Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Author interview: Helen Durrant

Helen Durrant
It's my great pleasure to interview fellow Joffe Books author, Helen Durrant. Helen is the author of seven books in the 'Calladine & Bayliss' series - Dead Wrong, Dead Silent, Dead List, Dead Lost, Dead & Buried, Dead Nasty - and the latest - Dead Jealous. Also available are three books in the new 'DI Greco' series - Dark Murder, Dark Houses and the latest - Dark Trade.
Her latest novel, 'His Third Victim' has just been released and is the first in a new series.
Helen, thank you for letting me interview you!

When did you first start writing? And what made you start?
I have always ‘dabbled’, even as a child. But I didn’t start seriously until I retired from my full-time ‘real’ job.

What was the first full-length novel you ever wrote? (I realise this may not be the same as the first book you have had published!)
My first novel was ‘Dead Wrong’ – by the time Joffe Books published it I had written three books in the Calladine & Bayliss series. My title for the first one was ‘Handy Man', but this was changed. The book was thoroughly edited, given a brand new cover, and re-launched. It was far more successful than I imagined it would be – a big surprise to me.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Calanais... and up-coming events

Sunset at Calanais
After the excitement of "Lies That Poison" being released, I grabbed a short break on the Isle of Lewis, to recharge my batteries, ready for the last bit of re-editing of "The Wrong Kind of Clouds" ahead of it being re-released by Joffe Books. The weather was a bit mixed on Lewis (the tail-end of the hurricanes that caused so much damage in September had arrived at the Hebrides at about the same time as we did!), but we managed to walk each day and take in the sights. Admittedly, we did also get drenched at least once each day, but we went prepared, with waterproofs and lots of warm clothes.

I'm delighted with how sales have been going for "Lies That Poison" but I'm back to work now. As well as finishing off the editing, I have to finish writing the next one! I also have a series of author events coming up. This Saturday, I will be at Arbroath Library, as part of National Library week (free entry; book a place here), alongside Frank Muir and Sandra Ireland, for "Book and a Blether". Then in November, I have a couple of "Murder and Mayhem" events, with fellow writers Jackie McLean, Lesley Kelly, Tana Collins, Ian Skewis, Chris Longmuir and Wendy H Jones. More details on those soon!

Next Up:

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

"Lies That Poison"

Well, it came out just over a week ago and I'm delighted with how things are going. A huge thank you to my publishers, Joffe Books who have been going the extra mile, promoting the book and being incredibly supportive of me.

So far, the reviews have been very positive and sales are going well. At one point, I was ranked higher than Ian Rankin in "Crime" in the Kindle charts. 😀

If you've already bought a copy... thank you so much!

If you've already reviewed the book... again, thank you!

If you're still not sure... that's fine. Let me share the blurb with you:

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Lies That Poison is half price!

My latest book, Lies That Poison is available to buy from Amazon now! And for this week only, it's half price at 99p. Go grab a bargain!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Launch date and cover reveal

The book I've been calling "Poisonous Minds" forever, has had a name change, gained a cover and acquired a launch date!

It's now called Lies That Poison and will be published by Joffe Books next week! The launch date is 25th September, 2017 and there's a Facebook launch party for it on the 24th - see the details for that here. I'd be delighted if you came along and joined in!

And the cover...?

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Bloody Scotland 2017

At the weekend, I was back in Stirling for Bloody Scotland, and what a fantastic time I had! After exhausting myself last year by going to FAR too many events (as well as burning through entire adrenal glands with nerves over doing my Crime in the Spotlight slot), I decided I would try and pace myself a bit more this year and also catch up with people between events better than I did last year.

I didn't manage to make it to Stirling for the opening gala, but various friends have told me just how much of a fantastic event I missed. It was apparently the only place to be on Friday night and the torchlight procession through Stirling looked amazing. The winner of the McIlvanney prize was announced - Denise Mina for "The Long Drop" just before the procession too.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Murder and Mayhem

L-R Lesley Kelly, Wendy Jones, me, Jackie McLean, Chris Longmuir
Photo credit: Wendy Jones
A couple of Saturdays ago, a posse of writers descended on Arbroath Library for a morning of Murder and Mayhem. The picture above shows us all larking about (for a photographer from the local paper) before the session.

The event was absolutely hilarious! One of the audience was the 'murder victim' who took a sip of a drink and then fell to the floor as if poisoned. At least one of the audience thought it was for real and started to leap up to help!

