Posted in Holidays, Madison Harper, Psychological Thriller, Update, Writing

SAYING GOODBYE TO APRIL

Here we are, once again, saying goodbye to yet another month. We are now a third of the way through 2022. Where has the time gone?

On the writing front, I’ve had a complete overhaul of my writing timetable.  I had planned to have my ms ready for editing by the time we go away in May. That is now definitely not happening, which has had a bit of a domino effect, pushing the publication date to later in the year.  I’m now looking to publish in early September.  Having agreed this change with my editor and formatter, as you can imagine, it’s taken a whole lot of pressure off me. The delays which have caused me to fall behind have been due to health issues. Nothing serious, but it has definitely impacted on my writing.

Note sure whether any of you know, but I live in a village on the eastern side of Bath. We’ve been here many years and have been lucky enough to look out onto open fields at the rear of our property.  When we first moved in, a farmer rented the field and we had a herd of Friesians as neighbours  Then it was sold off to someone in London and there was talk of them wanting to sell it for building.  We realised that things change and although not ideal, this could well happen.  A retired businessman not far from us used to pay for the field to be mowed twice a year and then, last year, we heard that he’d managed to purchase it.  The great news now is that it is now being developed as a nature reserve.  Last September we noticed seed being sewed and automatically thought it was meadow flowers. However, with the arrival of spring, it’s clear they were planting different types of grasses.  This week a team have arrived and given an oak tree, which stands a few hundred yards away, a bit of a makeover, cutting out the dead wood.  In addition, young trees are being planted in small copses around the field, which when established will provide a useful habitat for wildlife.  

 

I think everyone in the road is relieved that any new neighbours will be of the fur and feathered variety rather than the human kind.  Living in an area of outstanding natural beauty and having been incorporated into the Cotswolds it’s a relief to know the area behind the houses will be preserved and won’t be given over to another extension of suburbia.

Our first holiday is imminent. We are spending a week in Cumbria and have chosen a location which gives us the benefit of being able to visit the Lake District or the Yorkshire Dales.  We’ve not been to the Lakes since the 1980s when we stayed at Ambleside.  I have to admit to not ever having visited the Dales, so a new adventure for me – and hopefully plenty of photo opportunities!

And finally, my April reads. I went slightly mad this month. The problem was there were so many good titles to choose from. I ended up with seven in all, which I set out below.  Although I enjoyed all of them, two in particular became favourites – Gone To Her Grave by Wendy Dranfield, the fourth in her Detective Madison Harper series. One which I have to say gets better and better with each book.  The second was Out of Her Depth by Lizzie Barber.  A gripping read, helped by the wonderful Tuscan backdrop which brought back memories of holidays in places like Florence,  Sienna and San Gimignano. 

So that’s it for another month.  The next time I’m in touch, I hope to able to post some holiday shots. Until then….

Best wishes

Jo 

Posted in AUTHOR PROMOTION, Crime Thriller, Madison Harper

Happy Publication Day to Wendy Dranfield. Madison Harper is back in a fourth unputdownable Crime Thriller…

Gone to Her Grave

(Detective Madison Harper book 4)

In the golden morning light, a beautiful young woman lies diagonally across the bed, dressed for a night out, her long lashes pressed against her cheeks as if she’s sleeping. But the crimson that creeps across the sheets tells the story of an innocent woman who has drawn her last breath…

Detective Madison Harper is pulled away from Thanksgiving preparations when a local care worker, Terri Summers, is found dead in her home on the outskirts of Lost Creek, Colorado. Terri’s inconsolable mother can’t understand who would hurt such a kind soul who had dedicated her life to helping others. But analysis of the blood spatter at the scene indicates Terri knew her attacker, that she looked them right in the eye before her life was taken.

The awkward way Terri’s body is positioned catches Madison’s attention. Carefully moving her, she finds a bracelet—possibly a child’s—with a single red bead clenched in the woman’s fist, as if she was hiding it. It’s the lead Madison so desperately needs, but the sudden death of one of her own team sends the investigation into a tailspin.

With her coworkers crumbling around her, Madison must work day and night to trace the bracelet and crack the case. But when she’s dragged back into the disappearance of a woman and child from years ago, and finds a link to someone in her own family, can Madison stop this twisted killer before another precious life is taken? And at what cost?

