Archive for the ‘amateur sleuth’ Tag

Monthly Round-Up: January 2017

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I’m a bit late with this round-up since it’s now 1 February. So how have I been doing in the first month of this year? Let’s see…

OUT NOW

Nothing new out, but I’ll take this opportunity to pimp the existing works.

Horror

The Whispering Death
Suffer The Children

Crime (Contemporary Amateur Sleuth)

Death Scene
Dead Cool

Short Story Collection

Soul Screams

PUBLICITY

No guest blog posts to report. However, I am running a Goodreads Giveaway for THE WHISPERING DEATH for February, with two free paperback copies of the book to giveaway. You can enter here. Please note this is for UK entrants only, due to postage costs. Please promote the giveaway if you are able to – I am hoping to raise awareness of the book and perhaps get a few more reviews. There will be more giveaways over the next few months so watch this space.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Work has started on a new horror novel. Since this one is to be delivered to KGHH this year I am pressing on with it, and I have achieved nearly 10,000 words in the first month of the year. It is set in the Arctic, and it has the title OUTPOST H311.

Meanwhile the fourth Shara Summers novel is also a work in progress.

Plenty to keep me busy, then. See you at the end of February!

Happy New Year 2017

So here we are at the start of another year – a time to reflect on the year that’s past and look at what one might want to change for the new one. And when you put your New Years’ Resolutions into a blog post, you can’t really ignore them.

I resolved to finish the two novels I was working on in 2016. One of them was SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the third Shara Summers novel, which happily was finished, and submitted, and at this point in time it is scheduled for release by MuseItUp Publishing some time in Autumn 2017.

The second was an as-yet-unnamed horror novel. Unfortunately I ended up shelving this project. I got about 20,000 words in and decided it really wasn’t working, all the characters were cardboard cut-outs and the plot was too thin.

I’ve spent some time over the Christmas period plotting the outline of a new idea. It’s very early days yet, but this one I am rather more excited by, and I hope to have the plot outline finished over the next few days, and then I can start writing it. Just as well, since I’m contracted to Kensington Gore (which is now officially known as KGHH Publishing) to release another horror novel in 2017.

So, as at the beginning of 2016 I am once more resolving to have two new novels finished by the end of the year: one is the aforementioned horror novel, and the second is the fourth book in the Shara Summers series. Which is already nearly 30,000 words into the first draft, so good progress has been made thus far. It would be good to be able to have the fourth book done by the time the third book comes out.

And that’s pretty much the only resolution I’m making for 2017. Connected to that is the need to be way more disciplined in the writing. I whinge about having to get up early to fit the writing in around the day job, but most writers have to juggle the writing around other things so I am not in a unique position. We all have the same number of hours in a day. What we choose to do with those hours is up to us.

I am going to endeavour to pay more attention to this blog, which has been somewhat neglected over the last couple of months, but I made the same resolution last year. I am going to carry on with my ‘Monday’s Friend’ feature, which is open to writers of any genre, so if anyone wants a slot, get in touch.

I’m not going to spend time discussing the things going on in the wider world. I don’t have any control over any of it, and I am making a point of trying to be less stressed about the things beyond my control. The only things I can control are the decisions I make that directly affect my life, and the way I organise my time. So this is what I will focus on for 2017. The universe will unfold itself the way it sees fit, whether I like it or not.

I wish you all a happy and productive 2017, and I wish you luck in achieving your goals for the year, whatever they may be.

Monthly Round-up: December 2016

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Well the blog has been somewhat neglected over the last couple of months. I resolve to pay it more attention next year.

We find ourselves at the end of 2016, so this post will be a reflection of my writing year, and not just activities of the past month.

OUT NOW

My two horror books were re-released this year. MuseItUp published SUFFER THE CHILDREN (Kindle versions available on Amazon UK and US sites).

Meanwhile, KGHH Publishing (formerly known as Kensington Gore) re-released THE WHISPERING DEATH with a wonderful new hand-drawn cover. It’s available in paperback, and on Kindle UK and US formats.

PUBLICITY

I pledged to have at least one guest appearance a month this year. I mostly succeeded to October, but the last couple of months of the year dropped off for various personal reasons. A full list of all my online appearances can be found on my website.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I’ve made some progress with the first draft of the fourth Shara Summers book, which is entitled DEADLY SUMMER. The third book will be released next year, and I hope to have the fourth book in a state to be submitted by this time next year.

I’m also contracted to submit another horror novel to KGHH in 2017. The one I was working on at the beginning of this year I have since abandoned since it really wasn’t working. I now have the plot of a new book formulated, so I need to get motoring on that one.

I have a feeling that 2017 is going to be a difficult year for many,  so I’m sending strength and positive thoughts out there into the ether, to fortify us all.

 

Monthly Round-Up: April 2016

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I am once more a week late with my monthly round-up. Life is a bit hectic. But there is news to report, so on with it.

COMING SOON

Final edits for SUFFER THE CHILDREN are done! I still have no confirmed release date, or a cover, but I think we’re looking at a summer release.

And in case you missed it last month, the third Shara Summers book, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, has been contracted to MuseItUp and will be out in 2017 – likely Autumn.

PUBLICITY

I only had one guest appearance this month, but it was a rather interesting one. Susan A Royal interviewed my amateur sleuth Shara Summers on her blog on 11 April.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I’m about 7000 words into the new horror novel, but I’m not happy with what I’ve got so far. I’ve only recently realised how to fix it, and it’s going to need a reboot. Scrap and start over. Oh well. With any luck, some of the words already written will be salvageable.

I’ve also got the muse whispering in my ear at the moment with the plot of the fourth Shara Summers book, demanding to be written. I’m trying to write only one book at a time, so thus far I’ve been attempting to resist the urge to succumb to this one. But the Muse is whispering quite loudly. All I can really say at this stage is that this book will take Shara to New York. I feel another visit there might be required. You know, just for inspiration.

That’s it for now, so go off and enjoy the spring sunshine, and I’ll catch you next month.

DEAD COOL Launch Day!

Dead Cool 200x300It’s here at last! The long-awaited release day for the second Shara Summers novel, DEAD COOL. And I’m celebrating with an online launch party on Facebook later today. It will be starting around 6:30pm Greenwich Mean Time – when I get home from the day job, basically. If you go to the FB event, it is clever enough to tell you what time it will start in your time zone.

There will be prizes on offer, and chat. I will get the ball rolling here by offering one free copy of DEAD COOL, in whichever e-book format you prefer.  Comment on this post to be in with a chance of winning.  If you put a comment on the Facebook event page today as well, you’ll get to go in the draw twice! The draw will be made at noon tomorrow.

If you don’t want to wait that long for your copy, you can buy it in all e-book formats direct from MuseItUp. For Kindle owners, the UK link is here and the US link here.  And if you’ve got a Kobo or a Nook, I’m even giving you the links to buy it there, too.

As a teaser, here is the back cover blurb:

Actress Shara Summers has settled in London and is “between jobs” when her Canadian ex-boyfriend David sails back into her life, begging to her to fill the backing singer vacancy in the up and coming band he’s about to go on a European tour with. Short on funds and auditions Shara reluctantly agrees, but tragedy strikes at the opening night party when the band’s charismatic front man Dallas Cleary Anderson falls to his death from a hotel window. It soon becomes clear that Dallas did not fall, but was pushed. His arrogant and confrontational manner means there are no shortage of people who wanted him out of the band permanently – but who would resort to murder?

Until I get home from work, the celebrations will be limited to a little virtual champagne.  But do stop by the online party later, for some more serious celebrations.

Cheers!

champagne

 

 

DEATH SCENE Release Day!

It’s here at last! DEATH SCENE is released! Or, I should say, officially re-released since this is the second publication for this particular book. But a different publishing house means a different editing process, so if you did read it the first time round, you’ll find there are some differences in this version.

Death Scene 200x300I am very excited about this day finally arriving, and I love DEATH SCENE’s fab new cover. To celebrate sending my amateur sleuth Shara Summers out into the world once more, I am giving away a free copy of the e-book. To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is post a comment on this blog. It’s that easy. There aren’t even any questions to answer! Everyone who has posted a comment by midnight (GMT time) tonight will go into the drawer, and the winner will be chosen at random tomorrow morning. When you post your comment, please ensure you include your email address in the comments form when it asks you to, so I know how to contact you if you should win.

If you don’t win, there will be another chance to win a second copy, as I am making a guest appearance on John Rosenman‘s blog tomorrow and giving away another copy. So swing by there on Tuesday and post another comment.

If you still don’t win, and have to resort to buying a copy, it is available in all e-book formats from MuseItUp Publishing now.

And because I know some people like their one-click Kindle buy options, I’m even going to supply links to worldwide Kindle purchases (which of course are restricted by region).

09_25_53---Glass-of-Champagne_web

USA
UK
Canada
Australia

If I’ve left out your region I’m sorry. I am rather assuming I’m not internationally famous at this stage.

And while you’re surfing the Internet, go and check out Victoria Roder’s blog, where today I am making a special release-day appearance talking about family ties and how important they are to my amateur sleuth.

And while you’re doing that, I’m going to have some more virtual champagne. Cheers!

Cover Reveal: DEAD COOL

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)
Dead Cool 200x300
I am happy to be able to reveal the cover for the forthcoming Shara Summers mystery DEAD COOL, once more designed by the talented Charlotte Volnek.

Unlike DEATH SCENE, which was a re-release, DEAD COOL is a brand new title and the cover was previously uncharted territory. Trying to imagine what should be on the cover of a new book is always a challenge. You want something eye-catching, which will attract readers, and which will give a hint of what the story is about. I liked some of the features Charlie came up with for the DEATH SCENE cover and wanted some of the same things on this one – the clapperboard with ‘Shara Summers mystery’ on, and the same font for the title, for instance.

I wasn’t initially happy with the first cover model. I was rather hoping for the same model as on the DEATH SCENE cover, in a different pose, but apparently that’s not always possible with stock images. So on this cover Shara looks different than she does on the first cover. I am trying not to fixate too much on this. It’s sort of like changing actresses for the same character in a soap. But that always bugged me, too.

Anyway, despite that it is a cool image. Shara has an appropriately ‘rock chick’ look in this, and I like the purple-tinted empty drum kit and microphone in the background, looking stark and sinister under the single spot.

DEAD COOL is scheduled for release by MuseItUp Publishing in mid-October. Woo hoo!

Cover Reveal for DEATH SCENE Re-release

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

At last I can reveal the cover for the MuseItUp re-release of DEATH SCENE.  And doesn’t it look fab?  With this book being a re-release, the question of what to do with the cover seemed to be more problematic than the first time around.   The first cover was much simpler – the comedy/tragedy masks on a black background, with a backdrop of red theatre curtains.  I was very pleased with that cover.

Death Scene 200x300But this time around, I wanted something a bit different.  I wanted an image of my main character on the cover.  I wanted something to suggest ‘action’ and ‘mystery’, and yet still wanted to suggest the theatrical nature of my amateur sleuth’s main profession.  This cover, by the fabulous Charlotte Volnek, does all of this and more.

And for the first time, Shara appears on the cover of a book.  I will say that this image is now how I initially pictured her.  But it seems somehow right, and I love it.  Here she looks mysterious and sort of ordinary, and that really fits the character.  She also has, here, a passing resemblance to the model on the original covers of Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski series.  And since Shara was inspired by V.I. Warshawski, that fits too.

This may not have been how I imagined Shara when I wrote the first two books about her.  But it’s how I’m going to see her from now on, and it’s how I’ll picture her when I write the next book.

Release date for DEATH SCENE not confirmed, but it’s looking likely to be June some time.  And at present, I’m busy lining up blog tours.

In the meantime, I’m knee deep in edits for both Shara books.  So I’d best get to it.

The Further Adventures of Shara Summers

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

My editor at MuseItUp has been quite busy.  Not only have I received the second round of edits on DEATH SCENE from her, I’ve also received the first round of DEAD COOL edits.

As well as meaning I know what I’ll be doing for the Easter weekend, it makes the whole thing a bit more real.  DEATH SCENE is scheduled for release next month.  DEAD COOL will follow a few months later.

This is all very exciting stuff, particularly with a series that I had pretty much given up on completely at one point (and if you’re a recent visitor to this blog, do a search on the Shara Summers tag to get a better idea of what I’m talking about here).  Shara now has a home with MuseItUp.  And with the contract for DEAD COOL stating that they want first refusal of any sequel, it makes writing more Shara books an attractive prospect.  When I thought I was writing the second book of a series that no one was going to buy, I found it a bit discouraging to carry on with it.

The homage to Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, which I started writing as the original sequel to DEATH SCENE and then gave up halfway through, I am now giving serious thought to reviving as the third book in the Shara series.  This one originally suffered from lack of plotting, when I got stuck halfway through and abandoned because I made the mistake of starting to write the book without working out first how it was going to end.

The thing is, though, there was a publisher last year I sent DEAD COOL to and it got a very enthusiastic response from the editor there.  So much so that she asked questions about the first book, and the third, and at one point we were talking about a three book deal.

Sadly in the end this did not lead to a deal – not because of the editor, who remained enthusiastic, but apparently she could not convince her sales people that there was a market for a contemporary British-based Amateur sleuth in the US, and the US was too big a market for them to overlook this.  And that’s a whole different topic – let’s not go there.

The point of mentioning this is that when this editor asked me for a plot summary of Book 3, as part of her negotiations with the marketing people, I had to come up with one quickly.  This obliged me to go back to my half-finished novel and decide how it was going to end.  This plot summary is something I now do as a matter of course (see last week’s post on Plotting), but at the time I started this manuscript I didn’t, and it became one of the many casualties I abandoned halfway through before I learned the valuable lesson about how important it is to plot.

Anyway, the point of this rather roundabout tale is that because of this sequence of events I now have a complete plot outline for the next Shara book.  And I’m starting to feel increasingly enthusiastic about writing this book.

There are other, less developed ideas as well for other Shara books.  I want to take her back to New York (where she starts out in the opening scene of DEATH SCENE), in a story that will involve a secondary character in DEAD COOL (no spoilers!).  So maybe that’s book 4.

On the first round, Shara didn’t reach a very big audience.  But there are a handful of loyal fans out there who are interested in what happens to her next.

When one of them happens to be your editor, it does renew your faith in your character.

Plotting

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

On the crime panel at Sci Fi Weekender, I found myself – quite literally – between two opposing views on plotting.  At one end of the table was a writer who was evangelical about the importance of plotting.  At the other end of the table was a writer who says she never plots and believes she would lose interest in writing about her characters if she knew what was going to happen to them next.  I was sitting in the middle.

I was struck by how neatly this set up demonstrated opposing views on plotting.  Some writers are plotters, some are ‘seat of pantsers’, but rarely have I seen two extremes demonstrated so neatly on the same panel.   And it inspired me to come up with this post.

I am on the side of the plotters, I have to say.  But it hasn’t always been that way, and it has been my own experience that has brought me to this way of thinking.

When I started writing SUFFER THE CHILDREN, it was based on a short story called “Kiddiwinks”.  The story was basically about a group of children telling scary stories to each other about the witch that allegedly lives in the haunted house.  They dare each other to go in and discover that it is, indeed, occupied by a sinister old woman.  Who, they learn too late, eats children.  The writing group encouraged me to turn this short story into a novel, and the premise behind SUFFER THE CHILDREN was born.

When I began the novel I knew the monster was to be a mythological creature, and that the main characters would have to defeat the creature.  What I didn’t know at the time was how they were going to do that.  I began the first draft, thinking that ideas would come to me as I went along.  I ended up writing half the novel, and then got stuck.  I went back to the beginning, and re-wrote the first half, but I was still stuck at the same point.  My characters were floundering around saying that they had to defeat this evil creature, but they had no idea how to do it, and neither did I.  I put the novel away, for a good five years – writing short stories in the mean time.  I dreaded going back to it.  I had no idea how I was going to write myself out of the hole I’d dug for myself.

But I wanted to finish the novel, and eventually I bit the bullet and realised I had to work out how it was going to end.  So I went back to the beginning and wrote a three-page summary of the whole novel.  From there I took that summary and broke it down into a chapter by chapter plan, from beginning to end.

At that point, I went back and started the novel over.  And lo and behold I got to the end of the first draft.

I have used this technique for writing ever since.  I write the plot summary first – usually it runs to three pages.  I break that down into a chapter by chapter outline.  Only then do I start writing the first draft.

Some people baulk at such a regimented plan, but this is now the only way I can write a novel.  It means that every time I sit down for a writing session, I review what I wrote last time, and I look at my chapter plan and I know what’s going to happen next.  Sometimes my chapter plan is quite brief – it might say, for instance, that in chapter 10 my amateur sleuth has to discover X about this character, which turns out to be a vital clue.  But how she’s going to discover this piece of information I still have to think about when I sit down to write the chapter.

This doesn’t mean that things always go to plan.  Writing the first draft of DEAD COOL I was surprised to discover about three quarters of the way through the first draft that the killer was not who I initially thought it was.  But knowing the identity of the real killer suddenly made a lot of things in the plot that hadn’t been making sense click into place, and all I actually had to do to correct the second draft was to plant a couple of extra clues and rewrite a few scenes with different characters.  And of course it did change the ending a bit.

If you’re a pantser and not a plotter, I am not disrespecting the way you work.  Everyone has to find the system that works for them.  But I will say, as a reader, I can tell when a book has not been plotted.  Generally the book will start off with the characters heading in a certain direction, and suddenly they’ll lurch off and head in a completely different direction. Some people might say that they enjoy unexpected twists like this, but I tend to find them a bit off-putting.  But this is just me.  On the whole, I don’t like surprises.

Perhaps we can liken writing a novel to taking a journey.  A plotter takes the GPS, and the map.  They’ve studied the route beforehand, they know where they are going and how they are going to get there.  There are no surprises.  This is the way I work.  Occasionally I might take a slightly different road than the GPS suggests, because instinct suggests there’s a better way, but only if I’m confident that I’m still going to end up in the same place.

A pantser, on the other hand, will get in the car and start driving.  For them, it’s about the journey, not the destination.  They will get lost, they will arrive very late, they might end up someplace completely unexpected, but they enjoy the journey and not knowing what’s around the next corner.

Plotting and pantsing is reflected in reading preferences, too.  I much prefer to read books that are plot driven, with a clear beginning, middle and end.  Readers who are more fond of character-driven books and ‘surprises’ are going to be more fond of writers who don’t plot.  And I suspect such readers may not get on very well with my books – they might consider them too predictable.

This is one of those issues that always causes lively debate – there’s no right or wrong answer, it’s entirely down to personal preference.  Whether you’re a reader, or a writer, where do you stand?