The book cover has been changed since publication.
This book is a rollercoaster of dark emotions, young romance, abuse and fierce ambition which makes for a gripping read.
I was drawn to this book because I loved horse books as a child but this is not a book for young children. The central character, Roan Montgomery, is a grown-up 15 year old who is strong and fierce and who does not back down. Roan is training for the Olympics as a three day eventer in the disciplines of eventing, dressage and show jumping. She has to balance this tough life with the pressures of school and a less than harmonious home life. Added to the mix: her coach is her father, a former Olympic competitor and strong disciplinarian with the stirrings of first love and you have an amazing concoction of a book that keeps you engrossed from start to finish.
Strong Female Character
Roan, herself, is a strong female character: she has to be in order to keep winning but there is more to her life than outsiders see and the way she is able to deal with it is impressive in one so young.
There are some strong scenes in this book which might be triggering for some. Characters are well-drawn and believable. Will and Roan’s romance is tender and provides some counterbalance to the strong forces that rule her life. The novel is very dark in places and there are points where it is very tense. The reader definitely understands what pressure there might be for people who wish to succeed in their chosen sport.
I would recommend Dark Horses with the caveat that if you have had some trauma in your life that you might want to approach with care.
If you have a book blog, you might like to join Netgalley.co.uk that has proof copies available for reading and reviewing. You can sign up on the website.
In a previous blog post, I mentioned that I enjoyed doing writing challenges. At the beginning of the year, I took part in two such challenges on Chris Fielden’s website and have now been published as part of a flash fiction anthology.
I chose to take part for a couple of reasons: I liked the idea of limiting the number of words to tell a story and this was for charity. Both of the challenges I took part in were nearing their end and in fact both finished within a couple of weeks of my submitting my entry.
The first book, Topically Challenged has been published today.
Where did Topically Challenged start?
Alice Trump submitted the idea which was to write a fictional story based on a news headline. Stories submitted had to show a strong theme. The limit was 180 words max. Once the challenge had received 100 stories, then it would close. Not all the challenges are published as books, some are simply published on the website. The ones that are chosen to be published will have any profits donated to charity.
You can buy Topically Challenged as either an e-book or a published book. It contains 100 stories based on topical news headlines. The idea was chosen because news headlines can be a great place for writers to find inspiration for their stories. Some of the stories have been left online so that people can see what kind of stories have been written. There has been a great variety of stories submitted to the anthology and it is going to be an interesting read.
Where to buy Topically Challenged Volume 1
Topically Challenged Volume 1 is available from Amazon in print and Kindle eBook formats.
Proceeds from book sales will be donated to BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity. They transform lives by getting children and families reading.
The book can be found on all of Amazon’s websites by searching for the book by name or searching for the Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN):
Chris Fielden’s website has direct links to buy the book and you can find out more information such as who designed the cover.
With thanks to Red Dog Press and Curtis Ippolito for the advance copy
Welcome to my part of the Book Tour!
Burying the Newspaper Man is not the type of book I read very often. It is not a genre that I would normally choose to read, but as part of a Book Club, we have sometimes had books that are similar and I have previously enjoyed them.
A dead body. A dark past. An ordinary man with everything to lose.
Marcus Kemp is a regular beat cop living a normal life in San Diego, California. Until the day he makes a shocking discovery: a dead body in the trunk of a stolen car. Worse, the victim turns out to be the man who abused him as a child.
Marcus instinctively wants to help the killer get away with murder and, disregarding his police oath, will stop at nothing to make it happen. With both his job and freedom in jeopardy, his investigation leads him to an unexpected killer, and Marcus is soon faced with an impossible decision.
Can he finally bury the past before it drags him under?
The book began quite slowly for me and I found it a little hard to get into the writing style at first. A warning: it does contain a description of an adult’s abuse of a child and this could awaken some unwanted feelings in some readers. By about halfway through, I was getting into the rhythm of the writing and enjoying the book.
Marcus is a damaged character through his childhood experience and this affects everything in his life particularly his relationship with his girlfriend, Megan. The reader does not see Marcus in his normal day to day life. We only see him as reacting to this unexpected event in his life and everything he does after that is affected by that event. The character of Marcus makes the premise quite believable in the steps that he chooses to take and when events take control, he finds that training takes over.
As the book reached its zenith, I found it genuinely exciting. I enjoyed the last three or four chapters immensely and I would recommend sticking with it as the ending is really good. I would recommend this book and I suggest you give it a try, particularly if you normally like this kind of book.
About the Author:
Curtis Ippolito lives in San Diego, California, with his wife. He is a communications writer for a nonprofit biological research facility. He has previously been a writer in the health care industry and is a former newspaper reporter. Follow him on Twitter @curtis9980.
Self-Publish and Succeed: The ‘No boring books’ way to write a non-fiction book that sells by Julie Broad
Thanks to Netgalley for my preview copy of this book
When reading a self-help book, it is always gratifying to see that the author has taken their own advice in the production of their book. Julie Broad is that author.
Whether it’s making the chapter titles interesting (tick), knowing your hook (tick) or even the important subject of choosing the right title and subtitle (tick, tick) Julie Broad has an opinion on all of these matters, and more importantly, she uses her own self-help book to prove why they are important.
Follows her own advice
Every chapter has something of value to the reader. Every chapter contains interesting nuggets of information and every chapter helps to build a full picture relating to the subject of the book. Julie shares stories of her first self-publishing venture and her second. By the third, she has learned a great deal and is able to share her wisdom to the benefit of non-fiction authors everywhere.
Not only did I find this book readable, helpful and interesting, but I found that what it had to say about self-publishing would also apply to fiction books in a lot of ways. Fiction books also need a good hook to keep the reader reading, an intriguing title and a ‘try me’ front cover. Any aspiring author will learn a great deal from picking up this book and reading it from cover to cover. The book also links with Julie’s website and business, so it helps to plug her business while demonstrating her knowledge of the subject matter.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, yes, I would. More importantly I would actually consider buying my own copy, I found it that helpful. Highly commended. Thank you, Julie.
For whatever reason you write, there are usually at least two broad ways to do it. Either you are a planner – someone who plans what they are going to write or you are a pantser. This means someone who is flying by the seat of their pants, or someone who has no plan, they just sit down and write.
Many writers can be both, but many have a preferred method.
I came across this term at the beginning of Nanowrimo in November 2020 and I immediately got it. As someone who frequently just takes a writing prompt and launches herself with it, I get that sometimes it can feel a bit scary, but it is also exhilarating. So, how can you tell which you are? And does it really matter?
If you are a planner:
You like to have an outline.
You might like to have an idea of where the story might end
You might like to plan out a book, chapter by chapter
You might have a special notebook where you plan things out
You might like collecting tools that help you plan such as apps
You might think on a story for a long time before starting to write it
Pros of being a planner:
Easier to begin your writing. You usually have something to write when you start up because you are working to a plan
You know where you are going, so can find interesting ways of getting there
You might have key points in mind for a longer project, such as a novel which will help keep you on track
It is easier to keep going with something when you know the way
Or Someone who likes to fly by the Seat of their Pants
It’s exciting, not knowing where you are going
Some people like to just see where the muse takes them
If you can’t think of something to write, sometimes it is easier just to launch out
You are totally open as to where this thing is going to go
Cons of being a Pantser
It can be hard to start writing on a blank page and even harder if you have no idea what you are going to write
It can make the story uncoordinated or mean that it does not flow as easily
Once you have finished your story it may mean that you need a complete revision of it
You may forget characters’ names or events in the novel and find yourself reinventing the wheel
Which are you?
In the end, it all comes down to personal choice and what works for you. I have tried to start planning my work more but have found that it does not always make for a satisfying story straight away and that it may have needed more work. The stories that I have just sat and written are sometimes more complete stories. That may mean that I prefer more flying by the seat of my pants than planning, but there are times when I have felt that planning is a must.
I first joined Nanowrimo quite a while ago. I had had an idea for a novel for about a year and I managed to write it all during the month. I got the free proof of it, cringed mightily on reading it and shoved it in a drawer, never to see the light of day again.
When I joined Nanowrimo last November, it was a different story: I had no idea what I was going to write. I had spent a few months writing short stories and some had been good, some bad, but I had no idea for a novel, yet here I was, wanting to take part in the novel writing month.
The idea I came up with was spur of the moment, based on a film I had recently seen and in an era I knew very little about. I decided that I would learn on the way. I started the story and managed to write most days, but I did not make the 50,000-word target. I managed around 25,000 words that month. I am now 40,000 words in and I hope to finish this novel soon.
The best of both worlds
Although I began this novel as a pantser, I have, many times, sat down and tried to work out what is happening next. I have kept lists of characters and tried to keep a rough timeline, so I have really had the best of both worlds. I know that the book is going to need some serious rewriting, but I have got to the point when I am enjoying writing it and I know that I am going to finish it. I am then likely to rework it a little before rewriting.
There are other Nanowriting challenges throughout the year. In April and July, they run another two month-long challenges, but this time you set the challenge of how many words you wish to reach. If you are trying to get your writing project off the ground, then this could be a good idea. Check them out and see what you think.
Country Cat Blues is the second book of a series about Aubrey, a former street cat who has taken to solving crime. You can read about Aubrey’s first adventure in Street Cat Blues.
For the second book, Aubrey moves away from the town and into a sleepy rural village called Fallowfield, where he meets a whole new cast of characters, both human and cat. The story neatly runs both cat crime and human crime side by side and the cats are very useful in helping to solve both because they can slip through cat flaps and slide into houses unnoticed in a way that we humans cannot.
I really enjoyed this book. Although it seems a little unusual to have a cat narrating the story, you soon get used to his voice and he can see things that humans might miss. I found it well-written, with some nice comic touches and some great characters, both cat and human. I have not read the first book but found the family easy to get to know with some true-to-life connections between teens and parents. I was less clever than Aubrey as I did not know who the murderer was until near the end of the book, but there were red herrings along the way (much to the delight of the cats).
If you like crime novels and cats and never knew that you could read a book about both, then you will enjoy this book and getting to know Aubrey and his family.
Country Cat Blues is available from 23rd February at Amazon and on Kindle.
An Interview with the Author
I asked author, Alison O’Leary some questions about how she came to write Country Cat Blues and the prequel. She was kind enough to answer them:
How long did it take you to write your first book?
I think it was about two years. It was written in longhand and, to be honest, it wasn’t very good. I only submitted it to one or two agents before stuffing it to the back of the cupboard. For me, the real achievement was in actually finishing it. I felt that I’d accomplished something and that I’d taken the first steps on my journey as a writer.
How many unread but written books do you have in a drawer somewhere at home?
I have three, including the first one, but I’m considering revising one of them. It did attract some attention from agents but didn’t ultimately make it through to publication. I looked at it again the other day and, while it needs some work, I still like the basic idea. It’s a stand-alone psychological thriller which revolves around four women and one secret. Its working title is A Choice Of Enemies. As Oscar Wilde said: ‘A man cannot be too careful in his choice of enemies’ …
Aubrey is a very knowing cat. Who was the inspiration for him?
The real Aubrey was a rescue cat, just like his namesake. He was named Aubrey because my partner was reading John Aubrey’s Brief Lives at the time. As Aubrey once said to me, it could have been worse – he could have been called Brief!
Aubrey was a large male tabby and he had been at the rescue centre far longer than any of the other cats. I’m not sure why, perhaps it was because he wasn’t cute like the kittens. We took to him immediately and it was a choice that we never regretted. He was the most loving, affectionate animal although it would be true to say that he never missed a food opportunity. When he used to stroll about the garden he often had a very purposeful look. The idea for the book came when my partner turned to me and said, ‘that cat always looks as though he’s got a bit of admin to sort out’. Or, maybe, a crime to solve …
What is your process when beginning to write a book?
Once I have an idea, I usually start by making notes, often on scrappy bits of paper, just odd bits and pieces as they occur to me. Then I make a rough plan, just an outline sketch of who does what and when. Once I start writing, I refer back to the notes and keep adding more. What I usually find though is that the book takes a direction of its own so that what started as a minor character develops into something much more significant. Sometimes things just come out of nowhere. For example, in Country Cat Blues there is a ghost called Maudie. I have no idea where she appeared from. She just sort of turned up and started joining in!
Which crime author is your must-read immediately-the-book-comes-out favourite and why?
That’s quite difficult to answer – there are so many good crime writers out there! At one time I would have said Ruth Rendell and in fact I do go back and re-read some of hers from time to time. Now it’s quite eclectic. Elizabeth Haynes is very good, as is Erin Kelly. I used to teach law and criminology so I do read quite a lot of true crime as well. The most recent was The Fatal Passion of Alma Rattenbury by Sean O’Connor which concerned a notorious murder trial in the 1930’s.
Which crime book do you wish you had written and why?
Probably The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. It was first published in 1926 and was a real ground-breaker at the time.
Thank to you to Alison for such great answers. I always enjoy talking to authors and learning more about their process when they write a book and also their inspiration.
With thanks to Red Dog Press and author Alison O’Leary
This week on the blog, I am excited to bring you the cover reveal of a book that is released next week. Country Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary will be available to buy on 23rd February 2021. It is the second book in the series, but the story will stand on its own. You do not need to have read the first book to enjoy it.
On Saturday 27th February, this blog will be taking part in the book tour for the book. You will be able to read my review of the book. I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you.
If you would like to catch up with the first adventures of Aubrey, the book is called Street Cat Blues by the same author and it can be found on Amazon in paperback or on Kindle.
Here is a synopsis of the book:
Country Cat Blues
When former rescue cat Aubrey moves to the picturesque village of Fallowfield with his owners and their foster son Carlos, he is keen to explore the delights of the English countryside.
However, all is not as it seems among the villagers. The idyllic peace is shattered when a gruesome murder takes place at the village fete.
Tensions run high as spectres from the past begin to emerge, and Aubrey is particularly upset when suspicion falls on Morris, who may be almost permanently drunk, but is also a good friend to the local cat population…
Can Aubrey restore the peace in the village and help clear Morris’s name?
Red Dog Shop: https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/product-page/country-cat-blues
Publication Date: 23rd February 2021
Author Bio – Alison O’Leary
I was born in London and spent my teenage years in Hertfordshire where I spent large amounts of time reading novels, watching daytime television and avoiding school. Failing to gain any qualifications in science whatsoever, the dream of being a forensic scientist collided with reality when a careers teacher suggested that I might like to work in a shop. I don’t think she meant Harrods. Later studying law, I decided to teach rather than go into practice and have spent many years teaching mainly criminal law and criminology to young people and adults.
I enjoy reading crime novels, doing crosswords, and drinking wine. Not necessarily in that order.
Disclaimer: Although I have received an advance copy of the book for review purposes, all opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way. I have also not been paid to take part in the book tour.
In the UK, we have all had to stay home more, thanks to Covid-19 but this has created more opportunities for creative hobbies. I have enjoyed reading more books, written more short stories and discovered how to make a digital scrapbook.
I was looking for images for a children’s worksheet when I came across PixelScrapper. This free-to-join website has a wide variety of images. This community offers a wide variety of patterns and pictures, similar to real life scrapbook papers and elements. You can use them in your digital scrapbook but rather than using glue, you can just paste on a screen. You can also choose to print them out.
There are two types of membership. A free membership allows you to download a digital kit for free. The kits contain elements, which tend to be single images of a flower or a butterfly, an alphabet font, sayings or mottos and papers which are similar to the papers that you buy to put in a scrapbook. These have all been designed by the members of the site. You can download kits, mini-kits or individual elements or papers. The kits tend to be a collection of digital scrapping items linked by a theme or colour scheme. Every day you visit the website, you can earn download credits which you can then exchange for more items. There is also a paid membership option which supports the website and enables patrons to download as many kits as they want.
The website offers incentives and opportunities to use the items you can download. You can download free items from a monthly blog train. The designers can opt in and offer digital kits. A palette of colours is offered every month as well as some ideas for themes. There is a number of ways to obtain kits. Some can be downloaded from their own websites, some from Facebook pages and some from the website itself. You can take part in challenges to achieve a certain number of pages. There is an active forum community and help available in the form of videos and posts to the forum.
So, what do you need in order to start digital scrapping?
It is a good idea to have a copy of Adobe Elements to help you achieve the images you want. Other free design software is available but most of the posts are aimed at helping you use Elements. You will also want some way of storing the images. These can be memory-intensive, so investing in an external hard drive or even a good quality SD card can be a good idea. You may wish to buy two so that you can have a double back-up. The sheet size you use may depend on the size that you wish to print. You can send these to a printing company or you can print them out yourself.
Glossary of Terms:
Digital Scrapping – the ability to use digital elements to enhance your scrapbook or journal
Kit/Mini-Kit – a collection of digital items for the use of scrapbooking digitally. Can include papers, individual elements, sayings and alphabet fonts
Papers – patterned and/or textured papers which can come in colour or pattern themes
Elements – individual small digital images. Could include ribbons, buttons, butterflies or flowers
Layout –Enhancing a photo in a digital or real-life scrapbook or journal. Usually includes 2, 3 or 4 elements or papers
If you want to learn more about digital scrapping then do check out PixelScrapper. Let me know if you have already tried it in the comments.
“the purloining or wrongful appropriation of another’s ideas, writing, artistic designs, etc., and giving them forth as one’s own,” 1620s, from -ism + plagiary (n.) “plagiarist, literary thief” (c. 1600), from Latin plagiarius “kidnapper, seducer, plunderer, one who kidnaps the child or slave of another,” used by Martial in the sense of “literary thief,” from plagiare “to kidnap,” plagium “kidnapping,” from plaga “snare, hunting net” (also “open expanse, territory”), which is perhaps from PIE *plag- (on notion of “something extended”), variant form of root *plak- (1) “to be flat.” De Vaan tentatively compares Greek plagia “sides, flanks,” Old High German flah “flat,” Old Saxon flaka “sole of the foot.” (Accessed 19/1/2021)
Starting an article on plagiarism with a copied definition from another website may be an unusual way to start an article, but there is a reason for it. This quote is within quote marks or inverted commas, it is attributed and referenced correctly. The copying of another’s work or plagiarism seems to be growing more common. It seems that where there are websites, there are people willing to create tools to copy them. It can happen to blog posts, e-books and pictures too.
Examples of Plagiarism
I came across this topic while attending an online business group as a guest. I arrived, was deposited into a Zoom breakout room and was asked a question. A business had had a former client set up their own business in the same field which involved renovating properties. The original business had a gallery as a form of testimonials of the work that they had done. The former client had chosen to copy all the photos from the original website which seemed to indicate that they had done the work. It is illegal to copy another’s work, but also dishonest. Those photographs are a means of persuading potential customers to hire them as a renovator. What if their skills are not up to par? The original owner had tried to get them to take it down but had so far been ignored.
I have also known blog owners who have found their blog posts on someone else’s website and mailing list owners finding their content copied across onto other mailing lists. If you post content regularly, then it is worth checking regularly that no one else is taking it and passing it off as their own.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer nor trained in any form of law. If you are thinking of taking action against someone who has stolen your intellectual property, then please consult a legal professional.
Why do We Need to Add Fresh Content Regularly?
Business websites add content to their websites for several reasons: to
Show testimonials and pictures from satisfied clients
Raise their business blog in the search engines, so they update content regularly
Communicate with their customers and indicate that they are a live business.
They may also update promotions and offers to their customers.
If there is duplicate content on the internet and Big G finds it, then it can do one of two things: it may determine which is the older content and penalise the newer website or it might penalise both.
Consequences of Plagiarism
Consequences of plagiarism can include a loss of reputation among peers, a legal challenge and even a lawsuit for damages. Copyright laws differ in the countries of the world, so the actions a plagiariser faces may depend on the country where the original creator lives.
In the UK intellectual property such as a story, book, drawings or photographs are automatically covered by copyright. You do not need to do anything further to protect them and you can take legal action against anyone who steals them. It is wise to put a copyright protection signature on your intellectual works, particularly photographs. You can add a watermark while editing if needed. It is possible to read an overview on intellectual property. Make sure that you use images that you have permission to use or are Creative Commons on your website.
Protecting Your Words and Images
If you become aware that someone is using your intellectual property, then you can send a ‘cease and desist’ letter as a first resort. You can ask legal advice before sending it. There are examples available on the internet. You will need to send it to the owner of the blog. Some people advise to send an invoice for the use of the property. Your aim is to get them to take it down. If that doesn’t work, then get legal advice. Quite often, a legal letter from a solicitor is enough to get the content removed. You could contact their hosting platform if you get no answer from the person, themselves.
Writers’ Code of Conduct
Writers also need to protect ourselves from allegations of plagiarism. Following a code of conduct will help to protect you.
Use a range of sources so that you can find evidence for your writing and back up the facts
Never just copy a chunk of writing or cut and paste
You CAN describe what other people have said and talk about the relevance to what you are writing about
Quoting what is said (using quote marks and an attribution to the author, usually with a date) is an acceptable way to use other people’s work
If you are not sure how to reference correctly, ask the person you are writing for as there is usually a guide
Keep notes on your sources. This enables you to prove that you used them. Helpful when putting a bibliography together too or to help add footnotes or appendices
Businesses, what is the best way to protect your intellectual property and have you ever had to warn someone off? Leave comments below.
Has the shine tarnished on your New Year resolutions already? Or have you decided that it is best to leave resolutions alone this year? After all, look at how last year turned out…
If you have decided that THIS is the year that you are going to start writing again, then this is the blog for you. We are going to talk about writing prompts and how they can help writers’ block. Here is a usual recipe for writing:
One brand-new shiny notebook, preferably really cute
Take your brand-new shiny, cute notebook and open it. Pick up your pen…
OK, stop there! If you haven’t had an idea running round your head for the past week and you don’t know where to start, how do you begin to fill that blank white page with a story?
A good place to start is a writing prompt.
A writing prompt is usually a short idea or picture that is designed to get your brain thinking about a story. There are many websites that offer writing prompts that can help get you started writing.
You can treat writing prompts as a writing exercise. Come up with a short story outline which could be turned into a full story. Spend 10 minutes writing and see what you come up with. A writing prompt enables you to have something to write about straight away, it avoids the blank page syndrome where you stare at a blank page and have a blank brain to match.
Tips for Using a Writing Prompt
Put aside some time to write – even just 15 minutes will do
Plan ahead to write – send the family out for a walk
Find a place to write and make sure that your tools of choice (laptop, pen and paper or old-fashioned typewriter) are available.
Just write based on the prompt. You may not know immediately what you are going to write but begin by writing a sentence and see what comes up.
Don’t worry about editing. You can edit your story once it is finished. No story is ever finished after a first draft and every story can be improved. Just focus on getting the words down on paper/screen.
When your story is finished, give it some space. Wait 24 hours before taking a look at the editing
Not every story can be a best seller, but when you write one that you are really proud of, then I encourage you to ask someone else to read it and give you constructive feedback. Preferably someone you trust. It is important to get used to the idea of someone else reading your stories if you want to do more with them
Know that your writing brain acts like a muscle. The more you write, the more ideas and inspiration will come to you and the more you will have to write. Ideas are all around us, you just have to tune your brain in to them.
I have recently discovered Julie and she offers a lot for writers. She offers a free planning tool, lots of help and information as well as courses and of course, writing prompts.
Daily Prompt App
Currently on Apple only but Android is planned. You pick a time of day when you are most likely to write and you will receive an alert and a writing prompt at that time. This app is a gateway to a community where you can receive feedback on your story and enter competitions.
This is a fun tool that can turn up some quite diverse ideas. It is also a blog with lots of ideas about writing.
Social Media Writing Prompts
You can find writing prompts on your social media of choice. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and Reddit all offer writing prompts. Search using the hashtag #writingprompts or #writingpromptsdaily
A great way to start writing is to write flash fiction which requires precision and imagination. Christopher Fielden offers a great resource to writers. He offers hints and tips and a regularly updated source of writing competitions, but it is in writing challenges that he excels.
He publishes a number of anthologies for charity, based on short 100-200 word stories. To enter you can either email your story to him or fill in the contact form with your story. You will need to write a short bio and your story, and that’s it. As long as it meets the brief then Christopher will include it in the anthology. There is also a Facebook for authors who contribute to the anthologies. A community can really help you keep writing.
So there you have it. If you have decided that 2021 is the year that you want to start writing and get past your writers’ block, then here are a selection of good resources to get you going.
Please do drop a line in the comments if this article has given you a push to get writing.