What’s Your First Draft Like? – Tracey Walsh

Today I’m really pleased to be able to welcome fellow blogger and now short story writer, Tracey Walsh to the First Draft hot seat.

photoTracey Walsh has been enjoying life since early retirement in 2013, indulging a lifelong love of crime fiction by starting a book review blog.

More recently, encouraged by friends and family, she has discovered a passion for writing flash fiction and poetry, winning the Paper Swans poetry competition in February 2015, the Flashbang contest (part of Crimefest 2015) and longlisted for the Flashbang contest 2016.

Tracey has also been enjoying some success with magazine submissions, having sold articles and stories to The People’s Friend and The Weekly News. She has recently completed her longest story to date, “On The Worst Day Of Christmas”, which will be published as a My Weekly “Pocket Novel” later this year.

Tracey lives in Blackburn, Lancashire with husband Dave and as well as writing is an insatiable reader of crime fiction, attends crime writing festivals and enjoys being a grandparent following the birth of grandson Oliver in November 2015.

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

For short stories the first thing to decide is which magazine I’m aiming at, as this decides the acceptable word length and subject matter (see Research below).

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

Depending on the word length I might sit and write the whole story in one go – they vary from 700 words to 3000. Some of the magazines accept longer stories and serials but I haven’t attempted those yet. Instead I leapt into a 50,000 word pocket novel.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

first-draft-picAn A4 spiral bound notebook and pen first. I prefer Pukka Pads and Papermate Inkjoy pens. There must be dozens of each in our house. I like writing longhand as it lets me think things out as I go. Then every few thousand words I type it up. I’m a fast typist and I enjoy it (sad) so that part of the process is quite quick.

My pocket novel is the longest story I’ve written at nearly 51,000 words and I did start to wonder if it would be more sensible to write it straight onto the laptop, but at the moment I have to borrow my husband’s so it’s not ideal. I’m looking for a cheap(ish) notebook computer if anyone has recommendations. Something with Word and email would do.

How important is research to you?

Research is very important. I would hate to include something in a story that was wrong because, as an avid reader, I know how much it can spoil a story.

How do you go about researching?

Google is my favourite research tool but I’ll also consult Facebook friends – for example for the pocket novel I needed to know which bands were popular with teenage girls in the 90s. I had no idea but Facebook friends provided a list in minutes.

Writing for magazines (womags) involves a lot of research into their specific submission guidelines. These also change from time to time so it’s important to keep up to date – you’d be wasting your time submitting a story that didn’t fit their needs. Some of them still insist on paper manuscripts being posted to them so you could be wasting money too.

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

I constantly tap things into the Notes app on my iPhone. I have one for “Titles & First Lines”, “Plot ideas”, “Links to Articles & Websites” and “Writing tips & quotes”.

My husband is good at spotting items in newspapers that could make a good story. It’s like having my own clippings service and often sparks other ideas that become stories.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

I like mind maps and flowcharts as a way of keeping track of characters, plots and sub-plots. This is probably the part of writing I enjoy most.

Then I write the beginning and end, though the beginning would sometimes already be written, having submitted the first chapters to an editor, to make sure they like the idea, before continuing. Once the beginning and end are done I’ll write the rest in sections or “scenes”, not necessarily in chronological order. It can be a bit like a jigsaw fitting all the sections together and making sure there are no logic flaws.

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

I don’t have any rituals – do you have any good ones?

Items I must have: Cups of tea during the day and a glass of something cool in the evening.

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

I hadn’t noticed when writing short stories but I did with the pocket novel: I am in whatever world the characters live in. I can write sitting on the sofa with the TV blaring but I won’t know what’s been on and if anyone speaks to me they’ll have to try two or three times before I hear them.

What does your workspace look like?

I have a few workspaces. I write in notebooks while sitting on the sofa. I type up a few thousand words at a time on my husband’s laptop which has taken over the dining room table. But my favourite place is my reading bench in the back garden, overlooking the Leeds Liverpool Canal (see photo).


Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

I edit as I go, when I’m typing up my handwritten pages.

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

I am very focused on word count. This comes from writing for magazines that have very specific word count guidelines. I know that about six A4 sheets of handwriting = 2,000 words = my usual daily target.

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

The pocket novel came from a Christmas story competition from last year. I’d submitted three chapters to the competition and though I didn’t win I still wanted to develop the story and its characters. So by the time I decided to submit it as a pocket novel I already had 10,000 words.

I sent off the first three chapters and synopsis again, this time to My Weekly, a D C Thomson publication. The pocket novel editor asked to see the whole novel so, with no guarantee of a sale, I needed to write at least 40,000 words. And because it was a Christmas story I needed to do it quickly.

I decided to aim for 2,000 words each weekday for four weeks (see plan on photo). I stuck to it quite well for the first couple of weeks. Life got in the way once or twice but I kept going. There’s a very supportive Facebook group of “womag” writers who helped with encouragement when I was flagging. Then I had a splurge of inspiration and energy and completed it a week early.

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

Every time I type up, I then email the Word file to my Kindle and read through what I have just typed. It’s amazing how many mistakes jump out on the Kindle page rather than the laptop screen. I make a note of any errors I find on my phone and update the computer file as soon as I can.

What happens now that first draft is done?

Once my (nearly) 51,000 word story was finished I emailed it to the My Weekly pocket novel editor (hoping she hadn’t forgotten me in the three weeks since we last spoke). The day after she received it she bought the novel, after requesting a couple of changes.

So what happened next was I made the requested changes (harder than I thought as I had to make multiple changes to keep the story/plot consistent).

What happens now is that the pocket novel “On The Worst Day Of Christmas” will be published as part of the My Weekly pocket novel Christmas schedule. Pocket novels are on sale for two weeks. I’m not sure who the stockists are, though our local Asda and large Tesco stores sell them.

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

You can find Tracey on her Blog | Flashbang Winning Story | Twitter

The pocket novel isn’t out yet, but I’m thrilled for Tracey about it and wanted to get her onto the First Draft series before it ended. She describes it as;

“Cosy crime meets gothic romance at the school reunion from hell”.

No More Book Blogging

books-1015594_1280Last week I wrote a short paragraph in front of a book review about the fact that I was no longer going to be book blogging.

In retrospect, I don’t think it was fair to the author to write it there, so I apologise Ed James, plus I don’t think I was particularly clear on my reasons or where I plan on taking the blog from here. So, I thought I would address it in a full post, which I should have done in the first place.

For as many years as I have been blogging, I have been reviewing books. At first, I was adamant that I wasn’t a book reviewer. I was simply sharing books, with my blog readers, which I had read and loved. But, over time, I was given books by authors and publishers, I joined NetGalley and it turned into proper book blogging/reviewing. It morphed without me having really wanted it to.

As a writer, I hadn’t wanted to give opinions on other writers’ books. I just wanted to share great books I’d read in my spare time.

With the growth of the book blogging side of the blog, I began to feel under pressure. Time was becoming a precious commodity. I had piles of books to read and then to write reviews for. And yet, I had books I needed to read for research purposes or simply because I wanted to read them for my own pleasure and I couldn’t get to them because I’d agreed to read and review other books and I couldn’t let people down. This was leading to a lack of enjoyment. Yes, the books are great that I’m being given, but the joy of choosing my own books, that had gone.

So, with the lack of time and some of the joy missing, it was already feeling like it was time to bring it to a close – and that was last year!

Roll forward to this year, I’ve released my second book, I’m going to be releasing a novella in about six weeks and I’m now working on the first draft of a standalone novel before going back to Hannah Robbins 3. You can see, I have my hands full as a writer.

And, this is what I want to focus on.

I only have limited energy every day as I battle my own body, living with a chronic debilitating genetic illness, so I have to prioritise.

I want to focus on my writing career. I want to write as much as I can. I want to read the research books I need to read – at will. I then want to pick up any old book, to relax with when needed. And then when I have some energy reserves back again, I can write some more. Not worry about the toppling TBR pile and the people I am letting down because I’m not getting through it fast enough.

