#blogtour From The Dark by K A Richardson #GuestPost Writing Days

Today on LifeOfCri.me, K A Richardson, author of the recently released From The Dark talks about her writing days.

Full days of writing for me are a rarity. I tend to write as and when – not necessarily every day though admittedly I will think about writing in some way every day. I always have a notebook in my handbag (and a multitude of pens – I may have a little pen obsession). 

I work for the police part-time as a call taker in the communications department – which is dull way of saying I take non-emergency calls as well as 999 calls, but prior to this I worked as a Crime Scene Investigator. I loved the role – being out and about on my own, processing scenes and gathering evidence. Thinking analytically about scenes and the methods I would use to gather the evidence. This experience features heavily in all my novels – forensics is what I know and something that I’m very passionate about. I would still be doing it today but for the major cuts in the police force that ended up with my job being made non-existent. That said, working in the control room of a busy police force is also challenging and can be hard-work. I’m the first person someone in distress will speak to – it’s my job to gather all of the information needed and grade the job so that officers are dispatched in a timely manner. There are calls where I offer advice, calls I listen to someone sob down the phone hysterically after they’ve been beaten,  calls where I offer sympathy and empathy, calls when I take hoax calls from people who think it’s clever to abuse the emergency service system and occasionally, calls I take where people are thanking the police for helping them. No two days are the same, which makes it very non-monotonous and occasionally very stressful. 

I’ve always found solace in writing though. As well as getting down these stories that burst into my mind and refuse to leave me alone until they’re written, it can be therapeutic and a release for pent up emotions. I find it a tool that assists me in dealing with depression (something I’ve suffered with for many years). When I was younger, I found writing poetry comforting – I still do occasionally, but much more effective to me is setting characters challenges to overcome and deal with. I love researching too – something I do for pretty much every novel. I love my facts to be accurate and up-to-date and enjoy bringing forensics to life in my novels as it’s not something many people know a great deal about. I think having it in, and focussing on some of the lesser understood parts of policing, helps give my novels that sense of reality. 

If I do have a rare full day to write, I start the day off with a cup of coffee. Pretty standard for a writer judging by all the facebook posts I see featuring a steaming cup beside someone’s open laptop! So I’m pretty stereo-typical in that respect I guess. I write chronologically so on opening the laptop, I’ll have a quick peruse of the previous couple of scenes to get my head back in the zone. I usually have my trusty bible by side – not a bible in the traditional sense – my bible is a moleskine notebook that I’ve used since day one. It holds my character profiles, spider-grams for each novel, basic plots for the novel, hints and tips I’ve come across along the way and general ideas of things I might want to write about. I use this notebook alongside a brand new one for each project. The new one is for handwriting scenes, noting down quirks and names etc, and scribbling on if I notice plot holes etc. 

Once I’ve read up on the two-three scenes already written, I’ll take a few deep breaths and crack on. This is the time that I hate being disturbed by anyone or anything. Even my husband knows now that if he’s bringing me a fresh cuppa, to just place it down on my table silently and back away. A knock at the front door will boil my blood. It’s not that I mean to be anti-social or act like a bitch, but when I’m in the zone of writing, my head is firmly entrenched in a world that isn’t this one. I’m somewhere else entirely and an interruption will bring me back here with a bump. 

On a good day, I can write 6000-7000 words before I stop. On a bad day it might only be a few hundred – which is very frustrating but part of the process. I rarely get writer’s block – if I’m not writing it’s usually because of factors outside of my control, like illness or events that take me out of the house. I do love to sit and write in coffee shops – probably because I don’t get disturbed. I am accustomed to tuning out the machine noises but I can focus easily in on conversations going on around me – be careful what you say over coffee! I have been known to use what I overhear on occasion. 

When I am finished writing for the day, I save my progress (do this every half hour religiously but have to ensure it’s saved at end of day as well) – I save to an external hard-drive, the internal hard-drive on my laptop and quite often will email a copy to myself also. Just to ensure I have it and it is safe. There have been odd instances where I’ve lost work so do this pretty religiously nowadays. Then I’ll close my laptop, make another cuppa and take a few deep breaths. 

I love these writing days – not just because it’s getting the word count up, but also because as I write, the plot and characters present me with new challenges. Challenges that I then feel obligated to see through the next day, and the one after, and the one after etc. Actual writing is the best part of the whole process for me. I love the surprises my characters leave me with, often have tissues on standby for the heartache they cause me, and always leave my novel in a place where I know I can’t wait to restart from. 

Who will save you when the monsters creep…

Antonia Baillie is a true Romani gypsy – she has the gift of foresight and uses this to help people.

When the ghosts of the past come calling, can she put her own fears aside and work with the police to help find out who is torturing and killing young men?

Detective Sergeant Mark McKay has never had a need to solve a case using a psychic. He doesn’t believe in it – pure and simple. But when Antonia tells him the name of a young man and gives him details specific to the case, he can’t help but change his view. Especially when a body matching what she described is found in the vaults deep under the city.

