David O’Brien: What to reveal and what to conceal


David J CovershotI’m delighted to welcome back David O’Brien to my blog. He has a new book out, which sounds very intriguing. Purchase links are at the end.  Take it away Dave…

Thanks for having me on your blog today, Jeff. Great to be back again to talk about my new novel, The Ecology of Lonesomeness.

Now that the book is out, people have been asking what the book is about.

And it’s hard to say.

Here’s the blurb to give you an idea.

Kaleb Schwartz isn’t interested in the Loch Ness Monster. He’d enough cryptobiological speculation about Bigfoot while studying the Pacific Northwest forests. He’s in Scotland’s Great Glen to investigate aquatic food webs and nutrients cycles; if he proves there’s no food for any creature bigger than a pike, then so much the better.

Jessie McPherson has returned to Loch Ness after finishing university in London, hoping to avoid the obsession with its dark waters she had when younger and first discovered lonesomeness. She knows any relationship with a scientist studying the lake is a bad idea, but something about Kaleb makes her throw caution to the depths.

When Kaleb discovers Jessie’s lonesomeness refers not just to the solitude of the loch, he’s faced with an ecological problem of monstrous proportions. Can he find a way to satisfy both the man and the scientist inside himself, and do the right thing?


I’ve been sending requests for reviews this week. One reviewer replied today to say that it wasn’t her normal genre, but the blurb intrigued her and she’d love to read the book.

So that’s good.

Yet, as I advertise the book’s release, I’m unsure how much to reveal about the story in order to hook readers, and how much to conceal to make the read as satisfying as possible, given that one of the main themes is keeping secrets and trusting others with them.

It’s the classic problem of the blurb, the movie trailer, the book recommendation.

We’ve all seen those movie trailers where they tell you too much information. Half way through you wish it would stop, so they’d leave some story to tell in the actual film. If you were at home you’d change the channel. In the cinema you just have to close your eyes and try not to listen. Even then, sometimes my wife will comment, “well, now there’s no need to go see that movie.”

The best advertisement of all is just someone saying to you quite forcefully, “Just go and see/read it. You’ll see what I mean when you do. I can’t say any more without saying too much.”

I love those recommendations. I love reading a book that is a complete unknown, except for the fact that it’s great. I delight in sitting in a movie theatre without any idea what I’m going to see – other than knowing it’s going to be good because it’s come highly recommended by people I trust.

How to get those first people to see the film or read the story, of course, is the part we’re all still fiddling with.

I’d love to reveal more, but that would be short-changing the reader.

One day, perhaps, I will reach a stage where the reader trusts me, knows that when I say I’ve a new book out, that will be enough. They will need not inquire further, but know they’ll be entertained, get their money’s worth.

Until then, I’ll keep playing with the blurb, keep coming up with tag lines and Facebook post lines to get people thinking, wondering what the book could be about, but without telling them directly. Because when there is no mystery in a novel – even if it’s just wondering how the writer has done what we know he or she has to have done, and which others have done but not quite this way; very valid in my opinion (I was going to say in my book, but that might confuse…) – then it’s time to put the book down.


Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the book, when all the secrets are as yet unknown:

Jessie McPherson started the car and drove away from The Shredded Sail, her parents’ pub, which was also a bed and breakfast. She revved the engine and let gravel spit out from under the spinning front wheels. The old Nissan Micra that she’d learned to drive in was still a game old motor. Her mother kept it well serviced—well, basically she made sure Jessie’s father kept it well serviced. Jessie was tempted every day to do a handbrake skid across the gravel car park in front of the house upon her return from work. She used to do that in her school days. She’d grown out of that, though: you never knew where the guests might be parked. She’d nearly slid into a rented Audi the last time she’d pulled a skid.

It seemed time had stood still in the glen since she’d been home for Christmas. Had she really only been back here two weeks? She felt her three years in the chaotic ant’s nest of London had just been a fortnight’s holiday away: a few nights out in the West End, an afternoon drinking cocktails in Covent Garden after window-shopping in Knightsbridge, and mornings strolling through Hyde Park, Camden Market and Notting Hill.

Most of her old friends, her old flames, were still here in the glen. She’d taken to going for a pint in The Bothy with them after work, chatting to the old fogies in The Shredded Sail, and going over the same old conversations. After a week, those conversations were boring once again, but she still stood there at the bar, shaking her head at something her father said, or an acerbic comment from Ahab, the old codger who seemed to be welded to the bar when he wasn’t staring out at the surface of the loch, as if waiting.

It was amazing how quickly you could get back into a rut. This valley, this enormous gouge out of the landscape that almost cut an entire country in half, with its huge, internationally famous loch: what was it really, when you thought about it, other than a great big rut, with a muddy pothole in the middle of it to match?

It had a way of sucking you in, like the mist the loch seemed to suck out of the sky, down upon it, as if it would cloak itself in a white, vaporous shroud to conceal its secrets. The fog made the shimmering surface as unseen as the hidden, darkened, benthic depths so many feet underneath.

It grabbed you to it, hugged you close. The walls were like the arms of a mother who never wanted you to stray, to escape her apron pocket. That was disparaging to her mum, though, with whom she’d been very happy being back with. She spent time with her in the kitchen and helped out with breakfasts, too—even to the point of making her nearly late for work on some mornings.

She’d thought it would be a bit intense, living with her mum again after being at uni, but her mum now treated Jessie as a friend—a friend she’d do anything for, and not as a daughter who needed to do as her mother advised. It was amazing what a few years’ absence could do, how it could change things. Of course, Jessie supposed that during those three years, she herself had done the changing. Her mother had always encouraged her to go away to study—and not to the University of the Highlands and Islands, either.

“Get away from this glen,” she’d said: insisted, almost, “and escape the pull of that loch. It’ll swallow you up if you don’t. You’ll be here when you’re my age, staring out at the water like auld Ahab, there, obsessed.”

Her mother had always been worried that she spent too much time out on the loch. Since she was a young girl, she’d been sneaking off in the trout boat without telling anyone and would be found hours later, sitting in it down along the shore, either getting sunburnt or wet with the rain. The loch held no secrets from Jessie, though. She’d been around it too long, seen it too clearly, too often. She had stared down into those murky waters and seen more than her own reflection.

She’d learned to fly fish, and had taken her share of salmon and trout from the loch. She had also learned to predict the weather well enough to avoid the really bad squalls or at least bring along her wet gear when they threatened.

Her mother had become less worried that something untoward might occur, and increasingly concerned that Jessie was becoming too used to her own company, too solitary, too immersed in the life of the loch, rather than in pursuits that a regular girl of fourteen should have—or would have if they didn’t live on the south shore of Loch Ness.

Since she’d been back, Jessie had been out on the lake just once. She’d wondered if she’d experience the lonesomeness her mum would rather she didn’t, but had only found tranquillity in solitude and caught a few trout that she’d brought home. Her mother had fried them up with butter and lemon. It had been like breaking through a thin skin to the smells and memories of childhood when she’d broken off a piece with her fork and lifted it to her mouth.


You can read another excerpt and find links to the book here:


And read about my other books and writing at these websites:

Website:  https://davidjmobrien.wordpress.com/

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/David-J.-OBrien/e/B00M60M6Y0

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DavidJMOBrien


Spotlight on Sue Barnard

I’m happy to welcome fellow Crooked Cat author, Sue Barnard, who is on my blog today to tell us about her brand new book, The Unkindest Cut of All, which mixes Shakespeare and amateur dramatics.  What’s not to like? She has kindly brought an extract to give us a taster, and purchase links are at the end. Now I’ll hand over to Sue…

Hello, and thank you for welcoming me to your corner of the blogosphere!

TUCOA front

The Unkindest Cut of All (released as an e-book on 9 June 2015) is my third novel for Crooked Cat Publishing.  It’s a murder mystery (with a touch of romance thrown in for good measure) set in a theatre.   The story takes place during an amateur dramatic society’s production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

To write this book I’ve drawn on my love of the theatre, my own experience of amateur dramatics, and my dim and distant memories of studying Julius Caesar at school for my English Literature O-Level.  (For those of you below a certain age: O-Levels are what we had way back in the Dark Ages before the days of GCSEs.)   I was extremely fortunate to have an excellent teacher who not only made the play really come alive, but who also managed to achieve the near-impossible task of making a group of stroppy teenage girls appreciate the finer points of Shakespearean tragedy.

The book’s title is based on one of the lines spoken by Mark Antony, in his crowd-turning speech after Caesar’s murder.  The actual quotation is “This was the most unkindest cut of all” (according to my English teacher, the double superlative is intended to add extra emphasis), but it was generally agreed that this was perhaps a little too fussy – especially for a book by a writer who is notorious for her insistence on correct grammar!

Here’s the blurb:

Beware the Ides of March… 

Brian Wilmer is God’s gift to amateur dramatics – and he knows it. So when the Castlemarsh Players take the ambitious decision to stage Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, there is only one man who can play the title role – even though Brian’s posturing ‘prima donna’ attitude has, over the years, won him few friends and many foes. 

Rehearsals progress apace, and the production draws ever closer. But when another member of the cast has to drop out due to illness, local journalist Sarah Carmichael (a stalwart of the Players’ backstage crew) suddenly finds herself called upon to step into the breach at the eleventh hour.

Not surprisingly, Sarah finds that Brian is in his egotistical element playing the mighty Caesar. The fact that the final performance of the play takes place on the infamous Ides of March – the day when, according to tradition, Caesar was fatally stabbed – only adds to the excitement.

But tragedy is waiting in the wings. And when it strikes, it falls to Sarah – with the help of Brian’s personable and fascinating nephew Martin Burns – to uncover the incredible truth about what really happened… 

TUCOA front

And here, to whet your appetite, is a (slightly adapted) brief extract:

“Drink, Sarah, dah-ling?”

Sarah hadn’t heard Brian approaching as she stood waiting to be served at the bar, and in view of what she’d heard about him the previous evening, she felt more than just a little uncomfortable in his presence. But for the sake of keeping things on an even keel, at least until the end of the run, she turned to face him and forced a smile.

“Thanks, Brian. That’s very kind of you. I’ll have pint of bitter, please.”

“OOOH, a lady who drinks pints?”

Not for the first time, Sarah had to suppress her irritation at having to explain it.

“Yes, I drink pints. I like beer, and there’s no point in my drinking halves. I get very thirsty and they don’t last.”

“Fair point, I suppose, fair lady! And I can’t say I blame you. I’ve worked up a pretty thirst myself. I think I might take a leaf out of your book. Now, you go and find us some seats, and I’ll be right back.”

He strode up to the bar and returned a couple of minutes later with two brimming pint pots.

“Cheers, sweetie!” Brian sat down opposite her, raised his glass and took a swig.

“Cheers. And thank you.” Sarah smiled and returned the gesture.

“That wasn’t a bad audience, for a Wednesday,” Brian went on. “I can’t believe we’re halfway through the run already. How time flies when you’re enjoying yourself!”

“Are you enjoying it?” Sarah asked as she took another sip of her drink. She knew before she asked that it was a pointless question, but all the same it made something to say.

“Am I enjoying it, dah-ling? Tell me, sweetie, is the Pope a Catholic?”

Sarah forced a smile.

“I knew it was a stupid question. Have you done any Shakespeare before?”

Brian’s face creased into a broad grin at the prospect of talking about his favourite subject – himself.

“Oh yes. I started very young, you know. Oddly enough, my first role was in this very play.”

“Really?” Sarah called on her own acting abilities and pretended to look interested. “What part did you play?”

“Lucius. It was a school play. Most of the other parts were played by sixth-formers, but they needed a younger boy to play the servant. It wasn’t a huge part, but it was the first of many. I was well and truly bitten by the acting bug by the end of it.”

“Oh yes? What came next?”

“The following year the school did A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I played Puck.”

“Then what?”

“After that, it was The Tempest. That time I played Caliban. Then the following year it was Hamlet, and I was Polonius.”

“Wasn’t he the one who was stabbed through the arras? I always thought that sounded slightly rude!”

Brian chuckled. “So you see, I’m no stranger to the Bard. But until now I’ve never managed to play the mighty Caesar.”

All those Shakespearean performances, Sarah thought. No wonder Brian was such a prima donna.

The Unkindest Cut of All is officially released on 9 June 2015, but is already available for pre-order, at the special early bird price of only 99p.  Order it now, and it will magically appear on your Kindle on launch day.  There will also be a launch event on Facebook on the day itself, with fun, frolics, quizzes and competitions.  Click here to add yourself to the guest list!

Sue 2014More about Sue:

Blog   Facebook   G+   Twitter

Book links:

The Ghostly Father

Nice Girls Don’t

The Unkindest Cut of All




My contemporary novel, TREADING ON DREAMS, has made it into the finals of the RONE awards.

Thanks to everyone who voted. You are wonderful people.

‘Treading On Dreams’ will now be read by a panel of  professional judges, which is a lovely thought in itself.  Thanks again.

Treading on Dreams by Jeff Gardiner - 1800-300dpi





It’s always wonderful to welcome Nancy Jardine to my blog. Her new time travel novel, The Taexali Game, is out now in paperback and on Kindle. She is a prolific author with many books to her name, and for this title she decided to go down the self-publishing route for the first time. I’ll hand straight over to Nancy who will tell you more about this exciting novel and her adventures in self-publishing.

Hello again, Jeff. It’s always great to visit you but today it’s even more exciting since without your editing help I might not have been writing this promotional material. What follows is a bit of background for your readers.

Taexali GameOn the 7th May 2015, I self-published The Taexali Game—a historical Time Travel novel for the Teen/YA market—in print via Createspace. On the 11th May 2015, the kindle version hit the ebook shelves across the Amazon network. This was my first ever venture into self-publishing and a huge learning curve. What prompted me to write the book? And why did I go down the self-publishing route?

Back around 2004-2005, so long ago I can hardly remember it, I was elated with the end of term ‘round up’ stories that my class of 11-12 year olds produced after studying Celtic/ Roman Britain. I joked that someday I’d write a companion novel about Celts and Romans that would be great as a class reader during a future project with the same historical context. It’s taken me a very long time to get this story to the polished version of today—with lots of lifting, redrafting and shelving once more—given that the very first draft was started during the ensuing school summer holiday.

Since I gave up teaching in 2011 and began my writing career, that manuscript has niggled and niggled at me. Last year, I asked Jeff Gardiner if he would professionally edit it for me. He came back with many positives about the manuscript and a ‘wheen o’ negatives’—but they were fabulous suggestions. I was absolutely delighted with the end result after I implemented Jeff’s advice and I hope everyone reading the book will be, too. So…that’s why Jeff has been crucial to me publishing this novel.

The reasons for self- publishing are that the action for the whole story takes place in the area where I used to teach, and the area in which I currently live—Aberdeenshire, Scotland. As well as a global selling market, I’m hoping for a local one for the print books since I already sell my Crooked Cat Published novels (for general audiences) at FOCUS Craft Fairs around Aberdeenshire. If I do the marketing and promoting successfully for The Taexali Game in the local area, I’m hoping to achieve my original intention for the novel to be read by students doing a historical topic on Ancient Celts and Romans.

Jeff (and author friends like him) plays a crucial part in my global promotions for the novel—by freeing up blog space as Jeff has done today—and I’ll be off-a-begging for more blogging opportunities as soon as I complete this post!

Taexali Game

Here’s the blurb:

Everyone loves playing advanced interactive computer games, don’t they?

Callum Fraser’s games are totally awesome but when his Rubidium Time-Leap flips Aran Bruce and his best friends—Brian and Fianna Fraser—back to AD 210, the reality is incredible. They have a task list to fulfil, which includes solving a local mystery, but it’s a nightmarish business when Ancient Roman Emperor Severus and his legions heap death and destruction on the Taexali Celts of northern Britannia.

Giving help to Celts and Romans alike becomes a lethal assignment—some Celtic chiefs are as foul as Severus and his beastly son Caracalla. Dicing with death becomes the norm for the time travellers from Kintore, Aberdeenshire.

Will they complete the mission and return to Callum unscathed?

Thank you, Jeff, for being a fantastic editor. He’s one I can heartily recommend to anyone who is willing to listen to great advice. And thank you for allowing me to share with your readers.

The Taexali Game is available from Amazon outlets in print and ebook formats.

Print: http://amzn.to/1Ll53kW

Kindle: http://amzn.to/1JzzG7n

Amazon US 

Amazon France

Amazon Canada

Amazon Australia

Amazon Germany


Nancy Jardine’s Amazon UK Author page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nancy-Jardine/e/B005IDBIYG/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

You can find Nancy Jardine at her -Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.com ;  -Website: http://nancyjardineauthor.weebly.com Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1hLgWT7

Twitter: @nansjar : Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/nanjar/  LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=139824397&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5139590.Nancy_Jardine

Google+  and other places…





I’m thrilled to host Sarah Louise Smith on my blog once again, to spotlight her fabulous new romantic novel, The Truth About Ellen. Imagine you had the chance of a romantic encounter with an adolescent crush… then read on. Here is an extract from this brand new book with purchase links and more info about Sarah below. 


Extract from The Truth About Ellen by Sarah Louise Smith:

Ellen is staying at hotel when she spots a member of a band she was a huge fan of in her teen years…

Was that who I thought it was?

He looked older, for sure. But then it’d been ten years since I’d seen his face. No. It was him, I was sure of it. I stared at the back of his head, willing him to turn again, but he didn’t. So I did the only thing I could; I dropped my book again. With a bit more height and force this time.

He looked around, this time with a confused, quizzical look. It was! It was him!

I lifted my book and rolled my eyes, shaking my head slightly to show what an imbecile I was for dropping my book twice in the space of a few minutes.

Then, Tom Green – yes, the Tom Green, who wrote the lyrics and played the bass in Four Ape; Tom Green, the one I’d fancied least but respected the most – got up off his blanket and came over to me.

He looked older, but not in a bad way. Time had filled him out; he’d gone from skinny and lanky to broad and sexy. His dark hair was much shorter and neater than when I’d last seen him on TV with just a couple of silver flecks above his ears. His eyes were the same; grey-blue. He was wearing a checked blue and white shirt, the sleeves rolled up to just below his elbows and slim fitting jeans. Holy crap, he’d turned out good. He held up his paperback.

“We’re reading the same book,” he said simply, a small smile forming on his lovely, lovely face.

“Oh wow, so we are,” I said, holding mine up for him to see, as if he hadn’t already. Why hadn’t I put any make-up on this morning?

“Are you enjoying it?” he asked me.

“Well, I’ve only read a few pages.”

“I’m about a quarter of the way through. It really gets interesting after chapter four.”

I nodded. “Good to know, thank you.”

“Mind if I join you?”


He smiled and dropped his blanket on the floor, then sat beside me on the bench, immediately opening his book and continuing his reading. Was he staying at this hotel? He must be! What were the chances? I mean, I know I’d met a Four Ape member before, but really, I had to be the luckiest fan in the world. I felt the familiar moistness developing on my hands. Now was not the time to get nervous and sweaty. I tried to take a subtle deep breath.

Oh. My. God. This was amazing. I told the 13 year old inside me to shut up and calm down before I strangled her. I opened up my book but didn’t read one word. I kept stealing sideways glances at Tom. Tom Green.

Sitting on the same bench as me. Of all the benches in the world … and of all the books… Now that he was closer, I realised I was right about him being better looking now than he was back then; he was never ugly, but just kind of ordinary looking. Now, he had a fuller, handsomer face and muscular arms. His dark hair was trimmed at the sides but a little longer on top, and he had a thin layer of stubble, which suited him. And he smelled amazing. I stared at my book and tried to read the sentence I’d been on before he’d come over.

“It’s beautiful here, isn’t it?” he asked me. I looked up from my book and at his lovely, lovely eyes.


“Did you arrive today?”

“About an hour ago. You?”

“I’ve been here three weeks.”

“Oh wow.”

“Yeah, I just came for a few days initially, but I loved it, so I stayed.”



“How lovely.”

“Are you here alone?”

“Yes. You?”


“Well, it’s a lovely place to take a break.”

I nodded, unsure what to say next. I tried to subtly wipe my hands on my jeans. I really had to chill. I could not mess this up; I could not say anything that would make him stop talking to me.

“Where are you from?” I asked, searching my bank of small talk questions for the next one.

“London. Well, I’m from London. I’ve also got a house in the south of France, and spend a lot of time there too.”

“Ah, nice.”

“Sorry, what a pretentious wanker that makes me sound!” He laughed. “I don’t mean to sound so conceited.”

I laughed. “Not at all.”

“Where are you from?”

“Milton Keynes.”

“Ah, I’ve been there. Lots of roundabouts.”

I know you’ve been there, I wanted to tell him. I was one of the fifty or so girls screaming as you walked in and out of the radio station for an interview, back in 1998…..


The Truth About Ellen

It’s every girl’s dream to date a pop star…

When Ellen starts dating Tom, a member of the band she adored as a teenager, she can’t believe how lucky she is.

She neglects to mention that she’s a huge fan because that just wouldn’t be cool, would it?

Ellen also keeps quiet about how she once spent an evening with Tom’s ex-bandmate/ex-best friend Jasper, her long-term celebrity crush. Tom doesn’t need to know about that, it’s all in the past.

That is until Tom and Jasper get back in touch… and the truth threatens to ruin everything Ellen has ever dreamed of…


The Truth About Ellen is available to buy from:

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Truth-About-Ellen-Sarah-Louise-ebook/dp/B00WPHVF9Q/

 Amazon US – http://www.amazon.com/Truth-About-Ellen-Sarah-Louise-ebook/dp/B00WPHVF9Q/


About Sarah Louise Smith

Sarah Louise Smith lives in Milton Keynes, England with her husband, step-daughter, loopy golden retriever and cheeky tortie cat.

Sarah has been writing stories since she can remember and has so far completed four chick-lit novels, all published by Crooked Cat:


Amy & Zach

Izzy’s Cold Feet

Independent Jenny

The Truth About Ellen


Connect with Sarah:


Twitter @sarahsmith16








What the Reviews are saying about IGBOLAND


Igboland cover5

“Poignant, yet uplifting, this novel opens the mind to ourselves and the world beyond.” Andrea Jamieson

“This fascinating story highlights the triumph of human spirit in the face of adversity. I really do recommend this as an extremely enjoyable read.” Mrs J Grankin

“an engrossing, tense and truthful novel, gracefully told.” Cynthia Harrison (A Woman’s Wisdom)

“I really enjoyed this book, it is one I will remember for a long time.” Lucinda E Clarke

“This is an accomplished novel.” R. Nicholson-Morton

“Beautifully written, well developed characters, educational but also rather sexy and vibrant.”  Alana (Perth)

Igboland cover6

Puchase IGBOLAND here:


Amazon UK

Amazon USA

Jeff’s website

News about my novels, short stories and non-fiction.


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