So, what of the blog?

I’m still going to blog. In fact, as mentioned some time ago, it’s getting a whole new facelift. I couldn’t do it myself, so I had to ask someone else to do it for me, and it should be going live very soon. It’ll be a website with a blog as a part of it. I’ll blog as I do now, about three times a week – hopefully.

Monday’s will be the crime series – either the policing section or the fun facts.

Wednesday’s will be personal posts or anything of interest I want to put in there.

And Friday’s will be the writing series. Finishing off the First Draft series and then moving to the Revisions series.

But, I won’t be feeling pressured to read particular books, in particular timeframes (which I was never good at anyway) and think about how to say what I think without giving away the plot or twist or bad guy. If I love a book I’m reading, I’ll just share the love on Twitter or Facebook. I’m a natural reader. I just don’t want to do it as a role.
Are you a book blogger, do you ever feel the pressure and fancied a break?

Recently Read – Before I Let You In by Jenny Blackhurst

Before I let You In by Jenny Blackhurst

Genre; Psychological Crime

beforeKaren is meant to be the one who fixes problems.

It’s her job, as a psychiatrist – and it’s always been her role as a friend.

But Jessica is different. She should be the patient, the one that Karen helps.

But she knows things about Karen. Her friends, her personal life. Things no patient should know.

And Karen is starting to wonder if she should have let her in . . .

My thoughts:

This is Jenny Blackhurst’s second novel, but the first one I have read. I was immediately drawn into it by the sinister interview of Karen after the events that we know will unfold in the book we are to read. I love books like this, that give you the answer before you even start, even if you don’t understand what that answer is or what it means. It makes everything even more intriguing and Blackhurst is very clever in the way she does this. The interview of Karen is peppered throughout the book, giving little insights, but never enough so that you know for sure what is coming, but enough to whet your appetite to keep turning the pages.

And that’s just it, it’s not a rapid page turner in the sense that there’s a ticking clock or a race against a serial killer, but, there is a sinister undertone that feeds your imagination and desire to know more and it’s this that keeps you wanting to read that one more page, that one more chapter.

The story revolves around three adult friends (as well as Karen’s patient, Jessica), Karen, Bea and Eleanor. All very different people in their own right, but friends all the same. But, each one of them holding their own personal secret – as most people do hold something of themselves back, it natural. We want to present the best of ourselves to the world and Blackhurst shows this. She has a wonderful ability to understand human frailties and relationships and uses this knowledge to weave a wonderful story of normalcy that can very easily all go so very very wrong.

A brilliant read, highly recommended.

With thanks to the author and publisher for my copy.

This book is part of a selection of books I have already agreed to review. Please note I am no longer taking on new books to review. Once agreed books have been read, I am stopping this segment due to time constraints.

Writing Crime – Police Power To Enter Premises

writing-crimeLast time we talked about police powers to search premises – because we had just been to a crime scene and believed there may be evidence of an offence inside certain premises. Well, as we’re talking about grounds to enter premises, I thought I may as well cover the other powers officers have to enter premises. That way, you’re covered for all scenarios.

There are only a couple of other reasons left for you to be able to enter a person’s home/business premises/outbuilding etc and I’ll tell you what those are now.

  • As I said in the last post, you can enter if you have a warrant. That also gives you grounds to force entry if someone is trying to stop you or if no one is there to allow entry. (You do need to decide if forcing entry is the best course of action for you, though, if no one is there. It definitely is if someone is trying to stop you as they could be getting rid of evidence so swift action is needed.)
  • You have power of entry to make an arrest for an arrestable offence (Or if someone is unlawfully at large). – So, if you attend the address and knock, no one answers, but you see your offender through the upstairs window, you can go in and get him. You have to know it’s him/her though, you can’t just turn up and go in because it’s their house.  – Also, if you are giving chase on the street and your offender runs through a stranger’s house, in through the front door and out through the back, you can technically follow them through… (This tends to be done in rabbit warren type estates and where everyone knows each other in some form or another.)
  • Section 4 of the Public Order Act (Fear or provocation of violence – I’m not sure if this would come up much in writing, but it could do in a domestic crime maybe?)
  • To save life and limb and serious damage to property – you do have to make sure you genuinely thought the person inside was in trouble.

These powers fall under Section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. There are other powers within this Act if you want to use Google. I’ve simply selected ones that would probably be most useful within a crime novel.

Don’t forget, you can find the rest of the series Here and if you have any questions you want answering in a blog post, leave it in the comments.

Any surprises here for you?

What’s Your First Draft Like? – William McIntyre

Today I’m pleased to welcome crime author, William McIntyre to the blog to talk about his first draft process.

wmphoto1William is a partner in Scotland’s oldest law firm Russel + Aitken, specialising in criminal defence. William has been instructed in many interesting and high-profile cases over the years and now turns fact into fiction with his string of legal thrillers, The Best Defence Series, featuring defence lawyer, Robbie Munro.When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

Once I finish one book, I wait until an interesting idea for a new opening chapter comes to me and then I sit down and write chapter one of the next book. After that I let my main character lead on. It’s great fun seeing where he ends up.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

With my handwriting? I go straight to iPad/keyboard. If I get bogged down in the middle and am not sure what’s going on, I resort to pen and paper to try and work out a path for the next few chapters to follow.

How important is research to you?

I like to keep things as accurate and realistic as possible; however, as I write legal thrillers from the point of view of a criminal defence lawyer, and since I am a criminal defence lawyer with thirty years’ experience, I don’t have a great deal of research to do on the law and procedure or dealing with awkward clients. I do always make a point of only writing about locations I am familiar with and, if I am not, will carry out a locus inspection and make detailed notes.

How do you go about researching?

I visit places.

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

I keep a notebook in my pocket for that purpose and from there transfer ideas, interesting comments I hear etc. from it to a Word document which I keep and into which I dip from time to time as I write. I also have a good memory, except for names.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

As I mentioned above, I usually write a first chapter and take it from there. I’m sure it’s a lot easier when one is writing from experience, so the old adage ‘write about what you know’ works well for me. It also helps writing a series featuring the same protagonist, in my case Robbie Munro, and where there are several perennial supporting characters. As the series goes on, I find I no longer have to wonder how characters might respond to any given situation because they have a life of their own and all I do is, in my mind’s eye, watch what they do and say, and write it down as it happens.

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

Other than the occasional blood sacrifice and cup of tea, no.

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

I’m not a great multi-tasker, but I do have one super-power which is zoning-out in order to concentrate on whatever I’m doing, with a complete disregard to what is happening around me. I think it’s called being a man. As a father of four noisy sons, it’s an ability I have found it extremely useful over the years.

What does your workspace look like?

It looks very much like my kitchen table, because that’s generally what it is.


Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

I edit as I go. I write very quickly when I’m in the groove and, to be fair, as an author, my work has never been confused with that of Marcel Proust or James Joyce. My books are intended to be easy reads with a lot of dialogue and not too much by way of elaborate description or explorations into the dark voids of the human soul. Time is a commodity in short supply and I tend to write a lot in a short space of time, like a fat man with a five minute lunch break. There can also be fairly long gaps between my writing sessions, so I tend to read over what has come before to remind myself and make changes as I go. As the book grows this becomes more time consuming and so I keep a summary of each chapter that I’ve written for ease of reference.  It means that the first draft is usually pretty much the finished article up to the mid-way point and slightly less so thereafter.

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

I have now written eight books in the Best Defence Series. I don’t allocate myself any particular word count, but for some reason they all come out as sixty chapters long or thereby and about 90,000 words. I’m not sure why that is.

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

I try and set myself a deadline of six months to have a completed first draft. It’s usually more or less the finished article story-wise.

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

Ereader (Kindle) highlighting as I go.

What happens now that first draft is done?

I give it to my wife to read. She then spots holes in the plot, identifies things she doesn’t like and carries out some routine censorship.  After that I leave it for two or three weeks, go back and read it over again a couple of times making changes as I go. Then my wife carries out a more thorough proof-reading exercise and I have a friend who does the same. By this time it’s usually just typographical changes being made. I then read it over several more times and am usually fed up with the story by the end of it all and just wanting to get started with the next.

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

You can find William on his website | Sandstone Press | Sandstone Press’ Facebook

Present Tense

9781910985250Criminal lawyer Robbie Munro is back home, living with his widowed, ex-policeman dad and his new found daughter, Tina. Life at the practice isn’t going well, neither is the love life he regularly confesses to his junior, Joanna. Then again, on the subject of Joanna, Robbie may be the last to know… When one of his more dubious clients leaves a mysterious box for him to look after, and a helicopter comes down with two fatalities, events take a much more sinister turn, and all of this is complicated by the rape case he has to defend.

You can find all previous first draft Q&A’s Here. If you want to do one, you have to let me know quickly as we are soon going to move to the Revision process series.

Recently Read – The Hope That Kills by Ed James

I just want to say a quick comment before I talk about today’s book, The Hope That Kills by Ed James.

At the end of last year, I wrote a post saying that I was going to stop book blogging. I thought it would take me a couple of months to get through the books I had already agreed to read and then I would be done, but as time went on, more books kept slipping onto that reviewing TBR pile and here we are nearly a year later, still reviewing books.

I’ve just released my second book and will be releasing a novella this Autumn. I’ve sent it to the editor and the book cover has been designed. I am now working on a standalone novel and want to write the first draft of that before finishing the first draft of Hannah Robbins 3. I do this while managing quite severe pain and fatigue. I need to manage my time better. I need to focus. And I’ve decided that my writing career is what I am going to focus on. Reading review books and writing the reviews takes up time. I also feel pressured as the TBR pile never seems to shrink.

So, the doors are officially closed. No new books will slip their way through. I will read the books I have agreed to read and then no more. Reading will be for research and for enjoyment only. Yes, I’ll continue to be enthusiastic about books, that comes naturally. If I’m reading something I’ve chosen to pick up and I’m loving it, I’ll tweet about it, sharing that love.

I hope you understand.

And now, here is today’s book.

The Hope That Kills by Ed James

Genre; Crime

hopeThe body of a young woman is found on the streets of East London, in the shadow of the City’s gleaming towers. No ID on her, just hard-earned cash. But there is no doubting the ferocity of the attack.

DI Simon Fenchurch takes charge but, as his team tries to identify her and piece together her murder, they’re faced with cruel indifference at every turn—nobody cares about yet another dead prostitute. To Fenchurch, however, she could just as easily be Chloe, his daughter still missing after ten years, whose memory still haunts his days and nights, his burning obsession having killed his marriage.

When a second body is discovered, Fenchurch must peel back the grimy layers shrouding the London sex trade, confronting his own traumatic past while racing to undo a scheme larger, more complex and more evil than anything he could possibly have imagined.

My thoughts:

This is a great start to a new series and James is a new-to-me author. And an author I will definitely be reading more of.

The Hope That Kills moves along at a great pace, it feels authentic and the setting drags you in and leaves you standing in the middle of the streets of London amongst the sights, sounds and smells of our Capital city.

Fenchurch is a character with depth and with whom you can really connect with. He’s human, he’s fallible, he’s a good copper. I liked that we got to see his personal life, as well as the investigation, as this gave the book a more rounded, whole feel. There are complex relationships with both his ex-wife and his father and I loved reading about both of these. They were fragile and sensitive, a wonderful break from the harshness of the case being investigated.

The case itself is complex, but James manages to keep these plates spinning with ease and makes it easy for the reader to follow. I’m not sure how he managed to keep it straight in his head, though!

Every single character is well drawn. The murdered girls are brought to life by the investigation and the people that crop up within that investigation all have their own persona. It really was like being inside a small part of London as I read this.

The denouement of the book had me turning the pages so fast I nearly gave myself a paper cut. In fact, I loved James’s writing style, I read the whole book pretty quickly.

The writing is natural and smooth and I can’t wait to spend more time with DI Simon Fenchurch.

Definitely recommended. Especially if you like your crime with a London setting and a protagonist who has a personal life as well as being in the job.

With thanks to the author and publisher for my copy.


5 Interesting Uses For Your Body After Death

So, we’ve looked at how to dispose of your body after death, for instance, space burial etc. But what if you don’t want to be gone forever, out of sight, out of mind?

Well, there are other options you may not have thought about, or even known about.

Here are 5 to consider. Some well known, some lesser known.

5. Organ Donation. 

Yes, live on for a little longer by giving the gift of life to someone else who needs organs to continue their life before theirs comes to an untimely end. Your heart could continue beating for several more years and think of all the great opportunities the recipient and your heart can go on to do.

4. Will Your Body to a University.

Allow doctors to learn their profession. All, so the above can go ahead. Through your donation, you can help future patients and even potentially future generations of your family, by donating your body for trainee doctors to practice their skills on.

3. Leave Your Body to a Body Farm. 

We’ve all read enough crime fiction to know what a body farm is. A place where they leave cadavers in weird, wonderful and awful places to ascertain stages of decomposition and suchlike, to help with solving crime scenes. Who wants to allow murderers to go free if we can help scientists figure out this stuff?

2. Become a Crash Test Dummy.

Now, I don’t think this one applies to the UK, but in the US, you can donate your body to the Wayne State University School of Medicine to be used as a crash test cadaver. For the protection of future drivers!

  1. Send Your Body on a Tour.black-1239361_1280

Bodyworlds is a place where human bodies go through a process called plastination, where a body is hardened and posed and put on display in Germany. Be who you are, forever plasticised. For people to come and view. Who’s up for that one?


What’s Your First Draft Like? – Alex J. Cavanaugh

alex-j-cavanaughI’m pleased to be able to introduce Alex J. Cavanaugh to the blog today to talk about his first draft process. As well as being a very persistent blogger with whom I have talked with for several years, he is the writer of science fiction books.

Alex  has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (ISWG). He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars. The author lives in the Carolinas with his wife.



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

I start brainstorming in my head. It might be months before I commit anything to paper. But I work out a lot of the story in my head first, letting it run past like a movie.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

Slow and steady? Is that a routine?

rough-draftPen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

I write the outline on paper first. After a while, I transfer to the computer. Once I’m happy with the outline, I start writing on the computer. Habit I picked up from NaNo. At any rate, I write as slow as I type, so it really doesn’t matter.


How important is research to you?

Probably not enough. I do some before I begin. But I learned with my last book that a lot of research sometimes doesn’t amount to anything. (Anyone want to know about sea kelp?)

How do you go about researching?

Google. Google knows everything.

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

I copy and paste into a Word file, type it into Word, or make note of the song. (I’m a musician, so music plays a big part in my writing.)

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

I hate writing the first draft. I’m all about the revisions phase. So I attack the first draft as fast as I can, just plowing through to the end.

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

Water, Hot Tamales, and music. Sometimes the television is on. Muted, of course. That would be overkill…

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

I have to immerse myself completely, so I’m rather lost.

What does your workspace look like?

Uncluttered. Might not be neat, but I can’t stand cluttered.

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

The only way I can get through that dratted first draft is to plow forward without looking back. Although I do slow down to ponder just the right words more often than I would like.

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

I check that Word count every single day! I’m a lazy writer. I wouldn’t write anything if I didn’t have a daily word count goal.

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

Usually about six weeks. Like I said, I hate writing the first draft, so I plow through it as quickly as possible. Fortunately, I also outline to death, so the first draft isn’t a huge mess when I’m done.

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

I like to print it out. I stare at a computer enough at work. I catch more that way.

What happens now that first draft is done?

