Thursday, 13 December 2012

Merry Christmas, Mum

It's my birthday early next week. A major one, a horrible one. One with a big round 0 at the end. Next Monday I shall reach the age where, once, I could have retired, only nowadays the Government keeps putting back the age of retirement, so I expect to be at least 102 before I reach it.
I'd hoped to be able to slacken off a bit by now, but this Christmas will find me and Sir, yet again, driving 80 miles northwards to spend Christmas with my mother.

Ah, yes. My mother. Now, sadly, a widow, my mother is 84 years old and shows signs of outliving us all. Which is hardly surprising, considering. When I say we spend Christmas with her, what I mean is we'll go there and cook for her. Not just on Christmas day, but dinner on the 23rd when we arrive, and all meals for the next three days. Once upon a time that wasn't a problem and the menu for Christmas lunch used to look like this:

Various Hors d'Oeuvre:
Crudites & Dip
Pickled Niftys on Sticks
Smoked Salmon
Beef Wellington
Roast potatoes, roast parsnips, Brussels sprouts, mashed potato, and peas.
Christmas pudding and cream
The hors d'oeuvre and first course would be served with Champagne and the beef with red wine.
Whilst Sir cooked the beef and chopped mushrooms and onions for the duxelles mixture in the food processor, I'd be peeling sprouts and potatoes, rolling out pastry, slicing veg for crudites, and jamming anything edible that wasn't otherwise spoken for, onto cocktail sticks. By 2 o'clock in the afternoon, I'd be prostrate on the sofa, more from sheer exhaustion than any over-indulgence.
Mother, meanwhile, would sit at the kitchen table, talking. Though, to be fair, she always peeled a few of the sprouts.
Well, not anymore. I'm getting far too old for any such mullarky, and this year we're cheating. Oh, yes, we're still having Beef Wellington - but they're individual ones, bought frozen from our local Aldi supermarket. So are the hors d'oeuvre. Gone are the crudites and pickled wossnames to be replaced by filo prawns and brie and cranberry wedges. The roast potatoes, the Brussels, and the peas also come frozen.
At least this year I should be able to grasp my knife and fork with palms free from cocktail-stick-inflicted puncture wounds, and enjoy my Christmas lunch without feeling the need to sleep for a week after I've eaten it.
All we need to do now is buy my mother a bigger freezer in time for Christmas. Or, better still, a cook!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Sneak Preview

I wanted to let you all have a sneak preview of the cover of the next Verity Long** book, Organized Murder. So, here it is.

Designed by the very talented Australian arist and writer, Katie W Stewart, I think it fits in really well with her cover for Strictly Murder. The elements are all in place to make my covers an identifiable brand.

Katie is a delight to work with, never happy until the customer is 100% satisfied. You can see more examples of her work on her website :

I'm hoping to publish Organized Murder later this month or early in the New Year. I'll announce it here when I have. In the meantime, I'd love to know what you think about the cover.

** The Verity Long books are funny whodunits/cozy mysteries with more than a dash of chicklit!

Strictly Murder
Organized Murder
Scouting for Murder

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Wow! I'm a Best Seller

Well, sort of. Along with five other authors and only in the UK - but I'll take it, however it comes.

A short story of mine, Fatal Error, is included in an anthology put together by the UK Kindle Users Forum. Summer Shorts has reached No.1 in the category: Kindle Books > Fiction > Anthologies

It's free today and tomorrow -25th/26th July 2012 - so grab a copy while you can.



Happy Summer reading, everyone.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Cleaning, Polishing, Editing

Earlier this year, I posted this to a forum I belong to:

I hate my editor

Or, at least, I did yesterday Wink

Working through the manuscript he'd edited and returned to me, some of his comments seemed very harsh. What's more, the fool had deleted some of my best lines, changed my perfect prose and destroyed my clever plotting. What did he mean it isn't clear how the victim died? A child of five could work it out.

