Towards the end of 2020 I was delighted to be included in an anthology collated by one of my favourite Facebook groups and sold in aid of a very special charity.
UK Crime Book Club is a thriving, well run book club on Facebook with a great mix of authors and readers. (As I write this there are 18.7k members, of which over 500 are authors, including big names and some not-so-big names – like mine.)
The anthology, Criminal Shorts, is available in ebook and paperback format on Amazon (link here) and was the brainchild of authors Kath Middleton and Will Templeton. Several times a year UKCBC produces seasonal short stories (eg Christmas, Halloween etc) written by UKCBC members and shared on the UKCBC Facebook page.
“The idea of compiling an anthology first occurred to me a while ago, when the ‘Seasonal Shorts‘ events became so popular,” Will Templeton explains. “I discussed the notion with Kath Middleton, but between us we dismissed it as being too much hard work!
“When the idea was raised again in the UKCBC admin group chat it became apparent there was a strong interest in it and we wouldn’t be able to duck out of it so easily. (Just kidding!).
“The charity was chosen by the admins as one of our author members has a child at the Red Kite Academy, (www.redkitespecialacademy.co.uk) so we felt they would be an ideal recipient of the proceeds.
“The call for submissions brought us a staggering number of stories of a very high quality. This made whittling down the entries to a manageable amount very daunting, assessing originality and ingenuity to finish with a selection to impress the most discerning reader. We hope we have succeeded in creating a unique and exciting book.”
And they certainly succeeded. The anthology is a superb collection of finely crafted stories and I enjoyed every one.
So I asked the 22 authors involved if any of them would be kind enough to share with the readers of my Ideas Store column (in the UK magazine Writers’ Forum ) where they got the ideas for their stories from and was delighted when thirteen of them responded. So much so I had way too much material for one issue of my single page column and I had to spread them over three issues!
Also, because of issues of space, I was unable to supply the authors’ links or buy links and am happy to rectify this here.
I don’t want to make this post too long so I am splitting up the 13 authors who contributed quotes in my column into two posts, with the second being published within the next few days.
Kath Middleton. Short story: Dark Fires
“I began with the idea of a girl being set up to take the blame for her twin brother’s fire-raising,” Kath explains. “As she was the subservient twin, it would be easy for him to fool her, and make her incriminate herself. As the story evolved, I started to consider the concept of gaslight, so the whole focus changed. Sometimes you don’t write the story you thought you would.”
From Kath’s Amazon author page
Kath Middleton began her writing with drabbles (100 words stories) and contributed a number to Jonathan Hill’s second drabble collection. It wasn’t long before she moved up a size to contribute short stories to anthologies. Shortly afterwards, she progressed to writing longer pieces and her first solo work, Ravenfold, was published to much acclaim. This was followed by the novella, Message in a Bottle. There are now several more publications from short stories to novels.
Kath likes to put her characters in difficult situations and watch them work their way out. She believes in the indomitable nature of the human spirit (and chickens).
Kath is retired. She graduated in geology and has a certificate in archaeology. When she’s in a hole, she doesn’t stop digging.
website – http://www.kathmiddletonbooks.com/
Amazon author page
Brian Caves. Short story. Brooks
“The idea behind this was to try an do something different…and I remembered the Francis Ford Coppola film with Gene Hackman as a surveillance operative. It was called The Conversation – superb film,” he says.
“And that’s what started the idea of Brooks, a gun for hire, a cleaner; someone who sorts out someone else’s mess. I thought why not two men in a room having a conversation about sleazy goings on with a Government minister? Brooks would question the minister about his unpalatable habits and actions, each of which is revealed as the conversation progresses. Ultimately, the minister accepts that he has to resign.”
Brian has published two full length novels, short stories and novellas. He is currently working on follow ups to A Long Way from Home and The Tin Man, a new full length novel set in the US called Close To The Edge and a book of horror shorts.
