Tuesday, 11 August 2020

A difficult decision...

I've been living in The Realm - the world of the trilogy and the current book - for years. I know these characters inside out and upside down. I have so many more of their stories to tell. But I've made the difficult decision that I will probably only be telling those stories to myself.


The law of diminishing returns. Of 100 people who read the first book of the trilogy, fewer than 100 will read the second. Perhaps all who read the second will go on to read the final part of the trilogy, but perhaps not. Ditto for a fourth book in the series. For a fifth book? Who knows how many will keep going with it. Quite probably only a small %. However, it still costs me a year of work (near enough) to write the book, plus the same costs for editing, cover design and so on, but with only a fraction of the return. It doesn't necessarily make commercial sense to keep going.

Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash
On top of that, "book #10" is burning a hole in my brain. I started thinking about this book over two years ago, on a trip to visit my good friend Jackie McLean (read all about her here). I made notes - enough to plan out some stuff but not so many that I ended up writing the book. I've been adding to those notes on and off since then. More recently, the characters have started prodding me a bit more, asking when it will be their turn. "Soon, my darlings, soon," I keep promising them. Eventually they will make me keep my word.

It's not been an easy decision to make. I've been mulling it over for a while now. I still love Aeron and Faran and the world they live in. I can still see their lives ahead: their adventures; their successes; their defeats. I will no doubt keep writing about them - I already have a Scrivener file called "Aeron and Faran stories" and maybe in the future I will publish them as a stand-alone companion piece (or give it away to my newsletter readers). But another full-length novel? Probably not.

So what's happening in "book #10"? More magic. A cailleach figure. A haunted house. Some amazing stuff.

It will be your turn soon, my darlings. Soon.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

SPFBO update...

You may recall that I entered Aegyir Rises into a competition... the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO). There were ~300 entrants and the first round of the competition will whittle those 300 down to 10.

The 300 books were distributed to 10 bloggers, who then split them up within their group to read. I was assigned to Jen, in the blog RockStarLit Book Asylum.

Jen finished her reviews of the 6 books she was given and you can read all of them here (please do - there are some cracking books in the competition).

Sadly, Aegyir Rises didn't make it through to their next round, where the favourite book of each of the reviewers is read by the others for RockStarLit Book Asylum, but it came a very close second and was highly commended. Jen left a really lovely review of the book, and clearly liked reading it, which is always good to hear! Please do go and see what her review says.

I'm a little sad and disappointed not to have got further, but delighted that Jen enjoyed the book so much and that it came such a close second in her group. And congratulations to Scott Walker for his book "The Dragon's Banker" for making it through to the next round.

Don't forget, you can get a FREE copy of the prequel to the Guardians of The Realm trilogy, by signing up below.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020


I know some authors who hate editing. I used to, but I now actually really enjoy it. A long time ago, an author had said (in a Tweet to me) that their favourite aspect of writing was the line-edits, because they loved tightening the words until they squealed. At the time I thought she was mad.


Now I know exactly what she means.

Don't get me wrong. I still love the thrill of the first draft - finding out what the story is about; working out how to make it all fit together; putting characters through hell and then getting them out again (or not, as the case may be!).

I'm less enamoured of the structural edit that follows, though thankfully, this time around, my extra planning in the early stages has mean that the structure has (so far) largely been unchanged and when I compare the scene list to my 'beat sheets' the book is still on track and hasn't suddenly developed an enormous middle or lost the third act along the way! This is clearly the way to go in future, because for some past books, I've been lost in the swamp of structural edits for ages.

But now comes the fun bit. I know what happens, I know what order it all happens in. Now I just have to try and get the words right! Of course, then it'll be off to my amazing editor, Fiona, who will make the whole thing sparkle, but I would like it to be halfway decent before she sees it!

So, wish me luck... I may be some time!

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

First draft done? CHECK!

Hang out the bunting, chill me some wine... I finished the first draft of book #9 at the weekend. All 95.5K words of it! And then immediately wrote the prologue for book #10! But that's a story for another day...

I'm relieved to have finished the first draft, but the serious work starts now. First up will be my structural edit. I already suspect one small strand will be going, so I need to unpick that and take it out. But after that I'll be checking pace and where the main 'beats' of the book are, and probably splitting it into chapters at that point. To be honest, this is my least favourite phase of writing a book, but it needs to be done!

