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Sylvie has a secret watcher. His mission is to eliminate any newcomer who might sully her innocence.
Sylvie’s carefree world turns into a nightmare when terrible accidents start to befall her male friends. Is she jinxed or is someone out to harm them? She must find the killer before he does anything to the new man in her life.

Winner of the NAWG Award
‘This is the rarest of creatures a thriller that actually thrills. From the opening page, this suspense story grabs the reader and won’t let go. It’s a genuinely creepy, tingly read, packed with menace and malice – the sort that is uncomfortable to read but impossible to put down.’
Iain Pattison – Award judge

Addicted to Crime Fiction

I like to think I’m relatively catholic in my reading tastes, but I find myself reading more and more crime fiction these days. I suppose that is why I write it.

The great thing about crime fiction is that it has so many sub-genres that you can constantly ring the changes. I love them all – from the gentle classic crime of the Golden Age (Agatha Christie is one of the few writers I reread over and over again), the police procedural (especially Anne Cleeves’ Vera), historic crime (Lindsey Davis’ first century detective Roman detective, Falco novels), comic crime (Simon Brett’s actor-cum-sleuth, Charles Paris), the whodunit (Dick Francis), literary crime (Robert Goddard), fantasy crime (Jasper ffjorde’s Thursday Next novels) to Scandinavian noir (Steig Larson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

Then there’s the private investigator (Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Malone), the amateur detective, the American hardboiled detective (Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer series), the legal thriller (John  Gresham), the financial thriller (Michael Redpath), the medical thriller (Tess Gerritsen), the forensic thriller (Patricia Cornwall), the spy novel and the howdunit. There’s a growing number of paranormal crime novels and crime novels with a hint of romance plus a rise in what is now classified as domestic-noir (Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl) now being published.     

One of the most popular is the cozy mystery, but as with all subgenres, they can vary considerably from what I call the cupcake cosy,  the locked room mystery to those with a touch of edge. The only thing that links these together is the absence of gratuitous violence, sex and bad language.

I love the variety. Whatever my mood, whether I chose some light and undemanding like an M.E. Beaton, Agatha Raison,  or something a little more challenging to test my powers of concentration with a fast moving, complicated plot with a plethora of twists and turns, I can always find something to satisfy it.

A second great attraction of the crime novel for me, is that they often come as a series. If you get hooked by the first book you know there are many more happy hours of reading to come. Picking up the next book is like meeting up with a dear friend again. I love Estelle Ryan’s Genevieve Lenard novels. Genevieve has autism spectrum disorder, extremely intelligent but with poor social skills. Not the easiest of characters to make the protagonist in a series which has now reached twelve books.

Crime fiction is the biggest selling genre in publishing. You only have to go into any public library to see how popular they are. Nearly all fiction is arranged alphabetically with possibly a few shelves set apart for fantasy and science fiction, but crime fiction occupies stack alongside stack. Perhaps the most important reason for that is that they satisfy two or three very basic instincts that most of us have. The need for justice to win out in the end – we know the road will be bumpy, but in the end the murderer will get caught and his or her bad deeds punished. Secondly, we enjoy the thrill of the chase, the sense of danger lurking behind the corner   (I love the edginess of many crime novels)  and lastly – we love trying to solve the puzzle, piecing together the clues, before the investigator.

When I started writing crime, I was reading a great deal of psychological suspense. I loved Nicci French, Minette Walters and Barbara Vine. A genre that back in those days earned the label of woman in jeopardy. I was attracted to the edginess of their novels – the feeling of the protagonist’s life spinning out of control, taken over by events they can’t explain and the knowledge that if they don’t sort it out, they will end up dead. I suppose it was no surprise that my first novels were in this sub-genre. What appealed to me was trying to capture that fear, that unease, the sense of urgency never knowing what was going to go wrong next.

I was having problems with my third novel – Finding Jade – and to make matters more tricky, the woman in jeopardy type of psychological suspense that I was writing drifted out of fashion. My then agent suggested that I should write about a series character as that was what the publishers were looking for. That meant a change of sub-genre.

I’ve always been a lover of the whodunit mystery and I’d had the idea of a series about a tour manager for a coach company for some time. I thought that her driver would be her sidekick and that the coach would limit by number of suspects. It took a little longer to sort out a location. I knew from the start that the location would be important – that the story couldn’t happen anywhere else. The first Fiona Mason Mystery – Blood on Bulb Fields – began to take shape. Not that it turned out quite as I’d planned. A minor character demanded a bigger part and then went on to insist he came back in future novels. Mr Montgomery-Jones was not a character you dare say no to. He has caused me no small headache ever since. He has his own mission to accomplish in every novel so, unlike most murder mysteries there are two separate crimes to solve that interweave meaning that, at several points in story, he and Fiona are at odds.

Many of the reviews I have been given mention the Fiona Mason Mysteries as being like a modern Agatha Christie. That’s very flattering – she’s one’s of my favourite writers – though I can’t see it myself. Miss Marple never puts herself  in danger like Fiona tends to do. Another author who has been a great influence on me is Dick Francis. Although mine are travel whodunits rather than with a horseracing background, I feel Fiona often has the same sense of not knowing quite where to turn that his protagonists always feel.

In all the Fiona Mason books, the location is an essential element. However familiar I am with the area, I always take a research visit. It’s more that just the history and the architecture of the varies towns and places en route, it’s the whole atmosphere and feel of the place that helps to drive the plot. The little things that happen on our holidays end up in the book. At the beginning of last year, with the fifth book in the series – Blood Across the Divide – published, I could not get down to the next book because our holiday was not until April. I could not sit twiddling my thumbs for four months so I began a completely new series based on the holiday we’d had a couple of months previously. Murder in Morocco, the first of my Aunt Jessica Mysteries. Again this is a travel whodunit but at least, although all stories have subplots, the Aunt Jemima Mysteries don’t cause me the problems of trying to interleave two quite separate major threads.

What is the attraction of crime fiction for you?

Blood on the Bulb Fields in Pictures

Way back in 2006, I had the idea of writing a series about an amateur sleuth who was a coach tour manager. Her driver could be her confidant, and the limited number of passengers gave me the perfect whodunit framework.

The next question was where to set the novel. I loved the idea of finding a dead body in a beautiful place. We had been to Keukenhof several times and it fitted the bill perfectly.

I decided from the very beginning that the location must be an important part of the novel and the story couldn’t happen anywhere else. The basis for the plot came quickly – Amsterdam is famous for its diamond cutting – diamonds suggest smuggling. Doing my research, I discovered that most smuggled diamonds are conflict or blood diamonds and that the whole operation is financed by terrorists. This would lead to the involvement of an anti-terrorist unit in the story.

Before I could get any further, I needed to go back to Holland. First stop was Keukenhof. While everyone else was taking photos of the beautiful bulbs, I was looking for where I could hide a dead body. Continue reading

Murder in Morocco in Pictures

Location is one of the most important things for me as a writer. I need to be able to picture exactly where the action of each scene is set. My characters are always from my imagination, but the settings are real.

The locations for all but my first two novels have been inspired by holidays, but unlike the Fiona Mason Mysteries, our holiday to Morocco was never intended as a research trip. It was only because I had finished the final draft of Blood Across the Divide and had a three month wait before the research trip for the next Fiona Mason novel that I decided I would try writing a new series. Our holiday to Morocco had exceeded all expectation and was still fresh in my memory. What had helped make it so special is that the travel company was working with the Royal Academy who provided an accompanying history lecturer who pointed out things we might well have missed and who gave us lectures in the evenings. The idea for a novel began to take shape, though suffice it to say, our lecturer was nothing like Aunt Jessica.

Although I had made no notes, I did have literally hundreds of photos to help me when I came to write. Continue reading

New Year Resolutions

Has anyone learnt the skill of knitting time?

2017 has rushed past at an alarming rate. I toyed with the idea of trying to take life at a slower pace in the year to come. Having retired more years ago than I like to remember, life should really be getting less hectic, but the chances of that are pretty slim. Fundamentally it means giving up at least one of my activities. My mornings are devoted to exercise – yoga, tai chi, Zumba, line dancing and pilates. Giving up any one of these, would be counter-productive – I need to keep healthy – and there is no way I want to write less – in fact, the opposite!

Many of my writing goals for the coming year don’t change much from the ones I always make:Update website. Priority has to be to sort out my new website. The template I bought in the summer – if not earlier is still sitting there and its technology continues to defeat me.

  • Write more. I felt so proud of myself for achieving 50,000 words of the next Fiona Mason novel for NaNoWriMo, but I have not looked at it since. I MUST get down to some serious writing. I’m not the world’s fastest writer, but it would be good to get not only ‘Blood Flows South’ plus a second Aunt Jessica published this year.
  • Read more. There are shelves of reference books still sitting there in my study that I never make time to read and I dare not look at the number of books I’ve downloaded onto my Kindle – it was something like 400 last time I looked!
  • Learn Twitter. That’s been on the list for a good 5 years and I can’t remember where I put the book I bought to learn up on it.
  • Plus – I also have two Ancient history lecture cruises to prepare for and I need to do a vast amount of research before I can begin to even sort those out. As I need to make trips to the British Museum and to Oxford’s Ashmolean museum, I can’t afford to leave the research until the last minute.

Back in 2015, I created an elaborate spreadsheet detailing my goals for the year broken down into twelve month-long blocks using the smart. It was divided into two major sections – writing and marketing. Looking back on the year, the writing goals I fulfilled without too many problems, but I doubt I met even half of my marketing project goals. I seriously underestimated how long each of those marketing tasks would talk. I realised early on that one month was not enough for me to master Twitter (I’m still so terrified of it, I still haven’t opened the book I bought on the subject) or look at the book I have on getting the most out of Goodreads. I’m not going to bother spending time creating another spread sheet, but I am determined to stop procrastinating and at least make a start on both books this coming year and at the very least, crack Twitter.

I find mapping goals for the year ahead quite a depressing activity. I know it should enthuse and encourage, but even using the old SMART principal hasn’t helped at all. I’ve done very little the last few days – I have a cold – nothing disastrous, but I’m feel very sorry for myself.

On the plus side, I’ve just been given another 5* review for Blood in the Wine and the nights are getting lighter so life is not that bad.

What are your New Year resolutions? Do the excite or depress you?

A Christmas Ghost Story for you

Wishing all my readers a wonderful Christmas and a great 2018

CHRISTMAS AT THE HALL

Tom stopped to admire the view. A slow smile spread over his face. Even in the gathering gloom of a winter’s early evening, Wyvern Hall with its broad Neo-classic façade was impressive. That first time he had come up this long drive, he had thought it the grandest building he had ever seen. He had been so proud that he was going to work at the big house.

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My NaNoWriMo Experience

Those of you who read last month’s post will know that I intended to attempt the NaNoWriMo challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month. I knew that many of my friends had done it, but for the last few years, I have been away on holiday so 2017 was my chance to give it a go.

I didn’t expect to achieve 50,000 words in just 30 days. I’m a slow writer at the best of times averaging 500 a day – if I manage 1000 words, I feel very proud of myself – but I thought the discipline would do me good.

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The dreaded to-do list

There was a time when retirement was meant to be when you slowed down and took life easily. Like so many of my contemporaries, that idea seems to have passed me by.

Even my writing to-do list gets longer by the day. I haven’t done any work on the next novel in months. I’m currently busy trying to get to grips with Scrivener – a tool to help writers keep track of projects and which many authors swear by. A couple of months ago, I bought a new website template which is proving considerably more complex than I ever imaged and I’m not getting very far with it. Currently, my eBooks are on Amazon and I’ve decided to make them available in other outlets. Another learning curve to climb. I also need to spend time learning more about how to utilise things like twitter and a whole host of other marketing strategies. I have books on making the most of Goodreads and Facebook, how to understand Search Engine Optimisation (still not sure I even understand what that means) plus several other books and tasks that have been at the bottom of my to-do list for years! Continue reading

Books, books and more books.

Bedtime reading

My hobbies are listed as reading, writing and travel. It’s one of life’s great pleasures to curl up in bed at the end of the day with a good book and travel to a different world. In a life that is ridiculously busy, where my to-do list always seems longer come bedtime than when my day began, it’s a great way to unwind, to forget about the problems of the day and let go of the guilt about those things you should have done but never got round to. There is something very special about holding a brand new physical book in your hands as you cuddle down propped up on the pillows.

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Jemima, Jessica, Louisa? – What’s in a name?

Little did I realise the flurry of response posting the proposed book cover for my new series on Facebook would provoke. Murder in Morocco is the first in a new series I’d planned to call the Aunt Jemima Mysteries. But it seems “Aunt Jemima” conjures up a very different picture for my American friends from the eccentric, go-getting if now elderly adventurer that I envisaged. I hadn’t appreciated that the name is offensive to some people in the US where it can be derogatory label and conjures up images of an obsequiously servile black woman.

I’ve lived with Aunt Jemima for over eight months and it’s not going to be easy to find her a name that doesn’t change her personality entirely. I suggested Jessica but that didn’t go down too well either.

Names are crucial – they reflect personality and changing a lead character at this stage in the game is no easy task. I’ve had lots of suggestions on my Facebook Author page – keep them coming – but it might help to know more about my eponymous heroine. Continue reading

RIP my PC

Truth to tell, my PC and I always had a difficult relationship. He (it must have been male because it never listened to reason, was stubborn and could be extremely childish at times) had this frustrating habit of refusing to do what he was asked – I would press all the right keys etc but he just would not co-operate and I would have to call for techie husband to sort out the problem. You might know, the minute hubbie walked in the door, the PC would spring into action and sit up like a naughty puppy to all intents and purposes saying, ‘It wasn’t me – it was her!’ behaving itself perfectly without his old master having to touch the keys. It’s true, it was my husband’s old machine passed down when he got a better model and my PC knew it’s true master’s touch! It never messed him about.  

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