What’s Your First Draft Like? – Elly Griffiths

I’m thrilled to be able to introduce crime author, Elly Griffiths to the blog today to talk about her first draft process.

domenica-de-rosa-course-photo-web2015Elly wrote four books under her real name, Domenica de Rosa, before her husband’s career change inspired her to write about forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway. Her agent told her she needed a ‘crime name’ so she became Elly Griffiths. The first Ruth book ‘The Crossing Places’ won the Mary Higgins Clark award. The eight book, ‘The Woman in Blue’, was published in February 2016. Smoke and Mirrors, the latest in her 1950s theatrical series, was published in November 2015. Elly has been shortlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year three times. She lives near Brighton with her husband and two children.

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

I write a rough chapter plan in my notebook. Just a few lines per chapter but all the way to the end.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

Once I start a book I try to write at least 1,000 words a day.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

After the first handwritten notes, I’m straight onto the keyboard.

How important is research to you?

Very important but I never hold the writing up for it. If there’s something I need to research, I’ll go back to it.

How do you go about researching?

I like to visit the places I write about because that gives you a feeling for the atmosphere. I also use the library and the internet. When I’m researching the 1950s books I like to read literature from that time.

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

I always have my notebook with me. I sometimes also pin pictures on a noticeboard.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

I only write one draft. I do edit a bit when I get to the end but what is in my first draft is usually what is in the finished book.

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

No. I try not to have superstitions because then there might come a moment when the ritual is disturbed and you can’t write.

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

I write a bit every day rather than immersing myself so the outside world is always there. I have two children and another job so it can’t be any other way.

What does your workspace look like?

I have a study but I also share it with a TV and the rubbish (sorry, priceless antiques) that my husband buys at auctions. I dream of a writing shed in the garden.

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

Just getting the words out. I try not to edit until the book is done.

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

I’m a word counter partly because my books always come out a bit short. I usually find that I’ve written 80,000 words when my editor wants 90,000 or even 100,000.

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

I’m contracted to write two books a year so it can’t take longer than six months.

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


What happens now that first draft is done?

As I say, it’s the only draft. When it’s as finished as I can make it I send it to my agent and editor. They are always the first people to read my books.

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

You can find Elly on the following places; Website | Twitter | Facebook

The Blood Card

cardElizabeth II’s coronation is looming, but the murder of their wartime commander, Colonel Cartwright, spoils the happy mood for DI Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto. A playbill featuring another deceased comrade is found in Colonel Cartwright’s possession, and a playing card, the ace of hearts: the blood card. The wartime connection and the suggestion of magic are enough for him to put Stephens and Mephisto on the case.

Edgar’s investigation into the death of Brighton fortune-teller Madame Zabini is put on hold. Max is busy rehearsing for a spectacular Coronation Day variety show – and his television debut – so it’s Edgar who is sent to New York, a land of plenty worlds away from still-rationed England. He’s on the trail of a small-town mesmerist who may provide the key, but someone else silences him first. It’s Sergeant Emma Holmes who finds the clue, buried in the files of the Zabini case, that leads them to an anarchist group intent on providing an explosive finale to Coronation Day.

Now it’s up to Edgar, Max and Emma to foil the plot, and find out who it is who’s been dealing the cards . . .

Recently Read – Blackout by Ragnar Jonasson

Blackout by Ragnar Jonasson

Genre; (Icelandic) Crime

blackoutOn the shores of a tranquil fjord in Northern Iceland, a man is brutally beaten to death on a bright summer’s night. As the 24-hour light of the arctic summer is transformed into darkness by an ash cloud from a recent volcanic eruption, a young reporter leaves Reykajvik to investigate on her own, unaware that an innocent person’s life hangs in the balance. Ari Thór Arason and his colleagues on the tiny police force in Siglufjörður struggle with an increasingly perplexing case, while their own serious personal problems push them to the limit. What secrets does the dead man harbour, and what is the young reporter hiding? As silent, unspoken horrors from the past threaten them all, and the darkness deepens, it’s a race against time to find the killer before someone else dies… Dark, terrifying and complex, Blackout is an exceptional, atmospheric thriller from one of Iceland’s finest crime writers.