After that comes the much more fun aspect of 'trying to get the words right'. This takes more time and although more fun, is also more tiring (at least to me).

But before ALL that, comes a large glass of wine, and a re-read of Aeron Returns and War (to make sure I'm keeping faithful to everyone's voices and mannerisms).

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Shiny New Thing...

Bright new shiny thing!!
"Look! Shiny New Thing!!"

My brain does this every time!

I get to within sight of the end of a first draft and it's as if my brain has finished it and moved on. In some senses, it has finished it. It's written in my head. It's just not yet actually written down.

I have about 5000-8000 words still to write in this first draft of book #9. That's all. I should (should) get it finished this week. I know how many scenes there are to go, and I know what happens in all of the scenes.

And so my head has gone walkabout and is on to something new. Vaguely related, most of the time, but an unnecessary distraction, nonetheless. Yes, it's all very lovely imagining the characters in another 10 years or so, but that's not helpful to finishing this book. And I don't know that I should really be anticipating writing an urban fantasy version of The Forsyte Saga, with generation upon generation of people.

Instead of managing to sit down and write the last few scenes, my brain is flitting all over the place, thinking about Aeron and Faran at forty years old. Or about the book that's been on hold for two years while I wrote and edited The Trilogy (and now a fourth book in the series). Or about the book that's now been on hold for eight years. Or about yet another book that's beginning to poke my brain, saying "Look at me! I'm new. And shiny. And at that fun stage where almost anything could happen!"

And that's the crux. The magical journey of discovery is largely over for book #9. I know what happens. I know how all the characters will react to it all. I know I have the less fun job of a structural edit looming, although at least the more fun 'getting the words right' edits will follow that.

But for these other potential books, all of that magic is still ahead. I sort of know what might happen, but nothing is fixed and all could change. My brain (naturally) wants to do all the fun, creative stuff of making people up, designing a new world and making things happen, rather than the harder (and distinctly less fun) bits of editing.

My desk is never this tidy...

The final week of writing a first draft is always the hardest. My brain has moved on but the hard work still needs to be done. But hopefully, by this time next week, three months after writing the first words in Scrivener, I'll have my first draft in the bag.

See you next week. Assuming the bright new shiny things haven't kidnapped me.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020


In my newsletter in May, I rashly wondered if I would have finished the first draft of the new book by the end of June.


But I'm getting there. The whole go-back-and-change-half-of-what's-already-written that I did at 40K slowed me down. I'm now at just over 70K words and am into the final act. And the change was needed, so I'm glad I did it. I just wish I'd done it a bit sooner.

Of course, this is only the first draft. After that, I'll do a structural edit, and then a 'trying to get the words right' edit. And then it will be off to my editor for her to work her magic on it. That's currently in the diary for late September. I should manage it! I had a planning session yesterday which seemed to suggest I only had 16 more scenes to write. No doubt that list will grow, but I'm going to try and keep to it!

Lock down is finally beginning to ease (I'm based in Scotland, so it's not easing as fast here as elsewhere), though as I'm not the most sociable of people at the best of times, I'm not rushing out to do anything! I still regret that we didn't have our holiday on Harris and Lewis (scheduled to start 5 days after lock down!), but maybe this autumn we'll head off for a week somewhere?

But before all that, I need a haircut! Seriously, what was clipped to grade 5 at the nape of my neck is now hitting my collar! That short 'fringe' you can see in my profile pic? That's now down to my ears. Goodness knows what my hairdresser will be able to do with it all. I'm booked in for an hour-long appointment at the end of July, but my hair's annoying me so much, I may have shaved my head before I get there! It's too long to leave loose but not long enough to tie back or clip back. I spend my days with it back in either a very broad hairband, or a bandana. My hairdresser suggested that given it had grown so much, maybe I might consider a different, longer style, since most of the difficult 'growing it in' stage would be past. Before lock down, I might have considered that, but my hair is driving me so insane that I've realised that the only two styles I could consider are: so long I can tie it back (and I haven't the patience to get to that); or back to it being short.

