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Monday, 10 July 2017

SOYEZ LES BIENVENUS - an interview with Angela Wren and Jacques Forêt

Today I have not one but two special guests on my blog: my fellow-author Angela Wren, and Jacques Forêt, the hero of her two detective novels set in the Cévennes.

A Cévenol Village

Hello, Sue, and thanks for inviting me to your blog today.

I've brought my lead character, Jacques Forêt, with me and I hope you don't mind if we take this opportunity to talk about his new case.  I'm certainly very eager to hear what he has to say and I'm hoping that he might, perhaps to give away one or two juicy pieces of info about what has happened to him and Beth…
AW  Welcome back Jacques, and you’re not in uniform I see.
JF  Yes, that’s right.  I’ve left the rural gendarme service and I now work in investigation in Mende.

AW  So, just to recap on your career thus far.  You joined the police force in Paris as a detective until you were injured whilst on duty and then came to Messandrierre as a rural gendarme. 
JF   That’s correct.  It was after I recovered that I came here.

AW  So why the further change?
JF  I found I missed the intricacies of handling major investigations along with the thrill of solving such complex crimes.  My last case in Paris involved breaking a drugs cartel and I’ve worked on cases involving people trafficking.  All very testing with many and varied leads to follow.  My current case means that I can use those skills again.

AW  And can you tell us anything about your new case?
JF  It’s very different from my previous cases and involves commercial sabotage, but some the evidence is pointing to other types of crime.  The more I delve, the more complex this case is becoming.

AW  How interesting.  Any suspects yet or dead bodies?
JF   It’s early days.  I only picked up the investigation a week ago, but there are a number of suspects that need to be narrowed down.  There are also some lines of enquiry that are leading me to believe that there are other malpractices that need to be investigated, which might mean there is fraud to be uncovered.  There are no dead bodies at the moment, but… if the evidence does lead me where I think it might, then yes, someone might have the motive to commit such a serious crime.  Naturally I will do all I can to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Colours of the Cévennes

AW  Of course.  Working in Mende, has that meant many changes for you here in the village of Messandrierre?
JF  Not really.  I’m still the Policeman from Paris to everyone living here and I still seem to be the first person they come to when there’s trouble.  Gendarme Thibault Clergue has taken my post here in the gendarmerie.  I don’t want to tread on his toes so we work on things together when necessary.

AW  Back working in investigation, does that mean you’re working with Magistrate Bruno Pelletier again?
JF  Not at the moment. I do sometimes bump into Bruno in the city, but if my case develops as I think it might, then I may need to involve him.  And I will do that as appropriate.

AW  When we first met I seem remember you saying that you would like to ‘have ‘someone to share your life with.’  Those were your precise words, I think.
JF  Ahh, I was wondering when you would get around to that!
AW  And you can tell us… what?  The Readers do need to know, Jacques.
JF   I also remember telling you that it was complicated.  It still is… But I know what I want… Beth just has to make the right decision for her.  Moving to another country requires a lot of consideration.

AW  Are you saying that you’ve asked—
JF  Non!  And before you ask, I didn’t say that I was moving to England either.  What I am saying is that, if Beth and I are to move forward then we both need to consider very carefully how we achieve that.

AW  Well, you may no longer wear uniform, Jacques, but you are ever the policeman!
JF   Perhaps
AW   And that smile of yours tells me everything.  Thank you, Jacques, for being here today.

You can read more about Jacques’ new case, the village and Beth in Merle, Book 2 in the Jacques Forêt mystery series.  It was published by Crooked Cat Books on 5 July 2017.

Jacques Forêt, a former gendarme turned investigator, delves into the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where information is traded and used as a threat.

The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his own life is threatened.

When a body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to it. 

Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?

Thursday, 1 June 2017



You thought you had lost it, but Ailsa Abraham's wonderful novel Shaman's Drum is back on the market for six months only. From today (1st June 2017) it will be available in Kindle form for only 99p or 99cents as a special re-introductory offer.  If you haven't already read it, you've missed a real treat - so grab it now.

