I’m delighted to reveal the cover of LOST SOULS, book 4 in my Gaby Darin, Welsh-set detective series. All 4 since April last year, means that these are LOCK DOWN babies, which isn’t what any writer would have hoped for but there are worse things.
LOST SOULS is about a missing girl but it’s also about a troubled teenage boy – remember Ronan Stevens in DARKEST NIGHT? It’s a tale of two LOST SOULS on a road trip across North Wales, with Detective Gaby Darin and her team hot on their heels. Each of the thrillers are standalone. You can pre-order it here.
A MISSING GIRL. A RACE AGAINST TIME.
Ten-year-old Elodie Fry vanishes overnight, along with a rucksack filled with her meagre belongings. Acting DI Gaby Darin and her team are fighting the clock to reunite Elodie with her distraught mother – but was Elodie kidnapped or did she run?
Later that day, a local undertaker uncovers a nasty surprise: the remains of an unidentified second adult among a late pensioner’s ashes. Torn between the two investigations, Gaby decides the gruesome discovery at the crematorium must wait – the team are desperate to find Elodie before they lose her trail.
But as she follows the evidence, Gaby realises the two cases have a sinister connection… and there’s a killer on the loose.
Can Gaby find the missing girl alive… or is she already too late?
I started reading this a few days ago and, initially, I thought I’d made a mistake, a huge one. What even is Speculative Crime Fiction anyway!
After a few pages I was hooked into a new world, manned by Workers, Andi’s, Hedonists and Communes. The focus is on Communes where five minds live in one body to preserve the earth’s limited resources.
If you can imagine an Arnie Swartnegger movie, The Hunger Games, Sophie’s Choice and a whodunit under one cover you’ll be on the right track. I loved it and wouldn’t be surprised if it gets optioned for a movie. But more importantly it’s broadened my reading horizons.
ONE BODY. FIVE MINDS. ONE KILLER.
The Earth’s population has finally been controlled. At the age of seventeen, you must choose how you will live. And when you will die. As an android, your mind downloaded into a synthetic body, and given eighty years. As a worker, with a natural lifespan. As a hedonist, with unlimited money and leisure, but dead at forty-two. Or as a commune, five minds sharing one body, with a combined existence of over a century.
Alex, Kate, Sierra, Ben and Mike are a commune. They have already spent twenty-five years together, arguing, reconciling, alliances shifting and re-forming. They travel to a Death Park where games are played in which time can be gambled like money. The plan is to win time to upgrade their next host body. But then Kate accepts a dangerous offer, and one of them disappears.
Someone is trying to kill off members of the commune. Is one of them responsible? Or is someone else playing a deadly game? It’s hard enough to catch a murderer. It’s almost impossible when you might be sharing a body with them…
Today I have Judith Barrow on my blog taking about all things Wales. It’s also the book launch day for her latest book, THE HEART STONE, which I can’t wait to read. Over to you, Judith.
My Wales. My writing. My latest book.
Walking the Pembrokeshire coastal path has been one of our greatest pleasures since we came to live here forty years ago. Our favourite walk is from Porthclais to St Non’s Chapel. Narrow in places and often very windy, it’s exhilarating, with breath-taking views. Standing high on the cliffs, looking down at the sea, watching the far out ripples of water grow into towering waves until they crash, white foam, over the jagged dark rocks, is mesmerising. The chuffs swirl and cry above us; this is their place, not ours. We can only watch, take photos, make memories.
Often I sit and make notes, try to capture the scene in words whilst my husband captures the bay in photographs.
The freedom to write whenever I liked was something that came as a surprise after we were married. Previously, writing was something I’d done in secret; pronounced a ‘waste of time’ by my father, it was easier if he didn’t see it. My new husband was equally surprised to be asked the question if he minded.
Not being allowed to stay on to the sixth form, I left school when I was sixteen to go into the Civil Service. It wasn’t until I was forty that I took my A level in English Literature and completed various creative writing courses. I took a script writing/drama course at Swansea University, and started a BA degree course with the Open University. This took longer than I expected due to contracting breast cancer halfway through the course. During those years I had short stories and poems published, a play performed at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea and one play filmed. Eventually I gained a MA degree at what was then, Trinity College, in Carmarthen.
Shortly afterwards I was asked if I would tutor some creative writing classes for Pembrokeshire County Council, under an adult Lifelong Learning Scheme. Something I’m still doing. I will be so glad to get back to the classrooms once we can carry on in ‘real’ life.
I write family sagas which crosses various genres, and, over the last twelve years, I have been published by Honno, the longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK.
Many years ago, when someone asked me what I wrote about, I would say, ‘people and their lives’. By which I really meant families. So the main genre I write in is family sagas. But there are many sub genres within that: Romance, Historical, Crime.
My stories delve into family situations, the frequently underlying current of vying for position in a family; the clashes of personalities. Crime doesn’t only happen on the streets of towns and cities. Despite the love that is threaded through most families, there can be jealousies and resentments, suspicions and distrusts. Whether historically from past generations, or from situations that arise, these emotions can lead to crime in some form or another.
