blog tours, book extract, debut author, extract

#BlogTour #Extract Song by Michelle Jana Chan @michellejchan @unbounders #song #blogtour #RandomThingsTour

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How amazing is this cover?!! I couldn’t resist it so I’m happy to close the blog tour for Song by  Michelle Jana Chan with an extract.

Blurb:

Song Cover ImageOpening in the mid-nineteenth-century, this dazzling debut novel traces the voyage of Song, a boy who leaves his impoverished family in rural China to seek his fortune. Song may have survived the perilous journey to the colony of British Guiana in the Caribbean, but once there he discovers riches are hard to come by, as he finds himself working as an indentured plantation worker.

Between places, between peoples, and increasingly aware that circumstances of birth carry more weight than accomplishments or good deeds, Song fears he may live as an outsider forever. This is a far-reaching and atmospheric story spanning nearly half a century and half the globe, and though it is set in the past, Song’s story of emigration and the quest for opportunity is, in many ways, a very contemporary tale.

Extract:

Lishui Village, China, 1878At first they were glad the rains came early. They had already finished their planting and the seedlings were beginning to push through. The men and women of Lishui straightened their backs, buckled from years of labouring, led the buffalo away and waited for the fields to turn green. With such early rains there might be three rice harvests if the weather continued to be clement. But they quickly lost hope of that the sun did not emerge to bronze the crop. Instead the clouds hung heavy. More rain beat down upon an already sodden earth and lakes were born where even the old people said they could not remember seeing standing water. The Li rose higher and higher. Every morning the men of the village walked to the river to watch the water lap at its banks like flames. Sometimes they stood there for hours, their faces as grey as the at slate light. Still the rain fell, yet no one cared about their clothes becoming wet or the nagging coughs the chill brought on. Occasionally a man lifted his arm to wipe his face. But mostly they stood still like figures in a painting, staring upstream, watching the water barrel down, bulging under its own mass.

Before the end of the week the Li had spilled over its banks. A few days later the water had covered the footpaths and cart tracks, spreading like a tide across the land and sweeping away all the new shoots of newly planted rice. Further upstream the river broke up carts, bamboo bridges and outbuildings; it knocked over vats of clean water and seeped beneath the doors of homes. Carried on its swirling currents were splintered planks of wood, rotting food, and shreds of sacking and rattan. Song awoke to feel the straw mat wet beneath him. He reached out his hand. e water was gently rising and ebbing as if it was breathing. His brother Xiao Bo was crying in his sleep. The little boy had rolled off his mat and was lying curled up in the water. He was hugging his knees as if to stop himself from floating away.

Song’s father was not home yet. He and the other men had been working through the night trying to raise walls of mud and rein back the river’s strength. But the earthen barriers washed away even as they built them; they could only watch, hunched over their shovels. The men did not return that day. As the hours passed the women grew anxious. They stopped by each other’s homes, asking for news, but nobody had anything to say. Song’s mother Zhang Je was short with the children. The little ones whimpered, sensing something was wrong.

Song huddled low with his sisters and brothers around the smoking re which sizzled and spat but gave o no heat. They had wedged among the rewood an iron bowl but the rice inside was not warming. at was all they had le to eat now. Xiao Wan curled up closer to Song. His little brother followed him every- where nowadays. His sisters Xiao Mei and San San sat opposite him, adding wet wood to the re and poking at the ash with a stick. His mother stood in the doorway, the silhouette of Xiao Bo strapped to her back and her large rounded stomach tight with child.

The children dipped their hands into the bowl, squeezing grains of rice together, careful not to take more than their share. Song was trying to feed Xiao Wan but he was too weak even to swallow. e little boy closed his eyes and rested his head in Song’s lap, wheezing with each breath. Their mother continued to look out towards the fields, waiting, with Xiao Bo’s head slumped unnaturally to the side as he slept.

‘I don’t think they’re coming back.’

Song could barely hear what his mother was saying.

‘They’re too late,’ she muttered.

Song wasn’t sure if she was talking to him. ‘

Mama?’

Her voice was more brisk. ‘They’re not coming back, I said.’

Song didn’t reply. He looked across at his sisters, who were continuing to push squashed grains of cold rice into their mouths. Song’s breathing quickened, losing its rhythm. He felt his body tighten. Lying across Song’s lap, Xiao Wan woke up and started to cry.

That night Song slept on the wet woven matting between his sisters and brothers, and dreamed of a place far away which resembled land but in fact was a gigantic lake whose surface was covered in broken rice shoots. At first it seemed beautiful. But then in Song’s mind he saw the bloated bodies floating face up and staring wide- eyed at something beyond the cloudless blue sky.

Song woke with a jolt and tried to shut out the image. He pressed himself closer against the bodies of Xiao Wan and San San. their skin was cold. Song reached his arm across San San’s waist and realised how thin she had become. He could hear Xiao Bo moaning in his sleep. Song stared up at the underside of the roof above him. In the darkness he could just make out the curves and ridges of the pottery tiles. Another land began to appear in his mind, this time protected by giant roof tiles ten times as big as the ones above him, keeping everyone dry, allowing them all to scramble up to safety.

Song sat upright and shook himself. e night was quiet except for the heavy breathing of his family.

Xiao Mei had a raw cough, but it didn’t wake her. Xiao Bo continued to moan rhythmically in his sleep. He was too small to pretend he wasn’t hungry. Song had been pretending ever since he could remember. Taking less than his share. Knowing that he, the eldest, at the age of nine, was stronger than his sisters and brothers.

‘Song’ll make it,’ he had once overheard his mother tell his father. ‘He came to us in a good year. Not like his sisters and brothers. They were born at the wrong time.’

Song shivered in the cold damp room. It was then that he remembered the words of Zhu Wei, the medicine man who travelled between villages, carrying his chinking bottles of tinctures and pots of sweet-smelling balsam, all the while telling stories of places he had seen.

‘This world is sweet, my friend. Go. Take yourself away.’ Song tried to piece together what he had heard.

‘Malaya. Heady with spices. India. With its regal princes, elephants dressed up in finery, and the vivid colours. Ah, and then there’s Guiana. The sugarcane whispers in a sea breeze so salty you can lick it. Mangoes. Mangoes so full of juice they split on the tree and seep nectar. Like sunshine might taste. Rubber trees bleed without so much as a tap and a full bucket fetches a price so high that you don’t have to work for the rest of the month. There’s nothing to spend money on anyway, with fruit hanging off every tree: papaya, guava, carambola, sapodilla. No one is ever wanting. And don’t start me on the gold. Even babies of the poorest families wear solid gold bangles around their wrists and ankles. Diamonds too.

They say there are whole cities built of gold and precious stones.’ Song screwed up his eyes and tried to believe in the place Zhu Wei had described.

‘The Englishmen take you there for nothing – not a penny – on huge wooden boats which use the wind and the stars and their magic to reach these new lands. Hundreds are going every day, boy. You don’t want to be le behind. Hail down one of the carts. They’re sweeping through the villages collecting up young men with dreams and courage, the ones looking for adventure and who are willing to work. You want to get on your way before these places are full.

‘The boats leave from Guangzhou. A terrible place. Don’t get waylaid, I warn you, or you won’t make it to the end of the month. Keep moving. There’s a world beyond what you know. Every boy should travel. Go and see new places. Find work. Get rich. Come back if you want to. But see the world first. Don’t die here, boy. You’re too young to die here.’

Song pictured himself boarding one of the wooden English boats and arriving among lush plantations of sweet sugarcane bordered by trees bearing plump fruit on bowed branches. He licked his lips around the taste of a mango and felt burning cramps in his stomach. Then he imagined himself returning home laden with sugar and gold and diamonds, and the wide disbelieving shining eyes of his sisters and brothers.

Song shivered again. His mother had propped open the front door and the room was cool. He looked up, trying to imagine his father’s silhouette in the doorway, but nobody was there. Not that Song ever particularly noticed his father coming home. He was a man who spoke quietly and was so of foot. But in his head Song could hear his father’s voice telling him how to move through life:

‘strangers don’t like strangers’; ‘trouble only comes to those who stand out’; ‘keep your head down’. The memory of his words triggered something inside Song. He felt the sudden weight of his family; now he must not only take care of himself but everyone else, too. Song felt himself fold, sobbing, covering his face with his hands.

The village of Lishui felt their way through the days and weeks ahead in a daze. For the women and children le behind there was too much to do to think about mourning men. They could no longer drink clean water from the wells. ere was no dry re- wood. e babies lay listless, too emaciated to cry. e old people had stopped eating. e rest of the village sifted through the debris carried by the floodwater trying to salvage anything useful: a sack of wet seed, odd rice shoots, rotten wood, a sodden shred of cloth.

Every morning they hoped to wake to see the land steaming dry and to feel the heat of the sun, but instead clouds brooded heavy and low in the sky before bursting like blisters. Rain fell so hard it bounced from the ground, raining up as well as down. e grey air and reflecting water drained the land of colour. Song knew what he had to do. He thought of the sugar, the gold, the diamonds in far-off lands. But he also remembered the dark stories about the city called Guangzhou and how some men returned broken. ‘Stay away from them men,’ the women told the children, even when it was their own husbands. And the children listened and stayed away, frightened by the way the men sat all day staring out, as if they were asleep with their eyes open. Song shuddered, but he had made up his mind.

He went to find his mother. She was at the back of the house keeping the re alight. He watched her as she shifted around a pot of water, trying to catch the heat of a flickering flame before it extinguished with a fizz.

‘Mama.’

Zhang Je looked up. There were dark shadows under her glazed eyes, red and streaming from the smoke. Her face was drawn. She did not seem to see Song. He crouched down and took the pot from his mother. ‘Let me.’ She let the stick fall from her hands. Song used it to poke at the charred embers and blew into the refi. A cloud of ash billowed up.

‘I’m going to Guangzhou to look for work, Mama.’They both watched a small flame momentarily light up.‘I’ll go with the next cart,’ Song said. ‘They’re looking for boys like me. It doesn’t cost anything to go, they say. There’s lots of work. I’ll bring back money and food for everyone.’

About The Author:

Michelle Chan Author PictureI am the Editor of Vanity Fair On Travel.
My debut novel, Song is being published by Unbound in July 2018.

I’m a BBC presenter and video journalist on The Travel Show, and Contributing Editor at Condé Nast Traveller where I had a weekly column for a year Where I want to be right now.
I was formerly Deputy Editor of The Telegraph’s Ultratravel magazine and am the Destination Expert on China, Cambodia, Nepal and the Himalayas for The Telegraph newspaper.
I also write for The Wall Street Journal, Travel and Leisure and Tatler.

My career in journalism began with Newsweek magazine in New York in 1994, and I continued to report for them from Xi’an, Beijing and Taipei. I then took the position of Asia-Pacific Editor for Deutsche Welle Radio in Cologne, transitioning into television as a news producer for CNN International in London.
I am the winner of the Travel Writer of the Year 2016; winner of the AITO Travel Writer of the Year 2016, and winner of the Consumer Magazine Feature of the Year Award at the Ecoventura LATA Media Awards 2016.
I am a regular speaker and moderator on travel and adventure; judge writing and photography awards; teach travel writing courses; am a qualified performance coach (focusing on creative writing) and conduct media training.

Song by Michelle Jana Chan is out now and available from Amazon UK.

blog tours, extract

#BlogTour #Extract Stalker by Lisa Stone. @LisaStoneBooks @AvonBooksUK @Sabah_K #stalker #booktour

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Today it’s my stop on the blog tour for Stalker by Lisa Stone. I really liked the sound of this book but couldn’t fit in a review so I’m really excited to have an extract from the book to whet our appetites.

Extract:

You OK, Gov? Paul asked, barely able to hide his smirk.

    ‘Yes, of course,’ Derek snapped, coming down from the ladder. ‘It’s only a small snag. Fetch me the first-aid kit from the van, will you?’

    ‘Not a lot of point in putting it back, was there? Cutting yourself twice in one morning and you always being so safety conscious.’

Derek let the comment go, as he was increasingly having to do with Paul. He knew he wasn’t himself today; he had bigger, more worrying issues on his mind than Paul’s bad attitude. The incident at U-Beat nightclub kept replaying through his head just as he’d seen it but he needed to try to concentrate before he had any more accidents or let something slip.

Cupping his finger in the palm of his hand to stop the blood dripping onto the floor, he crossed to the small sink in the corner of the room and held it under the cold tap. The room was at the rear of the newsagents and used for storing stock. Cardboard boxes and crates containing bags of sweets, packets of cigarettes, crisps, fizzy drinks and so on were stacked all around him.

He was trying to fit a camera in this room to complement the one in the shop, and then put their system online. Originally Mr and Mrs Osman, the owners of the newsagent, had just wanted one camera in the shop to stop thieving from the displays and for their own protection, but on Sunday evening while the shop had been closed it had been broken into from the rear and stock stolen. They’d phoned him on Monday morning, desperate, and asked if he could fit the extra camera and put the system online. It was a relatively small job but the work wasn’t progressing as quickly as it should. He was struggling to concentrate, there was only limited space to move around, and Mr and Mrs Osman kept interrupting him – coming in for stock or to ask him questions when all he needed was to be left in peace to finish the job.

Paul eventually returned, carrying the first-aid box, with his phone still in his hand; taking advantage of him, Derek thought.

    ‘I’ll be nurse then,’ Paul said.

Derek turned off the cold water tap as Paul set the first-aid box on the work surface beside the sink and took out a plaster. Away from the cold water the cut immediately opened and started bleeding again. ‘It’s deeper than I thought,’ Derek said, holding it over the sink.

    ‘Is there a bigger plaster in here?’ Paul asked, rummaging in the first-aid box.

    ‘Should be.’

He found a larger plaster and a sterile pad. ‘Give us your finger then, and we’ll use this to stop the bleeding.’

Derek held out his hand and Paul steadied it as he pressed the sterile pad on the wound. Gentler than he would have imagined, Derek felt the cool tips of Paul’s fingers, the touch of his clammy palm, and the warmth of his body nearby. He was standing close, far too close. Soothed and excited, Derek breathed in the bittersweet seductive mustiness of the teenage boy, a heady mixture of testosterone, perspiration and deodorant. How long since he’d been this close to a young man? He knew exactly, and knew he mustn’t go there again.

He took a step back. Paul removed the sterile pad from the wound and then expertly peeled the plaster from its packet and pressed it gently into place.

Blurb:

stalkerSTALKER, Lisa Stone

 Someone is always watching…

 Derek Flint is a loner. He lives with his mother and spends his evenings watching his clients on the CCTV cameras he has installed inside their homes. He likes their companionship – even if it’s through a screen.

When a series of crimes hits Derek’s neighbourhood, DC Beth Mayes begins to suspect he’s involved. How does he know so much about the victims’ lives? Why won’t he let anyone into his office? And what is his mother hiding in that strange, lonely house?

As the crimes become more violent, Beth must race against the clock to find out who is behind the attacks. Will she uncover the truth in time? And is Derek more dangerous than even she has guessed?

A spellbinding crime novel from the worldwide bestseller Cathy Glass, writing as Lisa Stone.

About The Author:

Just a little bit about me. I live in England and have three children. I have always been a writer – from when I was at school, with poems and articles in the school magazine. In my teens I began writing short stories, a few radio plays and novels. I finally made it into the bestseller charts with Damaged in 2007 which I wrote under the pseudonym Cathy Glass. Since then I have had 30 books published, many of which have become international bestsellers.

Thank you for your time, I hope you enjoy the Lisa Stone thrillers.

You can follow Lisa on Twitter.

Stalker by Lisa Stone is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

blog tours, book extract

#BlogTour #extract Guilt by Amanda Robson @Amandarauthor @AvonBooksUK @Sabah_k #book

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How stunning is the cover for Guilt by Amanda Robson?!!! You certainly wouldn’t miss it in a bookshop. I love it and it immediately appealed to me, and then I saw that the book is about twins and as a mother of twins I like reading books with twins in it, so I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour. I just didn’t have time to read the book before today to do a review, but it is definitely on my tbr pile. In the meantime here’s an extract to help whet your appetite before you read the book yourself!

Extract:

Driving up the motorway, escaping from Bristol, back to Tidebury for the weekend. Maybe seeing Mother will help.

  I hate Anastasia Sudbury.

  Second written warning indeed.

One more written warning and I am out. How dare she. Patronising, sycophantic bitch. The memory of her voice, with its overemphasised vowels and artificial resonance as she ‘mediated’ between me and Sebastian makes me feel sick. Second written warning for not working efficiently with him. I clutch the steering wheel so tightly my fingers ache.

I turn the car radio up in an attempt to drown my thoughts in classical music. But my mind is pumping. Plaintive violins and resonant cellos don’t help. I cannot stop thinking about Sebastian and what he did to me. I feel his hands all over me. I feel him entering me again. I hear his grunting climax. I feel a knife grating the walls of my vaginal passage. As I drive I breathe through the pain.

I stop at a service station and sit in the car, head in hands.

Back on the motorway, I know I need to pull myself together. It isn’t safe, even in the slow lane, wedged between heavy lorries, driving when my mind is a kaleidoscope of hate, guilt and pain.

Classical music. Perhaps that will help. Four hours of listening to Classic FM later, at half past midnight I finally arrive home.

Mother opens the door. She hugs and kisses me. I step into the hallway. I see our patterned rug, the parquet flooring, the limited edition print that you chose when we were on holiday in the Lake District, so many years ago.

Blurb:

guiltbookThe shocking new thriller from the #1 bestseller

‘Thrilling, unputdownable, a fabulous rollercoaster of a read’ B A PARIS, bestselling author of BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

The number 1 bestseller is back!

Your sister. Her secret. The betrayal.

 There is no bond greater than blood . . .

When the body of a woman is found stabbed to death, the blame falls to her twin sister. But who killed who? And which one is now the woman behind bars?

Zara and Miranda have always supported each other. But then Zara meets Seb, and everything changes. Handsome, charismatic and dangerous, Seb threatens to tear the sisters’ lives apart – but is he really the one to blame? Or are deeper resentments simmering beneath the surface that the sisters must face up to?

As the sisters’ relationship is stretched to the brink, a traumatic incident in Seb’s past begins to rear its head and soon all three are locked in a psychological battle that will leave someone dead. The question is, who?

Claustrophobic and compelling, Amanda Robson is back in a knock-out thriller perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Paula Hawkins.

About The Author:

amanda-robson-profile

After graduating, Amanda Robson worked in medical research at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine, and at the Poison’s Unit at Guy’s hospital where she became a co-author of a book on cyanide poisoning.

This has set her in good stead for writing her debut novel, Obsession, a dark and twisted tale about love affairs gone wrong.

Amanda attended the Faber Academy writing course in 2011, and now writes from home full time. She lives in London and Wales, with her lawyer husband, one–eyed dog and unfriendly cat. Her two sons, also lawyers, have more or less, fled the nest.

Guilt by Amanda Robson is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

extract

#Prologue Dying Truth by Angela Marsons #DyingTruth @WriteAngie @bookouture #KimStone

bookouturepro

How exciting is this?!!! I know that many of you will be fans of Angela Marsons DI Kim Stone series and if you aren’t then why not?!!! So you will be as excited as I am about this prologue for the new Kim Stone book, Dying Truth, that is out on 18th May 2018.

If you have yet to discover DI Kim Stone then I suggest that you start at the beginning with the amazing Silent Scream. Dying Truth is the eighths book in the series but each one is so good.

So I won’t keep you waiting any longer, enjoy!!

Blurb:

dyingtruthHow far would you go to protect your darkest secrets?

When teenager Sadie Winter jumps from the roof of her school, her death is ruled as suicide – a final devastating act from a troubled girl. But then the broken body of a young boy is discovered at the same school and it’s clear to Detective Kim Stone that these deaths are not tragic accidents.

As Kim and her team begin to unravel a dark web of secrets, one of the teachers could hold the key to the truth. Yet just as she is about to break her silence, she is found dead.

With more children’s lives at risk, Kim has to consider the unthinkable – whether a fellow pupil could be responsible for the murders. Investigating the psychology of children that kill brings the detective into contact with her former adversary, Dr Alex Thorne – the sociopath who has made it her life’s work to destroy Kim.

Desperate to catch the killer, Kim finds a link between the recent murders and an initiation prank that happened at the school decades earlier. But saving these innocent lives comes at a cost – and one of Kim’s own might pay the ultimate price.

The utterly addictive new crime thriller from the Number One bestselling author – you will be gripped until the final shocking twist.

Prologue of Dying Truth by Angela Marsons:

Saturday 7.52 p.m.

Kim knew that her left leg was broken.

She pulled herself along the path on her hands as the stone bit into her palms, shards of gravel embedding beneath her fingernails.

A cry escaped her lips as her ankle turned and pain shot around her body.

Sweat beads were forming on her forehead as the agony intensified.

Finally, she saw the light from the building as three familiar shapes hurtled out of the doorway.

All three of them headed towards the bell tower.

‘Nooo…’ she cried, as loudly as she could.

No one turned.

Don’t go up there, she willed silently, trying to pull herself towards them.

‘Stop,’ she shouted out as they entered the metal doorway at the base of the tower.

Kim tried to still the panic as they disappeared from view.

‘Damn it,’ she screamed with frustration, unable to reach them in time.

She gathered all her strength and pushed herself up to a standing position, trying to drag her broken leg behind her as though it didn’t exist.

Two steps forward and the pain radiated through her body like a tidal wave and brought her back down to the ground. She gagged as the nausea rose from her stomach and her head began to swim.

She shouted again but the figures had disappeared from view and were now in the belly of the tower, behind solid brick, mounting the stone steps to the top.

‘Please, someone help,’ she screamed, but there was no one to hear. She was a good eighty metres away from the school, and she had never felt so helpless in her life.

She glanced at her wrist and saw that it was three minutes to eight.

The bell was due to be rung bang on the hour.

The fear started in the pit of her stomach and grew like a cloud to fill her entire body.

She struggled forward another agonising step, dragging her useless leg behind her.

Torchlight illuminated the top of the tower.

Damn it, they were already there.

‘Stop,’ she cried again, praying that one of them would hear her even though she knew her voice wouldn’t carry that distance.

The shafts of light moved furtively around the tower balcony ninety feet up in the air.

She saw a fourth figure amongst the three that were familiar to her.

The watch on her wrist vibrated the top of the hour. The bell didn’t ring.

Please God, let them get down.

Her prayer was cut off as she heard a loud scream.

Two people were hanging from the bell rope, swinging back and forth, in and out of the torchlight that darted around the small space.

Kim squinted, trying to identify the two silhouettes, but they were too far away.

She tried to regulate her breathing in order to shout again, even though she knew no kind of warning would help them now.

Her worst fears had been realised.

‘Please, please…’ Kim whispered as she saw the bell rope swing back and forth once more.

One figure was snatched from the bell rope as the second continued to swing.

‘No,’ Kim screamed, trying to carry herself forward towards them.

The fear inside had turned ice cold, freezing her solid.

For a few seconds time stood still. The saliva in her mouth had gone leaving her unable to speak or shout.

Kim felt the ache that started in her heart when the remaining figure and the swinging bell rope disappeared from view.

Her ears suddenly filled with a blood-curdling, tortured scream.

But no one else was around.

The scream came from her.

Dying Truth by Angela Marsons is out on 18th May 2018 and is available to pre-order now from here.

blog tours, extract, giveaway

#BlogTour #Extract #Giveaway The Zero and the One by Ryan Ruby. @legend_press #win #book #competition

zeroandtheone

I’ve got an extract of The Zero and the One by Ryan Ruby and published by Legend Press today and a giveaway of the book too! How very exciting.

Extract:

REPETITION.—

If something happens once, it may as well have never happened at all. Unfortunately,
nothing ever happens only once. Everything is repeated, even nothing.
A British Airways jet, high above the coast of New England. The captain has turned off the fasten seatbelt sign, but mine remains strapped tightly across my waist. My fingers clutch the armrests, knuckles white. The air hostess evens her trolley with our row and bestows a sympathetic elevation of her eyebrows on me as she clears minibottles, plastic cups, crumpled napkins off my tray table. The other passengers regard me with caution. When I stumbled back from the toilet, I found that the young mother in my row had exchanged places with her tow-headed, round-faced toddler, who now stares obliviously at the white fields outside the window, in order to provide him with a buffer zone in case I were to do something erratic. Perhaps I’d been mumbling to myself again: a dangerous perhaps.

I tried to apologise to her, to explain that I rarely drink so much, it’s only on planes that… but no luck. She doesn’t speak English.

It’s true, flying terrifies me. I can count the number of times I’ve done it on one hand. Twice with my parents. Once with school. Most recently, to Berlin with Zach during the
Easter holiday. None of which has remotely prepared me to endure this seven-hour trans-Atlantic torture. Nothing —not a book or an inflight movie or even three minibottles of whisky — helps me to relax. The least bit of turbulence,
every unexpected dip in altitude, signals The Beginning of a Crash.

On the flight to Berlin, Zach noticed my anxiety and argued that this was precisely what was so interesting about air travel. It was to be regarded, he said, as an exercise in amor fati. As soon as you stepped through the doors, you were forced to resign yourself to the possibility that your conveyance will turn into your coffin. Your fate was no longer in your hands, no longer under your control. In fact life was always like this, but only in special circumstances were we made aware of it. If to philosophize was to prepare for death he could think of no better place to practice philosophy than on an airplane.

His words were no comfort to me then. They’re even less of one now. The last thing I want to think about are preparations for death. And coffins. How does one transport
a body across the ocean? On a ship? Down in the hold with the rest of the luggage? Maybe on every flight there’s a coffin going somewhere. At this very moment my t shirts and toiletries could be nestling up with the dead.

When it is time, the air hostess helps me firmly lock my tray table and return my seat to its upright position. We’re beginning our final descent into New York, she explains.
No Miss, I am tempted to reply. Not our final descent.

The customs officer is a candle stub of a man with a damp, fleshy face that seems to have melted from the dark hairline of his crew cut into the wide, unbuttoned collar of his uniform. He flips through every page of my mostly blank passport, looks from me to my photo and back again. The photo, I remember, was taken at a booth in the Galleries, three or four years ago, in the thick of my rather dubious battle with puberty, right after one of those visits to the hairdresser, which, because I no longer live with my parents, I am no  longer obliged to make. I neutralise my expression and remove my glasses, as I had been instructed to do then, but it is only when my left eye, which has astigmatism, wanders toward my nose that the resemblance finally becomes clear to him. He asks me to confirm the information I had written on my declaration form.
Student. One week. 232 West 113th Street.
Business or pleasure?
Funeral.
The stamp falls with a dull, bureaucratic thump: Welcome to the United States.

I know what New York looks like from the establishing shots of countless films and television shows. But there the city is only as large as the screen you watch it on. A safe size. Contained. Manageable. Odourless. Two-dimensional. With clearly marked exit signs, if you’re watching at the cinema. With a volume dial and an off button, if you’re watching from the comfort of your living room.

These taxi windows offer no such protection. On the motorway, my driver slices through traffic, steering with one hand on the indicator and the other on the horn. When a removal van tries to pass us, he closes the distance at the last moment. The driver leans out the window of the van, his face
red, spit flying from his mouth as he tries to shout over the siren of the ambulance behind us. Not one to allow an insult to go unanswered, my driver rolls down the passenger-side window, letting in the foul breath of late afternoon. I probably
shouldn’t have pushed my luck by getting off the plane.

Can you believe this shit! he bellows a few minutes later. He’s been trying to engage me in conversation since he first pulled me from the middle of the taxi queue at the airport, not sensing from my mumbled one-word answers that I’d prefer to be left alone. Our eyes meet in the rearview mirror, which is wrapped in the black beads of a rosary; the silver crucifix dangling from the end bobs and sways as he speeds round a double-parked car. Can I believe what, then?

What this world is coming to! It’s been all over the radio this week. This brawd in Texas drowned her five kids in the tub.

I sigh with resignation and ask why a person would do such a thing.

Because she’s crazy, that’s why! Post-pardon depression or some shit. Said God told her to do it. God of all people! Now you tell me, boss — would God ever tell somebody to kill their own child?

If I’m not mistaken, I say, clearing my throat, God ordered Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. And the Father himself offered up his only begotten son to —

What? What was that you said? he yells, although he’s heard me perfectly well. The taxi screeches to a halt. This is your stop, buddy.

At the airport, I changed all the money I’ll have to live on for the week. It was the first time I’d ever held dollars in my hand. Green-and-black pieces of paper, no nonsense
notes, dour expressions on the portraits of men called Grant, Jackson, Hamilton — presidents presumably. I take a Grant and a Hamilton from my wallet and press them through the square opening in the plastic screen that separates me from
the driver. Plus tip, buddy, he says. I hand him another ten dollars.

He remains seated as I take my luggage out of the boot. As soon as he hears the door shut, he speeds off again, leaving me, I soon realise, far from the address I’d given him. Not an hour in New York and already I’ve been ripped off.

My hostel is located opposite a primary school in the middle of a short, derelict street in Harlem. I’d spent most of my savings on the flight and this one was the cheapest I could find at short notice. On my walk here, three different beggars asked for money in tones ranging from supplicant to menacing. I dropped the two quid I happened to have in my pocket,  shrapnel from the carton of cigarettes I bought at the dutyfree shop, into the outstretched cup of the one I passed as I turned onto 113th Street. I moved on, head down, hoping he wouldn’t notice until I was well out of shouting range.

I ring the doorbell. Open the door. Approach the large desk in the lobby and say, My name is Owen Whiting, I have a reservation. At the other end of the room, an elderly couple is sitting on an exhausted brown couch, watching a game show on the telly. Another guest is typing an email at the ancient computer in the corner. Next to him, there is a plastic display for tourist brochures and pamphlets and a table whose dusty surface supports a metallic coffee dispenser, a stack of paper cups, and a basket filled with pink sachets of sugar, plastic stirrers, and jigger pots of milk and cream. Framed photographs of the Manhattan skyline have been hung unevenly and seemingly at random on the beige walls.

My room, up three flights of stairs, proves to be equally spartan. A pair of bunk beds. A bank of lockers for valuables. A grated window that looks out onto a fire escape and down into a dark alley, which is separated from the road by a barbed wire fence. The ceiling fan spins slowly, straining to circulate a dainty handkerchief of tepid air on the slab of dusk that has also taken up residence here.

My bed must be the one on the top left — at least that’s the only one that’s been made. I strip down to my underwear, stuff my clothes into my rucksack, and place it into the locker with the key still in the hole. Book in hand, I climb up to my berth and lie down on the thin pillow and starchy sheets. The reading lamp clipped to the metal bedpost splutters a few flashes of yellow light before it shines a paltry neon cone on the cover of Zach’s copy of The Zero and the One.

On the black background, the white circle of the titular Zero intersects the white circle of the titular One, forming an eye-shaped zone the jacket designer coloured red. Beneath the title, also in red, the name of the author: Hans Abendroth.

From the earliest days of our friendship, Zach and I sought out philosophers whose names would never have appeared on the reading lists we received before the beginning of each term. To our tutors, such thinkers did not merit serious consideration. Our tutors were training us to weigh evidence, parse logic, and refute counter-examples; they encouraged us to put more stock in the rule than the exception and to put our trust in modest truths that could be easily verified and plainly expressed. Whereas the philosophers who interested us were the ones who would step right to the edge of the abyss — and jump to conclusions; the ones who wagered their sanity when they spun the wheel of thought; the ones, in short, who wrote in blood. In counter-intuitiveness we saw profundity and in obfuscation, poetry. With wide eyes, we plucked paperback after paperback from the shelves at Reservoir, the used bookshop opposite the entrance to Christ Church Meadow, our own personal Nag Hammadi, hunting for insights into the
hermetic nature of the universe and ourselves.

Zach had seen an aphorism from The Zero and the One cited in Lacan’s seminar on Poe, a reappraisal of which had appeared in Theory, a London-based journal of continental philosophy whose back issues Reservoir kept in stock. Subtitled “an essay in speculative arithmetic,” The Zero and the One (Null und Eins in the original German) is Abendroth’s only book to have been translated into English. For a whole month we searched every bookshop we passed and came up empty-handed — not a negligible failure in a city that must be one of the world’s largest markets for used and rare books. Even Dr. Inwit had never heard of Abendroth. The Bodleian had two copies, naturally, but the one that was permitted to circulate was on loan that term. Zach placed a hold on it, only to be told, when he returned to the Philosophy and Theology Faculty to collect it, that it had been reported missing. Despite his insistent pleading, the librarian, citing a recent act of Parliament, refused to divulge the identity of the borrower. When he finally found it, on Niall Graves’ shelves at the Theory launch party, he yelped, alarming some of the other partygoers, who must have thought he had just done himself some serious injury.

Though he was quite generous with his money — he picked up the tab wherever we went and never once turned a beggar away — Zach wouldn’t let me borrow the book. It was, you might say, his prized possession. He quoted from it often and sometimes read whole passages aloud when he wanted to prove some point. The first time I held it in my hands was four days ago, when his father and I were cleaning out his rooms. Save for the travel guide I bought at Blackwell’s, it is the only reading I’ve brought with me to New York.

I flip through the collection of aphorisms, looking for one in particular. The book shows all the signs of intense study: broken spine, wrinkled edges, dog-eared pages, creased jacket. Inside, the margins are heavily annotated in black pen. The underlining consists of lines so perfectly straight they must have been traced there with a ruler or with the edge of a bookmark.

On my first search, skimming all the dog-eared pages, I fail to find the passage I’m looking for. It was something about The Possessed he read to me that night. Something about Kirillov. Kirillov’s suicide. The aphorisms all have titles, but there’s no table of contents; nor is there an index of names in the back. I’ll have to be more meticulous, examine every sentence Zach found worthy of comment. I turn back to the beginning, but I’m only able to read a few pages before the light bulb splutters again, this time fatally, and the room goes dark. I flick the switch once, twice: the light isn’t coming back. I take off my glasses and slip the book under my pillow, giving what remains of my waking attention to the vague, slow circles of the fan and the dim lattice of orange and black the streetlamp has cast on the ceiling.

I’ve just begun to fall asleep, for the first time in a week, when I hear someone, one of the other guests, struggling with the door lock. Two shadows, one male and one female,
stumble into the dark room. From how loudly they whisper to each other not to make any noise, it’s clear they’re both totally pissed. They fall into the bunk beneath mine; the
bedsprings shriek under their combined weight. I cough into my fist, to let them know someone else is in the room, but they remain oblivious or indifferent to my presence. Rather than embarrassed silence, the rustle of fabric. Lips on bare skin. A moan — hers — escapes the fingers of a muffling hand as the bedframe begins to sway. Beneath the small of my back, my mattress elevates slightly. The palms of her hands or the balls of her feet, I wonder.

Outside the window, there is a dull pop. Then another three, in rapid succession. The bedsprings stop contracting abruptly beneath me.

What was that? the woman whispers, petrified.

What was what? Her lover sounds deflated. He knows exactly what she’s referring to, and can already tell that he’s lost her attention.
That sound.

Nothing, baby, he says. It was nothing. Just a car backfiring.

I never learnt where Zach found those pistols. Where does one buy a handgun anyway? Estate sale? Antique shop? The black market? I hadn’t asked, and if I hadn’t asked it is because I’d rather not know. When Bernard told me that the Inspector from the Thames Valley Police had managed to trace the pistol (he said pistol, singular, and I certainly wasn’t about to correct him), I let it be understood with a wave of my hand that I preferred to be kept in the dark about certain aspects of the case. Still, this hasn’t prevented me from speculating. Whoever sold the firearms to Zach would surely have told the Inspector about the second pistol. Unless he bought them from two different people. Unless: he stole them. It wouldn’t have been the first time, after all.

The pistols were small and old. Their black barrels were no longer than my outstretched index finger, the sort of weapon my grandfather might have stripped off the corpse of some Nazi officer during the war. They looked ridiculous to me, but Zach was quite serious about them, as he was about any technology the rest of us considered antiquated. When I asked him if they even worked, his expression soured. Of course they do! He’d tested them to make sure. Yanks and their bloody guns. Whatever else they may feel about them, they’re all obsessed by them. Even Zach, the latchkey kid born and bred in downtown Manhattan. When he collected me from Prelims, one pistol weighing down each pocket of his dinner jacket, he must have been the most heavily armed person in all of Oxfordshire.

Giveaway:

Click here to enter to win a paperback copy of The Zero and the One by Ryan Ruby thanks to Legend Press. UK addresses only.

Blurb:

zero_one_high resA bookish scholarship student, Owen Whiting has high hopes of Oxford, only to find himself immediately out of place. Then he meets Zachary Foedern from New York. Rich and charismatic, Zach takes Owen under his wing, introducing him to a world Owen has only ever read about.
From Oxford to the seedy underbelly of Berlin, they dare each other to transgress the boundaries of convention and morality, until Zach proposes the greatest transgression of all: a suicide pact. But when Zach’s plans go horribly awry, Owen is left to pick up the pieces and navigate the boundaries between illusion and reality to preserve a hold on his once bright future.

About the Author:

Ryan RubyRyan Ruby was born in Los Angeles in 1983. He has written for The BafflerConjunctionsLapham’s Quarterlyn+1, and the Paris Review Daily among other publications, and has translated two novellas from the French for Readux Books. He lives in Berlin.

 

The Zero and the One by Ryan Ruby is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

blog tours, extract

#BlogTour #Extract Hold My Hand by M.J. Ford @AvonBooksUK

HOLD MY HAND - Blog Tour

Today it is my stop on the blog tour for Hold My Hand by M.J. Ford. I really want to read this book, just the cover alone appeals, but I haven’t managed to fit it into my exploding to be read pile just yet. But I’m delighted to share an extract from the book to hopefully whet your appetite and wanting more.

Extract:

William ran towards her and Jo put down the box and braced herself as the six-year-old leapt in the air. She caught him, but almost lost her footing.

‘You weigh a tonne!’ she gasped.

‘Hi Auntie Jo,’ he said.

Amelia wafted through the crowds, a glass in hand ready to give to Jo. ‘Hello darling,’ she said. ‘Thanks for making the trip.’

‘Wouldn’t miss it,’ said Jo. Amelia was hard not to like.

Paul was looking good.

‘You’ve lost weight,’ Jo said.

‘He’s doing a triathlon in September,’ said Amelia. ‘He’ll be tapping you for sponsorship, so watch out.’

‘I’m broke!’ she said, managing a smile.

‘I’ve given up cheese,’ said Paul morosely. Then he pointed with his glass to the box. ‘Is that for me?’

‘I hope you like it,’ said Jo.

Whether it was the booze or not, his face lit up when his eyes landed on the homburg, and he paraded the hat in front of his guests.

‘You look like something out of le Carré!’ said Amelia, laughing. William tried it on as well, to much amusement.

‘Thanks sis!’ said Paul, giving her a peck on the cheek. ‘Actually, we could have done with you here a week ago. Car got broken into – they nicked my iPad. And my bloody squash racket of all things. Police didn’t even come out and take prints!’

Jo could tell a few people were listening, so just said jovially, ‘Sorry, bro – not my patch!’

She could have told them that the police force were suffering the deepest cuts since their inception, that manned stations were being phased out in all but the biggest towns, and that the few demoralised officers who did remain really couldn’t give a shit about someone stupid enough to leave their iPad on display in their vehicle.

Blurb:

image001

HOLD MY HAND, M. J. Ford

How long do you hunt for the missing?

A horrible vanishing act…

When a young Josie Masters sees a boy wearing a red football shirt, Dylan Jones, being taken by a clown at a carnival, she tries to alert the crowds. But it’s too late. Dylan has disappeared…

Thirty years later, Josie is working as a police officer in Bath. The remains of the body of a child have been found – complete with tatters of a torn red football shirt. Is it the boy she saw vanish in the clutches of the clown? Or is it someone else altogether?

And then another child disappears…

About The Author:

M. J. Ford lives with his wife and family on the edge of the Peak District in the north of England. He has worked as an editor and writer of children’s fiction for many years. Hold My Hand is his first novel for adults.

Hold My Hand by M.J. Ford is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

blog tours, book extract

Blog Tour: Games People Play by Owen Mullen.

gamespeopleplay

Today is the final stop on the blog tour for Games People Play by Owen Mullen. I have content from the book and my extract carries on from where Emma The Little Bookworm left off.

Extract:

‘The water was freezing. What the hell had Jen been thinking? This was Scotland, for Christ’s sake. He swam to where he’d last seen her and went under. Mark was a good swimmer but it was dark. His frantic fingers searched until the pressure in his chest forced him to the surface. He took in as much air as he could and went back. Something bumped against him. He grabbed hold and dragged it up. Two boys ran into the water to help: the footballers.

They hauled her body the last few yards and Mark fell to his knees. Jennifer wasn’t breathing. People appeared on the beach, silent witnesses to the nightmare the day had become. Where had they been when he needed them? He shouted, half in anger half in desperation. ‘Somebody call an ambulance!’ The crowd kept a respectful distance, they believed what he believed, that he’d lost her. Jennifer’s face was white. Mark covered her mouth with his and breathed into her. His hands pressed against her chest demanding she come back to him. One of the boys took over with no better luck. Mark tried again, refusing to let her go. He pumped her heart, whimpering like a child, sobbing for himself as well as his wife. Jennifer’s eyes fluttered; she retched and vomited water. Mark turned her on her side and rubbed her back, whispering reassurance, blinded by tears, aware his prayers had been answered. A siren sounded in the distance; it was going to be alright. She was safe. They would be together again. The three of them. He raised his head and saw ambulance-men racing towards him across the sand. Mark jumped to his feet. They must have drifted… except the boat was there. His voice rose from a cry to a scream. ‘Lily. Lily!’ He spoke to the group who had offered nothing. ‘I left a baby here, somebody must’ve seen her.’ They stared, no idea what he was talking about. A new terror seized him. He ran a few steps up and down the beach, lost and afraid. The bag lay where Jennifer dropped it. But no push-chair. No sign his daughter had ever been there. Lily was gone.’

Sounds good doesn’t it?!! Games People Play by Owen Mullen is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Blurb:

A powerful new crime thriller:

Thirteen-month-old Lily Hamilton is abducted from Ayr beach in Scotland while her parents are just yards away.

Three days later the distraught father turns up at private investigator Charlie Cameron’s office. Mark Hamilton believes he knows who has stolen his daughter. And why.

Against his better judgment Charlie gets involved In the case and when more bodies are discovered the awful truth dawns: there is a serial killer whose work has gone undetected for decades.

Is baby Lily the latest victim of a madman?

For Charlie it’s too late, he can’t let go. His demons won’t let him.