The 5 Questions of Writing by guest author Elizabeth Ducie

I am delighted to welcome my friend and fellow Swanwicker, Elizabeth Ducie, to my blog today. Elizabeth has written many best-selling novels and several very useful non-fiction books sharing her expertise about the business of writing. I am so happy she has taken time out to join me to talk about her writing habits.

When I Write?

I write every day, of course. That’s what being a writer means, isn’t it?

Okay, so that might be a bit of a fib, but I certainly try to write every day, even if it’s just a few words,; and if I’m not working on anything major, or don’t feel particularly inspired, I’ll use writing triggers from my Writer’s Toolbox (a Christmas present from my husband) to get myself going. I work on the basis of an average of 500 words per day, apart from November when I take part in NaNoWriMo (the annual writers’ challenge to write 50K words in 30 days) when the average goes up to 1667.

I am very much a lark, rather than an owl, and often start work around 6am or earlier. Mornings are definitely my best time to write. When I am taking part in NaNoWriMo, I pride myself on getting my daily quota finished before breakfast each day.

A while ago, I decided that telling myself ‘I can’t write in the afternoon’ was just an excuse, and sometimes I do end up writing later in the day; but I’m less productive and much slower when I do.

Where I Write?

It really depends on the time of year, the weather, and what else is going on in my life at the same time. If I have a full day free, and if it’s not pouring down or freezing cold, then I will head over to my writing room, located on the other side of the garden, just a few steps from my front door. It’s light and airy, with glass on two sides, so it’s almost like being in the open air, especially during the warmer months when I can work with the doors wide open.

If it’s cold or wet, then I tend to take over the dining table instead and gradually spread all my note books and papers around the place, until there’s barely room for us to eat our meals. On the other hand, if it’s really warm, I will decamp to the patio and work under a huge umbrella. I only realised how easy that can be after a holiday in Greece last year, when I spent every morning pool-side, working on my latest book while enjoying the sunshine and an occasional dip to cool off.

When I first started writing creatively, I still had a day job and spent a lot of time in airports and hotels. So, I am equally happy writing on the move, although that will tend to be by hand in a notebook, rather than straight to screen. I always carry headphones with me which make it easy to shut out noisy backgrounds – like those found on a train or even in public libraries – so basically, I can write wherever I need to.

How I Write?

I tend to write direct to screen most of the time. That doesn’t mean it arrives on the page fully formed – far from it. I am quite happy with the concept that the first draft may well be garbage, since it’s much easier to edit garbage than a blank page. But I can type faster than I can write, so it’s the most productive way to capture the words. And as a scientist who measures everything, it also makes it easier for me to keep a check on my word count and update my spreadsheet.

When I’m travelling, I often make copious notes which often end up as blog posts. Those are always done by hand in a notebook.

Why I Write?

I know some people say they write for themselves and would not worry if no-one else ever saw their words. But with me, I think it’s an ego thing. I believe I’ve got stories to tell (fiction) and knowledge to share (non-fiction) and I want to get my words and ideas out there for people to read.

I’ve always loved crafting words into neat, expressive sentences. Even during the thirty years when I worked as a technical writer and manufacturing consultant, I took pride in the quality of the audit reports and training programmes I wrote. With all the travelling, I collected a lot of anecdotes and experiences that I knew I was going to write up ‘one of these days’.

Then in 2005, I was quite seriously ill for a while, and realised that today was ‘one of these days’. I started learning how to write creatively and, although I thought I was going to specialise in life writing, I found I was more comfortable putting real incidents into fictional situations. So, I concentrated on short stories to start with, then moved to the novels. And somewhere along the line, I slipped back to non-fiction as well – although these days it’s mainly business books rather than pharmaceutical manufacturing textbooks.

What I Write?

I’ve already said that I write both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve just published my fourth novel, Corruption!, which is the final part of a trilogy of thrillers set in the sometimes murky world of international pharmaceuticals (where else?). I’ve lived with Suzanne Jones, Charlie Jones and Francine Matheson for the past four or five years and really need a break from them (although the feedback I’ve had suggests many of my readers are not happy to see the series end, so I may have to revisit them at some point).

My next novel is going to be quite different from the previous ones: a time-slip story set in Russia, featuring the Romanovs; quite possibly with a fantasy element to it. I’ve worked in Russia for many years but am having to do a lot of research on the historical aspects. So, my fiction at the moment is restricted to an occasional short story. I plan to start writing the novel on 1st November.

In the meantime, I’m working on part 4 of The Business of Writing. This one’s called Independent Publishing and it’s aimed at answering the business questions a writer needs to ask before going down the indie route. It is due for publication in the summer.