Anyway, back to fighting creatures that can brainwash you into attacking your own side...

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

More on SPFBO...

A few weeks ago, I said I'd entered "Aegyir Rises" into the 2020 SPFBO competition. There are 300 books in the competitions and some of them have already been reviewed. If you want to keep up with the competition, or just want to find some new books to read, why not check out the bloggers who will be reviewing the books.

Each of the bloggers listed get 30 books to assess. Over the next few months, they will be whittling that list down to 1 to go forward to the next round. Please do check in regularly to catch their reviews.

The bloggers:


Fantasy Book Critic

Lynn's Book Blog


Kitty G (YouTube channel)

Weatherwax Report

The Fantasy Hive

Rockstarlit Book Asylum (this is the group I'm in!)

The Critiquing Chemist

The Fantasy Inn

And for a list of all of the books entered, you can see the organiser's main post here. As the books listed are reviewed, the title will become a link to the review. I'll keep you posted as to how I do!

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Turns out, I'm an incorrigible romantic...

Just before lock down started here in Scotland, I was in a reading slump - nothing I had on my shelves or in my Kindle appealed, and I ended up reading almost nothing for weeks.

Then lock down started. I was supposed to be on holiday the first two weeks after lock down. I'd planned everything - book launches, events, starting writing the new book... everything - around those two weeks. And then the holiday was cancelled and here we are, however many weeks later, still pretty much in lock down. At the start of lock down, I wasn't even writing the new book - I was supposed to be taking a well-earned break after launching three books in four weeks.

An ideal time to read then?

Apparently not. My brain didn't know what it wanted, other than the holiday that I'd been looking forward to for months.

And then, out of the blue, I had a yen to read a cowboy romance.

What? Um? What???

Those of you who know me in real life will be scratching your heads over that one. So was I! But, I really, really wanted to read something, but nothing that I already had. So I downloaded a couple of free cowboy romances to my Kindle, fully expecting to read a few pages and remember that I'd never, in all my nearly 50 years of life, wanted to read many romances and nothing about cowboys. I fully expected to be back to fantasy or crime novels within minutes of reading a romance.


I've now read almost 20 romance novels since the start of lock down. A couple haven't been 'cowboy romances' - one was a vet, another was a time-slip novel with Vikings, and one was an artist - but it seems I am (at least at the moment) an incorrigible romantic who just wants a happy ever after ending. I'm less keen on explicit sex scenes (because most are pretty cringe-worthy to me, rather than sexy); I am keen on 'friends to lovers' books. Some of the books have been utter tosh (and there were some Did Not Finish in that 20), but some have been fantastic. I definitely need to connect with the characters more than care about the plot itself, but that's not a huge surprise as that has always been the case for me.

Two I would definitely recommend would be Sarah Fine's book "Only Between Us" (writing as Mila Ferrera), and Ashley Munoz's book "The Rest of Me". Both of these have incredibly strong characters and I was rooting for everyone. I've loved pretty much every Sarah Fine book I've ever read (and could read her Guardians of The Shadowlands books again and again) but I'd never heard of Ashley Munoz before. I'll certainly be looking for more from her.

Has anyone else suddenly discovered they're addicted to a new genre, out of the blue? If so, what genre do you usually read, and what have you suddenly discovered a love of?

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Plans? What plans?

Well. It was all going swimmingly... I was 40,000 words into the new book. 40,000

And then...

Well, and then I hit a stumbling block and decided I needed to change something fairly significantly.

Not the plot... the plot's fine (though I keep needing to trim out side-plots that are either unnecessary or wanting their own show a bit too much). It's the point of view (POV) I've needed to change.

The trilogy was all written from Reagan's/Aeron's POV and in 1st person ("I/we"). But in the new book, she's not always in all of the action for a variety of reasons, and was having to find out about it after the fact. This wasn't helpful!

However, Faran (Aeron's husband) was in all the bits of action she wasn't, and so, at 40,000 words in (I really can't stress that enough! That's almost half the book written!) I decided to switch to have two points of view - some scenes from Aeron's (still in 1st person) and some from Faran's (3rd person close - "he/they" but only what Faran can see/hear/experience).

