Monday, 14 August 2017

Book Review: Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

Lying in WaitLying in Wait by Liz Nugent
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, which shows what happens when ‘love’ spills over into callous control and devious manipulation.

Clever plotting leads the reader through a labyrinth of uncertainty about what and who the story is really about and where it is heading; there’s a shock regarding the opening characters very close to the start. The ambiguity is partly achieved due to three interspersed first-person narrators detailing their version of events, set in three timeframes.

Events in 1980 set the scene and we’re introduced to the blatant murder of a young woman, partially strangled by Andrew, Lydia’s husband (the first narrator), then brutally finished off by Lydia, herself. The first sentence tells us what kind of person Lydia is: “My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.” O-k-a-y…

Her son, Laurence, a teenager at the time, is oblivious to the whole episode and entirely unaware that the woman’s body is buried in the back garden. What an opening chapter!

The following narrators are Karen, the dead woman’s sister and Laurence the innocent son. The twisty story follows the family history through to 1985 as the different lives cross each other’s paths and the mystery of the woman’s death gradually creeps closer to the surface. In 2016, we get the final outcome. Chilling indeed! Highly recommended.

CLICK to join AJ Waines' Newsletter for book giveaways and updates on her new releases!
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All books can be read in any order 
(Lost in the Lake is also second in the series featuring clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby)
  •  Over 400,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  #1 Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • No Longer Safe  30,000 sold in the first month & #1 in 'Crime Noir'
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017

Thursday, 3 August 2017

A Fresh Take on Psychological Thrillers

This post first appeared on Jennie Ensor's exciting blog - thanks to Jennie for the opportunity!

As a former psychotherapist, it was a natural progression for me when I first had a go at writing fiction to choose psychological thrillers as my genre. I’d worked with ex-convicts from high security institutions, so I felt I had some insight into the disturbed and criminal mind.

In my childhood, I’d devoured books by Enid Blyton and later was drawn to crime thriller/mysteries; my all-time favourites being A Simple Plan by Scott Smith and The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. As an adult, too, I was captivated by psychological thrillers ever since they began to be recognised as a distinct category, loving writers such as Minette Walters and Nicci French.

Old favourites!
So, a love for crime mysteries and psych thrillers…

As a result, my books tend to have both a distinct mystery on the surface and a deeper psychological thriller lurking underneath, with that essential twist at the end, of course! The mystery element is not usually a police-procedural as such, but a dark and deadly puzzle involving clues and hidden dangers that the main character, an ordinary person like you or me, gets caught up in. My protagonists range from a journalist, a lecturer in criminology, an archivist and more recently a clinical psychologist –  most are feisty, but vulnerable, women with their own unresolved issues lurking just out of sight.

There's a body in the water and she's wearng your clothes - The Evil Beneath
At the start of each book, an incident usually takes place which shakes the protagonist’s world upside down. These incidents range from a body found in The Thames wearing the main character’s own clothes (The Evil Beneath), a suicide under a train that isn’t what it seems (Girl on a Train), a missing woman and child in a quiet village (Dark Place to Hide), the body of a stranger that appears one morning in a remote cottage (No Longer Safe) and a Tube fire where survivors give accounts that don’t add up (Inside the Whispers).

In each situation, my main character is pushed to breaking point, faced with lies, deception, secrets, moral dilemmas or concealed psychological disorders Then, gradually as the plot unfolds, the mystery and the psychological elements link up. The hidden connection becomes clear – or gets turned on its head!

In my latest book, Lost in the Lake, a van leaves the road and plummets into a lake, killing all but one of the passengers. Or so it seems. The sole survivor, Rosie, knows in her bones that it wasn’t an accident, but has gaps in her memory. That’s the tangled murder mystery on the surface. She turns to psychologist, Samantha Willerby, to help recover her memories and that’s when the psychological thriller begins to simmer. A chilling, altogether different dynamic is going on underneath the main enigma. Rosie looks like she’s searching for answers about the crash, but very soon it becomes clear that she’s after something else…

I’ve always loved hidden things. I was a secretive child and kept diaries with tiny keys and padlocks. I also collected money boxes with intricate locking devices and even used to hide magazine clippings of the Queen under a rug beside my bed! That’s where it all stems from. Anything concealed and I’m hooked!

Lost in the Lake is available to Pre-order now on Amazon at 99p for a limited period. Paperback & Ebook published 7 September.
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All books can be read in any order 
(Lost in the Lake is also second in the series featuring clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby)
  •  Over 400,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  #1 Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • No Longer Safe  30,000 sold in the first month & #1 in 'Crime Noir'
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Cover Reveal + Opening FREE - 'Lost in the Lake!'

