Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract Crushed by @kate_hamer #NewRelease #LiteraryFiction #Thriller @FaberBooks

cover
Crushed by Kate Hamer

Synopsis ~

Phoebe stands on Pulteney Bridge, tights gashed from toe to thigh. The shock of mangled metal and blood-stained walls flashes through her mind as she tries to cover her face so she won’t be recognised. It wouldn’t do to be spotted looking like this. She’s missing a shoe. She feels sick.

Phoebe thought murder and murder happened. Thoughts are just thoughts, they said. Now she knows they were wrong.

At home, Phoebe arranges the scissors and knives so they point toward her mother’s room. She is exhausted, making sure there’s no trace of herself – not a single hair, not even her scent – left anywhere in the house. She must not let her thoughts unravel, because if they do, there’s no telling who might be caught in the crossfire, and Phoebe will have to live with the consequences.

Extract ~

Phoebe

It was a book full of hate. The words must have been scratched underground at the dawn of time. They should’ve stayed there and never come to the surface. It set it all off again.
I’ve had to come to the only place that can calm me down. The corner of Pulteney Bridge. The only thing is, I’ve lost a shoe so people keep looking. My tights have an open gash from toe to thigh, flashing bright white flesh. I try to cover my face with my hair so I won’t be recognised. Things get reported back. I don’t know where my bag has gone – perhaps I dropped it on the way and didn’t notice.
I’d been calm as the sea before that book. It may as well have come crawling towards me on its elbows, dragging its black and bursting body behind. I should have heeded the inkling I had straight away that it was a bomb about to explode.
I lean against the cool stone of the bridge and look over the water to the weir. Usually it soothes me, but not today. In this water are hidden many ancient things. Sometimes one pops out – a coin, a tin mask, a figure of a bull, a crown, a pin. People are always surprised. Why should they be? The river is at the end of a vast drain sluicing straight down from the Roman bathhouse.
The sun glints off the water. The ancient buildings look more friendly in this light. It turns their darkness the colour of honey. The trees are full of early summer and shake their leaves in the breeze. Yet despite the bright surroundings I cannot be contained this time and I have to lean further over the wall, sickness cramping my stomach.
I’d tried to explain to Grace.
‘It’s just a book,’ she said. ‘It’s just a dusty old copy with half the pages falling out because they won’t pay for new ones. What are you on about?’
Her soft blue eyes travelled from side to side as she looked behind me. Her hair is cropped close to her head. The sight of it always makes me feel tender because I know she cuts it herself. It’s so short you can see the shape of her pretty little skull. I wanted to get her attention back. I cupped my hand over my mouth and whispered to her, quoting from the text.
‘I’ve been eating on the “insane root” again. Not now. Not today. A couple of weeks ago.’
Her eyes snapped back on my face and she nodded and gave a little laugh. ‘I’m partial to a few substances myself.’ Then she frowned. ‘You want to be careful, though, you know. Stuff like that can be dangerous.’
I turned away from her. I was bored of tellings-off. I felt light and free. Nothing bad was going to happen. It was just the warm day that had made me feel there could be a bomb, and Mr Jonasson being so close. All the pieces of me that had flown out came back and began fitting themselves together safely with hardly any gaps left in between.
That’s where it should’ve stopped.
But, no. I had to take it further, didn’t I? I had to go on testing myself, trying things out.
I’ve been told once, thoughts are just that by a woman with a face that looked like a little pussy-cat. The more I stared at her the more she seemed to resemble one.
Usually my tests are of the mundane kind. If I think There will be a red car when I turn this corner, perhaps there will be one. What if I wish for blackberry ice cream on the menu and there it is? If I want that plate to fall, it might and shatter on the stone floor. If, if, if, if. The results so far have been inconclusive.
Not this time.
It must’ve been the darkness of the story that made me do it. It was to show myself it couldn’t happen, that the light and airy feeling was how things were going to be from now on. One last little time, I thought. TRY IT OUT.
Was it five or ten minutes later we heard the commotion? Perhaps I was the only one that went towards it. I slipped out and ran down the road until I saw. There was mangled
metal. Blood ran down the walls.
I froze a good few moments before I ran again.
I reach for the front door key that I wear on a heavy chain around my neck. It’s more precious to me than any piece of jewellery could ever be. Hard won. I clasp it now like a rosary. There’s probably keys down there in the water too, along with the other old Roman stuff washed down from the baths. I can almost see it all, bubbling up to the top. Statues and pendants and nails surfacing at once in a thick and filthy mass, and I feel sick again and have to lean right over the wall. A car behind me beeps, once, loudly. They thought I was about to fall, or jump. Maybe I was. I need to move, but maybe I don’t have a choice.

Orla

Well, that was sickening.
I feel shaken to the pit of my stomach as I walk away. They haven’t got enough tents to cover it all up because the blood goes right along the wall on Walcot Street. They were trying to do it in the chaos and then they made everyone drive or walk away and closed the road as quick as they could. Horrific. Stuff like this just doesn’t happen in a place like Bath. I didn’t mean to look but it’s hard not to. It was mesmerising. It’s unbelievable how much blood people have in them. The red was in a stripe coming out from the back of the plastic they’ve rigged up. I could see how it had got cemented in between the blackened old stones and I wondered how they were ever going to get it out. They’ll have to scrape right into the gaps and use hoses so there’ll be a wash of pink water swirling across the road.
Behind the yellow tape there’s people trundling around in white plastic suits now. They look so out of place against all that dirty ancient stone, it’s like flickering beings have been beamed in from the future. My heart feels like it’s never going to slow down to its usual pace. I want to cry so badly. I’m only trying to hold on until I get home. I concentrate hard on looking at the normal little things I see every day to keep me going until I can wail in my bedroom. There’s a shop of mirrors full of glitter. There’s the giant carved head looming over the undertaker’s door – Bath is full of odd things like that, carvings and statues and old buildings. When I was little I always used to whisper ‘Hello’ to the head as I passed because he looked like he was asking, ‘Is it your turn yet? Will you be next?’ And I thought starting a conversation might please him so he’d decide not to choose me. He seems to be staring extra hard and pointedly today. It must be because of what just happened. ‘Hello,’ I whisper in a trembling voice. ‘Not me right now. I’m not ready.’
By the time I get to the fruit shop with bright green plastic grass in the window, my breathing has stopped hurting so much.
How many times and in different lights and times of day have I seen all these ordinary things? Hundreds. Thousands. I try to make them take the place of what I’ve just seen.
That’s when I see Phoebe’s bag dumped in the shop doorway. The sickness returns. What’s happened to her? What’s happened to her? I pick the bag up and stand, rubbing the striped canvas between my fingers, wondering what to do. It seems strangely violent, this familiar bag being here that I’ve seen a million times, swinging on Phoebe’s shoulder, the hard outline of books showing through the fabric. It’s not exactly her dumped body but something makes me think of it. I hug it close, shaking now. God, she frightens me sometimes. It terrifies me the way she carries on. My heart lurches: what if it’s her that’s been killed on Walcot Street? What if it was her blood I saw? I close my eyes and sway, the idea being so shockingly awful. No, it can’t be. I won’t allow myself to think that. I’ll never make it back.
I hurry on, the taste of home so strong now it’s almost on my tongue. I can’t wait to collapse inside and feel safe, to phone Phoebe and make sure she’s all right. But up ahead are Belinda and her crew, and they’re walking so slowly I’ll have no choice but to pass them – it’ll look too odd if I slow down to their pace behind.
As I catch up with them their tense bright faces tighten towards me.
‘Orla, did you see it?’ Samantha’s eyes are starry with the sight of the blood. The ribbon of it in the sun is still glittering her eyes.
‘Yes. Horrible.’
We all nod even though I can see it’s put a spring in all their steps. They’ll go home and dissect it together, crouching on one of their beds with their arms around their knees and big, pointy-cornered smiles on their faces they can’t wipe off they’re so excited.
It’s such a beautiful day. The sky is a perfect blue. I have an intense longing to be off this dusty pavement with these girls clucking and mauling over the horror like they’re actually sticking their fingers into it and dabbling there. I think of our garden just down the road. It’s my favourite place in the world. Walled in on three sides and with an apple tree in the middle. In the summer, green vines crawl up the brickwork and the scent of the passion flowers passes over me. Mum and Dad aren’t really that into it so I can poke about in there to my heart’s content. Even when it’s cold I’ll sit out on the bench wrapped in a blanket. In the winter the plants have their own bare beauty with all their bones and pods showing like they’ve been turned inside out. I need to be there now.
‘Got to go.’ A wave of awkwardness washes over me. What’s wrong with me? I can’t even make a quick getaway without breaking into a terrible sweat.
‘Hey,’ Belinda calls after me. ‘What was it Grace was saying today?’
I shrug like I don’t know but I heard perfectly well. I was sitting right next to her. Someone had just read a piece out from the supplementary notes. It was Simon, I think.
‘The role of the witch is to demonstrate the female, intuitive, otherworldly power of the mind.’
And while we were all pondering it, supposedly thinking about discussion points, Grace came up with one of her own.
She said, ‘Did somebody actually write this shit?’
It wasn’t even under her breath. In a way it was kind of thrilling, like breaking the law must be.
Everyone heard but nothing happened about it. It never does. She gets away with anything because of her circumstances. Grace might be only sixteen, while Phoebe and me are seventeen, but Grace always seems by far the oldest – as if she’s twice our age and she’s been married and had three kids already.
Finally I see our house and the face of it seems like the sweetest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on. As I’m trying to get the key into the lock, the door opens and I collapse inside into Mum’s arms.
‘Did you see?’ she asks. ‘Carol from church just called and told me what’s happened. She’s stuck in the traffic.’
I nod and I can feel my mouth turning down so sharp at the corners it actually hurts.
‘Oh Orla.’ She hugs me tight. ‘My darling, darling girl. I was hoping you hadn’t. I was hoping you’d never have to witness something like that.’

