Posted in Events, Reading, Writing

On Providing Cover Quotes on Other Authors’ Books

My quote on the cover of Amy Myers’ latest Tom Wasp mystery, out today

While I’m often a little sceptical about some of the quotes on book covers by famous authors, critics and other celebrities, particularly where the same names appear over and over again, I’m always pleased to be asked to read other writers’ books prior to publication, especially if they or their publishers are after an endorsement quote from me.

Double Standard?

I hope not, because I do genuinely read the whole of each book myself, and whatever is attributed to me on their cover has been composed by me rather than any PR. ( I spent a large part of my former career working in PR, so am familiar with the territory!)

image of three book covers
A trio of Wasps

Usually any such requests come directly from authors, and usually they are friends of mine from the independent sector, publishing their own books. But recently publishing house Endeavour Quill approached me to read and review the latest book from an author new to me, Amy Myers. Amy has written many books, including a series of historical detective stories set in Victorian London – the Tom Wasp Mysteries, in which the eponymous detective is a chimney sweep.

Swept Off My Feet by a Chimney Sweep

cover image of Tom Wasp and the Seven Deadly Sins
Book 3 in Amy Myers’ series

Despite my to-read list being huge, I have had a soft spot for London chimney sweeps ever since I fell in love with Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins at the age of 7. I am also addicted to historical mysteries, such as Lucienne Boyce’s Dan Foster and Susan Grossey‘s Sam Plank series). And I’m a Londoner by birth, though have lived in the Cotswolds for nearly 30 years now. So I couldn’t resist this offer, and rapidly tore through Tom Wasp and the Seven Deadly Sins. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Tom and his young sidekick, whom he’d rescued from climbing chimneys; the colourful scene-setting in the city reminiscent of the movie sets of Oliver! (yes, I have read the Dickens novel too, and seen the stage show, but Myers’ books was very filmic); and the plot based around the London bookselling scene (a topic also addressed beautifully, albeit at a slightly earlier era, in Lucienne Boyce’s novel To The Fair Land).

Behind the Scenes with “Little Darlings”

cover of Little Darlings by Melanie Golding
Get a sneak preview at Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival

Whether or not I’m asked to provide a cover endorsement, it’s still gratifying to be offered advance review copies (ARCS, as they’re known in the trade), as it allows you a sneak preview of a book before it hits the shops. Thus last night I stayed up late to finish the most recent ARC I’ve been sent, the wonderful Little Darlings, debut novel of Melanie Golding, due for publication in May by HQ (a Harper Collins imprint).

It’s an eerie thriller about the mother of twins who becomes convinced her babies are changelings. I’d describe it as the love child of Rosemary’s Baby and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and I’m sure it’s going to be as big a hit as both of those. (The film rights have been sold already, even though the book’s not out till May.)

I first came across Melanie Golding when one of her short stories was picked at Stroud Short Stories, a regional competition of which I’m co-judge. When she read it to the audience, I knew I was hearing an exceptionally gifted and accomplished writer, and I’m thrilled that she has taken her writing to novel length. Her contract for this book was one of the biggest and most shouted-about last year, and you’re all going to be hearing great things about the book once it hits the shops.

HULF Save the date graphicSneak Preview of Little Darlings at the Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest (Saturday 27th April)

So I’m particularly thrilled that Melanie has agreed to read an extract at the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, the free local liffest that I run in my village, prior to her book’s publication. So if you’d like to be ahead of the general reading public, and are in striking distance of the Cotswolds, do come along on the day – admission’s free, no advance booking is required. Click here to download the full festival programme and see what else you won’t want to miss during our action-packed day.

And Finally, A 99p Challenge…

cover of Best Murder in Show with Amazon bestseller flag
Just 99c/99c till 7th March

If you’re at a loose end for something to read tonight, and like reading ebooks, you might like to take advantage of the special offer running at present on Best Murder in Show, the first in my Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series – just 99p/99c or the equivalent in your local currency, from Amazon stores around the world. (Also available as a paperback to order from all good bookshops.) But hurry, the offer ends on 7th March, and after that it reverts to full price. Here’s the link which should take you to the local Amazon store wherever you live. Oh, and it would be remiss of me not to mention that this book carries a lovely endorsement quote from the ever-generous Katie Fforde!

Posted in Events, Reading, Writing

Recommended Reading: The Grass Trail by A A Abbott

What will you be reading this weekend? The new thriller The Grass Trail by A A Abbott is currently top of my to-read pile – and it’s hot off the press!

