My short story. The Kindness of Strangers (and where I got the idea from)

Before I was married I used to work in Bristol city centre and would catch the bus (it was, if I remember, the #18 for Clifton) to and from work.  And the buses were, at times, erratic.  No electronic thingy in the bus shelter showing when the next one was due.  You just waited and waited – and then three would come along all at once.

All that is a very long winded way of saying that I haven’t posted to my blog for several weeks and now I’m posting twice in one week.  I could tell you it’s because I’ve been poorly, but you don’t want to know that and I’ve waffled on quite enough.

So the reason for this, the second post of the week is the fact that issue 216 of Writers’ Forum is out this week and in my Ideas Store column, I said (among other things)….”and you can read the whole story on my blog.”  But, of course, it wasn’t there.

So apologies if you went to my blog hoping to find it.  But it’s here now.  (Although chances are, you have voted with your feet and decided not to bother, in which case I am talking to myself again.) 

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One of my earliest entries

In my column I was writing about notebooks and how I’ve kept one, on and off, for the last 15 years.  My first notebook was an old A4 hardback that I’d liberated from the day job but once I’d filled that, (it took my four years) I started using Moleskine notebooks because I was earning some money from my writing by then and could afford the luxury.

When I was writing short stories, I needed a steady influx of ideas to keep the stories coming.  (Wendy Clarke, who also started her writing career as a short story writer, touches on this in my interview with her). 

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Very often, I would use a prompt, many of which came from Judy Reeves’ A Writers Book of Days.  I hope you can see from the illustration how well used my copy is.  One of these days I am going to add up all the stories that I’ve sold as a result of this book!

But the story I feature in this month’s Ideas Store, The Kindness of Strangers, does not come from a prompt but from my Fiction Square.  In Judy’s book, there is a prompt for every day of the year and I’d already used that day’s prompt in a previous year and had sold a story as a result of it.  So I didn’t want to use that again as I couldn’t get the original story out of my mind.  Instead, I used the Fiction Square from my column.

If you’re not familiar with the magazine, there is a 5 x 6 grid printed each month, showing 6 characters, traits, conflicts, locations and objects.  The idea is you roll a dice to find all the ingredients of your next story. On this particular day my dice rolls came up with:

Character 1. a sullen child

Character 2. an heroic climber

Conflict: Dispossessed

Location: charity shop

Object: a book.

IMG_1639I began writing in my notebook: Ok, I see a boy. Sullen, defensive.  He’s shoplifting.  Been dared to do so by so-called mates.  But, like everything else he tries, he’s not very good at it. He’s Billie-No-Mates.

Caught in the act by the climber, Rob.  (Something more valuable than a book) Rob is broken.  On crutches? Certainly doesn’t climb any more.  Why?  An accident.  What’s he doing in a charity shop?  Helping someone – his mother? No, he’s a customer. He’s a hero because he got a party of children to safety.  Doesn’t feel like it because one of them died. 

Since the accident, he’s been numb.  Blames himself even though the enquiry exonerated him. Praised him for his courage. He’s walked away from everyone who cares about him. Drifting from one dead end job to another. One dead end town to the next.  Sleeping rough. Shopping in charity shops for warm clothes. 

My notes went on for another two pages and at the end of it I had almost outlined  a complete story. I’d like to tell you it always worked like that but, sadly, that is not the case.  In fact, at one time I thought it had the makings of a serial.  Which it may well do one day.  Who knows?

So, as promised, here is the final version of that story, which was published in the UK magazine, My Weekly and has had subsequent overseas sales as well. 

THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

As shoplifters went, the kid wasn’t even very good. Drawing attention to himself with each furtive glance. The idiot might as well be wearing a striped jumper, black mask and carrying a bag marked ‘swag’ over his shoulder.

Mac took a jumper off the hanger. It was a horrible mustard yellow, hand knitted thing, which was probably why it ended up in a charity shop. Not that he gave a toss what it looked like. The people he mixed with didn’t set too much store on sartorial elegance any more than he did. It was warm. It was cheap. Job done.

 He turned to take it to the till. The kid was still by the CDs. Probably just browsing after all. Whatever. None of his business.

The kid’s head suddenly shot up as three lads of about the same age as him came up to the window. One signalled him to hurry up. Mac watched as the boy slipped the CD into his pocket and hurried out to his giggling mates. He saw him show them what he’d got, heard the shrieks of derisive laughter. He saw, too, the kid’s head go down, shoulders hunched, as he shoved the CD back in his pocket.

Mac shrugged. No need to get involved. He’d be moving on tomorrow. To another dead end job in another dead end town. But at least this time accommodation of a sort went with the job. That would be good. The nights were getting too cold to spend many more on the streets and the pain in his leg was getting worse, the colder it got. Sleeping rough was not one of his better ideas.

The girl at the till looked ridiculously young to be alone in charge of a shop. No wonder the kids were stealing off her. Mind you, if she kept the more valuable items, like that little egg cup he was pretty sure was silver,  nearer the till, that would be a start. 

“I’m so glad someone’s bought this,” she smiled as she folded the jumper. “My gran knitted it for my brother and he refuses to wear it.”

“Lucky for him he can afford to be choosy,” Mac growled – and instantly regretted it. It came across as whingey, and self pitying and he was neither. 

