Thursday, 22 April 2021

WHEN HISTORY COMES CLOSE TO HOME

THE SAVAGE INSTINCT, release date May 18th 2021


It's been almost eight years since I made the startling discovery that the street just around the corner from my grandmother's house in Hetton-le-Hole, Tyne and Wear, UK was actually the birthplace of Mary Ann Cotton, one of Britain's most prolific murderers. Once I started reading about her case and the sensation it caused in the newspapers of the time (1872-73), I knew I had to write a novel inspired in some way by the events at the time.

I didn't want to write it from the murderer's point of view. Many articles written since that time have argued about the extent of Cotton's guilt, and there is still wide disagreement about how many people she actually killed. Instead I was more interested in how the case influenced the men and women reading the newspapers at the time and how it caused sensation and outrage at a time when women's roles were restricted to the domestic sphere, and fulfilling one's role as the selfless " angel at the hearth" was the only role deemed important for women.

The only surviving photograph of Mary Ann Cotton

I created a fictional character, the childless and unhappy Clara Blackstone, a woman on the edge - trying desperately to maintain her sanity after a traumatic second miscarriage. A troubled woman who has blocked the memories of her spell in an asylum, the terrible events leading up to it and the role her husband played in her committal. The story opens when Clara travels up to Durham City to meet her husband, Henry, so that they can make a fresh start. On her way from the train station, they encounter a mob gathered to witness the arrival of Mary Ann Cotton at Durham Jail - and so the problems begin to unfold...

This book was a long time in the making. I've had nightmares about the murderer, learned a whole lot about Victorian women - their trials and tribulations, and the mind doctors who preyed on them in the  guise of treating "nervous complaints and hysteria".


I truly hope you enjoy THE SAVAGE INSTINCT, out on May 18th 2021! 

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Publishing Countdown For THE SAVAGE INSTINCT

The publishing date for The Savage Instinct has been moved to May 18thI never realized how much promotional work is done in the months before a book is launched. Here's a quick rundown:



  • Once all the line edits and copyedits are done (and they're exhausting), the book goes onto Net Galley. That's the online site where numerous reviewers from media to librarians to educators and book bloggers apply to read an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of your book and provide a review, which is usually shared to Goodreads. This is a nail-biting time for authors, waiting to discover how your book will be received by people in the biz. You find yourself checking back numerous times a day to see if someone else has left a review and what they have to say. With The Savage Instinct it's been a great experience. So far the book has garnered over 83 amazing reviews.
  • There's such an active community of Instagram book bloggers. I'm amazed at how many of these people are dedicated to promoting books and creating visually stunning posts accompanied by very insightful reviews. These people drive readers towards great books. I have nothing but admiration from them and gratitude for the way they've received The Savage Instinct.

  • The publisher puts a great deal of work into getting established writers and reviewers to give feedback on the book. One or two of these are incorporated into the paperback cover. I had the greatest moment of my writing career when I learned that Publisher's Weekly, the premier publication in the publishing business, gave The Savage Instinct a starred review. That's a great honour reserved for select books!! Check it out here.
  • The publisher works to set up events, including a launch, which will happen around the time the book is published. It will be a virtual launch, hosted by McNally Robinson, Winnipeg, which means more people will be able to participate. More details on the exact date and other events later.
  • It's been amazing to see how the cover has evolved into something very beautiful. You'll be able to see the complete cover when the book comes out. But I have to say, I can't wait to finally get the book into my hands!!

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK'S ARTICLE IN THE LANCE!!
Click here to see the writeup about The Savage Instinct. Please note, the publishing date for the novel has been updated to May 18th, 2021.


Thursday, 3 December 2020

Publishing News



Canelo set to publish two dark and twisty suspense novels by M. M. DeLuca.

Commissioning Editor Leodora Darlington has acquired WEL rights to new standalone suspense novels by M. M. DeLuca in a two-book deal. 

The Secret Sister is a gripping suspense novel with a twist that will leave readers reeling. We follow our protagonist, Anna, on her whirlwind romance that ends in her marrying almost-too-perfect Guy. But how much does Anna know about the man she has married? And how much does Guy know about his new wife? She’s certainly keeping her share of secrets, and the biggest one of all is the identity of the sister she lost many years ago, the sister she is still searching for now. 