My thoughts:

I don’t like reading books in a series out of order, so I kept Nightblind (the second book released) on my bookcase, until Blackout had been released as I knew that Blackout was the genuine book two in the series. And I’m so pleased that I did. Ari Thór’s timeline is intact. Everything is following on from where we left it in Snowblind.

Ari Thór’s personal life isn’t a happy one. And to be honest, he isn’t the happiest protagonist I’ve ever read. In fact he’s quite a blunt, humourless kind of guy. Very matter of fact and job focussed. This fits nicely with the pace and tone of the book, though. The cold setting of Iceland, even in the brightly lit summertime, is hidden under the ash cloud of the erupted volcano, providing a wonderful eerie undertow.

The characters are all well drawn and have their own stories and problems. You want to know more about them and you want to get to the bottom of the investigation with Ari Thór, you want to know what happened and why. This has a feel of a very classic kind of whodunnit, rather than a faster-paced police procedural and I think a lot of this has to do with the setting and the leisurely kind of way Jonasson writes. Beautifully, with fairly short chapters, neatly and concisely, but at the same time, without haste. You can sit back and relax and enjoy your time in the Northern region.

If you like more classic crime whodunnits in wonderful settings then this book is one for you.

Life Moving Forward At Last?

I haven’t updated the blog with a personal update in a long time, so after having some treatment, and having something to update you with now, I thought it would be a good time to do just that.

A quick recap for anyone who isn’t aware, or who may have forgotten because of the length of time that has passed, I live with the genetic condition Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which means that, amongst other things, I’m bendier than the general population. The main problem for me at the moment is that my neck is giving me problems. A lot of problems. There is so much pain to deal with that I struggle to manage on a day-to-day basis. It feels too heavy for my neck, I can’t sit up working at my laptop for more than two hours at a time without it being agony and my social life in nearly non-existent.

I’ve sought out help within the NHS and have been fobbed off by an orthopaedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon which then sent me flying off to the US in April, where I knew there was a neurosurgeon who understood the impact of EDS on the neck. How it makes it as unstable as the other joints in the body. It was there that I was finally validated and he diagnosed me with a real neck problem.

I flew home feeling better for the validation but knowing that I needed to find a neurosurgeon here to take me on and believe in me or I’d have to raise a lot of money to go back to the States for surgery to fuse some bones in my cervical spine.

Well, with a little investigative work I found a surgeon and asked my GP to put the referral in. I kept my fingers crossed. The consensus by many (typically) women in the country is that they are not being recognised as having a problem by any neurosurgeon they see.

I have been so lucky, the neurosurgeon is the loveliest man ever. He listened to me and he understood what I was saying. He has also operated on EDS patients with these head/cervical spine issues! And he was willing to help me.

img_4069On Monday I had injections in the area he believes is the problem. The point of these is twofold. They are to relieve the pain and if this happens, then it is diagnostic, it shows he has the correct area C1/2 and he ‘might’ go ahead and fuse them. I feel like I’m in safe hands. At last.

This journey, for my neck, has only been going on for about 4 + years.

Living with a chronic condition is tiring. But, I’m lucky in that I have my writing. It flexes my brain, keeps me ticking over when the rest of me is struggling. I also have great support at home and this is massively important. I couldn’t do what I do without it.

The great news, though, is, that I think the injection is working. I’m not feeling the pain I am used to feeling. I’m hopefully optimistic. I don’t want to start celebrating too soon and it all come crashing down around me, but yes, I am feeling some relief. My neck isn’t my only issue, I still have the rest of my body fighting against me, but it has been the largest and most debilitating issue of my life for the last 4 years. To get relief from it is absolutely indescribable.

Please do keep your fingers crossed for me.

