Wednesday, 28 December 2016


Did you get a Kindle for Christmas?

Or are you just looking for some great reads at a bargain price?

The Great Big Crooked Cat Not Christmas Sale is now on.  Starting today, and for three days only, all Crooked Cat Kindle titles are just 99p/99c each.

Including mine.  Click on the covers on the right to find out more.

Or to browse the whole Crooked Cat collection, click here.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

ONE BY ONE - an interview with Beck Robertson

Today I have a brand new guest on my blog: the multi-talented author Beck Robertson.  Beck's latest novel, a psychological thriller called One By One, is due for release by Crooked Cat Books in March 2017.

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

I was first inspired by a fantastic English teacher I was fortunate to have in High School.  He totally sparked my passion for literature by reading aloud the classics and making them come alive. 

He was a total one-off: a die-hard leftie socialist at a snobby conservative grammar school.  As the poor kid, I naturally gravitated to him. He was never afraid to share his political opinions, and by doing so, forced us all to consider different points of view and stretch our mental boundaries.

He also actively encouraged me to write, and took extra time to comment on my work and tutor me. I will forever owe him a debt of gratitude for recognising and encouraging my love for the written word.

The first thing I wrote outside English classes was some really bad, angst-ridden teenage poetry. I was going through a morbid, gothic phase at the time, so as you can imagine it was truly terrible.  However, it was absolutely wonderful to be able to express myself so freely in a way I just couldn't in my day-to-day life.

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

My next new release is One By One, a dark serial killer thriller that attempts to delve into the psychology of a psychopath. It's set in London, where I lived for many years, and a location that's always been a big inspiration for me. I actually wrote the book while I was still living there, and even while I was at some of the actual locations that inspired scenes in the novel.

One by One is told from two points of view. One is the killer’s, where you learn how he came to be the deranged individual he evolves into.  The other is from the point of view of Jack Grayson, the detective on his trail.

Jack is struggling with issues of his own, such as his workaholic tendencies and his inability to open up, which causes problems in his already fragile marriage.   He's quite an old-school detective, who prefers the hands-on approach to policing, and he doesn't always do emotion or technology very well!  I felt it would be an interesting juxtaposition to place these two emotionally stunted yet very different characters against each other.

What was the inspiration for this book?

After reading Jon Ronsen's fascinating non-fiction book The Psychopath Test, I found myself pondering the question Are psychopaths born or are they made? This is one of the underlying premises which the story explores.

But years before I even read that book, the germ of the story was in my head, with bits and pieces influenced from sources as varied as the plot-twist-laden works of Ruth Rendell to the seamy strip clubs of Soho!

I also drew on some of my own experiences, both as a London native and from the time I spent on the beat as an assistant crime reporter for a local London newspaper.

Did you do any research for the book?

I did do some research to give the novel a sense of grounding and realism, but I didn't want to write a police procedural, where it's much more important to ensure everything is factually accurate. I wanted the book to be largely story and character driven, so I also employed a hefty whack of artistic licence.

Even though some of the place names in the novel are invented, I did do a fair bit of location-based research.   I did this partly because it infuses the description in the book with a bit more life, but also because I found it inspired me to imagine how the characters in the novel would interact in that kind of setting.

What does a typical writing day involve for you?

Putting off getting out of my nice warm bed by reading the news and usually getting into a discussion with my partner about the day's headlines. Morning coffee, then more procrastination on Twitter and Facebook, then in my email.

Then I force myself to actually do some work, first dealing with my Copywriting clients if I have any, and then working on my fiction. When I'm writing a novel I adhere to Steven King's advice and aim to put down at least 2K words a day. When I'm not writing, I'm editing, and the amount I do differs according to my schedule but I usually try to revise 3 or 4 chapters.

I do edit one manuscript and write another simultaneously at times, but it does depend on what else I have cluttering up my schedule. I also spend quite a bit of time before I start writing a novel on constructing a loose outline for the story, as well as a chapter-by-chapter outline, as I find it helps.

After the work day is done, I sometimes read it aloud to my long-suffering partner because it gives me another perspective as to how the story is flowing and often alerts me to clunky phrasing or other things I need to change.

How do you decide on the names for your characters?

