London Book Fair sees launch of BOOKS ARE MY BAG campaign


The news coming out of London Book Fair is that there’s a new campaign afoot to promote and strengthen the links between books and bookshops.


The BOOKS ARE MY BAG campaign involves all booksellers, chain, independents and publishers speaking with one voice to celebrate the joy and culture importance of the high street bookshop.


Launching to the public on Saturday 14th September, the campaign will run until Christmas. Participating retailers will be giving away BOOKS ARE MY BAG canvas bags (designed by M&C Saatchi).


Sounds like a great idea.


To find out more, hop on over to The Booksellers Association website at




Author Interview with Chris Nickson

Chris Nickson

Chris Nickson

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Chris Nickson, author of the historical crime series featuring Constable of Leeds, Richard Nottingham, to the CTG blog.

Chris, your new book, At the Dying of the Year, is your fifth novel in the Richard Nottingham series. What was your inspiration for creating a historical crime series?

When I began it was simply a book, not series. It took me a long time to find a publisher for The Broken Token, until I found Lynne Patrick at Crème da la Crime, who liked the book and wanted to put it out. I’d published plenty of non-fiction books before, but a novel, that was something altogether different. When she said, ‘What’s next?’ I had to think seriously. Continuing the series seemed the natural option. These characters had more to tell me, I wanted to know more about their lives. Then Lynne sold Crème to Severn House and they wanted the next one, Cold Cruel Winter. From there it just continued. Richard Nottingham, John Sedgwick, Rob Lister, their families have become friends now. There really was a Richard Nottingham who was Constable of Leeds from 1717-1737, although the role would have been more ceremonial than my character.

The series is set in 1730s Leeds, England, what research do you do to ensure the historical setting feels so real?

I’ve always been a history buff, but Leeds history – the history of my hometown – wasn’t something I really began to discover until I was living in Seattle! I’d go back to Leeds every year and buy the history books on the city that appeared. Then, when eBay began I could find some rarer, older books on there at low prices. The big problem was the postage costs, of course…Leeds also has a good historical society, which has their own publications and I’ve acquired some of them and been in their library. Essentially I just keep reading and learning more and more. I find it fascinating. I focus on the ordinary people, rather than the rich, and their lives, of course, aren’t documented. But what I try to do is make it an immersive experience, so people feel they’ve walked those streets. Things like, dirt, noise and smell, the things we don’t tend to think about, are important.

At the Dying of the Year centres around a spate of child murders and is your grittiest novel to date, what prompted you to tackle that subject matter? 

A couple of the books have dealt with the vulnerable, and Richard Nottingham – my Richard Nottingham, anyway – was a homeless child, living on the streets for part of his youth. This is an extension of that, in many ways. These are the children with no families, for one reason or another, the ones who’ve always been so easily exploited and used. The theme of abuse and murder of these children was meant to shock and to make people think, as is the idea of the rich protecting their own, this cloud of silence. I completed the book around July or August last year. A month of two later the Jimmy Savile scandal broke, and again, there’s been this conspiracy of silence around abuse by the rich and powerful. I believe that kind of thing has always existed. The book wasn’t written to take advantage of that situation, but more to force readers to think.

It was emotionally draining to write, incredibly so. Not just because of the children and the frustrated attempts to bring the murderers to justice, but also what Nottingham suffers along the way – in many respects that was the hardest thing of all, although I’ll say no more, as it’ll be a spoiler.

As to it being gritty, that’s a word that brings out mixed emotions in me. I prefer to think of it as dark, probably the darkest yet. But fiction is about conflict, and often conflict can take you to very dark places, inside and outside yourself. I hope the characters and the situation seem real. I’ve always tried to show that the essence of human nature doesn’t change over time. The setting might be historical but I try to make it some that readers can understand these characters and their situations. There are more shades of grey in this book than in previous ones – the lines between good and bad have become more blurred.

 Tell us a little about your writing process, do you plot out the story events before sitting down to write, or do you drive right in and see where the story takes you?

