My cosy mystery / romcom ‘Haircuts, Hens and Homicide’ is currently on tour. For seven days various wonderful book bloggers will be hosting my novel. Do please call by and see what they have to say about my novel.

Here’s the running order:

It’s got off to a great start with some lovely reviews today 🙂 Books, Life and Everything says: “With plenty of humour and laugh out loud moments, the story proves to be an entertaining read and is nicely set up for a sequel.”

Katie’s Book Cave says: “Haircuts, Hens and Homicide is a fun and entertaining riot of a read that will have you laughing away as you follow the adventures of Megan and co. It’s well-written and set in a gorgeous place, I loved my trip to France via this book! I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.”

And Julie Palooza says: “Although the mystery aspect of the book is relatively light, its main joy is seeing Megan settle into small-town French life – avec des poulets – and meeting its cast of, variously, huge, handsome, haughty, homicidal, charming, clumsy and coiffure-ly-challenged residents.”

I hope those reviews have tempted you. If so, call by getbook.at/HHH to get your copy!

I See London banner

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for I See London, I See France by Paulita Kincer. I’ll begin with my review of this beautifully written and engaging novel, and then we’ll hear from Paulita.

I see London cover

Review

“What have I done?” I silently asked. “I’m stepping off into this madhouse with my children.”

Which parent hasn’t asked themselves that at some point when they’ve taken drastic action of some sort? (I know I did during the early months after we moved to France!) This is the question Caroline poses herself when she decides to go to Europe with her three children after her marriage to Scott crumbles. She’d spent time in France as a young woman in Aix-en-Provence and Corsica and has interesting memories of the country, and especially of the attractive Jean-Marc, which are shared with us through the book. And so she is drawn back there, via London, Cornwall, Scotland and Paris.

The various settings are portrayed in wonderful detail – the scenery, the people, the sights and smells. The physical journey reflects Caroline emotional journey as she tries to decide what to do with her future, how to proceed from this point of marital breakdown. London is the businesslike, responsible Caro, whereas the wilds of Scotland, and the exotic Gustave, see her starting to shake off her inhibitions and worries. But it still seems her happiness prove to be as elusive and possibly fictional as the Loch Ness Monster. But then comes Paris, some self-realisation, and the next stop is Aix-en-Provence. She meets up with some people from her past, and at the same time finds her life is taking “a relaxing turn” and “is easier here”. And Jean-Marc reappears, and also Gustave.

And so briefly on to Italy and Scott…

The novel is absorbing, beautifully written and fabulously enjoyable. It also offers us a gentle reminder that relationships need working at. It’s too easy to take certain things for granted or get stuck in a behavioural rut. Teenage first crazy love is contrasted with married love and life, temptation with loyalty, self-indulgence with duty. There’s comedy, sadness, romance, bitterness, temptation, discipline – Paulita Kincer keeps us gripped. Caroline is a sympathetic heroine, honest and genuine, but most of all human. She’s not superwoman, although she comes fairly close at times in my opinion. She’s someone we can admire. Above all she’s warm and caring and real and we can see ourselves in her shoes.

Do read this touching, inspiring novel, available here from Amazon.com.

And Paulita’s website is here.

And now let’s hear from Paulita.

 

Interview with Paulita

Paulita Kincer

Stephanie, Thanks so much for inviting me to be on your blog today. I feel like I just dropped by your lovely gite for a mid-morning coffee klatch. I know, tea for you, but I’ll have a café crème without the spoon left in the cup.

 1.      What’s the story behind I See London, I See France? Why did you write it?

This book began long ago when my husband and I first traveled to France with the kids. They were 2, 4 and 6 years old. I wrote a “memoir” of sorts for us. Thinking of how difficult that trip was, I imagined what it would be like to handle three kids on your own in France and how desperate someone would be to try that. That’s what became the idea for I See London I See France. Also, marriage can be tricky. Everyone has down times and up times. It’s easy to start longing for that French love who got away during a down time.

