#crimewritersincafesprocrastinating – @HollyACave talks bubbly, chocolate digestives, and being a phone addict!

Holly

 

Today crime writer Holly Cave is joining me for Crime Writers In Cafes Procrastinating. In this feature I find out the lengths writers go to procrastinate when they should actually be writing, and how they (finally) manage to win against the temptation of procrastination to finish their books.

Holly’s latest book – THE MEMORY CHAMBER – is a stunning, thought-provoking read and one of my favourite books of the year so I’m super excited to ask her all about her writing and procrastination habits…

Welcome, Holly!

So tell me all about your latest book – The Memory Chamber?

The Memory Chamber is part twisted love story, part crime thriller, part speculative fiction. It’s set in a London not that different to the one we see today, except that the profession of our main character, Isobel, is to create artificial heavens for people. By identifying and arranging her clients’ favourite memories, she can ensure they’ll have the perfect afterlife… or can she? As the story opens, we see Isobel falling in love with one of her new, terminally-ill clients, Jarek. This brief but passionate relationship will go on to make her question everything she knows, as Jarek’s wife is found dead and she embarks on a battle to prove him innocent.  

How long did The Memory Chamber take to write?

I first had the idea during a sunny autumn dog walk back in 2014, but I was still editing my first, self-published novel, The Generation, at the time. When I did start The Memory Chamber, it flowed. I started writing in the spring of 2015 and completed the first draft shortly after the end of NaNoWriMo in October that year.  

What’s your favourite writing/procrastination spot – home, café, bar, other?

I’m so lazy most of the time that I just stay at home. For me, one of the best things about being a writer and freelancer is that I can regularly wear jogging bottoms, forgo makeup, and not wash until midday. But if I’m having trouble concentrating, I do find that I work harder in a café environment because I feel like people are watching me type! I really want to convert part of my garage into a little office though – my working space in the spare room isn’t that glamorous at the moment.

What’s your writing process – do you jump straight in, or plan and plot first?

My process has changed a lot in recent months. I was always one for having a rough idea of where the story was going to go and then leaping in feet first. A classic pantser. But that approach hasn’t worked at all for my follow-up novel, which I’ve been to hell and back with. So, I’m now a reformed planner. I never thought I could do it, and I still believe that the first draft is you telling yourself the story, but I’ve learnt so much from books such as John Yorke’s Into the Woods and John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story.

When you’re writing, do you find you procrastinate more at the beginning, middle or end of the draft, or equally across all three?

Definitely at the beginning, when it’s totally needless. When it’s just a nervousness of starting badly or ruining the book in the first sentence. I also procrastinate when I hit stumbling blocks during the writing, but I think it’s forgivable in that circumstance because often, stepping away is the best thing you can do.

Do you prefer first drafts or edits (and why)?

Both have their merits. I actually love the measured rigor of systemically working my way through edits and seeing your story improve with each change. But nothing beats the magic of that first draft when the characters take the reins and start telling the story themselves.

When you’re procrastinating, what’s the activity you turn to most?

My name is Holly and I’m utterly addicted to my phone. I’ve recently started putting it on silent and leaving it on the other side of the room while I’m writing. But then it buzzes, and I start wondering if something vitally important and urgent has happened. As for a lot of writers, Twitter is a supreme distraction. Next step in the programme: switching my phone off completely.

When you’re writing what’s your drink and snack of choice?

Cups of tea that never get finished. My husband gets home and finds the house littered with half-empty mugs. It drives him berserk. I have a terrible sweet tooth and chocolate digestives are always a win. Although it changes with the seasons. No sooner have the Mini Magnum wrappers been emptied from my office bin than the mince pies will be working their way onto my desk.

And how do you celebrate the completion of the book (you winning against procrastination)?

I’ve learnt that every little milestone is worth celebrating. Any excuse and I’ll crack open a bottle of bubbly or take my husband out for dinner. There are so many pitfalls and disappointments in the publishing industry, that I think we writers need to celebrate each thing we do achieve, even if it’s one nice review. I’ve just finished the draft of my next book and sent it to my editor and I was so exhausted that I just took a week off work and read lots, which was great. When it’s finally edited and cleared for publication, I will probably treat myself to a weekend away because it’s been such bloody hard work!

A huge thank you to Holly for letting me quiz her about her writing habits and the temptations of procrastination.

