Friday, 15 October 2021

Karen Wolfe – a writer with a lifelong affinity for dogs


Karen Wolfe is an award-winning author, having won the Square Dog Northern writers contest in 2006 and 2009 with stories subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Another of her stories won the 2009 Aesthetica Literary Fiction prize, and a fourth won the 2010 Village Writers award.

She remembers writing stories from the age of five or six. As she grew up, she graduated from fairies and pirates to adventure tales driven by her favourite books or TV shows. Programmes about cowboys led her to write about the exploits of daring children and their ponies; dogs often had prominent roles in her prose, initially prompted by Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, then progressing, via The Jungle Book, to wild animals, primarily wolves, tamed and trained by Karen herself.

Karen always had an affinity for animals, especially dogs. She grew up in a wild area of the Yorkshire coast where her mother and grandmother kept a large pack of cairn terriers, who were her playmates and confidantes. She spent many childhood hours helping out at a local kennels, and riding around on a local farmer’s wild Galloway pony, when she could catch him.

At sixteen, Karen won a Yorkshire-wide essay competition, and at eighteen, went to train as a primary school teacher, studying English literature, education and evolution and pre-history.

Karen continued to write. As a mother, she created picture-books, rag-books and stories for her children. A long-time fan of Terry Pratchett, her first novels were comic fantasy following the fortunes of the beleaguered members of Barlesham Seers' Guild. She has written six Seers novels, two of which are available on Amazon.

Seers


 

Another of Karen’s long-time favourite authors was Gerald Durrell. She loved his humour and affection when he wrote about animals. Wanting to emulate that, she drew on her lifetime’s experience and observation of dogs, and started to make them central to her writing.

In 2014, having been involved in obedience training classes for some years, Karen began writing a monthly dog column for the local community newspaper https://hornseacommunitynews.uk.

Following the canine theme, Karen started a series of comic crime novels in which the protagonist is a tireless advocate for canine welfare, keeping a large and diverse pack of dogs with her at all times.

 

 

 

The third novel in this series is underway. In addition, Karen plans to put together the 90+ canine articles she has written and republish them as a book.




Friday, 1 October 2021

So you want to write a crime novel: Part 10: Dialogue

 Dialogue is a tricky thing for writers to get right. It has to read well, which dialogue in real life does not, but it has to sound authentic. In a crime novel, it has to be even tighter, give information to the reader as well as the other character(s) but also phrased to bamboozle the reader when seeding red herrings and clues.

In real life, the following dialogue would be like this:

'Hi, Mary.'

'Oh. Hi.' (uncomfortable pause)

'Long time no see. I was hoping to run into you.'

Yeah...well...been a bit busy, you know.' 

'Everything okay?'

'Not really. Mum's dying.'

'Oh, I had no idea... Is there anything I can do?'

'No. I'd better go, sorry. I forgot to buy the kids' cereal. See you. Bye.'

We learn that the unnamed first person hasn't seen Mary for some time and that Mary's mum is dying. In a conversation like this, you might put in some reactions but you would have to tighten it up and make it much shorter while giving the reader the flavour of the relationship between the two women.

'Hi Mary.'

'Oh, Liz, hi.'

'Long time no see. You look a bit harassed. Everything okay? I wanted to ask if you still make that tea to help people sleep. I could do with some. Work is crazy.'

'Mum's gone into the hospice and they've said she's close to the end.'

Liz put her hand on Mary's arm. 'Oh, love, I didn't know.'

Mary held up the box of corn flakes. 'It's affected everything. I even forgot to buy the kids' breakfast. Must go.'

Mary pushed past Liz, who turned to watch the woman scurry away. Mary's lips pursed.

In a real life situation, the second dialogue wouldn't be that "together", especially as Mary's attention appears to be solely on her mother. We also get information that Mary's mum is dying in a hospice but that she and Liz know each other but are acquaintances rather than friends. Otherwise, Liz would know about Mary's mum. And the seeded clue/red herring about the special tea that Mary makes adds tension to the dialogue.

If you want to read more about how to handle dialogue, click here

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Friday, 24 September 2021

Boxed Set Fantasy Romance at 99c / 99p - and other titles.

 

There's a promo on two of Linda Acaster's titles - or four books if the Torc of Moonlight Trilogy is counted as three. And it should be. The power of Three is a driving force behind the novels. There's even three years between each of the books. Three by three by three... makes 900 pages of multi-layered reading - and all for 99c / 99p.

The premise is an alternative reality for we 21st century readers, where the female guardians of springs and water courses are as real as they were in the depths of History. Read more on Linda's Page above, or check out the Trilogy at your preferred vendor:

Kindle  ¦ Nook  ¦  Smashwords
 
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Favour short fiction? Contribution to Mankind and other stories of the Dark is a collection of speculative fiction on the more shadowy side of life, from a poignant haunting of a cycle repair shop, to a Victorian academic searching for the fabled Cylinder of Souls. Six stories in all.


Links: Kindle : Nook : Kobo : Smashwords
 
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And if that's not enough, jump across to Linda's website for a link to another 25 discounted titles.  

Friday, 17 September 2021

Ann Wilkinson – award-winning writer mines tales from the coalfields of Durham

Ann Wilkinson’s earliest memories included tales told by her grandparents of life in the Durham coalfields. These sparked a fascination with social history and she spent years researching the world of those family memories, eventually producing her first novelA Sovereign For A Song (later reissued as Sing Me Home), that won the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Award (now the Joan Hessayon Award) in 2003.

 

Ann’s debut novel became the first in a series of family sagas, as her research followed the fictional Wilde family in the years leading up to World War 1 and through the war itself.

Winning a Wife

No Price too High

Ann, now retired, enjoyed a long career in nursing, spending many years as a health visitor, ending up in the city of Hull. Using the experience of her own training, Ann went on to research medical nursing at the time of World War 2, and used the city of Hull, where she still lives, as the background to a new series of novels.

Hull, a key port, became a strategic target and suffered widespread destruction from 1941 to the end of World War 2. Ann’s second series was set against the backdrop of this war.

 

From here, Ann’s writing moved beyond world wars, but retained Hull as its setting. Her first post-war novel was The Would-be Wife.

Following this, Ann drafted The May Day Nurse, a novel set in 1950s Hull. Although the manuscript is complete, her publisher’s editorial process was significantly delayed by the 2020 global pandemic.

Learn more about Ann and her writing HERE.






Friday, 3 September 2021

So you want to write a crime novel: Part 9 - Focus

 

Focus is an essential tool in any writer's toolbox, but especially for a crime writer, where the facets of the story must be laid down so precisely.

In my blog - link below - I detail how you can organise your notes for a concentrated writing session, how to use "timed sprints" to help your productivity, where to write and healthy writing habits.

One of the most common problems writers encounter is interruptions. Because this is not a 9-5 job in an office, for which a company pays you a monthly salary, there is a widespread belief that it is "okay to interrupt X because he/she is only writing." Most writers write at home so it is easy to open the door and break the writer's concentration.

My advice is to politely but firmly state that between these two times, you are working, so you are not to be interrupted unless the house is on fire or your leg has fallen off. Why is this so important? If your train of concentration is broken, it can take 20 minutes for your brain to get back to where it was before the interruption. So, be polite but firm.

If you would like to read more about focus as a writer, click here.

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Friday, 27 August 2021

Formidable ladies of history

Before I began researching my latest book, Distant Shadows, I never considered how many unsung heroines there have been throughout the last 1000 years.

From Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was married to 2 kings and produced Richard the Lionheart and King John through to Professor Sara Gilbert, relatively "unsung" formidable ladies abound. For the thousands we know about, many more thousands remain unknown or are awarded only passing mentions in documents that have survived.


Distant Shadows
 began when I read about the sisters Jacqueline and Eileen Nearne. They worked for SOE in Nazi occupied Europe as radio operators and couriers. Despite both being captured and sent to Ravensbruck, the sisters survived the war. Eileen died in 2010, unknown until the discovery of the civilian MBE in her effects. 

I was astounded that these women had suffered so much for their country but were largely ignored by the British government, who, in my opinion, used the Official Secrets Act too liberally to ensure nobody knew who they were. Women who had endured constant danger and often betrayal, torture and execution by the Nazi regime.

I know very few people - men or women - who would exhibit that degree of courage and steadfastness. We owe them more than we can say.

If you want to know more, my blogpost is here


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Friday, 13 August 2021

Stuart Aken – A prolific writer who won’t be pigeonholed


Prolific writer Stuart Aken says that being raised in a household without a TV was probably a factor in his becoming an avid reader, to the extent that he had read all the books in his local children’s library by the time he was 11. At this point, a formidable but far-sighted librarian named Hilda allowed him to pick an adult book on the understanding that she must approve it before allowing him to take it away.

He picked All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. Maybe it was a book Hilda had never read, or maybe she saw even at that early stage that Stuart was destined to become a writer for whom no topics were out of bounds. Whatever the reason, the 11-year-old Stuart was allowed to take the book away. It taught him that there was nothing he couldn’t read.

It wasn’t just reading that was an integral part of Stuart’s early life. He was in demand as a storyteller for friends and family, concocting tales that would later be acted out in games.

At 14 years old, for a school assignment, Stuart took a real event, fictionalised it and turned it into a tense mystery. It won a cup for the year’s best story. He looks back on this as his first real step on the road to becoming an author. Though blessed with a magical childhood, family tragedy dogged Stuart’s adolescence leading to a roller-coaster of upheavals for several years, the highs and lows of which have helped shape him as a writer.

As well as being a successful novelist, Stuart is also a talented photographer. His first publications were illustrated articles in the British photographic press. His first fiction publication was a radio play, Hitch Hiker, broadcast on Radio 4 in 1978. He had entered Hitch Hiker in the Radio Times Drama contest, and came third, the year the contest was won by Willie Russell of Blood Brothers and Educating Rita fame. Stuart was interviewed about the play by Tom Stoppard, and as a result was contracted by a prestigious literary agency. Sadly, Stuart’s work was considered too radical for the TV channels of the time (perhaps Hilda should have withheld consent for All Quiet on the Western Front until he was older). Stuart has since gone on to further competition success with his short fiction.

Building on his early achievements, Stuart has written numerous novels, novellas and short stories, notable amongst which are his fantasy and science-fiction trilogies and his novella, The Methuselah Strain.

 

 

In addition, he wrote a memoir about his tenyears with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, his recovery from which he celebrated by running in the GreatNorth Run.

 

Amongst Stuart’s works are two major trilogies; A Seared Sky and Generation Mars.

A Seared Sky is a fantasy adventure to rival The Lord of theRings.

Like Tolkien’s epic, A Seared Sky was several decades in the making, but has yet to be made into a series of blockbusting films; his fans live in hope.


When the Skyfire arrives early, Dagla Kaz sets out for the ancient homeland to harvest a new Godwood and exchange Virgin Gifts. He must lead his pilgrims hundreds of leagues over pirate-infested seas, across hostile lands, and return triumphant before the seared sky dies back to normality.

 


 

 


GenerationMars is a science fiction trilogy.


The story of Generation Mars begins in the near future, when climate change has made the Earth all but uninhabitable. The story unfolds to reveal the long-term fate of humankind.

 


 


 

You can check Stuart’s publications HERE

Stuart's latest novel, An Excess of... is an eco-romance / political / environmental thriller due to be released in October 2021.

Read more about Stuart, his life and his writing, on his website.






