Review: The Killer In Me

The Killer In Me (Frankie Sheehan #2) – Olivia Kiernan

killerOlivia Kiernan goes from strength to strength with the second title in her Frankie Sheehan books. Reading the first and second novel back to back, as I did, highlighted the difference in the writing – great the first time, and great this time too but with an added assurance of touch, a finesse, that (as a writer myself) made me whisper, yes. The plot’s as clever as you could wish for and I was second-guessing myself all through – and still taken by surprise.

Frankie leaps off the page, three-dimensional and real, but I particularly enjoyed in this book the filling in of Baz’s character. I love their easy friendship and I hope it stays like that. To find a police procedural series with such fine characterisation, complex plotting, and above all writing that sings, is a real joy. I’ve pre-ordered the third in the series, If Looks Could Kill, and I hope for many, many more. Brava.

Published by Dutton, 2019

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Review: Agent Running in the Field

agentAgent Running in the Field: John le Carré 

The trademark John le Carré wry wit and obfuscation is there, but perhaps not sufficiently to carry what feels quite two-dimensional as a story. Nat, a has-been agent runner being put out to pasture, gets too friendly with a man he knows little about other than he’s an excellent badminton player. Brexit and Trump are factored in; Nat and Ed, his new badminton partner, are in accord. But the story plays out without a great deal of tension – we can see what’s coming – until the last few pages. The ending, quite abrupt, seems adrift from the book’s moorings and is puzzling rather than satisfying. There’s some inattentive editing too – just about everyone takes a “long pull” at their drinks, sometimes within a page of each other. A good novel, quite entertaining; but not Le Carré’s best.

Published 2019, Penguin Random House | Viking

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Calling authors with new books

Launching your new book is a huge challenge at the best of times, never mind now. If tbr2you’re an author who’s just had or are about to have a book published, I’d like to invite you to consider an interview for my blog, in the hope it might help you promote your work.

I’ve interviewed a number of authors in the past few years and you can see those stories here. The first two you’ll see were guest posts written by the writers themselves, but the rest I wrote after interviewing the authors.

Some of them have had New York Times bestsellers, some have had one or more other books published since we talked about a particular book. The very first author I ever interviewed was Roald Dahl, when I was still at uni.

If you want to provide photos, great. And sometimes I do some additional research for the piece. An example of that is here.

As I’m a former journalist, I like to interview you about your book and your writing and then write what’s essentially a feature article. So it’s not a set of emailed questions. It’s a chat, about 20 or 30 minutes.

Because of this each piece takes some time, and I’d suspended it to focus more on my own writing.

I think now’s a good time to start again. If you’re interested, I’d love to hear from you.


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Strange times …

tbr2A quick update: both my planned school visits and my signing day at Avebury for the launch of The Keeper of the Stones are on hold because of the understandable and necessary measures to manage the spread of the coronavirus.

Working from home, like many others, with quiet evenings and weekends, means I’ve been indulging myself by ordering books and I now have more than one to-be-read pile. (I’ve just finished Jonathan Coe’s Number 11; you can read my brief review here.)

In the midst of everything else, I was pleased to learn that a short story I wrote was longlisted in the international Fish Publishing short story competition, which this year had more than 1,400 entries. Apart from anything else, it’s an abridged version of a manuscript (a satirical novel) that I’m in the midst of pitching, so it was encouraging to see it has something going for it!

I’m lucky to have open fields around me, where I can head out alone with my dogs.lf

Wherever you are in this time of corona, stay safe, stay at home at much as possible and keep your distance when you’re out.

And keep reading and writing!




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“Suspense, an occasional laugh, and many surprises”

coverMy publisher, Hayloft, is expecting the copies of my debut children’s novel, The Keeper of the Stones, from the printer on 23 March. There will be fewer than 500 copies available.

Advance orders are going well and anyone who pre-orders a copy has a chance of winning one of the stunning original inkwash illustrations (see my last post) by the multimedia artist and illustrator, Kelsea Rothaus.

If you’re in Wiltshire, UK, and can get to the Henge Shop at Avebury stone circles on 9 May — I’ll be signing copies from 11:00 am. It would be tremendous to see you!

My heading for this post is taken from a review quote:

“Absolutely gripping! My heart raced as I galloped along with Lizzie, and my brain whirled as I tried to unravel clues to the mysteries. The reading time flew by – as did time itself in this intriguing tale. Suspense, an occasional laugh, and many surprises… All here!” – Martha Kendall, American Library Association Winner of Best Book for Young Adults.

I hope you’ll want to take the ride too.


(c) 2020 Roz Kay

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You could win an original illustration

How often do you get a chance to win an original piece of art? Now, you could – by advance ordering a copy of The Keeper of the Stones, my debut children’s novel. It’s illustrated by multimedia designer and artist Kelsea Rothaus and one of her original signed inkwash drawings is available for a lucky winner.


To be entered in the raffle, please visit Hayloft Publishing.

The Keeper of the Stones is a 200-page novel suitable for ages 10 and up. A midnight ride to the stone circles on the family farm catapults Lizzie and her brother Daniel back to the Bronze Age. Trapped three thousand years behind her own time, Lizzie must save Daniel and stop the Bullmaster before he destroys the Horse People and her family ceases to exist.

Good luck!!



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The Keeper of the Stones

Imagine starting to write a book in 1987. Finishing it in 1995. Having interest from publishers, but not getting a bite. Imagine it sitting on various hard drives until more than 20 years later, you open the file, rewrite it from top to bottom, and start looking for independent publishers who might consider it.

Then, in the midst of a Twitter discussion on writing in 2017, imagine an independent publisher tweets a reply to you: “Why haven’t you sent me a manuscript?”

And a few weeks later, your book is accepted.cover

That’s how The Keeper of the Stones found a home, and it’s now due out in March 2020 from Hayloft Books.

I’m proud that it’s essentially the work of three women: me as the author, Dawn Robertson as the publisher, and the amazing Kelsea Rothaus as the illustrator. (And despite being an American in her twenties, Kelsea somehow captures the magical, dark edge in the story that to me is straight from the heritage of English and European fairy tales, from the Brothers Grimm to Alan Garner, elevating the book with her illustrations.)

I’ve had a lot of help along the way, notably from my first writer’s group which consisted of published and unpublished children’s authors and from membership of the SCBWI.

Even with some short stories published, it’s an incredible thing to have my first book published at the age of 59. My first in several ways: first novel, first children’s novel, first novel I wrote – I’ve written a few and and am on the first draft of my third, contemporary adult fiction in that case, yet to be published …

There’s a sequel in the offing for The Keeper of the Stones and I’m hoping this time it won’t take thirty years.

(c) Roz Kay

You can order The Keeper of the Stones here

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Sponsoring an entry for the Bath Novel Award 2019

Old_Books_01I’m very pleased to be able to sponsor an entry for a low income writer for the Bath Novel Award for the first time, after sponsoring an entry for the Bath Children’s Novel Award in 2018.

Being part of the broad and supportive community of writers is very important to me. I’ve had a lot of help and support over the years, and it’s a pleasure to give something back.

For entry information, please click here. And good luck!

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Sponsoring the next great children’s author?

By Roz DeKett

goldenAuthors who write for children have such a special place in my heart. I still have a few books from my childhood in the 1960s.

As Stig Abell reveals in this tweet, the stories you loved as a child stay with you forever, even if you no longer have your original copies.

So, I was excited to be part of something that might make a real difference for an unpublished children’s author.

For a while now I’ve been thinking about how to sponsor contest entries for writers who can’t afford the entry fees. I’d searched a few contest sites for options but didn’t see anything.

Then Kit de Waal (on Twitter @kitdewaal) sponsored five entries for the Bath Children’s Novel Award, and others followed her tremendous example.

hobbitI have too. I’m thrilled to be one of the sponsors providing an option for somebody who might not otherwise have a chance to get their work seen in one of the most prestigious novel contests out there: somebody who might be the next children’s author to stay in a reader’s heart for decades.

