Monday, 22 October 2018

6 of the Most Important Things I've learnt in 30 years of getting published

He has it all figured out - it took me years.

Thirty years ago my first piece was published in Jackie magazine about superstitions. I've learnt so many lessons along the way.

Some of them took me too long to learn and have cost me.  

There's a lot to recommend old fashioned pen and paper

1. Never edit on screen. 
You miss too much and sometimes your mind sees what it wants to see and not what's really there.

There's nothing more time consuming than forgetting what you put in each chapter and spending hours searching through your work to check something was or wasn't included.

Print out your work and edit with pencil or in red pen and then edit onscreen. I don't know why, maybe it’s the rhyme of pen or pencil on paper that concentrates the brain.

2. If you don't read books you can't write books
Reading opens your eyes not just to how others write, but to the mistakes they make.

3. Read as widely as you can. 
I write crime and devour books in that genre, but I love reading horror and anything supernatural too. At one stage, I read every Western I could get my hands on.

Read books you love. Read books you hate. That way you can see what works and what doesn't.

4. Do chapter summaries or outlines so you know what you've written in every single chapter with a quick glance. 

Trust me, I've learnt this the hard way.

Keeping track also helps with continuity. You don't want people to shriek, "How can she have a fight with her brother when he died of a drug overdose and it was mentioned in chapter five!"

5. Save copies of your work every single day. Use a free online storage company like Dropbox.

Does your Internet provider give you access to online storage free? If so, use it.

Back up not just every single day you do any work, but any time you make substantial or important changes. As well as online storage companies, email yourself your work to every email you have that either offers unlimited or a generous amount of storage. And invest in a an external drive. One large enough to store EVERY FILE on your computer.

That way if you're computer has a nervous breakdown you won't have a melt down when you discover you've lost all of your work.

6. You can put a bit of yourself into one character or every character, but never make them you. 
Make them react in their own way to things that happen to them, not you.

We give characters life, but its theirs to live in their very own unique way.

What do you think of those tips? Are there any tips that you swear by?
I'd love to hear from you.

Drop me a comment on this blog or contact me on Twitter where I tweet as @jenthom72
I hope to tweet you:)

Thursday, 4 October 2018

5 ways you know you've written your characters well

Characters. Every great novel or work of writing needs them. Without good characters things fall flat regardless of how well something is written.

But, how do you know readers will find your characters interesting enough to keep on reading?

1.You find yourself yelling "there's no way he/she would do that."
You know them so well.

2.When you're writing a scene you find yourself getting into their head space and hearing, smelling and feeling what they do.

You're not there with them - you are them. At least whilst you're writing the scene. We're not talking multiple personality disorder here, but it might feel like it.

3.You find yourself talking about them in every day conversation as if they're a friend of yours or even a family member.

4.You start placing them in your favourite novels and TV shows relishing how they would react if they met your favourites in that book or TV show.

5.You can place them in any scene and you know how they will react. You don't have to overthink it.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

The wacky world of the pop out cake

Hopefully the person jumping out of your cake won't look as bored as these two!

For a major scene in my book, How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks, I wanted my main character Kirsty to try and get close enough to someone who would immediately have her killed if he saw her.

I racked my brains about how to do this without her being found out and when it emerged he was having a birthday party, I thought it would be awesome if she could hide in a cake.

I don’t know about you, but I have never seen anyone jump out of a cake before, so I didn’t know where to start.  That’s when the good old Internet came to the rescue.   

Here are some fun facts I discovered -

It's actually quite straightforward to hire a pop out cake, as cakes designed for jumping out of are called.

Pop out cake are usually three tier cakes that resemble wedding cakes, you can even make your own. They can also be square.

Note, I said make and not bake your own because the only similarity between these cakes and real ones is the edible frosting they may have on the outside.

Quite often, a table cloth is placed over the bottom the cake to hide the fact there is no bottom and that’s how the person inside gets inside. Other cakes sit on a kind of platter like this one -  and have wheels so that the cake can be wheeled in with the person inside. A section of the cake can be like a door to allow the person to get inside with ease.

The top comes off and that’s how the person inside jumps out.

A pop out cake even featured in Xena Warrior Princess. You can watch the footage by clicking here
To hire a cake, it’s best to approach a prop hire company like this one

Footnote - 
I'm delighted to announce that How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks about a one-legged Glasgow barmaid who goes on the run from with a gangster's cash and gun, will be published on December 28th by Shotgun Honey. 

Stay tuned for details, including the cover reveal, as you finally get to find out why Kirsty jumps out of a cake and how she gets on:)

Saturday, 11 August 2018

3 ways Rick Grimes could exit The Walking Dead (including where he lives)

He wants to know what happens to Rick Grimes.

If it does happen and the makers of The Walking Dead can't change Andrew Lincoln's mind about leaving the show he made so popular, then they'll need an exit plan for the former sheriff.

