Walking All Over Cancer this June!

Hi folks.

This month my blog posts will be slightly off topic as I’ve signed up to Cancer Research UK’s #WalkAllOverCancer campaign and will be posting about my progress right here.

The aim is to walk at least 10,000 steps each day, every day, for the whole of June. For the average person, that works out at about 5 miles a day, or 150 miles over the month, which just happens to be the approximate distance between my house in Leicestershire and my spiritual home of Whitby, North Yorkshire.

To add a bit of fun to proceedings I’m going to be charting my ‘progress’ on a map, plus posting regular updates, photos and occasional calls for sponsorship on my blog.

As of 2pm this afternoon, my FitBit tells me I have walked 2,580 steps.

Woeful, isn’t it? The perils of having a nine-to-five desk-based job, and a six-to-the-small-hours desk-based passion (I hate calling writing a ‘hobby’). But the challenge of walking a little bit further each day is nothing compared to what cancer sufferers, their friends and loved ones, have to deal with. I doubt there’s a single one amongst us who hasn’t been touched by this awful disease in some way, and I’m proud to be doing my bit to help fund vital research in the quest to put an end to cancer once and for all.

You can find out about the fundraiser here and sponsor me here.

In the meantime, Whitby calls…

X

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Barry Scott from the Cillit Bang ads is not Barry Scott, and other things I have learned this week

I’m currently reading Dave Gorman’s ‘Too Much Information… or Can Everyone Just Shut Up For A Moment, Some Of Us Are Trying To Think’. If you’re not aware of Dave Gorman then I suggest you look him up, because he’s a very funny man. If you are aware of Dave Gorman then you may well have seen his show on Dave, ‘Modern Life is Goodish’, and this book is written in a similar vein to the ‘Goodish’ shows.

I actually came across this book in a charity shop, along with several other gems, all of which I purchased for the modest sum of £9.00:

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I come across a lot of these kinds of books in charity shops; books that can really only be read once, because once you’ve digested the facts and laughed at the jokes, it’s not quite the same the second time around. But I’m glad I came across this one, because if I hadn’t then I would not now know that Barry Scott is not a real person.

You know who Barry Scott is, right? The wooden, unconvincing star of the Cillit Bang ads, whose acting is so awful that you’re instantly convinced that he must be the inventor and insisted, against his marketing department’s advice, on being in the ads because he is the guy with the brains and the money and you do as he says or he’ll fire you .

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But no! This is not the case at all! According to Mr Gorman, Barry Scott is actually Neil Burgess, an actor who has also appeared as ‘Male Paramedic’ in Waking The Dead and ‘Removals Man’ in Life Begins.

Why does this matter? Well… it doesn’t. But it does go to prove the point that Mr Gorman is trying to make in his book: that we’re so bombarded with information these days ‘that we’ve taught ourselves not to pay too much attention’, let alone pause to question what we’re seeing.

Or maybe it’s just me that’s astounded at the lie Cillit Bang have been peddling for years (it is true that I don’t get out much). Type ‘Barry Scott’ into Google and the very first result is a website excerpt informing you that Barry Scott is played by actor Neil Burgess. The headline of the article is ‘Some fun facts about Cillit Bang’s cult ambassador Barry Scott following his advertising exit’, which is just the kind of click bait nonsense Mr Gorman berates in his book. So instead of just breezing past it, I’ve clicked on the link and here are the ‘fun facts’ presented:

1. Barry Scott is actually portrayed by... yeah yeah, I’ve covered that. I’m not sure how this is ‘fun’ though. Personally, I’m still mildly irritated at being deceived so easily by a household cleaning product, but never mind. On to fact two…

2. Scott’s first demonstrative campaigns began to appear in 2005 featuring the catchphrase “Bang! And the dirt is gone!” OK. It’s a fact, but is it ‘fun’ though?

3. A hardcore dance track was added to a remix of a Barry Scott ad – it has had nearly 1.5m hits on YouTube at the time of writing. Interesting, if you’re into hardcore dance. If I stretch my imagination I might be able to muster some mild amusement.

4. After being ‘rested’ the character of Scott returned in 2013, although the first campaign was then banned by the Advertising Standards Authority due to exaggerating claims that the cleaning product Cillit Bang Limescale & Shine with Turbo Power removed stains instantly. Nope. Still not a twitch on the fun-o-meter.

5. In 2014, a student website called Oxygen.IE reported the death of Scott. Now I’m confused. Did they report the death of a fictional character, knowing he was fictional, or did they report the death of Barry Scott, thinking Neil Burgess the actor was dead, but not knowing he was Neil Burgess the actor, or did they think Neil Burgess was dead? Or did they just not think at all?

6. The report received so many views that the editor, Simon Griffin wrote a tongue-in-cheek open letter to Scott to discuss his success and congregate Scott on becoming a public figure. To this day it is not thought that the letter has received a response from either the character or the brand. Now this is cheating. Not only is it not a new fact, being an extension of the previous one, but it’s also not fun. It’s also very badly written and pretty poor journalism. A guy wrote a letter. ‘It is not thought that’ the letter received a reply. Who is it doing the not-thinking? The author of the article? The public in general? (And if I’m anything to go by, some of us don’t even know he isn’t real, let alone if he’s dead or not!) So it’s not a fact at all, it’s an extension of a fact with a little ambiguity tagged on the end.

7. Scott’s enthusiastic presenting style was parodied in Peter Sarafinowicz’s BBC2 comedy show in a sketch dubbed ‘Kitchen Gun’. Finally, some fun! Except the author of the article (Stephen Lepitak, editor of The Drum, no less) couldn’t even be bothered to get Peter’s surname right, despite having had eighteen months since the article was published to correct it.

And that is the end of ‘Some fun facts about Cillit Bang’s cult ambassador Barry Scott’, of which there were six, not seven, and none were what I would call amusing.

With Mr Gorman’s book still fresh in my mind, I arrived at my work desk this morning determined to look at the web with a critical eye. Not that I should’ve been looking at the web but with everything that’s happened in Manchester recently, I wanted to see what the latest was (threat level ‘critical’, troops on the streets of Britain – a thing I never hoped to see in my lifetime). Eventually I scrolled down the page to other news, and in the ‘Health’ section of Google News there were two articles, one atop the other:

Just half a glass of wine a day may increase breast cancer risk

Six bars of chocolate a week could cut risk of common heart condition

Now I’m not in the habit of believing everything I read (although I am in the habit of believing cleaning product hawkers when they say they’re Barry Scott) and I know to take these kinds of stories with a large pinch of salt, to the point of being utterly apathetic about them. What worries me is that there are people out there — probably lots of them — that take this shit seriously. There will be people out there who are forcing themselves to eat six chocolate bars a week (the little martyrs, them) without actually clicking through to the article and reading the facts, which are far more in depth than a headline will allow (like women only need to eat one portion to get the benefits, not six, and a ‘portion’ is 30g, not the 850g whopper that my teenage self once got through in one sitting.)

And what of those who have vowed to never drink red wine again on the basis of one sensationalistic headline? Click through to the article and you will find that:

Further evidence has emerged of the link between alcohol consumption in women and an increased risk of breast cancer.

According to a report from the World Cancer Research Fund, half a glass of wine or a small beer a day increases the risk of breast cancer.

It also backs up research showing that regular intensive exercise can reduce the risk of the disease.

But is it really that simple?

Breast cancer is by far the most common cancer in women in the UK with one in eight women developing the disease during their lifetime.

But scientists say they can’t explain why the cancer occurs in some people and not in others.

There are numerous causes and lots of factors to take into account, including lifestyle, hormone levels and other medical conditions.

Basically, it’s a complex picture and there’s no point focusing on one factor only.

Read that last line again. Now pour yourself a glass of wine, grab yourself a square or three of chocolate, and relax in the knowledge that we’re all going to die of something some day, so let’s just enjoy life whilst we can. If this week has reminded us of anything, it’s that life is precious and we should cherish every second, not spend it worrying over infinite details.