Amazon link: http://viewbook.at/GonetoHerGrave

AUTHOR BIO

Wendy is the bestselling author of the Detective Madison Harper crime series.

She is a former coroner’s assistant turned crime writer who writes a mixture of standalone thrillers, crime series and short stories. Some of her books have been shortlisted for various writing competitions and awards, including the Mslexia novel competition and the International Thriller Writer Awards.

Website: wendydranfield.co.uk

Facebook & Instagram: Wendy Dranfield Author

MY REVIEW

While Detective Madison Harper is in charge of investigating the murder of a care worker, PI Nate Monroe has been hired to look into a cold case. A woman and her grandson who disappeared six years ago.   When Madison receives upsetting news that a close colleague has committed suicide, she refuses to believe he has taken his own life. And when she finds a connection between the care worker and the dead lawman, she requests another autopsy, convinced the two deaths are linked.

This is the fourth book in the Madison Harper/Nate Monroe series and in my opinion the best yet. The storyline is gripping and keeps you guessing all the way (although I have to say I had my suspicions about one character). Wendy’s writing simply flows onto the page. I love the way the relationship between Maddie and Nate is developing and also the addition of one new character who looks as though they are going to stay around for a while.  Nate’s dog Brody has also become an essential part of the team.

As with the other books in this series, you get the feeling although everything has been wrapped up and the case solved, there is more to come – I do hope so!

Looking forward to what’s in store next for our crime fighting couple.

Posted in Writing

Goodbye to March…

Well, I thought February came and went fairly quickly, but March, even with three extra days, seems to have passed even quicker.  Here we are, almost in April and it’s gone back to winter with falling temperatures and a bitter north wind.  Despite this, it’s good to see colour coming back into the gardens and blossom everywhere, making a statement and reminding us that the better weather is not far away.

WRITING

The word count on my WIP has progressed well and I’ve reached 65,000 words.  I have a cover organised – a great incentive to get on with the writing – and my editor lined up for May.  

This month I also met up with writer Lizzie Lamb, whose contemporary romances feature hot kilted heroes. We had lunch in Bath and it was a lovely opportunity to chat and meet each other for the first time (and hopefully not the last).

HOME

Home projects include a new gazebo for the back garden and some tables for the patio.  We’re lucky to have a south facing garden which gives us the benefit of sunshine well into late afternoon. Nothing is better than spending time (when not writing) relaxing with a glass of wine and a good book.

HOLIDAY

So far this year the weather has been very anti-social and my walking has suffered. However, during the last couple of weeks, it seems to have turned a corner and I’ve been able to get out to exercise without the threat of getting caught in a downpour.  I hope to build on this during April and get back to a regular five days of walking. With our first holiday on the horizon, I need to get in shape for our visit to the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.

And finally, reading.  Seven books this month.  I’ve reduced the number next month as I really need to push on with writing and meeting that May deadline for editing.

So that’s it for now.  Back next month.

Best wishes

 

Jo 

 

Posted in Writing

RANDOM THINGS TOUR 22ND MARCH 2022: FAIR GAME by R.D. NIXON

i’m delighted to be part of the above tour for Fair Game, which is the second, gripping novel in the Clifford-Mackenzie Crime Series from the brilliant R.D. Nixon.

BLURB
It’s autumn in Abergarry.
The nights lengthen and the weather turns and the atmosphere darkens as the community is rocked by a brutal roadside murder: a loan shark’s ‘bag man’, Craig Lumsden, is found bludgeoned to death in his car in the early hours of the morning.
The season for murder.
The case seems simple enough, and the fingers quickly point to the most obvious suspect. But things are rarely as simple as they seem…
A murder that’s too close to home.
Too close for comfort, and definitely too close for complacency for private investigators Maddy Clifford and Paul Mackenzie. Delving into the case brings at least one of them face-to-face with danger… will life in Abergarry ever be the same again?

MY REVIEW

This book is the 2nd in the PI Mackenzie & Maddy series.

It reads well as a standalone, although there were references to book one which made me feel I maybe should have invested some time  following Mackenzie and Maddy from the beginning of the series.

