Blog-Tour: Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

I am especially excited to take part in the Blog-Tour for Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski today. It is an innovative read you won’t want to miss. Aside from my review, I also have a great guest post, My Writing Day by Matt Wesolowski, to share with you.

About the Author

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor and leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops for young people in association with New Writing North. Matt started his writing career in horror and his short horror fiction has been published in Ethereal Tales magazine, Midnight Movie Creature Feature anthology, 22 More Quick Shivers anthology and many more. His debut novella The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013 and a new novella set in the forests of Sweden will be available shortly. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. He is currently working on his second crime novel Ashes, which involves black metal and Icelandic sorcery.

Follow @ConcreteKraken or @Orendabooks on Facebook or visit him at mjwesolowskiauthor.wordpress.com

Buy Six Stories here


About the book

One death. Six stories. Which one is true?

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame … As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

Guest post by Matt Wesolowski

My Writing Day

To the disbelief (and jealousy of my writing peers) there was once a time in my life when my writing day looked like this:

Up at 7.30 – 5k run, listening to an audio book.

8.30 Breakfast, hang with the family.

9am -2pm  – uninterrupted, glorious writing, lunch interspersed with cups of green tea.

2pm – 5pm – sit in the conservatory with a mug of more green tea and disappear into a book.

Yes, this was genuinely my writing day, albeit for just under a year. And so much got done! Two novels, blog posts and a load of short fiction.

Then life got in the way. Change of family circumstance, job, move of house, move of job. The structure of the bygone era is now a glorious and ancient memory.

My day job’s hours are sporadic and are in a constant state of flux. I live alone now and have food to make, a cat and child to maintain as well as my own constant cleaning compulsions.

An idyll of a full writing and reading day is a luxury. Unless you are in the position to write full-time, then it’s mostly unrealistic. I sincerely believe that when you want to write, if you really want to write, you have to make time. I often wonder why so many people say they ‘don’t have time’ to read but can sit, staring at social media on a phone for hours.

Writing is like any job, if you want to be any good at it, you have to do lots of it and you have to do it even on the days you don’t want to. For me, some days are plain sailing on a sunny sea of fiction and some days (more often) are quite simply not.

I often liken writing to sawing through wood. There are easy bits where the teeth of the saw glide through and there are knots, great big tough twists of dead branch where the saw won’t catch, let alone cut.

Personally, I work to a realistic daily word count. If I have a significant part of the day without work then I aim for 2000 words. Sometimes it’s 2000 words of rubbish, but hey, we all have bad days at work. For me, the most important thing is to get something done, to keep my mind used to writing, at least something every day.

So now, a typical day looks like this:

7am – feed the cat, get my son ready for school, make breakfast, school run.

9am – A combination of: cleaning/cooking/writing/reading/working.

3pm – School run, hang out with the boy, eat tea together, do homework, play Lego.

8pm – Writing or kickboxing.

10pm – Reading.

11pm Sleep.

Of course there are variations, as a single parent, I only have my son for half the week so there is more time when he’s not here but a lot of that time is spent on the week’s cooking and cleaning, making sure when he is here, that I am available.

Then there’s that thing where you see your friends and loved ones and do social stuff. Yeah, that sometimes happens too!

Above all, the drive to write inside me never diminishes, I can’t even sit in front of the television without a notebook and a pen to hand; I listen to an audio book whilst cleaning and true crime podcasts while I’m cooking.

But that’s just me, I’m not any better or worse than anyone else and everyone does things their own way. I think if you have a dream, you cannot sit back and wait for it to land in your lap, you have to chase it until you feel your own blood squelching in your

Review

The story is set-up as a series of podcasts by someone who investigates cold cases. The reader experiences the podcasts via written transcripts of interviews with the suspects. The cold case in question is the disappearance of teenager Tom Jeffries, and the subsequent discovery of his body a year later. Nearly all the suspects were also teenagers at the time the crime took place.

It might sound a little cold or clinical for a fictional book setting, however that couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the aspects of the story is the way the podcast listeners are captivated by the intrigue, mystery and gruesome details of the cold case. The followers play an integral part in the story, despite being an anonymous and unseen entity.

