guest author

Guest Post: The 1 Simple Habit Guaranteed to Lower your TBR Pile by Lucy V Hay.

Reduce Your TBR Pile

So I expect that most of you reading this have a big (or huge) pile of books yet to be read. I know that I do and that my TBR pile is actually way out of hand. On my Kindle I have 749 books, I’d estimate that about 70% of those have not yet been read. Eek. And yes I keep downloading more. So I definitely need to heed the advice of Lucy V Hay on how to lower your TBR pile. I hope that you find her post as useful as me!

The 1 Simple Habit Guaranteed To Lower

Your TBR Pile

By @LucyVHayAuthor

I LOVE reading. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a LOT of books in your ‘To Be Read’ (TBR) pile. As well as being on Goodreads, I am a member of lots of online book clubs (especially on Facebook). I also have severe ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO). As a result, every time I see a book I think looks good or others are raving about, I just can’t help myself!

Of course, Kindles are a big issue. I have friends who literally have TBR piles stretching into the hundreds, or even THOUSANDS. I am a Kindle Junkie, so I limit myself to just thirty downloads in my TBR pile  after a fellow book-loving friend suggesting picking a number and sticking to it. Or so I say … I’m currently at 32. So really, that strategy doesn’t work!

Secondly, I love charity shopping. If you see me in real life I like long skirts and floaty tops, the kinds of things you don’t necessarily find in high fashion stores. So, though I try NOT to look at the books while I’m in there, I’m always shocked by how many RECENT titles are in charity shops! Really, it’s rude not to buy them – real paperbacks (and sometimes hardbacks) for as little as a pound or two?? BARGAIN!

Thirdly, because I am a book blogger and have lots of friends and followers online, publishers, small presses and individual authors offer me ARCs and review copies quite a lot. In addition, I always enter giveaways – online and IRL – for books, as I figure ‘you gotta be in it to win it’. Just recently I’ve won books from Twitter giveaways and an author’s book launch quiz in my local cafe. Yikes!

So, though I try to limit myself to 30 hard copies of books as well, I’ve actually got another 36 on my nightstand (well, at least 15 of them are on my husband’s. He’s not happy about it).

So, what DOES lower your TBR pile? After all:

  • Picking a number of downloads/hard copies and sticking to it clearly doesn’t work.

  • Getting over FOMO isn’t going to happen.

  • Staying out of charity shops?? (Yeah good luck).

  • Not entering book competitions, quizzes and giveaways? (No chance).

  • Refusing ARCs /review copies? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

This is the thing. We have to approach this LOGICALLY – difficult, I know … These are BOOKS we’re talking about and we LOVETHEMSOMUCHOMG.

So, let’s break it down. As Kindle readers, we know the average novel (downloaded or not) has between four and seven hours‘ reading in it if you read at ‘normal’ speed.

So, if you want to drastically IMPROVE your chances of lowering that towering TBR pile, you do this:

Set aside one hour PER DAY for reading. Block it out in your diary. Set an alarm on your phone if you have to. BUT DO IT.

Yeah, I was skeptical as well. But seriously, it works. My time for reading every day is between 9pm and 10pm every night. You can get one book read per week this way, at least.

That’s 4 books read per month! What’s not to like?

If you’re a very fast reader, or you have lots of travelling to do (a great time for reading, as long as you’re not the driver!), then you could read EVEN MORE. Just think … A month from now, you could have made some serious in-roads into that TBR pile. Even if you buy more books, you have less guilt because at least it’s more likely to balance, than topple over!

Good luck!

BIO: @LucyVHayAuthor is currently writing her first psychological thriller novel. She is also a script editor for movies and has written the nonfiction book, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays (Kamera Books). Join The Criminally Good Book Club to sign up for news, offers and giveaways.

guest author

Guest Post: Six Things I Wish I’d Known Before Being Published by Mary-Jane Riley.


Today on If Only I Could Read Faster we have a guest post by Mary-Jane Riley, author of The Bad Things and After She Fell. She’s talking about the six things she wishes she knew before being published. Enjoy!!

Six  Things I Wish I had Known Before Being Published

  1. Not everybody is going to love your baby…

You’ve fretted and sweated and been rejected and then finally, finally you’re on top of that mountain. And yes, family, friends and colleagues are absolutely thrilled for you – even writer friends who are still trying to get published are thrilled and, although a tiny, weeny bit of them dies (I’ve been there) – they cheer and buy your book. With a bit of luck they review it and say they’re looking forward to the next. But there is always one, maybe more than one, who’s indifferent. Maybe they don’t like it, or are a bit jealous or it goes over their head.

     2. …But

Conversely and unexpectedly, old friends, people I hadn’t connected with for many, many years, and friends of my children all beat the drum for my book. It’s been wonderful.

  1. You realise how incriminating your Google history is.

Lordy! I pray I’m never investigated for murder because I will be arrested. Here’s a ten second trawl through mine:

  • Smell of decomposing body
  • Heroin overdose
  • Diving into the world of the dead
  • Revenge porn and slut shaming
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Black magic spells and satanic witchcraft
  • How to write a spell
  • Serial killers
  • Child murderers
  • Maggots and decomposition
  • Effects of drowning

Nice, eh?

  1. Social media can take over your life.

Most of you probably know this already, but I didn’t. Naive or what? I knew I would have to up my Twitter and Facebook presence but, come on guys, how much do I have to do? A lot, as it happens. But most of it is fun – interaction with other authors is fabulous – especially authors you admire (a few fan girl moments have been known to occur) – ditto bloggers and readers (more about that later), but the promotion side, that I try to keep to a minimum but enough so people know my book is out there. But it’s tough. And I’ve discovered Instagram. Love it. Now I’m trying to get together a couple or three boards on Pinterest and then … See what I mean?

  1. I was so ignorant about rankings, the importance of reviews and algorithms.

Nope, I hadn’t heard of algorithms either until I’d published a book. Still not sure I understand them now but I know they can be Very Important. But, and this is a big but, after days and days and days of obsessing over rankings etc, I am learning to let it go. You have to. Or go mad.

  1. Get a good chair – boring but valuable advice.

I did eventually and it has eliminated that hobbley old woman look (not sexy) when I get up from it.

Did I say six? Well there’s a seventh, and the best, and it’s back to those authors, readers and bloggers. I had no idea what a great lot of people there were on social media and in the flesh at events. So supportive, encouraging and kind. Thank you. Long may you be so!

Links for the Books:

The Bad Things UK      

The Bad Things US      

After She Fell UK        

After She Fell US         

Social media:


Twitter:           @mrsmjriley

Instagram:       maryjanerileyauthor


mary-jane riley copy

Mary-Jane wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite
typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had
adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton
had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild
West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and
became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has
covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest
events of the past two decades. AFTER SHE FELL is her second
crime thriller. Her first, THE BAD THINGS, was an Amazon Kindle top
40 seller in the UK and US.
blog tours, book extract

Blog Tour: Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency by Kitty French.

I am really excited to be part of the blog tour for Melody Bittersweet and The Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency. I mean have you ever heard a better name for a book?! I’ve heard lots of talk about it too and how funny it is so it’s great that If Only I Could Read Faster can give you the first chapter to read before you click to buy it!


An absolutely hilarious, totally entertaining, spookily sexy read that you won’t be able to put down!

Life’s tricky for Melody Bittersweet. She’s single, she’s addicted to sugar and super heroes, her family are officially bonkers and … she sees dead people. Is it any wonder no-one’s swiping right on Tinder? 
Waking up lonely on her twenty-seventh birthday, Melody finally snaps. She can’t carry on basing all of her life decisions on the advice of her magic 8 ball; things havegot to change. 

Fast forward two months, and she’s now the proud proprietor of her very own ghostbusting agency – kind of like in the movies but without the dodgy white jumpsuits. She’s also flirting with her ex Leo Dark, fraternising with her sexy enemy in alleyways, and she’s somehow ended up with a pug called Lestat. 

Life just went from dull to dynamite and it’s showing no sign of slowing up anytime soon. Melody’s been hired to clear Scarborough House of its incumbent ghosts, there’s the small matter of a murder to solve, and then there are the two very handsome, totally inappropriate men hoping to distract her from the job… 

Welcome to Chapelwick, home of the brand new and hilarious Girls Ghostbusting Agency series, where things really do go bump in the night. 

Melody Bittersweet and The Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency

Chapter One

‘So, what do you do with your spare time, Melody?’

I look my date square in his pretty brown eyes and lie to him. ‘Oh, you know. The usual.’ I shrug to convey how incredibly normal I am. ‘I read a lot . . . Go to the movies. That kind of thing.’

I watch Lenny digest my words, and breathe a sigh of relief when his eyes brighten.

‘Which genre?’

‘Movies or books?’ I ask, stalling for time because, in truth, I don’t get much in the way of spare time to do either.

‘Movies. Action or romance? No, let me guess.’ He narrows his eyes and studies me intently. ‘You look like a sucker for a rom-com.’

‘Do I?’ I’m genuinely surprised. I’m five foot three and look more like Wednesday Addams than a Disney princess. Maybe Wednesday Addams is over-egging it, but you get the idea; I’m brunette and my dress sense errs on the side of edgy. I don’t think anyone has ever looked at me and thought whimsy. Maybe Lenny sees something everyone else has missed, me included. I quite like that idea, mainly because everyone who knows my family has a head full of preconceptions about me, based on the fact that my family are all crackers.

Four Weddings?’ He shrugs hopefully.

I nod, not mentioning that the only part of that particular movie I enjoyed was the funeral.

The Holiday?’

Again, I try to look interested and hold my tongue, because I’m sure he doesn’t want to hear that I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than ever watch an over-optimistic Kate Winslet drag some old guy around a swimming pool again.

I’m relieved when the bill arrives and we can get out of there, because so far Lenny has turned out to be a pretty stellar guy and somehow I’ve managed to convince him that I walk on the right side of the tracks. Maybe this time, things will be different.

Lenny pulls his dull, salesman’s saloon into the cobbled cartway beside my building and kills the engine. I don’t mind dull. In fact, my life could really use a bit of dull right now, so I shoot him my most seductive smile, cross my fingers that my mother will be in bed, and invite him in for coffee.

Oh, just when it had all been going so well. Why couldn’t I have just given him a goodnight kiss, with maybe the smallest hint of tongue as a promise, then sent him on his way? He’d have called for a second date, I’m sure of it.

But no. I got greedy, pulled him by the hand through the dark back door, placing my finger against my lips to signal he should be quiet as we tip-toed past my mother’s apartment and up the old wooden staircase to my place.

He rests his hand on my waist as I turn the key, and a small thrill shoots down my back. Look at me, winning at this being-an-adult thing today! Dinner with an attractive man, sparkling conversation, and now back to mine for coffee . . . and maybe even a little fooling around. It’s not that I’m a virgin or anything, but it would be fair to call my love life patchy of late. By ‘of late’ I mean the last two years, ever since Leo Dark and I called things off. Well, by Leo and I, I mean Leo called things off, citing conflict of interests. Ha. Given that he was referring to the fact that my mad-as-a-bag-of-cats family are the only other psychics in town besides him, he was, at least in part, right.

But enough of Leo and my lamentable love life. Right now, all I want is for Lenny not to know anything at all about my peculiar family, to keep seeing me as a cool, regular, completely normal girl, and then to kiss me.

‘You remind me of Clara Oswald,’ Lenny whispers behind me at the top of the stairs. ‘All big brown eyes and clever one-liners. It’s very sexy.’

Lord, I think he’s just brushed a kiss against the back of my neck! My door sticks sometimes so I shoulder it open, aiming for firm and graceful but, I fear, ending up looking more like a burly police SWAT guy ramming it down. Thankfully, Lenny seems to take it in his stride and follows me into my apartment. Then I flick on the table lamp only to discover that my mother is standing on my coffee table in a too-short, too-sheer, baby-blue negligee with her arms raised towards the ceiling and her head thrown back.

‘Shit!’ Lenny swears down my ear, clearly startled. He isn’t to blame. My mother’s a striking woman, ballerina-tall and slender with silver hair that falls in waves well beyond her shoulder blades. It isn’t grey. It’s been pure silver since the day she was born, and right now she looks as if she’s just been freshly crucified on my coffee table.

I sigh as I drop my bag down by the lamp. So much for me being normal.

‘Err, mother?’

Slowly, she takes several heaving breaths and opens her eyes, changing from crazy lady to almost normal human lady. She stares at us.

‘For God’s sake, Melody,’ she grumbles, taking her hands from above her head and planting them on her hips. ‘I almost had the connection then. He’s hiding out in the loft, I’m sure of it.’

I risk a glance over my shoulder at Lenny, who sure isn’t kissing my neck anymore.

He lifts his eyebrows at me, a silent ‘what the hell?’ and then looks away when my mother beckons to him like a siren luring a fisherman onto the rocks.

‘Your hand, please, young man.’

‘No!’ I almost yell, but Lenny is already across the room with his hand out to help her down. My mother eyes me slyly as she steps from the table, keeping a firm hold of Lenny’s hand.

‘Long lifeline,’ she murmurs, tracing her red talon across Lenny’s palm.

‘Mother,’ I warn, but my somber, cautionary tone falls on her selectively deaf ears. I expected nothing else, because she’s pulled this trick before. Admittedly, the standing-on-the-table thing is a new twist, but she’s got form in scoping out my prospective boyfriends to make sure they’ll fit in with our screwball family from the outset. Not that her romantic gauge is something to put any stock in; Leo passed her tests with flying colours and look how that ended up. I got my heart broken and he got a spot on morning TV as the resident psychic. Where’s the justice in that?

Look, we may as well get the clanky old skeleton out of the family closet early on here, people. It’s going to come out sooner or later, and despite my attempts to pull the wool over Lenny’s eyes, there’s never any running away from this thing for long.

My name’s Melody Bittersweet, and I see dead people.

It’s not only me. I’m just the latest in a long line of Bittersweets to have the gift, or the curse, depending on how you look at it. My family has long since celebrated our weirdness; hence the well-established presence of our family business, Blithe Spirits, on Chapelwick High Street. We’ve likely been here longer than the actual chapel at the far end of the street. That’s probably why, by and large, we’re accepted by the residents of the town, in a ‘they’re a bunch of eccentrics, but they’re our bunch of eccentrics,’ kind of way. What began as a tiny, mullion-windowed, one-room shop has spread out along the entire row over the last two hundred years; we now own a run of three terraced properties haphazardly knocked into one, big, rambling place that is both business and home to not only me, but also to my mother, Silvana, and her mother, Dicey. Gran’s name isn’t actually Dicey, it’s Paradise, officially, but she’s gone by Dicey ever since she met my Grandpa Duke on her fifteenth birthday and he wrote Dicey and Duke inside a chalk heart on the back wall of the building. He may as well have written it on her own racing heart.


Speak of the devil. Does no one go to bed around here?

I open my door to find Gran on the threshold with her hand raised, poised to knock. I guess I should be glad she’s slightly more respectably dressed, if a floor-length, purple shot-silk kimono, bearing huge technicolor dragons could be considered as such. Her usually pin-curled gold hair is piled elegantly on her head and she wears a slash of fire-engine-scarlet lipstick for good measure. Most people couldn’t carry the look off, but thanks to her poise, confidence and couldn’t-care-less attitude, Grandma Dicey wears it with artful success. She glides past me without invitation and gazes at my mother and Lenny, who are still hand-in-hand on the rug.


First thing tomorrow morning, I swear, I’m going to look for a new place to live, somewhere, anywhere, that is not in the same building as my mother and my gran. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a charming old place and I love my family dearly. It’s not even as if I don’t have my own space here, because, theoretically at least, I do. Mum and Gran have the ground floor apartment behind Blithe Spirits, and I have the smaller flat upstairs, at the back. In lots of ways this makes me fortunate; I get to have a nice little home of my own and stay close to my family. It would all be fine and dandy, were it not for the fact that my family are officially bonkers and liable to come up and let themselves into my flat – using the spare key I gave them for dire emergencies only – and embarrass the shit out of me.

‘Why is Silvana entertaining a man half her age in your flat?’ Gran looks from me to my mother. ‘You should have said you were expecting company, darling. I’d have gone out.’ She touches her hand lightly against her hair. ‘Put a towel on the doorknob or something, isn’t that the modern way to signal these things? Don’t come a knockin’ if the caravan’s rockin’?’

She looks spectacularly pleased with herself, and one glance at Lenny tells me that he knows he’s way out of his depth with these two and is in the process of writing me off as the worst date he’s ever had. His eyes slide from me to the door, and I can almost hear him begging me to let him go unharmed.

‘He’s not mum’s date, he’s mine. Or else, he was,’ I mutter, and then I’m distracted as a beer-bellied pensioner in a soup-stained shirt slowly materialises through the ceiling, his flannel trousers not quite meeting his bony ankles. Stay with me; I see dead people, remember? As do my mother and my grandmother, who also watch him descend with matching expressions of distaste.

‘Finally,’ my mother spits, dropping Lenny’s hand so she can round on the new arrival. ‘Two hours I’ve been chasing you around this bloody building. Your wife wants to know what you’ve done with the housekeeping she’d hidden in the green teapot. She says you better not have lost it on the horses or she’s had it with you.’

Grandma Dicey rolls her eyes. ‘I rather think she’s had it with him anyway. He’s been dead for six weeks.’

‘You’re a fine one to talk, given that you still sleep with your husband twenty years after he died.’ Mother flicks her silver hair sharply. Touché.

Lenny whimpers and bolts for my front door, turning back to me just long enough to splutter ‘something’s come up, gotta go,’ before he hoofs it out and down the stairs two at a time.

I listen to the outside door bang on its hinges and wonder what came up. Probably his dinner.

Author bio:
Kitty French lives in the Black Country with her husband, two young sons and two crazy cats. She’s a lover of all things romantic – songs, music, and most of all, books. 
Her USA Today best-selling Lucien Knight series topped the erotic chart on both sides of the pond, and she also writes romantic comedy as Kat French for Avon, HarperCollins. She’s over the moon to join Bookouture with her brand new paranormal romantic comedy series, Melody Bittersweet and the Girls Ghostbusting Agency.

Melody Bittersweet and The Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency by Kitty French is out now and available from  Amazon UK and Amazon US.

2*, book review

Review: The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish

the swimming pool
The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish
I really struggled with this book and in the end I gave it 2*, I don’t know why this book just didn’t work for me when it has so many good reviews.

‘I can’t take my eyes off the water. Can you?’

It’s summer when Elm Hill lido opens, having stood empty for years. For Natalie Steele – wife, mother, teacher – it offers freedom from the tightly controlled routines of work and family. Especially when it leads her to Lara Channing, a charismatic former actress with a lavish bohemian lifestyle, who seems all too happy to invite Natalie into her elite circle.

Soon Natalie is spending long days at the pool, socializing with new friends and basking in a popularity she didn’t know she’d been missing. Real life, and the person she used to be, begins to feel very far away.

But is such a change in fortunes too good to be true? Why are dark memories of a summer long ago now threatening to surface? And, without realizing, could Natalie have been swept dangerously out of her depth?


‘I was quite excited to read The Swimming Pool. Another author that I really like had such high praise for it that I was sure it was going to be good. The book started well, and then it just kept going and going and going, but it wasn’t really going anywhere.

I do read a lot of thrillers, which tend to start with a bang, so I do have to remind myself when reading other genres that they have a slower pace. But The Swimming Pool didn’t actually get anywhere at all. At 26% things seemed to pick up and I thought here we go, and so I read and I read and I read and I thought that I must surely be nearly finished, and then I checked and was only 56% in. It was only my belief that the author that loved it wouldn’t let me down that made me keep going, I normally give up on books that are like this.

While The Swimming Pool is very well written and I felt that the author was particularly good at setting scenes meaning I can picture in my head many of the places from the book very clearly, and there are many reviews praising the writing, but for me there was something missing. I often read books with characters in that I do not like, but the main character in The Swimming Pool was not just unlikeable but so loathsome that I struggled to tolerate reading about her. Her behaviour and thinking were so bizarre for someone of her age that it just made no sense. The other characters were better, and all believable and well written, but those that could have been more interesting often had small parts.

The Swimming Pool generally gets really positive reviews, for whatever reason this book and I just did not click. It took me nine days to read it which is slow for me, even though I’m a slow reader. But everyone else can’t be totally wrong, so maybe don’t take my word for it?

I received a copy of The Swimming Pool from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review.’

The Swimming Pool is available now from Amazon UK, it will be released in America in January 2017 but is currently available on audiobook now.
blog tours, guest author

Blog Tour: Prima Facie by Netta Newbound


I’m delighted to kick off the blog tour for Netta Newbound’s Prima Facie today. Although book 4 in the Adam Stanley series Prima Facie can be read as a standalone book. If you look on Goodreads you will see that all of Netta’s books get good reviews and are well worth reading. I love that she has written about ‘writing about shocking and sensitive subjects’ for If Only I Could Read Faster today because Netta’s book, An Impossible Dilemma, had a number of scenes that were so shocking and graphic that they have stayed with me long after finishing the book. Netta has a real talent and I thoroughly recommend her books.

Writing about shocking and sensitive subjects.

When I first decided to write a book, I found myself approaching certain scenes with fear – tiptoeing around them, giving only the most basic details. It wasn’t because I didn’t know what to write about, in fact the opposite was true. I was wary of exposing my thoughts –always in the back of my mind I worried about how I’d feel if my parents read them.

It didn’t take me long to realise I wouldn’t get very far with this approach. I found the best way to get over the fear was to just write the scene—however graphic, and worry about the rest later. At first I felt as though I was doing something illicit, I’d slam the laptop closed if anybody entered the room, my face turning crimson. Once the scene was written, I read it over and over again. Each time it became a little less shocking than the last. Then, once I was familiar with every word, I asked a friend to read it. This was the scariest part and I still get butterflies to this day when I hand over a new piece of work.

On the whole, I’ve got away with the sick scenes. I don’t do sick purely for sick’s sake, but the awful events in my books are needed to drive the story forward. In Behind Shadows for example—Amanda, as a child, had been a victim of her father’s paedophile ring. When, years later, her father is released from prison, he and a couple of his cronies turn up dead. The subject is sick, but whichever way we look at it, this kind of thing happens in every walk of life. I didn’t glorify the abuse; however I needed some graphic scenes in order to justify the actions of the killer. Nine times out of ten I find myself writing about killers I hope the reader can identify with.

