blog tours, guest author, how to

Blog Tour: Guest Post by Angela Corner Author of The Hidden Island.


I’m delighted to have Angela Corner, author of The Hidden Island on If only I could read faster today giving us some writing advice. As I’m still trying to finish my NaNoWriMo project I’m still really interested in getting all the advice that I can and I have to say that I found a lot of what Angela had to say interesting. I hope that you do too!

Writing Advice

Do you write every day or wait for inspiration to strike?

One of the things I learned for writing for soaps is that if you get up in a morning and wait for inspiration to strike then you’ll never finish anything.  There are days when writing feels easy. The ideas flow, your sentences seem to appear on the page as if by magic, you are ‘in the zone’ and it feels great.  But then there are the days when your mind is blank. The keys on your keyboard might as well be in Chinese. The temptation to eat cake and chocolate or even do some house work is almost impossible to resist.  It is those days when you have to battle and sweat and just write something. Anything. It will feel like total rubbish, and may well be total rubbish, but you have to force yourself to keep writing. It’s a habit, a discipline. And even on those bleak, painful days you may produce something worth keeping. Or the germ of something worth keeping.  

Where do you get your ideas from?

Everywhere. From the news, from family and friends, from eavesdropping on conversations on trains, in pubs and in shops.  There’s a thing called the creative bubble or the creative cloud.  It’s populated by everything going on in the world, locally and nationally.  Everyone can access it and draw inspiration and ideas from it. Sometimes people will reach into the bubble, pull out the same things and come up with very similar ideas at similar times.  It then looks like people are copying each other when in fact they’ve simply got the same ingredients from the bubble and put them together in the same way.

Using friends and family’s experiences – including the most shocking and upsetting ones – as a basis for stories can be difficult to reconcile.  Every time someone confides in you the writer part of you will be thinking of ways it could be made it into a story whereas the ‘human’ part of you will be sympathising and trying to help or console.  It’s a conflict that all writers have and it is essential to keep enough distance between real life experiences and what you use in your stories, either by time or by altering aspects of the story. Otherwise you may end up with no friends and lots of family conflict.

It’s a good idea to have an ideas notepad. You might be working on something else but have a new idea. Write it in your ideas notepad for future reference. It’s very easy – and tempting – to have a great new idea and abandon whatever you’re currently working on to start the new idea. It’s the grass is always greener phenomenon.  New ideas always seem better than the one you’ve been sweating over for weeks and months.  A bit like the excitement of a new relationship. But if you constantly move onto the newest idea you’ll never finish anything. All writers are guilty of it.

Do you plan or make it up as you go along?

All writers are different. Some plan to the nth degree. Others start at chapter one with no idea where they will end up. Most writers are somewhere in between. If you are a writer who has started many books but not managed to finish any then I think planning the structure and major events/turning points is a sensible idea.  It gives you a framework and keeps you focused with certain points to aim for.  With The Hidden Island I started with a fairly detailed plan of each chapter.  This did change to varying degrees as I went along with some aspects removed and others added in.  The original plan included lots of flashbacks to Beckett’s previous investigation on the Island but during the writing process I found this slowed the action too much.   The other big change to the original plan was the ending. This changed when I was writing the synopsis to send off to publishers and agents. In writing the two page synopsis (easily the most difficult part of novel writing!) I realised the original ending wasn’t working as well as I’d liked and a different ending popped into my head.  I put the new ending in the synopsis and then rewrote the final chapter.

My writing day

It’s important, or at least to me, to get into a writing routine. Most writers seem to have a routine that suits them and their lifestyle and mine has had to adapt to changes in my own life.  My preferred time of day to write is actually in the evening and on into the early hours.  However this routine is not conducive to a healthy relationship!  I also struggle to write if anyone else is in the house.  Complete immersion in my made up worlds requires no real world distractions.  So my writing routine now means writing during the day whilst the house is empty. I have a minimum word count of 1000 words a day.  If the writing is going well then I will continue on past 1000 words and keep going until I get beaten by the clock or simply feel too tired to carry on.  If it’s one of those struggling days I will write my 1000 words and then stop but I will make myself do a 1000 words however long it takes and however horrible those 1000 words feel.

Edit as you go or just keep going?

It’s tempting to start each new day by going back over what you’ve written the day before and rewriting it.  But this can really stall all forward motion.  I will edit as I go during the day but once that day’s writing is done, in general, I won’t go back over it the following day. There are exceptions to this – if something really isn’t working, or if I get a lightbulb moment that evening about a new way of doing things or an extra story strand to add.  It’s important to keep going and bury any self-doubt until you’ve got to the final full stop, of the final sentence, of the final chapter.  Then put the manuscript aside for a few weeks, or months. Work on something else. Start a new book, or at least the research and planning of a new book, before picking up your first draft and beginning the editing process.

The Hidden Island by Angela Corner is available now from Amazon UK and Amazon US.


The Hidden Island: an edge of your seat crime thriller

Sex. Drugs. Murder.

Hidden behind the crystal seas and beautiful beaches of a Greek Island dark and dangerous secrets lurk. Beckett has had his fill of adrenaline fuelled criminal investigation and with a broken body and damaged career goes to the Greek Island of Farou to head up the Criminal Investigation Bureau. Serious crime is rare, the weather is great and the beer is cold but his ‘retirement’ is cut short when a pagan cult resurrects and bodies start showing up.

With doubts about his mental and physical ability to do the job, a British police detective is sent to help with the investigation. DI Lee Harper is everything Beckett is not – young, ambitious and by the book.

As well as tackling the new case Beckett must overcome the demons from his past.

Family loyalty, power and money are at the source of the investigation where appearance is everything and nothing is what is seems.

Can Beckett and Harper work together to find justice for the victims?

Will the idyllic island ever be the same again?

Sometimes paradise can be hell.

“This gritty thriller is a brilliantly plotted and refreshing read. Angela Corner is one to watch for those who like their books with a bit more bite” Betsy Reavley, best-selling author of The Quiet Ones, The Optician’s Wife and Frailty.

Angela Corner is a debut author who mastered her craft as a screenwriter on top serial dramas including Eastenders and Hollyoaks. The Hidden Island is the perfect read for fans of authors like Lisa Hall, Katerina Diamond, Kathryn Croft and Caroline Mitchell
blog tours, guest author

Blog Tour: Only The Dead by Malcolm Hollingdrake

only the dead bt.jpg

Today on If only I could read faster we have Malcolm Hollingdrake answering some questions about writing including where he does it, what he finds hard and what he reads.

Where do you write?

 I write wherever I can, providing that place is stationary! Trains, planes, boats and cars are out of bounds. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to but I suffer from acute travel sickness so that’s out. I’ll write anywhere at home but a favourite spot is with my back to a south-facing window at the end of the dining table. Unfortunately, my detritus, research really, tends to be spread alongside me too. In an ideal world, I’d like a room where I can leave everything and just close the door. One day!


Ideas come at the most inopportune times. I now use my phone to jot down notes and ideas or make a voice memo. On so many occasions in the past something has come to mind and I have arrogantly said to myself that it’s so important I’ll not forget and then…gone! It was ever thus. Now, next to the bed, I keep a notepad and pencil for when, on rare occasions, I have an awakening Eureka moment.

I have always been a people watcher and this is a wonderful writer’s trait. Noting the way people move, the way they interact and speak can only help create and develop real characters. Sometimes, a chance conversation, a saying or colloquialism will often spark an idea that can be used or developed. The other week, my wife was on the phone and she was put on hold during which time music was played, you know the type, as if it’s played on a Jew’s harp; it was Handel’s Water Music. She turned and said, “This music is making me want to pee!” I nearly wet myself and so it was used in the latest book.

The hard part for me, names!

 Names! Naming characters is the bane of my writing life. If I had a pound for the number of times I’ve ended up with two characters with the same surname in the same novel! Christian names are fine providing you don’t have three in the same book. That can be confusing! Strange, but as I’m writing I’m blind to the errors. It’s only when I sit and read through do I see the mistakes. I’m grateful too for the sharp eyes of the editors who have found the odd faux pas.

I take names from everywhere, directories, and advertising, even the side of vans if they seem appropriate. Occasionally, people will ask to be added to a novel, selecting the character to suit their inner angel or devil! I know authors who have offered this service as a prize. A great idea! Anyone want to be in a novel?

 What do I read?

 Strangely, I try to leave crime fiction alone for fear of either picking up an idea or an author’s style. I like my own. In the past I have enjoyed reading Robert Ryan, his blend of fact and fiction really captivates. Ranulph Fiennes has a similar style and for me he’s a real hero. ‘The Feather Men’ has to be a favourite. The other year I was lucky enough to hear him speak about his experiences, truly staggering achievements. I also love short stories, any collective cornucopia that I can dip into in no particular order appeals; one of my favourite writers has to be Saki. Most of my reads at present tend to be non-fiction, books related to Northern Art and artists. If I were to be honest, my writing takes a good deal of my time and I just love creating a different world! As someone said, I just make it up and write it down!