Launched from a Prison Cell

Where better to launch a crime novel that opens in a prison cell?

I confess – I’ve allowed it to leapfrog to the top of the pile, having acquired my copy only this Tuesday, inspired to read it by the author’s excellent launch event in Bristol that evening, to which my sister and I were pleased to be invited.

A A Abbott is a Bristol-based author whom I first met last year when we were both part of a local author event at Foyles’ Cabot Circus, Bristol branch, along with historical novelists Lucienne Boyce and David Penny. She’s an energetic and engaging character, very upbeat and passionate about her writing, at the same time as being a high-flying accountant, and it is her career in finance and commerce that inform the worlds of her books.

photo of blue gate with government logo and lock
Setting the tone from the minute we arrived

I so enjoyed her company and her earlier books – The Bride’s Trail, The Vodka Trail and Up in Smoke – that I invited her to take part in the most recent Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. She’s a great speaker and good fun, so I knew that this week’s launch event would be enjoyable. To add to the fun, she’d booked a very apposite but unusual venue: the old prison cells of Bristol’s former police station in Bridewell Street, now a commercial venue called The Island, but retaining the forbidding atmosphere of its previous purpose.

photo of grim courtyard secured with barbed wire
Not an easy place to escape from

First, we were invited to join her in a long room painted entirely in black – a sinister and dramatic setting for Michael MacMahon, another local author friend (author of Back to the Black, funnily enough, a self-help book about personal finance). Michael’s an actor, voice artist and coach, specialising in public speaking (his next book will be a guide to making effective wedding speeches), and he is also a Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest regular. His memorable rendition of Prospero’s speech is now a regular part of the Festival’s traditional closing ceremony, and it makes my spine tingle every time. (I’m now kicking myself that I didn’t think to ask him on Tuesday whether this was Prospero’s Cell!)

Both Michael MacMahon and A A Abbott were on top form

Here his role was to interview Helen (A A Abbott is her pen name, artfully chosen to put her at the top of any alphabetical list of authors!), and they made a great double-act, talking about this book and her writing in general.

Then we were led away to the…

image of "Cells" stencilled in black on to a grey wall

… where Helen gamely treated us to a reading from the opening of her new book, which is set in a prison cell.

Sentenced to read…

The lively opening scene, in which prisoner Shaun Halloran is introduced to his new cellmate, made me laugh out loud (a bit echoey in a prison cell!) and left me keen to read the rest asap.

Next Book, Please, David Penny!

David Penny’s latest book is his medieval Spanish crime series

By coincidence, next evening there was another event that would have had me grabbing a copy of David Penny‘s latest book, The Incubus, if only I hadn’t already read it! He was featured on the television programme A Place in the Sun, filmed back in February when he and his lovely wife Megan were guests on the show seeking a new holiday home in the Axarquia region of Spain in which his historical novels are set. It’s now available to watch on Channel 4 on demand here.

Suffragette City

A great follow-up to her earlier excellent book about the Bristol Suffragettes

Fortunately, the same can’t be said of Lucienne Boyce‘s books – although I’ve read all her fiction and enjoyed it very much, I have on my Kindle her latest non-fiction book, The Road to Representation, a collection of essays about the Suffragette movement, always a fascinating subject, and this little book will be perfect to dip into in between the fiction.

What will you be reading this weekend? I’d love to know!

Photo of "Best Murder in Show" in the window
Getting my weekend off to a great start was this image of my latest novel in pride of place in the window of a local independent bookshop, the excellent Cotswold Book Room in Wotton-under-Edge. (Thanks to my friend Chris Taylor for the photo.)

 

Posted in Reading, Writing

Recommended Weekend Reading: A Brace of Historical Detectives

Photo of Debbie with box set of Sherlock Holmes
Recommended weekend reading, every Friday, new on my blog (Photo: Dominic Cotter, at BBC Radio Gloucestershire)

This is the first in a new weekly series of posts on my blog, sharing my favourite recent reads every Friday and recommending them as weekend reads. This feature will supersede the book blog that I’ve been writing for the last couple of years, as I was finding it too much of a strain to keep two websites running in parallel. In time I’ll move the reviews from the other site back to the archive here, and you’ll always be able to find a complete list of the reviews held on this site on the index page here. Given that I read at least one book at week, and often more, I should have no shortage of material, but I’ll only ever share here the books that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Today I’d like to recommend two historical detective series that I’ve been reading in parallel over the last few years, following their development from the day the first in each series was launched. I’ve even introduced the authors to each other (online, as they live on opposite sides of the country), as they seem to have so much in common. I just wish I could get their two heroes in the same room together too!

