Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Monthly Post: August 2018
Newly published author? Build yourself a brand, part two

Octopus (Send for Octavius Guy, #2)Octopus (Send for Octavius Guy, #2) by Michael Gallagher
Current average rating: 4.20 of 5 stars

Spamming reviewers, book bloggers, and reading groups with offers of free copies of your book in exchange for an honest review wastes both their time and yours, and can seriously damage your reputation. So how, as a newly published author, might you better employ your time?

Offer free or heavily discounted copies of your book with no strings attached (though be aware that a free offer is much more likely to be taken up). By now you should have plenty of sites on which to do this. Try to ensure that the text of your offer makes the genre and style of your book perfectly clear; you’ll have much happier readers if you do. Consider the text of the giveaway at the bottom of this post for example. What can you glean from it? It’s for a well-researched cozy mystery set in Victorian times (so not exactly steampunk), it’s slightly comic, and the detective is a bit of an underdog. Possibly not one for lovers of the police procedural, then. 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 August 31st 2018, and no, there are no strings attached and no review is required. Phew!

“Historical fact is deftly combined with fiction that makes Octavius’s world a new form of old London that I am eager to visit again. Pour some tea or a wee dram, put your feet up, and enjoy cover to cover.”—Gladread LibraryThing Early Reviewer (5 stars)

Happy investigating!

Find me on my website Michael Gallagher Writes, on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @seventh7rainbow

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Monthly Post: July 2018
Newly published author? Build yourself a brand! Part One.

Gooseberry (Send for Octavius Guy, #1)Gooseberry (Send for Octavius Guy, #1) by Michael Gallagher
Current average rating: 4.08 of 5 stars

Unless you want to see your title relegated to the virtual, dusty stacks of some forgotten neural-net byway, you need to devise ways of keeping interest in it and in you alive. Your goal now is to become more discoverable. Some of the things I suggest here you will already have done; others may seem like household chores, but they serve a purpose. They build your brand. Read on…

This month’s giveaway is a free download of Gooseberry: Octavius Guy & The Case of the Thieving Maharajah (#1). Join Gooseberry, the fourteen-year-old Victorian boy detective, as he and his ragtag bunch of friends descend into London’s Victorian demi-monde and underworld to ferret out the truth, while spending as much of his employer’s money as they can along the way! Based on characters from Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone. Offer ends on July 31st 2018.
“When you read a book by Michael Gallagher be prepared for a total immersion—every bit of scene setting, speech, character and historical detail is perfect. I highly recommend this book for fans of The Moonstone who wonder what happened next.”—Chris Keen LibraryThing Early Reviewer (5 stars)

Happy investigating!

Find me on my website Michael Gallagher Writes, on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @seventh7rainbow

Monday, 25 June 2018

Resort to Murder

Resort to Murder (Miss Dimont Book 2)Resort to Murder by T.P. Fielden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s the summer of 1959 and we find ourselves in the seaside town of Temple Regis—located on Devon’s self-styled Riviera (complete with the odd palm tree to grace the railway station)—ready to cater to the hundreds of English holidaymakers about to descend upon the coast expecting sun, sea, and beauty pageants. Not everyone is happy about the latter of these entertainments, not least the Sisters of Reason, a proto-feminist group that views everything that has happened since the end of the war as a retrograde step for womankind. Judy Dimont, star reporter for the Riviera Express—the town’s weekly newspaper—should know. During the war she worked high up in Naval Intelligence; now she works for an editor who was once her bumbling underling—an editor who seems keen to keep any mention of the two mystery deaths that occur out of his paper.

T. P. Fielden writes prose that is a delight to read. Couple this with a slightly unusual period setting, a host of excellent characters and just the right amount of love interest, and you have a great cozy mystery on your hands—though I wonder if other readers will be happy with how the love interest turns out. This is the second book in what promises to be an wonderful series, but it can be read perfectly well as a stand-alone.

Many thanks to HarperCollins UK for providing me with a review copy, and apologies that this review is a little bit late.

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Friday, 1 June 2018

Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire

Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire (A Betty Church Mystery Book 1)Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire by M.R.C. Kasasian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The year is 1939 and, as Britain prepares for coming war, Betty Church prepares to return to her home town of Sackwater in coastal Suffolk to do battle of her own—as a police inspector, no less. How will she, a woman, be received into this traditionally male realm by her fellow officers?

Fans of M. R. C. Kasasian’s Gower Street Detective series (of which I am one) will love his new creation. Not only is Betty Church logical and tough, she is also March Middleton’s godchild—a good thing, too, since she is about to face a most puzzling series of murders, which may or may not have something to do with one of her constables’ past.

The cast of rude mechanicals in Betty’s charge ensures that Mr Kasasian can continue the absurdist comedy for which he is renowned. Be it the corpse she finds that turns out to be only her sleeping sergeant, or Woman Police Constable Dodo Chivers, who takes every statement quite literally, humour abounds. Where Dodo is concerned (like Mr Grice before her in the Gower Street novels), it can send conversations off at increasingly surreal tangents, which can require a careful reading if you’re to get the joke.

Her bumbling colleagues aside though, Betty also has a wealth friends who are quietly but delightfully developed as characters—fixtures, I hope, for many journeys to come. I especially liked Captain Carmelo (her ex-boyfriend’s Maltese father), Jimmy (her ex-boyfriend’s nephew, who considers her to be his aunt), and Dr Tubby Gretham and his wife. There has even been speculation on Twitter that Mr Kasasian himself pops up in the role of Betty’s father, an unpopular dentist who can hardly be civil to his own daughter, let alone to his dwindling number of patients. As for the mystery element, there are some particularly grisly murders, a lot of blood, and an extremely enticing red herring. More than this I dare not say for fear of spoilers.

One of the great pleasures of reading an M. R. C. Kasasian novel is that nothing will be quite as you imagine it should be, whether it’s a character’s name, their appearance, their background, or even their interpersonal relationships—and with Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire, Mr Kasasian takes this to a whole new level. Within the cozy mystery genre his voice is unique. If you delight in meeting a truly new kind of character, you will certainly delight in this. Be warned though; Victorian sensibilities are a thing of the past and the ripeness of some of the language may come as a shock.

If you enjoy comedy like this, you might also enjoy (although they are not Crimes & Thrillers) James Hamilton-Patterson’s Cooking with Fernet Branca, Patrick Dennis’s Auntie Mame (or better still—if you can manage to get your hands on a copy—Little Me), and even perhaps Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall. Fans of the Grinder-Snipe twins will relish in Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey’s Julian and Sandy from the vintage BBC radio series Round the Horne. Varder the big bona lallies on him!

Many thanks to @MRCKASASIAN, Head of Zeus Books @HoZ_Books, #KasasianCrew, and #NetGalley for providing me with a reviewer’s galley proof.

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Thursday, 31 May 2018

Monthly Post: June 2018
Are authors getting pushier?

The Scarab Heart (The Involuntary Medium, #2)The Scarab Heart (The Involuntary Medium, #2) by Michael Gallagher
Current average rating: 4.38 of 5 stars

So who was the other guest at the wedding, the one who works in publishing? Martin, a charming man who runs a small-to-medium company, with whom I had an unexpectedly pleasant chat. “Time was,” he said, “when reading groups would beg authors to come and talk about their latest books. Now authors go round begging the groups!”

He was responding to what I’d told him about a reading group I attend, a small, in-the-flesh Crimes & Thrillers group that I’d recently set up a Facebook page for, where people round the world can see and comment on what we’ve been reading. My fellow members and I soon realized that most of the people asking to join were authors who had no interest in what we were reading. Read on…

This month’s giveaway is a free download of The Scarab Heart. This time our reluctant medium is off to the Valley of the Kings, where she finds herself embroiled in an ancient family feud, and gets caught up in antiquities theft and murder. Offer ends on June 30th 2018, and, no, there’s absolutely no review required!

“I have got to say, these books are unlike any other I have read…almost impossible to put down.”—Helene Gårdsvold Reviewer (5 stars)

Happy investigating!