Mark and Antonia race against a spree of monstrous crimes, long-standing grudges and the perils of the darkness in the vaults beneath Edinburgh to try and find a sadistic killer before time runs out.

Can they stop him before he strikes again?

Will they discover who is responsible?

And can they do it without becoming victims themselves?

 

 

#blogtour – One Perfect Witness by Pat Young – #ExclusiveExtract

On a remote Scottish hillside, three paths meet. On each path, a boy, one carrying a gun.
When their paths cross, a shot is fired and a boy dies.
That leaves two – one killer and one perfect witness.
This killer will stop at nothing to make sure the witness says nothing. Difficult for most people, even for someone who’s been guarding a secret of his own for five years.
What if the witness decides he’s been silent too long? Sometimes even the unspeakable must be spoken, if we can find the words.

 

Someone’s standing on the path, watching me.
I curl into a ball. In case he’s got a dog. Saw a hedgehog do that once, when it was frightened. It worked. The dog lost interest and walked away.
I stop breathing. Keep my eyes shut tight. Try not to twitch the tiniest muscle. Pray he hasn’t seen me.
Dead bracken whispers near my ear. My nose is so near the ground I can smell the earth. Think I might sneeze. I let out my breath a tiny little bit at a time but it still sounds loud as thunder.
Another few minutes pass, or maybe it’s just moments.
‘Hey, kid. You okay?’
When I don’t answer he says, ‘What you doing out here on your own at this time of the morning? You should be tucked up in bed.’
My legs are trembling, my hands too. I curl up tighter. Squeeze my knees to my chest so hard I can hardly breathe.
‘Come on. Up you get.’
I don’t move.
‘Hey, listen. You need to get up. You can’t lie there.’   
I slowly raise my head. I see a face with wide, hairy nostrils and eyes that bulge as he leans towards me. His breath reminds me of the old dog Pops had when I was small.
The man touches my elbow and I flinch away from his hand. The bad memory’s so strong my stomach feels like I’m falling down a flume.  
‘Easy, buddy, easy.’ He takes a step away from me. Holds his hands up like he’s under arrest.
I have to stand up and show him I’m not afraid. I crawl out and get to my feet, trying to hide the gun behind me.
‘Playing cowboys?’
He waits, as if he expects me to say something.
‘All by yourself?
My legs are shaking. Wish I had long trousers on to hide them.
‘You lost or something?’
I shake my head.
‘Come on over here. Don’t be scared. I won’t hurt you.’
That’s what Robbie said.
Inside my head, something snaps. I feel full of courage. I look the stranger right in the eye and bring the gun from behind my back.
‘Going to give me a look at your gun? Cool.’ He holds out his hand. ‘Hand it over, then.’
I don’t hand it over. I snap it shut, like I’ve seen Dad do. I smell metal and oil as the mechanism locks into place.
‘Shit! That doesn’t sound like a toy. Is it some kind of replica?’ He holds out his arms this time. ‘Can I see it, please?’ He smiles as if he expects me to just do as he says.
Without taking my eyes off him, I slowly raise the gun. Till it’s pointing at his chest. The smile slides from his face like slime off a stick. He moves away from me. A branch catches the back of his leg and he stumbles. I raise the rifle a little more. Settle it against my shoulder. Copying Dad. It feels so heavy I think my legs might buckle, but I don’t feel a bit afraid. I feel powerful.
I rest my cheek on the gun. Make a show of placing my finger on the trigger.
He starts to scramble through the gorse, backwards. His eyes never leaving my face. The thorns snag his shirt but he doesn’t seem to notice. Suddenly he stops and stands with his hands in the air.
‘Take it easy, kid. Watch what you’re doing with that thing.’ His voice sounds kind of wavery. ‘Put it down now, please. The joke’s over. You’ve had your fun.’
I want him to keep going. Run. Get away from me.
He doesn’t move. Well, just his arm. He stretches it out towards me, in slow motion. ‘Come on,’ he says, very quietly, coaxing. ‘Just do what I tell you and you won’t get hurt.’
Like the last time.  
I stare at him. Right down the barrel. Slowly, very slowly, I shake my head. Then I pull the trigger.

 

Pat Young grew up in the south west of Scotland where she still lives, sometimes. She often goes to the other extreme, the south west of France, in search of sunlight.

Pat never expected to be a writer. Then she found a discarded book with a wad of cash tucked in the flyleaf. ‘What if something awful happened to the person who lost this book?’ she thought, and she was off.

Pat knew nothing of writing, but she knew a thing or two about books, having studied English, French and German at Glasgow University. A passion for languages led to a career she loved and then a successful part-time business that allowed her some free-time, at last.