The link to his Amazon page is
Tony Forder. Short story: Mission Accomplished
“My story, Mission Accomplished, emerged out of pure panic,” he admits. “I had no story, so turned to my most read characters in an act of desperation. My first thought was: what if I send Jimmy Bliss to Ireland to see his mum and [something] happens? My second thought was: what if I send Penny Chandler with him? That was it. I started writing their journey from the airport and finished the entire story in a single sitting.”
It’s a cracking story and a testament to the strength of his characters when an author can just sit down and write an entire story straight off!
From Tony’s Amazon author page
Tony J Forder is the author of the bestselling DI Bliss crime thriller series. The first seven books, Bad to the Bone, The Scent of Guilt, If Fear Wins, The Reach of Shadows, The Death of Justice, Endless Silent Scream, and Slow Slicing, were joined in December 2020 by a prequel novella, Bliss Uncovered. The next book, The Autumn Tree, is scheduled for release on 24 May 2021.
Tony’s other series – two action-adventure novels featuring Mike Lynch – comprises both Scream Blue Murder, and Cold Winter Sun. These are currently unavailable, but will be back in 2021.
In addition, Tony has written two standalone novels: a dark, psychological crime thriller, Degrees of Darkness, and a suspense thriller set in California, called Fifteen Coffins, released in November 2020.
Link to Tony’s amazon author page
His website is www.tonyjforder.com
Jan Edwards. Short story. Down to the Sea Again
“DCI William Wright is a character from my Bunch Courtney crime series,” she says. “Wright was following a lead in my current work in progress that went nowhere useful. It is referenced in a very minor way in the book’s narrative, but I knew it was never going to fit, no matter how hard I tried. Trouble was that tentacle of thought simply refused to lay down and be quiet and so ‘Down the Sea’ came into being.”
From Jan’s Amazon author page
Jan Edwards is a UK author with several novels and many short stories in horror, fantasy, mainstream and crime fiction, including Mammoth Book of Folk Horror as well as various volumes of the MX Books of New Sherlock Holmes Stories. Jan is an editor with the award-winning Alchemy Press (includes The Alchemy Press Books of Horror series. Jan was awarded the Arnold Bennett Book Prize for Winter Downs, the first in her ww2 crime series The Bunch Courtney Investigations.
Winner of the Arnold Bennett Book Prize; Karl Edward Wagner award; Winchester Slim Volume award (for Sussex Tales). Short listed for both the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction and Best Collection.
To read more about Jan go to: https://janedwardsblog.wordpress.com/
Jan’s Amazon page link here
Susan Handley. Short story. Robbed
“My story, Robbed, came from thinking about how someone who has served a prison sentence might feel when they are released,” she explains.
“So many things will seem familiar, yet so many things will have changed. The story starts with Robbie, on his release day, coming out of prison, determined to reclaim his dues and settle a few old scores.”
From Susan’s Amazon page
Susan Handley grew up in England, in the Midlands and despite a love of literature, and crime fiction in particular, she never dreamt of being able to carve out a career as a published writer. But the desire to write never left her and after years of writing by night she has at last been able to share the results of her efforts.
Susan now lives in a small village in rural Kent with her husband and two cats. When she’s not indulging in her love of writing crime fiction she loves walking (the hillier the better), bike riding (the flatter the better) and tending her veggie patch.
Susan has published three novels. A Confusion of Crows is the first to feature DC Cat McKenzie, a one-time marine biologist turned detective. In the second in the series, Feather and Claw, Cat is holidaying on the sunny isle of Cyprus when the death of a fellow guest sees her put her holiday on hold and turn detective. In the third Cat McKenzie mystery, The Body Politic, Cat finds herself investigating the violent death of local councillor. As she uncovers the truth, Cat learns as much about herself as she does the dead man.
Susan has also produced two short story collections: Crime Bites Volume 1 and Volume 2. Full of bite-size crime stories there’s bound to be something to suit all tastes.
The link is
Cecilia Peartree. Short story: The Coastal Path
Cecilia found her inspiration from a series of walks she did with her sister-in-law on the Fife Coast Path.
“In the story I wanted to weave together the walk itself, the uncovering of a secret, and the main character developing as a result of her experiences,” she explains. “At first the walk was the most important thing, but in the end I feel the character development came to be the core of it.”
From Cecilia’s Amazon page
Cecilia Peartree is the pen name of a writer who lives in Edinburgh and has worked as a computer programmer and a database manager.
She has been a compulsive writer since she first learned to write, and by the age of sixteen she had a whole cupboard full of unfinished stories.
Cecilia writes the Pitkirtly series of quirky mystery novels set in an imaginary town on the coast of Fife, and the Quest mystery/adventure novels set in the early 1950s. Recently, almost without meaning to, she has also written a short series of Regency novels.
As befits a mystery writer, she is often surrounded by cats while working on her novels.
Website. . www.ceciliapeartree.com
Lexie Conyngham. Short story: Special Delivery
“I was intrigued by the idea of starting a book with someone walking into a situation he didn’t understand. It seemed a good place to start for a short story, too,” she says. “Apart from that the story was one of those ones that just seems to happen – though I can say that the room in the story that contains only a cistern handle and nothing else was something we found when viewing a house, once!”
From Lexie’s Amazon author page
Lexie Conyngham is a historian living in the shadow of the Highlands. Her Murray of Letho novels are born of a life amidst Scotland’s old cities, ancient universities and hidden-away aristocratic estates, but she has written since the day she found out that people were allowed to do such a thing. Beyond teaching and research, her days are spent with wool, wild allotments and a wee bit of whisky.
Read her blog at www.murrayofletho.blogspot.com for some nice veg and occasional insights into Scottish history and wildlife.
Bill Todd. Short story: Lucky Break
Bill Todd has written seven successful crime thrillers featuring wounded ex-soldier turned private investigator Danny Lancaster. “For the UKCBC anthology I thought I’d have a shot at a Danny short story which presents different writing challenges.”
A challenge to which the author rose magnificently as his short story, Lucky Break, made me want to read more about Danny Lancaster and I’m now really looking forward to reading the first in the series, The Wreck of the Margarita. The ebook is currently free on Amazon. (link here)
Bill’s author bio
I’ve spent my working life as a journalist. You meet a lot of people, see things, learn stuff. For a crimewriter, it’s a plot factory.
I’ve also done a lot of travelwriting. It’s not all cocktails under the palm trees but it is a fantastic job that’s taken me to more than 40 countries, from the white wastes of Arctic Finland to the deserts of Namibia.
People often ask my favourite place. In a world of globalisation, many destinations look the same but Iceland and Namibia are like stepping onto another planet. Go if you can.
I’ve also enjoyed a long love affair with Western Crete, the mountains, coastline, food and people. And I was delighted and surprised to receive the Ed Lacy Gibraltar travel award in 2007.
Another interest is my family tree. I’ve traced the ancestors back to William of Byfield, a farmer in 1600s Northamptonshire, just down the road from Shakespeare.
I love maps. They might seem old fashioned in the age of GPS but they tell stories, make promises. I have a ragbag collection of more than 3,000.
I’m also a fan of interesting cheeses, good beer and wilderness. They’re like Marmite, you’re an empty places person or you’re not.
I have written six crime thrillers and a book of short stories featuring Danny Lancaster, a wounded Afghanistan veteran turned private investigator.
Bill’s Amazon author page.
Bill’s contact details
Bill Todd and Danny Lancaster aren’t hard to find. If you don’t bump into them out and about you can catch them here…
Twitter: https://twitter.com/williamjtodd – @williamjtodd
Twitter: https://twitter.com/@DannyLancaster3 – @DannyLancaster3
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/billtodd_writer/ – @billtodd_writer
In my next blog I’ll be featuring the other six authors who gave me quotes for my column – and my grateful thanks go to them all.
And, just in case you haven’t done so yet, please check out Criminal Shorts at
It’s available in paperback or ebook – and as I’ve said before, it’s a cracking read and a great charity.