Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Vile City book launch at Waterstones

Setting up
So, how did the book launch for Vile City go, eh?

Quite a few people have asked me that and I've given a few sentences in reply.

Here's how the night went -
A quivering wreck and squinting through one eye because I couldn't see out of it because it was blurred with hayfever, I headed into Waterstones in Glasgow's famous Sauchiehall Street (its a nightmare for non-Scots to say and is pronounced Saw-kie-hall Street).

Before I went there, a few people mentioned this was Scotland's biggest bookstore - no pressure there then.

On the way there, I was contemplating doing a runner because I was so nervous, but my partner John kept reassuring me it would be okay. He had a speech prepared and I wouldn't need to do a thing except for signing books.



Sounded simple enough, but I suffer from agoraphobia (a crippling fear of people and open spaces (see my agoraphobic writer post) my hands were shaking and its hard to write my long name (Jennifer Lee Thomson) in a way that wouldn't ruin anybody's book.

We arrived at the store at 6pm for the 7pm launch, which seemed a bit early but as it turned out, I needed that extra hour.

The events manager Frankie, the most enthusiastic person I've ever met, talked us through what would happen at the event and laid out the cakes we'd brought with mini book covers made out of rice paper by an amazing cake designer.

Frankie talked us through how to use the microphones. Vital if like me you are useless with anything more technologically advanced than a shoebox tied with rope.

John was thankfully going to do all the talking standing at a lectern so in the end my microphone could be switched off.

After Frankie gave me tips on where to sign the book and what to write, it was 7pm and time to roll.

Lynsey Adams from the wonderful There's Been a Murder blog  came early and brought me a lovely, thoughtful gift and so did my brother, Ian. Then a few of John's good friends and my other brother Jamie, so at least my dream of nobody showing up proved unfounded. And everybody seemed to be enjoying the cakes!


Where was everybody? Panic sets in.

But 7pm and ten past 7 came and went and nobody else had arrived. Finally the stragglers, otherwise known as my family arrived fifteen minutes late - they'd got lost).


My partner made his amazing speech and everybody loved it and then it was book signing time, which I thoroughly enjoyed especially when asked questions about writing or my characters.

Would I have a book launch again? Probably, if Waterstones will have me again as they were wonderful to deal with (thanks go to events' manager James and Ben, as well as the amazing Frankie).

Next time (if there is one) I'll know exactly what to except.

For starters, most people who say they'll come won't, especially if Take That are in town and its a sunny day.

Your nearest and dearest will turn up late or not at all, or to a completely different venue (Glasgow has two Waterstones in the city centre alone and they are five minutes away from each other).

Footnote - There was one major downside to having a launch. After picking what I thought was an amazing letter dress to wear and nice boots that I didn't think I'd look terrible in, I later saw the pictures of the night and realised I looked like a walking tent, so it's diet time for me.
All that sitting about writing has given me writer's bottom and middle age spread has added to it.
Wish me luck on my diet. Maybe you'll see the svelte new me at the next book launch?

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Yipee! Vile City is published today



Happy dance time

Vile City was published today and soon I'll be leaving for my book launch at Waterstones. Its on the 2nd floor of the Sauchiehall Street branch, kicking off at 7pm if you fancy stopping by. There will be cake.

Although there's happiness in my heart that at long last the novel that won the Scottish Association of Writers' Pitlochry Quaich for a first crime novel in 2011 is being published, there's fear too. The kind of fear that gnaws at your heart like you're being eaten from the inside.

Doubt is every writer's worst enemy.


It's nail biting time


Will anybody want to read your book? Will the reviews be scathing like knives through your heart?

Whatever the reception you get, being a writer means putting yourself out there. You have to expect and accept that people won't like your writing. But that doesn't make it any easier.


Even Benjy looks worried

But there is joy too in seeing your book on sale. Of knowing that your hard work has paid off.

In the case of Vile City (Detective in a Coma Book 1), I've been working on it trying to get it published for 6 years. In that time, it's gone through so many different versions.

Why Detective in a Coma? 

DC Stevie Campbell, the detective of the title who's in the coma, came to life after he started speaking to me. Initially he was a bit character, but he became much more. So, I thought wouldn't it be interesting to see what would happen if this friend who is meant to be in a coma started to talk to my main character DI Duncan Waddell? That would make anybody question their sanity, wouldn't it?