Edit, edit, edit! After about a month or so, I let my two test readers read it. Then I edit another month. Then it’s off to the critique partners. Then more editing. When I can’t polish anymore and I start changing things back to the way they were in the first draft, I send it to my publisher. (Oh, and I don’t break it into chapters until I send it back to my publisher after their editor has tackled it. Yeah, weird, but that’s how I roll…)

Thanks for digging into that first draft, Alex.

You can find Alex on his Website | The ISWG | Twitter

Dragon of the Stars

dragon-of-the-stars-alex-j-cavanaughThe ship of legends…
The future is set for Lt. Commander Aden Pendar, son of a Hyrathian Duke. Poised to secure his own command and marriage to the queen’s daughter, he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goals.
But when the Alliance denies Hyrath’s claim on the planet of Kavil and declares war on their world, Aden finds his plans in disarray. Entrenched in battle and told he won’t make captain, Aden’s world begins to collapse. How will he salvage his career and future during Hyrath’s darkest hour?
One chance remains–the Dragon. Lost many years prior, the legendary ship’s unique weapon is Hyrath’s only hope. Can Aden find the Dragon, save his people, and prove he’s capable of commanding his own ship?


Recently Read – Exclusion Zone by J M Hewitt

Exclusion Zone by J. M. Hewitt

Genre; Crime

ZoneOn 26th April 1986, reactor four exploded at the factory in Pripyat, Chernobyl.

At the same time teenager Afia Bello vanished from her home without a trace.

The damage from the nuclear fallout is examined over the following weeks, months and years by Afia’s younger sister Sissy, as she unwittingly uncovers clues relating to her sister’s disappearance, and the secret life that Afia kept hidden from her family.

In the summer of 2015 Private Detective Alex Harvey is hired to investigate the disappearances that have been occurring within the exclusion zone.

He can think of only one person to bring along with him to help; Ukrainian national Elian Gould.

Elian – who was adopted at birth – has her own reasons for accepting the job; namely to search for her own family history which has always been a mystery to her.

But the remaining citizens of Chernobyl are hiding their own secrets and with a darker force at work, the missing person’s case suddenly turns into something much more serious…

My thoughts:

Back in July, I did a BritCrime panel with Jeanette and it was then that I heard the concept for Exclusion Zone. It was on my wishlist immediately. I mean, a crime novel set in the exclusion zone of Chernobyl? Really? How fantastic! Then later that month I was lucky enough to meet Jeanette at the Harrogate crime writing festival – and she’s really really lovely (which I already knew from the BritCrime panel anyway, but Harrogate confirmed that) and she gave me a copy of the book! It just happened to, somehow move its way to the top of my TBR pile. Well, with a concept like that, it was going to, wasn’t it?

Exclusion zone moves between two time zones. The period when the reactor exploded and the following years, and the current day. It also has a couple of different points of view. It’s a very clear and understandable book though and these all merge together as you’d expect timelines to merge at some point in a story.

Elian is a strong female lead in this and I really took to her. She was nervous and anxious about a lot of things but she knew how to stand her ground and fight for what she wanted and believed in.

The same can be said for Sissy’s timeline back in Chernobyl. A time of great upheaval and upset. A child at the time, but showing courage and believable actions when things around her are changing at such a rapid pace, in a time none of us can really comprehend. I was fascinated by how at first the explosion was played down and then the evacuation was put in place, and even then, people chose to stay in their homes. Probably not understanding the seriousness of what had occurred. There’s a very weird part in Exclusion zone about a dog and I have yet to Google it to see if it’s true!

A fabulous read, but the setting did it for me.


The New Character Name Is…

random-org-true-random-number-service-clipular-9I’ve been running a promotion for a character name in the upcoming novella I’ve written, the DC Sally Poynter prequel.

That promotion has now ended and I have done the draw.


We have a character.

That character is female.

That character is – Donna Dickson

Congratulations Donna! I know exactly which character I am going to rename for you. You’ll fit in perfectly.

The novella will be released this Autumn and I will be releasing further details soon. It’s been a great little project to work on and I’m excited to see what you think of it.