The Author

I was born and brought up in Birmingham. As a teenager, I won a holiday to France, Spain and Portugal for writing essays and poetry in a newspaper competition. Despite this promising start in the literary world, I took scientific qualifications and spent more than thirty years as a manufacturing consultant, technical writer and small business owner, publishing a number of pharmaceutical text books and editing a technical journal along the way. I returned to creative writing in 2006 and since then, I have written short stories and poetry for competitions — and have had a few wins, several honourable mentions and some short-listing. I am also published in several anthologies.

Under the Chudleigh Phoenix Publications imprint, I have published one solo collection of short stories and co-authored another two. I also write and lecture on business skills for writers running their own small business. My debut novel, Gorgito’s Ice Rink, was published in 2014 and was Runner-Up in the 2015 Self Published Book of the Year Awards. In 2016, I published Counterfeit!, the first in a series of thrillers set in the sometimes murky world of international pharmaceuticals. The second in the series, Deception!, was published in 2017. The final part of the series, Corruption! will be published in September 2018.

Having left Birmingham to study in London, I lived for more than twenty years in Wilmington, Kent. In 2007, I moved to the South West of England, where I live with my husband, Michael, in a converted granary sited picturesquely on the banks of, and occasionally within the path of, a small stream. In 2012, I closed down my technical consultancy in order to concentrate full-time on my writing. In 2013 I graduated from Exeter University with an MA in Creative Writing

I am the editor of the Chudleigh Phoenix Community Magazine, a monthly online newsletter and for five years ran the Chudleigh Phoenix Annual Short Story Competition. I am a member of the Chudleigh Writers’ Circle and one of the organisers of the annual Chudleigh Literary Festival. I am also a member of Exeter Writers, West of England Authors and ALLi (The Alliance of Independent Authors). I spend far too much time on Facebook and Twitter, but have met some wonderful members of the writing community as a result.

When I am not writing, I am a keen reader and singer (I am a member of several local choirs). I also enjoy live theatre of any kind, share with my husband a love of fine dining, and am a real sucker for the kind of country house hotel where you can kick off your shoes and curl up with a book in front of a log fire. 

I would like you to believe I am also a keen walker, enjoying the beauties of Dartmoor and the South Devon coastline—but, as a writer, I’m good at making things up.

Advertisements

The 5 Questions of Writing by guest author Steve Catto

I am glad to welcome author Steve Catto to my blog today. Here he explains about his writing and how he came to writing novels. Welcome Steve, over to you!

When I started writing?
That’s difficult to say. I’ve written technical manuals and documents since I started work, about forty years ago and I’ve always experimented with writing little bits of fiction but never thought seriously about publishing them. I suppose that my first proper fiction novel came about by using ideas that I’d been scribbling down for years. I started writing bits of it about ten years ago, but at that point in time I didn’t have a plot or story to put them in.

How I write?
I don’t really write draft and then edit it. I edit as I go along, so the words that go on the page are pretty much tidy, and I don’t move on until I’m happy with them. Of course I go back over it later, many times, reading it all aloud to make sure that it trips off the tongue properly so that it can be narrated nicely. During that process I find words and expressions which don’t sound right, or which don’t work, or I spot holes or decide that different words might sound better. That actually takes much more time than writing the work in the first place. Although I started parts of Snowflakes about ten years ago I think I wrote the bulk of it in four months, and then spent nearly a year getting it to a point where I was happy with it. They say that music and art, which includes stories, are never finished – they’re just abandoned by mutual consent. You do get to a point where it simply can’t be made any better without expending a disproportionate amount of time on it, and you have to admit defeat and say that it’ll do, because there are other things which compete for your time.

Why I write?
I just want to make people think, and I want them to enjoy reading the words. I have lots of ideas and I want to tell people about them, but in a way which makes a believable story. It’s a release of emotions for me.

Where I write?
I do the writing mostly from my desk at work. I have my own business and office so, provided I do my work, I can pretty much write whenever I like. That means I’ll stop work if I have a particularly puzzling bit of thinking to do, and write a bit. I go away on business quite a lot, so there are train journeys and evenings in hotels when I can get things done.

What I write?

I didn’t know what it was that I wrote until I went to market it. Most authors will say that’s no way to write a book because you don’t have a target audience. That’s true. Snowflakes is a story about a group of four strangers thrown together in a world which is very much like ours but doesn’t work quite like ours. The three main characters have a complex relationship, but the fourth member of the cast is a mysterious little girl who has no clearly defined purpose. They all manage to get along, but only just. They don’t really understand why the world doesn’t work properly, and are oblivious to the things that the reader sees, which revolve around the little girl. In the end it seems that death is the only way to resolve the growing dissatisfaction with their lives, and for one of them it is.