My Haworth trilogy: Pattern of Shadows, Changing Patterns and Living in the Shadows, is preceded by the prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads (despite the fact that it was written last – due to the characters, the parents of the protagonist of the trilogy, Mary Haworth nagging at me to write their story). The years covered in these books span from the early nineteen hundreds to nineteen sixty-nine.
My last book, published in 2020, The Memory, is more contemporary. Written in two parallel timelines, it is set around a memory that haunts the protagonist, Irene Hargreaves: the death of her siter, a Downs Syndrome child. Something the family will never talk about. Available here
My next book, The Heart Stone, is due to be published on the 18th February. Again, an historical family saga, set around the time of WW1. I love writing about this era because it reminds me of my grandfather who volunteered to join the local Pals Battalion with two of his friends, although they were all underage, and it’s something I’ve researched both for my degree on The First World War and for my other books.
1914. Everything changes for Jessie on a day trip to Blackpool. She realises her feelings for Arthur are far more than friendship. And just as they are travelling home, war is declared.
Arthur lies about his age to join his Pals’ Regiment. Jessie’s widowed mother is so frightened, she agrees to marry Amos Morgan. Only Jessie can see how vicious he is. When he turns on her, Arthur’s mother is the only person to help her, the two women drawn together by Jessie’s deepest secret.
Facing a desperate choice between love and safety, will Jessie trust the right people? Can she learn to trust herself?
I’m a member of Crime Cymru, an ever-growing group of crime writers in Wales. It’s an eclectic collection of authors who create stories from investigative thrillers, domestic noir, to historical crime and cosy mystery genre.
The Spring of 2022 will see the launch of Wales’s first crime festival, the Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival, a weekend-long event in Aberystwyth,.
Because of COVID 19, between April 26 – May 2, 2021 there will be a smaller online festival: Virtual CRIME CYMRU Digidol.
Check out Crime Cymru on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @GwylCrimeCymruFestival and @Crime.Cymru.
Thank you, Judith and best of luck with your book.
Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages on the edge of the Pennines,has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for over forty years. She has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. She is a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and holds private one to one workshops on all genres.
Hi everyone, today I have the very great pleasure of inviting Alis Hawkins onto my Welsh Murder Book. Over to you, Alis.
I write historical fiction in two different periods – medieval fiction set largely in and around a fictitious medieval university city in South East England, and mid-nineteenth century crime fiction set in the area of West Wales where I grew up, the Teifi Valley.
To give you an idea of what my bit of Wales looks like, here’s a picture taken outside our farm house.
The Teifi Valley includes parts of Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire and all three counties feature in my books. (If you’d like to know more about why I chose to set my Victorian fiction in West Wales rather than in London like everybody else, you can find out here.)
I set the first in the series, None So Blind (described by the BBC Radio Wales’ book programme Phil The Shelf as ‘the most interesting crime fiction creation of the year’) in and around my hometown of Newcastle Emlyn, just below the river, here…
… and I situated the book’s central murder on a footpath through woodland on a farm next to the dairy farm where I grew up, somewhere I have often walked and which is actually a very peaceful, tranquil place. In real life, it’s called the Wenallt – the white or fair wood but, in None So Blind, it becomes the Alltddu – the dark or black wood and the setting for an act of ultimate treachery. The murder takes place in the dark during a thunderstorm so you can imagine how different the scene below would look:
The second book the Teifi Valley Coroner series, In Two Minds (shortlisted for the 2020 Crime Writers’ Association Historical Dagger) is set in the Teifi Valley hinterland on the coast above Cardigan where the Teifi meets the sea. A naked, unidentified body is found on a beach with a consignment of limestone for the local kiln at Tresaith. Modern-day Tresaith is a small village but, at the time, there were only four buildings on the little cove – the Ship Inn (still there), the limeburner’s cottage and two limekilns. The coast is wild and rugged now and it was no different in the mid nineteenth century when Harry and John are investigating, but nearly every little sandy beach was used to land produce of one kind or another and, often, ships were built on the sand. Here’s a photo looking down the coast towards Tresaith from above the larger beach of Llangranog:
The third in the Teifi Valley Coroner series, Those Who Know, takes us further up the Teifi Valley to Tregaron, Lampeter and Llanddewi Brefi where a controversial schoolteacher has fallen (or has he been pushed?) to his death from the loft of what he calls his ‘cowshed academy’. The landscape above Tregaron is wilder and more rugged than the lower Teifi. This is the kind of windswept hillside where Schoolmaster Rowland has his makeshift school:
By the way, If you’d like to know more about why I made my central investigator a coroner rather than a policeman, you can find the answers here.
