Friday, 16 April 2021

Linda Acaster – an award-winning novelist who pushes the boundaries of genre


With a writing career spanning several decades, Linda Acaster was originally known for her short fiction in magazines in the UK and Scandinavia. Her journey as a published novelist began in earnest when she won the Netta Muskett (currently known as the Joan Hessayon) Award for new writers in the 1980s. The award itself was specifically for a work of romantic fiction, but Linda’s winner, Hostage of the Heart, was already reaching beyond the standard boundaries of light romance.

A well-researched novel set in mediaeval times, the romance in the story was set against the context of the fight for the English crown in 1066, showing that such battles then, as now, were not fought solely on the battlefield.

A lifelong interest in history and in particular the native peoples of North America led to Linda’s second novel, later reissued as Beneath the Shining Mountains.

The novel gained plaudits for its authenticity, for showing its characters in their own right and not through the lens of European invaders. Some years later Linda again turned her hand to the North America of a century and a half ago, and wrote Dead Men’s Fingers, a Western, under the pseudonym of Tyler Brentmore.

Linda does not only write fiction, but has turned her research skills to matters closer to home. When diagnosed with hypothyroidism, her initial investigations showed this to be an area where knowledge was patchy although much valuable research had been done. Recognising it would be impossible for any generalist to keep up to date on every condition they saw, she looked for herself, reading academic medical papers and joining specialist groups. Her work not only led to a significant improvement in her own condition, it prompted her to share her journey in a series of blogs called When your health turns on you.

For Linda, research takes many forms, from quietly adding to her non-fiction collection to what she refers to as footfall – visiting museums or squelching across a rain-sodden moor in search of the line of a Roman road and its adjacent ancient spring. She notes that the internet has helped enormously in viewing collections beyond British shores, and during the Covid-19 pandemic she took advantage of freely available online lectures, watching whatever piqued her interest, whether a talk on medieval hygiene or an archaeological dig of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery below the ramparts of Bamburgh Castle.


Linda’s Torc of Moonlight trilogy developed from her writing Weekend Walks for the Yorkshire Post. Linda wrote pieces highlighting the history in the landscape; and found that aspects of springs or water courses kept repeating, no matter what area she was exploring. This prompted her to research water lore. The trilogy is set in and around the three university cities of Hull, York and Durham following the contemporary stories of students Nick and Alice, set against the layers of history that lie just beneath their feet.

Using the starting point that no human civilisation can exist without water, Linda researched the myriad belief systems that have grown up around ancient springs and water courses. She says, ‘While reading a piece on ancient water lore my experiences walking the landscape jumped into sharp relief.’

Noting that people have long believed that sacred waters were guarded by female deities, she adds, ‘Just because we, with our modern plumbing and sewerage systems, don’t share their world view, who are we to say they were wrong?’ She goes on to note that it was in exploring the mismatch of belief, non-belief, and demonization of a pre-Christian deity that proved fertile ground for the development of the idea that led to her mythic romance Torc of Moonlight trilogy, saying, ‘If you are a modern person caught in the middle of this, what do you believe, how does it affect you, and who do you go to for aid?’

 

‘Stay away from me. Don’t you understand? People close to me die.’

The light behind was fading, the darkness pressing in, pushing the silence so close that he feared he might suffocate in it.

Ernald had been at the heel of Brother Maugre since the bell for Prime, yet the sub-prior had said barely a word, certainly not spoken of the reason for Ernald’s summonsed return to the priory.

As to what Linda will publish next, there are no simple answers for this multi-genre writer. Currently in train are a short mystery, another Western, the research for a WW1 Women’s Fiction series based loosely on her family, and the long-promised expanded version of the atmospheric supernatural, The Paintings

 

Learn more about Linda Acaster on her website.


Friday, 9 April 2021

The Unnerving Power of the Written Word

In a recent blog post, author Penny Grubb talks about the uncanny way that books seem to affect the real world, including the strange timings around this podcast she was asked to record about her latest novel, Boxed In.




Friday, 2 April 2021

So you want to write a crime novel: Part 4 - Outlining

 Such a tricky and much argued subject. To outline or not to outline.

Outlining for the crime novel has a few differences - nuances - than for some other genres. For example, were you to be writing a romance novel, your emphasis would be on the characters and their interactions and misunderstandings.

With a crime novel, you are in some ways structured by the fact that you must have a crime - usually a murder or series of murders and, because the crime novel is supposed to be a morality tale, clues that lead your detective to a killer.

This means you must have an idea of not just the clues, but how and where you are going to write them - seeding your clues within the text. What a crime writer must be able to do is give the reader a complete surprise at the end, or at least a couple of I didn't see that coming moments, but also be scrupulously fair to the reader. 

I was a huge fan of Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse. When the programme came on, I would sit with an A4 pad noting down what I thought were clues and trying to work out who the killer was. I wasn't often right in my deductions, but it did teach me how important seeding the clues are for crime writers. And, logically following on from that, you must have some kind of outline to present the story in a way that, when the reader finishes the book, they have enjoyed it because the author was fair.

