Friday, 23 February 2018

Dancing With Myself: YVONNE VENTRESCA interviews YVONNE VENTRESCA



1. This interview thing is a little awkward. What made you think this was a good idea?



At least this time, there’s no intimidating tape recorder. And I can skip the hard questions, right? I’ll just exclude them, and no one will be the wiser. We’ll do eight – that’s a significant number for Ella in Black Flowers, White Lies, my young adult thriller (published by Sky Pony Press).



2. Why is the number eight significant?



Ella’s father was born on August 8th, and when she was eight years old, she could have died, but didn’t.



Here’s more about the story:



Her father died before she was born, but Ella Benton knows they have a connection that transcends the grave. Since her mother disapproves, she keeps her visits to the cemetery where he’s buried secret. But when Ella learns that her mother may have lied about how Dad died sixteen years ago, it’s clear she’s not the only one with secrets. New facts point to his death in a psychiatric hospital, not a car accident as Mom always claimed.



When a handprint much like the one Ella left on her father’s tombstone mysteriously appears on the bathroom mirror, she wonders if Dad is warning her of danger, as he did once before, or if someone’s playing unsettling tricks on her. But as the unexplained events become more frequent and more sinister, she finds herself terrified about who—or what—might harm her.



Soon the evidence points to someone new: Ella herself. What if, like Dad, she’s suffering from a mental breakdown? Ella desperately needs to find answers—no matter how disturbing the truth might be.



3. Why did you become a writer?



Growing up, I was an avid reader. There’s a certain joy to losing yourself in a good book. That love of story inspired me to write, because it allows me to recreate that experience for other readers.



In college, I double majored in computer science and English, but it wasn’t until after I graduated and left my corporate job that I decided to seriously focus on writing. I transitioned by writing about technology first, followed by more general nonfiction, but creating a novel was always my ultimate goal.



4. Why write fiction for young adults?



It’s an interesting age to write for and about, because the teenage years are filled with both potential and uncertainty. It’s also what I enjoy reading.



5. I’m an adult. Will I like your YA fiction?



That depends. If you enjoy other young adult novels, or you like reading stories set during the main character’s teen years, then it’s more likely you’ll like this story as well. There was an interesting article in The Atlantic in December about the general appeal of young adult novels.



6. Black Flowers, White Lies is set in Hoboken, NJ. Are all of the places mentioned real?



I used to live in Hoboken, and it was fun incorporating real restaurants, landmarks, and trivia into the story. Ella and her family live in the 77 River Street building, and I put her boyfriend in an apartment on Bloomfield. There are also scenes set at Stevens Institute of Technology, The Brass Rail, and the PATH station.



But I did fictionalize some aspects of the city, adding a cemetery, an animal shelter, and a bookstore on Newark Street. (The story was written before the arrival of Little City Books.)



By the way, I created a collection of my Hoboken photos on Pinterest which I referred back to as I was writing to remind me of specific setting details.



7. Are there themes that you think are common to all of your work?



I’m drawn to the idea of creating scary situations in our ordinary world. For example, in Black Flowers, White Lies, a series of unsettling events occur during an otherwise normal summer. This book also combines the frightening and the ordinary when Ella starts to question her perception of reality. When I wrote Pandemic (about a deadly contagious outbreak), it seemed natural to use the town where I live as the setting, because it underscored the idea that disasters could happen in regular places. I did rename the town in the novel, because it felt like bad karma to unleash deadly bird flu on my neighbors, even fictionally.



8. Last question: Tell us about the Black Flowers, White Lies cover. Did you have any input?



The cover images were inspired by the final book title. (It was originally called In the Dark, but my editor and I realized there were already several books out with that name, so we changed it.) I loved the cover concept, created by Sarah Brody for Sky Pony Press, since its inception. My small bit of input was to suggest more tombstones in the cemetery at the bottom of the cover, since an early version only had one. The paperback cover is essentially the same as the hardcover, with a different blurb and the addition of the award seal (the 2017 Independent Publisher’s Gold Medal for YA fiction) on the front.




That’s a wrap!


 




Excellent! If you’re interested in more information, you can learn about me and my books at YvonneVentresca.com.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

One Man's Opinion: MAY by MARIETTA MILES


May

May is told from two alternating angles.

In the first, we get to see her working alone to maintain holiday accommodation and preparing for the arrival of a big storm. She’s independent and isolated and her main social contacts come through the dope dealing that allows her to make ends meet. As the storm approaches and a couple of odd characters are hanging around her flats, we get to see May as a strong survivor who leaves in her wake the sense that she’s vulnerable and brittle.

