October – the season for horror

October is one of my favourite months of the year because I grew up reading horror books and watching horror films and October is perfect for indulging in both. The nights are closing in and the heating is going on, which is perfect for shutting the world out and pretending you’re in your own (safe) horror story. In fact, the first short stories I ever tried writing were horror, although cheap imitations of Stephen King. I still have a couple and although they’re pretty bad, I can see where I was beginning to learn the rules of grammar and dialogue which helped me become published in the future.

The first short story I had published wasn’t quite horror but it was dark. It’s called Blue and it later turned into my first ever novel – The Girl Who Died. It’s about a teenage girl whose best friend dies. It starts with the main character – Hannah – laying next to her best friend’s body. We don’t know at that stage whether Hannah was involved in her death and why she died. Hannah also features in my latest release – Where the Snow Bleeds. Unfortunately, her life doesn’t get much better in that! So yes, my writing definitely has a dark side to it! It’s hard to avoid that when you’ve been the victim of horrific crime from a young age because your life takes on this darkness that it wouldn’t otherwise have.

Perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to darker subjects for my writing and reading choices, and to my favourite season of the year; autumn. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy lighter subjects and comedy, but light and fluffy just doesn’t interest me. Unless it’s a cat! That’s another reason to love October – Halloween and cats.

The photo above is of Teddy – my youngest cat – when he was a kitten. I don’t dress him up for Halloween (there’s no way he’d even let me) but his ginger colouring fits the pumpkin season perfectly!

So, October for me will be filled with writing my next novel, reading some favourite horror books and watching new and old horror films. One of which is Paranormal Activity 3. The PA films were great when they first came out, really different from other films in the genre. But they peaked at the third film – that camera on the oscillating fan was genius and creepy as hell! I watch it every year now. I’m not a fan of slasher horror and I can’t watch people being tortured, but I love paranormal and psychological horror. My next release (early 2020) – book 3 in the Dean Matheson crime thriller series – gets pretty dark and features some horror classics but I can’t really say any more than that yet!

After October we’ll all begin the countdown to my next favourite time of year – Christmas! (Sorry!)

New work in progress… (plus a free audio short story for you.)

I’ve been really busy lately with; a) the blog tour for Where the Snow Bleeds (book 2 in the Dean Matheson crime series), b) writing a short story for my publisher to coincide with the book’s recent release, plus c) I’ve just finished writing and editing the third book in the Dean Matheson series and submitted it to my publisher!

The blog tour for Where the Snow Bleeds went unbelievably well, with all bloggers rating it 4 or 5 stars, along with some amazing feedback that I couldn’t have anticipated in my wildest dreams. Whilst writing this book I scrapped the first 30k words twice, as it wasn’t working for me and I wanted it to be the best it possibly could be for readers. It looks like the hard work and difficult decisions paid off as the final version is a book I’m really happy with and the readers have agreed! I feel as if my writing has grown a lot between the first book in the series – Who Cares If They Die – and this one. When I wrote that first book, I didn’t have a publisher and never knew if it would ever see the light of day, but now I’m writing for actual readers, it pushes me to write and refine better than ever!

With that in mind I’ve tried to make book 3 even better. I can’t reveal the title yet and I’m hopeful it will be released in 2020, but I feel like I’ve made it the best it can be until it goes through the official editing process with my lovely publisher (Ruby Fiction). Working with an editor really does make any book better because they spot things we can’t possibly see after so many read-throughs and re-writes. I’m looking forward to making the final changes before publication.

I’ve also written a crime short story called Room 12b that my publisher released as one of their ‘Treats’. They surprised me by also having it narrated into an audio story! You can listen to it (it’s only 7 mins long – perfect for a tea break!) on their website by clicking on ‘Free Audio Story’ at the bottom of the page, under Where the Snow Bleeds here. I hope you enjoy it!

So, am I taking a breather now I’ve finished book 3 in the series?

No! I’ve already started work on some new projects but I can’t give anything away about them yet as they’re so new. Just be assured that I have plenty more books in the pipeline and my enthusiasm for writing hasn’t waned at all – I have stories in my head that are demanding to be written, which is why I haven’t been able to take a break between books. I’m genuinely interested to see what happens with all of them, as well as what happens with Dean Matheson next. Dean is one of my favourite characters and I want to see him do well. And he will… if only he’d stop getting into trouble! Readers of Where the Snow Bleeds have told me Detective Eva Valdez is a great addition to the series and I love writing her story as she’s got a lot to say and isn’t afraid of saying it, especially to Dean! I think she can help him become the great detective he’s always wanted to be.