So, how might that go down?

Here's 3 ways Rick Grimes could exit The Walking Dead.

1. Rick goes on trial with Negan

Rick goes on trial for the ambush on Negan's men that started the war.

The storyline - Rick understands why Maggie's angry at him over Negan and suggests putting Negan on trial with the death penalty or imprisonment in the jail cell Morgan made for life as the potential punishments.

Negan says he'll only agree if Rick goes on trial too for killing his men whilst they slept at one of the Sanctuary's satellite stations.

Like Morgan Jones once said: "I'm a killer, Rick. I am, and you are too."

Michonne defends Rick - In the comics she's a lawyer so maybe she can do that on the show? The kicker is that she must defend Negan too.

2. Walking Dead started with Rick and Morgan and it should end with Rick and Morgan.

We go back to the start with Rick in a coma

The storyline - Rick gets bitten and ends up in coma. He wakes up years later and Morgan's there watching over him. Unusually for him he's smiling. "When I heard a walker had taken a snack out of someone's arm and survived, I knew it'd be you."

Rick asks: "Where is Michonne, Judith, Daryl everyone?"

Morgan looks at him seriously and says, "Before I answer that I need to tell you a story; a story about how the world we were living in full of fighting and woe and misery and loss ended and a new one free from all that begun."

Once he finishes Daryl walks in with a teenage girl and Michonne.

3. A who shot Rick Grimes? storyline.

Who shot Rick Grimes?

The storyline - It's a dark night and in the woods Rick meets someone to talk. We hear a person emerge from the darkness. A gun goes off but we don't see the shooter's face as Rick goes down after being shot in the head.

Imagine the posters for the second half of the season - the remaining cast lined up with wanted signs. Daryl, Maggie, Jesus, Eugene, even shocker, Michonne.

Not my idea of a fitting goodbye for the mighty Rick Grimes, but what if he's not dead and ends the season in a coma, the same way we first met him?

Like Morgan Jones says: "Everything gets a return."

Or, Rick could just be whisked off in the helicopter we keep on seeing and we will see him again. Maybe when The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead shows merge into one.

Monday, 2 July 2018

What to do when your phone is stolen

I've been lucky in that I've never had my phone stolen, at least until last weekend.

At first I thought I'd dropped it on a walk with my rescue dog and my partner went outside to look for it and kept on ringing the phone only to get the message "this phone is not available." 

I stayed in and looked all over the house in case I'd lost it there. But then I remembered that when we were out a white male in his  twenties or early thirties bumped into me and that's when I think my phone was stolen. It happened so fast I think he picked my pocket.

I was devastated. I use my phone for my writing and had pictures and texts of my late dad that I couldn't replace.

But my anger gave way to more practical matters, namely mitigating the potential for damage the thief could cause me. I needed to act fast or have my bank account and PayPal account emptied and a bill for a string of expensive calls.

How to find your IMEI number.

This is what you should do next -

1-Call your mobile/cell phone provider and ask them to block your SIM card. This will stop the thief from making expensive calls. Give your provider the IMEI number. This is a 14 or 15 digit identification code unique to your handset.  You've lost your phone and you'd find it behind the battery compartment so you need to access it another way. I still had the box my phone came in and it was printed on that near the barcodes

Tip - Your mobile phone provider may also have your IMEI number. Mine was in my online  account near my  phone number.

2-Change ALL of your passwords. And I mean all and do this immediately. Do to most important ones - ones that the thief can use to get at your money.

Here's my checklist -
Online banking
Grocery account
Social media including Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Tip - if you're worried at all that your bank or PayPal has been accessed call your bank and PayPal immediately. You will probably not be held accountable if your accounts have been fraudulently used.

3-Access the phone remotely and lock it if you can. I did this because I was lucky to have backed it up and set up "find my phone" and enabled location. Locking the phone will prevent anyone else from using it.

Here's how to lock your Android phone remotely if it's lost-

4-Check to see if backing up the phone worked. If it did you can get all of the photos, texts etc you had on the phone back.

Tip - If you don't like the thought of some stranger going through your stuff, you can remotely delete your phone. There's some great websites that will give you instructions to follow.

5-Contact the police and give them details of phone - make, colour, description of case and most importantly that all important EMEI number. By giving them that 14 or 15 digit number  you might be able to stop the phone being sold or pawned. And if you're extremely lucky, the police might find your phone. They didn't find mine despite me being able to locate the street it was in through Find my mobile and having three picture the thief took added to my Cloud storage.

6-Tell your friends/work colleagues/boss/mum in case the thief somehow gets access to messaging or your email and sends them nasty or weird messages.

7- Call your home insurance company and find out if you can make a claim. You may or may not be covered for theft, but try. The insurance company can always say no.

If you've ever had your phone lost or stolen, you have my sympathies. It's a scummy thing to happen to anyone.

If it makes you feel any better imagine the thief touching your phone and getting their fingers burned. Trust me as a crime writer I've come up with many creative ways to punish the person who took my phone. 

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

WHO TOOK OFFICE WORKER SHELLEY CRAIG? An extract from Vile City by Jennifer Lee Thomson

Vile City tells the story of abducted office worker Shelley Craig and Detective Inspector Duncan Waddell's attempts to find her.
Vile City is published by Caffeine Nights and is available now in paperback and in eBook (across a range of formats). 

~ Read an extract ~

Chapter 1
Stuart was hiding something. Shelley could tell. She was always the one who'd had to wake him because he could always block out the shrill of the alarm clock, but these days he was up before her, grabbing the mail whilst she slept. And, he’d started making breakfast – nothing much, just tea and toast, but that was more than he’d ever made her in their two and a bit years together.
When she'd calmly ask him if anything was wrong, he’d shrug his shoulders, give her a wee smile and say everything was fine. But, she knew he was lying because his face went even paler, making his freckles stand out as if they'd been drawn in by a kid with a coloured pencil. She never pushed it, maybe because deep down she was worried that he’d tell her he’d met someone else.
The No.76 bus was empty when they clambered onboard - one of the benefits of working until 11 at night in a call centre, was that there was no need to scoot past a sea of legs and become a contortionist to get on and off a bus.
Their cold breath filled the air with ghosts as they walked towards Waterstone’s, Shelley pausing to take a peek at the new crime fiction releases showcased in the illuminated windows, whilst Stuart fidgeted with his watch. He was always footering about with something since he’d given up cigarettes and it drove her mad, but at least it didn’t fill his lungs with tar and make the house smell like an overflowing ashtray.
“I need to have a pee,” he announced, as they came to the dimly lit lane off Mitchell Street that reeked of eau de Glasgow: decomposing takeaway, urine and other bodily fluids.
She groaned. “Can't you wait until we get home, Stuart?” She knew she’d pronounced his name “Stew-art” as she always did when she was annoyed with him, but she couldn’t help it. What made men think it was okay to urinate in public?
Stuart looked pained. “Sorry, I can’t. Too much coffee tonight.”
She let him walk on ahead of her and whilst he scooted down the alley, she stood outside the amusement arcade, pretending to look in so she wouldn’t be mistaken as a prostitute. Around here, at this time of night, unaccompanied women were likely to be mistaken for prostitutes. It'd happened to her once when she'd got off the bus alone. Stuart hadn't been working that night.
Five minutes later, she was so cold she couldn't feel her nose and Stuart still wasn’t back.
She turned the corner to look for him, fully expecting to see him ambling back towards her with that jaunty walk that always made her smile. But, he wasn't there.
Where was he?
Anger welled up in her chest. Had he started smoking again? He swore he wouldn't.
There was one way to find out.
She headed down the alley. The sole light was provided from some nearby buildings so visibility was poor.
She’d walked a few steps when she spotted a bundle of rags on the ground. Was someone sleeping there?
She moved closer. Squinting into the dim light, she realised it was Stuart. He was lying motionless on the ground. He must have tripped and knocked himself out after hitting the concrete.
She ran over to him, calling out his name, the squeezing in her chest waning slightly when she knelt down and heard him groan.
She pulled her mobile phone from her bag to call for an ambulance.
She didn’t make it to the third digit. A gloved hand clamped across her mouth and nose, cutting off her airways and the phone fell from her grasp, clattering onto the cobbles. Terror gripped her and she couldn’t breathe.
As she struggled, her assailant pressed his mouth to her ear. He was so close that it occurred to her that if anyone saw them they would think he was her boyfriend whispering sweet nothings in her ear.
“Your man’s been given a strong sedative. He’ll wake up with a sore head and nothing more. But, if you scream, I’ll kick him several times in the head and he’ll never get up again. Do you understand?”
She didn’t recognise the voice, but there was an accent. Not from around here. His voice was cold and emotionless.
She nodded under his hand. Then she did something he didn't expect: she back-heeled him in the groin.
There was a satisfying yelp as he released her.
She ran, arms pumping away like Usain Bolt’s, down towards the cafĂ© at the end of the alley and safety.
She'd almost made it when he grabbed her arm and hauled her back. An electric shock shot from her elbow to her shoulder as she pulled herself free. He was too strong.
She could offer little resistance as he dragged her towards him.
Before she could scream, he punched her fully in the face and she went down with a thud jarring every bone in her body, momentarily stunning her.
As she fought to get up, he punched her in the back and she fell again.
The last thing she saw was the pavement rushing towards her before she blacked out...

Out now at Amazon.

DI Duncan Waddell - Detective in a Coma Book 2

6 of the Most Important Things I've learnt in 30 years of getting published

He has it all figured out - it took me years. Thirty years ago my first piece was published in Jackie magazine about superstitions....