At this point, one of the library staff, Christine, donned a police officer's hat and brandished a plastic truncheon and 'arrested' all the authors on suspicion of murder. We then had to answer a set of questions, after which the audience had to guess which of us was 'guilty'.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Second Spotlighter Meet-Up

L-R Gordon Brown, me, Lesley Kelly, Les Wood
Photo © Gordon Brown
Last year, twelve of us were chosen to read a snippet from our books as 'support acts' for the famous people at "Bloody Scotland". The initiative was called "Crime in the Spotlight" and the twelve of us have referred to ourselves as The Spotlighters since then, and used the hashtag #TeamSpotlight on Twitter. It's been brilliant to keep in touch with everyone.

After the fun of the first meet-up, we did it again! This time we headed west to Glasgow and had a great lunch at Browns on George Square.

It was great to catch up with where everyone was at - when new books are coming out, what plans they all had. I'm still very grateful to Bloody Scotland for introducing us and for giving us the Spotlight slots almost a year ago.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Be more cat...

This seems like an ideal life!

Writing comes in peaks and troughs. There can be a huge flurry of activity - writing, editing, publicity - and periods of relative calm in between. I'm in a mini-calm before another storm right now and trying to 'be more cat' with it.

Be more cat?

Adult cats appear to have two modes, as far as I can tell: activity, and relaxing in recovery/ preparation for activity. They don't waste energy.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Jury Duty

I'm involved in jury duty at the moment, so apologies for such a brief post.

For those of you who live outside of Scotland, you may never have seen these two sketches, but as soon as I knew I would be called for jury duty, they came to mind! They are from Chewin' the Fat (a Scottish comedy programme) and both of them are from a series of sketches that they did of 'court reports'.

Sadly, nothing so exciting has happened so far (thankfully), but it's certainly been an interesting experience!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Nearly there with the edits!

Essential tools!
I got the first round of edits back on Poisonous Minds two weeks ago and I'm just about done (just ahead of having to do jury duty!). Maybe others would have managed to clear them more quickly than this, but I had to fit in editing around Life plc.

Most of it was fine, but my editor had suggested a rearrangement of the back-story that's revealed in flashbacks and diary entries. Man, this was difficult! The manuscript is 300+ pages long in Word and various scenes needed shifting around, sometimes by a significant number of pages. My editor had very kindly provided a 'new running order' (which was even colour coded!) but had suggested that the back-story could be stretched out even further. I could see a few extra changes, but even with her running order and my notes on where to move things, I was getting totally lost at times. So yes, I resorted to good old Post-It notes and maps and time-lines to try and keep me straight! I suspect my husband believes we will never end up using our dining room table for its original purpose - it is forever covered in Post-It notes or index cards or print-outs of whatever I'm working on, not least because it's a decent sized horizontal surface (which also extends if needed!).

Anyway, the edits are now just about done and ready to send back, so that my editor can go over it (and make sure I've not totally messed it all up!) while I'm on jury duty.

How does everyone else keep track of these kind of changes?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Noir at the Bar Dundee

What a fantastic night this was! Fabulous line-up of authors and an incredible atmosphere. The place was packed (the poor staff had to keep bringing more and more chairs down to the lower level where we were) and everyone seemed to have a brilliant time.

For those of you who haven't been to a Noir at the Bar event, the format is that all the names of the authors go into a hat and then a member of the audience draws out a name. That author stands up, gives a short bio of themselves, says a little about the book and then gives a reading. The person who drew the name out of the hat gets a free, signed copy of the book from the author.
All pictures are reproduced, with permission, from Love Books Group, who did an amazing review of the night. Go check them out. Great site!

Some of the authors
Back row (L-R_ Claire MacLeary (just seen), James Osald, me, Stephen Watt
Front row (L-R) Sandra Ireland, Wendy H Jones, Chris Longmuir
Photo from Love Books Group (with permission)

The event was organised by Wendy H Jones who is an excellent, award-winning author (check out her website here). She was a brilliant compère for the evening, as well as reading from her latest book, Killer's Crypt, due out very soon.

Wendy H Jones and me
Photo from Love Books Group (with permission)

Rather alarmingly, I was drawn first, but I managed my reading without too many calamities (though the microphone wasn't working! I just bellowed!).

Me, mid-thespian mode!
Photo from Love Books Group (with permission)

As well as hearing all these brilliant writers speak and learning about them and their books, it was a great chance to catch up with some friends - both Stephen Watt and Sandra Ireland were fellow Crime in the Spotlight authors at Bloody Scotland last year (you can see my interviews with them here for Stephen and here for Sandra and also here for a review of Stephen at StAnza). It was also lovely to meet people I've only 'known' via social media too - finally putting faces to names.

Some more of the authors:

Claire MacLeary reading
Photo from Love Books Group (with permission)
Jackie Maclean
Photo from Love Books Group (with permission)
James Oswald reading
Photo from Love Books Group (with permission)
Stephen Watt reading
Photo from Love Books Group (with permission)

All in all it was an amazing night and if you see a Noir at the Bar advertised as happening near you, go! It's free entry, great fun and you might even win a book.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Back to work...

I've been away, re-charging my batteries and getting ready for a busy few weeks. This is probably one of my favourite holiday pictures, and it was taken on the final evening of the holiday. The weather had been pretty mixed over our time away, but the final day eventually turned into an absolutely glorious one. These are (some of!) the standing stones at Calanais on the Isle of Lewis. The site is enormous with a large complex of stones - a central chambered cairn, a very large central stone, a circle with radiating lines of stones to the four points of the compass - plus two more stone circles within walking distance and lots of others within 5-10 miles of the main site at Calanais. Seeing the sun set behind the stones was absolutely magical. You can find out more about the stones at Calanais here: http://www.callanishvisitorcentre.co.uk/ and there is a good aerial photograph (to get more of a sense of how enormous the site is) here: https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/GeositesCallanish

But, back to work! I have a book event tomorrow - Noir at the Bar in Dundee - which should be a great laugh. Entry is free, there are a heap of us there, you get to hear a bit from each of us and there's a chance to win a free book. What's not to like? If you're in the area, come along!

After that, I have some Murder and Mayhem dates organised - a group of writers will be doing events with a twist! We might be doing a murder-mystery play or we might be doing an improvised story built line by line, based on whatever the audience shout out. It could be murder... it could very easily be mayhem, but either way, it will be great fun. Full dates to follow!

Then I've a book to finish, Poisonous Minds is back from the editor so needs some of my time, and then The Wrong Kind of Clouds will be being re-released. If you've not yet got a copy, act soon as it will be a few months before it's available again! It will be withdrawn from sale at the start of August. And don't believe any nonsense that Amazon is spouting! The RRP of the paperback is £8.99, not £11.49 (as they currently claim). Order it from Waterstones or get it direct from Matador. If you're still struggling to find a copy, drop me a line via my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AmandaFleetWriter/) and buy one direct from me (with free P+P). Or, come along to any of my events and they will be available from me. (If you're not sure when or where my events are, follow me on Facebook and you'll see all my events listed there)

Well, better get back to work!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Too many plots... so little time

Piles and piles of notebooks...
In my last post, I told you that I was writing the follow-on from "The Wrong Kind of Clouds". If only that was all I had to be working on! The first round of edits on "Poisonous Minds" (which should be getting published in September) are about to land on my desk; there will be editing for the re-release of "The Wrong Kind of Clouds" (whose current re-publication date is October)... then of course, there is The Guardians Trilogy - an urban fantasy trilogy of which the first two books are written. Having just come back from a holiday on the Scottish Islands, it's quite hard to prise my brain away from that, as the rugged landscape of the islands provided some of the original inspiration for the books.

And then... there is another thriller that's written but which needs re-writing; a book lovingly referred to as "book 3a" which has detailed notes and full chapter outlines already written (but I've not had the time to actually write the thing. Or name it, evidently!); another LB and Summer book starting to crystallise, and a book called "Fault Lines" which is due back from beta readers soon.

What I need is to stop having so many ideas and to clear this backlog! I can't quite see it happening though. Ah well, better to have heaps of ideas than to be suffering from Writers' Block I suppose.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Big News!

If you subscribe to the newsletter, you'll already know my big news, but for those of you who don't... I've been signed by Joffe Books!

I submitted a book called "Poisonous Minds" to them and they almost immediately came back to me to say they were interested. They are also intending to re-release "The Wrong Kind of Clouds" and have the option of publishing the next book to feature any of these characters. I'm currently halfway through writing the book that follows on from "The Wrong Kind of Clouds" so those of you who wanted to hear more about LB and Summer will have your wish granted. The book's working title is "Suspicion".

Any time now, the first edits of "Poisonous Minds" should be landing in my in-box. The current aim is for it to be released in September of this year. Fear not, I'll keep you all posted.

I'm very excited about it all. Do I get to call this "a three book deal"?

As well as cracking open the champagne, surely it's also a great excuse to buy another lovely notebook? And also another fountain pen..? 😄

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Meet the Author: Les Wood

Les Wood
This month's author is the excellent Les Wood. Les was a "Crime in the Spotlight" author at last year's Bloody Scotland and his first novel is "The Dark Side of The Moon". I'm delighted that he agreed to be grilled by me.

When did you first start writing? And what made you start?
I’d always dabbled in writing wee stories at school (mostly rewrites of favourite science fiction books and films), but later at university I tried writing some original stuff - which was terrible, to be honest. Pressures of working life meant that I laid it aside for a good while, but my wife encouraged me to start again. I wrote a few short stories which I submitted to anthologies and entered into competitions. I was lucky enough to be one of the winners of the very first one I entered – the Canongate Prize for New Writing - which, at the time, was a pretty prestigious competition. That gave me encouragement that maybe I could do this after all. I enrolled in a couple of continuing education creative writing courses and from there moved on to the MPhil in Creative Writing at Glasgow University, which was a fantastic experience.

What was the first full-length novel you ever wrote? (I realise this may not be the same as the first book you have had published!)
Dark Side of the Moon was the first full novel I completed (though many (other) moons ago I did get quite a way through a young adult fantasy book – maybe I’ll return to that some day).

Your first novel, “Dark Side of the Moon” has just had a second print run. That’s fantastic news! Tell me more about the book? What prompted you to write it?
The book is essentially a heist story, concerning a bunch of Glasgow crooks who decide to steal the world’s most famous diamond (a rare purple diamond known as the Dark Side of the Moon) when it is exhibited in the city as part of a festival. The story is told entirely from the crooks’ point of view – there isn’t a cop in sight – but the important thing here is that they are completely incompetent; they are hopeless, a bunch of numpties. The story revolves around the setting up of the heist and whether they can pull it off or not. It’s funny, it’s dark, it’s violent, and there quite a few sweary bits! I wanted to write a kind of Hollywood blockbuster crime story but set it in Glasgow and populate it with normal Glaswegian punters with all their foibles, hang-ups and dodgy alliances. No Bruce Willises or Matt Damons here! It’s been described as Ocean’s Eleven meets Trainspotting.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Book Finds: June 2017

Summer - my time for LOTS of reading
The sun is shining (hopefully, where you are) and many of us might be off on holiday. For me, that's a great chance to start chipping away at my ridiculously long To Be Read pile! But, maybe you're not as bad as me. Maybe you're wondering what to read...

Each month I try and share books with you that I've read and loved. Some of them might be bestsellers but most of them won't be. If you're looking for something to read, why not check out one of these?

These are what I have to share with you this month:

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Why do you need to like the protagonist?

Do you need to like the characters to like the book?
Actually, let's go back a step...

DO you need to like the protagonist in a book?

The reason I'm asking is because I was speaking at a book group the other week and we had a fairly lively discussion about whether we ended up rating a book less highly if we didn't like the protagonist. I was firmly in the camp of not needing to like the protagonist to enjoy a book and to rate it highly; others around the table felt that if they didn't warm to the protagonist, they didn't enjoy the book and so didn't rate the book so highly.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Meet the Author: Lesley Kelly

Photo of Lesley Kelly
Lesley Kelly
This month's author is the fabulous Lesley Kelly. Lesley was a "Crime in the Spotlight" author at last year's Bloody Scotland and I recently caught up with her at the mini-meet-up in Edinburgh. Her first novel, A Fine House in Trinity was long-listed for the McIlvanney prize and her latest novel The Health of Strangers, is out this week. I'm delighted to be able to grill her!

When did you first start writing? And what made you start?
I was a definitely late starter – I was well into my thirties before I wrote anything.  On a whim, I wrote a short story for the Leith Festival Short Story competition in 2004, which I won.  And like a gambler who wins the first race he bets on, I was hooked…

What was the first full-length novel you ever wrote? (I realise this may not be the same as the first book you have had published!)
"A Fine House in Trinity" was the first novel I wrote and published.  The first draft of it bore the legacy of my brief stint as a stand up comedian; it was basically a string of jokes and set-pieces linked together with the slightest of plots.  I eventually got the hang of the other stuff – you know – characterisation, plotting, back story, all that kind of thing!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Just over a year ago...

...this happened!!

Launch of The Wrong Kind of Clouds at Waterstones in St Andrews

My first novel!
Stuart from Waterstones introducing me
Signing copies

I can't believe that was a year ago. A lot has happened in the year. My hair is shorter now for a start! I had a fantastic "Crime in the Spotlight" slot at Bloody Scotland, I've met all sorts of fabulous authors - both at Bloody Scotland and at Crime Writers Association lunches - and people have read my book and liked it!

It's been a fantastic year. Thank you to everyone who has been on this journey with me and supported me. Here's to many more!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Book finds: May 2017

It's time for my monthly Book Finds. Each month I showcase books that I've loved reading. Some of them might be best sellers, but the majority of them won't be.

This month, I seem to have read a number of books that I couldn't recommend 😞 so again, my selection for you is a bit thinner than I'd like!

This month's selection is:

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Pen and paper? Or digital?

One of the questions I get asked quite frequently is whether I write my books by hand or directly on a computer. These questions obviously come from those people who don't know that I'm a complete stationery addict. In fact, I've had another blog for years on stationery: http://paperpensink.blogspot.co.uk/ (not updated as often as I'd like these days...).

I do a bit of both to be honest. Most of my planning - character notes, plotting, initial ideas about scenes are done on paper, usually in an A4 Clairefontaine notebook, using a fountain pen. I use a fountain pen because I have arthritis in my hands and with a fountain pen, you don't need to press hard to make the ink flow and therefore you don't need to grip the pen tightly either, making writing an altogether more fun experience than using a biro. Clairefontaine paper is glorious to write on and A4 gives me plenty of space to write, draw diagrams and mind-maps, paste in pictures of buildings, people, rooms, furniture etc. These A4 books end up as a bit of a scrap book for each book and I love looking back through them.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Spotlighter mini-meet-up

Last year, twelve of us were chosen to read a snippet from our books as 'support acts' for the famous people at "Bloody Scotland". The initiative was called "Crime in the Spotlight" and the twelve of us have referred to ourselves as The Spotlighters since then, and used the hashtag #TeamSpotlight on Twitter. It's been brilliant to keep in touch with everyone.

At the start of April, five of us managed to get together in Edinburgh for a mini-meet-up:

From L-R: Me, Stephen Watt, Jackie Baldwin, Lesley Kelly, Shelley Day
We met up at All Bar One at lunchtime. It was fantastic to catch up with everyone's news - where everyone was with writing, how they were getting on with their agent or publisher, discussing literary festivals etc. as well as hearing about life in general. There was a fabulous moment when Stephen was in the middle of telling us about how he had proposed to his fiancée and right at the crucial part, the waiter came in to take our order. I felt so sorry for the waiter because we were all desperate to hear the finale of Stephen's tale and chased the poor man away. He obviously forgave us though as he took the picture above for us.

All in all it was an excellent day. It was just a shame that all of us couldn't be there. Next time!

Thank you to "Bloody Scotland" for introducing us to each other and here's to long and successful friendships between us all.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

For my 100th post... meet "Hero"

"Hero" doing some work
(unlike me)
"Hero" sits on the sand timer on my desk. Sometimes he stands on it. I bought him a while ago and have been meaning to blog about him for a few weeks, but then... well.

Although he's called "Hero" I tend to think of the name more like a Japanese "Hiro" rather than 'the hero of the story' though it works in that way too. "Hero" is my muse. Well, he's supposed to be. He's currently sitting on the sand timer clutching a sword (more on that later!) a bit disconsolate because the glorious weather is ruining what little glimmer of writing-productivity I had! He's actually meant to be for artists and I could (in theory) sketch him. If I could sketch better.

He's like the old wooden artists' models, except he's got more joints and can be posed in many more ways than they ever could be. As you can see in the picture, he comes with accessories too. It's an eclectic selection of things... a laptop, two mobile phones, a pen/pencil, a pad, a sword and a gun. He's 'working' on the laptop in the picture (which was taken a few weeks ago), but at the moment, he's sitting on the sand timer on my desk holding a sword across his lap.

He also has a collection of different hands for holding the different objects and for pointing/gesticulating. These are a) a bit fiddly to attach and detach and b) make for a slightly gruesome looking box.

Slightly gruesome box of hands and accessories
Anyway, he's a slightly sulky-looking reminder that I should be finishing the follow-on from The Wrong Kind of Clouds, so I'd better get back to it.

Do others have a muse like this?

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Meet the author: Sandra Ireland

Sandra Ireland
Photo credit: Julie Christie
This month's author is Sandra Ireland. I first met Sandra at Bloody Scotland in September last year and we recently met up again when we went to see Stephen Watt at StAnza. I'm delighted to be interviewing her for my blog.

Your first novel, Beneath the Skin features a man with post-traumatic stress disorder and a taxidermist. What made you choose these aspects of their characters?
The taxidermist came first. I watched a documentary with taxidermy artist Polly Morgan, and she was saying that when she’s introduced to someone, she’s actually checking out their bone structure when she shakes hands! I thought this would be a brilliant quality for a character, so Alys the taxidermist was born. Walt came slightly later. He was a bit bland at first, but once I realised that he was suffering from something you can’t see, his personality came to life and the whole concept of the story became obvious. The scary things are out of sight - Beneath the Skin.

What are you working on at the moment? Amazon says it’s another psychological thriller. What else can you tell us?

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Book finds: April 2017

Each month I showcase books that I've loved reading. Some of them might be best sellers, but the majority of them won't be. April has been a difficult month, so I only have two to share with you and they are both by an author I've just discovered: Harry Bingham.

They are:

Why do I love them? The main character, DC Fiona Griffiths is just wonderful. Very quirky, totally unlike any other police character I've come across before and very, very funny at times. I love the way her mind works and how she sees things so differently sometimes. The books are tightly plotted and with lots of twists and turns and an enjoyable read throughout. I've been reading a lot of crime recently and these are far and away the best I've read in a while. I hope you enjoy them too!

Friday, 7 April 2017

Forgive me for silence...

My beloved cat, Sylvester, had to be put to sleep this week. He was 15 and, if you are an animal-lover, you will hopefully understand that I'm devastated by his loss.

I can't face writing blog posts at the moment. Forgive me for the silence.
Sylvester, in healthier days. RIP my old friend.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Meet the Author: Liz Mistry

Liz Mistry
This month's author is Liz Mistry whose first book Unquiet Souls came out last year. Her second book, Uncoiled Lies has just been released. Liz is another "Crime in the Spotlight" author who featured in Bloody Scotland last year and I'm delighted to be able to interview her.

Your first two novels, "Unquiet Souls" and "Uncoiled Lies" are the first two in a series. Did you always intend to write a series? How many in the series are currently planned out?
I had the idea for Gus as a character years ago and he kept me company when I went through a very bad spell of depression. His father Fergus came to mind later and I love writing the dynamics between the father and son. Initially, "Uncoiled Lies" was to be the first book in the series but then I got the idea for "Unquiet Souls" and it seemed to sit better as the first book. I think I’ve got at least another three Gus books in my mind at the moment, but I’m sure as I write I’ll come up with more ideas. I also have an idea for a spin off series but that’s in the very early stages.

What are you working on at the moment? I know Uncoiled Lies has just been released. Are you taking a break or are you straight into something new?
I got my publication deal with Bloodhound Books when I was 52, so I’m making up for lost time now. I’m well into book number three which will provisionally be called "Untainted Blood".

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Book Finds: March 2017

Each month I showcase a small selection of books that I've loved reading. Some of them might be best sellers, but the majority of them won't be. That said, I didn't do a book finds in February because I had too many other things to share! But, I'm back on track now.

So, what treats do I have to share with you this month?

Well, in some ways this feels like a cheat, because although it's three books, it's a trilogy! It's Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking trilogy:

Tuesday, 21 March 2017


I hate being bombarded by emails about stuff, even when I've actually signed up for them. Over Christmas and New Year, with all the sales, I must have unsubscribed from umpteen mailing lists because I was getting them every day. Who has time to look at things like that every day? I don't.

My newsletter comes out just once per month. That's it. The only time I would send a second email in a month would be if there was a special offer for subscribers only - early notification of a price-drop, a money off offer or a freebie for them to thank them for their support.

My newsletters have a reminder of my blog posts from the month and also feature a few things, most of which relate to aspects of my novel The Wrong Kind of Clouds. I also include a short update about what I've been up to over the month.
[Not read The Wrong Kind of Clouds yet? Give it a whirl. The eBook costs less than a decent cup of coffee and lasts longer!]

The two main characters in The Wrong Kind of Clouds are Summer Morris who's a photographer, and LB Stewart who's a detective. My husband is a photographer and each month in the newsletter, I feature one of his pictures (such as this one here).

Boats at Salen on Mull, with double rainbow behind
© Colin Nicol
LB Stewart is a man who likes his food. In fact, he'd rather go hungry than eat a bad meal. Each month, I include in the newsletter a recipe that LB might cook. These might be main courses, cakes, soups... anything really.

Some of The Wrong Kind of Clouds is set in Malawi (a country close to my heart) and features a fictional charity that's loosely based on a real charity I helped to set up. In the book, the charity is called Samala (which means "to look after" or "to cherish" in Chichewa); the real charity is called Chimwemwe Children's Centre (Chimwemwe means "we are happy"). Each month I include a short update about Chimwemwe in the newsletter so you can hear what we're up to.

There's also a few links to things I found amusing or interesting over the month. These expose my eclectic taste I'm afraid and can range from glorious calligraphy, to a video of a dog hilariously failing an obedience test, through miniature mouse shops in Sweden or 3D scanning of a house in Pompeii.

Fancy seeing some glorious pictures, discovering new recipes, or getting my special offers or freebies? Then sign up for my newsletters. No spam, no selling of your details to anyone else and it only lands in your in-box once a month. And when you sign up, I'll give you a free copy of my novella "Gathering Storms" as a thank you.
[already signed up but didn't get the novella? Let me know and I'll send you the links.]

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The first 20 minutes

The first 20 minutes, for me, are the difference between not doing something at all and throwing myself into it wholeheartedly.

After the first 20 minutes of a run (and okay, some runs barely make it past that magical mark), a run can be wonderful. My muscles are warm, my breathing has settled into a pattern... my legs are moving, my shoulders are relaxed and it just flows.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Spotlighter Mini Meet Up StAnza

L-R Me, Sandra Ireland, Stephen Watt
As you may remember, there were 12 new writers selected for "Crime in the Spotlight" slots at Bloody Scotland last September. We've kept in touch and managed a mini-meet-up on Thursday, to support Stephen Watt at StAnza (Scotland's International Poetry Festival, held in St Andrews).

Sandra Ireland (author of the fabulous book "Beneath the Skin") lives not all that far from me, so I collected her from the train station and we headed to St Andrews on a gloriously sunny day. She was going to another event before Stephen's so I dropped her off at the Town Hall and headed for The Byre Theatre to see if I could find Stephen. He was indeed there and we had a natter and a walk around St Andrews (managing to freak out The Byre Theatre in the process who thought they'd lost him!).

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Meet the Author: Stephen Watt

This month's author under the spotlight is another fellow Spotlighter at "Bloody Scotland" - Stephen Watt. Thank you so much for letting me grill you, Stephen!

You’re a poet and a spoken word artist. How did you get started in this field?

When I was 19 I was mugged twice within six months by drug addicts from Drumchapel and Renton. It shook me up. I never wanted revenge but I wanted to understand what led people to lives where they prey on the vulnerable to feed their habits. It was therapeutic to write poetry at the time – in between counselling sessions – and pick myself back up in a creative way.

You’ve won a number of poetry slams, perhaps most notably in 2011 when you beat 8000 others to win the Poetry Rivals Slam in Peterborough. Did that open a lot of doors for you? If so, what? What are your favourite memories from the event?
It was my first Slam so I didn’t really know what to expect. I travelled south with a friend with the intention of savouring a bit of poetry and then going out on the piss, having a laugh, do what we do. It completely caught me off-guard that I won the event. We celebrated until nearly 4am that night – such an unbelievable high. I’m sure it did open doors – it put my name out there (I had been performing for just 6 months when I won the Poetry Rivals competition), it earned me a book deal which led to a 100-person attendance in Waterstones, and of course led to a number of book sales which familiarised people with my writing.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

It's been one of those weeks...

Just 6 things? I wish!
I've had one of those weeks... you know, the ones where your To Do list looks just about manageable but you wonder if you might have put a few too many things on it. One where you think if you can just have a couple of solid days at it, you'll be fine...

And then the world and his brother interpret the phrase "I'm a writer who works from home" as "I do nothing all day. Please offload a ton of things on to me."

Well, that's been my week.

Don't get me wrong. Many of the things I've had offloaded on to me have been quite fun and interesting. Most of them have been related to my charity work and being a Rotarian and I certainly don't regret doing them at all. They've just taken me away from writing for most of the week.

If only my list looked like the one in the picture. Unfortunately, my current To Do list could fill a small book. Better get back to it!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Goodbye to Tom, Alys and Hannah. Hello to...

... Jason Isaacs!*

Naturally... but I'm really welcoming to my desk, brain, life and dreams: Alexander, Jemima, Fee and...

LB and Summer.

Yep - the next project will be to finish writing the second book to feature LB and Summer. It's already about half-written. I started it ages ago (2013!) and then realised that I didn't like the ending and instead of keeping my backside in the chair and figuring out what the ending should be, I got distracted by other, new, shiny things (um... an urban fantasy trilogy for the most part, plus Poisonous Minds and launching The Wrong Kind of Clouds). So, I never got back to fixing the ending and now lots of people want to hear more about LB and Summer. Which I accept is a nice 'problem' to have!

I currently have a more significant issue to sort out than the ending though (which I think I've fixed. Or at least have lots of ideas about how to fix). No, my major problem at the moment, is that I nicked the main character from this book, lock, stock and barrel, and put him in Poisonous Minds. Oops. But, creating a new main character is huge fun and I have a lot of ideas about him. He's already beginning to walk out of my brain and talk to me - both a good sign and a slightly crazy one.

So, it's time to re-open that notebook, fill up my favourite fountain pens, get that play-list back on a repeating loop and finish what I started all those years ago.

Tinkerty tonk, old fruits (and down with the Nazis).*

[*If you don't listen to Wittertainment (The Kermode and Mayo Film Programme on BBC 5 Live), those two phrases will make no sense at all. All I can say is that you really should listen to it because it's brilliant.]