I like the world building, and the prose. I like the descriptions of their world, with the skies and the river and the mountains. I want the words to be as important as the plot and the characters, so the reader enjoys reading them. People have called it “elements of magical realism in a real-world setting”.

After a lot of advertising and market research my publicist and I have decided that the full grand title for its genre is “speculative post-apocalyptic science fiction” which is odd because I think it’s more fantasy than science, but you can’t argue with the market. Those are the readers who like it after they’ve bought it, so that’s who we’ll sell it to!

I’m working on the sequel, whose working title is Into The Darkness. It’s the back-story of the mysterious little girl. In the meantime I’m writing short stories and flash to build my reader base, and loving every minute of it!

The Author in his own words

Steve Catto is an old man, or at least that’s what it says on his birth certificate. He was born in Yorkshire, but his parents took him to Australia when he was six years old and he grew up there, sometimes racing cars across the desert.

He was never very good at school, but the one thing he did learn was how to learn, and he started writing programs for the computer at the local university, much to the disdain of his teachers who told him that he would ‘never make a living out of that rubbish’. In his late teens he returned to the UK, and his parents followed him – which wasn’t what he wanted because he was hoping to get away from them.

His first proper job was in the computer department of an infamous Oxford publishing company, and he subsequently went on to write software for electricity control systems, and simulators for the military. He started to fly gliders and wrote programs to analyse the data from aircraft flight recorders, where he also learned to fly, and crash, lots of other types of aircraft as well – which was the best part of the job. 

At various times in his career he has also lived and worked in France, Switzerland, and Canada, and he now lives in Scotland. Since appearing in school plays as a child he has performed almost continuously on the amateur stage, and spent a few years scuba diving. These two things have nothing to do with each other.

In terms of his pedigree as an author he has written many technical manuals and filled in countless timesheets, so is well versed in the art of conjuring up works of fiction, however he has never written a novel before, especially not one that involves a blonde girl and a man with a bow and arrow, but he did once spend three weeks working in a factory that made handles for buckets.

Seven Deadly Swords by Peter Sutton

I am so happy to welcome author Peter Sutton to the blog today. He has agreed to share an excerpt of his new novel, Seven Deadly Swords as part of the Love Book Group Tours. It sounds like such a gripping story: I am truly excited to present this book to you. Be sure to follow the whole blog tour to find out more!

Blurb

For every sin, a sword

For every sword, a curse

For every curse, a death

Reymond joined the Crusades to free the Holy Land from the Saracens and win glory for himself. Instead, with six others, he found himself bound under a sorcerer’s curse: the Seven Sins personified. Doomed to eternal life and with the weight of the deaths he has caused dragging his soul into the torments of hell, Reymond must find his former brothers-in-arms and defeat them. Riding across a thousand years of history, the road from Wrath to Redemption will be deadly…  

The Excerpt

“A book?” Fisher asked the American who’d met them at Horseguards. They were enjoying a cigar and a brandy at the Yank’s expense.

“A special book. It’s been locked in a tomb for hundreds of years.”

Fisher exchanged a glance with Lumpy.

“And you want us along for?”

“The tomb is in Iran… “

Which was in the middle of a shitty war with Iraq. That was pretty hot, as far as theatres of conflict went.

“Iran?” Lumpy asked. Fisher watched the American carefully. What were they getting into?

“Are you up for it? I’ll pay you handsomely.”

“Let’s talk about how handsome this pay packet is. Is it leading Hollywood man handsome?” Lumpy asked.

They got down to talking about money.

Buy Link https://amzn.to/2TbM3iT

Twitter Handles

@Suttope 

@Kristell_Ink ‏  

#Lovebooksgrouptours

The Author

Peter Sutton is the author of three books: A Tiding of Magpies, a collection of ‘deliciously dark tales,’ Sick City Syndrome, an urban fantasy set in Bristol where he lives and Seven Deadly Swords – a historical fantasy thriller partly set in the crusades, partly set in the modern day.
On Twitter he’s @suttope and his website’s here http://petewsutton.com/ .

The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl

The new novel, The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl was published by Berkley, in July of 2018 and had been on my wish list, so when Love Book Group Tours approached me to take part in the blog tour and provide an honest review in exchange for a free copy of the book, I was only too happy to take part.