Vile City tells two parallel stories -
Shelley Craig who's been taken and who will do anything to make it home and DI Duncan Waddell's attempts to find her.

Shelley is an amalgamation of every strong woman I know. She's not a victim. No, she's a survivor.




Anyway, I better go now. Some cakes with book cover toppers and my book launch are waiting. Maybe I will see you there.

Wish me well.

Useful info 
You can read the start of Vile City for free here

Vile City is available in paperback and in eBook -
Amazon UK
Amazon.com 
Amazon.ca   










Wednesday, 3 May 2017

5 Lessons I've learnt writing a novel (so you don't have to)



Writing a novel can seem like an arduous task.But there are ways to make it easier, especially with a bit of pre-planning and organisation.

This is what I learnt writing Vile City, the first book in my Detective in a Coma series.

Plan or you'll fail.

1. You need to be able to tell at a glance what's in every chapter. That includes plot and character development.
Unless you're blessed with a photographic memory (if you are, I envy you) there are a few ways to do this. You can have a timeline on paper or a spreadsheet on your computer.
I prefer to have a summary to go with each chapter on a Word document. I constantly update this and when I’m editing I print it out and constantly refer to it.

Get those character details right, or they'll be trouble.

2. If your characters are going to be in a series do a character profile for each character.
This should cover character, background and appearance. I reserve several pages in a notebook I keep for DI Waddell, his coma stricken pal DC Stevie Campbell (who talks to Waddell even although nobody else can hear) & Co for each character in my Detective in a Coma books. I add details as I write each book. I've just finished book three.

You need to have pertinent details of your characters quickly to hand so you can access them without slowing down your writing by having to search through text for that one detail that you need.

How many times have they been married? Do they have kids and if so what are their names? If they were in an accident who'd be their next of kin? What colour is their hair?
You need to know these things so you won't suddenly change your balding, thrice divorced, childless bachelor into someone with enviable hair, two kids and a first wife.


3. Keep a firm grip on the continuity.
You need to be consistent. No changing characters names halfway through your book. Keep an eye on the details - is your character sitting down when they've recently complained of a back injury and said they couldn't sit down?

In one of my earlier versions of Vile City, I had Shelley Craig who gets kidnapped in the book, deliberately leaving behind a necklace with a charm based on a Monopoly playing piece in one of the places she'd been kept. When my main character DI Waddell finds it the charm on the necklace had changed.



4. Save your first draft and subsequent drafts to at least three places (or four or five...).
We've all done it haven't we - toiled over our writing only to forget to save the new changes we've made or lost it all when our computer went nuts/was hit with a virus/decided that it hated us.

There is nothing worse than losing hours, days and even weeks of hard graft and somebody saying: "Hey didn’t you back it up?" when you sit there looking sheepish because you haven't.

That's why it's important to save your work at least once a day to at least three places - I send my work to two different emails, save it to Dropbox and save it on my laptop and tablet. That way if something goes wrong I won't lose work. I also save my WIP to all these places every time I do any revamping or substantial writing. 


5. Always edit on paper.
Trust me on this, when you read on a laptop or tablet screen you miss mistakes and because it's your writing your brain can trick you into thinking you've written something different to what you have.


For example - I once wrote that a character was wearing a violent jumpsuit rather than a violet one. Major difference. Don’t let your jumpsuit get violent:)


About the author
Jennifer's first novel, Vile City, which ironically will be published a few years after the second and third ones she wrote were is out on May 11th and will be launched at Waterstones in Glasgow’s busy Sauchiehall Street the same day starting at 7pm. 

Vile City is published by Caffeine Nights and available for pre-order now https://www.amazon.co.uk/Vile-City-Jennifer-Lee-Thomson/dp/1910720739 

You can meet her on Twitter @jenthom72 or on Facebook


She also writes fiction as Jenny Thomson. 


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Little Boy Lost - Scotland's Missing Persons Files - Sandy Davidson 


The 3-year-old has been missing for 10 years

There's so much talk about missing Madeline McCann who was 3-years-old when her parents inexplicably left her and her and her and 2-year-old twin siblings in a hotel room in Portugal to go to a tapas bar with friends.

The little girl's disappearance remains unsolved 10 years on. But although it may be one of the most reported missing person cases of all time, it's by far not one of the longest unsolved disappearances of a child from the UK.


