Where does crime writer, Val Penny, get her ideas from?

A slight change of direction

When I started this blog, back in March, it was only intended as a record of my faltering steps towards publication of my debut crime novel Murder Served Cold which was published in October.   Link here. 

The publication date is the reason for the longer than intended gap between posts as I completely underestimated the amount of time the marketing/social media aspect side of the writing business would take – not to mention the fact that I’m busy writing the second in the series, provisional title Rough and Deadly,  to a very tight December deadline.  (No Christmas shopping for me this year! Yayy!)

Having achieved my publication date goal, I would now like to change the emphasis of this blog slightly and include interviews with other writers.  I shall still continue to post about my own progress (or lack of it)  as I get down to what I am fast discovering is the really hard bit about writing a novel – ie getting it ‘out there’.

The blog will still include my daily prompts and the current ones (albeit slightly late, for which I apologise) are, as always at the end.

Why a guest post?

IdeasStoreWhen I’m not writing crime fiction, I also write a monthly column, Ideas Store, for the UK magazine, Writers Forum.  (Link here). I have been doing so for eleven years and have ‘met’ so many great authors in that time who patiently and generously respond to my question: Where do you get your ideas from?

But there is never enough space in my column for all I would like to include, nor room for author pictures or book links.  So I’ve decided to include some of them as guests on my blog on a regular basis.

One of the big bonuses for me when Crooked Cat Books agreed to publish my first book, Murder Served Cold, was being introduced to a galaxy of new to me writers, one of which is my first guest, crime writer Val Penny.

author-pic-2Val is the author of the Edinburgh Mystery Series featuring Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson.  I have read and very much enjoyed the first two books in the series and am looking forward to the next one.

My interview with Val Penny’

Me:

 Hi Val, Thank you so much for agreeing to appear on my blog.  Now, that question that all writers dread to hear: 

Where did you get the idea for your book from?

VP:

 I always find this question the most difficult to answer, but I will try! I first began writing novels when I was being treated for breast cancer. I was very ill and had little energy except to read, watch daytime TV and try to beat the disease. 

As anybody who has been poorly and subjected to daytime TV will attest, it gets very old very fast, so I began a blog to review the books that I read www.bookreviewstoday.info

When I began to recover, I still had little energy, but needed something to occupy my mind. It was at this point that he who is known as Handsome Hubby suggested that, if I knew so much about what made everybody else’s books good, or not, I should write one of my own. (If only it was that simple!) Anyway, I accepted the challenge and, as my favourite genre to read is crime, I decided to try my hand at writing a crime novel.

The first character to be created was Joe Johnson: he came about from a throw-away comment made by an assistant in my office many years ago. She said she liked to be able to see the customers before she could smell them! So Joe Johnson was born and the rest of the story in Hunter’s Chase was created around him. 

Me: Tell us a little about your book.  What is your genre? Is it a series or standalone?

VP:

I write crime thrillers: the sub-genre is probably police procedurals. The novels I write form a series, The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. I like to be able to tell the stories of the individual character’s lives as well interesting my readers in the crime DI Hunter Wilson and his team have to solve.

Crooked Cat Books published the first in the series, Hunter’s Chase, on 02.02.2019 and the second, Hunter’s Revenge on 09.09.2018.  The links are:

myBook.to/HuntersChase

myBook.to/HuntersRevenge

The third in the series, Hunter’s Force will be published in Spring 2019. 

  1. The book’s blurb – Hunter’s Chase.

519VedYjK8L._AC_US218_Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city, and he needs to find the source, but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course.

Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder, but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman’s life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: Detective Constable Tim Myerscough, the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable Sir Peter Myerscough.

Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this first novel in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series.

51KrSzhcIKL._AC_US218_

  1. The book’s blurb – Hunter’s Revenge

Who would want to harm the quiet, old man? Why was a book worth £23,000 delivered to him that morning? Why is the security in George’s home so intense?
Hunter must investigate his friend’s past as well as the present to identify George’s killer.

When a new supply of cocaine from Peru floods HMP Edinburgh and the city, the courier leads Hunter to a criminal gang, but Hunter requires the help of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable, Sir Peter Myerscough, and local gangster, Ian Thomson, to make his case.

Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taut crime thriller.

Me: That’s great, thank you.  Now, tell me a bit more about your writing life in general, please. What inspires you most?  Characters?  Settings? Books you have read?

VP

I am most inspired to tell the story of my characters and how these play into the crimes investigated in the novels. Having said that, the setting of the beautiful city of Edinburgh is also important and it is a treat to have to research areas of the city that I would not have a chance to visit otherwise.

Me: How did you writing journey start?  Have you always written?  What was your first published piece.

VP:

I have always enjoyed writing and telling stories. Even when I was a little girl I used to make up stories for my little sister. However, my first published pieces were all non- fiction articles published in dry, dusty old journals and my first creative pieces, were poems included in national poetry anthologies.

Me: And your future plans?  More in the Edinburgh Crime series, I hope!

VP:

I am now about to start the edits for the third book in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series, Hunter’s Force and I am writing the fourth in the series, Hunter’s Blood. 

I was also asked to speak at The Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this year and I, as I lectured at Heriot Watt University for years, I would be thrilled to get more involved in speaking at writers’ conferences.

…………

Thank you so much for that, Val.  That was fascinating and I wish you the success you so richly deserve with the Edingburgh Mystery Series.

Would you like to be featured here?

If you’re a writer and would like to be featured either in this blog or my column in Writers’ Forum (or preferably both!) please get in touch.  Or, if you have read a book that you really enjoyed and can’t sleep at night until you find out where the author got that particular idea from, do let me know and I’ll do my best to find out..

And finally….

And no, I hadn’t forgotten the daily prompts.   If this is your first visit to my blog, check back to this page for advice on how to use them.

Daily Prompts. 16th October – 15th November

October

16. My heart leaps up when I behold/A rainbow in the sky (Wordsworth)

17. “This time,” he croaked, “I’m really, really ill.”

18. There’s a first time for everything.

19. You wake up – and everything is different.

20. Write about falling.  In love?  Down a hole? On a dream?  You decide.

21. She was wearing my ring.

22. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks (Proverb)

23. Catching someone in the act of cheating

24. “It’s all you could expect,” he said.

25. An abandoned house.

26. Your first car.

27. It’s too soon to tell.

28. Being lost along the way.

29. Returning takes too long.

30. The difference between men and women.

31. This is what was left when he had gone.

November

1. On this day in 1848 the first WH Smith railway bookstall opened on Euston Station.

2. I hate this time of the year.  It’s so …….

3. Write about a time someone said yes.

4. Before I was born…..

5. Rising early to begin a journey

6. One man (or woman) and his/her dog.

7. “Love comes from blindness, friendship from knowledge. (Comte de Bussy-Rabutin)

8. She who must be obeyed.

9. The stranger

10. An overheard conversation

11. Out of the corner of my eye I can see …..

12. To everything there is a season

13. The end of the street.

14. Every man is his own worst enemy (proverb)

15. Write about an island.

Advertisements

How to define your genre (or maybe not….)

This past week I’ve been booking a blog tour of book reviewers. This has involved filling in loads of forms, with author pics and bios and I’m very excited to say that I have a tour booked with Rachel’s Random Resources for 10th  16th November.

BlogTourRRR

In my last blog post I was whingeing (sorry, writing) about how difficult it was to write a blurb for my book.  This week I’ve found another hurdle that had me skittering away like a spooked pony and was a major stumbling block when I was filling out Rachel’s form.

My stumbling block consisted of just three little words.

 Define.  Your.  Genre.

So I did what I always do when I’m spooked.  I turned to the experts.  In this case one of my go-to how to write books, ‘Love Writing’ by the very talented Sue Moorcroft (link here) who knows more about writing than I ever will ever. 

Sue says genre is important for these reasons.

1. Publishers need to know where to place a book on their lists.

2. Booksellers need to know where to place it on their shelves.

3. Publicists need to know to understand what they’re promoting.

BUT

4. Most important of all:  Readers need to know if you write the kind of thing they like to read.

Now there’s no point reading the advice of an expert like Sue if you’re not prepared to buckle down and act on it.  So, that is what I did.

This is the conversation between me and my Inner Critic (IC) , the voice in my head that’s nagged at me ever since the moment I signed the contract for Murder Served Cold and everything became horribly real.  (Publication date October 19th…. eek!)