It seems more than likely that the teens involved in the case, who were also the last ones to see and interact with Tom, are also the people with the answers to all the questions. Is one of them lying? Did one of them inadvertently see more than they think they saw?

During the interviews the reader hears about the secrets, the fights and all of those tiny details the police never uncovered. The kind of details that would have led them straight to the killer.

Twenty years after the murder none of the people involved want to muddy the waters, get anyone in trouble or possibly reveal themselves as a culprit.

Although I figured out the who and the twist I have to admit I didn’t see the why coming. It is a really well-thought out crime. The author explores the complexities of social interactions and hierarchy issues between teenagers, and the implications for individuals in group situations.

Six Stories is an innovative, captivating and creative read. Wesolowski channels new technology and important social issues of our time, whilst integrating a nefarious crime into the mix. I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from this particular author in the years to come.

Buy Six Stories at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

sometimes I lieI like the lead-in to the book. It’s catchy, it makes you wonder and more importantly it makes you want to read beyond the memorable intro. However the book should have probably simply been called Malevolence. Why? Because it packs a heavy punch of malice.

There is just so much to talk about when it comes to reviewing this book. I want to give it the attention it deserves without giving away all the twists and turns. I will try to just focus on the parts that left the strongest impression on me.

One of those has got to be the living dead aspect of being in a coma. Just imagine being able to hear and feel everything around and yet being completely unable to open your eyes, move, speak or react at all. Leaving you vulnerable, panicked and scared.

What a horror scenario, a complete lack of control, whilst being aware of everything the entire time. On top of that Amber can’t remember how she ended up in hospital. She remembers pieces and fragments, enough to confuse her and make her frightened. At this point in time she doesn’t know who to trust, because this wasn’t just an accident or was it?

The author takes us in and out of the past and present. It’s a constant spiral of childhood flashbacks, recent memories and interactions in the present. When I say interactions, what I mean is Amber hears and everyone else interacts around her, over her and with her physical body.

Amber suffers from OCD, anxiety and a general mistrust of the people around her. She finds it hard to fit in and make friends. She does however have a really strong sense of survival, sometimes to the detriment of others. She believes her sister is a wee bit too flirty with her husband and in turn her husband seems very comfortable with Claire, then again it could just be her over-active imagination.

I could go on and on about the superb twists in the plot and about who the real culprit is, but the truth is there is no black or white answer. Where one thread of guilt, anger and fear ends another one connects immediately, which is why the reader is left in a constant state of uncertainty.

Feeney writes a wicked tale and I hope this is the first of many to come. It is enthralling, rancorous and controversial. Why is it controversial? Read it and find out.

Buy Sometimes I Lie at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @alicewriterland @HQStories on Twitter, Facebook: AliceFeeneyAuthor/  or visit  alicefeeney.com

The Awakening by Amanda Stevens

the awakeningThe Graveyard Queen series by Amanda Stevens hasn’t really garnered the attention it deserves over the years. I think her books sail a little under the radar.

It is a solid paranormal urban fantasy series. Stevens delivers strong characters and an interesting plot.

Amelia seems a little more susceptible to the ghosts and the evil spirits this time. Her heartbreak might be weakening her high wall of protection. She also appears to be more afraid in general. Her tough exterior is crumbling slowly like a wall of sand.

She is haunted by a young ghost and the signs of impending doom. Someone close to her is in danger, someone is going to die.

I do think The Awakening is one of the weaker books of the series. Perhaps weak is the wrong word. Hmm, the author, or rather Amelia, does a lot of contemplating in this book, so it’s a slower and less eventful, as opposed to the usual action packed read.

Unfortunately it’s the last in the series, which might explain the nostalgic air about it. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, which is probably the real reason I found this slightly underwhelming. It just feels a little premature, but I can understand wanting to end on a high note.

I would recommend reading from the start of the series to get the full flavour and the complete back-story, although this can be read as a standalone novel.

Buy The Awakening at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

adam sharpI can’t help but think that is one of the many wet dreams men in the middle of a mid-life crisis have, especially the whole ‘sex with no strings with another man’s wife while he is there looking on’ scenario. Yeh, no that was a wee bit out there, but hey anything goes right. Well nearly anything.

Adam is a middle-aged bloke in a comfortable relationship with Claire and has the liberty of working at his own pace for only half of the year.

Clearly the grass isn’t green enough on his side of the fence though, which leaves him vulnerable to ghosts of the past.

When an ex reconnects he finds himself falling into an emotional trap. He quickly crosses the line from innocent banter to outright flirting. Before he knows it he is cheating emotionally.

Things come to a head with his partner and all of a sudden he is on his way to meet his long lost love and her hubby. The rest is a roller coaster of emotions and expectations.

Playlists in stories are very much an en vogue feature of our era. It’s not really my cup of tea. The occasional musical reference for an important moment is fine, but being bombarded with music can interfere with the story. It can be detrimental to the flow. Saying that, I do think Simsion manages to create the perfect balance, perhaps because two of the main characters are singers/musicians. Every moment between them is captured in time with a specific melody and/or song.

It is the unapologetic romp of a middle-aged man who wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Buy The Best of Adam Sharp at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Sunset Gang by Warren Adler

sunset gangWarren Adler is perhaps best known for The War of the Roses. His work is infused with his special brand of dark wit, hard-hitting truths and sense of humour.

The Sunset Gang is a collection of ten stories revolving around the retirement village called Sunset Village. The feature connecting them all, aside from retirement and old-age, is the fact they are all Jews.

It is the cotton which connects and threads through all the stories. Their language, identity, lives and where their stories start and end.

Yiddish is about the way the ancient language helps two people to discover themselves and their love of life again. It felt as if the kinship and brother/sisterhood was the message in this story. Conversing in Yiddish reignites something buried deep inside them. Perhaps something others could and should discover too.

Itch is, as many of the stories are, a testament to how lonely advanced age can be, even after an eventful and full life. Thrust suddenly into the strange schedule of a retirement community many find themselves missing the days of old and friends, who have since passed away.

An Unexpected Visit is an excellent example of how parents and children grow apart when both are adults. Suddenly life is so busy that families grow apart. In this case a visit with his father helps a son to re-evaluate his own life and priorities.

The Detective, this story is painfully true and it happens more often than people might think. It is all about compassion, empathy and more importantly how pride can be a huge obstacle when it comes to survival.

God Made Me That Way, same attracts same in this tale. It is probably karma when these two elderly people cross paths. Their mutual affinity for the opposite gender places them in the strange category of con-people or thieves of the heart.

The Braggart doesn’t just apply to older generations, it is the truth for many people. Successful careers and money may sound great, but they aren’t a replacement for genuine emotions and children who care enough to keep in touch.

The Demonstration is perhaps the most poignant from a political point of view. A man determined to stand up for his people. To not sit by silently and do nothing. It is about anti-Semitism, racism and hatred.

The Angel of Mercy is actually both sad and very mystical. If there is one thing that hovers over a retirement village it is definitely death. Mrs Klugerman seems to not only know when death is hovering over certain people, she also seems to be able to heal. Either way she catches the attention of someone under their own shadow of death.

Poor Herman, they do say that everyone meets twice in their lifetimes. In this case the strong embers of young love have been buried beneath the mediocrity of a more suitable lifestyle and partner. When they meet again after many decades the two of them reconnect as if they were teenagers again.

The Home is a situation many of us will possibly face, although the majority of us won’t want it to happen them. After a lifetime of being in control and being considered the head of the family one is suddenly considered a problem. An inconvenience that is too old to make decisions and unable to take care of themselves. A scary thought.

I enjoyed the humour, the Jewishness of it all and the fact each story spoke to me. Adler excels at describing every day situations and emotions. I liked the way the author managed to make excellent emotional, moral and even strong political points in the midst of such touching stories.

Buy The Sunset Gang at Amazon Uk or go Goodreads for any other retailer.

Connect with @WarrenAdler on Twitter or www.facebook.com/warrenadler or visit www.warrenadler.com

Blog-Tour: Deadly Game by Matt Johnson

Today I am delighted to take part in the Blog-Tour for Deadly Game by Matt Johnson. Along with the About the author, About the book and my review, this blog post also features a fantastic guest post My First Crimefest by Matt Johnson.

About the Author

Matt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for 25 years. Blown off his feet at the London Baltic Exchange bombing in 1993, and one of the first police officers on the scene of the 1982 Regent’s Park bombing, Matt was also at the Libyan People’s Bureau shooting in 1984 where he escorted his mortally wounded friend and colleague, Yvonne Fletcher, to hospital. Hidden wounds took their toll. In 1999, Matt was discharged from the police with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While undergoing treatment, he was encouraged by his counsellor to write about his career and his experience of murders, shootings and terrorism. One evening, Matt sat at his computer and started to weave these notes into a work of fiction that he described as having a tremendously cathartic effect on his own condition. His bestselling thriller, Wicked Game, which was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger, was the result. Deadly Game once again draws on Matt’s experiences and drips with the same raw authenticity of its predecessor.

You can connect with @Matt_Johnson_UK or @Orendabooks on Twitter, Facebook or at mattjohnsonauthor.com

Buy Deadly Game here


About the book: Deadly Game

Reeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed. Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered, Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the

traffic of people into the UK. On the home front, Finlay’s efforts to protect his wife and child may have been in vain, as an MI5 protection officer uncovers a covert secret service operation that threatens them all …

Aided by new allies, he must not only protect his family but save a colleague from an unseen enemy … and a shocking fate. Deadly Game is a stunning, terrifying and eye-opening thriller from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.


Guest Post

My first Crimefest – Matt Johnson

As 2016 dawned, I had never heard of Bristol Crimefest so when Orenda Books publisher, Karen Sullivan asked me to attend and take part in a couple of interview panels, I really had no idea what I was signing up for.

I arrived at the Bristol Marriott hotel, checked in to a very comfortable room and then went to register for the festival. I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I asked festival organiser how many people we coming. The answer? Five hundred and fifty! I think he saw my shocked look as he then reassured me that there would be know more than a hundred and fifty at each panel!

First evening was spent with fellow Orenda Authors when our wonderful publisher, Karen Sullivan, took us all out for a nice Italian meal. I had the chance to meet and talk to Michael Grothaus, Michael Stanley, Yusuf Toropov, Kati Hiekkapelto and Paul Hardisty.

Returning to the hotel, I began to notice faces that I recognised. Mari Hannah spoke to me (absolutely charming) and Rod Reynolds (looks so young). Then I saw an ‘old friend’ Michelle Davies, who I met in Glasgow in March when we did our very first interviews together. A great catch up was had.

And then it was time for bed!

Day one dawned. Breakfast – full english, of course – as you should always go into battle on a full stomach, and then off to meet the team for the first panel. Pete Adams (hilarious), Daniel Pembrey (young, talented AND handsome) and the wonderful Lisa Cutts. Lisa is a serving detective and – not a lot of people know – her father was my first DI (detective inspector). Lisa and I had spent the previous evening in the bar talking JOB, as coppers often do!

Lisa and I met up with our ‘moderator’ Caro Ramsey. Caro is from Glasgow and turned out to have a very sharp sense of humour. With another natural comedian in Pete Adams, it didn’t take long before they had our audience laughing. Lisa, Daniel and I simply followed where they led.

The hour passed very quickly, and then we headed off to sign a few books.

Then, a very strange thing happened. At 7pm I joined a large queue of people as we headed for the main hall. There were to be announcements, the Crime Writers Association were publishing the long-lists for the 2016 Dagger Awards. I was aware that my publisher had nominated Wicked Game but, well, let’s get real, there are hundreds of entries and some very talented and experienced authors in the mix. As the announcements started, I found myself chatting to some folks so I wasn’t paying as much attention to the stage as perhaps I should have been (guilty m’lord) but I then thought I heard my own name being announced. A few moments later my hand was being squeezed by more people than I could count.

Wicked Game had been long-listed, for the John Creasey New Blood Dagger, along with eight other entries. My publisher gave me a kiss, my phone started buzzing. I was stunned, and speechless. Especially when I realised the text on my phone was from Peter James – news had travelled fast.

That night, I celebrated with fish n chips and a cider, at the Catch22 resturant (very good, well recommended – try the grilled fish) opposite the hotel. I met Mick Heron (Spy novelist) and, as he was also listed for another Dagger, we quietly celebrated together.

Next day, I was on the red-eye panel, the one that starts at 9am, the morning after some people were in the bar until the wee small hours. To my surprise, we had a full house again. This time we were under the guidance of Laura Wilson. On the panel were Sara Ward, Yusuf Toropov, Anja de Jager and a certain Mr James Law, former submariner and the author of a best-selling book by the name of ‘Tenacity’.

JS Law starts the banter…

Put an ex-navy man and an ex-soldier together and the inevitable happened. First he took the rise out of the Army, then I remembered a navy joke, and soon the craic was well under way. What the people outside the room must have thought of the laughter, I don’t know. What our fellow authors must have thought, I dread to think!

Soon came the time to head home. All too soon as I had made some great new mates and met some fascinating people. I was really quite amazed at how friendly and welcoming the crime-fiction community is.

And will I be there this year? Definitely. James and I might just start up a double act.

Review

One thing that is clearly evident is the amount of self and personal experience the author has woven into the story. Writing police and military procedurals means having to do a lot of research and readers can be very nit-picky about the details.

I think Johnson hits the nail on the head when it comes to the bureaucratic idiocy of police and security institutions. On top of that he has the backstabbing ruthlessness of security operatives down to a tee. As long as they achieve their end-goal they are willing to take down anyone. Luckily Finlay is used to watching his back, especially after the events of Wicked Game.

Human trafficking and sexual exploitation is a hot topic at the moment. Finally it seems to be getting the attention it deserves. People often think of it as a problem in third world countries and not as a first world problem. Unfortunately they are wrong it is very much prevalent in most countries. There is an endless supply of vulnerable young girls and women falling into the hands of well structured organizations. A lot of money to be made at the expense of innocent victims.

Finlay stumbles into the midst of one of these gangs, well let’s just say he is pushed in the right direction for the wrong reasons. Under the misconception that he is on holiday to help deal with his PTSD, he is unaware of his status as an unwitting undercover operative. It’s not until he makes a connection to a human trafficking ring that he comprehends he has in fact been used as a pawn by his MI5 liaison officer.

There is plenty more going on, however I will leave that to you to discover. It is a fast-paced story with strong characters and plenty to sink your teeth into. It is a blend of police procedure, action and thriller featuring important aspects of modern crime. Quite the read.

Buy Deadly Game at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

P.S: The author provided all the links (links to Twitter accounts of people he has mentioned) in his guest post My First Crimefest. I just wanted to say kudos to him for doing that.

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

orchardI do enjoy a read that leaves behind more than just the story, especially ones that inform and educate, even when it is unintentional.

I think it is fair to say the story is about trees, yeh I know it’s also about family and relationship, but darn it there are a heck of a lot of trees. At first I thought, where is the author going with this, but then I have to admit Chevalier drew me in with all the seeds,grafting and complexities of apple trees.

On a side note, I enjoyed reading about the transport, import and export of plants and trees from foreign countries to more affluent ones. Unfortunately the foreign horticulture would often perish in the new climate.

Aside from the dysfunctional family and the trees, for me the story was also about Robert becoming the man he was always destined to be. He is his father’s son, regardless of what Sadie said to him. Her words are the catalyst to his emotional turmoil and the reason for his journeys.

Chevalier excels at giving the reader the same sense of awe and excitement at discovering the country and those giant trees. The majestic sequoias of Calaveras. It intrigued me so much I looked it up online, and I might just have a wee hankering for dancing on a giant tree stump now.

Aside from the tree and family perspective, the story also gives an interesting insight into the America of that particular era, especially in regards to early settlers. During almost two decades of travel Robert tries to remain in contact with his family. The sporadic letters scattered across the country are indicative of how family branches could lose contact completely in those times.

It is a beautiful read, albeit one that made me want to go forth and eat apples, especially ones that taste of honey and pineapples. It’s the kind of book you remember.

Buy At the Edge of the Orchard at Amazon uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.