Blog Tour + Giveaway: Chasing Ghosts by M.K. Hardy

Author duo M.K. Hardy visits, along with IndiGo Marketing, on the Chasing Ghosts blog tour. Check out more info on the hurt/comfort romance! There's an excerpt, author interview and a NineStar Press eBook giveaway!


Title:  Chasing Ghosts
Author: M.K. Hardy
Publisher:  NineStar Press
Release Date: 8/7/17
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Female/Female
Length: 77600
Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, romance, addiction, drug/alcohol use, performance arts/visual, writer

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Nic is a successful ghost writer, making a decent living churning out best-selling autobiographies of celebrities and other notable figures. She’s also a recovering alcoholic—three years sober and still tempted, every day, to open the bottle again.

Luckily she has distractions—this time in the form of Isobel DeWitt, an award-winning and well-loved actor in her prime, who has decided to release a tell-all autobiography. Nic finds her likeable, charming and fascinating…but also impossible to crack. Every draft sounds like just another magazine piece full of perfectly crafted sound bytes, but there’s no soul.

Undeterred, Nic continues to dig into the actor’s history in search of the clue that will unlock it all and finds it in the form of one Melody Graham, a reclusive playwright and, if rumours are to be believed, Isobel’s erstwhile lover. Nic chances everything to reach out to her and unbelievably she responds, sharing stories about her time with the tempestuous actress and helping Nic get further and further into Isobel’s head. The problem now is figuring out where Isobel Dewitt starts and Nic ends…


Chasing Ghosts
M.K. Hardy © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

“Hi, my name is Nicola, and I’m an alcoholic.”

Not much of a way to begin a story, is it? But as James, my agent, always says, “truth is what makes the story.” On the other hand, my sponsor Mary likes to tell me to “be honest with yourself
and screw the rest of them.” Either way, you can’t get any more truthful than that, can you?

“It’s been two years since my last drink.”

I was sitting in a dingy church hall on a flimsy folding chair, surrounded by people who looked as if they’ve been chewed up and spat out by Fate like disused pieces of chewing gum on the pavement. Some of them couldn’t even bring their eyes up to meet the gazes of their fellow addicts. Instead, they focused on the streaked wooden floor, following the whorls and gouges with their bloodshot eyes. I didn’t recognize all the faces; for every regular there was a newcomer, who more likely than not would come for one, maybe two weeks before disappearing off the map in a haze of empty vodka bottles, never to be seen again. Sometimes on my weaker days, it made me angry to see them, knowing by looking at them that they wouldn’t be back next week, and hating them for being weak enough to succumb. Just like I wanted to.

You’re supposed to share your story at these meetings, but that wasn’t really why we were here, was it? You don’t want to hear my story. Nobody does. There’s a reason my name never shows up on the front jacket—why if you read between the lines of each tell-all memoir you won’t find me mentioned there. It’s because I’m very good at my job, you see. I can draw out even the most reluctant person, put their words, their life down on paper so that the masses can’t help but want to read it, and the supposed author can’t help but rake in the cash. So I hope you don’t mind if I just give you the bare highlights of my own life—my name might be all over this, but it still really isn’t my story.

The smattering of half-hearted applause at my testimony had stopped now, and I was talking again. I was sharing my experiences of the past week—the times I’d wanted to drink, the times I’d been glad of the clarity I now had… You don’t need the details.

The truth was I could do without the clarity. Clarity, if you ask me, is overrated. I wasn’t sober because it made me clear-headed or better able to deal with my day-to-day life—honestly, I was a high-functioning drunk. That’s the thing about a Calling—you don’t have to be sober to be able to do your job. I could write just as well—maybe better—when I was drunk. I met my deadlines, I made meetings when I had to, my cat never went hungry, and I was never the type to get into fights or wake up in a gutter because, like all good alcoholics, I drank alone, at home.

No, to be brutally honest, I got on the wagon because when I hit thirty I was starting to develop a slight gut, and that’s not attractive on anyone. And believe me, some days I wish I had just switched to gin and slimline, but here I am now and so here I stay. Never let it be said I don’t see a story through till the bitter end.

After the meeting finished, the group disbanded, drifting away from each other like autumn leaves pushed by a capricious breeze. There was a table set up with orange juice, tea, and biscuits; some of the newcomers lingered there, hoping to meet kindred spirits who would reassure them that everything’s okay and it’ll just get easier with time. The regulars knew better.

Me, I picked up my sleek black laptop bag and hoisted it over my shoulder, exchanging curt nods with a few people before heading for the door. I wasn’t in full Bitch Mode, which on a normal day meant I might stop and exchange pleasantries, but I’d got a meeting to get to across town and not a lot of time. Chances were I’d probably be late. Why didn’t I just skip the meeting, go to a later one, you ask. To which I reply: you’ve never been an addict, have you?

I grabbed a taxi as soon as I could, promising the driver a generous tip if he could get me to my destination by four o’clock. That’s the other thing about having a Calling—you can make plenty of money doing it. I have even more now that it doesn’t all go on booze and mixers, but it mainly just sits in my bank account or occasionally serves to entice cab drivers to get me where I’m going on time.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that what I do is necessarily what I saw myself doing when I majored in Creative Writing at college (you don’t really care where, do you?). My starry-eyed teenaged self thought I was going to be the next Kerouac, or the next Tartt, or at worst the next Stephen King. I think my younger self would probably want to knife me in my sleep if she saw me trampling all over her dreams of renown and accolade, making a tidy little profit without my name ever appearing on a single dust jacket.

It’s still writing, though. It scratches that eternal itch. And I’ll tell you what, it’s satisfying, in its own way—getting into someone’s head, finding their voice, putting their life into their own words when they can’t make that transfer from mind to page for themselves. I’m like a conduit—weirdly, I feel connected to them. It’s an addictive sensation in its own right, and I am, after all, an addict.

Some people go from vice to vice, trying to find something that fills in that emptiness. I knew a guy in the early nineties who, after nearly killing himself on a five-year bender, sobered up almost overnight only to begin falling into bed with a different person each evening. What alcohol couldn’t accomplish, AIDS did. When you look at it like that, my way doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

We got to the hotel at five past four—even though we were technically late, I still gave the driver his promised tip. It wasn’t as if he had any control over London traffic, after all. I slid out of the cab, barely looking around to check my surroundings before heading inside. I have a lot of meetings at hotels, so I’m well acquainted with them—the plush beige carpets, the myriad mirrors, the waxy, sunlight-starved pot plants. These initial meetings are always in the bar, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that I ended up the way I did. Liquor is a natural lubricant; it gets peoples’ tongues wagging. Even now, hours before dinner time, the bar was half full, cluttered with businessmen soothing their jetlag with a pint of ale, nervous tourists tittering over a glass of merlot.

I caught sight of myself in the mirror behind the bar. It’s a rule, in writing—you have to tell the reader who they’re looking at. Never mind the picture on the cover, they want to be reminded of the sparkling blue eyes, the crisp white smile, the smooth, even tan. And you won’t be seeing my picture, so I suppose I ought to lubricate my own descriptive skills with a bit of introspection. Not that I’m going to tell you what you want to hear.

See, unsurprisingly I guess, I’m about as ordinary-looking as it gets. I’m about average height, maybe a little over but not enough to be tall. I’m average weight—maybe a bit extra on the hips and thighs from time to time; it comes and goes. My eyes and hair are a mid-brown that’s neither particularly drab nor particularly inspiring—my hair pretty much lives in a perpetually slightly dishevelled ponytail. I’m the kind of pale that you only get by staying indoors most of the time, summer or winter, and only holidaying to northern European cities that don’t require you to wear sunscreen or mosquito repellent. My wardrobe is mostly brown, black, and navy. I don’t wear rings and my ears aren’t pierced. I’m basically the definition of a cipher.

I didn’t start out that way—I am told by reliable though biased sources that I was a very pretty little girl. And I went through all the normal teenage rebellion phases—heavy eyeliner, dyed hair, outrageous clothes (though who could live through the eighties and not claim fashion victimhood?). But somehow, I ended up like this: a plain Jane, nondescript and unmemorable. Maybe it’s the exterior reflecting the interior, since my job is more or less all that defines me these days. Or maybe it’s just that spending so long in a drunken, intensely personal, and yet wholly impersonal haze erased all desire for self-expression. But if that’s the case, why am I writing this? I honestly don’t know. You tell me.

The woman I was there to meet wasn’t hard to find. Unlike me, she was well-known enough to create a bubble of impermeability around her, one which no tipsy tourist or errant waiter was likely to overstep. And even if they didn’t know who she was, she was striking in a way that caused people to stop and stare rather than come too close. And as used to celebrity as I am, I’ll admit I hesitated for a moment before breaching that no man’s land and approaching her table.

“Ms. Dewitt? Nicola Booth. Sorry I’m late.”

“Oh, are you?” she said politely, in that tone where it was obvious she’d noticed and was pretending not to—which I hate, by the way.

“Yep,” I said, tamping down the urge to roll my eyes as I took a seat opposite her at the table. Lord, save me from the well-meaning ones—give me a stone-cold bitch any day. They’re so much more fun. “Anyway, I’ve just got a few questions before we get started. I assume your agent told you what I’ll be doing?”

“Well, I know what a ghostwriter does, of course, but I’m sure you all have your own methods…”

“Sure.” I sat back in my chair, nodding a little. “A lot of writers like to pore through articles, past interviews, watch appearances on Jay Leno, that sort of thing. Really bumps up the research fee.”

She raised an eyebrow—just the one. You know how in books everyone can do that? I’ll tell you what, not everyone can do that. “And you?” she said in this arch tone and I’m not sure whether it’s getting my back up or turning me on a little.

Not wanting to give her the satisfaction of watching me jump through any of her little hoops, I turned a little, motioning for the single waiter who’s loitering by the bar. He hurried over, more for her sake than mine, I knew, and I ordered a mineral water with lemon before looking back to Ms. Isobel Dewitt with all her arched eyebrow and perfect lips.

“I like to talk.”

“To talk.”

“Mm. I mean, yes. To talk. You’re supposed to be telling your life story, right? So the best way to do that is to… talk about it. To me. I’ll record it, take notes, ask questions…and then I’ll whisk it all away and transform it into a bestselling account of your life.” Maybe it sounds conceited, but trust me, it’s true. I have never failed to turn out a book that exceeded the publisher’s expectations, and I’ve even helped a few minor celebrities to climb the social ladder to better recognition.

The great Isobel Dewitt pursed her perfect lips and tossed her perfect hair and relaxed back in her chair with a nod. “All right. So when do we start?”

Well. This is it, then. “We can start right now,” I told her, leaning over to pull my recorder out of my bag, then set it on the table between us. No time like the present. “Let’s talk about what you want out of this book.”

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Author Interview

If you could sequester yourself for a week somewhere and just focus on your writing, where would you go and what would the environment be like?

M: It would probably be the north east coast or Northwest Highlands of Scotland - Skye or Banffshire maybe - and I’m not just saying that, honest! I have a penchant for holidays - sorry, vacations - in old stone cottages with proper coal fires or wood burning stoves and big heavy tables to play boardgames at and a big clawfoot bath to climb into with a bottle of fizz - and a K, of course. I’d go in the autumn or winter, and pray for a few nice days to go on wanders, and a few howling storms to hide from inside.
K: I was originally going to say somewhere remote, like M (and that does sound like an amazing retreat), but I don’t think I’d actually get much writing done there! Instead I’d have to say a city in another country where I don’t speak the language, somewhere I could go immerse myself in people and culture and art and food without the distraction of English getting in the way so I could come back to my room and splurge up all my words on the page.

What's the one thing you can't live without?

K: The obvious (and true) answer: M!
M: Well, I obviously can’t answer this one now.
M: Cheese.
M: I know I should be vegan but plain ol’ red cheddar cheese.
M: I can’t help it. Sorry cows.

What internet site do you surf to the most?

M: Haha funny you should ask, it involves writing...  
K: Writers gonna write.
M: So the past couple of years we've been active on a website called Storium. I was pretty dismissive when it first Kickstartered because their copy sounded like they thought they'd invented text-based roleplaying (which as an LJer of old I knew to be very much not the case), but we gave it a go and it turned out to be something different again...
K: Storium is sort of amalgamation of tabletop roleplaying with collaborative writing; it has a very stripped back system where character attributes are represented by cards that are then played into 'challenges' set by the story narrator. There's a really good set of functionalities to encourage collaboration between writers and the card system means that you are constantly thinking about how your character is growing in response to the plot. Every genre of story you can think of is represented, and because it's not tied to time zones or meeting up live you get the chance to write with (and get to know) people from all over the world.
M: We should say at this point that we are not being paid to advertise Storium here...
K: Haha, sadly not!
M: Anyway, it's a great way to get yourself writing and I've learned a lot there about narrative structure and about what the 'key moments' are in a story, due to the mechanics systematising it to an extent. It's sort of like gamified writing theory. It's also fun!
K: Yeah, you should try it!

If you had your own talk show, who would your first three author guests be and why?

K: I’m just imagining what that talk show would look like. “And you get a book! And YOU get a book! And YOU!” Best talk show ever.
But for reals, okay. I’d definitely invite NK Jemesin on, because she has managed to write a unique, captivating series in The Broken Earth trilogy and I would love to pick her brain about worldbuilding and craft (and find out what happens in the last book!) After that I’d probably have to go with China Miéville because everything I have seen or read from him is stimulating, weird, and incredibly timely. And lastly I would dither between Ursula K Le Guin and Margaret Atwood, because I worship them both and think the world needs to hear as much as possible from them about what we’re doing to ourselves and our earth and how we can possibly make the future worth living in.  
M: I was totally thinking about Margaret Atwood! We just recently watched the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale so she’s been on my mind - I even found a bag of her books in our crap-filled storage room last night. Also, she’s just a really articulate speaker and interesting person to listen to. My next thought was Jeanette Winterson, because she’s fascinating and one of my all-time favourite writers, but I wonder whether the studio would explode with her and Atwood in the same room together - they’re both such epic personalities! And then I feel like a cliché saying this but I have to pick Sarah Waters, because Fingersmith and The Night Watch are two of my favourite novels of all time.

When you got your very first manuscript acceptance letter, what was your initial reaction and who was the first person you told?

K: I’m pretty sure I saw the email first and woke M up by jumping on the bed excitedly because I’m a big dork. We’d had quite a few rejections by that point and I was fully prepared for another one so seeing an acceptance was a bit of a shock!
M: And I was like “Hey, that’s nice” ‘cause I’m too cool for school. I’ve actually quite enjoyed some of our rejection letters - there’s been a bunch of really good constructive crit and suggestions for changes and resubmissions. Just producing work worthy of constructive criticism is quite flattering honestly, so being published is the cherry on top or something.
K: I love cherries. Especially maraschino ones. Especially on sundaes.
M: You’re disgusting.


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Meet the Author

MK Hardy is the pen name for two geeky women living and writing together in Scotland. They’ve been writing partners for eleven years and life partners for nine. When they’re not typing frantically at one another they like to walk the dogs, cuddle the cats, drink cocktails and play boardgames.

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Tour Schedule

8/7      Divine Magazine        
8/7      Love Bytes reviews    
8/8      My Fiction Nook        
8/9      MillsyLovesBooks      
8/9      A Book Lover's Dream Book Blog      
8/10    The Novel Approach  
8/10    Boy Meets Boy Reviews        
8/11    Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words           


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