WHAT? A mixed genre book which can be read as a stand-alone or as the sequel to Alchemy. It has variously been described as slightly futuristic magical realism, fantasy and romantic thriller.

WHEN? Set in our own word in just a few years' time after a world-changing scientific discovery frees mankind from dependence on fossil fuels.

WHY? The banning of public religious practices was thought to bring an end to terrorism and war but unexpected consequences turn the new ideal world into a nightmare. Pagans having been left out of the ban are the only groups left to combat the new threat and they are fighting between themselves.

WHERE? The Capital is never named so it could be in your country.

WHO? Iamo, a priest of the Goddess with an aristocratic background who has just been released from prison for breaking his vow of chastity. Riga, a female Black Shaman avenger who was the cause of Iamo's downfall, is rescued from her prison by her lover.

Between them they have to solve the mystery of who is allowing demons into the world of Men, and find a way to stop them. Who can they trust in the chaotic world of pagan clans?

The author, Ailsa Abraham, knows her subject well, having been a student of religions and a practising pagan most of her life. Friend of Druids, Hedge-witches and other assorted magic-users, she is the village shaman in her home.


There are 15 reviews on Amazon at the moment, with an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. 
Comments include :
Just the right mix of danger, mystery, history, a possible future, and tastefully exciting romance. I want more of Iamo and Riga. I just want more! :-)
The sequel to Alchemy brings heroine and hero back together for another scrap amongst the netherworld.
Fairly ripped through this cracking read, which for me indicates a winning combination of pace with great writing.

International Amazon Link

Saturday, 27 May 2017

WATCH AND WAIT - an interview with Eli Carros

Today I have the great pleasure to welcome fellow-author Eli Carros, whose new novel The Watcher will be published by Crooked Cat Books on June 21st. 

Welcome, Eli!  What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

I started telling stories long before I actually put pen to paper.  I would regale my friends with improbable tales, and tell them things like there were fairies and other magical beings at the bottom of the garden who came regularly to sneak me away to their world.  Strangely, quite often, they actually seemed to believe me.

After that I studied journalism and went into copywriting but I thought about writing a book for years and years before I actually did it.

Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?

The Watcher, my debut crime thriller, is a book about what happens when sexual obsession and emotional neglect combine to tip an individual into madness resulting in extreme, terrible, violence.

OOH, sounds exciting!  What was the inspiration for this book?

I’ve often wondered what makes a psychopath.  Someone who can derive pleasure in sadism, in hurting others, is very alien to me personally but intriguing all the same.  My fascination with psychopaths over the years has led me to study infamous serial killers, read numerous serial killer novels, and watch an unlimited amount of true crime documentaries, and psychological thrillers.  One day, a germ of a story idea came into my mind, so I marinated on it for a while, and procrastinated a lot.  Eventually I actually put fingers to keyboard and The Watcher came into being.

The book was also inspired by London, where I lived, and I drew heavily from the urban landscape.  It seems to me the anonymity of a huge metropolis like London, where everything’s moving so fast and people are used to meeting strangers, would make it the perfect place for a serial killer to conceal himself.

Did you do any research for the book?

I did a bit pertaining to little facts about the way the police operate, but I didn’t want the book to be a standard police procedural as that’s not at all what it was intended to be. 

So I gave myself lots of artistic licence, though I did a lot of research in the years leading up to writing it by making case studies of serial killers who were diagnosed with psychopathy. I did this because I was always so interested to find out what made them so different from the rest of us.

What does a typical writing day involve for you?

Coffee.  Lots of it, and a fair bit of procrastination checking emails, Facebook etc… Then I like to go into full gear.  I don’t write fiction every single day, but I always write something, whether I’m working on a novel or short story, an article for a blog, or a job for a copywriting client.

