Crime File – it’s publication day for The List by Graham H Miller

Today is launch day for The List, a debut thriller by fellow Crooked Cat author Graham H Miller. I love the cover and it looks a fantastic read.

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DS Jonah Greene returns to work with something to prove after three months of stress-related sick leave. He is transferred to Coroner’s Office and his first body is a homeless man who froze to death overnight.

What should be a straightforward case takes an unexpected turn when DS Greene is handed a list of seven names, written by the dead man. He investigates the names on the list and slowly discovers a tale of greed and murder which stretches back to the mid-nineties. His career, his marriage and his life may be threatened, but he will not give up until he has found the truth and brought the guilty to justice.

Welcome to the coffee shop Graham. Congratulations on the book – I can’t wait to start reading. What was it that attracted you to crime writing?
In part it was purely pragmatic. I have a head full of ideas, spanning reincarnation stories, historical, paranormal and cross-genre. I also have a cryptic crossword kind of brain. So I thought I should focus on a genre that you can explain to a future publisher or agent really simply.

If I say to people “this is a crime novel” immediately they understand what I’m offering. I like the intellectual challenge of constructing the plot. You need a fine balance where the reader can’t guess the ending, but when they get there it seems obvious in hindsight. I wrote The List so that if it’s read a second time there’ll be lots of clues that can be picked up once you know the ending.

Do you have any writing plans for the future?
At the moment I’m being disciplined and working on Jonah Greene book 2. It’s all plotted out and is comfortably over 20,000 words so its going well.

In the future, well I had a “Harry Potter moment” where a character sprung fully formed into my head. Pretty soon she was joined by a mentor and I’m very tempted to write a novel with two main characters, the new detective and her mentor.

She also has a nemesis now as well as several gruesome murders to solve. This project is just a swirling pot of ideas without much structure at the moment. And all that is on the back burner until Jonah Greene is well established.

It sounds like you have plenty to keep you busy. Best of luck with the launch!

JOIN GRAHAM AT THE ONLINE LAUNCH PARTY ON FACEBOOK TODAY

https://www.facebook.com/events/246857489132376/?notif_t=plan_edited&notif_id=1500037393993021

You can buy the book here

Shirt Bio

I sent Graham a message recently asking if I could have a short bio but as usual my fat fingers got the better of me and I found I had asked for a ‘shirt bio’ instead. Being a very obliging person he sent me what I’d asked for.

Graham: There’s actually a story there – when I was 14 my brother brought home a copy of Ace of Spades by Motorhead. I became a lifelong fan and was shaken when Lemmy died at the end of 2015. A few months back I had to stock up on the t-shirts that I usually wear so I bought five different Motorhead shirts which I wear nearly every day.

Thanks Graham, perhaps I should ask all my visitors this question 😀 And now for the actual bio:
IMG_5458Graham H Miller has been writing since his teenage years when he had a scenario printed in a role playing magazine. Since then he’s written articles, guest posts and a book on pagan subjects. His brain is always at work, with more ideas than time. He is a house-husband proudly perpetuating the stereotype by writing books while his three boys are at school. He has two blogs that are erratically updated – one about life as father to three special boys and the other covering his thoughts on writing and the publishing process. His interests include prehistory, classic cars, anything Viking and learning Welsh. Fascinated by everything, he lives in South Wales and is older than he thinks he is!

Find out more on Graham’s website

Amazon author page

Facebook

@grahamhmiller

Crime file – Angela Wren

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Those of you who love detective novels and stories set in France are in for a treat with this new novel by Angela Wren. Over the last 18 months or so she has been writing the sequel to her very popular novel Messandrierre which will be published on July 5th and is here to tell us about it. Welcome back to the coffee shop Angela, what can I get you today?

Thank you for inviting me onto your blog. Coffee would be great please. Black and weak is fine, thank you.

Here you go! I love the cover of your new book. Would you mind telling us a bit about the story?

Merle, like its predecessor, Messandrierre, is set in the Cévennes in the south of France. The title of this story is a real French word, unlike Messandrierre, which is a corruption of the name of a real place. It means blackbird, but it is also used as a girl’s Christian name and as a surname. Capitaine Mathieu Merle, being one famous, or perhaps more accurately, infamous holder of the surname. Mathieu Merle (1548-1587) was a Huguenot captain who was feared during the religious wars in France. But he spent some time in Mende, the préfecture city of the département of Lozère. A city that features in the story and where my fictitious suburb of Merle is located.

In Messandrierre, the story followed Jacques as he unravelled a police investigation into the mysterious disappearances of travellers to the tiny village of Messandrierre. At the end of that story, Jacques had a decision to make and his love interest, Beth Samuels, had some serious thinking of her own to do.

