Daniel Beazley is a favourite author of mine. He’s so versatile, you never know what he will come up with next! He’s written science fiction fantasy very successfully (Goblins Know Best and Sepherene: The Complete Chronicles), and in this book, Ragg, he turns his hand to a period thriller.
The scene is mid-nineteenth-century London. Samuel Finch is a down-at-heel journalist with too great a liking for whiskey to ever be really successful. However, he stumbles across a truly sensational story within the walls of St Luke’s hospital for lunatics. One of the inmates, accused of several murders, has more secrets to share. These are passed on to Samuel by the enigmatic Tobias Ragg, an orderly at the hospital, who gradually becomes a friend. But as Samuel soon discovers, there is more to Tobias than meets the eye, and this will leave a lasting legacy.
The author portrays Victorian London in wonderful, atmospheric detail, and presents us with some superb characters. All are rounded and charismatic, and make for interesting company in this punchy, original novella. There is menace and intrigue, also touches of wit and humour, and you don’t see the ending coming at all. ‘Ragg’ is entertaining and well written, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Available as a Kindle ebook at all the Amazon stores for 90p (99 cents).

gypsy princessYou may remember that I have featured Alan Larson before on this site. This talented author has followed up his stunning debut novel, Mexizona, with another incredible piece of fiction. The Last Gypsy Princess, the first in a trilogy you’ll be delighted to hear, is a fast-paced thriller set in the Roma community. Zee Ziko is the feisty, resourceful heroine. Her grandfather is a very powerful figure in the Chicago kumpania. However, he has never spent much time with Zee and certainly never readied her for the responsibility of leading the Kumpani, a role which he now plans for her following the death of the leader of the rival Martinov family. He feels guilty as Zee suddenly finds herself facing very real threats to her life, but luckily he has a very sharp, resourceful granddaughter.

As well as keeping us riveted to the pages, the book introduces us to Roma culture and beliefs. Curses and spells carry as much power as guns amongst the community. Dutiful obedience is expected by the senior members of the Kumpania. This norm is to test Zee almost to breaking point.

This book is going to be transferred to the big screen and you can see why. (Alchemy Ink, Inc. and producer Fonda Snyder have acquired the film packaging rights.) It’s full of action, is original, has a fascinating cast of charismatic characters, both good and bad, and keeps us guessing all the way through. There’s romance, violence, tension, celebration, hope and despair, but above all a unique and empathetic heroine who carries this amazing story along.

It’s a brilliant book that you have to read. You can buy it here and at all other Amazons.

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.

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.

torn apartTorn Apart is a roaring-paced, action-packed thriller right from the very first page – a page which sets the scene of a dark and cruel underworld where human life is valued less than a ride in a car.
This sophisticated story centers on Detective Emily Thompson who has become the serial killer’s pinup. The whole Naperville police department is turned inside out as a brutal gang of drug smugglers crashes like a hurricane through their area. Events are stirred up further by a Naperville officer doing the wrong thing for the right reasons as he desperately strives to save his young daughter from a cruel and fatal disease. His actions set in chain events which threaten the lives of the officers and their young families as a tweeny is abducted for a paedophile ring and the ensuing chaos allows a serial killer to close in on Detective Thompson.
This story is not for the faint of heart as the gritty details observed by Gerick in his years as an Illinois reporter are used for the bedrock of his characters, characters who like the real world are both flawed and trying to do the right thing – as they see it. The attention to detail is superb, transporting you right into the thick of the shootouts accompanied by the tinkle of spent casings.
The storyline is by turns both thrilling and disturbing, reflecting the real issues that trouble urban America and the thin blue line trying to hold back the tide, making it impossible to put this book down before the adrenalin-pumping finale.

Buy the book here:

The recent release of the film World War Z, based on Max Brooks’ novel, has brought zombies to the forefront of literary attention again. They’re perennially popular with some readers, although for a long while it’s been a case of love ‘em or hate ‘em. However, there seem to be many shades of zombies now, so some should appeal to all tastes.

I came across my favorite zombie in Nicholas Forristal’s The Chronicles of M, if ‘favorite’ is a word it’s OK to use in connection with an undead monster. This book is a fabulous combination of thriller, the paranormal, sci-fi, demons, fantasy, dark humour, action and, obviously, zombies. As well as being so successfully multi-genre, this book is one of the not-so-many examples of really effective writing in the present tense. This can trip up so many authors, but Nick Forristal isn’t one of them. In his hands, the present tense brings immediacy and atmosphere to his writing. He also handles multiple points-of-view expertly. This is something that can set some readers off on a rant when it’s disjointed and intrusive. However, with this author, as we move from one narrator to another, all that happens is that we see the full complexity of the action and characters he’s created.

M, apparently a young sociopath, has been possessed by a demon, a soul eater. Retiree agent Samuel Horne is called in by Thomas, a man he’s never met before, to help control the unexploded bomb that M represents. He’s practically unmanageable and wreaks havoc whilst fighting evil with methods that aren’t sometimes that far off evil themselves. It’s hard going for Samuel. He encounters zombies, of whom Uhler, now a doctor, is a very unique example. He’s a Stage 5 zombie. I’m not going to explain so you’ll just have to read the book to find out about that and the other four stages. Samuel is introduced to the underground facility that houses M and his various support staff, much against his better judgement, although he does meet the likeable ditzy although highly intelligent Dixie and the accident prone coats (scientists). As repugnant as the demonised M is, he reaches out to Samuel who can’t give up on his mission to help M regain his humanity, especially once he learns the truth about M.

As well as being a hugely entertaining work of imaginative fiction, it’s also only the first in a series. The second book is coming out very soon, so it is definitely time to read The Chronicles of M. That way you’ll be ready to pounce on the following instalment of the chronicles the moment they’re published. And you will not be disappointed … I can guarantee that.

It’s not just me that likes the book. Check out the trailer to see who else recommends it …

A fantastic cover too

This is such an incredibly good book! Risking Eternity follows cop Hayden Farrell as she begins to investigate the murder of a young prostitute whose blood-drained body is left outside a church. She’s being watched at the murder scene by a mysterious figure, whose thoughts about her we share. Is he the murderer? Certainly the murders seem personal to him, but he also appears to have some sort of tie to Hayden as well.

Hayden distrusts the supernatural. Her mother was a fake psychic who involved her in her deceptions. Hayden likes concrete facts and ends she can tie up. She prefers to live in the real world. While her friends are happy to watch handsome heroes and beautiful heroines making out in films, Hayden would rather be taking part in the action!

The brooding figure of vampire Valentin both scares and attracts her. But they need each other. Valentin can help Hayden solve the murders and she can help him wreak revenge on a killer from the past who has resurfaced. But need becomes exploitation…

This is a fascinating, dark paranormal romance. The characters are rounded and complex, flawed and believable. There is simmering sexual tension between Valentin and Hayden from the start, even though he’s adamant at first that she’s ‘not his type’. You simply can’t predict what will happen next in the story.The plot is original and ingenious with skillfully created suspense and a denouement that smacks you in the face.

This intelligent, atmospheric, sexy novella is the first in the new Timeshifter series from this amazingly talented writer. Do put this book on your ‘to read’ list. If not, you’re missing out on a very rare treat. I for one will be reading everything from Gwenan Haines, now that I have discovered her.