If I were to take three books to read again on a desert island;

‘Sagittarius Rising’ – Cecil Lewis

‘The Shepherd’ – Frederick Forsyth

‘Nangaparbat Pilgrimage’ (The Lonely Challenge) – Herman Buhl

Thank you so much for coming to visit us, Malcolm!

Malcolm’s book, Only The Dead, is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

guest author, how to

Guest Post: Confessions of a self-published author by Oli Jacobs.

I love this guest post by Oli Jacobs about self-publishing. Many authors self-publish and I always wondered how it worked, and now I know! Thanks so much Oli for coming to visit us on If Only I Could Read Faster!

Confessions of a self-published author

By Oli Jacobs

 Hello. My name is Oli Jacobs, and I’m an alcoholic.

            No, wait, that’s not right. I’m actually a self-published author. Well, alright, it’s kind of the same thing, but not really.

Let me explain… I’ve been self-publishing my work since 2012, when I looked at the vast amount of unfilmed scripts and short stories I had hanging around my hard drive. Rather than let them waste away in a digital landfill, I decided to throw them all together, do a quick edit, and send them out into the big, wide world.

Hence, Filmic Cuts v1: Sunshine & Lollipops was born.

It was a proud moment, I may have shed a tear.

What it also was, was the beginning of an adventure filled with dizzying highs, crushing lows, and creamy middles. I’ve published a number of books since across a range of genres and seen good reviews, bad reviews, and general waves of apathy. And now, I pass onto you, the good readers of If Only I Could Read Faster, my Oli Jacobs approved steps to becoming a self-published author.

May God help you…

STEP 1: Write a book

This is the easiest part, I kid you not.

Obviously you wouldn’t want to get into self-publishing unless you wanted to write a book, unless you’re a curious sort who likes looking at things. Therefore, to self-publish you’ve got to actually, you know, write a book. Be it Fiction, Non-Fiction, a Graphic Novel or anything in-between, write it, type it, and get it done.

STEP 2: Edit your book

You’re not going to strike gold first time.

Trust me, even the best don’t bowl a perfect game. Once you’ve written your book, pass it to someone to proof-read for you, and make notes on what could be improved and how many times you’ve used “their” instead of “there”. Now, there are plenty of good proof-readers out there willing to look over your work. You can find them on various sites such as Fiverr (where a certain Mr J resides…), People Per Hour, or various other freelance websites.

However, if like me you are a poor, struggling writer, then search out a trusted friend. This gives you the bonus of having what could be considered an average reader look over your work, and also being able to pay them in resources like beer, or hugs.

After that, it’s a simple case of checking the notes, making the edits, and then polishing your work so it’s the best darn writing you’ve ever seen.

And seriously, don’t proof your own work. I made this mistake with Underneath and got the reviews to pay for it. Don’t be a jerk, get someone to proof-read your work.

(That sounded better in my head…)

STEP 3: Publish your book

It is time.

You’ve written your tome, had it looked over by someone else, edited it to within an inch of its life, and now you’re ready to push it into the big wide world.

But how do you do that?

Self-publishing has moved on tremendously since the vanity press of old. Not only do you have sites like and Smashwords, but big companies like Amazon are more than happy to create your literary baby. In fact, they are who I first went with, taking advantage of their Kindle Direct Publishing platform, where you can upload your book to sell via their Kindle service. In addition, if you want a juicy paperback, you can use Createspace as well and have everything wrapped up in a neat Amazon bundle.

Now obviously, publishing a book is more than just heavily edited words. For a paperback, you’ll need an ISBN, and while in the past you’d need to fork out some cash for some price numerical action, nowadays publishers like Lulu and Amazon provide an ISBN for you, meaning you can still save yourself some of that sweet, sweet whisky money.

Also, you’ll want your work to look dazzling, with a cover that speaks volumes. While the aforementioned websites offer cover design services, look out for independent artists who may be able to whip something up that is unique and visually sells your story. Personally, I use British graphic designer CM Carter and Canadian graphic novelist Elaine Will, who I shamelessly plug with a hearty thumbs up.

STEP 4: Market your book

Now here comes the tricky part.

Yes, everything up until now was easy. The writing, the editing, the publishing… all small fry compared to the big elephant in the self-publishing room: Marketing.

As good as your book is, it won’t get anywhere without people seeing it, so you’ll need to showcase it like a wonderful stallion. Social media is good for this, such as Facebook and Twitter, but also look into forums at Goodreads and, of course, Amazon. Here, you can meet likeminded individuals who will hopefully give you pointers and help you gain some of that dreaded exposure.

Most of all, don’t be afraid to give away freebies. Book Groups on Facebook are a great place to start, asking for reviews in exchange for a free copy of your work. Goodreads is equally as dandy for this, but can suffer from over-saturation at times.

Finally, if you have some cash to spare, look into sites such as eBookSoda and PeopleReads. Paid services like these can be hit and miss, while the more successful ones such as BookBub have a strict acceptance policy. Shop around and see what works for you and your budget.
And finally…

STEP 5: Believe in your book

You will not become JK Rowling or EL James overnight.

As I said before, self-publishing is filled with a mixture of highs and lows, and invariably there are more of the latter than the former. You may not get the reviews you want (if at all), and you may see a sudden surge of sales dwindle into nothing, but the low points are only chips on a road. The highs are wonderful, such as receiving a box of your first paperback, or hearing someone has enjoyed something you created.

Once you join the self-publishing world, you’ll see a lot of articles and features about people getting rich off of self-publishing. This may not happen to you. If it does, grand, and now I’m insanely jealous, but most of these people you read about either have great connections, experience in marketing, or have sold their soul to some sort of Eldritch Abomination.

Don’t do that. There are costly.

Most of all, just enjoy the fact that your work is out there. Once you’ve published your work, you’re no longer an aspiring writer, you are a writer, and well done you!

Now get out there, and write some more. And more. AND MORE!


Oli Jacobs is a self-published author from Buckinghamshire, England. You can find his work on Amazon, and “like” him on Facebook at, or follow him on Twitter at

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, 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*, 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.
RT 3 Bob & Carol 89755 RT
RC Bridgestock
4*, blog tours, book review, guest author

Blog Tour: My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor

My Husbands Son Blog Tour V3

I’m delighted to share Deborah O’Connor’s post today on If Only I Could Read Faster as part of the blog tour for her book, My Husband’s Son. When I first read this I had a good chuckle, so I hope that you enjoy it too!


 ‘It’s good but there’s one nipple too many for my liking.’  This was the feedback from my friend and trusted first reader Tom on an early draft of my debut novel MY HUSBAND’S SON.

In actual fact, at that time, there were only two mentions of the word ‘nipple’ in the entire book.  But sex scenes are funny like that.  They and the words you use to describe them tend to lodge in the head.  Our brain gives undue emphasis to the mucky stuff.

Which begs the question, when it comes to writing a novel, how much sex is too much?

In light of recent publishing history you’d think the answer would be, never enough.  EL James, Lisa Hilton and a whole host of others have made their names (and their fortunes) by writing blockbusters packed with shagging.  But what if, like me, you’re writing a psychological thriller and although the sex scenes play an important, even critical part, they’re not the be all and end all.  What then?

I started writing my novel during a six-month long stint at the Faber Academy.  Occasionally we could request to focus a session on a specific aspect of the craft.  So one week, halfway through the course, I asked if we could please talk about how to write sex and how to write it well.  Louise Doughty our teacher agreed and asked us all to bring in an example of a fictional sex scene we thought was awful and one we thought was good.  Great, I thought.  Problem solved.  Then it came round to the actual class.

That evening we all sat there clutching our choices in our sweaty little hands.  We thought maybe we’d have to paraphrase them, that maybe (best case scenario) we would pass the offending passages around the table so we could each study them in turn.  Wrong.  Louise now revealed that she would like each of us to READ OUT LOUD TO THE REST OF THE GROUP from a pertinent section of our chosen novels.  (Dear reader, it is one thing to see the words ‘purple’, ‘moist’, ‘thrusting’, and ‘shaft’ photocopied on a nice white sheet of A4, it is another thing entirely to verbalise them to a room full of your peers.)  Naturally, there followed a lot of nervous laughter, but we all did it and it turned out to be yet another brilliant session on the course.  When it came to the end of the night I felt like I’d learned an important lesson.  Namely, for a sex scene to earn its place in a novel it needs to have a subtext.  Not only that, it needs to add something to the action that you wouldn’t be able to add any other way.

I set about sharpening the existing sex scenes in my book and then I went and wrote in a whole heap more.  They say show don’t tell.  I found that I could show a whole lot of really important stuff whenever I described how and when my main character had a sexual encounter, either with herself (yes, yes, my novel features masturbation) or with others, especially people other than her husband.  I also took guidance from one of my favourite thrillers – In The Cut by the American writer Susannah Moore.  Moore’s novel is a masterpiece in the use of sex and sexuality as a way to advance and reveal different aspects of her character and plot and, although quite graphic in places, she manages to do it without it ever making it feel cringey or like some superfluous, titillating add on.  I hope that I’ve managed to do the same (but I’ll let you be the judge of that).

Which takes me back to the original question of this piece:

how much sex is too much?  Ultimately, I think the answer lies in real life.  If you ask a group of people how often they like to get their leg over they will all reply differently: some people like to do it five times a day, some only once a year, on the Queen’s birthday, others not at all.  It’s up to you how much sex (if any) you decide to include in your book.  You might decide to really go for it, like me, and throw in ‘nipples’ here there and everywhere, or you might decide to abstain.  But if you do decide to go for it, then just keep in mind that a year or so from now, a group of students sat around that legendary oval Faber Academy table might be reading your work aloud, to the rest of the room, and trying their absolute hardest not to stutter and blush and wishing to god they’d asked their teacher to run a session on the merits of the omniscient third person instead.

My Husband’s Son (eBook) by Deborah O’Connor is published by Twenty7 on 16th June 2016 at £4.99.

Deborah O'Connor (1)

My Review of My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor:

‘Heidi and Jason are a couple brought together by their shared experience of losing a child. Heidi’s daughter was kidnapped and killed while Jason’s son went missing and was never seen again. His life is consumed by finding Barney and the fact that Heidi understands his grief more than most people brings them together.

This book has a really interesting premise, Heidi believes that she’s found Barney but Jason is convinced that she is wrong, but Heidi just cannot let it go. As the reader you’re never quite sure whether Heidi is right or not, everything seems to be suggesting that he is not Barney, but could she be right?

I found Heidi to be really unlikeable. As a parent I can’t help but feel compassion towards her for the loss of her daughter, but she makes some really really strange decisions that I just struggled to make sense of. I spent large portions of the book convinced that she was totally crazy, however I couldn’t shake the nagging doubt that maybe she wasn’t.

Jason meanwhile is a bit of a non event. He is clearly being eaten up by the loss of Barney, the not knowing what happened to him, and he isn’t dealing at all well with it. Although who can blame him?!

I found My Husband’s Son really easy to read, the author writes well and keeps the intrigue going throughout the book. The ending was nothing that I had imagined at any point while reading. It totally threw me, and confused me, and then once the shock had worn off it made me think.

I received a copy of My Husband’s Son via Netgalley from the publishers in return for an honest review.’

My Husband’s Son is released today and is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

blog tours, guest author

Risks I’ve Taken- by Karen Rose

alone in the dark

‘Risks I’ve taken’: Karen Rose talks about jumping into the breach.

Every time I start a book, it’s an emotional risk – and a terror.  It’s like standing at the edge of ravine and realizing that the first step is a freakin’ lulu.  Parts of me end up in the book, whether I want them to or not.  That’s great when it’s a heroine who is totally kickass, but when it’s the villain … not so cool.  

Most of the time I’ll worry, Gee, I hope nobody thinks that I’m really like that.  But there have been a few villains I’ve read later and thought, Dang girl, I do that.  (Not killing anyone, of course, but sometimes the OCD stuff.  Or sometimes the evil villain laugh spills out, too.  Bwahaha.)

I sold my first book in Dec, 2001 and it was released in July, 2003.  For eighteen months I waited…  It was like being double-pregnant and waiting for the child to finally emerge.  New mothers sometimes experience a panic shortly before birth – OMG, I’m going to be responsible for a LIVING THING. I won’t breathe easily for the REST of my LIFE!

About a month before the release of DON’T TELL, I felt a similar panic.  OMG, I’m going to have a real book.  On the shelves.  People will READ it.  AND KNOW WHAT’S INSIDE MY HEAD!   ACK, my thoughts are NAKED!

It’s emotional exposure at its most extreme. 

Now, thirteen years and sixteen books later, I’ve learned to live with the risk and to mask the panic.  And to only claim ownership of the parts of me that end up in my good guys!