Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Monthly Round-up: December 2016

Well the blog has been somewhat neglected over the last couple of months. I resolve to pay it more attention next year.

We find ourselves at the end of 2016, so this post will be a reflection of my writing year, and not just activities of the past month.

My two horror books were re-released this year. MuseItUp published SUFFER THE CHILDREN (Kindle versions available on Amazon UK and US sites).

Meanwhile, KGHH Publishing (formerly known as Kensington Gore) re-released THE WHISPERING DEATH with a wonderful new hand-drawn cover. It's available in paperback, and on Kindle UK and US formats.

I pledged to have at least one guest appearance a month this year. I mostly succeeded to October, but the last couple of months of the year dropped off for various personal reasons. A full list of all my online appearances can be found on my website.

I've made some progress with the first draft of the fourth Shara Summers book, which is entitled DEADLY SUMMER. The third book will be released next year, and I hope to have the fourth book in a state to be submitted by this time next year.

I'm also contracted to submit another horror novel to KGHH in 2017. The one I was working on at the beginning of this year I have since abandoned since it really wasn't working. I now have the plot of a new book formulated, so I need to get motoring on that one.

I have a feeling that 2017 is going to be a difficult year for many,  so I'm sending strength and positive thoughts out there into the ether, to fortify us all.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Monthly Round-Up: October 2016

I'm a week late with the latest round-up, since it's now November.


Nothing new out this month, but another plug for my two horror novels. SUFFER THE CHILDREN is available in all e-book formats from MuseItUp Publishing, and THE WHISPERING DEATH, with its fab new cover, is available in paperback and in Kindle format from Amazon (US and UK).


On the last day of October I had a guest spot on the fabulous Joan C Curtis's blog talking about the discipline required for writing.

And I did my final convention of the year in October as well - Bristol HorrorCon. This one-day Con celebrating all things horror has now been going for two years, and is great fun. I did a panel on Horrible Crime, where we discussed the crossover between crime and horror (and digressed a bit as well), and I did a reading as well.


Work continues on the fourth Shara Summers book, DEADLY SUMMER. Which was initially a working title but I think it works so I'm inclined to keep it. Still on the first draft though, so early days yet.

See you next time!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Imaginarium's First Screenplay Award

Those who've read this blog probably know that I'm a screenplay writer. Unproduced, mind you, and unoptioned, but hopefully that will change under my new agent.

Like many aspiring screenplay writers, I enter contests to get my name out there. Some I do well in. Others? Not so much.

This year was the first year Imaginarium offered a screenplay contest. Three of my four submissions finaled, including my short screenplay "Cemetery." It would later go on to win Best Short Screenplay at Imaginarium.

Currently, I don't have "Cemetery" entered in any other contests. There are a couple I'll probably enter it in before the end of 2016.

It's rather strange to be the first screenwriter, along with the feature-length winner, to win the first Imadjinn for a screenplay. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't an awesome feeling, too. To know that judges looked at our works and considered them worthy enough to not only final but to go on and win is something special. Now, that doesn't mean the screenplay will win all the time. Final Curtain finaled in another screenplay contest, but didn't win or even come in second. Sucks, but that's the way it is.

If you ask me why I write screenplays (or just write in general), I'll probably tell you it's because it's all I really know how to do, or that I need to do it. How do I decide what's going to be a novel and what's going to be a screenplay? Usually, I know right away. And it's not like I haven't adapted my books into screenplays and vice versa. Why not make them do double duty?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Monthly Round-Up: September 2016

Well it's been a busy old month since the last update. End of September? How did that happen? Before you know it, it'll be time to think about the dreaded Festive Season...

But for now, on with the news.

the-whispering-death-new-master-website-2OUT NOW

I am pleased to announce that THE WHISPERING DEATH has been re-released with a new cover, hand drawn by the uber-talented Erin Kelso. I include it to the right. Nice and spooky, yes?

The story itself is unchanged, and remains available in print and Kindle version from Amazon.

And of course SUFFER THE CHILDREN is available in all e-book formats.


I've had a few guest appearances online in the past month.

On 5 September I did a blog swap with Chuck Bowie, with a post about the importance of rewriting appearing on his blog. Then on 16 September I appeared on Diane Dooley's blog, with a post about being a woman of horror.

My interview for the British Fantasy Society's journal appeared in issue #16, which was released this month. The British Fantasy Society exists to supports British writers and publishers of science fiction, fantasy and horror, and the journal is free to members. If you're not a member but want to be, check out membership options on their website.

And, speaking of the BFS, I attended FantasyCon, the SF/F/H convention run by the BFS which this year was in the Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough. It was a great weekend, catching up with old friends and making new ones, and I had a panel and a reading as well. I read from SUFFER THE CHILDREN. Reading slots were organised this year with two authors sharing a half-hour slot. A very good idea, to my mind - it meant the audience was bigger. And my reading partner, Priya Sharma, is a fantastic short story writer and a lovely person.


I am making good progress with the fourth Shara Summers novel, which is currently titled DEADLY SUMMER. Still first draft, though, so a long way to go yet.

That's it to report for now. See you next month!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What I'm Doing at FantasyCon 2016

This weekend I head for the Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough for the annual British celebration of SF/F/horror literature, FantasyCon. FantasyCon was the first con I ever attended, some time in the late 1990s, and I still hold it in fond regard.