I'm super, super excited - because the cover of Lost in the Lake goes out into the world today! 
Here's the cover and story outline. I really hope you like it! My heartfelt thanks to Paper & Sage, in Kentucky, for doing such a fabulous job!
 
'A tangled Murder Mystery on the surface - a sinister Psychological Thriller underneath'
 

     PRE-ORDER the ebook NOW:
Amazon UK (99p)    Amazon US ($1.28)


Here's the story:

She came at first for answers…now she’s back for you

Amateur viola player Rosie Chandler is the sole survivor of a crash which sends members of a string quartet plunging into a lake. Convinced the ‘accident’ was deliberate, but unable to recall what happened, she is determined to recover her lost memories and seeks out clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby.

But Rosie is hiding something…

Sam is immediately drawn to the tragic Rosie and as she helps her piece the fragments together, the police find disturbing new evidence which raises further questions. Why is Rosie so desperate to recover her worthless viola? And what happened to the violin lost in the crash, worth over £2m?

When Rosie insists they return to the lake to relive the fatal incident, the truth about Rosie finally creeps up on Sam – but by now, she’s seriously out of her depth…

Lost in the Lake is a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat Psychological Thriller that will leave you glancing over your shoulder.

Published on 7 September, but you can Pre-order the ebook for 99p HERE, and at all Amazon outlets worldwide.

Read the Prologue for FREE HERE

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All books can be read in any order 
(Lost in the Lake is also second in the series featuring clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby)
  •  Over 400,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  #1 Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • No Longer Safe  30,000 sold in the first month & #1 in 'Crime Noir'
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Which part of the Writing Process is the best?

Someone asked me recently which part of the writing process I liked best. I answered without hesitation: ‘The bit I’m doing at that point in time.'

It's a great feeling to have - that each stage feels like the best bit - then I realised that it’s the transition between one aspect of the book production to another that is often tricky. Let me explain why.

Getting a book published (in one paragraph)
As a hybrid author, published both independently and traditionally, I’m involved with a wide range of stages in the process. In the UK, I produce my own books from start to finish, project managing the entire process from initial ideas to writing the novel, formatting for ebook and paperback, getting the cover designed, managing the editing and proofreading, then all the publicity and marketing that needs to get the show on the road. The latter is time consuming, but essential for authors these days to get their books noticed: blog tours, interviews, guest posts, promotional photos etc.
From this...
...to this
Today, I have my marketing and publicity hat on. With a book due to be announced in two weeks time, I’m at a hectic admin stage, which will also involve activating that magical 'pre-order' button on Amazon.

Click here for Lost in the Lake (or join my Newsletter for updates!)
Swapping from one stage to another
In two days’ time, I'll need to get back to editing, as my proofreader is due with a round of errors to correct (final ones I hope). In the meantime, I’m returning to my work in progress, a standalone psych thriller. It's been untouched since I left it a couple of months ago at 40,000 words (about half way through a first draft) to prepare Lost in the Lake for publication. This is where it gets tricky, because going back to it is hard; I’d largely forgotten what it was about! The plot felt sketchy and I was basically lost! I printed out the manuscript, so I could read it away from the PC and step back into the story again, because I couldn’t even remember some of the characters. Luckily, I'd made a list of plot-points to keep track of the direction I was heading in - but even so, there was no way I could resume writing the novel straight away - I had to get to know everyone in it again!

Back to Writing again
A strange thing has happened since I’ve engaged my brain with the creative part of the process again (although actually, all of the book process is creative in some way). My mind has clicked into the world of my characters and I’m finding ideas popping up all over the place. I have notebooks in almost every room in the house and in the last few weeks they’ve laid dormant. Now, all of a sudden, I'm reaching for them in order to collect little snippets: details on the setting, aspects of  key characters' personalities, how they move, talk, their motivations. It’s as though a searchlight has come on inside my head as I dig deeper into the story. In fact, I woke this morning before 6.30am with a pile of questions: Why did X do what she did at the age of 15? Why did P fall in love with T in the first place? I also realise I need a 'family tree' to gain more context about the characters' backgrounds and also some specific ‘family hardships’ to explain key aspects of the story.

Progress
But the story is filling out again, not only have I climbed back into the novel, but things there are stirring. The plot is on the move again and once I’ve reached the point in the manuscript where everything came to a halt, I’ll be bursting to find out what happens next (and to write it down!)

I’ll have to break away, of course, during the next few weeks to get Lost in the Lake out into the world, but I now have a new ‘home’ place to come back to every day. All I can say is the life of an author is never boring.

