Write Back

I’ve had a really packed few weeks, and being able to work off my laptop is an absolute must. My life is on this laptop in one way or another. So when finally the last of the festivals* was done, I was looking forward to spending a fair amount of time alone with my laptop to catch up on some things.

Then my laptop died.

Well, it didn’t exactly die. The battery started to expand, which is as good as dying because that can lead to the battery exploding and fires and big trouble, and you’re not supposed to used them at all once you spot the problem.

I only brought the laptop in July last year – because the previous one (three years old) died when the battery expanded. So thankfully, I could get the battery changed under warranty, so I called the supplier and they agreed to sort out the repair at no charge. So I downloaded all my documents onto a hard drive and took it to the shop. The bad news was that it would be away for a whole week (turned out to be 8 days).

In the meantime, I had to resurrect an old Samsung laptop I have. It’s ten years old, brought when Windows 8 was first released. I haven’t even turned that laptop on in years, so it took two days of updates to get it to do anything, and it turns out that doing anything with images is beyond its capacity. Well, to be honest, that’s not entirely fair, it could do stuff, but so slowly it was painful, definitely beyond the endurance of my patience. Thankfully, though, it was good enough to let me do the last edits on my current WIP, so I am very grateful I hadn’t got rid of the machine. If I hadn’t been able to do that, I would have been totally stressed out by now, instead, I’m feeling good for having sent the manuscripts to my publisher.

Anyway, I now have my lovely ‘new’ laptop back and I can really get on with all I need to do.

So happy to be reunited with my best work tool.




* Gwyl CRIME CYMRU Festival, then Narberth Book Fair, then CrimeFest.

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Book Review – The Snowdonia Killings by Simon McCleave

Blurb

Starting a new life in Snowdonia was always DI Ruth Hunter’s dream. Until a twisted killer turned it into her worst nightmare. 

Detective Inspector Ruth Hunter lives with the pain of her partner’s mysterious and unsolved disappearance. About to hit fifty, the veteran police officer trades in the crime-ridden streets of London for a more peaceful life in rural North Wales. But Ruth has barely settled into her new position in North Wales Police, when the body of a brutally murdered woman is discovered…with strange symbols carved into her skin. Teaming up with an obstinate deputy, Ruth struggles to eliminate anyone from a long line of suspects. When another slain victim is discovered with the same cryptic markings, she’s forced to re-think the investigation.

Has Ruth got what it takes to solve the case before the murderer attacks again?

The Snowdonia Killings is the first book in the DI Ruth Hunter Crime Thriller series and set against the majestic backdrop of Snowdonia, a timeless land of Arthurian legend, folklore and myth. If you like dark police procedurals, psychologically complex characters, and shocking twists, then you’ll love Simon McCleave’s pulse-pounding debut novel.

My Review

Okay, hands up, who hasn’t wanted to kill a teacher/headmaster?

There’s a fair amount of setup to read before the first murder, but it’s totally worth it. By the time we reach the first killing, the reader already thinks the victim deserves it and there are plenty of natural suspects. The second killing is less obvious, but again, not without good reason. 

Ruth acts as the readers way into this book. From her life in the Met and Peckham, her personal backstory (I won’t spoiler it for you), and her decision to move to the quiet life of North Wales, she gives a good insight into what it’s like to be the incomer (as I was when I first came to Wales, and I believe as Simon McCleave was when he wrote the novel). It’s awkward and difficult to find your space, but Ruth does this well forming a great partnership with DS Nick Evans who wants her there in opposite proportion to how much he wants his next drink.

Nick’s drinking is an interesting choice here. Though it is a bit of cliché to have a heavy drinking police officer, Nick is attending AA. He doesn’t seem to be working it through most of the book, but he’s attending. While he is a functioning alcoholic, these things never go as unnoticed as the drinker thinks it does. So, while Ruth sees all the great potential in Nick, she also sees the problem.  But can she open his eyes to it?

Annoyingly for me, I figured out who the killer was quite early in the book, and I kept hoping I was wrong. I wasn’t, but that didn’t spoil it because when the killer is finally revealed and we see all the blind alleys and misdirections, the killer’s motivation is solid and understandable. There’s a real sense of feeling that while murder isn’t justifiable, the reader understands what drove the murderer to it. It makes sense, and that’s always important in crime fiction.

This book is a great introduction to the characters and their lives, and the fledgeling professional relationships that they are building. The text also gives a good sense of place too. By the last page, the reader is comfortable with the two main leads and really likes them, while at the same time wondering how things are going to carry on.

This was a really satisfying read, and I would highly recommend it.

Bio

Simon is a million selling crime novelist. His first book, ‘The Snowdonia Killings’, was released in January 2020 and soon became an Amazon Bestseller, reaching No 1 in the Amazon UK Chart and selling over 300,000 copies. His subsequent novels in the DI Ruth Hunter Crime Thriller Series (11 so far) have all ranked in the Amazon Top 20 and are Amazon Best Sellers. He has sold over a 1.25 million books since 2020. The Chirk Castle Killings, Book 12, will release on June 28th 2020.

The Dark Tide, new Anglesey series for Harper Collins, has just been released at reached UK top ten in Kindle Chart.

Simon is currently in negotiations to make the Ruth Hunter books into a television series.

Simon McCleave was born in South London. When leaving University, he worked in television and film development. He was a Script Editor at the BBC, a producer at Channel 4 before working as a Story Analyst in Los Angeles. He worked on films such as ‘The Full Monty’ and television series such as the BBC Crime Drama ‘Between The Lines’.

Simon then became a script writer for television and film. He wrote on series such as Silent Witness, Murder In Suburbia, Teachers, Attachments, The Bill, Eastenders and many more. His film, ‘Out of the Game’ for Channel 4 was critically acclaimed – ‘An unflinching portrayal of male friendship.’ (Time Out)

Simon lives in North Wales with his wife and two children.

Simon is also incredibly tall as I found out in CrimeFest this year – but then I am a bit of short-stop at 5’5”. (Simon is 6’ 4”)

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Implements

I’ve noticed something odd today. Firstly, I know it’s been a while, sorry. My time has been taken up doing things for others and I simply haven’t been able to keep up.

The odd thing I noticed today is that I’ve started keeping special pens/pencils for certain things I write down. Usually I just grab the nearest writing implement and use that, but lately I find myself having to go to get the ‘right’ pen. As you can see in the picture, these aren’t particularly special pens.

There’s a standard hp pencil and a blue biro. These I use for tarot readings (I’m learning them for a character I’m working on). The two multicoloured pencils I use for when I’m working on “Save The Cat! Writes A Novel”, I like to use different colours for different types of notes. The black one at the bottom is the one I’ve started using for drafting one of the books I’m working on. Stuart Feild gave this to me at CrimeFest a week ago. It’s just a really nice writer.

What isn’t a nice writer right now, is this laptop. The usual laptop I use is a HP, but early this week I discovered that the battery was expanding, which is extremely dangerous. So that laptop (only 10 months old) has gone for warranty repairs. This means that I am now working on an old Samsung laptop. When I say old – it’s running Windows 8 and I remember I brought it when Windows 8 was first out, so it’s at least 10 years old. It works, but it is so incredibly slow! I’ll have typed to the end of the sentence and then have to stop to wait for the words to show up on screen. Very frustrating. Still, I have something to work with and for that I am grateful. But right now, I’m going back to pencil and paper; it’s less frustrating.

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Sinkhole

I’ve been struggling at a time when I really didn’t expect to. We’ve been waiting upward of ten years for a new kitchen and we’re now in the process. It’s nearly done, three weeks so far, two more to go.

But it’s doing my head in. There’s been mess everywhere, not just the kitchen, but the entire ground floor. It’s not a big house, but to unify it all, the flooring runs from the front door, through the sitting room, and into the kitchen diner. That means because we’ve had to change the kitchen floor, we’ve had to change the rest of the floor, which is why we’ve had to clear the ground floor.

I’ve tried working while stuff is going on, but it’s proved impossible.

The hardest thing as far as living is concerned is not having a kitchen sink. I can’t get to have a drink of water easily, if I cook pasta (yes, the hob is back in now, yay!) I’ve got to fill a jug a couple of times to fill the pot, then I’ve got nowhere to drain the cooked pasta, so I have to get another large saucepan to drain it, then carry that to the garden to pour it down the outside drain.

Against expectations, I could have lived without the hob longer than living without the sink. Can’t wait for the plumber to arrive. I’m hoping Monday, but I have a feeling it’s Tuesday.

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Different Reading

I’ve mentioned on here before that I have tarot packs. I’m not using them on a frequent basis and I don’t put more faith in them than I should, but I do find them very interesting. I also use them for the writing of my latest WIP.

Today I did two readings.

First I asked the pack that I use for my characters pack, what card I should use to represent the next crime book in my series. It gave me The Magician, card 1 of the Major Arcana. I instantly started to see the story that I need to put together for that book, which is a relief because I was feeling blocked on the way forward with it.

The second reading was with my usual pack, the pack that I’ve been using for personal guidance for several years now. This I asked about the book series and if I was doing the right thing. The answer I got from that daily spread was most encouraging. Even though I pulled The Devil in one position, this is not the disaster that many would think, it was simply a warning not to go to extremes, to make sure that I maintain balance in my life, which in all honesty, is fair warning.

So I’m happy with those readings, inspiration and reassurance.

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A Year in Books

Anyone using Goodreads to record what they’ve read in the year? I’ve just been through mine and found it really interesting. Stats are below just for those interested, but the numbers aren’t what I found interesting. What I learned is that even I think comic books are a bit of a cheat on this target, but I still like reading them and I will record them because reading matters and if ever you have someone who struggles to get into a book, give them a comic. I do count the audible as equal with reading, because if I actively listen, it takes as much effort as reading and if my eyes hurt, it’s a better option. I also found that when I checked my listening history for the year, I’d missed recording 3 on Goodreads, which I’ve now rectified. I also haven’t listened to half so many as I expected because I don’t commute anymore. So I’m kind of wondering if Audible is worth keeping up in 2022, I’ve a library of books I’ve yet to listen to. So I did beat my reading target, by how much, you can judge for yourself.

Here are the stats:
Target: 48
Books: 39 (physical or ebooks)
Audible: 10
Comics: 21

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NaNo Help

Like many thousands around the globe, I take part in NaNoWriMo. If you don’t know what that means, it’s an American-led scheme for encouraging creativity and literacy, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. Suspect most of you might have guessed that from the banner above.

The idea is that you write a 50k novel in one month – the main event is always November too. The ideal is that you write draft one of a novel, that way, to meet the 1,667 words a day average you need to reach the target, most writers have to just write, no editing or tidying up, you just bang out that first draft. Having said that I know one writer who’s averaging over 6k a day and I have no idea how she manages that.

This process has proved successful for me in the past, both Locked Up and Locked In were written as NaNoWriMo projects. Last year I wrote “Play The Game” which was a new draft of a previously written book, one that I had all the research and plot lines sorted on, but didn’t like the way I’d written it originally, so I started from scratch and that book is now out on submission. But this year I didn’t have a novel in mind because I’m working on a number of different projects and I didn’t want to start something new. So this year, I’m doing things a little differently.

I’m using a Scrivener File (it’s an alternative to Word that works really well for novel writing – well it does for me anyway), see more about Scrivener here. I’ve called it “Scenes in My Head”, and what I’m doing is that I’ve put in chapters for each book and put the scenes in the relevant chapter for pushing to the right project when I’m ready. So, as I see a scene that needs writing, I write it.

So far I am averaging 2,326 words a day! I am well chuffed with myself.

I have written 6,304 words to finish the first in a series of police procedurals with supernatural undertones that I’ve decided to try. I’ve written 16,560 words of the second book too. I’ve also managed 12,029 words of the first of a new steampunk trilogy. These scenes are being written out of sequence and from any book as I fancy writing it. Several times now I’ve written scenes from different books on the same day. One day I actually managed a scene from each book, which rather reassures me that the scatterbrain approach works for me.

In total, that’s 34,893 words in 15 days.

I should say that all these numbers are so precise because Scrivener gives them to me, I don’t go counting and adding up, that would be too much like hard work.

The point of all this is actually to say that this is one of the easiest NaNoWriMos that I have ever done, and mostly that is down to (a) I’m working it in a way my brain can cope with – jumping from story to story that excites me rather than slogging through the tough patches, and because (b) my mental health is, general and genuinely, so much better this year.

What that means is that I’ve pushed on with three writing projects that had started to stagnate and I’m really pleased with that, because that in turn, helps my mental health be positive. So on to NaNo-ing and hopefully this will see three more projects ready for submission in the new year.

