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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

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?

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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Author Interview on ‘toofulltowrite’

First and foremost, I wish you all a happy and productive New Year.

Towards the end of the year, I was approached by David Ellis and asked if I would agree to be interviewed for his toofulltowrite website subtitled as a Creative Palace for Artists and Author Resources. David asked some interesting questions that had me scratching my head at times and here is the result.

PORTRAITS 043_cr 300 tallAuthor Interview – Judith Cranswick

Welcome to the latest installment in the Author Interview series and we are finishing out the week with a bang.

Tonight we speak to Award Winning author Judith Cranswick about her crime thriller novels and what makes them so special, engaging and worth reading.

 

Hi there Judith, thank you for taking the time to be with us today to talk about your thrilling stories.

Blood Hits the Wall front cover copyLet’s start with your latest novel “Blood Hits the Wall” – Book 4 in the Fiona Mason Mysteries Series. Please tell us more about Fiona, how she has evolved over the course of four novels and what sleuthing adventures and sticky situations she is going to find herself dealing with this time round?

In the first book in the series, “Blood on the Bulb Fields”, Fiona was recently widowed. She had spent the last nine years looking after her terminally-ill husband. When he died, family and friends suggested she get herself a little job to keep herself occupied though becoming a tour manager for a coach company wasn’t quite what they had in mind. Fiona has grown in confidence as the year (and the first four books) has gone on and in “Blood Hits the Wall”, on her tour to Belin and the Elbe Valley, her relationship with MI6 chief, Peter Montgomery-Jones develops though they continue to find themselves at odds with one another all too often as they pursue their separate objectives. This time she wants his help when the group is detained in Berlin following the murder of their local guide, but he has his own secret mission which he cannot jeopardise. Continue reading

Technology and the Writer

When I first became a published writer, all I needed to bother about was to produce a novel that was the best I could make it. Today it seems that we writers need to spend almost as much time promoting ourselves as getting words on the page. And that means being internet savvy.

I confess that I’m technically inept. I know my way around Microsoft Word and I’m quite a dab hand at PowerPoint but beyond that, I’m something of a technophobe. My excuse is that I see no point in having a dog and barking yourself. Not that I’m calling my lovely husband a dog but as an electrical engineer who has spent a lifetime in the semi-conductor industry, I leave anything technical to him and have never bothered to learn myself.

Yesterday proved that such a philosophy can have catastrophic consequences. My lack of basic skills let me down big time. I was all set to give a talk using PowerPoint to a local group but it was a catalogue of disasters.

Problem 1

Worried__lookingTwo weeks ago my husband upgraded my PC and my laptop to Windows 10 and yesterday was the first time I’d used my laptop outside the house. I switched on and entered my password as usual but instead of letting me straight in, a message came up beneath my email address saying I needed to put in my password. I had no idea what my Outlook password was. So I picked up my mobile and phoned home. Continue reading

Where has the year gone?

DSC_3358At a time when every sensible writer is reviewing their last year’s writing/marketing strategies and planning new ones for the coming year, I must confess writing and the latest novel are the last things on my mind. For the last month, everything has been put on hold.

I must confess, my plans to write and publish the next Fiona Mason Mystery within the year had slipped a little (there was a hectic period in the summer that I mentioned in my August blog) but when we went on holiday at the end of November, I fully expected that I’d be able to have it available as an eBook by January at the latest. However, things rarely go to plan!

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When Life Gets in the Way…

Worried woman at laptopWe’ve all experienced it – the novel progresses reasonably well then life gets in the way and things grind to a halt. It may be a holiday, an illness, a family crisis or a major upheaval such as a house move. It’s not just our time but our whole preoccupation that’s focussed elsewhere. It’s bad enough trying to get back into the writing routine after a relatively short break but when things stretch out into weeks and months the greater the effort needed to find the enthusiasm to get back to work. That’s what it is – work – hard work and suddenly we find more and more excuses to hold us back.

The situation is compounded if the break happens around the time of the ‘soggy middle’ – the mid-point crisis when our enthusiasm for the novel has already begun to waver. That point when you have great doubts about the whole enterprise. The characters lack depth, the plot is going nowhere, the spark has gone and the language laboured and uninspired. The daily word count drops dramatically. Writing is no longer a joy. It reaches the point at which, to quote George Orwell – ‘writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness.’

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The Ups and Downs of Being a Cruise Lecturer

talks_1Who wouldn’t want to be a cruise lecturer? It can be a daunting prospect, but being asked is a great privilege and, in the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to go to some great places and meet some lovely people. I was more than happy to drop everything and put my life on hold for a month when the agency rang and asked if I’d like to go on a 20 day ‘Mystery Cruise’ leaving in just over a week’s time. Continue reading

Each to his own! Books, eBooks and audio books.

I’ve seen yet another book versus eBook article and it started me thinking. I read hardback/ paperback books and eBooks,  listen to stories on tape/CD and on my mp3 player but there is a big difference in both when and what type of book I read or listen to.

Like so many people, I can’t go to sleep until I’ve had a read and I like to snuggle down with a real book in my hands – preferably a hardback! This is when I tend to read my favourite authors or one that has been highly recommended and 9 times out of 10 it will be a crime novel. For that lazy bath, complete with cup of coffee and bar of chocolate, there is no practical substitute for a real book! Continue reading