And you’d be right. I’ve been quietly busy and remiss in telling you about:
Following the Lead
Ocelot Press is a co-operative of independent authors, and my series of Jerusalem Murder Mysteries will be published through them, starting in a few weeks with Style and the Solitary. You can read more about Ocelot Press here. I’ll be posting more about the novel.
Dark Venice, the next in the series of charity anthologies of dark stories from Darkstroke, will be published on 1st October. My story is called Teamwork. I’ll be posting more about this.
Following the Lead is the next in the Isabel Long Mystery Series by the accomplished author, Joan Livingston. I had the pleasure and honour of editing it. In fact, I edited all the novels in this series and thoroughly enjoyed the process. I love these stories and I’m sure you will, too. Five are available on Amazon (just search for her name). Following the Lead is due out on November 3rd and ready now for pre-order. You can read more about it here on Joan’s blog.
Both are valid as short stories, although the latter would also fit under the flash fiction label.
Train Trouble is long enough to include two main characters, a minor character and some walk-on parts. It also contains several descriptions of places, indoors and out, and a number of scenes.
A Sticky Interview has two characters and two scenes. Descriptions are sparse and concern themselves with nothing more than the particular topic of the story. Yet, its very length led me to experiment. Where else would I write a sentence like:
The blushes lap at his throat, burning his words.
I haven’t written anything quite like that in a longer short story, and certainly not in a novel. Perhaps I should try it, but would I be able to maintain the style in a longer piece?
Finally, it’s the end of his incerceration, or so Asaf believes. In the Liberty Bell Park, his elation is boosted:
Sadly, these feelings are short-lived. And so it is with the novel itself.
Yes, Style and the Solitary, published by Darkstroke Books, is free to download for a short period only, so get it while you can, no strings attached.
I do, however, have a little request. If you enjoy reading it, I would very much appreciate a review. It doesn’t have to be long and detailed. “Loved it” is fine – really.
Here’s the latest review on Amazon.com: “I loved this innocent young woman who stood by her social phobic coworker when he was accused of murder. Her compassion and tenacity for finding the actual killer puts her in danger but demonstrates how much Nathalie cares for Asaf. The help she gets from her roommates is funny and caring as they bumble their way toward freeing Asaf. Will they survive this investigation, or will the murderer lead them off the deep end. Great story. Nice setting.”
Thank you, Sandy.
About the Novel
An unexpected murder. A suspect with a reason. The power of unwavering belief.
A murder has been committed in an office in Jerusalem. That’s for sure. The rest is not as clear-cut as it might seem.
Asaf languishes in his cell, unable to tell his story even to himself. How can he tell it to someone who elicits such fear within him?
His colleague, Nathalie, has studied Beauty and the Beast. She understands its moral. Maybe that’s why she’s the only one who believes in Asaf, the suspect. But she’s new in the company – and in the country. Would anyone take her opinion seriously?
She coerces her flatmates, Yarden and Tehila, into helping her investigate. As they uncover new trails, will they be able to reverse popular opinion?
In the end, will Beauty’s belief be strong enough to waken the Beast? Or, in this case, can Style waken the Solitary?
As soon as I saw this title, I thought of this song:
and I couldn’t help singing it as I read the novel.
Beautiful as it is, I’m not here to talk about the song or Rod Stewart, but about the novel, The First Cut by Val Penny, published by Darkstroke Books and officially launched today. Like all Val’s novels, it’s crime fiction and this is the first of a new series. Jane Renwick has appeared in previous novels, but she now has her own series and we discover her roots.
Jane’s unfortunate early years are related so poignantly that the reader can’t help being drawn in and touched by the story. On top of that, there’s a dangerous killer at loose, and the police are working hard to find out who the killer is, but sometimes they’re misled.
There are stages in the process of writing a novel:
Plot the story.
Write the first draft.
Write more drafts.
Each of those stages contains various steps. Clearly, the author put a lot of laborious work into most of them. That’s what made the novel so easy and quick to read. And enjoyable, too. There must have been a lot of thought about how much information to reveal and when to reveal it. The hints at facts unknown to the police make this story a thrilling one to read, as the reader watches the police following the wrong paths.
There’s a lot involved in editing, too, and unfortunately it feels as if, for this novel, that stage was rushed. In particular, I was bothered by one sentence I didn’t understand. I’m not sure whether that was because of a typo, but I didn’t follow why it caused Jane to burst out crying and then decide she had to explain her tears by relating part of her childhood. Very possibly, I’m to blame for that. Also, there were places where I didn’t understand the use of italics, first/third person, tense and repetition.
But I want to stress that most of the novel is excellent, and probably other readers wouldn’t notice these small things. So do read it; it is what it promises: “fast-paced, gripping police procedural…set in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland.”
About the Book
Sometimes it’s hard to escape a brutal past. That’s the case for DS Jane Renwick, who learns via DNA a serial killer could be a family member.
This gripping police procedural is set in Edinburgh and Glasgow. A vicious killer is on the loose and victims include an academic and members of Edinburgh’s high society. But Jane is banished to the side-lines of the case and forced to look on impotently when the hunt for the killer ramps up, because the Murder Investigation Team believes the killer is related to her.
