#damppebblestakeover with S.E. Lynes (@SELynesAuthor) | #GuestPost: In Praise of Insecurity #TheProposal @bookouture

the proposal.jpg“The first thing you should know, dear reader, is that I am dead…

Teacher Pippa wants a second chance. Recently divorced and unhappy at work, she uproots her life and moves to the countryside, determined to make a fresh start. But Pippa soon realises: your troubles are never far behind.

When Pippa meets blue-eyed Ryan Marks, he is funny and charming. He is haunted by his past – but insists he is a changed man. 

He might just be the answer to all of her problems. And Pippa can tell the truth from lies. She’d know if she were in danger. Wouldn’t she?”

Hello bookish friends.  I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to a #damppebblestakeover, hoorah!  I am thrilled to welcome one of my favourite authors to the blog, the fabulous S.E. Lynes.  Back in yesteryear (2016 to be precise), I was asked to join a blog tour for a book called Valentina.  It was the author’s debut and that author was S.E. Lynes.  The book blew my mind! Since signing last year with Bookouture, Susie’s books have gone from strength to strength culminating recently with Bookouture republishing the mighty Valentina.  But things haven’t stopped there.  On Friday 21st September Susie’s latest release with Bookouture was published, The Proposal.  I am absolutely kicking myself as I am monumentally behind in my reading at the moment but The Proposal is riding high on the TBR and I hope to bring you a review sooner rather than later.  But until then you can enjoy a brilliant guest post from the author herself.  Without further ado, I’ll hand over to S.E. Lynes…

The first question I ask my writing students is not why do you write but why don’t you?

Why don’t you write?

Their answers are variations on the same themes: ‘no time,’ ‘I’m worried I don’t have a story,’ ‘I’m scared people will think it’s rubbish,’ ‘I doubt I’ve got anything interesting to say …’

Pushing the old ‘no time’ chestnut to one side … that’s a whole other article … you will notice words like worried, scared, and doubt. How then do I get these would-be writers to put words on a page? How on earth do I get them to read those words aloud to their classmates?

Well, firstly, I have to get them to acknowledge their insecurities and see them in a different way. And they’ve already taken that step: voicing their worries aloud and realising that everyone else is worrying about the same things. The relief is palpable.

I didn’t write. For years. I was too full of insecurity. And then I did write, but I threw my work away. All of it. Why? Because nothing I wrote compared favourably to my favourite authors, to say the least. My conclusion ran something like: my work isn’t as good as theirs, therefore my work isn’t good at all, ergo, I’m not good. Needless to say, this kind of insecurity was not helpful.

I used to think the answer lay in getting rid of insecurity and reaching a place where I was completely confident. Because being completely confident is possible, right? After all, here we are, in an internet world of bumper sticker philosophies and motivational poster-bites which tell us to believe in ourselves, to be strong, to shine, to be different, to let our weirdness show … whatever. I have no problem with these slogans. In fact, I find their axe-to-crack-a-hazelnut approach a great antidote to my own personal brand of the heebie-jeebies. However, sometimes you feel insecure, you just do, and when that happens, those slogans can compound your insecurity by making you feel inadequate about feeling insecure in the first place. Sheesh! That’s not so helpful! What can be helpful, to me at least, is to embrace my insecurity and use it … and I try and pass that on to my students.

In class, the first thing I try and banish is the ‘my work is not good therefore I am not good’ equation and make a new one along the lines of ‘my work is not good – yet – therefore I need to study and practise’. No writer comes to their first page and dashes off a masterpiece. Well, there might be a few, but they are a very small minority and I blow a raspberry in their general direction. For the rest of us, when faced with the blank page, the pressure to shine is the death of creativity. If you’re trying to shine, you’re not learning. You’re not thinking about your characters and how they see the world. You’re not wondering where they were when they told their wife about the dead body in the bathroom or what they were doing/thinking when they said that. So, in the creative writing classroom, the spirit needs to be not ‘check this out, it’s pretty flipping awesome’ but ‘this is what I’m trying to do, how can I improve it?’ That requires removing your ego from the equation. It’s not about you! It’s about the work! THAT is helpful. THAT is a place of learning.

I encourage my students to think about writing as oboe practice. To write every day not to produce something great but to become a little bit better than last time. And in order to see the need to practice they need to be able to see their work as ‘not good’ or ‘not good enough’ in the right way. They need to embrace the right kind of insecurity.

So, on the cusp of publishing my fourth book and after some lovely reviews, am I able to say ‘I am good’? Good God, no! If I say that, I am dead creatively. None of my books are as good as I want them to be. If I’m proud of them it is because they are the best that I could possibly do at the time. Whatever I do next, I will try to do better. I will read my work back and think, no, not good enough. But I will not sit in a corner and weep. Well, I might, but after that I will return to it and think, how can I improve it? In practical terms, this might be cutting the dialogue back, or showing the character through an action, or upping the tension. In personal terms, it is using insecurity in the right way, using the critical voice constructively.

But maybe the question here, for all of us, is not why don’t we write but why don’t we do whatever it is we dream of doing? Releasing into the world the work you have sweated and fretted over is a risk. It is terrifying. It is exhilarating. Getting on stage is the same. Ditto singing in public. But if you think about it hard enough – and boy, do I ever – walking out of your front door is a risk, isn’t it? What if no one likes you? What if you say the wrong thing? What if your skirt is tucked into the back of your knickers? We are all of us worried about something. But if we can acknowledge our insecurity and realise everyone else feels it too, we can be kind in our intentions towards others and most importantly towards ourselves. We can relax and create the space we need to improve, in whatever it is we’re aiming to do.

Thank you so much for this insightful and inspiring post, Susie.  Dear reader, I hope, if you’re a budding writer, that you’ve taken note.  And as Susie said in her piece, the same applies to us all in whatever we dream of doing.  Feel the fear and do it anyway!

My reviews of S.E. Lynes’s books: | Mother | The Pact | Valentina |

The Proposal by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 21st September 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

S E Lynes Author PhotoAfter graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter |

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#damppebblestakeover with Nicole (@nicoleauthor1) | #GuestPost: Living the Life #AFewBadBoys #SurvivalAtAnyCost

a-few-boys-edit-ver-1-jpg (1).jpg“Lucy Fratelli is the girl who has everything – beauty, brains, her own apartment, a close family and friends.

Unfortunately, she is hiding a secret from her family and her best friend, Julie.

Lucy knows that she can tell her family and Julie anything but she also knows that if they find out her secret, there will be hell to pay.

Terry Fratelli, Lucy’s father, is a gangster and lives for his family. He will do anything to make them happy and protect them at all costs.

When Lucy’s secret is revealed he will stop at nothing to keep her safe.”

A very warm welcome to my regular Friday feature here on damppebbles, #damppebblestakeover.  Today I am delighted to welcome crime author, Nicole, to the blog.  Nicole’s debut, A Few Bad Boys is available to purchase now with her follow-up, Survival At Any Cost to follow hot on its heels soon.

So without further ado, I’ll hand over to Nicole…

I am delighted to be part of #damppebblestakeover and want to tell you more about my fascination with crime genre.  I have loved writing and reading for as long as I can remember and although I read many genres, I love a good crime novel.  I also like to read books by authors unknown to me.  It is surprising how many hidden gems there are out there.

I am originally from London but have lived in Spain since 2000.  My grand-parents, like so many others, worked endlessly to move away from the East End, but I was the one who returned.  I guess I’m the black sheep of the family and was intrigued by the stories I had heard, first hand, about the Krays and the Richardsons.  Throughout my life I have met numerous people from all walks of life, from Prime Ministers to the homeless and I am intrigued how people end up in situations.  The old school gangsters do hold some kind of respect and the ones I have met, for research purposes, are pleasant people who do what they do in the same way that people go to an office to work.  The thing that does concern me is the new breed of wanna be gangsters who appear to just relish in mindless violence against people that have nothing to do with their circle.

My debut novel, A Few Bad Boys, and my next novel, Survival At Any Cost (which will be published soon) also touch on issues that are a growing concern for people that are not members of the criminal fraternity. These issues include domestic violence, alcohol abuse and drugs.  These issues can affect any family and, sadly, more and more people, if they are not the one suffering, know someone who is affected.  These issues don’t affect only the victim of domestic violence or the user of drugs or excessive alcohol; they affect their family and friends.  Leaving an abusive relationship isn’t a simple case of collecting your things and leaving. Giving up alcohol and/or drugs is more complicated than you can imagine.

One of my works in progress is a detective novel, Dead Eyes.  It is very different to the works of mine that I have already mentioned but I am enjoying writing it and creating my strong female detective, Ellen Knight.  My plan is to make a series for her without neglecting my more dramatic novels that are waiting to be written, one of which will definitely be located in Spain.

I think a lot of people like to know about the dark side of life and by picking up a crime novel they can experience it without being harmed or ending up in prison.

With all my writing there is a lot of research to be done, which I love doing and there is a lot of imagination needed, which thankfully I have.

Someone I know, after reading, A Few Bad Boys, couldn’t believe that, I, a positive inspirational person, could write something like it – you have been warned!

Thank you for your interesting and thought-provoking post, Nicole.  As an avid crime reader, I think a lot of what you say is very true.  I live a very normal (wonderful, happy) life but my choice of reading material means I get to indulge in the dark side, in a fictional sense of course!

A Few Bad Boys by Nicole was published in the UK on 25th May 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

about the author3

0014 (3).jpgNicole was born in London but moved to Spain in 2000.  She has two children, James and Phoenix, who have been her driving force behind her completing her debut novel, A Few Bad Boys.  Prior to having children she worked for Karren Brady, which added to her determination to succeed in all goals.

Nicole has wanted to write a book for as long as she can remember, and although she has written articles and helped others with their writing, it is only last year that she finally completed and published her debut novel, A Few Bad Boys. Although the journey to becoming published has been long and difficult, she is overjoyed that she has managed it, but understands that there is a lot more work to do.

Nicole is a firm believer in living life to the full but also living a balanced life.

Nicole is currently working on her second novel, Survival At Any Cost and has a regular blog.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook |

#damppebblestakeover with Bill Todd (@williamjtodd) | #GuestPost: Arresting Behaviour #DannyLancaster #GodlefesCuckoo

godlefe's cuckoo.jpg

“Danny Lancaster has been missing since the fishing boat exploded.

Police are closing their inquiry but Wanda Lovejoy continues her campaign to find the truth.

An evil man kept alive by machines nurses a corrosive hate. As drugs and disease pull his dying mind apart he throws his crime empire into a scorched earth quest to find one man.

If Danny Lancaster isn’t dead he soon will be.”

It’s Friday, yay! Which means it’s time for another #damppebblestakeover but before I make today’s introductions, I have to pop out to the supermarket. Sorry. Bit of a nuisance but needs must and all that. Back in a tick….

I’ve taken over. Found a window on the latch round the back of damppebbles HQ. Now I’m in, no problem.
Locked the doors and windows. Had a quick look round, Emma’s got a nice place here, lots of books, coffee’s good too.
Don’t panic. I’m not going to do any damage. Won’t nick anything either, apart from a cup of coffee and a splash of semi-skimmed. So, no sinister intent, just a bit of precious peace and quiet, thinking time.
Thing is, I’ve written six Danny Lancaster crime thrillers. He’s a wounded ex-paratrooper, an Afghan veteran, trying not very successfully to make a living as a private investigator.
His new career might be struggling but Danny’s cases have been varied, from dangerous missing cargo to murdered rock stars and ruthless diamond smugglers.
A favour for a friend in book four found Danny in danger on the Rock of Gibraltar. Book five was a short novel and six short stories. The latest, Godlefe’s Cuckoo, was published in March and forces Danny to face new threats.
So here’s the reason for today’s break-in, the need for a bit of peace and quiet. I have a very promising idea for a new book. Question is – Danny7 or standalone?
All of my Danny novels can be read without any prior knowledge. They’ve had some cracking reviews and I’m really pleased that many are from women readers who form the majority of Danny fans.
On top of that, some readers with a military background have given Danny their seal of approval and other supportive reviews have come from readers new to the genre. All in all, a broad and encouraging spectrum of positive opinion.
But it doesn’t solve my problem. No spoilers but the new plot idea follows a fractured family torn further apart by the revelation of an older relative’s forgotten memory from his youth. When this bubbles to the surface there are dramatic consequences.
It’s a case that Danny, with his unshakeable sense of justice in one form or another, would love to get his teeth into.
Then again, the family at the heart of the drama could grasp the nettle and battle to resolve their own fate.
I’m like a cat sitting between two juicy treats. Go left? Go right? Pepperoni or mushroom? Custard or ice cream? Blonde or brunette? Yin or Yang? Still can’t decide.
Just need a bit more peace and quiet for some blue sky musing, follow the threads, see where they go. Maybe Emma wouldn’t notice if I pinched a second coffee.
Whoa! Hold on. I hear a noise. Key in the front door. Just time to rinse my coffee cup, then out the back window.
Will just have to muse on the bus home.

Right. Sorry. Back as quick as I could. Today’s #damppebblestakeover author is Bill Todd, author of the Danny Lancaster series. Bill…..? Bill, are you here…..? Hmm, where is he? Maybe he changed his mind. Nevermind, I’ll just say instead that Bill has written six Danny Lancaster novels which are;

COVERS BLOCK 1.jpg

The Wreck Of The Margherita: Someone is killing to recover a lethal cargo washed overboard in a storm.
Death Squad: Who shot Seventies rock legend Mickey ‘Tattoo’ Carpenter?
Rough Diamond: Danny Lancaster finds out the hard way that diamonds are not always a girl’s best friend.
Rock Hard: ‘The heat was murder but that wasn’t the worst of it. There were the bodies’.
Gargoyle Pixie Dog: How do you find a homeless girl who lives off the grid? + 6 short stories – The Cuckold’s Calling, Selfie, The Hoodied Man, The Germans Can’t Kill Me, Inside Job, Sudden Death.
Godlefe’s Cuckoo: If Danny Lancaster isn’t dead he soon will be.
All six Dannys are available as ebooks and paperbacks and The Wreck of Margherita is free to download. All the other ebooks are just 99p/99c.

Godlefe’s Cuckoo by Bill Todd was published in the UK on 10th March 2018 and is available in paperback or eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

about the author3

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I’m a journalist and travel writer who has visited more than 40 countries from the white wastes of Arctic Finland to the ancient deserts of Namibia. Love a good wilderness. I received the Ed Lacy travel award in 2007.
I’ve written six crime thrillers featuring soldier-turned-investigator Danny Lancaster and was startled and delighted to be voted one of the 100 best crime authors in the WH Smith readers’ poll in 2015. I’ve also written three short factual military histories. I live to write although keyboard time has been cut lately with the arrival of grandson Theo.

Author Links: | Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram |

#damppebblestakeover with Karla Forbes (@KarlaForbes) | #GuestPost: Inspiration versus Desperation #NickSullivanThrillers #IndieAuthor

cronus cover.jpg

“To the outside world, Dan Masters is a law abiding I.T. expert working for the Metropolitan Police in London.

But he is also a high ranking member of Cronus, a secret group of vigilantes who are growing exponentially and spreading terror across the country.

When Nick is persuaded, against his better judgement, to help Beth Masters keep a track of her husband’s whereabouts, he unwittingly stumbles into the Cronus network and compromises its security.

Soon he is fighting for his life in a new and frightening world where no one can be trusted. For who can he turn to for help when anyone could be a Cronus member with a powerful reason to want him dead?”

It’s Friday, which can mean only one thing. It’s #damppebblestakeover day and I am delighted to welcome Karla Forbes, author of the Nick Sullivan series, back to damppebbles today. I’m handing over the keys to Karla who last paid us a visit during my #R3COMM3ND3D2017 feature (click HERE to see which books Karla chose as her three recommended reads from 2017).

So without further ado, I’ll hand over to Karla…

Inspiration versus Desperation
Karla Forbes

I am currently writing my 14th crime/thriller and although it should be getting easier, it isn’t. When I wrote my first book, I had a vague idea of a plot floating around in my head. It was based on a comment someone had made to me that, during the cold war, Soviet scientists had invented a nuclear bomb that could be carried in a suitcase. After extensively researching plutonium, dirty bombs, the cold war and many other subjects that had been strangely missing from my school curriculum, I sat down at my laptop and the words flowed from my fingertips to the keyboard. Several months and 106,000 words later, I had written my first book, named it ‘Fallout’ and, very naively, thought how easy this whole writing malarkey is. Wrong! Unless your name is Margaret Mitchell and you write a single best seller called Gone with the wind, you will be keen to start your second book. This time, the chances are that you have used up all your ideas on your first literary masterpiece and you will be forced to dig a little deeper to find your next plot.

The advice given to aspiring authors is to write what you know about but unless readers want to follow the scintillating drama of your protagonist going to work, standing in a queue at the supermarket checkout and slobbing in front of the television every night, you’re going to have to exercise your imagination and come up with something a little more exciting. By now, I had decided to write a series of thrillers based on the hero of ‘Fallout’, Nick Sullivan, who is a stubborn, self opinionated but thoroughly likeable character who I couldn’t bear to part from. This meant that I was spared the pain of thinking up a whole new protagonist and supporting characters but I needed a new plot. I cast around for ideas and in a moment of inspiration thought of my daughter. She has a PhD in artificial intelligence and was perfectly placed to give me the science behind a computer virus that couldn’t be stopped. Once again, I had set myself up for disappointment. Not only was she none too pleased to have to condense her entire life’s study into easy sentences that I could understand but I then had to incorporate it into an exciting thriller that wouldn’t bore the reader senseless.

I managed it in the end but you get the picture; constantly thinking up new plots is harder than actually writing the book. Since those early beginnings, I’ve written about, among other things, blowing up Grangemouth which the largest oil refinery in Europe, counterfeit drugs getting into the National Health Service, Ugandan terrorists stealing from charities to fund their activities, the illegal trade in endangered species, fracking in sleepy Sussex, a nationwide group of vigilantes wreaking havoc on the guilty and innocent alike, a Russian oligarch poisoning half of London in pursuit of money ( I wrote that one before the Novichok outrage) and I’m currently writing about an attack on the London Stock exchange which has the potential to wreck the economy even more effectively than the combined efforts of our bickering, political masters.

Each time I finish a book, I start searching around for the next plot but as I said in the opening paragraph, it doesn’t get any easier. I’ve heard it said that Barbara Cartland wrote several hundred novels but in reality, she wrote one novel and simply changed the names and locations. A clever woman Ms Cartland. Perhaps my next book will be a romance. In the meantime, back to destroying the economy by attacking the City of London…

Thanks so much, Karla. I would struggle to come up with one plot idea (don’t expect to read my first novel any time soon!), let alone 14 so I’m always amazed when authors can continue to come up with fresh and exciting stories, time and time again. I guess that’s why they’re the authors and I’m the reader, right? 😂

Cronus by Karla Forbes was published in the UK in May 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

about the author3

www.midsussexphotography.co.uk | www.midsussexwebsites.co.uk

Karla Forbes first began writing books when she was twelve years old. Heavily influenced by Ian Fleming, she wrote about guns, fast cars and spies. Naturally, she knew nothing of her chosen subject and was forced to use her imagination to make it up as she went along. These books, half a dozen in total, ended up being thrown out with the rubbish. Several years later, she dabbled in a futuristic sitcom and a full length horror story. Although both of these efforts were also consigned to literary oblivion, at least no one could have accused her of being in a genre rut.

She began writing properly more than ten years ago and her first book, The Preacher was published on Amazon in July 2011. Fourteen books in total are available to download from the Amazon kindle book store. Other books will follow at regular intervals. She writes about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary situations and she aims for unusual but scarily believable plots with a surprising twist.

She lives in Sussex with her husband and bull mastiff and has discovered that the secret of keeping them both happy is regular meals, praise and affection.

Author Links: | Twitter | Website | Nick Sullivan thrillers on amazon.co.uk | Karla Forbes on Goodreads |

#damppebblestakeover with Alice Castle (@DDsDiary) | #GuestPost: Why read cozy crime? #LondonMurderMysteries @crookedcatbooks

calamity in camberwell.jpg“Beth Haldane, SE21’s answer to Miss Marple, worries she is losing a kindred spirit when her friend Jen, the only other single mum in the playground, suddenly remarries and moves to Camberwell. 

Soon Beth has to face much more pressing fears. Has something gone horribly wrong with Jen’s marriage? What is her new husband really up to? Why is her daughter leading Beth’s son astray? And where on earth is Jen anyway? 

As Beth’s friends push her to start dating again, Beth turns to Metropolitan Police DI Harry York for help. But will they solve the mystery in time, or will it turn out that in south east London, not everyone gets to live happily ever after?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the second post in the resuscitated and reinvigorated #damppebblestakeover series.  Today I am thrilled to welcome the author of the London Murder Mysteries, Alice Castle, to damppebbles.  Alice is on the precipice of releasing the third book in her Beth Haldane and DI Harry York series so get those pre-orders in now (hitting eReaders on Monday 13th August)!

Without further ado, I will hand the reins of damppebbles over to Alice…

Why read cozy crime? By Alice Castle

We’re living at an extraordinary time for crime fiction. It’s officially now the most popular genre in the UK and, with steamroller successes like The Girl On The Train, crime is dominating not only bookshops but also TV, theatre and cinema screens too.

It might seem like an odd time to resuscitate the gentle tropes of cozy mystery, when the psychological thriller seems to be pushing new boundaries. But I believe that, in difficult times, people are drawn to Golden Age-type stories and find them just as satisfying, if not more so, than violent or shocking fare like twisty thrillers and grisly serial killers.

There’s still huge affection for Agatha Christie’s works, over forty years after her death, as evidenced by the success of recent TV remakes of Witness for the Prosecution, And Then There Were None and Ordeal by Innocence. These have led to the reissuing of many of the original novels in brand new tie-in covers. And who doesn’t love a good old murder amongst well-heeled folk in a country house, or feel a little thrill of satisfaction when the detective calls the suspects into the library for the final denouement?

I chose to write my series in the cozy crime genre, but have updated the formula by setting the stories firmly in contemporary south east London, with all the gritty urban problems that city life brings. I believe this gives my readers the best of both worlds – a secure moral universe, where evil-doers are always punished, a closed circle of suspects based in a beautiful area (lovely Dulwich!) and the real stresses and strains of modern life. Add a dash of satire on the frankly funny ways of the very privileged folk of SE21, and you have a series which I’m loving writing and which I hope will keep going far beyond the five stories which are either currently published or in the pipeline.

My single mum amateur sleuth, Beth Haldane, stumbles into her first investigation and is a hesitant but reckless detective. Her counterpoint is the Met’s DI Harry York, a pragmatist about crime but with a soft spot for Golden Age crime fiction – and for Beth.

If you’d like to read the stories, I suggest starting with Death in Dulwich (http://MyBook.to/1DeathinDulwich) and moving on to The Girl in the Gallery (http://MyBook.to/GirlintheGallery), then Calamity in Camberwell (http://MyBook.to/CiC, coming out on 13th August 2018) and Homicide in Herne Hill (3rd October 2018) with Revenge on the Rye following in 2019. They can all be read as stand alone stories as well. And do pop in to my blog, http://www.alicecastleauthor.com, for more news on the series and events I’m taking part in.

Thank you for joining me today, Alice.  Regular visitors to the blog will know that I love a grisly, gory serial killer – the more blood splatter, the better!  But I do have a rather large soft spot for cozy crime.  As for Christie, show me a crime reader who doesn’t love her books!  How do you feel about cozy crime? Let me know in the comments.

Calamity in Camberwell by Alice Castle was published in the UK on 13th August 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |

If you’re a crime author and you would like to take part in #damppebblestakeover then please contact me via damppebbles@gmail.com.  Having originally planned to run the feature over the Summer, I have now decided to make it a regular weekly blog post on a Friday but I need YOU to write something.  No #damppebblestakeover next week though as I’ll be on holiday and it’s my birthday (a rather significant one, at that!).

about the author3

acb.jpegBefore turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.

Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, Canada, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, will be published this summer, with Homicide in Herne Hill due to follow in early 2019.  Alice is currently working on the fifth London Murder Mystery adventure. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice is also a mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com

She lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.

Author Links:Facebook | Twitter |

#damppebblestakeover with Tony J. Forder (@TonyJForder) | #GuestPost: Series versus Standalone #DIBliss @Bloodhoundbook

if fear wins

“When a torched body is found in a country lane, DI Bliss and Chandler are called in to investigate.

The detectives are drawn towards recent missing person reports and believe their victim will prove to be one of them. Bliss thinks he knows which, and fears the outcome if he is proven right.

Soon the body is identified, and Bliss and Chandler discover evidence suggesting this murder might be a terrorist attack.

Meanwhile, someone from Bliss’s past needs his help, and soon he is juggling his personal life with the demanding case. To make matters more complicated, MI5 and the Counter-Terrorist Unit are called in to help solve the case. But are they on the right track?

Bliss and Chandler soon find themselves in a race against time, and this might just be their most challenging case yet…”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the blog today and to the return of #damppebblestakeover, whoop! Now if you’re fairly new (sort of new…ish) to my blog then you won’t know what in the foggiest I’m talking about, so let me explain.

#damppebblestakeover is a series I first ran back in 2016 where I invited authors (of any genre) to make use of my blog for a little bit of free promotion. After all, it’s all about the #booklove, right? It was such a fantastic success and I had meant to resuscitate it last Summer but, y’know, plans don’t always go to plan! If you fancy catching up on the posts from 2016 then click HERE. But now it’s back (from outer space…. ;)) and better than ever. My plan is to not restrict it to the Summer months but continue for the long haul and I’m only inviting the criminal kind to post this time around (I’m a crime blogger, I LOVE crime fiction).

Starting us off on the right foot is Bloodhound Books author, Tony J Forder. You will be able to find out a little more about Tony later on along with information about his books and links to purchase should you wish. So without further ado, I’ll hand over to Tony…

SERIES VERSUS STANDALONE

When I wrote Bad to the Bone it was not with the intention of writing a series. It actually came about as a result of a failed novel, called Burnout. The manuscript featured a lead character by the name of DI Jimmy Bliss, who worked closely with his more than able DC, Penny Chandler. I completed the book, and it’s fair to say that it had some good features and some scenes I liked, but overall it did nothing for me when I read it back. Neither did I think that I could improve it with months of editing or rewrites. In some ways I think I treated the process as part of a learning curve. However, by then the idea for a new story had come to me, and with it being another crime novel set in Peterborough where I live, it seemed to fit the same two main characters perfectly.

Even when it was done and I was pleased with the result, I never imagined writing a follow-up. It was only when Bloodhound Books signed me up for a two book deal, which was for Bad to the Bone and an as yet unwritten sequel, that I had to start thinking hard about how I might accomplish that. The first choice I had to make was whether to suggest to Bloodhound that I rewrite the book and bring it up to date (Bad to the Bone is set in 2005). If I didn’t, then I would have issues with the sequel. On the other hand, there was a lot of dating in the book, and I was a bit fearful that I might overlook something obvious during the edit process. Equally, now that I knew a second book would have to be written, I had to decide whether or not to make changes to Bad the Bone so that certain aspects of the story were not tied up or expanded upon in that first book. Believe me, a lot of hard thinking went into those months following the signing of my first publishing contract.

Ultimately, I decided to keep Bad to the Bone rooted in 2005, but set its sequel in the year I was writing it – 2017. Explaining away the 12 year gap was not the only issue I had to contend with, however. Because even people in their forties and fifties develop as time passes, so I had to reach inside the characters and get a feel for how a dozen years might have impacted on them. After finding solutions for everything, I then had to confront something entirely new: I now had to anticipate a third book in the series, and perhaps more. The decisions this time, then, were what to include and what to leave for the next one, also which snippets I might feed into the second book in preparation for a third.

So there are clearly some difficulties in writing a series that you simply don’t get with stand-alone books. Something you have to keep in mind if you intend continuing with a series is finding ways to keep things fresh. Currently, the way I address that problem is to ensure the storylines are very different each time. Of course, relationships will be carried over from book to book, and no matter what the case, certain procedures will inevitably have to be repeated, such as briefings and the decision-making processes that occur in any murder investigation. You also have to find a way to refer to previous cases, so as to provide a baseline for new readers. At its core, the Bliss series is a police procedural, but the intention is to add layers of plot complexity, and hopefully more than the odd thrill. I regard them as procedurals with an edge. Finding new ways to provide that edge is part of the attraction.

The other side of the coin is that you get to develop your characters and their chemistry with colleagues, friends and family. You have time to delve into their back stories, the canvas already sketched out for you by the time you come to write the next book in the series. Of course, you do have to keep a wary eye out for continuity, and that can be time-consuming. I do have a character profile that I can dip into, but you have to take care. However, the character is there for you and fully-formed when you come to write their next adventure, and that does make life a little easier, as you are not having to create them from scratch.

In addition to my DI Bliss series, I have two stand-alone novels. At least, that’s how they were written. Degrees of Darkness is a dark, psychological chiller featuring a serial-killer. It predates Bad to the Bone in terms of when I wrote its original version, and it was the first novel I completed that I was happy with. It was only ever going to be a one-off, and although many readers have said they would like to read more books featuring the main character – and I have subsequently considered developing a suitable storyline – I suspect Degrees will remain a stand-alone.

Scream Blue Murder is a different proposition. For two-thirds of the book it was written as a one-off, but as I approached that final third I realised how much I had enjoyed writing the main characters, and how much I had appreciated the freedom the very different style of writing gave me. I realised that I was considering carrying on with these adventures, and knew immediately where I would set the next one, and the idea for the sequel came shortly afterwards. Since the release of Scream Blue Murder I have dipped in and out of its follow-up, and I am thrilled to say that my publishers recently accepted the completed manuscript and a contract signed. Cold Winter Sun will be released in November 2018.

The different mind-set when writing a stand-alone book is an interesting one. For a start, you have to tie up absolutely every loose end. You also have to include as much back story as possible to make your characters three-dimensional and interesting, whilst keeping the pace of the story flowing, the interest of the reader focussed. It’s a different approach entirely, and a challenge in its own right. I wouldn’t say it’s preferable to writing a series, but it does stretch you as an author, and I certainly want to write more.

With a stand-alone book you tell an entire story using around 100,000 words. The main character arc has to be complete, and the wrap-up must deal with every plot strand you have thrown out there. On the other hand, I think of the crime series as an on-going story, where you focus on solving each case within those same 100,000 words, yet each book rolls into the next, allowing you to reveal more about your characters with each subsequent release. It’s like a gradual drip-feed of information as opposed to a mass transfusion. It provides the author with a great deal more freedom, but in exchange for that you have to also look both backwards and forwards to ensure the elongated arc is consistent.

Now that I actually have a series on the go, writing outside of it provides a release of sorts. There are no expectations beyond that book. You tell your story and you get the hell out of there, hoping you have successfully wrapped it all up in a pretty bow and created a package your readers will be happy with. But it must also please you, the author, because once it is out there it’s out there for a long time and you will be judged by it. For me, the best thing about writing a new stand-alone book is creating my characters, getting inside their skins and trying to develop them along with the storyline. In the case of Scream Blue Murder, those characters wormed their way inside my head so much that I simply found it impossible to resist the allure of writing them a brand new adventure. Perhaps that is because I am driven to characters more than storyline. When I read, a brilliant character can bring me through an unexceptional story, but it doesn’t work the other way around. Nothing pleases me more than when people make positive comments about my characters, and the real trick is getting the balance between character and story just right.

The next book after Bliss #4 will definitely be another stand-alone, as the story outline is sketched out and the first few scenes already written. It’s another crime thriller, but a very different one for me. I’m certainly going to have to up my game to take on this new main character, that’s for sure. I’m very much looking forward to taking up the challenge once again.

As for whether there are more DI Bliss books to come after the one I am currently writing, well, given the situations he confronts throughout the entire story, the answer really depends on whether he and/or his career survives this latest outing. I know the answers, of course, but I think I will keep them to myself for a little while longer.

Thanks so much, Tony. Such an interesting piece, and it’s always good to see the workings of a crime writer’s mind. I think us crime fiction fans are so used to books being part of a series that we tend to expect a sequel (or is that just me…..? lol). What do you think, dear reader? What do you prefer? Series or standalone? Let me know in the comments.

If Fear Wins by Tony J Forder was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 29th May 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

If you’re a published crime writer and you would like to feature on #damppebblestakeover then drop me an email: damppebbles@gmail.com.

about the author3

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Tony J Forder is the author of the critically acclaimed crime thriller series featuring detectives Jimmy Bliss and Penny Chandler. The first three books, Bad to the Bone, The Scent of Guilt, and If Fear Wins will be joined by a fouth in the series in 2019.

Tony’s dark, psychological crime thriller, Degrees of Darkness, featuring ex-detective Frank Rogers, was also published by Bloodhound Books. This is a stand-alone novel. Another book that was written as a stand-alone was Scream Blue Murder. This was published in November 2017, and received praise from many, including fellow authors Mason Cross, Matt Hilton and Anita Waller. Tony subsequently wrote a sequel, and Cold Winter Sun will be published in November 2018.

Tony lives with his wife in Peterborough, UK.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Barnes and Noble | Bloodhound Books |