I actually never consciously decide this.  Usually names seem to arrive in my mind as the most suitable choice for that particular character. After this happens, it's almost as if I couldn't possibly imagine calling them anything else.  I've been lucky so far with this, though I have thought about asking people their opinions when it comes to character naming, and might do so in the future.

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

I wouldn't call myself a plotter exactly, but as I mentioned before, I do find having a loose outline to adhere to speeds up the writing process. Initially, when I first started writing, I didn't do this and had to learn the hard way that whilst total spontaneity might sound great, on paper it translates to a plot-hole-riddled mess!

Now I always outline before starting any novel, and also like to fill out character profiles for my main characters to get a feel of how they tick.

The outline is flexible though, and changes according to how the story unfolds.  I couldn't work with a framework that's too rigid as it would stifle my need to let the story tell itself.  I find that the most exciting thing about the writing process is when you're lying in bed at three in the morning and a key part of the plot comes to you that just enriches the story so much more.

Which writers have influenced your own writing?

For crime and thrillers I'm inspired by the work of Brett Easton Ellis, Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter, and Harlen Coben. I also loved Gillian Flynn's brilliant novel, Gone Girl. I prefer psychological thrillers that play with your mind and keep you guessing as opposed to highly action-driven novels, and I suppose my work reflects that when I write in the crime genre.

That said, I also enjoy the vivid description and immediacy of crime writer Mark Billingham's work, and I do like to include a fair amount of action scenes in my work too.

What has been the best part of the writing process?

The best thing, hands down, is when a reader tells me they enjoyed something I wrote. There is nothing that could compensate for that feeling, not even money. The other things I enjoy are seeing how a story falls into place as I'm writing, and then of course, finally getting to the end and completing a novel.  That's a great feeling of accomplishment.

When is your book due out?  And how are you feeling?

One By One is set for release on March 23rd, and I'm excited about the launch, as it will be my first crime thriller.  When my other books were released, I felt a mix of emotions: pride in actually getting a novel written, nervousness at whether readers would enjoy what I'd created, and trepidation at what to expect.

I've since found that lowering my expectations helps, then when you do get a lovely surprise, like a great review, or hit one of the Amazon Bestseller Categories for a few days, it's just the icing on the cake.

For me, writing fiction is something I have to do – because despite all the effort, blood, sweat and tears, it's somehow part of me. I truly would do it for the rest of my life even if no one ever read my books.  Though of course, I hope they do.

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

I wouldn't say there's a particular message that's the same for all of them, as they are so different, I've written fantasy, paranormal romance and now crime, and the stories and readership they are aimed at are wildly differing too.

What I would say, though, is there is an element of suspense in everything I write, no matter the genre, as I do like to keep people guessing.  I find that as a reader, a little bit of mystery that slowly reveals itself as the story unwinds is highly enjoyable.

In addition, if you read between the lines you’ll see that each of my books features a deeper theme, and I've taken care to interweave that with the story.  I leave it up to the reader how they interpret that theme exactly, but in One By One I drew heavily on themes of alienation and prejudice.  I think a lot of people can relate to having experienced that at some point in their life, albeit in different ways.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Just do it. Get words down on the page. Outline before you begin, write your story idea down but put fingers to keyboard, or pen to paper and begin the process of creation. I procrastinated for years before I actually wrote my first novel, and now I wish I hadn't.

Once you've written your first novel, writing the next will still be a challenge – but it will be much, much easier. Nothing is as difficult as getting over that first hurdle.

Also, read everything you can from good writers who have gone before – not just novels they have written, but also any advice they have to give in the actual writing process. I've gained so much this way, though I still have a lot to learn.

Thank you, Beck, for a fascinating discussion.  Please come again!

You can find more about Beck on his website.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

THE GREAT ARCHITECT - a poem for Christmas Eve

Today is Day 24 of the Christmas with the Crooked Cats Advent Calendar, and it's my turn to reveal what's behind the door.

Here, then, is a little Christmas-related ditty.  From all at Barnard Towers, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and blessed Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2017.


Building a home, a place of your own,
is a careful and skilled operation;
be it palace or croft, from cellar to loft
you must start with a stable foundation.         

Doors, passages, halls, windows, ceilings and walls
are all signs of great civilisation,
but what makes buildings sound is what’s under the ground –
so there must be a stable foundation.