So, the last week (and this week) has been/will be spent going back through those 40,000 words and changing about half of the scenes/writing new versions.

The fabulous thing is, I'm getting to write from Faran's perspective, and boy, is his perspective different from Aeron's at times! It took me a day or so to totally get into his head and 'hear' him, but now his voice is loud and clear (um, a little too loud, sometimes!) and I'm loving writing the scenes from his POV.

I just wish I'd had this realisation a little sooner than when I'd written almost half of the book!

Ah well.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020



SPFBO stands for Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. It's an annual competition, organised by the author Mark Lawrence. You can read the full details on Mark's SPFBO page.

Why am I telling you about this? Because I entered!! 

There are only 300 books in the competition. These are then distributed to ten book blogs who are particularly interested in fantasy books. Over the next five months, these 300 books will be whittled down to ten - one from each of the book blogs involved. Then, over the next six months, one will be chosen as the winner. There's no financial prize... it's far more about publicity and visibility.

Aegyir Rises has been allocated to Rockstarlit Book Asylum. They have five reviewers who are each going to read six books and choose their favourite, and then from those six, they will choose the book to go forward to the final ten across the competition. Within Rockstarlit Book Asylum, I've been allocated to Jen as the person reviewing Aegyir Rises.

What happens next?
In all likelihood, I crash and burn... but this is what comes next competition-wise, within the blog group I've been allocated to:
  • Before the end of August, each of the 5 judges reads at least 25% of each book they've been assigned
  • By the end of August, each judge puts forward their favourite book from the 6 they've read/sampled, as their semi-finalist
  • Each judge will get a post on Rockstarlit Book Asylum to discuss their 6 books
  • Between September and October, the 5 judges will read the 6 semi-finalists (again, they will read at least 25% of each book)
  • Some time in October, their finalist will be announced
I'll keep you posted as to how I get on! Wish me luck?

And don't forget, you can still get a free novella, if you join my newsletter... 

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

B5 writing folio

A long time ago, I posted about converting an old Filofax Deskfax into a writing folio. You can read that post here. Essentially, I took the ring mechanism out and added strings. The layout of the Deskfax meant that I could slide the cover of a B5 notebook into a back slot. The added strings could hold thinner B5 books. The various pockets and pen slots could hold Post-It notes, pens etc.

I don't know about where you are, but Scotland has had some fantastic weather recently. After wrestling with the plot (see last week's post), I've been scene planning, and a lot of that takes place in a notebook. A HUGE B5 notebook! Over the course of writing a book, I write a LOT of notes. Quite a while ago, I bought this notebook, ready for the next novel:

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Me v The Plot

This is how much of last week felt!! Writing had been going well, I was 20,000 words in to the first draft of the new book, and then I looked at my plan and thought, "Oh. I appear to be writing another trilogy!"

I had far too much plot for the book! Thus followed a couple of days (or more) of plot-wrestling, with all aspects insisting that they couldn't possibly be cut and just had to stay in, while I wielded the red pen, trying to excise them from the plot...

By the end of the week, the plot and I were more like this...

Maybe I'll write up the cut strands into short stories and share them with my newsletter subscribers. If you've not yet signed up, I'm currently giving away a free novella - a prequel to The Guardians of The Realm trilogy. It's only available to newsletter subscribers and is about what happened the first time Aeron met Aegyir. Don't miss out!

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Want a free book?

Aeron's Fall

It was all going so well. As one of the most senior warriors in The Realm, life couldn't be better for Aeron. 

But then millions of people started dying Outside - Earth, as you call it.

Something old... something evil was stirring again.

Aeron was determined to stop it, before it could wreak havoc on The Realm.

If she failed, The Realm could be destroyed.

If she succeeded? She still might lose everything.

Find out what happened when Aeron took on Aegyir, the first time they met.

I've just finished "Aeron's Fall" - the story of what happened the first time Aeron met Aegyir. It won't be available for sale anywhere as it's an exclusive book for my newsletter subscribers only.

Already a subscriber but haven't had it yet? Fear not, it's coming in this month's newsletter!

Not a subscriber yet? Sign up below!

Want the book, but you're not sure about the newsletter? Well, the newsletter only comes out once a month, and it has bits about what I've been up to over the month, book recommendations, special offers, and news about upcoming books (and events in non-covid times!).