Merle begins a few months after the end of the first book and…

Jacques Forêt, a former gendarme turned investigator, delves into the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where information is traded and used as a threat.

The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his own life is threatened.

When a body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to it.

Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?

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The old city of Mende

EXCERPT
Here is a little taster from the very beginning of the story:

 

It was the tightly scrunched ball of paper that captured the attention of Magistrate Bruno Pelletier. His trained eyes swept around the room, only glancing at the naked body in the bath, and came to rest once more on the small, ivory-white mass, challenging and silent against the solid plain porcelain of the tiles. He stepped over the large pool of dried blood, iron red against the white of the floor, and, with gloved hands, he retrieved the object. Carefully prising the paper back into its customary rectangular shape, he stared at the contents and frowned as he read and re-read the single six-word sentence printed there.
‘Je sais ce que tu fais.’
After a moment, he dropped it into an evidence bag being held open for him by the pathologist.
all hallows’ eve, 2009

It sounds amazing. I’m off to get my copy. Thanks Angela!

Merle is published on July 5th and is available for pre-order on this universal link Merle

Find out more or get in touch here
website   Facebook   Goodreads

 

 

 

 

Publication Day

 

Seeing my little book go out into the world last Thursday felt similar to watching my children go off to school on their first day – I was excited but anxious.

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But just as Leo came out of school grinning from ear to ear back in 2010 my book’s first day went off much better than expected. I have been amazed and so pleased with the reviews it has received so far including

“Dark, intense and gripping beyond belief. I was swept along with this tale of lies and betrayals”
Linda, Books of All Kinds

“An amazing story with a reverie effect I couldn’t break away from”
Laura, Page Turners’ Nook

“Full of surprises, twists and turns and I just couldn’t get through the pages quick enough”
Dee-Cee

“Everything I hoped it would be and more”
Misti Nash

“A perfect psychological thriller”
Like Love Do

IMG_5060Thank you so much to everyone who pre-ordered the book. The winners of the draw were Jane Bwye (£10 Amazon gift card), Awen Thornber (paperback of Lies, Mistakes and Misunderstandings) and Steve Johnson – no relation, I promise! (Prosecco and chocolates)

During publication week I took part in a blogtour to promote the book. I’d never done anything like that before but it was brilliantly organised by Emma Mitchell with a full schedule of Q&A interviews, character posts and excerpts.

I am so grateful to all the bloggers who were involved in the blog tour and everyone else who has helped spread the word about the book by sharing, retweeting etc. I am very lucky to belong to a great community of Crooked Cats whose support has been invaluable.

IMG_0069The online launch party was a lot of fun. Thank you to everyone who took part. Much virtual champagne was consumed and I was thrilled to have these amazing authors contribute book prizes for the competitions. Congratulations to the winners!

Lazy Blood by Ross Greenwood won by Sheila Howes
183 Times a Year by Eva Jordan, won by Awen Thornber
No Safe Home by Tara Lyons, won by Elizabeth Holdak
Walking Wounded Anna Franklin Osborne won by Tara Lyons
A DCI Bennett book by Malcolm Hollingdrake won by Beverley Hopper
Shadows by Conrad Jones, won by Elaine Fryatt.
Surprise book signed by Emma won by Dee Light
Sue Barnard won a copy of The Silence

The paperback will be officially launched next Thursday morning, 22 June at the Ascot Writers Summer Book Event in Sunninghill, Berkshire with real bubbly this time rather than the virtual kind! We’re also celebrating the launch of two other books by local authors – Tessa Harris, author of the Thomas Silkstone series whose book The Sixth Victim (Kensington) is the first in a brand new series of fascinating Victorian crime stories – and Tracy Corbett whose story The Forget Me Not Flower Shop (Harper Collins) is the summer romance novel everyone’s talking about.

DesignThere will be other writers to meet, signed books to buy and a second-hand book sale to raise money for the Grenfell Tower fire victims. Entry is of course free – we’d love to see you there!

The technophobe’s guide to making a book trailer

IMG_5139Hello – a few people have been asking me how I made the book trailer for The Silence.

You can view it here.    https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=7Sv-gwfEFiM

It was my first attempt at anything like this and I know it’s far from brilliant but it was fun to do and ridiculously easy so if you’re thinking of making one and are as much of a technophobe as I am I hope this will help.

I used iMovies because it was already installed on my iPad but there are other free options you can download such as Shotcut if you’re a Windows user. Or you can pay someone to make a trailer for you, which will almost certainly look more professional and has the advantage that it won’t be a recognised template. But whichever you use you need to decide roughly at this stage on the storyline and how you want to illustrate it.

I started by distilling the storyline down into a few short lines of text. I did this by taking the blurb and highlighting the key points and underlining bits I wanted to convey somehow.