Like the fact that Barry Scott is not really Barry Scott.

X

Love Manchester

Shane Ritchie, Reader’s Neck and the usefulness of other author’s reviews

Hello! I’m still here. Working hard on the perpetual WIP (I was struggling with the sheer length of it, and so was Word, so I’m now using Scrivener – not sure now how I ever managed without it!). Two short stories currently in for submission, pending a decision some time after June, and plotting the next Riley Pope tale, ‘The Case of Blue Ben’. Waaaaaaay behind on my Goodreads Reading Challenge so in a frantic effort to catch up I’ve developed Reader’s Neck – don’t know if that’s an actual medical complaint but it should be because it bloody well hurts. I’m currently alternating between Kelley Armstrong’s Cainsville series and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books. I’m not exactly a fan of this genre of fiction, but I got into the Jack Reacher series after reading a Lee Child interview in Writing Magazine, an excerpt of which can be found here.  The particular paragraph that resonated was this one:

• How do you feel about breaking writing rules?
In general writers, especially beginner writers, are very nervous and insecure. People have a clear idea of what they want to do and there are rules that aren’t rules – they’re just advice, and sometimes bad advice. Showing not telling is one face of bad advice. There is no reason why you can’t tell something in a plain, declarative style. Classic post-war thriller writers just sat down and told a story, and the idea that you should not is very twisted and forces people to pass on information in a very weird way. My main point is always to avoid advice. Books only work if they are vivid and organic and have one imagination in charge.

Always avoid advice?! Unpublished writers are bombarded with advice, and a lot of it is useful and we couldn’t do without it. There’s also advice that’s confusing, conflicting, biased, or just plain unhelpful. Also, if we’re to avoid advice, then do we avoid Mr Child’s advice to avoid advice???

But anyway, I picked up a few Jack Reacher’s on my charity shop rounds and have been steadily collecting them ever since. I’ve struggled with a few – I’d advise anyone to give ‘Nothing To Lose’ a very wide berth – but mostly I’ve enjoyed them, mainly because of the simple, pared-back way in which Lee Child writes; he can conjure the most vivid scene using four or five carefully chosen words, whereas another author (me, for example) might use a paragraph to say the same thing. I’m currently reading ‘The Visitor’ and enjoying it very muchly – I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out who the killer is already but I don’t know how she’s doing it, other than by hypnosis. I’ll add this to my notes on ‘interesting ways to kill people’, just as I added superglue to my list of ‘interesting ways to subdue folk’. I’m pretty sure my PC must be flagged to every law enforcement agency in the country by now.

On the subject of Cainsville, I’m also very much enjoying it. It is, of course, written by my favourite author, so go figure. It wasn’t until I finished #3 in the series and read a few reviews on Goodreads that something was pointed out to me, and verified by a lot of other readers – that love triangles occur in pretty much every Kelley Armstrong series. I hadn’t noticed this myself, but there is certainly a love triangle in Cainsville with Eden/Olivia, Gabriel/Gwynn and Ricky/Arawn, and then there’s the love triangle between Nadia, Jack and the guy whose name I forget in the Nadia Stafford series, and then there’s a potential love triangle issue waiting in the wings in the Rockton series between Casey, Eric and her ex-lover who she left behind when she went into hiding, and may reappear in the third installment to shake things up. The only love triangle I recall in the Otherworld series was in Bitten, when Elena was still living with (Philip?) whilst still in love with Clay and was caught between the two. I haven’t read any of her YA stuff so I can’t personally comment, but I’m led to believe there are more… you guessed it…. love triangles.

Apparently this is something of an overused plot device in YA, but it’s probably overused because it’s popular with teens and tweens. Furthermore I am in NOOOOO position to be criticising anyone, and certainly not the good lady herself. I was more interested in reader’s reactions to the use of a love triangle in urban fantasy – and the overwhelming majority were tired of seeing this and wanted something different. It also chimed with something I’d read the previous week about relationships in TV serial dramas – Shane Ritchie pointed out that it had taken over a year for Kat and Alfie to have their first kiss, yet nowadays, TV is all about instant gratification, and drawn-out will-they/ won’t-they scenarios are few and far between.

I don’t currently have a love triangle in my WIP – there is a love interest that kindles during the novel, but also complications that would make a relationship difficult. As it’s currently written, there’s a kiss between the two about 3/4 of the way through the book, just before the beginning of the climax where the protag. and love interest/hero are torn apart on separate quests. On the back of the advice I read from other urban fantasy readers (and also, who’d have thunk it, Shane Ritchie!) I will now remove that kiss and follow the Kat and Alfie formula instead – gaining myself a subplot for the next few books that could go all manner of interesting ways.

And speaking of TV, two points to mention:

  1. The hubster and I have been binging on The Man in The High Castle and I can highly recommend it. Nazis, kempeitai, alternative history… and now something very ‘Fringe’ is going on! TV GOLD!
  2. Well…. I can’t say. Due to the TV channel wanting to be all secretive, I’ve had to remove what point 2 said…. but all will become clear eventually.

A final note about the Riley Pope series – they’re all now FREE on Smashwords, and always will be. The reason? Well, because they’re not traditionally published, and whilst they’ve been properly proofread by myself, they haven’t been under the eyes of an editor or anyone else with a professional eye, like traditionally published books are, so viewing this from the eyes of the reader, I decided it would only be right to now offer them for free.

So that’s it folks. Don’t forget to add me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Smashwords – hell, I’m like dog s**t!

Until next time

X

New year, old novel, same determination

I’ve been a bit quiet on the social media front recently, partly because I haven’t felt that I had much to say (not good for an author, right?) but mainly because I’ve been suffering through one of those periods in life where everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I don’t believe in muses anymore, the ones that abandon you or otherwise, or in writer’s block (if I find I can’t continue a piece of writing, it’s because there’s something wrong with what I’ve written, so I need to go back and unpick it), so I can’t blame my lack of output on anything but myself. (Well I could blame my family, but that’s another blog!)

Illness and irritating relatives aside, the last couple of months haven’t been all bad. I’ve read more books than expected (check out my Goodreads here), the remarkable, unmissable Taboo has graced our screens (and who hasn’t fallen in love with Tom Hardy’s portrayal of James Delaney?), the Walking Dead  has returned from hiatus (Daryl and Carol, hurrah!) and the third and final season of Broadchurch started last night (which I have to catch up on, damn you pesky Foxes and your 3-1 win over Liverpool – hurrah!).

I also got my first royalty statement! I don’t drink coffee, which is good because I still can’t afford to buy a cup with what I’ve earnt, but it does mean a few good folk of the world have been kind enough to read just a little of my work, and that makes me happy.

I’m still ploughing through the never-ending WIP – but with renewed vigour since I sorted out the issues with the back story and plot. I’m 99% certain now that there are no further rewrites or hair-pulling, ‘back to the drawing board’ moments to come, just a lot of thorough editing, which I’m actually (crazily) starting to enjoy.

I’m a little behind on the 4th Riley Pope story. I had intended to release it this month, but with my Amazon issues I’ve delayed it until I can be free of KDP Select and release it where I want, for what price I want. So now I’m realistically aiming for an April release date.

Watch this space, and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Goodreads for updates and general ramblings, and maybe some pictures of cats in predicaments!

X

Antisocial media

I saw an advert / call for submissions from a traditional publisher recently, requiring the author to submit a detailed marketing plan with their manuscript.

Really???

Now I get that authors are expected to take a more active role in promoting their work than in previous decades, but unless you hail from a background in sales or marketing and have any knowledge of the publishing industry then where do you start? They might as well have printed ‘Beg, little author, beg!’ right? Well, quite frankly, f*** you Mr Publisher! Without us you’d be out of business. No wonder that more and more authors are turning to self-publishing, even the ones who’ve been traditionally published historically. If we have to do all the work ourselves then where’s the sense in wasting time seeking representation?

OK, so I know there are numerous advantages to having a publisher and many probably don’t require the aforementioned marketing plan – I don’t mean to tar them all with the same grouchy brush.

But.

We authors are, on the whole, inherently solitary creatures. We’re never more content than when we’re locked away, engrossed in our imaginary worlds and conversing with characters that live in our heads. Creating is the fun part of writing. None of us set out to write a novel with the thought of ‘Oh gee, I just can’t wait to market this’ in mind.

As I said in previous posts, it was always my intention to self-publish The Riley Pope Case Files, so promoting them myself was part of the package. I didn’t (and still don’t) expect to make a fortune from the venture. Aside from telling family and friends, my promotional work has solely taken place via social media – my dedicated author page on Facebook, my Twitter account, my Pinterest feed where oodles of gothic loveliness abounds, and Goodreads.

As I made the (sadly wrong) decision to subscribe to KDP Select, I am tied in to selling the first three books via Amazon exclusively, for a period of 3 months. It offers higher royalties in Japan, Brazil and Mexico, (none of which I’ve sold a single book to) and India (total sales: one), and allows you to earn via the Select Global Fund which calculates royalties based on the number of pages read via Kindle Unlimited (these take 3 months to show, so I don’t know what I’ve earned yet – probably a pittance). You also get access to promotions, either Kindle Countdown deals or a Free Book promotion which allows you to offer your book for free for up to 5 days.

I went with the Free Book promotion for all three books. The Case of Walutahanga sold well in this period, reaching No.16 in the Urban Fantasy Top 100 Free chart. As soon as the promotion was over, sales didn’t so much dwindle as dry up completely. The Case of Ahuizotl and The Case of the Brollachan had more modest sales during the Free Book period, and likewise went down to zilch post-promotion. As I write this, my Kindle Unlimited page reads are showing at 659.

I can attribute most of the sales to promotion via social media. On the days that I advertised, sales went up, so it definitely helps. On the flipside, I’m now pretty bored with repeating myself via updates and tweets and creative little JPEGs of book quotes, so I’m damned sure the rest of my audience is. As part of my sales drive I joined up to groups on Facebook and followed other folk on Twitter who either wrote or read urban fantasy, or had a keen interest in cryptozoology. A couple even followed me back, which was nice, but now both my Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of other people promoting their ebooks! Good for them! But am I paying them any attention?

Well… no.

The thing is, I don’t respond well to adverts, TV, online or otherwise. I know what I like and if I want it then I’ll actively seek it out. I don’t like being bombarded with commercials and little flashing GIFs, advising that I NEED to get this or that I MUST own that, hence I find myself cringing every time I post an ad, imagining all of those people going ‘God, not HER again! Sod off!’

It doesn’t help that I’m not very happy with the price that I’ve had to set the books at: Amazon won’t let me sell below 99p, which some might find pretty steep for a 9,000 word short story. The answer is to find other platforms to sell on for a lower price BUT – I’m now tied in to bloody Amazon until mid-March!

Gah!

The most consistent feedback I’ve had concerns print books and whether The Riley Pope Case Files are available in print. Sadly, they’re not long enough to print via CreateSpace. The plan is to release an anthology of Books 1 to 10 (when they’re written) in print, which won’t be for a year or two. I have seen a lot of other authors admitting their print sales are much, much higher than their ebooks, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. I personally own two Kindles and can’t remember the last time I used either. It’s not that I have anything against ebooks, but I just love print books more. I like to line them up on my bookshelves, I like the feel of a book in my hand and the smell when they’re new.

That’s right. I sniff books. Don’t you?

Liar. 😉

X

 

Three things to do over Christmas that’ll freak out your family

I recently watched the last ever episode of Banshee. For those who haven’t seen it, WHY NOT? I challenge you to watch the first episode and not be hooked by the time ten minutes is up.

As the final episode drew to a close and all of the characters I’d grown to know and love went their separate ways, not a happy ever after but a happy-ish for now, I found myself in tears and wondered WHY I was in tears! Nobody had died (well a lot of folk had, but not anyone I cared about). The fact is I’d come to feel close to the characters, to care about their lives and what happened to them afterwards. Except I wouldn’t know, because this was the end, and how daft does THAT sound when they’re only actors playing roles on the screen?

It got me to thinking just why I cared so much. The lead is an ex-con thief who assumes the ID of a murdered sheriff and goes on a quest to win back the love of his life, who’s now happily married to the mayor (but just happens to be an ex-thief herself, and the daughter of a mob boss who they lied to and swindled). On the surface there doesn’t seem much to root for – but, from the outset, we see our shady lead put himself in harm’s way to save a total stranger’s life. And he keeps on doing it, and keeps on doing it, and other shady characters join the party, and the plot keeps twisting and turning and thickening, and suddenly, just like the book you can’t put down, you’ve lost a whole day in your eagerness to find out what happens.

The strap line for Banshee is’small town, big secrets’, but even though it is a small town, it’s peopled with extraordinary characters. I know that in my current (never-ending) WIP, I’ve been guilty of not getting to know my characters well enough, and now am playing (soul-destroying) catch-up. So, to get to know my cast better,  I’ve come up with a trio of exercises aimed at really getting into their heads, discovering secrets even I didn’t know about, and finding out what their lives were like before they stepped into the pages of my novel. Feel free to try them out, or share them, but please keep a struggling author in biscuits and link back to my site- every little helps!

Exercise 1 – Correspond with your characters!

Everyone has secrets, even the people who live in your head! So why not invite them to spill a few? Write them a letter and let them respond, or, if you’re not entirely comfortable posting letters to imaginary people, then set up an email account for them. If you’re finding it difficult to switch between author and character then try corresponding as author at your desk, and replying as character in a coffee shop / on the commute / in your PJs from the sofa (you could go as far as dressing up as them if that helps!).

So what is the point of this exercise, other than freaking out your partner / parents / dog when they wander in and find you in full period costume, writing to a fictional entity?

Well, that depends entirely on what you want to know. I tried this exercise out with the antagonist of my current WIP, keeping the following questions in mind:

  • Why are you determined to kill my hero (you numpty)?
  • Why did you end up so bloody evil?
  • What drove you to do what you have done / are threatening to do?
  • What’s your motivation and is it rational?
  • What is your background?
  • Are you really all that bad or is there a chance of redemption for you?

I really have written the entire first / second / ninetieth draft of my WIP without knowing any of this important (imperative) information. No one is ever as simple as good guy / bad guy, though. Round out your characters by asking them to tell you a little more about themselves, and you might be surprised by the answers!

Exercise 2 – The Job Interview!

This can work for any character: protagonist, antagonist or secondary character.

Firstly, decide which position you are interviewing for. Secondly, write a brief job spec. For example: ‘Aspiring author seeks heroine for gritty urban fantasy debut. Must be industrious, tenacious and have a few skeletons in the closet. Supernatural qualities desirable, etc etc.”

Write up your own list of questions or pick from the selection below, then put on your best suit and tie and prepare to interview your candidates!

  • Name, age, sex, where do you hail from (these are mostly always essential)
  • List your strengths and weaknesses
  • Where do you see yourself five years from now?
  • Why should I consider hiring you for this position?
  • What motivates you?
  • Are you a team player or more of a lone wolf?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What have you learned from your mistakes?

Or how about some more outlandish enquiries?

  • You win a million quid on the lottery: what would you do with it?
  • What do you think about when you’re alone in the car?
  • What were you like in high school?
  • How would you convince someone to do something they didn’t want to do?
  • You’ve been given a giraffe. You can’t sell it or give it away. What would you do with the giraffe?

What will you learn from doing this? Well, assuming you have a great plot and your protagonist is now up the tree, you’ll know exactly how he or she is going to react when you start throwing rocks at them, and how they might intend to get themselves down.

Exercise 3 – Let’s go shopping!

This is another time-consuming exercise, so make sure you have at least a few hours spare.

We challenge our characters with endless choices: the choices they make decide the route the story takes, but they also say a lot about the character.

Decide which character you’re going to get to know, then head off to your nearest town centre / supermarket / mall and take them shopping!

You can, if you wish, grab a basket or trolley and physically collect all the items that your character would buy. It does mean, eventually, you’ll have to put them back though. Or buy them. Or dump the trolley or basket in the shop for someone else to clear up, but even if your character would do this, I don’t recommend or condone it!

The easiest method is to browse as your character would browse. Would they go for the Heinz baked beans or the Tesco Value option? Would they eat baked beans? And what about alcohol? Are they a drinker or do they avoid it, and if they avoid it then do they have a reason, perhaps one that they’re hiding?

Champagne or Lambrini? Have they ever had champagne? How about fashion? Are they more of an All Saints or a Matalan girl? Do they even follow fashion or are they more of an alternative type? How about thrift shops? Do they rely on them to make ends meet, or would they rather walk around naked than wear other people’s cast-offs?

Hopefully, by the end of your shopping trip, you’ll have learned a little more about your character’s likes and dislikes, background, attitude, strengths and flaws (and hopefully you haven’t been arrested, or disowned by your partner / mother / best friend for acting like a weirdo – because they know we are anyway, right?)

If you try out any of these exercises, enjoy! I’d love to hear how you get on!

Blessed Winter Solstice to you all, happy holidays, and don’t forget to check out The Riley Pope Case Files, just 99p each from Amazon now!

The story behind Walutahanga…

Where did the idea for the story come from?

I’m not exactly sure – where do story ideas come from??? The original suggestion to set the story in a pub was – unsurprisingly – made in my local, inspired by a bottle with a snake inside that lives on a shelf behind the bar.

Where is the story set?

In my home town of Coalville, Leicestershire (well they do say write what you know). The pub in the story is based on my local, the Vic Biker’s Pub.

So it’s a real pub?

Yes! And you can go and look for Walutahanga if you like, she’s still behind the bar! There’s nothing supernatural about the bar staff, though (as far as I’m aware!)

What about the cat in the story?

Helen is real, known to the locals as Helen, Queen of the Vic. She turned up as a stray many moons ago and is now part of the Vic family. I didn’t intend to include her in the story but there’s tons of intriguing feline mythology to draw from so I thought, why not?

Who is Riley Pope?

Riley is a Remnant – a being possessed of magical ability. She uses her talents to seek out cryptids who are trapped in the human world – referred to as the New World – in order to relocate them to the world beyond The Rift, and safety. The magical powers of cryptids can be, and often are, abused by humans and Remnants alike, so this is why the work that Riley does is important.

And who is Bastien Cort?

Bastien Cort is the human vessel of the fallen angel better known as Azazel. Many, many years ago, Azazel was sent to Earth to watch over the humans, but soon began to lust after human females. He and a number of Watchers became the Fallen, and were banished to Earth for their sins. As for how Bastien and Riley became lovers, and how it all went wrong for them, well, you’ll just have to read the books to find out!

Download ‘The Case of Walutahanga’ now!

Available NOW! Books 1 – 3 of The Riley Pope Case Files!

Woohoo! I’m officially a published (indie) author!

Books 1 – 3 of The Riley Pope Case Files are now available to download exclusively from Amazon, or if you’re subscribed to Kindle Unlimited you can read them all for FREE! I’ll be running a free book promotion on ‘The Case of Walutahanga’ from tomorrow which lasts for five days, so please spread the word and drop me a review, good, bad or indifferent. Here’s a little overview…

The Case of Walutahanga

Riley Pope inherited her talent for cryptozoology from her father. As for her penchant for vice and a weakness for dangerous men, well, she can’t blame that on him. Now that Riley is young, free and single, she’s determined to clean up her life and make amends for the sins of her past; if her past will let her.

When a small English town is beset by unusual weather, Riley’s employers, the enigmatic Firm, despatch her to investigate. She soon discovers that a cryptid is involved, but the creatures holding it hostage won’t give it up without a fight, and thanks to a charming but deadly fallen angel, Riley isn’t sure how much fight she has left…

 

The Case of Ahuizotl

Riley Pope has seen some strange things in her life – as a cryptozoologist, it comes with the territory – but this could be her strangest case yet.

When the bodies of two naked men wash ashore on the sands of Whitby harbour – both missing parts of their anatomies – Riley is despatched to investigate. The only scrap of evidence of cryptid involvement is the drunken account of a local trawlerman – who quickly disappears.

Riley finds herself in a race against time to identify the cryptid and save it from the murderous intentions of The Firm’s hired kill squad, but Agent Mulhoon, commander of Alpha team, has other ideas, putting Riley in the kind of danger she’s been trying to avoid since escaping from her fallen angel lover. Bastien Cort is never far from Riley’s thoughts; but this time he might be even closer than she fears…

The Case of the Brollachan

Cryptozoologist Riley Pope is used to tracking down otherworldly creatures: from serpents to shapeshifters, boggarts to Bigfoot, she’s pretty much dealt with them all. But this time, it isn’t a cryptid she’s hunting…

Riley’s employers, the clandestine Firm, have received reports of terrifying creatures frightening the children of Castlebay, Scotland. Sent to investigate, Riley confirms the presence of a malevolent spirit of the otherkind that preys on its victim’s worst fears… and Riley has a lot to be scared of.

Out of her depth and in fear of what’s lurking in the hills beyond Castlebay, Riley does her best to contain the situation – only to draw the attention of Mulhoon, commander of Alpha team, who ends up putting his life and that of his team in mortal danger. Faced with leaving the reckless Mulhoon to his fate, or confronting her own private fears, Riley must make a decision… whatever the consequence.

Expanding my genres – I found a new favourite!

So I started reading Tenderness of Wolves on Sunday. I chose it because of an article in last month’s Writing Magazine on the author, Stef Penney. It’s not my usual fare and I wasn’t sure what to expect from a novel that was set in 1860’s Canada without a wizard or vampire in sight.

350 pages later on Sunday evening…

Wow, what a novel! I only stopped reading when I did because my eyes refused to work anymore. I finished the rest in two sittings and now I’m off to go and buy her other two books, because sod buying Christmas presents, I need more fiction by this lady.

Tenderness of Wolves is filled with characters you probably shouldn’t like but can’t help falling in love with. The lead, Mrs Ross (you never learn her first name), is a complicated woman who you end up rooting for. Her son, who disappears the same night that a murder takes place, has a secret that is slowly uncovered as the search for the murderer unfolds. The harsh, remote setting just leaps off the page – I feel like I just spent the last four days in a remote, snowy wilderness, living amongst trappers, voyageurs and Indians – but still found the prose to be pleasantly uncomplicated: the author uses every word to maximum effect.

Long story short, gush, gush, gush, go and buy the book!

So now this little experiment is over. I’ve discovered a new favourite author and reaffirmed the suspicion that crime fiction isn’t for me, and if I took nothing else from reading One Day then at least I now know which date St Swithin’s Day falls on. I’m sure it will be useful for something.

So back to writing. It’s December, the month in which the first three Riley Pope stories (technically novelettes but I bloody hate that word) will be released on Amazon. I’ll be sending out an update (or ten) just as soon as they’re available.

Have a happy ‘Chocolate for Breakfast’ day folks

X

 

Expanding my genres – another update

I finished reading I Let You Go last night. As promised there is a brilliant twist half way through the book, which had rave reviews in WM and beyond. The switching between first and third person viewpoints was unusual, and I saw the final conflict coming a mile away. It’s the second crime novel I’ve read, (the other was a Val McDermid, so who am I to criticise) and the fact I had to make the effort to read to the end of both of them means the genre probably isn’t for me. Onwards to The Tenderness of Wolves then.