This Really Happened: Kindle countdown deal

I felt like I was seeing it all in slow motion; the car, sleek and black, careening around the corner, the sound of wheels skidding. Headlights illuminating her dazed expression like a spotlight as it made contact. Then I heard screaming, distant and muffled, as if I was underwater. It took me a long time to realise that I was the one screaming.

Erin has never really known who she is or what she wants. That is, until she meets her new University flatmate Allen.

Reckless, eccentric and creative, Allen is everything Erin doesn’t have the courage to be and she’s immediately drawn to him. She’s sure he feels it too, until he starts dating their mutual friend Charlotte.

Then one night changes everything.

When a drunken mistake leaves Charlotte fighting for her life, the victim of a hit-and-run, there’s only one question everyone’s asking: what really happened? Erin has an answer to that, more than one in fact, but running from the truth is far easier than facing up to it…

 

My latest New Adult novel ‘This Really Happened’ will be available at the special reduced price of $0.99 for the next 7 days on the Kindle countdown deal! Get it now while it’s cheap!

 

Neuschwanstein castle, May 2017

Fireborn, I imagine you in these rooms
Chandeliers like caves, like crowns
Marble floors made for waltzing
Dancing through the endless night.

You painted stories on the walls
With your clairvoyant fingers
Tales of chivalry and romance, an
Echo of something better, a past
Preserved in pastel colour dreams.

This was your escape, wasn’t it?
This castle with its spiral towers
Gleaming white, a diamond in the
Forest of your heart.

I wonder where it went wrong.
You are a mystery that time has
Swallowed, a secret kept safe
Beneath the lake’s calm surface.

I imagine you walking along that shore
A century before me
And plunging into those
Murky depths.

 

A few weeks ago I travelled to Munich alone with the goal of finally visiting the fairytale castle on the mountain that inspired Disney’s ‘Sleeping beauty’ castle. It was just as beautiful as I’d imagined. I brought my notebook along and wrote this poem about King Ludwig II – the owner of the castle – and the strange mystery surrounding his untimely death.

It’s said that one day Ludwig and his psychiatrist were taking a walk around the nearby lake. A few hours later they were both found drowned. Though there are many theories about how he died, none have been confirmed. 

Seeing this castle in person was a sublime experience for me. It was the realisation of a dream I’d harboured for a very long time, but lost sight of last year when I was in a dark place. Being able to make this trip to see it has reminded me of the person I used to be and has given me hope that one day I’ll be that person again. I found that poetry was the best medium to try and capture that feeling and channel the beauty of the place into language, and I hope you agree.

Have you visited Neuschwanstein castle? I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

May the odds be ever in your favour

Last weekend I took a trip down to Cardiff to visit my friend Rhi and her boyfriend Connor, who recently started up their own film production company called Cinemerse. They’ve been making some super cool, creative shorts lately for a company called ‘Escape Reality’ that runs escape rooms all over the UK. Their latest trailer was for a Hunger Games themed escape room.

I was lucky enough to be the photographer on set, which was an illuminating experience.  I’ve always wanted to work in film, but never realised how much time and energy goes in to it. Our two shoots, which lasted a total of about 12 hours, translated into 2 minutes of screen time. The first took place in a grassy field, with the four tributes jumping off their metal podiums and running for the Cornucopia in the middle. The second took place in a martial arts studio, with the tributes training with their weapons. Cato with his spear, Peter with the daggers, Rue on the ropes and Katniss on her bow and arrow of course!

Props to Rhi and Connor for getting some fantastic shots and remaining incredibly professional throughout. If anyone in the South Wales area of the UK is looking for film services, I can highly recommend Cinemerse. You can find their Facebook page here and see more of their Escape Reality trailers – would recommend the Games of Thrones one in particular! To see more of my photography, head on over to my portfolio.

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Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I’ve recently finished reading ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas, amid all of the hype over this book. And let me just say this: that hype is well deserved. I’m just going to make it clear right now that I adored this novel and am rating it 5/5 stars. It’s funny, heart-breaking, relatable and so, so relevant right now with everything that’s going on in the world. It’s a story that needs to be told and a truly fantastic debut in the YA genre for 2017.

The story follows Starr, a seventeen year old girl ‘from the hood’ A.K.A Garden Heights. Her life is divided into two parts: the Starr she acts like at her preppy, white private school, and her true self. However her two lives are blown apart when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her friend Khalil by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. With pressures facing her on all sides, Starr must decide between what is right and what is easy. She must use her voice to fight for justice, for Khalil and herself.