Sandy Davidson went missing 41 years ago


Visit the Police Scotland site and there's a grainy black and white image of a wee boy that's almost too difficult to make out because it's so old.

Sandy Davidson has been missing since April 23rd, 1976. He was last seen when he was just 3-years-old.

Sandy was playing in the garden of his grandmother's home in Irvine with his little sister Donna who was 2 and the family dog. It's believed that the dog ran away and Sandy chased after the pooch. The little boy hasn't been seen since.

Despite a thorough search by police and members of the public, they found no trace of the wee boy.

But the authorities have never stopped searching for Sandy and nor has his little sister who was with him that day. Police even released a photo of how Sandy would look today.


How Sandy would look now



So, what could have happened to the little boy lost? 

Theories abound. Could he have been taken by a stranger, a neighbour even? Sandy's parents believe a lonely man who wanted a son took theirs. A man was seen near where Sandy was delivering leaflets.

Work on the new building estate nearby was halted to search for Sandy. Could he have had an accident and ended up being buried in the cement? A new primary school was also being constructed. The school was demolished in 2004, but reports claim authorities refused to search for the missing child's body in the rubble.

Or, could he have drowned in a river close to his grandparents' home whilst he was chasing his pet dog? If he did, why has his body never been found?


New development

Two years ago, a man claimed he was abducted and violently abused by a teenage girl from the same area around the same time Sandy disappeared. See story here

Sandy would be 44 today. He could have had a family. Been a father. A grandfather by now.

But, Sandy Davidson is a wee boy frozen in time. A child who will never age. It seems almost certain that he met with a sad end. Whether it was an accident or someone caused that premature end to a lovely child's life we may never know.


Do you now what happened to the 3-year-old?

Anyone with information can contact Police Scotland on 101. They have the case listed on their website

The family also set up a Facebook page to try and find out what happened to Sandy.




Saturday, 29 April 2017

13 Reasons Why 13 Reasons Why doesn't glamorise suicide

***Be warned, this article contains spoilers.***



Like so many people I've been engrossed in the show about a teenage girl called Hannah Baker who takes her own life and leaves 13 cassette tapes behind explaining why.

In some way it seems like the tapes are there to get revenge on everybody who's wronged Hannah and driven her to commit suicide.

There's also been accusations that it glamorises suicide. That is one accusation that I don't agree with.

Here's 13 reasons why 13 Reasons Why doesn't glamorise suicide in my opinion -


The loss of a young life isn't glamorous.

1- There's nothing glamorous about a bright, intelligent girl like Hannah with her whole future ahead of her killing herself because she can't take life any more.

2- The life of the teens depicted on 13 Reasons Why is terrible. The pressures on the students is immense and instead of supporting each other most of them tear each other apart. Bullying is seen as normal.

3- Anything you do or say can be twisted and around the school in seconds thanks to mobile phones and the Internet. Hannah has her first kiss, next she knows the seemingly nice guy turns out to be a jerk who claims she did more than just kiss him.


The obnoxious Bryce.

4- There's nothing glamorous about a girl being raped by her boyfriend's best friend whilst she's incapacitated by alcohol as her boyfriend who should be protecting her walks away. At a time when there's research showing that many young people have a difficult time knowing when rape is rape it highlights something very important.

5- The girls in the show can be real mean girls. One minute they're helping you get home safely, the next they're driving away from an accident that takes out a stop sign and very soon after causes an accident where someone dies.

6- It shows the effects of suicide on the ones left behind.
Watching the heartbreak Hannah's parents go through, especially her mother is gut wrenching. With Clay who loved Hannah, there's also a sense of great loss and of what might have been for him and Hannah.

7- The immaturity of the boys compared to the girls is frequently highlighted throughout the show. They rarely take responsibility for any of their actions or feel any guilt. There's always a sense that if you're good at sport and popular at school you can do whatever the hell you want to.

8- Girls face unbelievable pressure. Either they're frigid or easy. There seems to be no middle ground. And it's not just guys who are judging and rating them, it's the girls who should know better. So much for the sisterhood.

9- The students seem to live in a parallel universe to the teachers and parents and have no support system. They don't let their parents into their lives. Instead they bury all of their pain with drugs and alcohol and by being mean to their peers and oblivious to their pain.

10-  Teachers do try to help, but not near enough and they seem oblivious to what's going on right under their noses. The bullying, the peer pressure, the drugs and alcohol.


Even the seemingly nice guys screw Hannah over.

11- It shows the characters as they really are warts and all i.e not in the least bit glamorous or people we would want to be. Even the wonderful Clay, our main character isn't perfect. Throughout 13 Reasons Why there's a strong sense that if only he'd told Hannah how he felt she would still be alive.

12- We wouldn't want to be anyone in the show. They may be young but none of them seem particularly happy. Hannah killed herself, but it could have just as easily have been anyone else in the show.

13- You spend the whole time watching the show with a sense of deep sadness, a feeling that you want to grab all of the young cast by the scruff of the neck and tell them school doesn't last forever. You have the rest of your life.

Conclusion - Whatever anyone thinks, it has to be a good thing that teenage suicide is at least being discussed. Too many young people are taking their own lives. It's something we need to talk about and if shows like 13 Reasons Why make that happen it has got to be a good thing.

On a personal note, as someone who was bullied mercilessly at school and the place where I lived and who contemplated suicide, I found the show cathartic and grittily realistic. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Scotland's Missing Case Files: Moira Anderson - The little girl who never went home


60 years ago Moira Anderson disappeared
There can be few crimes more heinous than the murder of a child. When that's compounded by that child's body never being found, it's particularly cruel to the child's family who are denied the chance to lay their loved one to rest.

Sixty long years ago, a wee girl called Moira Anderson left her grandmother's house in Coatbridge in Scotland to go to the shops. She never returned. It was during a heavy snowstorm and the 11-year-old was last seen boarding a Baxter's bus.

This is not so much a case of who killed the little girl because there seems no doubt about that.


Her killer
Convicted paedophile Alexander Gartshore was driving the bus that day. The bus that tragic Moira got on. Later in the very same year, he was jailed for raping a 17-year-old babysitter.

But Gartshore will never confess to police that he killed Moira or be held accountable because he died in 2006. But there seems few doubts that he murdered the child.

Convicted child abuser James Gallogley said his former friend Gartshore boasted of murdering Moira. He wasn't alone in believing the former soldier took Moira from this world.

Gartshore's very own daughter crime writer Sandra Brown was convinced he was the killer and campaigned to have her father charged. Scottish prosecutors also announced in 2014 that he would have faced prosecution for the schoolgirl's murder if he were still alive.



Police search the canal for traces of Moira

Where he put Moira's body nobody knows. But the search goes on but it might not have had to. In 1957 a man was spotted carrying a large heavy sack towards a canal. The sighting was reported to police but they never acted on it.


The search for Moira 
In 2013, a grave was excavated at Monkland Cemetery in Coatbridge after it was believed that evil Gartshore buried Moira's body in the family plot of an acquaintance. But nothing was found.

As I write this, there's been another update. Along with divers, Police Scotland are retrieving objects from a canal for assessment by forensic experts in the search for the schoolgirl.

Maybe one day very soon, a little girl called Moira can make it home and finally be laid to rest at last.


Moira's memory will live on  
Footnote - Moira Anderson's name continues to live on through the foundation that bears her name and helps survivors of child abuse. 

You can learn more about the foundation here.

March 2017 Update - Sadly, the police found no trace of Moira in the canal. 



Monday, 20 February 2017

Scotland's Missing Crime Files: The disappearance of devoted mum Arlene Fraser

This is another case that has always haunted me and inspired to write crime like Vile City

Tragic Arlene - was she killed by her husband Nat Fraser?

Pretty mum-of-two Arlene Fraser was just 33-years-old when she was last seen in the Scottish town of Elgin in 1998. Since that day she was never seen again.

Picture the scene in Arlene's house. It looked as if it'd been abandoned suddenly. 

The vacuum cleaner was still plugged in and the washing machine had been recently used.

Could Arlene have left and be living somewhere else?

This was a theory that was touted by Nat Fraser and his defence. 

If Arlene had left she hadn't been prepared.  

Her medication for Crohn's disease, her glasses and contact lenses were still in the house.

Would she really leave home without her children? 

Then there were her children. Would the devoted mum have left without them? Not by choice.

Just weeks before her disappearance, her violent husband Nat Fraser had throttled her for coming home late. He was sentenced to eighteen months for that assault but that only happened two years after the assault on his wife which was first treated as attempted murder. 