Dark clouds gathered over Wilcox Towers. As the day wore on and my language ripened, hubby beat a strategic retreat to the garden while I stomped around hurling brickbats and curses and looking for something, anything, to kick. Then I went to bed, pulled the covers over my head and told the world to go away - only not so politely. Smile

This morning I love my editor Big Grin
He's cut through the c*ap, stripped out the waffling, the needless verbiage, and the self-indulgent meanderings. He's made the whole thing leaner, tighter, better. He's made me think! And taught me to listen. Slowly, oh! so slowly, I'm becoming a better writer. And that has to be all to the good.

Yes, this morning I love my editor
Indelible stains
I  was referring to his editing of Strictly Murder, but it could just as easily have applied  to his comments on Chamaeleon: The Dragon Key - the sequel to my fantasy story for older children - about which he demanded** a very major re-write. And this got me to thinking. Wouldn't it be nice if we could edit and re-write life?

Wouldn't it be nice if we could change the past?  If I could only take back those harsh words, not say those things which, usually in an effort to be funny, merely offended people or made me seem uncaring.  If I could only edit out those embarrassing moments when my tongue ran away with me and I said something stupid, or that time I arrived at a party dressed as a nun, only to discover it wasn't fancy dress. And was then introduced to the new vicar!
Over a long life, I've made so many mistakes and embarrassed myself (and others) so often, it would take an entire container ship of red ink to highlight them all. And no amount of cleaning solvent will ever remove them from my life. They are permanent, indelible and, though I may be the only person who remembers them (I wish), I have developed a new strategy for eradicating their existence. Killing them, like 99 percent of all known germs, dead!

Use neat for extra cleaning power!

Henceforward, I shall simply say nothing at all. I'm not going to talk to anyone - ever again. My words will all be written ones - cleaned, polished and edited before being unleashed on a grateful world. To be effective, of course, every e-mail, blog, tweet, forum and Facebook post, will have to be run past my hard-working editor so I may need to hire another one. Hell's teeth! Given the amount of talking and wittering I do, I may need a whole army of editors. Hmm, I'm beginning to suspect there's a flaw in this idea.
Perhaps I should run it past my editor.

**Actually he suggested changes, not demanded them - which is part of the appeal of being self-published. And, anyway, he's a very nice man and I'm glad I've got him on my side.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Books, Blogs and Blurbs

Mein Kampf?

It's a long time since I last posted. My excuse, in case I need one, is that I've been struggling to get my new book out. And it has been a struggle, I can tell you. I've set myself various deadlines - all of which came and went, passing me with a whooshing noise I found terrifying. I hoped to announce publication in late March, then for Easter in April, then Mayday. (Mayday is about right. By that time I felt like sending out an SOS.)

Editing was the problem. My editor didn't like the ending. He thought it was vague and the heroine's actions were questionable, to put it mildly. I thought Verity (the said heroine) behaved very much in character but I made most of the changes he called for, stripping out over 2000 words in the process and tweaking things here and there, until he was happy. Then it was time for one last read through by someone who hadn't read it before. Calamity! My reader — a great spotter of typos. She found eleven! — said almost exactly the same thing about the ending and although she didn't quibble about Verity's motives, her reaction was enough to make me reconsider, and then re-write, the last two chapters all over again. So back it went to the editor for yet another 'last' pass leading to yet more re-writing and tweaking.

Finally, with the end in sight and only the formatting for Kindle still to do — and a formatter lined up to do it — my husband offered to take on the job. We'll pass over this bit. Suffice it to say I'm still married, though, for a while there, it was a close run thing.

Now, at last, it's published and Strictly Murder, my funny whodunit/cozy mystery/chick lit mongrel of a book is now available on Amazon. You can see it here : 
And here if you use Amazon. com:

Now the promotion and marketing — two words that spread terror throughout most writer's hearts — begins, and I've been writing posts for other people's blogs (another reason I've not blogged here)

First up was a terrifying interview on Joo the Grand Inquisitor's blog followed by an, only slightly less scary, visit to Katie Stewart's site 'Trees Are Not Lollipops'
Katie is a very talented lady. As well as being a writer herself, Katie is also a brilliant artist and designed the cover for Strictly Murder. Working with her was a delight and much the easiest, most rewarding, part of getting the book 'out there'.