My Writing Life
How does writing fiction work? For me, writing comes in two varieties – conscious and largely subconscious. Almost every word of my novels is written by a process which involves me having a vague idea of where the current scene might go then setting off and seeing where it actually goes. I don’t plan much and, if I do, I certainly don’t feel the need to stick to the plan if something better reveals itself. I’ve learned that the more I try to stick to any plan I might have come up with, the less well the scene/chapter/whole book works. In crime writing circles, writing from the subconscious is known as ‘pantsing’, ie writing by the seat of your pants. It’s an odd process, more like discovering things you already knew than making things up. It’s analogous to something Michelangelo said: ‘The sculpture is already complete within the marble block before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.’ It feels as if the story of my books is there, somewhere in my head, and I just have to let my subconscious find it. Here’s an example of how it works. One day, during the writing of a scene in Those Who Know, I realised that I needed a break in the dialogue to allow the reader to re-focus for a second or two. So I decided to have a robin pecking at the window. So far, so definitely conscious. But the bird’s appearance did far more than just provide breathing space. Yes, the necessary re-focus was achieved but also – and this was subconscious – the underlying aggression in the scene was echoed by John’s comments on the ferocity of the robin. But third, and most strikingly subconscious, when John looked beyond the robin he saw somebody listening at the window. As soon as John (and I) saw who it was, the character concerned was immediately taken in a new and unanticipated direction which changed the shape of the book. And all from a need for a break in some tense dialogue. Weird. But it works for me. Also, it’s fun. I’m not sure how much I’d enjoy writing to a plan – all the fun would have been used up in coming up with the ideas in the first place and then it would be like painting with numbers. So, even though setting off not knowing where you’re going or how you’re going to get there is nerve-wracking (what if it doesn’t work? is the question in your mind every time) it’s great fun. And writing has to be fun because, unless you’re constantly in the best-seller lists, it isn’t going to make you rich (or even, frankly, a living). In case you were wondering whether I ever do any of the other kind of writing, conscious writing generally lies on the periphery of the novels. It’s not creative and, as it’s more like the kind of writing I have to do for the day job, a lot less fun. It’s the kind of writing where you’re cudgelling your brains for a logical and succinct communication style for things like synopses, blurbs and writing for marketing purposes. That kind of writing is hard work because you can’t just set off and see what happens. With only 500 or 800 words at your disposal, you’ve got to know exactly what you want to say, say it pithily and then desist, preferably with a few amusing turns of phrase or original ideas in there somewhere to make it worth the reader’s while. Oh, and you have to remember that you’re basically marketing your book/s!
I’m the kind of reader who likes to start at the beginning of a series and, if you’re the same, the first in the Teifi Valley Coroner series is None So Blind. However, as my publisher has just been taken over by a bigger company which will be re-jacketing all the books and bringing out new editions on the 25th of March, None So Blind isn’t available at the moment as all previous copies have sold out. However, all three books will be available on the 25th of March as Canelo paperbacks and all are available as ebooks in the new, Canelo edition, now.
My first medieval novel (also my first published novel) is Testament, currently available in Kindle or paperback via Amazon from Sapere Books here
Alis Hawkins grew up on a dairy farm in Ceredigion (West Wales). Though her parents, from Pontypool in South Wales, did not speak Welsh, she and her brother were both fluent within a year of starting school. Essential because, otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to speak to the other kids. After a very enjoyable seven years at the local comprehensive Alis relocated to Corpus Christi College, Oxford where she acquired a degree in English and an interest in psychology and communication which led her to train as a Speech and Language Therapist. Snce the early nineties, she has been working with autistic children and their families, bringing up her two sons and writing historical and crime fiction. Now living with her partner on the Welsh/English border, Alis loves walking, collects rucksacks and can’t resist an interesting fact. Though she does resist putting them all in her books…
Delighted to say that the next two books in the series, no names as yet or even covers, are written.
Book Four comes out in May with HQ Digital and there’ll be more on that front very soon. A runaway girl and a homeless man on a road trip across Wales with Detective Gaby Darin and her team hot on their heels.
I only completed the first draft of Book Five yesterday, so I can’t tell you too much yet but it is set around Amy Potter’s (family liaison office and Gaby’s best friend) wedding. This will also be published by HQ Digital and comes out in November.
And Book Six… I’ve already started this one – more later.
Today I have the very great pleasure of welcoming Jeff Warren onto my blog. Hi Jeff and thank you for joining me today. Over to you…
My earliest childhood memories of Wales are of my father mentioning unfamiliar places: Carmarthen; Whitland; Newcastle Emlyn. He was a dairy chemist and regularly visited the milk factories and creameries of South West Wales. He took us on family holidays to Pendine, Betws-y-Coed and Anglesey, where we enjoyed beaches, castles and wild countryside.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that my first girlfriend was from Pembroke and that later I married a nurse who was born and raised in Pembrokeshire. Her aunt and uncle ran a country house hotel in St David’s. They had the misfortune to lose their chef due to illness at the start of one summer holiday season. Back then I was a chemistry lecturer and my college shut down for two months in July and August, so I stepped in and helped out in the kitchen. For the next few summers my wife and I and our two young children slept in an old caravan and we divided our time between the hotel kitchen and the beaches.
2020 was the first year in decades that we’ve not visited friends and relatives in West Wales. Seeing its scenery and people through the eyes of my protagonists in ‘A Final Regret’ goes a small way to compensate for the disappointment.
