12 Words with Lucy Cameron

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Lucy Cameron was born in London and having lived in South Wales, Liverpool, York and Nottingham, currently lives in a shed in her Dad’s garden in Scotland where she wears thermals for warmth and writes by candlelight.  Her debut novel Night Is Watching is published by Caffeine Nights and is available to buy now.

Today, as part of the LifeOfCri.me Harrogate countdown she’s taking on our 12 word challenge.

 

Rules

All answers must be complete sentences and completed in no more than 12 words

Contractions Count.  It’s = 2 words

LOC: You’ve recently released your debut novel Night Is Watching, what can you tell us about it?

LC: It is a dark horror tale set in reality and the mind.

LOC: How would you describe your writing process?

LC: Wordy rambling first drafts heavily edited.

LOC: How would you describe getting your first book deal?

LC: Without a doubt the most spectacular moment of my life so far.

LOC: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your writing career so far?

LC: Believe in yourself, you can be as good as everyone else.

LOC: What words of wisdom do you have for aspiring authors?

LC: Keep going even when it is really tough, you will get there

LOC: What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 12 months?

LC: Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough

LOC: Why?

LC: The best end twist to a book I have ever read.

and finally just for laughs..

LOC: Thanks to the author Leigh Russell you’ve just woken up on stage in front of the judges of Britain’s Got Talent, with only A Stick of Celery, a Panda and a Top Hat.  What do you do?

LC: Tickle the panda with the celery stick whilst wearing the top hat.


Can You Feel Your Blood Drain…

Couples are being slaughtered in their homes; women drained of blood, men violently beaten. There are no clues to track the killer, no explanation as to why an increasing amount of blood is being removed from the crime scenes.

Detective Sergeant Rhys Morgan is seconded to the ‘Couples Killer’ investigation. Tormented by vivid nightmares, he hasn’t slept soundly for weeks becoming convinced a creature from these nightmares poses a threat to him and his family. His behaviour becomes increasingly erratic causing his bosses to wonder if he’s the right man for the job.

As clues to the killer’s identity are uncovered, the line between what is real and what cannot be starts to blur and Rhys discovers the answer to catching the killer and exorcizing his own demons, may be as irrational as he fears.

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

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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.

David Young On Trabants, Ketwurst and Blue Stranglers

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Debut novelist David Young’s first Oberleutnant Karin Muller novel, Stasi Child is out now for Kindle, and here as part of his blog tour, David talks to LifeOfCri.me about a few of those things particularly loved by the East Germans.

 

imageEast Germany – or more properly, the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik in German) – is now a lost world, and many would say that’s for the best, trapped as its citizens were behind the fortified Berlin Wall and the inner German border.

But twenty-five years after the two Germanies reunited (the anniversary was earlier this month), there are still some things from the communist state that its former inhabitants hanker after. It’s spawned a form of nostalgia with its own name – Ostalgie. In my novel Stasi Child there are plenty of references to products and brands which were peculiarly East German. Some were so popular they still survive today.

Cars

My detective, Oberleutnant Karin Müller, and her deputy, Unterleutnant Werner Tilsner, drive around in an unmarked police Wartburg. But the most iconic East German car was the much-maligned Trabant. The Trabi can still occasionally be seen on the streets in eastern Germany today, even though it was made out of a strange product called Duroplast – a mixture of recycled cotton and resin. It had a horribly inefficient two-stroke engine, a top speed of 62 mph, and emitted between five to nine times the pollution levels of even an average 2007-vintage western European car. Nevertheless, they were much sought after, with citizens often on a years-long waiting list, so lucky owners maintained them meticulously. Wartburgs – a step up from the Trabi – were made of steel, and were even exported to the UK. Müller and Tilsner in Stasi Child would probably have driven a Wartburg 353 – nicknamed ‘Farty Hans’ because, like the Trabant, it was a two-stroke with copious exhaust emissions.

Food

In the original draft of Stasi Child, I had Müller eating a Ketwurst – a ketchup wurst (the German name for sausage) bought from an outdoor stand. The Ketwurst was an East German ‘invention’ – developed by the fantastically-titled State Gastronomic Research Centre – to rival the American hot dog. Then I discovered it didn’t come into being until 1977 or ’78, while the novel is set in 74/75. So instead she wards off her hunger with a quarter Broiler. The broiler was simply grilled or fried chicken and an East German fast food staple.

Other famous East German food products include the ones listed by my teenage characters in the second, parallel narrative of Stasi Child. For example, Nudossi (sometimes nicknamed Ost-Nutella) – a hazelnut and chocolate spread which actually has a higher proportion of hazelnuts than its western equivalent and is still produced today (it’s delicious!). Another is Spreewald pickles – pickled gherkins in glass jars produced in a wooded area 100 kms south-east of Berlin, which famously feature in the film Good Bye Lenin! Then there was the GDR’s answer to Coca Cola: Vita Cola, advertised as a ‘carbonated soft drink with fruit and herb flavoring’ and like its more famous western cousin, produced according to a ‘secret recipe’.

There are still restaurants in the eastern part of Germany where you can sample traditional East German dishes. One of them – the restaurant attached to the DDR-museum in Mitte – serves the favourite dish of Müller’s husband, Gottfried, Gebackene Apfelringe (baked apple rings). This features in a particularly harrowing scene in the novel.

Alcoholic Drink

Drinking alcohol was almost a national pastime in East Germany. The GDR’s official youth movement, the FDJ, even had a song about drinking beer. In the mid 1970s – when Stasi Child is set – an East German medical specialist estimated that 5% of adults in the GDR were alcoholics: four times as many as in West Germany. In my opening scene, Müller and Tilsner wake (in Tilsner’s marital bed!) with hangovers after downing too much Blue Strangler the night before. Blue Strangler in the early days of the GDR referred to 40% proof crystal vodka, and got its nickname from the blue label of the bottles (a later version actually branded as Blue Strangler was actually a grain schnapps of lower alcohol content). Although former East German detectives I spoke to insisted there was no drinking on duty or during a case, alcohol was part of daily life. East German women’s magazines even advised a special diet for those wanting to lose weight: the wurst and vodka diet!

Interestingly, when the 1989 protests which led to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and East Germany began, alcohol consumption slumped to historic lows within a matter of weeks.

 

Stasi Child by David Young is out now in ebook. The Paperback will follow in February 2016.

Silent Scream – Angela Marsons

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imageFive figures gather round a shallow grave. They had all taken turns to dig. An adult sized hole would have taken longer. An innocent life had been taken but the pact had been made. Their secrets would be buried, bound in blood …

Years later, a headmistress is found brutally strangled, the first in a spate of gruesome murders which shock the Black Country.

But when human remains are discovered at a former children’s home, disturbing secrets are also unearthed. D.I. Kim Stone fast realises she’s on the hunt for a twisted individual whose killing spree spans decades.

As the body count rises, Kim needs to stop the murderer before they strike again. But to catch the killer, can Kim confront the demons of her own past before it’s too late?

I picked up Silent Scream not just as a fan of crime fiction, but also because finally there is a book that has been set where I grew up.  My Great Great Grandfather’s portrait hangs in the pub in The Black Country Museum, and if you mention the names of either of my Grandmothers to many of the staff working there, they’ll know exactly who I am. I’m a proud direct descendent Black Country girl, who’s moved away from home, and the memories that have been brought to mind of the places I lived, played and went to school have been a delightful aside.  I also believe it’s one of the things that helps with the mystery and intrigue of Silent Scream. With so many modern-day novels set in big cities or rural backwaters, it’s fantastic to see something in a setting more accessible to many, with its own quirks and issues of just who polices whom.

I absolutely loved the character of Kim Stone, and not only because of a shared loved of Kawasaki motorbikes.  I enjoyed the way that rather than being given a motorbike as transport in an effort to ‘butch up’ her personality, our feisty DI is but a true petrol head with a passion for bikes old and new.   She’s a sarcastic, rule breaker who, despite her childhood, cares more for her team than she’d like to let on.  Gritty, and determined, this DI is one fantastic character you’ll immediately want to get behind with a great line in sarcasm that will genuinely make you smile.

With a great cast of supporting characters around her, all of whom are well-developed and will have you keen to learn more about them, what’s most surprising about Silent Scream is that it is a debut novel. It’s cleverly put together with an intriguing plot that pull you in and have you whizzing through pages.  I’m definitely adding Angela Marsons to my ‘authors to watch’ list.

Blog Tour: What She Left by T R Richmond

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What She Left is a cleverly constructed fractured timeline novel, that re-builds the life of deceased journalist Alice Salmon, using the digital footprint left by herself and those she knew.  As part of his blog tour, T R Richmond writes for LifeOfCri.me about using multiple character first person narration.

Writing in the first-person offers benefits and challenges to a writer.

It allows you to really get inside the head of a character, exploring their brain’s innermost workings. The downside is you can only ever include what’s in their head. If your character hasn’t thought it, seen it or done it, it’s cheating to include it. 

When I was planning What She Left, I wanted to have my cake and eat it. I wanted to see the world as all my characters did. So I wrote the book from multiple first-person perspectives. 

This has always struck me as the most honest form of narration, because in reality we’re all the first-person narrators of our own lives. 

Our own take on events, our own view of the world and our narrative seems sacrosanct to us, but it runs alongside everyone else’s – at times diverging from theirs, at times converging with theirs. Some facts are inalienable, but we all see things differently – hence disputes over so-called ‘facts’. Hence why life contains so many grey areas. 

Such issues of perspective and reliability are as relevant in journalism as they are in fiction. When it comes to choosing which news to read, listen to or watch, we have to ask ourselves: Whose version of events is the most accurate? We have to ask ourselves: Who can we trust? We have to ask ourselves: are we looking for our existing world view to be reinforced?

The internet has been a game-changer when it comes to the reliability of news. Anyone can share information now and, while this “democratisation” brings benefits such as quickening the dissemination of news and challenging the exclusive cabal of information providers, it also means we’re exposed to heavily subjective material. 

Many journalists are as passionate as ever about objectivity and balance, but as “consumers” of news it’s vital we ask who the narrator is of any particular piece of work. What’s their agenda? Because, however objective a piece purports to be, if you follow it back far enough, it’ll be the brainchild of someone with inherently subjective opinions. The solution, perhaps, is to develop broad tastes when it comes to journalism, as we’re always advised to with fiction. That at least gives us a counterbalance, exposing us to multiple sides of any particular argument. Remember, in journalism as in life, there’s no such thing as an entirely reliable narrator. Hence why fiction written in the first-person can feel so authentic.

T. R. Richmond

 

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Click here to buy

What She Left by T. R. Richmond is published by Michael Joseph on 23rd April, priced £12.99

Meet Professor J Cooke on Tumblr and Alice Salmon on Facebook

The Liars Chair – Rebecca Whitney

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imageRachel Teller and her husband David appear happy, prosperous and fulfilled. The big house, the successful business . . . They have everything.

However, control, not love, fuels their relationship and David has no idea his wife indulges in drunken indiscretions. When Rachel kills a man in a hit and run, the meticulously maintained veneer over their life begins to crack.

Destroying all evidence of the accident, David insists they continue as normal. Rachel though is racked with guilt and as her behaviour becomes increasingly self-destructive she not only inflames David’s darker side, but also uncovers her own long-suppressed memories of shame. Can Rachel confront her past and atone for her terrible crime? Not if her husband has anything to do with it . . .

A startling, dark and audacious novel set in and around the Brighton streets, The Liar’s Chair will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final page has been turned. A stunning psychological portrait of a woman in a toxic marriage, Rebecca Whitney’s debut will show that sometimes the darkest shadow holds the truth you have been hiding from … 

A definite winner…

I thought 2014 was a fantastic year for debut novels, but already it seems that whilst we are barely into 2015, this is shaping up to be an even better year.

Rebecca Whitney’s debut has, for me, firmly established her as a writer of fabulous dark psychological thrillers, this is an amazing depiction of what can happen when one person relinquishes control, and how explosive and destructive the results can be when the balance of power in a relationship changes by even the smallest amount.

The Liars Chair is a totally addictive book, and I found reading it was like watching the most uncomfortable and disturbing piece of TV you can imagine and being unable to tear your eyes away from it.   You know you don’t want to bear witness to, or to be part of Rachel’s complete unravelling, but you cannot do anything except carry on reading and watch her complete breakdown, all the while praying for her salvation.

Rachel’s husband David is a completely vile character who immediately sets your teeth on edge with his controlling behaviour and all the way through the novel, as he becomes more and more loathsome all you want is for him to get his ‘just desserts’. That said Rachel is in no way a particularly likeable character either, the uncomfortable sense of her own complicity in the poisoning of her marriage and her totally selfish actions at the time of the accident, never quite leave you even though you feel sympathy for her situation, and find yourself willing her to find a way out of it.

The Liars Chair is a fantastic first novel that had me wanting to scream and shout at its characters, then forced me to throw it down in frustration, before immediately picking it back up to find out what happened next, and to me any book that can provoke such a strong emotional response is a definite winner.

My best books of 2013

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You see what I did there? Top Five & Top Ten book lists are great don’t get me wrong, but what happens if I can think of six standout books of the year or can only get up to say four, or nine? and how do I say one is so much better than the other that it deserves to be No 1 and the other No 5?

So here in no particular order and of no significant number are the books I read this year that have left enough of an impression on me that I consistently recommend them to anyone who asks what they should read.

The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald

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To paraphrase an old catchphrase when it comes to The Cry, “Ignore what it says on the tin.”  I’ve recommended this book to a lot of people, even lending my own copy out several times.  Most have read the synopsis on the back and said “it’s not for me.”  To them all I have said one thing, “trust me, just read the first few chapters…”  It’s all I’ve ever needed to say.  The book has been devoured and enjoyed by everyone.  It’s one of those times when the old adage rings perfectly true.

“never judge a book by its cover.”

Dead Gone by Luca Veste

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I was privileged enough to be given a copy of Dead Gone by Luca back in July and whilst the paperback isn’t out until next year, the e-book is already available so I’m personally classing it as a book of 2013.  Don’t be surprised however to see this touted around everywhere next year as a ‘book of 2014.’ Expect to hear it talked about a lot, it is simply that good.







Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason

20131219-081658.jpgIf this is the only Indridason book you ever read you’ll be disappointed, not at the book per se as it’s a decent standalone but at the fact I recommended it.  The reason for that is simple, this is a book for hardened Indridason fans, only if you’ve followed this series from the beginning can you appreciate it in its fullness for its completion of a story.  Compare it to being a devoted fan of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot then finally reading ‘Curtain‘ and you’ll have an inkling at just how great this book really is.



The Stranglers Honeymoon by Håkan Nesser

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Apparently The Stranglers Honeymoon is book nine of ten Inspector Van Veeteran books and the latest translated into English.  I say apparently, because I’d never read one before.  The good point is I really didn’t need to have read them to enjoy this.  The better point?  I’m now in the middle of sourcing the other eight.