And, lastly, I was invited to supply a guest post for fellow mystery writer, Cecilia Peartree's blog.

Blurble, Blurble

My post for Cecilia was all about the joys of writing the description or blurb for a book. "So, what's this book all about, then?" is the sort of question which would normally elicit from me the snarky response of, "why don't you read it yourself and find out?" but, sadly, this is not an option for writers. Having expended months, even years, of our time and thousand of words in telling a story, we are now expected to condense all that into three paragraphs at most or, better still, a single sentence. If you want to know how hard that is, do go and read my post for Cecilia. If you just want the shortened version, here it is.

The estate agent’s details listed two reception rooms, kitchen and bath. What they failed to mention was the dead celebrity in the master bedroom. Personal assistant Verity Long’s house hunt is about to turn into a hunt for a killer. It will take some fancy footwork to navigate the bitchy world of dance shows, television studios, and dangerously gorgeous male co-stars. When Verity looks like the killer’s next tango partner, she discovers that this dance is … Strictly Murder.

The End

So there you have it. I hope to post more frequently in future, whilst continuing to market my books and write the sequel to Chamaeleon demanded by my readers. Still, no one said this was going to be easy, right? Right.

Until next time.

Happy reading, happy writing too you all.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

My new book cover

The Cover

As promised in my last post, here's a preview of the cover of my soon to be published book Strictly Murder.

Isn't it pretty? I absolutely love it. It was made for me by the lovely, and very talented, Katie W. Stewart, and you can see more of her super artwork here:
As well as being an excellent artist, Katie is also a writer of fantasy for children and one of the authors featured on my website:

I hope that British readers will make the connection between picture and title instantly. For those who live elsewhere, let me explain that there is a programme on our TV's called Strictly Come Dancing - there's a similar show in Australia and in the USA. The latter is called 'Dance With The Stars' believe.

The Story

Here's a brief synopsis/blurb for Strictly Murder:
When Verity Long, PA and researcher to the famous author of detective stories, Kathleen Davenport, goes house hunting, she's shocked to discover a body in the otherwise empty property. Shocked but also intrigued — for the body is that of 3rd-rate local celebrity Jaynee Johnson, who shouldn't be lying dead in a tatty rental house.
Against the warnings of her employer and the Detective Inspector assigned to the case, Verity decides to investigate on her own, but soon finds that being involved in a real crime is nowhere near as easy as writing a fictional one - and the outcome far deadlier than a badly typed sentence.

I'd love to know what you think of my cover - please feel free to leave your comments below.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Celebrity Angst

Not theirs, mine.

Maybe I'm just growing old but I find myself increasingly annoyed by the "cult of modern celebrity".  Tabloid headlines scream of the latest doings — or, more often, misdoings — of people I've never heard of, every day. Their every little 'tragedy' — "I broke the strap on my Prada handbag beating off photographer" — is reported in lurid detail and eagerly lapped up by their army of fans. Whole magazines have sprung up catering to this cult, this craze, this need to discover that, in fact, the supposed celebrity is just an ordinary girl, or bloke, like the rest of us.

The substitution of hairstyle for personality does not a celebrity make. But it seems that that's what's needed these days, along with an enhanced cleavage and a set of perfect, white teeth. Celebrity, it would appear then, is obviously not an option for the orthodontically challenged but flashing your pearlies every  time a light goes off, is. Even if it is only at a speed camera. Talentless twerps appear daily on our screens, warbling, dancing, ice skating their way into our living rooms without so much as a by your leave or an ounce of natural ability.

Whatever happened to the stars of yesteryear?
I want my celebrities to have true glamour like the Hollywood film stars of old. Not only that, I want them to have true talent and the desire to guard their privacy. I like a certain mystique about my 'slebs'. I don't want to hear that they're just like me "reelly". A certain degree of articulation and the ability to construct a decent sentence before they open their pretty little mouths would also be welcome.
I don't recall hearing Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor or Marilyn Monroe ever saying, "Well, reelly, it's like brill, innit, the way I'm so poplar, like, wiv people an that." And I don't think any of the photos from Elizabeth Taylor's weddings were sold exclusively to a celebrity magazine either. Though they might have been - she had enough of them, for heaven's sake.