When the world first began, built to one clever plan,
human life was the greatest creation.
But no matter how fine is the final design,
it must start with a stable foundation.

The Creator, afraid that the world that He’d made
might be heading for hell and damnation,
concocted a plan which could save sinful man –
but it must have a stable foundation.

So with angels in flight, on a Bethlehem night,
to a world cursed with pain and frustration
came One whose sole aim was to end sin and shame;
He began with a stable foundation.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

NEVER ON SATURDAY - now available for pre-order

Dear Friends,

I'm thrilled to be able to announce that the Kindle edition of Never on Saturday (my new time-slip romance novella, based on an old French legend) is now available for pre-order. Just click on the cover image on the right to be taken to your local Amazon website.

Two stories, two heartbreaks: one past, one present...

Leaving her native France and arriving in North Wales as a postgraduate student of History and Folklore, Mel is cautiously optimistic that she can escape from her troubled past and begin a new and happier life.

She settles into her student accommodation and begins work on her thesis, concentrating particularly on one fascinating manuscript: a compelling and tragic tale of a cursed medieval princess.

Then she meets Ray - charming, down-to-earth and devastatingly handsome.  Within days, Mel's entire world has transformed from lonely and frustrated to loving and fulfilled. Despite her failure with previous relationships, she allows herself to hope that this time, at last, she can make it work.

But Mel's dreams of happiness are under constant threat.  She is hiding a dark and terrible secret, which Ray - or indeed anybody else - must never ever discover...

Tuesday, 15 November 2016


Today I have the great pleasure of welcoming my friend and fellow-writer, the fabulous Yvonne Marjot, as my guest.  Yvonne's latest novel, The Ashentilly Letters, is due for publication this coming Friday (18 November).

Welcome, Yvonne!

Hello Sue, thanks for inviting me to visit your blog.

What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

I can’t remember I time when I didn’t make up stories and poems. I got into a heap of trouble as a child for “telling stories” (adult speak for making up my own version of events). It didn’t feel like lying – just making the story more palatable.
After a while, it dawned on me that I couldn’t get into trouble if I invented the worlds within which my stories were set. I wrote the beginning of my first (unfinished) novel aged fifteen, and thirty years later, after life and kids had intervened, I went back to writing and paid proper attention to the task. Four novels and a book of poetry later, I can’t imagine not writing. I’ll be doing it on my deathbed (hopefully in many, many years from now). One day I may even finish that first, lost, novel.

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

The Ashentilly Letters is the third book in the sequence that began with The Calgary Chessman and continued with The Book of Lismore.  Each book tells the complete story of a fictional archaeological discovery, along with developments in the lives of my protagonists, Cas Longmore and her son Sam. This time they are separated by family problems, but life continues to throw up surprises, one of which has been lying in the ground for almost 2000 years.

What was the inspiration for this book?

From the beginning I wanted one of my Cas Longmore stories to be about Romans in Scotland. So little is known about the Roman presence north of the border (although we’re learning more all the time). I wanted to pay homage to one of my favourite childhood books, Rosemary Sutcliffe’s The Eagle of the Ninth, by sending my family of archaeologists to the east coast of Scotland to rewrite the history books. Also, I wanted Cas to go back to her New Zealand home, because there are (some wonderful, and some terrible) surprises awaiting her.

Did you do any research for the book?

Heaps. It’s a great way to avoid the writing part – writing-avoidance is an important strategy to maintain my sanity. Some of the most readable and useful references are quoted at the end of the book, in case you’d like to read up on the subject.

What does a typical writing day involve for you?

There are no typical days. Sometimes, when I know my boys are going to be away for the weekend, I set myself a target and treat Saturday as just another working day. Other times, inspiration will strike in the bath, or the bus, and I’ll be scrambling for paper and a pen to get it down before I forget my train of thought. In the end, though, it always comes down to hard work – I have to make myself sit at the screen and write – and write – and not stop until I’ve written enough.

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

I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer. I like to know something about my main characters, and I need to have an idea of how the story’s going to end, but the first draft writes itself – I’m just the channel through which my characters tell me what’s going on. Later I go back and tidy it up – they can be incoherent at times – but I never allow myself the delusion that I’m in charge.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I’m working on a trilogy of ‘fairy’ stories – which is to say, stories about some real people whose life is seriously inconvenienced by various activities of the Fae. Puck is in the garden, and there’s mischief afoot.

