Looks like I’d better get a move on with my two non-fiction ebooks.

Last year, nine of the books released on Super Thursday sold more than one million pounds’ worth of copies. Not bad. In the 12-week run up to Christmas, a total of 69 million books were sold, with a value of 567 million pounds. This is serious money.

Ebook publishers will be looking to take a share of the public’s book budget this year. You can’t put an ebook in a stocking, though, which will work against them during the festive season. However, you can put a Kindle or other ebook reader in, and with the new Kindle priced at 79 dollars, that’s in normal spending parameters for family and special friends.

It will be very interesting to see how ebook sales fare over the next three months. I’ll be watching closely.