Where does psychological thriller writer Diane Saxon get her ideas from?

I’m delighted to welcome to my blog this week psychological thriller writer and fellow Dalmatian lover, Diane Saxon.  I was attracted to Diane’s book, The Keeper, when I learned it featured a Dalmatian. And it’s a really good read.  I would have enjoyed it even if it didn’t have a Dalmatian in it – the dog was the icing on the cake!

So, as always when I find a book I really loved, I contacted Diane to ask her if she would appear in my Ideas Store column in Writers’ Forum.  And she said yes!

Me.

Welcome to my blog, Diane.  So first to my Ideas Store column where I get to ask writers the question they are all said to dread.  But I still ask it anyway!

Where did you get the idea for The Keeper from?

Diane

I’ve always been an avid reader with an over-active imagination. One minute incident can happen and I’ll weave an entire story around it.

A few such incidents lead to the concept of The Keeper. 

First, when I was out walking my gorgeous Dalmatian, Skye in the woodlands above Ironbridge. It was late autumn and afternoon spilled into evening. The weak sunshine dappled through the trees and an eerie silence carpeted the woods. As Skye stopped to snuffle in the burnished leaves, I became aware of a presence above me in the hills. I scanned the trees and there was a herd of deer. Frozen. Watching. As I stared back at them, their perfect camouflage literally made them disappear, melt, into the background.

So, what if that had been a human? Watching me. What if I wasn’t supposed to be there?

This nugget of an idea germinated.

The second incident occurred in the same place when I was with my daughter, Meghan, Skye, and Beau, my young Labrador. We passed two young men on the remote pathway, going in the opposite direction. We thought they were long gone when they suddenly ran down the hillside and appeared in front of us.

I have no idea of their intentions, but Skye was having none of it. Her protective instinct kicked in and unusually for her she stood, hackles up and barked at the strangers who soon shot off back up the pathway.

The final incident which clinched the story was on another long, lonely walk through woodlands. I came across a hide, not an unusual sight, although I always find it unnerving that people can be inside, apparently watching birds… heh, just my imagination. But on this occasion, there was a shovel propped against the hide. Who would take a shovel all the way out there? Why would they?

As the dogs nosed around, I thought ‘what if they find a body? It’s always the dogwalkers who find the body!’

Me.

I love it!  I’m so glad I’m not the only dog walker who goes around looking for places to hide bodies!

The book’s blurb

Compulsive, addictive and gripping – a truly five star read! Diane Saxon is a name to look out for!’ Geraldine Hogan


A high adrenaline new psychological crime series, introducing Detective Sergeant Jenna Morgan. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Karen Rose and Mel Sheratt.


Responding to reports of deadly screams in the Ironbridge Gorge, Detective Sergeant Jenna Morgan is first on the scene to investigate.

As the search intensifies, Jenna soon discovers her sister Fliss’s severely injured Dalmatian, Domino and the naked, tortured body of an unknown woman.

Who is the dead woman and where is her sister Fliss?

Me.

A great blurb, thank you. That would have got me reading, even without the Dalmatian! So, what is your genre and is The Keeper a series or a stand alone?

Diane

It’s a psychological thriller and is the first in a four book series deal I have with Boldwood Books.

Me.

Brilliant!  Congratulations on your four book deal – and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.  So, what inspires you most?  Is it characters, settings or maybe even books you have read?

Diane.

I’m definitely character driven. Normally they arrive in my head, name and all. With my thrillers, I have to be so much more disciplined with the story as each one follows a strict dateline and it has to be correct.

Me.

Tell us a little about your writing journey. Have you always written?  What was your first published piece?

Diane

I’ve always read prolifically as far back as I can remember, but I never seriously considered writing until a few years ago. The idea of my thriller had rumbled on for some time, and then I had a foot operation and wasn’t allowed to move for two weeks. I wanted something light to entertain me, so I wrote my first romance, Loving Lydia. 50,000 in two weeks. What else is a girl to do?

