Help, new crime novel needs a title!

Food of Ghosts:Kindle,-2 I have finally finished the edits to the second DS Louisa Townsend mystery. The first book in the series is called Food of Ghosts. Here’s what Liane Adam, a recent Amazon reviewer, said of Food of Ghosts:

“A gripping thriller which I couldn’t put down. Marianne’s writing is accessible and well observed and characterisation convincing. I can’t wait for the next installment of this classic whodunit! At times it reminded me of The Killing as at various points you become convinced of who the killer is. Highly recommended.”

The new novel is tentatively called:  Killer Shoeshine in Suva

Does this title interest you, even just a little bit? Does it suggest a cosy read or a gruesome read or neither? Does having Suva in the title attract your attention? Do you know where Suva is? Do you care? Do you like a title to be obvious or mysterious? Do you like one word titles, such as REDEMPTION, or long literary  titles like The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night? Do you have any title ideas of your own? Yes? I would love to hear them :)

By the way, shoeshine boys feature heavily in the story, which is set in Suva (Fiji), and there is a killer and DS Louisa Townsend needs to find him, or her.

Why do I need help with this? I am terrible when it comes to titles. I can forget them as quickly as I notice them. I even forget the names of authors, which is why I often buy the same book twice. (Have you ever done that?) So any thoughts will be much appreciated.

As a thank you for leaving a comment and/or sharing this post on facebook or twitter or gmail or Linkedin etc one lucky person will win (yes, I said WIN!) a free copy of either Food of Ghosts or The Blue Suitcase, your choice.

If you do share the post, do make sure to tag me so I know to include you in the draw! The winning name will be drawn on the 3rd October.

PS: On a completely different note, as requested, here are some pics from our recent stay in la belle France, including the renovated bathroom and some oysters. Why oysters?  I had for them very first time. My verdict of the oysters? Not nearly as bad as I thought. A fresh sea taste and actually quite nice :)



lavander veggiwa

winefest man





brambles2 quince


lazing about

Vive the good life in France!




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Only in France …

photo 1-1 We are still in France. On the way to the dump with our DIY rubbish we came across the above. The sign says ‘trolly of wooden off-cuts for sale, 9 euros!’ Well, apologies to all my French relatives and friends, but only here could you buy a shopping trolley full of landfill – those off-cuts were not wood!  The stuff we were dumping was better than the stuff on sale so, no, we didn’t buy it ;o)

Luckily there are lot of other lovely things about being in France which more than make up for some of the more unusual stuff. Such as the view of the collared dove from our bedroom window …


the vines …


and the flowers …




and not forgetting the donkeys, of course ;o)

donkey 2


ps:  btw the bathroom is almost finished, the big unveiling coming soon!

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Gone plumbing in France …

I am in France for the next wee while with the other half. The plan is to give the bathroom and kitchen in the house we inherited many years ago a bit if a make-over. We’ve started with the bathroom. If you know anything about French plumbing, you’ll know that this will be challenging  – French plumbing is old fashioned and tricky and downright complicated, and don’t even get me started on paint! – but we’ve brought some stuff  with us to make the job easier.  BTW the blue bath and sink are going not coming!


french plumbing

blue bath

plumbing But, hopefully, there will also be time to do a bit of  this …


and this …

sunbathingrbear1 and this …


and this …

cyclehome and this …

nachamps sign

and this …


and this …

P1030959 and this … P1040268

and this …


and this …


and this …


and this … pain raisin and this …

cafetaba and this


Bonnes vacances :)


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Review of Trish Nicholson’s Inside Stories – a great addition to the writer’s bookshelf!

I am a fan of books on writing, whether they talk about the writerly life or deal with the nitty gritty of how to hone your writing skills. I even reviewed some of  the ones I found most helpful (see Books On Writing in the tool bar above), although I ran out of steam at number 19 – didn’t even get round to writing about Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way or Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones! No matter. The thing is, I was recently given a copy of Inside Stories (for Writers and Readers) by Trish Nicholson and asked if I’d like to review it.


