Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Yes, there really are ghost brides

In this week's version of who knew? are ghost brides.

So, what exactly is a ghost bride as featured in the Netflix tv show?

It sounds like brides who've died before they've made it to the altar or just after, who are left to wander around for eternity in their wedding dresses.

The truth, my friends is far stranger.

Ghost brides are a real thing and the ghost part doesn't usually refer to the brides. No, it usually refers to their husbands.

It's a Chinese tradition, but a similar thing happens in other countries such as France and even Sudan. Its a marriage in which one or both of the people involved are deceased.

Apparently in China it's usually set up by the family of the deceased for certain reasons. The main one is to marry an engaged couple usually after the prospective groom has passed on so that the unmarried daughter can join the family and keep its lineage going. This would tend to happen if the deceased groom-to-be was the eldest son.

If a "bride" agreed to be a ghost bride she would go to live with her "husband's" family, have to participate in mourning rituals and take a vow of celibacy.

Note - The Ghost Bride Netflix show is based on the novel The Ghost Bride written by Malaysian writer Yangsze Choo.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

The Boy in the box mystery - buried without a name

Few unsolved cases can be as sad, as tragic as the case of the boy in the box.

The little boy was discovered completely unclothed in a box in Pennsylvania in the USA on February 25, 1957. Judging from his injuries, the poor little mite had been battered to death.

Despite numerous police appeals, nobody came forward to identify him never mind claim the child.

His murder was a double tragedy. Buried without even a name, somewhere someone should have been mourning the little boy who was just 4 or 5-years-old.

How the little boy mighy have looked

So, who was the Boy in the Box, also known as America's Unknown Child?

Why did nobody claim him as their own?

The police inquiries focused on why his hair had been cut so severely short very closely to his scalp, probably shortly before his death. They believe it was cut to hide the lush big curls he would have had in life so identification would be easier.

Someone must have cared about him. He'd been wrapped in a blanket, but there were signs he'd been starved.

The police printed thousands of leaflets with a photograph of the little boy who'd been posed to look as closely as he would to in life. They hoped someone would recognise him.

Their hopes were dashed.

There were plenty of theories, but none that could be proven -

He was the child of an unwed mother who's father ran a nearby foster home and he wanted rid of the child.

He was a child who'd been raised as a girl and that was the reason his hair had been hacked off.

Whoever the child was, he was never identified and was finally laid to rest for a second time (after he was moved from a potter's field). His funeral was attended by members of the public and paid for by the son of the man who'd first buried the unknown child. The headstone bearing the words 'America's Unknown Child.'

In 2016, a forensic facial reconstruction was done of his face and he was entered in the the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children database.

In 2018, a top genetic genealogist who helped identify the Golden State killer, said she was trying to use a new DNA profiling to finally give a name to the little boy in the box for the first time.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Why the Vile City title isn't a slur on Glasgow

Since Vile City was published I've had a few people tell me that they love Glasgow and thought the title was having a go at the fair city. What's more the thought of someone picking a fight with Glasgow had
Nothing could be further from the truth.

I lived in the city for well over a decade and came to think of it as home. The people are the friendliest in Scotland and if the Scottish parliament had been located in the best place it would be Glasgow not Edinburgh.

Vile City, a former winner of the Scottish Association of Writers Pitlochry Quaich for a crime novel is so named for one reason and it's nothing to do with the city its based in.

The crimes described in the book namely the abduction of women, are truly vile.

The City in the title is important too as the next 3 books in the series which will be out soon -

Cannibal City - A killer is stalking Glasgow men, killing them and eating their livers.

Vigilante City -
When Douglas John MacDonald stands trial for the rape and murder of schoolgirl Kylie Donovan, everybody expects him to be convicted.
When he walks free there's a public outcry, but not everybody is content to just get angry.
When MacDonald is later found murdered with his pinkie removed just like his 15-year-old victim, the police think it's an isolated incident, but more murders follow and they begin to realise they're on the trail of a vigilante killer.

Romeo City - Dating is quite literally murder.
When Dennis McCombe is found with his throat slit from ear to ear in a bath in an empty house with the words Where's my beloved? written on the bath, the police realise this is no ordinary murder.
A serial killer is on the loose and she’s targeting the desperately dateless in Glasgow on blind dates - and she's just only got started. How else is she going to find her beloved?

Stay tuned and ask yourself - Is Inspector Duncan Waddell going crazy or us his best friend and colleague Stevie who's in a coma, really talking to him?

Friday, 20 December 2019

Rip it up and start again - your novel might be better for it

There's nothing worse than working hard into the wee small hours, making yourself so tired you don't just have grey bags under your eyes you have saucers, only to get two thirds of the way through writing your novel and finding yourself shaking your head. 

You know something is wrong with your novel. Thankfully you realise what it is.

You might have taken the wrong turn in the plot or given a character way too much of the story that they haven't earned (if you've watched the 3rd season of 13 Reasons Why and met the new narrator Ani you'll know what I mean).

Of course you could ignore this feeling in your gut that your book isn't quite right. Then you could end up sending it to a critique agency when publishers and agents turn it down, which is very expensive, only to be probably told what you already knew - that a part of your book wasn't working. 

Something you knew already but couldn't face acknowledging. 

Getting over the finishing line isn't what it's all about

Instead of spending money 
you probably haven't got ask yourself this (I look like I'm shouting but I  need to be reminded of this too) ask yourself this   -


Sure, getting that novel finished is your goal, but you want it to be as good as it can possibly be so it gets a publisher or you get an agent, or you self-publish a good novel. 

That may mean either cutting swathes of text or even ripping it up and starting again. 

Be brave. Good writing is fearless. It often comes from knowing when to reach for that delete key or recycle bin.

Why I watch #truecrime

I don't watch #truecrime out of some macabre fascination. To hear gruseome details of how people were hurt.

No, I watch because whilst I do the people who were murdered who never got justice are alive and its like they're telling me "I matter, don't let people forget me."

I hope someone is watching who can get them justice so they can rest in peace.  

The Demoralised writer - Sometimes being a writer is like a punch in the face

Sometimes being a writer is like a punch in the face

You've done everything right. You've read the publisher's guidelines in so much depth you can recite them in your sleep. 

You've jumped through the hoops they've put in front of you - they want the first three chapters or first 10,000 words or first 3,000, they want a synopsis of 500/1000 words, they want ideas for the next two books in the series, they want a map of your DNA...You get the idea.

And you do all that. You tailor your manuscript submission to them. Your pitch letter. 

You might even have a personal connection to the publisher and you mention that in your pitch letter.

Now that you have a submission tailored to the publisher you send it off. You cross your fingers and toes and sit back and wait.

Book submissions are like obstacle courses

You expect a bit of a wait. Publishers are busy people. They get a lot of submissions. 

You know from reading their blogs and tweets that a lot of the submissions they get are unsuitable for very obvious reasons -
They don't follow their guidelines.
They're not the types or genres of books they publish.
They're rude, extolling the virtues of the author and saying how lucky the publisher would be to publish their work. 
They're riddled with errors, spelling mistakes.

But your submission should be okay because you've followed their guidelines to a tee. 

You've sent them the kind of book they do publish. 

You've been polite.

But then you get the dreaded email - Thanks for sending your submission in but it's not quite right for us.

No reason is given. You get the distinct feeling that they didn't even read it. 

You get the same generic response as a totally unprepared author, who sent them a submission written on the back of a cigarette packet. 

You know they're busy, but even a quick "we've published too many similar books like this" or "your writing needs some work" would be polite, at least acknowledging the work you've put into your book proposal.

Instead you're left demoralized wondering why did you bother? 

Why did you spend so much time tailoring your proposal, editing that book, doing everything (at least) as far as you know right just to get that dreaded standard letter?

Did they even read it? 

At times like this you have to remember -

*It's not personal. The person who responded is probably busy or overworked or going on holiday and clearing their desk. 

*They might just not be taking on any other books right now although they could just say that.

And here's the nuclear option- 
*Maybe your book isn't good enough. Get another opinion, a professional opinion if you can. A good option if you're well off and can afford it because its expensive. 

If like me you're not and you can't try a peer to peer critique forum where fellow authors read your work. Be warned it can be difficult to find a good one. 

If you think your work is good and publishable now ask yourself this -
Is it really such a bad thing you got a rejection? 

If they pay so little attention to your hard work, how much detail would they pay to editing, marketing and promotion if they had said they'd publish your book? 
Sometimes no publisher is better than a bad one. 

Tell me your stories 
I'd love to hear your stories of how you cope when you get that dreaded standard email. How do you pick yourself up again and does chocolate or wine work?

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Finishing that novel - 2 things you must do

When you first start writing your novel it's all new. You have an unbridled enthusiasm and are bursting with ideas. You can barely contain the words as they come trundling out.

Even some normal, mundane task like washing the dishes can bring forth another twist or thing to add to your story.

Then comes the inevitable (at least for me) mid-novel slump where you start to question everything.

Have you chosen the right story?

Is the main character you crafted the kind that will appeal to readers?

Are you even the right person to write this novel?

Doubt hits you like a sledge hammer. This is the stage where you're just as likely to trash your manuscript as submit it to a publisher or agent.

Step away from that novel. Have a break. Have a holiday even if its just from your novel.

Give yourself some distance before you start to edit your novel. Your finished product will thank you.

Before you get down to the final edit after you've set the book aside for some timehere are two things you must do-

1. Print the whole book out - Often on screen you see what should be there instead of what is actually there. That's why it's a good idea to have a hard copy in front of you.

Tip - If you want to be environmental friendly try putting your book on your tablet or mobile phone to edit it. You will notice any mistakes better if you fo this.

2. Cut what doesn't work - It may be one of the best bits of writing you've ever produced, but does it work in this novel?

Be ruthless.

Ditch it. Don't look back.

Good luckxxx

DI Duncan Waddell - Detective in a Coma Book 2

Yes, there really are ghost brides

In this week's version of who knew? are ghost brides. So, what exactly is a ghost bride as featured in the Netflix tv show? It s...