On this occasion I am travelling alone, since Hubby is not joining me. He claims to want a quiet weekend at home. I think he's looking forward to a weekend of being able to play games, make models, watch the documentaries he likes in peace. That's OK with me as long as he remembers to feed the cats.

Anyway, I shall be at the day job Friday morning, and then boarding a train to the wilds of Yorkshire mid-afternoon. Somewhere I have to change trains. I think it might be York. There's not a lot of time between the two so I hope the first train doesn't run late. I am supposed to get to Scarborough about 5:30pm. In plenty of time for the disco - hurrah!

In any case, I do have things to do for this particular convention. I am giving a reading at 3pm on Saturday. The organisers have organised author readings in half-hour slots, with two authors per slot. I rather like this idea. It means you're less likely to have no one turn up to your reading, since there's a good chance there'll be someone there to watch the other author as well. My reading partner is Priya Sharma. I have not met her before, but looking forward to doing so on Saturday.

Then at 8pm I've got a panel called 'Paint It Black', which is all about why horror permeates so many other genres. My fellow panellists are Simon Bestwick, Jo Thomas, Timothy Jarvis and Phil Sloman, who is moderating. With the exception of Simon, who I've met in person, everyone else I only know from the internet so I am looking forward to meeting some new people.

Other than that, I shall be visiting a few panels and spending a lot of time in the bar, where I hope to be able to meet up with the people I only ever get to talk to at Cons. Although I might be tempted by the FantasyCon karaoke.

So if you're there, come and say hello. If you tell me you've bought a copy of any of my books at any point, I might even buy you a drink.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Ripper's Daughter Returns

Excited to announce the re-release of The Ripper's Daughter, previously published in 2014 by BlackWyrm Publishing. A paranormal historical whydunit mystery, The Ripper's Daughter is now available for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. The paperback version should be released soon.

Louisville, Kentucky 1898. 
Ten years earlier, Jack the Ripper terrorized London's Whitechapel district. Assigned to the case, Detective Inspector Nathan James discovered the Ripper's true nature, and made a decision that changed his life. But the murders stopped and the Ripper disappeared. Now living in Louisville, Kentucky, Nathan runs a saloon, while trying to keep his relationship with his manservant, Stephen, secret. He's never forgotten his failure to stop the Ripper, and when murdered prostitutes start showing up, suspects the elusive killer stalks the city's streets. But is the Ripper responsible for these deaths, and will he reveal Nathan's and Stephen's darkest secret?

Buy Links:
Amazon (Kindle);
Barnes and Noble (Nook);

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Monthly Round-up: August 2016

With the summer behind us we are facing longer nights, colder days, and can look forward to Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night (at least here in the UK). Though we are having a burst of unseasonably warm weather here in London so maybe we can hold onto summer just a bit longer.


SUFFER THE CHILDREN is now available in from all e-book retailers. It's still available direct from the MuseItUp store at the special release price of $2.99, and if you buy it from there it is available in all e-book formats.


I've been busy with guest posts since the last round up. Here is a run-down:

30 July - guest post on Luke Walker's blog on the endurance of horror.
12 August - interview on Judy Penz Sheluk's blog as part of a new series called 'Before they were authors'.
17 August - Interview on Kay Lalone's blog about SUFFER THE CHILDREN

I've got a few more guest posts coming up over the next few weeks, and I'm also off to FantasyCon in Scarborough next month. So watch this space!


The horror novel has not been going well so I've put it to one side while I work out how to fix it. I think none of the characters are working. Or the plot. In fact the only thing I'm happy with is the setting, so I think some major surgery is required for this time.

In the meantime, however, I'm happy to say I've started work on the fourth Shara Summers novel. This one takes her to New York city, and it has a provisional title of DEADLY SUMMER. Early days yet, but it's going quite well.
See you next month!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Back from Indie Gathering

Indie Gathering 2016 went out in a spectacular fashion, with a friend winning something like 11 trophies and plaques and myself coming home with a first place trophy.

Saw some great films, including a documentary and a short crime drama by a Polish filmmaker. We briefly discussed two of my favorite film directors, Andrjez Wajda and Krzysztof Kieslowski. Met some people I'd met last year and missed those who were there last year, but not this year.

While winning first place was certainly a highlight, it was participating in a cold reading, with actors reading a scene from my script before an audience that proved to be an interesting and educational experience. During the Q&A, the actors and audience members made suggestions, asked questions, and otherwise interacted. The critiques were positive and some of the suggestions I'd consider.

Anyway, I've entered Final Curtain in another contest and am working on a couple of screenplay ideas.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Monthly Round-Up: July 2016

It's the end of another month already. Where is this year going?

SUFFER THE CHILDREN is being released (well- re-released) by MuseItUp Publishing on 9 August. It's available for pre-order now.

SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the third Shara Summers novel, will be released some time in 2017.

I made a guest appearance on Barbara Ehrentreu's blog on 24 July debating the merits of e-books v print books. Barbara wants to do a poll on this topic, and it's not too late to stop by and post your views.

The WIP is really not going well. I am hoping to have something more positive to say next month.

And that's about it for this month. Enjoy your summer, and I'll catch up with you at the end of August.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Final Curtain

Award Laurel
Next month is the Indie Gathering International Film Festival. Back in May, I entered my crime drama feature screenplay Final Curtain in their screenplay contest. (I'd won honorable mentions last year with my adaptations of Death Sword and Exterminating Angel.)