I sent the manuscript off to Liquid Silver and amazingly within three weeks I had a reply and a contract. I have eleven further romances published for the U.S. market.

Me. 

And what about future plans? 

Diane.

Currently I’m hard at work editing Book 2 in the psychological crime thriller series and writing Book 3. Book 2 will be out in March 2020, Book 3 October 2020 and Book 4 March 2021.

When I have a spare few minutes, I will dip back into my romances, but right now my priority and mindset are definitely on killing people. In books, of course.

Diane and the very gorgeous Skye

Me.

Thank you – and now, tell us three things we might not know about you.

Diane.

1. I live in the middle of a cow field. Quite literally. 

2. I was the ‘chain boy’ (the one who carries the theodolite for the engineers) and site secretary on the construction of the M54. 

3. I lived in Zambia when I was a youngster.

Me.

That’s great.  I really envy you the ‘chain boy’ bit.  Theodolite is one of my favourite words.  I love the way it rolls off the tongue.  I would dearly love to have had lots of opportunities to use it.   (I’ll have to put a theodolite in my next murder mystery.  Or you can!  Now there’s a challenge!)

Social Media Links, website etc.

Website: http://dianesaxon.com 

Blog        http://www.dianesaxon.com/blogspot.html 

Facebook Page  http://www.facebook.com/authordianesaxon 

Twitter:               @Diane_Saxon

The all important buy link.

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-keeper-83

Author Bio

Diane Saxon lives in the Shropshire countryside with her tall, dark, handsome husband. She has two gorgeous daughters, a Dalmatian, two cats, numerous rare breed chickens, and a black Labrador called Beau–a name borrowed by her hero in For Heaven’s Cakes.

After working for years in a demanding job, Diane gave it up when her husband said, “Follow that dream.” She subsequently has 12 Romances published for the U.S. market.

Inspired by her long, lonely walks in atmospheric woodlands, Diane has gone over to the dark side to write British psychological crime thrillers. With a four-book deal through Boldwood Books, her first in series, The Keeper was released on 1st October 2019 with Book 2 due out in March 2020.

A short story for Christmas – and a Dalmatian called Jemima

Sleeping Dalmatian by a Christmas tree
Too much partying, too much booze, Gives you spots and makes you snooze. Jemima Christmas 2011

Well I did it! I hit ‘send’ on my second Much Winchmoor novel on the due date, so as promised in my last blog post, I’m posting this short story by way of celebration. Also, it’s a thank you to all you lovely people who have followed my blog during my stumbling journey towards and beyond publication of my debut crime novel, Murder Served Cold.

It is not a Christmas story but one I enjoyed writing very much as it features a Dalmatian called Jemima – and here’s a photograph of the dog that inspired it. She was a sweet natured, gentle dog and was very much loved.

This story is dedicated to her and all the other dogs we have been privileged to share our lives with.

Mail Order Husband

“WANTED: A Husband.  Must be young and fit with good teeth and bone structure.”

I read out what I’d just written to Jemima, who was watching me, her lovely amber eyes focussed intently on my face.  “What do you think so far?” I asked. “Is there anything else you’d like  me to say?  Good sense of humour?  Enjoys long walks in the country?”

Jemima gave one of her special smiles, then went across to the door and looked back at me impatiently.

“OK, I’ll be there in a minute,” I said.  “But I’ve got to finish this ad first.  It is, after all, for your benefit, so don’t rush me, otherwise I’ll forget the most important bit.  ‘Must have spots’. Better not leave that out, had I?”

After all, spots are pretty important to a Dalmatian – and Jemima, my two year old Dalmatian was pretty important to me.  In fact, since Simon stomped out of my life, she was the single most important thing left in it.  

Maybe, this tiny niggling voice inside my head was saying, that was the case before Simon stomped out – and maybe that was why he stomped.

That and the dog hairs, of course. They used to drive him bananas.  If he was wearing light coloured clothes, the black hairs would show while the white ones stuck like a shower of tiny barbed magnets to his smart, something-in-the-City suits.