Famous for how long?

In 1968 Andy Warhol claimed, "In the future, everyone will be world–famous for fifteen minutes."
Sadly, he appears to have been right, and that future is now. What a shame that the period of time that some people's fame lasts far outstrips their 'talent'. Frankly, a mere fifteen minutes would have been a godsend.

* * *

I take a side-swipe at modern celebrity, newspaper headlines, and traffic systems - amongst other things - in my forthcoming comedy whodunit, Strictly Murder. Stay tuned for more details and, perhaps, a sneak preview.

Monday, 6 February 2012

You'll Catch Your Death!

It snowed on Saturday afternoon, leaving a thin covering of white along the road and pavements of our small Close.  Even the grass area at the top of the Close received a coating. A further fall overnight left a good two inches on the ground and everwhere looked fresh and clean with the blanket of pristine whiteness. By ten o'clock yesterday morning, the kids were out to play.

Nest door, two year old Nichola — a sugar-plum dressed from head to toe in pink — helped Daddy build a snowman on the front lawn. I watched it all from the kitchen window, shivering but laughing at the fun being had out there. Several snowball fights had broken out on the grass, sleds appeared from nowhere and squeals of joy filled the little Close as children flung themselves face down in the white stuff, impervious to the cold.

"You'll catch your death." I remember my mother shouting at me if I ever tried going out in such weather without wearing more clothes than Scott took to the Antarctic. Needless to say I never did, but I wonder what she would have said if she had seen the thin and skimpy garments the local kids were wearing as they dive-bombed into the snow.

Next door, the snowman had grown alarmingly - I reckoned it must be 7 feet tall. "Make it bigger, daddy. Make it bigger." Nichola offered encouragement while she ran around with a carrot in her hand. The only way dad could have done this, was with the aid of a step-ladder — the three-ball snowman (one large one on the bottom, a slightly smaller one in the middle and a smaller ball yet for the head) was already taller than he was.

At lunch time everyone went home and I dragged myself away from the window. Today, the children are back at school,  early morning traffic along the Close has turned the road into a dirty slushy mess and the snowman has lost it's head and now leans at a gravity-defying angle. The thaw has set in and everywhere is trampled and grubby.

But for a few hours yesterday, the shining whiteness and squeals of childish laughter made the Close a winter wonderland and I'm glad I got the chance to watch them have their fun.

What fun did you have in the snow?

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

I've Lost The Plot!

No, seriously, I have. I last saw it back in April when I finally finished my NaNo 2010 winner, now called Strictly Murder. Even then, though, I think I knew that there was something not quite right. Something that was missing from the story. 

For the last few weeks I've been checking and proof-reading the last four chapters, anxious to have done with it and send it to my editor. It was only when I came to compile the file - I edit each chapter as a separate document - that I discovered that the plot was missing. At least, a vital part of it is.

How did she die?
As you may have guessed from the title, the story is a murder mystery and ... I've not explained how the victim - the celebrity presenter of a TV dance show - actually died! Oh, all right, I've described the discovery of the body; how the woman is lying on her back with a stiletto through her heart, which is a pretty strong indication of what killed her, I would have thought. But I have hinted and indicated that there is more to it than that, there is more to this death than a simple stabbing, and then never revealed what the 'more' is. My plot has gone AWOL.


Reader expectations
Thankfully, I think it's fixable. Or I hope it is. The fixing, though, is going to have a knock on effect on those last chapters. The ones I've spent so much time on, polishing every sentence, every word, until it shines. Making sure that I had dotted every 'i' and crossed every 't'. That each clue was in place and the denouement covered them all and satisfied reader expectations. Except, now it doesn't and won't do without a lot more work.

So, my funny whodunit, Strictly Murder - detection, romance, some laughs - will have to stay on my hard drive a little longer while I cajole it back into shape.

Right at this moment, I feel like killing someone.