“Oh Lord, I’m so sorry.” A flush stained the girl’s pale cheeks. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“You didn’t,” he said tersely. Why didn’t she just bag the thing and let him go? He didn’t come in here to get her life history. Didn’t want to know about knitting grannies. Certainly didn’t want to think about his own, who didn’t knit. But worried. Even though he was thirty two next birthday, she still worried about him. Probably a little less now he’d given up climbing.

“I don’t usually work in the shop,” the girl was saying. “I’m happier looking after the animals. But the rescue centre needs the money desperately and when we had the chance of this empty shop for a few months, we jumped at it. But I’m not very good at it, as you can probably tell. Take these biscuits, for example. There were eight of them but now there are only six and I know I haven’t sold any. Look, I’m going to have a cup of tea and a biscuit while they’re still here. Would you like one? I made them, so it’s ok.” 

“No thanks.” Mac grabbed the bag and headed for the door. What? Did she think he was a bloody charity case? Or, maybe she thought he was the one who’d been nicking her precious biscuits? He might look a down and out. He might shop in charity shops. But that didn’t mean –

He stopped. He was angry. Hell, yes, he was angry. It was the first time he’d felt anything, except an icy numbness, since The Accident. Correction. Since the day after, when Mrs Pearce had screamed at him, called him a murderer. Said she hoped the knowledge that he’d killed her daughter would haunt him for the rest of his life. Well, she wasn’t wrong there.

He’d coped by training himself to feel nothing. No pleasure. No joy at the sight of a sunrise, no warmth in the company of friends, nor even the comfort of a soft bed. It was, he reckoned, a price worth paying. To be where no one knew him. Or tried to make him feel better by saying the accident wasn’t his fault. That he’d done all he could. 

When he knew, just as Mrs Pearce did, that he hadn’t.

Why then, had he got so angry, because a young woman with a big soft eyes and a sweet smile had offered him kindness? Was it because she’d seen him as an object of pity? Someone who couldn’t even afford the price of a cup of tea and a biscuit? Who relied on the kindness of strangers?

Much better save her pity for the downtrodden donkeys and abandoned dogs.

As he reached the door, he was surprised to see the young shoplifter approaching and stood back to let him in. Then, on an impulse, he turned and followed him back into the shop. Outside, the others were urging the kid on. Obviously, the CD was not to their taste and they’d sent him back for bigger fry.

The kid reached into his pocket, took out the CD and put it back on the shelf. Mac watched as he edged up to the shelf where the silver egg cup was. Saw the furtive look as he picked it up, the relief when he saw the girl was busy on the other side of the shop.

Without realising he was going to do it, Mac walked across, put his hand over the boy’s stick thin wrist. Waited until the hand opened and the boy let the egg cup go. He looked up at Mac, his eyes wide with fear.

“Look, I’m sorry, mate,” Mac said loudly. “It’s no good asking me about volunteering. You should ask the lady over there. It’s her shop. I’m sure she can do with some extra help. Isn’t that right?” he said as the smiley girl came across to them. “Who knows? She may even offer you a cup of tea and a biscuit while she tells you all about the rescue centre.”

She looked surprised. Saw, too, the egg cup, upside down on the shelf. He could see she understood what had happened here. Would she call the Police? Up to her. It was stupid of him to have got involved anyway. It was just there was something about the kid. He’d seen it many times before. 

Back in the day, before The Accident, he’d worked with kids just like him. Not bad kids, most of them. They came to the Outdoor Pursuits Centre where he’d worked, full of bluster and bravado when they first got there. Scared witless at their first sight of a mountain close up. Trying desperately not to show it. Hell, but he used to get such a kick out of the ones who ‘got it’, the ones who scraped their knuckles, cramped their legs muscles, forced themselves so far out of their comfort zones they’d never be the same again. The ones who stood with him on the top of the mountain, their eyes full of awe, their faces full of wonder.

This boy wasn’t a bad kid. Just had some bad mates. Not that Mac gave a toss what happened to him, of course. 

“Here,” the girl gave the boy a beaming smile and handed him a leaflet. “It’s really good of you to enquire about volunteering. We run the rescue centre on a shoestring, you know, and need all the help we can get. Why don’t you read that and, if you’re still interested, come up to the centre, meet the animals and we’ll talk about it?”

The boy mumbled something barely audible and scuttled out of the shop.

“Thank you, Mac” the girl said quietly. “You handled that really well.”

He spun round, his mouth dry. “You know me?” he whispered, rubbing his hand through his straggling beard, his long lank hair.

“I do now. You are Rob McKinley, aren’t you? I wasn’t sure when you first came in. But my brother – the one who hasn’t the wit to recognise a good jumper when he sees one – he has a poster of you on his wall. Climbing’s his passion. You’re one of his heroes.”

Hero? He was no bloody hero. He was the guy who hadn’t been able to stop a young girl fooling around on a mountain. Hadn’t insisted she stayed with the group and not forge on ahead. Hadn’t been able to get down to her quick enough. Hadn’t been able to stop his own out of control tumble down the treacherous scree covered slope as he tried to reach her, his leg snapping like a twig during the fall. Hadn’t been able to move her, nor force her to hang on to life as they’d waited for the rescue party. 

Had cradled her lifeless body, long after she’d gone. 

“I was so sorry to hear about your accident,” the girl said softly. “Sorry, too, about the girl. It wasn’t −”

Mac’s hands were shaking as he wrenched open the shop door. Time to move on. Fast. Before she had chance to tell him that the accident wasn’t his fault, that he was – what had they said at the enquiry that had exonerated him? – a hero. 