I was excited at the thought of reading a new book on my favourite subject. However, it’s a tricky thing agreeing to review a book by someone I don’t know. After all, there are some pretty poor books on writing out there too. What if Inside Stories was one of them? I worried unnecessarily. Inside Stories is one of the better books I have read on writing recently, and below is my review.

trishprofilenew First of all, who is Trish Nicholson? Briefly …

Trish is an anthropologist, photographer and writer of short stories and creative non-fiction. A compulsive scribbler, her writings included a monthly magazine column; newspaper features in the UK (The Guardian, The TimesThe Times Educational Supplement) and in Australia (Melbourne Age), and three non-fiction books on anthropology, staff development, and responsible travel.

Trish has done many things but at the moment she lives on a hillside in the Far North of New Zealand along with a few thousand native trees. To find out more about  this extraordinary woman, you can visit her website Words In The Treehouse, where I discovered that Trish and I have more in common than just writing as we have both lived in Papua New Guinea! (You can read an earlier blog post on PNG here ).

PS: Trish is running a series of writing workshops in the UK in September and October, for more info check out the home page of her website.

Inside stories (for Writers and Readers)

In the How To Use This Book section of Inside Stories, Trish says of the book “it may not make you rich and famous but it will inspire you to better writing and more perceptive reading.” Absolutely. Writing is not just about getting published and making it “big”, not that Trish would be against that, I am sure. As writer Anne Lamott says, “Writing can give you what having a baby can give you: it can get you to start paying attention, can help you soften, can wake you up …”

What I most like about Inside Stories is that it looks at stories from the perspective of both the writer and the reader. This reading/writing combo approach is refreshing and insightful. In much the same way as writer John Cheever believes “I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss – you can’t do it alone,” Trish maintains “a story is not complete until a reader has experienced it.” The reader is as important as the writer and Inside Stories is a “celebration of readers and writers of stories”. According to Trish, understanding how and why writers write and readers read can help make us better writers and readers. Having now read her book, I believe her.

Each chapter of Inside Stories is themed and looks at specific aspects of the writing or reading process. The chapters are followed by stories and/or articles written by Trish, which illustrate some of  the reading and/or writing techniques referred to in the preceding chapter. Trish discusses the writing process behind the creation of these stories and generously shares the feedback she received for some of them. This makes for fascinating reading and is as helpful as the technical advice Trish gives in the chapters  – and the stories (and articles) are great reads.

You can read the book as a whole or dip in and out as you wish. Either way, it is full of sound, helpful advice, presented in an accessible way. The focus is on the short story because as Trish demonstrates in the book, the form has a great deal to teach us. There are exercises and quotes from the great and the good. My favourite is one by Mark Twain, who once said he didn’t like reading novels or stories. When challenged that he wrote them himself, he said,

“Quite true: but the fact that an Indian likes to scalp people is no evidence that he likes to be scalped.”

This makes me laugh every time I read it. My second favourite quote is by Chekhov, who said,

“Brevity is the sister of talent.”

The book is also littered with Trish’s own lovely tidbits, such as:

“The muse doesn’t make deliveries, she only has pick up points, we have to go and meet her.”

“Our heads are like wheelie bins.”

“There is no magic inspiration in moleskin.”

There are also tips on entering competitions, a history of the Short Story, including one of Aesop’s fables, a reference to Pliny The Younger, some Celtic story telling and the world’s oldest short story, and more so much more.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Inside Stories and thoroughly recommend it. It is a great addition to any writer’s (and reader’s) bookshelf and worth temporarily breaking one of Trish’s only two writing rules for, which are: keep writing and keep reading.

Inside Stories (for Writes and Readers) is published by Collca and you can buy it here: 


a Highlander (plus a newspaper rollie cigarette) from Papua New Guinea

a Highlander (plus a newspaper rollie cigarette) from Papua New Guinea

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How much should it cost to enter a writing competition?

Here are the  details of a writing opportunity for unpublished women memoirists. The entry fee for this competition is £25, which may seem steep, but it is not as steep as the entry fee for the new Bloomsbury Children’s Author Prize, which is  £30. What do you think about writing award/competition fees? Would a high fee put you off entering a competition or award? What is too high a fee? What would be fair? The Museum of Words Flash Fiction Competition is free, should all writing competitions and awards be free to enter?


Mslexia are looking for memoirs written by previously unpublished women memoir writers. Submissions must be in prose, and narrate actual events in the writer’s life.