I know where the tale begins and I have a rough idea where it ends, but that’s it. From there I’m simply writing down the movie in my head, what the characters say or do. Sometimes I can see ahead a ways, sometime it’s like moving through a heavy thicket. At times they surprise me – I didn’t expect that! – but this process of discovery is one of the joys of writing to me. The family lives of my main characters are as important as the mystery. My father, who was a writer, told me, ‘Create a good character and people will follow them anywhere.’ That’s what I try to do, create good characters that people care about. Even Leeds is a character in these books.

How the story gets from A to Z is a journey it can be difficult to undertake, but it’s one I wouldn’t miss.

What have you learnt through writing your series that you’d like to pass on to aspiring crime thriller writers?

I’m not one for giving much advice, but I would say a writer has to be disciplined. That means writing every single day. The concept of holiday doesn’t exist. It can be 500 words or 1000, over time it mounts up. Care about what you’re writing. If it’s not tearing you apart, you’re not going deep enough. When you’ve finished a draft, put it aside for a month before going back to it so you can look at it objectively. That said, everyone has their own way or working, and who am I to say that someone else’s method isn’t better for them than mine.

Keep faith with your work. If you really believe you have something special, keeping trying it with agents and publishers. And as you are, keep writing the next book. This is a craft just as much as it’s an art.

And what’s next for you, are you planning your next novel, or already well into the writing of it?

2013 is a very busy year for me. At the Dying of the Year came out at the end of February, and March saw the release of a very different book, Emerald City, as an ebook and audiobook (narrated by Lorelei King, who’s won awards for her work and narrates the Janet Evanovich series). It’s still a mystery, but set in Seattle in 1988, in the music scene there – I also work as a music journalist, and have for years. Then, in September, the sixth Richard Nottingham book will be published; that one’s called Fair and Tender Ladies. To round things off, The Crooked Spire, set in Chesterfield in 1361 around the building of the spire on the church there, will be out in November.

I know that seems an awful lot (and yes, it is an awful lot) but it’s the culmination of work over a couple of years that’s just all come together. Writing is what I do. I’m lost without it…

And I’m currently writing another book set in Leeds, this time in the Victorian era, against the backdrop of the Gas Strike of 1890, a famous victory for the workers. A mystery, of course, as I like the moral framework it offers, but with a mix or murder and radical politics, how can I say no? The main female character, Annabelle Atkinson, first appeared in a short story I write before Christmas and won’t go away. She’s based on a female relative from a century ago, who started out as a maid in a pub in Leeds, married the owner, took over the business when he died. She also opened some bakeries around town and lent money at no interest to local poor people. An interesting, strong woman who’s set to marry my main character, Inspector Tom Harper of Leeds Police. When it’s done all I have to do is hope someone wants to publish it!

Wow, it certainly sounds like you’re busy! A huge thank you for dropping by the CTG blog and allowing us to grill you.

To find out more about At the Dying of the Year, and Chris’ other books, pop on over to his website at

Book Launch: The Lost by Claire McGowan

display at launch event

display at launch event

Earlier this week I was excited to attend the book launch of Claire McGowan’s new book, The Lost.

Her debut novel, The Fall, was one of my favorite books of 2012, so I’ve been really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of The Lost.

The launch party was held at the fabulous Goldsboro Books, just off Leicester Square, London. The place was full to bursting and I was thrilled to get a signed copy of the book.

Set in Ireland, The Lost is the first of a new series featuring forensic psychologist, Paula Maguire.

What the blurb says: “When two teenage girls go missing along the Irish border, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire has to return to the home town she left years before. Swirling with rumour and secrets, the town is gripped with fear of a serial killer. But the truth could be even darker. 

Surrounded by people and places she tried to forget, Paula digs into the cases as the truth twists further away. What’s the link with two other disappearances from 1985? And why does everything lead back to the town’s dark past – including the reasons her own mother went missing years before?

As the shocking truth is revealed, Paul learns that sometimes it’s better not to find what you’ve lost.”

Sounds great – I can’t wait to start reading …



It’s Book O’Clock (again) …

The Transworld Book Clock

The Transworld Book Clock

I’m a fan of book themed clocks, so you can imagine my excitement when I spotted this fabulous wall clock whilst at the Transworld Crime Scene event last month.

Isn’t it wonderful.