When I write fiction I usually lay down about 2K words a time.  Sometimes 1K a time when I’m feeling lazy. I usually aim to work on my fiction at least 5 days a week, with Sat and Sun off.  When I’m not writing, though, I’m always mulling over a story idea in my mind.  I actually find that really helps me when I do sit down and put pen to paper.

How do you decide on the names for your characters?

The names just seem to pop out of nowhere, I don’t consciously decide on them really.  It’s just whatever comes into my mind that seems appropriate for the character I’m writing.  Certain names just seem right somehow.

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

When I first started, I was firmly opposed to planning, thinking it would stifle my creativity.  Then I realized, if you don’t at least sketch out a rough outline you end up with a mess on your hands about halfway through a manuscript.  It’s much harder to plug holes once you’ve already started, so now I always make a loose chapter-by-chapter plan before I sit down to write the first chapter.

Which writers have influenced your own writing?

I don’t know about influenced but I greatly admire Steven King, Patricia Cornwell, Mark Billingham, Harlan Coben, and the late, great Ruth Rendell.  As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of crime, mystery, and psychological type thriller fiction.

As for the greats of the past, I love Vladimir Nabokov for his beautiful prose, and Thomas Hardy for his ability to evoke human misery in such an utterly immersive way.  And I think William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies was the definitive study into the dark heart of human nature.  Oh and George Eliot was a genius, she totally rocks my world.  I adore the poetry of Sylvia Plath too, very earthy and sensual but at the same time, it takes you to totally different dimension in your mind that without her words you’d never have been able to access.

What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?

The best is the feeling of satisfaction when it’s done and there it is, the story you had in your mind, all there just waiting to be published.

The worst is definitely getting into a regular habit when I have a thousand other things all demanding my urgent attention.  But the thing is, if you really want to do something, you’ll find a way, and it’s amazing what you can achieve when you’re really determined to write.

Now the book is on the verge of being published, how do you feel?

The Watcher launches on June 21st and I’m ridiculously, narcissistically, excited about it.  It’s been such a long time coming to fruition (my fault) that once it’s launched and actually out there I think I’ll have to keep checking to believe it.

Is there a message for the reader? What do you hope they get from one of your books?

I hope you enjoy my book and if you enjoy crime thrillers that keep you guessing, there’s a strong possibility you might like The Watcher.  Most of all I hope it keeps you entertained and allows you to escape into another world for a while.  That’s always been the best gift all the books I’ve enjoyed have given me, so I really hope I’ve given that to my readers.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Yes, just do it.  If you want to write, and you have a novel or story idea in your head, mull over it by all means - but when that time comes and you know what you have to do, just spit it out.  You’ll feel so relieved and all cleansed and virtuous, when you’ve finally done it, like you’ve just squeezed a great big spot and lanced it of all that oozy puss.   Sorry that was a little bit gross wasn’t it?

It's certainly an interesting analogy.  I can't say I'd thought of it in those terms before, but now you come to mention it...

On a brighter note, what can we expect from you in the future?

I’ve an idea for another crime thriller, a serial killer novel like The Watcher but obviously with a completely different story and killer.  This one is extremely twisty and turny too, so the two will have that in common, but as I said, it’s a completely different story, featuring a brand new antagonist. 

After The Watcher launches, I’ll probably sit down and tackle that.  I’m sketching out an outline for that one at the moment, I’ve got too much on with The Watcher’s launch to properly focus on a new novel just yet, but I plan to get it written and out there by early next year.

That sounds like a plan!  Good luck with it, and thank you for coming to visit.  Please come again!

A man with a hidden past... A stalker with a deadly obsession...
The Watcher is released on June 21st from Crooked Cat Books, in ebook and paperback formats.
Find out more at or at
Join the Online Launch Day Event on Facebook to be in with a chance of winning a £25/$25 Amazon gift card.

Monday, 22 May 2017

THE SOUND OF SILENCE - an interview with Katy Johnson

Today I'm joined by fellow-author Katy Johnson, whose latest novel The Silence is published by Crooked Cat Books on 8 June 2017.