Meet Dan Foster and Sam Plank

Cover of Portraits of Pretence by Sam Grossey
Fourth in a gently addictive series
Cover of the Fatal Coin
A gripping novella with as much action and excitement as a full novel

Dan Foster is the creation of Lucienne Boyce, and Sam Plank is from the pen of Susan Grossey. Both are Bow Street runners, from the early era of British policing when constables sought out criminals for local magistrates to bring them to justice.

Dan Foster & Sam Plank: Compare and Contrast

  • Both are sensitively drawn, complex characters, who have risen above deprived and difficult backgrounds – Dan was a child pickpocket turned bareknuckle boxer, and Sam was a street urchin.
  • Each has acquired an interesting wife, providing thoughtful subplots and plenty of character development opportunities. Sam’s is a loving and loveable helper, but Dan’s is introduced as a drunken, self-pitying wretch. Both, by coincidence, are childless.
  • Both solve crimes particular to the age, against meticulously researched historical backgrounds. While their stories are set against a detailed and vivid backdrop, in neither case does the reader feel on the receiving end of a history lesson.
  • Dan’s adventures are darker and grittier than Sam’s, but despite being more violent (only when necessary to the plot, I hasten to add), they are also sensitively drawn, with poignant moments cleverly woven in amongst the adventures, as they are in Sam’s too.

I’ve read and enjoyed all of the adventures of both so far, and have been lucky enough to have a sneak preview of Dan’s second and third stories prior to publication. But for this weekend, I’m recommending Dan’s second, The Fatal Coin, and Sam’s fourth, Portraits of Pretence – and when you’ve read them, I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that there are more adventures of both ready and waiting for you.

What I’ll Be Reading This Weekend

  • my first ever Georgette Heyer novel, Footsteps in the Dark (I know, how did I get to be this old without reading Georgette Heyer before?)
  • Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingstone Seagull (same applies) – our BBC Radio Gloucestershire Book of the Month for July
  • the manuscript of Trick or Murder? – just back from my editor, second in the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series and due for publication at the end of August – exciting times!

Happy weekend reading, folks!

Cover of Best Murder in Show by Debbie Young
Fist in a series of seven Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries

P.S. Fancy reading one of my books this weekend? Best Murder in Show, a lighthearted modern mystery story, is the perfect summer read, set at the time of a traditional village show. Now available as an ebook for Kindle or in paperback  – order from Amazon here or at your local neighbourhood bookshop quoting ISBN  978-1911223139.

 

 

Posted in Family, Writing

Pray Fill Your Glasses for 2016

In my December column for the Tetbury Advertiser, I tried to put the tumultuous events of 2016 into perspective

Cover of Tetbury Advertiser December 2016As 2016 draws to a close, few will mourn its passing. From the start, it seemed a blighted year, robbing us of many national treasures and bringing us Brexit and President-Elect Trump.

Scrolling back through the year to seek more positive memories, I discover the event that filled me with most hope was the centenary of the Somme.

Ironically, one of the bloodiest battles in human history became a source of hope when at 7:30 AM on July 1st, vast numbers of people gathered nationwide to commemorate those who gave their todays for our tomorrows, and again on Remembrance Day last month. It was heartening to see people from throughout society turn out for these events, including many young people and children. It is especially heartening that so many of the youngest generation want to honour them though very few have met anyone born during that era and perhaps feel no immediate personal connection.

Celebrating Cousin Nina

Nina and Laura together
My grandma’s late cousin Nina, who celebrated her 100th birthday in May, with my daughter Laura last year

My daughter is lucky to be an exception. She has been able to get to know my grandma’s cousin Nina, born before the Battle of the Somme began. We helped her celebrate her hundredth birthday this year. Each time we visit her, we feel we are touching history and witnessing at first hand the human instinct to survive in the face of adversity. Nina has been widowed four times, but is currently single, as common parlance has it. (Sadly, Nina passed away just after I wrote this column –  but rather that blame 2016, I view her survival to 100 more of a miracle than a curse.)

Reasons to be Cheerful

Such special occasions lift my spirits beyond the quagmire of the daily news headlines.

Every day brings reasons to be hopeful, if only we remember to look for them.