If you look carefully you’ll spot Lee Child and Dan Brown amongst the book ‘numbers’ …

Review: Out of Sight Out of Mind by Evonne Wareham

book cover

book cover

What the blurb says: “Madison Albi is a scientist with a very special talent – for reading minds. When she stumbles across a homeless man with whom she feels an inexplicable connection, she can’t resist the dangerous impulse to use her skills to help him.

J is a non-person – a vagrant who can’t even remember his own name. He’s got no hope, until he meets Madison. Is she the one woman who can restore his past?

Madison agrees to help J recover his memory, but as she delves deeper into his mind, it soon becomes clear that some secrets are better off staying hidden. “

Out of Sight Out of Mind might not be my usual type of read, but I found it really enjoyable.

It doesn’t fit neatly into a sub-genre bracket but, if you wanted to categorise it, I think it would be as romantic suspense with a dash of science fiction.

Told through the point-of-views of Madison, J and the shadowy people at ‘The Organization’, the reader is able to piece together information, alert to the increasing danger that Madison and J are unaware of until much later in the story. This adds an extra level of danger, up-ing the stakes, and keeping the reader on their edge of their seat, hoping that Madison will find out who, or what’s, behind J’s memory loss before it’s too late.

The main suspense in the story comes from the question: who is J? A mysterious (and rather sexy) character, he has no memory of his past, but he can remember how to navigate through London. When Madison tries to help him by reading his mind she encounters a wall that she’s unable to see through. As a research scientist at the top of her game, she throws all she’s got into the challenge of finding out just who J is.

As the relationship between Madison and J develops the reader gets to discover more about Madison’s past, and details about J’s life as he begins to remember things. There’s a lot of sexual tension between the two characters. The ‘will they, won’t they?’ question hangs over them for a large portion of the book as they both resist the attraction they feel for each other. This kept me hooked into the story, but I did, at times, want to scream at Madison to just kiss him and get on with it!

As Madison tries increasingly risky and unproven memory experiments, she manages to get past the wall and discover J’s sinister past. And that’s when the danger really escalates. After a gradual build in tension during the first two-thirds of the book, the final third races along to the action-packed finale.

My verdict: even if science fiction isn’t usually your thing, don’t let it put you off – this is a classy romantic suspense novel that’s definitely worth a read.

[My review copy of this novel was provided by Choc Lit publishers]

Love Reading: do you get a daily fix?

I love books

I love books (Photo credit: jamarmstrong)

I love reading, but what with my day job, my Creative Writing MA studies, drafting my novel, and all the usual day-to-day stuff to fit in, it can be tough to grab much time to read.

I’m lucky that I’m a fast reader, especially if the story grips me from the outset and carries me along, but I reckon that it’s only around an hour a day that I manage to read for in the week, and that’s split into short bursts – a couple of minutes as I drink my first morning coffee, a few minutes at lunchtime, a little longer if I’m soaking in the bath. I usually get to read for longer at the weekends, although it never seems like long enough!

What about you?

Do you read every day, or just at the weekends?

BLOG TOUR STOP: Author Alison Morton drops by to talk about INCEPTIO

Blog Tour Logo

Blog Tour Logo

If you like some alternative history with your crime, Alison Morton’s exciting debut novel ‘INCEPTIO’ could be just your type of read. Blending alternative historical and modern settings, the story follows Karen Brown as she searches to uncover the truth behind her connection to the mysterious Roma Nova, and discover (before it’s too late) why government enforcer, Jeffery Renschman, wants her dead.

To learn all about it, I’m pleased to welcome to Alison Morton, author of  ‘INCEPTIO’, who’s joining me today as part of her ‘INCEPTIO’ Blog Tour.

Alison, you’ve said that the idea for your new thriller ‘INCEPTIO’ came from your eleven-year-old self wondering What would have happened if women were in charge of the Romans? What was it that made you decide to write a novel along that theme?

Ever since my clever, ‘senior Roman nut’ father batted that question back at me by replying, “What do you think it would be like?” the idea has bubbled away in my mind. Ancient Rome morphed into a new type of Rome, a small rump state that survived the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire into the 21st century, but retained its Roman identity. And one where the social structure changed; women were going to be leading society. Despite a full range of life events keeping me busy (school, university, career, military, marriage, parenthood, business ownership, move to France), I couldn’t make the story go away.

