EVENT ALERT: FEMMES FATALES PANEL – 6.30pm Thursday 24th November. Portsmouth Writer’s Hub

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If you’re in Portsmouth on Thursday then why not pop along to the Portsmouth Writer’s Hub ‘Femmes Fatale’ event.

As part of Portsmouth DarkFest, five female authors will be talking about the dark themes in their work, why they chose them and how they write – and one of the authors is me!

Here’s the full ‘femme fatale’ line up …

Cal Moriarty, Author is the creator and author of the Wonderland series published by Faber. A series which can be read together or as standalone novels. The first novel in the Wonderland series, The Killing of Bobbi Lomax, was published by Faber in hardback on May 5th, 2015 and described by the London Times as a ‘Total wow of a debut. Superb.’ It was named as A Crime Novel of the Year (2015) by the Financial Times.

Steph Broadribb – ‘Crime Thriller Girl’ – was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alter ego – Crime Thriller Girl – she indulges her love of all things crime fiction by blogging at www.crimethrillergirl.com, where she interviews authors and reviews the latest releases. Her debut novel Deep Down Dead published by Orenda books is out as an eBook now and in paperback in January 17.

V.H.LeslieVictoria Leslie – writes fiction that focuses on psychological issues and perspectives, that blurs boundaries or takes place within liminal or marginal spaces. Her stories are driven by setting and often connect to other texts, to mythology, folklore and art. Her short story collection ‘Skein and Bones’ and her first novel ‘Bodies of Water’ were both released earlier this year.

Carolyn Hughes – Author is writer of historical fiction set in the middle ages. Her debut novel ‘Fortune’s Wheel’ published by Silverwood books is about the aftermath of the Black Death in a fictional Hampshire village and is out this Autumn.

The panel will be moderated by Diana Bretherick – a criminologist, former barrister and author. She has written two historical thrillers in the Lombroso series – ‘City of Devils and ‘The Devil’s Daughters’, published by Orion. Both are set in 19th century Turin and feature the world’s first criminologist.

The event is free. To find out more follow this link – Femmes Fatale

Hopefully see you there!

#ColdMoon Blog Tour: CTG interviews author Alexandra Sokoloff

Alexandra Sokoloff

Alexandra Sokoloff

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Alexandra Sokoloff to the CTG blog as part of her COLD MOON Blog Tour. Alexandra is the Thriller Award-winning, Bram Stoker and Anthony Award-nominated author of The Huntress FBI series. As a screenwriter she has sold original scripts and written novel adaptations for numerous Hollywood studios, and teaches the internationally acclaimed Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workshops. 

And so, to the interview …

Your latest book in the Huntress Moon series – COLD MOON – is out this month, can you tell us a bit about it?

Cold Moon is the third in the Huntress series, and I highly recommend that new readers start with Book 1, Huntress Moon, because the action is continuous, really a binge read! – more like a serial than a series. The books are intense psychological suspense, and take the reader on an interstate manhunt with a haunted FBI agent, on the track of what he thinks may be that most rare of killers: a female serial. But here’s the thing. Arguably there’s never been any such thing as a female serial killer in real life. The women that the media holds up as serial killers actually operate from a completely different psychology from the men who commit what the FBI calls sexual homicide. I wanted to use that psychological fact to turn the cliché of the serial killer novel and the tired trope of “woman as victim” completely inside out. Whoever she is, whatever she is, the Huntress is like no killer Agent Roarke – or the reader – has ever seen before. And you may find yourself as conflicted about her as Roarke is.

How did you get into writing thrillers – what was it about the genre that attracted you?

I have to admit, I love a good adrenaline rush in a book (in fact I pretty much require them, repeatedly!). And I’ve always had a dark turn of mind – I’ve always read and watched and written a lot of psychological horror, too. But a good thriller is so much more than that. I agree with Val McDermid that crime novels are the best way to explore the deep issues of society. I’m very passionately political, and I have a lot of social outrage built up from years working with abused and incarcerated kids in the California prison system. I learned a lot about what seem to me to be clear-cut issues of good and evil. And thrillers are a great vehicle to explore the roots of evil in a very emotional, visceral way. As long as you’re delivering great suspense, you can ask the hard questions – in the context of such a exciting story that people don’t even realize what you’re doing until they’re too hooked to put the book down!

