Thriller of the Month – Dark Fragments, by Rob Sinclair

An unreliable narrator isn’t often used in a thriller, perhaps because it requires a great deal of skill to keep a reader engaged once it’s clear the “hero” is anything but. John Grisham did it well in “The Racketeer”. Now British writer Rob Sinclair joins him with “Dark Fragments”.

Dark Fragments” is a departure for Sinclair, who has previously written tense third person spy thrillers about secret agent Carl Logan. This, his first book for crime publisher Bloodhound, is told in the first person by Ben Stephens. At first, management consultant Ben seems a nice, ordinary guy. He adores his children and his wife. Yes, he’s down in the dumps, but who wouldn’t be in his situation? After all, he’s being threatened by gangsters over a soured business deal, he’s haunted by the unsolved murder of his first wife, and his career has plateaued. We can all imagine struggling with that kind of baggage.

This is where Rob Sinclair is very clever. Having made us sympathise with the man, perhaps even identify with him, alarm bells ring as Ben takes extreme actions to solve his problems. Rash and impulsive, he resorts to infidelity and violence, all the while seeing himself as a victim. The level of self-justification is such that the dramatic finale of the book is easy to believe, although it still comes as a surprise.

Sinclair’s style is pacy, energetic and liberally punctuated with cliff hangers. In consequence, “Dark Fragments” is a quick read, which leaves the lingering feeling that the ordinary people you meet every day may not be quite what they seem.

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Dark Fragments” is set in Birmingham, England. I also write crime thrillers that are (at least partly) set in the city and I very much enjoyed Rob Sinclair’s descriptions of its swanky and seedy areas. Do you like to read about places you know? Email me at aaabbottstories[at]gmail.com.

Crowdfunding fiction

The Thriller of the Month is taking a back seat in March (not least because I’m busy writing my fourth crime thriller), so I’ve asked writer Pete Sutton for a guest blog explaining why he’s using crowdfunding to publish a bunch of short stories. Pete is the editor of Far Horizons magazine, and he’s crowdfunding in order to publish not just one, but THREE BOOKs of short stories that first appeared in Far Horizons! Here’s why…in his own words…

Far Horizons started with a simple idea. A bunch of writers on a Facebook group who were either unpublished or self-published wanted to create an anthology. That simple premise became Far Horizons e-magazine and we got enough stories and art to make a second then a third etc. Two years later the team and magazine have grown.  Our original remit hasn’t changed though. We exist to give new writers a voice. We will edit new writers until they become publishable. It is a labour of love.

The magazine has always been free. This has been to get the widest possible reach for the stories which are mostly from writers learning their craft. No-one gets paid at the moment and we offer adverts for the author’s work in payment for sending us their stories.

Our original idea to create an anthology is still sound, and so we have now created three.  Our hope is that by selling anthologies we’ll raise enough money to start paying our contributors. This is the main reason we are crowdfunding. The anthologies will be published regardless of how much money we make via the crowdfund. But we hope to raise enough money to cover our costs – and our real desire is to raise enough money to start paying our contributors.

We will do more anthologies and we will continue to publish the magazine (although the form may change after our second birthday). We also hope to publish some of the serials we have featured over the months as a thank you to the authors that have given us those serials.

Former Heroes we previously published but have remastered for this launch. It has stories in from published and self-published authors including David Gullen (Author of Shopocalypse and Open Waters), Gaie Sebold (author of the Babylon Steel and Shanghai Sparrow books), Sara Jayne Townsend (author of Soul Screams and Whispering Death) , Andrew Goodman (author of the Emperor Initiative series), Kate Charles (Author of Faisollus), Jim King (author of Trouble at the Docks) and Pete Sutton (author of A Tiding of Magpies and Sick City Syndrome). These are tales of men and women, and in one case a building, that have had a heroic heyday but that is now in their past. What do heroes do when they are no longer heroes?

Our most popular issue was our Zombie special so we saw there was an appetite for braaaains, er for well-told tales of the shambling undead. This anthology was filled through open submissions. We had a lot of fun reading all the stories and choosing the best to highlight.

Fantastically Horny started as a Facebook IM conversation. One of the staff writes erotica under a pen name and inquiring minds wanted to know if they put aliens or elves in, since they also write SF&F. We then wondered if anyone had ever put together a SF&F Erotica book. Which then inevitably led us to wanting to put together a SF&F Erotica book…

So we have ended up with not one, but three anthologies to launch. We hope that people feel inspired by our magazine and want to help us help new writers. Please head over to the Indiegogo and pledge. 

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Writer Pete Sutton is signed to Kensington Gore Publishing, who are about to launch his collection of short stories, “A Tiding of Magpies”, very soon. His novel, “Sick City Syndrome”, will follow later in the year. Read Pete’s excellent blog here, and follow him on Twitter at @suttope.

Missing A Writer…

There are many compelling reasons why new and established authors should join a writing group (look out for a blog about this soon!). A quite unexpected, but delightful, benefit is the new friends who enter your world. Eileen Elsey, proud redhead, gin connoisseur and writer of deliciously quirky stories, was one of them. She turned up at the same writing group five years ago and sprinkled fairydust in my life ever since. Her solstice parties were a legend, her friends were fun, and the improvements she suggested to my stories were fabulous.

I miss her, and I’m not the only one. Friends say there’s an Eileen-shaped hole in their lives. Her funeral last week captured her spirit perfectly – a stylish ceremony in a woodland chapel (see the picture above), with jazz, wine, food and interesting friends. Best of all was the greatest gift a writer can give: her latest short crime story, Handbagged, was published in a limited edition by her family and handed to everyone on the day. 

Three of Eileen’s wondrous stories have been published in an anthology under her pen name, DA Allen. You can see actor Alun Robins read one of them here (warning: there are four letter words) – it’s wickedly funny.

A beautiful spirit, much missed. I’m dedicating my next crime thriller to her.

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I’m a British writer. As well as three full-length crime thrillers, I’ve written many short stories – you can read some here.

7 Social Media Tips for Writers

Social media is a fun and fabulous way of connecting with others who love books, and it needn’t take a lot of time. Of course, I love writing above all else, but meeting kindred spirits online has enriched my life enormously. Here are my 7 social media tips for writers: – please share yours!

#1.Choose Your Platform – With so many social media sites available, it can be a struggle knowing where to begin. Be aware that different sites serve different purposes. For example, Twitter is great for making impressions, sharing content and engaging with new people, while Facebook is suited to longer, more personal interactions. Do your research about each site before you jump in!

#2. Be Consistent – It’s no use having a social media profile if you rarely ever use it! Posting at regular intervals at times when you know your followers are online too is the best way to build your social media platform. I’ve found Twitter works best for me in the early morning and evening, while my Facebook friends are online during the day.

#3. Don’t Be Shameless! – It can be hard to resist when you’re dying to tell everyone how great your book is…but the majority of your content on social media should not be about your book at all! Shameless self-promotion can drive people away. Far better to post relevant and engaging content to your audience – then they’ll be more likely to pay attention when you do talk about your own work.

#4. If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say – Don’t say anything at all. Negativity and online controversy is not a good way to attract an audience. Steer clear of controversial topics, and resist the urge to respond to critics and detractors in kind. Posting online when you’re drunk is best avoided too…

#5. Have a Schedule – Keeping up with social media can seem like a chore, especially when you have a book to write. You should set aside time each day to maintain your social media profiles, and stick to it, however tempting another fifteen minutes on Twitter may be!

#6. Don’t Be Afraid To Repeat Yourself – Given the nature of many social media platforms, it can be easy to miss something the first time around. If you have a piece of content that failed to get the traction you hoped it would, don’t be afraid to post it again. Experimenting with posting at different times of the day can help you gauge when your audience is online (see above).

#7. Be Yourself – Injecting your own personality into your content and posts will attract likeminded contacts, and expand your audience. I also send a free e-book to my newsletter subscribers – if they like what I write, they’ll stay subscribed and we can get to know each other better.

Do you agree? Connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ and let me know!

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Although I spend far too much time on Twitter (especially addictive chat hours like #TheCultureHour and #BrumHour), I also find time to write crime thrillers like The Bride’s Trail! I love meeting other readers and writers both on and offline, so feel free to get in touch.

Great Ghost Stories

Rumour has it that ghosts walk abroad on Hallowe’en, the night before All Souls Day. While garish Hallowe’en goods have been on sale for months, a good old-fashioned ghost story is surely the best way to mark the unquiet night. Here are a few that will send a shiver down your spine…

The Greatcoat, by Helen Dunmore. Beautifully written like all of Dunmore’s books, unease building gently until the shocking finale.

Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come For You, My Lad, by Wilkie Collins. A classic British Gothic chiller, and available in an anthology of Classic Ghost Stories by other leading Victorian fiction writers like Charles Dickens and the marvellous J Sheridan Le Fanu. Le Fanu wrote Carmella, the first vampire story. and one of the best – it has a fabulous dreamlike quality.

The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters. Although a supernatural thread runs through the novel, what sets it apart from others is its focus on class tension. A bestseller, and deservedly so.

Edgar Allan Poe is the grandfather of horror, and all his poems and short stories are available on the Kindle for just 99p! The Tell Tale Heart is an exquisite tale – but the stuff of nightmares…

…and from the grandfather of horror to the modern world’s undisputed maestro – Stephen King. The Shining, a story of a haunted hotel, sets hairs on end. The film was awesome too!

Ghost stories are even better when they’re told live in the best campfire tradition. I’ll be joining Twitter’s @TheCultureHour for an evening of ghost and horror stories at Brewsmiths in Birmingham on 26th October – tickets are free and spinechillers guaranteed!

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Although I usually write crime thrillers, I’m taking a break to bring a ghost story along to Brewsmiths! I hope you’ll be there – book your free tickets here.