Has someone from Jane’s estranged birth family returned to haunt her? Could one of her relatives be involved? Where will the killer strike next?
This exciting novel is the first in Val Penny’s new series of Scottish thrillers.
About the Author
This is the first in the new series of novels, The Jane Renwick Thrillers. Val Penny’s other crime novels, Hunter’s Chase Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s ForceHunter’s Blood and Hunter’s Secret form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by darkstroke Her first non-fiction book Let’s Get Published is also available now and she has most recently contributed her short story, Cats and Dogs to a charity anthology, Dark Scotland.
Val is an American author living in SW Scotland with her husband and their cat.
I’m delighted to welcome Alison Knight to the blog today. Alison is an author, a creative writing teacher, an editor and much more. Here’s her story.
WHAT MY PARENTS TAUGHT ME
They say that our early years influence our adult beliefs. I’m grateful that an important lesson I learned from my parents was that I could achieve anything in my life, so long as I was prepared to work for it. Some things would come easy, others would take a lot of hard work. But the belief that it was possible was the important thing.
That belief has helped me throughout my life and continues to do so. I instilled it in my children and grandchildren. It has helped me create a good life in which I am happy and fulfilled. It hasn’t always been easy, but believing it helped me to keep going in the darkest of times.
I BELIEVED I WOULD BE A WRITER
I always wanted to be a writer, but it wasn’t something careers advisors would encourage for a girl from a working class background in London in the 1970s. So I took a business and secretarial course and embarked on a career as a legal executive. I got married, had children, and got bogged down by the everyday pressures of family, mortgage payments and work. I still dreamed of writing though, and took evening classes, joined writing groups and kept trying to write the perfect novel.
LEARNING MY CRAFT
I’d decided at age twenty-five that I would be published by the time I was thirty. I now wonder whether some omnipotent spirit had been listening at the time and decided I needed to learn some hard lessons first. Either that, or said spirit had misheard me, because it actually took me thirty years to get my first book into print!
When I kept getting rejections, I realised I needed to learn more about the craft of writing. In my forties, I went to university for the first time. I was a part-time student. My children were still at home and I was still working full-time. It was a struggle, but I loved it and I learned an enormous amount about both myself and the craft of writing. At the age of fifty-four, I had a first class degree and an MA in Creative Writing and within a year I got my first three book deal.
THE BOOK I WAS BORN TO WRITE
Even though I had many disappointments along the way, I couldn’t give up. I knew that there was one story that I simply had to write – about what happened to my family in the late 1960s. It was a tragedy that affected so many, but I knew that I was the only one who could tell it. I see my years of struggle and study, and my first three books as my apprenticeship. They helped me to gain confidence as a writer, to find my voice so that I could write the book I was born to write.
Writing MINE, my family’s story, took years. I wrote it, sent it out, got rejected, rewrote it, and sent it out again. I had so many rejections. I couldn’t give up but I didn’t know what to do next.
ENCOURAGEMENT FROM AN UNEXPECTED SOURCE
By some quirk of fate, I ended up working alongside a woman called Bryony Evens who had once worked for an agent. Her claim to fame was that she picked up Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone from a slush pile and persuaded her boss to represent JK Rowling. If you want to hear her talking about it on YouTube, see this link. Her belief in that story changed the world!
Bryony was one of the first people to read my manuscript of MINE. She gave me some valuable advice and told me it was a good book. Given her history, I was very happy to believe her! It still took several years to get the final version of MINE published, but her encouragement – added to the beliefs that my parents instilled in me – kept me going.
MY STORY IS TOLD
In 2020, Darkstroke Books published MINE on what would have been my mother’s 90th birthday. After a lifetime of striving for this moment, it finally happened. I had believed I could do it. I needed to do it. I wanted the world to see what I saw, to know the people I knew. I believe I have done them justice. I believe they would be proud of me.
BUT WHAT NEXT?
That belief that I could do anything so long as I am prepared to work for it has kept me strong in many dark times and enabled me to achieve so much in my life. I now believe that I’m not destined to be sitting on my laurels in the next phase of my life because I have a lot more stories to tell. They may not be as personal or as powerful as the events depicted in MINE, but rather they are stories that explore the human condition in all its glory. I want to make people laugh and cry, to challenge the reader to put themselves in my characters’ shoes. My next book, THE LEGACY, was inspired by a scene in MINE and explores how two people respond to an unexpected inheritance. Is it a blessing or a curse? It will be published by Darkstroke Books on 4th May 2021 if you’d like to find out!
Thank you, Miriam, for letting me talk about my belief here. As you said in your recent post, belief can give you confidence, which is a powerful tool that helps us in so many ways.
ALISON KNIGHT, AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY
Alison has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.
In her mid-forties Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.
Her first novel with Darkstroke Books, Mine, is a domestic drama set in 1960s London based on real events in her family. She is the only person who can tell this particular story. Exploring themes of class, ambition and sexual politics, Mine shows how ordinary people can make choices that lead them into extraordinary situations.
Her next book, The Legacy, is a drama set in 1960s London, exploring how we don’t always get what we want and how we shouldn’t count our chickens before they’re hatched.
Alison teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats with Imagine Creative Writing Workshops as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association. She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.