Sunday, 19 December 2010

Bringing your characters alive

How can you bring the characters on the page, your very own creation to life?  Here’s some ideas -

1. Write a back story – what are their likes/dislikes, what was their childhood like, did they have a pet, have they ever been the victim of a crime etc… Knowing these things will help you to understand how they will react to situations and people. 

2. Cut out pictures from magazines and use them as a basis for your characters.  Being able to see your characters can help you to write about them.

3. Give characters a theme tune.  This can be any song or music that brings out their character.

4. Base characters on people you know, but don’t base just on the one person.  Make them an amalgamation of different people. 

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Success at last!

Just got an email saying that Pulp Press want to publish my first novel, a pulp fiction revenge book provisionally called How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks. I'm over the moon. It will be published in August 2011.

It's about a one legged barmaid who ends up killing a lech in the seedy bar where she works and has to go on the run with a sack of gangster's cash and a hot gun. 

What really makes me happy about this is I absolutely loved writing this book.  I had so much fun. Maybe because I thought it's about time that there were books where women wern't just window dressing or victims or the detective solving a crime who's weighed down by childcare arrangements

I know there's a long road ahead with editing and what not, but I'm so excited. 

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Readers Digest £5,000 for 100 words

I have just entered two stories in the Reader’s Digest flash fiction comp.  The big prize is £5,000.  Imagine what you could do with that? 

Stories must not be more than 100 words and that excludes the title, so no need to add that into your word count.

If you fancy a go.

Friday, 10 December 2010

How to promote your book with a kidnapping

These days, authors have to do more and more to publicise their books.  But being available for book festivals and interviews and having a website is not enough. 

Crime writer Stuart MacBride is going to write and direct a kidnap scene to promote his new book Shatter The Bones.  You can read about it here -

Personally, if I knew how I would love to turn Vile City into a computer game. 

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Walking Dead

Has anyone else been watching The Walking Dead, starring Andrew Lincoln who played Egg in Thats Life as the cop who's in a coma when the Zombie virus strikes? 

Although I've been enjoying it, I have two complaints - 1. not enough Zombie action
2- I don't think Zombies would attack and eat a horse.  For once thing, its human flesh Zombies want and specifically human brains.

At least that's my opinion.

What does anyone else think?  If you haven't seen it, here's a link to the trailer on YouTube - 

One thing the programme has done is inspire me to try my hand at my own Zombie novel.  Hope I can do this brilliant genre justice.  In the meantime, I'm having vivid Zombie dreams.

S'now fair

No buses or trains.  People abandoning their cars in freezing weather and trudging down the motorway like refugees, turning the M8 into one giant car park.  ‘It was like The Day After Tomorrow’ my brother told me. 

He spent four hours running around Glasgow trying to find a way home.  Went to the Bus Station.  No buses.  Went to Information,’ What do I know?’ shrugged the man in the booth.  Some information perhaps?

Same story at the train station.  ‘Oh, but there is a train ten miles away from where you really want to go and it leaves in five hours.’  Bloody fantastic info, especially when they tell you AFTER you bought your ticket.

Eventually he got home seven hours after his brother went into get him in a Land Rover.  Something about their gears makes them good in the snow apparently.

Anyway, I’m listening to this and whilst I’m thinking how terrible it is, I’m also thinking wouldn’t it be great to write a zombie novel set in the snow?  Imagine it, survivors walking by and they see a snowman and think,’ how lovely it is that kids are still doing normal things like building snowmen.  Then the thing moves and it’s a blooming zombie!  I can just see folk jumping in their cinema seats when I sell the movie rights to Night of the Killer Snow Zombies!.  

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Editing needs to be done on paper

This past few days I have been editing a novel I've been working on.  I thought writing on a computer screen and using a spell and grammar check, that my work would be error free.  Then I decided to take the advice of others writers more successful than me and print it out and edit it with a red pen.

My, that red pen has been busy.  And you know what, as well as getting rid of all the mistakes I have made, I have improved the manuscript and re-written parts of it.

Editing on paper may seem laborious and old fashioned, but boy is it needed.  As writers we are so close to our work, we don't always see the mistakes.

Friday, 3 December 2010


A publisher has expressed an interest in one of my novels.  After the initial Yippee and dance around the room, I am now left waiting by my laptop and the phone, hoping they will get in touch.    