Pat had plans, none of which included sitting at her desk from daybreak till dusk. But some days she has to. Because there’s a story to be told. And when it’s done, she can go out to play. On zip-wires and abseil ropes, or just the tennis court.

Pat writes psychological thrillers. Her debut novel Till the Dust Settles, has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable Stag trophy. Following publication in July

Pat was delighted to be chosen as an ‘emerging talent’ for Crime in the Spotlight and read from Till the Dust Settles to an audience at Bloody Scotland – another dream come true.

Published by Bloodhound Books, I Know Where You Live is the much-anticipated sequel to Pat’s gripping and unmissable debut thriller, Till the Dust Settles. It too is a psychological thriller with a skillfully told story that makes for an enjoyable stand alone read. It will hook you from the start.

One Perfect Witness, Pat’s third novel to be published, tells a completely new story. If, like Pat, you’re fascinated by what happens when someone disappears, you’ll enjoy this book of secrets, lies and deception.

#Blogtour I Never Lie – Jody Sabral Guest Post

Writers and Reviews

It’s an exciting time, publishing my first debut psychological thriller. Having found the agent, then the publisher, it’s now the books turn to find its readers and that is both thrilling yet terrifying at the same time. The early reviews are starting to flood in. Upwards of sixty people secured a copy via NetGalley – a website where avid readers of books are encouraged to read and review pre-publishing date.

Like any new author, I obsessively and secretively checked the review page daily as it started to make waves to see if I’d pulled it off or not. The sheer joy of reading a brilliantly positive review is something one cannot put into words, says the writer who should be able to put absolutely anything into words! It’s a real moment that makes you feel it was all worth it. It took two years to write this book and it was devoured in two sittings. There’s oddly something satisfying in that.

Then came the first negative review. I won’t lie. It stung. It’s not easy to take that kind of criticism when you’ve labored over it for hundreds of hours, putting your all into it. Having tried your best to make an entire world out of just words. I found myself Googling ‘how to cope with bad reviews.’ And to my delight I found a best-selling author saying she felt exactly the same way, but that in all honesty there is always someone who doesn’t like it and instead of just passing on writing a review they have to have their say. The more people who read it, the more negative reviews there will inevitably be, but on the upside and to my relief the good reviews outnumber the bad.

As the reviews started to stack up I came to realise that in actual fact the negative reviews were just as helpful as the positives. I started to see a pattern in the criticism, which has ultimately informed me on aspects of my writing and story telling which I can improve on. I’m a work in progress as are all writers. I think we like the constant challenge of personal development. Of constructing and deconstructing our thoughts. So I decided to see the positives in those negatives and turn that into an opportunity for growth as a writer. So this is a personal thank you to all who have commented on the book. I deeply appreciate it.

Alex South, my protagonist isn’t for everyone. She is a tricky customer. And as most readers have commented her character is the driving force in the book unlike most thrillers. One review I read the day before publication really summed up what I tried to do with Alex. “I’m not sure if it was intentional, but I thought this carefully crafted novel sent out a powerful message about the dangers of alcoholism. A mix of excitement and nerve-wracking! There was humour, four dead bodies and loads of suspects. It’s a food-for-thought novel.”

A food-for-thought novel. Yes, I wanted I NEVER LIE to kick-start a positive conversation around alcoholism in this country having lost a friend to the bottle, but obviously I wanted it to entertain too. It is a tricky combination to get right. I have always felt that art and literature have the power to transform society unlike the other business I’m in, the news business, which in my opinion is often more to do with keeping power accountable. I still remember scenes I read in novels fifteen years ago that touched me and shaped my grown up self.

You will be in utter despair with Alex, frustrated by the voice in her head, and often sad for her, but ultimately she is just flawed, living in a constant state of denial. We track how that can create all kinds of problems. It’s her character that drives the plot, which is characteristic of my writing. Whatever you make of her, please do leave a review good or bad for it is in these moments of commentary I find a new sense of development as a writer, which hopefully shall help shape my future writing!

Is she the next victim? Or is she the culprit…?

Alex South is a high-functioning alcoholic who is teetering on the brink of oblivion. Her career as a television journalist is hanging by a thread since a drunken on-air rant. When a series of murders occur within a couple of miles of her East London home she is given another chance to prove her skill and report the unfolding events. She thinks she can control the drinking, but soon she finds gaping holes in her memory, and wakes to find she’s done things she can’t recall. As the story she’s covering starts to creep into her own life, is Alex a danger only to herself – or to others?

Jody Sabral is based between the South Coast and London, where she works as a Foreign Desk editor and video producer at the BBC. She is a graduate of the MA in Crime Fiction at City University, London. Jody worked as a journalist in Turkey for ten years, covering the region for various international broadcasters. She self-published her first book Changing Borders in 2012 and won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2014 for her second novel The Movement. In addition to working for the BBC, Jody also writes for the Huffington Post, Al–Monitor and Brics Post.