The Blurb

THE BOY AT THE DOOR:

Everyone has secrets. Even those who seem to be perfect…

On a rainy October evening, Cecilia Wilborg – loving wife, devoted mother, tennis club regular – is waiting for her kids to finish their swimming lesson. It’s been a long day. She can almost taste the crisp, cold glass of Chablis she’ll pour for herself once the girls are tucked up in bed.

But what Cecilia doesn’t know, is that this is the last time life will feel normal. Tonight she’ll be asked to drop a little boy home, a simple favour that will threaten to expose her deepest, darkest secret…

My Review

The Boy at the Door captured my attention from the very beginning. The main protagonist, Cecilia Wilborg lives with her successful, kind husband Johan and her two daughters in and affluent area of Sweden. However, everything changes and she finds she must face her past after she gives a young boy, Tobias, a lift home from swimming class one day.

Tobias has had a chquered past and has had to face a great deal of change in his short life. He has lived with a variety of people, some he remembers more fondly than others as the story wends its way across Northern Europe through Scandanavia and even to Poland.

What I enjoyed most about this novel was that the characters were three dimensional, they were distinct, flawed and fascinating. Even the unpleasant characters held my interest and the scene when Cecilia asks her well-heeled friends for help and they evaporate before her eyes was sadly realistic and deftly drawn.

Other things that makes the novel The Boy at the Door exciting, unpredictable and unsettling are the lies and exaggerations of the main protagonists. The reader very quickly realises that they cannot rely on everything they are told being true. The twists and turns continue throughout the novel right to the very end.

The Boy at the Door is a complex and absorbing story and if you enjoy mysteries, I highly recommend this novel. It is my favourite book so far of 2019 and will take some beating, if it is to be overtaken.

The Author

Alex Dahl is a half-American, half-Norwegian author. Born in Oslo, she wrote The Boy at the Door while living in Sandefjord.
 She graduated with a B.A. in Russian and German linguistics with international studies and went on to complete an M.A. in creative writing at Bath Spa University, followed by an M.S. in business management at Bath University. Alex has published short stories in the U.K. and the U.S. She is a serious Francophile and currently lives in both London and Sandefjord. The Boy at the Door is her first novel.


PRAISE FOR THE BOY AT THE DOOR:

“Unsettling, layered, bold, unpredictable, dark. EXCELLENT.” Will Dean, author of Dark Pines

“Remarkable… Dahl is able to ring satisfying changes on the familiar ingredients, and her heroine Cecilia, in particular, is one of the most distinctive that readers will have encountered in recent years.” Crime Time

“Stunning… an extraordinary plot; intricate and twisted with dark secrets emerging at every turn. An engaging mystery with an ending you won’t see coming.” Alexandra Burt

“Heartbreaking and HEAD-SPINNING.” Mary Torjussen, author of Gone Without a Trace

Buy Link

https://amzn.to/2CltDF0

Twitter Handles

@HoZ_Books

@alexdahlauthor#BoyattheDoor#LoveBooksGroup

The House Between The Tides by Sarah Maine

I was given the much feted novel The House Between The Tides by Sarah Maine as a Christmas Gift. I had heard many good things about the book so I was interested to read it.

The story is about a country house and its estate on a remote island in North West Scotland and the familes associated with it. The novel crosses a period of one hundred years and I found that it jumped backards and forwards a great deal.

The house on the remote Hebridean Island is inherited by Hetty Devereaux after the death of her grandmother. Hetty is the last of her line, having now no living relatives. She is unsure just what to do with her inheritance but
she is considering restoring the building and creating a modern resort. However, everything is halted when the human remains of an unknown person are discovered under an extension.

The novel is a debut mystery novel and some of the descriptions of the sea and of historic island life are vivid and atmospheric.

The House Between the Tides sets itself as a mystery of lies, secrets, passion and betrayal, but I found the story a bit pedestrian and predictable. The time changes and changes of points of view, sometimes within the same paragraph, were also confusing. There were also many characters with very similar names. This made it difficult to tell one from another.

The broad story held my interest but I found this novel disappointing, particularly in light of the amount of praise it has received.

The Author

Sarah Maine was born in England and emigrated to Canada with her family at the age of ten. A small northern Ontario community was home for the next two years before the family moved south, and Sarah went to high school in Toronto. She returned to England to study archaeology, stayed on to do research and work, married there and has two sons. 
Books were always important. She grew up on a diet of Arthur Ransome and Robert Louis Stevenson but also the classics, Jane Austen and the Brontés and, of course, Daphne du Maurier – but now enjoys a wide range of contemporary fiction. 
She has publlished three books – The House between Tides, Beyond the Wild River and Women of the Dunes and is currently working on her fourth, set partly in New Zealand.

