The Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019

 

Reaching the shortlist of the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize!

It is every author’s much coveted dream. When I opened the email from the Williamstown Festival committee and saw the first word, ‘Congratulations!’, I nearly fell off my seat. Me, who never wins a thing, well, truth be told rarely enters a competition, finding my story, ‘Nothing to Declare’, selected out of countless hundreds in a statewide competition was momentous. Especially since the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize for biographical fiction is one of Australia’s prestigious literary prizes.

Here I am on stage with the other shortlisted entrants. I was so nervous! I don’t mind being on stage when I am performing or launching a book, but lined up like that with the others with nothing to do but listen and stare at the audience was not a fun experience.

I didn’t win the Adas. Congratulations to David Francis, who did. All of us lined up on stage hoped to win, but in hindsight winning doesn’t matter. Never mind the cherry. The cake is enough. Best of all I spent the occasion with a new and delightful friend. Karen Crombie of Exact Editing cast her sharp eye over my story prior to submission so it was very special for me to have her beside me during the event. She took these smashing photos too!  I must also thank author Clare Rhoden for encouraging me to apply (read my author interview on her website) and Philip Wallis, for reading and commenting on my story and for just being a terrific literary friend.

Reaching the shortlist for this story is special for another reason. ‘Nothing to Declare’ is a version of the first chapter of my forthcoming historical novel based on my great grandmother’s life.

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A Matter of Latitude #BookTour Wrap Up

A Matter of Latitude Book Tour

There were thirty stops on this tour, with twenty-two reviews, all of them filled with praise. No one made these reviewers say what they have, which makes this a tour worth celebrating. Below are quoted extracts from the tour. My hat is off to tour host Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources. She is efficient, prompt and incredibly well-organised. And a big thank you to the bloggers!

Tenesar

Book Tour Review Highlights

“This book in set in Lanzarote and the author paints a beautiful description of the island.” The Divine Write

“Not only a mystery, but a great drama about corruption set in a lovely island…This story is thoughtful and emotional and is telling about themes like corruption, ecology and the characters have depth and as always the atmospheric setting is beautiful…” Fany Van Hemelen

“This is a great read, a proper whodunnit based on corruption in what most of us will consider the idyll of Lanzarote. The story is told in first person, with alternating viewpoints from married couple Paula & Celestino (every now and then a chapter creeps in told from the viewpoint of Richard, an author wanting to write a captivating thriller – a genius move, if you ask me!)

The web of corruption is gradually revealed, and Celestino’s “disappearance” is only the start. (By disappearance, read: being forced off the road, over a cliff, hunted by a rabid dog and wanted by those whose fraudulent and corrupt methods he seeks to expose).

The conclusion will keep the reader guessing on many points. Will Celestino return to his family safely? How did those paintings end up in such strange locations? Whose body did the author find? So many questions, but all nicely tied up at the end. I can thoroughly recommend this book to lovers of a good mystery.” – Just 4 My Books

“So this is the second book that I have read from Isobel Blackthorn and I still can’t decide which book I liked best! This was a really intriguing mystery/thriller and while quite slow paced it kept you hooked from the beginning….The character development for both Paula and Celestino was great and I really enjoyed watching it progress as the book did. There was a few great twists and turns and I was really excited to see how it ended. Will most definitely be keeping my eye out for the next Isobel Blackthorn book!” NZFMNBlog

“As someone who has enjoyed holidays in the Canary Islands for many years I just couldn’t resist reading this book – and it gives a totally different take on life there! If you thought Sicily was the only island purported to have mafia, think again as they appear to be front and central in the Lanzarote based thriller!

This is an engaging, enthralling story of fighting against corruption in a closely knit island community. It involves plenty of secrets, danger, mystery and suspense to keep you turning the pages right to the very end. It is a story where you’re never quite certain about just who is trustworthy and who is corrupt. It is also a tale of romance as Paula strives to uncover just what has happened to her husband – and why. I found it a fascinating story and will definitely be looking out for more by this talented author in future!” – Splashes into Books

“Another beautiful written tale about the Spanish island and another excellent mystery from Isobel Blackthorn. One of the things I enjoyed about this and a previous one I read (Clarissa’s Warning) is the incomer to the island that is now the place she sees as home. I speak no Spanish and so these characters would be me trying to settle on the island and so they speak to me in a way; the women from elsewhere struggling to fit in and learn the language. That’s hard enough but when you throw in trying to solve the disappearance of her husband then it becomes and even more difficult task and this is so wonderfully woven into the story.

The mystery element of the story kept me guessing to the end and I was fascinated by the corruption angle as it’s something I know nothing about. The author keeps up the suspense all the way through to the end. It’s a great book and as before now I really want a holiday!” Kirk72

“What is always noticeable about Isobel Blackthorn’s writing is the amount of dedication she puts into bringing the culture of her locations to the forefront. In both Clarissa’s Warning as well as A Matter of Latitude, I cannot help but admire her efforts to respect the identity of the locations where she sets her story.

The beauty of A Matter of Latitude is in the use of two prominent and distinctive voices in the story. That of Paula and Celestino….An exciting thriller that has many layers. It is definitely worth a read.” (as is this review! Check it out!)  Trails of Tales

“I’ve really become a fan of Isobel Blackthorn’s writing. She is an incredibly gifted mystery writer and A Matter of Latitude just proves that more. The mystery in this novel is so compelling and keeps you guessing all the way to the end. I love that. I really am not a fan when a reveal comes to quickly and that isn’t an issue at all here. Love this story! The characters feel real, which made me nervous for them. I highly recommend checking this one out!” Jessica Belmont

“Matter of Latitude is a slow-paced mystery thriller, with wonderful descriptions of the idyllic setting in Lanzarote…capturing the atmosphere and culture of the island….a fascinating read with a strong sense of culture….”  Orlando Books Blog

“My first read by Isobel and one I really enjoyed. Having a passing acquaintance with Lanzarote and recognising a lot of place names it made it more real for me.

A fast paced read. Crisp, fresh prose and an insight of Lanzarote away from the tourist resorts. This book will have you second guessing yourself as to who the culprit is! Red herrings galore and while not a gruesome book it is not as cosy as I thought. Art, corruption, murder and sunny Lanzarote. What more can you want?  A good read I recommend to you all.” BertyBoy123

“I really enjoyed the way Blackthorn combined suspense with an authentic feel for the surroundings and the native inhabitants. The struggle of ex-pats to fit in, despite loving the country they have adopted. You can live in a foreign country, speak the language fluently, adapt to the country and new culture, and yet many decades after living there still be considered an outsider or the foreign person.

The story starts with the attempt on Celestino’s life, and I will admit for a moment I thought I was in a post-apocalyptic plot. The beginning of the book really set the stage, even if it threw me for a minute. Meanwhile his wife and child are waiting for him to turn up, and when he doesn’t Paula starts to investigate his disappearance.

I thought the subtle pressure pot plot of the paintings was an extremely interesting way to go about this storyline. The guilty know exactly what is staring them in the face, hence the reactions, but it takes a while for the meaning of the pictures to sink in for others.

At the heart of this plot is the corruption that allows companies and people to profit off the destruction of our environment, but instead of going for other more well-known industries who are guilty of this, the author shows us how corrupt works at a lower level.

The kind the working man can see and is dragged into, albeit inadvertently. The real estate industry is highly exposed to corruption. It is a way to launder money and evade taxes, and on a more fundamental level it exposes the environment and thus humans, to an even greater risk. When land, fields, property and houses are gained by fraudulent means and sold on to developers.

Bought under false pretences, with the sellers pass on property on the basis of it not ruining or the buyers changing the environment. To do so these buyers have to be working hand in hand with the local and sometimes national government departments to get planning permissions. The corruption flows deep and steady.

It’s an environmental thriller about corruption combined with the eccentricities of expats.” (quoted in full) – Cheryl MM Book Blog

This is a thoughtful and emotional work, that kept me absorbed from beginning to end. Recommended.” Lis Carey’s Library

A Matter of Latitude is a mystery that also highlights the corruption and the destructive influence of tourism on the small island. The writing captures the characters relationships to each other and the idyllic setting of Lanzarote. An interesting read that kept me guessing.” – Rainnes

“All in all, this will be an awesome next read for anyone who loves an insightful, interesting look into relationships, and how differently we can all see things. It’s also for anyone who loves a mystery… This is also for anyone who loves a novel where the author has obviously put work into the setting, and the lore. I’d say this would be perfect to enjoy on your next holiday on the beach or wrapped up cosy in front of the fire if you’re staying in the UK this summer.” Vain Radical

“As I mentioned I have read previous work by this author and I knew that the story would be descriptive, where the scenery was as important as the story and I was not disappointed. As you follow the mystery, you are introduced to some amazing scenery and highlighted throughout are important landmarks to the country…Whilst this is a mystery, there is also an insight to how money and corruption is spoiling the landscape and whilst places rely on tourism, it shows what damage it is causing. Another good mystery that will keep you reading to find out that will happen next.” Terror Tree

“This is the first book that I have read by the author, and I am looking forward to reading more by her…The author paints a perfect picture with her descriptions of the scenery. Making me feel like I must give this place ago in the future… I think anyone who loves mystery novels will enjoy it.” – Bakers Not So Secret

“I really like this story, I thought it was well written and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  I have been a fan of this author’s works for a while now and this is another fabulous book by her!

I thought that the setting for the book was great and the author did an excellent job with the descriptions in the book as at times I really felt as though I was there with the characters, the author did a great job of drawing me in to the story and I found it was one I needed to carry on reading.  The plot was compelling and I wanted to find out how the mystery would all end!

I loved the different characters and I thought that the storyline was great – highly recommended!” Donna’s Book Blog

“Well wasn’t this a nice intense little journey!…It is interesting to see the struggle of making a life as an ex-pat, on this gorgeous island, something that may still affect me in the future, so this lifestyle was something I was interested in learning more about. The struggle of not being accepted is a fear I think most people have and so to be abroad with a missing husband is doubly scary!…I have previously enjoyed Clarissa’s Warning, also set in Lanzarote, and Isobel’s writing where the scenery and backdrop take a life of their own. This was no different, the imagery used could have you sitting in the sun, soaking the ray of Lanzarote. I wish I was, less the hit and run.” Zooloo’s Book Diary

“A Matter of Latitude is an intriguing, suspenseful novel that weaves together modern global issues. The opening scene is an impressive attention-grab that keeps you turning pages for a very long time. The characters are interesting. I particularly enjoyed the focus on the politics of tourism. Having lived in the Dominican Republic, I identified with many of the issues, as well as the hypocrisy of ex-pats complaining about it. The novel sags a little in the middle and the character POV isn’t very distinctive, making changes in character voice a little hard to follow. However, once I got in the flow, I could follow the plot even if I wasn’t sure who was telling the story for a few paragraphs. Overall, this was a good suspense novel that gave me plenty of thinks.” Author Becca McCullough

I read and really enjoyed Clarissa’s warning and was very excited to see what Isobel Blackthorn would come up with next. I was ensnared by this mystery and kept guessing until the very end. I really enjoy Isobel’s books and can’t wait to dig into another one soon.” – J Bronder Book Reviews

“A Matter of Latitude shows Lanzarote in a light I’ve never seen before. First, in terms of imagery. As a tourist, I never visited the north of the island and it was interesting to read about the daily life of locals. Secondly, was through the tropical storm that occurs at the beginning of the story. The ignorant part of me never imagined that the island could have terrible weather like that, nor did I ever consider how it would affect local life.

However, it was the commentary on Lanzarote’s politics that opened my eyes the most. The author is actually a resident of the island for the insight into corruption was detailed. It backhanders politicians are taking from businessmen who want to illegally cash in from the tourism industry are nothing new in comparison to the rest of the world but are shocking just the same. The fact that much of the available funding goes to non-natives shows that politics is everywhere in the world, even on small, magical islands. Also, the heavy focus on the negative effects of tourism on the island made me consider my trips there from another point of view.” – Joyful Antidotes

Visit the A Matter of Latitude reviews page for more reviews

Find your copy on Amazon

A stunning review of Clarissa’s Warning

In this busy world of ours, authors can generally expect reviews of one or two paragraphs. Every now and then one comes along that is much more than that. I am delighted to share extracts from this very long and heartwarming review of Clarissa’s Warning by Kamal of Kiri Books.

“Set in the picturesque setting of an unspoiled island, Fuerteventura – one of Spain’s Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa and Spain, the story weaves all the elements of an archplot in a masterly stroke. The story has a classical design with linear time-flow, causality, single protagonist, consistent reality, active protagonist, external conflict with the exception of the ending, which remains open. Sitting on the top of the story triangle, ‘Clarissa’s Warning’ demonstrates infinitesimal elan over its elements.

Recruiting the latent energies of a scarred soul in defeating the malice play of the supernatural, Isobel Blackthorn has created a protagonist that constantly sheds layers of insecurity and vulnerability, one at a time, to expose the solid-substance she is made of.

Claire is a wilful character with a conscious desire. And she gets a chance to fulfil her desire, courtesy, the lottery-ticket. She has the capacity to fulfil her desire and is appropriately reflected by her independent decisions and strong-willed actions. She holds the cohesive bond with the readers with the glue of empathy. As the story progresses, gaps between expectations and result keep on widening, raising the conflict level and upping the potential of the climax. Placement of the crisis, along with the design, is suitable and controls length of the climax with a palpable fervour. The flashbacks are sporadic, fact-filled and meaningful; especially the flashback of Claire mother’s demise is very graphic and emotive.

The story has a riveting rendition of the Fuerteventura and its history – the belly juice of a beetle that made it preferred inhabitable area of the wealthy, the captivating array of social and personal lives through the lens of colonialism, and the abundance of beauty of nature and traditions. The dialogues are crisp, colloquial and contextual.

The subtext dominates everywhere. When Claire mentions there are five routes to Tiscamanita and she had taken them all, she establishes herself as an exploratory and inquisitive person. She wants to restore a ruin is, in a subtle and indirect way, symbolic of her fierce desire to mend her broken past….

Her unresolved grief, of her mother’s demise, make her inner substance resonate with the subliminal energies rather too fittingly…Sensing the opportunity, the spirits use her as a conduit to express their anguish, warn her, wreck her, take help from her, or plainly observe her.

The story navigates with the enlivened characters, each with a backstory and a brain of their own…The plot has plenty of twists and turns and the structure of scenes, tightly knitted in neatly separated chapters, is taut and spill-proof…

…The anticipation of the unknown and narrative integrity keeps the conflict cocooned and growing, to burst in the final scenes with brilliantly planted and spaced expositions. In the final acts, the veiled and vilifying esoteric elements snatch away the driving seat, chase Claire to run for her life, a sprint in which she discovers the version of truth that alluded her throughout. She welcomes her own metamorphosis, and comes at terms with becoming fearless after making eye-contacts with the ever-evading reality. The light of Mafasca and the legend of Olivia Stone heightened the curiosity-quotient in this tightly-packed thriller.

Recruiting the latent energies of a scarred soul in defeating the malice play of the supernatural, Isobel Blackthorn has created a protagonist that constantly sheds layers of insecurity and vulnerability, one at a time, to expose the solid-substance she is made of.

A terrific and transforming piece of work by Isobel Blackthorn!

A Time for Violence anthology wows readers

A Time For Violence

A Time For Violence: Stories with an edge is out to rave reviews and little wonder. This anthology contains many top names in the scene including several who have co-written with Stephen King. I am chuffed to have one of my shorts included.

Along with many of the authors, I was interviewed on T. Fox Dunham’s What Are You Afraid Of? podcast, which includes an extract of my contribution, LACQUER, read by David Walton.

Here are some early reviews of A Time for Violence

“I thoroughly enjoyed so many of the short stories featured in here. The contributors include many of my own favorite authors. Exceptional writing from authors like Max Allan Collins, Paul D. Brazill, Andrew Nette, Joe R. Lansdale, Elka Ray, Tom Vater, and Chris Roy. (To name just a few.) And, boy, that last story! ‘Waste Management’. The name says it all.” – Debbi Mack, author of the Sam McRae mysteries

A Time for Violence is a hard-hitting anthology that pushes the envelope on themes of violence. Though a few authors have co-written with the likes of Stephen King, every story is its own superb boundary breaker and draws the reader in with such intensity that every word feels like a heartbeat. This anthology is for those of us who have looked at the monsters created by humanity and not flinched when they returned our gaze. The stories never fail to deliver thought-provoking takes on oft-told tales. From roaring hitmen thrillers to tense, gritty investigations into the very human soul, A Time for Violence will satisfy your every crime-reading need.” – Grace Wilson

And here is a review quote on mine! –

“Lacquer By Isobel Blackthorn.
This is one of my favourites so far in the book, a private investigator ends up finding a Jane doe when his drinking goes too far and he ends up in an alley. The person wasn’t too far from the back entrance to the bar and a friend of his has also seen the deceased. His friend begs him to find out who this person is and he also feels compelled as it is a particularly gruesome crime.” – Haley Belinda Belinda, Goodreads

Two superb reviews of The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey

The Unlikely Occultist

When I wrote The Unlikely Occultist I was more than a little apprehensive. How would a biographical novel of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey be received, both by those in the esoteric community and others unfamiliar with the terrain? Would my book be rejected and me along with it? Would general readers pass over this book in favour of another?

Relief washed through me as first one, then another reader let me know how much they loved the story I wove out of Alice Bailey’s life.

Then two reviews arrived in my inbox on two consecutive days. The first, by Swedish scholar Hakan Blomqvist is especially prized.

“It is fascinating to follow how Isobel portrays the mindset and moral attitude of Alice Bailey. Not an easy undertaking as the scenes and anecdotes presented may create new myths around a woman already a favourite among conspiracy advocates. Reality and fiction becomes blurred…Although The Unlikely Occultist can be considered as a defense or apology for Alice Bailey and esotericism, Isobel Blackthorn is no naive devotee…I highly recommend The Unlikely Occultist. I found it intensely captivating and enchanting. This work can actually function as an introduction to studies in the Esoteric Tradition and may even inspire a minor renaissance for Alice Bailey. Esotericists will be delighted by this biographical novel and if you are a librarian or archivist you will just love it.”  Hakan Blomqvist

The second review is from the Historical Novels Society and appears in the May 2019 issue of their magazine.

“Blackthorn’s book offers a fascinating portrait of a woman dismissed by mainstream thinkers and religions, a woman whose current obscurity is all the more poignant considering the grandeur of her ambitions and her hopes for a healed world.” – Misty Urban 

And that is exactly what I set out to achieve. I wanted to usher Alice Bailey back into the mainstream and afford her some dignity.

You can find out more about The Unlikely Occultist here

Book Review A Clean Canvas by Elizabeth Mundy #BookTour

A Clean Canvas: A Lena Szarka Mystery by Elizabeth Mundy

Lena Szarka, a Hungarian cleaner, dusts off her detective skills when a masterpiece is stolen from a gallery she cleans with her cousin Sarika. But when Sarika goes missing too, accusations start to fly. Convinced her cousin is innocent, Lena sweeps her way through the secrets of the London art scene. With the evidence mounting against Sarika and the police on her trail, Lena needs to track down the missing painting if she is to clear her cousin. Embroiling herself in the sketchy world of thwarted talents, unpaid debts and elegant fraudsters, Lena finds that there’s more to this gallery than meets the eye.

My Thoughts

The story opens in an art gallery as sleuth Lena Szarka cleans up on the eve of an important exhibition. The owner, Pietro, is keen to offload a painting he acquired and he hopes his exhibition will attract buyers. The artist has flown in and arrives in an inebriated state. Her painting, A Study in Purple, attracts three potential buyers. But before the new owner can take the painting home, it is stolen. What ensues is a thoroughly engaging tale filled with twists and turns as Lena pits her wits against a less than helpful police force and takes it upon herself to solve the crime, not least because her cousin, Sarika, is the prime suspect.

The narrative voice is light and warm, and the story bounces along at a fair clip. The mystery genre contains strict criteria and Mundy adheres to them all. A Clean Canvas ticks all the boxes of a good cosy mystery, not least with her endearing and pleasingly unlikely sleuth. Peppered with wit and ironic observations to make the reader smile, Mundy crafts her characters and scenes with much affection and a healthy dollop of social observation. Satisfying descriptions provide an adequate sense of place and help control the pacing. The ending, naturally, comes as a surprise. In all, this is an entertaining page turner that provides Agatha Raisin with some strong competition.

Purchase Link – amzn.to/2VWJ3ZD  

Author Bio –

Elizabeth Mundy’s grandmother was a Hungarian immigrant to America who raised five children on a chicken farm in Indiana. An English Literature graduate from Edinburgh University, Elizabeth is a marketing director for an investment firm and lives in London with her messy husband and two young children. A Clean Canvas is the second book in the Lena Szarka mystery series about a Hungarian cleaner who turns detective.

Social Media Links –

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @ElizabethEMundy

www.elizabethmundy.com

#TheDragoTree On Sale!!!!

The Drago Tree in English and Spanish for only $0.99

Haunted by demons past and present, geologist Ann Salter seeks sanctuary on the exotic island of Lanzarote. There she meets charismatic author Richard Parry and indigenous potter Domingo and together they explore the island.


Ann’s encounters with the island’s hidden treasures becomes a journey deep inside herself as she struggles to understand who she was, who she is, and who she wants to be. 


Set against a panoramic backdrop of dramatic island landscapes and Spanish colonial history, The Drago Tree is an intriguing tale of betrayal, conquest and love, in all its forms.

¡MIRA! This weekend only – The Drago Tree e-book edition reduced to $0.99 in both English and Spanish! (in some territories the Spanish edition is free). Follow these links or search online for non-Amazon e-book editions.

Este fin de semana sólo – el árbol drago se redujo a $ 0.99 tanto en inglés como en español! (en algunos territorios la edición española es gratuita). Sigue estos enlaces o busca en línea para ediciones de e-BOOK NO AMAZON.

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