Friday, 6 August 2021

So you want to write a crime novel: Part 8: Suspense.

 Suspense is a necessary part of a crime novel. It is the ultimate conflict between good and evil. Can good prevail or will evil triumph.

For the crime writer, suspense is a joy to plan and write. From conflict between characters, to time constraints, red herrings, plot twists and the like, the writer can have such fun. However, the fun is tempered by the necessity of making sure everything that happens is logical, timely and that the end is satisfying.

If you want to know more, you can read my blog here












Friday, 16 July 2021

Penny Grubb – a multi-layered career but always a writer

Author Penny Grubb says the only consistent part of her varied career has been as a writer; when it wasn’t part of her job, it was something she pursued in her own time.

‘I wrote my first novel when I was four,’ she says. ‘It was written in pencil in a small lined notebook. I didn’t need the whole notebook as it barely ran to half a page, but it felt more like a proper book that way. I can remember three things about it; it starred a cat on a mat, I asked for help to spell its only two-syllable word, and it gave me a tremendous sense of achievement. I think that was the moment I decided to be a novelist.’

Almost half a century would elapse from then to Penny’s first published novel, although she published non-fiction as part of her various day jobs. The first three books in her Annie Raymond mystery series have recently been rereleased as a trilogy, Falling into Crime, one of them having won an international CWA Dagger in 2004.

Penny’s career laid the foundation for her becoming a crime novelist. She worked in hospital pathology labs, an early job giving her access to renowned Home Office pathologist Dr Alan Usher who regularly entertained and educated the medical school staff with lectures about his work. ‘I learnt a lot about sudden and suspicious death. It was information I used when I began my PI series.’

Even after she moved on from Pathology, Penny’s brushes with the world of serious crime continued. In a career switch, and after graduating with a degree in Maths and Computer Science, she spent some time working as a software engineer helping to build a system, the forensic analysis of which later contributed to the conviction by the UK’s most prolific serial killer. She talks about this in an article published in Kings River Life magazine.

Penny later moved into medical computing, founding one of Europe’s first Medical Informatics research groups. ‘It was a very busy decade,’ she recalls. ‘But all the travelling around Europe gave me a wealth of settings for stories and novels. I wrote a lot during that time; including many draft novels that weren’t very good and never saw the light of day.’ The publications that came out under Penny’s name were technical reports, academic papers and textbooks.

When the research field took a different turn, Penny changed career again, and was seconded from her academic post to become Chair of the Authors’Licensing and Collecting Society, the largest authors’ society in the world. During this time, she wrote several of the books in her crime series.

Where There’s Smoke


 

 

Penny teamed up with fellow crime novelist, Danuta Reah, to run creative writing workshops. Together they wrote How to be a Fantastic Writer.

 

In 2013, Penny stepped down from the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society and returned to academia, specialising in nurturing fragile learners to go on into Higher Education.

 

After leaving academia, Penny continued her Annie Raymond mystery series, her 8th book coming out a year into her retirement. She says she expects to be writing Annie books ‘until Annie is too old and decrepit to climb the office stairs or until I get fed up and push her off a cliff.’

 



Friday, 2 July 2021

So you want to write a crime novel. Part 7: Characters

 Characters have character. At its simplest, the people who inhabit your crime novel - the characters - all have different characters or characteristics.

It used to be the fashion that writers began and ended with the plot in a crime novel and that the intricacies of that plot were what made the books so readable and interesting. That still holds true when you read some of the golden age fiction of John Bude or Freeman Wills Crofts. The latter, especially, majored on intricately tight time schedules. To the modern reader, these books can be bland because we have grown used to the characters and their interactions driving the events of the books we read.

These days, writers, including crime writers, generally begin with, perhaps, their protagonist and antagonist and the bare bones of a plot. It is knowing your characters and how they would behave in a given situation that will drive that plot.

If you would like to read more, you can find my longer blog on characters here




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