M. M. DeLuca studied psychology at the University of London and now resides in Canada. She studied Advanced Creative writing with Pulitzer prizewinning author, Carol Shields. Her first novel, The Pitman's Daughter was shortlisted for the Chapters Robertson Davies first novel in Canada award in 2001. She went on to self-publish it in 2013 where it became an ebook bestseller in the literary category.

Leodora Darlington says, ‘I’m beyond excited to be bringing M. M. DeLuca’s writing to suspense fans around the world. Her writing is brilliantly taut, and her protagonist, Anna, is so delightfully complex and intriguing. My heart broke when reading about Anna’s tragic past, and I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the explosive reveals that would be sure to shatter her relationship with Guy. I just know that readers are going to fall in love with this novel and its publication can’t come soon enough.’

M. M. DeLuca says, ‘It’s a dream come true to have signed a two-book deal with the wonderful team at Canelo and to work with the most amazing and enthusiastic editor, Leodora Darlington. Leodora’s passionate support of my new psychological suspense novel, The Secret Sister, has made this writer’s journey a truly pleasurable one, and I’m so excited to share my work with all the great readers out there in March 2021.’

The Secret Sister will be published in March, 2021, in simultaneous print and ebook formats, with audio to follow. For more information please contact publicity@canelo.co.


Monday, 30 November 2020

TAKE IT BACK by Kia Abdullah

TAKE IT BACK, an explosive and riveting drama.



Kia Abdullah has written a bold and compelling novel that deals head-on with difficult and divisive issues. This page-turning novel explores the conflict between justice and pursuit of the truth versus family and cultural loyalty; rape and the sexualization of women; women's rights versus cultural  misogyny. If that's not enough, then there are also thematic threads related to substance abuse and bullying.

The main story centres around Jodie, a genetically disfigured 16-year-old who reports that she's been raped by four young Muslim boys from her school. Main character, Zara, ex-hotshot barrister, now a sexual violence legal advocate, takes the case and is immediately thrown into an explosive and highly publicized courtroom drama where the focus immediately switches to race rather than rape. Pitted against her estranged Muslim family and her community, Zara is branded a traitor to her race and nothing more than an "Uncle Tom", when she tries to protect Jodie, a quiet, tragic girl with a neglectful, alcoholic mother, and support her in her fight for justice. Tensions soon escalate and Zara becomes a target in the centre of a violent fight between white supremacist, anti-immigrant groups and disgruntled Muslim extremists.

Abdullah creates a strong, conflicted and vulnerable character in Zara, a woman who rejects the female role prescribed by her family and community, yet still struggles to find love, acceptance and confidence in her own identity. The novel explores the case from multiple perspectives which allows the reader to understand even the alleged perpetrators' feelings and realize that the entire situation is a tragedy for all involved. This powerful, riveting and provocative novel is sure to resonate with many readers. Thanks to St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.


                                                            KIA ABDULLAH

KIA ABDULLAH is an author and travel writer. She has contributed to The Guardian, BBC, Channel 4 News, and The New York Times. Kia currently travels the world as one half of the travel blog Atlas & Boots, which receives over 200,000 views per month.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

WHERE THE EDGE IS by Grainne Murphy. A Review





 

On first appearances, this novel by Grainne Murphy appears to be a suspenseful, disaster story centred around the lives of a group of innocent people trapped in a bus teetering on the edge of a massive sinkhole. While the central catastrophe does play an important part in the novel, the story really becomes an in-depth study of human love and loss and grief and our fragility and strength in the face of tragedy. Hence the title and the bus disaster becomes a metaphor for the knife-edge we vulnerable humans tread as we struggle to overcome adversity and survive.