If you prefer to read paperbacks over eBooks, you might like to know that Who Cares If They Die is currently available to pre-order as a paperback on most book shop websites as well as Amazon. It’s officially released on 5th November 2019 in all good book stores and libraries (if they don’t have it in – just ask them to order it!).

I’m hoping that, by Christmas 2019, I’ll have lots of new writing updates for you and I’ll be able to tell you more about book 3 in the series as well as my other projects…

In the meantime, thanks to everyone who’s ever read and reviewed one of my books. Your feedback really does help to shape the next book and it boosts my confidence when I most need it – during those cold, lonely writing days when I’m questioning whether anyone’s ever going to read what I’m writing.

Thank you!

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The final two cupcakes leftover from publication day!

Where the Snow Bleeds – taster!

Yesterday, my second Dean Matheson crime thriller – Where the Snow Bleeds – was released as an eBook and audiobook. The taster (prologue) is coming up below but first, let’s see how things have changed for Dean since we last saw him in Who Cares If They Die (available now as paperback/eBook/audiobook).

In the first book he was reeling from the shock of his brother’s suicide, which caused him to make some terrible life choices. His ultimate goal has always been to become a homicide detective (he’s currently a police officer) and when he gets a chance to give that a try, he basically screws it up. Literally! 😊

By the end of book 1 we see a broken and disheartened Dean who makes the choice to leave the police force and his home town of Maple Valley. He heads to Las Vegas to become a private investigator, with his loyal wannabe police dog – Rocky – beside him.

So, in Where the Snow Bleeds we see how Dean is coping living and working in Las Vegas. He’s not enjoying it because he finds the job to be far more boring than he expected, as it mainly involves catching dog thieves. So when a woman walks into his office with an interesting case, he can’t resist. The woman’s daughter has gone missing whilst working at the Winter Pines Ski Resort in the creepy, desolate town of Lone Creek, Colorado. Dean agrees to visit the town and find out what happened.

This is where we meet Detective Eva Valdez for the first time. She was a great character to write as she’s strong and independent and the last thing she wants is some failed cop trying to help her. But she and Dean quickly realise they need to work together in order find Hannah and Jodie, the missing girls, before it’s too late.

Hannah already has a tragic backstory, as told from her point of view in my first novel – The Girl Who Died. Here we learn why she moved to the US from the UK, which clearly isn’t working out for her!

Early reviews of Where the Snow Bleeds confirm the story is dark and compelling, which is exactly what I was aiming for.

Book 3 – as yet untitled – is now finished and takes Dean in a direction even I wasn’t expecting…

Here’s the prologue from Where the Snow Bleeds, to whet your appetite! (Available from all digital platforms, including Amazon, now!)

 

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Trixie, the pure white Pomeranian who would almost certainly vanish into the thick blanket of snow but for her small black nose and fake Chanel collar, is doing something very unladylike. But boy, is she enjoying it. As she licks away, relishing the salty flavour and thick, greasy texture of this red liquid she’s never tasted anywhere before, she can hear her mother shouting for her. This is followed by crunching and panting sounds as her mother treads closer into the dense woods.

‘Trixie? Trixie, baby! Where did you go?’

Trixie yaps in excitement as her mother approaches, happy to share with her this new culinary delight. But she doesn’t turn around just yet because she wants some more for herself. A shadow suddenly blocks out the daylight.

‘Here you are, baby! That was very naughty to run away like that! Mummy’s trying to eat warm cookies after a long day on the slopes.’

Trixie’s mother, a wannabe-socialite from New York State, sounds relieved to have found her. She doesn’t notice or care what’s caught Trixie’s interest, assuming it’s the scent of yet another pine squirrel. Instead, in her relief, she reaches down, scoops her up and rubs her face all over Trixie’s without looking, which is their usual way of greeting.

‘Here’s mummy! Yes, here I am!’ she coos. Suddenly, she stops. She holds Trixie out, to look at her properly for the first time since she ran off.

Trixie blinks at her, then wags her tail. She’s eager to please but even more eager to get back to the good stuff. The scream, as her mother notices the bright red blood that covers Trixie’s soft white face, echoes through the Rocky Mountains and almost pierces poor Trixie’s delicate ears. Trixie suddenly finds herself discarded on the ground, confused.