So he did what all ‘heroes’ do when they come up against something they can’t handle. He ran – as fast as his wreck of a leg would carry him.

………..

“Thank you,” Mac said as the man dropped money into the bowl. He felt a cold nose touch the back of his hand and reached to fondle the dog’s head. Archie was never far from his side.

“Well, how are we doing?” Beth asked.

“The money’s rolling in,” Mac said. “It’s typical of Tom to turn his leaving do into a fund raising bash, isn’t it?”

“He’s a great kid, isn’t he? And he’s going to be a great vet, too.”

“He’s got a long, hard slog ahead, though. Getting into vet school’s one thing. Staying there’s another.”

“He’ll be fine, Mac. Don’t be such a pessimist.”

He pulled her towards him and kissed the top of her head. “You always see the best in everyone. And I love you for it.”

He loved her for a whole load of other things as well and there wasn’t a day went by that he wasn’t thankful for the way she’d run after him that day. Taken him back to the shop, made him sit and listen and eat those damn awful biscuits she’d made.

“Of course I see the best in people,” she said. “And you don’t, I suppose? That day in the shop, you could have had Tom arrested for shoplifting.”

“And so could you. You knew as well as I did he wasn’t in the shop to volunteer.”

“Yet look where volunteering’s taken him,” she said. “I knew, from the first moment he turned up at the rescue centre that he was as nuts about animals as I am.”

“Nuts being the right word.” Mac ducked quickly. Beth could pack a hefty punch, a result, she claimed, of standing up for herself against her bully of a brother.  The same guy who was now Mac’s best friend, climbing partner and soon to be best man at their wedding.

“Well, get on with it,” Beth said. “There’s a load of people heading this way who haven’t bought raffle tickets yet. You’re slipping.”

Mac smiled as he watched her hurry away to talk yet more people into sponsoring donkeys or adopting ducks. 

Beth could never resist a stray. She treated the frightened, the abused and abandoned with the same quiet patience she’d dealt with him. Gently, but firmly, she’d chased away his demons and dragged him back to life. 

A life which, amazingly, she wanted to share. Along with four donkeys, a foul mouthed parrot and goodness knows how many dogs, cats, chickens and ducks.

 THE END

Where does romance writer Katie Ginger get her ideas from? Plus Daily Prompts for 16th – 31st January.

The Interview

Appearing in the hot seat this week is contemporary romance author Katie Ginger whose latest novel, The Little Theatre on the Seafront I read and enjoyed recently.

Me.

Hi, Katie and welcome to my blog.  So, the big question:  where did you get the idea for your book from?

Katie

unadjustednonraw_thumb_826My inspiration for The Little Theatre on the Seafront came partly from the lovely little seaside town I was born in and partly the slightly larger town I moved to about five years ago. Deal is  beautiful quiet town with a pier and a gorgeous seafront where a lot of actors and actresses moved to in the late sixties. Charles Hawtry of the Carry On films lived there in one of the lovely period houses in the conservation area, and I’ve even spotted the amazing Guy Henry having dinner in one of the restaurants before! Folkestone, where I moved to about five years ago, has a harbour full of small fishing boats that go out every morning and come back with the tide. Both places have quirky High Streets full of galleries, cute little cafes and fancy restaurants. Greenley-On-Sea, where my story based has elements of both because I love being by the sea.

The theatre itself is inspired by an old disused building on the seafront in Deal. From what I’ve heard it was a place where the Royal Marine’s used to play and in later years was used as a bingo hall! I think because I love theatre so much, in my mind it became a crumbling theatre that needed saving! 

Once I’d decided on a theatre and some crazy amateur dramatics, I needed an MC and my brain created Lottie – a quiet, subdued woman but with a strong determined core. When Lottie’s beloved Nan dies she leaves one last request; save Greenley Theatre. And when a reluctant Lottie takes up the task along the way she discovers love and friendship but the big question for her is, can she save the theatre and still follow her heart?

Of course Lottie would need a sidekick and someone to talk to, and as a result Sid came to be. Sid is Lottie’s best friend and has been since primary school. He’s geeky and clueless when it comes to women until Selena comes along that is! The rest of the cast started springing up as the plot grew in my mind, and before I knew it I had a novel all plotted out with some eccentric actors in the Greenley Players!

The Little Theatre on the Seafront explores why community and community spirit is so important, it also touches on why every town needs arts and culture, and of course there’s got to be a bit of love and romance! 

Me.

I really warmed to Sid!  And how would you describe your genre? And is the book a standalone or part of  a series?

Katie.

The genre is contemporary romance and I’d written originally as a standalone but in my reviews people have been asking for me to think about a sequel, so I am!

Me.

Great.  It’s always a good thing to listen to your readers, isn’t it?

The Book’s blurb.

When Lottie’s Gran dies she leaves one last request; save Greenley Theatre. 

Faced with a decaying building, a mayor who most definitely isn’t on board with the project and a group of actors who just can’t get along, Lottie has her hands full, but with best friend Sid by her side she knows she can do it somehow. 

But the arrival of Jeremy, a hotshot London developer who sweeps Lottie off her feet, complicates things. Suddenly Sid gets a new girlfriend, the Greenley Players fall apart, and that crumbling building? Well it crumbles a whole lot more. With no one to turn to, Lottie has to find the courage to save the day. 