But what actually started me writing INCEPTIO? One Wednesday I went to the local multiplex cinema with my husband. Thirty minutes into the film, we agreed it was really, really bad. The cinematography was good, but the plot dire and narration uneven.

‘I could do better than that,’ I whispered in the darkened cinema.

‘So why don’t you?’ came my husband’s reply.

The story that had filled my mind for years burst out through my fingers and ninety days later, I’d written 96,000 words, the first draft of INCEPTIO.

Your modern day protagonist, Karen Brown, is certainly up against the odds. What was your inspiration for creating her?

I had experience of living in different cultures and of serving in the military so could draw on both of those to seed some of the background of Karen’s story. But I wanted to take a modern Western young woman and not only make her contend with a nasty piece of work trying to eliminate her, but also unsettle her by having to adapt to a fundamentally different culture. She was going to be forced to change and grow, something I think readers like to see. More than anything, I wanted her to discover the person she was meant to be, something she certainly wasn’t going to do stuck in a city office.

With ‘INCEPTIO’ set in the alternate modern day and in the alternate historical setting of Roma Nova, what research did you do to ensure the two worlds felt so real?

The key to writing alternate history is plausibility. Firstly, it’s essential to know your history up to the point when the new alternate timeline diverges from the one we know. The next step is to work out in a historically logical way how the world would look after that divergence. Roma Nova’s existence couldn’t happen in a vacuum – in the course of sixteen hundred years it would have affected the rest of the world’s history.

New York is an Autonomous City in the Eastern United States (EUS) that the Dutch only left in 1813 and the British in 1865. Roma Nova had protected its New World trade interests in the late 1700s by brokering a political accord between the British colonies and the home government. The New World French states of Louisiane and Québec are ruled by Gouverneurs-Généraux on behalf of Napoléon VI, California and Texas belong to the Spanish Empire and the Western Territories are a protected area for the Indigenous Peoples.

These are only background details – I don’t develop them much further – the New World is only the setting for the first chapters. I only allude to it where necessary – nobody likes a long history lesson or an info dump in the middle of a pacey thriller – but I have it worked out in great detail in my head so I can live within that world while writing.

Secondly, you have to reinforce the settings with anchors to the reader’s own reality. Take a character working in law enforcement. Readers can accept cops being gentle or tough, enthusiastic, intellectual or world-weary. And whether corrupt or clean, they must act like a recognisable form of cop; they catch criminals, arrest and charge them and operate within a judicial system. Legal practicalities can differ significantly from those we know, but they must be consistent with that society while remaining plausible for the reader.

Almost every story hinges upon implausibility. Readers will engage with it and follow as long as the writer keeps their trust. One way to do this is to infuse, but not flood, the story with corroborative detail so that it verifies and reinforces the original setting the writer has introduced.

Even though INCEPTIO is an alternate history thriller set in the 21st century, the Roma Novan characters still allude to their past by saying things like ‘I wouldn’t be in your sandals when he finds out.’  There are honey-coated biscuits (honey was important for the ancient Romans) not chocolate digestives in the squad room. The Roma Novan family in the 21st century still includes not only the blood family but the entire household. This detail is where historic logic meets practical function of the roles the characters are playing.

If ‘INCEPTIO’ were made into a movie, which actors would you like to see playing your main characters?

A while ago, Meg Ryan and Val Kilmer (Carina and Conrad), with Judi Dench (Aurelia) and Alexander Siddig (Daniel). Today, probably Bryce Dallas Howard and Alexander Skarsgård, with Meryl Streep and Ben Barnes.

Tell us a little about your writing process, do you plot out the story events before sitting down to write, or do you drive right in and see where the story takes you?

I’m probably 20% ‘plotter’ and 80% ‘pantser’.  I start with my characters, their values and motivations, then float some story ideas involving them around in my head. I like to interweave a crisis facing Roma Nova with a personal crisis between the characters and in their lives. Nobody comes out of the story in the same state they went in.

