My friend Val Penny, and her new crime novel, Hunter’s Chase

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Reasons to Write a Crime Novel

People like crime, at least in novels! Often, I meet dentists and bank managers with clever plot ideas, or nurses who read every crime novel they can lay their hands on. If I visit a writing group, there are always members keenly producing new murderous plots. Lawyers and convicts show equal enthusiasm for this genre. For those who want to write a crime novel, there are several reasons to want to do so. Here are a few of them.

Emotional Release

Often, those who write crime novels find an emotional release in their craft. Crime novelists deal with the dark things that people usually push to the side of their minds in order to get on with every day life. The cathartic attraction of writing can be decisive.

Some crime authors tell of poor sleep patterns, punctured by night-mares that are repaired when they start to write. Others, panic, constantly scanning doorways for signs of danger. The stiffening fear that afflicts them resolves when they are busy writing crime.

The Story-Telling Urge

The sources for crime novels are many and varied. Ideas can spring from the news and current affairs; memories from the past and historical events or things that puzzle or fascinate the writer. Once an author begins to exercise their creative muscles, they often find that they run into stories demanding to be told. The stories demand to be told and will not stop coming.

For Companionship

It is often said that writers can be difficult people: gloomy, competitive and quarrelsome. However, for the most part, I have found crime writers to be an inclusive and convivial bunch. They are certainly hard-working. The pressure of producing a book a year is intense, yet they never seem to turn their backs on fun. If you have a chance to go to a crime-writers’ convention, do take it. They are exhausting, exhilarating and irresistible.

An Outlet for Aggression

Most crime-writers will tell you that they are good company because they channel all their belligerent thoughts into their stories, so in real life, the authors are meek and mild. It is not always true, but I can confirm the a crime novel is an excellent place to park your rage! The prospect of giving vent to righteous anger in a safe form can be a particularly pleasing device. When characters require to act in a violent way or commit violence the reader is willing to witness this on the page but they would shy from it in real life. Crime writers can let rip on the page in a way they avoid doing in the real world.

The Thrill of Research

I can personally confirm that the research you do for crime novels and for academic purposes are equally satisfying. It is also extremely diverse. It may involve visiting prisons, refuges, police stations or drug dens. Police are often very willing to be of assistance to crime writers, even if it is just to avoid being irritated when otherwise the writers would get police procedures wrong. This information is most useful and helpful. Indeed, when you are writing a novel, no information or experience is wasted!


Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballet dancer or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her first crime novel, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ set in Edinburgh, Scotland will be published by Crooked Cat Books on 02.02.2018. She is now writing the sequel, ‘Hunter’s Revenge’.

She can be found at

Friends of Hunter’s Chase –

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe.

 DI Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city and he needs to find the source but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course. Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman’s life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taut crime thriller.

Heart of Stone by John Jackson @crookedcatbooks @jjackson42 #HistoricFiction #Ireland #1730s #KindleUnlimited

Another cracking review! 🙂


35919036Buy it from Amazon UK

Buy it from Amazon US


Dublin, 1730
When young and beautiful Mary Molesworth is forced to marry Robert Rochford, widowed heir to the earldom of Belfield, she finds that her idea of love is not returned. Jealous, cruel and manipulative, Robert ignores her after she has provided him with a male heir, preferring to spend his nights with his mistress. Power-hungry, Robert builds up a reputation that sees him reach for the highest positions in Ireland.

Caught in an unhappy marriage, Mary begins to grow closer to Robert’s younger brother, Arthur. Acknowledging their love for each other, they will risk everything to be together. But Robert’s revenge threatens their lives and tears them apart.
Will Mary and Arthur find a way to escape Robert’s clutches?
Based on real events, Heart of Stone is a tale of power, jealousy, imprisonment, and love, set in…

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Getting Your Ducks in a Row

My recent FaceBook travails have kept me unbelievably busy. I didn’t lose too much data, but I did lose all “connections” like Friends and Likes.

They ARE all coming back bit by bit, but one of the problems is that previous friends don’t realise that we aren’t now. They think we are still friends so ignore the friend request. Eventually, word gets around, though. It is only time, and nobody died.

As part of the process I am tying up my Friday #ff list and checking that if someone is Following me on Twitter, then we are Friends on Facebook. It just means working through all the addresses on the #ff list and seeing if we are already friends – or WERE Friends on Facebook. I’m also Liking friends authors pages as I come across them.

Some people – particularly Book Bloggers – use Twitter only for their Blogging. Others use different names for their Twitter & Facebook accounts.

As an Author, I would strongly advise all of us to put ALL our Social Media links on their opening page if possible. Also for their Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. Call it “joined up thinking” and establishing your Brand.

The biggest pain is the time it all takes. Facebook do not like you making too many Friend requests at once – even if you were Friends before. They don’t like you Liking too many pages at the same time, either. Suddenly you will find yourself Blocked from posting or liking, and they will NEVER tell you how long this will last, or exactly why, OR what exactly their rules are! They do NOT make it easy.

The silliest was a couple of days ago when Facebook invited me to wish my friends with a birthday “Happy Birthday”. I’m sure you have all seen these invites before.

So I am going through the 6 or so Friends whose birthday it was, and then Facebook turns round and tells me I am posting too quickly! I find myself Blocked for another day.

Perhaps they should call it Anti-Social Media?

A Day in the Life of an Author on Social Media: A Guest Post by Anna Bell, Author of It Started With A Tweet

Some good info here!! 🙂

Linda's Book Bag


As someone ever so slightly addicted to social media on my phone, I’d like to thank Emily Burns for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for Anna Bell’s It Started With A Tweet. I would also like to apologise for the fact that I fully intended to review for today too, but life simply hasn’t allowed it!

Published by Bonnier Zaffre on 7th December 2017 in e-book and from 28th December in paperback, It Started With A Tweet is available for purchase here.

It Started With A Tweet


Daisy Hobson lives her whole life online. But when her social media obsession causes her to make a catastrophic mistake at work, Daisy finds her life going into free-fall . . .

Her sister Rosie thinks she has the answer to all of Daisy’s problems – a digital detox in a remote cottage in Cumbria. Soon, too…

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An Author Interview with Ros Rendle

My first of a series of Author interviews is with an old friend – Ros Rendle.

Ros writes both historical sagas and contemporary romance. Like me, she is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novelists’ Society.

Her latest book, Flowers of Resistance, is set in war-time France; there is a link to the Amazon page at the foot of this entry.

Note: I have tried to find questions away from those most commonly seen. I hope I have succeeded – at least in part.

So over to Ros.

  1. What makes a good story?

In my view, apart from the obvious beginning, middle and end of a piece of prose, this is something that engages the reader so that they don’t want to stop reading. Thrillers are the classic example, but for romance writers, it’s more difficult, and certain skills are essential. Identifying clear areas of conflict are critical and the pathway to solving those needs to twist, turn and climb as the plot develops. While the ending might seem obvious, a voyage of discovery in getting there is the intrigue that maintains engagement for the reader.

  1. How have you become a better writer?

My first big move in the right direction was to join the RNA and be accepted into the New Writers’ Scheme. Not only did I meet and pick up titbits of information from others, but the two reviews I received while on the scheme were packed full of support and advice.  Then I joined the Leicester Chapter of the RNA. Chapters are the backbone of the organisation, and the people are friendly and helpful. Again, every time we meet I pick up useful tips. Since then I have been on residential and day courses and read a lot of books about the necessary skills and techniques. I’m still learning.

  1. What inspires you?

Is this similar to ‘from where do I get my ideas’? The first book I wrote was the one I needed to write and had festered for about twenty-five years or more. Having completed that, I enjoyed the process, and since I took early retirement and we went to live in France, I had plenty of time on my hands. Many of my books, both contemporary and those with a 20th-century setting, reflect the place in which I lived, eg. Sense and French Ability, Flowers of Flanders and the latest, Flowers of Resistance. Now that we have relocated back to the UK after 10 years away, I’m enjoying using a UK setting, namely Cornwall. This is an area with which I am very familiar. However, while setting has been important to me, it’s the characters that inspire the plot. I really grow to like my character . . . a lot.

  1. What does your family think of your writing?

My mother was a published writer of novels, many times over. I should like to think she’d be very proud of what I have achieved. I have two daughters who have read my books and say they enjoy them. The four granddaughters aren’t quite old enough yet but hey, future readers, I hope. My husband has been very supportive and helped with research for the historical novels. Visiting the records office at Kew has been a great activity for us both.

  1. What was the most surprising thing you learned about yourself in creating my books?

Completing a whole book is a lonely activity, and usually, I have preferred company, finding my own rather dull. However, I become so wrapped up in my characters and their story that I’m not lonely at all. I itch to get back to my room and write and write some more. I’m also very persistent about ensuring all the research is absolutely accurate for both the contemporaries and the historical novels. I have been praised for this in several reviews, so it’s paying off.

  1. If you could have written any book, what would it have been and why?

James Hilton of Mr Chips and Lost Horizons fame, in 1941, also wrote a book called Random Harvest. It was a love story with a difference and about a man who lost his memory. It has a marvellous twist at the end which I didn’t see coming at all when I first read it aged about eighteen. I adored it and still have an original copy that belonged to my granny.

  1. How much research do you do?

As I indicated in no. 5, I’m almost obsessive about accuracy, so I do a huge amount. For the historicals I have visited the battlefield sites on many occasions and using War Diaries from the time, gained from Kew, we have walked in the footsteps taken by the protagonist over 100 years ago, matching landmarks and activities of the time. It’s very much easier, generally, with the internet although for my most recent book, not so. It’s set in Vichy France. It was a sensitive time for the French and information much more difficult to come by, although living in the region helped to get first-hand particulars. Even for the contemporaries, I have done a lot, including finding out about technical aspects of French water management engineering. I know . . . Saying nothing more.


  1. How do you relax?

Ballroom and Latin dancing is a regular activity of ours. We go at least twice a week, having a regular lesson, and often more if there are social dances to go to. We’ve done that for two and a half years now. We also have dogs and walk them every day, too.

  1. Do you have any writing quirks? (and if so, what?)

I don’t think I do. I write in short bursts with frequent stops to make a cup of tea. I also have a failing for eating sweets. OH is diabetic so I do this in secret, upstairs in my workroom.

  1. Why write in your genre?

I started writing contemporary women’s romance because it was the book I needed to write. I’ll say no more about that. However, I’ve branched out because the 20th century is so fascinating. These books are a series of three sisters and three periods of major conflict. I’ve already mentioned the first two, and the third will feature the Cold War. My last book had elements of a thriller, and I’d love to write a contemporary thriller, but that’s for the future.

  1. How is your writing different now from when you started?

I don’t know. I hope it’s more skillfully executed. Maybe others can say. I get the usual mix of reviews.

  1. What do people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that they don’t?

When I said to someone what I write, she replied, “Oh It’s not too Mills and Boon is it?” She’d never read one, so it made me angry. People sometimes see that as light and not so skilful which is absolute nonsense. I did put her straight on her opinion of that publisher. My books have a little bit of ‘bite’ but are love stories, in the main.

  1. Your 3 favourite authors?

Apart from the obvious Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, in no particular order:

James Hilton – pathos and reality of characters and reasons mentioned above

Emma Davies – a new writer with such warmth in her characters

PD James – skill in weaving a cast of characters and plot twists that keep me turning the page.

Ah but then there’s . . . So many. I could name from my childhood Alison Uttley, and teen years, and  . . . and. This question is too cruel.

  1. In what way do you service or support your books?

I use social media – mainly Twitter and Facebook. I just cannot get on with Goodreads. I need to sit down with someone and go through it. I’ve tried so many times and end up wandering around its pages for ages. I use the Canva app to make posters and short movie clips. I utilise the KDP facility to reduce my book prices which can boost sales and therefore rankings. I have a website –


I know I don’t do enough, but I don’t enjoy that side of things.

  1. What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

I’m frustrated that they carry so much weight. My Strong Sisters series has won more than one award and has several 4 and 5 stars reviews. Then someone gives it a 1 star and it drags the whole profile down. Even 3 stars on Amazon is considered adverse and yet I had very supportive and lovely comments from someone who then only gave it 3 stars. People have such diverse opinions that, in effect, they mean little. Yet, I hate to receive a poor review! It’s hard to switch off from those.

  1. What makes your book(s) stand out from the crowd?

Marketing is critical in this competitive area so a tagline that captures peoples’ imagination and images that sock them between the eyes are important. Apart from that, this is the 24,000 dollar question. Most authors would say their books have strong characters, good plot, realistic setting, good research etc. etc. I hope my books also demonstrate a unique voice and a storyline that is a combination of all this plus inimitable reality to which readers can relate.

  1. Tell us something about your road to being published

Following comprehensive reports from a reader with the RNA NWS, and consequent revision, my contemporary books were accepted by Endeavour Press. I am un-agented and currently have a genuine dilemma whether I wish to go down that route for financial reasons. I’m also unsure whether I want the pressure of having to produce books to someone else’s timescale.


I have produced the historical series through indie publishing with Amazon KDP. I really do like the power over decision making this gives me. I went on a Photoshop course, and have produced the last two covers myself, having researched the approach book cover designers in my genre take. They seem to be doing as well as the books with a publisher, but I get more royalties.

  1. Plotter or Pantser?

I veer towards the latter. I usually have a couple of sides of A4 with a rough chapter plan. This includes the main plot points at the required % points of progress. As I go along, I have a little notebook where I write main characteristics of people in the story so that I avoid mistakes such as changes of eye colour, but this is only to save me time in back-tracking to find out. Sometimes a sub-plot character will ‘grow’ and become more important. This happened in Flowers of Resistance and changed the ‘traitor’ aspect of the story.

  1. Your main character, what makes him or her so special?

These people are important to me, and so far, have been the starting point for a story whether it’s a contemporary or historical. They are utterly in my imagination, but they are very real, and I hope I can paint them onto the page, so they become just as tangible to readers. They have their faults and weaknesses but the circumstances in which they find themselves help them to grow and modify. Like members of the family, I love them for all their foibles.

  1. What question do you wish that someone would ask about you or your book, but nobody has?

Can’t think of one, so thanks for asking all the correct ones. 😊


Ros’s latest book, “Flowers of Resitance” is available from Amazon at:


Blog Tours

Blog Tours are EVERYWHERE! The good Blog Tour organisers get booked up six months in advance AT LEAST, so, if you are a new writer and have your first book out, then make sure you organise yours AS SOON AS YOU HAVE A PUBLISHING DATE.

Over the last 3 years I have made a point of getting to know a good number of Book bloggers in all genres. As authors we NEED Bloggers – they sell our books for us.

If you are published by a mainstream publisher, they will usually arrange your blog tour for you. If, like me, you are with one of the newer smaller publishers you will have to arrange your own.  Do bear in mind, the good ones are professionals and there is a charge. It is up to you to decide if it’s a good return on the investment required. Personally, I think it is essential.

You CAN have a blog tour lasting up to a month, but there is a strong feeling among reviewers and bloggers that this is too long. You are putting the same story out day after day, and people get bored. The bloggers hope to expand their own readership through a blog tour, and in the third or fourth week of a tour, apparently very few people will “click through” and check out the blog of the day. My blog tour ran for a 5-day week, over Launch Day, and for that 5 days, Heart of Stone was ALL OVER both Twitter and Facebook.

Some people, when arranging their tours, try to specify “5* reviews only”. No tour organiser can guarantee that, and you do need to take the rough with the smooth. It is also part of YOUR learning experience. However, always bear in mind that a review is only ONE person’s opinion. My reviews ranged from 3 to 5 star, and mostly 5.  This post will have an addendum with the reviews and interviews I did. Enjoy them, I certainly did.

Your tour organiser will put together the best schedule she can for you. Some reviewers won’t be able to fit you in, but will give you a Shout-out. Some bloggers use an “Interview Format” Whatever they can arrange, TAKE IT! In this context, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Personally, whenever I do written interviews, I always try to avoid “cutting and pasting” the same old stuff. Try and keep it fresh. I suppose, like most things, the more you put in, the more you get out.

My blog tour faced one or two additional challenges. As a first-time author, from a small publishing house that publishes across most genres, some bloggers and reviewers were reluctant to commit to reading a book they might not enjoy. Many others were unbelievably booked up and had NO room in their schedule to read ANY additional books. Also remember, if someone is bringing out, say, a Mills and Boon type of romance, (a “category romance”) the bloggers know what they are going to get and how quickly they can read it. They also know the publishing house may be looking for ANOTHER tour in a month’s time. Such is the nature of the beast.

Suffice it to say that I am very appreciative of the Bloggers and Reviewers who wrote about, reviewed or otherwise promoted Heart of Stone, and especially so to Debbie who masterminded it all for me.

Now it’s on to the next book.

Note: I’m going to put an addendum up to this post with the Reviews, Shout-outs and Interviews I did for my tour.

And now for some links and hashtags!

My publisher: Crooked Cat Books, Crooked Cat on Facebook and on Twitter

Heart of Stone on Amazon

And my Blogger Hosts

Brook Cottage Books   

The Blonde Plotters

Vanessa Couchman

Books in my Handbag Blog

Jo Lambert @ Brook Cottage Books

Jennifer C. Wilson Historical Fiction With Spirit

Rhoda Baxter

Being Anne

Between the Lines

Linda’s Book Bag

Hywella Lyn 

#histfic #crookedcat #fiction #historicalfiction #historicalromance #ireland #romance