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My hobbies are listed as reading, writing and travel. It’s one of life’s great pleasures to curl up in bed at the end of the day with a good book and travel to a different world. In a life that is ridiculously busy, where my to-do list always seems longer come bedtime than when my day began, it’s a great way to unwind, to forget about the problems of the day and let go of the guilt about those things you should have done but never got round to. There is something very special about holding a brand new physical book in your hands as you cuddle down propped up on the pillows.
Just as I seem to have a to-do list that’s three pages long, I have an ever-growing number of books on my to-read-next list – mainly by my writer friends whose new releases I’ve promised to read. There are 402 books on my Kindle alone – I blame the wonderful BookBub – how can I resist all those fantastic discounted and free offers? That’s without all the books sitting on my bookshelves (there is a bookcase in every room in our house with the exception of the bathrooms) many of which have been sitting there for years waiting to be read, including several that date back my student days when my reading tastes were very different. The truth is that 90% never will get read. I’ve promised myself not to download any more books until I’ve sorted myself out. I can’t remember the last time I visited the library.
At night I read fiction. The two shelves in my study packed with books about writing, publishing and marketing are hardly suitable for bedtime reading. There are also several books on my Kindle on topics such as how to build a website, use Twitter, get the most out of Goodreads and Facebook plus how to use assorted social media which are best read sitting at my PC working through the various suggestions. Finding the time to read during the day is a challenge. Important though the advice these books offer might be, working through them slips down the pecking order of priority all too quickly. At the end my day, I want to escape into a good novel not add to my must-do-soon list.
A gem of a story
Every now and again, we all come across one of those novels we find difficult to put down. I’ve just finished reading one. Although I like to think I’m fairly catholic in my reading tastes, the truth is that I end up reading mostly what I love to write – crime. The Scrying Stone doesn’t come into that category. Witches and vampires are definitely not my sort of reading so when a friend asked me to read it, I confess I wasn’t expecting to find it the most engaging book I’ve read this year. I met Jacqueline Farrell a few years ago when we did a three-day novel writing course together at The Writers’ Holiday at Fishguard. I was so captivated by the story, eager to find out just how the characters I’d come to care about were going to get themselves out of the latest crisis that several nights I read into the small hours long after my husband was sound asleep. Towards the end, when I couldn’t wait to know what happened next, I even found time to read it during the day. I don’t remember the last time that happened. If you fancy taking a look, The Scrying Stone is available on Kobo, Scribd, Playster, Barnes and Noble and Amazon and its FREE!
Have you read any good books lately that you’d like to share?
Little did I realise the flurry of response posting the proposed book cover for my new series on Facebook would provoke. Murder in Morocco is the first in a new series I’d planned to call the Aunt Jemima Mysteries. But it seems “Aunt Jemima” conjures up a very different picture for my American friends from the eccentric, go-getting if now elderly adventurer that I envisaged. I hadn’t appreciated that the name is offensive to some people in the US where it can be derogatory label and conjures up images of an obsequiously servile black woman.
I’ve lived with Aunt Jemima for over eight months and it’s not going to be easy to find her a name that doesn’t change her personality entirely. I suggested Jessica but that didn’t go down too well either.
Names are crucial – they reflect personality and changing a lead character at this stage in the game is no easy task. I’ve had lots of suggestions on my Facebook Author page – keep them coming – but it might help to know more about my eponymous heroine. Continue reading →
Truth to tell, my PC and I always had a difficult relationship. He (it must have been male because it never listened to reason, was stubborn and could be extremely childish at times) had this frustrating habit of refusing to do what he was asked – I would press all the right keys etc but he just would not co-operate and I would have to call for techie husband to sort out the problem. You might know, the minute hubbie walked in the door, the PC would spring into action and sit up like a naughty puppy to all intents and purposes saying, ‘It wasn’t me – it was her!’ behaving itself perfectly without his old master having to touch the keys. It’s true, it was my husband’s old machine passed down when he got a better model and my PC knew it’s true master’s touch! It never messed him about.
I’ve just spent three frustrating days updating my recently published paperback of Blood and Chocolate in Create Space. I decided the original print size was too small. Surely it wouldn’t be that difficult a task? Update the file and reload it and adjust the spine size for the cover – a half-hour job at most. Don’t you believe it!
Originally, I had used as a template all the measurements for an earlier novel printed by another printer. There were a few problems but the Create Space reviewer had accepted it. Hoping to avoid any problems, I learnt a few new tricks in Microsoft Word and re-did page size and margins etc to Create Space specifications. Heaven knows what I did, but I upset my PC (it’s never really liked me) to the point that it took my ever-patient techie husband (my PC’s first owner and for whom it usually behaves the moment he steps in the door) had to spend the best part of yesterday afternoon putting it right. After at least five long trawls through the interior reviewer checking every page, I finally managed to get rid of the glitches in my Blood and Chocolate file and up loaded the interior.
Writing can have its downside. At some stage, many of us have probably suffered from lower back pain, aching shoulders, sore eyes or headaches. And then there’s something called writers bottom! Spending much of the day tapping away on the keyboard can even lead to serious conditions such as repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel syndrome. We all know how important it is to have a decent chair at the correct height, but how many of us end up huddled over to stare at the screen? My husband is constantly moaning at me for doing so. I can only hope that five hours of yoga, tai chi and Pilates, plus a similar amount of time line dancing and Zumba each week make up for my slovenly posture at my desk. Knowing the theory is one thing, it’s the putting into practice that can easily fall by the wayside. Continue reading →
Writing is like a drug. You may start with the odd story or poem, but you can soon find yourself wanting to do more. Before you know where you are, you’re on the hard stuff – the novel and there’s no hope after that. One thing leads to another. The pushers (agents and pundits) tempt you to write more books on the premise that the more novels to your name, the easier it is to market them or (your readers)that they can’t wait to read the next one. By then, you’re hooked. Unless, you’re writing, there’s a massive hole that needs constant feeding with ideas. Be warned! There’s no Writers’ Anonymous to help wean you off it.
There’s even a word for it. Hypergraphia. It is defined on Wikipedia as a behavioural condition characterised by the intense desire to write. Continue reading →
I’d written short stories for some time with moderate success before deciding to tackle a novel. At the time, some fifteen years ago, I happened to be reading a great many novels by writers such as Nicci French, Minette Walters and Barbara Vine. I loved the edginess of their writing, the idea of the main character finding her life spinning out of control – taken over by events she can’t explain, and if she doesn’t sort it all out, she will end up dead. What interested me was trying to capture the fear, that unease, the tension of wondering what is going to go wrong next? Thus, All in the Mind and Watcher in the Shadows became my first published novels. I was having problems writing the latest psychological suspense and it was my then agent who suggested that I should think of having a series character. Her argument was that it would be easier to sell them to the publishers, but that wasn’t the reason I decided to give it a try.
I’d had the idea of a tour manager for a coach company as a main character for some time. In the spirit of the Golden Age whodunit tradition, it would give me a limited number of people as suspects – my coach passengers, a driver who would be my protagonist’s confidant and partner plus the added advantage that each book would be set in a different country and have a limited time scale – the length of the holiday. Not that things turned out quite like that. Novels and characters take on a life of their own! The agent’s prompting came just at the right time and so the Fiona Mason Mysteries were born. Continue reading →
Today is launch day for Blood Across the Divide. I am often asked where I get the inspiration for my novels so it seemed appropriate to explain some of the things that inspired the novel.
Two mysteries – what has happened to Fiona’s missing passenger, and who shot the rebel republican terrorist, Eamon McCollum? Once again, tour manager, Fiona Mason and MI6 chief Peter Montgomery-Jones come together to find the answers and unravel how the two cases are linked.
Belfast rightly deserves its reputation as one of the top British cities for tourists. All looks set for a wonderful tour, but, people are not always who they claim to be. Fiona and her coach party quickly find themselves drawn into the undercurrent of distrust and thirst for revenge that has been simmering in Northern Ireland since the time of The Troubles. Drawn into one another’s investigations, Fiona and Peter need the other’s help to cut through the web of deceit and betrayal to find out what has been going on.
My first two published novels were standalone psychological suspense, but when I was having problems with the third book, my then agent suggested my books would be easier to sell if I had a series character. I gave some thought to the idea and decided my investigator would be a tour manager for a coach company. Her sidekick could be her driver and, in true Agatha Christie fashion, my cast of suspects would be limited to the number of passengers. Continue reading →
First and foremost, I wish you all a happy and productive New Year.
Towards the end of the year, I was approached by David Ellis and asked if I would agree to be interviewed for his toofulltowrite website subtitled as a Creative Palace for Artists and Author Resources. David asked some interesting questions that had me scratching my head at times and here is the result.
Author Interview – Judith Cranswick
Welcome to the latest installment in the Author Interview series and we are finishing out the week with a bang.
Tonight we speak to Award Winning author Judith Cranswick about her crime thriller novels and what makes them so special, engaging and worth reading.
Hi there Judith, thank you for taking the time to be with us today to talk about your thrilling stories.
Let’s start with your latest novel “Blood Hits the Wall” – Book 4 in the Fiona Mason Mysteries Series. Please tell us more about Fiona, how she has evolved over the course of four novels and what sleuthing adventures and sticky situations she is going to find herself dealing with this time round?
In the first book in the series, “Blood on the Bulb Fields”, Fiona was recently widowed. She had spent the last nine years looking after her terminally-ill husband. When he died, family and friends suggested she get herself a little job to keep herself occupied though becoming a tour manager for a coach company wasn’t quite what they had in mind. Fiona has grown in confidence as the year (and the first four books) has gone on and in “Blood Hits the Wall”, on her tour to Belin and the Elbe Valley, her relationship with MI6 chief, Peter Montgomery-Jones develops though they continue to find themselves at odds with one another all too often as they pursue their separate objectives. This time she wants his help when the group is detained in Berlin following the murder of their local guide, but he has his own secret mission which he cannot jeopardise. Continue reading →