Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The Black Earth by Philip Kazan #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour @pipkazan @AllisonandBusby #TheBlackEarth

1922. When the Turkish Army occupies Smyrna, Zoe Haggitiris escapes with her family, only to lose everything. 
Alone in a sea of desperate strangers, her life is touched, for a moment, by a young English boy, Tom Collyer, also lost, before the compassion of a stranger leads her into a new life. 
Years later when war breaks out, Tom finds himself in Greece and in the chaos of the British retreat, fate will lead him back to Zoe. But he will discover that the war will not end so easily for either of them.

The Black Earth by Philip Kazan was published by Allison and Busby on 18 April 2018. I'm delighted to host the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour today, in partnership with Emma Finnigan PR.

The author joins me today to talk about the books that are special to him in My Life in Books.

My Life in Books - Philip Kazan

Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson Still my favourite book of all time. Jansson has a unique, off-kilter sense otherworldliness. Her books are beautifully inventive (and beautifully illustrated), happy, sinister and sad all at once. Moomin Valley is where I go in my happiest daydreams.

The Owl Service by Alan Garner It’s hard to choose my favourite Alan Garner. I read The Weirdstone of Brisingamen first, but The Owl Service was probably the first ‘grown-up’ book I attempted. Garner has an incredible sense of place, and I remember being amazed at how language could create such a strong sense of claustrophobia and strangeness. I probably didn’t understand it at all when I read it the first time, but later it all made sense.

The King Must Die and The Bull From The Sea by Mary Renault My Greek grandmother had been a schoolteacher and she loved ancient Greek legends. Renault is an incredible writer and I vividly remember feeling connected to my Greek self through reading her books and talking about them to my grandma, who always assured me that I was directly descended from Alexander the Great. Wouldn’t that be nice.

I, Claudius by Robert Graves Graves’ two Claudius books were my first proper introduction to historical fiction. Enthralling, immersive and intelligent. We were living in a tiny, damp house with no mains electricity at the time, and Graves’ ancient Rome provided the escape I desperately needed.

Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes Being originally from Notting Hill, this has always been one of my favourite books. The style, the humour, the griminess, the music: it gave me my teenage persona and my record collection, though I never got the Vespa.

Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre I went very existentialist in my teens and I’ve never quite shaken it off. The seminal existentialist book, I started to reread it recently and couldn’t make it out at all. It had a massive influence on me at the time, though: that French intellectualism, the idea that writing was an important act.

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens The breadth of Dickens, his humanity, his joyful use of language. No-one explores characters with quite the same relish. I love cities and books about cities, and Our Mutual Friend is one of the greatest London novels: mystery, social commentary, murder, dust heaps.

Anything by Raymond Chandler I think you can make the case that Chandler is one of the absolutely most important writers of the 20th Century. Genre-defining, obviously, but period-defining too. All the Marlowe books are a masterclass in how to tell a story.

The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow Bellow is an incredible writer but I particularly love this one as it’s written by a great writer finding his voice in a totally exuberant story. I love a picaresque and this is one of the best modern examples.

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel I don’t think historical fiction has ever really been done better than this. Mantel is an amazing storyteller but also a beautiful writer. I read A Place of Greater Safety when I was dithering about whether or not to write, and it was a huge inspiration.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry Bleak but amazing, this book absolutely flayed me, in part because my life is connected to India in a number of ways. A Zola-esque tragedy, it is intensely compassionate while being unrelentingly grim.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky I once told an editor that this was the book that had influenced me the most and he’d rolled his eyes. “Every writer says that,” he’d said. I’m not sure that’s actually true but I still haven’t shaken off the incredible power of the writing, the way it takes the reader inside an anguished mind and illuminates the human condition.

Philip Kazan - April 2018

PHILIP KAZAN was born in London and grew-up on Dartmoor. He is the author of two previous novels set in fifteenth-century Florence and the Petroc series following a thirteenth-century adventurer. After living in New York and Vermont, Philip is back on the edge of Dartmoor with his wife and three children.
Follow him on Twitter: @pipkazan 
Author's Website: philipkazan.wordpress.com

The Penance List by S C Cunningham Blog Tour @SCCunningham8 @rararesources #ThePenanceList

A steamy suspense-ridden psychological thriller - think Silence of the Lambs meets 50 Shades and hold on tight! 
S C Cunningham writes with a skilled mix of fuelled tension, dark humour and pulsating sex scenes. 
Grab a glass of wine, close the bedroom door and read alone! 
What happens when opposites attract - when a scorned childhood sweetheart grows into a gorgeous sexual tour de force - when a fun loving career girl, her racy girlfriends and insatiable lovers get caught in his revenge - when sex becomes a weapon, hearts become bait and straight tastes gay - when hi-flying careers, clandestine affairs and wannabe starlets are hunted by celebrity hungry press? Obsession, kidnap, murder... and he's just getting started!

Welcome to the Blog Tour for The Penance List by S C Cunningham; The David Trilogy Book 1 organised by Rachel from Rachels Random Resources.

I'm really pleased to welcome the author to Random Things today, she's talking about the books that are special to her, in My Life In Books.

My Life in Books - S C Cunningham

Am British born of Irish roots, the eldest of five my parents sent me to a nun’s boarding school at the age of eight for eight years, which I thought a little harsh as we only lived at the end of the school grounds - I tried not to take it personally as I guessed they thought I needed controlling.

My early memories of the nuns are their disapproving cries of “Siobhan Cunningham, you have the devil in you!” Also a little harsh as I was a good girl, just not fast enough to leave a crime scene. When everyone else had the good sense to bolt I would be left standing, caught and blamed for whatever misdemeanour my dormitory of girls had been up to.

Our main crimes were midnight feasts (I was in charge of lighting – candles ‘borrowed’ from Chapel) and reading banned books under covers after lights out. The nuns didn’t like us reading much, except the Bible, which at times put the fear of God in me. I adored all Enid Blyton books and longed to be a member of The Famous Five, but for some reason they were banned from our school, which I never did understood.

I also adored Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty (have always been a sucker for animals), Agatha ChristieJane AustenHarper LeeDaphne Du Maurier and Shakespeare.

But when a well-worn copy of Harold Robbin’s The Carpet Baggers was secretly passed around like a hot potato (I certainly did understand why that was banned, it made all us girls look at males and ourselves in a new light) the power of words hit me.

My love of books over the years has mainly been around murder, mystery, crime and psychological thrillers. I never seem to have enough time to read as much as I would like. My prime time for reading is when I travel on trains, planes and automobiles. Where I have no distractions, I can ignore folk, become invisible and get on with the guilty pleasure of disappearing into another world. My favourite places to read are bed and beach.

My reading tastes reveal a pretty primitive narrow spectrum of thriller romance and action - Martina Cole, James Patterson, John Grisham, Michael Connelly, Colin Dexter, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Dan Brown, Patricia Cornwell, John Le Carre, Ian Fleming and my uber fav is Lee Child, although I’ve not forgiven him for selling the rights to Tom Cruise. Tom is wonderful I’m sure, but he is no Jack Reacher... (sigh).

I was once married to a rock musician; we ran a recording studio in Oxford Circus, London for eight years where we produced music for film. It is here that I found my passion for film and discovered that music played a main character. I now write books with film in mind; I have to hear, see, smell, feel and taste each scene I write, as if directing a Director.

The power of exciting storyline mixed with haunting music makes for wonderful movie. My Psychological Thriller The Penance List has been adapted to film script and is sitting on a desk in Hollywood somewhere. Fingers crossed.

My reading these days also includes; Victim and Witness Statements, Forensic Reports, CPS Charging Decisions, Crown Court Police Reports, Blackstone’s Police Investigators Workbook and Blackstone’s Police Operational Handbook as I am a Crime Investigator (Major Crime Team, Intel Analyst, Wanted & Absconder Unit, Crime Investigations).

My steamy thrillers The David Trilogy and paranormal rom thrillers The Fallen Angels Series would most certainly be banned by those nuns, maybe I deserved ‘the devil in you’ title after all. J

Thank you for joining me on this reflective journey of books in my life.

S C Cunningham - April 2018 

British Crime Investigator & Crime Writer, Siobhan C Cunningham creates steamy psychological thrillers and kick-ass paranormal romance with a skilled mix of fuelled tension, dark humour, and pulsating sex scenes. Having worked in the very industries she writes about, her novels offer a fresh level of sincerity and authority, rare in fiction. An ex-model, British born of Irish roots, she married a rock musician and has worked in the exciting worlds of music, film, sports celebrity management and as a Crime Investigator for the British Police (Wanted & Absconder Unit, Major Crime Team, Intelligence Analyst, Investigations Hub). Abducted as a child, she survived; and every night for months afterward, she prayed to God, asking for a deal. This personal journey sparked the fuse behind the intriguing and riveting fictional world she portrays in The Fallen Angel Series. Twenty years later she crossed paths with a violent serial attacker who haunted the streets of London, the seed for The David Trilogy was sown, book one is The Penance List, and has been adapted to film screenplay.
She is the proud mother to contemporary Artist Scarlett Raven and is owned by three dogs.

Website - http://www.sccunningham.com/ 
Twitter - https://twitter.com/SCCunningham8 
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pg/sccunningham8/ 
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/siobhancunningham8/ 

Monday, 23 April 2018

Unscripted by Claire Handscombe Blog Tour @clairelyman @unbounders #RandomThingsTours #UnscriptedNovel

No-one is a bigger fan of actor Thomas Cassidy than Libby. No-one. That's why she's totally going to marry him 

She is going to write a novel, name the main character after Thom, and find a way to get it to him. Intrigued and flattered, he will read it, fall in love with her prose, write to her and ask to turn it into a movie. She will pretend to think about it for a week or so, then say, sure, but can I work on it with you? Their eyes will meet over the script, and fade to black. It is a fail-proof plan.
Except for the fact that he is a Hollywood star – not A list, perhaps not B list, but certainly C+ – and she is, well, not. Except for the fact that he lives in America. Except, too, for the teeny tiny age gap. Not even twenty years! Totally overcomable. All of the obstacles are totally overcomable. It's all about determination.

Welcome to the Random Things Tours Blog Tour for Unscripted by Claire Handscombe
Claire Handscombe’s novel Unscripted is forthcoming from Unbound.
Unbound are an innovative, crowdfunding-based publisher who’ve produced best-sellers and award-winning books, like The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla. Their model is based on Kickstarter-style pledges, and when a book reaches 100% of their funding, they kick in as a more-or-less traditional publisher. So when you pre-order a book, you’re actually helping to make it happen. You get thanked in the back for being part of the journey, and you can also get various rewards at different pledge levels. So if you like the sound of Unscripted, please consider supporting the book by pre-ordering it at Unbound. 

I'm delighted to welcome author Claire Handscombe to Random Things today, she's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life In Books

My Life in Books - Claire Handscombe

One of the first books I remember reading over and over again was Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St John. It’s a novel about a boy and girl in Switzerland, who learn about forgiveness the hard way. I remember there being all kinds of adventures and interesting things to learn about – wood sculpting, skiing through mountain passes in a blizzard – as well as more important lessons in life and the Christian faith.

I grew up speaking French, and it was my first language and, as a child, the language I wrote in. I fell in love with poetry when I was around ten, and much of mine, which actually wasn’t terrible, was inspired by Jacques PrĂ©vert – his style really unlocked something in me and showed me what was possible with language. His most iconic collection is Paroles, and some of my favourites are in that collection, including some that, much later, I translated for a class during my MFA in Creative Writing.

I can’t imagine my adolescence without Judy Blume. I picked up Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret at a school jumble sale – I think I paid the equivalent of 20p for it – and neither life nor reading were ever the same again.

Okay, this one’s cheating, because it’s really a TV series and not a book, but if there’s any one work of art – work of words, really – that’s had a deep impact on my writing and on my life more generally, it’s The West Wing. Aaron Sorkin’s writing showed me how beautiful and elegant English can be, just as Jacques PrĂ©vert’s once had for French, and that started off my writing journey as an adult.

I even wrote a book about it!  Walk With Us: How the West Wing Changed Our Lives

By a circuitous route involving the celebrity crush which inspired Unscripted, I came across the beautiful memoir Come the Edge, by Christina Haag. It’s about her friendship and love affair with John Kennedy, Jr, but also with New York City and with acting and with her faith, and the writing is elegant and thoughtful. The Washington Post said that it “lyrically and precisely recaptures the frenetic energy of youthful love”, and I agree whole-heartedly.

As I was starting to devour not just good novels but good books about writing and good podcasts about books, I heard an interview of Colum McCann on Mariella Frostrup’s Books and Authors around the time that Let The Great World Spin was published, and bought it as a result. It’s about characters from different backgrounds but with intersecting lives in New York City around the time of Emmauel Petit’s tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in 1974. The poetry of the writing took my breath away. “Those who saw him hushed. On Church Street. Liberty. Cortlandt. West Street. Fulton. Vesey. It was a silence that heard itself, awful and beautiful.” I was hooked from those first lines.

I can’t remember how I came across The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, but I read it around the time I was writing my first novel, and it captured something of the spirit that I was trying to put on the page. The plots of that novel and mine were completely different, but there’s a wistfulness and a heartbreak to both, and they both explore the age-old question of whether love is worth the pain it eventually causes when it is lost. I had my charater read The Time Traveller’s Wife, and ask herself, too: “Why is love intensified by absence?”

The same novel I was writing had a musician character, so I asked in an online forum if anyone knew any good books with music as their theme, and someone suggested The Song Is You, by Arthur Phillips. I loved it. The author makes poetry out of daily routines like the clicking of an
iPod wheel, and explores loss and grief and the pursuit of obsessive, impossible love, in ways that spoke and still speak to me deeply.

Whenever I think about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer, I remember waking up one morning and my first thought being about what would happen next, and my first action to pick up the book to find out. It was before I had a smartphone, and long before grabbing it as soon as I opened my eyes had become a reflex. I lived in Guernsey when I was 18, and it was one of my happiest years. I also love epistolary novels and the insight they give into the intricacies of relationships, and I’d be surprised if there wasn’t one in my own writing future. So this book is special to me.

During my MFA in Creative Writing, we were set a short novel to read, called The Buddha in The Attic, by Julie Otsuka. My goodness, the writing. This book about picture brides sent from Japan to America at the turn of the twentieth century showed me the power of anaphora and also of the collective “we” as a narrative voice. I went on to write a couple of pieces in a similar kind of voice, including one of my favourite things I’ve written about one of the most formative, most idyllic times of my younger life, at summer camp.

Claire Handscombe - April 2018

Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA, but actually, let's be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. (Like her main character Libby, she knows a thing or two about celebrity crushes and the life-changing power of a television series.) She was recently longlisted for the Bath Novel Award, and her journalism, poetry, and essays have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including BustleBook Riot, Writers' Forum, and the Washington Post. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a fortnightly show about news and views from British books and publishing.

Twitter -- @clairelyman
Blog -- britlitblog.com
My other book, Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives can be found at thewestwingbook.com.