My author’s evening at Story Town Corsham Literary Festival – 19th October

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You are all cordially invited to my author’s evening at the StoryTown Corsham  Literary Festival this Friday, 19th October, at 19:30, Corsham Library, to celebrate the release of Thicker Than Blood, part 3 in the DI Marsh Mysteries .

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Launching Thicker than Blood (the DI Marsh Mystery Book 3) at Corsham StoryTown Festival

I am chuffed to be invited to the first ever Corsham Literary Festival, Corsham StoryTown, to share extracts from the third book in my DI Gillian Marsh detective series, Thicker than Blood, and to chat about books and my writing in general.

Signed copies of Thicker than Blood (to be published on 18th October, Accent Press), and other books in the series will be available at the event.

The event will take place at Corsham Library, Springfield Campus, Corsham, on Friday, 19th October 2018, at 7:30-8:30pm.

Everyone living nearby or willing to travel is most warmly welcome to drop in!

 

Don’t let life get away from you

don't let life get away from youLife Without Me is just about that – Georgie is trying to take a grip on her life that is slipping away from her. But taking a grip when you’re in a coma is easier said than done! Then again, there are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of…

 

 

The importance of being idle

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I am not a natural early riser. My alarm clock and I aren’t the best of friends; more like cats and dogs. Every morning the bloody thing growls at me, digs its teeth into the delicate fabric of my dreams and shakes me awake, my dreams shattered in an instant. I fight back, best as I can. I kick and scratch, I hiss, but I stand no chance. In the end the damned yapping ankle-biter wins. I hate the bastard.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are my Fridays: late-rising days. The yapping ankle-biter is where it belongs – in a dog-house. I sleep. Dreams seep into my slowly unfolding reality. Ideas form in my well-rested brain, come and go, sometimes vanishing without a trace, leaving only a hint of themselves, a niggling something that follows me around like a scent of something I once knew, a long time ago, in my childhood. Books and stories write themselves before my closed eyes, and they are out of this world – unique, one-and-only, unimaginable. If only I could remember them…

I love my late-rising days. Idleness breeds creativity. A well-rested brain busies itself with its own occupations, because let’s face, one is never quite perfectly idle. There is always some activity. Only when we go about our daily routines, imposed on us by the circumstances of our everyday obligations, we lose that subtler, more refine side of us, that side that is so ethereal and so elusive that it evaporates on contact with the hard-biting reality (in my case, my hard-biting alarm clock), like camphor. I so love capturing it on those blessed Friday mornings. It feels like stealing, like catching beautiful butterflies in a net. It is bad and frowned up by our labour-intensive reality, but God, it feels amazing!

I can understand now why great writers need to take the risk of abandoning their day-jobs to be able to write. Writing is a take-it-all occupation, which requires late rising and altogether a form of firm detachment from time and place. It is a risky affair, an affair with impropriety, a costly affair at that! But that is the choice one has to made: forsake one’s financial security to capture those elusive snippets of dreams and stitch them into a grand new story. I bet Jane Austin never had to use an alarm clock. I don’t believe Stephen King does, either.

A woman goes missing in Paradise

The sharks you are likely to encounter in the Maldivian waters are small, friendly and don’t really live up to their billing. You take one look at them and you breathe a sigh of relief. They aren’t that bad – those sharks. They can’t be. You are in Paradise. Even sharks wear halos here.

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But appearances can be deceiving. And when your brain is baked under the equatorial sun, an equivalent of gas mark 8, it can be easily deceived. You begin to doubt your own judgment: is it all an illusion? It isn’t in a shark’s nature to be nice and friendly. Far away from home, everyone is a stranger. And under the umbrellas of palm trees beats a heart of darkness.

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When Nicola Eagles wanders into this treacherous world, her first instinct is to fear it, but soon the sun begins to melt her defences and she lets herself drift a bit – a small fish in the deep blue sea.

Swimming with Sharks tells Nicola’s story.

She really existed. We met her on an idyllic Maldivian island a few years ago. She was a bland, unremarkable person, someone you’d never notice in a crowd, but there, on an island teeming with honeymooners, she stood out big time – she was on her own.

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We first encountered her in the restaurant as she took a table next to us and smiled timidly at my husband. It wasn’t even a smile – it was a twitch of a muscle, a blink of an eye and a coy tilting of her head. Husband smiled back, being a well-mannered man. There was nothing to it, but I decided to leave nothing to chance. From that day on I had my eye on her.

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I gave her a name and considered her personal circumstances. Who was she in the real world, in her real life? Why was she there on the island? But, more to the point, why on earth was she there alone?