If you’re entering, sponsored or otherwise, good luck!

And if you’re a Roald Dahl fan, you might like to read my interview with him from 1981. It’s here.



The photos show my 1968 copy of The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw with a later edition I bought for her to sign when I met her at a writer’s conference, and my 1966 copy of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien which I read in 1968 (aged eight) after hearing an episode of the BBC Radio 4 dramatisation.

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A balm for anyone battered by our post-truth culture: Chris Buckley

Guest post by poet Chris Buckley, whose chapbook BLUING is available from Finishing Line Press.

BUCKLEY-CHRISTOPHER-WEBNostalgia, though a potent marketing force, is deadly in art. It transforms rich, emotional imagery into one-dimensional kitsch. So much poetry is devoted to nostalgia, both in content, and style. American poetry, especially, seems to begin and end with Whitman. Whether it’s the hallowed verse of Robert Frost, the ballads of Guthrie and Dylan, the feminist emergence of the 1970s, and today’s poetics of diverse witness and identity, American poets continue our undying riff on Song of Myself. Today, poets broadcast from a studio that bills us as half confessional talk-show guest and half political talking head pundit. Identity defines audience, trauma shapes identity, and trauma is thrust on us from our past. Hence our inescapably backward gaze.

Ironically, this comes at a time when objective Truth is devalued on the cultural right and the left alike. While our poetics cry out to heaven about the sanctity of individual experience, the poet must never assert a belief in anything like the objective truth of it all. Every statement must be suggestive of mystery, of postmodern uncertainty, always open to personal interpretation. Now, even as we ape “What I assume, you shall assume” in form and style, in substance we must never stop asking, “But what do you think?” To me, in this cultural and political climate, that’s a luxury no one can afford. To not only say, “This is what I am thinking,” but also “Think like me, if only for a moment” is perhaps the poet’s deepest calling, yet it is the one unforgivable sin for any writer. As the late, controversial essayist Mark Fisher tragically wrote, “Remember: having convictions is oppressive, and might lead to gulags.”

There’s the fine line I try to walk in BLUING: to write observationally, but in a way that is open to meaning, and not just mystery. I hope you will check it out yourself. The poems in it are both old and new. When I wrote many of them, I was reading a lot of Robinson Jeffers, the great “Inhumanist” poet of Carmel, California. Lesser known today, his sparse verse was a fixture of American poetry between World Wars I and II, describing the harsh and astonishing beauty of the California Coast, letting the landscape speak the natural truth of itself in the absence of  human values to interpret it. Now, as a resident of the Pacific Northwest, I recognize a lot of Jeffers in the ecological “poetry of place”  we tend to write here. So much of it falls apologetically short of its subject matter, however, by daring less certainty than the rocks, waters, and trees it describes.

The poems in BLUING aim for Jeffers’ scandalous insistence that objective truth does not depend on humans to tell it, but with a pained consciousness that his wild coasts are now our suburbanized, gentrifying enclaves. We have no choice but to reinsert humanity into that rugged landscape today, and to write of ecology devoid of a human presence is to ignore the savage beauty where it lives. Perhaps I’ll mockingly say I’m starting a new “Rehumanist” school of poetry, looking for the meaning of moments captured from both human and natural worlds. Either way, I wrote BLUING as a balm for anyone battered by our post-truth culture. I’m glad if it holds meaning for you too.

A fourth generation West Coast native, C.W. Buckley lives and works in Seattle with his family. Corporate by day, Catholic by faith, his writing explores geek culture, conscience, faith, and fatherhood. Reading regularly at Easy Speak Seattle in that city’s northeast, his work is forthcoming in Tiferet: A Journal of Spiritual Literature and Raven Chronicles Journal, and has appeared in Rock & Sling | a journal of witness, Lummox Journal, POESY Magazine, and the Bay Area Poets Coalition Anthology 23. He is the author of BLUING, a chapbook from Finishing Line Press. You can follow him on Twitter as @ChrisBuckley

© 2018 Chris Buckley

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