Blog Tour: Guest Post by Sealed With Death Author, @JamesSilvester1 @UrbaneBooks @lovebooksgroup

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Still new to the top secret Overlappers intelligence team, and on her first `hit' alone, Lucie Musilova has an attack of conscience and nearly botches the operation, taking a bullet wound before finishing off her target. Though her injuries are minor, she is chastised for her carelessness and assigned desk duties. Here she investigates a number of disappearances of European women from Britain - the women all missing without trace until the body of one is discovered, raped and murdered. Lucie learns that tens of women have disappeared, all with little investigation. As she digs deeper she begins to uncover a terrifying international conspiracy that potentially threatens not just her life, but to topple Governments....  

Guest Post:

Blame Timothy Dalton. Seriously, if you read my books, either the ‘Prague Thrillers’ series or the adventures of Lucie Musilova and roll your eyes heavenwards in disbelief at what you read, then you can blame Timothy Dalton. Not that he twisted my arm and talked me into trying my hand at writing of course, but it’s thanks to him that I first began to develop what some might call a style; or at least it’s thanks to a particular performance.

If you’ve never seen the opening half of ‘The Living Daylights’, even if Bond films aren’t your cup of tea, watch it. Devoid of quips and in no mood to suffer fools, the new 007 waits as a brooding assassin, his eyes searching for threats as a Russian General scrambles from a window at the Bratislava conservatoire, seeking sanctuary in the West. It’s dark and tense Cold War stuff, and Dalton excels as a reluctant agent; a man good at his job but who hates doing it.
“Stuff my orders,” he tells a colleague threatening to report him to ‘M’, “if he fires me I’ll thank him for it.”

That characterisation fascinated me then and has stayed with me ever since, working its way into the thrillers I write. Superheroes are brilliant to watch, but are un-relatable in the world of spy thrillers. The world may need heroes to save it, but those heroes should be real people; flawed, reluctant and every bit as imperfect as real people are. That for me as a reader is what keeps me interested and keeps the story grounded, wherever the plot may take us. 
Lucie Musilova is (I hope) such a hero; a capable, confident woman, haunted by her past and her vulnerabilities but overcoming them to do a job she isn’t sure she wants to do at all. Her next adventure is out on 11th July, and I very much hope you enjoy it.

About the Author:

James Silvester's debut novel and sequel, Escape to Perdition and The Prague Ultimatum, reflected his love both of central Europe and the espionage genre and was met with widespread acclaim. His new series features strong female protagonist Lucie Musilova, a character fully reflective of Europe’s changing cultural and political landscape. James lives in Manchester.   

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Blog Tour: 7 Interesting Facts About Mallorca and The Painter by @SupernovaQ @UrbaneBooks @lovebooksgroup

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In a desire to impress the people who visit his workshop, renowned artist The Painter, employs a gardener to create an inspirational landscape which includes a labyrinth, an orange grove and Moorish-inspired fountains. They develop an intimate relationship and the Painter, whose life and talent had become increasingly dissipated, finds himself slowly recovering his original innocence and talent. However, the relationship is tainted by the Painter's jealousy when visitors express more interest in the magical garden and mysterious labyrinth than in the Painter's art. That jealously blossoms into deadly rage when The Painter catches the gardener changing one of his paintings.... Deirdre Quiery's compelling new thriller explores themes of love, life and deceit, and examines the lengths we will go to pursue and protect our passions.  

Guest Post:

1. In Mallorca I discovered that I am naïve. Before coming to Mallorca I was unconscious of what it means to be naïve. I grew up in Belfast during The Troubles – knew what it meant to live in a violent society where uncles were murdered, bombs placed outside the house and the family were taken hostage by the IRA with a cousin killed in the crossfire. I worked in the corporate world. Three company cars sat in the driveway of a semi-detached house in Oxford. I was a “corporate woman”. It was only arriving in Mallorca that I realised I hadn’t a clue how to understand a culture that is non-corporate.

2. How did that impact on you? When did you realise that you were naïve? It took time. Living during the first 18 months in an olive grove with no running water, no fixed line telephone, and no internet maybe didn’t help. I had to scramble down a mountain to buy a litre of milk and scramble back up again with the sheep for neighbours and oranges growing on the orange trees for friends. I realised that I was naïve when I allowed my husband to work unpaid for a man called J. J had been walking in Alcudia in the North of the island when a freak wave swept his two children out to sea. They hung onto his shoulders as he tried to save them and then slipped away as he was dashed against the rocks. That was true. What wasn’t true was that the reason his business failed was not the loss of his children but his incompetence. So my husband worked for over a year to help him and never received a euro. That’s naïve.

3. What other interesting fact about living in Mallorca impacted on your writing of The Painter?  Seeing Bob Geldof in a supermarket in Soller and nobody recognised him. I realised the beauty of not being known. I built that into The Painter in a paradoxical way. 

4. Having no water is essential to human life. Having too much water is dangerous. Living in the second olive grove the house flooded every year when the rains came. Then when the drought came there was no water. I realised that life is a balance of having and not having. That balance is in The Painter.

5. There are insane people close to my home and yet I see their sanity. There is a woman who always asks me for 1 euro and gives me a kiss. She sleeps under a bridge. I gave her a bag of my clothing. I saw her wearing my blouses and my leggings, sitting on the ground, smoking you know what. She pointed at the clothes saying, “They’re yours. Have you anymore?” I thought that was a wise question. 

6. I’ve learned to love Nature and also to be terrified by it. Mallorca is an island of intense beauty and also of immense energy. I see the beauty of Nature in the blossoming of a jasmine plant and also the terror of it in a storm. In March the Sirocco winds arrive and people commit suicide. People here are frightened by the wind. I love the wind’s energy and understand the fear it brings.
7. Mallorca for me is not a playground. It is an island of intense beauty and spirit. I came here to change. It has happened and you will read that in The Painter.


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Blog Tour: Author Claire Johnston's Publishing Journey @ClareS_J @UrbaneBooks @lovebooksgroup

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When internet millionaire and philanthropist Harry Melville dies in a car crash at the age of forty four, the lives of his wife, Sarah, and twin brother, Ben, are thrown into turmoil.

Harry seemed to have it all; a close-knit family and a happy marriage - along with all the trappings of wealth. Yet as he recalls his past from the afterlife, a story emerges of the unspoken and bitter jealousies between brothers and of an unhappy wife burdened by loneliness and guilt.

When Ben takes over the running of Harry's charity foundation he begins to find purpose for the first time in years. But the arrival of a talented young artist brings a series of revelations that expose Harry's complex and dual personality in full. As he learns his part in the suffering of those he left behind, is it too late for Harry to make amends?

A tale of regret and redemption in this world and the next. From the Outside looks at the futile rivalries that can destroy sibling relationships and the lost opportunity for happiness when ego is allowed to reign over emotion.

Guest Post: Claire Johnston's Publishing Journey

I had been working as a journalist for over a decade when I first began to dabble in fiction. It was a natural progression for an avid reader and professional writer, and I naively assumed the hard bit would be actually completing a manuscript.
As it turned out, that was the easy bit.

I found writing fiction to be a liberating experience, the ultimate indulgence for a journalist who had spent years fact checking every second word to leave my fingertips. Suddenly, I was free to write whatever I wished. There were no rules. 

When I first came up with the idea for From the Outside – which tells the story of a multimillionaire killed in a car crash who watches the impact of his death from the afterlife – it didn’t occur to me at all to consider which genre the novel would fit in and how it would be marketed. It was simply a creative outpouring at a time in my life where I was searching for answers following the tragic passing of my cousin at far too young an age.

It was only when I started to contact agents that I was soon confronted by the realities of the industry. Which other novels of a similar theme and genre could I point to that sold well? This, I soon realised, is the crunch question for any novelist starting a new project. 
If you embark on a crime or sci-fi thriller, a romance, or something that neatly fits in a box, then agents and publishers can immediately visualise how they can market your work.  
From the Outside doesn’t fit neatly into a particular publishing genre, but then that should never put an author off. 

Happily, after sending out queries, I secured an agent for FTO, who was enchanted by the story and talked of a six-figure bidding war. Then, suddenly, the recession hit, and publishers were not willing to take any chances. My agent said we should hang fire and I decided to write a political thriller to keep the ball rolling. 

The resulting manuscript, Polls Apart, was accepted by a publisher in 2010 who also signed FTO. They published Polls Apart first – which brings me to the point where I need to be careful what I say. Ultimately, the publishing experience around Polls Apart wasn’t a rewarding one and I feared the same thing would happen with From the Outside. Cutting a long story short, I was able to secure the rights to From the Outside, but it was a difficult time and, as a result, I did nothing further with the manuscript for a few years. 

Then, three years ago, I heard a radio interview with Marlon James, the Man Booker Prize-winning author, in which he revealed his debut novel had been rejected nearly 80 times. Clearly another book that didn’t fit neatly in a publishing box.
I was so struck by his comments, because when I totted up all the queries I’d sent in earlier years for From the Outside, it must have amounted to at least 50. I had all but given up hope, but that interview inspired me.

I’m fairly active on social media and I had noticed a few Tweets by a new publisher, Urbane Publications, that caught my eye. I really liked what they represented – they view their relationship with authors as a genuine partnership where both have an equal stake in how the title is marketed – and so I dropped their publishing director Matthew Smith a note along with the first three chapters of From the Outside.

Time passed, I got back to my hectic working life and I forgot about it.
Then, probably a year later when I was on holiday in the US, I got an email from Matthew saying he was interested in publishing FTO. 
The experience with Urbane has been so positive and I have discovered renewed passion for my fictional work. 

I will be forever grateful to them for taking a chance on From the Outside. We need more independent publishers like Urbane who look to push the envelope and bring readers fresh fiction that lives on in the mind long after the final page has been turned.
Quite often those books just don’t fit in a box.

About Claire Johnston

Clare Johnston is a journalist and content specialist, and a frequent contributor on radio and TV, having appeared on Radio 4's Woman's Hour, The Kaye Adams Programme and comedy satire show Breaking the News on BBC Radio Scotland, along with STV2's Live at Five. She is a former editorial director of Press Association Scotland and commercial editor and columnist with the Daily Record. She is currently working with the DC Thomson media group and supports businesses with communication and content creation. Clare is based in Edinburgh.   
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Blog Tour: by A Publishing Journey Killing Sin author, K.H. Irvine @KHIrvineAuthor @UrbaneBooks @lovebooksgroup

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Would you surrender your secrets to save a life?

London. It could be tomorrow. Amala Hackeem, lapsed Muslim tech entrepreneur and controversial comedian, dons a burqa and heads to the women's group at the Tower Hamlets sharia community. What is she doing there?

Ella Russell, a struggling journalist leaves home in pursuit of the story of her life. Desperate for the truth, she is about to learn the true cost of the war on terror.

Millie Stephenson, a university professor and expert in radicalisation arrives at Downing Street to brief the Prime Minister and home secretary. Nervous and excited she finds herself at the centre of a nation taken hostage. And then it gets personal.

Friends since university, by the end of the day the lives of all three women are changed forever. They will discover if friendship truly can survive secrets and fear.

Guest Post: A Publishing Journey


If it takes a village to raise a child it takes a small town to have a book published. Publishing is an industry saturated by subjectivity, serendipity and slush piles. I was lucky as I had a great friend who had been an editor and knew how it worked but even then rollercoaster doesn’t do it justice….here’s my story and her’s (the wise woman editor).

Year One – aged 50

Wow, I’m writing a book. I am in a house on the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland and I have newspaper clippings and notes everywhere. I feel such a fraud. The wee girl from the Scottish council estate getting above herself to write a book but the wise woman editor (WWE) that is my friend said, ‘write big, write like no one will read it, write like you deserve to.’ So I try. It takes me all year to get the first draft.



Year Two – aged 51

I send it to the WWE who is kind but honest…I think the sub text is you have a glimmer of a story but it’s drowning in a lot of exposition and showing off your research that makes it incredibly boring (it was the zzzzzz in the margin that gave it away). Back to the drawing board and a few more edits and then we send it to a friendly agent in Australia (where WWE lives). She loves it, she wants it, we have hit the jackpot. She is a serious agent with amazing authors under her wing…I bought champagne. I did more edits.

Then with no explanation said agent changed her mind, sent an email to say ‘no thanks’ and through me back in the wilderness.



Year Three – aged 52

As a mature and well balanced woman I did the only thing possible and sulked. I also drank a lot of wine and developed an addiction to Celebrations (other small chocolates are available). But then I got back in the saddle and WWE said how about we give it my mate who has been an editor for many a year (for some VERY big bestsellers) and see what she makes of it so we give it WWE 2. WWE 2 is incisive and direct but with a great heart and makes it a better book. How many edits now? 15 or 16 I think. God, that rewrite after rewrite is dull.



Year Four – aged 53

The two WWE are in my corner. We are a team and we are going to have a go at getting this damn book published so they combine their little black book of agents from all their years in publishing and try to sell me in, avoiding the slush piles…who knew it would be so brutal. The rejections flooded in. A few of my favourites; ‘I don’t think such high powered women would have friends’ (aagghhh), ‘It’s hard to like successful women, I can’t relate to them.’ (both of these from women) and ‘it seems morally ambiguous, you don’t seem to say what is right and wrong (that’s kind of the point – I never have and will never condone violence of any sort but I do believe we need a better conversation about why so many people are attracted to extremes – not just Islamist).

But then the jackpot – again! You maybe know how this is going to go. This time a huge international agent in London. This time it’s film rights, audio, making a huge impact, being brave….and then it went a bit cold. And then ice like until the ‘it’s not you it’s me email’ (is no one in publishing brave enough to dump you in person I ask??) The email … .’Because whilst it is timely and prescient I feel very squeamish about submitting it at a time when terror attacks of the kind you close the novel with are increasingly likely. I know you would argue, and rightly so, that this is exactly why it should be sold and published…and you are likely to be right, but I just don’t feel I want to represent it in the current climate.’

That was tough.

Year Five – aged 54

I am invited to the BBC – they like A Killing Sin but they are more interested in book 2 which is the rise of the Far Right. I decide to buckle down to right that one.

I decide to apply to be a mentor on the Prevent Programme; mentoring those terrorists, like the 7/7 bombers who are up for parole. I believe we need to look at all options and it feels like a good way to do good and do research. I am interviewed and selected.

Then Urbane came along and had a new model, a new way of working, skipping past agents straight to authors and ballsy enough to take a punt. We shake hands and we publish.

Then…. the Home Office read it and decide some of my points may ‘bring their programme into disrepute’ so they no longer want me. I buckle down to write again. I am super grateful for a chance to get my story out there so I let that door close.

Big thanks to the two WWE and the team at Urbane and no hard feelings anywhere else along the way – I get it – sometimes controversy makes us scared, sometimes it makes us challenge, question and explore…I hope A Killing Sin does that.


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