I must say at first she was a cause of minor irritation to me. But then I got used to her. Like I said, she was one of those invisible people you’d never notice in a crowd, someone you’d never give a second thought to. I would endure her proximity in the restaurant where for some reason, known only to her, she would consistently hover near our table. Husband took to offering her his polite greetings to which she responded with the same grateful but bashful decorum. She avoided any eye contact with me and I ostentatiously ignored her. But, as I said earlier, I never took my eyes off her. Until, one day, she was no longer there. Gone. Vanished. Disappeared.

A lone woman who had gone swimming with sharks?

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Swimming with Sharks is the first in the DI Gillian Marsh crime series. It’ll be published on 28th April 2016, and it’s available to pre-order now.

Blurb:

prerelppbkpre[1]When fortysomething Nicola Eagles goes on the holiday of a lifetime to the Maldives, she never dreams she’ll fall in love – she’s too shy, too set in her ways. But then she meets someone who changes her life for ever…

Just when things seem to be going right for Nicola, though, she disappears without a trace. Was it a voluntary disappearance, or was she abducted – or murdered? When her absence is noted back in the UK, DI Gillian Marsh is sent to investigate.

Gillian is a good detective but her life is dysfunctional to say the least – and as she delves deeper into the case, she realises that she may be out of her depth professionally too. For Nicola’s disappearance is just the start…

Links:

http://www.accentpress.co.uk/swimming-with-sharks

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Swimming-Sharks-Gillian-Marsh-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B01BSS2NR0?ie=UTF8&qid=1461420186&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Swimming-Sharks-Gillian-Marsh-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B01BSS2NR0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461422204&sr=8-1&keywords=anna+legat

https://www.facebook.com/AnnaLegatAuthor/=UTF8&qid=1461422204&sr=8-1&keywords=anna+legat

 

 

Jeff Gardiner – you are what you read

I’m very excited to welcome to my blog Jeff Gardiner – an author, editor and a teacher – talking about the books that ignited his imagination, sharpened his pencil and set him on a journey into writing.

730I’ve always been an avid reader – reading with a torch under the bedcovers, making me tired the next day at school. The two biggest influences on me as a youngster were quite different: Enid Blyton and Superman comics.

The first books that really changed me were both series by Enid Blyton – The Magic Faraway Tree, The Adventures of the Wishing Chair. Wonderful feats of imagination that allowed the heroes to travel just about anywhere and have the most incredible adventures. Meanwhile my uncle passed on his DC comics about the Man of Steel and I particularly relished the comics about the Legion of Superheroes (of which Superman was an occasional member). I also recall loving the comics about the eccentric Metal Men who could turn into liquid forms of gold, mercury and so on.

But it was Enid Blyton for me, and whilst I loved the Famous Five my real favourites were the Five Find-Outers and Dog (the first in the series is called The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage). I recall summer holidays visiting my grandparents and begging to be taken to the second-hand bookshop to seek out Enid Blyton treasures. Then there were the darker books with titles such as Island of Adventure, Castle of Adventure. I always wanted to possess the power to attract animals and birds to me, like Philip and Jack in those tales.

This led me on to the wonderful novels of Willard Price – Amazon Adventure, Volcano Adventure, Whale Adventure – following teen zoologists Hal and Roger as they travel the world, collecting exotic animals for their father’s zoo.

Wind in the willowsI do remember crying when I finished reading The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham because I never wanted to leave that incredible world inhabited by Ratty, Mole and Toad. I was transported into a world so magical and wonderful, including that awe-inspiring chapter called ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ when they encounter the god Pan. I loved Narnia and Wonderland as a kid but nothing could touch the River, Wild Wood and Toad Hall.

My older brother threw out some books and the covers caught my eye. They were by an author called Michael Moorcock and the titles and cover art had me under a spell. The Mad God’s Amulet, Phoenix in Obsidian, The Time Dweller. I then devoured all the Elric, Jerry Cornelius and eternal champion books of his interconnected multiverse. My favourite Moorcock book is the standalone, Gloriana. Michael Moorcock’s hero is Mervyn Peake whose Gormenghast trilogy, beginning with Titus Groan, contains some of the most wonderful language and humour you’ll ever read.

Fortunately my English teacher chose for us to study Aldous Huxley’s dystopian masterpiece Brave New World in my A Level Literature class, and I’m eternally grateful to him. It’s possibly the greatest book of ideas, philosophy and politics ever written. Funny, frightening and poignant. Everyone should read it. The other philosophical author I discovered at university was Herman Hesse whose novels Siddhartha and Narcissus and Goldmund changed my perspective on life.

siddharthaI’m always aware that so many of my favourite authors are male, but two female writers that have affected me greatly are Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood. I recommend anything by these two. My favourite short story writers are both men though: Lord Dunsany and Algernon Blackwood

In my later life I have found it harder to find the same amount of time to read; mostly because of family-life and work. However, the two stand-out novelists for me are the sadly late Graham Joyce (The Tooth Fairy, Smoking Poppy) and Haruki Murakami (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore). Both of these writers set their narratives in the modern world but neither are frightened to explore mystical, fantastical or even surreal events and experiences, in the style of magic realism.

kafkaIt’s likely that all this reading has influenced my own writing. I have written short stories that contain horror, magic realism, humour and romance. My latest novel, Pica, has elements of Enid Blyton, Kenneth Graham, Graham Joyce and Herman Hesse. It’s probably hard to see these influences directly – I’ve tried to be original, of course – but I know they’re there.