As her mother dives away in disgust, heading for the safety of a bathroom to wash her face, Trixie trots back to the discarded hiking boot which her mother never even noticed.

‘Trixie!’ her mother yells after her as she retreats. ‘You come away from whatever dead animal you’ve found right now, you naughty girl!’

Trixie looks longingly at the jagged ankle bone that’s sticking out from snow-covered boot before obediently running after her mother.

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Book trailer:

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Author Q&A

Here is an author Q&A I did a couple of years ago for the lovely Abby from Anne Bonny Book Reviews after my YA crime novel (The Girl Who Died) was released:

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?

I have been an avid reader ever since I was small, always preferring books over dolls for presents, and that love of reading resulted in an inevitable love of writing.  I started writing stories from about ten years old and I still have some I wrote as a teenager (they’re not good but they make me smile!).  I eventually completed some Creative Writing modules as part of my degree and found they really helped me focus on writing every day.

The Girl Who Died was the first novel I wrote.  It centres around fifteen-year-old Hannah, who thinks she’s killed her best friend, Katie, and then has to deal with the aftermath.  From dealing with the police investigation to starting a friendship with Katie’s devastated older brother, Josh, Hannah is put in some awful situations that she isn’t mature enough to deal with.  It’s not an easy read when we learn what Katie was going through before she died, but I believe it’s important to be honest when writing Young Adult fiction.  When I was a teenager I would have liked to have read something like this, to show I wasn’t alone in what I was going through.

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

This novel started as a nightmare I had when I was fifteen years old.  I must have been arguing with my best friend that day because I dreamt I killed her, cut her up into tiny chunks and then buried her in various places in our local field!  I woke up drenched in sweat and feeling the worst guilt I’d ever experienced.  Not because I thought I’d killed my best friend (we had a love-hate relationship!) but because I thought I’d get caught!  It took me a while to realise it was a dream.  But that dream stuck with me for years and I finally turned it into a short story in my early thirties.  That story got published in the ‘Fish Anthology’ and I had such a good response to it that everyone wanted to know what happened next to Hannah, the main character.  I decided to find out by continuing the story and that turned into the YA novel ‘The Girl Who Died’.  Although I wrote it in my late thirties, I’ve received great feedback about how realistic the fifteen-year-old characters are, which is great.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

Stephen King’s earlier books such as Pet Sematary and IT had a huge influence on me growing up and I still read everything he writes.  I’m also a huge fan of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series, which was unexpected for me because I hadn’t read any fantasy before that.  I am currently working my way through everything ever written by Joyce Carol Oates as something about her writing draws me in.  I also love Daphne Du Maurier and Shirley Jackson.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

I grew up on Stephen King.  I would search the local car boot sales for any of his books I could find and ended up collecting them.  I prefer his earlier work such as Pet Sematary and IT because I’m a horror fan at heart, but I still read everything he writes.  I’ve learnt a lot from him.  At college I had to read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and that became a favourite, which meant I went on to read his other work.  It’s so important to read widely and not just stick to one genre.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

When I got a story traditionally published for the first time I was so proud of myself.  I had entered a short story competition but I wasn’t bothered about winning the cash prizes, I just wanted to make sure I was at least one of the runners up as they would be published in the anthology.  Once I found out I was a runner up I couldn’t have been happier than if I’d have won the money.  Receiving five complementary copies of the anthology and seeing my work in a ‘real’ book for the first time was a huge moment for me.  It made me realise for the first time that I can start saying out loud than I’m a writer.  I didn’t feel like I was pretending anymore.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

I never had anyone to encourage me while I was growing up and I never told school/college/work friends that I was writing in my spare time, as I felt embarrassed about it.  It was only when I met my husband at 25 that I revealed my writing hobby, and it took me a couple of years before I could show him any of my work.  I had such low self-esteem due to my upbringing that I didn’t feel confident enough to submit to competitions or publishers until I was in my thirties.  My husband has supported my writing ever since we met and now he’s a beta reader for my Dean Matheson crime series!

New book announcement!

Just a bit of an update for those readers who are asking for information about my next book… The first book in the Dean Matheson series (Who Cares If They Die) was published in September 2018. Yesterday, I signed a publishing contract with Ruby Fiction for the second in the series! Woohoo!

Book 2 will be published on 30th July 2019. What’s it called? You’ll have to wait a little longer to find out! Once the book cover and title have been revealed on social media (follow me on Twitter for the latest updates), I’ll post an update here with both.