#Blogtour If He Wakes by Zoe Lea – The Value of Keeping a Writing Journal

The Value Of Keeping A Writing Journal

It took me roughly three years to write If He Wakes. That’s from having the initial idea, to my lovely editor saying it was ready to go. Three years. I’ve learnt a lot about the writing process in those years and the one thing I would recommend to anyone who wants to create any kind of content is to keep a writing journal. Or a notebook. Or the notepad feature on your phone even. I call mine a writing journal, but what I really mean is just having something to hand that you can write on at anytime, anywhere.

Here’s why; I had the idea for If He Wakes in a car park. My daughter was about eight months old at the time and she was in the car with me, we were waiting for my husband when inspiration struck and I had absolutely nowhere to record the initial idea. I didn’t worry. It was a great idea, a wonderful premise, there was no chance of me forgetting it, and I didn’t.

But by the time I came to write down my idea for If He Wakes, it was two hours later. I’d been to the supermarket, dealt with a crying baby, made numerous decisions about what was on the family menu for the week and I was tired. My brilliant idea, the one that had made me gasp in the car park when everything was still and quiet was reduced to seven words. ‘Woman sees husband run man over, why?’

It wasn’t hopeless, I did pick up that sentence the next day and start to develop it, but by then, I was searching out the inspiration.

I felt like I’d missed the full opportunity with that idea. I had to chase it down. I had to sit and think about what exactly I’d envisaged in that car park, where my daughter slept silently behind me.

However, if I’d had my writing journal, I know that I would have spent a good ten minutes scribbling in a feverish way everything about that premise.

The way I knew the lead character would feel pain not only mentally, but also physically at what she saw. How the shock of it would shatter everything around her, it would leave her breathless and on a course that would change her life forever. I would have been able to write down where she was, who came to her aid and what she saw. The emotions would have been so raw at the moment I had the idea, it would’ve been easy.

And when I came back to my journal the next day, my enthusiasm for it would’ve jumped off the page and bitten me all over again. I would have read the words that I scribbled down and smiled, and it would all be there, ready for me to pick up and run with.

It took me two years before I realised that having a notebook with you at all times is essential. It’s no good thinking, ‘I’ll remember that, I don’t need to write it down,’ because you will remember the idea, but you will forget your enthusiasm for it.

I used to think that people who got a notebook out and started writing at odd times were just that, odd, but now I yank mine out at any given opportunity. You never know when inspiration will strike and you never want to miss it.

You can always trust your best friend… can’t you?

When Rachel discovers a Twitter message arranging a romantic liaison she assumes her husband is having an affair, and follows him. What she witnesses is so much worse: a hit and run using his car.

Meanwhile, Rachel’s friend and business partner Suzie is increasingly worried about her fiance, who’s not been in touch for days. When Suzie learns of huge debts racked up in her name she fears he has run out on her, but then the threatening calls start and she thinks something terrible has happened.

Rachel and Suzie are both about to learn shocking things about the men they love, worse than they could ever imagine… Can their friendship survive?

Two thirds of the way through this novel, I was sat in my favourite reading chair with a smug smile on my face thinking “I know where this story is going”.

I COULD NOT have been more wrong, but it was in a delightfully interesting way.

A fantastic and compelling read, I wonder just how many of you will feel the same?

A Geraldine Steel Top Ten, Celebrating Ten Geraldine Steels……

TEN NOVELS SET IN YORKSHIRE THAT GERALDINE HAS READ

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
 To Catch A Rabbit- Helen Cadbury 
A Kestrel for a Knave – Barry Hines 
Billy Liar – Keith Waterhouse 
Jane Eyre- Charlotte Bronte 
Gallows View – Peter Robinson 
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Bronte 
Nicholas Nickleby- Dickens 
Under World- Reginald Hill 
The Amateur Historian Julian Cole

Detective Geraldine Steel is back in Class Murder – her tenth case!

With so many potential victims to choose from, there would be many deaths. He was spoiled for choice, really, but he was determined to take his time and select his targets carefully. Only by controlling his feelings could he maintain his success. He smiled to himself. If he was clever, he would never have to stop. And he was clever. He was very clever. Far too clever to be caught.

When two people are murdered, their only connection lies buried in the past. As police search for the elusive killer, another body is discovered. Pursuing her first investigation in York, and reunited with her former sergeant Ian Peterson, Geraldine Steel struggles to solve the baffling case. How can she expose the killer, and rescue her shattered reputation, when all the witnesses are being murdered?

 

 

The Breaking of Liam Glass – Charles Harris

Charles Harris is an international award-winning writer-director and a highly-respected script consultant, writing and directing for cinema, television and theatre. He is also a best-selling non-fiction author with titles including A Complete Screenwriting Course, Police Slang, and Jaws in Space. Several of his short stories have been published, with two shortlisted for awards.
Charles has a black belt in Aikido and teaches police, security personnel and the public, self-defence against street violence, including knife attacks.
He has a wife and two cats who live with him in North London and two sons who don’t.