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process – do you plot everything out first or dive right in?

I’m a total plotter. I use index cards and a three-act, eight-sequence story structure grid to start brainstorming a plot. I was a screenwriter for ten years before I wrote my first novel, and the index card method is a very common plotting technique in Hollywood because you have to come up with full story ideas so quickly, sometimes literally overnight.

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But it’s also the fastest and deepest way I know to outline a novel, and a lifesaver if you’re writing thrillers with lots of subplots. I teach the method in my story structure workshops, on my blog (http://www.screenwritingtricks.com/) and in the two Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workbooks that I’ve written, and I definitely practice what I preach!

What advice would you give a writer aspiring to publication?

How much time do we have? J The best and truest advice I’ve ever heard about becoming a writer was from Willam Saroyan: “Find a small room in a big city and put your desk in front of the window and sit down in front of the blank page. And when you stand up ten years later, you will be a writer.”

The trick, of course, is that you have to STAY in the chair. For ten years. That’s not usually what people want to hear. What people want to hear is more like this: Find a system. Read a lot of books on writing, take a lot of classes, and when you find a writing system that makes sense to you, follow it. And then expand on that. There are some very, very good teachers out there, and some not so good, but you have to decide for yourself who is the best teacher for you at a certain time.

And of course everyone is welcome and encouraged to check out my Screenwriting Tricks for Authors blog, which I have been told is a gold mine of information for free.

Lastly, I have to say – Read everything you can about the options in indie publishing as well as traditional routes to publication. I think the rise of indie publishing is best thing that’s ever happened for writers. It means that if an author is willing to work hard, they have unprecedented access to distribution, and can cut out the often crippling middleman of traditional publishing. It’s devastating to authors how much traditional publishers charge for e books. Indie publishing allows you to control your own prices. I’m both traditionally published and indie published, and that diversity has made for a much larger readership and much more stable living for me. Make sure you know the options before you sign a contract!

COLD MOON cover image

COLD MOON cover image

And, finally, what does the rest of 2015 have in store for you?

So much! Of course I’m working on the fourth book in the Huntress Moon series.

I’m also starting a new, dark crime series set half in Scotland and half in Los Angeles – I live with the Scottish noir author Craig Robertson, so I have someone to vet the Scottish parts!

In August the textbook version of my writing workbooks will be coming out – Screenwriting Tricks for Authors: Stealing Hollywood. I’ve doubled the material from the ebooks, and this version will have ten full story breakdowns. The e workbooks are being used in college film classes and it’s about time I had a full print textbook version available!

And I’m very excited to be working with a writer/producer I love and have worked with before to develop the Huntress series into a TV series. I am sick to death of the misogyny in crime series like True Detective. But I also think there is some absolutely brilliant television being made these days, on HBO and Showtime and FX, and I would so love to see a series that gives equal time and depth to female characters and deals with crimes against women and children as the evil they are. We couldn’t have made this happen just ten years ago, but I think finally, finally, it’s time.

Huge thanks to Alexandra Sokoloff for stopping by to answer our questions today. I can thoroughly recommend her excellent Screenwriting Tricks for Authors blog and books – they’re packed with great tips.

Be sure to check out Cold Moon (you can read my review here) and the rest of The Huntress FBI series at

Amazon US http://amzn.to/1z3pSh5
Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1wEwxZo
Amazon AU http://www.amazon.com.au/Huntress-Moon-FBI-Thrillers-Book-ebook/dp/B00NKTTDH4

And find out more about Alexandra and her books on her website at www.alexandrasokoloff.com and her amazing blog www.screenwritingtricks.com

You can also catch her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/alexandra.sokoloff and follow her on Twitter @AlexSokoloff

Also, don’t forget to check out all these great stops on the tour …

Cold Moon Blog Tour Poster

CTG Reviews: #ILetYouGo by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go cover image

I Let You Go cover image

What the blurb says: “In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever. Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating …”

Opening with a hit-and-run incident which leaves a five-year-old boy dead, this hard-hitting psychological thriller grabs you by the throat and keeps you pinned until the very last page.

