Secrets and Skulls: The Rotting Spot, by Valerie Laws

71WtXpTGNGL._SL1229_‘Much of the time, watching their golden existence, he carried on alone, like some tiny rocky planet orbiting twin suns, so far out as to feel little warmth.’

Valerie Laws’s The Rotting Spot is a thriller, and a very good one at that; but it’s ultimately about love and loss, the corrosive effects of secrets, and the skeletons (or should that be skulls?) that sometimes rattle around in the most apparently innocent of closets. It is also – as the passage above testifies – extremely well-written. Continue reading

Honesty is the Best Policy

No embellished CV this...

No embellished CV this…

My good friend Aniko Carmean recently wrote this brilliant blog post, in which she published her honest author biography. I loved it: it was so much more engaging and interesting than the usual bland and/or boastful biographies that sit at the back of many a novel alongside an airbrushed photo. In fact, it was such a good idea that I felt I just had to steal it (sorry, Aniko). Continue reading

A tense, taut thriller: The Back Road by Rachel Abbott

The Back RoadSometimes, as the tagline to Rachel Abbott’s novel suggests, the quietest places really do hide the darkest secrets. The quiet village of Little Melham is the kind of place that might feature in Midsomer Murders: a seemingly idyllic, prosperous corner of the English countryside, which actually hides a host of nasty secrets and is inhabited by a surprising number of treacherous schemers. The dark underbelly of village life is revealed one night when a teenage girl is hit by a car, and left for dead by the side of the road – ‘the Back Road’ of the title. Continue reading

Star Quality

Star SymbolThose of you who know me will probably also know that, when it comes to my hatred of the star rating system on sites such as Amazon and Goodreads, I’m pretty humourless. I just can’t help it, you know. I try to see the funny side, I really do. The problem is that I loathe having to decide how many stars I think a book merits, not least because it’s such an unsophisticated system. How, after all, can something as complex as your reaction to a book be summed up by a row of asterisks? Continue reading

What’s in a Name?

464px-Inverted_question_mark_alternate.svgWell, quite a lot, it would seem…

I was recently talking to a self-published author who said that she didn’t like the term ‘self-published’. To her, it reeked of the snobbery and disparagement that has often accompanied any debate about – er – self-publishing, and which accompanies it still. She’d heard it used as a put-down just a few times too many, and to her it had become almost a term of abuse. She preferred to be called an ‘indie’ or ‘independent author and publisher’. Continue reading

Twitface and the Curse of Social Media

internetIf I weren’t a writer I’d probably be about the most anonymous person in the modern Western world. I wouldn’t be on Twitter and Facebook. I wouldn’t have a blog. I’d probably never even have heard of Pinterest or Instagram. In fact – oh, the irony! – if I weren’t a writer I’d probably just be … well, writing. But this is 2015, and it’s no longer enough just to write. Oh no: you have to loudly proclaim to everyone you encounter that you’re writing. Continue reading