Recently Read – Tenacity by J. S. Law


Genre; Crime

  Lieutenant Danielle (“Dan”) Lewis, the only female investigator in the Royal Navy’s Special Investigation Branch, is called upon to investigate the apparent suicide of a Chief Petty Officer on HMS Tenacity, a nuclear submarine. As the submariners embark on a naval exercise, Dan is forced to share their claustrophobic, closed environment. The ultimate outsider in this hyper-masculine world, she needs to find a way to navigate the code of this tight-knit group of men whilst unmasking a killer.

My Thoughts:

You have to read this book! 

Yes, it’s another of those books I’m going to rave about. Another of those books that I already know has made it into my top list of books read this year (when I create it at the end of the year). 

It had me hooked from the very start with the prologue – which can I just say, was stunning! – to the very end of the book, which has now left me wanting to know when J.S.Law is going to be bringing the next book out. 
Let me explain a little more… Dan, short for Danielle, is our main protagonist and has returned to work after the dramatic events that occurred in, and followed the prologue. She is part of the Royal Navy police and is on a specialist team investigating deaths. The team is locally known as the Kill team. I can’t remember why the acronym works but it does. 

When a suicide occurs on HMS Tenacity Dan is called to investigate and this is what I loved. I loved learning about the workings of submarines, submariners and the Royal Navy. Having a submarine as a setting is fantastic. It had me absolutely mesmerised. The way of life on board in those small cramped, confined, conditions made great reading. I learned so much yet it didn’t feel as though I was learning, the submarine and the functioning on board life was a character of its own which fitted in naturally with the narrative. 

Dan finds the whole experience harsh and it’s not just the conditions she finds herself in but she finds she’s not exactly welcome on this all (currently) male environment. 

If you’re interested in understanding something quite obscure in the crime genre world and you want to be hooked from the very first page to the gob smacking ending, then this just might be a book for you. 

You can find J.S Law’s First Draft Q&A from last Friday, Here. 

What’s Your First Draft Like? – J. S. Law

Today I’m pleased to welcome J.S Law to the blog to talk about his first draft process.

XJmGanVnVix2Bkp0F9eEKws9A8nIbU7iRkAWuaZP9AI,LL9xeR8uuhBVN8gZO-xGfjjcmIuIAbaYgcTBXsyTKLA,XuTY_Dtp6-YtuTzxsYHhRmH1BVu_Ygi_UrEJ_Gwwx6MJames joined the Royal Navy in 1993 as an apprentice and went on to serve for twenty years, the majority spent in the Submarine Service. He rose through the ranks, taking a commission as an engineering officer in 2001, and serving as a Senior Engineer and Nuclear Reactor Plant Supervisor, where his responsibilities ranged from the safety and operation of the submarine’s nuclear power plant to hydraulic plants, fridges and toilets; it was the latter of these tasks that brought the majority of any pressure. His final years in service were spent training future submariners in his role of Senior Lecturer in Nuclear Reactor Engineering.

Having written short stories and novels throughout his naval career, James completed an MA in Creative Writing at Portsmouth University shortly before leaving the navy in 2013, completing his debut novel, Tenacity, shortly afterwards. James lives in Hampshire with his wife, Elaine, and two children. He spends what spare time he has riding his bike around the South Downs and travelling to Edinburgh to watch Scotland play rugby at Murrayfield stadium.

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

I’m an obsessive plotter – like I won’t start writing until I have at least fifteen to twenty-five thousand words in plot, back-story, characters etc. I think I almost do my first draft like this. So for me, the first thing to do, is to go to my lovely big whiteboard, get some pens and just map out the key components that I want to be in the story, then start looking at things that link them and how a storyline might knock them all about and shake them up.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

Yes – I think I have a very structured approach, maybe a little too structured, if that’s possible! I start at the whiteboard mapping out ideas and then move those thoughts to some mind mapping software – I use iThoughtsX in case anyone wants to know – I play around on there using the lines to link characters, themes and crimes and then, when I’m ready, I start a document in word and write a full synopsis, this can be upwards of 5-10,000 words or more, then I’ll use that, insert a table and do a chapter by chapter breakdown. I use three columns to capture different thoughts, ideas and motives. As I said above, In some ways this is my first draft as I look at each chapter and work out what will happen, but also what I want the reader to think, what threads I want to lay down, what things I need to foreshadow and what I want the chapter to achieve. This can take a long time… Once I have my breakdown, I open scrivener and start into my first draft proper. My first drafts are messy affairs. I don’t stop to research or for anything really, I just get the story down. If I don’t know something, I make it up, or just leave it with a note to come back later. I work in scrivener until I’ve done the first draft and an on-screen edit, then I export to Word and work from there – usually printing off and doing a paper read through and then editing as required.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

Keyboard – every time. Doctors joke about my handwriting!!

How important is research to you?

You know, not very. I write in the Naval setting, which I now well after 20 years in the navy, but I don’t write procedurals and don’t want to, so for me, if I don’t know what a real-life copper might do, I just make it up – it’s fiction after all. Even on my naval stuff, for reasons of security, or just because I don’t know, some things aren’t totally accurate, but only about 0.001% of the population would know, and half of them won’t care, so I just go with whatever I think at the time – the key is to have an exciting story, not a manual.

How do you go about researching?

In the manner of a sloth climbing a tree – slowly and reluctantly!

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

Evernote – I’m never without my phone or ipad and I take notes, pictures, voice recordings etc. into them all the time.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

Once I have my chapter breakdown, I normally know the shape, but things still change and I’m happy with that – so often I’ll reach a point and something will happen that I like, so I’ll have to make changes to the plan. Tenacity started off as a book about a serial killer and became something entirely different half way through. I didn’t stop and go back though, I just carried on and wrote the second half as it came, then went back and changed the beginning after – the key is to finish!

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

Green tea – I drink an outrageous amount of it when writing. Other than that – not really. I do clean the study between drafts, kinda…

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

I get pretty lost in it and can be a tiny bit grumpy if I get disturbed, so I try not to write when kids are up and about or people are around that are likely to want to interact with me. I think, as a writer, you really have to protect your writing time jealously, almost to the point of being unreasonable. Most other people won’t ‘get it’ and think of it as a hobby anyway, whereas at my day job, people wouldn’t just call to chew the fat. If I’m at my study writing, people will wonder in with a whole host of things that break my concentration ‘can you help fold the bedding’ is a totally reasonable request, but it isn’t time sensitive and, in my humble writer’s opinion, can and should wait, though it seldom does.

What does your workspace look like?

After I picked up my deal for Tenacity I re-decorated my study, put a huge whiteboard on one wall, a new curved desk and a large screen mac, so the room looks pretty good. However, I’m quite messy and when I’m in a writing cycle I don’t do a lot of clearing up, so the study is often very messy, getting cleaned up only between drafts.


Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

Smash out the words and sort ‘em later. I don’t stop for anything during my first draft. I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression? Definitely a word-counter and one of my close friends and I actually do daily reports on progress to each other. I use the deadline tool on scrivener too, so I know how much trouble I’m in.

So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

My fastest first draft was 38 days start to finish – others have taken longer. Tenacity took me around 7 months to write.

q3acyYZu0mHuZoJLLhO_5Q18P3nEkaqpz0PDcNSIlvkIn what format do you like to read it through, e-reader, paper or the computer screen?

The vast majority of my book consumption is audiobooks. I drive a lot and listen while I work out and sometimes when I walk. I do around 25-30 audiobooks a year. When I do actually read, I’m e-reader all the way, but I still buy books as I like having them around. This is obviously different with my own drafts, where I prefer on screen until it’s quite mature – then I’ll print out and bind for a paper edit. What happens now that first draft is done? I’ll try and get some space, if deadline allows, take a few weeks away from it before I come back to edit and re-read. I normally read a book then to take my mind off of my own and to fill the gap.

Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.

You can find JS Law on Amazon, his Website and Twitter.


24485890Suicide must be investigated.

Especially when a Royal Navy sailor kills himself on a nuclear submarine, only days after his wife’s brutal murder.

Now Lieutenant Danielle Lewis, the Navy’s finest Special Branch investigator, must interrogate the tight-knit, male crew of HMS Tenacity to determine if there’s a link.

Isolated, and standing alone in the face of extreme hostility, Dan soon realises that she may have to choose between the truth and her own survival.

Justice must be served, but with a possible killer on board the pressure is rising and her time is running out…

BritCrime Authors In Conversation

Following my involvement in the fabulous weekend that was BritCrime 2015, I thought I’d share this video which was created by Harper Collins and involves BritCrime authors. 

They discuss Twitter, Psuedonyms and quiting your job. It’s a frank and honest discussion and great fun to watch. I hope you enjoy it.