THE MEMORY CHAMBER is out now. Find out more over on Amazon by clicking on the book cover below:

#crimewritersincafesprocrastinating – @MasonCrossBooks talks trains, spreadsheets and beer (and thriller writing)

Mason

Today fantastic thriller writer Mason Cross joins me for Crime Writers In Cafes Procrastinating. As the title suggests, this feature is all about the lengths writers go to procrastinate when they should be writing, and how they (eventually) manage to win against the temptation of the path of procrastination to finish their books.

Mason’s latest novel – PRESUMED DEAD – features one of my favourite action heroes, the mysterious Carter Blake, and is a super fast paced, page turner of a read so I can’t wait to quiz him all about his writing and procrastination habits…

Welcome, Mason! So tell me all about your latest book – PRESUMED DEAD?

My latest one isPresumed Dead. Like my other novels, it stars Carter Blake, an investigator who specializes in finding people who don’t want to be found. In this case, he has a particularly tough challenge, when the brother of a girl thought murdered fifteen years before hires him because he believes she may still be alive…

It’s a little more small-scale and contained than some of my other books, and I really enjoyed writing a murder mystery for a change. So far only one reader has told me they were able to guess the ending.

How long did PRESUMED DEAD take to write? 

I never really know how to answer this question, because I don’t know exactly what start and finish points count. It was probably something like a year from the original idea to signing off on page proofs, but there’s a lot of on/off work over that period (not to mention finishing the previous book and planning the next one)

For the initial chunk of work, probably about six months to get a draft I was able to send my editor.

What’s your favourite writing/procrastination spot – home, café, bar, other?

I can work in most places, but my ideal writing environment is definitely the train. Quiet, nice view, no interruptions, shitty wifi – it all helps me to focus on the writing.

What’s your writing process – do you jump straight in, or plan and plot first?

Plot a bit, come up with a good opening and some key scenes, sketch out an outline, and then go for it. There’s no point being too detailed before I start work as I’ll always change things as I write the first draft.

When you’re writing, do you find you procrastinate more at the beginning, middle or end of the draft, or equally across all three?

Probably the middle, when it seems like an insurmountable task and that everything you write sucks. I have a lot more energy in the first few chapters and the last few. Talking to other writers, this is fairly normal. I suspect a lot of unpublished novels were abandoned at the 40,000 word mark.

Do you prefer first drafts or edits (and why)? 

Whichever one I’m not doing? Probably edits, because it’s easier to fix something that already exists than fill a blank page with something completely new.

When you’re procrastinating, what’s the activity you turn to most? 

Faffing about on social media, admin, organizing stuff that has no relation to the book. I created a spreadsheet inventorying the contents of the freezer last time I had a deadline.

When you’re writing what’s your drink and snack of choice? 

Coffee or ice tea to drink. I’m not a big snacker.

And how do you celebrate the completion of the book (you winning against procrastination)?

A cold beer and not writing anything or thinking about writing anything. It’s nice to see my family for a change, watch a movie, or read someone else’s book.

A huge thank you to Mason for letting me grill him on his writing habits and his biggest procrastination pitfalls.

PRESUMED DEAD is out now. Find out more over on Amazon by clicking on the book cover below:

**COVER REVEAL** DOUBLE TROUBLE EXCLUSIVE** #TwoOClockBoy by MARK HILL

OMG I am so incredibly excited to be a part of this cover reveal – playing number two in the one-two “double trouble” exclusive reveal along with the Queen of Bloggers LizLovesBooks – and revealing the fabulous cover for my good friend MARK HILL’s debut crime thriller – THE TWO O’CLOCK BOY. 

This is one hell of a read – I can say that because I’ve been allowed a super early preview of this gritty London-set crime thriller – and folks, it’s something really very special.

Here’s the gorgeously fabulous cover – a thing of glass-breakingly, ice-shatteringly loveliness …

unnamed

And here’s the blurb:

TWO CHILDHOOD FRIENDS… ONE BECAME A DETECTIVE… ONE BECAME A KILLER…

One night changed their lives
Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager.

Cries in the fire and smoke
Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.

A truth both must hide
Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.

THE TWO O’CLOCK BOY is the first in the DI Ray Drake series and, if you like your crime thrillers twisty-turny, high on drama and grit, and packed with gasp out loud moments, this is going to be just your thing.