 

The story begins when a road in rural Ireland collapses and swallows a bus carrying eight passengers. As the bus threatens to fall deeper into the sinkhole, the authorities scramble to set a rescue plan in place. What follows is partly the poignant story of some of the victims inside the bus, but mostly the novel focuses on the people involved in the rescue, mainly Nina, a news reporter on the scene, and her ex-husband Tim, a fire-fighter in charge of the rescue. Their shared grief over the death of their 11-month-old daughter comes to the forefront as the pressure of the rescue intensifies.

 

The author is not afraid to tackle sensitive themes and when Alina, a visible minority passenger is rescued by Richie, the bus driver who was recently suspended over his use of a racial slur, rumours about terrorism soon start circulating, despite the fact that the woman has lived her entire life in Ireland. Murphy really nails Richie’s struggle to come to terms with his new hero status and Alina’s questioning of her true place in her adopted country.  

 

Murhy’s writing is lyrical and intense, though relieved by some humour. Difficult themes are tackled with great sensitivity and insight, particularly in some of  Nina’s heartrending reflections on the details of her child's death and its catastrophic effect on her life. At times, however, the pace slows a little and events lose their emotional impact when Nina appears to be going over the same ground. Also the final rescue is underplayed, which may be disappointing for some readers. But for those who are looking for an exploration of  family, connection, self-identity, faith, belonging and all the things that make us complex humans, this will be a most satisfying read.

Thanks to Legend Press for sending me an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

Check out these other great sites for reviews of the book.



Thursday, 10 September 2020

SUMMER WANDERINGS Part 2

 Now the evenings are cooler and summer is drawing to a close, it's time to reflect back on some of the other local trips we took and wonder how I ever complained about the endless sunshine and heat! Here are some of the highlights of our wanderings.                                               

DELTA BEACH and FORT LA REINE MUSEUM

Fort La Reine, on the outskirts of Portage la Prairie, is an interactive museum where you can wander through completely furnished houses and shops from every era in Manitoba's history from an authentic trapper's hut to a 1920's house to a fully functioning local newspaper office complete with printing press. Every detail is lovingly preserved. Set aside a few hours to get through every intricately furnished room.

Delta Beach on Lake Manitoba is a wild and windswept place next to Delta Marsh - a favourite spot for hunting lodges since the Victorian era. Shallow, clear water and gnarled, uprooted tree trunks left over from the last major flood, make this a haunting place to visit.






HECLA ISLAND/GULL HARBOUR 

Located an hour away from Gimli, Hecla Island is a pristine piece of wilderness sitting on Lake Winnipeg. Originally an Icelandic settlement, Hecla village retains its charm in the tidy, well kept houses that stand along the road. Drive through to reach Gull Harbour  and its charming pier, and for those who love to golf, the Lakeview Hecla resort is an oasis of luxury in the wilderness.


MATLOCK and WINNIPEG BEACH

Only an hour's drive away from Winnipeg takes you to prime cottage country and beautiful beaches on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. Towns like Matlock and Winnipeg Beach have been popular resorts since the turn of the 20th century when they were first accessible by rail. Up until the late 1950's a train nicknamed "The Moonlight Special" ran every Saturday night, transporting starry-eyed revellers from the Winnipeg CPR station to the famous "Pavilion" at Winnipeg Beach with its 1400 sq. ft. dance floor. The massive roller coaster and dance hall are long gone, but the old wooden piers on Matlock Beach are still there and the main street of Winnipeg Beach has been recently renovated and now has an outdoor stage and picturesque boardwalk giving it a nice retro feel .


STONEWALL and OAK HAMMOCK MARSH

In the early days, the limestone escarpments of Stonewall were used by indigenous populations as "buffalo jumps" when riders would funnel the animals towards a steep cliff during the hunts. In the 1880's a quarry was opened to produce quicklime. The massive limestone kilns can still be seen at the entrance to Quarry Park, and the Kinsmen Pool boasts gorgeous greenish water perfect for cooling off on a hot day.

Oak Hammock Marsh is a 36 sq. km restored prairie marsh and beautiful interpretive centre. Home to a wide variety of birds and mammals, the area is a vital staging ground for fowl migration when up to 400,000 birds a day can be seen landing or taking off from there.

It's been a great summer travelling to these and many other places nearby. Just shows you how many great places there are close to home.