Had he been convicted sooner she might not have been killed.

Tragically, Arlene had been set to divorce her violent husband and start a new life. 

She was never given that chance.



What happened to Arlene?

Initially her disappearance was treated as a missing persons case. The detective in charge of the case, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Simpson said: "Something criminal has taken place here. Arlene has been the victim of a crime. I am of the opinion that she's dead. There's no indication that she's living somewhere else."

The police believe Nat Fraser paid someone to wipe his wife off the face of the earth. During the search for her, he was accused of not being interested in her whereabouts as if he already knew where she was.

In 2003, he was convicted of her murder and sentenced to 25 years in jail.

In 2011, he successfully challenged his conviction and it was quashed. But in 2012 in a new trial he was again convicted of Arlene's murder. In 2013, he lost yet another appeal. 

DOUBT 

So, why was there so much doubt over the husband's conviction?

There was no body and Nat Fraser did not commit the murder himself. 

The prosecution argued that Nat Fraser accused his wife of having a lover and decided that he wanted her dead to avoid giving her half his fortune. What's more Fraser was willing to pay someone £15, 000 to kill her.

Weeks before she vanished, Nat Fraser is alleged to have said to his wife: "If you are not going to live with me, you will not be living with anyone."

Chillingly that came true.

After she went missing, her son Jamie, who was only ten at the time, left a heartbreaking note for his mum. It read."Mother, where are u?"

He'd never get an answer to that question.

Arlene's body has never been found so her children and the rest of her family don't have a grave to visit. It's believed that her body was disposed off after she was murdered. Maybe even fed to pigs or burnt. 

What do Arlene's family think? 

Arlene's mother Isabelle Thompson spoke after Fraser's last appeal: "Hopefully we can get on with our lives, it's been never-ending."

In a shock documentary on Channel 4, in 2013 Arlene's daughter Natalie Fraser who was just five-years-old when her mum went missing, said she was "100 per cent" sure that her dad's friend Hector Dick and not her dad Nat Fraser, who was guilty of killed her mum. 

Hector had testified against her dad. 

Why would Hector Dick kill Arlene? 

Did he think he was doing a friend a favour? Or, did he fall for Arlene and get upset when she spurned his advances? 

There has been no evidence pointing to that.

All of the evidence points to Nat Fraser arranging the murder of his wife. 

Read about the documentary here

Friday, 3 February 2017

I'm so excited - Vile City is NOW available on pre-order

Sorry, I haven't been updating you on my progress as regularly as I would like. 

I'd love to say that I'm really a superhero and have been whizzing around saving people and bringing down bad guys. Hey, we can all dream, can't we? 


Sadly, what I haven't been doing is being a superhero. 

What I've really been doing is working on Vigilante City, book 3 in my Detective in a Coma series featuring Inspector Duncan Waddell. A crime thriller where people who seem to have gotten away with murder are being targeted by a vigilante who kills them and shoves a newspaper cutting about the victim's alleged crime down their throats. 

Book 2, Cannibal City - where a killer goes around Glasgow kidnapping men, keeping them alive for weeks and then force-feeding them before killing them and eating their livers - is already written. 





Vile City Pre-order  
The good news though is that Vile City, the first ever book in the series is now available for your entertainment on pre-order in paperback. 

Here's the to Amazon link.

You can read an extract here




Vile City tells Shelley's story of how she tries to make it home.


What's it about then? 
Vile City tells two parallel stories - Detective Inspector Waddell who's trying to catch a killer dubbed as the Glasgow Grabber and two, Shelley Carig, one of his victims who'll do anything to stay alive. 

I also received my copies of Vile City today and I'm so excited. Not only is the cover amazing, its also the first book I've had published with my full name Jennifer Lee Thomson. 

All of my other books have been written as Jenny Thomson (my crime thriller trilogy featuring gutsy Nancy Kerr and her former special forces boyfriend, Tommy McIntyre) and Jennifer Thomson (my self-help books, including Living Cruelty Free: Live a more Compassionate Life and Bullying - A Parent's guide.

My first book coming out with my full name is very important to me as one of the last things my dad said to me before he died after a long, brave battle with cancer was "Why don't you use your middle name?"

So, Vile city and all the other books to come are for you, dad. 


My late dad in his Elvis wig.