Outlining can be done is so many ways, but the important thing is that the way you choose must be relevant to the way your mind works. If you want to read more, my blog is HERE

You can read more about April Taylor here:

Twitter    AmazonUK    AmazonUSA    YouTube    Facebook

Friday, 12 March 2021

April Taylor – an affinity for music and an ill-fated queen

Author April Taylor’s writing has been largely defined by her twin passions for music and Tudor England. April comes from a musical family and has been told she could sing before she could talk. Her family lived in Louth, spark point for the 1536 Lincolnshire rebellion; an event that caused King Henry VIII to call the men of Lincolnshire “the most brute and beastly of the whole realm.” The echoes of Tudor England that she grew up so close to really began to resonate for April when she saw the film A Man for All Seasons, after which she was hooked.

As for so many, it was the compelling figure of King Henry VIII that drew April in, but after reading Margaret Campbell Barnes Brief Gaudy Hour, at the age of 14, she felt strongly drawn to Anne Boleyn. Since then, she has researched the era and spent time visiting Anne Boleyn’s homes, feeling an ever-stronger connection to the ill-fated queen who later played a leading role in a series of novels she wrote.

April’s mother played the piano; her father and three brothers played in brass bands. April herself is a keen pianist, but circumstances prevented her from having lessons until she was in her teens, too late for music college. Her voice however went from strength to strength, and she was singing principal roles and soloing for choral societies up to 2010.

April’s early-music soprano sleuth, Georgia Pattison, was born at an inaugural concert for the Three Choirs Festival, where April found herself wondering 'what if' the soprano soloist was murdered immediately after the concert finished. The idea grew and became Dearly Ransomed Soul.

There is clearly a lot of April in her heroine who also has an early-music voice. April says, ‘Georgia is braver than I am, but we share a determination and resolve when it is something we both want.’ Georgia has gone on to star in one more full-length novel with the next due in 2021:

In addition to the novels, April has published Georgia Pattison Christmas novellas:

April has also written two standalone novels:

Before she retired to write full time, April worked as a librarian in public, prison and scientific libraries. She sees her mother as a big influence in her writing career, remembering the way she would devour both paranormal and crime novels. Their shared love of these genres was the spark for April’s new series, started in 2021, set in Guisborough in the early 1970s, but with its feet in the dissolution of the monasteries.

Learn more about April and her writing on her website HERE.

 

Friday, 5 March 2021

So you want to write a crime novel: Part 3. Research

 Okay, by now, you've decided you want to write a crime novel. You've decided what kind of novel you want to write. You've allowed your imagination full rein and have a vague idea of the setting, perhaps a few characters and the method of murder.

Now you need to do your research and make sure you write a cohesive believable story. One error and you will lose a reader. Not just for that book but all future books. Years ago, I lent my copy of P D James Shroud for a Nightingale to a friend, who happened to be a hospital ward sister. I had really enjoyed the book so was anxious for her opinion. She handed it back 'I only read a bit, she got so many procedures wrong,' my friend said.

If you are setting your book in the past or present, you must make sure what you write is accurate for that time. A police procedural set in the 1970s will be vastly different from one set in 2021. Similarly, a Victorian detective will have many more skills and tools to help him find the killer than, say, an 12th century monk. If you set the book in the future, then let your imagination run riot.

Although people are people and have the same behavioural patterns whether they are living in 2350 or Ancient Egypt, you must still make them act in harmony with the limits of knowledge at that time. The same applies to the methods of murder chosen.

I have suggested some websites which will help you verify your facts before you write them. Have fun. Writing crime is one of the more fun genres and I love it.

If you want to read more, my post is HERE


 You can read more about me here:

Twitter Amazon UK Amazon USA YouTube Facebook

Friday, 26 February 2021

The overlap between real life and crime fiction


Hornsea Writer, Penny Grubb, talks to Kings River Life magazine about the way real life weaves itself into her novels, and about the part she played in bringing a serial killer to justice. CLICK HERE for the full article.


Friday, 12 February 2021

Madeleine McDonald – Plundering life for literary inspiration


Madeleine McDonald is a writer with a varied portfolio. For many years she was a newspaper columnist contributing regularly to the Family Matters column of the Yorkshire Post.  Her publications include numerous articles, essays and short stories. One of her early radio stories was translated into Mandarin Chinese and broadcast on the BBC World Service. She has also enjoyed competition success, having been a finalist in both The Art of Love poetry competition 2005, judged by Andrew Motion, and the Roswell Award for Science Fiction 2017.

Madeleine is also a novelist, having written both historical and contemporary romances with exotic settings drawn from her own travels.

Her years working as a freelance translator, precis-writer and editor for various United Nations organisations taught her valuable lessons about writing as a discipline. Translation required absolute accuracy, while respecting the style of the original; precis-writing separated the wheat from the chaff; editing meant being mindful of the sensibilities of people writing in a foreign tongue, while tweaking a text to make it readable. The diversity of people she met and her years of travel lie at the heart of much of her writing, lending authenticity to her stories.