Me:  It says… (groans) Define your genre.  What?  I can’t do this.

IC: Of course you can’t.  You don’t even know what genre means.

Me: Yes I do.  I’m a writer.  I know things. 

IC: Go on then.  What does it mean?

Me: Well, um,  it means what sort of a book is it.  

IC: Oh right. I see.  Is there a genre then for rubbish, then?

Me: No, it means where would you find this in, say, a bookshop or a library?

IC: The waste bin?  The recycling box?

Me: According to Sue, it’s to help people decide whether or not they want to read my book.  Say, for example, you were a lover of horror, then my book would probably not be your thing.

IC: So whose ‘thing’ will it be?  Who do you think will want to read Murder Served Cold?  

Me:  Well, it’s a murder mystery –

IC: Really?  I’d never have guessed from the title.  So, does that mean there’s lots of blood and gore in it?

Me: Oh no, nothing like that.  I’m a bit squeamish and not very good at blood and gore.  But there’s plenty of humour, as well as a touch of romance.  

IC: Ooh!  Lots of sexy scenes then?

Me: Well, no.  I’m afraid not.  I’m not very good at sexy scenes either.  I keep thinking of people I know reading it.

IC: But just now you were worried that nobody would read it.

Me: I know.  But if they did…  Anyway, I’ve got to come up with a genre.  It says so here on Rachel’s form.  So I’ve been checking out other books that are similar to mine and I think I’m going to put Cosy Crime as the genre.  Besides, that’s what it says on my book’s cover.

IC: Cosy crime?  Do you mean it’s about little old ladies who knit running round solving mysteries, helped by their cats? 

Me:  Absolutely not.  Kat is a struggling young journalist – or she would be if someone gave her a job.  She’s part of the ‘boomerang’ generation.  There’s no knitting involved.

IC: Ha! But there’s a cat in it.  I knew it.

Me: Not that sort of cat.  Her name’s Kat, only no one ever remembers to call her that.  And she – oh, you’ll just have to read the book.

IC: Me?  You’ve got to be kidding.  Cosy Crime is so not my ‘genre’. Particularly if there are no knitting grannies or crime solving cats in it.

On a lighter note…

If, like IC above, cosy crime is not your genre either then how about revisiting the classics?

I have recently discovered dailylit.com, a website that delivers bite sized pieces of fiction which are sent to your inbox every day.  At the moment, I am thoroughly enjoying revisiting E.M. Forster’s ‘Room with a View’, something I haven’t read since my schooldays.

(I wonder if E.M. Forster had to worry his head about what genre ‘Room With A View’ was?)

I find I really look forward to each day’s instalment and am at present on part 18/81.  I love the gentle pace of the book and had forgotten the pleasure in reading something slowly.  Everything I do at the moment seems to be done at breakneck speed, but this daily dose of E.M. Forster is a little oasis of calm in my busy day and I love it.

It’s not just the classics on offer from DailyLit but most genres (that word again!) and include fiction and non fiction.

Daily Prompts.  1st-15th October.

I hope you’re  finding my Daily Prompts useful as starting off points for your great ideas.  (link to Where do you get your ideas from?) I look forward one day to a writer, in answer to my question, “Where do you get your ideas from” replying: Why, Paula, from your Daily Prompts, of course! (IC: Huh! Watch out for flying pigs!)

1. “Where am I going?  I don’t know/What does it matter where people go?” A.A. Milne

2. My first day at school.

3. Leaving somewhere (or someone) for the last time.

4. My favourite place.

5. Riding for a fall.

6. Divided loyalties.

7. Holding a new born baby.

8. Hearing an echo.

9. You’re walking alone, along a dimly lit street, when you hear footsteps behind you.

10. A fall from grace.

11. Just beyond the edge of the woods.

12. Attempting to avoid someone.

13. “This is not about you,” I yelled.

14. The first star of the evening.

15. He that suppeth with the devil needs a long spoon. (Proverb)

And finally…

What’s your favourite genre?  And do you read slowly?  And, go on, tell me: where do you get your ideas from?  I’d love to know.

 

 

Publication day panics and the story of my story

Murder Served Cold.

image

I can’t believe Publication Day (October 19th) is just a little over a month away.  I’ll be absolutely honest and admit that the thought has me almost frozen with terror. They say having a book published is a bit like having a baby and I  am at that stage where I seem to be focussing on the negatives.  All the pain without the gain.

