Saturday 30 November 2013

Nicola Palmer

Nicola Palmer writes stories for children and they are always worth reading whatever your age.

The Christmas Project The Christmas Project

This is the second Christmas story by Nicola Palmer that I've enjoyed. She is able to write a story for children which can encapsulate the excitement of the season but give it an entirely different slant. Billy's family are affected by the unseasonably early snow (September!) as his Dad, a builder, is out of work. Billy meets their strange new neighbours. As the story unfolds we find out more about the neighbours and what happened almost a year ago to Granddad.

Nicola Palmer doesn't write down to her young audience which is no doubt why her stories have a much wider appeal. She has a lovely and deceptively simple style of writing which makes her stories a delighted to read.

Monday 25 November 2013

Writing in tandem?

I am far too sporting to review a book I have partly written but I thought it might be useful to talk about how it works when two people write one book.  For drabble novices, I will explain that a drabble is a complete story told in exactly 100 words.  This form of flash fiction is becoming popular and there are now numerous practitioners of the Dark Art!  Jonathan Hill was the first to have his published in the daily Indie Book Bargains newsletter.  This summer I had a idea for a drabble and submitted it a little sheepishly.  After this the ideas came like hailstones!  Hard and heavy!  

We have been asked how we managed to write a book together.  Did we do half each?  Did we decide beforehand who would write what?  Initially it was Jonathan's book; a sequel to his 100 One Hundred Word Tales.  We developed the habit of trying our drabbles out on one another.  This regular exchange of stories - sometimes several in a day - led us to come up with the idea of sharing a book.  To do this successfully you have to like one another's work and of course, to get on well with one another.  After an initial period of diffidently pointing out errors or failings to each other, we soon felt able to be perfectly open and honest when a drabble didn't work.   This 'shared book' idea only works when you trust one another.

It can't be looked at as a means to fill a book more quickly!  Because we were frank when we knew a story wasn't up to snuff, we discarded a good many.  Things you might have used if you were putting together a collection of your own work were scrutinised through another person's eyes and sometimes found wanting.  Only those which made us both say 'Yes!' made it into the final selection.

I know that some people manage to write a whole novel as a team.  I have no idea how that works!  You'd have to do some serious planning and maybe divvy up the chapters.  

Will we do it again?  Who knows?  We each have something different on the horizon now but prepare for a Drabbly Advent!

If you haven't seen it yet - here's the book's blurb - 

The world of drabbles awaits you! 

A drabble tells a story in precisely 100 words, and this book is packed with drabbles that will move, shock and entertain. 

'Beyond 100 Drabbles' features 120 new miniature works, written by two of today’s most formidable drabblers. Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton showcase some of their finest drabbles here, resulting in a collection that demonstrates the indisputable power of this popular flash fiction form. 

The authors cover a plethora of genres and even take the drabble one step further by interacting in a series of ‘challenge drabbles’. 

The stories are ideal for reading back to back, or individually in spare moments. The question is, can you stop at just one?

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Beverley Carter

This is a longer mystery by Beverley Carter. I loved the way the story created a web of intrigue - then unravelled it!

Swallowfields Swallowfields

My review - 

A young woman, Hannah, inherits a house from her aunt and moves in with her two daughters.  We learn about her aunt, her mother, her step father, but mostly about the family who lived in that house earlier.  Her uncle was a strange man with a murky past.  There was a tragedy in the house – we find out about that as the tension mounts.  Through a complex network of deceit and lies, we find out how one person covering up to protect another can create a web of intrigue which throws a veil of obscurity over a child’s life.  It’s wonderful to be there as lifting that veil unfolds a new future for Hannah.

This is longer than Beverley Carter’s earlier novellas and therefore has the possibility for delving deeper into the characters’ lives.  There were still areas I would have liked more detail on – I’m just a nosy person!  The author has a lovely accessible writing style and always uses it to tell a great story.  This is a really good mystery tale and I enjoyed reading it very much!


This is an interview between fellow drabbler Jonathan Hill and his soon-to-be contributor - Ignite. 

Beyond 100 Drabbles, my second drabble book, is to be published on Saturday 23rd November. The keener eyed amongst you will notice another name on the front cover alongside my own. What? You’ve not seen the front cover? If that’s the case, please see exhibit A below. And while you’re there, please take a look at exhibit C, a photo of Kath Middleton, the 'other name' on the cover!

Exhibit A
Exhibit C

(If you’re scratching your head about exhibit B, it had to be removed at the last minute as it was deemed to be too shocking for public viewing.)

Jonathan: So, without further ado, Kath, please introduce yourself.


Jonathan: Kath? Kath? Sorry about this, readers. Kath’s just finishing her slice of cake.

Kath: Sorry, Magnus. I’m ready now. I’m Kath. I’m from the UK. And my specialist subject is cross-breeding vegetables.

Jonathan: No, Kath. CUT!

Jonathan takes Kath aside, reminding her that this is the drabble book blog interview and not an audition for Mastermind.

Kath: Ah, wrong day, sorry folks.

Jonathan: Okay, no harm done. Shall we begin?

Kath: Yes, I’m ready!

Jonathan takes a deep breath.

Jonathan: You're chiefly known as a reviewer (Ignite) and also someone who champions indie books, but how long have you been writing?

Kath: Authors always say, "I've always written," but so have I. I began writing poetry in my teens as everyone does and, in a bizarre case of arrested development, I still do. Since people have taken an interest in my drabbles, I’ve begun to write some longer fiction. I am also the only person I know who uses adjectives in shopping lists.

Jonathan: Adjectives in shopping lists? That’s perfectly normal.

Jonathan edges his chair back a little.

Kath moves hers forward to compensate.

Jonathan: And, just before we put your reading habits to one side and concentrate on your writing, do you remember which indie book you read first?

Kath: No. It was about three years ago and I'm old enough to find recalling why I came to the shops a bit of a challenge!

Jonathan: Ah, so that explains why you started off as if you were on Mastermind.


Jonathan: Never mind. Do you manage to squeeze any traditionally-published books into your reading time?

Kath: I read a few. I belong to a book group in my village and they choose traditional books because not everyone has an eReader, or even an internet connection. I always find there's another indie book I want to read though. I don't often have to resort to a trad book!

Jonathan: Well it seems appropriate to mention here that Beyond 100 Drabbles will be available as a paperback shortly after eBook release. (whispers) Was that subtle enough?

Kath: No.

Jonathan: Do you have any hobbies apart from reading?

Kath: My hobbies are largely creative. I breed vegetable varieties and make patchwork quilts. I love baking bread and cakes. As I've hinted, I occasionally dabble in the sort of writing not intended for public consumption. Ransom notes and such like.

Jonathan: Okaaaay. And when did you start writing drabbles?

Kath: I wrote my first drabble on a weekend away with the local Natural History Society in June this year. I hadn't been very well the week before and writing a drabble was a great excuse for not walking up a mountain in the rain. Like I should need an excuse! I'm a granny!

Jonathan: As you will know, a drabble idea can strike at any time (and often when you have no pen or paper to hand - but thankfully I haven't had to resort to scrawling on toilet paper... yet!) I find I get my best ideas while in the shower or sitting out on my patio. Do you have any particular place that leads to drabbles more frequently than others?

Kath: Bed. When I'm drowsing in the arms of Morpheus I often blink awake with another idea. Often it's how welcome a cup of tea would be, or why I've got cramp in my foot - but sometimes it's actually a drabble.

Jonathan: Do you bring your years of experience to your writing?

Kath: Hell no! I just make stuff up. Don't you? You mean you really have stabbed all those people?

Kath backs slowly towards door...

...but then is enticed back with cake.

Jonathan: Have you any advice for aspiring authors?

Kath: Never trust a granny.


Jonathan: And? Is that your answer?

Kath laughs.

Kath: Sorry, of course that’s not the complete answer! Never trust a granny... not even your own!

A particularly large tumbleweed drifts across the studio.

Jonathan: How do you find it works, sharing a book?

Kath: Excellently, as long as you already like one another's work. We spur each other on. When you get a daily drabble or two in your inbox, you feel bound to send something back. We also have a friendly relationship so we feel able to point out bits that feel clumsy or drabbles that are unclear, without either of us taking the huff. We've improved one another's work. It's no help being told, 'That's very nice, dear,' each time.

Jonathan: That’s a very nice answer, dear. And what do you think is the effect on the book of the differences between us?

Kath: You mean the fact that you're male and young and I'm female and... mature? It makes for a wider range in the drabbles. (Aside to readers - Jonathan is Skywalker to my Yoda. I can't tell him much about drabbles as he's been writing them longer than I have. I'm trying to teach him to levitate though. And I can actually waggle my ears. Look! I'm doing it now. They're not green though. Much.)

Jonathan: Just a reminder, Kath, that we’re not on video. They can’t actually see what we’re doing, or wearing for that matter.

Kath: Oh, is that why you’re just wearing...

Jonathan: ...AND moving swiftly on... I have some burning questions to ask you. But be warned they may be far too deep for you to answer. Firstly, if someone were to make a film of your life (although I'm not sure modern cinemas are equipped to cope with the demand), who would play you?

Kath: Helen Mirren. I've always wanted to look intelligent and elegant!

Jonathan: And now for a more sensible question. My name is quite often spelt incorrectly. I have seen several variants of Jonathan which are in relatively common usage but also some absolutely bonkers spellings that I wasn't aware of at all! Has anyone ever spelt your name incorrectly, and if so, did it lead to chaos, e.g. being addressed as the Duchess of Cambridge?

Kath: I was once asked on a forum if Will often landed his helicopter on my lawn. I spent so long trying to decide if that was rude that, by the time I was prepared to comment, the conversation had moved on. I don't like to be called Kathy. I'm not that person. Sadly, it's mostly elderly gents who call me that so I can't really slap their faces or they'd fall off their zimmers.

Jonathan: Riiiiight.

Kath: Actually, just ignore that last bit. I don't like being called Kathy but I really don't slap elderly gents!

Jonathan: I’m afraid I can’t just ignore that last bit. The contract you signed gave me your full permission to use every word you utter in my presence.

Kath: Contract? What contract? I don’t remember signing a contract? What else did it say?!

Jonathan makes a show of rustling papers and appears to have temporarily misplaced the contract.

Jonathan: Errrr, never mind. We can deal with that another time. Right, back to the book. Our time is almost up.

Kath(peering at watch in relief) Oh what a shame!

Jonathan: If you were forced to describe the book in three words only (and I am forcing you here), which trio of words would you choose?

Kath: Jonathan and Kath. Am I allowed to add - The Movie? It's only a matter of time, you know.

Jonathan and Kath(in unison) So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu. Adieu, adieu, to you and you and you.

Kath: Wait! We can’t finish with just three yous. It implies your blog has three readers!

Jonathan: Hopefully it’ll be correct by the time we post this interview. I know someone who has expressed an interest in visiting my blog.

This interview was recorded in a top secret studio in 2013. In fact, the studio was so well hidden it took several weeks for Jonathan and Kath to find their way home afterwards.

'Beyond 100 Drabbles' is available to download from Saturday 23rd November 2013. The book features 120 drabbles and is an eclectic mix, so the authors would like to wheel out the cliché that there really is something for everyone. Jonathan and Kath also wish to point out that the book itself is more sensible than this interview. Well, mostly.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Simon Jenner

This is the second in the Ethan Justice series.  It's another fast paced action thriller with a superbly evil villain!

My review - 

Ethan Justice and his work partner and on-off girlfriend Savannah Jones are working with Herb Johnson from an organisation called Earth guard. Johnson seems to have finances and technical wizardry at his fingertips, some if which Justice and Jones are given to use. They are up against a sick-minded criminal Uber-villain who is behind the disappearance of a young girl the pair have promised to find.

This is a high octane action story, the second in its series, and twists a number of story strands together. I very much enjoy Justice as the unlikely hero and Jones as the surprising heroine. I loved her effect on his previously unyielding parents in this book! Lovers of the thriller genre will quickly engage with this series. I enjoyed it a lot.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Various Authors - Anthology

This anthology is produced by members of the Kindle Users Forum and is sold to raise funds to keep the forum going.  

Off the KUF  Off the KUF

My review - 

If you are a one-genre reader then you won’t get much from a mixed anthology such as this but if you are a pick-and-mix person and enjoy several genres, even those stories that don’t fall neatly into one category, then this is your book!  Buy it now!

I am a member of the forum which produced this anthology and the variety of stories which were offered is tremendous.  Some are by favourite indie authors of mine so I knew I was in for a treat with at least part of the book.  I resisted the temptation to dip and go for those first and I have to say that the order of presentation has been carefully thought out.  It’s a real opportunity to savour those you know you will enjoy while trying out new flavours.  There are now authors whose work I had never encountered before who will have me lurking on their author pages to see what else they have published!

The book is of very high standard and I enjoyed almost all and was actually excited by some!  It’s a chunky read too – excellent value.  Don’t miss it – the world will be talking about it! 

Disclaimer – I’m in it!  ;)

Monday 4 November 2013

Jonathan Hill

This is the third eagerly awaited Maureen book.  I think Jonathan has taken her to a new level here.  Excellent!

Maureen and The Big One Maureen and The Big One

My review -

Many readers have delighted in the exploits of Maureen, a lady of a certain age who can sweep into any situation leaving a chaotic wake. Here is all the humour we've come to expect but there's so much more. I feel that in this story Maureen takes on greater depths and the story is all the richer for it. I laughed at her visit to the rock shop – in order to hide from another situation she'd created. I loved her sudden discovery of a gambling addiction, her consultation with a pseudo psychic and her ride on the ghost train. There's a wealth of funny situations here. It's not just slapstick comedy though. Jonathan Hill is very good at humour based on a great choice of wording. It's clever and witty and really appeals to me.

In this story I feel that the author has matured in his dealings with his character. We are witness to her recollection of repressed childhood memories and of her discovery that she will not be able to have children. We had 'the letter' in Book 2, but there's much more here to change Maureen from 'larger than life' to 'real life' and I feel she's a better character for it. Some of the revelations about Maureen's life are unexpected and stunningly done. Jonathan Hill can hit harder with understatement than many can with a gush of words. This series is going from strength to strength. I can happily take more of this! Go Maureen!