To be honest, I hoped Final Curtain would at least get an honorable mention. I'd entered it pretty late, a few days shy of the final deadline. So I was surprised and delighted to get an email at the beginning of July telling me the screenplay had won first place in the Feature: Crime-Drama category. I reread that email several times, a part of me convinced I'd read it wrong. But no. I had won. And the screenplay is listed on Indie Gathering's website. It may also be a contender for another award, but I won't know til August or September. Meanwhile, I've entered Final Curtain in another contest.

Winning a screenplay contest is a great ego booster, but I'm not naive to think my screenplay writing career is about to take off, and I need to start planning my Oscar speech. I have another screenplay in a contest that I'm not expecting to win, and that's okay. Screenplay contests are subjective. A first place winner in one might only garner an honorable mention in another.

Remember that homicide detective? The one who, when I told him probably nothing would happen with this screenplay, said, "You never know."

I think I'll make that my motto. And if I ever meet him again, I'll tell him he was right.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Ten Commandments of Writing #8: Thou Shalt Heed the Submission Guidelines

It's been a while since I posted anything in this series of posts. Part of the reason, if I'm honest, is a crisis of confidence. When you have no faith in your own writing, you feel you have no right to lecture anyone else.
However, that sort of thinking is unhelpful, and I'm going to come back to that a bit later in the series. For now, though, it's time to pick up where we left off in the Ten Commandments of Writing. So you've written your manuscript, you've polished it until it shines, and now you're ready to send it out into the world. So what's next? You have to submit it.
Things have moved on quite a bit from when I first started submitting to agents and editors, back in the 1990s. In those days the submission instructions were fairly standard - the first three chapters and a synopsis, with a stamped self-addressed envelope, which involved spending my lunch hour standing in line at the post office to get my envelope weighed, buying return postage to include on the return envelope before sealing up the package, only to have it land on my doorstep a couple of days later in an envelope with my own handwriting on it.
Nowadays most submissions are made by email, but the instructions can vary widely. Firstly, you have more options, because there are far more small presses out there who are willing to look at unsolicited manuscripts, so you are not restricted to submitting only to agents. But some publishing houses might not want attachments in emails for fear of viruses. Some might have old machines that can't deal with certain types of software so they can only accept submissions in a certain format. Some don't like fancy fonts. In the old days of postal submissions, everything was pretty much written in courier or Times Roman. I still write all my manuscripts in Times Roman. It has a bad press in the business world these days, but I have a fondness for serif fonts that are clear and straightforward and easy to read. None of this sans serif font business where a capital 'I' and a lower case 'l' are indistinguishable.
Anyway, here is Commandment #8, and it is important: read the submission requirements carefully, and follow them to the letter, and this is about a lot more than ensuring that the publishing house you are submitting to deals with the genre you write in. Are the instructions asking for the first three chapters and a synopsis, or the whole manuscript? Do they ask for a blurb and the first chapter that must be embedded in the email, and do not under any circumstances send attachments? Do they want the whole manuscript, in 10-point courier font, single spaced, using paragraph auto indents instead of tabs and no page numbers? Then that's exactly what you send. 
Read the guidelines carefully, prepare your submission equally carefully, and double check everything before you hit 'send'. And then, if you're anything like me, you check your email box obsessively every half an hour until you get a response.
But at least your work will be Out There, and that's what counts. Good luck!

Thursday, July 7, 2016


I am very pleased to be able to reveal the brand new cover for the MuseItUp release of my horror novel SUFFER THE CHILDREN today, on this blog.

Those of you who have been with me since the beginning of this journey will be aware that this is the third incarnation of this particular novel. It was my first published novel, released as an e-book by Lyrical Press in 2010. When the contract with Lyrical expired in 2013, the rights reverted back to me I self-published it as a Kindle e-book, with a specially commissioned cover designed by artist David Bezzina.

And now, finally, SUFFER THE CHILDREN has found a home with MuseItUp Publishing. The cover for their version has been designed by Charlotte Volnek, who also designed the covers for the two Shara Summers novels. And I have to say that once more I think she's done an awesome job.

SUFFER THE CHILDREN will be released in e-book format only by MuseItUp Publishing on 9 August. More information about promotions and so on will follow. In the meantime, I'm going to look some more at this beautiful cover.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Monthly Round-up: June 2016

I missed posting the monthly round-up last month, because at the end of May I was driving through the Arizona desert. So this month I am playing catch-up.


I now have a release date for SUFFER THE CHILDREN - 9 August. More information will appear very soon, including the cover reveal, so stay tuned.

Next year will see the release of the third Shara Summers novel, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH.


I appeared on Chris Mannino's blog on 19 May, musing about why anyone would want to be a writer.

On 28 June, I did a reading from SUFFER THE CHILDREN for the lovely folks gathered at the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club - a real-space meetup for SFF/Horror fans occurring in London on the last Tuesday of the month. It was a lovely crowd and though I was slightly in awe at the company I was keeping - Paul Cornell and Laura Lam were also reading that night - everyone was very friendly and put me at ease.


I'm still working on the urban explorers horror novel, but it has not yet got a name.

That's it for now and I have to apologise for lack of updates on the blog. I am hoping to be able to make more regular postings from now on.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Using Screenwriting to Revise a Book

I write screenplays. Two are adaptations of my published novellas, and have won honorable mention. Currently, I'm waiting to hear back from three contests and also waiting for the laurels for another film festival that two of my screenplays were accepted in.