But now Simon had gone, there was nothing stopping me letting Jemima have a litter of puppies, hence my quest to find her a husband – or in her case, a one night stand.  In fact, for Simon, that was the final straw, or do I mean dog’s hair?  He didn’t quite say ‘it’s me or the puppies’, just the usual stuff about growing apart and how it was him, not me.

I finished writing the ad, popped it in an envelope ready to put in the post box when I took Jemima out for her walk.  There were some wonderful dog walks close to where I lived and in the two years I’d had Jemima, I’d got to know and like most of the other dogs and their owners in the area.  

All, that is, except one.  The dog was the most peculiar looking creature you could imagine, with weird, angular limbs that stuck out at awkward angles when he ran.  He had huge clumsy paws, hair that looked like a worn down yard broom and a bark that could have been used as a foghorn in the English Channel.  I have no idea what his owner looked like because he was invariably a couple of fields away, bellowing at the dog to come back.

Only of course, the dog never did.  If that dog had been human, he’d have had an asbo slapped on him ages ago.  He was a nightmare.

As I crossed the stile into the next field, there ahead of me, was Asbo Dog who took one look at me and Jemima and ran towards us, no doubt trying to warn us there was a giant oil tanker bearing down on our starboard side.

I did what I always did when I heard him.  I turned, went back over the stile and into another field, calling Jemima to follow me as I did so.

But she didn’t.  Instead, for the first time in her life, instead of coming when she was called, she took off across the field towards him, like Cathy and Heathcliff on the Yorkshire moors.

“Jemima.  Come back now.” I yelled, but it was no good.  The two of them streaked through the hedge and out of sight, leaving me to run as fast as I could after them.

“Was that your dog chasing mine?” a young man with wild hair and anxious brown eyes asked me.

“My dog chase yours?” I stopped to get my breath and realised I was talking to the owner of Asbo-Dog.  “Let me tell you, Mr -?”

“Nick.  My name’s Nick.”

“Well, Nick, your dog is the worst, the most out of control dog I’ve ever met. Have you never heard of training classes?”

Nick pushed his fingers through his hair, making it wilder than ever. “I tried – but he got expelled.  Untrainable, she said.”

“Nonsense.  You should have found another class.  No dog is untrainable, you know, just their owners.”

“And what would they teach me?” he said, his mouth twitching like he was trying to hide a smile.

“To get your dog to come when it’s called, for a start,” I said, realising too late I’d  walked into his trap.

“Like – what was it you called her?  Jemima?”

“Yeah, all right.” I couldn’t help laughing but it soon faded.  “Seriously though, we ought to find them.  I don’t know about yours, but mine’s got the road sense of a paper bag.  And if they should get as far as the main road –”

“Good point.  Mine usually sticks to the fields, but it looks like your Jemima has turned his head well and truly today.  Who knows what might be going on in that pea brain of his.  I’ll try calling him again.  Dolly!  Come here boy.”

“Dolly?”  We were half way across the second field by now but I stopped and turned to stare at him.  “You have a great bruiser of a dog who’s built like a tank, looks like a giant bottlebrush and has a bark like a fog horn – and you call him Dolly?”

Nick shrugged.  “I don’t know much about dogs but the name suits him when you get to know him.”

I stopped myself in time from saying I didn’t think I wanted to get to know Dolly and I certainly didn’t want any of his bad habits rubbing off on Jemima.

“He was a rescue dog,” Nick went on.  “My girlfriend bought him, said she couldn’t resist his cute face.  She knew even less about dogs than I do, but we could see he was a right old mixture of breeds, so we thought it would be very clever to call him Dolly.  For Dolly Mixtures?  We thought he was a she, you see.”

“Obviously,” I said.  “But even when they’re little puppies, it’s fairly easy to tell little boy dogs from little girls.”