Will Lottie be able to save the theatre and also follow her heart?

Me.

So what inspires you most? Characters?  Settings?

Katie.

My inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere! It can be people, places, events…anything! Sometimes though you have to just sit down and think, ‘What would I like to write about?’ and build a plot and characters from there! I don’t believe in just sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike!

Me.

Wise words indeed!  And how did you writing journey start?  Have you always written? 

Katie.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_827I used to love writing stories when I was little but then I got a bit older, life took over and before long I’d convinced myself I couldn’t write creatively anymore. Then in 2014, I got made redundant from my job in the Heritage industry and it gave me an amazing opportunity. I decided to use some of my redundancy money to take a creative writing course and spend a summer doing something I used to love. I was lucky and had some success getting some cosy mystery short stories published and once I’d written The Little Theatre on the Seafront I decided to try and get a traditional publishing deal. I got some rejections of course, but it’s important to take the feedback and just keep trying. I eventually got my deal with HQ DigitalUK through their Twitter pitch they did in 2017 and it was actually for a different book but when they offered me a two book deal I sent them The Little Theatre on the Seafront and was lucky that they liked it too! 

Me.

What was your first published piece?

Katie

It was actually a cosy mystery short story called Murder Upstairs and was published by Zimbell House Publications in their Whodunnit anthology. 

Me.

And, finally, what are your future plans?

Katie.

I’m working on some new ideas now that I’ll be talking to my editor about soon and my second book with HQ DigitalUK comes out in October 2019. It’s got a lovely Christmas theme and as Christmas is my favourite time of the year I can’t wait to get it out into the world!

Me.

Thank you so much, Katie, for answering my questions so patiently and the very best of luck with your next novel.

Katie’s Social Media links

Website: www.keginger.com

Twitter: @KateGAuthor

Instagram @katie_ginger_author

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/KatieGAuthor

 

The link to buy Little Theatre of the Seafront: https://amzn.to/2QU7X8d

Daily Prompts   January 16th – 31st

I hope Katie’s story has inspired you to get writing.  If so, here are the latest set of writing prompts to further inspire you.  (For hints on how to use these, check out my earlier post, Writers’ Prompts

16. January brings the snow, makes the feet and fingers glow.

17. Picking up a hitchhiker.

18. Simple pleasures are the best.

19. In a silent moment.

20. Write about what you see from your nearest window.

21. Refusing an invitation.

22. Being misunderstood.

23. A remembered smell (good or bad!)

24. The longest mile is the last mile home.

25. A new pair of shoes.

26. Is there anybody there said the traveller/knocking on the moonlit door. (Walter de la Mare)

27. Once when I thought no one was watching.

28. The anniversary.

29. A good listener.

30, Sitting in front of a fire.

31. A childhood injustice remembered.

Where does author Rachel Brimble get her ideas from?  Plus a book recommendation from my granddaughter and daily prompts January 1st -15th

A book recommendation from Ellie

I hope you all had a great Christmas and wish you a happy, healthy and successful 2019.  

I love this time of year. It always reminds me of going back to school after the long summer holidays and the joy of having a whole new set of exercise books to write in. 

 I was lucky enough to have a couple of lovely new notebooks under the Christmas tree this year.  I love them – and, what’s really exciting is that my twelve year old granddaughter shares that enthusiasm.

Ellie and I had the best time this Christmas, ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over stationery (she had a lot more than me!) and discussing a book that she’d really enjoyed and recommended to me.  It’s called “A Place Called Perfect” by Helena Duggan and is such a good read that I’m really looking forward to the sequel.

Where does author Rachel Brimble get her ideas from?

I’m delighted to welcome yet another guest author to my blog this week who is brave enough to tackle the dreaded question.

I’ve recently read and really enjoyed Rachel’s book, The Mistress of Pennington’s .  I was initially drawn to it as it was set in the beautiful city of Bath, a place I know well and love dearly.  I was not disappointed and was soon drawn in to the story and its cast of fascinating characters.  The book was rich in wonderful period details, set as it is around the beginning of the Suffragette movement.

Me. Welcome, Rachel.  I really enjoyed reading Mistress of Pennington.  So, tell me, where did you get the idea from? 

Rachel: I have always been fascinated with past female progression and one issue in particular is women’s suffrage. The fight for the vote has been something I’ve wanted to explore in a novel for years and when I was writing book 1 (The Mistress of Pennington’s) in my Pennington’s Department Store series, I was thrilled when one of the secondary characters put herself forward as a suffragist.

It wasn’t long before the plot for book 2, A Rebel At Pennington’s, emerged!

Cover

Me. I can’t wait to read that.  So, how would you describe your genre?

Rachel.  The Pennington’s books are set in the Edwardian period and, so far, I have four books planned which will cover 1910 to 1913. Even though this is a series, all the books can be read stand-alone.

A Rebel at Pennington’s.  The Blurb.

One woman’s journey to find herself and help secure the vote. Perfect for the fans of the TV series Mr Selfridge and The Paradise.

1911 Bath. Banished from her ancestral home, passionate suffrage campaigner, Esther Stanbury works as a window dresser in Pennington’s Department Store. She has hopes and dreams for women’s progression and will do anything to help secure the vote.
Owner of the prestigious Phoenix Hotel, Lawrence Culford has what most would view as a successful life. But Lawrence is harbouring shame, resentment and an anger that threatens his future happiness.