Jenna has left everything behind to make a new life for herself in Wales. At first she stays inside the remote cottage she’s rented, not engaging with the community, and reliving the horror she’s been through, unable to see a way through her grief. But as the months pass, she gradually begins to forge tentative relationships and starts to believe that perhaps it is possible to continue living. That’s the moment the past catches up with her with terrifying consequences.

Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Ray Stevens hasn’t given up on getting justice for the little boy killed in the hit-and-run. Although his superior officers have told him to move onto other cases, and his wife is getting increasingly irritated by his lack of support in helping resolve the problems their son is having at school, he continues to work the case supported by Kate, the newest Detective Constable in his team. As his home life becomes tenser, and the case remains a mystery, Ray and Kate get increasingly closer as they spend more and more time investigating the details in secret.

With brilliantly drawn characters, and a hard-hitting emotional core to the story, this is a truly gripping novel. From the hauntingly atmospheric winter at a Welsh seaside town, to the claustrophobic terror of Jenna’s inner demons, and the tenacious determination of Ray and Kate to bring justice to a case no matter how long it might take, this is a thought-provoking book.

Beautifully written, and with a twist that will have you gasping out loud (it did me!) I Let You Go is an utterly compulsive read, and one that will stay with you long after you’ve read the final page.

Undoubtedly one of my top reads of 2015.

Highly recommended.

 

You can find out more about Clare Mackintosh by hopping over to her website at http://claremackintosh.com/, looking her up on Facebook at ClareMackWrites and following her on Twitter @claremackint0sh

She also did a brilliant guest post for the CTG blog yesterday on TWISTS – you can read it here

And be sure to check out all the fabulous stops on her blog tour …

I_Let_You_Go_Blog_Poster (4)

CTG Reviews: The Killing Season by Mason Cross

 

The Killing Season cover image

The Killing Season cover image

The Killing Season was one of my top reads of 2014. It’s now out in paperback, and to celebrate I thought I’d re-run my review …

What the blurb says: “When Caleb Wardell, the infamous ‘Chicago Sniper’, escapes from death row two weeks before his execution, the FBI calls on the services of Carter Blake, a man with certain specialised talents whose skills lie in finding those who don’t want to be found. A man to whom Wardell is no stranger.

Along with Elaine Banner, an ambitious special agent juggling life as a single mother with her increasingly high-flying career, Blake must track Wardell down as he cuts a swathe across America, apparently killing at random.

But Blake and Banner soon find themselves sidelined from the case. And as they try desperately to second guess a man who kills purely for the thrill of it, they uncover a hornets’ nest of lies and corruption. Now Blake must break the rules and go head to head with the FBI if he is to stop Wardell and expose a deadly conspiracy that will rock the country.”

The Killing Season has everything I love about action thrillers – the intrigue, the danger, the chase and the multi-layered characters. And, it’s Mason Cross’ debut novel, which makes it all the more impressive.

The main character, Carter Blake, is something of an enigma – charismatic, highly skilled, and at the top of his game. But he doesn’t let power and politics get in the way of his investigation, and he makes sure justice is brought, whatever the personal cost. So pairing up with Elaine Banner makes for an interesting working relationship – she’s career-driven and has her eyes on the next promotion, working with a talented maverick like Blake gives her a set of problems she can well do without.

The antagonist – sniper Caleb Wardell – is a smart and cunning adversary, engaging Blake and Banner in a deadly game of cat and mouse. The tension is high from the get-go and just keeps on rising.

So as Banner and Blake pursue Wardell, following the evidence, trying to find a pattern and anticipate his next move, the body count continues to rise. Blake’s the only person who is able to get close, and Banner starts to realise that sometimes the only way to get the job done right is to step away from procedure and follow your instinct.

As Blake and Banner get closer to the truth, they become targets – in the sights of Wardell and someone in the Agency itself – question is, can they get to them both in time, and get out alive?

