Keeping an Open Mind

Today I’d like to share my thoughts about two books I read recently. My favourite genres are usually thrillers and sagas. I also love a good tale of triumph over adversity, which is a theme that traverses across many genres. However, I try to keep an open mind and try something new once in a while, especially if it’s something that has been talked about a lot or that is performing very well in the Amazon sales charts.

I was going through one of those reading lulls recently when nothing I read really excited me. Although I had read a few books that I thought were quite good, none of them set me on fire and I was eager to discover something that gripped me. Then I found, not just one, but two books that made an impact on me. Neither of them was in my usual genres, which shows that it’s good to keep an open mind. Here are the two books and my thoughts about them:

Me before You by Jojo Moyes

I picked this one up at my local pub (more about that in a future blog post), and the reason why I chose it was because I knew that Jojo Moyes is a very popular author yet I hadn’t tried any of her books before. I was also familiar with the title and had a vague recollection of it being a movie.

Wow! This was one of those books where the appeal lies in the storytelling as much as in the story itself. Jojo Moyes is a brilliant author and I’ll certainly be reading more of her books in the future.

It tells the tale of a young woman, Lou, whose life lacks direction. Will, on the other hand, is a highflyer, ambitious and adventurous, until an accident changes his life completely and he becomes a quadriplegic.

When Lou loses her job at the Buttered Bun teashop, she comes to work as Will’s carer. Finding it difficult to adapt to life as a quadriplegic, Will is embittered and has given up on life. At first he is antagonistic and patronising towards Lou but she eventually wins him round. There is a lot more to the novel than that but I don’t want to give too much away.

I found this book deeply emotional, which really drew me in. The story was told with a sensitivity and perception that only the most skilled of authors could pull off. Jojo Moyes is truly a talented writer.

But the book wasn’t all pathos; there were touches of humour that helped to break up the bleaker moments. I especially liked the author’s witty comments regarding the love-hate relationship between Lou and her sister, and Will’s sense of mischief.

As I read the book I could actually visualise it being played out on screen and it left me wondering whether the movie is in sympathy with the book or whether the producers have altered parts of it. Having read a little about the film since, I note that it caused a backlash because of its insensitive approach. That’s a shame because I didn’t feel that the book was insensitive at all. I can honestly say that this book touched me more than anything I’ve read in ages, and I’ll definitely have to watch the movie version to see what I think.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

I was drawn to this book for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a bestseller, and secondly, it’s the ultimate tale of triumph over adversity.

Heather Morris gives the reader an insight into life inside Auschwitz and Birkenau as seen through the eyes of the prisoner of war camps’ tattooist. The book definitely made an impact on me as it transported me to that time and place and, although most people are familiar with the hardship suffered by prisoners of war, this book lays it all bare. The author actually interviewed the tattooist so the book is told from his point of view, revealing what life was like for him and the other prisoners.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is undoubtedly harrowing but I felt that it lacked the emotional depth of Me before You. Having read the two books in quick succession, it did make me wonder whether this was due to differences in writing styles or whether it was a conscious approach by Heather Morris. Perhaps the emotional depth had to be lacking, otherwise the whole novel would have been deeply disturbing and depressing.

Furthermore, the writer’s matter-of-fact approach may have been a reflection of how hardened the prisoners had become to the harsh regime. As it was based on the tattooist’s own story, it was necessary for the book to reflect his thoughts and feelings. In fact, in the Afterword written by the tattooist’s son, he describes how his mother reacted when, many years after their release, they lost their home. He was curious as to why she was singing and had a smile on her face, and she explained to him that after surviving the prisoner of war camps they could deal with most things.

Both of these books were the types of novels that left me pondering long after I had finished reading. That’s the sign of a really good book, I think, and I highly recommend them both.

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New Aria Contract

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve just signed a new three book contract with Aria at Head of Zeus. Again, it’s for a series of three books but I’ll probably extend the series to four books in the future. Although all of the books have a common background they will each tell a different story. Book one will introduce the characters and setting, and each subsequent book will focus on one of the characters’ own story.

I’m already making progress with the first book, which will be available next summer. In the meantime, Vendetta, book three in my Manchester trilogy is due to be published on 2nd October, and is currently available for pre-order from Amazon. If you haven’t yet bought your copy, here is the link: http://viewbook.at/VendettaMcr.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Sarah Ritherdon, Editorial Director at Aria. Sarah has worked closely with me virtually since I signed up with Aria for my previous contract. She is brilliantly supportive to work with and a great editor who is able to spot areas of my novels that can be improved and make useful suggestions. It was lovely to be able to put a face to the name.

During our meeting we discussed Aria’s plans for my writing career, as well as my ideas for future novels. Aria have some very exciting plans in terms of promoting my books and getting them into the hands of even more readers. In fact, as part of ongoing promotion, both Slur and Born Bad are currently on sale. Slur is available for 99p at the moment and Born bad at £1.87, giving readers a chance to try the first book in each of my trilogies at a bargain price. If you would like to take advantage of the sale price, here are the links:

Slur: http://getbook.at/Slur.

Born Bad: http://viewBook.at/BornBad.

I’m very excited to be working with Aria again, and will keep you updated regarding the publication of new books.

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Blood Ties Launch Day

Hurrah! It’s launch day for Blood Ties, the second book in my latest Manchester crime trilogy. I’m thrilled that it’s finally available through several digital retailers, and I thought I would share another excerpt with you to celebrate the launch.

This next excerpt takes place inside prison when Adele and her friend, Caroline, are witnessing the prison bully, Shazza, in action:

Anna’s head flew back and she took a step backwards. Then Shazza let go of Anna’s T-shirt and Anna passed her something out of her pocket. Anna’s movement was slow, her shoulders slumped, as though she had given up the item reluctantly.

‘What the hell d’you think she’s up to?’ Adele asked Caroline, lowering her voice so that Shazza couldn’t hear her.

‘She’ll be stealing cigs or something off her,’ Caroline whispered.

‘She can’t do that!’ said Adele, affronted.

‘Oh yes she can,’ said Caroline quietly. ‘She’s Shazza. She can do what the bloody hell she wants, and she gets away with it.’ Adele stared back at Caroline, the resentment written all over her face. ‘Don’t even think about it!’ Caroline advised.

‘What?’ asked Adele.

‘Saying anything to her about Anna,’ Caroline whispered. ‘You’d be a fool to mess with her. It’s best to leave it alone.’

Then Shazza left Anna and continued in their direction. Adele noticed that as she walked across the room the other inmates either kept their heads down or greeted her enthusiastically. It was obvious to Adele that they were trying to ingratiate themselves. Shazza had a confident strut. It was as though she was enjoying the attention.

As Shazza drew closer to Adele and Caroline, she stared directly at Adele. Despite Caroline’s advice not to look at her, Adele couldn’t resist taking a curious peek. Shazza’s features were rigid and unflinching, and as their eyes locked, Adele could feel her piercing glare through vivid turquoise, beady eyes. It seemed to cut right through her.

Then Shazza sauntered by, nodding and grinning at Caroline as she passed them. She didn’t say anything. But Adele knew in that moment that Shazza had made her an enemy and a cold shiver of fear ran through her.

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I hope I’ve tempted you to go and grab a copy if you haven’t already done so. Here are the links for the various digital retailers:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2C7MllX

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2HwmovN

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2sGi4qp

iBooks: https://apple.co/2omUg5x

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Blood Ties – Excerpt

As it’s only just over a week until the launch of Blood Ties, the second book in my latest trilogy, I thought I would tempt you with an excerpt. This particular passage occurs after Adele’s prison friend, Caroline, has just confided in Adele about her crime:

They remained there for several minutes, Adele now also in tears and shaking. She didn’t know what to say. What could she say? There were no words to explain why either she or Caroline had reacted so violently to their tormentors.

As she sat there silently, a rush of thoughts flashed through her mind. Everything made sense now. The way the other prisoners were wary of Caroline, even though she seemed such a caring person. And the way she and Caroline had been drawn to each other.

Eventually she spoke. ‘Did you seek me out?’ she asked.

Caroline looked up, her face red and blotchy and streaked with tears. ‘I know what you’re thinking,’ she said. ‘That perhaps I thought we would understand each other because of… our crimes. But no, not particularly. I mean, I knew what you were in for, and maybe I’d have judged you differently if it wasn’t for my own experiences. But I didn’t deliberately seek you out. I just liked you as a person.’

Adele nodded, unsure what to say next.

‘Well, it’s out in the open now,’ said Caroline, with a sardonic smile.

‘I won’t hold it against you,’ said Adele. ‘How could I?’

And as she spoke those words Adele realised just how much her world had changed. At one time she’d have run a mile from someone who had committed such a heinous crime, no matter what the circumstances were. But inside these walls she saw Caroline as a best friend.

Their crimes were similar. They shared the guilt. And Adele knew that no one would ever understand Caroline in the same way that she did.

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I hope I’ve given you a taster of what’s to follow. If you want to pre-order your copy, here’s the link again for Blood Ties.

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Some Quotations I Like

Words can be very powerful. They unlock a whole wealth of meaning and are capable of eliciting strong emotions. Sometimes you read something in a book, which is so poignant that it stays with you. At other times there are sayings that are so widely used in everyday speech that we overlook where they originated from. This is often the case with Shakespeare.

I’ve put some of my favourite quotations below but I’m sure there are others that I’ve temporarily forgotten. I couldn’t resist adding a few from my own books. I think most writers have moments when they’ve written a line or two that they’re particularly proud of, so please excuse my self-indulgence in including a few quotes of my own.

 

“We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan

 

“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

 

“As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.”

Shakespeare, King Lear

 

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

 

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!”

Shakespeare, King Lear

 

“If music be the food of love play on.”

Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

 

“If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.”

Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop

 

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…”

Shakespeare, As You Like It

 

“It was terribly beautiful to Tess today, for since her eyes last fell upon it she had learnt that the serpent hisses where the sweet birds sing.”

Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles

 

“Justice” was done, and the President of the Immortals (in Aeschylean phrase) had ended his sport with Tess.”

Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles

 

“Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.”

Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

 

“O, what may man within him hide, Though angel on the outward side!”

Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

 

“Ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies.”

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

 

“My advice is, never do to-morrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time. Collar him!”

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

 

“Time and tide wait for no man.”

Geoffrey Chaucer

 

“Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained”

Geoffrey Chaucer

 

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

Alexander Pope

 

My Favourite Quotes from my Own Books

“Signs of desperation were already painted on their grubby little faces.”

A Gangster’s Grip

 

“This was his sort of area; a place where the menacing and the vulnerable co-existed.”

Danger by Association

 

“… eager to escape the foul stench given off by her unwashed clothing and her tendency to leak urine; a result of years of child-bearing to children she rarely saw.”

Born Bad

 

Have you got any favourite quotations? If so, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to add them in the comments box below.

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My Visit to a Clairvoyant

In January of this year I decided to visit a clairvoyant. I was going through a big transition in my life, having been through divorce the previous year and still waiting to sell the marital home where I had lived for the past 21 years. A friend had recommended the clairvoyant to me so I thought, why not?

Although I have visited a few clairvoyants in the past I had always been sceptical. I found that most of the things they told me could easily be deduced. For example, I think a clairvoyant can tell a lot by whether you are wearing a wedding ring, whether there is a mark where a ring used to be, your age group etc.

However, this visit was a completely different experience for me. The way the clairvoyant reacted when I walked into the room, and the things she told me, made me really sit up and take notice. There was no way she could have already known these things.

I deliberately kept my ring finger covered during my visit so that she couldn’t deduce anything from it. Nevertheless, she still knew that I was going through a major change in my life and was moving home. Here’s what else she told me, specifically in relation to my writing:

  1. I am going to make a big impact through the letter A and will touch people through my words. In the words of the clairvoyant, ‘I have been on a hell of a journey but it has all happened for a reason and everything will start coming together’.
  2. Autumn, probably October, is when things will start coming together. This will also be when the money starts coming in – phew.
  3. I will be writing more than one book, probably a series, and October will just be the start of it. Things will go on and on from there and it will be huge.
  4. I will have links to a city with the initial L, and there will be travel involved.
  5. Some minor worries may carry on but they should all be sorted by October. I am not to let negative thoughts get in the way.
  6. I find my writing cathartic and put a lot of myself into my work. My writing comes from the heart and I need to make sure it always does.

So, here’s my take on what the clairvoyant told me in relation to the above points:

  1. The main character in the trilogy I am currently working on is called Adele. Yes, I’ve definitely been on a hell of a journey, not only with the divorce but with so much of my life. I believe that many authors put their lives’ experiences into their work and for me this is my biggest influence.
  2. The end of October will be my first pay day with my publishers. My first book with them was published on 1st July and they pay on 90 days’ terms, none of which my clairvoyant knew beforehand. Additionally, sales of my other books rose after the publication of Born Bad. Prior to that my sales had gone down to around half a dozen books a day but, thanks to the pick-up in sales, the end of October will see an increase in my income from The Riverhill Trilogy.
  3. I had already been commissioned to write a trilogy before I went to see the clairvoyant but, again, she wasn’t aware of this.
  4. I wonder if this relates to the fact that my publishers are based in London.
  5. When it comes to worrying and negative thoughts I am the world’s worst. However, thankfully things are starting to come together and I also hope to complete on the house sale next month.
  6. Yes, I think I’m an emotional writer. The first part of Born Bad was loosely based on memories from my childhood. However, I wish to point out by way of a disclaimer that what happens later in the book in no way reflects any wish or desire on my part. It is simply down to my overactive imagination running riot.

The visit to the clairvoyant was a real eye opener for me and it has certainly changed my views on clairvoyants. In fact, I’m thinking of booking a return visit at the beginning of next year.

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Free Short Story Book

First of all, I apologise for being quiet lately both on the blog and on social media. The reason is because I’ve been working hard towards meeting my publishing deadline for my next book, which will be the first book in a new trilogy. More news will follow on that later but in the meantime I need to continue promoting my existing books.

As part of my book promotion, I’m pleased to announce that my short story, Crime, Conflict & Consequences is now permanently free on Amazon UK and Amazon.com. Here is the Amazon link: http://viewbook.at/Consequences. There is also a preview of the first chapter of Slur in the back of the book so if you haven’t yet read any of my books, here is a chance to sample my writing free of charge.

Crime v3

Crime, Conflict & Consequences is also free to download at Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, 24 Symbols, Thalia and Inktera. I don’t have a link for Apple but here are the links for the other stores.

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

24 Symbols

Thalia

Inktera

To give you a preview of Crime, Conflict & Consequences, here is the book blurb:

This entertaining collection of 10 assorted tales explores a variety of genres with stories of crime, love and family dilemmas. There are also a few twists and surprises along the way. The common thread running through each story is – consequences.

  • In HELD UP our heroine is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes a witness in an unusual bank robbery.
  • In ISLAND OF DREAMS Joe and Bev are looking forward to returning to the island they visited on honeymoon 34 years previously. Will it still be the same?
  • In WELCOME ABOARD find out how Helena copes with the job from hell.

These short stories are a great introduction to the work of Heather Burnside. Each one makes an enjoyable quick read with a satisfying conclusion.

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It’s only fair to warn you that my novels are quite different from the short stories. Whereas the short stories cover a variety of genres and writing styles, my other books are gritty crime novels. However, the excerpt from Slur, which is in the back of the short story book should give you an idea of what is to follow.

Bye for now and happy reading.

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