So, what can I tell you about book 2? It’s really hard to talk about it without posting spoilers, which I know nobody likes, so I’ll just give you a few buzzwords for now: Colorado, snow, blood, Dean Matheson, Rocky the rottweiler, Detective Eva Valdez, murder, lies, abduction, grief…and Beth Smith. Thought you’d seen the last of her at the end of book 1? So did Dean!

I’m so excited about book 2 and I can’t wait for you all to read it! I’ve also just finished writing book 3 in the series! Is there anything I can tell you about book 3? Hmm… not yet. But it’ll be worth the wait, I promise. Even I’ve been surprised by what happens in book 3. The characters really have taken over and I’m just along for the ride.

For more teaser updates on book 2 and for the pre-order link, keep an eye on my Twitter and Facebook pages!

Book 2 contract

NaNoWriMo – Can you really write a novel in a month?

When I first heard of NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month) about 5 years ago, I laughed, shook my head and thought, ‘Yeah, right. As if you can write a novel in a month.’ I thought if someone finished a whole novel in one month then it would be utter rubbish and unedited. So, I avoided the idea completely…until I joined Twitter.

On Twitter, people take #NaNoWriMo seriously. That made me look into it in more detail and I discovered the point isn’t actually to write a whole novel in a month. It’s to write 50,000 words of a novel during November (the quietest time of the year, apparently, and therefore there should be less distractions). That works out at just 1,667 words per day. Just! So you’re not actually expected to start, finish and edit your novel in one month.

Once I signed up to the website (there are no fees involved), it felt like a challenge I wanted to try. So, on 31st October 2015, I sat down with a notepad and thought about what kind of book I wanted to write. All I had was a character and a location in mind. I didn’t plot or plan any more than that because I’m naturally what Nano-ers call a ‘pantser’, meaning I fly by the seat of my pants! But many people prefer to spend October plotting out their novels in advance.

On 1st November, I sat at my computer, opened a blank Word document and started to write. It was easier than I had expected. What followed was 30 frenzied days of trying to fit in 1,667 words a day, around life and a day job. I learned that if you don’t write enough words one day, you can catch up another day. Or, if you’re really organised, you can write in excess of 1,667 words on the glorious days when the words are flowing and plentiful. There’s a great word count tracker on the NaNo website (www.nanowrimo.org) so you can log your progress, plus there’s a whole community of people willing to spur you along.

By 1st December I was a nervous wreck! I’d just managed 50k words and I had the shell of a first draft novel. But it wasn’t finished. I needed around another 40k words and many edits before I could consider it finished. I’m happy to report that I did finish it and then I edited it for months and now it’s traditionally published and called Who Cares if They Die. It has become a crime series with two more books now finished!

So I’m grateful to NaNoWriMo and this is what I’ve learned since participating:

The good:

  • It gets you into the habit of sitting down to write every single day. Something I’d never done before and I loved it.
  • It kick starts a new novel and leaves no time for doubt.
  • You’re less likely to edit as you go because there’s no time to! I love editing as I go but it slows me down completely. I once spent 6 months on the first 30k words of a book, editing it over and over. In the end I had to scrap it all and start again (during NaNo!).
  • The writing community on Twitter is amazing and the NaNo hashtag is really encouraging during November. You really feel as though you’re writing with people for a change. It feels like we’re all in it together.

The not-so-good:

  • Writing every day gives me migraines. Staring at a PC all day was bad for my eyes. I should’ve had more regular breaks from my screen.
  • I exercised much less. My shoulders were aching and my hands turned into claws! Better time management on my part could’ve solved this.
  • You need an understanding partner/family/roommate, because they will probably have to take over most of the housework during November! (Which is a bonus for us!)
  • You’ll want to put your novel to one side in December and not return to it for months! But that’s good, because when you pick it up again you’ll have a fresh perspective, which is invaluable for the editing phase.

So, what I’ve really learned is that while it is possible to write 50k in one month, it’s not really possible to write and edit a whole novel in one month (although I know some writers have mastered this). Also, writing every single day isn’t good for your body, but having a set routine of writing most days, whilst taking the weekend off, is best. NaNo can really get you motivated to start that new novel in a way that’s hard to beat.

If you’ve never tried it and always wondered about it, I highly recommend you give it a go! Good luck and see you on Twitter in November!