“I did say we didn’t know much about dogs,” he said with a rueful grin.  “And by the time we discovered out mistake, the name had stuck.  Unfortunately, at about the same time, my girlfriend realised she’d made another kind of mistake and that she wasn’t really a dog person, or, when she stopped to think about it, a me person, so she walked out, leaving me and Dolly to rub along without her.”

By this time we’d covered most of the field and I was beginning to get seriously worried about Jemima.

“She’s never run off before,” I said, my throat feeling quite sore from calling for her.

“I’m afraid Dolly does it to me most days,” Nick said.  “I live in the cottage at the end of Henley Lane and by the time I get back, he’s there, waiting for me, a big silly grin on his face like he’s saying ‘what kept you?’  Hey, come on, they’ll be fine, you’ll see.”

But by the time we trudged back to his cottage, there was no great overgrown bottlebrush of a dog waiting on the doorstep with a big silly grin.  No sign of Jemima either.

I was seriously worried and ready to burst into tears.  “If anything’s happened to her, I’ll never forgive myself,” I said as I tried but failed to imagine life without my stupid, scatterbrain, intensely affectionate dog who would wrinkle her lips back in a smile – and steal the food off the table the second my back was turned.

“Look, why don’t you come in and have a coffee or something?” Nick asked.  “You look all in.”

“No, I must keep looking.” 

“Just a quick coffee – and I’ve got some very nice chocolate biscuits. Come on round the back.  It’s easier -“

He stopped so suddenly that I bumped into him on the narrow path that led around the side of his cottage.  To one side of the cottage was an old lean to that Nick obviously used as a log store.

And there, cosied up together like Brad and Angelina was Jemima and Dolly.  He was looking like the cat who got the cream while she looked like she’d not only got the cream but the champagne and chocolates as well.

I went to get her lead from my pocket when I felt something crackle. I pulled it out.  It was the envelope I’d forgotten to post.

“You’re all right,” Nick said.  “There’s a post box just outside the cottage.”

“I think it’s a bit late for that,” I said.

He shook his head.  “No, I don’t think it’s been collected yet.  Do you want me to -?”

I shook my head and laughed.  “I meant it’s probably too late as far as Jemima’s concerned.  This is an advert for a husband for her.  I was trying to find another Dalmatian, you see.  Only it looks very much like Jemima had her own ideas when it came to finding a mate.”

“Oh Lord, I am sorry,” Nick said.  “But don’t I remember hearing somewhere that there are injections dogs can have, sort of like the morning after pill?”

I looked at Jemima, still cosied up to Dolly.  And I looked at Dolly with his sweet trusting face and friendly eyes.  And do you know, he was quite a handsome looking dog, after all.  The sort that grew on you.  Very much like his owner, come to think of it.

“Oh I don’t know,” I said, “Goodness only knows what the puppies will be like.  We’ve probably invented a new breed.  We can call them –”

“Dolly-dallies.”

We both said it together, proving what I was coming to suspect.  That Nick and I had as much in common as our dogs. 

THE END

Now, all that remains is to wish you all a happy Christmas and a hope that 2019 brings you everything you wish for. xxx


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)

My first blog tour, self doubt and a very special anniversary

Confessions of a Rubbish Book Marketer.

IMG_3505

These last few weeks have been pretty manic as I juggle the demands of marketing Murder Served Cold (link to my book here) with the equally urgent demands of finishing off its sequel, provisionally entitled Rough and Deadly in order to meet a December deadline that’s galloping towards me faster than the January sales.

I’m used to writing to deadlines, having written a monthly column in Writers Forum for the last eleven years (although the editor would probably confirm I’m one of those contributors who make the deadline by the skin of their teeth each month).  

But writing a novel to a deadline is a very different matter.

But even so, that’s something I am far more comfortable with than the other thing that’s been demanding my attention like an over-indulged two year old since way before my book launch in October.

The. Dreaded. Marketing!

 

My Big Scary Blog Tour

One of the first things I did was to sign up for a blog tour. (But even that, I left a bit late and the blog tour took place several weeks after my launch date.)