I cannot sing this novel’s praises highly enough – it’s a joy to read, utterly engaging and kept me hooked right from the first page to the last. There’s high stakes and high tension, and the chemistry between Blake and Banner sizzles off the page.

If you love action thrillers, if you love crime fiction, go and read this book. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Highly Recommended.

[with thanks to Orion for my copy of The Killing Season]

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CTG Interviews: Helen Giltrow author of The Distance

The Distance cover image

The Distance cover image

A few weeks ago I caught up with Helen Giltrow, author of the fabulous crime thriller The Distance. Over a long lunch, sitting in the sun-drenched garden of a beautiful Oxfordshire pub, we tried to out-booknerd each other and talked all things books and writing.

First, a quick reminder about the book. Here’s what the blurb says:

“Charlotte Alton has put her old life behind her. The life where she bought and sold information, unearthing secrets buried too deep for anyone else to find, or fabricating new identities for people who need their histories erased.

But now she has been offered one more job. To get a hit-man into an experimental new prison and take out someone who according to the records isn’t there at all.

It’s impossible. A suicide mission. And quite possibly a set-up. So why can’t she say no?”

And so, to the questions …

Karla/Charlotte is a fabulous, strong female lead. What was your inspiration for creating her?

Well, originally the main character was supposed to be the hit-man, Simon Johanssen, and Karla was the character he went to for information. In the earliest draft she didn’t appear until the third chapter. Around that time I went on an Arvon writing course with Val McDermid as one of the tutors. When Val read the opening, she said that the first couple of chapters were okay, but the story got really interesting when Karla appeared.

Shortly afterwards, I had to take an eighteen month break from writing and by the time I went back to the story I knew it needed to be Karla’s book. I found Karla easy to write, in fact I probably share a few of her characteristics – like her need for control, and her obsessiveness!

The Distance – which I loved – is set in the near future. What made you decide that as your setting rather than the present day?

The setting came out of the plot and the characters. Johanssen has to break into a prison to carry out a hit on another prisoner, but as that prisoner is a woman – and we don’t have mixed prisons here in the UK – I needed a near-future setting to make it work. So, really, it wasn’t something I chose, it came from the needs of the story.

But it’s not a futuristic novel – the setting’s only a couple of years ahead of where we are now.

You use the present tense throughout The Distance which works really well. What was it that prompted you to go for present tense?

I didn’t plan it consciously. It was just that when I started writing, Johanssen’s viewpoint came out in the present tense. I was surprised as I’d always written in the past tense before, but I found I liked it. Then, when I switched to Karla’s viewpoint, present tense seemed to work for her too.

Karla’s scenes are all told in first person – she’s the ‘I’ of the story. Again, it’s just how it came out when I started writing in her viewpoint, whereas Johanssen’s automatically came out in third person – ‘he’. I wondered if maybe I shouldn’t be mixing the two, so I experimented early on, trying Karla’s viewpoint in third, but I didn’t like it – it lost so much of her intensity – so I carried on going with first.

Curiously I’ve had readers tell me that Johanssen’s story is told in first person too – which is wrong, but great! I don’t want readers to think I’m telling them a story. I want them to see it through the characters’ eyes. Of course, present tense helps with that sense of immediacy too. And it really ups the pace.

Helen Giltrow (c) Paul Stuart

Helen Giltrow (c) Paul Stuart

For you, does the creative process start with the character/s, the plot or a combination of the two (or something else)?

For me it’s character. I think even if you have an idea for something, the only way to get to it is through character – you bring out the story from the actions of the characters and what happens to them.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Bit of both! From my childhood up to my early thirties, I wrote a lot without too much planning, but increasingly I felt it wasn’t working for me – the narratives were too loose. I’d have loads of ideas, then fail to tie them together. My job involved a lot of planning, so I thought I ought to be able to plot. I mean, how hard could it be? So when I started work on The Distance, I decided to do a plan. Of course, as soon as I began writing in earnest, I started coming up with ideas I liked better, and dumped the plan completely!

The lure of advance plotting is still strong, and occasionally I fall into the trap of trying to write a detailed plan. I do it because I think it’ll give me the perfect book – which would spare me so much revising and redrafting. But every time the same thing happens. I never find plotting a happy experience: it’s always an outside-in process, whereas writing’s inside-out.

