Blog Tour: Come a Little Closer Writing Challenge

comeclosercoverCome a Little Closer is the new DCI Tom Douglas novel from the fabulous Rachel Abbott and was released by Black Dot Publishing Ltd on 13 February 2018. Today, as part of her blog tour, I have been invited to take part in a writing challenge. 

They will be coming soon. They come every night.

Snow is falling softly as a young woman takes her last breath.

Fifteen miles away, two women sit silently in a dark kitchen. They don’t speak, because there is nothing left to be said.

Another woman boards a plane to escape the man who is trying to steal her life. But she will have to return, sooner or later.

These strangers have one thing in common. They each made one bad choice – and now they have no choices left. Soon they won’t be strangers, they’ll be family…

When DCI Tom Douglas is called to the cold, lonely scene of a suspicious death, he is baffled. Who is she? Where did she come from? How did she get there? How many more must die?

Who is controlling them, and how can they be stopped?

 

Rachel provided the following writing prompt. The challenge was to finish the story. There were also four things we had to include. 

comecloserGemma had been afraid of the dark for as long as she could remember. As a child, she had blamed the cold, ancient house they had lived in – its endless corridors had too many closed doors for people to hide behind, too many secrets concealed in the shadows. But now there was no excuse. Her flat was modern, open, with huge windows.

It made no difference, though. Each night of the long winter months as she stood outside the block, she imagined all the doors she would have to pass before she reached her own, wondering if the lights in the hallway would be working, or whether they would flicker and go out, leaving her blind in the inky black void. Alone with her fear.

Perhaps she had always known that this day would come. She took a deep breath and stepped into the silent entrance, her heels tapping out a warning that she was coming on the polished concrete floor of the long corridor.

Odd snippets of TV shows and murmurs of conversation bled through as she walked down the dimly lit hallway past the identical black doors belonging to her neighbours. Gemma felt a tinge of envy toward the people inside who were getting the chance to live the mundane. Amy in number twenty-three will be putting her baby to bed. Mr Kennedy in number thirty will be sitting down in front of the news about now, a glass of sweet sherry clasped in his hand.

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Book Extract: The Extremist by Nadia Dalbuono

theextremistThe Extremist by Nadia Dalbuono is the fourth novel in the Leone Scamarcio series and I am pleased to be part of the blog tour today. 

When a group of terrorists carry out a series of attacks in Rome, Detective Leone Scamarcio gets an unexpected call ― the men, who appear to be Islamic extremists, say they will only negotiate with him.

Scamarcio is given just twenty-four hours to meet the terrorists’ demands, or their hostages will be killed, along with thousands more.

The only catch? He cannot involve the police or the security services.

Racing against both the clock and his own colleagues, Scamarcio must uncover the truth behind the attacks before it’s too late. But, as he begins to investigate, he finds that every question turns up five more … As usual for this son-of-a-Mafioso policeman, nothing is as it seems.

Nadia has kindly shared an extract from her new novel with us today. Here is a part of the first chapter. I hope you enjoy. 

The boy enters the McDonald’s. It is a relief to escape the cloying heat and its undercurrents of summer drains and tourist sweat. He wipes his forehead with the back of his hand, shrugs the bag off his shoulder, and looks around. He counts fifteen people queuing at the tills, most of them teenagers — clutching backpacks and squinting at iPhones. To his left, nearly all the tables are full — more students and a cluster of Japanese tourists. He takes in a few young families, kids no more than four or five. Panic is stirring in his gut, turning it liquid. He tastes acid on his tongue and wants to retch. He swallows, tries to take a breath.

To his right, the place is a little emptier — only four of the tables are occupied. His eyes settle on a group of schoolgirls in uniform, their checked skirts too short, their laughter too loud. Behind the girls is a dishevelled old man, probably a vagrant. He’s tearing the wrapper from a meagre burger, his eyes darting furtively as if he’s afraid someone will swipe it.

The boy feels sweat running down the back of his neck; he notices a tremor in his leg. He turns and sees his three companions standing in the doorway. Just the sight of them makes his heart hammer. He swallows again: his throat dry, his tongue bulky. He wishes he’d taken something like they’d suggested.

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A Moment With: John R. Bell

John BellA big welcome to John R. Bell who is here to talk about his book, The Circumstantial Enemy. Over to you, John.

The Circumstance behind The Circumstantial Enemy.