Welcome, Katy!  What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

My grandmother encouraged me to write. My first book was a collection of stories about a naughty chimp, written in Biro. I saved up my pocket money to buy a red plastic typewriter to write the next volume.

Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?

Psychological, coming-of-age drama

What was the inspiration for this book? 

I love stories where people are taken out of their comfort zone and coming-of-age stories where the main character makes a life-changing decision that will affect their adult life. 

Did you do any research for the book? 

I didn’t have to do much as it’s not a procedural crime story but I did have it read by a speech therapist and GP and discussed a section with a firearms expert to make sure it was plausible. There are very few foreign words in there but I checked these with a native Italian speaker to make sure it was accurate in a colloquial way.

What does a typical writing day involve for you?

I don’t really have a typical day but once I've seen the children off to school, checked my social media and walked the dog I try and get non-fiction work done first and then reward myself with some fiction writing time.

How do you decide on the names for your characters?

I tried to choose names that weren’t too similar and didn’t start with the same letter as that can be confusing for the reader. The main challenge was choosing the name for the villa, which is an important character in the story. I wanted an old-fashioned girl’s name that was distinctive but easy to pronounce but not one that had too many associations for most people. I'd hate any of our Italian neighbour's to think it was about their house! After producing various shortlists I chose Villa Leonida.

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

I wrote the first draft without knowing how it would end but then plotted the later drafts to develop the story arc, include foreshadowing etc.

Which writers have influenced your own writing?

It's probably best not to say in case it raises people's expectations and then disappoints!

What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?

Best – the alchemy of seeing it come together. Worst – getting all those plot points in place while making sure the details are consistent can be like wrestling an octopus.

Now that the book is on the point of being published, how do you feel? 

Excited – and a bit terrified. a bit like I felt when sending my children off to school on their first day.

Is there a message in your book?  

There is, but that might give the ending away!

Find out more at the Online Launch Party June 8th 

Do you have any advice for new writers?

I still think of myself as a new writer, so it’s probably a bit early for me to give advice, but I’d say first of all just write the book. Don’t worry about getting the first draft perfect. When you’ve got to the end you’ll have a clearer idea what the book is about and then you can sort out the story arc, flesh out the characters and develop the key scenes.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I’m writing a second book about Villa Leonida – a different secret, different time, different people – although there is a link.

The Silence is published on 8th June. You can buy it by clicking here.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

A LITTLE OF CHANTELLE ROSE - chatting with author Cristina Hodgson

Today I welcome a very special guest: my friend and fellow-author Cristina Hodgson, whose debut novel A Little of Chantelle Rose is released today.  I had the pleasure of working with Cristina as editor of this novel.

Hi, Cristina.  Well, this is a momentous day for both of us!  Obviously I know a fair amount about the book, but for the benefit of new readers, can you summarise it in just a few words?

It tells an urban fairy tale. It's about a young London girl who through a series of hilarious, if bizarre, circumstances is propelled to Hollywood glamour, lovers, confusion, menace and a truly startling conclusion. Its twists and turns will grip the reader - and make them laugh, too! At least that's what I hope!! ;-)

A sort of Cinderella-type story, then.  What was the inspiration for it?

After graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in PE and Sports Science, I travelled and worked in various jobs. One of these was as an extra in a British-produced gangster film which was filmed in Nerja, Spain. It goes without saying that my sport mechanics and kinetic energy knowledge weren’t put to maximum potential in this part-time job. But it was certainly a fun and unique experience, and most importantly it gave me an idea.  A year later I sat down and started writing, and within three months Chantelle Rose was born.

Only three months?  Gosh, I’m impressed.  It usually takes me much longer!

How do you decide on the names for your characters?

I actually find this question quite amusing, because it took me over nine months to decide on names for both my children. But I can come up with a fictional character's name in less than two minutes; the names just pop into my head. I'm not sure if the pregnancy hormones crushed my inner creativity when choosing my children's names, but, to be honest, it may have been for the best. I could have come up with any bizarre child's name if my creative side, mixed with pregnancy hormones, had taken over…

Well, yes.  That might explain (if not excuse) the weird names some celebrities inflict on their poor offspring.

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

Do you mean: am I a pantster or a plotter? Definitely a pantster.  I begin with a vague idea which then propels me off on a journey into the unknown.  Which, if you think about it, has to be a plus, because if even I don't know the ending to my novel until the last few chapters, I should be able to keep my readers guessing too!  

Having said that, I would like to try and plot a little more, and have flow charts keeping things all neatly under control, so I don't lose track of my secondary characters' names or what they look like.  But, to be honest, at the moment my characters just run a bit wild.  I think this could be because in my real life I'm a bit over-organised.  So when I sit down at the keyboard, it's like someone else takes over and pays no attention to order or routine.  And quite right too.  Sometimes It's good to just go with your inner feelings and not think too much. 

That’s happened to me, too. I try to plot in advance, but it doesn’t always work out how I’d imagined.  In one of my books, one of the characters took me totally by surprise by saying something which went on to change the entire course of the story. But he was totally right – my original idea would never have worked.

Which writers have influenced your own writing?

I would have to say Enid Blyton, not so much that she inspired me to become a writer or influences my writing style as such, rather that she made me a reader.  As a child, I read all her Famous Five books.  She opened a magical world to me and a passion for reading that has accompanied my whole life.  She inspired me to read - and from the reader the writer is born. 

I also greatly admire J K Rowling, a huge inspiration, not just for her incredible writing talent, but for her “rags to riches” life story. An amazing lady, together with everything she's achieved.

Now that the book is published and ‘out there’ how do you feel?

I'm obviously thrilled, but also very nervous. This is like the birth of my third child. Chantelle Rose isn't about me or my life but it's a part of me. And this part of me is now out there for all to read and criticise, and that alone is nerve-wracking. I'm aware that everyone has different literary tastes, I just hope that people who do read Chantelle Rose, or any novel, understand that behind the words sits an author who's shed more than one tear to finish the text and sweated more than most marathon runners do. The finish line in this case is when you type “The End.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Been there, done that, spilled coffee all down the t-shirt.

Do you have any advice for new writers? 

The main advice I would offer is: "never give up", which can be applied to any aspect of life really.  For those struggling to finish their WIP (or even those who want to write but haven't started their project yet), consistency is the key.  Just write a few words every day.  Don't be overwhelmed by the thought that you have to write thousands of words a day.  Choose a realistic, manageable daily word count, such as 400 words or so, and you'll get there in the end.

What can we expect from you in the future?  

My current WIP is a bit of a secret at the moment.  If you read my debut novel you'll understand why.  

OK, enough said!  As your editor, I was lucky enough to work with you on Chantelle Rose and watch the development from a rough manuscript to the eventual finished product.  It was a fascinating process, particularly getting an insight into your writing style and your creative side.  If this is the first time you've worked with an editor, did the process hold any surprises for you?  

My dad went over the original text with me.  He's an ex-editor for BBC News, but being my dad I'm not sure if it counts.  So this editing experience was quite an eye-opener and learning experience for me.  I certainly believe it has helped to improve my writing skills, an improvement which I have to thank you for.  It was an absolute pleasure working with you, and I hope that we will be able to repeat the experience again soon.  

I hope so too, Cristina.  You were a delight to work with.  The world of literature needs more authors like you!  

Sue, your own latest novel, Never on Saturday, has recently been an Amazon best-seller.  I read it recently and thoroughly recommend it.  Please tell us a bit more about it.  