The story begins in the 1980s with five friends and a tragic accident. It then moves on twenty years to catch up with these characters and their now grown-up children. A body is found in a car park. An anonymous tip off sends the police to the door of Maddie’s fiancé Gavin, and an arrest is made.  But have the police made a serious error of judgement?

All through the book there are many twists and turns and when the murderer is revealed, I really didn’t see it coming.

 Set in Scotland it is a well written story with engaging characters and a pace that never lets up.  Highly recommended.

My thanks to R D Nixon and Anne at Random Tours for a copy of Fair Game in exchange for an honest review.

Now Read an Extract…

New Year’s Eve, 1987

The downstairs rooms had been opened up, and the hallway of Glenlowrie House transformed into as close to a ballroom as the Wallaces could make it. The wilting Christmas greenery had been thrown out and replaced with fresh, glossy holly, artificially studded with berries where it fell short of perfection. Two enormous Christmas trees, one at either end, twinkled with tiny white lights, and more lights were draped over the stags’ heads that adorned the walls.

The Glenlowrie Hogmanay parties traditionally started in the late afternoon, and it was still early when Mary Wallace signalled for music, rearranged her red tartan sash, and swept everyone away from the dining table and into the makeshift ballroom.

Will Kilbride was around somewhere, but, contrary to his usual attempts to include the relative outsider, Duncan drew only Rob and Sandy into his office and poured them drinks.

‘To absent friends,’ he said, raising his glass. ‘To Mick.’ ‘Mick,’ Rob and Sandy echoed.
‘You’ve forgiven him, then?’ Rob asked after he’d drunk. ‘Nope, he’s made me look a proper fool tonight.’ Duncan  shrugged and sighed. ‘Aye, of course I’ve forgiven the annoying little gobshite. He’s still our friend.’

‘I saw him yesterday,’ Sandy put in. ‘Took the boys’ presents over. You know he asked his family to buy him a mobile phone for Christmas? A Cityman 1320, exactly like Will’s.’

‘No!’ Duncan couldn’t help laughing. ‘The only thing that does surprise me is that he didn’t buy it himself.’

‘Probably didn’t want to admit he wanted one,’ Rob said. ‘This way he can deny everything.’

‘Turns out Will was telling the truth about what it cost, too,’ Sandy went on. He put his glass down to dig around in his wallet. ‘He gave me his number, asked me to share it with you.’

‘To do what? Call him and tell him he’s missing the party of the century?’ Duncan shook his head. ‘Serves him right!’

‘It’s not his fault,’ Sandy said, predictably loyal. ‘He’s never missed one before.’

‘And he won’t miss one again,’ Duncan said, with deliberate emphasis.

Rob eyed him suspiciously. ‘Meaning?’

Duncan re-filled his glass, and offered a top-up to the others. ‘Meaning I think we need to teach him a friendly little lesson.’

Rob and Sandy looked at one another, then back at him. ‘Go on,’ Rob said, clearly interested, while Sandy just looked uncomfortable.

‘Is he staying overnight at that shindig he’s gone to?’

‘No, he’s got meetings first thing. He said he’ll be heading back soon after midnight.’

Duncan put down his glass. ‘Right, now don’t go interrupting, just hear me out.’

‘Sounds ominous,’ Sandy murmured.

‘Shut up!’ Rob and Duncan said in unison, but both were smiling.

Sandy grinned and held up his hands. ‘Fine! Stop beating around the bush and get on with it then!’

‘Okay. We’ve all read John Macnab?’

‘Aye,’ Sandy said, but Rob pursed his lips.

‘Remind me?’

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

R.D. (Terri) Nixon is a prolific writer, with thirteen books under her belt now. In
addition to this crime series, she also writes historical fiction, family sagas and
mythical fiction. When she’s not writing, Terri works in the Faculty of Arts,
Humanities, and Business at Plymouth University, where she is constantly
baffled by the number of students who don’t possess pens.

R.D. NIXON
Posted in Writing

Where did February go?