What’s Your First Draft Like? – Gilly MacMillan

Today I’m really pleased to be able to welcome crime author, Gilly MacMillan to the blog  to talk about her first draft process.

gmphotoGilly is the New York Times bestselling author of ‘Burnt Paper Sky’ and ‘The Perfect Girl’.  Her debut was shortlisted for an Edgar Award for Best Paperback original and was a finalist for an ITW Best Debut award.

Gilly grew up in Swindon, Wiltshire and also lived in Northern California in her late teens.  She studied History of Art at Bristol University and then at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.

She worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family, and since then has done some lecturing in ‘A’ Level photography.

Gilly lives in Bristol, UK with her husband and three children and writes full time.  She’s currently working on her third novel.

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

I usually have something in mind already, either a scene or a character that I’ve been thinking about for a while.  When I get to the point where I think it might be a compelling enough idea or starting point for a new book, the first thing I do is see if I can use it as the basis for an opening scene. I’m testing the idea, really, to see if I can make it into a good enough hook for a reader.   This is my favourite part of starting a new project, because you’re free of plot constraints at that point, you’re just looking to see if what’s in your head can translate into something exciting on paper.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

I play about with that scene until I’m happy that it’s got enough drama and depth to launch the book and then I dive in and begin to develop the characters and the storyline.  I do that by getting on and writing more scenes, some of which remain in the final draft, but many of which hit the cutting room floor along the way.  It’s a bit of a messy process but it helps me to develop my thoughts.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

Straight to keyboard!

How important is research to you?

I try to limit research when I’m writing my first draft as it slows me down but once that’s done I take research very seriously, and I build what I learn into the book as I edit.   It’s important to me that my books are as authentic as possible.

How do you go about researching?

I always start by reading or watching things on the internet, because it’s such a fantastic resource, but I also try to speak to people and visit places when that’s useful.  For my second book, The Perfect Girl, I visited a prison, a courtroom and sat in on a police interview.  I also know two retired detectives who kindly advise me on police procedure.

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

I have a big A4 sized notebook that I write all my notes in, sometimes by hand and sometimes typed and then stuck in, along with images, etc., that I’m using.  It’s quite old-fashioned but it comes with me everywhere until the book is finished and I rely heavily on it.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

I just go for it and try to write the draft fairly quickly, because until it’s done you don’t really know what kind of story you’re going to have.  That does mean that it requires a great deal of editing to turn it into a book, but that’s ok with me.

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

I need my laptop, my notebook and a pair of headphones.  If I can get a coffee, too, I’m very happy.  No rituals required, thank goodness.

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

I’m pretty lost while I’m actually writing the prose because I have to concentrate so hard to imagine myself into the minds of the characters.

What does your workspace look like?

I have an office in the basement of our house.  It’s got a large desk for all of the research materials, etc, and a white wall that I can stick post-it notes on to help with plotting.  Having said that, I am able to work anywhere, and often do, just to stop myself going mad down there!  There are several local cafés that I like to write in, and I also use the university library in Bristol.


Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

Get them out.  Only edit if you see something awful that you just can’t ignore.

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

Word counter.  The numbers don’t lie!

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

The first draft can take seven or eight months because inevitably along the way you have to pause to untangle plot complications, or there’s research required that you just can’t progress without, so I don’t write is as continuously as I’d like to.  It’s in pretty rough shape at that stage, though this does depend on the book.  Each one seems to take shape a little differently.

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

Paper is my preference though I try to limit how often I print it out.   I sometimes read on my computer screen, but the problem with that is that I get tempted to stop and edit as I go along.

What happens now that first draft is done?

The hard work.  I look at plot, character, pacing and prose and try to hone each of them so that the story begins to pull together and work as a novel.  I’m always very aware of the reader at this stage, so I try to strip away anything that’s not needed, and only leave the elements that will drive the story and keep the reader turning pages.

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

Thank you so much for inviting me.  It’s been a pleasure!

You can find Gilly on her Website | Twitter | Facebook

The Perfect Girl

tpg-ukTo everyone who knows her now, Zoe Maisey – child genius, musical sensation – is perfect. Yet several years ago, Zoe caused the death of three teenagers. She served her time. And now she’s free.

Her story begins with her giving the performance of her life.

By midnight, her mother is dead.

The Perfect Girl is an intricate exploration into the mind of a teenager burdened by brilliance. It’s a story about the wrongs in our past not letting go and how hard we must fight for second chances.

Recently Read – The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Genre; Crime

cabinIn this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another intense read.

My thoughts:

This is going to be one of my top reads of the year. That says it all about this book.

I haven’t read In a Dark Dark Wood, Ware’s debut, which has been optioned for a major movie adaptation and is to be produced by Reese Witherspoon herself. So, with the knowledge of such a great debut before it, I have to admit to feeling a little trepidation going into this book. I didn’t know what to expect with Ware’s writing and could this possibly do the debut justice? – which I hadn’t read.

I didn’t have to worry in the slightest. I was immediately pulled into the book by a gripping scene and I was held there by Ware’s utterly fabulous writing. Her style is sublime. She has you completely relating to the protagonist Lo, with little nuances and thoughts thrown in. There’s nothing clunky or out-of-place. It ebbs and flows as beautifully as the oceans with which she sets the story upon.

And as for the story, you have a cast of characters aboard a small vessel and Lo trying desperately to figure out what has happened. It’s sinister and I couldn’t put it down. What I particularly loved were the few chapters that Ware randomly interspersed throughout the story which was from the outside the cruise point of view. These gave a real spine-chilling feel to what we were witnessing onboard the cruise. Really really effective.

And even when you think you have it all figured out – she changes things again. It’s utterly brilliant.

This is a must read for all crime fans.

With thanks to the author and publisher for my copy.

This is one of the few remaining books that I have left to review. Soon these Recently Read posts will be closing so I can focus on my writing. I am really grateful to have had the opportunity to read such great books.

5 Problems With Death

Sooo, we’ve been looking at death a little bit, recently. We’ve looked at different ways we can dispose of our bodies, ways in which we can use our body after death and unusual places to find dead bodies.    

This week, I thought, how gruesome it all was. How inconvenient.

What a problem for us death was.

Let’s instead look at the problems death causes us…

social-media-1233873_12805. No more social media.

Seriously? No more picking up your phone every 5 minutes just to see if someone liked your Facebook post or shared your tweet. No glow of the phone when you’re supposed to be sleeping and no tweeting along with live television. Can you imagine that?

Now, that is a top-level problem.

4. No more books. 

That’s right. Not only do you lose the one life you’re living, but you also lose the multitude other lives you’ve been living through all the books you’ve been reading. You don’t get to escape to Narnia, to walk through anyone’s wardrobe, walk the mean streets looking for bad guys, dive deep to the bottom of the sea. It’s all over. Silent.

3. No more friends. 

And I don’t mean talking to them on social media. I mean real, honest, in the flesh, friends. (Though, I’m not saying social media friends aren’t friends. I have made a lot of genuine friends through being active on social media. My life would be very different now if I hadn’t joined Twitter.) But, remember your friends. Think back to when you last made contact. Can you remember? What did you do? What did you say? Don’t let time slip by like sand through your fingers. It’s so easy to do. Make a quick call today, just to say hi. Or a text if you really don’t have the time. But I bet you have 5 minutes later this evening. Reach out, remind them you’re there. Pick up a card and send it to them – just because.

This one is important to me. I’ve lost friends because of my illness. So, the ones I have, I realise are real friends and they’re important to me. It’s so easy to let time slide. Let’s do our best to not let it.

2. No more creativity. 

What?! No more writing time. Or painting if that’s your thing. Or drawing, music, baking, gardening, flower arranging. Whatever your thing is. It’ll be no more. Do what you love and do it now. Don’t let fear hold you back. Fear of the unknown, whether you believe you can do it – you won’t know unless you try. Fear of people belittling you – it’s your life, just do it. Fear of success – yes, that’s a real one. Face it head on and enjoy what you do. This life is here for us. Jump in, feel the water.