I scribbled out a basic story board in a notebook using the key phrases and stick men sketches.

Then I looked for pictures to illustrate those points. It’s worth thinking about the trailer as early as possible so that you can build up a stock of stills and video clips. I made mine all from stills but video clips are great and you can buy these quite cheaply from picture sites if you don’t have your own.

I had some pictures of my own but had to source others. It’s worth bearing in mind that you will need a lot of pictures as the frames move quite quickly so it’s best to collect more than you think you’ll need.

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If you’re short of time or have very specific requirements it’s probably worth paying for images from a picture sites like Shutterstock. You can buy a small package of photos or an individual video clip without having to subscribe. Canva has a wonderful selection of photos for $1 each.

However, I found some great copyright-free images on Pixabay and stocksnap.io which are copyright free.

One word of caution – the only close-up, identifiable pictures I used were of my children. You can’t use identifiable images of people in a way they might find offensive without their permission even if the pictures are copyright free. You might choose to avoid pictures of people altogether to be on the safe side. You don’t have to be too literal with your picture choice. A shot of the sky or a beach or a some cherry blossom might be all you need to convey a mood and there are lots of free silhouette shots.

I collected the pictures in a folder that I named Trailer on my desktop. When I was ready I went on to iMovies. On the first page you’re offered a choice of Movie or Trailer and I selected Trailer, then selected the template I wanted from a range of different genres that come complete with music.

You can watch their sample trailer and then select Create (top right) to create your own.

The instructions are quite easy to follow – you just tap on a picture silhouette on the right hand side and upload your picture or video from your folder and then tap on the text line and write in the text. You can edit it as many times as you like.

When you’re happy you can press the share button at the bottom which will give you options to share the video to Facebook, YouTube etc.

 

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Well this is the closest The Silence will ever get to the big screen but I hope this post was helpful. Please ask if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to get an answer for you. 🙂

The beauty of beta readers

Although writing a novel is a solitary craft, there are usually many more people involved in getting a book to publication. In addition to the editor and publisher there are the often unsung heroes – the beta readers.

Beta readers are trusted volunteers who test-drive the manuscript and give you their honest opinion. Their purpose is to flag up plot holes, character inconsistencies, things that irritated or weren’t properly explained or places where their interest dipped.

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Who should you ask and how many?
It’s good to ask at least three people but probably not more than six or you could find they all give conflicting advice, sending you round in circles.

Obviously there is a risk with asking people you know – it’s quite nerve-racking as a writer to ask people’s opinion of your work and equally pretty scary to be asked to comment as a reader. A novel is a very personal thing and potentially friendships could be broken over it. No writer should ask beta readers for their opinion if they are going to shoot the messenger. But equally there is little point in someone saying the book is fabulous when it isn’t as that won’t help you improve it.

I asked people I knew because they were all avid readers and either involved in writing or could give me their expert opinion on relevant sections. They were also people with strong opinions who knew I could trust to be honest.

But if you don’t want to ask people you know you could post a request in an online book group or offer to swap critiques with another writer. The most important thing is that you pick people who are regular readers, especially of your book’s genre.

No matter how many times you read through your work there are sure to be things that you won’t notice simply because you wrote them. We all have little things that annoy us when we’re reading and some of these are probably unreasonable (The word ‘chuckle’ sets my teeth on edge when used outside of a children’s story or a pantomime) but others might make you rethink how you phrase things. I will try to never again use the word ‘like’ when I mean ‘as though’! It was also helpful to have a friend with a Modern Languages degree point out that the meaning of an Italian word wasn’t obvious without some explanation.

IMG_5127What they need from you

Beta readers will need clear instructions about what sort of feedback you want and how it should be presented. I wanted mine to give examples where possible – “I didn’t really warm to this character” is helpful but it would be so much more useful to know why – the character’s lack of reaction to the crisis on p16, their attitude to their wife on p24 or the way they spoke to the police on p54.

I drew up a list of questions I wanted my readers to bear in mind when reading – these were about the main characters, the ending and a couple of key scenes.

It’s only fair to ask how readers would prefer to receive the manuscript as they are giving up their time to help. I printed off a hard copy and gave it to my first reader with some coloured post-it notes. I then printed off a second copy and gave it to my second reader with different coloured post-its. One of these was then passed to the third reader with a different coloured set of post-its. They each scrawled their comments on the page and marked it with a post-it and I then copied all of these comments into a file.

The other readers were happy to read the novel in a Word document. One of these gave me an extremely detailed handwritten list with page number references, the others preferred to go over the changes face to face or on the phone.

One thing I would recommend is to not make any changes until you have everyone’s feedback. Otherwise the pages and line numbers will change and it can be hard to find the points people are referring to.

The other thing I found is that it all takes time! Readers have other things going on in their lives. They might fall ill, go on holiday or be busy at work. You’ll need to agree a time limit and build in a bit of leeway.

Dealing with criticism
You might not agree with the advice offered and you don’t have to take it. You might also find that readers give conflicting advice but if the same point is raised by several people it must be worth thinking about. And the way I look at it, any criticism, however hard to hear, is worth having if it helps you improve the book.

I’d love to hear about your experience as a writer or a beta reader.

And to my beta readers I just want to say an enormous thank you – I couldn’t have done it without you!

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History People #10: Katharine Johnson, Inspired by Italy

Today I was lucky enough to be invited onto Vanessa Couchman’s blog to talk about my work in progress which is set in the same Tuscan villa as The Silence

Vanessa Couchman

Author Katharine Johnson

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Katharine Johnson to the History People slot. Lucky Katharine has lived in Italy, which has provided inspiration for her writing and she’s supplied some mouth-watering shots of Italian views and villages below. But I’ll let her tell you about that.

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The Story Behind the story – Jennifer C Wilson talks about Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile just before it goes to press

With me in the coffee shop today is Jennifer C Wilson who’s here to talk about her second novel, Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, the follow-up to Kindred Spirits: Tower of LondonHello Jennifer, how lovely to see you. Can I get you anything?

IMG_4824Hi Katy, and thanks for welcoming me along to visit today! I never used to be a coffee shop person, but thanks to attending a weekly writing group in a wonderful little café in Newcastle, my tastes are expanding! So I’ll have my favourite banana twist tea, if you have it, and really up the fruit and veg ante with a slice of carrot cake, if that’s ok? That’s got to be a portion!

 

Of course. So the big day’s nearly upon us – are you all set for the launch?

I cannot believe we’re so close now – I’m excited and terrified all at the same time, and very much in need of more sleep.

Can you tell us a little about your books?

The concept of the Kindred Spirits ‘world’ is eavesdropping on the ghostly inhabitants of our greatest historical sites and buildings, and for somebody who loves history, it’s bliss to write about. Helped along, I have to confess, that I can break the rules a little bit, and if my version of Mary, Queen of Scots has a slightly modern take on life, that’s fine – her ghost has been hanging around ever since her death in the 1500s, she’s surely allowed to pick up some modern slang or attitude? She’s even been on a plane, so she’s definitely a modern woman.

Exploring the Tower of London’s residents came about fairly randomly, but I’ve wanted to write about Mary, Queen of Scots for years, and have pages of notebook scribblings, trying to find a ‘way in’ to one of my favourite historical characters. She has always been a heroine of mine, and almost a family joke, when, on family holidays, almost every house or castle in Scotland seemed to have a room she had apparently stayed in (and we visited a lot of Scottish houses and castles!). Therefore, following the publication of the first Kindred Spirits, there was only one place I could possibly write about next – the Royal Mile, Edinburgh.

IMG_4828The Mile has so much history crammed into one relatively small patch, so narrowing down the buildings and characters to include was tricky, and for a while, it all felt a bit scattergun, but having Mary as the central character, joined by her father, James V of Scotland, one of his courtiers, Janet Douglas, Lady Glamis, and Sir William Kirkcaldy, the man who tried to keep the Castle for Mary, it all started to fall into place. And I knew I had chosen wisely when, on a recent visit to the castle’s esplanade at night, I overheard one of the ghost tours talking not only about Janet, but one of the other ghosts who turns up in the novel too – definitely validation I had picked my ‘cast’ well.

Once I had the characters in place, the next task was to figure out who might be interacting the most with who, and how? In the end, I went for a brainstorming approach, writing lots of scenes to try and get to know the characters a bit, then gradually, a thread for Mary came about, helping her father, and dealing with her wastrel of a husband, Lord Darnley.

IMG_4827Being a massive history fan, but not consistently interested in the same period, it’s great thinking about how folk from different eras might come together and interact. My biggest hope is that people enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it!

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PARTY TIME!

I’m hosting an online launch for Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile on Thursday 1st June, on Facebook, and you and your readers are more than welcome to attend – just click here for more information, and I look forward to seeing you there.

 

Thanks Jen, it sounds like a great opportunity to find out more about the book and have a bit of fun. Count me in! Thanks so much for coming along today.

About Jennifer

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who spent much of her childhood stalking Mary, Queen of Scots (initially accidentally, but then with intention). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consulting since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to develop her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. She is also part of The Next Page, running workshops and other literary events in North Tyneside.
Jennifer’s debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London,  was released by Crooked Cat Books in October 2015, and Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile is coming June 2017. She can be found online at her website

on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at The Next Page’s website.