I am also about to self-publish a book of my short stories, to give new readers a taste of my writing before they decided whether to buy any of my novels.

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook or Twitter to get news of upcoming books, and Crooked Cat  is a great way to find out about great writing by a whole range of authors.

Thank you for visiting, Yvonne.  Please come again! 

More about Yvonne:

Yvonne Marjot was born in England, grew up in New Zealand, and now lives on the Isle of Mull in western Scotland. She has been making up stories and poems for as long as she can remember, and once won a case of port in a poetry competition (New Zealand Listener, May 1996). Her first volume of poetry, The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet, was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing, and her novels are published by Crooked Cat.

You can follow her work via the Facebook page The Calgary Chessman, @Alayanabeth on Twitter, or on the Wordpress blog The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016


... and the resemblance doesn't necessarily end there.

This blog originally began as a poetry blog, though I haven't posted very much poetry on here for quite some time.  But today, after waking up to the most devastating political news since Brexit, I received a surprise visit from The Muse.  This was the result:

Thought for the day (or possibly for the next four years):

He's power-crazy, boorish and rude,
misogynist, racist and lewd.
But deceived by his voice
the States made its choice;
now the whole world is totally screwed.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

A SPIRITED BIRTHDAY - a guest post by Jennifer C Wilson

Today I'm delighted to welcome back my dear friend and fellow-author Jennifer C Wilson, to celebrate the first birthday of her amazing debut novel Kindred Spirits: Tower of London.  I had the great pleasure of working with Jen as editor of this amazing story (not that it needed very much editing!) - and I can honestly say that anyone who has not read this book has missed a rare treat.  You will have the opportunity to remedy this omission later, but for now, over to you, Jen!

Hi Sue, and thanks for inviting me onto your blog today. It’s crazy to think that this time last year, I was getting things ready for the online launch of Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, as well as looking forward to celebrating with a couple of drinks later that evening.

So, it’s happy first birthday to Kindred Spirits! There may be fizz. Actually, I’ve got the day off – there will be fizz, and a much-deserved lunch out in town.

Given that it started life as a fourteen-line poem, and an appalling one at that, it’s definitely a milestone worth noting. The idea that Richard III and Anne Boleyn might have got along really stuck with me, despite the ‘wonderful’ lines:

“Richard and Anne, aligned in their fate, 
destroyed by Tudors, Henrys seven and eight.”

Truly awful, and never even entered into the competition it was written for, but when NaNoWriMo came around, it was just the spark I needed. These last eighteen months has been full of anniversaries thanks to that one little spark. A year since I sent my synopsis and three chapters off to Crooked Cat Publishing. A year since they asked for the full novel (and a frantic read-through to check for massive errors which somehow crept through the edits!). Then the magical one – a year since it was accepted for publication. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited – I remember reading the email again and again, in case there was some hidden double-negative I was missing…

Then came the learning curve. Being my debut novel, I had no clue about how anything worked, so there were the comments from my editor and from the publisher (thanks Sue and Steph!), and researching images for Crooked Cat to use for the front cover (which I can praise to the hilt, given that my only input after said viewing of images was to remove the ‘:’ from the title). Which leads us back to that launch party. I must have looked so anti-social, sitting playing on my phone whilst my parents took me to lunch, but happily, they understood, and the competitions, ‘food’ and ‘drink’ I put on seemed to go down well enough.

The evening was perfect too – being so close to Halloween, the bar area I’d reserved was covered in fake cobwebs and ghostly hangings. I may have pinched a spider-ring as a memento (and subsequently had to put it in a bag labelled ‘spider ring’, so that I don’t find it an accidentally scream blue murder!).

It was a great day, and a feeling I could definitely get used to, so to celebrate Kindred Spirits’ first birthday, the e-book is currently reduced to just 99 p/c, until Halloween – it is a ghost story, after all!

I hope you enjoy it!

Kindred Spirits: Tower of London

A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers…

In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews.

Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury.

With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave?

About Jennifer

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and since graduating has worked as a marine environmental consultant. 

Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her debut novel Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Publishing in October 2015.

Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, Amazon link: