Author Interview: Liz Cowley and Donough O’Brien

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Today I am delighted to welcome Liz Cowley and Donough O’Brien to my blog. Liz and Donough are the authors of ‘Serial Damage’, which I review here.

1. You have done what so many writers dream of and had your novel published. How have you found this experience?

Liz:

Very rewarding, and also very interesting, writing jointly with my husband Donough. And the publisher, Urbane, is a joy to work with – far easier than some I’ve known. I never thought I’d write a novel – or more accurately half of one – or dovetail so smoothly with a co-author without any disagreements. He does action, I do reaction – and it’s a recipe that seems to work.

Donough:

To tackle something completely new, a crime novel instead of the illustrated history books that I normally write, I realised that to get the detail right we needed outside expertise. Luckily we knew, or got to know, top detectives, judges, psychologists, gun makers and surgeons, and they gave us the accuracy we needed. Most of the places round the world we featured we have actually visited, which was another help.

2. Urbane require collaboration with authors in marketing their books. Has this worked out as you expected?

Liz:

Yes, very well. While Urbane promoted us, we do our bit with a series of launch parties round the country in aid of charity. We also helped to promote the book in both the UK and Ireland using our own media contacts. It helps that we were both from marketing and advertising backgrounds.

Donough:

We contacted the media in places where our ‘murders’ take place, like Cornwall, Kent and Ireland and the local press and radio stations were happy to feature us. Most media are intrigued by a husband and wife writing team, but it also helped that Liz’s latest book of amusing poetry, Pass the Prosecco, Darling! was coming out at the same time. A woman who can write light poetry and heavy murder is surely very unusual.

3. Have you done many live author events and, if so, do you enjoy them?

Liz:

Yes, quite a few. National radio like Saturday Live and lots of local radio. I’ve also given speeches at the Hampton Court Flower Show. My poetry books were made into a live stage show in Dublin and London, and the show was the finale of the West Cork Literary Festival at which I appeared.

Donough:

In addition to the charity events, we have been on the radio a lot and in my case television (BBC Breakfast, etc). I enjoy such events and also meeting all sorts of people.

4. What is your approach to the on line reviews of your book?

Liz:

They are very important – it thrills me if they’ve enjoyed my books, and if you get criticism, you learn from it. In many ways, it reminds of my many years as an advertising copywriter – starting with picturing the audience and then learning from the feedback if you’ve got it right.

Donough:

Yes, very important and one should never worry about criticism. You can’t please everyone!

5. When asked what you do, do you describe yourself as a writer?

Liz:

A writer (never a poet) although I’ve had seven poetry books published so far. I’m afraid the word ‘poet’ tends to make people freeze!

Donough:

Having drifted into this, I call myself an author – I don’t know why!

6. Are you going to do this again – is there another novel in the pipeline?

Liz:

We already have. Urbane are publishing From One Hell to Another next year. Our heroine is a Spanish girl in the French resistance. Once again Donough pulls the triggers and I do the emotional bits.

Donough:

And in February I’ve got a thriller about the IRA coming out with Urbane called Peace Breaks Out. I wrote it with my friend Robin Hardy, famous for The Wicker Man film, who has sadly just passed away. And Liz and I have just finished a sci-fi novel called Testosterone. So collaborative writing seems to work for us.

 

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Liz has had a long career as an advertising copywriter and Creative Director, working in several of the world’s leading agencies. A long-time fan of poetry, she enjoyed success with her first collection, A Red Dress, published in 2008 and her second, What am I Doing Here? (2010), which were then made into a theatrical show – first staged in Dublin, then chosen as the finale of the West Cork Literary Festival and later touring the UK. Her next book ‘And guess who he was with?’ was out in February 2013. Two poetry books for gardeners, Outside in my Dressing Gown, and Gardening in Slippers are selling very well, not only in the book trade but also in garden centres.

Before turning to writing, Donough enjoyed a successful marketing career in the US and Europe. His previous books include Fame by Chance, looking at places that became famous by a twist of fate; Banana Skins, covering the slips and screw-ups that brought the famous down to earth; Numeroids, a book of numerical nuggets, and In the Heat of Battle; a study of those who rose to the occasion in warfare and those who didn’t. His latest historical book was WHO? The most remarkable people you’ve never heard of.

 

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Serial Damage is published by Urbane Publications and is available to buy now.

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Book Review: Serial Damage

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Serial Damage, by Liz Cowley and Donough O’Brien, is a crime thriller set over three continents. It tells the story of a killer whose victims appear unconnected, and whose lives would not be expected to warrant such attention. Each murder has been executed with care suggesting planning and cold blooded resolve.

Alice Drummond is a psychologist building her private practice in London. When her eighty-four year old godmother is shot whilst tending to her roses in her remote, Cornish garden Alice is at a loss as to why anyone would target an old lady. The only person with any apparent motive is a financially compromised nephew who stands to benefit from a substantial inheritance. He shows little distress at his aunt’s passing but has an alibi for the time of her death.

In Kent an old man is killed in a care home. In Belfast a much admired swimming coach is shot at his local leisure centre. The killer travels to America and then to Hong Kong before returning to London and bringing it to a standstill when he attacks again.

In each case the separate police forces remain baffled as to why their victim has been selected. The crime scenes offer scant evidence and motives remain unclear.

The reader is offered details on each murder and on the movements and mindset of the killer. Background events suggest why he acts as he does.

Alice’s private life is narrated. She is looking for Mr Right and wonders if she has found him when a friend introduces her to the entertaining and steady John. Although enjoying John’s company he lacks the frisson she is often drawn to in less reliable men. When she meets the handsome and enigmatic David, who whisks her away on luxurious, sexually satisfying yet somehow disturbing dates, she is unable to resist. She keeps these liaisons secret thinking that, at her age, it is time she chose a suitable husband and settled down. John is kind and attentive, but would this be enough when he is unexciting in bed?

The structure of the story is unusual with its switches between character study and police investigation. The pace is steadier than in many crime thrillers with focus shifting between the impact of death on the various families and the ongoing killing spree. Several characters are introduced who provide insight but little action. Even Alice is not a typical, modern and independent woman. There is a right wing feel to the book that I rarely encounter in my chosen literature.

The killer is an interesting creation, although the completion of his part in the tale felt quite far fetched. The story held my attention, I enjoyed the psychological profiling, but overall I would have preferred a tighter focus. I was left with a feeling of ambivalence despite this being an engaging enough read.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane Publications.

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Author Interview: Thomas Hocknell

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Today I am delighted to welcome Thomas Hocknell to my blog. Thomas is the author of ‘The Life Assistance Agency’, which I review here.

1. You have done what so many writers dream of and had your novel published. How have you found this experience?

Publication is a fence I’ve been running to leap over for twenty years without any thought as to which way to land – forward roll, the splits, or careen into the nearest gorse bush to emerge quicker than I went in. Time will tell, but at risk of sounding like one of those positive affirmations back-dropped by a rose, publication day was one to savour. Although, it mainly involved sweeping up untouched children’s breakfast cereal and being asked to pay for 4-months worth of backdated Sunday papers at the local newsagent. I used to think writers lived somewhere indefinably special, but they walk among us.

It was certainly a day to quit worrying about MS spell-check missing thong instead of thing throughout the 300 pages of the Life Assistance Agency.  It’s a day like no other, although most writers would claim it’s the best day to start writing the next novel.  Which is lucky, because the most popular question since publication is “Have you started a 2nd one?” I mean talk about not being allowed to rest on your laurels.

Publication day is the sort of day that validates those annoying motivational Twitter status updates involving ‘following your dreams’, and ‘Stars can’t shine without darkness.’ The sort of updates that no one says to your face in fear of being strangled, and without which Twitter would be diminished to people declaring themselves as coffee addicts, uploading photos of cats and flogging vampire novels thinly disguised as porn. Or is it the other way around?

But it’s been wonderful. A dream has come true even if it was a 10-year overnight success. If anything it still feels a little surreal, but it certainly changes your relationship with writing. You suddenly have readers beyond immediate family!

2. Urbane require collaboration with authors in marketing their books. Has this worked out as you expected?

They do. They are an independent publisher, but not having been published before means I have no idea of how it works elsewhere. I’ve been blogging at Idle Blogs of an Idle Fellow for 2 years, and that has gained a secure and loyal following, for which I am deeply grateful. It’s resulted in a kind of established market, albeit a small one. And the generosity of support from friends on Twitter (let’s not call them followers) has been flabbergasting. Ultimately though, you can’t keep flogging the book; it has to take on a life of its own. But there’s no better feeling than seeing it in a bookshop window.

3. Have you done many live author events and, if so, do you enjoy them?

At the first book launch, I so hated being the centre of attention that I found myself still up at 3:30am imploring people to stay, and that it was too early to call it a day. Actually, ask me this again next week, as I have a second one lined up.

4. What is your approach to the on line reviews of your book?

Well, I initially declared I wasn’t going to read any. So, once I’d read them all, I found myself in a collapsed state best known as depression. It’s amazing how one negative review can skewer the glow of the good ones. If I’m honest, it also made me feel exposed and a little vulnerable. I was reminded of the Edna St Vincent Millay quote – “A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book nothing can help him.”  I thought it best to buy some smart new pants.

However, as the weeks passed, the review about me not knowing what genre I was writing in began to sting less. After all, I’ve never chosen to read a novel according to its genre. Then a complete stranger compared the Life Assistance Agency to Douglas Adams’Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. He only wrote 2 and a half of these novels, which I always wanted more of. I’m cautious when aligning myself with such a great like Adams, but he was a huge influence that I’m happy to shout about it. His sentences were so unpredictable that you get the sense even he didn’t know where they were going.

5. When asked what you do, do you describe yourself as a writer?

That is a brilliant question. I do now. Or rather no one has asked since I was published, which is a bit annoying, so I don’t know for sure. I look forward to not saying I’m a social worker, at least initially, although that is what pays the mortgage. The most popular question when people hear that you write is “Are you published?” like it’s something that inevitably happens to every writer. Of course you want to grab them by the lapels and scream ‘D’you have any fucking idea how hard it is to get published?’ This is now avoided by simply pointing them in the direction of my T-shirt emblazoned with I’M PUBLISHED.

6. Are you going to do this again – is there another novel in the pipeline?

See what I mean about not being allowed to rest on your laurels! There is actually. I’m pleased to say that this novel can be seen as cue for further adventures of the Life Assistance Agency, which will vindicate its proprieter Scott Wildblood, as much as it will annoy his partner Ben Ferguson-Cripps. I love writing, at least when it’s going well. It’s like pottering about in a garden shed but without the spiders and tripping over the patio heater you don’t recall buying.

Where my readers can find you

Blog: Idle blogs of an idle fellow – Journeys from the fax

Twitter: Tom Angel (@TomAngel1)

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Thomas Hocknell is from Kent and lives in London. He has been a social worker, car salesman and gardener. He attended the Faber Academy and The Life Assistance Agency is his first novel. His blog, Idle Blogs of an Idle Fellow, aims to embrace random topics of modern living, but mostly complains about other people’s inability to make decent tea. He also writes for Classic Pop magazine, the Good Men Project and The Line of Best Fit.

 

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The Life Assistance Agency is published by Urbane Publications and is available to buy now.

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Book Review: The Life Assistance Agency

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“I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud” (Jung)

The Life Assistance Agency, by Thomas Hocknell, introduces the reader to Ben Ferguson-Cripps, the author of a mildly popular blog and one published book with sales figures so disappointing his agent is considering no longer representing him. In need of an income, Ben has taken a job transferring data from an ancient mainframe onto a contemporary IT system, despite having no idea how to do this. When he is found out and dismissed he visits the newly formed Life Assistance Agency. He discovers it has been set up by an old friend, Scott Wildblood. Ben last saw Scott when he was having a heart attack in the office where they both used to work.

Scott offers Ben a job, although he has yet to secure any clients. Ben is sent out wearing a sandwich board to drum up business, but has more success when he rings the number on a missing person’s poster and taps into the desperation of a middle-aged woman whose husband has not been seen for two weeks. The man, Thomas Foxe, had an interest in medieval alchemy and had attempted to commune with angels, much to the irritation of his now worried wife. Ben and Scott discover that a series of related artefacts have recently gone missing, their provenance leading the less than intrepid duo to follow the errant lecturer across Europe.

Ben and Scott track the missing Dr Foxe whilst sinister operatives from a secret society, intent on retaining their monopoly on contacting higher beings, track them. There are night-time flits, car chases, underhand thefts, and the translation of a diary that dates back to the sixteenth century. This tells of an alchemist, Dr John Dee, who worked with a scryer in an attempt to create gold and the secrets known only by the angels.

The plot is fantastical and is told with a healthy dose of cynicism, especially when considering man’s preoccupation with wealth and longevity. However, after an entertaining opening I found I was not always engaged as the adventure progressed. There are many amusing one liners and I enjoyed the denouement but my concentration drifted during the twice detailed journey through Europe.

I enjoy the author’s blog and this is written in much the same style. It is a light-hearted and wry look at belief whilst pandering to modern day sensibilities. A shame then that, in places through the middle, it did not fully hold my attention.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane Publications.

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Author Interview: Simon Michael

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Today I am delighted to welcome Simon Michael to my blog. Simon is the author of ‘The Brief’ (which I review here) and ‘An Honest Man’ (which I review here).

1. You have done what so many writers dream of and had your novel published. How have you found this experience?

Like many of the Urbane authors, this is not my first experience of being published. I was published by large traditional publishing houses in the 1990s, WH Allen and St Martin’s Press. On my return to writing I found that the publishing world had changed completely in the intervening 25 years. In the traditional model, which until recent years had no alternative (except, perhaps, vanity publishing) you gave your cherished baby, the work on which you had dedicated months or years of your life, to the publishers in return for an advance on royalties and they did exactly what they pleased with it. You had little or no say in blurb, jacket design, marketing, advertising or pricing. Many of us found it to be a poor experience, and I know even well-established and highly regarded writers who felt let down by the process. We produced commodities, books, for the publishers to dispose of as they thought fit.

The advent of the Internet has changed all that. The polar opposite to the traditional publishing model is self-publication, and anyone can do it and have their book available on Amazon and similar formats within hours. The downside is that it joins millions of other self-published books, and even if it’s brilliant it may never attract a readership.

Urbane Publications offers an intermediate model whereby publisher and author work together in partnership. Profits are divided much more equally (although there is usually no advance) and decisions are taken jointly. When it works, it is a very empowering experience but it depends on the personal relationship between author and publisher which may not always be problem-free, and authors have to expect success to come more slowly, if it comes at all. Small independent publishers cannot afford large sums of money for marketing or publicity.

2. Urbane require collaboration with authors in marketing their books. Has this worked out as you expected?

My part has been more demanding, but also more fun, than I expected. I have designed and produced posters, travelled with a suitcase up and down the country to bookshops, sold the concept and persuaded them to stock the books, and contacted scores of libraries, book groups and bookshops to secure speaking engagements and signing sessions. I am presently involved in arranging a photo shoot for a life-size poster of me wearing court robes and carrying a shot gun!

Urbane have opened doors for me, by getting me onto panels at literary festivals for example, and they have been excellent at managing the pricing and offers on Amazon, something I wouldn’t have been able to do without help.

One of Matthew Smith’s particular strengths lies in cover design; some of his covers for the fiction books have been outstanding and have attracted a great deal of enthusiastic social media comment.

3. Have you done many live author events and, if so, do you enjoy them?

To date I have had approximately 10 speaking engagements, I have 4 more in the diary before Christmas, and will organise more in the New Year. I am aiming at speaking at least twice a month.

I do enjoy them very much. 37 years’ at the Bar and singing in an R&B band allowed full rein to my love of performance, and I didn’t think through the fact that, when I retired to write full-time, that part of my personality would no longer find expression. In fact this is even better. My talks are developing into a “one-man show” with anecdotes from life at the Bar, some personal history as well as insights into the period of the novels (1940s and 1960s) and readings from the books. I am even thinking of adding some music from the periods.

4. What is your approach to the on line reviews of your book?

Fortunately I have only had one poor review, a 2* review on Amazon by someone who had obviously never read the book. You read about competitor authors putting poor reviews on Amazon, and it is my guess that this was an example, so I should probably feel flattered that they saw me as serious competition.

More generally however I often reply thanking the reviewer because I know it takes time and effort to give a review, and few reviewers appreciate the difference it makes to profile and sales. Although all of the reviews of The Brief were 5* and 4* (with the exception of the one referred to above) several reviewers had interesting insights as to the pacing of the first half of the book, and in those cases I have replied agreeing with them and have borne the criticism in mind in the later books.

I enjoy having a dialogue with my readers, and I recognise that I am still learning my trade, so insightful analysis by literate readers is invaluable.

5. When asked what you do, do you describe yourself as a writer?

I have begun to describe myself as a writer but I’m still a bit shy to do so, because it smacks of arrogance and, of course, very few people have heard of me as yet. If, as is often the case, the response is “Oh, have I heard of you?” the inevitable reply “Probably not” is a bit deflating. But my agent is working on a lead regarding a TV series, and hopefully that will all change.

6. Are you going to do this again – is there another novel in the pipeline?

There is indeed, at least three and probably more. The reviews suggest, and I believe, that I’m getting better as a writer as I learn my trade, and the third book, The Lighterman, is complete. It will be published in May 2017, and the consensus is that it’s the strongest so far.

The fourth novel is already part-written. The Charles Holborne series is a long way from the psychological thrillers or police procedurals of which there are so many exponents at present. This series is about a particular man, Charles Holborne, something of a maverick barrister with a background as a boxer and criminal himself. I throw him into the turmoil of the gangland culture of 1960s London, the corrupt police and the biased judiciary. They are thrillers, with a crime/mystery at their heart, and often courtroom scenes on the way, but Charles is on a moral and personal journey and therefore the series of books has a definite arc. He’s presently in the middle of that arc so there are several books to come, but when he’s finished his journey, assuming he survives, I will need to think carefully what to do next;

I want to avoid the stories becoming formulaic. The title of your blog “Never Imitate” is something I identify with closely. Most people who know me would say that I have never followed the path well-trod, and Charles Holborne is an extension of me.

Where my readers can find you

Website: simonmichael.uk

Facebook: Simon Michael (@simonmichael.uk)

Twitter: Simon Michael (@simonmichaeluk)

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Simon Michael was called to the Bar by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in 1978. In his many years of prosecuting and defending criminal cases he has dealt with a wide selection of murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy.

A storyteller all his life, Simon started writing short stories at school. His first novel (co-written) was published by Grafton in 1988 and was followed in 1989 by his first solo novel, The Cut Throat, the first of the Charles Holborne series, based on Simon’s own experiences at the criminal Bar. The next in the series, The Long Lie, was published in 1992. Between the two, in 1991, Simon’s short story “Split” was shortlisted for the Cosmopolitan/Perrier Short Story Award. He was also commissioned to write two feature screenplays.

Simon then put writing aside to concentrate on his career at the Bar. After a further 25 years’ experience he now has sufficient plots based on real cases for another dozen legal thrillers.

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‘The Brief’ and ‘An Honest Man’ are published by Urbane Publications, and are available to buy now.

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Book Review: An Honest Man

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An Honest Man, by Simon Michael, is a courtroom drama set in 1960s London. It is the second book in the author’s Charles Holborne series which started with The Brief (reviewed here). The Kray twins feature so there is plenty of scheming and gangland violence, but at the heart of the story is the English legal system and the corruption that exists on both sides of the law.

A year after events recounted in The Brief, Holborne has fallen from grace. The previously up and coming barrister has been in a new chambers for many months but is still struggling to attract instructions. With his finances in the doldrums he is reluctantly considering a change in career that would enable him to pay his bills.

The book takes some time to get going. There are a large number of shady characters to get to know before Holborne is handed the case that has the potential to pull him from the mire – defending a solicitor, Harry Robeson, who is known to represent powerful criminals and who stands accused of involvement in a diamond heist. Holborne and Robeson share a similar background as Jews raised in the East End of the city. When Robeson decides to help Holborne in a family crisis, their relationship becomes more personal.

As in the previous book, the workings of the law and the courtroom scenes are well developed and make for fascinating reading. Holborne comes into his own when cross examining a witness and managing a jury. His legal colleagues are still wary of his religion and lack of social connections more typical in their profession, especially given his previous brush with the wrong side of the law. However, he is good at his job and this case gives him the chance to prove it. What he had not, perhaps, factored in was the lengths to which the powerful gangs would go to protect their own.

The narrative is fluent and entertaining. Certain scenes with Holborne’s girlfriend were a little too graphic for my tastes but they are asides in a tale of corruption and the steps some will take to achieve what they regard as justice.

The denouement was chilling leaving plenty of scope for a sequel. I will be interested to see where the author takes Holborne next.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane.

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Book Review: The Brief

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The Brief, by Simon Michael, brings to mind various vintage crime series that I have enjoyed watching on TV over the years. It is set in 1960s London, a period when the roads in central London could be driven through with relative ease and public payphones were a necessary aid to communication. The workings of the courts of law, with barristers’ chambers and their rarefied procedures, provide a fascinating backdrop at variance to the more common use of clever detective.

Charles Holborne, is an up and coming barrister willing to take on cases representing base criminals and lowlifes, much to the chagrin of his well connected colleagues. He was raised a Jew in the East End of the city, another factor that sets him apart. His beautiful wife, Henrietta, is from a wealthy and titled family but has grown bored with her hard working husband who she married as an act of defiance to her philandering father. Now she too indulges in affairs.

The story opens with the release from prison of a career criminal with few scruples. He plans a heist which he believes will enable him to retire. When it all goes wrong, Charles is tasked with defending him and his accomplice. It is just another case for Charles, but creates a dangerous enemy.

Back at chambers there are rumblings of discontent. An older member is called to account for his treatment of a pretty, young clerk. Other members voice resentment that a Jew is enjoying increasing success with the financial benefits this brings, which they believe should be theirs. Henrietta has been openly flirting with more than one of her husband’s colleagues. The choices she makes result in heated exchanges.

I have never understood anti-Semitism, how Jews appear to be so widely disliked by segments of society when their supposed crimes appear to be little more than nepotism and financial success. As these are also prevalent amongst society’s most privileged I find their rancour hard to comprehend. Nevertheless, it exists and affects this story’s protagonist. When Charles finds himself framed for murder it is hard to know which of his enemies, from which sphere of society, has taken action.

The police desire speedy convictions and some are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their aims. When Charles realises that the crime he is accused of will not be properly investigated he determines to find out what has happened for himself. His methods may be risky but with the death penalty still a potential punishment he feels he has nothing to lose.

The tale is fast moving. The writing is polished and flows with ease. The author has taken real case notes and court documents as inspiration. The narrative from inside the courts are a fine addition to the tale.

The evocation of time and place are a reminder of how far we have progressed in just a few decades, and also of how certain attitudes have not changed. I am looking forward to reading more of Charles Holborne’s exploits as the proposed series progresses.

I enjoyed this book and am happy to recommend it. An absorbing and entertaining read.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane.

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Author Interview: Angelena Boden

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Today I am once again delighted to welcome Angelena Boden to my blog. Angelena is the author of ‘The Cruelty of Lambs’, which I review here.

1. You have done what so many writers dream of and had your novel published. How have you found this experience?

Writing The Cruelty of Lambs was in part a cathartic exercise. Being a survivor of psychological abuse I felt I was using my main character’s voice to express repressed feelings. I finished the first draft very quickly, writing for 4 hours every morning. It was the endless drafting and redrafting that was the really hard work!

2. Urbane require collaboration with authors in marketing their books. Has this worked out as you expected?

I have over 30 years of running my own business and collaboration with partners has been critical to its success. I think the days of authors handing over their creation to publishers and sitting back while the money rolls in are long gone. Urbane is ultimately in the driving seat but I’ve been working hard to raise the discovery of the book through social media, bringing on board my own PR consultant for TV contacts and proactively putting my story out there. As a professional trainer and presenter, I am already getting offers to talk on coercive control, a hidden form of domestic abuse.

3. Have you done many live author events and, if so, do you enjoy them?

I’ve got a book launch at Waterstones in Birmingham on November 23rd thanks to local contacts – the book is set in Birmingham – a signing in my current home town of Malvern on December 7th , one in Bakewell, where I grew up on Monday November 21st and one next January in Ludlow, Shropshire. I was interviewed on Sky Sunrise on Nov 12th which was a great experience. I hope for many more. My book is not only a gripping read, so say the reviewers, but also raises awareness about an issue people don’t want to admit exists.

4. What is your approach to the on line reviews of your book?

I wrote a recent blog piece about how to handle reviews (link here). I am grateful for people who have given up a few hours of their time to read the book and accept their opinions. I don’t engage in dialogue. If they are negative but have something useful to add to my learning then I take it on board.

5. When asked what you do, do you describe yourself as a writer?

I’ve had a fabulous career as an international trainer until I semi- retired aged 60. These days I do on line coaching and counselling for people who are struggling to make sense of their lives and of course writing but in answer to your question, to call myself an author is …. Well I have to pinch myself! It’s my childhood dream come true.

6. Are you going to do this again – is there another novel in the pipeline?

My second book is finished and has just come back from beta readers. It’s called The Future Can’t Wait and tackles another gritty topic that is swept under the carpet and yes… controversial as well. I hope to keep writing until I drop!

Where my readers can find you

Website:  angelenaboden.com

Twitter: The Cruelty of Lambs (@AngelenaBoden)

Facebook: bodenangelena

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Angelena Boden has spent over thirty years training, coaching and counselling in the field of interpersonal conflict and communication. As a linguist, she has lived and worked overseas, travelled extensively and spent periods in Iran where she learned Farsi.

She is the author of three business books, published by Management Pocketbooks Ltd and is a freelance journalist.

A former resident and graduate of Birmingham, the setting for The Cruelty of Lambs, she is a passionate defender of a city she believes is misunderstood.

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The Cruelty of Lambs is published by Urbane Publications and is available to buy now.

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Book Reviews – Guest Post by Angelena Boden

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Today I am delighted to welcome Angelena Boden to my blog. Angelena is the author of ‘The Cruelty of Lambs’, which I review here. As a book blogger I was interested to read this author perspective on book reviews. I will be posting my interview with Angelena tomorrow.

You’ve agonised over plot, characters and dialogue, driving your household or friends crazy as you divert conversations away from them and back to your book: your wonderful debut novel which you are sure is going to reach great heights. Dreams of Hollywood fill your star-gazing moments.

Your family indulges you, oohing and ahhing over your opening paragraph, then express amazement when you tell them you’ve written 80,000 words. ‘But it’s so hard to get a publisher these days,’ they say with a smirk and a wave of insecurity hits you. A year’s work or more could be all for nothing. ‘Well, I can self-publish,’ you hit back. Millionaires are made on the back of a 99 cent erotic thriller.’

Whichever way you go with your book, traditional, independent or self-publishing you will have to face the day when that great creation you’ve given a painful birth to, nurtured and had to let go to find its own place in the wider world. That is unless you are happy to simply store it under the bed for secret readings in the early hours.

Who knows, it might be discovered when the kids are clearing out the house and it wins a cheeky posthumous award and they fight over the resulting royalties.

Most debut authors fear negative reviews. It’s like starting your first job and being shredded during an appraisal. Self-doubt creeps in, fragile egos get massacred and recently printed pages of that second novel get tossed in the air.

When The Cruelty of Lambs hit the marketplace there’s no denying I was nervous. I’ve been in a creative business long enough to know that not everybody likes or wants your product. As writers we have to accept that. Reviews are like a one way missile. Sensible authors don’t retaliate or demand from the reviewer a blow by blow account of why they didn’t like it.

Reviewers not only provide a valuable service to potential readers but also to authors. I appreciate the time a reviewer has taken to read my novel and the careful crafting of their response to it. If there is something in there I can use for future books then even better. A criticism might sting for a minute or two but it won’t throw me into despair or an emotional breakdown. Quite the reverse. As Hillary Clinton said recently, Anger isn’t a plan.

A plan should be to keep improving and polishing your craft, learning from more experienced authors and write, write, write. It’s tough. It’s a marathon not a sprint and no matter how much work you put into it, it’s guaranteed that a percentage of the reading public might not like it.

So, what should you do if you get a bad review?

In a word, nothing. It’s still a review. Focus on the positive ones. Definitely don’t rush to a social media site to complain! Remember why you write. Many of us are driven to put fingertips to keyboard.

Those words are busting to come out. Make sure they are not loaded with poisoned arrows at reviewers who have been kind enough to give up a few hours of their day to focus on your work. It’s not personal even if it feels like it.

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The Cruelty of Lambs is published by Urbane Publications and is available to buy now.

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Book Review: The Cruelty of Lambs

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The Cruelty of Lambs, by Angelena Boden, is a challenging contemporary thriller, dealing as it does with the insidious effects of domestic abuse. The protagonist is a middle aged musician who has been forced to step down from his teaching job at a school following allegations, subsequently withdrawn, of sexual misconduct with pupils. His wife blames him for the difficulties her business is now facing citing the stress and financial cost of supporting him while he fought to clear his name.

Una Carrington is a controlling woman, damaged from her own upbringing but unable to shoulder responsibility for any failures on her part. She has built a successful business that enables her to fly around the world. She has little interest in her two children and keeps them at a distance. She takes out her frustrations on her husband, Iain Millar, a quiet soul who is happiest when playing his beloved cello.

Iain is spiralling into depression. The emptiness and minimalist decor of his sterile home are at odds with the warmth and clutter in which he was raised. He misses his children. The eldest, a son from his first marriage which fell apart when he was unfaithful, is working abroad. The younger two are away at boarding school thanks to a trust fund set up by his father. With his wife constantly haranguing him for being out of work he suffers debilitating stress along with the physical abuse she inflicts when he will not do as she demands. He starts to hear voices in his head telling him to harm her.

Una turns to men she meets on business trips and in bars to try to shore up her diminishing reserves of confidence. She blames Iain with his peace loving compliance, which she regards as weakness, for forcing her to behave in this way. Iain has the support of his good friend, Fergus, a rough diamond out of his depth when it comes to other’s marital issues. Fergus can see what is going on in Iain’s life but feels powerless when his friend will not admit to the extent of the issues he is trying to deal with.

The story plays out over a six month period. It is told in snapshots of key incidents taking the reader inside the minds of both the unstable Una and the increasingly agitated Iain. These are uncomfortable places to be. The details of what exactly is happening remains murky. Iain’s valuable, heritage cello becomes a fixation for Una’s neurotic behaviour. She resents the comfort he finds in music, and that it enables him to shut her out. Friends and family circle the unhappy couple, feeling helpless as they each descend physically and psychologically.

Whilst in places this is a bleak, disturbing tale, the known prevalence of domestic abuse makes it an important issue for all to consider. Marriage is a complex institution, especially when children are involved. Despite Una’s cruelty, the author allows for a degree of sympathy. Having been drawn into Iain’s dilemma I was apprehensive about how his story would end. This is a page turner, but not one for the trepidatious.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane.

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