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
 
 ~~~~~
 
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
 
~~~~~
 
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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Saturday, 12 June 2021

Elaine Hemingway – Out of Africa

Elaine Hemingway’s career began as a police constable in the East Yorkshire city of Hull. From there she moved 8,000 miles to take up a post with the Northern Rhodesia Police. Her contract was for three years; she stayed in Africa for half a century.

With a lifelong passion for reading and storytelling, it was natural that Elaine should become a writer. For many of her years in Africa, she wrote for a local newspaper, producing a regular column called Stille Oomblik, which translates to Quiet Moment. 

She had to give up the column when she and her husband, Dennis, moved to Natal, but continued writing for newspapers and magazines, her publications tracking their travels down Africa. A short story in a Zambian newspaper marked her move into writing fiction, whilst an article in a car magazine reflected the self-sufficient life she and her family led.

Elaine nurtured ambitions to write a longer piece, especially as her African travels gave her a fascination with history. She acquired the diaries of Johan van Riebeeck and attempted an historical novel based on his time in South Africa.

The demands of a busy life and growing family prevented completion of this project, and it was a while before Elaine found her writing niche. ‘It was my religious values that brought me back to my writing,’ she says. ‘I grew up with Christian beliefs, but only after a particular disaster did I come to full commitment and find my niche. Writing and studying became a real pleasure, to be indulged more deeply. My Stille Oomblik column was a part of it.’

It was still difficult for Elaine to fit any general writing into her life. She was running a Resource Centre that required a lot of reading and presentation of reviews; leading a home Bible Study group and Experiencing God courses. She managed to write some articles for Baptist Today and Christian Living.

It was after producing a 40th anniversary brochure and magazine complete with interviews with all the previous Pastors, that Elaine started a writing group. ‘At that point in our lives,’ she says. ‘It seemed inevitable.’ The group resulted in diverse publications including a self-published novel from one of the church deacons, a set of biblical crosswords, and the founding of a quarterly Church News magazine.

After Elaine and Dennis moved back to England, the group disbanded but the Resource Centre is still running.

Following her retirement, Elaine became an active member of the Faith Writers. Having re-stoked her long-held ambition to write a novel by completing the latest NaNoWriMochallenge, she began an ambitious project, a Midrashim – fiction based on a Biblical account.

Her major work is now well underway. It interleaves the contemporary story of Marla, a young woman struck by sudden tragedy, with that of another young woman, Shaina, caught up in the Babylonian war of around 600 BC. It’s a hugely ambitious project for a debut novel, juggling time frames and cultures, but Elaine has the background and experience to be able to make it work. 

You can browse Elaine’s many contributions to the Faith Writers HERE.


 

 

Friday, 4 June 2021

So you want to write a crime novel. Part 6: Structure

Many writers get themselves in a knot about how to structure their novel, and crime novels have some issues that affect the structure the author uses.

I have found that one of the things that muddies the waters is the plethora of 'how to write your novel', 'how to structure your novel' books, articles and blogs etc. So I have tried to simplify these, but I would urge anyone who wants to delve further into this to do so, with one huge proviso. And that is, do not let the scaffolding of structure constrict the story you want to tell. 

When I first set out to write a crime novel - which was published as Dearly Ransomed Soul - I just sat down and wrote it. And discovered afterwards that the Three Act Structure best suits my way of writing. And in the whole of that last sentence the operative word is my.

In this month's blog, I cover four of the main forms of structure and try to help the would-be crime writer to decide which format best suits the story they wish to write. You can find it here

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Friday, 14 May 2021

Pippa Ireland – a writer who has persuaded hundreds of young people to put pen to paper


Writer Pippa Ireland is a published poet and short story writer. Her prize-winning story published in BonmarchĂ© magazine in 2005 was later re-issued in the Sack of Shorts anthology.

There isn’t much time for dedicated writing in Pippa’s life as she has a yard full of competition horses to look after, but in the days when she competed herself she used her skill with a pen to further her career in the saddle. One of her poems significantly contributed to her success as a rider. She entered it into a competition and won lessons from Olympic eventer,Chris Bartle.

Pippa is an active contributor to equine blogs, regularly writes verse on equine social media, and has a novel close to completion.

Back in 2010, as a student studying equine management, Pippa was charged with finding a creative written assignment with an equine theme. While most of her fellow students opted for essay-style ventures, Pippa decided on an ambitious project to set up a creative writing competition with an equine theme. Covering admin and advertising costs with a modest entry fee, she attracted a large entry by soliciting a wide range of prizes from sponsors including cash prizes for the winners, and equine-related prizes for dozens of runners-up. Prizes included tickets to prestigious equestrian events and the prize pot reached close to £1000. Entries came in from across the globe.

Pippa persuaded two Hornsea Writer colleagues to provide sponsorship too. Linda Acaster offered advice and professional critiques; Penny Grubb offered three of the winning entrants the opportunity to name ponies in her forthcoming novel.

The project won Pippa an award from Bishop Burton College and was such a success that she decided to run it again the following year. The 2011 competition featured more prizes, a larger total prize pot and attracted an even bigger entry.


Pressure of other work prevented Pippa from making the competition an annual undertaking, but she continued to write, contributing regularly to a horsey blog  published by British Horse Feeds and written from the point of view of the successful Ireland-trained horse, Billy Bank.

However, just as Billy Bank was being prepared for a busy 2020 season, events conspired to bring Pippa back into the limelight as a creative writing competition organiser. The busy equestrian competition calendar was brought to a halt by the global pandemic. Many schoolchildren, looking forward to a summer of shows and events were stuck at home without outlets for their creative energy.

As an active Pony Club member and trainer, Pippa too found her outdoor activities curtailed.


She pitched the idea of a creative writing competition to the Pony Club. Initially sceptical that there would be much interest, they agreed to let her run with it.

Her Write2Ride Creative Writing Competition began as a small idea and snowballed into a huge event with its Facebook posts and website taking thousands of hits and generating hundreds of entries.

It became the most successful competition she had run, with record entry, sponsorship and prizes. The winning entries were published in Equestrian Life magazine and several hundred more young writers were launched on the world thanks to Pippa’s efforts.

Throughout, Pippa has been writing her own novel based in the world of international eventing. The book was finished over a decade ago and had encouraging feedback from a literary agent, who said it just needed a final polish. Pippa says she hopes to find the time to do that before another decade passes.

Friday, 7 May 2021

So you want to write a crime novel. Part 5: Plot and Theme

 Many would-be writers are put off by writing terminology. This is a shame because writing is just that. Most people learned it at school, some in further education and some later in life. 

But writing fiction is the modern version of the ancient tales around the fire. We have learned to write it down and other people who have skills we don't always possess can take that written story and publish it.

Two of the basic requirements once you have chosen your genre are Plot and Theme. All novels of whatever genre have a theme and this is something that is not always clearly explained.

In the fifth part of my year-long series on writing a crime novel, I cover both plot and theme in a way I hope people will understand. If you read it and say 'Oh, that's what it means, I have done my job.

If you are interested in reading about how to plot your novel and discover the theme of it, you can read my blog HERE

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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

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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


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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.