Category Archives: crime

January Review

So what happened in January – it started well, but finished on something of a low.

Locked Down is out for review, and the ebook is up for pre-order, the paperback will be up shortly, but Amazon doesn’t allow books to be pre-ordered if they are print on demand, seems odd, but it’s their game, their rules.  So that will be joining the ebook shortly.  I have one review on Goodreads already, so that’s good, and I’ll have to start the promotional stuff soon.

I have been working on Speed of Aether, but to steal a friends comment, Spead of Aether isn’t warp speed.  I’m behind where I wanted to be with this novel at this point.   I’ve reached 46k words, but I should have finished the book by now.

This isn’t because of the book, it is all the distractions, self-publishing especially.

I also took a week out of writing Speed to do a 5,000-word short story for an open competition I heard about. Now the bones of that were down quickly, but it took a fair amount of polish.  The problem was, I didn’t submit it because the feedback I got included the fact that I’d misrepresented a certain fetish.  And after looking into that fetish a bit more, I got the point.  I had.  And though the story was still a good read if you knew nothing about the fetish, I didn’t think it was the right thing to do to put it out there.  So more research needed.  Then I’ll re-write it, ignore the 5k limit and I suspect at some point it will be coming out as a novella.

I’m also down on wordcount, because I have barely been able to work on anything this last week.  I’m picked up a lung infection from somewhere and it’s laid me very low.  I can’t take a deep breath without it making me cough, movement or any form or exertion leaves me breathless – now I admit I’ve not been fit for a while, but I could walk up a flight of stairs without it making me call for oxygen, can’t do that right now. It’s seriously affected my ability to concentrate too.  You wouldn’t believe how long it’s taken to write this blog. Still, it’s an infection, I have been prescribed antibiotics and it will pass.  I just wish it would pass faster.

This year I promised myself that I would read and listen to more.  At least one audiobook and one paperback a month.  It doesn’t sound like much, but both are things that have suffered due to my full schedule.

This month I listened to “The Invisible Library” by Genevieve Cogman. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, Irene and Kai are such fun and the story had plenty of interest points to keep me listening.  The only downside was the narrator, her breathy voice worked well in some places and in others (which was, unfortunately, most places) it annoyed me.  It was like listening to a vicious argument spoken like an M&S Foood advert – This isn’t, an, argument, this, is, an M&S argument.  Really there are times when you want the action to feel active and that narrator lost that impact for me a few times.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s great book, I’d recommend reading it, I wouldn’t want to put you off listening to the audio either, but it was only a 4* for me.

This month I’ve mostly read an unpublished manuscript – which was brilliant!  It needs polish but if the author does what they need to do to get it published, I’m sure it will go down a storm. I’ve also read about half of “A Time for Silence” by Thorne Moore, very good Welsh-centric book. and part of “Dawn’s Early Light” by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, one of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels.  These are very different genres and very different storytellers.  But that’s been a good thing because I’ve been able to match what to read to how I was feeling.  Both have their good points, have to admit I’m enjoying the steampunk more as it a joyous adventure story, but there’s a more of an emotional connection with Thorne’s characters.  To be honest, there’s a character in there that I really don’t like, mostly because he reminds me of people I know. But isn’t that what the writers set out to do, entertain and evoke an emotional response?

Anyway, that’s me done for now. I’m going to listen to some “Mortal Engines” now, as that’s about all I have the energy for. I’ll catch up with you as soon as I can.

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I am a Sick Bunny

CrimeFest

Yes – it’s official I am a “Sick Bunny”, will explain later.

I spent last weekend (17 – 20 May 2018) at Crimefest, had a great time, as ever. Caught up with lots of old friends, made some new ones.  Listening to the panels, I’ve picked up some great tips for future novels – and the current work in progress.

I’ve attended a few Crimefests now and never managed to get on the Forensics Excursion, but this year a note went out last minute to say that two tickets had come available, and I was lucky enough to be one of those that snagged one.  It was brilliant.  A great way to look at ‘crime scenes’ and see how they worked. At last now, I understand the priority order how things are numbered for photographs etc. at crime scenes.  Makes so much sense now (the lower the number the more vulnerable the evidence). Will definitely be using what I learned, and it was well worth giving up a lie in to leave the house at 0630 in order to be sure to be there.