Thanks - I'm so glad you liked it.  Never on Saturday is a time-slip romance novella with a hint of mystery and a touch of the paranormal.  It tells the story of Mel, a young Frenchwoman who arrives in North Wales attempting to escape from a troubled past.  But she can't escape from her own dark and terrible secret, which threatens to destroy all her chances of happiness - even with the new love of her life...  

Any new projects lined up?  

One or two, but they're still very much in their infancy, so don't stay in specially waiting for them!  

Thanks so much for hosting me, Sue.  And here is Chantelle Rose with her proud editor (and a glass of rather fine red wine...)  

To discover more about Cristina and her work, please go to:

Website: Website
Twitter: @HodgsonCristina
Facebook: Facebook profile

PRIMITIVE PLEASURE (a story in which an extra-terrestrial visitor discovers the delights of Spanish wine)

Scoutship Nine calling Mission Control. Do you read me?

Come in, Scout.  State your position.

Greetings, Commander.  I have now been on Earth for seven of their Earth days. It is a very strange place; not like our planet at all.

Earth has many land-masses, Scout.  Can you identify your exact location?

I am in a place called Spain. The natives call it España. 

Can you understand what the natives say?

Yes, my translator decodes their speech.  They seem to talk much about two things, which they call “food” and “wine”.

Please wait, Scout.  I do not understand.


Apologies, Scout.  These words “food” and “wine” do not compute.  

Commander, I too was confused by these concepts at first, so I have undertaken some research.  It seems that the people of Earth are extremely primitive.  Unlike our people, their subsistence is not derived simply from their atmosphere (which is much thinner than our own) or from solar emissions.  Their sun is yellow (not white like ours), and whilst it burns hot and bright here in this place called Spain, it disappears for approximately one-third of each Earth day.  Earthlings cannot rely on it for survival during these hours of non-solar activity.  It is for this reason, I believe, that they consume this “food” and “wine”.

Thank you, Scout.   But please, explain about this “food” and “wine”.

“Food” is solid matter which the Earthlings put into their mouths, Commander.

Where does it come from?

It is produced in large open land spaces called “farms”, or pulled from large expanses of water called “lakes” or “oceans”.  The Earthlings gather and store it, then consume it.  Sometimes it is consumed in its raw state; at other times it is first subjected to strong heat.

And “wine”? What is that?

“Wine” is most fascinating, Commander.  It is a liquid which is dark red, or pink, or pale yellow. The Earthlings cultivate large quantities of fixed growths which they call “vines”, which produce small round objects called “grapes”.  The Earthlings take the grapes from the vines, put them into large containers, then climb into the containers with the grapes and stamp on them.  They put the resulting liquid – the “wine” – into containers called bottles, then leave it for several of their Earth years before consuming it.

As you say, extremely primitive.  What a waste of time and energy.  Our system is far more efficient.

I thought so too, but as part of my research I disguised myself as an Earthling and took part in a “wine tour”,  visiting places where wine is made, and consuming some of the product.  It is strangely pleasing, and made me feel very happy.  I now wonder if by never needing to consume liquid, we are depriving ourselves of a great pleasure?

Good question, Scout.  We must find out. Can you bring some of this “wine” back with you?

I have some bottles already on board, Commander.  I promise I will not open them until I arrive home…

Saturday, 15 April 2017


The great Crooked Cat Easter Sale is now on.  It runs until midnight on Easter Monday (17 April).

Until then, you can get hold of the Kindle editions of my first three novels (The Ghostly FatherNice Girls Don't and The Unkindest Cut of All) for just 99p/99c each.

And until midnight on Monday, the Kindle edition of my fourth novel, Never on Saturday, is available to download ABSOLUTELY FREE!

That's four - yes, four - great reads for less than the price of a cup of arty-farty coffee, and considerably less than the price of an arty-farty Easter egg.  And they will last considerably longer and contain no calories.

Interested?  Just click on the book covers on the right to be taken to the Amazon Kindle store.

There are dozens more books at 99p/99c, or completely free, in the Crooked Cat sale.  Click here to find out more.