#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:

#VintageMurderMysteries – The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham

The Crime at Black Dudley cover image

The Crime at Black Dudley cover image

Those lovely people over at Vintage are bringing Margery Allingham’s golden age murder mysteries back into print under their Vintage Murder Mysteries banner. The book covers have been given a fantastic make-over, and the whole of the Mr Campion series will be published between May 2015 and August 2016.

One of five Margery Allingham titles published this month is The Crime at Black Dudley.

What the blurb says: “A suspicious death and a haunted family heirloom were not advertised when Dr George Abbershaw and a group of London’s brightest young things accepted an invitation to the mansion of Black Dudley. Skulduggery is most certainly afoot, and the party-goers soon realise that they’re trapped in the secluded house. Amongst them is a stranger who promises to unravel the villainous plots behind their incarceration – but can George and his friends trust the peculiar young man who calls himself Albert Campion?”

This is the first of Margery Allingham’s books that I’ve read and it’s certainly a lot of fun. With quirky characters, and a mysterious family custom involving a haunted dagger, this is a lively locked-room mystery with plenty to keep the reader on their toes as George Abbershaw tries to figure out the truth behind the strange and sinister goings on at Black Dudley mansion. As the danger mounts, and the group of London’s bright young things decide to take action into their own hands, it’s a race against time for them to escape the locked-down mansion and bring the culprits to justice.

To find out more about The Crime at Black Dudley and read an extract, hop on over to Dead Good Books to read the first chapter here

 

[with thanks to Vintage for my copy of The Crime at Black Dudley]

CTG Reviews: Murder on Thames by Neil Richards and Matthew Costello

Murder on Thames cover image

Murder on Thames cover image

Murder on Thames is the first instalment of the new Cherringham Murder Mystery series, an eBook series that will see a new novella-length mystery solved every month. Published by Bastei Entertainment (an imprint of Germany’s Bastei Lübbe) the series by Neil Richards (based in the UK) and Matthew Costello (based in the US) will be published both in English and German.

What the blurb says: Cherringham is a quiet and peaceful town in the Cotswolds. Time moves slowly here, and nothing out of the ordinary ever happens, until one morning a woman’s body is discovered in the river. Sarah Edwards has just returned to Cherringham with her two children following the breakdown of her marriage. Sarah had been friends with Sammi Jackson – the woman in the river – before they both moved to London and she’s certain there is more to her death than meets the eye. But juggling the school run and her job as a web designer doesn’t leave much time to solve murder mysteries.

After the death of his wife, former NYPD homicide detective Jack Brennan has retired to Cherringham hoping for a quiet life. He soon realises “peace and quiet” isn’t really him and, despite his misgivings, he’s persuaded by Sarah to help her look into Sammi’s death. It quickly becomes clear that the case isn’t as simple as the police hope. From her violent ex-boyfriend to her alcoholic father, it seems everyone has something to hide. Sarah and Jack will need to use all their wits to get to the bottom of this case.”

If you’re a fan of Midsomer Murders and other ‘cosy’ (or ‘cozy’) crime drama and novels then this eBook series is well worth checking out. It ticks all the right boxes: quaint English village – check, traditional pub – check. Traditional game of cricket – check. Nasty goings on, and murderous intentions, lurking beneath the picturesque and seemingly tranquil setting – check, check, check.

Narrowboat-dwelling, retired ex-NYPD detective, Jack Brennan, and recently returned to the village, divorced single-mum, Sarah Edwards, make a great double act. Although I did think that Sarah seemed to get over her friend’s death rather too quickly, the spark between the two main characters, and the pace at which they launch themselves into their ‘off the books’ investigation, carried me along with the story and kept me turning the pages.

A fun read. And, at this time of year, perfect for curling up by the fire with while the rain pours down outside!

Murder on Thames is out now, and the second episode in the series, Mystery at the Manor, will be published on 16th January 2014.

[Many thanks to Bastei Entertainment for my review copy of Murder on Thames]