What I’m writing now

Writers are often advised to pick a literary lane and stay in it.

We’re told readers like us to be consistent and not to veer off down storytelling diversions because the people who buy gritty crime thrillers don’t want their favourite author to chuck in a romance novel occasionally because she felt like writing one.

That means that after I’d written, Death Will Find Me, the first Tessa Kilpatrick novel set in 1920s Edinburgh, I should have written a second and a third and so on. To be fair I probably would have if my then agent had managed to turn that verbal offer from a publisher into an actual contract.

I certainly shouldn’t have allowed myself to be distracted by a shiny new idea and gone off to play with Kate Carpenter and her stolen artworks even though I’m pretty pleased with Don’t Blink and Trace Evidence.

And now, I shouldn’t be letting myself be tempted by thoughts of a Scottish-set police procedural that a publisher has asked me to consider writing. But, I have a main character and an opening to the book and some plot ideas, so maybe I should run with it?

But at least they’re all crime fiction. What I definitely shouldn’t be even going near is the 1950s-set coming-of-age novel that’s been nudging at my elbow for a while. It’s a bit of an outlier—maybe I’d need a pen-name for that?

The second Tessa Kilpatrick is an outline and about 10k words of (very) rough first draft; the third Kate Carpenter stands at about 20,000 slightly more polished words; the police procedural is weighing in at around 15k; and I’m trying to resist the 1950s idea, although there are about 9,000 words of key scenes and a loose outline lurking in my Scrivener projects.

I’m not sure about the argument that writers should find a character or a series and stick with it. That might suit some and I know some very, very successful writers who do just that. But I suspect I’d get bored if it was just me and the same character for the next twenty years, however much I tell myself that my protagonist evolves (they rarely do as much as most writers like to think). Still, most of my ongoing projects are crime fiction and I hope my readers are happy with that.

What I do know though, is the pandemic has been terrible for my ability to focus and that while I don’t need to pick the literary lane I mentioned before, I do at least need to pick a project and finish it! But which one…?

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Yes, I’m still here!

“Don’t forget to update your blog, “ said a friend and I was shocked to look and see that I haven’t written here since the beginning of last year. Given that I’ve been blogging since way back—about 2005, I think—I thought it was a habit I should revive.

But what to blog about given my chronic imposter syndrome and mortal dread of appearing pushy? Fortunately, a few friends have given me suggestions and the best advice I’ve had is to answer the questions that people ask me about writing.

If you have a question, do let me know and I’ll do my best to come up with an interesting and informative answer!

This is just a quick post to get me back in the habit—I’ll be back next week with a proper update about what I’ve been writing in the last 18 months!

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Happy New Year and New Book News

The world heaved an audible sigh of relief as the year turned, I think, collectively looking forward to better days. 2020 was a year where life itself felt far more fragile than usual, a global reminder of our own mortality.

But we got through it, thanks to friends and neighbours and Zoom pub quizzes and banana   bread and Pilates videos and Netflix and an amazing army of key workers from Nurses to delivery drivers who took risks so that we could stay safe.

And now here we are, a bit battered by the storm and slightly frayed at the edges, looking at a shiny new year with a vaccine on its way. Let’s all hold tight and look forward to the spring and summer when we’ll once again hug our loved ones. I’m planning an enormous party for the summer solstice, full of Pimm’s and carousing and hugging and dancing.

I’m also hoping that this year is better from a creative point of view. Back in March, when lockdown started, I had the idea that I could use the time to write, that I would be amazingly productive and that the ideas in my head would find a more tangible form.

As it happened, that wasn’t the case. My concentration has been poor and I’ve been unable to step out of the world enough to inhabit my characters’ story. Poor Kate and the long-suffering Pete have been waiting for me in Glen Coe for months now and Tessa is furious that I keep kicking her next adventure further down the road. And then there are the other ideas currently stuffed into a box-file of post-its and scribbles…

Nonetheless, I have managed to achieve a few things. The prequel to the Kate Carpenter series of art crime novels, Vanishing Point, is on my website as a free ebook to download, but I’ve also added it to Amazon so it can reach a wider audience. I also sent the first in the series, Don’t Blink, to my proofreader because it was edited and almost ready to go but I’d been faffing about and putting it off. And I knuckled down and finished the second, Trace Evidence. Both those books are out now in book and paperback and gathering a few good reviews from book bloggers and so on which is always gratifying.

All in all then, although I keep seeing 2020 as a failure on the writing front, I did manage to do quite a lot – I now have three novels and a novella published. I do need to do more writing this year, partly because I need to keep up momentum on the publishing front but also because I know that I am happier when I’m writing. The general positivity I’m feeling is helping so my first task is to go back to the third Kate Carpenter book. And because I work better with a deadline, dates for my editor and proofreader are in my diary.

Better get to it then – I’ve got a heroine who’s very annoyed that she’s been left shivering on a Scottish mountain for so long.

Take care and all the best for a peaceful and healthy new year. x

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New book – Trace Evidence

The last few months have been pretty quiet, especially with our son back at university, but I’ve been using my time surprisingly well. When I look back at this year it seems I’ve been more productive than I thought.

Thus far, 2020 has seen the release on sale (although still also free via this site and my mailing list) of Vanishing Point, a novella that introduces the character of Kate Carpenter, art consultant and art crime investigator. I’ve also released Don’t Blink, the first full-length novel in the series and the second, Trace Evidence, will be released on September 30th. And I’m well on the way with the outline for the third book, Exit Wounds.

My most frequently muttered phrase over the last few months has been ‘keep on, keeping on’ and it’s even made it into Trace Evidence as what Kate keeps telling herself when hunting for a missing person and running into dead ends. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dreading the cold darkness of the Scottish winter, but I’m trying to find pleasure in small things such as knitting and I’m planning to try quilting over the next few months. And I’ll be writing for that gives me enormous comfort.

Look after yourselves and your loved ones, reach out for help if you need to, and do take care. xxx

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A long overdue update…

Way back in January, I made plans for this year, breaking it down into quarters and working out what needed to be done. It was always optimistic but I was feeling pretty productive back then. I reckon a fair few of you did the same and, like me, saw those plans fall apart as the world shifted on its axis.

Endless weeks of uncertainty and two months (and counting) of lockdown haven’t been great for my writing. I’ve been distracted and procrastinating which has prevented me actually sitting down at my desk. I’ve struggled to push away my worries enough to let my mind free itself enough to fall into new writing. I think – I know – that many people have felt the same, whether their intentions were to write or learn to make sourdough bread or go running every day.

Instead, I’ve concentrated on less creative but still important tasks. A publisher loves my writing but needs me to create something more targeted to their market so I’ve polished up a pitch for them. The more I worked on it the more I fell in love with the setting and my heroine and whether they like it or not, it’s definitely an idea I’ll be going back to.

I’ve taken the novella – Vanishing Point – that I wrote and added to this site as a freebie for readers signing up to my mailing list and I’ve made it available to purchase in order to bring it to a wider readership. It’s still free here (link up top) and I really don’t mind whether people take the free option or pay 99p for it. Vanishing Point is short – about 20k words – and introduces the character of art crime investigator Kate Carpenter. Readers seem to be enjoying it and one reviewer even said “I think I found my new favorite thriller series” which was fantastic to hear.

The first full-length Kate Carpenter thriller, Don’t Blink, is also now on sale and I’m looking forward to seeing readers’ response to that. It’s been a very quiet launch because of some health issues in the family and my blog tour had to be pushed back, so I’ve not made a huge fuss. I’ll have to ramp up the marketing when the tour starts on 1st June!
I’m also doing the copy edits for the second in the series and once that’s gone off to my beta readers (last stage before final tweaks and proofreader) I’ll be making that available for pre-order.

Having written all that, it reminds me that I have actually been quite productive. As a friend said, I should stop beating myself up about all the things I feel I should have done and look back and appreciate what I have achieved. I’m not fluent in Finnish, my sourdough starter (named Kerouac) is clearly not thriving, and my early lockdown resolution to use my rowing machine daily fell by the wayside when I realised that it gave me excruciating lower back pain. Nor have I been disciplined about communicating with readers so apologies for that – if you ever want to drop me a line about anything do feel free.

But, most importantly, I’ve kept in touch with family and friends, gained a new appreciation for the kindness of my neighbours, been reminded again just how amazing our NHS is, and realised with pleasure that I can spend all this time at home with my husband and student son and that we’re all still getting on okay.

I hope that you’re getting through this okay too. Stay safe, stay well and know that you are valued. A new normal is coming and we’re still going to need to help each other along as we get used to it.

Take care x

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