Tuesday, 25 June 2019


Picture from last year taken by Colin Nicol
Holidays... If other years are anything to go by, I will come back from my holiday this summer with more ideas for books than I can possibly write in a lifetime. It's a curse... but it's a curse I don't mind!

Perhaps it's because my brain gets to switch off from current projects, but as soon as I'm away, my brain fills up with a gazillion other ideas for books! The whole idea of the trilogy came about after a walking holiday in Yorkshire (though in fairness, it started as one book and then grew arms and legs). Last year, just a train trip to Glasgow led to me writing half a notebook of notes for the next book. I suspect I'll come back from this holiday with a heap of notes for that book. I'm genuinely hoping I don't come back with ideas for another book as I have three already lined up to be written!

Of course, the scenery is always inspiring, as I hope the picture at the start of the post, taken by my amazingly talented hubby shows! How could I not be inspired when staying in a cottage where we could see the stones at Calanais from the lounge? One of my favourite runs was to run from our cottage up past the stones, even given the one in three slope up to them! Pretty much everywhere on Harris and Lewis looked amazing and was a huge inspiration.

We always go on a walking holiday, and I think that the combination of not being at my desk, the amazing scenery and walking, frees something up in my brain. I always have a notebook with me (I shall also be road-testing some outdoor-specific notebooks for my role with Nero's Notes this year) and since hubby frequently spends ages getting his camera set up, I have plenty of time to sit and look at the view or make notes on ideas. Charles Darwin used to walk every day and used his daily walks for significant thinking time (see "Charles Darwin's Daily Walks - The mental rewards of exercise" for more information). Scientists think that doing a physical activity that doesn't need much concentration (walking, jogging, running) allows the brain to freewheel, so perhaps it's no great surprise that I come up with lots of new ideas while I'm out walking!

I'm sure I'm going to come back from my holiday with several notebooks' worth of new ideas. But let me leave you with another of my hubby's pictures to inspire you, this time from Skye. You can see more of his pictures at: https://www.colinjmnicol.co.uk/

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

When writing is still writing, even if no words are written

Some days the words can flow like Skogafoss (go Google it...). Some days they can flow like treacle. But writing isn't always about increasing the word count of a manuscript. Sometimes it's a sitting and thinking day that's needed. Sometimes the brain needs something completely different.

Here are my top five writing activities that don't necessarily increase the word count, but which still help with 'writing the book':

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Keeping track of injuries...

I don't write romance. I'm sure that won't come as a surprise to anyone who reads this blog (or any of my books). My first two published novels were crime/psychological thriller and I'm currently editing a fantasy trilogy in which there is a lot of fighting at times, so I need a way to keep track of who is injured, where and how.

Enter post mortem diagrams!

I know. I teeny bit gruesome perhaps, but they're so useful. They're a blank front and back of a body which looks perhaps more male than anything else, but I use them for all characters. I print them off four sets to a page and then pop the character's name at the top of a set and mark up their injuries to use as a quick reference. They're also useful for remembering which characters have tattoos, along with what the tattoo is of and where it is on the body. If there are any other major distinguishing marks (scars/missing digits/etc.) they also get noted.

This is what I'm currently using and forgive me, but I can't remember where I got it online. Absolutely no copyright infringement is intended. If it's your diagram and you want me to take it down, please say and I will!

What do people think? How do you keep track of distinguishing features or injuries?

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Interview with Malcolm Hollingdrake for "Treble Clef"

Treble Clef - DCI Bennett book 8

Harrogate attracts hundreds of players to the annual Games Convention and for one player it is the perfect opportunity to kill by the mechanics of his own sinister game.

Each victim will die in the same way.

Each will be classed as the loser and their time will have run out.

The escape room and the game table will draw more, each believing they are invincible. However, in every game there is always a traitor waiting in the wings.

It is my great pleasure to share an interview I did with Malcolm Hollingdrake, author of the bestselling Harrogate Crime Series. The latest in the series, "Treble Clef" is out this week and I caught up with Malcolm to grill him about things!

Malcolm Hollingdrake
picture credit: Tony Bithell
Hi Malcolm, thanks for coming on the blog!
Hello, thank you for inviting me to tell you a little about myself.

When did you first start writing? And what made you start?
Having worked in a classroom for thirty-two years I suppose I have always written, from assembly stories to end of day tales. Although I would often start off reading the story, the book would be put down and, having written it, I could tell it adding action and emphasis; a sure way to capture the imagination of the children.

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!) 
As I was approaching the end of my teaching career, I was influenced by the Gulf War and the resulting medical troubles; Gulf War Syndrome seemed to hit the news but there also seemed a reluctance by the Government to accept, not only its existence but to accept any degree of responsibility. It was this that proved to be the catalyst to pick up my pen. I had lived in Northern Cyprus and knew at that time there was no extradition procedure for criminals from Europe and this proved perfect. So, I simply linked the two and “Engulfed’ was born. I have now re-written the book and shortly it will be published as “Bridging the Gulf”

Your new book, “Treble Clef” is due out this week. This is the eighth book in your Harrogate Crime Series. Tell me about the series? Who are the main characters? Why did you choose Harrogate for your setting?
The series is set in the beautiful spa town of Harrogate but also links with many of the places of outstanding natural beauty. I found Harrogate’s interesting and curious history fascinating, using it as the warp for the story to be weft within its very fabric.
DCI Cyril Bennett and DS David Owen are the main characters whose professional and personal relationship has developed over the period of eight books. Cyril is not your usual detective, reliant on booze and bad relationships, quite the contrary. A man with impeccable dress sense, somewhat old-fashioned one might say. An eye for the ladies in the earlier books but now... Let’s just say he is settled in a relationship. Cyril is also an avid collector of Northern Art. He enjoys the auction houses of the county. Owen, on the other hand is a giant of a man whose personal hygiene leaves much to be desired and is the antithesis of his boss. However, they make a formidable team.
Being brought up in Bradford, I had often visited Harrogate and I heard that it was the happiest place in the UK to live and so introducing a little crime would not go amiss. The streets, The Stray, the buildings all lend themselves to the genre. Agatha Christie took refuge in the town for ten days causing great national concern and of course, Harrogate is famous for its Crime writing Festival held every year. Importantly too, Harrogate is a main convention centre attracting thousands of visitors annually; now if we take the law of averages, not all will be well behaved.

Tell me more about “Treble Clef”? What does your DCI face this time?