When Esther and Lawrence meet their mutual understanding of life’s challenges unites them and they are drawn to the possibility of a life of love that neither thought existed.
With the Coronation of King-Emperor George V looming, the atmosphere in Bath is building to fever pitch, as is the suffragists’ determination to secure the vote.

Will Esther’s rebellious nature lead her to ruin or can they overcome their pasts and look to build a future together?

Penningtons FB banner

Buy Links:

Amazon UK: http://amzn.eu/d/aMjIi3K

Amazon US: http://a.co/d/dAhCQiZ

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/a-rebel-at-pennington-s

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Rachel_Brimble_A_Rebel_at_Pennington_s?id=r5RtDwAAQBAJ

Me. That sounds great, Rachel.  Another one for my To Be Read pile.  So, tell me, what inspires you most?  Characters?  Settings? Books you have read?

Rachel.  My book ideas usually start with a setting – often inspired by, not only places I visited, but also films and TV programmes. For my historical work, I often become obsessed with a period or a woman of that period and the idea grows from her journey or struggles.

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

Rachel. I’ve wanted to be a published author from a very young age and often wrote short stories as a child. When my youngest daughter started school in 2005, I was determined to start writing seriously towards publication. My first book, Searching For Sophie, was published by The Wild Rose Press in 2007. I haven’t stopped writing since and A Rebel At Pennington’s will be my twenty-first published book.

Me. Wow, that’s fantastic.  And what about your future plans?

Rachel. I have just finished the first draft of Pennington’s book 3 which focuses on women and divorce in 1911. There is also a murder thread that started in book 1 which is tied up in this book! I am excited to polish and submit this one to my editor very soon.

After that, I will be starting on a new contemporary trilogy set in New York.

Social Media Links, website etc.

https://rachelbrimble.com/

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rachelbrimbleauthor/?hl=en

Amazon Author Page: 

https://www.amazon.com/Rachel-Brimble/e/B007829ZRM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1490948101&sr=8-1

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1806411.Rachel_Brimble

Bookbub:

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/rachel-brimble

Author Bio

Author pic1 - Aug 2018Rachel lives with her husband and their two daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. Since 2007, she has had several novels published by small US presses, eight books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical.

In January 2018, she signed a four-book deal with Aria Fiction for a new Edwardian series set in Bath’s finest department store. The first book, The Mistress of Pennington’s released July 2018 with book two coming February 2019.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America and has thousands of social media followers from all over the world. To sign up for her quarterly and new release newsletter, click here to go to her website: https://rachelbrimble.com/

And finally….

As we start a new year, here are the daily prompts for the first couple of weeks.  Please refer to this post (Writers’ Prompts and how to use them)  for more detailed hints on how to use them.

Happy writing!

Daily Prompts.  1-15th January

1. I took a long, steadying breath.  This was the first day of the rest of my life.

2. A resolution you made – and kept. (Or, maybe, one you wished you had kept!)

3. My mother once told me….

4. Write about something you didn’t do.

5. It doesn’t matter any more. (Buddy Holly’s last song, released this day 1956)

6. Write about your mother’s hands.

7. The first house you ever remember

8. A secret message

9. There’s no fool like an old fool.

10. On this day in 1863, the first section of London’s Underground, the Metropolitan Line, opened, running from Paddington to Farringdon Street.

11. A phone is ringing but no one answers.

12. A recurring dream (or nightmare)

13. Stealing time.

14. Once upon a time, there were three little pigs (ducks/firemen/whatever!)

15. A secret you wished you’d never been told.

Where does crime writer, Joan Livingston, get her ideas from? Plus Daily Prompts 16-31 December

Joan has recently appeared in my column in the UK magazine, Writers’ Forum where, as always I am pushed for space.  But here, I can ask as many questions as I like without the strait-jacket of a word count. 

I am thrilled to feature crime writer Joan Livingston on my blog this week.  I have read and really enjoyed both books in Joan’s Isabel Long series and am eagerly looking forward to the next which she tells me is due out early in 2019.

Me.

Welcome to my blog, Joan and thank you for dropping by.  So, where did you get the idea for your Isabel Long series from?

Joan.

Prior to starting the Isabel Long series, I never thought about writing a mystery. My previous books were literary fiction, but I was inspired after reading one an author friend wrote. When I thought about it, my life has been immersed in mystery. Since I was a kid, I’ve read mysteries and watched suspenseful shows and movies. I enjoy figuring out whodunit and being surprised by a plot twist.

And before I was a fiction writer, I was a journalist. Often, I had to piece together a story using clues and sources. Certainly, as my protagonist, Isabel Long, learned, these are transferable skills.

So, I sat at my computer and began writing Chasing the Case. I didn’t use outlines, notes, or programs. The story came from “somewhere” and I was the conduit. As the words flowed, I learned three things: the amateur P.I. would be a woman; her cases could be related to her former career as a journalist; the setting would be rural Western Massachusetts (US).

How does a woman disappear in a town of a thousand people? That’s a 28-year-old mystery Isabel Long wants to solve

Me.What inspires you most?  Characters?  Settings? 

Joan.