2.      Please describe your novel in 100 words.

An unhappy American woman sells her minivan and uses the proceeds to escape to Europe with her three kids in tow. She’s searching for joy and thinks that a previous French love might be the answer. Along the way, she’s distracted by a handsome gypsy and the travails of motherhood, all in gorgeous vacation settings.

3.      How does the cover encapsulate your novel?

Originally, I’d pictured a book cover with a bicycle leaning against the front of a French country house. When I couldn’t find that, I went with the iconic Eiffel Tower. It definitely lets the readers know where the novel takes place. This picture is especially meaningful because my son Tucker took it on a class trip to France last year.

4.      Which do you prefer – London or Paris?

Definitely Paris – no offense to anyone who loves London. Most of the action takes place in France with just a brief touchdown in London, western England and Scotland.

The title for the book actually comes from an American childhood rhyme.

I See London

I See France

I See Stephi’s underpants

Since Caroline, the main character, is traveling with her children, I thought the rhyme would help readers make that link. I didn’t count on the rhyme not being universal though.

5.      Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?

I just finished your book, Stephanie, which I enjoyed. I like to read memoirs set in France, but I really love any kind of fiction, usually written by women. Last week I read After Her by Joyce Maynard. Marian Keyes is one of my favorite authors so I’m always on the lookout for something by her.

6.      When did you first realize you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I have notebooks full of pioneer stories that I wrote as a little girl. I used to take my notebook and a peanut butter sandwich and leave the house early in the morning to find adventures to write about.

7.      Tell us briefly about what book’s coming next.

I’m writing a novel called Paris Runaway. It’s about a divorced mom whose 17-year-old daughter disappears. The mother learns she’s followed a French exchange student from Florida to Paris. The mother goes after her and learns a lot about herself while in pursuit of her daughter.

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

Keep writing. Don’t stop to admire your work after you’ve finished one novel. The next one awaits, and they usually just get better as you keep going.

9.      What does your family think about you being an author?

My daughter is 22 now and she is a great cheerleader for me. She tries to stay on top of my social media. My boys are 20 and 17, and they aren’t so interested in my books. My husband has to juggle his editor hat and his husband hat to offer me criticism and support. And my parents, well, it’s kind of embarrassing the way they are always trying to sell my books to people.

10.  OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favourite foods?

Chocolate, wine and cheese. Is that too cliché? Well, maybe that’s one of the reasons why I love France so much. Okay, how bout:

A nice flaky croissant with melted chocolate in the middle

Little squares of goat cheese on salad

A sweet dessert wine

 

Thanks so much for interviewing me for your blog and thanks to all of the readers who love reading about interesting characters who find adventures, whether within themselves or out in the world.

 

Thank you Paulita, and I wish you every success with your marvellous novel. 

 Click here to find out where else Paulita is visiting on her book tour and enter the giveaway here.

 

CRAZYTOWN_KindleHere’s the bright and eye-catching cover for Rob and Ján Bryndza’s Lost in Crazytown,. I asked Rob a few questions about it.

What does the cover for Lost in Crazytown tell us about the book?

It’s a very dark comedy. It’s based on our experiences working in Hollywood a couple of years ago. We lived in an apartment just off Hollywood Boulevard and I was always struck by the difference in the place during the day and night. By day it’s quite a sunny fun place, but at night the darkness falls and all the shops and bars that go unnoticed during the day open up with their seedy neon signs, and some very strange people prowl around. This kind of summed up Hollywood and our story. Scrape off the tinsel of tinsel town and what’s underneath is pretty scary.

What does it tell us about you and Ján?

Ooh, good question. I don’t know… Hopefully that we’ve written a fun entertaining book.

Was is it easy to design?

We have a super cover designer, Dan Bramall and he came up with the look of it based on discussions we had. One thing I sent him was the opening credits for the TV show Entourage, where the car cruises along Hollywood Boulevard in the dark. He went from there.

How many other cover designs did you discard on the way?

There were several variations on the final image, at first it was going to be a sign by a road and we saw different colours for the neon lights, but it pretty much stayed the same from the initial draft.

