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Stalker Book Tour – Extract

StalkerToday on the book tour for Lisa Stone’s new book called ‘Stalker’, sit back and enjoy an extract from the chilling tale.

Visiting times for the high dependency ward (HDU) at St Mary’s hospital were from 2pm to 8pm. Derek planned to arrive at the hospital at 2.10pm, hoping no one else would be visiting Mrs Hanks. If there was anyone there he’d leave straightaway without even saying hello. He had a large box of chocolates tucked under his arm. He had wanted to bring her a bouquet of flowers, bright and forgiving; pink carnations, pale-blue hyacinths, red roses as an apology. But he’d found out while looking for the visiting times on the hospital’s website that in line with most hospitals they no longer allowed flowers on the wards for fear of bringing in infection or triggering allergies. So he’d done the next best thing and bought her a box of chocolates. He hoped she enjoyed them.

He felt bad, really bad. He’d never intended Mrs Hanks should be physically harmed. He hated violence, abhorred it; even watching it on the television or Internet made him cringe and turn away. He didn’t like to see people hurting each other, he wanted everyone to be kind. In his ideal world there would be no violence and every child would have two loving parents. It was OK to teach someone a lesson as long as it didn’t involve violence; that had been his intention with Mrs Hanks. He had wanted to teach her a lesson for all the times she’d cheated on her husband. Never for a moment had he thought Mr Hanks would react as he had, attacking his wife with that large spanner and beating her unconscious. He’d always been so placid and accommodating. It had shaken Derek rigid.

Derek parked his van in the hospital car park and made his way in through the main entrance, hoping Mrs Hanks was making a good recovery. He knew from watching their CCTV that she’d been alive when the ambulance had taken her away. At that point, Mr Hanks had gone with the police, presumably to make a statement. Derek hadn’t slept properly since, and not knowing how she was or what Mr Hanks had told the police was becoming unbearable. There’d been a small piece in the local newspaper, just saying that a woman had been found unconscious at her home in Princess Street and a man was helping police with their enquiries. There’d been nothing about how badly she’d been hurt, although being in HDU wasn’t a good sign, he thought. When he’d telephoned the hospital to find out how she was, the nurse had said they only gave out information to the next of kin and he should contact her husband. Clearly that was impossible, so he’d decided to visit in person.

The sign next to the lift showed that the HDU ward was on the second floor. With a shudder he got in and pressed for Floor 2. He hated hospitals and usually avoided them. His mother had been in hospital for two weeks when he’d been a child and at the time it had seemed she’d gone away forever. He’d visited her with his father but not every evening. His father wasn’t a good man and had resented having to look after his son. Derek remembered how unkind he’d been to him. He now associated hospitals with acute unhappiness and beatings.

The lift stopped and the doors opened. As he got out a woman stepped in. The HDU ward was signposted down a short corridor to his left. He stopped at the security locked double doors to the ward. If they asked who he was he’d have to say a relative. Summoning his courage – he hadn’t come this far to turn back now – he pressed the intercom button and waited, the tic at the corner of his eye began to agitate. Nothing happened so he pressed the button again and without any need to identify himself the doors released.

Did you enjoy that? Well, you can buy Stalker from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Choosing Locations By Susan Stairs

Susan StairsOn the book tour for Susan Stairs’ new book caleld ‘One Good Reason’, Susan talks about deciding locations for her novels.

Make your setting a character. We’ve heard that said time and again. Where the action takes place is as important as every other element in your novel. My first novel ‘The Story of Before’ is set in a housing estate just outside Dublin in the 1970s and is told from the point of view of eleven-year-old Ruth Lamb. Because Ruth is a child and the story is hers alone to tell, the setting needed to be a place she was able to navigate easily, a place where she had free reign, somewhere she could easily interact with all the other characters. Hillcourt Rise is that place. An estate of over one hundred houses set around a green space, it is Ruth’s world. It is a world she feels part of – but only to a degree. She is an observer, an outsider who feels she has more in common with her neighbour – widow Bridie Goggin – than with the other children who live there. Almost all the action takes place within the confines of Hillcourt Rise as I wanted the novel to have a tense, claustrophobic, insular feel. 

For One Good Reason

My second novel ‘The Boy Between’ is split between two settings and perspectives: 14 year-old Tim in 1980s rural Ireland; and 27 year old Laura in Dublin in 2011. Aside from deciding that this was the best way to tell the story, I also wanted very much to juxtapose the two different Irelands, so to speak, and show how much things changed in the years between them. Central to the plot is the contrast between how we communicate now and how we did back in the 1980s. The criss-crossing back and forth from the past to the present allows the reader to empathise with both Tim and Orla and understand how their stories interlink and collide. 

‘For One Good Reason’, I wanted a more exotic location, but one that would also have a link to Ireland. For the plot to work, Laura, the protagonist – a girl from Dublin – needs to become someone she’s not and that is a lot more difficult to achieve on home turf. So I set the major part of the novel in the South of France, in a villa owned by her godfather in the hills above Nice. I’ve visited Nice many times and felt I was familiar enough with the area to describe it accurately and allow it to feed into the action convincingly. 

For my next novel, I’m back in Ireland with the action set between a girls’ secondary school in the 1970s and, mainly, an old house that’s for sale in contemporary Dublin. I’m captivated by the past and by the ways that memory and mystery can work both with and against each other and how we can convince ourselves things happened as we remember them. But did they really?

You can buy One Good Reason from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Catering World And Me By H.V. Coombs

Murder On The GreenToday on the book tour for ‘Murder On The Green’, the latest book by H.V. Coombs, we talk about working in the catering world.

I drifted into catering late in life by accident. I was looking after my two children at home, bored and so, when a free day in the week became available, I decided to do a cookery course which was something I’d always been interested in.

Only one was running at a suitable time, a Thursday, and that was NVQ Cookery 2 at Aylesbury, a large town up the road. I thought, well, I could learn like the professionals. I called them up, it was cheap and they said not working in catering didn’t matter. So, aged 40, I found myself back at college with a bunch of 16 year olds. That was oddly intimidating, but the kids were really welcoming, despite the fact that I was as old as their dads. A fortnight later I found myself working weekends at a Loch Fyne restaurant.

To say it was a shock to the system was a wild understatement. I had, mistakenly, thought that I was a good cook. That Friday night I watched as the head chef, Paul B, singlehandedly cooked about two hundred main dishes in three hours, pretty much faultlessly, helped by a sous chef and someone else doing vegetables. I realized then that I wasn’t a good cook and never had been. I realized then that I actually knew sod all.

Watching a well-drilled kitchen brigade in full operating mode on a Saturday night is an awesome sight. After working together a while you develop an almost psychic bond with your fellow chefs. There is also a tremendous sense of camaraderie forged by the hours, the stress and the relentless time pressures.

The downside of it is that in this febrile, hot-house environment, hatreds flourish and resentments, seething resentments of someone grow and multiply. Weird behavior is, or can be, the norm. Drugs and alcohol abuse are commonplace. It’s also, sadly, an environment in which bullies thrive. Part of it due to a macho culture, part of it due to tradition, ‘twas ever thus type thing, and part of it I think like Stockholm Syndrome, working in a kitchen you lose sense of reality, the outside world is a kind of vague, unreal place. You often work six day weeks, arrive at ten a.m and leave after eleven pm and your day off is often spent getting hammered in a pub.

That makes it a good place to set a crime novel, everyone from the kp to the restaurant manager is capable of killing just about anyone.

‘A Taste of Death’ and its follow up, ‘Murder on The Green’, are partly set in this odd, twilight world and in the equally strange world of a village in the Chilterns, but that’s another story.

Hopefully as well as enjoying the plot and characters, the reader will get some idea of the potential drama going on backstage and realise that when you think, ‘that soup’s been a while coming,’ absolute mayhem, if not actual violence, could well be going on behind those swing doors leading to the kitchen.

You can buy Murder on the Green from Amazon

The Death Of Mrs Westaway Book Tour – Giveaway

The Death Of Mrs WestawayToday’s book tour features a signed giveaway from Ruth Ware’s new book called ‘The Death Of Mrs Westaway’

What the back cover says –

When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother, it seems like the answer to her prayers. She owes money to a loan shark and the threats are getting increasingly aggressive: she needs to get her hands on some cash fast.

There’s just one problem – Hal’s real grandparents died more than twenty years ago. The letter has been sent to the wrong person. But Hal knows that the cold-reading techniques she’s honed as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a stranger’s funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her.

Hal makes a choice that will change her life for ever. But once she embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life…

To be in with a chance of winning, simply answer the following question by leaving your answer in the comment box below.

Where are Harriet’s grandparents from?

Closing date for entries is Monday 9th July. Good luck!

Being An Author – Dream VS Reality By Fiona Gibson

Fiona GibsonOn the book tour for Fiona Gibson’s new book called ‘The Mum Who’d Had Enough’, Fiona talks about the reality of being an author.

I always loved the idea of writing a book. ‘How glamorous,’ I thought, ‘living the life of an author, travelling the world and being invited to, er, things!’ I imagined trotting out novels – which would be no more taxing than stringing a few anecdotes together – and spending the rest of my time on ‘research trips’ to glamorous destinations.

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy what I do. In fact I can’t imagine making a living any other way. But the reality of the job isn’t quite how I pictured it, when I dreamed of a writer’s life way back in my childhood bedroom…

The dream: a glamorous wardrobe
I used to think that authors did lots of ‘public’ things (ie, general swanning about) and that this would require beautiful outfits. Yes, there might be the odd event to promote a new novel or take part in a book festival. However the actual writing part generally means pulling on something either very plain or downright disgusting, as you’re usually too befuddled by what feels like a monumental project to make sensible choices about what to wear. My first novel was written when I had three children under five, plus the builders in, and was covered in a fine layer of plaster dust.

The dream: fabulous parties
Disappointingly, these imagined glittering occasions don’t come as part of the job. I’m lucky in that my publisher Avon’s parent company hosts a walloping annual do – but honestly, these are rare. As far as I’m aware, 99% of a novelist’s life is spent typing away in a draughty room, forking in potato salad straight from the tub.

The Mum Who’d Had Enough

The dream: a secretary
: I once imagined that, whilst the writer obviously did the writing part, there’d be someone on hand to take dictation/handle correspondence/tackle other less glamorous tasks. In fact every author I know breaks off regularly from writing to attend to laundry, check kids’ homework and bung a chicken in the oven. When one friend is stuck with a tricky aspect of her plot, she manically scrubs the bathroom floor.

The dream: limitless tranquility in which to write
Many people don’t regard writing as a proper job. They think it’s okay to drop round – ‘Not working, are you?’ – to sip tea on your sofa for five hours while you sit there, rigid with panic, feeling your deadline breathing heavily down your neck. Life is full of distractions; if it’s not the window cleaner banging on the door for money, it’s Facebook luring you to look at the holiday pictures of someone you’ve never met.

The dream: inspiration strikes
It does, occasionally. There are bursts of elation when the book seems to be literally falling out of your brain and onto the page – followed by lengthy periods of confusion when you realise that ‘Tom’ has mysteriously turned into ‘David’ and, actually, he belonged to your last book, and not the one you’re meant to be writing now.

However, after saying all that, for me the reality is better than the dream version. It is hard graft, for something like six months to a year or more – and by the time I type ‘The End’, I’m both exhausted and elated. But it’s also sort of addictive because within a week or so I am itching to type ‘Chapter One’ and start all over again.

You can buy The Mum Who’d Had Enough from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.