I’m now heading out of the country on my holidays for two weeks. There are two posts scheduled in and I have lots of reading planned. If I get chance I will review some of the books I’m reading but you can keep up with my by the occasional tweet or photo on Instagram. Time consuming blog posts in general will not be a priority though. (And my house is not left empty! :)

I look forward to catching up with you in a couple of weeks. Please share this video. If it’s widely shared then Harper Collins will help create more for out pleasure. 

What’s Your First Draft Like? – Neil White

Today we have the pleasure of crime author Neil White talking us through his first draft process.

Keith White photographed by Charlie Hopkinson.
Keith White photographed by Charlie Hopkinson.

 Neil was raised in West   Yorkshire where he flunked  his exams and spent a few  years drifting and dreaming.  In his mid-20’s, he returned to  education to study law,   swapping a dole cheque for a   student grant and giving  himself a few more years of  avoiding gainful employment.  Qualifying as a solicitor at 30, he grew bored of that adventure and started to write. Twelve years of poor attempts and rejection slips led to a contract with Avon in 2006, with his first book, Fallen Idols, published in 2007. He published six books with Avon before moving to Sphere in 2012, with the first of the Parker brothers novels, Next To Die, published in 2013. He is married with three children and still practise as a criminal lawyer. He spends his time watching films, rugby league and lounging.

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

The first thing I do is try to scribble something down. It might just be a general idea, or it might be a succession of scenes, but I need to have a map, some kind of direction, knowledge of where I’m going. I know that some people like it to unfold in front of them. I can’t do that, because I don’t trust my instincts enough.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

I make symbolic gestures, like buying a new notebook and a pen, saying to myself, “this is my book 9 notebook”, or something similar. If I wanted to make myself sound good, I would say that it’s a way of drawing a line between what had gone before and what lay ahead. In reality, it’s just an excuse to fanny around a bit and put off what I’m actually supposed to be doing: writing a book.


Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

This is partly an answer to the previous question, but once I’ve got my notebook, I’ll sit myself down with a bottle of wine and start to write short scene summaries, often just a ramble, but it allows me to see the first fifth of the book. Once I can see the first 20,000 words or so, I go to the keyboard. Starting a book is nerve-wracking, because I never know until it’s finished whether it was the right idea. The first part of the book is always the most painful too. It’s a new idea, from sIMG_0205cratch, following the end of a previous book that I’d sharpened and polished and got into its groove. I force myself to keep going, but the beginning of a book is the part that will end up being changed the most.


How important is research to you?

It’s important but the amount of research depends on the subject matter of the book. For instance, my third book, Last Rites, had the Pendle Witches as the background so I did a lot of background research for that. Other books have been based on a real personality (Dead Silent had a Lord Lucan background; Cold Kill was based on Dennis Rader; Beyond Evil was based on a low-rent Charlie Manson), so the research was really about getting to know certain things I could include. My main bugbear is accuracy. I’m a criminal lawyer as well as a writer and I don’t like things to be wrong, certainly in relation to legal matters. Similarly with locations. I try to describe them accurately. If I can’t, because they don’t fit the plot, I make the places fictional. If you stretch reality with locations, you are just inviting emails pointing it out (I have them!)

How do you go about researching?

The internet is a great resource, and it can often uncover things that don’t come from a simple book. In terms of locations, you can’t beat visiting the place. You will see things that you can’t get from Streetview. It might be something as simple as a lorry yard you weren’t aware of that provides a constant noise, or an ice cream van in a scenic location. If I visit a location, what I see tends to make it into the book, even if it’s a person who may never be at that location again.

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

This is the unreliable part: in my head, mostly. I do take photographs, and make notes as I go along, but on the whole I rely on my memory. I’m not very organised in that respect. I’ve tried all the mind mapping software and things like Pinterest, but I don’t do it well enough. I tried Scrivener once but it didn’t work for me.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

In a fairly linear fashion, one scene at a time. I write books from three or four different character perspectives and sometimes I will stick with a particular character for a while, to stick with the mood, and then slot them all together, but I never get too far ahead. The book as a whole is developed in chunks. Plot the first fifth then write it, followed by plotting the second fifth, etc.

