#BlogTour! #GuestPost from ‘Deadly Game’ author Matt Johnson (@Matt_Johnson_UK) @OrendaBooks

Big thanks to author of ‘Deadly Game’, Matt Johnson, and Orenda Books, for having me host today’s stop on the blog tour! Matt Johnson has written a really insightful guest post for us here at TWG HQ! I am super excited to share with you Matt’s thoughts on editing books and having to decide whether all parts of the storyline make the final cut or not!

A darling killed – Matt Johnson.

The editing process can be hard, especially to a new author who is not used
to it. Those words that you have almost sweated blood to produce, that you
have agonised over, changed, improved … only to find they are despatched
to the edit room floor. But that is the very nature of the editor’s role, too look
dispassionately at the content and to make recommendations on what needs
to be changed, what needs to be added, and what should be cut. Editing
helps the story move smoothly, maintains pace and keeps the book on track.
It chops the padding, removes the irrelevant red herrings and polishes up
what remains. It turns a manuscript into a book.

This is an extract from Deadly Game, one that didn’t make the cut. I liked it,
and was sad to see it go, but the editing team were right. And so, my darling
was killed. In this chapter, the central character Robert Finlay has been sent to interview
a potential witness in Gloucester. He meets an old friend, Wendy Russell,
now in charge of policing for that area. This extract, describes and event from
when they first met.

***

Wendy Russell and I had been PCs together at Albany Street and, before
that, on the same intake for the police training school at Hendon in North
London. Early days as a constable consisted of a lot of classroom work, practical
assessments and exercises. After that, every evening was spent on book
study. As an older student, I hadn’t found the book-work easy. Wendy had
been a great help. We first met, one late evening, when I’d taken a break from
the studying to grab a quick beer in the recruit bar. A young redhead had
walked up beside me and offered to buy me a drink. It was Wendy. I accepted
the offer, of course. It’s not every day that kind of thing happens.

Our first hour together was spent talking about the course, why we’d joined
the police and other, ‘get to know you’ type things. Later, Wendy explained
that she’d only spoken to me out of sympathy; she felt sorry for me, sitting on
my own at the bar. I didn’t mind, and that first drink turned out to be the start
of a long friendship. My new friend was on the graduate entry scheme. I
hadn’t heard of it. She explained that by the time I would be eligible to try for a
promotion to sergeant, she would already have made inspector. As it
transpired, her prediction proved correct. Wendy was bright, articulate, and
attractive. She was also a lot younger than me, and was already engaged to
be married to a sergeant who worked in Central London.

Our friendship was cemented one day during ‘restraint’ training. One of the PT
staff had a dislike of female recruits and a resentment of what he called the
‘Bramshill flyers’, the fast-track promotion graduates who would be heading to
the police staff college as their careers progressed. To this particular
instructor, WPCs were all a ‘plonk’ or ‘Doris’ who should have been kept
inside the police stations to make the tea and to look after women and kids.
The fact that Wendy was both female and a ‘flyer’ caused her to be the
subject of much of this man’s attention. A former NCO from one of the infantry
regiments, his uniform tunic was adorned with several medal ribbons, some of
which I recognised. It wasn’t unusual; most of the ex-services lads wore their
ribbons. Almost all had completed tours in Ireland, so the green and blue
General Service ribbon was quite commonplace. Others sported NATO
medals and the Falkland Islands ribbon.

On the day in question, Wendy had been singled out by the PT instructor to
demonstrate restraint techniques. We were to be taught how to deal with
awkward prisoners using the ‘hammerlock and bar’ hold. It was simple
enough to use, but not if you were a rather diminutive female who’s
overpowering male instructor was set on showing you up.
As the rest of the class watched, our fellow recruit was teased, humiliated
and, repeatedly dumped on the gym floor in a bedraggled mess. Wendy tried
hard, very hard, but the instructor was strong, and he was determined to
make his point about the value of WPCs. I saw a tear in Wendy’s eye as she lay on the floor following her sixth or seventh attempt to apply the hold to her tormentor. Ignoring her, the instructor ordered us to form pairs and practise amongst ourselves. I went over to
Wendy and helped her up.
‘You ok?’ I asked.
‘One day, I’m going to come back here as an inspector, then we’ll see who’s
laughing,’ she answered, bravely.
‘Why wait that long?’
‘What do you mean?’

I moved Wendy to the back of the gym where we would be away from the rest
of the class. The instructor, I noticed, had nipped out to do something else
while we tried to master the hold he had been teaching. I had also noticed the
way he had been tipping Wendy on her back as she tried to place him in the
hold. He relied on brute strength. He was overconfident, certain of his strength
advantage and, as a result, was badly balanced on his feet. He didn’t consider
his adversary to be a threat. That left him vulnerable to surprise.
Over the course of the next few minutes, I allowed Wendy to practise on me.
The first time, I dumped her on her back, in the very same way that had
happened to her in front of the class. She made to storm off, but I held her
arm.
‘Stop,’ I said. ‘Now, try this.’
Using a simple sweeping movement of the leg, I showed Wendy how to knock
me off balance and onto my back. By the time the instructor returned, she was
becoming quite proficient at it.
‘OK you lot,’ came the call from our leader. ‘Who’s going to show me what
you’ve learnt?’
For a few seconds, nobody moved. Then Wendy stepped forward. ‘Mind if I
have another try, sergeant.’ The instructor and a couple of the younger male
recruits laughed, but Wendy continued her approach. Failing to anticipate that his stooge could have improved much in the time he had been absent, our teacher adopted the same casual approach to embarrassing his challenger. It was a mistake. Wendy was quick. What she
lacked in strength, she more than made up for in speed. In a flash, the
instructor was decked.

For good measure, Wendy stood for a moment, her right foot on her victim’s
neck and her fists in the air. She looked for all the world like a victorious
gladiator awaiting a command from her audience as to whether to spare her
unfortunate opponent. Two of the women laughed and gave the ‘thumbs
down’ sign. The rest of us cheered and clapped our hands enthusiastically.
In November that year, we were both posted out to Albany Street Police
Station, near Euston, to start our two-year probationary period as uniform
PCs. I had been placed on ‘C’ relief, Wendy was put with ‘D’. Over the coming
years, she inevitably encountered a lot more of the kind of attitude shown by
that instructor, but it didn’t faze her. We kept in contact until she left the Met
several years later, having been promoted to Superintendent.
And now, here she was. As large as life, with six years under her belt in
charge of policing in Gloucester.

Thanks again to Matt for the fantastic guest post! Read on to find out more about his book, Deadly Games, and the link to buy a copy for yourself!

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Reeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed. Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered, Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK. On the home front, Finlay’s efforts to protect his wife and child may have been in vain, as an MI5 protection officer uncovers a covert secret service operation that threatens them all… Picking up where the bestselling Wicked Game left off, Deadly Game sees Matt Johnson’s damaged hero fighting on two fronts. Aided by new allies, he must not only protect his family but save a colleague from an unseen enemy … and a shocking fate.

Buy now from Amazon

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#BlogTour! #Guestpost by Matt Wesolowski – ‘A Strange Alchemy’ @ConcreteKraken @OrendaBooks

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One death. Six stories. Which one is true?

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame … As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

Six Stories is available in E-book & paperback from Amazon UK. Now.

Huge welcome to Matt Wesolowski, author of ‘Six Stories’, which is published in paperback as of today (15/03/17)! Congratulations! It has already been released in e-book format, but if you follow the link above ^^ you’ll be able to purchase either format. TWG is one of two blog stops on Matt’s tour today, courtesy of Orenda Books, and I have a truly insightful guest post from the man himself. I hope you enjoy!

 

 
A Strange Alchemy

Matt Wesolowski

 

I used to vehemently believe that writing cannot be taught. In fact, I still believe it to a

degree. It’s not that I think writers are enigmas – ethereal creatures who are summoned from some unearthly realm; born, not made, however, I do believe that you cannot take a course or a class and learn the divine secrets to being able to write good fiction. Like Anne Cleeves says, writing is a strange alchemy.

That’s why, a few years ago, when someone suggested to me that I should look into teaching creative writing, I was immediately dismissive. I don’t even know what I’m doing with writing; I just have stories inside me that need to be conjured out, exorcised like awkward demons. Then an opportunity came up to work with young people in my home city of Newcastle-Upon- Tyne for an organisation I hold in utmost respect. The job was a group leader of a creative writing group for people aged 12-19 – namely Cuckoo Young Writers, set up by New Writing North.

‘You can’t teach writing’ resonated in my head as I filled out the application form. But the thing is, is that I agreed with the voice, you can’t. What you can do instead is enable, encourage and maybe…just maybe…inspire. You see, when I was a teenager I had nowhere to put my writing. I used to print out my short stories and give them to my friends or else press them into my harassed English teachers’ hands. I certainly didn’t know anyone else who wrote stories for fun.

Cuckoo Young Writers (and yes, I’m plugging) is a magnificent idea – informal drop-in sessions for young people across the North East, facilitated by a lead writer and group leader. These groups are free and provide a safe space for young people to write. Each lead writer creates a programme of sorts and each group focuses on something different; be it poetry, script writing, song writing, dark fiction (*ahem* er….hi!). What is so wonderful about these groups is that it gives young people a chance to experience other forms of writing, to sometimes inspire them to write in a format they’ve not tried before. They also get feedback from their work, from the facilitators, but more importantly from their peers.

Writing is a solitary pursuit and for young people, to meet others, like them who have stories inside the, is a beautiful thing. I would have given anything for something like Cuckoo when I was young. It doubtless would have enhanced and improved my craft no end.

But what helps inspire young people to write? I can’t answer that but what I can do is give

some examples of how I run the sessions. I’ve been working for Cuckoo for the last couple of years now and have learned so much from working as a group leader and now a lead writer. Every single session I am amazed and inspired by the quality of the writing from these young people. So first off, a warm-up is an excellent way of breaking the ice and getting started. I learned this from an amazing poet I worked with called John Challis whose warm-up exercises I still use. Playing consequences is a Cuckoo favourite, sometimes I do a sort of literary heads, bodies and tails; like exercise, you need to get warmed up. Doing this stuff gets everyone smiling and ready to write. Then we move onto the body of the session. What I usually do is give the writers an extract from something to read for inspiration and base the writing prompts around it. Currently I’m putting together a session on demon possession (apt, huh?) so I’m reading through some of my favourite fiction on the subject; The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty, Sara Gran’s ‘Come Closer’ and Paul Tremblay’s ‘A Head Full of Ghosts’.

What I like to do is ask the writers to work from quite simple perspectives – how would your best friend act if they were possessed? Write from the point of view of someone observing them. Focus on how it makes you feel. I think it’s important to keep things simple, good writing comes from a place of familiarity. Write what you know.
The other important thing about these sessions is that everyone gets the opportunity to

read out what they’ve written if they want to – that instant validation of your work is so important for young people. I encourage constructive criticism as I believe it’s important to be able to take that as early as possible (believe me, I’ve met many writers twice the age of these kids who can’t!).

It’s important to have a good supply of biscuits.

Always the biscuits.

 

So I don’t know if this counts as teaching writing, I don’t think so. What I do know is that

Cuckoo Young Writers empowers the next generation of writers and to me, it looks the future of fiction is more than safe in their hands.

Love, love, LOVE this post! Even if you are above the 12-19 age bracket for Cuckoo Young Writers, Matt’s guest post contains some advice that could even be taken into consideration by you. Taking on board constructive criticism is important and probably one of the most valuable pieces of advice. Well, aside from Matt’s advice to always have a good supply of biscuits…now that’s also important!

Big thank you to Matt for keeping me company on TWG this afternoon, it’s been a pleasure to have you and I hope you can pop by another time!

About Matt Wesolowski.

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an
English tutor and leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops for young
people in association with New Writing North. Matt started his writing career in
horror and his short horror fiction has been published in Ethereal Tales magazine,
Midnight Movie Creature Feature anthology, 22 More Quick Shivers anthology and
many more. His debut novella The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland
coast, was published in 2013 and a new novella set in the forests of Sweden will be
available shortly. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody
Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. He is currently working on his second crime novel Ashes, which involves black metal and Icelandic sorcery.



#BlogTour! #BookReview of Sealskin by Su Bristow (@SuBristow) @OrendaBooks

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I cannot believe that this is my first ever blog tour for Orenda Books! How have I not been involved in one before now? Shocking TWG, shocking! Today I am one of two stops on the tour bus for Su Bristow’s – Sealskin, published by Orenda Books. Enjoy!

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What happens when magic collides with reality?

Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous …and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives – not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence? Based on the legend of the selkies – seals who can transform into people – Sealskin is a magical story, evoking the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice. With exquisite grace, Exeter Novel Prize-winner Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set. And it is, quite simply, unforgettable.

What does TWG think?

‘Sealskin’ has been doing the rounds on social media for several months now, piquing my interest every single time I saw its unique book cover. Many times I wondered what it was about, what the skin of a seal had to do with anything; I could have read reviews or the blurb to get an idea first, easier right? Yes, but I didn’t do that, I had to read it with my very own eyes instead of reading someone else’s interpretation of the novel. What I began reading however, was completely different to my initial thoughts. I just had to work out if that was a good thing or not..

‘Sealskin’ is based on the mythological legend of the selkies, a subject I had heard many moons ago, but knew nothing about. Until now. The storyline follows the actions of a fisherman named, Donald. A man who was able to witness the selkie magic but took the magic several steps too far. Donald has to face up to the error of his ways and hope that his stupidity doesn’t damage other people’s lives. Will Donald’s selfish acts ruin a life that has absolutely no say in the matter? Or will the selkie myth shout louder than ever before?

Due to Donald’s actions, I was unfortunately toying between continuing the novel and stopping reading completely. I couldn’t fathom what his actions had to do with anything at all, and I began to feel a little uncomfortable by what he had done. Now, my gut instinct was the latter; give up on the book, however, seeing as the book is a genre I don’t usually read, I continued. ‘Sealskin’ has a storyline that is completely different to anything I have ever read before and it’s genre wouldn’t be something which I would lean towards in a bookshop. Because of that, I am rather a curious person and I like to delve into things if I can; just like Su Bristow’s book.

You know what? I am so pleased that I went with my curiosity and finished reading the book. Why? Because if I had listened to my gut, I would have missed out on the feeling of being surrounded by a magical orb with my soul being lifted out of my body from my shoulders; surrendering to the magic within Su’s unforgettable words.

I learnt A LOT from Su’s book, especially as it opened my eyes to things I would never have stopped to think about before. My mind certainly relished the change in thoughts!
‘Sealskin’ isn’t merely a storyline about fisherman meets selkie and they live happily ever after. It’s not ‘When Harry met Sally. Instead, ‘Sealskin’ is an unmissable tale of learning to adapt in a world of judgemental individuals, learning to cope when everyone is an outsider bound together by just one thing; love.

If I took a step back an analysed the novel including the parts where I felt rather uncomfortable, I probably wouldn’t be able to award this book as many stars as it deserves. However, if I took a step back and analysed it based on the overall concept, Su’s poetic, intense writing and her inspiring way of bringing mythology to the 21st century without losing the magic; I would be awarding this novel with higher stars than the previous option I mentioned.

‘Sealskin’ my friends, is exactly why I am basing my opinion of this dazzling storyline by the latter; the overall concept and Su’s outstanding, modern take on mythology’s sought after legend; the selkies. A lot of people could learn many, many things from this novel, IE not taking things at face value and learning how the best part of a person/life is hidden because it’s the most valuable; their heart.

Incredible.

Thank you Orenda.

Buy ‘Sealskin’ by Su Bristow

About the author.

Su Bristow is a consultant medical herbalist by day. She’s the author of two
books on herbal medicine: The Herbal Medicine Chest and The Herb
Handbook; and two on relationship skills: The Courage to Love and Falling in
Love, Staying in Love, co-written with psychotherapist, Malcolm Stern. Her
published fiction includes ‘Troll Steps’ (in the anthology, Barcelona to Bihar),
and ‘Changes’ which came second in the 2010 CreativeWritingMatters flash
fiction competition. Her debut novel, Sealskin, is set in the Hebrides, and it’s a
reworking of the Scottish legend of the selkies, or seals who can turn into
people. It won the Exeter Novel Prize 2013. Her writing has been described as
‘magical realism; Angela Carter meets Eowyn Ivey’.