 I chose Rachel’s Random Resources because I’d heard some very good things about Rachel from my fellow authors at Crooked Cat books.

What Rachel (and others like her) does is gather together a number of book reviewers who will, in exchange for a review copy of the book, read it and, hopefully, review it.  (although they are under no obligation to do so) on such places as Amazon, Goodreads etc.  Reviews are of vital importance to an author as they do so much to improve a book’s ‘findability’. (Have I just made that word up?)

Until my book was published, nobody had read it except my publisher and my editor.  Even my husband hadn’t read it.  And, to be honest, I don’t know which was most terrifying – the thought of people I know reading it or people I don’t know reading it.

Now, I ‘m not a stranger to writing.  I’ve had over 400 short stories and serials published in various magazines both in the UK and overseas.  But the thing about writing for a magazine is that you only (!) have to please one person – the editor.  Either he/she likes it, in which case you have a sale.  Or he/she doesn’t and it’s back to the drawing board.  As for the readers, if they don’t like what you’ve written, they can move on to something else within the magazine. So it’s not a complete waste of money for them.

Over the years I’d got used to this way of working.  I have even, in that time, had some very positive feedback from readers, which is pretty rare in the world of magazine writing – or at least it was for me. (Do let me know if you’re one of those lucky writers who have loads of positive feedback all the time.  I’ll probably be insanely jealous but I’ll give you a name check!)

Leaving the comfort zone

I am, like many writers, an introvert.  It takes a lot to persuade me out of my comfort zone and I don’t mind admitting I’ve found the whole process of bringing a book out both terrifying and exhausting.  Each day the learning curve appears steeper.

But none more so than the start of my blog tour.

Murder Served Cold Full Tour Banner

It lasted a week and I could hardly sleep the night before, for fear of what the reviewers were going to say about it.  I’ve heard about far, far better writers than me getting 1 or 2 star reviews and having to deal with the crippling effects these can have on a writer’s confidence.

But I didn’t have any self confidence to start with, so I was pretty sure that a bad review would mean the end of my career as a writer of crime novels.  I know many writers suffer, as I do, from what’s known as ‘imposter’ syndrome, the belief that you’re not as good as everyone else and it’s only a matter of time before you get found out.

So I was taking a pretty big gamble with this blog tour.  But then again, if I didn’t do it, then only a handful of people were going to hear about my book and this would make my publisher (and me) very sad.

The results are in…..

But I’m glad to say the reviews were good. I’m sure part of is thanks to Rachel’s skill in selecting reviewers who will probably enjoy books written in my genre. 

In fact, the reviews were much better than I dared hope.  Shall I put them on here?  Probably not because although my lovely mum (to whom my book has been dedicated) has been dead a long, long time she still murmurs in my ear every now and again and is even now telling me not to ‘show off’. (She wasn’t that impressed with Murder Served Cold either and told me I was ‘no Agatha Christie’)

But having said that, if she was still around, she’d have been that proud of me people would have crossed the road to avoid having to listen to her banging on about it! (Even though I’m no Agatha Christie).

But sadly, showing off is what book marketing is all about – which is why I’m not very good at it.  But this is where the value, to me, of this blog tour came in.

I’m not sure if Rachel and her reviewers have any notion of how their kind words (Rachel was brilliant and very reassuring every time I started panicking!) saved this fledging new career of mine.  Every day of the tour, with each good review  I grew a little in confidence until by the end of the week I began to believe that I might just have written a book that people might actually want to read.

It’s a really big deal when someone buys my book and I feel the responsibility keenly.   I want to give each and every one a hug.  Unlike a magazine, the reader’s money is totally wasted if they don’t like my work. It’s not like they can flip over to the recipe section to find something they do like as they can in a magazine.  But it’s not just money they’ve wasted.  It’s the time they’ve invested in reading my book.  That’s an awesome responsibility.

So to all those readers who took a chance on this unknown (to them) author, a big thank you.  And to those lovely readers who leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads etc, an even bigger thank you.  

And for my next meltdown…..

I’m now going through yet another crisis of confidence as I am getting close to finishing the second book in the series.  Writers thrive on the question ‘what if?” Asking and answering it can lead to many a good twist and turn.  But sometimes those two little words can work against you.

What if….

What if Murder Served Cold a fluke?  Am I about to get found out after all?

But that’s a blog for another time.  I started writing Rough and Deadly (provisional title) on a high.  It was great meeting up with the characters from Murder Served Cold (those who hadn’t been murdered of course) and I couldn’t wait to see where they would take me this time.

But then came the doubts.  The what ifs….  What if I can’t do it again?  What if I’m one of those people who can only write one book?  What if….

Dalmatians.  A special anniversary

This week sees us celebrating a very special anniversary.  It’s exactly a year since we collected our rescue Dalmatian, Duke, from BDW,  British Dalmatian Welfare via a wonderful couple who fostered him while he was between homes and saved his poor damaged tail. (Thanks, Cass and Geoff!)

When you register with BDW, you are asked to fill in a wish list of the sort of dog you would like.

Our wish list went like this.

  1. Girl dog.
  2. Good with children.
  3. Doesn’t chase cats.
  4. Good with other dogs.

Duke is:

  1. A boy dog.  (Although a bit less of a boy dog than when we first had him).
  2. He was not very good with children, but is getting better as he gets to know the grandchildren (who are all very patient and gentle with him)
  3. Very bad with cats and as one of my sons has three cats, this has led to some very expensive dog boarding bills when we go to visit.
  4. Not at all good with other dogs. Particularly since he got beaten up by a Bull Mastiff and now is now firmly in the ‘Get in first’ camp.

BUT

  • He makes us laugh.  Every day.  (Except when he’s indulged in 2, 3 or 4 above.  Or stolen food. Or rolled in fox poo.  Or… I could go on but it would be a very long list.)
  • He makes us walk.  Every day.  (This is not always a plus)
  • We have poo bags and dog treats  in every bag and pocket.

AND

  • We love him very much.  He has enriched our lives in ways that cannot be measured.

 

My next post

I’ll be talking to author Rosie Travers and asking her where she got the idea for her book “Theatre of Dreams” from.  I will also post the Daily Prompts for 1st to December 15th.

Murder Served Cold, the next step.

Spot the Dalmatian?

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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).

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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.

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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)

Where do you get your ideas from?

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Angels on Oil Drums

As I started writing this week’s blog, the flag of St George was flying from the flagpole on the top of our village church for St George’s Day, England’s patron saint. 

I have good reason to celebrate St George’s Day because it was the inspiration behind the very first story I ever sold.  

 I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write.  As soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil, I was writing.  Plays, stories, comic books, poems and even a pageant or two. Throughout our childhood,  I bullied my three younger brothers  into appearing in various ‘plays’ I’d written which we’d then perform for all our neighbours – at least, the ones who weren’t quick enough to come up with a decent excuse.

My first publicly performed work was a bit of a cheat as it didn’t involve any original writing.  It was a pageant, enacted to the words of the hymn “For all the saints, who from their labours rest…” to celebrate St. George’s Day.  

The ‘stage’ was to be our front lawn, the backdrop Mum’s washing line with a couple of old grey blankets draped over it.  I’d filled two large jugs with armfuls of  pink and white blossom which stood at the front.  It looked perfect. Except for the oil drums.  One on either side of the ‘stage’. 

My mother drove a hard bargain and insisted that if she was going to allow her garden and washing line to be turned into a stage, then my two youngest brothers (three year old twins) had to be given parts in the pageant.  I was not keen.  But, in the end I capitulated and said they could have non-speaking parts as angels – as big a piece of miscasting as Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher.

But there was a slight problem (and I’m not talking Tom Cruise here).  The twins were quite small and so would not be seen. So I had the brilliant idea of standing them on upended oil drums, one either side of the stage. (Now why didn’t Tom Cruise think of that?)   