The second strand tells us the story of May’s growing up. We get to watch her trip as she steps across the threshold into the world of the young adult and witness her parents allow her to crash without attempting to break her fall. The cruelty within her family is painfully cold and brutal, the hurt that May feels utterly palpable.

These elements fit together nicely as one builds with suspense and the other becomes so raw that it’s unbearable. The history helps to put the older May into perspective and adds to the building desire to see her make it through when the clouds darken, the winds get up and those hungry for her wares tire of sniffing at the door.

I really enjoyed this book, particularly in the section dealing with the troubles of her teenage years. The images are vivid and the swirling angst of the isolated adolescent spins hard and fast like the imminent storm itself. It’s the kind of book that can make you wince and cry and shout out at the injustice of it all. As chapters close and you enter quiet moments of reflection, you can be relieved that this is simply fiction in the way you might experience relief when realising that the nightmare you just had isn’t real after all.

If you’re a regular here, it’s likely that May is going to be right up your street. If that's not enough, another reason to recommend the read is that this book left me with the sense that Marietta Miles is going to write something truly amazing in the near future. You want to be on the journey with her when she arrives at the next stop, so get on board now and enjoy the scenery.   

Friday, 2 February 2018

Jeremy Corbyn Recommends...

We Know What We Are


'Great descriptions of people and power. Read it!' Jeremy Corbyn MP (Leader of the Labour Party)

When a woman takes on the vested interests in politics and football, a city is forced to take sides. We Know What We Are is a gritty contemporary political thriller, with a strong female protagonist who battles corruption, power and prejudice in a quest for a fairer society. It's set in a Midlands city.


A girl searches for her missing brother, a council leader fights to hold on to her principles and a chief executive battles to hold back the tide of cuts. Over them all looms a threatened football club and the sinister shadow of its chairman. As identities shift and allegiances are tested, how much will each of them risk to save the city, the club – and themselves?

The novel explores how our sense of ourselves affects our ability to make change, to determine the future for ourselves. 

'Authentic and wise. We Know What We Are (US) is proof that local politics is as ruthless as anything that happens in Westminster.' Erin Kelly (Broadchurch)

Saturday, 27 January 2018

CLOSING TIME

CLOSING TIME

With the death toll at the Phoenix Festival rising, Jesse is one of the lucky ones. Unfortunately he can’t see things that way. As soon as he regains consciousness, there’s only one thing on his mind – REVENGE. He enlists Danny’s help to find the men who killed his girlfriend and intends to deliver justice in the old-fashioned way. 

Danny goes along with him, but only on the condition that Jesse doesn’t get his hands dirty when they’re on the job. Unfortunately for Danny, even the best made plans can go awry. 

The explosive and final instalment of the Jesse Garon series.


Closing Time (US)is 99p/99c today and over this weekend. 





Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Dancing With Myself: LISA BLACK interviews LISA BLACK


Perish

Me: Lisa Black, despite the courteous welcome, is actually pretty damn antisocial. She would rather be left alone than share her thoughts with someone. She would prefer to sit on the lanai and read a book, or go biking, or frankly do laundry instead of conversing so I gave her a vodka and Sprite Zero Cranberry to loosen her up.

It didn’t really work. It’s unseasonably cold in Florida at the moment, so perhaps I should have gone with a hot chocolate martini. I waded in nonetheless.

Me: Why do you write?

LB: Seriously? Come on! Start with an easier one than that.

Me: Um, okay. Why do you write murder mysteries?

LB: What else is there?

That seemed to settle that, so I tried another direction.

Me: Give us the synopsis of your series.

LB: Maggie is a CSI in Cleveland, Ohio. Jack is a homicide detective who has killed criminals when he did not believe they could be convicted. This is his life’s work, and he’s very serious about it.

Me: How is he different from Dexter or Charles Bronson…what was his name in the movie…

LB: Paul Kersey. They both enjoyed the killing. Jack doesn’t. That’s why he tries to make it as quick and painless as possible. To him it’s an unpleasant but necessary task.

Me: Why do you write about a homicide detective who kills people?

LB: I don’t know. I’m not trying to be a pain! But I don’t know. It just seems to me a logical extension of behavior. You have these bad people doing bad things, so kill them. End of problem. That’s how Jack sees it, and it baffles him just a little why the rest of the world can’t admit that it makes perfect sense.

Me: What if he gets the wrong guy?

LB: He doesn’t.

Me: But what i--

LB: He doesn’t. He’s very, very careful about it. At least he hasn’t yet. I know I should have a plot in which he does kill an innocent person, to make the lesson about why vigilantism is a bad thing and why we have to live by the rule of law. But I think that would be little cliché. Just as I should write a plot in which Maggie encounters someone so terrible or personally threatening that she does a one-eighty and asks Jack to kill them, but I don’t want to do that, either, because it’s been done. 

Me: So your writing is all unique.

LB: I didn’t say that! I’m sure I hit lots of clichés. But only the ones I like. In my opinion, clichés are clichés because they’re universally true, and we never get tired of them.

Me: So what’s this particular book about?

LB: About the financial crisis, believe it or not.

Me: Um--

LB: I got fascinated by the financial meltdown and the housing bust, and had to work it into a book. So Jack and Maggie investigate a predatory lender who is eviscerated on the marble floor of her mansion, and have to enter the shark tank of a financial firm to find out who did it.

Me: Okay. What are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

LB: I think one of my strengths is dialogue. Not that I am terribly observant or have a great ear, I don’t, but at least it doesn’t sound as if it were written by an English teacher. And I’m good at sticking to the story without digressions. You can’t be self-indulgent when you write. I’m not too good at describing things, but happily I go by Lawrence Block’s dictum that just about anything can be described in one sentence. My biggest weakness, I think, is characterization. I tend to make my characters, they’re there, they are who they are, and that’s all you need to know. I can’t make them grow and stretch and suffer and have pages of internal monologues very well. I’m accustomed to looking at a murder case with a great deal of detachment, so it’s hard for me to make my characters feel personally involved. That’s necessary for fiction, but it’s a really bad idea for real life.

Me: So at work you’re a hard ass.

[She laughs uproariously.]

LB: I’m about as tough as a half-drowned kitten. I’m a middle-aged white lady from the ‘burbs. But it is the ‘burbs, so I don’t have to be tough. On the other hand, I can stroll up to a badly decomposed corpse without batting an eye, so I don’t feel the need to prove anything to anybody.

Me: Except that you can write?

LB: Well, yeah, that. In my opinion the jury’s still out on that.

Me: Does it get depressing, working around all those decomposed corpses?

LB: No. I prefer to think it has made me appreciate life. I’m very practical about death, in my humble opinion. I don’t want to live forever. My plan is to do everything I want to do, go all the places in the world I want to go, before I’m 60. Then from 60 to 70 I’ll sit on my lanai and drink wine and read books. Then at 70 I’ll be ready to go. Of course that’s easy to say at 54. I might have a different idea at 70.

Me: So you have a bucket list? What’s the most unusual item on it?

LB: I want to be on an episode of Drunk History. I’d be adorable on Drunk History!! I’d tell them about the Torso Murderer of 1930’s Cleveland. Though they usually have more uplifting stories than a never-caught brutal serial killer, so that must be why I’m not on Drunk History. Yeah, that’s it.

Me: Do you want another vodka?

LB: Yes. 

Me: So why do you write?

LB: Now that I can make (some) money at it, I write to make money. But I wrote for many, many years without making any money at all, so I really have no idea why I kept at it. I just did.

Perish is available here.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

One Man's Opinion: THE ASPHALT JUNGLE by W R BURNETT



Theo J Hardy is the new Police Commissioner. He’s straight, determined and ready to clean up the act of the force he oversees. He has his hands full with his colleagues and the press, so when the infamous heist planner, Riemenschneider  (aka Herr Doktor, aka The Professor) finishes his spell in prison, Hardy’s not to happy that no one has noticed.  Riemenschneider has disappeared into thin air and the cops have no angle to track him down.

I say thin air. That’s not exactly the case. He’s turned up at a gambling joint run by the shady Cobby and he’s ready to put into motion the perfect crime. To put everything in place, Riemenschneider requires a team and a bank roll. In order to find these, he insists on seeing the biggest cheese and slipperiest bastard on the block, Emmerich.

Now Emmerich’s in a spot of bother. He’s spent all his dough on a dame. As well as supporting his bed-ridden wife at home, he has another house in which his sexy young thing enjoys all the trappings of luxury that money can buy. The tax people are after him and the prospect of a huge hit on a jewellery store is irresistible.  In order to keep the balls in the air, he has to come up with other alternatives and prepares various plans in which he will end up double-crossing someone or other.

Dix is the Italian Stallion. At least he used to be. He’s been tamed by his wife and is besotted with his new son. He’s almost gone straight, but is keen to maintain his wealth to make sure his family are financially secure.

Dix and Brannon are hard men. Big tough guys who both play their cards close to their chests. Dix is batting for the gang, Brannon for Emmerich. There’s a showdown in prospect and you can almost smell the testosterone and the blood from the first moment we sense the pair will come together. The ensuing battle doesn’t disappoint and, as has to be, only one of them can walk away.

Gus is a hunchback. He works a diner counter. He has good beef for his friends and Grade B and C burgers for everyone else. He has a temper, a surprising power and he’s connected to everything that happens in the underworld crime scene. As it happens, he’s also a big fan of Dix’s and will back him all the way and make sure that he stays safe, no matter how many cops or villains are after him. Gus’s knowledge and connections spread everywhere like the sewers under the streets. There’s not a corner he doesn’t know or a sharp he hasn’t come across.

What happens when all these characters come together and the heist is played out is gripping. The plot shifts as fortunes rise and fall and circumstance changes. The robbery itself is tension-fuelled and the police chase is always engaging. The highlight, however, is the interplay between the criminals and the observation of the ways their loyalties split and fuse while their world turns to shit.

In the end, I was rooting for almost everyone. If it were possible, it would have been great for the cops to succeed and for the robbers to get away (most of them, at any rate), but that can’t happen.

The rounding off of each individual’s journey is compelling and triggers an emotional reaction. It didn’t all pan out in the way I hoped it might, but if it had it would have been much less of a book that it is.

The Asphalt Jungle (US) is cracking read. Thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.   

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

One Man's Opinion: MATT PHILLIPS interviews MATT PHILLIPS




Here's the deal, buddy—you’re going to tell me what I want to know.



Is that a question?



Nope. It’s an answer.



Okay…



You see this, buddy?



Looks like a—



S&W .45, pal. That’s what it is.



Is it loaded?



I look like the kind of guy who walks around with an unloaded gun?



Not really.



Right-O, buddy. Now, let’s get down to business: Are you Matt Phillips of www.mattphillipswriter.com ?



That’s me. I’m a pulp writer living in San Diego and I—



Shut it, buster. I’m the one doing the asking. Did you write this book, this…Accidental Outlaws ?



Yeah, I did.



https://downandoutbooks.com/bookstore/phillips-accidental-outlaws/You think you’re tough shit, putting in all this crap about guns and crooks and motorcycles and losers? You think you’re some kind of tough mother?



I’m just a guy writing stories. Trying not to die with a blank tombstone, you know?



What’d I say about questions?



You’re asking them.



Right. Don’t make me ask Smith & Wesson to chime in, okay? You write any other books? Or is this a one off thing, a fucking dabbler thing?



I wrote a few.



They got names, buster?



Three Kinds of Fool. Redbone. Bad Luck City. Got a couple more coming. The Bad Kind of Lucky and Countdown.



What I want to know is, who the hell thinks they got the right to publish this stuff? Looks to me like we got a bunch of people out there who think they’re bad asses. Am I right?



I don’t know about that…I mean, you’d have to ask them. I’ve been published by All Due Respect Books, Number Thirteen Press, Near to the Knuckle. Got one coming from Shotgun Honey, too. 



I read this damn book, Accidental Outlaws. I read it. I like the drifter guy…What’s his name?



Packard.



Yeah, the guy who rides the Harley and carries the Colt.



That’s him.



Now that’s a bad ass. Man has some brushes with death, don’t he?



You could call it that.



He also burns some shit to the ground and—



Let’s not ruin it for the kids.



Right. Right. I hear you. Well, shoot. Where can people get this damn piece of literary drivel?



You can pick it up at the Down &Out Books bookstore . They got links there to all the other places people buy books.



Down & Out Books? With a name like that, it sounds like more people thinking they’re bad asses.



You’d have to ask them about that.



Maybe I’ll have Smith & Wesson go over there and—



C’mon, buddy. Go easy.



Alright. I’ll go easy, but you have to make me one promise.



A promise?



Let’s call it a guarantee.



What am I, a used car salesman?



Nope, you’re a writer. And if you don’t do what I say, you’ll be selling cigarette butts to drifters down on skid row.



Okay…



The next story you write…It’s going to be about me.



The hell with that, I don’t have to—



I hear a whisper from Smith & Wesson. You want me to tell you what he’s saying?



Well, shit. How do I know you have a good story? I can’t just—



Oh, I’ve got plenty of stories. Matter of fact, we can start with this one…