At last I can reveal the cover for my stand-alone thriller ‘The Devil You Know‘ which will be out soon from publishers Seilachan Fort.
Watch this space!
This second Ridge Walker novel is also available in print form here
At a time of cynical and depressing news both here and abroad I thought I would share this for you all this morning. It’s not often that something grips me as this story has done but I just love this new homeless venture from our nation’s capital.
An Edinburgh charity realised that we can’t live on just food and water alone. That would be just survival. Street Reads, run by Edinburgh local Rachel Cowan, builds upon the work of other traditional homeless organisations by giving homeless people free books.
Almost anyone can find themselves homeless under certain difficult circumstances and in many ways life in the UK is not getting any easier for a lot of people. Living where I do in our (soggy but still beautiful…) island paradise, I appreciate all that I now have in my own life. Perhaps that is why this post from Street Reads, which I share below, has resonated deeply with me.
Although I can never imagine being truly homeless and alone in the world, I have slept out overnight on city pavements during my world travels. I’ve also experienced days when I had no money for food. I’ve met people from all walks of life who’ve not been as fortunate as me and who ended up alienated from society and living rough on the streets.
Later today, I will be sending a parcel of books to Edinburgh. What about you?
Sometime very, very soon I’ll be unveiling the cover for my latest stand-alone thriller The Devil You Know. The artwork is down to a short list of two now so watch this space! I’m very excited to say that the book will then be ready for publication as the final proofs and editing are completed.
I’m told that the publication date will be early August. Meanwhile, keep up to date with me on Facebook.
All the best!
This second Ridge Walker novel is also available in print form here
Hello and thanks for stopping by!
I’ve been busy finalising my stand-alone thriller The Devil You Know and I’m now at that nail-biting stage of awaiting last minute edit issues and final proofs.
To calm my nerves I’ve been reading a lot and attending writing classes and groups and any little snippets that I’ve shared from the book have been well received.
But, in this process of devouring books by the wheelbarrow-full and then meeting new or aspiring writers face to face I’ve been blown away by both the incredible breadth of talent that is out there waiting to be discovered and the utter predictability of much of the popular fiction around.
So, I have written this wee guide to some of the things I, in my humble opinion, think new writer’s should try and avoid. Most of the problems revolve around this problem of being predictable. Of course there are some genres where a cosy predictability is expected and readers feel comfortable with that so let me just say that in general here, I am talking about crime, thriller and mystery genres which are the kinds of books I would normally go for.
The Disposable Female
Don’t start your book with the unfortunate demise of yet another young blonde girl found slashed by the side of the road. Yes it happens in the real world too often, but in fiction it’s sometimes just an easy option. Why not think of something more original or challenging to hook the reader?
Too often recently I’ve found books where there seems to be an excessive zeal for violence towards women. Again that is a sad side of modern life but perhaps we should as writers try and lift our heads a little higher and take a different perspective from time to time. In my third Ridge Walker novel, so far untitled, there will be admittedly more than one dead woman but I usually like to spread the carnage equally between genders and I guarantee you that the unique angle I have taken should more than make up for the body count.
The Bumbling Cop
I don’t write in the mystery genre but I’ve read a few lately and I thought the Miss Marple idea had been done to death a long time ago. With the technological marvels at their disposal nowadays, I doubt if the police could be shown up by your average amateur detectives. Love them or loathe them, don’t make the police appear like idiots because they wouldn’t draw a pay packet for too long if they were.
The Alcoholic Cop
There are many famous cop characters who wouldn’t be the same if they didn’t drink too much. Again the drug angle can provide interest but my point is they have all been done too many times already. Why not have your top cop as a marathon runner or a vegan? It might be unusual but it would also be less predictable. In The Devil You Know, my cop protagonist is a non-drinker. I know… in Scotland.
They say that being a writer kills your enjoyment of reading books.
I’m not sure I’d go that far but when I can guess the ending after less than a third of a ‘mystery’ or ‘crime/suspense’ novel then your plot needs some work done.
Same thing goes for a plot that has so many possibilities for who might be the baddie that it looks like the author just drew a straw on the last page and that was that. It has got to make sense and so the plot has to work no matter how convoluted it may be.
A lovely lady recently said to me, after reading The Piper’s Lament, that she couldn’t imagine keeping all the plot threads in place in her head. She compared my book to an ‘Arran Sweater’ which is a traditional Scottish woollen jumper with lots of threads perpendicular to each other which I took to be a compliment.
To prevent this post getting too long, let me summarise a lot of common faults with new writers by saying STOP using predictable stereotypes. It’s dull, boring and plain lazy. In my Ridge Walker series there are a group of ex-Marines who are all as tough as they come. So far so predictable, right? But they are also gay, they like to wear feather boas and outrageous make-up but as they make their living as mercenaries you’d be a brave soul to call them stereotypes. Unlikely you think? Of course they aren’t, they’re just unusual. Interesting even.
Predictable Language & Imagery
Last one and it’s a stoater. If you’ve ever read Stephen King’s excellent book ‘On Writing‘ then you’ll know all about the writer’s toolbox.
Avoid black as coal or cold as ice and all those similes and metaphors that appear in too many pieces of writing from school homework assignments onwards.
Know the rules then break them but make sure you know you’re doing so. Her lop-sided mouth had the sensuality of roughly torn sandpaper, only more abrasive. You’ll get the idea.
All the best!