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

Silence and solitude is the main thing. I know some authors can write in pubs and cafes, but I can’t. I used to write with headphones and 6Music on, but I struggle to do that now. Sometimes I might buy some sweets, but that’s really just an excuse to buy some sweets. Midget Gems are my usual ones (Lion only, not Maynards). Other than that, coffee, coffee, coffee.

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

If I’m doing my first draft, the outside world exists a little too much. I’m easily distracted and will soon find an excuse to do something else. Films and rugby league are my main distractions. If I’m editing, I tend to shut myself away until it’s finished, usually because I’m working to a publisher’s deadline that is just plain mean.

What does your work space look like?

I have a room where I watch films and sport and my desk is in the corner of that. It’s a wooden desk with an iMac on it, with a printer and various scraps of paper that never seem to get tidied away. I’m not very neat and can end up with my keyboard occupying the only piece of spare desk. Cups perch, pens fall onto the floor


Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

A mix of both. The first thing I do is go through what I did the night or day before, because it’s a good way of sharpening loose thoughts and spotting pretentiousness, particularly if I do it in the morning. I know that when I get stuck it’s usually because I don’t know what happens next, that I’ve got to the end of my planned section, so I go back to the beginning. I edit and sharpen, to give my mind time to work out what should happen next and to remind myself of what had gone before. Then it’s time for another bottle of wine and another scribble session.

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

I use the word counter at the bottom of a Word document. I’m a bit lazy with it, and I wish I could force myself to keep going, but I set a target of 1,000 words a day. Sometimes I will finish the scene, but often I’ll get to a 1,000 words and decide I’ve met my target so I can sit around and do nothing again. People like Lee Child prefer to blast out the books in three months, after months of planning, and I wish I could, but my approach to life tends to be do just enough to get by.

So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

Writing one first draft will often overlap with the editing requirements for a previous book. The calendar answer is ten or eleven months, but the reality is probably around eight months. It’s usually pretty rough and I know it needs plenty of work, but that’s the part I prefer. I have a completed story. The polishing part is where it’s improved and comes to life.

In what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?

Eventually, I will print it off, because I spot things on paper I don’t spot on the screen. I’ve read somewhere that if you change format, you spot things, because your mind has to read it afresh rather than relying on a mix of memory and what is in front of you. It does help enormously to sit there with a pen and make scrawling notes on paper, compared to scrolling through it on a screen.

What happens now that first draft is done?

Take a deep breath and then panic about whether it’s good enough. Send it to my editor and then start planning the next book. Time frightens me, whether I will finish the next book, so I rarely allow myself much time between books.

Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.

You can find Neil on his website, Twitter and Facebook.
The Domino Killer

IMG_0203When a man is found beaten to death in a local Manchester park, Detective Constable Sam Parker is one of the investigating officers. Sam swiftly identifies the victim, but what at first looks like an open and shut case quickly starts to unravel when he realises that the victim’s fingerprints were found on a knife at another crime scene, a month earlier.
Meanwhile, Sam’s brother, Joe – a criminal defence lawyer in the city – comes face to face with a man whose very presence sends shockwaves through his life. Joe must confront the demons of his past as he struggles to come to terms with the darkness that this man represents.

Rosie Claverton on How Mental Health Is Depicted In Crime Fiction

I had the great pleasure of talking to Rosie Claverton yesterday about the issues surrounding mental health and its depiction in fiction, particularly crime fiction. Rosie works in psychiatry as well as writing her own crime series, The Amy Lane Mysteries.

This was a Skype chat but the recording software froze as we talked because I didn’t have the Skype call at the front of my screen as we talked, instead I had Rosie’s bio up. This is something I figured out when we started moving again as soon as the interview finished and I closed the word document and we started moving! So future bite-sized interviews should run more smoothly. We had the option of re-doing this but because it’s a really interesting conversation on mental health and psycho killers etc we decided that we’d keep it as audio only. I hope you enjoy it.



Do you think killers in novels are too easily passed off as being ‘crazy’? What are your thoughts, I’d love to hear them?!

Recently Read – Random by Craig Robertson

Random by Craig Robertson

Genre; Crime

RandomGlasgow is being terrorised by a serial killer the media have nicknamed The Cutter. The murders have left the police baffled. There seems to be neither rhyme nor reason behind the killings; no kind of pattern or motive; an entirely different method of murder each time, and nothing that connects the victims except for the fact that the little fingers of their right hands have been severed.
If DS Rachel Narey could only work out the key to the seemingly random murders, how and why the killer selects his victims, she would be well on her way to catching him. But as the police, the press and a threatening figure from Glasgow’s underworld begin to close in on The Cutter, his carefully-laid plans threaten to unravel – with horrifying consequences.

My Thoughts:

This novel is told from the point of view of “The Cutter”. It’s the second novel this year that I’ve read where the novel is narrated from the point of view of the serial killer and it’s the second novel this year that I’ve loved that about it.

You’re thrown straight into his mind as the novel starts and it’s a dark and focused place.

The title of the novel comes from the fact that the way he murders his victims is always random, never the same way twice and Robertson is quite inventive when choosing modes of murder for his victims! I particularly liked his first one and was interested to find out during BritCrime at the weekend that it had been used as a real way to murder someone.

But don’t be fooled by the random but inventive deaths. This is no killer on a spree, this is a great story of a man unravelling. It also has a whole other twisted story wrapped around in it and at the end you are left in awe at how Robertson pulled all the threads together. Like I say; not just a spree killer novel.

Glasgow also plays a great role in Random. You can see and hear the sights and sounds of the city as our killer moves about within it.

Random was Robertson’s debut. I now can’t wait to read his other books. This is one I’d definitely recommend.

Books In The Castle Festival – Newark

Are you a book lover local to Nottinghamshire? One who also doesn’t mind a beautiful location? Well how about a book festival held in stunning castle grounds?!

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Newark Castle in Nottinghamshire is holding its first ‘Books in the Castle’ festival on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th August and there is already talk of there being another festival next year so it’s worth going to this first one; the one where it all starts.


If it’s crime you are looking for then you will find crime authors Peter Robinson, Stephen Booth and Nick Quantrill.

You can find out all about the festival, times, ticket prices, how to get there and much more, on the website HERE. It promises to be a great weekend.

What’s Your First Draft Like? – Mason Cross

Today I have crime author Mason Cross on the blog talking about his first draft process.

MCpic2Mason is the author of the Carter Blake thriller series. The first book, The Killing Season, was published by Orion in 2014, and the sequel, The Samaritan is published in the UK on July 16 2015.

His short crime stories have been published in magazines including Ellery Queen and First Edition. His story, ‘A Living’, was shortlisted for the Quick Reads ‘Get Britain Reading’ Award.


When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

The first thing I do is to start noting down all of the ideas I have about the new project and start trying to get a very basic plot outline scribbled down. It’s always interesting looking back once I’ve finished a book to how radically different the finished product is from the first few ideas, but there are always some good scenes or characters or even lines of dialogue that make it through from inception to completion.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

I’m still fairly new to this, so I’m experimenting with different ways to approach a new book. Having now written four novels, I’m beginning to work out the things to do to make my life easier. The most important thing is to write a rough but reasonably detailed synopsis that gives me the main characters and the key scenes. From experience, that synopsis changes a lot as I write, but it’s important to fool myself into thinking I know what I’m doing.

WP_000445Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

Depends where I am. If I’m out and about when I have an idea, I’ll usually write in a notebook or type some bullet points into the notes app on my phone. As soon as I get near a computer though, I like to transcribe my notes and start to arrange them into a coherent order. There’s one very important reason to do this as soon as possible, and that’s the fact that I have real trouble reading my own handwriting. I think I missed my calling as a doctor.

How important is research to you?

Quite important, because I like to ground my novels in reality as far as possible to balance out the more outlandish thriller-y elements. I don’t overdo research before I start writing, though – a) because it’s a great excuse for procrastination, and b) because the temptation to dump all the research you’ve done into the book is strong. I try to write as much of the book as possible and then research the gaps in my knowledge… which are numerous! The good thing about research is it will often give you a great idea for a new plot twist, or a solution to a story problem you’d been struggling with.

How do you go about researching?

Like most writers these days, I do a lot of Googling. The internet is an incredible resource for lots of things, from the minutiae of firearms to flight schedules to street views from all over planet Earth. I also read factual books and newspaper or magazine articles about topics that are relevant to whatever I’m writing. It’s always good to have visited the place you’re writing about (assuming it exists), but even when you’ve been to a place you can always learn more by reading about it. How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye? I always have a few notebooks on the go and try to record ideas and promising-looking research avenues as I find them. Quite often a newspaper article or website will have really useful information, so I email the pages to myself and store them in a (now gigantic) folder called ‘INTERESTING STUFF FOR BOOKS’

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

I just try to plough ahead, knowing that it isn’t going to be perfect or pretty, but that it’s important to get a first draft to work on. It’s like working on any big project – you have good days and bad days. Sometimes you’ll make a breakthrough and get a lot of words down and they seem to be reasonably good words, other days you’ll be spinning your wheels, wondering if you should just give up on the whole thing. On those days, it’s important just to get some words down, no matter how clumsy, and trust that you’ll be able to fix them later on.

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

No – I just need space and time to write. That’s the challenging part. The main ritual is making sure I get time to write every day, whether it’s last thing at night or during lunch.

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

Unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of withdrawing from the world as I have a day job and young children, so I have to make the most of the available time. I think being forced to engage with the real world helps, though. You need to know about real life and real people to do the job.

What does your work space look like?

At the moment, I’m a writer without a workspace. The office is going to be redecorated, and so I have to make to with the kitchen table, the couch, or sitting on the floor with my back to the wall. Luckily I’ve never been the sort of writer who needs a perfect environment in which to write.

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

Mostly just keep getting the words down. Occasionally, if I have a really bright idea of how to fix an earlier scene I might go back and tweak a little, but mostly it’s about gritting my teeth and focusing on the finish line. I see many writers counting words in a day.

Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

Definitely a word counter. I always aim to do at least 500 words a day. Most days I do more than that, but it’s important to have a realistic target that’s not too intimidating. So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in? My last couple of books have been written to deadline, so much faster than before I had a book deal. It takes me about 4-5 months to get a rough draft down, but that’s very rough indeed. After that it’s usually another month or two to get it in a good enough shape to send to my publisher. The most recent book is my most ambitious and sprawling to date, and it took a lot more time to whip into shape.

In what format do you like to read it through, e-reader, paper or the computer screen?

The first time I read through I have to print out. For some reason you miss the mistakes more easily on a screen. Later on, I send the document to my Kindle to read over a more polished draft.

What happens now that first draft is done?

Ideally, I take a break for a few weeks and come back to it fresh, but the available time doesn’t always allow that. When I come back to the draft the first thing I do is print it out and go through with a pencil and a notebook and lots of different coloured highlighters working out everything that needs to be fixed. There’s always a lot that needs fixed.



Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you Mason.

It’s been a pleasure for me too!

You can find Mason on his blog, Goodreads and Twitter.

The Samaritan by Mason Cross

21566238When the mutilated body of a young woman is discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains, LAPD Detective Jessica Allen knows this isn’t the work of a first-time killer.

She’s seen this MO before – two and a half years ago on the other side of the country. Allen begins to dig deeper and soon uncovers a terrifying truth. A sadistic serial killer has been operating undetected for the past decade, preying on lone female drivers who have broken down. The press dub the killer ‘the Samaritan’, but with no leads and a killer who leaves no traces, the police investigation quickly grinds to a halt.

That’s when Carter Blake shows up to volunteer his services. He’s a skilled manhunter with an uncanny ability to predict the Samaritan’s next moves. At first, Allen and her colleagues are suspicious. After all, their new ally shares some uncomfortable similarities to the man they’re tracking.

But as the Samaritan takes his slaughter to the next level, Blake is forced to reveal that the similarities between the two men are closer than even Allen suspects. With time running out and an opponent who knows all of his tricks, Blake must find a way to stop the Samaritan …even if it means bringing his own past crashing down on top of him.


You can find all previous First Draft Q&A’s HERE and if you fancy answering them yourself just let me know.

Do You Want To Learn To Write Crime Fiction?

Do you want to learn to write crime fiction from a best-selling crime fiction novelist?


Well, now you can. With the professional Writing Academy in association with BritCrime. Yes, BritCrime has done it again. Not only has it brought you a full weekend of crime authors at your fingertips FREE of charge, it is now bringing you BritCrime summer school, an online course which is an introduction to writing crime fiction over a four-week period.

  • You will be tutored by crime writer Tom Bromley.
  • Learning materials include videos, podcasts, reading suggestions, practical writing exercises and examples of good practice.
  • And there is a mid-course live chat with guest author, BritCrime’s very own, Sarah Hilary, bestselling author of Someone Else’s Skin and No Other Darkness.

All details on this fabulous short course can be found HERE.

You can join up specifically for my panel, Serial Killer Thrillers, with Jane Isaac, Steven Dunne and Craig Robertson, at BritCrime Here.

Are you looking forward to BritCrime this coming weekend? Which panel are you excited about (and no, you don’t have to say mine! :) )

What’s Your First Draft Like? – Sarah Ward

Today I have crime writer, Sarah Ward on the blog answering questions on her first draft process. This is a part of her ongoing blog tour which I’m thrilled to be a part of. It’s definitely worth checking out the other blogs on the tour!

In Bitter Chill blog tour

Iceland1SARAH WARD is an online book reviewer whose blog, Crimepieces, reviews the best of current crime fiction. She is a judge for the Petrona Award for Scandinavian translated crime novels. Sarah lives in rural Derbyshire where her debut novel, In Bitter Chill is set.



When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

I write the opening scene. And in the two books I’ve now written it’s these passages that have hardly changed at all. The opening chapter sets the tone of the rest of the book and, I like to think, lays out the mystery that is subsequently unravelled.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

I like to write about 1,000 words a day. It’s usually in the morning as this is my most productive time. And very occasionally later in the evening. Never in the afternoons. Having a word count target is a good way of keeping me going.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

I write straight onto my laptop. I learnt to do this when I was writing professionally in the civil service. I’m not a brilliant typist so there are a lot of deletions as I write.

How important is research to you?

I try to write the story first and then see where the obvious gaps in my research are once the first draft is done. That said, I did some of the research up front for my second book as I wanted to make sure that the premise was realistic.

How do you go about researching?

There’s a retired Derbyshire detective I’m in touch with and a younger former policeman who I e-mail. I do some research, such as in relation to weapons, on the internet. And, as both my books incorporate elements of the past, I try to watch some TV programmes of the era.

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

I pin things onto my wall with blue tac which ruins the paintwork but does allow me to visually see colours and so on. I also take images on my phone. Seasons in the countryside are an important element in my writing and I like to remind myself what flower, for example, is in bloom at a particular time.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

I write in a linear way. In other words I start at the beginning and keep going. If there’s something I don’t know or can’t remember, I put an ‘[x]’ in the text and keep going. It’s the only way I can keep to my word count. This means, however, by the end of my first draft there are lots of gaps that need filling in. But I do have the basis of something to work with for the second draft.

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

I listen to music so I need to have some headphones. I don’t think I’m able to write in total silence any more. And I drink a lot of tea.

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

I don’t think I’m ever completely transported during my first draft. That definitely happens in subsequent drafts but I think I’m just trying to get words down on the page in the first instance. I think a lot about where the narrative is going.

What does your workspace look like?

I write either at my desk which is in an upstairs study facing away from the window which looks out onto the beautiful countryside where I live. I need to keep distractions to a minimum, unfortunately. I do a lot of the first draft in a local coffee shop too. It’s nice to get out of the house when you’re sitting for hours in front of a computer.


Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

I don’t really edit as I go unless something has gone seriously wrong in the plot. Then I might go back and change something if I think the story is going in a different direction than I’d anticipated.

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

Definitely a word counter.

So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

I’d say it takes around four months for me to complete the first draft.

IMG_0850In what format do you like to read it through, e-reader, paper or the computer screen?

The first read through is on the computer. The next one I spend a fortune on printer ink reading it on hard copy.

What happens now that first draft is done?

I give myself a week off. And then the really hard editing starts.

Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft Sarah. It’s been a pleasure having you.

You can find Sarah on her Website, Facebook and Twitter.

In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward

24790847In 1978, a small town in Derbyshire, England is traumatised by the kidnapping of two young schoolgirls. One girl, Rachel, is later found unharmed but unable to remember anything except that her abductor was a woman.

Over thirty years later the mother of the still missing Sophie commits suicide. Superintendent Llewellyn, who was a young constable on the 1978 case, asks DI Francis Sadler and DC Connie Childs to look again at the kidnapping to see if modern police methods can discover something that the original team missed. However, Sadler is convinced that a more recent event triggered Yvonne Jenkins’s suicide.

Rachel, with the help of her formidable mother and grandmother, recovered from the kidnapping and has become a family genealogist. She remembers nothing of the abduction and is concerned that, after Yvonne Jenkins’s suicide, the national media will be pursuing her for a story once more. Days later, the discovery of one of her former teachers’ strangled body suggested a chain of events is being unleashed.

Rachel and the police must unpick the clues to discover what really happened all those years ago. But in doing so, they discover that the darkest secrets can be the ones closest to you.