Val Penny

The 5 Questions of Writing by guest author Tom Halford

I am happy to welcome my friend and fellow author, Tom Halford, to my blog today. Tom’s debut novel was published by Crooked Cat Books in 2018 and he is now writing his second novel which will be published in 2019.

Thanks for having me on this blog, Val. I really appreciate it.

When I write?

I’m going to answer this question as, “When did I start writing?” For as long as I can remember, I liked to write stories. My parents encouraged it, and my oldest brother Pete wrote stories, too. It seemed cool, and so I followed his lead.

As I got older, writing and making movies was something that friends and I did. A close friend and I would write these comedic, ultra-violent short-stories. We actually got in trouble at school over one of them. Later, in High School, a group of us would write skits and film-scripts, too, and we’d record them together. That was probably one of the best memories of my teenage years.

Writing for me has been a way to be creative and to have fun with other people. It was never an overly serious experience until I started to study English at University. I’m not knocking literary studies. I’m just talking about myself as a creative writer. I also work on academic essays that focus on more serious topics, such as surveillance. However, now in my creative writing, I’m trying to go back to the fun and the entertaining side of reading and writing.

How I write?

I write on an old laptop. Little known fact about my laptop is that my wife actually ran over it with our car. This was when we were still living in the USA. I had placed my briefcase next to the back tire while I was strapping our daughter into her seat. Then I forgot about the briefcase, got in the passenger side of the car, and my wife turned the wheels as she backed out. We felt a bump and looked at each other. I saw my briefcase in the parking lot and immediately thought that the laptop had been crushed. Somehow, it survived. Thank you Apple.

As I write now, my laptop is currently resting on unsold copies of Deli Meat. It’s motivational.

Why I write?

Sometimes I wish I could stop writing. Don’t get me wrong. I love it. I think it makes me more awake to my own life. I just struggle to find time to actually write.

I think about quitting often, but there always seems to be an idea that gets me excited. With Deli Meat, I had this weird image of pickled beets in my mind that I needed to explore. I don’t know how to fully explain it, but writing Deli Meat was kind of like dreaming. I was awake for the editing process, but for the actual writing I was somewhere else. And maybe I’m just addicted to this dream-like state.

Where I write?

I write wherever I can and whenever I can. Usually, I write in my basement on an old card table that I found in our first apartment in America. It was tucked behind a door that led down to a musty cellar. For my first few weeks in the US, all I had was that card table and an air mattress. My family was arriving later, and our possessions were all in transit. It’s a special table for me. It reminds me that I don’t need much to write. I just need something flat and a means to forming letters.

What I write?

In terms of genre, I write comedic crime fiction, and I always try to keep things as strange as possible. For a long time, I had tried to write literary fiction, but I lost interest in it after I finished my PhD. I still read as much literary fiction as possible, but I don’t try to write it anymore. I’m not that serious of a person, and it feels like I’m trying too hard when I write more literary stuff.

Please don’t confuse what I’m saying here. Crime fiction is still literary. I guess I’m talking about the kind of fiction that authors like Alice Munro write. I’ll never be that good, and I don’t have the kind of gravitas that she possesses. Trying to write that kind of fiction will always be a losing battle for me. However, I think I can write a story that keeps people entertained.

I like books that make me laugh. I like books that make me feel surprised. I like books with outrageous characters and weird twists. I was honoured when a reviewer compared Deli Meat to Twin Peaks. I hadn’t realized it until I read that review, but that’s exactly the experience that I’m trying to create for readers through my fiction.

Currently, I’m working on a new book that I hope is even stranger than Deli Meat. So far, I’m succeeding.

The Author

Tom Halford is a writer, a teacher, a dad, and a husband. One of Tom’s favourite things in the world is a delicious sandwich. This might sound crazy, but the inspiration behind Deli Meat is Tom’s love of the sub, the hero, the hoagie, the grinder, the classic lunch time meal, the sandwich.

I Am Death by Chris Carter

The last time I chose a book by Chris Carter, my local library was having a clear out and I chose to read An Evil Mind. It is reviewed on this site – https://bookreviewstoday.info/2017/10/11/an-evil-mind-by-chris-carter/ So it was with I Am Death. The library was selling old stock at vastly reduced prices and I purchased the book.

I am not sure anyone could say they ‘enjoyed’ books by Chris Carter. Certainly the level of violence described in I Am Death was way above what I would normally read and I am not sure that I needed such detailed and repeated descriptions. However, his main protagonist, Robert Hunter is intruiging and the relationship he has with his partner, Carlos, is most gratifying, so I did persevere.

I Am Death tells the story of a psychopath whose serial killings each differ from one another because he is so damamged, he just enjoys the suffering of his victims. Hunter, like the author himself is an adept psychologist and it is interesting when Hunter is asked for psychological insight by his co-workers as the author himself will have been when he was working in that field.

I did guess the end, but will not spoil the story here for others. It is a fast paced, clever story that has the reader willing the police to solve the mystery. If you enjoy an exciting crime thriller, this book is worth your time.

The Author in his own words

I was born in Brasilia, Brazil where I spent my childhood and teenage years. After graduating from high school, I moved to the USA where I studied psychology with specialization in criminal behaviour. During my University years I held a variety of odd jobs, ranging from flipping burgers to being part of an all male exotic dancing group.

I worked as a criminal psychologist for several years before moving to Los Angeles, where I swapped the suits and briefcases for ripped jeans, bandanas and an electric guitar. After a spell playing for several well known glam rock bands, I decided to try my luck in London, where I was fortunate enough to have played for a number of famous artists. I toured the world several times as a professional musician.

A few years ago I gave it all up to become a full time writer. 

Val Penny

The Deaths on the Black Rocks by BRM Stewart

I am part of the Love Books Group Tour for the exciting new novel by BRM Stewart. I am really looking forward to reading this, especially since the author has shared an enticing extract here.

Blurb

It’s been a year since Rima Khalaf died in a fall from the Black Rock, deemed to be a tragic accident by the police.

But her grieving parents are dissatisfied with the police investigation, so DS Amanda Pitt is sent north from Glasgow to the small town of Clachdubh to re-examine the case.

Despite the suspicions of the distraught parents, all the circumstances seem to confirm Rima’s death was indeed a tragic accident until another woman is also found dead in the town.

Frustrated by the lack of any real evidence, DS Pitt pushes the limits of legality in her quest for the truth.  

Excerpt

She’d packed and checked out of the Clachdubh Hotel, and driven to the Rock with the vague idea that she had to see the scene of the death of Rima Khalaf. She had an hour or so before going back to the school to meet Rima’s housemate Mary – also a teacher there, but who hadn’t been available the day before.

There was a small car park, and then a path than zigzagged up the hill. Calling it ‘The Rock’ made it sound more impressive than it really was, thought Amanda. It was less than two hundred feet or so high, and an easy climb. It was almost all grass here, and mounds of dog dirt were evident all the way up – some on the path, and some wrapped in poop bags and then left for posterity.

But, at the top, the view was good. She could look back over the town to the remaining high-rises of Glasgow in the distance, and in all other directions to the mountains, some still with scatterings of snow in shady corners. She looked round, wishing she knew the names of those mountains, and then stepped to the edge.

The north side of the Rock was steep, and had apparently been made more so by the need to widen the road down below. There was no barrier, only a line of warning signs. Amanda looked over the edge. The grassy slope fell away, steeper and steeper, and then there was the drop to the edge of the road. Plastic mesh coated the side of the rock face.

Amanda could see how you might slide and then simply fall. But surely you would be aware of it right at the start. You’d catch hold of one of the many rocky outcrops and stop yourself, then pull yourself back up.

OK, late at night if you were drunk, you wouldn’t manage to retrieve the situation. Or if you were old or had poor balance.

Or if you’d been given a good, hard shove in the first place.

Amanda looked down. A van appeared on the road and drove past at speed. Amanda frowned. And waited for the next vehicle – a blue car, also going fast.

She found a small stone, waited till the next car appeared in view, and lobbed the stone underhand away down the grass. It bumped and jumped, and fell off the edge. Amanda didn’t see it reach the roadway – and tensed in case in smashed into the car, but nothing seemed to happen. She reckoned it hit the road pretty much at the same time as the car reached the spot.

Give or take, a body would probably do the same. So, bad luck that Rima Khalaf had fallen at just the right time to land on the roadway as a car was about to be at that spot? Or had the person giving the shove known that would happen?

She shook the thought away. She wasn’t here to investigate the death, she reminded herself. There were gaps in the investigation, but nothing material.

‘Careful,’ said a man’s voice behind her.

Amanda turned: he was an older man with a Jack Russell on a lead – one of the few breeds of dog she recognised.

‘A couple of young lassies have fallen over the edge here. Careful.’


Remember to follow the rest of the tour for more insight into this fascinating new book, The Deaths on the Black Rock.

Buy Link https://amzn.to/2Rp13NL

Twitter Handles @BRMStewart LoveBooksGroupTours@ThunderPointLtd 

The 5 writing Questions by guest author Susan Barnard

Susan Barnard is not only a gifted author in her own right, but she is also an editor of great patience, insight and lightness of touch. For all these reasons I am thrilled to have her visit my blog today to discuss her writing habits.

WHEN? I don’t have a set writing routine. Some writers do, but I can’t just sit down and write to order – and spending ages staring at a blank screen or a blank sheet of paper is, frankly, very dispiriting.

Having said that, my writing mind is never off duty. I often get some of my best ideas when I’m away from my desk: gardening, sorting the laundry, cooking, mowing the lawn, out walking, or listening to music. Sometimes the solution to a writing dilemma has come to mind when I’ve been at a concert, and on one occasion a complete stanza of a poem arrived, fully-formed, whilst I was sitting in a traffic jam.

HOW? I make notes by hand or on my iPad, but my main writing is done on my trusty laptop. I used to feel that every sentence had to be perfect right from the word Go, but now I’m much more flexible: I concentrate on getting the words down first, without worrying too much about the style or content, then fine-tune them afterwards. You can always go back later and edit what you’ve written, but you can’t edit a blank page.

WHY? Someone asked me recently: “What would you do if you weren’t writing?” My answer was “Pushing up the daisies”. I can’t imagine a life without writing.

WHERE? In winter, my desk is in a corner of our front room. In summer, it’s in the conservatory. If the weather is really good I sometimes take my writing out into the garden – though in the latter case the potential for getting distracted (either by watching the birds or seeing something that needs doing to the plants) is much greater…

WHAT? I write novels (I have five published and am currently working on a sixth), short stories, poems, articles, and the occasional stroppy letter to the Radio Times. I also edit books for other writers. Not to mention shopping lists, to-do lists, lists of ideas, and long lists of words that rhyme. My life is governed by lists. That’s how sad I am…

The 5 Questions of Writing by guest author Patricia M Osborne

I am thrilled that my friend and fellow Swanwicker, Patricia M. Osborne, has agreed to visit my blog today to explain about her writing journey. Over to you, Patricia.

Hi Val, thank you for inviting me over to your blog today to talk about my writing.

When Did I Start To Write?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and won my first poetry competition when I was around seven-years-old. The poem was titled ‘Clothes’ but that’s all I can remember about it. I can’t even remember the prize. However, it was only once I started a creative writing course as part of my Open University degree that I began writing more seriously. At first learning the technical tools stifled my creativity but my tutor assured me this was quite common. After finishing this module I embarked on an online visual poetry course during the summer break. This was fabulous for overcoming my writing inhibitions and by the time the advanced creative writing module started in the autumn my creativity had returned but now I was equipped to produce better writing.

After graduating with my BA degree in 2013, I spent a year adapting a screen play, written for my dissertation, into a novel and House of Grace was born.

In June 2014 my mum died. I’d been her part-time carer for her last seven years and losing her left a huge void in my life, so much so, I didn’t know who I was anymore. My husband suggested I study an MA to give me focus.

At first, I wasn’t interested in anything, including writing and study, but in September 2014, I spotted a new MA Creative Writing Course with Brighton University. The content was enticing so at the last minute I took steps to enrol. For my first assignment I produced a sequence of fictional poetry using a theme of lost identity. While writing these poems I was able to give the characters my pain which was great therapy. I was on my way to finding ‘me’ again.

In the meantime, my novel, House of Grace, sat on the computer doing nothing while I studied. It was only after my first visit to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August 2016 that I was inspired to finish my novel. When returning home, I revisited House of Grace, shipped it into shape for publication, and to be honest never looked back. I love writing and become grumpy if I’m not allowed to play with my characters and I love living in a writers’ world.

How Do I Write?

For short stories and poetry I plot. Starting in a notebook with a mind map, I build up a frame, and complete a first draft. This is then typed up into a word document on my PC so I can move words around with ease while layering and editing to bring the story to life.

My process of novel writing was similar. I plotted out chapters in my notebook making sure I had a beginning, middle and end. I’d stay with the notebook, writing the first few chapters out by hand, until I warmed up into the story and moved to the computer. So I suppose you could say I was a ‘Plotter.’

However, that was until November this year when I managed to complete NaNoWriMo for the first time and was able to do something that I never thought I could. ‘Keep my editor hat off.’ Therefore, instead of my normal routine, not moving on to the next chapter until I was happy, I marked what needed editing and researching in red font on the manuscript and moved on.

This technique was applied to the second half of ‘The Coal Miner’s Son.’ In other words, I stopped being a ‘Plotter’ and became a ‘Pantser.’ I found this method a more efficient way of working as my manuscript was ready for me to begin researching and editing in a very short time.

Why Do I Write?

I write for several reasons but mainly because I love writing. I find it great fun. I like playing around with words, creating characters and building up images. In poetry I love to create not only sensory images but musicality and sound echoes within the lines. My final reason for writing, and why I write fiction, is because it means I can escape into any world or time era and become anyone I’d like to be.

Where Do I Write?

When writing in my notebook I can, and do, write anywhere. I carry a notebook in my handbag at all times, and always have a pen and paper at the side of my bed. If it’s in the middle of the night and I don’t want to turn the light on in case I disturb my husband then I use my iPad to make notes.

For novel writing and developing my short stories and poetry, I work on my PC in my study. I’m very lucky to have a study and spend most of my waking time there.

What Do I Write?

I write poetry, short stories and novels, and I’ve even been known to write a couple of screen plays. However, my favourite genre is poetry which for me goes hand in hand with my novel writing. The reason for this is that it takes me time to warm up into my novel and I don’t always have that time, whereas it doesn’t take long to build a framework for a new poem.

Here’s a little poem that won me first prize in Brighton and Hove Arts Council Poetry Competition 2017 (Student Category)

Grandad’s Garden


I turn the cone upside down,

it changes to a flower,

like the dahlias

in Grandad’s garden

where creepy earwigs

hide inside.

I paint my pinecone fiery orange,

use a green-striped straw for the stem,

wrap it in mistletoe paper,

place it under the tree

as a special present

for Mummy

on Christmas Day

to make her smile,

cos she cries in bed, every night,

since Grandad died.

Patricia M Osborne (2017)

This poem was inspired by Alison Chisholm (Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, 2017) when she handed out pinecones to the class. When I turned my cone upside down all I could see was a dahlia which took me back to my grandad’s garden when I was a young child. He used to grow huge dahlias and chrysanthemums and always picked some for my mum to take back home after we visited. I especially remember the earwigs falling out of the huge heads.

Poetry

Staying on poetry, I write about birds, trees, and anything to do with nature. I also work from photograph prompts which is great fun. Mostly, I tend to write in free verse narrative. I spend a lot of time strolling around my local lake to lap up inspiration.

Upcoming Poetry Collections

I have a couple of collections that I hope to have published this year, the first ‘In a Delightful Country,’ which I wrote in 2017 when I was Poet in Residence at Worth Park, a local Victorian Park. This shows a fictional timeline of the park, broken into four sections.

The second is a collection of poems using myth, folklore and legend around trees, titled

‘Spirit Mother,’ which I completed for my MA Creative Writing dissertation.

Short Stories

My short stories often originate from prompts but I also like to write about people. My short story ‘Cold Sheets, Porridge and Penicillin,’ first published by Writers’ Forum magazine 2014 is free to read on my blog.

Novels

So far, my novel writing has been family sagas. My debut novel, House of Grace, was published in March 2017 and acts as Book 1 in a trilogy. The second, ‘The Coal Miner’s Son,’ which I hope to be released later this year, and the final, ‘Return to Granville Hall,’ with a bit of luck will be ready for publication by 2020. All of my books may also be read as standalones.

In the future I plan to experiment and write fantasy short stories and/or a novel.

Once again, Val, thank you so much for having me. It’s been great fun answering your questions.

About the Author

Patricia M Osborne was born in Liverpool and spent time in Bolton as a child. She now lives in West Sussex. Apart from novel writing, Patricia writes poetry and short fiction. Her poetry and short stories have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Following four years of study with the University of Brighton she is an MA graduate in Creative Writing. House of Grace is her debut novel. Patricia is currently working on ‘The Coal Miner’s Son,’ the next book in the ‘House of Grace’ series, although may be read as a standalone. She anticipates this being published during 2019. Watch this space.

Where can you purchase House of Grace, A Family Saga?

House of Grace is available in both paperback and kindle form and may be purchased on Amazon: http://mybook.to/HouseofGrace or ordered from all good bookstores. It is free to read on Kindle Unlimited.

Where can you find Patricia M Osborne?

Website: Patriciamosbornewriter.wordpress.com

Facebook: Patricia M Osborne, Writer

Twitter: PMOsborne,Writer

Email: patricia.m.osbornewriter@gmail.com

For those interested in Swanwick Writers’ Summer School https://www.swanwickwritersschool.org.uk/