Isabel is what the French call une femme d’un certain age. She’s been a widow for a year and has an adult romance. She’s a bit of a smart-ass, so I let her tell the story. (I admit there’s a bit of me in her.) Her sidekick is her 92-year-old mother who came to live with her — my 95-year-old mom is her inspiration. Strong characters I’ve created move this series along.As a writer, I take what I know and have my way with it. I use a rural setting because I’ve lived many years in small towns (a thousand people or so) and understand what they are like. As a reporter, I covered them. 

Me. How did your writing journey start? 

Joan.

I was fortunate to have great teachers when I went to public school as a child. My fourth-grade teacher encouraged me to write short plays and have my classmates perform them. In fifth grade, I was part of a group chosen for an enrichment program — Wednesday afternoons we would gather at a school for advanced science and creative writing classes. The science was okay, but I was hooked by the creative writing, learning about metaphors and similes at such a young age. I recently found the little pieces I wrote and found them charming.

I should also say I was a big reader, thanks to my mother, who took us to the library twice a week.

I had a bit of a drought until I went to college, where I got into poetry in a heavy way, publishing and doing public readings. I fancied myself a poet. 

I recall my creative writing professor telling me something that has continued to stick with me: Tell it like nobody has told it before. 

Me: Have you always written? 

Joan.

I will confess that I had a 25-year writer’s block. It coincides with motherhood when my creativity naturally went into raising six children. I had given up on poetry. And I found to my dismay, I couldn’t sustain a thought in prose although I wanted to be a writer.

My situation began to change when I became a part-time correspondent for the local newspaper, where I was paid by the inch to cover news and features in the small hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. Besides being immersed in the hilltowns — the source of inspiration for my fiction these days — I learned to write unadorned prose. I also listened to the way people talked and behaved, which I believe has been beneficial to writing realistic fiction. I also enjoyed people’s responses to what I reported and wrote.

But the 25-year writer’s block didn’t really break until I was promoted to editor. The job had more responsibility, but it didn’t drain my creative juices. Suddenly, I found it was a rare day when I wasn’t writing fiction. It was part of who I am. That is true today. Writing is my form of expression, one that brings me great happiness.

Ah, but publishing is another thing all together. I’m sure I could swap war stories with other authors about that.

The books’ blurbs

CHASING THE CASE

New to the game. But that won’t stop her.

How does a woman disappear in a town of a thousand people? That’s a 28-year-old mystery Isabel Long wants to solve. 

Isabel has the time to investigate. She just lost her husband and her job as the managing editor of a newspaper. (Yes, it’s been a bad year.) And she’s got a Watson — her 92-year-old mother who lives with her. 

To help her case, Isabel takes a job at the local watering hole, so she can get up close and personal with those connected to the mystery. 

As a journalist, Isabel never lost a story she chased. Now, as an amateur P.I., she’s not about to lose this case.

REDNECK’S REVENGE

Her next case. She’s in it for good.

Encouraged by her Watson — her 92-year-old mother — Isabel snaps out of it by hooking up with a P.I. and finding a new case. 

Isabel Long is in a funk months after solving her first case. Her relationship with the Rooster Bar’s owner is over, but no surprise there. Then cops say she must work for a licensed P.I. before working solo.

The official ruling is Chet Waters, an ornery so-and-so, was passed out when his house caught fire. His daughter, who inherited the junkyard, believes he was murdered. Topping the list of suspects are dangerous drug-dealing brothers, a rival junkyard owner, and an ex-husband. 

Could the man’s death simply be a case of redneck’s revenge? Isabel is about to find out.

Me. Do you have any future plans?


Once I finished the first book, I was onto the second — Her next case. She’s in it for good. — then the third. I will stick with the series as long as I am interested in the exploits of Isabel Long and the cases she takes.

But to be clear, the plots for Chasing the Case, Redneck’s Revenge, and the 2019 release, Checking the Traps, are not based on anything that happened. The same is true for my characters. They are only real to me and I’m glad many of them can join me for more than one book.

Me

Thank you so much for stopping by, Joan.  That was brilliant.  And I can’t wait to find out what Isabel and her mother are up to next so I’m really looking forward to Checking The Traps..


Book Links

Chasing the Case.  https://mybook.to/chasingthecase

Redneck’s Revenge. https://mybook.to/rednecksrevenge

Coming next on this blog

Next week is an important one,  Friday 21st December has been written in big red letter in my calendar and on my wall chart for months now.  It is DEADLINE DAY.

I think my second book, which will (probably) be called Rough and Deadly, will be ready in time for submission to my publishers.  But every time I look at it I find another plot hole, another end that I haven’t sewn in!

To celebrate finally hitting the send button on it, I’ll be posting a short story on my blog.  It’s one of my all time favourites because it features a Dalmatian and, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will know I am absolutely dotty about Dalmatians.  This one is called Jemima.  Unlike the real Jemima the one in my story is beautifully behaved – until she comes up against a hooligan boy dog with the unlikely name of Dolly.

……..

Daily Prompts.  16th – 31st December

Please refer to this post for advice on how to use these.

16. Things I never told my mother

17. An abandoned pet (dog, cat, your choice)

18. The mellow tones of a saxophone drifting in through the window

19. “I could murder a cup of tea,” Aunt Mildred said seconds before she died.

20. You’ve planned a quiet, romantic Christmas dinner for just the two of you.  Then, you discover on Christmas Eve that your partner has invited the in-laws/the rugby team/the guy from the pub who after a couple of pints of Guiness sings Danny Boy over and over again.