Find me on my website Michael Gallagher Writes, on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @seventh7rainbow

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Magpie Murders

Magpie MurdersMagpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Magpie Murders has been lauded for its cleverness. Stephen King (no less) tweeted this of it: “It’s as good as an Agatha Christie. Better, in some ways. Cleverer.” If you’ve heard of it, you’ll probably already know that it’s a book within a book, and as such it is fiendishly difficult to review.
At its heart there is an Agatha Christie style whodunnit set in the 1950s: “Magpie Murders” by the (fictitious) recently deceased crime writer Alan Conway, and the first half of Horowitz’s book gives us the text—minus the final chapter, which we only get later.
Conway’s detective is Atticus Pünd, who is in many respects a cipher for Hercule Poirot, and the setting is classic Poirot territory, the quiet rural village on Saxby-on-Avon. When the busybody of a housekeeper at the manor house dies in a fall down the stairs, Pünd is called in but resists the call, only accepting the case when Sir Magnus Pye, her employer, is later murdered.
Anyone who likes Poirots will probably enjoy this part. In style it reminds me a little of Dead Man’s Folly. There are clues, naturally, but they are by far outweighed by the number of red herrings of which there are plenty. I was taunted by cryptic crosswords and mentions of codes, and when Pünd declares that he knows everything, my attention quickened:
‘Gold!’ Pünd hadn’t spoken for so long that Fraser started, hearing his voice.
‘I’m sorry?’ he asked.
‘The fool’s gold concealed by Sir Magnus Pye. I am convinced that everything revolves around it.’

It does. Just not in the way that I’d hoped. If it had, I would have thoroughly enjoyed this whodunnit.
And so to the second half of Horowitz’s book, which concerns itself with the apparent suicide of Alan Conway, Pünd’s creator. We are no longer in cozy mystery mode anymore. Conway is a nasty piece of work and there are many of his acquaintances who would wish to see him dead. Susan Ryeland, his editor at Cloverleaf Books, is determined to investigate.
Horowitz goes to great length to make this part of the novel as realistic as he can. We get mentions of Agatha Christie Ltd. and Sophie Hannah; indeed, even Agatha Christie’s grandson Mathew Pritchard turns up as a character. We are taken into the mind of an author at work: how they name characters; how they create settings; where their ideas come from; what their bookshelf contains (I’m glad to say mine holds up pretty well). Parallels are drawn between Conway’s book and “real life”; anagrams, acrostics, and similar puzzles all rear their heads again. Plagiarism is discussed, as is the current state of publishing. It’s all fascinating stuff, at least to a writer of the genre. Horowitz dazzles with the sheer number of voices (mostly first-person) with which he tells us this tale.
And yet, for all that, if you want to solve either of these mysteries, I suggest you stick to good old motive, means, and opportunity. But that’s just my humble opinion…what’s yours? Do let me know what you think.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Monthly Post: May 2018
Legacy publishing houses, purveyors of quality?

The Bridge of Dead Things (The Involuntary Medium, #1)The Bridge of Dead Things (The Involuntary Medium, #1) by Michael Gallagher
Current average rating: 4.10 of 5 stars

Last August I attended a wedding where, for the first time, I met two people who are or were involved in the world of traditional publishing. One was Fiona, a former manager at a large prestigious publishing house, who, it turned out, commissioned a report fourteen years ago on an early draft of my first novel, The Bridge of Dead Things.

It “quickly establishes itself as a remarkably assured, well-written, funny and complex Victorian Gothic,” the report read. “It is at the very least extremely good, and quite possibly exceptional…but it’s definitely not a HarperCollins children’s book. More Wilkie Collins than The Diamond of Drury Lane, in other words.”
Prescient, no? I’d never thought of it as a children’s book, but as rejection letters go, they don’t get much better than that! It went on to recommend I find myself a literary agent, which I did, though it took a further four years. I mention all this to establish my credentials. Although I may now be an indie author, at one time or other I have had my feet in both camps. It used to be that the reading public could rely on the good reputation of legacy publishing houses. They would be spared the spelling errors and ragged grammar that supposedly typify an indie author’s work. But is that really still the case? Read on…

This month’s giveaway is a free download of The Bridge of Dead Things. A working-class Victorian girl discovers she has a unique if unwanted power and is soon drawn into a world of seances, ghost grabbers…and murderers. Definitely not a HarperCollins children’s book! Offer ends on May 31st 2018.

“I absolutely loved it! I don’t give out 5 stars very often, but I did for this book! Mysteries abound and Gallagher does an amazing job creating an atmosphere of rising fear and creepiness…I hope that there are many more additions to the Lizzie Blaylock series because I now consider myself a firm fan!”—Suzy Schettler LibraryThing Early Reviewer (5 stars)

Happy investigating!

Find me on my website Michael Gallagher Writes, on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @seventh7rainbow