Exciting news!

I have some exciting news!

I am delighted to announce I have signed a two-book deal with the fabulous Bookouture (a sub-division of Hachette UK) for my new crime series featuring ex-detective Maddison Harper and private investigator Nate Monroe.

The first book in the series will be released in January 2021 and sees Maddison and Nate join forces to help find a twelve-year-old girl who has vanished from a summer camp in the small town of Shadow Falls, California.

Book 1 is already written and going through the editing process, I’m halfway through writing book 2, and book 3 ideas are forming a not-so-orderly queue in my head! Keep an eye out on here and on my social media (Twitter & Facebook) for updates about publication date and cover reveal!

You can read the official press release from Bookouture here.

For my loyal Dean Matheson readers, I expect you’re wondering what all this means for Dean, Eva and Rocky? It’s clear I love those characters and I know I have some super fans of this series because you message me nearly every day asking where the next book is! All I can say is there won’t be a fourth book yet but never say never! For now, I will be concentrating on my new series.

Thanks for sticking with me in my new adventure. If you like Dean and Eva, I think you’re going to love Nate and Maddison!

Wendy x

How to pass the time when self-isolating during coronavirus

I’ve worked from home as a full-time crime writer for a year now. It’s been amazing because I’ve only had one bug in that time (one cold, compared to about five colds and one flu per year before that) and a massive reduction in migraines. Plus, I’ve written three novels and various short stories and articles in that time, making it my most productive year yet, career-wise.

But there can be downsides to working from home. You’re socially isolated and it can negatively affect your mental health some days, especially if it’s new to you.

If you’ve been sent home from work to avoid the spread of coronavirus, or you’re choosing to self-isolate (hopefully, as a precaution and you’re not ill) and don’t know what to do with yourself, you might find at least one tip here that appeals to you. I don’t have children (well, 3 cats!) so I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is to entertain kids if your whole family is self-isolating, but I’m sure there are some great tips online specifically for children.

  • You’ll probably feel like having at least one or two sweatpants days where you just lounge on the sofa or stay in bed all day long, eating all the bad stuff from your cupboards and ignoring the hairbrush. Do it! How often do we get a chance to do this on a weekday? Never! It’s not wasting time, it’s downtime and everyone needs more of that. Give in to eating whatever you want and don’t feel guilty for taking an afternoon nap. Just don’t do this every day of your self-isolation as it will quickly turn bad. One day off is fine, but after that, get productive or your mental health will decline.
  • Why not plant some seeds? In my experience you’ll look forward to checking every morning whether they’ve grown yet. If you can’t get out to buy seeds, use something you already have – sweet peppers, apples, citrus, tomato, an old spud going moldy in the cupboard – just plant something and watch it grow! There are plenty of YouTube videos showing you how to plant anything, but I’ve found trial and error is best. I just put a seed in some compost, water it and put it in a sunny spot. That works 96% of the time. (Cactus seeds refuse to grow in my house!) Another benefit of planting seeds is that we might need home-grown produce if food becomes limited (worst case scenario), so get a head-start now.
  • If you have a garden or balcony, make sure you get outside regularly. The benefits of listening to the birds, watching bees buzz around the flowers and feeling the sun on your face is immediately uplifting. Plan to fill those gaps in your borders by listing what you want to buy when you’re able to get out and about again. Tidy up the pots that have been thrown around the garden in the recent storms. It will help you feel productive which, in my experience, keeps spirits lifted.
  • If you’re well enough, go for a walk every day, even if it’s just around the block. Obviously be careful if you do have coronavirus, you don’t want to accidentally spread it to any at-risk people, but getting outside really breaks up the day, even if just for fifteen minutes. It’s good for your body too as too much sitting will very quickly ruin your overall fitness. Take it from someone who knows!
  • Speaking of exercise; don’t forget YouTube has thousands of free workout videos including aerobics, yoga, indoor walking etc. Try searching for whatever you’re interested in and I guarantee there’s a video for it!
  • Use social media to chat with people who share your interests. There are bound to be lots of other people in the same situation and looking to pass the time, and social media can make you laugh (well some sites are better than others; Twitter is my fave.). You might even end up making new friends (but stay safe online – see my previous blog post!).
  • TV is important because it feels like you’re with people. Watching drama-filled reality shows can fill the void if you’re missing office gossip. I recommend any of the Real Housewives franchises for their drama and gossip and the “OMG, did they really just do that?” moments!
  • Use the time you’re indoors to catch up on the hobbies you’ve been neglecting for years. Dust off your Warhammer 40k miniatures/knitting needles/drum set and lose time!
  • Read those books that have been piled next to your bedside table for years! Many people will want to read uplifting stories right about now but I’m the opposite, I’ve always loved crime, horror and non-fiction so if that’s what helps me escape the news, then that’s what I’ll read. E-readers will certainly be useful during this pandemic!
  • Those DIY jobs you’ve been avoiding? Start small and build up to getting them done. Or just have a spring clean and get rid of all the clutter you’ve been meaning to give away or sell! This is probably a really good time to list stuff on auction sites and make some money. Assuming the post offices stay open of course.
  • If you’re meant to be actually working from home during this time, don’t put it off. Find somewhere comfortable to work from in your house (not your bedroom as this will ruin your sleep routine eventually) and make sure you go there during your normal work hours. Okay, maybe knock off at least an hour either side because let’s face it, these are unprecedented times and we’re not going to work as hard as we would if we were actually at work! Keep your workday routine if you can because you’ll find it easier to mentally switch off when you do stop working. Move to a different room for downtime. That’s why working from the living room or bedroom isn’t always a great idea; it might be comfortable but you’ll start associating it with work. I work from a spare room we’ve converted into a home office, but that’s because my homeworking is long-term.
  • Don’t spend all your downtime watching the news. Sure, get updates once or twice a day because coronavirus is obviously a fast-moving story (and bug) but it’s depressing and actually quite scary for a lot of people, and when you’re stuck at home you need to focus on staying busy and positive as much as you can.
  • Stay in contact with anyone in your family or friend-circle, or neighbours, who live(s) alone. They will be the people who are most scared because they’ll be worrying about contracting the virus and having no way of getting their normal medicine and groceries. Not everyone uses online shopping and even that might be hit eventually. Call/message them regularly or, with elderly neighbours, try to pop by and chat through the closed front-door a few times a week, if they’re open to that. Remember, a lot of people who suffer with long-term chronic illnesses are isolated all the time and they’ll have better tips than me on how to cope.