KH
Kate Hamer
Website
Twitter

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
banner

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Giveaway (UK & IRL only) The Lost Letters Of William Woolf by @wordsofhelen #LiteraryFiction @MichaelJBooks

cover
The Lost Letters Of William Woolf by Helen Cullen
Review To Follow

Synopsis ~

Lost letters have only one hope for survival . . .

Inside the Dead Letters Depot in East London, William Woolf is one of thirty letter detectives who spend their days solving mysteries. Missing postcodes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names – they are all the culprits of missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers.

When William discovers letters addressed simply to ‘My Great Love’ his work takes on new meaning.

Written by a woman to a soulmate she hasn’t met yet, the missives stir William in ways he didn’t know were possible. Soon he begins to wonder: Could William be her great love?

William must follow the clues in Winter’s letters to solve his most important mystery yet: the human heart.

hc
Helen Cullen
Website
Twitter

GIVEAWAY – (UK & IRL only) ~

*To be in with a chance of winning a paperback copy of The Lost Letters Of William Woolf, simply RT the pinned post @annebonnybook. If you do not have Twitter, simply comment on this blog post or the Facebook page Anne Bonny Book Reviews.
I will draw the prize tomorrow AM.*

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
banner

Anne Bonny #BlogTour Q&A with @OConnellauthor #Author of The Last Night Out #Psychological #Thriller #NewRelease @blackthornbks

cover
The Last Night Out by Catherine O’Connell
Review To Follow

Synopsis ~

Six friends. Three secrets. One murder.

Maggie is set to marry the man of her dreams. Desperate for one wild last night out on the town before her big day, she gathers her closest girlfriends to hit the bars and party until dawn.