Today as part of the LifeOfCri.me Theakston’s Crime countdown he’s writing talking to us about the inspiration for his book.

At the start of my new novel, The Breaking of Liam Glass, Jason Crowthorne, a keen young journalist, about to lose his job on a local paper, comes across a teenage footballer, stabbed and hospitalised in a coma.

Believing he’s found a way to save his career, he pitches his story to a tabloid. Unfortunately, the tabloid wants more of a celebrity hook – a hook Jason doesn’t know if he can provide. But maybe he can tweak it a little…

And so he’s led, step by step, into the dark and dangerous world of fake news.

Where does inspiration come from?

When I started Liam Glass, seven years ago, I wasn’t actually looking to write a novel, let alone a crime-satire.

At the time, there was a general election in full swing and the level of political debate was reaching a new low. Politicians repeated slogans until you wanted to tear your ears off. Newspapers either parroted the party line or were confused and ineffectual.

We didn’t yet use the phrase “fake news” but there was definitely a lot of it around.

At the same time, there was serious, real news, not least a spate of tragically fatal stabbings here in North London, almost all involving innocent young men who were in the “wrong” place.

I recalled a time I spent in Portugal, writing the screenplays for two feature films. Portugal endured the longest fascist dictatorship of any European country in the last century – forty-eight years – from 1926 to 1974.

But one of the most important causes of the collapse of democracy in the first place was the fact that nobody could rely on the newspapers to tell them the truth.

The next piece of the jigsaw, unexpectedly, turned out to be a short story I’d written many years before. It told of a teenage boy who was attacked and left in a coma and the effect on his single mother, who contrived more and more desperate plans to get him to wake up. The story, ‘Cash Card’, was short-listed for an award, but I hadn’t thought about it since.

But I needed one more piece to make the novel work – and that fell into place when my comatose teenager was joined by a young local journalist, stuck in his job and desperate to work on Fleet Street, whatever it took.

Into my young, frustrated journalist, who was to become Jason Crowthorne, I poured my own conflicted feelings and frustrations – as writer, certainly, but also as a reader of news.

I’ve always admired British tabloid newspapers, even as I’ve watched their actions with deep suspicion.

It’s easy to hate their easy cynicism and looseness with the truth, but there’s also something attractive about the red-tops’ energy and audacity. On a good day, a tabloid can mount a vibrant campaign to improve public life in a way that the broadsheets simply can’t match.

Near the end of my novel, two otherwise cynical editors on my fictional tabloid (The Post) reminisce about the great campaigns of the past – “obesity and body image, postcode health, MPs for sale, rip-off trains, graduates who couldn’t spell.” They have much to be proud of.

I spent some days at the Daily Mirror researching Liam Glass in their massive open-plan newsroom, and was struck by the sight of enormous blow-up front-pages around the walls, each commemorating a memorable headline. Often these were major campaigns.

Of course, not everything that the tabloids have done has been so admirable – from phone hacking to bribery to doorstepping the innocent.

On the one hand, Jason is a figure of satire – ready to sell his soul, if only he can find a Fleet Street editor to buy. On the other hand, Jason is truly horrified by this apparently unstoppable flow of knife crimes and wants to do something about it.

And if in the process it helps his career, what’s the problem?

Jason’s problem is that he suspects that Liam may well have a celebrity connection, secretly fathered by a major premiership footballer. But he can’t prove it. How far will he go, how much is he prepared to trick, cheat and finagle to get that front page?

I had to write the novel to find out. And as I wrote, part of me was shocked at what he turned out to be capable of doing. Yet part of me loved his breath-taking effrontery, his naive yet beguiling way of crashing through walls that I would have never dared do.

I found myself wanting him to succeed, somehow to overcome each new disaster, despite all the darker, more corrupt, people around him.

When I first spoke to my (then) agent about Liam Glass and how topical it seemed, he warned me that novels don’t chase topicality. However, it seems that some themes stay topical, and will probably remain so for much longer.

And now today, seven years later, we have another fractious election, with probably yet another to come, with newspapers content to peddle fake news and knife crime on the rise. How things change!

 

Teenage footballer Liam Glass is stabbed on an estate next to London’s Regents Park and, with an eye to the main chance, journalist Jason Crowthorne sets out to make the most of the story and build a crusade against teenage knife-crime.

In the following 24 hours, Jason creates his campaign, hiding a scoop from rival journalists and avoiding arrest. But other powerful figures are determined to exploit the boy’s story as much as they can, and they have fewer scruples! 

www.thebreakingofliamglass.com

#BlogTour Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler and the Inspiration Behind It

As part of her blog tour for her debut novel Don’t Wake up, today on LifeOfCri.me Liz Lawler talks about the inspiration behind the book.