Having said that, it’s hard writing into a void! I think making a plan’s really useful if it’s the thing that gets you writing, or if it helps you get unstuck. Now I tend to write a bit, and then see where I am and retrospectively plan.

What’s your favourite drink?

Oh, definitely my cup of coffee in the morning, before I sit down to work.

Where’s your best place to write?

I’m not one of those people who can write anywhere, on buses or on park benches. I’m best sitting at my desk at home. I write on my battered old laptop; I ought to buy a new one, but I’m slightly scared of changing it now, in case that jinxes me … Does that sound weird?

What advice would you give to writers aspiring to publication?

There’s all the obvious advice like ‘Don’t give up,’ ‘Write every day,’ and ‘Don’t try to second guess the market.’ And that’s all valid. I also think it’s best to write what you want to write because ultimately if you don’t like it it’ll show in your writing. It takes a long time to write a book, so you’re better off writing one you want to read – that way you’re more likely to take the reader with you on the journey.

And lastly, what’s next for you?

I’m back at my laptop, writing the next book!

A huge thank you to Helen Giltrow for letting us grill her.

You can find out more about Helen and her fabulous debut novel – The Distance – over at https://www.orionbooks.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781409126621 and follow her on Twitter @HelenGiltrow

Dan Smith Blog Tour: The Darkest Heart by Dan Smith #bookgiveaway

Blog Tour Poster

Blog Tour Poster

As part of the fabulous Dan Smith blog tour those lovely folks over at Orion have given us ten copies of Dan Smith’s novel The Darkest Heart to giveaway.

How it works:

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 THE DARKEST HEART 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 13th July 2014 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS NOW CLOSED.

The Prize: Dan Smith’s novel The Darkest Heart

What the blurb says: ‘There were times I felt I would always be death’s passenger. It moved one step ahead of me wherever I went, letting its shadow fall across me. It carried me on; shaded me from the world other people lived in.’

Leaving behind his life of violence in Brazil’s darkest shadows, Zico is determined to become a better man. But it seems his old life isn’t quite done with him yet when he’s tasked with making one last kill. It’s one that could get him everything he has ever wanted; a house, some land, cash in his pocket, a future for him and his girlfriend, Daniella. But this one isn’t like all the others. This one comes at a much higher price.

THE DARKEST HEART is a journey through the shadowy heart of Brazil and the even darker mind of a killer, where fear is a death sentence and the only chance of survival might mean abandoning the only good thing you’ve ever known.”

If you haven’t checked them out already, hop along to these wonderful blogs (all part of the Dan Smith blog tour) to find out more about Dan Smith and The Darkest Heart …

Crime Fiction Lover – The Dark Heart of Brazil article http://www.crimefictionlover.com/2014/06/the-dark-heart-of-brazil/

Crime Book Club – The Darkest Heart extract http://www.crimebookclub.co.uk/an-extract-of-darkest-heart-by-dan-smith/

Trip Fiction – Dan Smith talks about setting http://www.tripfiction.com/dan-smith-thriller-set-in-brazil/

Raven Crime Reads – Dan Smith talks about his inspiration for Red Winter http://ravencrimereads.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/dan-smith-blog-tour-the-inspiration-behind-red-winter/

The Murder Room – an extract from Red Winter http://www.themurderroom.com/blog/red-winter-extract/

Shots Blog – Dan Smith talks about beliefs and superstitions http://wwwshotsmagcouk.blogspot.co.uk/

 

To find out more about Dan Smith and his novels, pop on over to his website at http://www.dansmithsbooks.com

And also on the Orion website at https://www.orionbooks.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781409142652

 

Dead Good Fiction Festival #dgfictionfest #FFF

Quick, it’s here, the brand new online fiction festival put together by those fabulous people over at Dead Good Books.

Check out the flyer (below) to join in with the fun: there’s conversations with featured authors Nicci French, Sharon Bolton, and Karin Slaughter, and a monster prize to be won by the winner of the Who ‘Dunnit game.

Festival Flyer

Festival Flyer