I know that February is a short month, but this year it seems to have flown by.  Life is gradually getting back to normal now we seem to be on top of this current strain of Covid, although, as I discovered when I went to the hairdresser recently, we still need to wear face masks there.  Not a problem as being a hoarder who keeps everything in my bag I still have one squirrelled away there. Going into pubs and restaurants and not having to scan the QR code or wear a mask was something we could only dream of last year.  Now it feels so good to be finally getting back to some semblance of normality.

In contrast to January, February has been a wet and windy month, with Dudley, Eunice and Franklin each taking turns to use the UK as a punch bag, bringing with them rain and record high winds. Our road got off quite lightly – a couple of fences down, a few roof tiles, and in our case, the loss of a TV aerial.  These dark, grey days make me think more and more about the summer months  – warm weather, barbeques, relaxing in the garden with wine and trips to the coast.  This year we are spending our holidays in the UK with staycations in Suffolk, the North West (Lake District and Yorkshire Dales) and, of course, Cornwall.  In between there’s an opportunity for days out and, of course, there are our daily walks, which began when I was discharged from hospital in March 2020. 

I’ve never been a regular walker. Maybe if we had owned a dog there would have been an incentive to pull on boots and get out into the fresh air. However, after major surgery and five days in hospital, I knew I needed to do something to get myself  back to a decent level of health and fitness.  Although keyhole surgery was a godsend and helped the recovery process, I was still weak and for the first couple of days simply ate, read or watched TV.  My post op diet in hospital consisted mainly of pasta and rice pudding as they attempted to coax my digestive system back to normal. On on third day home, I knew it was time to stop being a couch potato and do something positive. Living on a hill gave me a challenge before I had even got out of the front door. On that first attempt, by the time I got to the top of the road I felt as if I had run a marathon. But the gauntlet had been thrown down and if there’s anything I love, it’s a challenge. The next day I managed another two or three hundred yards. Each day after that, I extended the walk, and a fortnight later could managed a substantial around the block walk. Spring 2020 brought with it some really good weather which saw me and my OH out every day, making the most of the wonderful open countryside which is only five minutes walk from home.   

Currently we walk an hour each day, usually in the late afternoon, although I find mornings are less disruptive. If I can get out at, say 10.30, then prepare lunch, it gives me the whole of the afternoon to write.  And, of course, each walk gives me time to think about where I am with my WIP and how best to move on from where I finished the day before.  The current book, which is in two parts – set between six years ago and present day – is nudging 50,000 words and I have four more scenes before I reach the end of part one. I’m hoping part two will take me through to mid-April and then I’ll slip on my editing hat and the fun begins!

 

SOME OF OUR REGULAR WALKS

And finally, my book reads for February. I’ve given all of these four stars and I’ve posted reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

So that’s all for now. See you in March, which is a month usually associated with the little chap below.

Best wishes,

Jo

Posted in Writing

JANUARY UPDATE…

I’m writing my January update on a bright, sunny morning. We’ve had a few days of grey and now to be greeted by a day of brilliant sunshine is a bonus. They have been few and far between during these winter months.

January is my least favourite month of the year. After all the buzz of activity leading up to the Festive Season, and this year the ability to see friends and family beyond the Covid allocated ‘bubble’ of last year, January has predictably been a flat month.   This year, however, I’ve looked beyond those first thirty one days of 2022. Instead, I’ve booked two holidays, been working on my latest novel and generally been looking forward.  Okay we still have Covid, something that’s going to be with us for a good while yet, and I still have two more years of post-cancer monitoring, but generally life is good. I can’t complain.

This week we were at our first live music concert since 2019.  Singer/songwriter Paul Carrack, who has been with bands like Ace, Squeeze and latterly Mike and the Mechanics, kicked off his UK tour here in Bath.  We had previously booked to see him in early 2021, but Covid and lockdown saw the tour cancelled and rescheduled for August.  Sadly that was cancelled too.  We crossed fingers when the January date was announced and although there was not a full house that night, those who attended proved an enthusiastic and appreciative audience.  He performed many of his hits, together with tracks from his new album, which was written during lockdown.   

 Currently my writing is going well.  The new book is in two parts – Present day and six years previously.  I’m about two thirds of the way through the ‘past’ section, which is narrated by my main female character.  I hope to finish this by mid-Feb then edit and move on to part two, which will be written from the third person.  The characters are behaving themselves for a change which means I’m making good progress. Watch this space!

And finally, my January reads.  2022 has begun with a great selection of books, all four and five star reviews.  I usually prefer psychological thrillers but having read all of Lorna Cook’s novels, I couldn’t resist adding her latest to my list. And I’m glad I did. Once again she has produced an amazing read set in Paris during WWII and present day. 

 

So that’s all for now. Back next month.

Best wishes

Jo

Posted in Writing

JANUARY 7TH: IT’S PUBLICATION DAY FOR THE BIRTHDAY PARTY by WENDY DRANFIELD

Charlotte waves at her mother across the crowded lawn. Little red boots on, cowboy hat crooked over her blonde pigtails, she’s been looking forward to this party for weeks. Moments later, she disappears without a trace…

Kathy Hamilton drives away from her sister-in-law’s pristine-white suburban house in Maple Falls certain she’s left her daughter in safe hands. On the hottest day of the year, a birthday is the perfect excuse to gather friends, family and neighbors around the pool for a barbecue. But when she returns hours later to find her little girl has vanished, her world shatters.

Nobody laughing and drinking in the garden that day saw anything unusual.

Kathy’s eldest daughter is anxious and hardly eating. Is she sick with worry for her sister, or hiding a terrible secret?

The phone rings and rings, but why can’t Kathy get hold of the babysitter?

And is she imagining it, or when her husband rushed from work to join the search, was he wearing a different shirt to the one she saw him leave the house in that morning?

As the temperature rises, and long-buried secrets begin to surface, it’s clear that even the most perfect families keep devastating secrets. But in a town as small as this, is there anyone you can trust?

A totally gripping and utterly addictive page-turner that will have you racing through and reeling at the twists. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, Gone Girl and Teresa Driscoll, it will keep you up reading all night long!

Available on amazon, Kindle Unlimited and Audible.

Amazon link: http://viewbook.at/TheBirthdayParty

About the author

Wendy is a former coroner’s assistant turned crime writer who lives with her husband and 3 rescue cats.

Her first novel (The Girl Who Died, 2015) was longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition. Since then she has written two crime series – the latest follows Detective Madison Harper as she tries to reclaim her life after spending six years in prison for a murder she didn’t commit. Books 4 and 5 in this series will be published in 2022, along with the standalone crime thriller The Birthday Party.

Wendy is very active on social media, with updates about her books, her characters and her cats! You’ll find her here:

Website: https://wendydranfield.co.uk/

Twitter: @WendyDranfield

Facebook: Wendy Dranfield Author

Pinterest: Wendy Dranfield

Instagram: Wendy Dranfield Author

MY REVIEW

Wendy has given her Madison Harper series a rest and written a standalone psychological thriller. Set in the town of Maple Creek, it is an absorbing read which slowly unwraps secrets and lies within a well-heeled family.  A five-year-old child goes missing at a birthday party.  Who could have taken her and why? It is a parent’s worse nightmare. But scratch the surface and there are things about the feted Hamilton family the locals in Maple Creek know nothing about. The disappearance of Kathy Hamilton’s daughter Charlotte (Charley) is about to change all that, bringing some unwanted intrusions into the life of controlling matriarch Connie Hamilton.

Everyone is a suspect and detective Chase Cooper is caught in a race against time – tracking down the little girl’s abductor and locating her as soon as possible.

A worthy five star read…

My thanks to Wendy Dranfield, Bookouture and Netgalley for an ARC of The Birthday Party in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Writing

DECEMBER CATCH UP…

Well, here we are, at the end 2021, and how quickly the time has gone.  It’s been a mixed year. A tenth novel completed and published and 77 books read and reviewed on my Goodreads Challenge, nearly double the 44 I had originally set up to complete.  I’m a bit of a book junkie. I belong to Netgalley where I’m able to request and read advanced review copies of the latest offerings from authors.  I am also auto-approved by Bookouture, which means I can choose titles and have them automatically delivered to my Kindle without having to request them first.  I’ve always been a lover of romance, sagas and historical fiction.  Now another genre has been added: psychological thrillers and Bookouture authors write some of the best.