21. It was Sunday morning. (Or Deadline Day!!! See above)

22. In a cemetery

23. The overnight snow had transformed everything.

24. If I could turn the clock back, I’d…. (Write about something you’d do differently)

25. A time someone lost control

26. She was the kind of woman who….

27. You’re stuck in a traffic jam, going nowhere.  The road is closed and you’re late for the most important meeting of your life.

28. I have this terrible weakness for…..

29. Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods.  Cats have never forgotten this.

30. Write about your special song.

31. Knocking on heaven’s door (song title)

Where does author Rosie Travers get her ideas from?

On my blog this week, I’m delighted to share with you an interview with author Rosie Travers who appeared in my Ideas Store column in the December issue of Writers’ Forum.

Ideas Store. Issue 206. December

IMG_3510In the current issue of Writers’ Forum,  (Issue 206, December 2018) my column, Ideas Store features two authors whose books I have recently read and enjoyed.  They are “Theatre of Dreams” by Rosie Travers and “The One That I Want” by Lynne Shelby

Because I’m always pushed for space in my column, I’m only able to use a small part of the interview I did with these writers.  But here, on my blog I can  bring you the interviews in full.  

This week I’m focussing on romantic novelist, Rosie Travers and hope to bring you Lynne Shelby’s interview next week.

Rosie Travers

Me 

Hi Rosie, and welcome to my blog.  So, where did you get the idea for your debut novel, Theatre of Dreams?

Rosie

In my debut novel, The Theatre of Dreams, a devious octogenarian recruits a disgraced actress and a bankrupt architect to play a part in an elaborate plot to save a historic seaside pavilion from demolition. The idea was partly inspired by a building – the Lee Tower entertainment complex in Lee-on-the-Solent in Hampshire. The Lee Tower was built in 1935 and demolished just 40 years later by the local council. When I learned about the existence of this vast art deco pavilion in what is a small, sleepy coastal town my imagination was well and truly captured.  I wondered why the complex hadn’t been preserved for future generations and decided to re-write history. I already had the character of a veteran performer with a somewhat chequered past in my head and now I’d found her a purpose – saving her family’s seaside theatre.

Me

What is your genre?  Is it a series or standalone?

Rosie

I like to think of my writing as feel-good fiction. The Theatre of Dreams covers many themes – friendship, family loyalty, ambition, as well as containing a family tragedy, an unsolved mystery and a romance – it’s hard to put it into one box. It is a standalone story although I haven’t discounted the idea of a spin-off in the future!

The blurb

Book 2.jpg
The stunning cover of Theatre of Dreams!

Musical theatre actress Tara is down on her luck and in desperate need of a job. When terminally-ill octogenarian Kitty invites her to take over the running of her former dance academy in the old-fashioned resort of Hookes Bay, Tara thinks she’s found her guardian angel. But it soon becomes very clear Kitty is being far from benevolent. Too late, Tara realizes helping Kitty will signal the end of an already tarnished career, unless she can pull off the performance of a lifetime.

Me

It’s a lovely book and I really enjoyed reading it.  So tell me, what inspires you and how do you plan your book?  

Rosie

IMG_0076 (1).JPG
Rosie Travers

I tend to start with characters. I am a pantser not a plotter so once I have come up with a character I play around with various scenarios until I find one which works. The planning comes later and once the characters start telling their own stories, they don’t always stick to my plan at all. The Theatre of Dreams ‘evolved’ with plot twists and back stories way beyond my original idea but that’s how I like to write. 

Me:

And how did you writing journey start?  

Rosie

I scribbled numerous stories as a teenager but didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my forties, when I gave up working to accompany my husband overseas. My first published piece was a short story in a local magazine.

Me  

Thanks, Rosie, That was great.  So, finally, what are your future plans?  I’d really love to read more from you.

Rosie

My second book, Your Secret’s Safe With Me, a romantic suspense set on the south coast, will be published by Crooked Cat in 2019.  

Author Bio and social media links

I grew up on the south coast of England and after initially training as a secretary I juggled a career in local government with raising my family.  I moved to Southern California with my husband in 2009 and began a blog about life as an ex-pat wife which re-kindled a teenage desire to become a writer. On my return to the UK I took a part-time creative writing course and following some success in short story competitions, I joined the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers’ Scheme. My debut novel, The Theatre of Dreams, was published in August 2018 by Crooked Cat Books.

Buying link: https://mybook.to/theatreofdreams

https://www.rosietravers.com

Twitter: @rosietravers

https://www.facebook.com/rosietraversauthor/

Instagram: @rosietraversauthor

https://romanticnovelistsassociation.org/rna_author/rosie-travers/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk,/rosie9257/

Daily Prompts.  December 1st to 15th

1. Write about a particularly evocative scent.

2. Broken promises

3. “If only I hadn’t….”

4. Write about something that makes you go hot with embarrassment.

5. Catch a falling star.

6. Opening line.  It was at 6.45am on Monday 21st December that I decided to kill…. (You choose)

7. An invitation refused

8. It’s later than you think.

9. “A sad tale’s best for winter.  I have one of sprites and goblins”. Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

10. Write about a time you gave in to temptation and stole something.  Truth or fiction!

11. At the other end of the street.

12. “The frost performs its secret ministry/Unhelped by any wind.” ST Coleridge, Frost at Midnight. 

13. Passing time.

14. An overheard remark.

15. You’re in a supermarket and you realise someone is following your every move.

Where does romantic comedy writer Lizzie Chantree get her ideas from?