After leaving university I was a school teacher for twenty years attempting to instil my love of reading in others. I still go into schools as a visiting author hoping to help young people to see that reading is vital for the imagination and to develop personal experience and understanding of the world and universe around us. I have my own children who I continue to encourage to read (not easy). I struggle to find time to read as much as I used to, but I know it’s important. That’s really why I write: in the hope that someone will read my books and feel inspired, provoked and truly alive.

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PICA by Jeff Gardiner

Blurb

Pica explores a world of ancient magic, when people and nature shared secret powers.

Luke hates nature, preferring the excitement of computer games to dull walks in the countryside, but his view of the world around him drastically begins to change when enigmatic loner, Guy, for whom Luke is reluctantly made to feel responsible, shows him some of the secrets that the very planet itself appears to be hiding from modern society.

Set in a very recognisable world of school and the realities of family-life, Luke tumbles into a fascinating world of magic and fantasy where transformations and shifting identities become an escape from the world. Luke gets caught up in an inescapable path that affects his very existence, as the view of the world around him drastically begins to change.

Links

Jeff’s website

Accent Press

WHSmith

Barnes & Noble

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Amazon Australia

 

About Jeff

Jeff Gardiner is the author of four novels (Pica, Igboland, Myopia and Treading On Dreams), a collection of short stories, and a work of non-fiction. Many of his short stories have appeared in anthologies, magazines and websites.

Pica is the first in the Gaia trilogy – a fantasy of transformation and ancient magic, which Michael Moorcock described as “An engrossing and original story, beautifully told. Wonderful!”

“Reading is a form of escapism, and in Gardiner’s fiction, we escape to places we’d never imagine journeying to.” (A.J. Kirby, ‘The New Short Review’)

For more information, please see his website at www.jeffgardiner.com and his blog: http://jeffgardiner.wordpress.com/

You are what you read

You are what you read and, in my case, that’s immeasurably better than if ‘you are what you eat’ were true! But we won’t go there – improvements to my diet remain consigned to my To Do List.

What follows is another list – a list of writers who changed my life and made me into a person – and a writer – that I am. That’s not to say that I am even a fraction as good as they are, but thanks to them, I am a hundred times better than I could ever be without them.

Jules Verne  

Travelling back in time to my childhood, I find myself in a place where no-one has ever been before: an other-worldly place, somewhere in the centre of the earth or perhaps on the Moon. I read all there was to read of Jules Verne and I believed in everything he said because he had made me realise that if I could imagine it than it had to be real. He taught me to live dangerously and never ever settle on a life inside the square.

Joseph Conrad

I was a teenager when that brooding man left his mark on my soul. He had burnt into it. He didn’t take prisoners in his writing – it was raw, touching every nerve, uncompromising. It was clear to me that every internal battle he described in his prose he knew intimately, and, by God, he had fought many demons in his day! His moodiness would rub off the places and the characters he evoked so vividly in his writing. His world was eerie, thick with suspense, haunting. He taught me to bare my soul, to never give in to embarrassment, to drag into the light all that delicious evil, and fear, and doubt that a writer should not dare to ignore.

Anne Rice

She swooped into my life in my twenties. No, let’s rephrase that: it was I who entered her world. And what a world it was! An ancient world that existed outside time and matter, populated by beings not quite human and yet brimming with humanity, worthy of redemption despite their unspeakable sins. The supernatural was the reality, believable and deeply rooted in human psyche. Anne Rice showed me that settings had to be made of thoughts and people, of depths of meaning rather than descriptions. Places had to live and breathe, not be merely put on display.

Ruth Rendell

I matured with Ruth Rendell. Under her tutelage, I explored the darkest recesses of human nature whilst at the same time discovering – to my surprise – its redeeming features: the vulnerability behind a crime, the reasons for insanity, the logics of obsession. Ruth Rendell taught me to understand my characters and never to judge them. They are who they are; it’s not their fault – not entirely… I know now to just let them be.

Agatha Christie

With all that angst and darkness, you need a friend. Agatha Christie’s mysteries provided some light – cosy – relief. Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple became family members. We were solving crimes while sipping lemon tea and knitting mittens. All would be well, criminals exposed and their motives unpicked. And the world would go one, regardless. Agatha Christie taught me to like my characters, to find what we had in common and cherish it.