Having been through the process, what tips can you pass on about designing a cover?

Do your research. Both of your designer and what genre your book best fits into. Be prepared to spend money for the right cover. Also if your an indie author you’ll most likely have 99% of your sales through ebooks, so think of your cover as a thumbnail image – and make sure it stands out in black and white too. Your book cover will be a tiny image at first either on a computer screen or a black and white ereader, you need to make them want to click on your book and explore further!
Stop Press!
The book has been published as an ebook today! It’s a lively, entertaining novel with plenty of humour but it also takes a harsh, uncompromising look at the shallowness of Hollywood life. Very well worth a read.  Here’s the link to find it on Amazon.co.uk.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-In-Crazytown-ebook/dp/B00FQRF5ZM

TinytowncoverThe modern Science-Fiction market can easily be classified as a saturated affair, with most innovation considered tapped and very few openings readily available. To squeeze in, something distinct and uncontaminated by the stale waft of ideas is necessary, and not only by virtue of its title, Tinytown by Derby Gallagher has slipped its way into the Sci-Fi stage. Despite the giants that dwell there, this plucky book has more than earned its place.
With its uncompromisingly dry and dark sense of humour, a fast pacing and a cast of colourful characters, the book spins a fascinating and yet scientifically credible story. Starting in the year 2051 in an overcrowded Great Britain populated by 110 million denizens, the failure to pay a “size fee” results in the shrinkage of the unfortunate to a mere 20% of their original size and their placement in the titular Tinytown, where the shrinkees are viewed at best to be second-class citizens, despite the implementation of these dubious population-control measures by the government. And so enters the long-suffering Tom Flack, flat-out broke from paying the alimony resulting from a messy and legally one-sided divorce to a drug-fuelled and thoroughly unpleasant high-maintenance wife. Despite being reduced to a hero the size of an Action Man, Tom shows himself to be a man of action and campaigns for the rights of the shrinkees in Tinytown, all the while weathering larger-than-life opposition from aforementioned ex-wife and her nauseating brother Lloyd, with just a little help from the marginally prickly yet definitely compassionate Holly.
The book itself is a delight to read; the writing style pulls no punches be it certain characters candidly discussing their drug habits to an adrenaline-spiked car chase, all the while the omnipresent yet omnipotent dryly dark humour drawing for than a few well-deserved smirks from the reader.
All in all, Tinytown is larger than life and most worthy of a place on any e-reader!

Books Are Cool interviewed Darby about Tinytown in particular and writing in general.

darbygallagher1. Tell us briefly about Tinytown.
It’s set in England in 2051, where technology allows humans to be shrunk. People are miniaturised if they cannot pay a size fee. The country’s rulers think this is great – it allows them to divide the country so the rich can live in full-sized splendour while the poor are hidden away. People who have always had a diminished social stature now have a diminished physical stature. Of course, it’s a grossly unfair system but has been established and is accepted by the population as just the way things are. Tom Flack gets shrunk and discovers what happens to small people. He fights back, and his struggle brings him into conflict with his ex-wife, Vanessa, her vile brother Lloyd, and Lloyd’s boss – Moffat P Perculie. Size insurance in 2051 has similarities to private health insurance in 2013 – if you have a good job or a lot of money in the bank, you don’t have to worry about it. But the people at the bottom miss out. David Cameron’s Tories would definitely sign up to Tinytown technology given the chance. Take the vote away from the people you shrink and you’re left with a permanent majority of the electorate. It’s gerrymandering – together with social cleansing – through science.

2. What’s the story behind the story? Why did you write the book?
I felt I had something to say about the world and the kind of self-serving people I’ve met at various times in my life. I also had wanted to write a novel for a long time and often imagined possible futures. I like inventing situations, systems and objects that don’t yet exist. I enjoy not having too many restrictions – like the laws of physics, for example – so I can let my imagination have free rein.
3. Are you a tall or small guy?
I’m 5ft 10in in real life. But when it comes to the big and small people in Tinytown, I definitely see myself on the side of the small.
4. Was it an easy story to write?
I had a rough idea what I wanted to happen in the book but getting from A to B, then C then D, took a lot of hacking at the shrubbery. Certain bits came easy and were a joy to write, but mostly it was tough. Like trying to assemble a car from a pile of parts when all you’ve ever done in the past is drive one.

5. Which character are you most like?
I think I’m like Tom Flack, the hero, but my wife says that I’m somewhat like Lloyd Vincent, Tinytown’s bloated villain. She’s kidding – at least I hope she is.

6. Which of your inventions in the book do you think is most likely to have become reality by 2051? Butt chips maybe?
Yes, butt chips definitely. I would guess something like that will come into use in the next few years. People are always losing their bank and ID cards or having them stolen. Having all that info embedded on a chip inside your body would mean you would not have to worry about losing things. It would also make it easier for authorities to keep track of people.

7. Did you design the cover yourself?
Yes, on a laptop using a mixture of PowerPoint and Gimp – with the help of my 14-year-old son.

8. What are you working on now? Will it be out soon?
I have a few situations and characters rattling around in my head. One idea involves the evil owner/editor of a mighty London newspaper. But I have just fragments really – not enough to form a story.

9. Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?I’m reading two novels right now. The Understudy by David Nicholls seems really funny from what I’ve read so far. I can’t wait to get back to it. I’ve not read any Nicholls before. He’s most famous for One Day, which was a mega-seller and was made into a film. I’m also reading Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland. I’ve read a lot of Coupland before and never been disappointed. He’s such a good writer.
10. When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?
At the age of 7 or 8. But it took me 30 odd years to actually start writing a book.   

11. What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?
Have your own voice. But writing is easy compared with getting people to read it. That is tough.

12. OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favorite bloke’s gadgets and why?
A Segway, a Zorb ball and a hoverboard (from Back to the Future 2). I’m a bit of a thrill-seeker, and did several skydives when younger.

 13. Where would you rather eat – at a Happy Eater or a Little Chef?
Neither. Both were synonymous with synthetic, plasticised, bland food and I prefer a greasy spoon where the food is real and made to order.

 14. Please describe your perfect day away from writing.
At Old Trafford watching Manchester United, or Twickenham watching a rugby international.

 15. And finally, anything else our readers need to know about you?
In real life I’m a subeditor (copy editor) on the Guardian newspaper in London, am married and am father to two teenage boys.
You can buy Tinytown here:

I’ve blogged about blovels before since I think they’re intriguing and, let’s face it, a brilliant idea! Serving up a novel in chunks was good enough for Charles Dickens so I think it should be good enough for the rest of us.

I was interested to stumble across a few vaguely official definitions of a blovel. One at http://friendfeed.com/blovelspot suggests 40 or so chapters of 1,000 characters each. That seems too short to me. Elsewhere 40 or so chapters of 500-1000 words are suggested which I would tend to agree with, which would give you a decent sized novella at the end of it. You post a chapter at a time, at least one a week, but no more than one a day.

Other important aspects to take into account are:

Structure: have a beginning (approx first 10 chapters), a crisis (chapters 11-30) and a resolution (31-40).

Narrator: go for the first person, but you can hop between characters to give their viewpoints of a situation.

Try and end each chapter with a cliffhanger.

So, are you inspired? Here are some blovels currently out there that are worth a look.

1. Something Fishy by Rorie Stevens

Entertaining mystery-romance, with some fishing thrown in. But you don’t need to be an angler to enjoy this well written story.

2. Land of Kuro by Mykall: Asian dystopian fantasy

3. Broken Vow: Widowmaker’s Return by R A Evans: the author’s first go at fantasy

4. Hourglass by I’m not sure! Science-fiction

5. Before The Dead (B4TD) is: “a novel project between two authors (B and K). We are going to try to bring to you a story of adventure, terror, and horror. We hope to update every month or so.”

6. The Ladiez and their Confessions by Quiyada: Follow India, Sasha, Hillary and Jazmine, “unedited and uncensored”.