Throwing a Lifeline #SaveCallumDoyle

It’s a huge treat for me to share this post with you. One of my favourite crime writers, David Jackson, has taken a new direction with his latest book. Not only is it slightly different in style, tone and the type of story it tells, Dave has decided to ‘go it alone’ and plunge into the world of Amazon White Glove (an agent assisted publishing programme) – in the hope of finding a wider readership for his New York detective series featuring Callum Doyle. Why he is not already a massive name, is a mystery to me; I’ve made no secret of the fact that I absolutely love this series. You don’t have to have read the others to enjoy this one, though – it works well as a standalone. What it will do though, is keep you reading all night and make you desperate for more 🙂

CRY BABY is out now. Over to you, Dave…

Throwing a Lifeline

So there’s this friend of mine, and I’m trying to save his life.

I should step in quickly here and add that this is nothing heroic. Not at all. This does not even register on the scale of what doctors and fire-fighters and police officers do on a regular basis. I certainly wouldn’t want to give that impression.

See, this guy doesn’t exist. Except in my head. And except in the heads of people while they are reading my books.

But maybe that’s enough. Fictional characters can seem real at times, can’t they? Drawn in enough detail, to include not merely their physical attributes but also their hopes and their fears and their memories and their desires, characters can leap from the page and cling to your consciousness for a long time.

When you walk down a street, what do you know of that stranger coming towards you? On a bus or a train, what can you say about the passenger opposite? They’re real – of course they are – but you don’t know anything about them. You might make certain inferences from the way they dress or walk or talk, but that’s about it.

And then there’s Callum Doyle, the detective protagonist in my crime thrillers. If you have read the books, you will know a lot about him. You will know that he has a mischievous and sometimes morbid sense of humour. You will know that he has a wife and daughter, both of whom he loves dearly. You will know that he boxed in his youth, and has a slightly bent nose to show for it. You will know that he was brought from Ireland to New York when he was just eight. You will know that he doesn’t cope well when women cry in his company. You will know that he has secrets – dark, dark secrets. You will know that he has killed.

Above all, you will have been in Doyle’s head. I’ll say that again: you have been inside Doyle’s head. How often are you able to say that, unless you are talking about a character in a book? You don’t even know your own partner or close family members that well. There’s an intimacy there that is possible only in the world of stories. And I, more than anyone, have lived Doyle’s life in parallel with my own.

It’s natural, therefore, that I should want to keep him alive. I gave him life; I don’t want to see his death. For a while, though, it has been looking as though that decision might have been taken out of my hands. I have been urged to move on to new things, new stories. And in response to that, I have begun writing another series of crime novels, based on an entirely fresh protagonist. I’m warming to this new guy. He’s going to be an interesting character to follow.

But I’m not giving up on Doyle so easily. He’s too compelling for that. He’s got more to give, more to show us.

And he does, in my latest novel called ‘CRY BABY’. This is Doyle’s lifeline. My hope is that enough readers will reach out and grasp it to make it obvious they want to grant him a future. We shall see.

* * *

 It’s every mother’s nightmare – the abduction of her baby.

That’s how it starts for Erin Vogel when she is attacked and left unconscious in her apartment. When she awakes, it is to find that Georgia, her six-month-old daughter, has been taken.

But Erin is given a chance to get Georgia back. At an unthinkable price.

Like most mothers, she has always said she would do anything for her child.Now the strength of thatbond is about to be put to the ultimate test.

And when her actions arouse the interest of a certain Detective Callum Doyle, one thing is inevitable: a confrontation that will be as explosive as it is unforgettable.

From the highly acclaimed author of Pariah, The Helper and Marked comes a nerve-shredding novel that questions the line we draw between good and evil.

Review

If you’re looking for a tense thriller that will have you frantically trying to work out the puzzle of what the heck is going on, this is your book. Erin is sent on a horrific, unthinkable mission, and although she thinks she’ll never be able to to it, she has no choice. Either she does what she’s told, or her baby dies. Yet there is something that doesn’t add up about it all, and there’s the added mystery of Albert, who has turned up at the police station claiming to have killed his mother. You know they have to be linked somehow, but good luck working it out!

This is the fourth in David Jackson’s series featuring Detective Callum Doyle, but don’t be concerned about reading this one out of sequence. It’s quite different from the rest and works well on it’s own – Erin is a fantastic character and you’ll be rooting for her throughout, despite what she does… Saying that though, I highly recommend that you read the other three books too, because when you get to know Doyle, you’ll want more – this book has the characteristic humour of the previous three, full of the types of people you wish you could meet in real life, mixed with a stylish and gritty New York setting.

I really hope that there’ll be a follow up to this one – Doyle is definitely one of my favourite series detectives, and David Jackson’s writing is a delight.