 

 

 

 

Inspiration behind Don’t Wake Up

I wish I could tell you that I heard a particular story or read an article in a newspaper that inspired me to write Don’t Wake Up. But it wouldn’t be true. Something obviously triggered it, but I suspect it was many things that I heard or read or thought or even experienced and my mind accepted and stored a place for all this imagery to settle before becoming fully focused. I use the word imagery, because when I think of a story it is always in full technicolour with people having conversations or crying or running away. I do remember exactly what I was doing when this story came to me, and it came with a bit of a whoosh. The body of the story was inside my head by the time I had vacuumed my house one day. I then needed to give it legs and arms and a head to fully function. I have found that I never think up stories when I’m at rest, it is always when I’m physically busy with my mind at a bit of a wander.

So what triggered it, I now ask it myself? Was it the fact that I have worked in a hospital for so many years and am as familiar with that type of surroundings as I am in my own home? Possibly. It would certainly be a logical conclusion. Or was it witnessing the vulnerability of so many patients as they walk onto a ward and place their trust in you.

Yet as I write that last sentence, my stomach clenches at the thought of how vulnerable we are when we place our trust in people that we are encouraged to trust.

And this thought, I suspect, is the trigger that made me want to write a story like Don’t Wake Up. The horrific story that came to light about Winterbourne care home in recent years, that uncovered acts of abuse being meted out to people with learning difficulties, sadly didn’t shock me. It enraged me that it happened, but I wasn’t shocked. The debase behaviour of humans has always existed and it always will. It pushes me to ask questions and each probe will inevitably begin with – How could someone. How could someone do that, say that, think that. I think everyone is susceptible to carrying out an unkind act, even if it is only in thought, and for most of us it will be only ever amount to that. But for many of us we have met that unkind person, the one that we think or say about, ‘I wouldn’t let her look after my dog, let alone my child, my father, my mother.’

Every form of mental and physical cruelty is abhorrent to me and they take their ugly shapes in so many forms. It is relentless. We are saturated every single day by what we hear in the news of acts of horrendous cruelty being carried out and before we have even processed one shocking story another story has taken precedence. Sometimes a singular story will stay in our minds for ever – the images of the Chinese migrants labourers drowned on Morecambe Bay beach . . . the image of those two innocent babies in the arms of their father having been gassed with sarin. These stories stop us in our tracts, bring tears to our eyes and have us shaking our heads in despair. I am listening to the news as I write this, and in the background Teresa May is speaking of PC Palmer and his colleagues are speaking from the heart about how they felt about this man and my throat is clogged at thought of so many people hurting from this loss.

So in the writing of this blog, I have kind of worked out what inspired me to write Don’t Wake Up – a fictional story of psychological torture – I am not anaesthetized by the atrocities that the human race carry out. I am not numb to that tone of voice I hear when a child is harshly rebuked for crying, or to that heavy sigh of impatience given when that elderly woman or man asks for the toilet again.

Death should never be a cruel act. It should be natural and where possible, surrounded by love. I was very privileged to nurse my father at his home, because I had the ability to carry out this care and if death can be a beautiful thing to witness when someone is ready to face it, I was fortunate to witness it with my own father. He died in the early hours as dawn was breaking at the age of 96 with his wife beside him and me merely there as their interpreter. There is humour even in this memory as in their last conversation to each other neither were wearing their hearing aids and so I had to shout clearly the messages they gave to each other.

Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table.

The man who stands over her isn’t a doctor.

The offer he makes her is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she’s unharmed – and no one believes her horrifying story. Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, she begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind.

And then she meets the next victim.

#Blog Tour Deadly Alibi by Leigh Russell

As part of her blog tour for the latest in the DI Geraldine Steel novels, Leigh talks to LifeOfCri.me about the ins and outs of writing a serial character.

Writing a series

​I have written elsewhere about my inadvertent and very sudden transformation from an avid reader to a compulsive writer. My career as a writer really arose out of a ‘light bulb’ moment, a flash of inspiration. Having no ambitions to write, when an idea occurred to me one day and I started to write it down, I surprised myself by finding I was unable to drag myself away from it until the story had written itself out. Having completed my story, I sent the manuscript to a publisher, just on the off chance that someone might take a look at it. I didn’t really expect that anyone would, but the first person to read it turned out to be the acquiring editor at my publisher’s.

​There I was, unexpectedly faced with signing a three-book deal, and only one story written. It amazes me now that I wasn’t terrified, but the whole experience was exhilarating and quite surreal. Of course, there was a lot of work to be done on that first rather amateurish manuscript before it was actually published as Cut Short, by which time I was well on my way with the second book in the series, Road Closed. The ninth in the series, Deadly Alibi, is about to come out in paperback, the eleventh is written and currently being edited, and I am about a quarter of the way through the twelfth – just at the stage where I realise what I should have written and am about to rewrite what I’ve done so far… Somehow my plans always seem to go out of the window once the writing begins…

​So what began as a random idea for a story has turned into a fairly substantial series. With three series now to my name, and well on the way to delivering the final title in my sixth, three-book publishing deal, I’ve written quite a few books since the idea for Cut Short occurred to me. My next publishing deal will take us up to fifteen Geraldine Steel books, and I’m hoping the series will run to twenty books.

