Sunday, 30 June 2019

Monthly Post: July 2019
A quick guide to self-publishing ebooks

Big Bona Ogles, Boy! (Send for Octavius Guy, #3)Big Bona Ogles, Boy! (Send for Octavius Guy, #3) by Michael Gallagher
Current average rating: 4.67 of 5 stars

Welcome, kind reader or perhaps fellow writer! It’s July, and first up I’d like to tell you about an interview I’ve just done with Twitter’s #1PM Chat, a manically interactive account that is fabulous fun and definitely worth following and joining in with. If you’d care to learn a little more about me, you can read the interview here.

So, you’ve decided to self-publish. I won’t pretend it’s a walk in the park, but the easiest way to self-publish is with Kindle Direct Publishing through Amazon. First you need to create an account. It’s a hassle, but you only need do it the once. If you followed my advice from June and kept to a minimal format, you’re now in a great place to format a copy as a Word .docx file for Kindle. Read on…

This month’s special offer is a free download of Big Bona Ogles, Boy!: Octavius Guy & The Case of the Mendacious Medium (#3). This time young Gooseberry investigates a shadowy Spiritualist medium only to discover that somebody wants her dead. Offer ends on July 31st 2019.

“My favorite Victorian boy investigator sets off to solve a new mystery…Words cannot describe just how much I enjoy Octavius.”—Bethany Swafford, Goodreads Reviewer (5 stars)

Happy investigating!

Find me on my website Michael Gallagher Writes and on Facebook, and make sure to follow me on Twitter @seventh7rainbow.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Lethal White

Lethal White (Cormoran Strike, #4)Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For my hundredth review on Goodreads I wanted something very, very special, and I certainly struck gold with this, J. K. Rowling’s fourth outing as Robert Galbraith.

So, what’s in store for Cormoran Strike and his business partner Robin Ellacott this time round? A year after Robin’s disastrous wedding ceremony, a mentally-ill young man comes to Strike’s office with a tale about a murder he thinks he witnessed as a child. Realising the police have been called, he flees, though shortly after Strike is offered a lucrative job by the Minister for Culture, who is being blackmailed by the young man’s dodgy brother. A coincidence perhaps? Or something more?

Rowling admits that this is one of the most challenging books she’s ever written and one of her favourites. Mine too. It’s with sheer writerly delight that she taunts us with Robin’s failing marriage, which Robin tries at all costs to keep from Strike. The increasingly annoying wild child Charlotte turns up, hell bent on inserting herself back into Strike’s life. Let’s be quite clear here. This is a series of cozy mysteries, and thwarting the readers’ desire for the two of them to become more than just business partners is an important part of the template, of equal significance, I would argue, to the whodunnit element of the book.

The whodunnit element in this case twists and turns back in on itself (perhaps a little too often), and quite which crime we’re meant to be looking at (and there are potentially many) is never very clear. That said, I was thoroughly happy to be taken along for the ride. On several occasions I was put in mind of Agatha Christie in the nature of the clues and the way they are delivered. Robin twice gets to go undercover—both of which are a joy to read—and Strike is tight-lipped about the theories he forms, preferring his partner to work it out for herself.

As personal added bonus, and one which really made it come alive for me, I happen to live very close to two of the locations in the book. The Minister for Sport and her husband live a mile west of me, near The Blue, and the house Robin and Matthew rent is barely a couple of miles down the road. Even before Rowling named it, I knew which one it was.

If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll love it. If you’re a fan of whodunnits, you’ll love it. If you’re a cozy mystery armchair detective, I’m sure you can guess just what I was about to say.

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Saturday, 1 June 2019

Monthly Post: June 2019
Simple ways to improve your manuscript

Octopus (Send for Octavius Guy, #2)Octopus (Send for Octavius Guy, #2) by Michael Gallagher
Current average rating: 4.23 of 5 stars

Whether you plan to self-publish or go the traditional route, there are some basic things you can do to help yourself that don’t require shelling out money.

1. Identify your grammar weaknesses

If there’s something you have a problem with, go online and get it sorted out. There is help out there for practically everything. Is it “stainless-steel” or “stainless steel”? The answer is… Read on…

This month’s giveaway is a free download of Octopus: Octavius Guy & The Case of the Throttled Tragedienne (#2). When the leading actress dies in mysterious circumstances during a performance of The Duchess of Malfi, Gooseberry feels duty-bound to investigate. It is, after all, a great deal more exciting than the last case he was assigned to: the tracking down of a rich old lady’s errant cat! Offer ends on June 30th 2019, and no, there are no strings attached and no review is required. Phew!

“Here is a sensational historical fiction who-dunnit that gives nothing away until the very end. To me, it reads like an old time radio show. It leaves you breathless.”—Connie A., LibraryThing Early Reviewer (5 stars)

Happy investigating!