Thoroughly enjoyed loads of panels. Would pick out a couple, The “Debut Authors” on Friday with Emily Elgar, Caroline England, Chris McGeorge, Elizabeth Mundy, Robert Scragg.  Meet Robert at Newcastle Noir and he’s one to watch.  Another highlight was the “Bloody Scotland” panel; Lesley Kelly, Douglas Lindsay, Caro Ramsey and Tana Collins, who I’ve blogged about before. My last of the weekend sent me out on a high, that was the “Give Me A Break” panel on Sunday – will be reading books from Oliver Bottini and Alis Hawkins.

It was also lovely to see so many members of Crime Cymru, at the event, and many of them on panels (including Cathy Ace, Rosie Claverton, Alis Hawkins)

Well as you may well know, there’s always Gala Dinner at Crimefest, and I attended this year. The organisers do give delegates the chance to say who they would like to sit with, but this year I decided to take the role of the dice and ask nothing, just see where I got placed.  I was fortunate because I ended up on a table with Kat Hall, Sarah Ward, Oliver Bottini (German Author recently translated into English), Katharina Bielenberg of Maclehose Press.  Even though there was a lot of German spoken (of which my limit is about sprichst du Englisch?), but these were lovely, interesting and inclusive people, I had a great evening.

So why am I a sick bunny?

One of the other people at the table was David Hicks, of The Book Trade Charity.  I’d met David in London in March and we’d spoken, and I’ve given him a copy of my short story collection Last Cast Casebook. I never really expected to hear from his again, let alone bump into him, but I did and he told me that he’d read the collection, and I am a sick bunny. I think that means he enjoyed it, even if some of the stories made for uncomfortable reading – and that means I did my job right.  Woohoo!

So, there you go.  Crimefest was fantastic and I am confirmed a sick bunny.

 

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Newcastle Noir 2018

20180503_203849Phew! Am finally recovered, this blog will give you some idea of why.

Well, last weekend was Newcastle Noir 2018, and it was fabulous!  It’s a long old drive up from South Wales to Newcastle, but after a trip to the dentist for me, we set off at lunchtime and only took seven and a half hours to get there.  Was rather pooped by the time we did.

We had a wander around the city that evening – after that long in a car we needed to stretch our legs, and while I’d made sure we weren’t staying too far from the venue, I wasn’t really ready for the number of steps up from the Quayside to the Lit and Phil of the venue (where I took the picture above).  Am going to need to get in shape for next year!

I have to say I didn’t know what to expect from Newcastle, because I’ve never been there before, but I wasn’t expecting the incredible grandeur of what I think is a lot of Georgian/early Victorian architecture. If you like great old buildings (and I do) this is the place for you. Then there’s the ironwork and bridges to consider – it’s kind of odd stepping out of a hotel and being confronted with the massive engineering of the bottom of the curve supporting the Tyne Bridge. Looking up and seeing how the rail and road bridges were civil engineering over the top of multi-storied buildings was really something.

Thankfully the hotel has sent a warning about the kittiwakes, though in fairness, they didn’t disturb our rest.

The events Newcastle Noir were fabulous, the work that Dr Noir and her wonderful team of helpers put in is just astronomic.  They did a cracking job and it was wonderful to meet such charming and committed people who clearly take great pleasure and pride in what they do.

Then there are the events themselves, the panels and discussions.  Newcastle Noir offers such a range of writers, from the established and famous (Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Macbride, Val McDermid), down to the absolute New Bloods (Sandra Ireland, Vicky Newham, Robert Scragg, GB Williams – yes me!).  There were representatives from all over as well, there was Northumberland Noir, Tartan Noir, Nordic Noir, Masala Noir, and Crime in translation, which included Lilja Sigurðardóttir – and embarrassing as it is to admit it, no, I can’t pronounce her surname. So many interesting things to listen to, everyone with a different opinion and all opinions welcome.

Thoroughly enjoyed my panel, another engaged audience, which is always fun, and a good selection of panel companions. Lively answers and different experiences discussed, it was fab.  Audience participation was great – questions that you don’t expect can throw you for six, but I was surprised that I wasn’t thrown. A couple of weeks ago I was saying to a friend of mine (another writer) that I was a bit nervous about doing the panels, but after Llandeilo and now Newcastle – not a worry at all.  I loved it in fact. Now I hate doing presentations in work, generally because I’m never that sure of myself, but when it comes to writing, it’s something so ingrained into who I am, that I don’t have to worry, it’s all just there, the answers don’t have to be dug for, because I just know them. That probably sounds a bit arrogant, and I don’t mean to be, but when you’re talking about something that you’re passionate about, it really does just flow.

What was lovely was also the comments I got from audience members after who came to get their books signed. Every comment was complimentary, and I even had one of my fellow panellists come up after and tell me that a friend of theirs in the audience had said I was the nicest of the rest the of the bunch! That’s so sweet – and probably unfounded, but a lovely thing to hear all the same.

Anyway, it was a great weekend, I’m definitely going back for more next year (if I’m on a panel or not), and I can totally recommend the even to anyone who enjoys crime fiction.

Oh, one last shout out. Forum Books – what wonderful people and thanks for selling books from independent authors who turn up with them on the day – thank you so much.

Great weekend, long drive back, lots had to be done today, hence the last posting, but boy was it a great break from the norm.  Thanks to everyone who contributed to such a marvellous experience.

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The Day I Outsold Agatha Christie

image002

Never thought I’d be able to say that, but I can.  GB Williams outsold Agatha Christie. More copies of “Locked Up” sold than did “Ordeal by Innocence” by Agatha Christie.

And I can now say I’m an Amazon #1 bestseller.

Wow saying that feels good too!

Okay, so I only outsold her for one day in a niche market, but it’s a great thing to be able to say. The fact that it happened when I started the day feeling down and utterly useless, only makes it sweeter.

And I have another review since that day, another 5-star review that says:

“I found the author really brought prison life, er, to life, and without stumbling into any horribly hackneyed prison cliches. Certain characters could have easily drifted into stereotype or caricature, but GB manages to just twist her characters that little bit out of the ordinary.

“I admired Ariadne (the epitome of a fish out of water; a woman PO in a prison full of hormonal and deprived men), found her obvious internal conflicts fascinating to watch develop. And a little bit of me wished I actually was Charlie. Same feeling I get when I read Lee Child’s Reacher books – “why can’t I be more like him?” etc. If that’s not escapism, I don’t know what is.”

On the same day I was also the number 2 best seller on the US site – does the happy dance – another thing not to be sniffed at.

So, if you brought “Locked Up” already – THANK YOU!!!

And, if you want to see why Charlie can be compared to Reacher – why not go get your copy?  And if you do – please review, it makes a huge difference to a writer to know what their readers really think of their work.

Thank you!

Please review

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Coming out of it

Life is full of difficult moments, tough choices.  I’ve not been around much this last month because I’ve been walking with the Black Dog. That doesn’t mean that I’ve been doing nothing. Mostly I’ve been writing and trying, and I’m going to keep on writing and trying, and who knows sometime it might pay off.

Today I wrote a passage about a character who did something only to feel crushed and embarrassed by the action later. That’s something I’ve done, I’m sure a lot of other people had done the same.  It got me thinking. I’ve been reflecting on how my life shows in my writing. And it does. While I’m not adventurous, I don’t have the courage my characters show, I sure know how to make myself feel bad. I look at the characters that I put on paper and I put them through hell because that’s the crap I put myself through.

Take Charlie Bell.  He’s a copper life – or I – turned into a killer. He ruined his life by making a difficult choice.  He knew what he was doing and it didn’t stop him doing it despite the cost because it was the only way.  Of course, he didn’t realise quite how much it was going to cost him. When he discovers the final payment, he shuts down.  Won’t eat. Won’t communicate. Won’t even move. Everything is too much of a bother.

This is typical depression non-activity. Except for me.  Comfort food is my downfall. Not much stops me eating.

But I get over it, and Charlie is forced to get out of his dark moment too.  To find out what pushed him over the edge, and what brought him back in Locked Up.

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Keeping Up with the Changes

Image result for ipcc to iopc

When writing crime, there’s a distinct need to do your research.  So when I heard that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was being replaced, I wanted to know more.

The IPCC has gained itself some mistrust after investigations into how several men died in custody (separate incidents). Relatives of the suspects killed and injured in police custody have expressed doubts about the actual independence of the IPCC.

The replacement is the Independent Office for Police Conduct, the IOPC.  The Home Office say that the new structure will “ensure greater accountability to the public”.

On-going investigations will be transferred, by the question to my mind is, aside from the name, what will the difference be?  Well, one of the big difference will be that the IOPC will be able to launch its own investigations without referrals from police and making its probes completely separate from those carried out internally by forces.

That sounds like a good change to me, here’s one that I’m less certain about.  The IOPC will also be able to bring disciplinary cases against police officers even if their home force disagrees with its findings and takes no action.  I can see how this could overcome some in-house cover-ups, but I also believe that local knowledge plays a big part in policing and the force itself will have that, the IOPC won’t.

Still, the first real improvement doubtless outweighs the second secondary concern.

As a writer, this now means that I have to give real thought to which organisation I refer to in any future work, and in you have a work in progress that includes the IPCC, maybe you should consider the move now not to date your work before it goes out there.

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Minor Character Shift

When writing Locked Up, Charlie developed pretty quickly, and soon after I had Teddington too.  But it’s a rare book indeed that survives on just two characters.  Even when you only actually see two, others tend to get referenced.

And since my book is set in an overcrowded prison, I needed lots of characters and I had to know who each of them were.  Some I knew better than others, and some became friends faster than I was expecting.

When I started writing the whole book was to be carried by Charlie; that he would do all the leg work, find out everything.  But the reality of any real investigation is that it is a team effort and Charlie really wasn’t at liberty to go far.

Of course, Teddington was the obvious choice to assist, but even she was limited by her knowledge  (or rather lack of) investigative practices.

Besides, there was Piper.  DCI Piper was always going to be in the book, because procedural checks told me that the police would look into a murder inside a prison.  Originally that was all he was going to do.  Turn up and allow a whitewash.

Then I wrote his opening scene.

Without me really thinking about it, Charlie knew Piper, knew him well. Worked with him.  Admired him. And I knew Charlie.  Charlie wouldn’t admire a bent or even a lazy cop.  He just wouldn’t.  His instincts are good enough he wouldn’t be easily fooled either.

That changed who Piper had to be.  Then I started really thinking about who he was, what he would be like, how he could help.

Suddenly Piper stepped out of the shadows.

And when Piper stepped out, Carlisle stepped out too.  DS Carlisle was a bit of a surprise to me.   Hadn’t expected him to be much more than a couple of “Yes, Sir”s,  but he turned into way, way more.  In fact, it’s Carlisle that keeps surprising me.  I am currently writing book three and Carlisle has taken a path I never expected from a character originally intended to be a nothing more than a procedural prop.

Then there were the other characters; the prisoners and the prison officers.  There had to be enough of them for the population to be realistic, but not so many it confused the reader.   Have to admit I kind of misjudged this one and in the final edit I slashed ten characters out of existence.

Have to also say that there is one minor character in “Locked Up” that I have known for a very long time.  Jack Perkins.  Perkins is a grade A (insert insult of choice – they all work).  He’s  a misogynistic wife beater, a bully of the worse kind.  I know Jack because I know his wife. I wrote two and a half books about her.  They didn’t stand up to scrutiny so you’ll never meet his wife but I’ll always know her and Jack, being the “man” he is, with a back story of jail time, fit perfectly into “Locked Up”, so I used him, it’s what he’d do to any woman he had under his control.  He’s still a minor character, and that is all he’s worth, but I know him very well.

I know many of the other inmates, may be not quite so well, but better than the readers will ever know them. I know what they are in for, their crime, and I know what they are in for, their fate.  The readers won’t necessarily see all that because there are a lot of things that I didn’t put on the page – there is nothing worse than trawling through superfluous information that doesn’t matter.  I also know that I can afford to forget these people now because they aren’t likely to crop up again; unless like Jack they are the piece that fits the puzzle, in which case, knowing the weird way my memory works, I’ll remember them, and if I don’t, they’ll knock on my skull and make me remember them.

Characters really are people, the good ones are real people, and like people, characters can surprise you.  As a writer, I think that makes for better, more interesting characters, which makes for more interesting books, but you, the reader, will be the true judge of that.

While most of the intended to be minor characters stayed that way, Piper and Carlisle did not. That pair have more surprises in store and if you read the Locked series, they may surprise you too.

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