Check below for my review of an amazing new novel:

BOOK REVIEW


It is indeed a strange experience to read this book about a pandemic when the world is presently in the grips of one. Apparently Saleema Nawaz began to write this novel in 2013 and completed it in 2019, just in time for fiction to become reality. The story, therefore, becomes eerily prescient, the face masks, hand sanitizers, quarantine periods and crowded E.R's strangely familiar. A major difference is that though the virus in the story is a coronavirus that attacks the respiratory system, its primary victims are children rather than the elderly.

What makes this such a great novel, however, is that it never falls into cliched dystopian imaginings or a doom-filled story of world apocalypse. Instead it takes time to examine the interaction between a handful of seemingly disparate people who find themselves living through an unfolding catastrophe. These people all turn out to be connected in both direct and indirect ways, therefore their actions all impact on one another and their lives intersect in unexpected ways.
The publisher's blurb outlines the main characters: "Elliot is a first responder in New York, a man running from past failures and struggling to do the right thing. Emma is a pregnant singer preparing to headline a benefit concert for victims of the outbreak–all while questioning what kind of world her child is coming into. Owen is the philandering author of a bestselling plague novel with eerie similarities to the real-life pandemic. As fact and fiction begin to blur, he must decide whether his lifelong instinct for self-preservation has been worth the cost." A host of other characters chime in to tell their stories too.
Nawaz moves back and forth in time, carefully providing back-stories that establish exactly what motivations drive her characters and how much they stand to lose if society succumbs to the unrest that, in her own prophetic words from a recent interview, "is being primed for fear by the 24-hour news cycle and by politicians stoking divisiveness." Sound familiar?
This is such a wise and in-depth study of the human condition and how it either triumphs or fails in the face of impending disaster. Though some parts in the mid-section could have been trimmed a little, the story gradually picks up steam, making the final section so powerful and compelling I found it impossible to put the book down until I was finished.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review



Friday, 21 August 2020

THE BEAUTY OF YOUR FACE by Safar Mustafah



The Beauty of Your Face by Safar Mustafah is a compelling and authentic novel that not only explores the complex struggles of a culturally conflicted daughter of Palestinian immigrants, but also touches on universal themes such as identity, loss and the pain of a middle child rejected by her mentally fragile mother.

The book follows dual storylines of Afaf , principal of a Muslim school for girls just outside Chicago, opening with the shocking arrival of a  xenophobic shooter who kills girls at random. The eventual tense standoff between Afaf and the shooter frames the more in-depth story of her earlier life leading to this point. 

 A bright, intelligent teenager, Afaf negotiates the difficulties of life as the daughter of secularized parents in a town where she faces casual but cruel racism on a daily basis. When a tragic loss causes major family upheaval, she struggles to find a place to belong when she’s spurned by all her classmates and even her own mother who seems to hate her. She becomes rebellious, experimenting with casual sex and growing to hate herself in the process. When the incidents of 9-11 occur, the racial slurs intensify and her life becomes close to unbearable.

 Afaf eventually follows in her beloved father’s steps as he becomes a “born again” Muslim and she finally finds a place and people that welcome her. The author, however, avoids cliché and sentimentality by portraying the complexity of a family divided by their level of faith. In other words, religion is not presented as a magic “cure” for the problems of this family. 

The story builds to an inevitable climax when Afaf confronts the shooter. The author uses a classic suspense technique and makes us wait until the end to find out the outcome, a good choice because by this time the reader is heavily invested in the pitfalls and victories of Afaf's life. 

This was a well written book that provides a window on the struggles of second generation immigrants in a country that often misjudges and even fears them. Afaf is a compelling and sympathetic character whose experiences prove that despite the colour of our skin or our differences in religion we are all still striving for love, happiness, acceptance and a place to call home. 

Thanks to Legend Press for sending me a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Check out the other stops on the blog tour to see what others have said about the book.



 

WHEN HISTORY COMES CLOSE TO HOME

THE SAVAGE INSTINCT, release date May 18th 2021 It's been almost eight years since I made the startling discovery that the street just a...