Ultimately, anything that passes the time will help you get through self-isolation and you have to keep both your mind and your body active because mental health is absolutely linked to physical health. Oh, and having pets like Joey (pictured above) helps!

If you have any other tips, leave a comment!

Wendy. x

It’s Publication Day!

It’s Publication day for book 3 in my Dean Matheson crime series: Won’t You Save Me.

This is my fourth publication day and does it get any less exciting as the books go on? Well, a little, if I’m honest. It’s hard enough to get family/friends to care about your first publication day, never mind your fourth, so there’s no fuss or celebrations this time.

This is where social media comes in. My Twitter and FB friends will make a fuss, RT my posts and make me feel special. It’s so lovely and encouraging to hear from readers of the first two books in the Dean Matheson series, who are eagerly awaiting this release. I still can’t believe anyone out there even reads my books, let alone enjoys them!

So, Won’t You Save Me sees Dean back home in Maple Valley, which was really fun to write as we get to see all the old characters from Who Cares if They Die. I missed Frankie (from Frankie’s Diner) so much and he provides some much-needed comic relief in what is otherwise quite a dark book. It tackles child sexual exploitation as well as how people wear masks to hide their true motivations. I know from experience that we sometimes have to place our trust in those we are meant to turn to for help but they can be the ones who let us down the most. There’s also a shocking revelation in this book that will change things forever and now I have to write book 4 to see how that turns out! Oh, plus, as well as Rocky the wannabe police dog, this book contains cats. What can I say, I’m an animal lover and I have 3 cats so they sometimes end up in my books!

I have to give a special thanks to Zoé from Zooloo’s Book Diary who is helping me celebrate publication week on her blog, and to all the bloggers who have shared her posts. Thanks also to Jo Lambert (fellow author) for sharing my publication day links. Jo’s current book can be found here and it’s the first in a new series, with books 2 and 3 on the way soon. At the time of writing this it’s on offer for just 99p but not for much longer so grab yourself a bargain!

And of course I have to thank my publishing team at Ruby Fiction for the opportunity of sharing my characters with the world. My books are a little (okay, a LOT!) darker than what they usually publish so taking me on was a bit of a risk! Hopefully I don’t have them shaking their heads in despair at my creepy plots and messed-up criminals!

Thank you to everyone who’s ever bought/borrowed/read one of my books. Whether you loved them or hated them, at least you gave me a try. It sounds like I’m retiring but I’m not! There is still plenty more to come from me and if you’re interested in my latest release, see below for the blurb and buy links. I really hope you enjoy it. Now I’m going to have a sneaky glass of wine to celebrate publication day with the cats…

Won’t You Save Me is now available on all digital platforms and the audiobook will follow shortly.

Blurb:

Detective Dean Matheson has returned to his hometown to begin his new job and put the traumatic events of his past behind him – but his fresh start won’t last long when the local area is hit by a series of strange disappearances and twisted killings …
A nameless girl badly beaten and dumped in front of the mysterious new church. A shocking murder scene discovered in the apartment over the diner. A child missing without a trace.
These are the crimes Dean Matheson is confronted with in his first week as detective. Are they isolated events, or is something altogether more disturbing happening in Maple Valley now that Dean’s back in town?

Buy links:

Amazon

Kobo

Apple books

GooglePlay

Nook

Book 1 – Who Cares if They Die

Book 2 – Where the Snow Bleeds

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New book announcement!

A bit of an update for those readers who are asking for all the gossip about my next book…  I’ve recently signed a publishing contract with Ruby Fiction for the third book in the Dean Matheson crime series!

Book 1 – Who Cares if They Die

Book 2 – Where the Snow Bleeds

Book 3 will be published in January 2020. OMG, that’s only 2 months away! 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 3? Well, it’s finally time to see whether Dean can cut it as a detective. In book 1 we follow him as a police officer itching to make detective, and when he’s given a chance to stand in for a colleague, it doesn’t go the way he had hoped. In book 2 he realises he needs more investigative experience so he tries his luck as a private investigator in the snowy mountains of Colorado on a particularly messed-up case. Now, in book 3, he’s got what he always wanted – he’s Detective Dean Matheson. We follow him on his first month in the job and what a month it is! Murder, deception and twists test Dean’s detective skills, but can he follow through to the end or will his greatest adversary derail him once and for all?

Thought you’d seen the last of Beth Smith at the end of book 1? So did Dean! And this time, only one of them can survive…

I’m so excited about book 3 as this is what Dean has been working towards for so long and even I didn’t know whether he’d be any good as a detective when I started writing it. I think readers are in for a few surprises, along with some familiar faces turning up and of course Rocky, Dean’s lovable rottweiler. That’s all I can say without spoilers!

For more teaser updates on book 3 and for the pre-order link, keep an eye on my Twitter and Facebook pages!

Coroner’s assistant to crime writer

It’s not surprising that I became a crime writer. After all, crime has always played a part in my work life. I’ve worked as a university adviser for prisoners who were seeking rehabilitation through education and I’ve worked in a coroner’s office, where we sought justice for those who may have passed away through medical negligence or even murder. So perhaps I feel compelled to write about crime in order to seek justice for those unable to seek it for themselves. Those who have been murdered, or those with no family to care about them.

Who Cares If They Die is the first book in my Dean Matheson crime series and it explores exactly that: what happens when women who are living on the margins of society are killed in suspicious circumstances. Does anyone care if a drug addict overdoses? What about if a prisoner commits suicide? The killer in this book hopes not. But these women are still someone’s mother, daughter, sister, despite what they’ve done.  Don’t they deserve as much justice as anyone else? Officer Dean Matheson thinks so and he makes it his business to find out the truth, because he’s unwilling to accept their deaths were suicides.

In the sequel – Where the Snow Bleeds – Dean is called in to investigate a police department that is happy to write-off two missing teenage girls from a remote ski town in Colorado as runaways, when all the evidence clearly points to the opposite. With the popularity of true crime documentaries rising, we are becoming more aware of corruption in law enforcement and just how big a problem it is, how many wrongful convictions take place each year. This book explores how far people will go to turn a blind eye in order to protect their own interests.

I think we’d all like a Dean Matheson in our lives, someone who will dig a little deeper in order to seek justice for those who can’t seek it for themselves.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! Just as I have cats who keep me company while I write, Dean has his rescue dog, Rocky, helping him in his investigations. Rocky is a gentle rottweiler and wannabe police dog and he’s the character I get the most emails about! I often laugh at how crime fiction lovers (me included) can read about the most horrific crimes to humans but I’ve been told on no uncertain terms that I can never, ever, allow anything bad to happen to Rocky. Quite right too.

This is a short article I wrote for Female First to celebrate the release of the paperback version of Who Cares if They Die on 5th Nov 2019. It is now available in all good book shops (and on their websites) and in UK libraries as well as on all digital platforms as an ebook and audiobook. Book 3 in the series is out in Jan 2020.

Watch the one minute teaser trailer to see if you’re interested!

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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!

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!