More at: www.davidjacksonbooks.com

Books I’ve Enjoyed in 2013

There are a lot of ‘best books of 2013’ posts circulating at the moment, so I thought I’d share with you the books I have enjoyed this year, not those necessarily published this year… although I am not selecting those that come out early next year (even though I have read them…) Confused? Ok, in no particular order – I really liked these:

Merry Christmas!

Off The Record 2 – At The Movies #OTR2

I haven’t posted anything here for a while, but that’s not because I’m a slacker… it’s actually because I’ve been doing a lot of writing – which was my main aim after Harrogate (it was also to get the first draft of my novel finished, but that’s another post, coming soon…)

So I’d like to tell you about one of the things I’ve been up to.

You might have heard of a pretty cool short story anthology called Off The Record, where all the stories were based on song titles and all the proceeds went to charity… if not, you can download it for kindle here.

After the success of the original, editor Luca Veste has gone and created another one (this time with the help of Paul D. Brazill). It features stories from the likes of Helen Fitzgerald, Clare McGowan and Steve Mosby to name just three (the full list is here)

Again, the proceeds will be donated to literary charities (National Literacy Trust – UK and Children’s Literacy Initiative – US), but this time, instead of songs, the stories are all based around a diverse range of movie titles such as ‘Dead Man Walking’, ‘The Graduate’ and ‘Gregory’s Girl’… and also, ‘Pretty Woman’ – which was written by me. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be invited by Luca to submit a story… and I’m delighted to be included in this collection with so many fantastic writers. I don’t really want to tell you much about ‘Pretty Woman’ as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who decides to read it, but all I will say is that it’s of the crime genre, and it ain’t pretty!

It’s out on 26th September on Amazon – and I really hope you’ll take a look. A short story collection with a great cover, filled with great authors and great stories and all for a great cause – what more could you want?!

(note to self: buy new thesaurus)

*

Some of the other contributors have also blogged about the collection – please go and take a look (I’ll update when I have more)

  • James Etherington blogs about OTR2 here
  • RJ Barker blogs about OTR2 here
  • Erik Arneson blogs about OTR2 here
  • Mel Sherratt blogs about OTR2 here

Review: The Helper – David Jackson

First off I have to say that this book was more than eagerly awaited after I finished the first one in the series – Pariah. So when I got an email from Amazon to say it’d been released earlier than planned, I couldn’t wait to get started…

So I read it all in one go.

Then I was gutted because it was finished! I’d only planned to read a couple of chapters, having started reading it at 10.30pm, but it hooked me from the first line and I flew through it with heart-thumping, page-turning speed to the extremely clever denouement, finally dropping it down the side of my bed at 2.30am, when of course I couldn’t sleep! On uncovering the identity of the killer, I recalled feeling the same way when the twist of The Sixth Sense was revealed… there were clues all the way through, and in hindsight they should’ve been obvious… but they weren’t. Damn you M. Night Shyamalan and damn you David Jackson, you clever, clever people… 🙂

From the back cover: ‘A grisly murder in a shabby New York bookstore seems to hold a special significance for Detective Callum Doyle: the victim’s been marked with a message that could have been left especially for him. But why? Then the sinister phone calls start…’

What I liked most about the story is the way I was learning things and anticipating things at exactly the same time as Doyle, which is not always an easy thing to pull off. There was only one occasion where I overtook him, and I can’t tell you when it was without dropping a massive spoiler, but lets just say it was the character’s name that gave it away for me, and a certain book.

I was also pleased that one of my favourite minor characters from Pariah made a reappearance – Paddy the Barman. I was side by side with Doyle as we walked into that bar!

As well as the ever-brilliant Doyle, who more and more sounds like someone I want to have a beer with, the viewpoint of the killer and his crazy reasoning was both disturbing and fascinating… especially for me.  I do love a good serial killer…

Verdict: Better than chocolate*

*Pretty much nothing is better than chocolate 🙂

Review: Pariah – David Jackson

This is the second in my series of reviews of new authors I’ve discovered in 2012. David Jackson was highly commended in the CWA Debut Dagger Competition and  subsequently achieved publication through the Macmillan New Writing Scheme. His first book Pariah, has been re-packaged and re-released under the Pan imprint, and I suggest you read it soon because the second book in the series, The Helper, is released on 1st March.

From the back cover: It’s a bad enough day for NYPD detective Callum Doyle when his cop partner is murdered. But when the dead man’s replacement is also brutally killed, suspicion falls on Doyle himself. Then he receives an anonymous message: anyone he gets close to will die – and that includes his own family.

I’d been holding off on reading this until the new paperback edition came out and I was lucky enough to get hold of it early thanks to winning a competition for a signed copy (Thanks Dave!) My only regret is that I didn’t purchase the old edition so I could read it sooner! I love discovering new authors I’ve been hoping to find one with an intriguing main character that would make me want to get to know (both) of them better. I’m pleased to say that Pariah is just what I’ve been waiting for. It centres around Callum Doyle, an Irish New York cop with none of the usual stereotypes except that he likes Bushmills and Guinness, and we can let him off with that.

The story follows his ostracism from the NYPD, and his friends and family, after he seemingly becomes the epicentre of a series of brutal murders. The plot flies, the descriptions make the city jump out at you and the whole cast of characters come alive (except the dead ones, obviously). I loved the tragic Mickey Spinner, and I especially liked the scene in the pub where everyone is trying to ignore Doyle – Paddy the barman’s dialogue was so spot on I could actually hear him speak:

‘Do I pay you to be standing there looking like an idiot when there’re customers to be served? The man has a thirst on him. Give him a drink. And the rest of you: don’t you have better things to do than stand there gawking at the sight of a man ordering a Guinness? Jesus, they must be sad lives you’re living.’

We’re pulled through the story in the present tense, so we get to experience things at the same time as Doyle does and consequently I read this in two sittings because I really couldn’t put it down. I have to admit I was pretty sure I knew whodunnit from quite early on, but that’s because I was brought up with the Taggart school of murder (‘mur-dur’) suspects 😉 This didn’t spoil it for me though as there were quite a few red herrings and ‘what ifs’ to keep the doubt alive!

I love Detective Doyle and I love David Jackson, and thankfully I don’t have to wait too long for the next instalment, because I’ve already placed my Amazon pre-order for The Helper and it will be with me in a couple of weeks – yippee!

Verdict: Excellent. Read it NOW!

How to Write a Synopsis (Properly)

Last night I submitted an entry to the CWA Debut Dagger Competition. It’s for unpublished crime writers, and requires you to submit 3,000 words of a novel (doesn’t have to be completed – whew!) and a 500-1000 word synopsis of the rest of the story. The entry fee is pretty steep at £25, but with the possibility of Peter James reading your scribblings, it’s well worth it in my opinion. Many writers have progressed from Debut Dagger to fully-fledged crime writers: Belinda BauerDavid Jackson and Ruth Dugdall to name just three.

So, this brings me to my entry… first chapter, not a problem. I wrote it a few weeks ago and spent a good few hours this week editing and polishing until I was happy. Then there’s the synopsis. For some reason, writing a synopsis instils fear and dread into many a writer (maybe even all writers?) and I had convinced myself  it was the synopsis that had let me down in my previous unplaced entries, it couldn’t be anything to do with the first chapter, could it? Hmm…

Write a Great Synopsis – An Expert Guide (#WAGS)

This is where Nicola Morgan comes in, and more specifically, her book ‘Write a Great Synopsis – An Expert Guide‘ , which was released on Friday (which would’ve been far too late to be of any use to me, so I am very grateful to Nicola for sending me a coveted ‘review copy’ a few weeks ago). So what does Nicola know about synopses? A lot actually. She’s published around 90 books (including some Thomas the Tank Engine books, which she cites as some of the most difficult writing she ever did) but you may know her best for her YA novel Mondays are Red or maybe because of her excellent blog: Help! I need a publisher or maybe even because of her writing consultancy: Pen2Publication. I know her from Twitter. How could I not follow someone with this as their avatar?

Note: Use ‘crabbit’ in a sentence: ‘Hod yer wheesht ye crabbit auld bag’ = Please be quiet you grumpy old lady

Anyway, I digress… my review is actually quite short, because there were a few key things to be learned that put me at ease straight away.

The function of the synopsis ‘is to show the decision-makers that you do actually have a book that hangs together… and to show what sort of book it is.’

‘The perfect synopsis does not exist.’

and, most importantly:

‘Your book will not be rejected on the basis of your synopsis.’

WHAT???

After these nuggets, Nicola then goes on to explain in her typically forthright and amusing fashion how to write a synopsis (she suggests two ways to do it) and gives several examples of what to include and why, including case studies from ‘real’ fledglings just like me. I used Method Two, by the way, and I have a feeling that my synopsis wasn’t too bad at all. But to be honest, I’m not that scared about it anymore after reading this book, and the quote from Carole Blake, where she explains that if the writing (of the sample chapter) is so good, she ‘might never get around to reading the synopsis… I might just ring the author and ask for the whole manuscript.’ OH…

You can buy ‘Write a Great Synopsis – An Expert Guide’ here for the ridiculous price of £1 until end of Jan. Make sure you do.

P.S. There is also a competition to win a review of your synopsis by Nicola, here.