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Blurred

My eyes are deteriorating with age and over use, but lately the blurred vision has nothing to do with physical conditions.

You see I am working on a manuscript that I know has a heart of gold. It’s a great idea and well worth the effort, if I can only see the story it’s meant to be.

The problem is I had an editor look at it and that editor clearly hated it and didn’t understand what I was trying to do, and didn’t hold back in what they said in their comments. Now, all I can see of this story is a blurred mess.

That blurring is really holding me back. It’s like I have a mental block between me and the text. I am trying to overcome that and get the editing down, make sure it works, but it feels like the task of Sisyphus – all up hill with the threat of a boulder above to roll over and crush you.

However, like Sisyphus, I’m not going to stop, so here I go again, pushing that rock and making this manuscript work.

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Brain treason

I’m a writer – that’s no news to you right? So I spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen typing. I just typed the following sentece:

The short hall led to an opening.

It’s part of a description for a house a police officer steps into. You should read that and think, so what? There’s nothing wrong with that sentence. And you are absolutely right. There is nothing wrong with that sentence.

Except that as soon as I finished it, my brain stopped me writing further, demanding that I change ‘led’ to ‘lead’. I literally had to stop and question my own brain questioning my own brain. I’d typed what I had because instictively I knew it was right, but the mere suggestion that I might be wrong stopped me mid-flow.

You might also have realised that when I say it stopped me, it really stopped me, because look, I’m here typing this blog rather than carrying on with my story.

My brain does this a lot. I instictively know the right answer, but have so little belief in myself that I don’t trust that I am correct. I double guess myself all the time. Not just with the writing, but it everything, which is one of the reasons I keep largely to myself, I’m convinced I’ll never understand other people. My brain is litterally betraying me.

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Full on

I haven’t been blogging because I’ve struggled through August and into September. The struggle has, to be fair been mostly about time, just had so much on, I’ve had to prioritise stuff and unfortunately blogging fell off the list.

Though August I had a 114k edit, a good book, but that’s a lot to get edited in 4 weeks. Then it was my wedding anniversary (29 years), my daughter’s birthday (23 years old), work in the garden that had to be done because plants work to their schedule and never mind the rest, and there were things in and on the house that needed to be sorted.
Though in fairness, I have to say that the garden (the front garden) looks lovely now, am really proud of it. This year (in case you missed previous posts) we’ve ripped out 22 year old bushes (not a fun or easy job), and covered the beds with chipping to just place out flower pots as they are much easier to maintain. I love the way the garden looks.

Our house is south facing, so we’ve also had a load of work done to replace the facias and guttering, but more importantly, we’ve had a new roller door fitted to the garage. This was actually done on Monday, so only three days ago now, and it’s already proving a boon. To get our vehicles on the drive (well the campervan) that van has to be put very close to the garage door to fit, so the old tilting door couldn’t be opened with the camper in place. Now this one rolls up without going out and we can get things in and out through the garage without having to move stuff – it is amazing how much of a difference that makes! Looks great out there now.

We also finally got a load of pictures back from the framers. One was a reframe because it was an old picture that had been my parents and over the years the frame had decayed, so needed replacement, and the rest were things that we’ve had for ages, but just didn’t have framed. Now they are all back, and they are up on the walls and it’s lovely to get some colour and art up. Am really pleased with how they look.

Though August I really struggled to write anything of my own. Again, it was mostly a time factor, but when I did have a few minutes to sit down and write, I found it a real struggle. So, I stopped trying. Thankfully the first week of September we were away on hols in the campervan, and I had the time and space to stop for a while, and now my writing is flowing again.

It was much the same with reading, really struggled. Now with all the work around the garden/house, I did manage to get through a few audible books – the exact reason why I love audible. My favourite book has to be Denzil Meyrick’s “Whiskey From Small Glasses”. I absolutely loved it. Will put a blog up on my other blog (GB Williams Crime Blog) soon, but I have a rash of blog tours to do my bit for this week – another thing that’s kept me busy.

On the writing front, while I haven’t been writing much, I have been working on blurbs and cover art and trying to get a blog tour organised, so it’s all good, all on-going.

Thankfully the first week of September we were away on hols in the campervan, and I had the time and space to stop for a while, and now my writing is flowing again.

Anyway, am now hoping that normal service will be resumed, whatever the hell ‘normal service’ is.

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