  1. No more fun. 

I’m not sure we’re having enough of this to miss it anyway. Really, are we? Too busy dashing about doing the chores and the things you think you need to do, to think about having fun?

When was the last time you carved out a little time for yourself, to make yourself smile? It makes the days so much more bearable and worthwhile. Finger paint with the kids. Get dirty. Take your camera outside and see if you can take those photos where people can catch the clouds in their fingers. Tweet the results. (Back to point 5 – oops! It’s just because I’m nosey.) Paint each toenail a different colour. Smile at strangers. Next time you’re in the lift/elevator do a silly dance. When I was working I started a cake club – we had a rota and each Monday morning we had a freshly baked home-made cake come in. It was great for morale.

Find something that works for you. Remember life is more than chores and you can always find a way to make yourself and your friends smile.


What’s Your First Draft Like? – Sam Carrington

I’m really pleased to welcome Sam Carrington to the blog today to talk about her first draft process.

author-picture-sam-carringtonSam lives in Devon with her husband and three children. She worked for the NHS for fifteen years, during which time she qualified as a nurse. Following the completion of a psychology degree she worked for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. Her experiences within this field inspired her writing. She left the service to spend time with her family and to follow her dream of being a novelist. SAVING SOPHIE is her debut psychological thriller novel.


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

I write a paragraph or so of the opening scene. This will have been playing around in my head for a few days and will include the initial activating event, along with the bare bones of the characters who are captured in that first scene. From this I will begin building a picture of who those characters are, what their backstory is, and what other characters I will need to interact with them.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

Yes. I have a corkboard and pads of paper to set out the characters: their physical attributes, their history, their goals – and I pin one for each character on the board. I continue this for each main character, and then for the minor ones.

first-draftPen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

For the opening scene and possibly the first chapter I will go straight to the keyboard. Then I will revert to pen and paper to make lots of notes. I might also hand write the odd scene or two – but once the story starts properly, I type straight into the word document.

How important is research to you?

It depends on what I’m writing about! It’s important to me if it’s something that I’m going to draw heavily on. In that case, I might research something before writing, as I did for the character of Karen in SAVING SOPHIE as she suffers from anxiety and agoraphobia. Other times I will write what I think is right, then research it later and amend where necessary. I think it depends on what it is, and whether I feel I have enough knowledge personally, or professionally. When it comes to setting, I have written about places I know well, or live close to, so if I need to know something about it I can just pay a visit. I don’t want to get bogged down with research, or worry unduly about getting everything right – it IS fiction, after all. However, I do know that readers like accuracy and so I will do my best to be mostly accurate. But if I need to embellish something, or twist it slightly to fit my story, well – I will! Writer’s prerogative?

How do you go about researching?

Good old Google is my first port of call! Or friends and relatives who might have knowledge of my subject area. I’m also lucky to have worked in the prison service and spent a lot of time with offenders. So from that side of things, I feel confident in some details pertaining to the criminal mind…

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

As I mentioned, my corkboard is my main aid. I use my faithful ‘Writer’s Toolbox’ which includes various pads and I have dozens of notebooks to jot down ideas and research. Any images also get stuck to the board.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

Slowly! So far, for the two novels I’ve written (one being an ‘in the drawer’ one) and my current work-in-progress, I have written in a fairly linear way – starting at the beginning and writing in the order it will be read. I am an edit-as-you-go writer, so I have to be happy with a chapter before moving on.

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

I need to have a few cups of coffee before I get stuck in with writing. I might also have to squirrel away some snacks which will be required when I’m in the zone!

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

Oh, God – SO lost! When I’m really engrossed in a scene, nothing gets in the way. Time also has a habit of speeding up and I’ve been known to forget to pick up my children from school/college. They love me. It’s all good.

What does your workspace look like?

Currently it’s a bit cramped! I’ve got my youngest son’s cast-off desk and there’s just too much on it. Plus, it’s situated in the lounge/diner so there’s not a lot of space all round! I really. REALLY want my own hideaway…


Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

Edit as I go. I can’t help myself. I do manage to leave certain paragraphs and move on if I can’t get them right, or I need to check facts – in which case I highlight so that I can go back to it.

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

I do attempt to keep to a daily word count. I keep track by writing down the words I’ve written, and how many words left to my target, in a notebook. I either find it incredibly motivating – or incredibly scary!*

*Currently it’s in the ‘incredibly scary’ category!

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

Because I edit as I go, the first draft is generally in quite good shape (I think!) SAVING SOPHIE took approximately 7 months.  My current work in progress is taking longer!

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

Computer screen. I have never printed my manuscript out.

What happens now that first draft is done?

I open the bubbly!!!

Then I will give it a week or so before reading through and doing the first round of edits (with the aid of more bubbly!)

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

You can find Sam on Amazon | Blog | Twitter

Saving Sophie

ssA teenage girl is missing. Is your daughter involved, or is she next?

Your daughter is in danger. But can you trust her?

When Karen Finch’s seventeen-year-old daughter Sophie arrives home after a night out, drunk and accompanied by police officers, no one is smiling the morning after. But Sophie remembers nothing about how she got into such a state.

Twelve hours later, Sophie’s friend Amy has still not returned home. Then the body of a young woman is found.

Karen is sure that Sophie knows more than she is letting on. But Karen has her own demons to fight. She struggles to go beyond her own door without a panic attack.

As she becomes convinced that Sophie is not only involved but also in danger, Karen must confront her own anxieties to stop whoever killed one young girl moving on to another – Sophie.

Recently Read – Open Wounds By Douglas Skelton

Open Wounds by Douglas Skelton

Genre; Crime

openDavie McCall is tired. Tired of violence, tired of the Life. He’s always managed to stay detached from the brutal nature of his line of work, but recently he has caught himself enjoying it. In the final instalment in the Davie McCall series old friends clash and long buried secrets are unearthed as McCall investigates a brutal five-year-old crime. Davie wants out, but the underbelly of Glasgow is all he has ever known. Will what he learns about his old ally Big Rab McClymont be enough to get him out of the Life? And could the mysterious woman who just moved in upstairs be just what he needs?

My thoughts:

Anyone who knows me personally, or through reading my blog, knows that I hate reading books out-of-order or part way through a series if there have been previous books with the same characters before it. It really unsettles me and throws me out my reading mojo.

Yet, here I was agreeing to read Skelton’s Open Wounds which is book 4 in a 4 book series and I hadn’t read any of the previous 3 books! I’m not sure why I did this to myself. I knew that it was going to stress me out and put me a little out of step in the first place. Not because of anything to do with the book, but purely and simply because of how I am as a reader and this weird thing I have about needing to know the characters from the start. 

Anyway, to begin with, I did find it a little difficult to get settled into Open Wounds because there are mentions of people and events that have gone before and though, as with many books in a series, this can be read as a standalone because there was enough in the sentences to bring you up to speed, I still knew I was missing out and it irked that personal irky bit in me. Nothing to do with the book at all because the book is brilliant. Skelton’s tone and use of language evocative. 

Open Wounds is set in Glasgow and has a brilliant Glaswegian feel to it. Not that I know what a Glaswegian feel is, but this is what I’d imagine it to be. The way the characters talked felt authentic. The setting is brought to life and is a character in its own right and the people are living breathing people rather than flat descriptions.

I loved Davie McCall’s character, which is weird, considering. He was incredibly well drawn. His thought processes and motivations. His wants and desires. His steady pace. His moral code in a dark and sinister world.

It’s a world of criminals and violence. It’s dark and brooding and it’s brilliant. For all my irkiness, I did settle in and became engrossed in Davie McCall’s world and it was because of Skelton’s fabulous writing that I was able to do this. 