1st Prize: £5,000

Five other finalists will be offered free professional feedback by The Literary Consultancy

Judging Panel:

Julie Myerson (memoirist, novelist)

Jenny Brown (literary agent)

Jane Martinson (Women’s Editor, Guardian)

The six shortlisted authors will be invited to meet literary agents and editors at a special networking event in London.

Entry fee: £25

Closing date: 22 September 2014

Please note: To constitute a full length memoir, it must total at least 50,000 words.

Please make sure you read the competition rules before entering.

Enter the competition

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Win £500 and publication with the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award!

CWC-image  Win £500 and publication with the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award!

Aesthetica Magazine is inviting all writers and poets to submit their work into the Creative Writing Award.

The Creative Writing Award is a fantastic opportunity for existing and aspiring writers and poets to showcase their work to a wider, international audience: previous entrants have gone on to achieve success and recognition across the world. There are two categories for entry: Poetry and Short Fiction.

  • Deadline for entering the award: 31 August 2014.
  • Finalists will be announced on the 30 November 2014.
  • Winners will be announced on the 6 December 2014.


  • There will be two winners; one Poetry winner and one Short Fiction winner.
  • Each winner will receive £500.
  • Each winner will receive a selection of books from our partners.
  • Winners and finalists will be published in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual.
  • Click here to purchase a copy of last year’s Creative Writing Annual.
  • Winners and shortlisted finalists will receive a complimentary copy of the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual.

Entry is £10 +VAT and this permits the submission of two works into any one category.
You may enter as many times as you wish.

For more details and to enter go to


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Enter the New Children’s Author Prize 2015 and you could win a publishing contract with Bloomsbury!

National Literacy Trust In partnership with Bloomsbury  Children’s Books the NationalLiteracy Trust want to find talented new authors of children’s fiction.

Members of the public are invited to submit stories for eight to 12-year-olds to be in with a chance of winning a publishing contract with Bloomsbury, including advance payment of £5,000 for your work.

Diana_Children_s_third-1 At the National Literacy Trust we work to take books and reading for enjoyment to children in the most disadvantaged areas of the UK. Exciting, engaging and inspiring literature and books are vital to our work, which is why we have launched this competition with Bloomsbury to help find existing and developing talent for children’s storytelling.

Early rounds of the competition will be judged by our experts, with the winners selected from the shortlist by a panel of judges, including children’s author Katherine Rundell and author and critic Nicolette Jones.

All proceeds from entry fees will help the National Literacy Trust continue our vital work improving literacy across the country. Every entrant will receive exclusive tips on writing for children from Katherine Rundell.

The prizes

First prize:

  • A publishing contract with Bloomsbury, which includes an advance of £5,000 and a print run of your work
  • Use of  “Winner of the New Children’s Author Prize 2015 from Bloomsbury and National Literacy Trust”
  • A prize ceremony in your honour, with press, authors and publishers in attendance

Shortlisted authors:

  • Use of “Runner up in the New Children’s Author Prize 2015 from Bloomsbury and National Literacy Trust”
  • Signed book bundles
  • Plus all shortlisted authors will be invited to attend the prize ceremony with the opportunity to meet agents, editors, press and others.

How to enter

  • All entries must be submitted by email, using the official template. A link for this template will be emailed to you once you have paid your entry fee.
  • Entrants must be aged 18+, a UK resident and must be previously unpublished
  • Entrants must submit a 20-40,000 word children’s story, targeted at children aged 8 to 12, with a 350 word synopsis and a 1,000 word passage highlighted for judging in the early rounds, as per the format of the template.

Entries must also be:

  • Written in English
  • Typed in font Arial, 12pt, black
  • Double spaced
  • Not include the author’s name anywhere in the story other than the first page of the form
  • Submitted using the template provided on receipt of your submission fee and saved as “Author_Name_Title_of_Story”, e.g. “P_L_Travers_Mary_Poppins”
  • Emailed to by 5pm 30 September 2014.

Entries are £30. Additional entries by the same person are £15. You will be given a code for this discount once you have made payment for your first entry. All proceeds go to the National Literacy Trust.

The competition will be closed for entries on 30 September 2014.

*EARLY BIRD OFFER* All entries before 30 June 2014 are half price at £15.