So while getting ready to work on revisions of my paranormal suspense novella, Hell on Earth, I decided to write the screenplay version. Why? After all, the novella hasn't been contracted for publication, and if the Hell on Earth screenplay managed to get an option, that would make the work previously published in a publisher's eyes. No, the screenplay will remain on my hard drive with fingers crossed a publisher will offer me a contract.

One thing I did notice was in writing the screenplay, I was also revising the story. For example, dialogue. I would start writing the dialogue for the screenplay, then realize that what the character said made no sense. And I would note this on the manuscript. Or I would be forced to look at a scene I'd written and realize I'd had the wrong location. (I've since remedied that by using Scrivener to keep track of scenes.)

It's not a full-proof plan, and obviously won't work for everyone or for every book. I think what happened was writing the screenplay adaptation put my mind in a different mode, gave me a similar but different perspective.

At least writing the screenplay was a lot more fun than going through the manuscript and finding those "garbage" words.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Reel Dark (v. 2) Releases

Cover for Reel Dark
In 2014, fellow author L. Andrew Cooper asked me if I wanted to help him co-edit an anthology to be published by BlackWyrm Publishing. The book was released in paperback in May 2015. Shortly after, BlackWyrm closed its doors. Authors' rights were returned, and Andrew told me he had plans for Reel Dark. Later, I learned he had talked with Seventh Star Press, a Kentucky-based publisher, and the anthology would be published as a second edition with a new cover and two new stories.

This past Friday, May 13, the anthology, which made its debut at StokerCon, was officially released. I love the cover, and I'm excited the book has a second chance.

Reel Dark Synopsis:

Welcome to a macabre cinema for the imagination, to twisted tales projected not on a movie screen but on the page. In Reel Dark you'll find suspense, horror, science fiction, and fantasy in fiction and poetry by authors ranging from new voices to bestsellers. From the battle for recognition between a child actress and a vengeful, long-forgotten film star in "Whatever Happened to Peggy...Who?" to a hapless artist whose talent propels him into a nightmare of jealousy and revenge in "The Dreamist," the authors have created worlds filled with madness and twisted desires. Where the lines between reality and fantasy blur, where films flicker at 24 frames per second, we catch a glimpse of strangers' dreams and nightmares. As David Lynch puts it, "This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top." As Karen Head writes in her poem "Amnesia," responding to Lynch, "In the movies / everything is illusion." But with cameras everywhere, how do you know whether you're in a movie?

Available from:
Barnes and Noble:

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Monthly Round-Up: April 2016

I am once more a week late with my monthly round-up. Life is a bit hectic. But there is news to report, so on with it.
Final edits for SUFFER THE CHILDREN are done! I still have no confirmed release date, or a cover, but I think we're looking at a summer release.
And in case you missed it last month, the third Shara Summers book, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, has been contracted to MuseItUp and will be out in 2017 - likely Autumn.
I only had one guest appearance this month, but it was a rather interesting one. Susan A Royal interviewed my amateur sleuth Shara Summers on her blog on 11 April.
I'm about 7000 words into the new horror novel, but I'm not happy with what I've got so far. I've only recently realised how to fix it, and it's going to need a reboot. Scrap and start over. Oh well. With any luck, some of the words already written will be salvageable.
I've also got the muse whispering in my ear at the moment with the plot of the fourth Shara Summers book, demanding to be written. I'm trying to write only one book at a time, so thus far I've been attempting to resist the urge to succumb to this one. But she is whispering quite loudly. All I can really say at this stage is that this book will take Shara to New York. I feel another visit there might be required. You know, just for inspiration. 
That's it for now, so go off and enjoy the spring sunshine, and I'll catch you next month.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April Writing Challenge

Many authors are familiar with National Novel Writing Month, that 30 days in November when writers set a goal of writing a 50,000-word book. I've participated in it for several years, and two novellas, Death Sword and The Ripper's Daughter, went on to become published.

The objective of such a writing challenge isn't necessarily publication, but for a writer to keep writing, to lock away the inner editor, and get words on paper. Because, as the saying goes, you can't edit a blank page.

April and October are also two months where I participate in a writing challenge based on the Write a Book in a Month series. Unlike NaNoWriMo, there is no word length minimum and one doesn't have to write a new book. I've used those months to revise a book, but usually I try to write a new one. This year, a writer friend and I have challenged ourselves to write 2-4 new books. Since I take writing challenges seriously, I'm adamant about reaching my goal, even on days I don't want to write.

It's not always easy to get started each day. I look at my daily word count, which resets to "0" after midnight, and sometimes think, "I don't know what to write." But I start typing. Soon I have 100 words, then 200, then 500. "Keep going," I tell myself. Soon I've reached a 1,000 words. I take a break, eat, check email, then go back to the writing. The graph shows 50% of the daily goal completed, along with the overall goal. Then 60%, 75%, 100%. If events continue to unfold, I keep writing, not wanting to lose the momentum.

If I don't make my daily goal, I don't worry about it. Nor do I worry if a scene doesn't quite work, because this is a first draft. As my friend and I joke, I'll fix it in post.

Before NaNoWriMo, I was the author who never finished writing a book. Then one day, I decided I was going to write a 40,000-50,000 word novella. My goal: write without going back and editing what I'd written. I could read the previous page to refresh my memory, but no critiquing.