I found Starr to be a relatable, down-to-earth protagonist who I could easily feel for and imagine myself in the shoes of. The confusing storm of emotions she feels in the wake of her friend’s murder is very believable and deeply painful to read, especially knowing that although this book is fiction, it’s based on true events. Her close relationship with her family members is also at times hilarious and heart-warming to read. I loved her interactions with her dad in particular, who clearly cares a lot for his family and neighbourhood, despite being an ex-con and an ex-gangster.

Thomas has done an excellent job of developing a large and diverse cast of characters, delving into their backstories and humanising them in ways that allow you to understand their choices, even if they’re bad ones. A lot of the book is centred on examining the stereotypes and assumptions people make about ‘thug life’ and the black community – an idea which is very neatly explained by Tupac’s lyrics ‘The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody’. Too often the media’s portrayal of these communities is one-dimensional, focusing only on the bad without understanding the complex web of reasons behind it. Thomas’ book rightly examines how many of these people, like Khalil, are in fact victims of a system that is already stacked against them and how perpetuating these stereotypes will only continue to worsen the situation.

I also really enjoyed the subtle critique of ‘casual racism’ in this book – how racist terminology has become so ingrained in our culture that we might not even be aware of it. Chris, Starr’s white boyfriend, provides a model example of how not to take white priviledge for granted. His tolerance and sensitivity are a great contrast to Hailey – Starr’s white best friend who keeps making racist jokes and then tries to deny that they’re racist. I thought this was really important, as it shows that racism isn’t just about big flashy news headlines, it’s about the little things too. And as someone who’s been on the receiving end of those kinds of jokes, I felt a sense of validation to know that I did have the right to get upset over it.

Overall, I thought this book was incredibly well-written and authentic. A lot of it is clearly based on personal experience and the author did a fantastic job of bringing Garden Heights and its inhabitants to life. It’s not often I find a YA book that deals with serious issues such as this so well, and I think it really has the potential to make a difference.

Have you read ‘The Hate U Give’? What did you think of it? Leave your comments below!

In conversation with Didi Oviatt, indie suspense author

Didi Oviatt is an indie author I met through the blogging world. She’s got a wicked writing style and recently released a crime/thriller book called ‘Aggravated Momentum’ which I wrote a review for. As part of my efforts to #SupportIndie I wanted to find out more about her writing process and her experience with self-publishing on Amazon kindle.

Hi Didi, thanks for joining me today. What are 5 things you would like our readers to know about you?

I’m so excited to be here! If I have to settle for five, then I’ll stick with the big five S’s… simple, silly, sure, satisfying, and strange.

  • Something simple: Every year I drink a bottle of cheap wine, and I bury myself in a romance novel on Valentines Day.
  • Something silly: I can touch my tongue to my nose.
  • Something sure:  I’m one hundred percent sure that every book I ever write will be suspenseful.
  • Something satisfying: Goals, Lol…  It may sound funny, but there is nothing more satisfying to me then nailing my weekly goals.
  • Something strange: I completely believe in ghosts. Good ones, bad ones, creepy ones, and even protective ones. I think we’re all just a little bit haunted.

What are you reading at the moment?

I usually read more than one book at a time. I strive to support Indi authors like myself, so I keep one of them cooking at all times. I also believe it’s important to keep your head in a wholesome influential place as a writer by reading Best Sellers in the genre of your current project.  This week I’m rotating two books. Living in the shallows, by an Indi-Author Tani Hanes and also Mercy, by Best-Selling Author Jodi Picoult.

How do you choose what book you’re going to read next? Is it the cover, the blurb, recommendations etc..?

All of the above plus some. When it comes to highly recommended books or Best Sellers I compare each of the mentioned tactics along with either a genre rotation (I’m kind of a seasonal bird) or by books that may counter point whatever project I’m working on myself.  When it comes to Indi books, I take a lot of author requests and debuts, but after I’ve read a blurb of course.

 What’s your experience been of self-publishing so far? Are you enjoying it?

I absolutely adore self-publishing! I love being in control and calling all the shots!  So far I’ve tried something different with each of my books. I’m a “dive in head first and learn from my own mistakes” kind of gal. I am human, and have made a few mistakes along the way, but self-publishing is definitely NOT one of them. I wouldn’t take back my decision to self-publish for the world and doubt I’ll ever even try Traditional.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to a new writer thinking of self-publishing?