Find me on my website Michael Gallagher Writes and on Facebook, and make sure to follow me on Twitter @seventh7rainbow.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

The Night Visitor

The Night VisitorThe Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Olivia is a telegenic academic historian desperate for an idea for her next commercial book. She happens upon a Victorian diary, a deathbed confession that one of the first woman doctors murdered her abusive husband. Vivian is the gatekeeper of said diary, who must be won over.

I’ve looked at other reviews on Goodreads, and people clearly enjoy this book. I did too—to a degree. Atkins summons up a great sense of menace. But I’m not a fan of creating suspense by talking at length about something which is yet to be explained, especially when there’s precious little reason to obfuscate the facts. For Olivia, it’s the “dreadful” thing that her husband has done. For Vivian, it’s the loss of of her dear friend “Bertie”.

Neither woman is especially likeable, and both appear to be liars. Vivian, delivered in the first-person present, lies by omission, if she’s lying at all. As she slides back and forth between the present and her constant reminiscing, the abrupt change of tense can be a little confusing. Olivia, by contrast, is delivered in the third-person perfect from Olivia’s POV. Rather than stating, “She lied,” or, “She couldn’t bear to tell her friend the truth,” Atkins resorts to having her do things she would undoubtedly lie about were she to be caught.

A warning for anyone who likes their stories neatly tied up: you are likely to be furious with the ending.

SPOILER ALERT: If, like me, you’re left wondering who was responsible for chopping off the daughter’s hair, I’ve seen one potential explanation. It was Vivian. This is based entirely on a phrase she uses about the night in question: “The whole episode is a little hazy…” p333. Vivian denies it, but since Atkins offers no other explanation, this is as close as it gets to an answer.

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Tuesday, 7 May 2019

The Dry

The Dry (Aaron Falk, #1)The Dry by Jane Harper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After many years of enforced absence, police officer Aaron Falk returns to his home town to attend the funeral of his former best friend, who, it would seem, took his own life, having just murdered his wife and his young son. But this is a town with old secrets that Falk must uncover.

I’d read the second book in this series, Force of Nature, and was tempted to try the first one. While I managed to put everything together when I was two-thirds of the way through, I enjoyed learning more about Falk—something Harper doesn’t really achieve in Force of Nature. A very nice read for a whodunnit.

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Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Monthly Post: May 2019
The rise and rise of vanity publishers

Gooseberry (Send for Octavius Guy, #1)Gooseberry (Send for Octavius Guy, #1) by Michael Gallagher
Current average rating: 4.13 of 5 stars

Once upon a time, before the advent of ebooks, there lived a much despised, poor relation to the beloved publisher, and its name was the Vanity Press. Or so many writers believed. But here’s the thing. Unbeknownst to said writers, it provided a valuable service to those who simply wanted to write a book, hold it in their hands, and maybe give it away to their extended families to read—their memoirs, as likely as not, to be recorded for posterity before they died. Given how easy it is to self-publish these days, I would have thought such services a thing of the past. Apparently not, as I discovered when Michael Mills, one of my writing friends on Twitter, contacted me to ask my opinion of an advertisement he’d seen. I’m really delighted that he agreed to discuss the matter with me. Read on…

This month’s offer is a free download of Gooseberry: Octavius Guy & The Case of the Thieving Maharajah (#1). Fourteen-year-old Gooseberry once helped solve the mystery of the Moonstone. Now fate is about to throw him a new case, sending him sleuthing round the Victorian capital once more. Offer ends on May 31st 2019.
“Sometimes you see a book and just know you’re going to love it…An absolute treat for fans of Collins’ novel and a successful novel in its own right.”—Emma Hamilton, LibraryThing Early Reviewer (5 stars)
Happy investigating! Michael
Find me on my website Michael Gallagher Writes and on Facebook, and make sure to follow me on Twitter @seventh7rainbow.

Friday, 26 April 2019

The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the WindowThe Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rear Window. Charade. Gaslight. The references come thick and fast for the films that shaped this book. There’s even a line from Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore (Goodness me – why, what was that? Silent be, it was the cat), which only just escapes getting attributed to Shakespeare. Agoraphobic, alcoholic, shut-in Ruth Fox lives life vicariously by spying on her neighbours. Then a family moves into the house across the park. Ruth meets the son and his mother, then witnesses the woman’s murder through the kitchen window. The police are called…and a woman she has never seen before appears claiming to be the boy’s mother.
I’m not generally a fan of first-person narrators who use the present tense, especially if the style of writing goes out of its way to be active. Here it is positively hyperactive, and we have an unreliable narrator to boot. And yet, this is a rare example of a book that claims to be a page-turner and it turns out to be just that. Actually it was so well written that I literally gasped for breath when, towards the end, the narrator is proved unreliable, and her case falls to shreds about her. How could Finn possibly resurrect any of it? The trouble with being so audacious is that, when he does rekindle the story, it feels mediocre compared to what’s gone before and its twists are predictable and expected.
It’s still a good book. It’s just not the great one it could have been.

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