And I did it. True, the story needs a lot of work, and I doubt I'll ever dust it off, but I did it. When I told another author friend, she referred me to NaNoWriMo, thinking I would enjoy the challenge.

Writing a book isn't easy, but there's nothing as satisfying as watching the word count go up, until you reach the magical moment when you can type "The End." Even better? When you crawl out of your writing cave, and your SO still remembers you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Monthly Round-up: March 2016

I'm a week late posting the round-up for March. But life keeps getting away from me, and I was also in the midst of confirming some news I wanted to report on.
Edits for SUFFER THE CHILDREN are more or less done, and we're on track for a late spring release. I'm hoping to be able to confirm a release date soon. I'm expecting late May.
And now on to the Big News. I've just signed the contract for the third Shara Summers novel, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, and am pleased to be able to say that this novel has moved from the WIP section to 'coming soon'. Although 'coming soon' is a bit of a relative term. Publication is estimated at Summer/Autumn 2017. So about 18 months away. I am looking forward to working with my editor at MuseItUp on this one. I have a feeling there'll be lots of edits on this one, but between the two of us I am confident we can get it into shape.
I appeared on Eric Price's blog on 7 March as part of a blog swap sharing writing tips. I was talking about what I learned during the process of writing my first published novel.
I am now working in earnest on the new horror novel, which still doesn't have a title. I'm referring to it as the 'urban explorers novel' because this is who it features as main characters.
There's plenty to keep me busy here for a while. Catch you at the end of April!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Quiet Friday Morning

Crime Scene Tape
Usually, on this blog, I write about my publishing and writing experiences. But something happened this past Friday that put our cul-de-sac in our subdivision in the local news, and not for a good reason.

I never heard the gunshot. And the presence of police cruisers and an ambulance in our cul-de-sac normally didn't raise any undue concern.

But the yellow crime scene tape promised a different story, one that would involve someone I knew.

The ambulance slipped away, sans sirens and flashing lights.

For the first time, a murder had occurred on our street. Supposedly, a young man had shot and killed his girlfriend. (I'm only saying this because although there's been an arrest, the young man has not yet gone to trial.)

My husband knew the suspect, and we both knew another man who also lived in the house where the shooting took place a few doors down from us. This is the closest I've been to knowing someone who's been directly or indirectly involved in a murder.

The police had put crime scene tape up at the end of our street. This was where the reporters had set up cameras and interviewed neighbors, including a woman who claimed the suspect had sped through the stop sign. I can believe it.

Our driveway wasn't blocked, but police had put up crime scene tape across the street close to the crime scene, using mail boxes to tie the tape around. I counted four or five police cruisers on our end of the cul-de-sac, with one cruiser at the end of our street. Occasionally, another cruiser joined the latter, effectively cutting off access to our street.

We'd experienced the same thing last summer when the SWAT team had been summoned the next street over.

Quiet neighborhood? Yeah, right. Since I've lived here, we've had a field set on fire, a break-in next door, a break-in in a local church, and a self-inflicted gun shooting. Before that? My husband told me a fire had broken out in the woods nearby, and a bullet had nearly hit his daughter during deer hunting season.

But this was the first time we'd experienced a murder.

That day was the first time I met a homicide detective working a case. We gave him some information we had, but I'll say no more here. If it helps the investigation, so much the better.

Now I know what the back interior of a CSU vehicle looks like (at least here), and I watched crime scene investigators, homicide detectives, and the deputy coroner as they worked the crime scene.

Eight hours later, they took down the yellow tape.

Crime scene investigation fascinates me, but I prefer to watch it on a station like the Justice Network. Because when it hits close to home, it has a profound effect, not only on the victim and suspect and their friends and family, but also on those who live in the area.

Before the murder, I wondered how many people even knew this street existed. Now we do, in infamy. Yes, the memory will fade as other people resume their lives. But for those of us involved in some way, however small, the memory will linger much longer.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mission: "Accomplished"

The other day, I accomplished something which I thought I would never do. I completed the sequel to Death Sword. Granted, my original plan went through several changes, and I finally had to concede to the fact that what I wanted to accomplish (a 3-book series) wasn't going to happen. So, Serpent Fire and Devil Inside were merged into one book. At this point, I think I'll continue using the Serpent Fire title.

Not that I ever meant to write a sequel or a series. Originally, Death Sword was a stand-alone. I'd finished the book and had started writing another one, when Samael, the antagonist from Death Sword began grumbling he wanted to tell his story. Our conversation went something like this:

Samael: "I want to tell my side of the story."

Me: "I'm done with Death Sword. I've moved on to another book."

Samael: "But you made me look like the bad guy."

Me: "Um, because you were? Now move along. I have too  many characters running around in my head, and you need to leave."

Samael: "No."

Samael was stubborn, and he continued to nag at me, so I decided fine, I would do a little more research about him, and maybe that would make him happy. Not that I hadn't researched him before, but I had some new material I'd acquired recently, and not only did I find something about him I hadn't seen before, it was something that convinced me that yes, I had to continue the story.

Now, I won't go into details about how Serpent Fire became my bete noire. I rewrote it twice, and finally ended up merging it with Devil Inside, a book that, in my humble opinion, was a bit more "together." Either way, not all is lost. I'm using material from SF in another book.

This new version of SF/DI will go through another round of revisions, but I hope to submit it this year, along with the novella, Hell on Earth, a spin-off of Exterminating Angel.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cold Feet

Well, it's started again. Cold feet syndrome. Every time I enter a screenplay contest, or submit a manuscript to my agent, editor, or beta reader, I can't help but be bombarded by worries that range from "What if they hate it?" to "Maybe I'm not as good a writer as people say." Most writers will understand this anxiety, although there are those who believe their first draft is perfect and how dare anyone ask them to improve it. I'm not one of them.

I think part of it is I'm struggling with my current manuscript, Serpent Fire, the sequel to Death Sword. Yeah, I blame Samael. Death Sword was meant to be a standalone, and he kept complaining he wanted to tell his story, which became quite detailed, enough for two more books, the third one being Devil Inside. However, even though I know the story arcs for both books, and the overall story arc, have even created a story bible, truth is, I'll probably have to combine both books. Maybe. Anyway, I'm resorting to the index card technique to help me get an overall view of the story.

My goal this year is to write two to four novels, a challenge I'm doing with a fellow author and friend. I plan to write the next two angelic assassin books, although I'd like to write three, and that would complete the series, the first one which I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2015.

On an unrelated note, I got a new laptop, and was able to hook up my old laptop's HD to it, and recover my files. Yay!

Oh, yeah, and about those cold feet? My agent's supposed to call me tomorrow. I'm bracing myself for the publishers' rejections.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Monthly Round-Up: February 2016

February is nearly over, and it has one extra day than usual this year, with it being a leap year and all. The days are gradually getting longer and it's now still light when I leave the office at the end of the day. It's still dark by the time I get home, mind, but you can't have everything.

On with the news.
No more news on a fixed release date for SUFFER THE CHILDREN, but it is meant to be coming out in Spring. Which means some time in the next three months. I'm expecting it to be around mid-May.
I've had two guest appearances this month. The first was on Amy McCorkle's blog 'Letters to Daniel'. The brief was to write a letter to a hero who has changed your life in some way. So I wrote to Stephen King, who turned me on to writing horror.
I then had a guest post on Lay Lalone's blog about why you shouldn't listen to your English teacher.
SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the new Shara Summers book, is nearly finished! I know I've said that a few times, but this time I am confident I'm on the final draft. Now I just want to get the damn thing finished and submitted, so I can get back to writing the new horror novel, which has been languishing in a 'barely started' first draft stage for ages.
I'v got a busy month coming up in March, including my first convention of the 2016 season, the Sci Fi Weekender in Wales. Join me next month for the low down on how it went!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Ten Commandments of Writing #7: Thou Shalt Not Write For Fame and Fortune

There's this misconception out there that writing is a glamorous life, and that writers just rattle off a novel and sit back and let the money roll in. This misconception is enhanced by the media, which focuses on writers like J.K. Rowlings, E.L. James and Neil Gaiman, and how much money they've made.
It's true that all of these people have made a good living from writing, but sadly they are the exception, rather than the rule. The BBC published an article in 2014 stating that the average full-time writer was now earning £11,000 a year, which was well down on the last survey done nearly ten years earlier. Significantly, the same article also points out that the number of UK writers working full-time had also dropped quite dramatically - from 40% to 11.5%. Every time I get a royalty statement, I get depressed. If I were to add up all the royalties I've received since my first novel got published six years ago, it still equates to a sum that's less than what I earn in a month in the day job.
I know a lot of writers for whom writing is their full-time job. Most of them have a supplementary income, whether it be their partner's income, running writing courses, or something else like an inheritance, investments or rental income. Not many of them would describe themselves as 'well off'. Most are just about managing to get by.
Whatever your reasons are for writing, you shouldn't be doing it for the money. By all means fantasise about being a full time writer, and maybe you might be able to make it work, but don't go handing in your letter of resignation to the boss as soon as you get that first novel contract.
So there's the myth busted about the fortune. What about the fame? There's a famous quote out there - and I don't know who it originated with - that says that it takes twenty years to become an overnight success. There are a lot of writers out there, competing with a limited reading public. I have a fantasy that I'll meet someone at a party one day and upon hearing my name they'll say, "oh yes, I know you. I've read one of your books." It hasn't happened yet. Maybe, if I keep on churning out the novels, I might get to that point by 2030. By which point I'll be almost ready to start drawing my pension!
Write because you want to, write because you need to. But if you want fame and fortune, marry a footballer or a supermodel instead. It'll be far less painful in the long run.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

New Year, New Laptop

Recently, I encountered an author's worst nightmare. Okay, maybe not worst, but one that probably ranks in the Top Ten.

My laptop died. I mean, literally. I had taken it to the library, and, when I returned home, I plugged it in to charge the battery. Everything seemed fine. So I went upstairs.

When I returned to my office, the screen was black and the power was off. I disconnected the adapter and tried turning the laptop on with only the battery. No luck. No luck, either, removing the battery and only using the adapter.

The DH took the computer apart, and we determined one cause to be the voltage regulator. Repaired it, but there seemed to be other issues, and we finally decided -- after a few days of troubleshooting -- that it was time for a new PC.

Now, a lot of people would be excited at the prospect of getting a new PC. I like my laptop. Have had it for six years. But I've accepted I need to say goodbye. Hopefully, the hard drive wasn't damaged, so I'll be able to transfer the files.

I'm not worried about losing files, since I store most on Dropbox, OneDrive, or on a secured personal storage cloud.