Enter code EARLYAUTHOR when paying for entry to qualify for discount.

The judging

Round one: all entries will be initially judged by a team of experts to create a long-list.

Round two: the editorial team from Bloomsbury will select the short-list.

Final round: the winners will be selected from the short-list by a judging panel of Katherine Rundell; Nicolette Jones;  Ellen Holgate, Bloomsbury editor; and National Literacy Trust Director Jonathan Douglas.

Read the full terms and conditions

Enter now

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Interview with emerging crime writer Catherine Gault (author of Bones and Whispers!)

I’m delighted to interview Catherine Gault. Catherine is a new crime writer living in Edinburgh. She  grew up by the river Clyde and moved here in the 70’s. She says she only feels at home if there’s a river in view with a few hills in the distance, so Edinburgh was a perfect fit.

Cartherine’s debut novel, Bones and Whispers, is a gripping read and introduces feisty sleuth, Kate McKinnery. I loved it, which is why I invited Catherine to be interviewed on my blog. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin …




Your debut novel Bones and Whispers is a gripping read. Can you briefly tell us what it’s about?

Well, it’s a crime novel so there’s a murder, quite a few in fact but it’s also about secrets and their impact. The protagonist, Kate, is a social worker in child protection who’s struggling to come to terms with a secret she’s recently uncovered about her own life. The murders occur in a sheltered housing complex that Kate has persuaded her Auntie Jean, with whom she has a strained relationship, to move into. When the police don’t seem to be getting very far Kate starts her own investigation which doesn’t please the police officers involved especially the one Kate has recently had an affair with. These two story threads interweave throughout the novel.

Why did you set Bones and Whispers in Edinburgh?

I love Edinburgh but it does lend itself to crime fiction. It really is a Jekyll and Hide city and wonderful in terms of getting a sense of place. I do think it has its own personality.

Which came first, the wanting to write or the wanting to write a crime novel?

I’ve always written, always carried stories about in my head though never attempted a to write a novel. By the time I did decide to write a novel it was a crime novel I wanted to write.

Why a crime novel?

I read a lot of crime novels so felt comfortable with the structure and I felt it provided a focus for the story, a guide almost that sort of led me through the novel. I added to that by setting the novel over 10 consecutive days and having the murders occur in a somewhat enclosed setting, the idea being that it provided a framework which I thought might be helpful given it was my first novel.

How do you write ie: do you seek solitude or crowded places? Do have a favourite place and/or set time of day to work, or do you write more irregularly, in fits and starts?

A bit of mix and match. Bones and Whispers was written in a variety of places. I wrote a lot in cafes, I never leave home without a notebook of some description and, latterly, a camera for ‘location shoots’ but would incorporate what I’d written into the novel at home at my kitchen table. Time-wise, I work best in the mornings, with coffee and sometimes chocolate. Evenings are good for editing though I’m useless in the afternoons, don’t know why. I don’t have a regular routine in the sense of numbers of words per day partly because I don’t write in a linear fashion. I tend to write in sections or even scenes. For example the murders in Bones and Whispers were written separately from Kate’s backstory then fitted together, a bit like a jigsaw puzzle.

What about the act of writing itself? Do you ever enjoy writing?

I enjoy it when it’s flowing, when I’m smack in the middle of a scene and it’s really coming alive. I’m fascinated by the way a character or an aspect of the story develops in the writing in a way I’d not planned. However, I also find it very frustrating. I write in my head a lot, wherever I am, and make notes in the ubiquitous notebook but somehow when I come to translate it onto my laptop it doesn’t came out the way I’d envisaged. Something gets in the way between brain and fingertips. I’d love to find a way to stream what’s in my head straight to my laptop. A set of electrodes maybe with a wee USB plug on the end.

Which, if any, crime writers have influenced the way you write?

I’m not sure I would say any have influenced the way I write. It took me a while and writing a lot of rubbish to find my own style. I’m not keen on lots of narrative viewpoints and detailed backstory, and tend to keep a tight rein on authorial comment. I’d say Ian Rankin is particularly good at that and, of course, the sense of place. But it’s difficult to judge whether there’s an influence or simply that his style appeals to me because mine has some similarities.

Do you have one favourite crime writer? And what is your favourite crime novel of all time and why?

I couldn’t settle on one. As I’ve said, I admire and enjoy Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels. I also like Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski novels for the strong female protagonist and the social commentary especially the focus on white-collar crime. Louise Welsh for always doing something different and having interesting settings like the antiques business or the world of magicians.

I couldn’t point to one novel though favourites would come from contemporary rather than classic crime.

What are you working on now?

A follow-up to Bones and Whispers. I keep being asked what happens to Kate, what she decides about her job, family, her love life. I’m quite interested myself to find out what she’ll do. So I’m working on that. The crime element involves a potential sex-trafficking ring operating in Edinburgh which Kate takes a personal interest in. But I have to say that I do find that writing a second novel is harder than writing the first.

If Bones and Whispers were to be made into a film, who would you cast as Kate, and who as Aunty Jean?

I’ve actually had some suggestions from readers but my own ideas would be Carey Mulligan for Kate though I don’t know if she could do a Scottish accent. I think Maggie Smith would be good as Jean.

Thank you for answering my questions, Catherine.  I wish you every success with Bones and Whisper and look forward to the follow-up, Kate McKinnery is an engaging, feisty fictional sleuth and a refreshing addition to the criem genre! 

PS:  You can buy Bones and Whispers at all good book stores, if they don’t have it in stock, ask them to order it. It is also available on Amazon and at the moment the e-book is only an incredible £1.99!


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“Museum of Words” International Flash Fiction Competition now open!

Contest_Microfiction-1 The Museum of Words (Museo de La Palabra) is a nonprofit foundation in Spain that organizes a flash fiction competition every year, with a $20,000 first prize!

IV Edition of the International Flash Fiction Competition
“Museum of Words”


As one of the objectives of the Cesar Egido Serrano Foundation is the value of the word and dialogue as a tool for uniting peoples, the slogan of this contest edition will be, Mandela: Words and Concord. The rules of the competition are as follows:

  1. The IV edition of international award for “Museum of Words” microfiction is open.

  2. Writers from any country may enter their microfiction into the competition.

  3. Submitted stories must be original creations; writers are free to cover any subject.

  4. Writers may only enter a maximum of two stories. Stories may be written in the following languages: Hebrew, English, Arabic or Spanish.

  5. A first prize of $20,000 will be awarded to the winning story. The three remaining finalist stories in the remaining language categories will receive a $2000 runner up prize.

  6. Stories must not exceed 100 words. Entries must be sent exclusively by filling in the entry form that can be found on the foundation website: or All stories entered must be original, unpublished in all means (paper, electronic publications, network…) and have not been awarded in any other contest. Those who do not meet this condition will forfeit the entry.

  7. The author certifies that the story sent is of his own authorship.

  8. The competition will end on November 23rd, 2014 GMT+1, on the International Day of the Word as Bond of Humankind.

  9. The finalists will be judged by a selected jury. The list of finalist’s titles will be published on the website of the César Egido Serrano Foundation.

  10. The César Egido Serrano Foundation reserves the right to publish the finalist’s stories.

  11. The decision of the jury is final.

  12. Entry in this contest implies the total acceptance of their rules.

  13. Texts failing to comply with any of the rules will be disqualified.

    This competition helps carry out part of the foundations activities. One of the goals of the Foundation is to unite people with words and dialogue. This is why the motto of the Museum of Words is, “Words are the bond of humankind.” Words being used by their double condition of communicative elements and language as cultural heritage of all human beings.


    In this competition (like in the previous), short stories may be submitted in Spanish, English, Arabic and Hebrew. This lists the languages in which the three monotheistic religions of the world express their religious feelings. The fourth edition is expected to exceed the level of participation of the third edition where over 20,000 writers from 119 countries entered.

    For more info, see:



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Calling all would-be romantic novelists!

If you have  a hankering to write a romantic novel, or have written one and want some feedback on what to do next, then get yourself over to ex-writingclasses’ student Wendy Clarke’s blog: Wendy’s Writing Now

Wendy’s guest blogger is writer Karen Aldous. Karen talks at length  about the Romantic Novelist Association’s (RNA) New Writers Scheme (NWS) and how the scheme helped her get her novel published. So, do hop over to Wendy’s blog now and read what Karen says. It really is worth it – with a very happy ending :)


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