Don’t fall for the “self-publishers” that offer you the world and ask a ridiculous amount of money to “help” you publish! You’d be amazed at how many shysters there actually are in the book publishing world. There are a lot of places that are affordable, and they actually let you choose your own pricing, cover image, and you still maintain all of the rights… KDP and Bookbaby in my experience have been great, but do your own research because there are most definitely more. Don’t limit yourself in options, and don’t let your excitement blind you.  A rule of thumb I like to live by, is that if there is an enormous contract involved then it isn’t actually self-publishing.

I’ve just finished reading your fantastic new book, ‘Aggravated Momentum’. Wow. What a rollercoaster. What was the inspiration behind it?

With Aggravated Momentum I wanted to challenge myself. Suspense is where I shine, so I chose to make it psychological in order to test my abilities. Part of me wanted to master writing a variety of first person characters, and part of me wanted to ensure that I didn’t allow myself to get stuck in a repetitive rut. In my opinion, there are too many Authors who seem to repeat themselves. Their books are one dimensional — like if you’ve read one then you’ve read them all… I didn’t want that to be a problem for me, so my main focus with Aggravated Momentum was to make it diverse and unique.

Was there a lot of research involved?

Hardly any… To be completely honest, I hate research and I suck at it.  What little bit was required, I kind of left hanging for my editor to “come across” and have to fix lol… Don’t worry though, she’s a friend so it’s fine 😉

 Okay, last question: Are you working on anything new?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes!!!  I’m so dang excited about my latest and greatest! Search For Maylee is a mystery novel that I intend to release in the fall of this year, so hold your breath!!! Here is a short description:

Since Maylee was abducted from her high school the very month of graduation, her Aunt Autumn has never lost hope in finding her.  It’s been three years. Autumn has finally reached inside herself and found the courage to track down an old lead. She moves across the country to find him. Will Autumn be able to pry Maylee’s case back open? More importantly, what will Autumn uncover in the process of searching for Maylee?  It’s a cold dark world we live in, and she is about to find out just how cruel it can be. Strength and determination are on Autumn’s side and she will do whatever it takes to either bring Maylee home, or to deliver the justice she deserves.

 

What have your experiences been with self-publishing? Do you have a favourite indie author? Let me know in the comments and stay tuned for more updates, interviews and book reviews! If you’re an author and interested in being interviewed on my blog, please get in contact. 

FREE BOOK: This Really Happened

This week, my New Adult romance novel ‘This Really Happened’ is FREE on amazon until Wednesday 12th April. Please share it, download it, read it, enjoy it, and (you’ll get cookies and my eternal gratitude for this one) review it!

You can see public reviews for it on goodreads and download the book now on Amazon

Summary: 

Erin has spent her life drifting, ruled by her controlling parents and social anxiety. That is, until she meets her new University flatmate Allen. Reckless, eccentric and creative, Allen is everything Erin doesn’t have the courage to be and she’s immediately drawn to him. She’s sure he feels the attraction too, until he starts dating their mutual friend Charlotte instead.

Then one night changes everything.

When a drunken mistake leaves Charlotte fighting for her life, there’s only one question everyone’s asking: what really happened? Erin has an answer to that, more than one in fact, but running from the truth is far easier than facing up to it…

 

Reviews: 

‘Annmarie McQueen has created a range of likeable characters in a recognisable setting, while introducing ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘The Girl on the Train’-esque elements to set her story apart from other coming-of-age tales.’

‘A real breath of fresh air for the YA genre’

‘Jam packed with layer after layer of authentically written emotion’

Review: This Really Happened, by Annmarie McQueen, 5 of 5 stars

Thanks Didi for such a lovely review!

Didi Oviatt

MY REVIEW:

This Really Happened, by Annmarie McQueen is jam packed with layer after layer of authentically written emotion. The characters are developed, relatable and loveable. I fell completely head over heals with Annmarie’s writing style and flow. The plot points are original, gripping, and heartfelt. The entire story just feels so real, I couldn’t help but to wonder if the Author had in fact experienced similar circumstances. I had a hard time believing this was actually a fictional piece. It’s a beautifully torn YA story, and in my opinion a must read.

Erin, the main character, is very intelligent, complex, and a bit of an introvert. She doesn’t necessarily lack confidence, but has always played it safe preferring solitude and staying out of trouble. Her sister Naomi is the free spirit of the family, leaving Erin to carry the burden of responsibility. Erin enters a University and is thrown…

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Book Review: ‘Aggravated Momentum’ by Didi Oviatt

I received a free review copy of ‘Aggravated Momentum’ by Didi Oviatt in return for an honest review. Okay, first things first, I loved this book. It took me on a real rollercoaster of emotions and the two twists caught me by complete surprise. The pacing of the story and the way certain key plot points are revealed to you make for an exhilarating and fast read.