Needless to say, this incident has temporarily affected my writing. For the first time in a few days, I'm finally able to get back to my revisions. Part of it was the troubleshooting and doing research on computers. The DH has decided he's going to continue experimenting with the DOA laptop.

Meantime, I'm looking forward to the new one coming in. Not looking forward to putting the programs on, but it could have been a lot worse.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Monthly Round-Up: January 2016

I'm not a big fan of January. It's a dark and dreary month, no bank holidays, and everyone's broke after Christmas. So this is one month I'm glad to be nearing the end of, as it's time once more to round up my writing-related activities.

I'm pleased to say that SUFFER THE CHILDREN will be released in Spring by MuseItUp Publishing. This is a re-release of my first published novel, but it's undergoing a whole new editing process. I don't have a release date yet, but watch this space.

I was pleased to be a guest on David O'Brien's blog this week, especially since I'm his first guest horror writer.  I'm talking about a previous experience that made me aware that not everyone likes horror writers.

Revisions to SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH continue at a good pace. The end is in sight on this manuscript now. I've also moved past the stage of thinking, "this manuscript is complete rubbish" to "actually, this manuscript's not half bad after all." This is usually followed by the "this manuscript is amazing! I rock" stage, and then finally back to the "this manuscript is rubbish" stage. But for now, I remain in a happy place about it. The fact that my editor is already looking forward to reading it gives me incentive to finish.

That's about all the news for now. Join me next month, when hopefully we'll be seeing longer days, warmer weather and maybe even the first signs that Spring is round the corner.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Ten Commandments of Writing #6: Thou Shalt Heed Thy Critiquers

It has been some time since I posted one of The Ten Commandments of Writing. I am returning to this series today with the Sixth Commandment - Thou Shalt Heed Thy Critiquers.

I've been running my writing group for over 20 years now. Various people have come and gone over the years. Some people have stayed for a little while and then moved on; others have been with us so long it's hard to imagine a time before they joined.

Then there are others who came once, for a critique of their masterpiece, who  threw a tantrum when one or two members dared to suggest that perhaps this piece needs some improvement, instead of heaping effusive praise on it, and then they flounced off, never to be seen again. Just a tip - don't be this writer.

The other end of the scale is the writer whose work receives a ritualistic flaying during a critique session, and they get so depressed they shove the work in a drawer and never finish it. I admit that this latter category has applied to me once or twice.

Sending your work out to a critique group takes courage. You have spent months or possibly years on your novel, sweated blood for it, gone through the usual rollercoaster of feeling alternatively like you're an undiscovered genius or a blatant fraud, and now you have to sit there while a group of people take it in turns to tell you how ugly your baby is.

However, it is something that every writer has to learn to deal with. A common mistake that many self-published writers make is that they don't get their work sufficiently edited. There is only so much a writer can do with their own work - you get too close to it to see the full picture. You need someone who's not involved in it to give an honest critique.

That's why it's important to have beta readers and critiquers. People who will tell you honestly, and frankly, what needs improving. The problem we have in our group, though, is that for everyone who says 'I didn't like your character - she's bossy and annoying' there'll be someone else who says, 'I love the way this character argues with everyone and stands up for herself''.

There is a balance between listening to all the criticism and not listening to any of it. If you belong to a regular critique group you'll get to know after a while which writers are on your wavelength, and which ones are genuinely interested in the genre that you write in. If you write cosy crime, for instance, you'll probably find that the critique from the person who reads a lot of cosy crime is more relevant than that from the person who only reads hard SF.

On the other hand, if there are six people looking at your work and five of them make exactly the same point, it's worth heeding it.

So this is today's lesson. Find critiquers. If there is no 'realspace' writing group in your area, join an online critique group. Or start a group of your own (well, it worked for me). Once you have found them, submit your work to them and be prepared to listen when they take the time to read and comment on it. And be prepared to get your heart broken, because it's never easy to accept criticism of your work.

But the only way to grow as a writer is to understand where you need to improve. No writer is beyond editing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My Writing Process

I'm actually in the process of revising a novel and a screenplay, so no new words as of yet this year. Although I am thinking of starting a new book soon, since of one my resolutions this year is to write more and write faster.

A couple of reasons I tend to write slowly is because I do a lot of plotting and research. And one of the first things I do is input my story information into Dramatica Pro, a story-engineering software. The program asks a series of questions regarding viewpoints, areas of conflict, main character vs. impact character, etc. Basically, it helps keep the story on-track from beginning to end.

Another program I use is WriteWayPro. Here, I can create a database of characters, take research notes, and write my book in a non-linear fashion. I can focus on the GMC of each scene, even make notes on the dialogue, plot, and revision, among other options.

Scrivener is similar to WWP, and I also use it to a certain extent. WWP was just easier for me to learn, but I'm sure I'll be utilizing Scrivener more in the future.

To plot my novel, I use Writer's Blocks 4, a virtual index card system. Each card can hold a scene, and I can add, delete, and move the cards around, much like screenplay writers do.

Power Structure is another software tool I'll use. It goes a little more into character development and plot development (such as asking what the opening hook is or the goal for the next scene). Yes, this is also covered in WWP, but only if chosen as an option when creating a book project.

I have noticed that using these programs (not always all of them for a book, but most of them), I tend to write faster than trying to "wing it." For example, it helped me write 50,000 words in 10 days for NaNoWriMo 2015. Not saying I could do that every month. But having everything available and organized helps with my writing process. Of course, as with everything, your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Best Books of 2015

I usually start each year with a round-up of all the books I read in the previous year, and highlight the ones that I thought were the best. To clarify, my 'best books of the year' includes the ones I have read - not necessarily those that were published - in the relevant year.

Those who have been following the blog a while will know that I keep track of this via Goodreads, which allows me to log all the books I read and give each of them a star rating. The ability to do this appeals to my overdeveloped sense of law and order. Generally the way I pick out the best books of the year is to select all those I gave a five-star rating to. I can be quite critical when it comes to books. Not many get a five star rating.

In 2015 I read a total of 70 books (reaching my Goodreads target, hurrah!) and I rated six of them five stars. Only two of them, however, were books I had not read before.

I started the year re-reading Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series, and throughout the year not only completed all the previous books, but read the latest one, SKIN GAME - purchased as a signed copy at EasterCon in London this year - for the first time as well.

They all warranted four stars or higher. Four of them I gave five stars to. They are, in chronological order:

Dead Beat (#7)
Proven Guilty (#8)
Changes (#12)
Skin Game (#15)

So why did these ones rate higher than the others in the series? These are the ones that left me breathless. That had me gripped from beginning to end, turning pages faster and faster to find out what happens next, even on the second reading. But if we want to a bit more specific - and if you don't mind spoilers (if you do, stop reading this post now) - there are specific incidents in each of these books that warranted that extra star in my mind. For DEAD BEAT, it was the T-Rex. No question. PROVEN GUILTY adds an extra complication to the series with the introduction of Molly Carpenter as a rebellious and confused teenager, who just happens to have burgeoning magical ability. A whole load of magical ability, and enough angst and anger to have her teetering on the precipice to the Dark Side. Harry just has to try and stop that from happening.

CHANGES is possibly the darkest book of the series. Jim Butcher says he likes to make Harry suffer, and he pulls no punches in this one. Harry loses everything. Literally. Starting with his office, which is blown to smithereens early in the novel. As the story progresses he pretty much loses everything else as well, including - at the end (SPOILER ALERT) his life.

But this is not the end of Harry, and the series carries on. SKIN GAME I was anticipating for a long time. I actually got to meet Jim Butcher himself at EasterCon, after standing in the signing queue for what felt like an age (and then babbled idiotically like a fangirl when I finally got to the front of the line). I had high expectations for this book. It did not disappoint. The series has taken a decidedly dark turn now, as has Harry. He is still as charismatic as he ever was, and still on the side of good, but due to various reasons is not quite as nice a guy as he was at the beginning of the series. But this means you never really know what to expect when you pick up a new Harry Dresden book. And that's not a bad thing.

My only regret is that now I've re-read the series and the new book, I've got to wait a while for number 16 in the series to come out.

So, that's four of my six 'best books of the year'. One of the others is also from a series I've been re-reading.

I started re-reading Terry Pratchett's 'Discworld' books a little while ago. I take comfort in the fact that there are rather a lot of books in this series - over 50 is the official count, I think - and I've only got to #7 in my re-read so there are still lots more to go. Number six, however, has made this list because I think it is the best one in the series.

Hence the next book on my list of 'Best books of 2015' is -
Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett.

I know there are factions of Pratchett fans, divided by the sub-categories of the various characters whose stories make up the Discworlds. The Watch have their loyal fans, as to the wizards. I have to say I have always favoured the witches - the crotchety Granny Weatherwax (the Crone); the earthy Nanny Ogg (the mother); and the spinsterish Magrat (the Maiden, though this latter category is represented by various characters throughout the series after Magrat gets herself married and can no longer be classified as a Maiden). And this book sums up why I love the witches. It parodies Macbeth; it features Shakespeare as a playwriting dwarf, regicide, dastardly royal politics and even magical time travel. What's not to love?

Finally, last but not least, the sixth book on my list is one I read for the first time this year:
NOS4R2 - Joe Hill

Son of Stephen King, Joe Hill proves himself here to be a horror writer in his own right. Featuring a supernatural and spooky car, rather like his famous father's novel CHRISTINE, NOS4R2 may appear to cover familiar territory but it soon becomes evident that this novel is not just a retelling of CHRISTINE. It's creepy and disturbing, and original enough to be a classic all by itself.

I have set myself a goal of reading another 70 books this year. I'm already working on the first two.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Year's Resolutions 2016

To be honest, I normally eschew New Year's resolutions. Heck, I'll break 'em before January 31.

However, on the writing side, I've pretty much committed myself to at least the following:

1) Finish/revise three angel paranormal romances
2) Write at least four full-length screenplays
3) Get that TV pilot written
4) Write the second book of a planned four-book series
5) Write faster (That may be the first resolution to go flying out the proverbial window.)
6) Revise crime drama screenplay and enter it into contests
7) Convert The Ripper's Daughter to digital and upload it to B&N, Kobo, and Amazon

On the reading side, just for fun:

1) Read Tale of Genji
2) Read War and Peace
(Both will probably take a year to read altogether.)
3) Join the Savvy Readers 50 Book Challenge

Suppose I could add a few meaningful resolutions, such as:

1) Stop procrastinating
2) Get more motivated

All in all, though, the year is starting out quite well. I've just finished compiling the manuscript pages for Serpent Fire. And a secret project I'm working on is also coming along well. My goal is to have them both ready to submit by February 29 or before.