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Meet the Author: Tom O Keenan

Tom Keenan
This month's author under the spotlight is fellow Spotlighter at "Bloody Scotland" - Tom Keenan. Thank you so much for letting me grill you, Tom!

Your first novel, "The Father" features a detective and a forensic profiler. Tell me more about them?
"The Father" features Jackie Kaminski, a detective inspector, and Sean Rooney, a forensic psychologist, erstwhile partners in love, but now partners in crime. Sean has retired. Too many murders, too many psychopaths, too many failures, had taken its toll. Jackie, however, tempts him out of his retirement with the one he has always wanted, a proxy killer. Can he do it, can he cope with this one?

"The Father" is the first in a three-book series. Did you always intend to write a series? How many in the series are currently planned out?
I was encouraged to write a three book Sean Rooney series by my publisher who believed there was more to come from him and this pair, and he was right - book two is with him to be published. Draft one of book three is pouring out of my mind into my computer.

What will you be working on once the series is complete?
I have another couple of books under way, but at an early stage. They will be very different in genre and content. I also fancy writing a children’s book, which hopefully will please my grandchildren; or historical crime fiction, which won’t.

The Father
You’re an independent social worker in the area of mental health and are a Safeguarder in Glasgow Sherriff Court. What does a Safeguarder do?
A Safeguarder protects the interests of vulnerable and incapable adults where legal proceedings in the sheriff court are being taken to transfer their decision making to another person or the local authority. My role as a social worker is much broader, providing reports for solicitor agencies supporting and defending clients also involved in legal proceedings.

That’s a big change from writing! When did you first start writing novels? And what made you start?
I started writing novels about ten years ago after completing a legal book across mental health legislations in Scotland. I had always written stories, however, and poems, songs, and plays after doing a playwriting course with 7:84 theatre company.

What was the first full-length novel you ever wrote (I realise this is not necessarily the same as the first you had published)?
"The Father" was my first full-length novel, although I had written a couple of books in its various incarnations, self-publishing under other titles. It really helped to see my work in a physical self-published form, then to polish it and get it right.

Do you have any regrets over choosing writing as a career? If so, what are they?
No regrets, although to be a full time writer is my goal. I still need a ‘day job’ to keep the wolves from the door.

You were one of the “Spotlight on Crime” authors featured in “Bloody Scotland” in 2016. What are your favourite memories from the event?
I just loved wandering around, taking in the event and the amazing atmosphere, seeing all of those famous authors face to face. However, appearing before Nicci French, husband-and-wife team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, who also write psychological thrillers, and to over one hundred people, was the highlight for me, and to hear about their particular writing technique.

Where is your ideal writing space?
I moved home about a year ago, opening a B and B in a farmhouse in the highlands of Scotland, so I lost my garret (in my attic) which had been my writing space for a few years. Now I write in a room which was used as an abattoir for the farm, I suppose an appropriate place to write about the dark world of murder and mayhem.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
Dexter Petley of the Writers Workshop said of one of my first drafts: “On the whole, an enormous edit is needed, re-routing the stronger material through a better narrative.” I did this, changing the point of view to first person, giving it a personal voice, changing the whole book for the better. Also, I think Hemingway’s “The writer's job is to tell the truth," is hard to beat (A Moveable Feast) and for ‘writer’s block’, “do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. Write the truest sentence that you know and then go on from there.”

Now time for some more random questions...

What’s your radio tuned to most often?
Radio Scotland for current affairs and Scottish culture and Radio 4 for the drama and any book stuff.

You’re stranded on an island. You can choose one of the following three things. Which do you choose and why?
1. Limitless supply of paper and pens.
2. A computer which will never run out of battery and which can access the internet, but you can’t post anything/get help via it, only read what others have put up.
3. An endless supply of loo roll.
A limitless supply of paper and pens. Then I can write without the distraction of having access to the internet and I can use the countless scrunched up papers used in editing as loo paper (sorry toilet humour!).

You can only wear one of the following colours for the rest of your life. Which colour do you choose?
Yellow. Orange. Green. White. Pink.
Green, to reflect my Irish genetics.

Jason Bourne or James Bond?
James Bond every time, but only with Sean Connery!

Cats or dogs?
Border collies any day of the week!

City or country?
Country, since I moved to the Highlands. City, when I lived in Glasgow. I am a city boy who loves the country!

Real book or e-book?
Real book every time, although I must confess to downloading lots of e-books (for reference purposes only you’ll understand!).

Fountain pen or biro?
Fountain pen is my preference, but I rely on biros for everyday use.

Thank you so much to Tom for letting me grill him!

You can keep up to date with all of Tom’s news on his website at: https://www.tom-odgen-keenan.co.uk/ 
You can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TOKeenan
And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tom.keenan.54584