Okay. While I have your attention, can I ask anyone who's read any of the trilogy if they would leave a review, especially on Amazon. Reviews help other readers choose which books to read. They also help with the visibility of the book in Amazon's algorithms - the more reviews there are, the more visible the book and so more people actually hear about the books! An author can also only sign up with some of the better marketing groups if they have a minimum number of reviews. Seriously, without reviews, the books are invisible. So please, if you've read any of my books, could you consider leaving a review? It doesn't have to be long - even just "Loved it!" or "Great book!" is enough.

Thank you.

Hope you enjoy the free book!

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Saving The Cat...

Last week, I said I was sailing in First Draft Lake. Unfortunately, I got blown back towards The Great Sifting River because I didn't like how the book was starting.

Now, because I'm a planner not a pantser, I don't always write a book in order. I have a general idea of the structure, and if I can really 'see' a scene that's later on, I write it, knowing that it will almost certainly be in the book, and probably roughly where it is, and that I can fix lead-ins and exits in the first edit, to smooth out any rough junctions. I use Scrivener to write, and so I create a separate document for each scene. These are really easy to move around, if I change my mind about the order or structure. I normally spend a decent chunk of time getting this basic structure into some semblance of where it might end up (though things always change between writing the plan and writing the book!).

That's not what I did this time!

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Here be monsters...

I've drawn a (terrible!) map of how writing a book goes for me (click on it to enlarge it). It starts with the Fountain of Ideas. This represents that glorious time when anything is possible in a book and no ideas are too daft. It's "play time" when my imagination gets to run mad, and ideas chase each other and twist and morph into new plot lines. It's a heady time. It's where I've been for the last few weeks.

Eventually, these ideas all flow into the Great Sifting River. Here, plot-lines peter out because they either don't fit in with the rest of the book, or just don't have the legs to carry them on. It's also where some plot-lines grow arms and legs and decide they want to be a whole new book on their own. And there are some ideas that just won't leave and inveigle their way back into the plot, invited or not.

After this, comes a giant lake: First Draft Lake. This is where I am at the moment, and where I will be for the next few months! And indeed, here be monsters. Some days it's all plain sailing through the lake - scenes come together, plot lines zing and all is right with the world.

And then there are the days when the giant monster that lives in the lake leaps up and chomps its way through a whole scene (or plot-line) leaving it in tatters and you don't know whether to mend it or leave it to sink and die.

Coupled with that are the Strong Winds of Change (not yet illustrated) which blow the plot off course, steered by unruly characters who think they know best (they usually do). Navigating a path between the Strong Winds of Change and The Monster can be a challenging time.

There was an interesting article out this week, talking to various authors, which found that most authors 'hear' their characters. I certainly do. I listen in on their lives and they have distinct voices. I can see them and the scenes they're in, in my mind's eye, as if I was watching them.

I once posted a cartoon about the characters wrecking a plot, and another author got quite stroppy with me and said that the author is in charge and the idea that these characters are anything other than a construct of the authors mind, is daft. While I accept that the characters are a construct of my imagination, I can't agree that I'm always the puppet-master and they only do what I want! When I'm in the flow, a scene can gallop along and it just feels right with where it's going. Often though, it either introduces things I hadn't planned, or ends up in an unhelpful place, miles from where the original plot is. I generally go with these flows. The scene is almost always better than if I try to cram it into the 'plot box' I had in mind.

Writing the first draft is often described as the author working out what the book is actually about, and I would have to agree. It's the author telling themself the story and it's quite a fun place to be. But I know what's coming after this... Once I've found my way through First Draft Lake, I'll be into The Mountains of the First Edit - the seemingly impassible, soul-sapping region which takes the book, pulls it all apart, exposes the holes and the patches and (eventually) fixes them. I'll amend the map when I get there!

Until then, I shall swim in the First Draft Lake and try not to be eaten by monsters.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Lesley Kelly's "Murder at the Music Factory"

The Pandemic is Spreading

The body of Paul Shore toppled on to him, a stream of blood pooling around them on the concrete. Bernard lay back and waited to see if he too was going to die.
An undercover agent gone rogue is threatening to shoot a civil servant a day. As panic reigns, the Health Enforcement Team race against time to track him down - before someone turns the gun on them.


Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Another Kindle Unlimited Bundle for you...

Another amazing bundle for you all to check out. Do you want to read stories about ordinary people who find themself in an extraordinary situation? Maybe they're a farm boy who discovers they can talk to dragons, or a high school girl who finds out she's a witch? This is your place!

The books all free to read with Kindle Unlimited, so go and find a new author to binge on.


Right here

Let me know who you've discovered?

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Testing, testing... 1, 2, 3...

Last week, I was recording myself reading some extracts of Aegyir Rises for Stu Lennon, to use in the 1857 podcast he does. Things I've realised as a result:

  1. My cat is evil, and even the promise of Dreamies doesn't appear to distract him from his goal of having a starring role in the recordings
  2. As soon as I need to record, my mouth fills with spit
  3. I am unable to swallow silently
  4. I also develop the overwhelming need to clear my throat as soon as the record button is pressed
  5. My accent is weird - a bit of posh BBC newsreader blended with the odd flat northern vowels and a light sprinkling of Scottish (having lived here for so long, and being married to a Scot).
  6. I hate my voice

I was also so keen to try and make the opening few lines as emotional as possible, I made myself cry. 🤦

I'll keep you posted as to when they're going out, but any that don't get used will be on here.

I've also started work on the next book! I'm still at the "brain-dump" stage - writing out a gazillion notes. When I first started, possibly because for so long, I've been forcing this book to the back of my head while I got on with edits, I was scared nothing would come. I stared at a blank page and wondered what on earth would go in the book. I had a few thin ideas, but nothing that would sustain 75-100K words!

And then I started asking questions. The "why" and the "who" and the "what" and so on, that make up a book, and the notes are currently pouring out of my head. This is one of the really fun bits - the exciting "Where is this going?" bit. The point where nothing's off-limits and all ideas are still in the "possible" camp. I love this bit of planning a book.

Next up will be wrestling these ideas into a plot and deciding which ones are making the cut and which ones aren't. I already have a piece of paper taped to my dining room table, ready for a giant mind-map, where I'll note all the strands of the plot and then work out how to tie them together. It's a piece of lining paper (wallpaper). I used to use flip-chart paper, but my meagre stock of that has run out. And yes, there will be colour-coding! 😆

Then will come the plot outline (which always changes as I start writing, but is there in case I need it). And then... actually starting on the scenes!

Exciting times!

By the way, I would be delighted if you followed me on BookBub. If you click on the button below, it will take you straight there. Thank you!

Friday, 10 April 2020

Interview with bestselling author Malcolm Hollingdrake

I’m delighted to welcome back to the blog Malcolm Hollingdrake, the author of the bestselling Harrogate Crime Series of books featuring DCI Cyril Bennett. Hello Malcolm!
Hello, always my pleasure. How times have changed since we last chatted about my books.

You’re releasing the latest in The Harrogate Crime Series, “Threadbare”, today. Can you give me a flavour of what’s happening in this one? What does DCI Bennett have to face?
Indeed, as you know DCI Bennett proposed to Dr Julie Pritchett at the end of the last book. ‘Threadbare' begins with that proposal and for Cyril things move from there. However, his team have other things on their minds. Finding an elderly man and his carer dead by what they believe to be snake venom brings its own confusion. This is swiftly followed by another death, originally thought to be suicide. An old photograph, a link and the collection of disparate people seem to have a connection. David Owen and April Richmond come into their own leading the chase to find the murderer before the death toll rises.

Can readers dive straight in, or do they have to have read the previous books in the series?
They can dive straight in. I have given any information they need in the prologue. I do try to make all of my books, standalone reads.

What inspired this book?
The story was inspired by seeing the benches that you find throughout Harrogate, especially on The Stray and a painting I have long admired in the Atkinson Gallery, Southport. I visited the Frith exhibition at the Mercer Art Gallery and was so moved by his work I had to place Cyril in there to begin the story proper.

Who is your favourite supporting character in the book? Why are they your favourite?
What a lovely question. Leonard’s mother. It might seem strange but both Leonard and his mum were modelled on a family who lived close to me as I was growing up. I have always been a people watcher and I still take characteristics or the things people say and add them to my books. I’m a bit of a magpie to be honest. These true elements of life help make the written words live.

Writers often have to ‘kill their darlings’. What did you have to edit out of this book?
If anything, Cyril. It has been thoroughly enjoyable developing Owen’s character and building the partnership with April. A different dimension and an alternative perspective. Great fun.
I always cut when writing. What I thought worked on one day, on a read through it doesn’t seem as exciting or relevant and so the delete key plays a major role … key role in fact. It’s when you cut five thousand words through being dissatisfied where it becomes more daring and important.

A little bird tells me that you’re working on a new series at the moment. Are you able to spill any beans? What can you tell me about that?
This is so exciting for me. Nine Harrogate books and I know my characters so well and so creating a new series has been wonderful. The original idea came when I was commissioned by my then publisher to write a new series. I liked the idea of creating something new but I didn’t feel I was ready. However, now is the correct time to produce this trilogy. I have a working title, ‘A Decent April’. The others might be ‘A Decent Murder’ and “A Decent Death’. You can guess the name of the DI … yep, Decent. They are set in north Merseyside and the surrounds. It has been great fun to find new streets, new sights, sounds and smells and develop new characters. I will be sending the first out to see if I can attract a publisher. I want to keep the Harrogate Series independent.

You’re now independently published. What’s the hardest aspect of that? What do you wish you’d known before you went independent?
Advertising and marketing. Once you become an indie author/publisher you have to wear many hats, develop many skills and keeping all of the plates spinning takes time, support and money. Even with ten books published, five audiobooks I could not make a living from writing. It’s a hobby. If anyone is going independent here are two things: Make the manuscripts the best you can. Invest in a good proof reader and editor. Invest in a quality cover design and if you’re thinking of writing a series, have that in mind from the start.

What have been the high spots about being independent? What has come as a pleasant surprise to you about it all?
Controlling when your book will be published. If you are with a publisher you might wait twelve months. I decide when my book goes out. I control the book's design from page to cover. It rests on my shoulders and although that can be worrying, it’s also exciting.

How do you measure ‘success’ in writing? Sales? Reviews? Personal satisfaction? Something else?
To receive a positive comment from a reader whom you’ve never met is the best feeling in the world. To chat to people who have become friends, found through my writing, brings great pleasure and finally, seeing people take the trouble to come and hear me speak and read at literary events … that’s humbling.

What would you give up, in order to be able to be more successful (if anything)?
Success is relative. Give me positive comments and I’m happy. If people buy one book and then another, I’m happy. Success, I’m sure brings its own pressures and demons. Where I am is fine.

And now a few questions that aren’t about writing!

We’re all in the middle of a lockdown with covid-19. Are you naturally an introvert and finding this relatively easy? Or naturally an extrovert and finding this tough? What’s helping to make it more bearable?
I’ve not had a TV for many, many years and I am comfortable with this. Obviously, I’m concerned for those on the front line but if I can help by staying at home so be it. I can write, paint, make stained glass windows if I need further distractions. Music is a huge part of my life and there’s endless amounts I still need to discover.

What’s your favourite meal to make?
Risotto – strangely enough it’s Cyril Bennett’s too.

What’s your favourite meal to eat that someone else has made?
My wife’s Yorkshire puddings. However, I now do all the cooking but she would make them if asked.

What are you reading at the moment?
I am reading at the moment which is strange for me. It was a requested birthday gift. ‘A Race with Love and Death.’

I know you don’t have a TV, but are there any box-sets you’ve binge-watched? If so, what?
Black Adder WW1 and Band of Brothers. That’s it!

Thank you so much for letting me bombard you with questions!
Thank you very much indeed. As a final note may I just thank readers for supporting my books, it means a great deal to me. Please keep safe.

You can catch up with all of Malcolm’s news at the following places:

Twitter at: https://twitter.com/MHollingdrake
Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMalcolmHollingdrake/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/malcolmhollingdrakeauthor/
His website is at: https://malcolmhollingdrakeauthor.co.uk/

The Harrogate Crime Series:

Also by Malcolm: