30 August 2017

Author Lee Cockburn on how her career as a Police Sergeant has informed her writing

Author Lee Cockburn has worked for Police Scotland for sixteen years and today she is joining me as part of the Clink Street Publishing Blogival to tell us how her experiences as a Police Sergeant have informed her writing.
Lee Cockburn, author

Author spotlight
The rules with being in the police are that the content of my novels must be fiction, the procedures are real, those that are common knowledge for the public, they can look them up if they want; those that are permitted to be read of course. The characters are all fictional too though, their stunning beauty and near perfection are simply not real, but a very pleasant thought for the reader and the crimes and scenarios are purely fiction too.

Saying that, I have seen many horrible things in the course of my duty, numerous deaths, as police attend all deaths in the city, whether they are the result of a crime or not. Some peaceful, some premature, some not noticed, all of which are unpleasant in their own way. Some deaths are horrible to see and cannot be unseen, their untimely end clearly not chosen. I feel the pain for their families, their sadness, those that loved them, the pain they go through when the fateful message is passed. Premature death of any kind is always a tragedy, young lives taken too soon, their families devastated at the loss, and as a police officer, every single death affects me in some way or other, whether it was expected or not and I have to deal with that, be able to put it in a place where it wont affect me again.

My characters are beyond evil, severely deranged, sadistic serial killers or wired wrong in their desires, sickening to all but their own kind, people that you cannot relate to, because their make up is so damaged, their personalities are not normal and you would have to question yourself if you could relate to them?

I have seen violence and brutality, tragedy, suffering, fear and terror, dominance and control, all of which appear in my novels, although the level of evil and violence portrayed in my books is more often seen in that of real life serial killers from the USA. I don’t know why I have taken things up a level in my writing, probably to make the books more frightening, thought provoking and fear inducing, they are meant to be borderline horror thrillers. Saying all that, Devil’s Demise and Porcelain Flesh of Innocents have true heroes and heroines, good people willing to fight and wont be beaten by evil or control, and other characters that are truly decent genuine folk that stand up for right and wrong. My books portrait good versus evil, and in my opinion, good should always win over evil, even though it sometimes takes a while, karma is real.

Regarding the characters, I can see a little of myself in Taylor, not quite as striking or efficient, but in my early years, a little flirtatious, I made a few mistakes and suffered the consequences, and I have definitely learned through experience.

I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever write a book, far less three, but now that I’ve started I just want to write exciting, gritty, frightening books that have a little passion thrown in to give the reader a little respite from the horror, books that make you want to read on, feel a little frightened or warm inside, either way, hopefully you wont be able to put it down. 

Blurb for Porcelain: Flesh of Innocents
Detective Sergeant Taylor Nicks is back and in charge of tracking down a sadistic vigilante, with a penchant for torturing paedophiles, in this unsettling crime thriller by a real-life police sergeant.

High-powered businessmen are turning up tortured around the city of Edinburgh with one specific thing in common — a sinister double life involving pedophilia. Leaving his ‘victims’ in a disturbing state, the individual responsible calls the police and lays bare the evidence of their targets’ twisted misdemeanours to discover, along with a special memento of their own troubled past — a chilling calling card. Once again heading the investigation team is Detective Sergeant Taylor Nicks, along with her partner Detective Constable Marcus Black, who are tasked not only with tracking the perpetrator down but also dealing with the unusual scenario of having to arrest the victims for their own barbarous crimes. But with the wounded piling up the predator’s thirst for revenge intensifies and soon Nicks discovers that she is no longer chasing down a sinister attacker but a deadly serial killer.

Vivid, dark and deeply unsettling
Porcelain: Flesh of Innocents is the perfect next read for serious crime and police thriller fans.

Author Bio
Lee Cockburn has worked for Police Scotland for 16 years including as a police sergeant in Edinburgh for 7 years and also as a public order officer. Before joining the force, she played for Scotland Women’s rugby team for 15 years, and also swam competitively for 12 years; successfully representing Edinburgh in the youth Olympics in Denmark in 1984. 

Lee lives in Edinburgh with her civil partner Emily and their 2 young sons. Her first book Devil’s Demise was published by Clink Street Publishing November 2014. Follow Lee Cockburn on Twitter.

29 August 2017

Review: 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson is a fantasy novel for middle grade readers about a 12 year old boy called Henry who discovers hidden cupboards in the walls of his attic bedroom.

With the help of one of his cousins, Henry soon discovers the cupboards of varying shape and design are portals to other places.

This intriguing premise led me to borrow this from the library, however unfortunately the novel didn't live up to my expectations. The protagonist sharing the same name as the town (Henry) and a cousin by the name of Henrietta created unnecessary confusion for no discernible gain.

The first in a series of at least three books, 100 Cupboards was a good read but not a stand out.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
24 August 2017

Interview with Debbie Malone, author of Never Alone and Clues from Beyond

Today I'm excited to be interviewing Australian author and psychic medium Debbie Malone. In 2013, Debbie was Australian Psychic of the Year, and she continues to use her gift as a psychic, clairvoyant and medium to assist Police and bring peace to loved ones. This year I read and reviewed her books Never Alone and Clues From Beyond - True Crime Stories from Australia's #1 Psychic Detective.

Thanks for your time Debbie and for joining me on Carpe Librum. For those who haven’t read your books Never Alone and Clues From Beyond, what can you tell us about your six near death experiences (NDEs)?
I had my first near death experience at the age of 3 when I had bronchial pneumonia. 
My next NDE was at 13 when I had my appendix out. I had a complication with the anaesthetic and my heart stopped. I remember floating up to the ceiling of my hospital room watching as the doctor and nurses came in with oxygen and a heart monitor to try and bring me back. Initially, I thought that I had been dreaming. It wasn't until the following morning the doctor came in to tell me what had happened to me.
Debbie Malone, author

I had another 4 NDEs in my late 20s - early 30s due to numerous illnesses and operations. I have a reaction to anaesthetics. So when I have operations I now need to warn the doctors.
The most memorable NDE was when I was in 1997. I had to undergo a major operation and I had a vision that I was going to die. I had a will made out the night before just in case and I warned the doctors of my fears. At the time they thought I was just overly anxious. It wasn't until after the operation that things began to wrong. I was placed on a morphine drip for pain and I had an allergic reaction which caused my heart to stop.

The journey I went on from this experience is something I will never forget, to this day just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. I found myself travelling through time and space at great speed, it was like I was an astronaut without a craft or a spacesuit. I felt myself being lifted up and becoming a part of the universe. I could see all of the stars and planets up close as though I was in outer space. I was drawn into a black hole and then I began to move even faster than before. I came out of the hole and was once again amongst the stars. I felt like I was on some kind of rollercoaster, I was thrown up and down and felt a lot of shaking. Once again I was taken into the black hole that turned into a large tunnel with a pinhole of light at the end. I was drawn closer and closer to the end of the tunnel when I found myself in a beautiful meadow.

In the meadow there was a small privet hedge that was about 1/2 metre high. There was gate in the middle of the hedge that was open and two beings were standing there. Before me was a line of other people who were being greeted by the beings as they waited to go through the gate. On the other side of the hedge were groups of people who all looked very happy to be there. At the time I remember feeling a familiarity of the people I saw on the other side of the hedge, the love that I felt from these people is something that is difficult to describe.

When it was my turn to go through the gate the beings told me that I couldn't come through as it wasn't my time. They told me to turn around and as I did I looked down and saw my husband and three children pointing up at the sky. At the time my daughter was 1, my two sons were 3 and 7. One of my boys asked "where is Mummy?" and my husband said that "Mummy isn't coming back as she is in heaven now". At this point I felt myself falling very rapidly back to the earth. I suddenly woke feeling the nurse frantically shaking me and trying to revive me. Thankfully, I did return and I can still be a part of my beautiful family's lives. Since that day I have always been drawn to the night sky as it feels like home. The movie Contact is the best way for me to describe what I saw when I died.

The title of your memoir is Never Alone, how do you tune out spirits or are you truly never alone?

As I am constantly connected to the spirit world, I choose to tune out by listening to music as this is a way to block out the constant voices. I am very blessed to also be connected to angelic presences that I find to be comforting in my everyday life.