Lizzie Chantree

I’m thrilled to be introducing the second author in my new series “Where do writers get their ideas from?” and featuring her two most recent books.

I bought Lizzie’s first book, Ninja School Mum, because I was intrigued by the title. (And it has a brilliant cover!) And it did not disappoint.  It was a great read.

NSM cover small

Me. Hi Lizzie, Thank you so much for agreeing to be on my blog.  Now for the question every writer is said to dread:  Where did you get the idea from?

LC:

I got the idea for my book Ninja School Mum after looking around the school playground and thinking how strange it would be if someone had an incredible secret and they weren’t who they said they were.

Me: What is your genre?  Is it a series or standalone?

My genre is romantic comedy. This book is a standalone at the moment, but in the future, it will be part of a series.

The book’s blurb.

Obsessive-compulsive school mum, Skye, is a lonely elite  spy,  who is running from her past whilst trying to protect the future of her child. She tries hard to fit in with the other parents at her son’s new school, but the only person who accepts her unconventional way of life is new mother, Thea.

Thea is feeling harassed by her sister and bored with her life, but she suspects that there is something strange about the new school mum, Skye. Thea has secrets of her own and, although the two become unlikely friends, she hesitates to tell Skye about the father of her own child.

Zack’s new business is growing faster than he could have dreamed but, suddenly, he finds himself the owner of a crumbling estate on the edge of a pretty village, and a single parent to a very demanding child. Could he make a go of things and give his daughter the life she deserved?

When three lives collide, it appears that only one of them is who they seem to be, and you never know who the person next to you in the school playground really is

Me: What inspires you most?  Characters?  Settings? Books you have read?

LC:

From this list, I’m inspired by all three! When I read a wonderful book, it’s usually the setting, characters and often previous books from the author that make me want to write more of my own stories.

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

LC:

My writing journey began when my youngest daughter was unwell for many years (she’s fine now). I had to stay up at night to listen to her breathing, so I decided to write a book full of sunshine, to keep my sanity and my eyes open during those dark hours. We have recently found out that she has severe allergies, but she’s coping really well.

I’ve written since I was quite young and always had a passion for reading. 

My first self-published work was my first book. I was offered a book contract for the manuscript, but had to turn it down due to my daughter’s health. I have published two books with Crooked Cat Books this year. 

Me: What are your future plans?

I plan to keep writing more books as I really enjoy my job and I’ve met so many supportive readers and writers. I’d love to see my books made into films too. A girl can dream! 

Ninja School Mum can be found at this link here.

Me: And your second Crooked Cat book?

LC

This was published in July 2018 and is called ‘If you love me, I’m yours…’ 

IYLMIY cover small

The ‘blurb’

Maud didn’t mind being boring, not really. She had a sensible job, clothes, and love life… if you counted an overbearing ex who had thanked her, rolled over and was snoring before she even realised he’d begun! She could tolerate not fulfilling her dreams, if her parents would pay her one compliment about the only thing she was passionate about in life: her art.

Dot should have fit in with her flamboyant and slightly eccentric family of talented artists, but somehow, she was an anomaly who couldn’t paint. She tried hard to be part of their world by becoming an art agent extraordinaire, but she dreamed of finding her own voice. 

Dot’s brother Nate, a smoulderingly sexy and famous artist, was adored by everyone. His creative talent left them in awe of his ability to capture such passion on canvas. Women worshipped him, and even Dot’s friend Maud flushed and bumped into things when he walked into a room, but a tragic event in his past had left him emotionally and physically scarred, and reluctant to face the world again.

Someone was leaving exquisite little paintings on park benches, with a tag saying, ‘If you love me, I’m yours’. The art was so fresh and cutting-edge, that it generated a media frenzy and a scramble to discover where the mystery artist could be hiding. The revelation of who the prodigious artist was interlinked Maud, Dot and Nate’s lives forever, but their worlds came crashing down. 

Were bonds of friendship, love and loyalty strong enough to withstand fame, success and scandal?

If you Love Me, I’m Yours can be found here

Having read and enjoyed Ninja School Mum,  this one is definitely on my To Be Read Pile.  I’m really looking forward to it.

Thank you, Lizzie, for a great interview.

Lizzie’s Social media links 

Website: www.lizziechantree.com.

Author page: viewAuthor.at/LizzieChantree

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lizzie_Chantree

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lizzie.chantree.3

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lizzie_chantree/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/LizzieChantree/pins/

…. And finally, the Daily Prompts for November 16 -30

I’m setting out below the daily prompts for the second half of November.  Please check out this post (link here) for details on how to use them.

Who knows?  One of those prompts might lead to a full length novel that I’d be delighted to feature on my blog.

16. The sound of loneliness.

17. Write about making beds.

18. Praise makes good men better and bad men worse (Proverb)

19. If I could have my time again.

20. It was her idea of a good time.

21. Trying to break a bad habit.

22. A postcard

23. A bundle of old letters found beneath the floorboards.

24. So it has come to this.

25. On this day in 1952, Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” opened, the world’s longest running play.

26. Write about passing time.

27. “I still can’t say goodbye” (song title)

28. An invitation to dinner.

29. Write about asking for mercy.

30. A time you laughed so hard it made your sides ache.

Do let me know if these, or any other prompts, have inspired you.  I would love to hear from you.

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.

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.

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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…..

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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!)

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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 ……