Lost in the Lake:  
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AJ Waines is an International Bestselling Author of Psychological Thrillers 


  •  Over 400,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017
Find AJ Waines at: 
Blog *  Website  *  Twitter  * Facebook  *  Pinterest  * Goodreads  * Google+  

Join AJ Waines' Newsletter HERE or below:


Monday, 12 June 2017

Book Review: The Second Sister - Claire Kendal

The Second SisterThe Second Sister by Claire Kendal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Claire Kendal’s first book, The Book of You, was a top read for me a couple of years ago, so I was very excited to read the author’s next novel, The Second Sister.

The story involves Ella, whose sister, Miranda, went missing ten years previously. Miranda’s son Luke is ten years old now and asking difficult questions. Ella is also 30, the age her sister was when she mysteriously disappeared, bringing up all kinds of new emotions, fears and her own unanswered questions. As Ella digs deeper, fresh information arises through renewed press interest and a new suspect is in the frame, a sadistic killer, Thorne. Ella, however, can’t bring herself to believe he’s involved, as this would mean her sister is dead. Until now, there has always been the thread of hope that she is still out there, somewhere.

The immediacy of the narrative swept me up straight away, partly through the use of second-person narrative – this time, the author employed a nice twist in using it to refer to someone dear, the lost beloved sister, rather than the antagonist, as in the first novel. From the opening pages there was a gentle, delicate and fragile quality to Kendal’s narration that made me want to turn the pages ‘oh so tenderly.’ The writing seemed to capture the details ‘behind and between’ the aspects we normally notice about people – so sensitive and satisfying, as a result.

The revered older sister, Miranda, is ever-present in the pages, as Ella 'hears' the internalised memories of her short punchy comments, as if she’s standing right beside her. There are also clever single line flashbacks to help the reader gain context and see how things stood in the past. I particularly admired the artful blend of literary fiction (which led me to savour the writing) and psychological thriller (which compelled me to turn the pages!). The author manages to find the tipping point between the two, perfectly!

As the story progresses, there is a steady unfolding of clues and details which lead Ella onwards in her quest for the truth. She has to confront certain key figures and puts herself at risk to dig deeper. The outcome is shattering and the harrowing scenes towards the end took my breath away. So much is good about this book – and just like The Book of You, it will stay with me for a long time. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

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AJ Waines is an International Bestselling Author of Psychological Thrillers 


  •  Over 400,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017
Find AJ Waines at: 
Blog *  Website  *  Twitter  * Facebook  *  Pinterest  * Goodreads  * Google+  

Join AJ Waines' Newsletter HERE or below:


Thursday, 25 May 2017

Using 'Photo-shoots' to get your Book Cover to Stand Out

We all know readers respond better to social media posts when there are pictures and when a new novel comes out, an author always wants to create a massive buzz around the reveal of the cover. But how can authors ring the changes in the run up to a release, so they're not bombarding readers with the same images of the cover, over and over?

One answer is to find a 'setting' for the book and create a 'photo-shoot' that gives a background flavour and 'feel' of the story.

I got this idea when I saw this post on Twitter by Claire Fuller. Claire's novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, is about an eight-year-old girl taken from her home, by her father, to a remote hut in the woods and told that the rest of the world has been destroyed. 

To me, the layer of dried leaves and hydrangia suggests fading, sadness, loss, an ending, time passing, the cycle of seasons. It adds atmosphere and intrigue to the title and the cover image - what does it say to you?


A unexpected spider improves the scene!
I love images and taking photographs, so when I released No Longer Safe, I decided to use a similar tactic (and thanked Claire for the idea!).

No Longer Safe is set in a remote cottage in the Highlands of ScotlandFour friends meet for a reunion that turns sour when a dead body appears at the end of a bed. The book is all about the weather conditions: how snow hides, but it also reveals, although when it was released in February 2016, there was no ice or snow on the ground for icy, chilling shots! Instead, I took a photo of the book in dead leaves on a grungy backdrop in order to suggest death, the end of something, something past its best, sinister. What I hadn't anticipated was the *spider* (see bottom left of the image) that very kindly crawled into the picture! This welcome creature added a creepy element of insidious threat to the shoot. Perfect! With this image, I used new taglines on social media such as 'Would you stay in the cottage from hell?' and 'What do you do when your best friend becomes your deadliest enemy?'.

The photo-shoot idea turned a little tricky when it came to Inside the Whispers. The cover shows a London Underground train hurtling into a station with smoke billowing everywhere. There's a fire. That's the core of the story - a fire on the Tube, as told by survivors suffering trauma - a fire, however, that never actually took place... 

Holding the book near a flame to get a real-life shot (outdoors, in a flameproof tray, by the way) gave me this image, but even though the fire wasn't exactly raging, I was still in danger of getting my fingers burnt! I got bigger flames if I took shots of the fire itself and then superimposed the cover image. Not ideal, but a safer way to avoid setting several paperbacks on fire! 

Below is an example of the template I used for Facebook and Twitter posts. These photo shoots allowed me to show publicity text in the black space, including taglines such as 'There's no smoke without Fire', 'A devious mystery lurks behind the choking smokescreen' and 'Who's playing with Fire...'. These are all different from the tagline on the front of the book: 'Where the most dangerous place - is inside your own head...'


My new Psych Thriller, LOST IN THE LAKE, is coming out soon! The pre-order is July 13 and the release date is September 7 (for your diaries!) I'm in the process of putting together publicity material and taking lots of background shots of 'murky water' to set the atmosphere for this book. The essence of the story involves an 'accident' where a van plunges headlong into a lake. The sole survivor goes to therapy looking for answers, but she’s not telling the full story. As a result, the diligent and sensitive therapist gets seriously out of her depth. Will she sink or swim? (Full jacket blurb in a later post).
I asked my husband to throw a pebble into the water to create a nice ripple-ring -
'something has disappeared under the surface'
Natural bubbles and reeds here beg the question - 'what lies beneath?' - just right for the book
Using these images, I wanted to convey a mood of something hidden in the depths, something sinking without trace, forever lost. I also wanted to get across the idea of being 'out of your depth' (just right for the key character in the story!). Taglines such as: 'Everything starts at the lake' and 'She's sinking fast and she's going to take you with her' neatly describe the feel of the book, which is a tangled mystery on the surface and a dark psych thriller underneath.

The cover of LOST IN THE LAKE will be revealed on the Pre-Order date of July 13 (I absolutely love it and hope you will too!). It's all under wraps until then... In the run up, I'll be posting a range of 'taster' photos, jacket blurb and background info to whet your appetites! I hope you'll follow me on Twitter, Facebook, this Blog or my Newsletter to find out all about the book. If you're an author, I hope some of these ideas help!

 Click to join my Newsletter for updates.
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AJ Waines is an International Bestselling Author of Psychological Thrillers 


  •  Over 400,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017
Find AJ Waines at: 
Blog *  Website  *  Twitter  * Facebook  *  Pinterest  * Goodreads  * Google+  

Join AJ Waines' Newsletter HERE or below:


Monday, 15 May 2017

Book Review: The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer

The Shut EyeThe Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved The Shut Eye from the start. Belinda Bauer has a knack of writing witty, clever and downright funny novels that also manage to be macabre crime/murder mysteries. The themes which run through most of her novels are always dark - here, abduction and missing children - decidedly difficult to pull off when at so many points in the text, her bizarre observations make you smile. But Bauer cracks it! She has a rare ability to describe the details of human behaviour and character in a quirky manner that cuts to the quick.

A small boy, Daniel, has been missing for four months and his mother, Anna, is desperate. She has a husband who has given up hope and who she can never forgive, as he was the one who 'left the door open'. Anna obsessively polishes her son's final footprints in the cement outside their house, as though they are religious relics. She can't bear to give up hope and turns to a medium (even though he appears to be a charlatan) at the local church.

When a twelve-year-old girl, Edie, went missing a year ago, DCI Marvel failed to find her. He's been living in the shadows ever since and has been taken off her case. Instead, he's been asked by the Super to find his wife's dog. Marvel is feeling disgruntled and desperate to prove himself, sensing potential leverage and a promotion in the air.

Anna starts becoming delusional, struggling to stay on the right side of sanity. A number of readers have frowned on the psychic element in the plot, but I think it's handled well, treading the fine line between mental illness and perceived psychic phenomena. Marvel too, is able to 'see' something afresh and the three cases become linked together. Suddenly, Marvel isn't sure which case he's working on - all he knows is he's all out to outsmart everyone and solve a case - any case.

The author's emotional responses are spot on, especially when dealing with Marvel's interior world. He is beautifully presented as the downtrodden, cheesed-off copper, who finds everyone very irritating and just wants to get some credit, for once.

Readers, sit back and enjoy the stylish quality writing - and authors, if you want to learn how to write with an original voice - give Belinda Bauer a go!

View all my reviews
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
AJ Waines is an International Bestselling Author of Psychological Thrillers 


  •  Over 400,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017
Find AJ Waines at: 
Blog *  Website  *  Twitter  * Facebook  *  Pinterest  * Goodreads  * Google+  

Join AJ Waines' Newsletter HERE or below: