Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Best Pick – 'Torc of Moonlight' by Linda Acaster

It’s great to have our writing appreciated, and a decent review can make our day. A fan letter from a reader can make our week.

So imagine my delight when I opened an email to discover that a reader had not only taken the time to nominate my supernatural thriller Torc of Moonlight for consideration as Indie Book of the Day, but that it had jumped the hurdles and had won the award. Ya-hee!!

Set in the UK, Torc of Moonlight is a gritty paranormal romance dealing with the resurrection of a Celtic water goddess. It features Nick, a college student whose bright-eyed take on life, love and reality receives a serious knock when he meets studious Alice. Is she leading him into a downward spiral of paranoia? Or are they unconsciously linking into a wayward pre-Roman time-line where a man he terms ‘The Other’ is reliving his life through Nick’s actions? One of them is in danger, but is it Alice or is it Nick?
In keeping with Celtic lore and the power of three, the novel is the first in a trilogy set in university cities in northern England. Every place, every building, every road mentioned actually exists. Don’t venture there in the dark. Those who do tend to leave 5 star reviews.


 He’d seduced her, Nick realised. That’s what had happened. Hawkins had seduced Alice, seduced her and used her and thrown her aside.
The bastard. No wonder she didn’t want anything to do with him. No wonder her only outlet was her work and her books. The bastard.
He picked up his glass again, but it was empty. No one was serving. Nick looked round the pine tables, wondering where the barman had gone. His brain seemed to be floating free of his skull. What was the matter with him? He’d only had two.
Outside the door to the McCarthy people swirled about him, clattering up and down the stone steps. He stood a moment in the maelstrom listening to the ebb and flow of their happy chatter. He’d been happy once. Alice would have been happy. Once.
The steps led up to the canteen, offices, and the Sanctuary bar. He ignored them all. Down the long corridor, far down the corridor, Alice’s poster was tacked to the wall. One tug had it free, the single red drawing pin spinning away to the tiled floor. The next moment he was pushing through the door of the HullFire office.
The girl behind the computer screen looked up with a smile that faded to a suspicious frown. Nick slapped the poster across her keyboard.
‘Hawkins,’ he snapped. ‘Who is he?’
The girl blinked, and pushed herself back on her wheeled chair. ‘What?’
‘Hawkins,’ Nick repeated, stabbing a finger at the blacked-out name on the poster beneath Alice’s head. ‘Who is he and where can I find him?’
Her gaze followed his hand, and then took in the poster as a whole. ‘Oh,’ she said.
Nick leant over her desk. ‘Who is he?’
The girl stood, pushing her face towards his, matching his aggression. ‘What’s your problem? Never heard of please and thank you?’ Her eyes flashed. ‘Our lecherous lecturer laid your girlfriend, has he?’
Nick straightened, catching his breath. The girl eased her stance in return.
‘Figures,’ she said. ‘We thought this little interlude was too good to be true. Helen is the one you need to speak to. She did an exposé a couple of years back. Nearly had him turfed out.’
‘Where is he?’
‘Forget it, or you’ll end up turfed out. And that prat isn’t worth your future.’
‘I’ve never heard of him. Lecturer in what?’
‘Forget it. Acting the jilted lover isn’t going to score you any points around here.’
‘Helen, then. Where will I find this Helen?’
‘Right here.’
Behind him the door swung gently on its hinges to reveal an angular woman in her late twenties wearing a mauve silk jacket and a short black skirt. In her heels she was taller than Nick. At sight of the poster she raised a darkly pencilled eyebrow.
‘Mother Earth Society, eh? Not a devotee, are you, desperately trying to be one with nature?’ Her gaze washed over his scarred face. ‘I guess not. Hardly the bardic type.’
‘He’s looking for Harkin,’ the girl told her.
‘Hawkins,’ Nick corrected.
The woman shook her head. ‘Leonard Harkin, our celebrated hippie that never was, chief practitioner of free love and peace, man.’ She swayed, giving an imitation of being stoned. ‘Except he wraps it up with candles and secret invocations.’
The girl shot her a warning look. ‘Helen...’
‘But not everyone,’ Helen continued, ‘only the impressionable ones, the ones he wants to shag. Your girlfriend. Presumably.’
‘Where will I find him?’
‘Now? Pass. His studio’s in Loten. You could try there. Of course, at this hour he could be scraping his reptiles on Cranbrook.’ She looked beyond his shoulder to the girl behind the desk. ‘Time to call it a day, Jenny.’
Nick frowned. ‘This Harkin lectures in…?’
Helen unhooked a coat from the back of the door and passed it over the desk. Jenny flicked the switch on the computer and its incessant hum fell silent in the tiny office.
‘You’re not listening,’ Helen told him. ‘Loten. Studio. You’ll find it if you want to. Can hardly miss it really.’ She gestured towards the corridor. ‘Would you like to go ahead of us so we can lock up?’
Nick stepped by her and kept on walking. Helen followed him out of the office, watching his determined stride with interest as Jenny turned the key.
‘You shouldn’t have done that,’ Jenny said. ‘If he flattens Harkin he’ll get thrown out. If he mentions your name you’ll get thrown out. They’ll bring up that harassment claim he made against you.’
Helen smiled, unperturbed. ‘I hope he does flatten Harkin. I hope he beats the shit out of him. Justice has been a long time coming.’ She narrowed her eyes. ‘Besides, you never can tell. A scapegoat might come in handy.’

Available in both pb and ebook:

Monday, 3 September 2012

Jane Richardson: 'A Different Kind of Honesty'

Always the one who ends relationships before they’ve barely begun, it’s way out of character for Maggie Lawless to take a risk with a man she hardly knows…the man she meets in a seedy New York City diner has a truth about him, a sincerity like no one she’s ever met before. Tony Valentino is an FBI agent fresh from a long-term undercover operation that’s left his life in tatters. His marriage over, separated from his children and with nowhere to call home, he’s frustrated and angry. All that keeps him going is the sweet memory of a brief encounter with a beautiful woman, though it wakes him from crazy dreams that leave his mouth dry and his sheets soaked with sweat. When he meets her again, it’s obvious the fire that burned so briefly between them never really went out...but as their affair rekindles, both Tony and Maggie find the very people they thought they could trust are the first to turn against them.


“I don't want to lose you, Maggie. Really I don't!”
Detective Sergeant Danny Chang shuffled along the corridor on his knees, his hands clasped over his heart in a frenzy of unbridled passion.
“Please! You want me to beg? Look at me—I’m begging.”
Maggie sighed. “Aw, come on, Danny. You know how much I love you. No matter what happens, we'll still be friends.”
“Ha! You say that now, but when you've finished with me you'll crumple me up and toss me aside like a used tissue. You're just like all the others!” Danny threw himself face down on the floor and sobbed, his shoulders heaving in distress. Maggie stepped over his prostrate form and leaned against the swing doors at the end of the corridor.
“You're a nut, Chang.” She shoved a door open with her shoulder and walked through backwards, laughing.
Danny picked himself up and brushed the dust from his already grubby jeans. Pushing the door open further, he stood aside to let a young female constable pass, eyeing her curvaceous bottom appreciatively as she scuttled by in too-tight uniform trousers. Maggie folded her arms and watched his undisguised lust with an amused smile.
“You never miss a shot, do you?”
“Life's too short,” he answered, flicking his over-long fringe out of his eyes. His sleek, glossy hair gleamed with the black-blue sheen of a crow's back. He watched the WPC’s retreating form as it disappeared around a corner. “So anyway—what's all this crap about you leaving?”
Maggie shrugged and turned away. “I never said I was actually going.” She loosened the belt of her damp raincoat and shook her hair out of the collar as she walked down the corridor. “All I said was I feel like a change. That's all. You know, try something different.”
Danny fell into step with her, slipping off his battered leather pilot jacket to reveal a T-shirt that might have once been white, but had long ago washed out to rain-cloud grey. A ladder of rips ran down the left leg of his jeans. One of the tears gaped open, revealing a knee with every step he took.
“Don't do it, Maggie,” he pleaded. “It won't be the same without you. I'll really miss you if you go.”
“Danny, you haven't seen me in six months.”
“Ah, but I thought about you every day and most nights. Dreaming of running my fingers through your soft auburn hair, losing myself in those beautiful baby blues. What do you think kept me going, up there in Miserable Manchester?”
“You really are a loony, you know. What are you now, thirty-two, thirty-three? You're the youngest dirty old man I know.”
Maggie was only pretending to be serious. She and Danny Chang had been friends since day one at Police College. They'd laughed, cried, and got roaring drunk with each
other, more often than not all on the same night. But never anything more, not even so much as a drunken snog, never mind a chaste kiss. If asked, Danny would have said their friendship was too valuable to spoil. Maggie would have said she’d trust him about as far as she could throw him with the wind behind her. Either way, they were best friends who told each other everything.
Most things, anyway.
Their pace slowed as they turned the corner, where two rows of doors faced each other across the corridor. A particularly evil variety of one hundred percent nylon carpeting covered the floor. After walking across it, you had to be certain to neutralize yourself on a wooden surface before touching another living soul for fear of zapping them half-dead with static shock.
Maggie rapped her knuckles on a mock-teak door with a black plastic nameplate announcing in white letters the lair of Detective Inspector Rachel Arden.
“I wonder what she wants?” Maggie whispered. “She only just caught me, too. I was trying to sneak off early. I haven't had a free weekend in ages.”
“Yeah,” Danny agreed. “And it's Poet's Day.”
“Poet’s Day?”
“Yeah, Poet’s Day. You know. Piss Off Early, Tomorrow's Saturday.”

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Edinburgh Fog
A Different Kind of Honesty