All of my life I’ve been an avid reader, mainly of action adventure, crime, and historical fiction. Perhaps the books I’ve enjoyed most have been those where the author has skilfully woven details of unfamiliar occupations, places or history into an engaging story.
I love researching as I write, a habit that I’m striving to keep in check, but for me that is part of the joy of writing. If I was prevented from Googling, my productivity would increase dramatically, but I suspect my writing would suffer.
My first novel, ‘Caribbean Countdown’, was an action adventure thriller. Compared to many books in the genre I thought it was quite tame, until friends told me that they never realised I was so blood-thirsty, and a reviewer wrote ‘not for the faint-hearted’. I re-read it with new eyes. Compared to many modern crime novels and special forces thrillers, the descriptions of violence and dead bodies may seemed restrained, but cosy they are not.
I’m concerned that the casual brutality depicted in books, films and on TV has desensitised me and is having the same effect on others. So, when writing ‘A Final Regret’, I took the conscious decision to make it ‘family-friendly’. It’s a murder mystery novel. Inevitably people die, but I’ve not dwelt on the details, and you’ll only find one swear word in the entire novel.
I don’t have a fixed writing routine as other aspects of my life keep disrupting it, but to be productive I do need uninterrupted periods of several hours. I’m not one of those people who can just sit down and continue writing my story. It takes time for me to settle into the right frame of mind.
Nor am I a meticulous planner, although I do need an outline chapter plan to successfully complete a book. Without it I tend to judder to a halt. My computer has a number of incomplete novels where that has happened. But I don’t regard the chapter plan as immutable. The story evolves as I write, I’ll introduce new characters and sub-plots, I may even change the identity of the villain. For me that is all part of the fun of writing.
A Final Regret: A Pembrokeshire Murder Mystery (Book 1)
A Young Mother Missing. Did Someone Want Her Dead?
Neighbourhood Sergeant Alys Carey and Detective Inspector Matt Vincent are thrown together when Matt returns to Pembrokeshire and takes on the case.
There’s no shortage of suspects: Rianna’s blackmail victims; the men she beguiled; the women who loved them; the father of little baby Meg.
Can Alys and Matt unravel the complex web of relationships within the local community and ensure that justice prevails, or will Matt’s embittered detective sergeant, Beth Francis, derail the investigation?
And what will become of little baby Meg?
‘A Final Regret’ is a modern murder mystery with a sprinkling of romance and humour. With little violence or swearing, it’s a suitable read for the whole family.
Forever Goodbye: A Pembrokeshire Murder Mystery (Book 2)
The unnatural death of a local celebrity, possibly suspicious, throws Sergeant Alys Carey and DI Matt Vincent under the glare of the media spotlight and DS Beth Francis’s malicious gaze. If it was murder, can Alys and Matt identify the killer before another victim dies? Alys’s future in the CID depends on it.
Thank you, Jeff, and good luck with your next book,
About Jeff Warren
Jeff was born in Devon, lives in Surrey, and is Welsh by marriage.
He followed in his father and brother’s footsteps, studying chemistry at university. His teaching career spanned technical college and university lecturing. In addition to teaching chemistry, he frequently researched, designed and taught new modules in unexpected areas, including radiation monitoring, computer use in conservation management, and statistics in clinical chemistry.
When he joined a local writers’ group, he was surprised to be recruited by a fellow writer to become a Knowledge Publisher for global computer software company, Oracle.
When he’s not reading and writing, Jeff rehearses and sings from the musicals with Show Choir, and enjoys walks in the countryside observing its plants and wildlife.
Thanks to everyone supporting my Welsh Murder Book posts. My blog has been very busy of late as have I! I’m currently working on writing book 5 in my Welsh-set Detective Gaby Darin series as I wait for edits on book 4, which comes out in May – title and cover launch soon along with pre-order links.
In the meantime Fallen Angel has topped 100 reviews, which is fantastic so thank you. To add to that excitement I received this lamp in the post today from Tales on Tuesday book club as the Best Weaver of Welsh Wickedness Award.
Today I’d delighted to welcome B E Jones onto my blog but before we get cracking on hearing about her story she’d like to tell you about something very exciting. The first CRIME CYMRU FESTIVAL.
GŵylCRIME CYMRU Festival
I hope my stories, which deal with the dark side of human nature, are ones that anyone could relate to, but I think ‘Welsh crime’, as a genre, has a long way to go to reach the levels of awareness and glamour that, say, the booming Scandi Noir, or Scotland’s Tartan Noir scene, has experienced. We still need to convince readers (and publishers) that there are a huge number of Welsh crime writers now, producing everything from unsettling psychological mysteries to brilliantly atmospheric historical thrillers. To address this, the Welsh crime writing collective Crime Cymru, which I’m a member of, is launching Wales’s first crime festival, the Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival in Aberystwyth, in spring 2022. We have some international names on the books, not just Welsh writers, at the weekend-long event that is already in the works.
This year, because of COVID 19, we are launching a ‘taster’ festival online, VirtualCRIME CYMRU Digidol, completely free, from April 26 – May 2, 2021. If you’d like to book a ticket then pop along to the website, www.GwylCrimeCymruFestival.co.uk to see the emerging line-up of guests. Or join us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @GwylCrimeCymruFestival and @Crime.Cymru.