Also available in print form here
I attend a Writing Group over on the mainland and sometimes we talk about poetry which is NOT my chosen area of literary expertise by a country mile. But I think we ALL have a few poems that resonate deeply with us.
I was impressed at how several of the class could remember poetry from school word for word because it had touched them so deeply.
That shouldn’t be so surprising as many of us can recite the lyrics to songs that we might not have heard for years. I not that musical but ask me to sing (badly) the words to any David Bowie song and I can cheerfully recite them word-perfect without having to think about it.
I often think that much of what is commonly called ‘Music’ could equally be termed ‘poetry’ once you mute out the distraction of the background sounds.
To me the beauty of words will shine out in music or poetry and it is a form of magic.
Words can weave spells can they not?
I included this video from Maya Angelou (sent to me by Julie from my writing group) because I think she epitomises that mesmerising ability to subtly weave words into something special, something magical, musical, mystical and lyrical.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
All the best!
PS: I know I’ve not been posting much this year but I’ve been working hard at completing my stand-alone thriller ‘The Devil You Know‘ which I hope will be published by Seilachan Fort early summer.
It was an appropriately dark and dreich affair outside but for the few hardy souls that fought their way to Oban Library, the conditions indoors were considerably warmer and more welcoming.
It was a big first for me, to be honest. My first book in the Ridge Walker series, He Who Pays The Piper, was not so much launched in a tumultuous fanfare of publicity as meekly tossed on to the ever-increasing digital heap of self-published eBooks back in 2012.
But things have changed since then.
I’ve got an imprint to publish my books, Seilachan Fort. They will be publishing other books too in the next year or so so if you are a Scots writer (unpublished) then get in touch with me and I’ll make the introductions for you.
I’m also very excited to have broken out of the Amazon/Kindle ghetto and The Piper’s Lament is being sold by mainstream bookstores in the UK and abroad such as Waterstones. I cannot tell you just how much that means to me. It would have meant so much to my old dad also, to have been able to walk into his local book shop and buy my book. He never did get the hang of the internet and he sadly passed away only this summer on his 84th birthday.
So we chatted about writing and the awful events around the world which always seem to overshadow even the most horrific international incidents an author could conjure on to the page. Books were sold and a little wine was consumed to warm our innards.
I would like to thank the amazing staff at Oban Library, particularly Sue, for the comforting ambience and also to the good people of the West Highlands who didn’t let horizontal rain deflect them from coming to see me.
All the best!
Tony Black has been described as Irvine Welsh’s ‘favourite British crime writer’ and I’ve also been a huge fan for ages.
So it was well worth the effort on a dreich Scottish evening to pop over to the mainland to meet Tony in the cosy venue of Oban Library as he talked about the craft of writing and his latest DI Bob Valentine novel, A Taste Of Ashes.
As it turned out, Tony Black is also an island boy himself these days, in his case the picturesque Isle of Arran, just a little further down the West Coast and a popular biking destination for me when I’m feeling energetic.
Despite the weather and a plethora of Book Week Scotland events over the previous few days the turnout was excellent and the well-informed audience enjoyed a good chat and a warming glass of wine.
Tony was very relaxed and approachable for an established author with a dozen books behind him and we were all captivated.
Tony and I talked afterwards about the balancing act that authors must perform between using true-to-life vernacular in dialogue and attracting the widest possible audiences. I myself have not been a stranger to the odd expletive or two but my writing style would be classed as ‘vanilla’ in comparison to Tony’s early novels.
I mentioned that I would be swapping seats with him in a couple of weeks as Oban Library is the very place where my UK launch of The Piper’s Lament would be taking place.
He gave me some valuable insights and tips and I left him with a firm pledge to keep in touch.
You can find out more about Tony and his work over on his Pulp Pusher blog. Tell him I sent you!
If you are lucky enough to live in Scotland, I hope you all enjoyed Book Week Scotland 2015.
And no matter where you live, go out there and celebrate books and reading!
That’s all for now. I must go and rehearse my lines for a talk I’m giving tomorrow for students of our local college, Argyll College. Perhaps there will be a budding Tony Black in the audience.
All the best!
At long last the second Ridge Walker book has been published by Seilachan Fort and I am an ecstatic chappie.
There is no doubt that it’s been a difficult year for my family with too many tragedies including the death of my father, but as we approach the winter, I know that he would have been so proud to have seen this book finally out in print.
The Piper’s Lament is another international adventure and this time Ridge is plunged into an exotic world thousands of miles away in the humid hills of northern Pakistan.
Held captive my merciless terrorists, his life swings in the balance and with time running out fast, Ridge must weigh up just who to trust before everything he holds dear is cruelly snatched from him.
In this explosive thriller, Ridge has to contend with the thorny issues of religious fanaticism, gender inequalities and a simmering cauldron of racial intolerance as the Western world’s so-called War on Terror threatens to boil over into a bloody and brutal conflict that will blight a generation.
I hope you enjoy the book and for those of you in Scotland, look out for the official UK launch in early December.
I’ve negotiated a special deal for my loyal (and patient) blog subscribers – if you buy The Piper’s Lament in print form and leave a positive review on Amazon before the end of October, I will post you a signed paperback copy of He Who Pays The Piper for FREE!
I am already well ahead with the plotting of the third Ridge Walker book which takes him to the Far East. The publication date for this book is next Autumn. Before then you can also look forward to my stand-alone Scottish thriller The Devil You Know which will come out in the Spring.
All the best!