I then tied one of Mum’s sheets around their necks to cover both them and the oil drums and commanded them to hold their arms up as wings.  I also made them beautiful blonde wigs from unravelled binder twine which, they complained, itched.  (Did I say I was also the costume and set designer?  Not to mention writer, producer and chief press-gang officer).

I was St George, of course.  After all, it was my pageant.  And my other brother, Mike was the unfortunate dragon who spent most of the time being beaten around the stage by me wielding a wooden sword.

We were about half way through the first verse of “For all the saints...” when the left hand ‘angel’ started to fidget and fell off his oil drum.  The right hand ‘angel’, who probably had more sense than his brother, decided he was bailing out before he too fell off his oil drum and made a dash for freedom across the garden, trailing his sheet behind him and ending up hiding in the middle of the raspberry canes.  He was closely followed by the family dog who thought this was the best game ever.

I, like the trouper I was,  carried on singing.  And beating the dragon about.  Until he decided that he, too, had had enough.  So there I was, St George,  victorious and alone, singing away to myself and failing to notice that my mother had disappeared into the raspberry canes after my brother and the dog.  And the rest of the audience was falling about with laughter.

After all these years my brothers still claim they were traumatised by the event, which gets told and retold at every family gathering.  So when, about twelve years ago I was looking to break into the short fiction market and trying to follow the advice ‘write about what you know’, I wrote this short story based around my ill fated pageant.  

Angels on Oil Drums” was the first of many stories I sold to Woman’s Weekly and it still remains one of my favourites.  Not such a favourite with my brothers, though – although I did buy all three of them their very own copy of Woman’s Weekly which I’d like to tell you they have treasured to this day.  But I very much doubt it!

A few years ago now, my brother Mike (the ex-dragon) came to one of the pantomimes I’d written for our village theatre group  (link here to my thoughts on writing this year’s). He remarked what a relief  it was for him to come and see something I’d written that he hadn’t been bullied into appearing in.

My story, Angels on Oil Drums, will be in my first collection of short stories, entitled “Selling My Grandmother” which will be published later this year.  Watch this space!

Other News

I’m finishing the final edits of the final chapter of my serial, The Primrose Path, this week – and am at that stage where I think I’m never going to be able to cut it down to the required word length.  Although I always do, somehow.  As for tying in all those loose ends…

Duke, the Dalmatian has had a poorly paw and after a week on anti-inflammatories and antibiotics is now confined to lead only walking for another two weeks.  Trying to keep a Dalmatian quiet and rested is like trying to contain a Jack-in-the-box with a faulty lid. But if you’ve got to do an on-lead-only walk, then the beautiful Bishop’s Palace Gardens, in Wells, Somerset has got the be the place to do it.

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Daily Prompts. May 1st to 15th

I hope you’re enjoying the daily prompts. (For details of how to use them, follow this link)  I have now caught up with myself, so below are the prompts for the first fifteen days of May.

I always keep a note in my journal of where the ideas for each new story came from and I can see that of the fifteen, four made it as completed (and sold) stories.  So it does work!

  1. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May (Shakespeare)
  2. A time when you wanted to leave but couldn’t
  3. Being discovered in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  4. “I have spread my dreams beneath your feet/ Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” (WB Yeats)
  5. Suffering the consequences of doing something to excess.
  6. Write about a premonition
  7. Your first day at school, work.
  8. Look back in anger. (John Osborne’s play of this name opened in 1956)
  9. Fear of getting old.
  10. Things done in the heat of the moment.
  11. He/she is the sort of person who….
  12. Write about your earliest memory
  13. Living the dream
  14. Through the open window comes the sound of someone playing the piano.
  15. On this day in 1918 the first regular air mail service began. Write about receiving an unexpected letter.

Thanks for reading this far.  Each time I post, I promise myself that I’ll keep it short and snappy this time.  But I never do.  And that’s what I love about blogging.  After three days of trying to cut 5800 words down to 3300, writing this has been sheer bliss!