She says of Enchantment in Morocco that it was the colour and contrast of the land where Africa meets Europe that she saw would provide a captivating setting for a traditional romance story. The scenes in remote Moroccan villages draw on her travels round North Africa by bus, the need for access to the Atlantic coast for a plotline involving smuggling determining the book’s exact location.

 

The Rescued Heart, a second-chance romance set against the Basel Art Fair, draws the reader both into everyday Swiss life and the business side of modern art. A chance meeting with an impecunious young artist shatters a widow’s isolation and forces her to confront life again.

 

Moving both closer to home (her native Scotland) and half way across the world (to the Caribbean) A Shackled Inheritance was inspired by a 200-year-old will in which a Scottish slave owner left his sugar plantation, and slaves, to his natural mixed-race daughter. Madeleine’s research in Jamaica’s online archives led her into the shadow world of the ‘free coloureds’ or free mixed-race community, one legacy of slavery that mainland Britain preferred to ignore.

Articles and short fiction under Madeleine’s by-line have appeared in anthologies and magazines across the globe, including Connecting Nothing With Something - A Coastal Anthology, Verbatim, She's the One, Thresholds, Flash Bang Mysteries, Journal of Compressed Creative ArtsWriters' Forum, and Mslexia.

During the 2020 pandemic, Madeleine has concentrated on fiction editing and short stories for radio, and also published a sonnet which followed the traditional Shakespearean rhythm.

See more of Madeleine’s publications HERE.

 

Friday, 5 February 2021

So you want to write a crime novel Part 2: First Thoughts

 The first thoughts about any new writing project are the most enjoyable. This is where the only limit is your imagination. So give yourself the time and space to let your mind wander down untrodden paths. You need that time to allow your subconscious to fit your disjointed thoughts into some kind of cohesive jigsaw that will form the basis of your story.

With a crime story, there are restraints that other genres do not have. For example, the time in which you set your story will affect what technology is/was/wasn't available. Even a novel set in the 1980s would not have mobile phones unless your detective was happy to carry a brick around with him that took all night to charge and which only had a two-hour battery life. 

Who is your main character? Police officer, amateur sleuth, man, woman, dog? What makes them different? My own sleuth, Georgia Pattison is an early-music soprano. What about your setting? The seaside? A distant planet far, far away? Roman Britain? All will affect how and what you write. Similarly the method of murder you choose will be key. I have never chosen to have a victim with a gunshot wound because the world of ballistics moves forward so quickly. Ditto forensic techniques. Of course, if you set your novel in the future, you can make up your own technology.

The clues you present to the reader must also fit the time in which the novel is set. This is where the golden age of detective fiction was so powerful because the limits of technological knowledge were so limited, authors had to use other ways to present their clues amid a welter of red herrings. Freeman Wills Crofts relied heavily on train timetables. Dorothy L Sayers liked unusual methods of killing her victims.

Writing a crime novel is like putting a jigsaw together and then throwing the pieces up in the air and letting your readers try to put it together without a picture to guide them. I find it immense fun and you might, too. If so, you will find my blog on First Thoughts HERE



 You can read more about me here:

Twitter Amazon UK Amazon USA YouTube Facebook

Friday, 29 January 2021

Crime novel Boxed In by a pandemic?


A sudden pandemic causes problems great and small; one of the lesser being the jar to continuity of a contemporary series of crime novels. Author Penny Grubb mentions this on her blog as she announces the launch of her latest novel, Boxed In.

The book is available in paperback. The ebook can be pre-ordered for delivery on the official launch date.

Friday, 15 January 2021

Rick Sumner – a writer with a social conscience


Prolific author Rick Sumner has published articles, short stories and verse over many years. Appropriately for someone who has worked as a coal miner, it is the rich seam of his own life experience that he has mined to inform his writing. His stories have the ring of authenticity and often come with an unexpected twist, but he doesn’t stay down the mine, or even stick to terra firma; his science fiction soars beyond the stars and his horror stories venture into the paranormal.

In the 1980s, Rick wrote an anthology called Kilby Welfare to raise funds for a mine workers’ charity.


The stories were set in a mythical pit village in Northern England and the book was recorded as an audio-cassette by Paul Copley and Tony Capstick.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of Rick’s charitable work. Helping others has been a part of his life. His varied career included spending time as an inner-city community worker.

From being a coalminer, Rick went to sea, saying that it was life aboard the trawlers that cleared the coal dust from his lungs. His time as a trawlerman engendered a lifelong love of the sea and a keen appreciation of the key role played by the RNLI. When his local coastguard station was lost in the 1990s, Rick was one of a band of volunteers who raised the funds to found and run Hornsea Inshore Rescue, whose lifeboat has since saved many lives.

Rick’s Rescue Rhymes, an illustrated collection of humorous limericks and verse has been on sale at the new boathouse since it opened in 1994, and continues to raise funds.


The North Sea played a significant role in Rick’s life, and fittingly now provides him with an ever-changing view from the windows of the East Yorkshire house where he enjoys his retirement.