Where does crime writer Alice Castle get her ideas from? Plus an apology (from me)

I don’t name this ship….. The launch that wasn’t. 

When I started this blog it was with the intention of posting every couple of weeks or so and chart my journey from publication of my first novel, Murder Served Cold, and beyond as well as featuring other authors.  And I did manage 24 blog posts since I started the blog in April 2018, so it was all going ok.  At the time of my last blog post Murder Served Cold had been  published and  I was (sort of) looking forward to the launch of the second.  

But then…. stuff intervened.  Family stuff.  Work stuff.  But mostly ‘why did I ever think I could make it as a writer?’ stuff.  

The second book in my Much Winchmoor Murder Mystery series, Rough and Deadly, wasn’t exactly launched with champagne breaking over the bows and  brass bands playing as it raced down the slipway and hit the water with the force of a tidal wave.  Instead there was barely a ripple as it slipped quietly in and skulked around in the shallows.  And it was all my own fault.  It had some lovely reviews and my grateful thanks to all those lovely people who took the trouble to leave a review.  

But now I need to sit myself down, reread those reviews carefully in the hope that this will give me the confidence I need to get back in the boat* and start paddling like mad. No brass bands maybe, but perhaps a little toot on a penny whistle.   (*I was going to say ‘get back on the bike’ there but the pedant in me wouldn’t permit such a mixed metaphor). 

I love writing.  And I particularly love writing my Much Winchmoor series and working on the third one is the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition.  But, oh, the marketing. The self promotion.  The need to be constantly running on the treadmill that is social media just to stay still.  It paralyses me.  

When I meet people who have read my books, one of two things happen.  Either they say they enjoyed it in which case I feel acutely embarrassed and try to shrug it off and change the subject or they don’t mention it at all and then I assume that they absolutely hated it but are too kind to say so.

So what has all this whingey whiney stuff got to do with not blogging for four months?  As excuses go, it’s a pretty lame one.  “I found out that while I can write ok, I am absolutely rubbish at promoting and marketing. ” But as I said, the never ending to-do list that is my marketing plan paralyses me.  Overwhelms me.  Sends me off in a frenzy of house cleaning. filling in my tax return, or looking at pictures of Dalmatians (all better behaved than mine) on Pinterest.  

But, no more.  Today I am making a start by catching up on my blog posting because I have a very special guest to welcome.  One who not only writes brilliant books but is equally brilliant at promoting them.

So, enough about me and on to what brought you to this page in the first place.

Where does crime writer, Alice Castle, get her ideas from?

Me.

Hi Alice and welcome to my blog.  And to the question that every writer is said to dread.  Where do you get the idea for your books from?  And how did you settle on the lovely Beth Haldane?

Alice.

acb2 ryeI’ve been reading whodunits since the age of 12 but it took me about forty years to start writing my own. My first novel was chicklit and I worked on the sequel for ages, getting nowhere, wanting to kill my heroine, before I thought, ‘wait a minute… that’s an idea.’ Then, as a massive Miss Marple fan, I looked around for my own St Mary Mead to set the stories in. I’d just moved out of Dulwich and missed it very much and that affectionate nostalgia, added to some useful distance, made it seem the perfect spot. I was keen to write a series so I thought hard about a sleuth who would be quirky and slightly annoying, so people would think they could do better than her, but who would still remain engaging enough to have people on her side. I wasn’t at all interested in creating another of those omniscient male detectives who looks down on the female victim laid out on a mortuary slab and swears to wreak vengeance on ‘the man who did this.’ Those books can be great but that wasn’t what I wanted to write. Then, once I’d thought of the title of the first book, Death in Dulwich, I was off. 

Me.

Setting is so important, isn’t it?  Even though the only time I’ve ever been to Dulwich I was stuck in an horrendous traffic jam, reading your books has made me want to visit the area again and check out all those lovely coffee shops!  So, what made you decide to set the stories there?

Alice.

I’ve always lived in south east London and I love my slice of the city. We’re twenty minutes by train from London Bridge yet there’s enough green spaces and birdsong to feel as countryfied as I want to get. South London is quite run down and has its share of urban woes so, sadly, it’s fertile territory for a crime writer. 

Me.

Is there anything from your life before you became a writer that you feel has been of use to you as a crime writer?

Alice.