Don’t forget to book your place! Now back to hearing a little more about Beverley…
A Country of Contrasts
I grew up in the Rhondda Valleys during the post-coal slump of the 1980s, so my Wales is a landscape of contrasts and complexity. It’s definitely played a huge part in the texture and emotional flavour of my novels.
As a bookish kid, living in a small terraced house where every penny counted, it was hard to feel that being Welsh was anything but something to be glossed over, not celebrated. As I, like many of the inhabitants of the old coalfields, don’t speak Welsh, it was easy to feel excluded from the cultural life of a country whose poetry and literature I couldn’t understand. In many ways I had to go away in order to appreciate just what a beautiful and inspirational country I was born into.
My gritty psychological crime stories are inspired by the places and circumstances I often felt trapped by as a child, as well as my career as a journalist and police press officer. But the remarkable landscapes of Wales, from the rugged beauty of the Brecon Beacons to the stunning heritage coastline of the south, is present in every one too.
For years, my husband and I have been hiking the stupendously beautiful hills and seashores of our homeland, most recently with our high-energy wire fox terrier Erin (aka the mini monster), an avid explorer in her own right.
There are so many places that hum with energy and possibility here, little spots among the weather- worn panoramas of Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons especially, that spark ideas, suggest stories, secrets and subterfuge. With my novel Halfway, it was a wintry drive through the old droving heartland, to the stately market town of Llandovery, that made a scenario jump into my fiction-obsessed brain. At the bottom of a narrow, tree-strung valley was a sign that said ‘Halfway’, close to a faded lady of a boarded-up chapel and a frost-furred war memorial – nothing else. I was fascinated by the idea of a place that exists to let you know you’re between two other more important destinations, and it’s just as far to go back as to go on. It made me think of a turning point, perhaps a choice and also, what a grimly picturesque spot for a murder!
In the same way, the endless skies of the Gower, where we explore the bones of shipwrecks and follow tumbly paths to hidden coves where Erin digs sand pits for Britain, became the inspiration for Where She Went, my only novel with a contemporary supernatural twist. There’s always something sinister lurking yards away from the stunning sunsets, especially when jealousy and ambition are involved.
My latest novel Wilderness starts in one of the grimier housing estates that sprawl outside Cardiff, but is set mainly in New York city and the National Parks of North America, where an unhappy couple’s dream holiday might turn deadly. The title is a nod to the emotions the mercurial landscapes of home (urban as well as rural) always bring to the surface in me, the sense of feeling awed but also insignificant, and an awareness of the danger lurking behind the beautiful or familiar if you don’t watch your step.
Most weekends, when we’re not in pandemic lockdown, you’ll find me in my walking boots, pockets full of chicken chews for the fur face, tramping new trails. While my husband navigates, carrying the coffee and sensible spare jackets in his rucksack, just in case, I draw on the inspiration of the landscapes to formulate dastardly plots.
In this way, my Wales is a collision of the wild places outside and the wild places inside us all, that we try so hard to hide.
My Writing Life
Write What You Read
I started scribbling stories when I was about seven years old, though my first efforts tended to feature precocious children from the Home Counties solving mysteries, or plucky Victorian orphans escaping conniving relatives.
This might seem odd, considering it was the 1980s in the South Wales valleys, but I was reading a lot of Enid Blyton and plucky girls’ annuals then. Your writing life is often influenced by your reading life, and, by my teens, as well as bingeing on Stephen King, I was delving into the queens of crime, Patricia Highsmith and PD James, masters (mistresses?) of the style of writing that creates a sense of self- serving unease beneath a civilised exterior. Ruth Rendell, writing as Barbara Vine, was the genius of the ‘psychological thriller’ decades before it became a popular buzzword. A Fatal Inversion, which I read when I was 16, had a huge influence on my own work.
Write What You Know
At 17, I was blown away by Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Mesmerised by her truly horrible group of students at an isolated New England college. Perhaps it’s no surprise that my first novel, Lies You Tell, published in 2014, after eight years of writing around the insane hours of my journalism day jobs, featured a young journalist who suspects one of her former college friends might be involved in a missing persons investigation. During my work with the police, I was right in the heart of this daily world of crime and human frailty. What fascinated me most was how people rarely think they’re the villain of the piece, we just find rationalisations for the terrible, selfish things we do until we step over a line. Everyone can justify almost anything, and believe me they’ll try, in that interview room or courtroom. That’s why there are no serial killers with complex rituals and fetishes in my novels. My characters operate in that grey area – they’re people like you and me, and they’re closer to us than we like to think.
Write However You Can
I’m not a planner – usually I know exactly where I want to end up and often write the last scene first, because I’ve seen a snapshot of a situation I know will make a great finale. Sometimes I hear a few lines of dialogue that trigger a prologue loaded with a taste of the crimes to come. I like to drop a reader right into the middle of the action if I can, then take them backwards and show them how the characters got there. Though I don’t always know the exact route I’m going to take between the stops, things seem to come out alright in the end.
