Thursday, 29 August 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   -

IS IT BETTER TO GET THAT BOOK WRITTEN THAN IT IS TO GET IT WRITTEN TO THE VERY BEST IT CAN BE?

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.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Who is Ed Kemper aka the Co-ed Killer in Mindhunter?



With Mindhunter returning to Netflix people are asking who is Ed Kemper aka the Co-ed Killer.

Here are 5 things you might not know about the giant serial killer -



1. Kemper is a giant at 6foot 9 and was teased about it at school and by his family including his elder sister who allegedly tried to push him in front of a train and also tried to drown him.

2. His mother Clarnell Elizabeth Kemper was an alcoholic drunk who despised her son. He later killed her.

3. When he was a child he already showed signs of being a serial killer. He would decapitate his sister's dolls, torture and kill animals and ask his sister to play an electric chair game where she'd pretend to electrocute him.

4. He's called the Co-ed Killer because most of his victims were young women students at co-educational establishments. He targeted them when they were hitchhiking and would drive them to secluded spots where he'd decapitate, dismember and violate them.

5. When he was 15 he murdered his grandparents and was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and sent to a psychiatric hospital. Had he not been released at the age of 21 he wouldn't have gone on to murder his mother,  her friend and the six students.

6. At one stage he wanted to be a police officer, but he was rejected because of his huge size. He still made friends with cops by hanging out with them at a bar and was given the nickname Big Ed.



Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Only in a parallel universe could Netflix kill The OA




Like every other fan of the wonderfully twisty, time travelling drama The OA I was  saddened to see the show being cancelled  after just two seasons by Netflix. 

The so-called champions of new shows and the amazing people who create them have cancelled a truly one of a kind show beloved by critics and fans in equal measure. And we are damn angry. 

What makes the cancellation such a bitter pill to swallow is that right now we need a show like The OA especially at a time when we've waved goodbye to another popular show with a stellar and diverse cast Orange is the New Black. 

Both shows are the perfect antidote to the big bad in the White House Donald Trump who tells people who were born in the USA to go back home (but would never dream of saying that to his non-US born wife because she's white). 

A man who is the pin up boy for the racist extremists like the racist coward who went on a shooting rampage in El Paso, a place that was apparently deliberately targeted because of its high Hispanic population. Or if you want to put it another way because it'd a high percentage of non-whites. 

A man who's cohorts seem to want to turn the land of the free into their own version of The Handmaid's Tale by cutting off women's rights to choose abortion. 



The OA has the kind of diverse cast that's under attack in the USA right now. The transgender community is represented by the wonderful Ian Alexander as Buck/Michelle Vu.

The Latino American community by gay boy genius French played brilliantly by Brandon Perea.

Disaffected youth by the extremely likeable Patrick Gibson who plays Steve. 



Phyllis Smith from The Office is handed the best role I've ever seen for a mature woman as Betty Broderick-Allen (or BBA for short).  The way she saves Steve from wayward teens camp (it looks more like parent sponsored kidnapping) still makes me smile. 



In the OA's world you can change the world and you don't do it with hate speech or bullets, you do it with love and some tai chi style movements. The way the gang stopped what would have been a mass school shooting was nothing short of genius. 

Maybe in another dimension The OA does still exist on Netflix and there's a season 3, then 4 and 5 on its way as was planned. I'll keep meeting my friends to do the movements just in case I can reunite Prairie and Homer once again. 

Until then The OA will continue to live in all of us privileged enough to watch it thanks to its amazing creators Brit Marling  and Zal Batmanglij.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Cakes you jump out of (yes, really)

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 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-xtjrR5Dc8  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. 

To hire a cake, it’s best to approach a prop hire company like this one




Book description
A tale of skullduggery that plays out on the mean streets of Glasgow… 

One-legged barmaid Kirsty is in a shit-load of trouble after she kills one of gangster Jimmy McPhee’s enforcers with a stiletto heel to the head after he gets a bit too handsie. 

Now she’s on the run from the gang boss who loves to torture his victims before he kills them, with a safe-load of cash she stole from him and a hot gun. And she has company—a choirboy barman Jamie who just happens to be the only witness. 

She needs to survive long enough to spend the cash. 
~~~
Out now in paperback and Kindle at all good book stores and on Amazon 




Note - This post was first published in 2011 which shows what a long road publishing can be. I'm reposting it to celebrate How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks being published 8 years after it was first due to be published by Pulp Press. 
Thanks go to Shotgun Honey for publishing it. 

Saturday, 13 July 2019

How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks is finally here!


After 8 very long years of winning publishing deals for How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks only to be disappointed when it wasn't pubished, along come Snubnose Press to make the dreams I had for my feisty hero (or is it anti-hero - read it and you decide).





Book description
A tale of skullduggery that plays out on the mean streets of Glasgow… 

One-legged barmaid Kirsty is in a shit-load of trouble after she kills one of gangster Jimmy McPhee’s enforcers with a stiletto heel to the head after he gets a bit too handsie. 

Now she’s on the run from the gang boss who loves to torture his victims before he kills them, with a safe-load of cash she stole from him and a hot gun. And she has company—a choirboy barman Jamie who just happens to be the only witness. 

She needs to survive long enough to spend the cash. 
~~~
Out now in paperback and Kindle at all good book stores and on Amazon 



~~~
This book is dedicated to...
Not only is the book dedicated to my best friend Benjy who passed away on January 9th, he also has a cameo role.

He'd have loved the book - mainly to sit his bone on.

RIP my dear friend. 
~~~

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Keeping track of your novel's characters



Writing a novel series is a balancing act

One of the most important and time consuming parts of writing a series of books based on one character can be keeping track of the continuity. I discovered that to my cost when writing my Detective In A Coma series of books featuring Detective Inspector Duncan Waddell and his comatose sidekick DC Stevie Campbell. 


Unfortunately I hadn't prepared myself for making sure I maintained contiuity in my characters, which often led to me having to trudge through hundreds of pages of text to make sure everything I'd written was consistent. 

I've just finished writing book 4 Vigilante City and with the weird way that publishing works book 2 in the series Cannibal City will be published soon.
Keeping track of the characters and what's happened to then in previous books is tricky when you don't have a system in place.  

That's why I have my trusty notebook - an old fashioned one you write in - with pages devoted to every one of my main characters and plenty of space left to add in new details.

I'm using a notebook because I can carry it around with me, but I also back up the details online using file storage service Dropbox, my email and I have it in a Word document. 

Hey, as writers we can never back up too much, can we?

What should be in your notebook

1. Name and brief outline of the character.
Include full name of your characters including middle names and nicknames if any, age, general appearance.

2. Personality - What are they like as a person?
What do they like, what interests them, how do they treat others, what makes them laugh, have they any phobias/hang ups, are they dour or do that have a good sense of humour etc...

3. Personal details - are they married, divorced or single, do they have kids (if so what ages are they?), do they cheat on their partner, do they have any health problems etc...

4. Major events they've gone through. This would usually be things that happened to them in your books or that you've referenced in your books. 
For example, my sidekick detective DI Waddell has been able to have two-way conversations with his best pal and colleague Stevie Campbell, but nobody else can hear him. I had to establish in my notes when Stevie first spoke to him.

It might seem like you're spending too much time doing this, but trust me, it will turn out to be a major timesaver later on when you're not having to trawl through hundreds of pages of text just to find out what colour of hair a character has.

Tip - Have a photo of each character - some writers find it easier if they have a photograph of how their characters look pasted into a notebook, or pinned to a noticeboard on the wall or on their computer desktop. 

It can be a picture of anyone including of a celebrity or a generic photo cut out of a magazine.

If you find yourself losing your character you can look at it and it might put you back on track.

DI Duncan Waddell - Detective in a Coma Book 2

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 ...