I was a feature writer on the Daily Express but occasionally covered big news stories – as a journalist you’re exposed to a lot of facts which are too grisly to make it into the papers. You also need a glancing knowledge of the law and of policing to cover a lot of stories so it’s pretty much a crash course in crime writing – except you’re supposed to avoid fiction  

Me.

The first in the series was Death in Dulwich published in 2017 and now you’re about publish  the sixth in the series, The Body in Belair Park on June 25th.  How do you see it continuing?  Or would you like to write something else?

Alice.

I love the London Murder Mysteries series and already have a seventh book planned. I’ll continue for as long as anyone will read the stories and publish the books. I do have other projects on the go – I’ve written a psychological thriller and I’m going to try my hand at script writing. It’s good to have changes of pace and direction to keep things fresh. 

Me.

I’m delighted there’s going to be more in the series and have already pre-ordered The Body in Belair Park which I’m really looking forward to.

So, what inspires you most when you’re creating a new story?  Characters?  Settings? Books you have read?

Alice.

I think I’d have to say my heroine, Beth, is my biggest inspiration. I like to see what she’ll do next when she’s up against it – it’s never anything I would do myself.

Me.

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

Alice.

I’ve always written. A kind teacher said something nice to me about a snippet of writing when I was about 5 and that was enough to make me feel it was something I could do. I’m very grateful to that teacher. I used to make miniature magazines for my dolls – I still have a copy of Good Mousekeeping I made when I was about 9. My first published piece was an article in The Sunday Telegraph when I was 20 and at university. Then life, children and a career intervened for a bit and my chicklit novel Hot Chocolate finally came out when I was 46. Death in Dulwich was published in 2017. 

Me.

Thank you so much for a lovely interview, Alice, and for all the reading pleasure your books have given me.  Also, for inspiring me to stop whinging and get on with things.

Alice’s Author Bio and social media links

Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.

Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim and also hit the number one spot. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, was published in August 2018, with Homicide in Herne Hill following in October 2018. Revenge on the Rye came out in December 2018. Alice’s  sixth London Murder Mystery adventure, The Body in Belair Park is published on June 25th. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice is also a mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alicecastleauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DDsDiary?lang=en

Links to buy books: http://www.MyBook.to/GirlintheGalleryhttp://www.myBook.to/1DeathinDulwich,

http://myBook.to/CiC

http://myBook.to/homicideinhernehill

http://myBook.to/revengeontherye

Death in Dulwich is now also out as an audiobook: https://www.audible.com/pd/B07N1VNMLT/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-140657&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_140657_rh_us

Alice’s latest book (No 5 in the series)

finalrye.jpgRevenge on the Rye – blurb

Beth Haldane, SE21’s answer to Miss Marple, thinks she is going for a carefree stroll on Peckham Rye with her best friend, Katie, and her annoying new puppy, Teddy. But before Beth knows it, she is embroiled in her most perplexing mystery yet.

Strange events from her family’s past, present-day skulduggery in the art world, and the pressures of moving school in south London threaten to overwhelm Beth. Will she be able to piece together the puzzle before her son’s crucial interview at Wyatt’s? Or will Beth’s insatiable curiosity finally drag down all her dreams for the future?

Join Beth, her irascible on-off boyfriend, Detective Inspector Harry York of the Metropolitan Police, and the dog walkers of Peckham Rye in a tale of murder, mayhem – and bloody revenge.

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


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.

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.

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  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.

image

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking of Which….

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

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

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

Which is exactly what I am doing.

September prompts

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

1. Getting caught in the act.

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

3.Lady in red (song title)

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

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

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

7. Harvest festival.

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

9. Standing up to a bully

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

11. Hiding the wrong object.

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

13. These are the things I saved.

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

15. Write about a small rebellion

16. Your mother’s cooking

17. And then there were none.

18. Getting what you want.

19. Until the twelfth of never (song)

20. Dubious intentions

21.My mother said I never should…

22. Lighting a candle

23. A woman of substance (book title)

24. Getting on the wrong bus/train

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

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

27. Nothing to lose

28. A girl of her time (book title)

29. The old lost road through the wood

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

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

IMG_1915

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image

 

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

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

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

 

Daily Prompts.  August 16th-31st

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

16. Write about stealing something.

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

18. Giving in to temptation

19. Stolen moments.

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

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

22. On the eve of the funeral…

23. Going home.  At last.

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

25. My mother’s birthday.

26. Rainy days and Mondays (song title)

27. If I had my way, I would…..

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

29. Missing the last train home.

30. Write about a fortune teller.

31. The longest mile is ……