By then, I know where the story starts and where it has to finish. Maybe now is the time to confess that only one of the three books I’ve written actually has exactly the ending I first thought of!  Next, structure. I’ve evolved a thirty-line system; Line 1 is the inciting incident, Lines 6, 14 and 22 (or nearabouts) the three crisis points, Line 27 or 28 the ‘black moment’ and Line 30 the resolution. I fill in some of the lines in between with likely scenes, but often leave some blank. It’s a process to imprint the plot on my conscious mind so that the unconscious or creative one has some hooks to hang the story threads on. All the rest in between just swirls around in my head and only emerges as I’m writing.

How do you organise your writing day: do you have a favourite time and place to write?

On a typical day I write most mornings after a short spurt on social media, and do domestic stuff in the afternoons or depending where I am in the book some research. In the evening, I’ll write a few more lines and dip into Facebook and Twitter.

If I’m editing, I tend to work straight through, with a short lunch break as I’m totally immersed. Strange, isn’t it? I can draft in paragraphs, but prefer to edit in long stretches. Proofing is another question – I do that in short bursts because of the concentration needed.

My books centre around a big conflict, dangerous assignment or saving the world story within the Roma Nova environment. Luckily, I’ve breathed in history since I was a kid. I even ‘went back to school’ to take a history masters thirty years after my first degree. So I have enough of a grounding in the aspects of Roman history I want to draw on to start the story. I write the basic dynamics of a scene, then if I need to check a detail, I mark the text up in bright blue which gives me a visual signal to come back and research that item.

What have you learnt through writing this novel that you’d like to pass on to aspiring crime thriller writers?

Keep a really big surprise for the end, but make sure you leave some clues. Readers hate what’s known in SFF as ‘alien space bats’, more properly a deux ex machina where a surprise solution or resolution is parachuted in. Try to nudge the reader into thinking about what’s going on behind the characters’ motivation.  In INCEPTIO, the heroine doesn’t know why Renschman pursues her with such persistence. We know he’s a bad guy, but why is he so vindictive? Read the book and you’ll find out!

Structure and keep track of time so you ensure that the right people know or don’t know about events or vital clues. The mobile phone has ruined many traditional opportunities for suspense and tension so writers have to be more inventive these days.

My last tip is to keep the reader in the loop. I love surprising and disconcerting the reader as the plot twists and turns, but I try hard to ensure the reader knows what’s happening. As a reader myself, I hate not knowing who’s speaking for pages and pages just to make the writing look clever.

And what’s next for you, are you planning your next novel, or already well into the writing of it?

I’m working on book two of the Roma Nova series, PERFIDITAS (Betrayal). I drafted it a little while ago, but it’s been ‘in the drawer’ for several months. It’s a thriller again, this time the whole Roma Novan society faces collapse as well as pushing the heroine to a personal crisis. I’m looking forward to reading it again after many months away!

Thank you, Alison, for dropping by today and for sharing your writing secrets.

For more about Alison Morton and INCEPTIO hop on over to her website at:

INCEPTIO is the first in a series of exciting alternate history thrillers set in mysterious Roma Nova. Published by SilverWood Books, it is available now in Paperback and eBook.

Bookish Coasters: a new place to rest your drink coasters coasters

I spotted these bookish coasters over on the fabulous Out of Print Clothing website.

They come in a set of 8, each with a different classic book jacket design including Lolita, Catch-22, and The Hound of the Baskervilles. What’s more, they can be stored in their very own canvass-wrapped ‘book case’.

Perfect for book fans of all ages!

And, as if that’s not great enough, for every sale of the coaster set, Out of Print Clothing donate a book to a community in need.

To get yours, pop over to

Classic Favorite: State of Fear by Michael Crichton

cover image

cover image

State of Fear by Michael Crichton has to be one of my favorite books.

It’s one of those books that, if I want the guarantee of a great read, I’ll pull down from my book shelves and re-read.

Filled with Crichton’s trademark blend of science and action, its subject is global warming and, more specifically, how it can be used as a weapon. Fast-paced, with intrigue, great characters and a plot that twists and turns across the globe, I’ll fly through the 675 pages in just a few hours.

I’m a real Crichton fan, but this one is definitely my favorite.