Do you pick up messages for those around you in every day life? (Shopping, meeting up with friends and family?)
Yes, I do pick up messages constantly in everyday life. It can be quite off putting when I am in a store and the deceased loved one of the shop assistant tries to get a message through. If I feel that the person is open to receiving the message I will pass it on to them. However, sometimes I just want to go shopping and not be tuning in and constantly at "work". If people know what I do they are constantly asking me "what or who are you seeing around me?" It can be quite challenging as people don't understand that I need to have a life and not be constantly tuning in.

Do the messages you receive ever place you in a moral dilemma, or do you feel obligated to pass on all information to loved ones?
I take my job very seriously. I have a lot of responsibility placed on me by both the living and the dead. I am honest and open about the information I receive. I always pass messages on in a positive light. Part of my work is about helping loved ones find closure and to allow them to heal from their loss.

Can you tell the difference between spirits who have transitioned and those who have gone into the light? If they haven’t transitioned are they in peace?
I can tell the difference between spirits who have gone to the light and those who have not. Sometimes a spirit may not go to the light because they feel they have unfinished business, they may feel that they died too early or they may have died in a tragic manner and are not really aware that they are dead. A spirit who is earth bound has a much heavier and sadder energy than a spirit who is in the light. Part of my job is to assist those who have not transitioned so they can also find peace and continue with their spiritual journey.

I read you can help spirits transition and go into the light, do you feel obligated to try and do this wherever you can? Or have I just been watching too many episodes of Ghost Whisperer?
Yes, I do assist spirits to transition into the light. I feel part of my job as a medium is to be of assistance to others whether they be alive or deceased.

You mention in Never Alone that you believe ‘some outcomes are predestined’. What can you tell us about that?
From my own NDEs I have come to realise that there are times in our lives that are "entry" and "exit" points. These points in our lives are when we could meet the love of our life or we could lose the love of our life. It can be a time when we could die in an accident or leave the earth early or we may have a near miss where we are allowed to stay. These cycles in our life were chosen by our soul before we came to the earth. Each of these cycles are a part of our spiritual journey. What is most important to remember is that nothing is set in stone. We do all have free will and it is up to us as to what experience or event we choose to go through in life.

What happens to the spirits of the perpetrators of crime? (Page 284 of Never Alone)
The spirit of the perpetrator of a crime, can choose if they wish to go to the light and face their karmic journey. While other perpetrators sometimes choose to stay amongst the negative realms of the spirit world, due to fear or retribution of what they have done.

You mention in Clues From Beyond that residual energy can be left behind in homes when they’re sold. What were the health problems in the house you mentioned on Page 185?

The current owners of Dorothy Davis' old home have suffered from many health issues. I don't want to go into details.

I have a question from a Carpe Librum reader: you’ve worked on several famous Australian cold cases, have you ever received messages from spirit on the whereabouts of missing boy William Tyrell?
I have been asked about William Tyrell many, many times. William's disappearance is an extremely sad case. I have not been asked by police to assist. It is important to remember there are 1000s of missing and murdered people in Australia and throughout the world. I am only one person and I donate my time to working on cases as well as working full-time as a medium and an author. There is not enough time in the day for me to assist on every case. I only put my time and energy into cases where the information will be utilised by the relevant officers.

What’s the significance of the medallion you wear around your neck?
The pendant I think you are talking about is the one with feather and the word believe. This is a piece of jewellery I designed myself. It is my mantra. To believe is to acknowledge that life lives on and that anything is possible. The feather represents the signs from above that many of us receive from our loved ones and guardian angels.

What are you working on next?
I have a new set of Guardian Angel Reading Cards and a new book (yet to be named) both coming out in May next year.

Thanks Debbie, I'll be sure to check out your book next year. Visit Debbie's website for more info.
22 August 2017

Review: Sex, Lies, and Handwriting by Michelle Dresbold

Is handwriting analysis a science or not? Is it legit or is it bullshit? Many believe it's a pseudo science despite it being used to solve many crimes, but I wanted to decide for myself. After reading Sex, Lies, and Handwriting - A Top Expert Reveals the Secrets Hidden in Your Handwriting by Michelle Dresbold, I'm convinced that it's definitely legit.

The direction your writing slants, whether your letters have lead in strokes or even how hard you dot your 'i's' are all clues to your personality, character and even your upbringing. It's fascinating really.

The case study of the ransom letter in the JonBenet Ramsey case was riveting (and proves it was written by JonBenet's mother Patsy) as was the analysis of many famous signatures. I'm not sure I believe the analysis right down to the weapon strokes, and I don't think I'll be able to remember all the strokes to look for, but I enjoyed seeing how handwriting analysis can prove a signature is forged or how writing can be proven to have come from the same person.

I also enjoyed the case studies and exercises provided in the book, and it certainly made me look at my own writing in a whole new light.

Recommended reading for skeptics, forensic enthusiasts and readers of true crime.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
20 August 2017

Extract: Gustave Flaubert: The Ambiguity of Imagination by Giuseppe Cafiero

I'm participating in the Clink Street Publishing Blogival 2017 this month, and am pleased to share an extract by Giuseppe Cafiero from his book Gustave Flaubert: The Ambiguity of Imagination.

What would happen if a character, even if only roughly sketched in the mind of a writer, decided to take on a life independent of his creator in order to take revenge against all the other characters that this author had created in his other books?

This is what happens to the legendary writer Gustave Flaubert, when his character Harel-Bey comes to life with a grudge to bear. Even the imaginary characters of books that Monsieur Flaubert has never actually written, but had long pondered and discussed with his most intimate friends, begin to stir with their own motivations.

Quite unexpectedly, Harel-Bey begins a long and difficult journey through the writings of Monsieur Flaubert to try to understand the reasons that induced the writer to write so many books and stories, but never the one that would have had him as leading protagonist. As a vengeful killer, Harel-Bey is determined to murder all of the protagonists of the books and stories Flaubert has written.

In the company of a certain Monsieur Bouvard, himself the star of another book which Flaubert had started but never finished, Harel-Bey seeks his revenge. There’s will be a mission rich in disturbing discoveries, revealing the reasons and the irrationalities of fictionalised reality and unreal fiction.

The Bedouin Harel-Bey, a possible character of a certain book that Monsieur Gustave Flaubert never wrote, but which he long pondered and long spoke about with his most intimate friends, unexpectedly and autonomously, begins a long and difficult journey through the writings of Monsieur Flaubert to try to understand the reasons that induced the writer to write so many books and stories, but never the one that would have had him as absolute protagonist. A journey to try to cancel, as vengeful killer, all the protagonists of books and stories written by Monsieur Flaubert.

The crimes were thus conceived as works of cunning and safeguarding, also a natural occasion to make Harel Bey an actor in the region of notoriety, or a shrewd choice for being the unsuspected executioner of liberty, fraternity, equality amongst the characters already active in the novels of Monsieur Gustave Flaubert. In committing crimes the sense of smell perceived, in fact, the imprints of death on this or that person. Touch perceived the signs of bodies which Harel Bay would has to torment. Hearing recognized the haughtiness of phonemes and declamations so that it was inevitable to ponder, in primis, the irreverent impudence of a writer who, with detrimental intentions and fraudulent ardour, Harey Bay murdered amidst appearances and intrigues.

Monsieur Gustave Flaubert was a man of letters who was very partial in the choice of his characters even for unforeseen loves, so that never did a single one of his characters had any certainty that his presence wasn’t solely an opportunity, a casual, scatter-brained invention simply to fill up a sheet of paper, give voice to some bit of writing, realize an idea. As Gustave Flaubert was a born manipulator, Harel Bey wanted only to alternate the protagonists of certain stories with other characters so that these others could be the principal actors or at least participants with a few lines to speak. 

Author Bio
Giuseppe Cafiero is a prolific writer and author of ten published works focusing on cultural giants from Vincent Van Gogh to Edgar Allan Poe. Cafiero lives in Italy in the Tuscan countryside. 

18 August 2017

Carpe Librum has a facelift and a new logo

My site is undergoing a much needed facelift and it might take a little time to get things 'just right' so I thank you in advance for your patience.

I'm also pretty excited to be launching my new logo, woohoo!!!
Carpe Librum logo
I hope you like the fresh new look with further tweaks and changes to come. What do you think of the new logo? Love it, hate it or not sure? Leave your comments below and of course, Carpe Librum!
15 August 2017

Review: After I've Gone by Linda Green

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

After I've Gone is the first Linda Green novel I've read and with an enticing premise, it easily surpassed all my expectations.

Jess Mount finds out she has 18 months left to live, if her Facebook newsfeed is to be believed. Her newsfeed seems to have jumped ahead 18 months and she can see posts from family and friends mourning her death. How can this be?

Jess is an intelligent and sensible protagonist and reacts precisely how I would in this situation. Don't worry, there's no 'cringe-worthy' moments here.

The story takes off on the first page and never lets up. Jess has a backstory that is alluded to and slowly revealed, as does Lee, her new love interest. These plot lines - together with the point of view of her Mother-In-Law Angela - kept the novel motoring along and I was riveted.

The story has a very contemporary feel and thanks to a few real world references and social media posts, very current. Jess tries to change her future, but you'll have to read the novel to find out if she can change it for good or if she's forced to accept her fate. 

I have no hesitation recommending After I've Gone by Linda Green to those who enjoy crime fiction and domestic noir. I loved it!

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum
10 August 2017

Blogival Guest Post: Joe Treasure on writing The Book of Air

I'm participating in the Clink Street Publishing Blogival 2017 this month, and am proud to introduce the following guest post by Joe Treasure. Joe says that after writing The Book of Air, he understood why he’d been writing and explains why.

Writing and the accidental discovery of meaning 
You might think that before embarking on a novel a writer would have a story to tell. For me it’s never been that definite. For my first two novels I’d written the opening chapter before I began to think about what might develop from there. I’m sure other writers have this experience. A glimpse of a scene can be enough to get you started, a chance encounter, a moment of conflict, a distinct setting coloured by a mood or an atmosphere. Once you’ve got that on paper you can begin to see what direction it’s pointing in. 

With The Book of Air, what I began with was less concrete even than that. There was the familiar impulse to write, strengthened by the confidence that two published books had given me. I had a vague sense that I should attempt something more ambitious. I’d been impressed by The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s brilliant futuristic satire on the oppression of women under a Biblically inspired tyranny. This powerful modern myth stirred me to think beyond the ordinary.

Meanwhile I’d long been interested in books that take off from classics. I love the idea of interacting creatively with an established story, to subvert or reimagine it. In her justifiably celebrated Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys drew Rochester’s mad wife from the shadows and allowed her to tell her own story, a Creole heiress married off and forcibly relocated, finding herself locked up in an isolated house, increasingly neglected by her husband. Since that was published in 1966, giving voice to marginalised characters in 19th novels has become a familiar device and I didn’t feel I had anything fresh to say in this form. Besides, I wanted more freedom than a historical novel would allow me. I was drawn to a futuristic setting.

And so I began imagining a community that has constructed itself around the close study of a novel. In a way, any novel would do – the randomness is the point. The community, having elevated this book to a unique status, is unaware that it’s just a made-up story, one of countless books, whose purpose is to give pleasure. I considered various novels. But I returned to Jane Eyre because it’s so well-known and its central drama is so strong and elemental. To emphasise the randomness I would give the community two other books, each completely different in kind – a children’s picture book and a technical manual from which they can derive no coherent meaning.

But still all I had was an abstraction – not a story, not even a single character – until I heard Agnes’s voice, as she responds for the first time in her life to the impulse to write about herself. Hidden away in the corner of an attic, she has found a mysterious object, recognisably a book, but not a book because there are no words in it, none until she writes them. From the first moment, she is aware of the strangeness of what she is doing and the danger of it. She is fifteen, on the verge of adulthood. Her story will be about secrecy and self-discovery, oppression and rebellion, friendship and love. It will explore her experience of growing up and challenge the limits of the community she has been born into.

As I worked on it, other questions came up. How had this community come into being? Why this house, these cottages, this farmland? Why these books and no others? And why this isolation? I thought of Jason, a man of our own time, waking from a fever, surprised to find himself still alive having survived a virus that has killed so many others. He has left London in chaos and retreated to his country house, the very house where Agnes will begin her journal in the distant future. He has two stories to tell, what led up to this moment – the collapse of society as he has always known it – and what will follow from it – the struggle to survive and find a new way of living among a handful of strangers.

I had no idea until I began writing that these were the stories I wanted to tell. And I found, when I was done, that certain preoccupations had emerged. How do communities form and what makes a community oppressive or benign? How are collective memories kept alive? What is the connection between the experience of loss and the urge to create, both of which seem essential to being human?

Blurb - The Book of Air
Retreating from an airborne virus with a uniquely unsettling symptom, property developer Jason escapes London for his country estate, where he is forced to negotiate a new way of living with an assortment of fellow survivors.

Far in the future, an isolated community of descendants continue to farm this same estate. Among their most treasured possessions are a few books, including a copy of Jane Eyre, from which they have constructed their hierarchies, rituals and beliefs. When 15-year-old Agnes begins to record the events of her life, she has no idea what consequences will follow. Locked away for her transgressions, she escapes to the urban ruins and a kind of freedom, but must decide where her future lies.
Joe Treasure

These two stories interweave, illuminating each other in unexpected ways and offering long vistas of loss, regeneration and wonder. 

The Book of Air is a story of survival, the shaping of memory and the enduring impulse to find meaning in a turbulent world.

About Joe Treasure
Joe Treasure currently lives in South West London with his wife Leni Wildflower. As an English teacher in Wales, he ran an innovative drama programme, before following Leni across the pond to Los Angeles, an experience that inspired his critically acclaimed debut novel The Male Gaze (published by Picador). His second novel Besotted (also published by Picador) also met with rave reviews. 
Visit Joe's website or follow him on Twitter.

08 August 2017

Review: Tin Man by Sarah Winman

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Tin Man by Sarah Winman is about the relationship between Ellis and Michael, and what happens when Ellis meets 'the one' in Annie. The first part of the book unfolds from the perspective of Ellis, and it's a slow, quiet and personal reflection on the past while revealing his present loneliness and grief.

The second half of the book is narrated by Michael under the guise of writing a journal, which didn't work in my opinion.

The narrative in both sections jumped around in time and despite a handful of helpful chapter headings, I never fell into the flow of the novel. I understand that when we reflect on the past, our memories drift around from decade to decade, but in this case I wanted the author to lead me down a more chronological path.

While on the topic of writing style, Sarah Winman doesn't use quotation marks in Tin Man. I always find this style of writing irritating, and while I have seen it work in other novels (Cloudstreet for instance), sadly it was just confusing here.

The atmosphere of Tin Man reminded me of one of my favourite books of all time, Stoner by John Williams, but where Stoner succeeds in its perfection, Tin Man falls short. The ending left many things undone, including what happens to Ellis. 

Tin Man is receiving a lot of hype at the moment, and I understand why readers are being moved by the story - some even to tears - but it was just too disjointed for me. 

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
03 August 2017

Review: Wrap It In A Bit Of Cheese Like You're Tricking The Dog by David Thorne

I've been enjoying David Thorne's wacky sense of humour for years now, so I was really excited to receive an autographed copy of Wrap It In a Bit of Cheese Like You're Tricking the Dog for Christmas last year.

Containing more essays than emails, the laughs continued, just not at the same rate of knots (i.e. on every page). The work conversations are hilarious and there was another logo design that had me chuckling and remembering the logo shenanigans in his previous books.

Readers looking for a little more depth in the writing will enjoy this offering, however in terms of laughs, it didn't make me want to read out every exchange, as I wanted to do when reading The Internet Is A Playground (5 stars) and I'll Go Home Then; It's Warm and Has Chairs (5 stars).

This collection of essays and emails is highly recommended for readers familiar with David Thorne's work, but if you're wanting to dip your toe into his wildly entertaining world, you should begin with The Internet Is A Playground. I remain a dedicated fan though and will continue to read whatever he puts out. Unless it's a book full of his cat panels, lol!

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!