I can’t really say too much else for fear of giving something away that I shouldn’t, but it’s a great read and I’d recommend you don’t read it – not until you’ve read the previous books in the series first, then read them all. There are only four, what are you waiting for! If you love dark Scottish crime with a balanced hand then this really is for you. 

With thanks to the author and publisher for my copy.


Writing Crime – Using A Family Liaison Officer

writing-crime-1We’ve previously found a dead body, now we need to keep in pretty close contact with the family of the victim. This takes a lot of time and instead of having a stream of different officers turning up at the door asking questions as and when needed, forces now have what are called family liaison officers. FLOs. (Flow not f.l.o.)

FLOs were created so the family had a single point of contact. A single person who could build a rapport and a trust with the family, which is not something that can be done with a team of people.

Family Liaison Officer’s are sent out to the homes of the families of any unexplained violent death, including road deaths, and cot deaths (though these we know aren’t violent – but they have to be investigated), and any other critical incident where their presence might be helpful to the investigation.

The common misconception about family liaison officer’s is that they are there to provide support to the bereaved family. While this is true, they are also there to gather material/information from the family, for the investigation. And in garnering the family’s trust they do a much better job of providing the information about the victim that the investigation team needs.

They need to gather as much information about the victim as possible and feed it back to the SIO. They will have a notebook which they will make notes in while at the home of the family. They will explain what they are doing. None of this is done on the sly.

A family liaison officer needs to be sensitive, compassionate and respectful to be able to fulfil their role. It’s not easy being in the home of a family when they are grieving. Seeing them when they are at their rawest is one of the most difficult things you can do.

I found this more difficult than seeing any death. Emotions are messy, raw and unwieldy and family liaison officers deserve all the respect.

To cover some questions I’ve heard asked about FLO’s;

No, they don’t stay overnight with the family. They work long hours, staying as long as the job necessitates. And initially when the job starts, the hours are very long and days off are few. But as the case progresses then the hours drop off and regular days off come back into play. Usually, the family will have the work mobile phone number of the FLO and may get in touch when the FLO is not with them. Depending on where they are in the case and because of the need for information, the FLO may or may not have their phone on or off. You can decide what suits you if you are writing this.

This is not a full-time job. The FLO will have a full-time role in a department somewhere and will be on a list. They will be called, on an as and when needed basis and taken out of their normal day-to-day role.

You can read a fabulous 113 page document of the FLO role HERE if you want to learn more about it. Or bookmark it and keep it safe in case it comes up for you at a later date. It also covers having a FLO in the house if a family member is suspected to be involved…

Is this what you expected?

You can read the other posts in the Policing series, Here.


Cover Reveal! Three Weeks Dead – A Novella

It’s taken a lot longer than I’d hoped for this time to come because I foolishly thought that writing a novella would be a reasonably quick experience. After all, it’s far fewer words than a novel, so it should take far less time to write than a novel takes.

But, it didn’t quite work that way.

The process, I was surprised to find, worked the same way writing a novel works. You start, excited to be writing a new project, then you get to the part where you hate what you’re doing, you can’t figure out how a problem is going to resolve itself and it turns into the biggest disaster ever, and why did you ever think you could write, a blog post, never mind a novel or novella? I was pulling my hair out for weeks when I’d expected to have finished it.

But, eventually, the process continued as it does, and my mind kept working on the problems even when I was away from my keyboard and the story unfolded.

And, the time has now come and I’m thrilled to be able to show you the cover and tell you the title for the DC Sally Poynter prequel novella, set before Shallow Waters, when Sally first joins Hannah’s team.

Three Weeks Dead


How far would you go if someone took your wife?

Especially if you buried her a week ago.

When Jason Wells is faced with this scenario he is confronted with the prospect of committing a crime that will have far-reaching consequences.

Can young DC Sally Poynter get through to him before he crosses that line, or does a desperate husband prove to be the case she won’t ever forget?


I hope you like the cover. I think it goes well with the two already in the Hannah Robbins series. (Seen in the right-hand sidebar – on a desktop or at the bottom on a mobile device)