‘Aggravated Momentum’ is an adult thriller, a ‘murder mystery’ type story that reminded me of ‘Dark Places’ by Gillian Flynn. It’s written from the POVs of multiple characters, including the killer. Markie, the protagonist, is still grieving the death of her best friend Beth, who was murdered a year ago. However when the killer strikes again, it becomes clear that they won’t stop until they’ve destroyed everyone close to Markie. To protect her family and those she loves, Markie must work together with the police to draw the killer out and figure out what they want before it’s too late. But why is she being targeted? And what other dark secrets does the killer have that will change Markie’s life forever?

Adult thriller isn’t my usual genre. I went into this book not knowing what to expect, and was very pleasantly surprised. Markie, the MC, is sharp, witty and independent. Though still obviously a bit traumatised by what happened to her friend Beth, she’s clearly a very capable and intelligent woman who knows how to stay calm during stressful situations. Though sometimes I found her a little cold and unfairly judgemental of the people around her, I liked that she wasn’t a perfect lovable MC. I think the point of this book is that none of the characters are good people, yet they’re intriguing enough that you want to learn more about them.

Markie’s younger sister Kam also plays a significant part in the story. Unlike Markie, she’s a bit more frivolous and doesn’t think before she speaks, which makes her seem insensitive a lot of the time. The dynamic between the two sisters is very realistic – though they both clearly have some big flaws, they still care about each other deeply, one of their redeeming qualities.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I think in many ways this book breaks down some of the tropes associated with the thriller/crime genre. I really liked the fact that the killer was revealed so soon and we got to read parts of the story from their POV – even though the big reveal happened early on there were still other surprises in store and I liked the dramatic irony. I found it unsettling to hear the killer’s thought processes; it gave me shivers and reminded me a lot of Clockwork Orange. Though I usually find books with multiple POVs confusing and overly complex, the pacing and the narrative structure here worked well since it all fit into one clear plot arc with a satisfyingly shocking conclusion.

If crime and thriller is your thing, I would highly recommend ‘Aggravated Momentum’ as an exciting, sexy and refreshingly original alternative to the usual staples of the genre. #SupportIndie and pick up a copy here

View from the bridge

Black holes, fast cars
I walk off the edge of the platform
Chasing neon lights, the London
Eye swirling as it plays witness,
All-knowing, ever-present
There are potholes in my mind
I am filling them with gravel from
Streets I’ve forgotten the names of
Subway station debris, this
lit-up nighttime metropolis
Bursting at its seams.

Book review: ‘Panther’ by David Owen (guest post)

Review written by Hannah Froggatt

‘Panther’ by David Owen is a coming of age YA novel focusing on the relationship between the teenage protagonist, Derrick, and his older sister Charlotte. Ever since Charlotte was diagnosed with major depression, her illness has been tearing the family apart. The stress has led Derrick to develop a compulsive eating disorder. However when he hears that a Panther has recently escaped from a local zoo, Derrick thinks that maybe capturing it can be his salvation, that maybe stopping the beast in it’s physical form will be enough to save his sister too.

When you first pick up Panther, you’re struck by its veracity. The characterisation is masterful. Derrick, our protagonist, is a perfect blend of naïvety and worldliness: perceptive enough to see his family is falling apart but ill-equipped to help them. Charlotte’s barbed interactions with Derrick are the best parts of the book, managing to be both sardonic and tender whilst digging right to the heart of Panther’s central theme of understanding — and accepting what we can’t understand. Despite some slightly self-conscious discussion of social media, Owen’s grasp of teenage world-views is sterling.

So is the depiction of mental health disorders. Few writers manage to depict such illnesses this dispassionately, but more impressive is Owen’s understanding of the three-dimensional presence of issues like depression. Derrick’s bewilderment at Charlotte’s behaviour — and his own — is completely genuine, and an excellent standpoint from which to explore how it affects those nearest sufferer and how it disrupts the narratives of our lives.

The only thing that doesn’t work is, unfortunately, the central metaphor. Derrick’s obsession with the escaped panther supposedly roaming his neighbourhood feels jarring and childish for the character’s years. The panther is meant to represent the depression that preys on Derrick’s family, but this clumsy attempt at magical realism clashes horribly with the blunt naturalism that makes the rest of the story so powerful.

Panther aside, it’s still worth a read. The beautiful character-craft and unblinking exploration of mental health make it thoroughly worth your time.