Another thing I avoid doing is filling the pages with gratuitous sex scenes. I’m far from prudish, and will add one if I feel the scene calls for it, but I refuse to describe in detail the same thing over and over again. Now I’m not knocking erotica or sizzling romance, but I figure if a person wants this particular genre they wouldn’t be looking at my books.

Netta Newbound Psychological Thriller Author




Blurb for Prima Facie:

In this fast-moving suspense novel, Detective Adam Stanley searches for Miles Muldoon, a hardworking, career-minded businessman, and Pinevale’s latest serial killer.

Evidence puts Muldoon at each scene giving the police a prima facie case against him.

But as the body count rises, and their suspect begins taunting them, this seemingly simple case develops into something far more personal when Muldoon turns his attention to Adam and his family.

Prima Facie is available now from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

blog tours, guest author

Blog Tour: The Good Kind of Bad by Rita Brassington

I’m delighted to have Rita Brasington on If Only I Could Read Faster today talking about qualifications for writing. Rita’s book The Good Kind of Bad is, according to many, a very good read and I look forward to reading and reviewing it soon.

Qualifications for writing by Rita Brassington:

Well, I have a GCSE in English…

A double first in English from Cambridge – that’s what I’d like to write on my literary CV, but I can’t. I never went to Cambridge, or Oxford, or Edinburgh, or King’s. I do possess an honours degree from UCLan, and university diploma from Durham, though not in the literary field. With so many writers graduating from prestigious universities with an armful of certificates/attending writing courses/intensive workshops/working in the print industry in various guises, it forced me to take a look at my own credentials.

I have a GCSE in English Literature. I got an A, in 1999, though how much of producing a good read is letters after your name and which portion is a good imagination? I agree that writing has to be taught, at whatever level. No one is born knowing how to read and write (the reading being just as important as the writing). I toyed with the idea of taking a course after I’d completed most of my life in education, but that was after I’d written my book. Writing The Good Kind of Bad almost felt like a ‘bet’ to myself to see if I could do it – I’d never planned on writing a book so hadn’t looked into educating myself on how to achieve it first. I had always enjoyed putting pen to paper, but it was short stories or diary entries – nothing quite as mammoth as a full-length novel.

Maybe it doesn’t matter to the reader whether they’re perusing the work of an Oxbridge graduate. I doubt they’d ever know unless they actively sought out their bio. Maybe it only matters to me, that somehow I would be a better writer because I’d donned a cap and gown. Of course, different experiences produce different work, and each audience will seek out their preferred pitch.

Does it matter to me, really, if I don’t have the literary degree?

Nah. I wrote a book. I did it. And people like it. That’s all that matters. Anyone can write. You just need some gentle guidance along the way to turn it from a dream to a reality.

To anyone who is thinking of writing a book, I’d definitely recommend it, whether you’ve got the ‘credentials’ or not. What’s the worst that could happen? It could take over your life, you might never finish it, or you might become a bestseller. There’s nothing better than a stranger taking a chance on you, buying your book, then telling you how great it was. No amount of education can prepare you for that, and that’s a good thing.

Every time I beat myself up over my work, thinking it could be better, that I could have done things differently if only I’d had the certificates to back me up, my friends give me a reality check. They ask if I’ve seen their book in the Kindle Top 100 recently. No. Why? Because they haven’t written a book. They remind me how proud I should be of myself, and of what I’ve achieved in even finishing it.

Success and failure are measured by how you look at them. Deep down, of course I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.

Now, where’s that Cambridge application form…


The Good Kind of Bad is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US now.

Rita Brassington can be found on her websiteFacebook and Twitter.


4*, book review

Review: Dead Secret by Ava McCarthy

dead secret
Dead Secret by Ava McCarthy


From the author of the Harry Martinez thrillers comes a gripping psychological suspense novel. Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Haynes and Gone Girl.

Two quick shots. One for him. One for you.

After the death of her three-year-old daughter, Jodie has nothing left to live for – or almost nothing.

She has one task to fulfil before she takes her own life. And that’s to kill the man she holds responsible for her daughter’s death – her seemingly perfect husband, Ethan.

But Ethan is hiding more than just his true nature. And as more horrifying secrets from his past emerge, Jodie’s strength will be pushed to the limit…

My 4* review:

Dead Secret is the first book that I’ve read by Ava McCarthy, and I’d be more than happy for it not to be the last.

I really enjoyed Dead Secret. It wasn’t brilliantly written, with amazing characters and the most amazing storyline ever. But that didn’t stop it being a damn good read. I just enjoyed reading it, I wanted to know what happened and I enjoyed the twists and turns that the book took.

Dead Secret is a good, easy and enjoyable read. You don’t need to think too hard but it will make you think.

I was given a copy of Dead Secret by the publishers via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Dead Secret is available now on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

4*, blog tours, book review, guest author

Blog Tour: When The Killing Starts by RC Bridgestock

I’m delighted to have Carol and Bob aka RC Bridgestock on If Only I Could Read Faster today as part of their blog tour for When The Killing Starts which was released yesterday. First I have a guest post from them followed by my 4* review. Enjoy!

From Fact to Fiction – A job like no other…

It is often said that we should ‘write what we knowand so far that method has worked for us. But then again we write crime fiction, and between us we have nearly 50 years of police experience. This unique combination has enabled us to create our down-to-earth character Detective Inspector Jack Dylan, with warmth and humour because he is loosely based on Bob. Dylan’s partner Jen is also loosely based on me, very loosely I might add… And some traits of characters you meet in the Dylan series are also taken from those we’ve met ‘in the job’ – a profession often regarded as ‘a job like no other’.

It is one thing reading or writing fictional crime novels or watching them on TV; but why would anyone want to deal with the aftermath of man’s inhumanity to man, or be able to? Questions like this makes me wonder if ‘life’ prepares us for what’s to come …

Bob spent his school holidays on his grandparent’s farm, he had a paper round before and after school and his Saturday job was in a butchers. Leaving Grammar school before the mock exams, because he was offered an apprenticeship, meant that he had no academic qualifications, and he soon realised after qualifying as a butcher that unless he owned a shop there was little money in it. So, with a young family to provide for he went to work in a dye works. He stuck it our for two years. The money was good but when he saw colleagues with terrible burns, and when he blew his nose it gave off the colours of a rainbow, he knew enough was enough.

He had encountered three runs-in’s with the police in his young life. Once when he was five; his brother gave him a fog detonator that he had taken from the railway line. Bob being smart knew it wasn’t the watch his elder said it was and he threw it away. His railway inspector father found out what he had done and knowing how dangerous the detonators could be, immediately called the police. A short ride in a blue and white Morris 1000 police van took him to the ‘scene of the crime’, in the company of a stern looking police officer. Bob got a clip round the ear for wasting police time and another from his dad when he got home. The second incident was in his butchering days. Returning home on the bus one dark night, over the moors, from the slaughter house, the bus was stopped and a police officer climbed onboard. After speaking to the driver the officer walked slowly down the aisle, his eyes only for Bob. He grabbed the young butcher boy by the scruff of the neck and escorted him unceremoniously off. Apparently an eagle-eyed passenger had caught sight of Bob’s blood splattered smock which was tucked neatly under his arm, and on alighting promptly informed the police. Bob assumed the blue and white apron might’ve given the police officer a clue as to his profession, but nevertheless he was given a clip around the ear for wasting police time and told to put it in a plastic bag next time. He and was left by the side of the road to walk the four miles home – his allocated bus fare already spent! On the third occasion he was quietly enjoying his ‘pie and peas’ from the van in Birstall market square after a night out, when a copper barked at him to ‘move’! Before Bob could say, ‘Bob’s your uncle,’ he was thrown into the back of a police van with a dog that, if it wasn’t called Bite, it should’ve been. Luckily on this occasion the officer got an urgent call and Bob was released promptly with another clip around the ear.

So he decided, if he couldn’t beat them he might as well join them…

But please don’t despair if you haven’t walked the walk and talked the talk. You already know more than you think…

Eight years ago we had never put pen to paper – some confidence for those just about to start writing their first novel. The bad news is on hearing the words write what you know I have seen faces immediately show defeat. But, these four short words can be misleading, build barrier as well as impose limitations on the imagination, and breed uncertainty.

The good news is that we all know a lot more than we think we do. Funny, it took me years to realise that little snippet of wisdom! What we ‘knowisnt just what our everyday material life we live. It is so much more…

For instance, we all know what scares us, what being frightened feels like, how we react if we touch something hot or cold, or smell something rancid. Its that knowledge that we, the author has to draw upon to make our stories believable to others. Your fears of the dark, pain, the unknown, are other peoples fears too. You know what prompts these feelings just as much as the other primal emotions of happiness, sadness and anger; for these are a range of feelings that we all share as human beings. Just remember that when you are writing your story to make those emotions/reactions real to your reader.

Everyone knows what it feels like to have the sun on your back, to sit in front of a nice warm fire and feel snuggled, warm, safe; to fall over and scrape your knee you probably did that hundreds of times as a child.

Think also of the other senses. What do you hear?

You know full well how you react to a loud bang and how others do too. Or what your body does when you put something tart in your mouth. By sharing those sensations the reader will immediately know how your character is feeling too. For example, Daisy put a slice of lemon in her mouth and pulled a sour face. We dont need to add, she recoiled and cringed at the tangy taste because we, the reader, can imagine it.

So, by drawing upon what you share with others youve instantly created a rapport between you, your reader and your character, and this trigger in turn will help share emotions. This in turn will help you build a place. What do you see? The place is irrelevant you could be in a garden, a lounge, a bedroom… Now, as you move on you’ll begin to realise that the situations that you ‘knowdoes not necessarily have to happen where it happened to you. This experience could happen anywhere you want – even in another time, or in a fictional world.

The next step is to create a character – someone who we want people to remember whether they love, hate or feel indifferent towards. Give them a look, a trait, a catch-phrase that is unforgettable – for instance, do you remember Kojak the big, bald, hard-nosed detective with a lollipop addiction who constantly said, ‘Who Loves Ya Baby? See what I mean?

To make characters in stories in the past or the future come alive we do our research to find out what the fashion was, transport, the technology of the time. Research is another form of knowing.

You will need to know how to make them real today.

Remember people are people, no matter where or when they lived. They will all have experienced love, hate and curiosity just like you and me. Even if your characters are from another planet, or exist in some futuristic land you’re going to have to give them traits that your readers can identify with, here and now so the story will work.

So, taking what you have and what you know, from experience and research you can make-believe….

A storys success is only waiting to be shaped by your imagination.

Now what are you waiting for?

We often get asked how we write together.

Bob writes the police procedural which is the main storyline for each DI Jack Dylan novel. All the Dylan books stand alone in terms of the crime story. He writes this with the ‘mask’ of the detective clearly on, as he doesn’t concentrate on the victims background until the evidence is given to him by way of it being revealed to the investigation team. The initial crime scene in mind he writes through the enquiry. The reader of a Dylan book is firmly sat on the detectives shoulder throughout both in his professional life and at home treating them to all the highs and lows of any case he takes charge of.

Once the crime has been solved I get the narrative and I start from the beginning – Bob doesn’t do a re-write – that’s my job. I write the home-life storyline, the emotion. I draw out of Bob his ‘real’ feelings and write the scenes from his sometimes harrowing descriptions. Personally I think writing has been cathartic for Bob. Bob says its work! We’re lucky to write procedurals as there is never a case of not knowing how to move the story forward.

However, we don’t write about factual murders. We have too much respect for the victims, or the relatives of the victims who have already suffered enough; but every crime scene we write about Bob has seen. Every post-mortem is etched in his sub conscious forever: all he has to do is draw on the memory of the incident. He will never forget. The family saga which ties the books as a series also allows a new storyline in each book so the books do truly stand alone and this is due to us watching the couple grow, as well as their family with all the drama that brings…

When The Killing StartsDi Jack Dylan (Book 7) released 30th June 2016

All DI Jack Dylan books also stand-alone.

RC Bridgestock –

Caffeine Nights Publishers –

DHH Literary Agency –

My 4* Review of When The Killing Starts:

When the Killing Starts is the seventh book in the D.I. Jack Dylan series. However, it is the first book in the series that I have read and I had no problem keeping up so it can easily be read as a standalone book.

RC Bridgestock is in fact two people, a husband and wife team who now write together (and do a huge amount of amazing charity work).

Perhaps because it is written by an ex police officer, this book felt really real and true to life. Dylan’s relationship with his wife felt particularly genuine which may well be down to the real life experience of the other half of the writing team.

The main storyline in When the Killing Starts is focused on the frankly evil Devlin brothers. I found their part of the story really good, and I enjoyed reading about how Dylan was tracking them down. While Dylan is running that investigation he is also overseeing another murder investigation. I found that a bit of a distraction really, I would have preferred it if Dylan had focused on one investigation. Although I do recognise that no doubt in real life they do run multiple investigations at the same time.

If you are new to police procedural books then these are great books to start with. The assumption is made that the reader has little to no knowledge of how police investigations work, so things are explained clearly.

When the Killy Starts is a really good book, it is well written and I will definitely be reading more from RC Bridgestock and D.I. Dylan.

I received a copy of When the Killy starts from the authors in return for an honest review.

You can buy When The Killing Starts from Amazon UK and Amazon US now.
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RC Bridgestock