Only things go wrong – horribly wrong.

When Angie’s body is found in the park the following morning, their night to remember quickly becomes a nightmare they all wish they could forget. Under police scrutiny, how far will Maggie and her friends go to keep their secrets? Far enough to protect a killer?

Q&A ~

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?

A) I’m a writer and I’ve been a writer since I was a kid. I’ve always had an overactive imagination, and would take that imagination to the page while I was in grammar school, writing short stories that the teacher would read to the class. I continued writing throughout my youth, writing sketches and more short stories, keeping journals that to this day can take me back to the inner workings of a teenager.

Having the goal of being a writer, I majored in Journalism at the University of Colorado. But by the time I graduated, I felt like journalistic writing was far too dry and restrictive for my goals. I really wanted to recognize my dream of being a novelist and the creativity of fiction versus reality. So I embarked on all kinds of adventures thinking that the more experiences I collected the more fodder I’d have for novels. I backpacked Europe and then lived for a couple of years as a ski bum in Aspen, working as a hotel maid and receptionist. Then I returned to my hometown of Chicago and worked as a waitress and a bar manager on Rush Street, floor runner at the Chicago Board of Trade, and a sales rep for a fine wine company. All through that time period I had countless ideas for books and started dozens of novels that never got much farther than ten or twenty pages.

It wasn’t until I the 90s that I finally committed myself to the work required to take it a step further. Doing what all authors need to do, I put my bottom down on a chair and started writing. I finished one novel, sent it out to an agent, but it never sold. I finished writing another book shortly thereafter and that one did sell, becoming Skins (Donald I Fine) in 1993. After that, I published a pair of high society mysteries, Well Bred and Dead and Well Read and Dead, inspired by questionable circumstances and multiple birth certificates surrounding the death of a friend.

My current book, The Last Night Out draws upon my life experiences as well. I worked as a bartender in Rush Street Chicago in the late 1980s. The scene was pretty wild back then and just when I thought I’d seen everything, someone would take things a step further. Then, in the late 90s, my husband and I started a nightclub tour business called The Party Bus. As things turned out, our primary customers were young women having bachelorette parties. If I thought I saw some crazy things as a bartender, well, those bachelorettes took it up a notch.

Coincidentally, the first novel I’d written and never gotten published was about a women getting drunk at her bachelorette party and one of her friends ending up dead. Inspired by the bachelorettes on The Party Bus, I decided to pull out that manuscript and rework it and, voila, The Last Night Out was born.

I want to add that getting published isn’t a direct line to literary success. I have more than a few dusty unpublished manuscripts occupying a safe place in the closet under my stairs. But if you’re a writer, you just keep on writing. It’s kind of like being an alcoholic—either you’re practicing or your not.

The Last Night Out is the story of six high school friends who come together in Chicago’s northern suburbs to celebrate Maggie Trueheart’s upcoming wedding. The party moves downtown to Rush Street where the girls drink into the wee hours of the night. The next morning Maggie awakes to find a stranger in her bed. If that’s not bad enough, a phone call brings the horrifying news that her friend Angie, one of the party-goers, has been murdered.

Afraid her fiancé might learn about her infidelity, Maggie lies to the detectives assigned to Angie’s case, trapping herself into a series of lies that become more and more convoluted as the search for Angie’s killer continues. And while Maggie is caught in her own fabric of lies, little does she know the rest of the girls have lies of their own, all of the lies in some way connected to Angie’s murder. Unbeknownst to them, one of the lies has put another one of them in the killer’s sights.

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea, to writing and finally to publication?

A) It’s my belief that the writing process is different for every writer. There’s no template for creating a book. Some writers make extensive outlines, some just start blind, some know where they’re going, some have no idea. I’m telling you this because I think that readers often think that there is something orderly in creating a book, and I’m the first person to tell you, there is not. The only thing all writers have in common is that they have to sit down and put that story on the page by somehow pulling it out of their head and putting it on paper. Which, I might add, can often be quite painful.

When I start writing a new book, I’m pretty much set on the beginning and the end. What’s left is to fill in everything in between and hope it matches up. I do write a rough synopsis as a sort of map, but I usually veer from that synopsis fairly quickly as my brain leads me in a different directions once I get into the story.

The bottom line for me is to just start writing. Rule #1 for me. Right after coffee in the morning. Otherwise I might get sidetracked into doing something important like cleaning the bathroom. The rough draft is the hardest. It’s kind of like pulling your brain out your ear with a tweezers. I try for five pages, around 1000 words, a day, but sometimes only come up with one. When I get really stuck I grab a yellow pad and paper and sit in a corner or go outside. The goal is to push the story forward. And though I have a pretty good idea who my characters are, guess what? They change along the way. But rather than go back and make everything consistent, I plod towards the end of the book. The idea is to get the story down. I know I can always go back and fix things later. The old writer’s axiom is, you can fix a blank page, but you can’t fix an empty one.

Once the story is finished, for me the heavy lifting is over. It’s like going through the pain of building a house, and now it’s time to decorate. Early in my writing career, I discovered if I kept going back to make the first ten pages perfect, I’d never get to the other 290. Rewrite’s the time to do that, to fix uneven plot points, to embellish descriptions, to sharpen dialogue. My first rewrite is pretty substantial, fixing up sloppy language and getting times and places match up. And my character’s appearances! You can’t believe how many time I’ve changed a character’s appearance or background or even their name in the rough draft and have to make it all jibe. Then there’s a second rewrite and then a third, each time with less needing polish. It’s during the fourth rewrite when I start to feel it’s all matching up and it’s time to say ‘enough’ before I ruin anything!

My agent is the first person to read my manuscript. I’ve already run the story idea past her, but after that I don’t send her anything until I’m basically finished. That’s because my first draft is such a mess no one would ever believe it could be a book. Once I send my agent the completed and polished manuscript, she gives it a careful read, does some editing, and points out things that might need to be clarified. I’m proud to say there usually isn’t much that needs changing at that point, and when she OKs it I breathe a sigh of relief.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) I love Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna being one of my favourite books. Geraldine Brooks is another favourite, both March and The Year of Wonders high up on my list. I’ve been reading a lot of fiction about World War I and II and Kate Atchinson’s Life After Life and A God in Ruins were amazing. Ian Mc Kewen’s Atonement blew me away, and if you want to get a good understanding of the horror of World War I, Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks is required reading.

I love Nelson DeMille’s edgy tough guy characters, The Gold Coast another one of my all time favorites.
Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose.

I tend not to read in my genre when I’m working on a book because it influences my writing, but when I’m not writing I love falling into mysteries by P.D. James, Dick Francis, Dennis Lehane, Thomas Cook, and Donna Leon. One of my favourites early on was Raymond Chandler for his great plots and sharp dialogue.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

Q) I guess I have to start with the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew, books for young American readers. They inspired in me this amazing desire to read which then morphed into me wanting to tell stories of my own. As I grew older and my thirst for reading grew, I branched out into historical fiction. My favourite books were Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Hawaii by James Michener, Exodus by Leon Uris and the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I used to feel that if a book wasn’t at least 800 pages, it wasn’t worth picking up.

Q) What are you currently reading?

A) Just finished Eleanor Oliphant is Perfectly Fine by Gail Honeyman and loved it. Next up is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I’ve heard so many good things about it I have to read it.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) Seeing my book in print. There’s a sense of validation in having your work published that can not be described.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) My husband has always been a source of invaluable support and encouragement. Every time I’ve felt like quitting, he says, “You got this far. Why quit now?”
And my friends. They have always told me I could make it. Especially my friend, Luky, who kept me going by saying, “If you throw enough of you know what against the wall, some of it’s going to stick.” It’s crazy stuff like that that keeps you going.

COC
Catherine O’Connell
Website
Twitter

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
banner2