They say no news is good news, but sometimes I wonder.  Being a writer is to be full of doubts, to knock yourself down and continually ask, ‘am I good enough?’ 

I would love this publisher to take on my book because I believe they are bringing out the kind of books that people will enjoy reading. 

Hopefully the next time I mention them it will be to say they've given me a most emphatic yes.  But, if they don't.  I won't give up.  I will still keep on writing on toilet paper when I go to the loo.  I will write on bus and train tickets, on menus and napkins.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Whilst the rest of us are freezing our bahookies off, it seems that there is at least someone enjoying this white weather -

Please can we go in now?

Things I have learnt since my dad got cancer…

In October of last year, my dad was diagnosed with multiple Myeloma.  I’d never heard of it and couldn’t even spell it to be honest.  In the summer, he underwent a stem cell transplant using his own cells that had been harvested and is doing well considering.

Here are the things I have learnt since my dad was diagnosed –

Myeloma is a type of bone cancer and is incurable.  That’s not to say its terminal, just that the symptoms can be reduced with drugs.

The majority of sufferers are over the age of 65.  My dad was 57 when diagnosed.

It’s been linked with chemicals and certain occupations where chemicals are used such as farming, hairdressing and the plastic industry.  That’s not to say that if you work in these trades you will get it. 

Since my dad was diagnosed, I have binned all the air freshners I have in the house.  With the research I have done I am convinced then any needless chemicals in the house are a bad thing. 

If my dad hadn’t have got his stem cell treatment he was told he wouldn’t live past the next two years. 

It’s important to tell your parents that you love them whilst they’re still there.  I don’t come from a particularly touchy feely family, but since my Dad was diagnosed, he tells me he loves me all the time and I tell him I love him.   

For more information, visit -

Friday, 26 November 2010

Things that have helped my writing

Here's some of the thing I have learned so far –

When telling the story from a particular character's POV ask what would he think of characters as they are introduced and remember what they think of others  also reflects his or her own life experience.  

For example - a 40-year-old teacher at a school disco may think the girls have turned up in their underwear and not their best party gear.  Well, when he was younger girls wore more clothes, or at least that was his recollection of things.  

Giving characters a theme tune that makes you think of them when you hear it can work wonders.  For instance an elderly woman who dreams of going windsurfing could have Young At Heart.  A man who thinks he's god's gift to women could have You're So Vain.  You play the song or hear it in your head and hey presto they're there in the room with you.  

Speech tags he said and she said, may seem repetitive, but when you're reading they fade away and it’s almost like you don't see them.  If you try and vary tags and write things like 'she said angrily,' 'he said brightly' that does start to grate with the reader.  So minimise the use of these if possible.

When someone is speaking break up the dialogue with A and B.  

A is for action i.e. 'She stopped speaking to brush the hair from her eyes, and then she inspected her chipped nail polish like she'd find the answer there.'  

B is for body language.  What are her lips, mouth, hands, shoulders doing?  Is she sitting up straight or is she slumped?  Are the feet still, shuffling, tapping, moving, shoeless (she's so relaxed she's kicked off her shoes).  

It can be distracting to write when Elvis is in the next garden.  Yes really.  I live next to a pub beer garden and the impersonator is currently belting out Love Me Tender. 

Doesn't it suck when your publisher goes bust!!!

On Thursday I was informed by my publishers, Forward Press, who own the Need2Know imprint, that they had gone bust. They published Bullying – A Parent’s Guide in 2005 and were due to publish Caring for Your Dog: The Essential Guide on December 1st.  This will not be happening.

Now I have to wait to see if someone will buy the imprint and if they don’t I have the option of never seeing my dog book published or trying to get another publisher.  Sadly, it means I can probably kiss goodbye to any royalties for my bullying book, including the cheque I was due to get.  I also won’t get my small advance that was due on publication of the book. 

Unfortunately, this is going to happen more and more these days. 

Although I am very upset about the situation with my books - its hard enough to get published and a tremmendous amount of work has gone into them - I really feel for all those who have lost their jobs.  What a time to lose your job, before Christmas. 

Hell Week

This past seven days has been an absolute nightmare.  My dog was attacked and my publishers went bust. 

First to the dog attack - I’ll talk about my publisher hell in my next posting, after I’ve stopped sobbing.  I was out walking with my dog, when another dog (a German shepherd type) sprinted over and lunged at him as he was chewing away at a stick.  The dog was twice the size of my Benjy and as usual in cases like this, the dog was unaccompanied.  My Benjy managed to fight the dog off (although he was much smaller he is a muscle man, mainly because he loves diving through the air to catch his Frisbee) and I got between them and told the dog to get lost.

I thought that was it done and put Benjy on the lead and was heading home when the other dog attacked again.  This time I managed to get Benjy away.

Dogs fight, it’s a fact of life, but what shouldn’t be is dog owners like the silly bitch who owned this one and who knows her dog is violent (this is the first time in the year I have been seeing this dog that it has been off the lead), yet still thinks its perfectly okay to let her dog off the lead so he can run off an attack another dog and she’s too far away to stop it.

When she finally did appear (some five minutes after the first attack), despite witnessing the 2nd one she didn’t even acknowledge anything had happened.  In fact, she looked right through me.  If it hadn’t been for the fact I wanted to get Benjy to safety I would have given her an earful.  People like her shouldn’t even have remote control dogs, never mind real ones. 

This attack brought back very bad memories.  When I first moved to this island of irresponsible dog owners, (since I moved here over five years ago, two Akitas (Japanese fighting dogs have attacked their owners and had to be put down, and a neighbour’s Weimeraner crushed a little girl’s throat as she played in her garden), my old dog Vic (a mixed breed dog the size of a German shepherd) was savaged by a giant Bull Mastiff.  The beast appeared out of nowhere and didn’t so much as growl at him before it’s teeth latched onto his throat.  Predictably, the owner was nowhere to be seen.  The dog had no collar on it either. 

If a passer-by had not come and started kicking the hell out of the dog that wouldn’t let go of Vic’s throat even as my boyfriend and I pounded away at it trying to get it off, our dog would have been killed.  Afterwards we took Vic to the Vet and he needed stitches in his neck.  The vet said that had it not been for his collar the dog would have killed him.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Sometimes successful writers suck too…

Sometimes it’s so hard when you are struggling to get your first novel published to remember that even successful writers had their doubts too and weren’t always as good as they are now.

Take Harlan Coben for instance.  One of the best selling authors in the world, and the creator of the fantastic Myron Bolitar, I recently had the misfortune to read a book he wrote in his twenties and just recently had published.  Called Play Dead, it’s simply one of the worst books I have ever attempted to read.  I say attempted because after huffing and puffing through 100 pages, I decided life was way too short and put it down.

What was wrong with it?  I wouldn’t say it was badly written, but the main character the most beautiful woman in the world and her sports star husband, were too cardboard cut out for me.  I couldn’t empathise with them. 

Another book I simply could not finish, was one of Jeffery Deaver’s first.  Called Mistress of Justice, it was appalling.  This was meant to be have been ‘reworked’ some 13 years after it was published.  Yet, it was the first book of his I had to put down without finishing. 

As a writer, what have I learnt from reading bad books by good authors?

First off, you need believable characters.  They need to have a degree of likeability if they are people you want to suceed in whatever their chosen goal is.  Whether its finding a missing husband or child, running a marathon or solving a murder case.

Second of all, maybe even good authors need to get all the garbage out of their systems before they get to the good stuff.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Editing woes

Is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of writers everywhere and quite often despondancy.  These days we writers need to get our manuscripts as polished as we can before it goes in front of an agent or publisher, because if we don't we'll get that dreaded 'no' email or even worse, our hard work stuffed in an envelope and pushed through our letterbox.

I am currently at the editing process with Vile City.  It's a long process, but I know its one I have to go through if I want to stand a chance of getting it published.  In these days where everything is done on computer I have discovered one thing - if I want to get my novel to the best it can be its time to edit the old fashioned way - with a pen and paper.  It's far too easy to miss mistakes when you write and edit on the your PC or laptop.

Here are some others things I have learnt -

1- Sometimes it's better to give your writing to someone neutral to read.  I had two fantastic reviews on You Write On that highlighted typos I had made.

2- Don't keep using  'seem' and 'seemed'.  Be more specific.

3- Cut down on the use of 'only' and 'just.'  These are words you can do without.

4- Have a timeline for your book.  This will prevent main character A meeting character B when they were both somewhere different entirely.

5- If you write a piece in your novel that you love, but it doesn't fit in, then DITCH IT.  Don't get all precious or uppity.

6- If your novel takes a wrong turning, retrace your steps.  Where did it all go wrong/bad?  Fix it.  Don't sob as you delete all your lovely words. 

7- Have a document where you keep chunks of text that you have taken from your novel in case you realise you've made a mistake and need to put them back. 

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Last Window - a great game for writers

I just got Last Window The Secret of Cape West for my Nintendo DS.  It's a terrific game and a great follow up to Hotel Dusk.  It's also in my opinion a great game for writers.  The game is like a novel and the dialogue and narrative is excellent and is a good lesson in how to make your characters' words flow.  It's set in LA in 1980 and follows part time salesman and detective Kyle as he tries to solve the mysetries of Cape west Apartments, the one time hotel where a murder occurred.  Gripping stuff.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Happy birthday - or is it?

Today is my birthday.  I’m 38 and wonder where all the time has gone.  It won’t be long until the big 4 0. 

Here are some of the things I have come to realise, that I wish I’d known when I was a teenager and in a hurry to grow up -

If you don’t eat like a sparrow you will put on weight – a lot.

You will still feel the same age inside as you did at 21.  When you're young and your parents say that, you laughed at them, but it's true. 

You will look in the mirror and get a fright when you realise that you no longer look 21.  Age has crept up on you unawares like the Boston Strangler. 

Wrinkles aren’t so bad when they are laughter lines, and I have laughed a lot.  Sometimes at a comedy programme, others at the ridiculousness of my life. 

You will look back on your life and realise that you had more opportunities than you ever realised.  These could be in your career, your love life or even your health.  There are doors you could have opened, and you didn't even realise they existed.

The things that you regretted at 21 are the things you will still regret today.  They haunt you and that’s made worse by the things you cannot change, but would if you could go back in time.  I have been hurt and I’m ashamed to say, I have hurt.  There are times I wish I could be the character in that Dean Koontz story Strange Highways, who is able to go back in time and take the right turning and alter what happened.

You know your youth is well behind you when the new hunk on Desperate Housewives, isn’t Bo Duke, the baby-faced, blonde heartthrob from Dukes of Hazzard, the show you loved as a child, no it’s the son of the heartthrob you loved as a child. 

And, one of your favourite movies from your distant days on the young team, Back to the Future, is celebrating its 25th anniversary.  When it first came out, it was the big teen film of the time. 

I never thought I would get old, but old age is something that creeps up at you like the drunken buffoon at a party and it seriously sucks.    

I guess though, it could have been a lot worse.  It could have been the grandson of John Schneider! 

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Caring for Your Dog: The Essential Guide

I’m getting very excited.  On Friday I received a copy of the press release for my new book, Caring for Your Dog: The Essential Guide.  It will be published by Need2Know on December the 1st 2010. 

I decided to write the book for two reasons – firstly as a tribute to my beautiful, brave dog Vic, who suffered from epilepsy from the age of 4-years-old and sadly crossed the Rainbow Bridge last year at the age of 13 and a half.  He enjoyed life right up until the end and I miss him greatly.  Caring for Your Dog has a chapter on caring for special needs dogs like Vic.  Sadly too many people have dogs put down because they see a dog who has special needs as a burden.  That does not have to happen.

The other reason was I wanted people to realise that instead of buying a dog, something that adds to the problem of too many dogs needing homes, they could welcome a rescue dog into their home.  There are so many dogs needing homes.  Vic was once one of them.  Now my partner and I have Benjy, whom we got from the Dogs trust in Glasgow.  My book has a chapter dedicated to the ins and outs of adopting a dog. 

Here he is –

I’d better go now as he wants to chase him around the room with a bone! 


The other night I watched the TV adaptation of Mark Billingham’s Sleepyhead.  Although I enjoyed it, I was amazed at how the characters from the book had been translated to the small screen.  David Morrissey was good as DI Thorne, but he’s far too good looking to play the role and some of the rest of the cast could have come straight from Hollywood, like Natascha McElhone who played Dr Coburn and Aidan Gillen (who played Mayor Tommy Carcetti) in The Wire. 

I was also interested to read how an actor of Morrissey’s involvement with the show came about.  He read the novels and wrote to Billingham saying he wanted to play the part.  Budding authors like me can only dream about that happening. 

If your novel was published, who would you like to play your lead character?  I’d love it if Journeyman star Kevin Mckidd played my DI Waddell or David Tennant. 

BT Broadband Bollocks

Last night about , my BT Broadband went off and wouldn’t work.  This isn’t the first time this has happened and no doubt it will not be the last. 

I consulted the useless guide (sorry, I meant user guide) and it basically said ‘you’re stuffed.’  I checked up the service status and it said there was a problem with the service in the North of England, Scotland (where I live), but hey you will love this one (I loved it so much, I flung down the phone in a rage and shouted words my mum told me never to say) if I needed help with my broadband I could go to the BT website.  Wonderful, how do I do that when I can’t get on the Internet!

P.S. I am writing this offline in the hope that eventually BT broadband will deign to give me what I pay for.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Where would you keep a human finger?

'Last night, I turned to my boyfriend in bed and calmly asked him 'where would you put a human finger?' Once he had checked none of his were missing, he asked me why I wanted to know.  I told him that my character was going to find one, but I wasn't sure where, so he suggested in a jar of pickles.  So, that's what I've gone for. 

It could have been worse.  The other night I asked him what a kick in the dangle bag felt like.  I can't print his reply!

I'm a loser

As writers, we constantly seek validation that our work is any good.  Today I received news that made me think mine is utter, utter tosh.  I had applied for a New Writers Award from the Scottish Books Council.  Had I got it, it would have made me think my work wasn't rubbish.  But, I was turned down.  200 people had applied, they told me.  The standard was so very high.  We cannot give out any individual feedback, they said. 

Rejection has hit me hard.  I won't deny it, as I had sent an extract from Vile City.  Then I decided to remind myself of those who had succeeded.  The list of previous years' winners were listed.  There was a recurring theme throughout them.  Most of them had done a masters degree or even a Phd in creative writing.  I have done neither.  Instead I have written, without any professional qualifications and I have being selling my work for the past 23 years. 

And, that's the good thing about writing.  You don't need a degree to do it.  Most of the top authors have just written and that is what I will continue to do. Right now it feels like someone is giving my innards a kicking and disappointment sickens me to the core.  But, I will not let this finish me off.  I will keep writing away and hopefully one day I might get some validation.

Monday, 25 October 2010

One more edit may be an edit too far

I finally have my almost finished manuscript, but the editing stage has gone on for so long I am starting to question why I even bothered to write my book.  is it really any good?  Will anybody want to read it?  And, if I start sending it out to publishers and agents, will it come back to me so fast it's like there was a boomerang attached?

All sorts of worries go through my head and the thought of them makes me doubt my work and then I start to think - do I need to change what I have written?  Should I keep this bit? 

One of the best pieces of advice I read came from a very successful author who said that there is a danger of making changes to your manuscript not because they are better, but because they are different.  I have that on a post-it note and every time I consider making changes I stop and ask myself 'is this going to make my book better?'  If the answer is no, then I keep it as it is.

Ramblings of a Frustrated Crime Writer: About Me

Ramblings of a Frustrated Crime Writer: About Me: "I began contributing to magazines when I was 15-years-old and had my first piece in Jackie magazine - a piece on superstitions. From then ..."

Why Vile City?

My novel is set in Glasgow and begins with a young woman getting off a bus with her boyfriend. They take a short cut down an alley (not a wise thing to do anywhere) and are attacked by an assailant unknown. The boyfriend thinks he's been stabbed, but he's been knocked out cold by a sedative and his girlfriend is abducted. Vile City follows DI Duncan Waddell, who wishes he'd become a history teacher, as he tries to track down three women who have been taken by the beast the press have dubbed 'The Glasgow Grabber.'

The title comes from the fact that DI Waddell is becoming disillusioned by the fair city he once loved thanks to the nasty underbelly he uncovers in the course of his work.

As well as this novel, I am also working on a book of 23,000 words aimed at one imprint in particular, about Kirsty, a one legged barmaid who goes on the run after killing a gangster's goon who got a bit too touchy feely by putting her stiletto through his pug ugly head. You had to have been there to know her violence was justified.

Weird and wonderful research

Throughout the time I have been writing Vile City, I have found myself having to look up some pretty weird stuff in the Internet.  Things like what car would have the least leg room for a 6ft 2 gangly detective, so he would have to unravel himself getting out and curl up getting in?  Can you buy sperm on the Internet - the madwoman in the novella I am writing How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks tries to impregnant my hero with it - and if so how easy is it to inseminate someone.  And, my personal favorite - is it possible to use thumb screws on a man's ganglty bits?  Well, the psycho in my novella has a unique line in torture techniques.

DI Duncan Waddell - Detective in a Coma Book 2

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 droppe...