Wilderness – Book Blurb
Two weeks, 1500 miles and three opportunities for her husband to save his own life. It wasn’t about his survival – it was about hers.
Shattered by the discovery of her husband’s affair, Liv knows they need to leave the chaos of New York to try to save their marriage. Maybe the road trip that they’d always planned, exploring America’s national parks, just the two of them, would help heal the wounds. But what Liv hasn’t told her husband is that she has set him three challenges, three opportunities to prove he’s really sorry and worthy of her forgiveness.
And if he fails? Well, it’s dangerous out there. There are so many ways to die in the wilderness. And if it’s easy to die, then it’s easy to kill too. If their marriage can’t survive, maybe he can’t either.
Halfway – Book Blurb
There’s a killer behind and trouble ahead
The Halfway Inn is closed to customers in the inhospitable, wild countryside. One winter’s night, Lee, a student hitching home for Christmas, and Becca a local nurse, end up knocking on the door as a blizzard takes hold. But why is the landlord less than pleased to see them? And what is his elderly father, upstairs in bed, trying so hard to tell them?
At the local police station PC Lissa Lloyd holds the fort while the rest of her team share in the rare excitement of a murder at an isolated farmhouse. A dangerous fugitive is on the run but how can Lissa make a name for herself if she’s stuck at her desk? When a call comes in saying the nurse is missing, she jumps at the chance to escape the boredom and heads out into the snow.
Meanwhile, as the strangers at Halfway wait out the storm, they soon realise they might have been safer on the road, especially when Lee finds something interesting in the cellar – which is nowhere near as interesting as what’s under the old man’s bed. If everyone is lying, who do you trust? Available here
Where She Went, 2017, Little Brown
Fear the Dark – 2018 Little Brown (previously Dreamcatcher, 2014, Yolk Publishing, Oxford.)
Make Him Pay – 2018 Little Brown (previously Holiday Money, 2013, Cutting Edge Press, London.)
Beverley, thank you for popping by and telling us a little more about your Wales, your writing and all about the Crime Cymru Festival.
About B E Jones
Beverley Jones (B E Jones) is a former journalist and police press officer. She was born in a small village in the valleys of South Wales and worked as a print journalist with Trinity Mirror newspapers, before becoming a broadcast journalist with BBC Wales Today.
She also worked as a press officer and media manager for South Wales Police, participating in criminal investigations, security operations, counter terrorism and emergency planning. She channels these experiences of true crime, and her insight into the murkier side of human nature, into her dark, psychological thrillers.
Her most recent novels, Where She Went, Halfway and Wilderness are published by Little Brown. Wilderness has recently been optioned by Firebird Pictures for development into a six-part TV series.
You can follow Bev on Twitter and Instagram @bevjoneswriting
Today on my blog I have the very great pleasure of inviting the fabulous GB Williams to tell us about her Wales, her writing and finally, her books. Over to you, GB.
I came to Wales as a short stop off before supposedly taking a year out to go around the world. Then I met this guy. Kept the guy, kissed the travel goodbye. So for me Wales has always been about the people, well one of them anyway. Yes, I married a Welshman and we have two Welsh(ish) kids – well they were never going to be completely free of an English influence with me in the house. I started off in Caerphilly, then we lived a long while just outside Ebbw Vale, and for the last 21 years, we’ve been in Swansea.
I love Swansea, it’s got everything I need shopping wise – or did when we were able to go shopping – and what I really love is that 20 mins in one direction and I’m on the beach, 20 mins in the other direction I’m on the mountain. What more could I ask for?
One of the things I’ve always like about Wales, is the stories. So my Wales kind of looks like this:
This is a photograph of the Strumpshaw, Tincleton& Giggleswick’s Great British Literature Map (marvellousmaps.com). It marks places that appear in books, locations of festivals and other locations that may be of interest to the literature lover.
Wales definitely has a voice of its own, and not just the choirs or the sound of its history. Wales has a now, it has a future, there are so many creatives in Wales, and there’s so much support and friendship on offer. Just because we tend to be the forgotten country in the UK, doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot to say, we do. And it’s time for the world to hear us.
My Writing Life
I’ve always written. Literally always. Even as a little kid. It was all I ever wanted to do. However, I also had this urge to keep a roof over my head, and being good at maths and logic meant that I could do that better with a day job. Once I married, had kids, a full-time job and was studying part time for a degree – writing had to take a back seat, but it never went away.
That’s is, that’s my max for not writing. After three days, my brain starts to itch and I have to write something, it’s really annoying. I can write anywhere and I have. I’d jot down a few lines in the notebook while running programs in work (I used to design and build databases). I’ve written waiting for appointments, waiting to pick the kids up, waiting for anything. I write in the car – assuming someone else is driving, otherwise it would be dangerous. I write on the sofa, in bed, in the garden, at the dinner table – especially when away with work and eating alone.
And I’ll write on anything. These days it’s usually on a laptop straight into Scrivener. I like Scrivener as it’s easy to move scenes around, but I tend to do the final run throughs on Word though. For years, I used to write long hand and then type stuff up. I usually have a notebook with me – not to mention the usual store of them in the house, I prefer hard back and spiral bound lined books to work with. With modern smartphones, I will use the phone if there’s nothing else, but I did once end up using an eyeliner pencil on a paper napkin because I had to get an idea down and had nothing else to hand. After years on a computer, I now have RSI, so sometimes I use speech to text programs, which I use will depend on where I am, but I’m finding Speechnotes and even the Word direct option both work well enough. This is a particularly good option for transferring work I’ve written on paper.
Like a lot of people I spent years keeping my work in notebooks on computer files that I did nothing with. Then the kids grew up and I had a bit more time on my hands and I did start putting my writing out there, and eventually, I got published. Yey!
Having been made redundant in 2020, I decided not to return to the day jobbery, and have set up as a freelance editor. I’ve been freelancing for seven years, but now I can take on more individual work. This means I can focus on the things I love – family and literature. And not getting stressed beyond endurance.
At the moment, I am polishing off a standalone thriller, haven’t got a publisher yet, but then haven’t started putting it out yet either. I’ve working on a police procedural that’s proving elusive and may go back on the shelf for a while. I’m in the middle of an editing commission too. I also write steampunk as Abi Barden, so I’ve got the last of a series of five to do the final edit on there, and a brand-new trilogy in development. I’ve also got a number of other projects that are bubbling away in the back of my head. So there’s never a lack of things to be done.
It doesn’t stop there of course. I’m part of the Crime Writers Association, and am the convener for the Welsh Chapter. I’m a member of the Chartered Institute of Editors and Proofreaders. I’m also secretary for Crime Cymru, and we’re in the process of putting together Wales’ first festival focusing on crime writing. More details will be released as we progress, so keep an eye out for Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival.
On a snowbound Cader Idris, death comes stalking.
Cobb retreated to Cader Idris for a solitary life of peace and quiet, and to escape his dangerous past. Though that illusion starts to crumble after he and Branwen Jones, the local vet, find a mysterious RTA victim and shelter him in Cobb’s home.
When elements of London’s criminal underbelly reach Wales, and their presence throws the close-knit community into stark relief, the chance to settle old scores could prove too tempting.
With no choice but to try and hide the RTA victim from people who want to kill him, Cobb’s not sure he’s ready to rejoin the world he’s running from, when that means putting another woman in the firing line. Meanwhile, Branwen’s not sure she can face the revelation of her darkest secret.
But as they face the final showdown, a race over the snowed-in mountain, will anyone survive unscathed?
Thank you, GB. I loved reading your story and seeing the map. In a way your writing life feels a little like mine, stuck between the day job and kid commitments. I too use voice recognition software in an effort to drive up the word count, sometimes with hilarious results! Look forward to reading your books.
About GB Williams
Specialising in complex, fast-paced crime novels. GB’s debut novel, “Locked Up”, was released in 2017 and was the first of the Locked Trilogy. “The Chair” released November 2020 and is hugely influenced by the authors time living in the South East of England and in Wales.
GB was shortlisted for the 2014 CWA Margery Allingham Short Story Competition with the story “Last Shakes”, now available in “Last Cut Casebook”. She is also a freelance editor. Crime novels are her stock in trade, but she has had success with steampunk novels and short stories in various genres including steampunk, horror, erotica and general fiction.
Originally from Kent, GB moved to South Wales as a supposed first step on a year around the world. Then she met a guy. Kept the guy, kissed the travel goodbye. Knowing that the best way to travel is by book anyway, she has always read, always written. GB now has two grown-up children, the world’s most imperious cat, a house full of books and a hard drive full of manuscripts (though some will never be allowed out of a locked basement).
Hi everyone and thanks for popping by to check this the latest post about Welsh Crime Writers, including writers that choose to set their works in this beautiful land. Today it’s the turn of Thorne Moore to tell us about her Wales, her writing and, finally, her books. Over to you, Thorne.
MY WALES I know Wales has plenty of gritty settings for crime in cities, docks and former mining communities, but my Wales is the relentlessly rural one of North Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. No major towns, let alone cities, no holiday resorts, and the villages are more like hamlets or sometimes just a scattering of farms with a tiny church popping up in the middle of a field. There are no motorways, although there is a one mile stretch of dual carriageway around Cardigan. No major industries anymore, except for tourism and farming. Two trains a day (one in the middle of the night), connecting with the Irish ferry at Fishguard, but otherwise it’s a area sealed off from the rest of the world by sea and hills. The coast is a mixture of towering cliffs and wide empty beaches, the lowland is a patchwork of forests and tiny fields, the highlands are open moors, with wild ponies and standing stones.
A fantastic place if you love walking. Maybe not so good if you like noisy nightlife, unless you’re thinking of owls and foxes. What the area does have is history. Not the history of great and glorious events (give or take the odd French invasion), but just layer upon layer of the everyday stuff, poking through the surface, reminding you, always, that you are walking with ghosts of bronze-age settlers, iron-age warriors, Romans, Medieval princes, Tudor squires, civil war partisans, quarrymen and seamen, eighteenth century Methodists and nineteenth century toll-gate protesters. They’ve all left their mark and there hasn’t been anything major in the 20th or 21st century to bury them out of sight. Turn any corner and you’ll find a ruined castle, or a towering Celtic cross or a prehistoric burial chamber. I have set historical crime mysteries here, but the real inspiration is the feeling that there is nothing new. Human emotions are elemental and for good or ill they’ve been played out here in isolated pockets for hundreds, or thousands, of years. It was, it is and it will be, and you won’t escape.
My Writing Life
My problem is that I have never wanted to do anything except write. I finally got published when I was 58, but I spent the previous 40 years trying and I brazenly ignored any suggestion to look for another career. I try not to think how much money I might have made if I’d followed my headmaster’s advice and become a lawyer. I did eventually take a law degree through the Open University and it was invaluable, not in getting me a highly paid profession, but in teaching me to edit and cut all my flowery language down to the barest essentials. I had to write essays with word limits, and every word over the limit was ignored. Since the summary of my arguments always came at the end, I had make sure I made every point in the minimum number of words. Once I had my law degree, I went back to writing fiction – but with less words. I’m not sure how many books I’ve written and discarded. It’s all part of the learning process. I started off writing fantasy, then science fiction, then short stories and finally turned to psychological crime, although, to be honest, they have been the same genre in my head: stories about people ripped out of their comfort zone by traumatic events that force them to confront issues they’d much rather ignore. And there’s nothing so traumatic as murder. I don’t treat it as a crime puzzle to be solved but as a wrecking ball smashing into people’s lives. I am a morning person. I can’t write late at night at all, so I usually do the actual writing first thing in the morning. But I usually work out what I’m going to write when taking a walk after dinner. It has to be pretty foul weather that stops me walking. Its my time for getting things straight, by evening light in the summer, by moonlight in the winter. It is amazing how many problems can sort themselves into perfect order as I walk.
My first published novel, A Time For Silence, was inspired by a derelict cottage down in a wooded valley at the end of my garden. There are plenty of such cottages around and you can’t come across one without wondering what might have happened in them. Houses have always fascinated me because they enshrine something of everyone who has ever lived in them. They have seen births, marriages and deaths, triumphs and tragedies all hidden behind curtains.Perfect material for domestic dramas. I was told about a murder that allegedly happened in another cottage in the vicinity. Everyone, including the police, knew who did it, but no one was ever charged. I thought such a thing could only happen in isolate communities like the ones around me. I tried to find evidence that the story was true and I never did, but I did comeacross a newspaper report of a young girl being sentenced to approved school for the crime ofattempting suicide. Her story and the rumour of the murder combined to give me the plot for A Time For Silence, in which a contemporary woman comes across the cottage, Cwmderwen, where her grandparents, John and Gwen Owen, had lived – and where her grandfather John was murdered. She sets out to discover why the murder was never solved, perpetually misunderstanding the evidence she finds, but her investigations are interwoven with the tale of her grandmother and the true story of what really happened.
Gwenllian Lewis married John Owen in 1933. Seventy-five years later, their granddaughter Sarah comes upon the ruined cottage where they had once farmed, and the discovery inspires her to investigate her family history. But when she unearths a shocking secret, her interest becomes an obsession. Escaping from her own tragedy, she immerses herself in an older one; a tragedy that overturns her fantasies of an idyllic past, for the story of Gwen and her husband John Owen was anything but idyllic. When the full unpalatable truth dawns on Sarah, she finds herself rethinking her own life. Available here
To compliment A Time For Silence, my latest novel, The Covenant, takes the story of the Owen family back a couple of generations, still in the cottage of Cwmderwen, where John Owen’s aunt Leah grows up believing that her duty requires absolute loyalty to God, family and, most of all, their few acres. It’s a burden that will either lead to murder or escape.
In 1883, Leah is nine and full of hope, brightest of the Owens who farm the land of Cwmderwen. But tragedy leaves her loving family fatally wounded, turning her father’s mindand killing dreams.Leah is ruled by duty, to God, to her family, and to the farm that is sucking the life out of her—the farm to which she is bound by a covenant of blood. Her withered dreams fix on her niece and nephew, Annie and John. At all costs, John Owen must inherit the tenancy of their precious 24 acres, 1 rood and 8 perches. But what sort of man has she helped to create? Is there hope for any of them, or is Cwmderwen’s poison too strong? The future is carved in stone… Or is it?
Thorne Moore grew up in Luton, but studied history at Aberystwyth and, nine years later, after a spell working in a library, she returned to Wales, to run a restaurant with her sister, Liz, and a miniature furniture craft business. She now writes full time.She has had four novels published by Honno, A Time For Silence and The Covenant set in Pembrokeshire, and Motherlove and The Unravelling set in Lyford, a fictional version of Luton. Another novel, Shadows, set in a derelict Pembrokeshire mansion, is published by Lume, along with its companion Long Shadows, which has three historical mysteries set in the same property over seven centuries.