The Circumstantial Enemy is an energetic journey to freedom through minefields of hatred, betrayal, lust and revenge. It’s a story about the strength of the human spirit, and the power of friendship, love and forgiveness.

The novel was released in October 2017. There is a twist to the title; The Circumstantial Enemy was written by a circumstantial author. Why do I categorize myself as such? For starters, I’d never felt a burning desire to write a book. But that all changed with one potent statement from my daughter. Seventeen years ago she said, “If you don’t write it, Grandad’s story will be lost forever.” I’ll never forget the yearning in her eyes. Though in good health, Grandad was 80 years old at the time and he wasn’t about to be the first human being to live forever. The family had heard his tales over and over again – trials and tribulations of a young Croatian pilot coerced onto the wrong side of WWII.

My daughter wasn’t requesting a book; a stapled record of the events would suffice. I reasoned that I was not a writer; the defense was feeble, partly because I had the time to write. My career as a CEO of a large company had ended and I’d embarked on consulting work that required a heap of travel and plenty of lonely nights in hotels. I also had to admit that preserving Grandad’s captivating story for his decedents was incredibly compelling. So began my journey as an author.

Thrilled by the opportunity, Grandad agreed to a host of interviews. I was no longer a passive listener. I treated our exchanges as might a journalist – probing for details and questioning events that seemed overstated. The most interesting revelation was his frankness. He soon forgot the recorder was on, revealing more than ever before – some of it both shocking and disturbing. Between the sessions I checked his facts to validate timelines and ensure life in POW camps on US soil were as described. Simultaneously, I read relevant non-fiction books to better understand time, place and prisoner predicament.

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Book Review: Ivy & Abe by Elizabeth Enfield

Ivy & AbeIvy and Abe were inseparable as children until an accident tore them apart. Several decades later, when both are in their seventies, a chance encounter reunites them. But time is not on their side.

What if they’d met in a different time and place?

In another life, Ivy and Abe meet in their forties, when both are married already. Unable to resist the attraction between them, they embark on a passionate affair.

In yet another, they marry young, with a bright future ahead of them – only for a dark shadow to threaten their happiness.

Throughout various incarnations of their lives, they come together and go their separate ways, fall in and out of love, make or break promises.

In every universe, Ivy and Abe are meant to meet. But are they meant to be?

Ivy & Abe is the story of this couple who can only be described as soul mates. This book focuses on these people in a series of parallel universes. At the beginning of the book, they are in their seventies having not seen one another since children. In another, they are married with children whilst in another they barely meet for five minutes.

In each one, it was interesting for me to see how they interact with one another and how there are common themes and events that tie these universes together. How, in whatever version, certain things will happen regardless of what comes before and after.

Also, it was compelling how two people who are so destined to be together are capable of hurting one another so much. This was a bittersweet aspect. Continue reading

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Book Review: Almost Forever by Laura Danks

Almost ForeverI’d like to welcome to Novel Kicks today the blog tour for Almost Forever, the debut novel from Laura Danks. 

When a vicious attack leaves Paul in a coma on his wedding day, the doctors fear he will never wake up. But his fiancée Fran will never give up hope.

Fran has always known Paul is the only man for her, from the first moment they locked eyes as children to the day he finally told her he loved her. Paul can’t leave her, not now their lives are just about to begin.

Love will always find a way… won’t it?

Fran is the happiest she’s ever been. She’s about to elope to Vegas with the love of her life, Paul. Everything is perfect. However, her life is thrown into turmoil when Paul is attacked and put into a coma.

Fran refuses to leave his side and whilst she holds a vigil by his bedside, she starts to think back over their journey refusing to accept that it may be over before it’s begun.

Dear Laura Danks, you’ve written a book that had me, cough, crying on more than one occasion.

Thinking about it, it did elicit the same emotions I get when I watch the first ten minutes of Up! I cry without fail and get unhappy with the injustice of it. Reading this book made me feel the same.

From the beginning of this novel, I was so incredibly emotional and I had such empathy for Fran (a loved one in a coma is something I have unfortunately had personal experience with,) so I felt the feelings Fran felt. I got drawn into hers and Paul’s story very quickly and I didn’t want to stop until I knew what happened.

All the way through, I willed Paul to be OK so that he and Fran could get married.

The book is told in the present and through a series of flashbacks. This is Fran and Paul’s love story.

I won’t say anymore in regard to the plot as I don’t want to give too much away.

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Cover and Chapter Reveal: The Things We Need To Say by Rachel Burton

Rachel BurtonIt’s a very good day here at Novel Kicks. I was very happy when I was asked to take part in an exciting cover and first chapter reveal for The Things We Need To Say which is the upcoming release from Rachel Burton.

Sometimes the things we never say are the most important.

Fran loves Will with all her heart. They had a whirlwind romance, a perfect marriage and a wonderful life. Until everything changed. Now Fran needs to find her way again and teaching a yoga retreat in Spain offers her just that. Leaving behind a broken marriage she has some very important decisions to make.

Will needs his wife, he needs her to open up to him if they’re to ever return to the ways things once were. But he may have damaged any possibility he had of mending their relationship and now Fran is in Spain and Will is alone.

As both Fran and Will begin to let go of a life that could have been, fate may just find a way of bringing them back together.

OK, first, the cover. Drumroll…….

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Groundhog Day

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

As today is 2nd February and is Groundhog Day, today’s prompt is inspired by that.

Your character doesn’t have a very good day. He breaks up with his wife, looses his job and his pet runs away. When he wakes up on what he thinks is the following morning, he finds that there are things which are familiar to him. This is when he starts to re-live the same day but not all the people he interacts with are the same.

What happens on the first and second repeated day?

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February’s Novel Kicks Book Club: Dream a Little Dream by Giovanna Fletcher

dream a little dream

Penguin, June 2015

Well hello to you February. It’s good to see you.

I don’t know about you but I found January seemed to go on forever!

February is finally here. I always feel that February is quite a romantic month because of Valentine’s Day.

This month, I have chosen a book that has romance galore and it’s Dream a Little Dream by Giovanna Fletcher. Even the cover is romantic. Aww, I love it.

Sarah is doing just fine. Sure she’s been single for the last five years, and has to spend an uncomfortable amount of time around her ex-boyfriend, his perfect new girlfriend and all their mutual friends. And yes, her job as a PA to one of the most disgusting men in London is mind-numbingly tedious and her career is a constant disappointment to her mother. But it’s really okay. She’s happy (ish).

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NK Chats To…Thomas Leslie McRae

untitledHi Thomas, thank you for joining me today. Your book is called Pimp in the Pulpit. Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired the story?

First please accept my gratitude for granting me the honour and privilege to be doing this interview with you. Secondly Pimp in the Pulpit is a book based on a dysfunctional family that has very limited spiritual and moral foundation. This book has some person experiences of my life along with other people I know and even quite a bit of fiction to give the story a little more flair.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals?

I don’t have any rituals. I just write whenever I’m feeling in the mood or inspiration instantly hits me. I write about life, family and friends some personal experiences of my own and even scenarios that may have happened in the past that I wish I had handled differently.

 

Can you tell me a little about your route to publication.

I’ve been trying for some time to get published with no success in the traditional sense. So I decided to go the self-publishing route and it was challenging at times and it even took me a while to get my confidence all the way up. But with this book I feel great and determine to officially make a name for myself in the publishing industry and hopefully all around the world.

 

Which authors do you admire and why?

I admire Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, Maya Angela and W E B Dubois. Because they are some of the unforgotten heroes in today’s and modern literature. People like them help paved the way for individuals such as myself and that is why I will always honour our unforgettable heroes.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: What about Bob?

Nove Kicks Writing RoomIt’s story time today.

Your character is called Bob. He likes routine. He likes order and he doesn’t like the unexpected. Bob is the kind of guy who counts his steps on the way to the bus stop and then to his office. He leaves work and counts. He has dinner at the same time every day.
Everything in his life is structured and organised down to the last detail.

One day, he is diverted due to a road closure. He then gets lost. He has not been in this part of town before.

What happens to Bob? You could even put him in a scenario where he walks into a different time or teleports to another place.

Minimum of five hundred words. Have fun with this.

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Book Releases: January Book Haul

After the snowBooks, books and books.

That’s what I love about January. It is a brand new year, a brand new reading challenge and lovely new books to discover. I have brought and received some great books over the past few weeks and I thought it was about time I did another book haul. So here we go.

After The Snow by Susan Constantine. (HQ, 2nd November 2017.)

I am very intrigued by this debut fiction novel by TV presenter, Susannah Constantine. I got sent this just before Christmas. The cover is all festive and beautiful. I love it. I know we’ve past Christmas but this book sounds so interesting.

Esme only wants one thing for Christmas. She wants her Mum to be on one of her good days. When she finds some wet towels and dirty plates in her stocking, she’s happy that Father Christmas remembered to stop by at all.

Later that day, Esme’s mother disappears and only one person seems to know where she is. Esme soon realises that life will never be the same after the snow.

 

The Cactus by Sarah Harwood.

(Released by Two Roads, 25th January 2018.)

I received this book from the publisher a few days ago. The cover includes embossed writing and a rose gold spine and it’s just  beautiful. It’s one of those books you’ll want to permanently display on your bookshelf.

The CactusThis book has been compared to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and the main character Susan has been likened to Don Tillman from Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project and I will always have a huge soft spot for Don Tillman.

This debut novel focuses on Susan Green. People are not sure what to make of Susan. She makes sense to herself and to her, that’s all that matters. She has a London flat, a job she loves and a more personal arrangement providing cultural and more intimate benefits.

At forty-five, she thinks her life is perfect provided she avoids her brother, Edward.

When she’s faced with some life changing events though, she realises she’s loosing control. When she has to prove something about her brother, she finds help in the most unlikely of places.

 

Twelve Nights by Andrew Zurcher.

(Due to be released by Puffin, 5th April 2018.)

The cover designers are really out-doing themselves at the moment. I got sent this novel and from the moment this stunning book twelve nightsarrived wrapped in pretty paper, I wanted to read it and I look forward to doing so.

The premise of this novel seems so interesting too and completely up my street.

Kay and Eloise’s father is working late. Fed up with his absence, their mother bundles them into the car and drives to her husband’s Cambridge College to collect him. When they arrive, the staff claim no-one by his name has ever worked there.

Instead of anger, her mother’s reaction of silent tears confuses Kay. There is also a strange card waiting on the pillow when they get home.

Kay is then woken by voices outside her window. Voices belonging to something she shouldn’t be able to see…. but she can.

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Book Review and Extract – Close To Home by Cara Hunter

Carahunter close to homeClose To Home is the new novel from Cara Hunter and her blog tour is stopping by Novel Kicks today. 

HOW CAN A CHILD GO MISSING WITHOUT A TRACE?

Last night, eight-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from a family party. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying.

DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows the nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew.

That means someone is lying…
And that Daisy’s time is running out.

 

I have reviewed the book below but first, Cara and Penguin have shared an extract from Close to Home. Enjoy! 

Phone interview with David Connor

20 July 2016, 6.45 p.m.

On the call, Acting DS G. Quinn and (listening)

DC C. Gislingham

GQ: Thank you for phoning, Mr Connor, and our apologies for disturbing your holiday.

DC: No problem – I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get back to you before. It’s such a shock, hearing what’s happened. My wife saw it on BBC World News in the hotel room.

GQ: Were you aware that the flower costume your daughter wore at the party was the one Daisy Mason should have been wearing?

DC: I wasn’t but it seems my wife was. Millie had some of her friends round after school the afternoon before –

GQ: So Monday afternoon?

DC: Er, was it Monday? Sorry – I’m a bit jet- lagged. You’re right, it must have been Monday. Anyway, Julia says they all brought their fancy dresses over and tried them on. And then tried each other’s on – you know what girls that age are like. It seems that at some point in the ensuing chaos Daisy decided that she preferred Millie’s costume, and Millie said they could swap.

GQ: Do you know if Daisy’s mother was aware the costumes had been switched?

DC: I have no idea. Let me ask Julia . . . [muffled noises] Julia says Daisy assured her that her mother wouldn’t mind. But obviously she doesn’t know if Daisy actually spoke to her about it.

GQ: We found the tights in a bin on the estate but the blood on them doesn’t match Daisy’s

DC: Ah yes, sorry about that. Millie fell over and as it was getting late and she was a bit whiny we decided to call it a day. The tights were a write-off so we just ditched them. Apologies if it caused you a problem.

GQ: What costume was your daughter originally going to wear, Mr Connor?

DC: A mermaid, so my wife tells me. I never saw it but apparently it had a flesh- Coloured top thing and a tail with shiny blue and green scales.

GQ: And any sort of headdress or mask?

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Book Extract and Review: That Girl by Kate Kerrigan

Kerrigan_THAT GIRLHello and welcome to Kate Kerrigan and the blog tour for her new novel, That Girl which was released by Head of Zeus on eBook on 1st January 2018. 

You can escape a place. But you can’t escape yourself.

Hanna flees the scene of a terrible crime in her native Sligo. If she can just vanish, re-invent herself under a new name, perhaps the police won’t catch up with her. London seems the perfect place to disappear.

Lara has always loved Matthew and imagined happy married life in Dublin. Then comes the bombshell – Matthew says he wants to join the priesthood. Humiliated and broken-hearted, Lara heads to the most godless place she can find, King’s Road, Chelsea.

Matthew’s twin sister, Noreen, could not be more different from her brother. She does love fiance John, but she also craves sex, parties and fun. Swinging London has it all, but without John, Noreen is about to get way out of her depth.

All three girls find themselves working for Bobby Chevron – one of London’s most feared gangland bosses – and it’s not long before their new lives start to unravel.

 

I’ve reviewed the book below but first, Kate and her publishers have kindly shared an extract from That Girl. I hope you enjoy! 

A year passed and Hanna turned from thirteen to fourteen. She became more independent and began to speak her own mind. She was glad that her mother had Dorian to focus on, instead of just her, and she came to trust him. While she knew her stepfather would never be a replacement for the father she so deeply loved, Hanna grew fond of him as time went by. Dorian Black loved her mother, there was no doubt about that, and he made her happy. Hanna also understood that he had been kind and generous regarding her as well. As the nuns pointed out to her in school, ‘It’s not every man would take on another man’s child.’

Dorian never patronised her, or talked to her like she was a poor child, as so many people did since her father died. He treated her as an equal, and she liked that. Dorian allowed her to call him by his first name. When she first did it, her mother tutted, insisting she call him father to show him proper respect. But Dorian had been on Hanna’s side. ‘Don’t push the child, Margaret,’ he said. ‘I am not her natural father. There is no reason she should look on me as such. Hanna is old enough to make up her own mind about the role I play in her life.’

Margaret became worried that Hanna was moving away from her, that she was losing her. Dorian was as wise and reassuring as ever. ‘Hanna is becoming a fine young woman,’ he told her. ‘She is not your little girl any more, Margaret. Sooner or later you’ll have to accept that she’s an adult.’

Margaret pursed her lips and remained silent on the subject. Hanna could tell she didn’t like it but it was important that her mother understood she wasn’t a child any more. Dorian was right, she was becoming a ‘young woman’ and her mother just had to get used to it. United in that understanding, a bond grew between stepfather and stepdaughter that felt to Hanna like friendship, or maybe even love.

Then, as Dorian and Margaret Black were coming up to their second wedding anniversary, Margaret came down with a nasty bout of flu. At first it seemed not to be serious but then her symptoms worsened with lethargy and headaches. Weeks passed and Margaret remained bedridden. With little appetite and no energy to lift herself from the bed, it appeared that there was something more serious underlying the illness. Hanna was worried and asked Dorian if there was anything more they could do. He reassured her that her mother’s recovery was just around the corner.

‘It’s only a virus,’ he promised.

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Book Review: Blackbird by ND Gomes.

HQ Young Adult, November 2017

HQ Young Adult, November 2017

Olivia disappeared the night the blackbird died.

It was New Years Eve the night that dead blackbirds descended, hours before fourteen year old Alex McCarthy’s sister Olivia went missing from a party.

Committed to finding out what happened to her sister, within the previously safe walls of their subarctic Orkney village, Alex knows that dishevelled, sometimes intoxicated Detective Inspector Birkens is her best shot.

Yet as they uncover the secrets behind Olivia’s last night, Alex starts to find things she may be better off never knowing…

Olivia disappears on New Years Eve. Orkney is a small community and the disappearance of a young woman puts everyone on edge.

Olivia’s younger sister Alex can’t rest until she knows what happened to her sister. The chaotic Detective Birkens may be her best shot at helping her piece together the events of the evening Olivia went missing.

The perspective of this novel is an interesting one. Rather than being told from the point of view of the police, it’s told from the point of view of the victim’s sister.

There is a mystery to solve (one of the aspects of the novel that appealed to me,) – what happened to Olivia and who was responsible but this is mostly looking at how Alex is dealing with the loss of her sister and how the event impacts her, the family and the community as a whole. This is really Alex’s story.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Everything Comes With A Price

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Today’s prompt is about getting what you want but at what cost?

You wake up to find that you are the smartest person in the world. The knowledge you now have will allow you to get everything that you want. Fame, money, power. However, nothing is free. When someone gets luck, someone isn’t so lucky. Write from both perspectives with the two characters meeting up at the end.

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