Back home in my own writer’s den, I’m currently working on book three of my Cornish trilogy.  This time my main character is the daughter of a hotelier. Yes, I know, we’ve been there before with A Cornish Affair, only this time the hotel in question is not situated on a clifftop overlooking the Atlantic. Instead it overlooks the harbourside in Kingswater, the fictitious Cornish estuary town where the trilogy is based.  Hayley Young, who was a friend of Ava Warren, the central character who narrates Shadows on the Water, now has her own story. Although Hayley appeared in both Shadows and A Kingswater Summer, all readers knew about her was that she was a young single mother with a small daughter and worked with Ava.  I gave very little detail about her background. I guess this was a good move, as it has enabled me to  start with a blank sheet and an opportunity to create something completely new. I’m 15,000 words in, not that far along a road which will probably reach 80,000 – 100,000, but so far it’s going well.  I plan to really get my head down next month, once Christmas and the New Year are out of the way, with a first draft finish by end February.  Then the hard work begins.

With so much going on in December, I’ve cut back on reading this month. Only two books – both of which were worthy of five star reviews.  Moving on into January, I kick start the new year with six. 

 

So it just remains for me to wish everyone a happy, healthy and peaceful 2022. Where has the time gone? It only seems like yesterday we were welcoming in the Millennium!

Best wishes and I’ll be back at the end of January.

Jo x

Posted in Writing

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER UPDATE

Well, here we are, marching towards Christmas. How did 2021 go so quickly?  It seems only yesterday we were welcoming in the New Year, and now it’s almost time to bid it farewell.

October ended up being so busy I missed my update, so am bringing it along to join November’s.  The tenth month seemed to be filled with all sorts of appointments, both dental and medical, plus visits to friends and meals out.   The final few days of the month saw us in Brockenhurst for our wedding anniversary.  The weather was a mix of overnight rain and windy, showery days.  We had a two night stay, meaning one whole day there to ourselves.  The hotel was an absolute gem of a find and we will definitely be back next year. Everything there was so well organised, the rooms clean and bright and we were welcomed with coffee and cake. Breakfasts were enormous and set us up for the day.  The in-house restaurant did some pretty exceptional meals and just as well we opted to eat there as the evening were pretty wet!  Not the kind of weather to venture out to eat.  Our one ‘day there saw us in Lymington during the morning, and after a wander and a coffee we headed out to Christchurch, stopping on the way to take a photo of The Needles, just off the Isle of Wight.  Although we managed this between showers, the wind was so strong we both had trouble keeping upright!  Sadly this had a detrimental effect on capturing anything in the way of a sensible shot!

Back from Hampshire it was straight in to Trick or Treat which saw a goodly number of local costumed children with their buckets – and adults accompanying them – knocking on doors and gathering goodies.  Days later it was Bonfire night – usually an event that starts in mid-October and goes on well into November with nightly bangs and whooshing of rockets. This year, for whatever reason, it was much quieter. Maybe people decided to go to the many official ones around, who knows?

Mid-November our new front door and a team of fitters arrived. Ordered in August and held up due to an unprecedented demand at the manufacturers, we were really looking forward to the change. Unfortunately, it was not the door we had ordered.  We only discovered this once the old door had been cut up. It meant they had to fit it and re-order.  We’ve now been told it’s due here on 9th December, so fingers crossed all will go well this time.

I have to admit to have been struggling with my current WIP.  It’s all there – plot, characters, the lot. It simply needs to be written. And that’s where the problem has been – finding my writing mojo.  So, I have been working on it in small steps. Usually I like to have at least 2,000 words completed from any one writing session. However, on this occasion I know that pushing myself to accomplish this is not the answer. It will only make matters worse and be counter productive. So when I get an idea for a scene I just write that one scene.  If anything comes from that, say, moving it on to the next scene, then I will happily go with it. But I do not force myself to complete something I don’t feel any current inspiration for.  I’m hoping that January – which is my least favourite month and usually very quiet – will proved to be the time to kick start everything again as there will be no distractions.

READING AND REVIEWING

OCTOBER 2021

NOVEMBER 2021

So that’s it for the time being. I will be back again at the end of December. In the meantime here’s wishing you all a very Happy Christmas.