Trust me, you will not want to miss THE TWO O’CLOCK BOY when it’s published on 17th November 2016!

2-oclock-boy-04

The Falling Blog Tour: an interview with author Emma Kavanagh

 

Author Emma Kavanagh

Author Emma Kavanagh

Today I’m delighted to welcome Emma Kavanagh to the CTG blog as a stop on the blog tour for her fabulous debut novel FALLING. 

Welcome Emma. Your debut novel – Falling is out this month. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Falling is the story of a plane crash and a murder – two events that bring together the lives of four characters as they try to deal with the aftermath.

Have you always wanted to be a writer, and what was it that attracted you to crime fiction?

I announced to my parents that I wanted to be a writer when I was 5! So yes! I have very eclectic reading tastes and there are so many genres that I love, but crime fiction seemed to come naturally to me. I think mainly because of my background in police psychology. I like exploring the way in which people can be pushed into terrible deeds.

Could you tell us a little about your route to publication?

It wasn’t a simple process, but then I’m not sure that it ever is. I managed to complete a full novel length story, congratulated myself on that, then realised it was pretty dreadful. My second attempt was good enough to land me my agent, but still didn’t get me that coveted publishing deal. So, I rolled up my sleeves and started again, hoping desperately that this next one would allow me to begin my career. That book was Falling.

How would you describe your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?

I’m a planner. In fact, I’m such a planner that I think I have a bit of a problem. I even use spreadsheets. Things do tend to move about as the story progresses, but at least using the spreadsheets allows me to keep track of everything.

Who are your favourite crime writers which books and authors have inspired you?

I love Agatha Christie with a passion. Her plotting is so clever and complex. My absolute favourite is And Then There Were None – such a chilling story. My other huge inspiration is Kate Atkinson. She crosses many genres in her writing, and is so hugely talented

Falling cover image

Falling cover image

What advice would you give to new writers aspiring to publication?

Never give up. Getting published is not easy. It takes an incredible amount of perseverance. But it is a myth that you have to know someone to get an agent or get a publishing deal. I knew absolutely no-one. If you need to write, then write. And keep writing until you reach your goal.

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?

2014 has been an incredibly busy year for me, with the release of Falling and the birth of my second son 8 weeks ago. I finished book 2 – Hidden – a couple of months ago, so my goal for the rest of this year is to enjoy spending time with my baby and his older brother before getting started on book 3 in the new year.

Fantastic. Thanks so much for stopping by the CTG blog. We loved FALLING (you can read our review next week) and really look forward to HIDDEN coming out next year.

You can follow Emma on Twitter @EmmaLK

And you can read an extract from FALLING via this link http://bit.ly/FallingExtract

Also, don’t forget to hop over to these other great blogs to check out the other stops along the tour …

Falling_blog_tour_graphic_final_2909

CTG Giveaway: Win a #FIONAGRIFFITHS Crime Series Book Bundle

To celebrate publication of THE STRANGE DEATH OF FIONA GRIFFITHS – the third book in Harry Bingham’s fabulously quirky Fiona Griffiths crime series – those lovely folks over at Orion have given us five bundles of the first three books in the series to giveaway.

For a chance to win all you need to do is tweet the link to this post (using the Twitter button below) OR retweet one of the CTG tweets about the giveaway. [You’ll also need to follow us on Twitter, so that we can send you a direct message should you win].

OR

If you’re not on Twitter don’t worry. You can also enter by emailing crimethrillergirl[at]gmail[dot]com. Give your email the header FIONA GRIFFITHS and give your name and postal address.

Rules
(1) One entry per reader (2) UK residents only – due to postage costs – sorry! (3) We will draw the winners at random (4) No cash alternative (5) The competition closes for entries at 9pm GMT on Sunday 23rd March 2014 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED

Here’s what the prize includes …

Talking to the Dead cover image

Talking to the Dead cover image

Book 1: TALKING TO THE DEAD

What the blurb says: “For rookie detective constable Fiona Griffiths, her first major investigation promises to be a tough initiation into Cardiff’s dark underbelly. A young woman and her six-year-old daughter have been found brutally murdered in a squalid flat, the single clue a platinum credit card belonging to a millionaire businessman who died in a plane crash six months before.

For her fellow cops, it’s just another case of a low-rent prostitute meeting the wrong kind of client and coming to a nasty end, but Fiona is convinced that the tragic lives and cruel deaths of this mother and daughter are part of a deeper, darker mystery. Fiona, however, has secrets of her own. She is still recovering from a crushing psychological breakdown, and the feelings which haunt her are constantly threatening to undermine the mask of normality she has learned to wear.

As she begins to piece together a bizarre and terrifying conspiracy, Fiona finds that what makes her vulnerable also gives her a unique insight into the secrets of the dead, and in solving the murders of Janet and April Mancini she can begin to start solving the riddles of her own past.”

Love Story, With Murders cover image

Love Story, With Murders cover image

Book 2: LOVE STORY, WITH MURDERS

What the blurb says: “DC Fiona Griffiths is called to the scene and finds, amidst the remains of an old widow’s freezer goods, a human leg. Surprisingly well preserved. And wearing a pink high-heeled shoe. The search begins for the rest of the corpse, but this treasure hunt soon turns out to be darker and stranger than anything the police have encountered before, as the victim’s body-parts start popping up all over western Cardiff: in garden sheds, roof voids and car boots.

And then, even more bizarrely, parts of a second corpse start appearing. But this time the victim is male – and completely fresh.

The two murders must be connected – but how? Why so similar and yet so different? And if there’s a message, who is meant to read it?

Investigating the double crime draws Fiona into a web of obsession, money, deceit – and acute personal danger. Which is exactly where she likes to be: in the middle of a gruesome puzzle with a pitch-black secret at its heart.”

cover image

cover image

Book 3: THE STRANGE DEATH OF FIONA GRIFFITHS

What the blurb says: “When DC Fiona Griffiths says ‘yes’ to her policeman boyfriend, it’s an affirmation that she wants to finally put her psychological breakdown behind her, and become a resident of ‘Planet Normal’ like everybody else.

But she still can’t resist the challenge of an undercover policing course and, finding it remarkably easy to assume a new identity, she comes top of the class. So when an ingenious payroll fraud starts to look like the tip of a huge criminal iceberg, Fiona is selected to infiltrate the fraudsters’ operation.

Posing as a cleaner, Fiona Griffiths becomes Fiona Grey, hoping the criminals will try and recruit her – knowing that if they discover her real identity, she’s dead meat. But as Fiona penetrates deeper into their operation, coming closer to identifying the mastermind behind it, she faces another, even more frightening danger – that her always fragile grip on her sense of self has now been lost and she may never find her way back.”

To read our review of the latest book THE STRANGE DEATH OF FIONA GRIFFITHS click here

And to find out more about Harry Bingham and his books, pop on over to his website here www.harrybingham.com

You can also check out the Orion Books website here https://www.orionbooks.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781409153108

CTG Reviews: Entry Island by Peter May

Entry Island cover image

Entry Island cover image

What the blurb says: “Detective Sime MacKenzie’s life in Montreal is one of loneliness and regret. And so when he is assigned to a seemingly open-and-shut murder case on a remote island 850 miles from the Canadian mainland, he departs readily. But Sime’s time away will be anything but a holiday. And Entry Island will prove anything but a haven. Sime may have left his domestic demons behind, but waiting for him in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a far darker destiny.”

Entry Island is a standalone novel from Peter May, the award-winning author behind the highly acclaimed Lewis trilogy.

It starts with the murder of a wealthy businessman at his home. The number one suspect: his wife. She’s also the only witness. But when Detective Sime MacKenzie and the eight-strong team of detectives and crime scene investigators reach Entry Island they find that the case may not be as easy to solve as their leader, Lieutenant Crozes, had hoped.

Sime is the odd one out. He’s the only native English speaker within the French speaking team, and has only joined them for this case due to the principle language of Entry Island being English rather than French. With unresolved tensions between him and his ex-wife, Marie-Ange – the team’s forensic expert – the atmosphere is far from comfortable. What’s more, Sime finds himself inexplicably drawn to the widow of the murdered man, and is unable to fight the feeling that somehow he knows her.

As the investigation gets underway, Sime finds that the insomnia he’s been suffering since his marriage break-up is getting worse. Now, in the few minutes sleep he is able to snatch, he recalls the vivid stories his Grandmother told him of his ancestors: crofters who had lived on the Isle of Lewis, who were removed from their homes during the brutal ‘clearings’ initiated by greedy landlords who wanted to replace them with sheep, and forced onto boats to ‘the new world’.

The descriptions of the two main locations: the modern-day Entry Island, and the historical look-back at the Isle of Lewis, really bring the settings to life. They conjure up strong images of the geography, the close-knit communities and their cultures. For Sime, the past and the present are strangely linked, and as the story progresses, connections and similarities between his own family history and that of the prime suspect emerge.

For me, this novel was a real treat. I loved the sleep-deprived, conflicted, and often confused character of Sime for his determination to get to the truth no matter who, or what, was pressuring him to finish the investigation fast. Often battling his inner monologue as much as his colleagues, he follows every lead no matter now unlikely, even when it puts him in personal danger.

The author artfully weaves the modern day investigation and the historical story of Sime’s ancestors together, hinting at connections between the two but never quite revealing the implications of the past on the present until the final resolution.

A hauntingly compelling, highly atmospheric read.

Highly Recommended.

[With many thanks to Quercus for my copy of ENTRY ISLAND]

CTG Reviews: The Blood Whisperer by Zoë Sharp

The Blood Whisperer cover image

The Blood Whisperer cover image

What the blurb says: The uncanny abilities of London crime-scene specialist Kelly Jacks to coax evidence from the most unpromising of crime scenes once earned her the nickname of The Blood Whisperer. Then six years ago all that changed. Kelly woke next to the butchered body of a man, the knife in her hands and no memory of what happened. She trusted the evidence would prove her innocent. It didn’t. Now released after serving her sentence for involuntary manslaughter, Kelly must try to piece her life back together. Shunned by former colleagues and friends, the only work she can get is for the crime-scene cleaning firm run by her former mentor. But old habits die hard. And when her instincts tell her things are not as they appear at the scene of a routine suicide, she can’t help but ask questions that somebody does not want answered. Plunged into the nightmare of being branded a killer once again, Kelly is soon fleeing from the police, Russian thugs and a local gangster. Betrayed at every turn, she is fast running out of options. But Kelly acquired a whole new set of skills on the inside. Now street-smart and wary, can she use everything she’s learned to evade capture and stay alive long enough to clear her name?”

The Blood Whisperer is a standalone book from Zoë Sharp, author of the fabulous Charlie Fox series. I’m a huge fan of the series and so was really excited to dive into this book.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

Kelly Jacks has the skill and instinct to read a crime scene to rival that of Dexter Morgan (of the series, DEXTER) but without any of his serial killer tendencies. Having served her time for a crime that she still has no memory of committing, she’s picked up her life and has a job as a specialist crime scene cleaner, cleaning up the crime scenes that she once used to be working. Slowly she’s getting her life back.

But when Kelly and her work partner, Tyrone, are called in to clean a bathroom where a suicide has taken place, Kelly finds evidence to suggest foul play was involved. She questions whether the police should re-look at the scene. They don’t. But from then on bad things start to happen.

I’m not going to share the details [no spoilers here!]. But as things go from bad to worse, once again Kelly ends up in the frame for murder. This time she knows that she’s not the killer, and she can prove it. Question is, can she find out who’s trying to frame her before more people die?

Kelly is a dynamic and resilient heroine. She’s smart, with a good range of survival skills honed from her time in jail, and she’s also empathetic and caring. It bothers her deeply that those she cares about are getting hurt because of the people chasing her. And that makes her even more determined to get justice.

High on suspense and tightly plotted, the pace moves ever more rapidly as Kelly unravels a tangled web of lies, greed and deception that will take her from the streets of London to the world of horse racing via seedy warehouses, end-high escorts, plush offices and swanky apartments.

What I especially enjoyed about this novel was the characters. The whole cast is brilliantly drawn, uniquely individual and compulsive-reading in their own right – like Tyrone, Kelly’s sweet work partner who’s secretly crushing on her, Myshka the Russian dominatrix seeking her own fortune, and Matthew Lytton the self-made businessman whose wife’s apparent suicide set off the whole chain of events. Kelly has to decide who she can trust to help her and, more importantly, who she can’t.  Sometimes help comes from the most unlikely places.

I love this book for the pulse pounding action, the artfully woven conspiracy, and the fabulous characters.

Highly Recommended.

 

[I bought my own copy of The Blood Whisperer]