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 Schwarzenegger 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.