Yes, I know that’s easy for an optimist to say. I realise not everyone is such a Pollyanna like me. During an interviewed the other day on BCfm Radio, I told the presenter, historian and historical novelist Lucienne Boyce, that I’m a glass-half-full person. I was amused by her response “I’m the kind of pessimist that can’t even see the glass”. Perhaps for 2017 we should each resolve to find out glass and fill it.

A Force for Good

We may look back on 2016 as an annus horribilis, but as future generations will discover, it will also be a year when great men and women were born who will in time be a force for good. If you’ve become a parent or grandparent this year, you’re probably agreeing already.

To encourage sceptics, here’s a reminder of two great men born in 1916:

  • Francis Crick, Nobel laureate, co-discoverer of DNA’s molecular structure, arguably the most important scientific discovery of the 20th century
  • mould-breaking author Roald Dahl, who has brought laughter and comfort to readers young and old for generations

If such greatness can come forth phoenix-like from such desperate times, maybe everything will come right for us too.

I wish you peace, joy and love this Christmas, and may your glass remain full in the New Year.

Posted in Type 1 diabetes, Writing

The Silvery Sounds of Radio Voices

A quick post to point you in the direction of my most recent radio appearance

Debbie Young standing outside the studio
Outside the BCfm studio on Friday

As regular readers of this blog will know, I love being a guest on radio shows. (I know, what a show-off!) I’m a regular guest on BBC Radio Gloucestershire, and an occasional guest on BBC Radio Bristol and 10Radio in Somerset.

It’s an added bonus when the host of the programme is an author whose work I know and respect. So I was honoured when last Friday I was invited to be the guest on award-winning historical novelist Lucienne Boyce‘s new SilverSound show, part of the Bristol community radio station BCfm.

All About SilverSound

BCfm’s SilverSound programme, which Lucienne hosts once a month, is aimed at older listeners audience. Lucienne wanted to focus on my involvement with community publishing projects.

We therefore talked about projects such as:

  • the Monument to Hawkesbury social history books
  • my two books of collected columns that I’ve written for the last six years for two local magazines, the Tetbury Advertiser (book title: Young By Name) and the Hawkesbury Parish News (book title: All Part of the Charm)
  • my memoir aimed at the diabetes community, Coming to Terms with Type 1 Diabetes, particularly topical as World Diabetes Day is coming up on Monday 14th November

Cover of All Part of the Charm

Cover of Young By Name book
Available in paperback and ebook
Cover of Simon Bendry's book
A role model for communities nationwide

I was also pleased to have the opportunity to give a shout-out for an excellent local history book written and published by my friend Simon Bendry. Hawkesbury at War – The Roll of Honour, his biography of all the people commemorated on the Hawkesbury Upton war memorial, plus all of the villagers who survived active service in the wars, is an inspiring example for communities everywhere. Again, a topical choice, with Remembrance Day imminent.

Fun Fellow Guests

But the show wasn’t only about me, nor was it as serious as I’ve perhaps made it sound. Fellow guest George talked about the latest movie he’d seen (I, Daniel Blake), and Gerard contributed a very entertaining quiz, specially written to match the guest of the week. This time, the quiz was about famous Debbies, Youngs, and cosy mystery detectives. Why the latter? We also managed to squeeze in some jolly conversation about my current work-in-progress, a new cosy mystery novel, kicking off with Best Murder in Show, the first in the Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series.

How to Listen to the SilverSound Show

Lucienne’s blogged about the show on her own author website here. Her post includes her own take on the broadcast, and while you’re over there, take a look at all her other activities including her excellent books and talks.

Here’s a direct link to the show, to which you can “listen again”, by the magic that is the internet, up to three months after the date of the broadcast. Just scroll down to the 10am slot on 4/11/16.

How to Listen to My Latest SoundCloud Appearance

Headshot of Suzie Grogan
SoundCloud presenter, historian and author Suzie Grogan

By chance, I’ve also just received a link to my latest appearance on Suzie Grogan’s fab Talking Books show on 10Radio, which you can listen to ad infinitum on SoundCloud. Here’s a link to Suzie’s Soundcloud channel where you can catch not only my appearance on her show back in July, but also a more recent one with Lucienne Boyce, who’s a great guest as well as an excellent writer and presenter.

Another post will follow soon sharing my first appearance as a performer at the Cheltenham Literature Festival – but that’s another story, in every respect!

To find out more about my fiction books, click here.

To find out more about my non-fiction books, click here.