​A question I’m often asked is, does it become easier as you write more books? Like a politician’s equivocation, my answer isn’t straightforward. It’s a yes and a no. The actual writing process becomes easier as you grow accustomed to the editing process and all the associated stages in finalising the manuscript. At the same time, in some ways the pressure increases. With over a million books sold, there are a lot of people waiting to read the next Geraldine Steel story and with each book I worry that this will be the one that bombs, the book where all my fans say I’ve completely lost the plot. Thankfully that hasn’t happened yet, and I like to think I’m getting better at this writing lark. But who knows how the next book will be received? With so many readers’ expectations to satisfy, it’s a more daunting prospect than when my first book came out and I wondered whether anyone would actually read it, apart from my acquiring editor. ​

​Fortunately I have a fairly foolproof way of dealing with the pressure. It’s how I cope with any problems that arise in my life in the real world. I can simply retreat into my fictional world and write about the challenges faced by my detective, Geraldine Steel. And she has some tricky situations to deal with in Deadly Alibi. Hopefully her loyal fans are going to enjoy reading this latest story, and readers new to the series will find this an exciting introduction.

A hand gripped her upper arm so suddenly it made her yelp. Biting her lower lip, she spun round, lashing out in terror. As she yanked her arm out of his grasp, her elbow hit the side of his chest. Struggling to cling on to her, he lost his footing. She staggered back and reached out, leaning one hand on the cold wall of the tunnel. Before she had recovered her balance he fell, arms flailing, eyes glaring wildly as he disappeared over the edge of the platform onto the rails below. . .

Two murder victims and a suspect whose alibi appears open to doubt… Geraldine Steel is plunged into a double murder investigation which threatens not only her career, but her life. And then her previously unknown twin Helena turns up, with problems which are about to make Geraldine’s life turn toxic in more ways than one.

#blogtour Lie In Wait – GJ Minett

Today as part of the blog tour for his latest release, Lie In Wait, author G J Minett talks to LifeOfCri.me about the unexpected amount of extra work that comes with being a newly published author, while we readers are all sitting at home expecting them to be hard at work on their next book…

 

 

What They Never Told Me

OK. So this is how I saw it at the time. Please don’t snigger at the simplistic way in which I viewed things back then because I can guarantee that most of those authors you follow religiously and who now appear like demi-gods on the literary stage will have been no different when they first started. At least, I hope it’s not just me.

So you finally get your agent and, in due course, your first deal with a publisher – in my case, a two-book deal. All downhill from here on in, isn’t it? The publishers welcome you with open arms, promise to take care of everything from now on. You just go away and get on with writing the next one and don’t worry about a thing. Leave it all to us. 

In your dreams.

I am at present 57,000 words into book 3, which probably equates to two-thirds of the way through. I have another 6 weeks to finish the first draft which, a few years ago, would have been a stroll in the park. Not even 1000 words a day. Piece of cake. But . . . what they didn’t tell me is that finding time to write the next book is not the simple matter of choice that it was before I got a publishing deal. New writing time has to fight its corner against serious incursions from a number of other areas which are also very important and fall within the author’s remit. In case you’re not aware of these competing demands, let me list some of them for you – and please be aware that this is far from a comprehensive list.

  • Social media. When I had my first meeting with Bonnier Zaffre my editor asked me what I was like with social media and I gave him my best smug expression and announced in true authorly fashion oh, I don’t do that sort of thing. His response was you do now. I spend something in the region of two hours a day, creating my own tweets and posts, re-tweeting others, sending direct messages, deciding which people to follow, thanking others for kind comments or RTs and, inevitably, watching that panda clutching the zookeeper’s leg.
  • Website. Didn’t have one. Do now. And it needs to change every so often or no one will come and look at it. And it doesn’t change itself.
  • Blogs. I’d heard of them but wasn’t sure what purpose they served. Now I’ve discovered a whole world out there of bloggers who are prepared to include you and your book and anything you want to say about it for no better reason than that they love what they do. But they have to be fed.
  • Reviewers. In my naïve way, I assumed you write your book and wait to see what the reviewers in the national press think of it. The answer is they don’t – or at least they haven’t so far. You’re very fortunate if they even read it. But there’s a community of reviewers out there who not only read as many as 250 books a year – I thought I was doing well with 70 to 80 – but also write wonderful reviews which play a significant role in getting your name and your book out there. They need to be reminded how much they’re appreciated.
  • Personal appearances. Not complaining for one moment. I love these and having the chance to talk about your book with people who’ve been good enough to buy it and invite you along is one of the real joys of being an author. Just saying . . . if you go to Liverpool to meet your readers, it’s probably a couple of days out of your writing time.
  • Editing. You don’t just write your book once. You do it about half-a-dozen times with rewrites that can take weeks. Then you read it again for line edits and final edits and by the time everyone agrees it’s as good as it’s going to be, you’re starting to have doubts about whether it’s as good as you once thought
  • Life. Whether it’s work or bringing up young children or working at your own relationship, life has a way of tapping you on the shoulder and reminding you that it’s there, waiting not always very patiently for you to get your priorities sorted out.

As I said, it’s not a comprehensive list – I haven’t for instance mentioned what it’s like to sit down and try to be creative and sparkling after you’ve just watched Wolves get beaten at home by Birmingham – but it should give you an idea of the many different directions from which distractions descend upon any author trying to meet a deadline.

Just as well we love what we do.

 


A man is dead. A woman is missing. And the police have already found their prime suspect…  

Owen Hall drives into a petrol station to let his passenger use the facilities. She never comes back – and what’s more, it seems she never even made it inside.

When Owen raises a fuss, the police are called – and soon identify Owen himself as a possible culprit – not least because they already have him in the frame for another more sinister crime.

Owen’s always been a little different, and before long others in the community are baying for his blood. But this is a case where nothing is as it seems – least of all Owen Hall…

The Thrillers That Inspired ‘Lies’ by T M Logan #blogtour

tm-loganThrillers that inspired LIES

Who can say where stories come from? For me, they start with a tiny core, a single idea. Maybe a character or a single situation, a point of crisis or a relationship I want to know more about. Wrap a few more ideas around the core, then a few more, check its pulse to make sure it’s starting to live and breathe. Then sit down and start writing.

The core idea of LIES came to me while we were driving to Brittany for our summer holiday. I was supposed to be navigating but got so caught up with the idea – and scribbling it down in my notebook before it disappeared – that we got lost. We had to go on a bit of a magical mystery tour to pick up our route again, but the story of LIES was already starting to live and breathe (in my head, at least).

Like everyone else, though, I’ve been inspired and influenced over the years by thrillers that I’ve loved and the people who have written them. My favourite authors include Michael Connolly, Harlan Coben, Linwood Barclay, Tana French, Lee Child, Sophie Hannah, Bernard Cornwell, Peter Swanson, Stephen King, Gillian Flynn and Ken Follett. I’ve missed lots out, but that might give you an idea of the kind of stories that I love to read – and write.

In no particular order, here are a few of the stories that inspired LIES:

I remember being bowled over by Harlan Coben’s Tell No One. It was the first time that I’d read one of his thrillers and it featured his trademark combination of a cracking story, great dialogue, compelling bad guys and a protagonist you’re rooting for from page one. Coben is also adept at bringing in technology and making it a turning point in his story, as when the hero sees an image of his wife – supposedly dead for eight years – on his computer screen.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was one of many great recommendations from my wife, Sally. I loved this book. The slow unravelling of the truth about Amy Dunne takes the story in ways you can’t predict. Is she alive or dead? Is her husband involved in her disappearance? Is the truth simply what we believe it to be? The blurring of fact and fiction, the creation of different versions of the truth, feature strongly in LIES.

I have lots of favourites by Stephen King but Misery is at the top. It’s so simple, basically two characters in a house for 95 per cent of the story, and yet he manages to make it utterly gripping and terrifying. Stephen King is the master at that sense of ‘creeping doom’, at building the tension slowly, as Paul Sheldon comes to realise that there is something very, very wrong with the situation in which he finds himself.

A Simple Plan by Scott Smith grabbed hold of me in such a way that it became like an addiction. A real high concept premise – three guys find a bag full of money in the woods – but so many twists and turns that it was impossible to put down. At its heart it’s about the terrible things people will do in pursuit of what they think is right, and the crimes they will justify on the way.

Last but definitely not least (and not a book, either), I tip my hat to Les Diaboliques, a French film about betrayal, obsession, and murder. Check it out if you ever get the chance. It has a killer twist – when it was shown in cinemas, a title screen appeared at the end of the movie asking the audience not to reveal it to others, so they wouldn’t spoil the surprise. I hope the twist at the end of LIES has a similar impact!

What are your favourite thrillers? Let me know @TMLoganAuthor

lies

 

WHAT IF YOUR WHOLE LIFE WAS BASED ON LIES? 

When Joe Lynch stumbles across his wife driving into a hotel car park while she’s supposed to be at work, he’s intrigued enough to follow her in.

And when he witnesses her in an angry altercation with family friend Ben, he knows he ought to intervene.

But just as the confrontation between the two men turns violent, and Ben is knocked unconscious, Joe’s young son has an asthma attack – and Joe must flee in order to help him.

When he returns, desperate to make sure Ben is OK, Joe is horrified to find that Ben has disappeared.

And that’s when Joe receives the first message . . .