What if no one reads it?  Or, what if everyone I know reads it and hates it?  What if they’re too embarrassed to say they hate it? (I have some very kind friends)

And what if people think they recognise themselves in some of the characters and are offended?  This is my other really big fear.  All the characters in the story are pure products of my (some would say twisted) imagination but of course they are inspired by the people I meet.

In fact, Murder Served Cold (link here to pre-order) would never have come into being at all if it wasn’t for an overheard conversation in my local pub.  I was busy writing short stories at the time but realised that the idea that came from this overheard conversation had the makings of a much longer crime story.

DishSC In fact, it became a short, 2 part serial of just 8,000 words which was snapped up by the then Fiction Editor of Woman’s Weekly, Gaynor Davies, a lovely, totally professional editor who was a joy to work with and to whom I owe so much. (And still miss very much indeed)

How this 8000 word serial became an 80,000 word novel is the subject of another post.  But a word of warning:  if you remember reading “A Dish Served Cold” in Woman’s Weekly back in 2008, then I’m very sorry but you probably already know the identity of the murderer.  On the other hand, if you do remember the story that clearly from ten years ago, then I’m very flattered!  (And there have been lots of exciting plot developments in the meantime, I promise.)

The Blurb

Writing this was sooooo hard!!!!! (as Kat, my main character would say because she’s a bit of a drama queen).  The 80,000 words of the novel skipped off my laptop (well, more or less) but a 150 word blurb?  That was something else and I am extremely grateful to my publishers, Crooked Cat Books, for their experienced guidance on this. Blurb

So here, at last, is the blurb that graces the book’s back cover.

A quiet English village where nothing ever happens.   Until…..

After her boyfriend runs out on her with the contents of their joint bank account, Kat Latcham has no choice but to return to the tiny Somerset village of Much Winchmoor where she grew up.  A place, she reckons, that is not so much sleepy as comatose and she longs for something to happen to lessen the boredom of living with her parents.

But when she and her childhood friend, Will Manning, discover a body and Will’s father, John, is arrested for the murder, Kat suddenly realises that she should have heeded the saying “Be careful what you wish for”.

Much Winchmoor is a hotbed of gossip and everyone is convinced John Manning is guilty.  Only Kat and Will believe he’s innocent.  When there’s a second murder Kat is sure she knows the identity of the murderer – and set out to prove it.  But in doing so she almost becomes the murderer’s third victim.

Readers of Sue Grafton might enjoy the Much Winchmoor series of cosy murder mysteries spiked with humour and sprinkled with romance.

Talking of Which….

One of the ways authors who are far more experienced than me deal with the worry of how a book will be received is to get on with the next one.  And that’s exactly what I have been doing.

Like Murder Served Cold, the second in the Much Winchmoor series started life as a serial for Woman’s Weekly. This time it was a three part serial, entitled Rough Justice and featured the same characters.  You can imagine, I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I approached Gaynor with the idea for the next in the series and she said yes.

Sadly, she didn’t have the same enthusiasm for the third in the series (she felt there had been ‘rather too many murders’ in the magazine recently) and the idea stalled.  But Kat, Will and all the other characters in Much Winchmoor (at least, the ones who hadn’t been murdered or sent to jail) wouldn’t go away and kept nagging me to tell their stories.

Which is exactly what I am doing.

September prompts

for advice on how best to use these, see my post Writers’ Prompts.  A limitless supply of story inspiration

1. Getting caught in the act.

2. ‘Accidents will happen in the best regulated families’. Charles Dickens (David Copperfield)

3.Lady in red (song title)

4. A day that starts badly and gets progressively worse.

5. A sprat to catch a mackerel. (Proverb)

6. The UK’s first public lending library opened on this day in 1852 in Manchester.

7. Harvest festival.

8. ‘Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone (WH Auden)

9. Standing up to a bully

10. A pair of buzzards drawing lazy circles in the sky

11. Hiding the wrong object.

12. The pen is mightier than the sword (proverb)

13. These are the things I saved.

14. ‘A sadder and a wiser man/he rose the following morn. (ST Coleridge)

15. Write about a small rebellion

16. Your mother’s cooking

17. And then there were none.

18. Getting what you want.

19. Until the twelfth of never (song)

20. Dubious intentions

21.My mother said I never should…

22. Lighting a candle

23. A woman of substance (book title)

24. Getting on the wrong bus/train

25. A still tongue makes a wise head (proverb)

26. When the children are asleep, we’ll sit and dream..(Carousel, Rogers and Hammerstein)

27. Nothing to lose

28. A girl of her time (book title)

29. The old lost road through the wood

30. ‘Love is not love/which alters when it alteration finds (Shakespeare)

…. And finally, I would like to thank…..

IMG_1915

Last week, I was working on the final, final stage of my novel, Murder Served Cold by writing the dedication, acknowledgements and author bio that will appear at the front.

This was surprisingly difficult and caused me to think really deeply.  Who to dedicate it to?  There are so many people who’ve played their part in my writing journey and I agonised over who it should be.

Finally, I realised there could only be one person to dedicate this, my first full length crime novel to and that had to be my mother.

Mum was an avid reader and her great love was crime fiction.  When I was about 12, she introduced me to Agatha Christie and I have been a fan of hers ever since.  Over the years I have got very used to getting my ‘Christie fix’ from the television – those wonderful David Suchet performances as Poirot and, in my opinion, no one ever bettered Joan Hickson’s Miss Marple.

But last year, we were staying near Dartmouth in Devon for a few days and took a ride on the  Dart Valley Railway  the line that runs close to Agatha Christie’s lovely old house, Greenway.  While we were waiting at Kingswear station for the train to arrive, I bought a copy of ‘The Big Four‘ to while away the time. 

It was ages since I’d actually read any Agatha Christie – and I’d forgotten what a great story teller she was.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book, so much so that I couldn’t put it down and was actually quite sorry when the train arrived.  The Big Four made a perfect holiday read and there was something truly magical about reading it there in one of Agatha Christie’s favourite parts of the world.

Since then, I’ve had huge pleasure rereading many of my old Christie favourites, experiencing  the various twists and turns of the plot through my own eyes and imagination, rather than that of a film director.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against film and TV adaptations and am a huge fan of series such as Shetland and Vera.  But there is something really special about reading a book.  It rewards the reader with a much deeper sense of involvement in the story than the more passive pastime of watching a film can do.

I have a lot to thank my mother for, not least for instilling a love of reading for pleasure in me, particularly at a time when as a first year Grammar School pupil, my ‘English literature’ reading for that year was Homer’s The Iliad! (In English, thankfully!)

image

 

So, this one’s for you, Mum.  Although I have a sneaking suspicion no one ever reads these … apart from me, of course. 

What about you?  Do you read dedications and acknowledgements?  Who would you dedicate a book to?  And why? I’d love to know.

Murder Served Cold is due to be published October 19th and is now available to pre-order.  Link here

 

Daily Prompts.  August 16th-31st

for instructions on how to use these, see my post Writers’ Prompts.  A limitless supply of story inspiration

16. Write about stealing something.

17. What is this life, if full of care/ We have no time to stand and stare? (WH Davies)

18. Giving in to temptation

19. Stolen moments.

20. A time to laugh, a time to cry.

21. Gratitude preserves old friendships and procures new ones. (Proverb)

22. On the eve of the funeral…

23. Going home.  At last.

24. On this feast day of St Batholomew, patron saint of tanners and leather workers., write about the smell of new leather. 

25. My mother’s birthday.

26. Rainy days and Mondays (song title)

27. If I had my way, I would…..

28. Summoned by bells. (To commemorate the birth of John Betjeman, born this day 1906.)

29. Missing the last train home.

30. Write about a fortune teller.

31. The longest mile is ……

Murder Served Cold. Exciting Times.

2

Who stole July?

My grandchildren used to love a story about the Grinch who stole Christmas but what I want to know is: who stole July?

One of the pieces of advice I read when I started this blog was write regularly and I really meant to.  Honestly.  But sometimes, life – and families – get in the way.  And the best laid plans…  well, you probably know the rest.

But I have been writing.  Just not blog posts.  And I have really, really exciting news. (Spoiler alert!  The picture at the top of the post is a bit of a give away!)

Murder Served Cold.  Cover reveal.

Yes indeed!  I have a cover as you can see above.  And I’m thrilled and scared in equal measures.  In fact, I’m beginning to feel like I did when my eldest started school.  School uniform, shoes, bag and books all bought and looking smart. Photograph taken of him looking neat and proud.  (I could be really mean here and post the photograph of him in his first ever he’ll-grow-into-it blazer but he’d never forgive me)

But that’s when the reality hits.  The moment you realise it’s not a dressing up game any more but it’s real.  My baby is about to go out into the big bad world all on his own.  And he’s not ready.  I’m not ready.

(Actually, he was ready and loved it! But that didn’t stop me worrying about him.  He’s all grown up and (reasonably) sensible now but guess what?  I still worry about him and his brother.  The only difference now is that neither of them take a blind bit of notice of what I say.)

So, will I still be worrying about my book when it’s all grown up and sensible?  Of course I will.  I’ll be worrying that no one likes it, no one buys it and if they do, they’ll hate it and want their money back or leave nasty reviews on Amazon.

The cover reveal was the easy bit.  The buying the school uniform bit, if you like.  But now, I am on the final, final read through of the pdf that’s going to be turned into the actual pages of my actual book.  So I am at the moment re-reading it for a final check.  The last time I looked at it was several weeks ago at the end of the editing stage.  (I was going to keep up the ‘starting school’ analogy here and compare the editing stage to nit-hunting but thought better of it!)

Much Winchmoor 2 and an unexpected bonus

I’ve discovered an unexpected bonus to this final, final read through.  I am now on chapter 5 of the second book in the Much Winchmoor Series and it is really helpful to go through Murder Served Cold and realise that Will had blue eyes (and not brown as I’d thought) and that Gerald Crabshaw favoured tweed jackets and a regimental tie.

Of course, I should have made these notes at the time.  That’s what organised people do.  But when I started writing Murder Served Cold, I wasn’t sure I would ever finish it, least of all go on and write another in the series.

Murder Served Cold is now available to pre-order at mybook.to/murderservedcold .  Publication date: October 19th.

I’m now 15,000 words into Much Winchmoor 2 (working title) and yes, I know I said that I was at 15,000 words when I last posted but I had a bit of a crisis and cut 7,000 words which was painful.  But well worth doing.

And finally,

Daily Prompts for August 1st – 15th

(Check out Writers’ Prompts.  A limitless supply of story inspiration For hints on how to use these.)

  1. write about a secret you wish you hadn’t been told.
  2. the best (or worst) holiday you’ve ever had.
  3. write about a ‘meeter and greeter’ at an airport.  What would happen if they collected the wrong Mr Smith? (or whatever name)
  4. write about an old man (or woman) coming back to the farm where he worked as a boy.  Only it’s not a farm anymore.  It’s a ….
  5. When life hands you a lemon ….. (you fill in the rest)
  6. Once when nobody was watching.
  7. All animals are equal.  But some are more equal than others.
  8. Think about a time when, as a child, you were really frightened. Then transfer that fear to an adult situation.
  9. write about a mirror
  10. At 5 in the afternoon
  11. write about someone who’s left
  12. write about masks
  13. a secret revealed… but too late
  14. “The truth is rarely pure… and never simple.” Oscar Wilde.
  15. Packing a suitcase.

 

 

Murder Served Cold, the next step.

Spot the Dalmatian?

IMG_1756

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week’s picture of our Dalmatian Duke was taken on a six mile walk on Dartmoor that we did earlier in the week.  It was a lovely day but very hot and he was very happy to find this pretty little stream.  As were we – but there are no pictures of us having a cooling paddle though.  Nor of us enjoying a well deserved pint at the end of our walk.

Murder Served Cold.

The edits are finished and the book has now gone on to the next stage in its journey to publication.  I’m feeling more and more like I did in the months before my children started school for the first time.  With mounting dread I would watch the days on the calendar slip by all too quickly as the start date drew closer.  I’m getting that same feeling as October looms.

So now we’re talking covers and it’s all beginning to feel very real.  This is the ‘buying the school clothes’ part of the process, I suppose.  At the beginning the words were everything and I didn’t give the cover much thought.  It was a case of “I’ll know the right one when I see it” – and my publisher, Crooked Cat Books have come up with some great ones so I’m really looking forward to this part of the process.

This the first time I’ve had any input in the choice of cover art.  In September, my eighth Large Print book,  Brought to Account,  will be published in the Linford Mystery (or Romance) series which are sent to libraries.  I’ve had mixed feelings about some of the covers as the art work usually consists of a picture of a woman who bears no resemblance to my character.  It’s often the same with magazine illustrations as well.  But I figure they know their market.

And for my next trick….?

I have started the sequel to Murder Served Cold and it’s a delight to be back with some of the characters again and to move their story on.  But it also brings problems.  Like when did I decide Betty was called Sandra?  And if I’ve used the ‘gone to seed dandelion’ analogy in book one, can I use it again in book two?  I’d be very flattered if someone remembered what I’d written from one book to the next (I often can’t!) but the reader might feel short changed.  I wish now I’d been more organised when I was doing the edits for Murder Served Cold and made notes as I went along.

But I’m now 15,000 words into the first draft and it’s going well.

And finally….

Here are you daily prompts for the second half of June.  I hope you’re finding them useful.  Check out Writers’ Prompts.  A limitless supply of story inspiration for hints on how to use them.

  • 16. Not all Grannies knit.  (the title of a book by Jane Fearnley Whittingstall)
  • 17. Old friends, old wine and and gold are best. (Proverb)
  • 18. The battle of Waterloo was fought this day in 1815.  Write about something you believe is worth fighting for.
  • 19. On this day in 1975, Lord Lucan was found guilty of murdering his children’s nanny.  Write about disappearing.
  • 20. “Stands the church clock at ten to three?/ And is there honey still for tea?” (Rupert Brooke)
  • 21. Burying bad news.
  • 22. Write about a ceremony
  • 23. It’s raining, you’re late for an appointment and someone nips into that parking space you’ve been waiting so patiently for.
  • 24. She was the kind of woman who….
  • 25. Write about an eclipse.
  • 26. Grandmother’s secret.
  • 27. What would you do for £10,000? (note: it’s for £10k, not with!)
  • 28. You have a new neighbour.  Is that good or bad?
  • 29. Listeners never hear good of themselves.
  • 30. Write about your own version of Paradise.

 

 

Dog walks, hurdles and a murder mystery.

I’m later than I meant to be getting down to work because today’s dog walk took even longer than usual.  Several of the fields around our village have been cut and baled and our Dalmatian Duke insisted on stopping to wee on every one of them!  (It was a big field and there are a lot more bales out of shot, all duly marked by Duke).

DukeBales

The first hurdle – and how I fell at it.

I started writing this blog after reading “The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors” by Anne R. Allen  ( Anne’s blog) which is crammed full of useful advice for newbie bloggers such as myself.

Unfortunately I’ve  fallen at the first hurdle because one of Anne’s pearls of wisdom is  about being consistent.  Blog regularly, she advises.  

Ah yes, I thought.  I can do this. So  I set up a schedule (I’m very good at setting up schedules.  Keeping to them, however, is another matter) and decided I would blog fortnightly.  I then entered the fortnightly publication days in my diary.

I chose to post fortnightly (a) so that I wouldn’t clog up your inboxes and (b) it would give me some breathing space to get on with my life… and, of course, the day job.

But that is where the problems started.  Life , the day job and the local farmer’s hay making (see above) got in the way which is why, according to my schedule, I am now two  postings behind.  So, if you’ve been waiting impatiently for the Daily Prompts from May 16th onwards, please accept my sincere and grovelling apologies.  

To make up for it, I’ll put the Daily Prompts from May 16th – June 15th  at the end of this post.  And if you’re new to this blog and wondering what on earth I’m going on about, check out the post (Writers’ Prompts.  A limitless supply of story inspiration) on how to use the prompts.  

I’ve written a pantomime.  Oh yes I have!

In my post of 25th March The Path Less Travelled and why it (sometimes) pays to take it I described the fun I was having writing our village pantomime.  This year, we’re doing The Fladdams Family – the Panto, which is based, very loosely indeed, on the TV programme The Addams Family.

I have finished it.  Almost on schedule.  And if you’ve ever wondered what goes on during the creative process of writing a pantomime, take a look at a (totally unedited) page of my notepad which  sits beside me when I’m writing.  It’s either a snapshot of the creative mind at work – or the ravings of a madwoman.  You decide.

notebookpage.jpeg

A new serial.

Yay! I have a new serial coming out at the end of the month.  My eight part murder mystery entitled All The Birds of the Air starts in the People’s Friend on June 23rd.  

This serial is the result of an approach by People’s Friend’s Fiction Editor, Shirley Blair, asking  if I’d be interested in writing a crime serial for them.  Now I’d love to let you go on thinking this is an everyday occurrence for me and that editors are regularly contacting me in this way.  I wish!

Usually it happens the other way around.  I get an idea for a story, write it and then spend the rest of my time and energy trying to persuade an editor to buy it.  So after I said yes to Shirley I found myself in the unusual situation of looking for something to write about.

This was where my ideas box came in handy.  It’s an old document box, crammed with tattered files and dog eared notepads, most of which make as much sense as the one in the picture above.

But then I found a notebook from a creative writing class I took at my local Further Education Centre many years ago.  I enjoyed the class very much except for those times when the tutor would set us a challenge to write something really clever which we then had to read out to the rest of the class.

I was, and still am, absolutely rubbish at that sort of thing.  My brain freezes and I  sit there doodling while the rest of the class scribbles away furiously.  That particular day, the brain freeze was obviously a full on glacier because this is what I wrote:

Who killed Jock Dobbin?

That was it.  Apart from a weird drawing of what I think was supposed to be a cat and a reminder to myself that my son had cookery in the morning and not to forget the sultanas. (He’s all grown up and sensible now and buys his own sultanas.)

But the line intrigued me and I started thinking about a man called Jock Dobbin who dies suddenly.  His death is put down to natural causes until a series of anonymous notes begin to appear around the village.  These notes are all based on the rhyme “Who killed Cock Robin?” and that, of course, gave me the title as well. Then I started thinking: “What would you do if a total stranger left you everything in his will?”

All the Birds of the Air was such fun to write and there will, I hope, be a sequel.  But that depends on whether the readers of People’s Friend enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Fingers crossed.

Daily Prompts

Today’s writers don’t have to hunt around in dusty old boxes for inspiration. At least, not the ones who follow this blog.  So here, better late than never, are the Daily Prompts, as promised for May 16th – June 15th.  And I promise I’ll be back before June 15th with the prompts for the rest of the month.  I’ve already put it in my schedule.

16. Write about being bullied.

17. When you fear the worst and the worst happens, there comes that moment when you realise there is nothing left to fear. 

18. My brother/sister had this really annoying habit….

19. Write about what you didn’t do.

20. Opening line.  Where were you last night?

21. Dark behind it rose the forest (The Song of Hiawatha.  HW Longfellow)

22. Once, when nobody was looking…

23. The end of the day.

24. You are in a hotel room.  Alone.

25. Actions speak louder than words. (Proverb)

26. Buried treasure.

27. Write about a time you felt abandoned.

28. Something you bought mail order.

29. You’re taking an exam you are totally under prepared for.

30. You walk into a bar and a sudden silence falls.  But no one will meet your eye.

31. Slipping in and out of the shadows.

JUNE

1. Married in the month of June/Life will be one long honeymoon.* (see below)

2. It was the family wedding from hell.

3. Write about an anniversary.

4. ‘I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order”. (Eric Morecambe)

5. Write about a balcony.

6. If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you’d do?

7. The first time I saw my baby brother/sister I felt….

8. Write about being the last person to be picked for a team.

9. “Last night I dreamt I went back to Manderley…”  (Or Myrtle Avenue, or wherever)

10. He walks into a room and there is complete silence.  All heads turn in his direction.  Then he smiles and walks up to her.  “Hi, I’ve been looking for you….”  (Feel free to change he/she etc)

11. I love you because (Do you remember the old Jim Reeves song?)

12. Ann Frank was born this day in 1929.  Write about keeping a diary.

13. “It wasn’t my fault, Mum, honest.  It just….”

14. “There are two ways of spreading light. To be the candle or the mirror that receives it.” (Edith Wharton)

15. A funny thing happened to me on the way to…..

  • Footnote:  I got married in June and, on the off chance that my husband reads this, yes, it has been one long honeymoon! (Most of the time, anyway)