Val Penny Answers Some Questions

It seemed an appropriate way of introducing Val Penny, a fellow Crooked-Cat author, and writer of the very successful Hunter series of detective novels set in and around Edinburgh.

1            What makes a good story? Characters. A good plot is essential, but if the reader doesn’t buy into your characters, all is lost.

2            How have YOU become a better writer? By reading lots of good books in all the different genres. I firmly believe that before you write a word, you should read voraciously.

3            What inspires you? People. I think people are fascinating and a snippet of conversation or interesting outfit can inspire a whole novel.

4            What does your family think of your writing? I am lucky that my whole family is very supportive of my writing endeavours. They turn up at events, tell their friends, share things on Facebook and even buy the books!

5            What were the most surprising things you learned about yourself in creating your books? The amount of bad language I put into them!

6            If you could have written any book, what would it have been and why? I am quite happy writing the novels I write without being envious of those written by others, but I do enjoy the books written by Linwood Barclay and Erin Kelly.

7            How much research do you do? I have to do quite a lot of research into the crimes my characters commit, the language they would use and, at the other end of the scale, I need to research the CSI and forensic expertise and police procedures.

8            How do you relax? I spend time with my family, swim, knit and read. I also love to travel and find much inspiration from ‘people watching’ on my journeys.

9            Do you have any writing quirks? (and if so what?) I suppose we all have quirks, but I had never thought about it until now! I think I am quite organised, I write for promoting my work and write blog posts in the mornings and work on my novel in the afternoons. I am very focused while I am writing, I like to have a quiet writing space so that I can hear the voices of my characters in my head.

10         Why write in your genre? I enjoy reading crime thrillers and I started writing them simply because they are my favourite kind of stories.

11         How is your writing different now from when you started writing? I think it is more sophisticated and the plots are more closely interwoven.

12         What do people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that they don’t? They think crime novels are easy to write! They are not ‘literary pieces’: believe me, they are not a soft option from a writer’s point of view.

13         Your 3 favourite authors? Erin Kelly, Michael Jecks and Katharine Johnson.

14         In what ways do you ’service’ or ‘support’ your books? I try to share my stories by making author visits in real life and online. Support from other authors and all my readers is terribly important.

15         What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews? Everybody is entitled to an opinion. It is lovely to read good reviews but no writer will ever produce something everybody enjoys, so bad reviews are inevitable. I view getting good and bad reviews as a right of passage for authors. I think it was Harper Lee (who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird) who said, ‘I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent, he would be wise to develop a thick hide.’ She was right!

16         What makes your book(s) stand out from the crowd? One of the things I love about my books is the cover. They are produced by my publishers, Crooked Cat Books, but I think they are fabulous.

17         Tell us something about your road to being published. I began writing my first novel when I was recovering from cancer. I did not have the energy to go out with friends and family, travel and I was not allowed to swim during my treatment. However, I had the energy to read, and subsequently to write.

18         Plotter or Pantser. I was a pantser until I attended a course run by the inimitable Sue Moorcroft. She convinced me of the usefulness of plotting. So now I plot quite thoroughly, except for the very end – I never know who done it until I have finished writing.

19         Your main character. What makes him or her so special? Hunter Wilson is calm, thorough and thoughtful. He is flawed but compassionate and determined to uncover the truth.

20         What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has? Can I make Hunter’s Chase into a movie?

Val Penny isauthor pic 2 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 ballerina or owning a candy store.
Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ and Hunter’s Revenge are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The third book in the series, Hunter’s Force, follows shortly.
Hunter's Revenge Cover

A Guest Post – Jane Bwye

This week on the Blog I’m delighted to host my fellow “Crooked Cat” (and fellow RNA Member) Jane Bwye.

 Jane Bwye

Jane writes both contemporary fiction and non-fiction. As a long-term resident in Kenya, she draws on her life and experiences there to people her fiction.

I gave her some questions to answer: (and some good answers came back)

What was the most surprising things you learned about yourself in creating your books?

That I was actually successful in writing four published books. That, although I’ve been an intermittent journalist all my life, I had lots to learn about writing a book, and learning while doing is not the most satisfactory way of achieving.

My first book, BREATH OF AFRICA suffered a string of re-edits and re-writes over thirty-plus years. I believe GRASS SHOOTS is better written – more structured and organised. But Breath of Africa is more popular, maybe because I wrote with my heart.

GRASS SHOOTS is less emotional. It was written with a purpose – a mission, exploring how best to help Africa while at the same time allowing Africa to help itself.

How do you relax?

That’s easy – curling up in my armchair with a good book. Sometimes it’s a novel. I like cosy crime or historical fiction; sometimes an autobiography; it depends on my mood, and what’s to hand.

In bed, at night there’s nothing better than a few chapters to calm me down before going to sleep.

When I need a break from the intensity of my computer, I head off for a walk on the downs. I’m lucky they’re on my doorstep – provided the weather is fine, of course.

Otherwise, I usually have a jigsaw puzzle on the go or do a sudoku. I’ve started playing tennis again – just one or two gentle sets with a rest in between. There’s nothing like it to clear the head, especially when it’s windy.

And to keep my brain ticking over in a relaxed manner with a like-minded partner, a game of bridge is just the ticket.

Why write in your genre? 

What genre? When I set out on the journey of writing my first novel, I didn’t even know what a genre was. I wrote from the heart. I wrote the kind of novel I wanted to read, especially when it came to romance. Because I am a historian at heart, I wrote it like a historical novel, based on fact, with notes and dates heading the different sections and a glossary at the end.

Naturally, I tried to market it to agents and publishers as historical fiction. Then, I had to learn something about genre. It was only when I changed tactics and presented it as contemporary fiction, that I found my publishers.

Apart from my latest deviation into non-fiction (GOING IT ALONE – a beginner’s guide to starting your own business), I’ve stuck to the literary fiction/contemporary fiction genre. It is nicely broad, giving me scope. But none of my books has succeeded like Breath of Africa, which is going out of print in October.

Then, perhaps its successor, GRASS SHOOTS might come into its own under the contemporary fiction genre; although one reviewer stated it isn’t an easy book to categorize, having historical, romantic, travelogue and social elements.

Your main character. What makes him or her so special?

Charles may not be the most obvious main character, but he is my favourite, as his development epitomises the contrasts of contemporary Africa. He starts life as the son of a humble farm guard, then realises his full academic potential by graduating from Oxford University (not a far-fetched feat, as several Africans have followed similar routes). Charles suffers from the natural sexual failings of most men and his life is a roller-coaster of highs and lows as he pursues several women and a career of journalism in Nairobi, before calamity hits.

In GRASS SHOOTS, he is able to come to terms with events from his past, resume his career, and restart relationships he had allowed to fray or break. One of my reviewers, who had not read Breath of Africa, said: “he was the most interesting and complex character, prickly and not always likeable but trying to make things at least better when they can’t be good.”

Jane – Many thanks!

A Guest Blog – Val Penny

I am delighted to host my fellow Crooked Cat author, Val Penny, on the blog today.

Val! Take it away…

I am delighted to be visiting your blog today to chat about so many of the exciting events and opportunities 2018 has offered me and my family.

It was clear by the end of last year that 2018 would be an exciting one for our family, because my husband had learned last May that he had qualified, again, to represent his country in their International Fishing Team. This is his third Scottish Cap for his beloved fishing. We are all very proud of him.

Imagine our happiness when our older daughter and her husband compounded our excitement by making us grandparents for the first time in April. Joy of joys! A beautiful baby girl. Of course, I have never seen a more beautiful baby nor one more fascinating. Time to get knitting.

I also made a New Year Resolution this year. The first one I have made in many years, and it is one I have found very easy to keep. I resolved to read more books by authors with whose work I was not familiar. This has been a fabulous resolution. I have been thrilled by a historical romance, ‘Heart of Stone‘ by John Jackson, spooked by the ghost story ‘Woman in Back‘  by Susan Hill and intrigued by the mystery that is ‘The Silence’ by Katharine Johnson. The book that I have found most compelling book so far is the autobiography ‘Born a Crime‘ by Trevor Noah. He is a South African comedian and presenter who grew up during the period of Apartheid. As the son of a black South African mother and a white Swiss father his tales of life as a child in his native country are fascinating.  This is the best resolution I have ever made.

But the thrills of 2018 continued to roll in. My debut crime novel, the first in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series, was ‘Hunter’s Chase‘. The book, set in Edinburgh was published by Crooked Cat Books on 02.02.2018. I was excited and nervous about that, in equal measure. So, when my publishers confirmed that they were accepting the second book in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series, ‘Hunter’s Revenge‘, with a view to launching it on 09.09.2018, I really did not think things could be any better.

I was wrong. In a good way, but I was wrong: things could and did get better when I was asked to lead a session on publicising your work at the prestigious Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in England in August. I have no doubt that the magic of Swanwick gave me the confidence to show ‘Hunter’s Chase’ to my publishers in the first place, so it will be a delight to be back.

All in all, 2018 has been an extraordinary year for me and my family. I hope it will be similarly exciting for you and all your readers.

vicky edinburgh 2

Val Penny is the author of The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. The first on the series, ‘Hunter’s Chase’, was published by Crooked Cat Books on 02.02.2018 while the sequel, ‘Hunter’s Revenge’, will be published on 09.09.2018. Both books are available to order from Amazon.

Hunter's Revenge Cover

Hunter's Chase banner

Hunter’s Revenge 

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until his friend’s death is revenged.

 DI Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder. He is shocked to find the victim is his friend and colleague, George Reinbold. Who would want to harm the quiet, old man? Why was a book worth £23,000 delivered to him that morning? Why is the security in George’s home so intense? Hunter must investigate his friend’s past as well as the present to identify the killer and identify George’s killer. Hunter also finds a new supply of cocaine from Peru flooding HMP Edinburgh and the city. The courier leads Hunter to the criminal gang but Hunter requires the help of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable, Sir Peter Myerscough and local gangster Ian Thomson to make his case. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taught crime thriller.

 

About Val:

author's photograph

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 ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ and Hunter’s Revenge are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books.

The third book in the series, Hunter’s Force, follows shortly.

photos the persevere

Val Penny’s “Hunter’s Revenge”

Today, I’m hosting my friend and fellow-Crooked Cat author, Val Penny, on the blog.

Hunter's Revenge Cover

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until his friend’s death is revenged.

DI Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder. He is shocked to find the victim is his friend and colleague, George Reinbold. Who would want to harm the quiet, old man? Why was a book worth £23,000 delivered to him that morning? Why is the security in George’s home so intense? Hunter must investigate his friend’s past as well as the present to identify the killer and identify George’s killer. Hunter also finds a new supply of cocaine from Peru flooding HMP Edinburgh and the city. The courier leads Hunter to the criminal gang but Hunter requires the help of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable, Sir Peter Myerscough and local gangster Ian Thomson to make his case. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taut crime thriller.

Here’s a taster:

Much of the action in Hunter’s Revenge revolves around the car showroom and garage Thomson’s Top Cars. Here we meet Jamie and Frankie who are running the business while Jamie’s father, Ian, is in jail.

“I’m glad we’re doing this together,” Jamie said to his cousin. “I know having to leave us in charge is stressing Pop out!”

“Aye, probably more stress than his time in prison could ever have done. But at least you’ve passed your driving test now.”

Frankie could have been reading his uncle’s mind. Ian Thomson had just under two months to go before he was eligible for parole, and in the meantime could only hope that Jamie and Frankie didn’t do anything too stupid to ruin his business. At least the wee receptionist, Jenny Kozlowski, seemed to have a bit of common sense.

“I’ll be a bit late in today, Frankie, can you hold the fort?”

“Aye. What you up to, then?”

“Nothing much. It’s just that it’s Jenny’s birthday, and I’m going to pick up cakes for all of us for coffee break.”

“If it’s her birthday, she should buy the cakes. That’s what the rest of us all do,” Frankie protested. “You fancy her, don’t you?”

“Don’t be stupid!”

“Aye you do. Well, I won’t tell the guys in the workshop, if I can get a chocky doughnut.”

“Piss off, Frankie.”

“Am I getting a chocky doughnut, then?”

“Aye,” Jamie grinned.

***

Jamie was disappointed to see Frankie at the reception desk when he walked in.

“Where’s Jenny, cuz?” he called over to Frankie.

“Dunno. Not even a phone call. And she’s well late now.”

“Well, she must be somewhere, her coat’s here. She looks good in red.”

“Well she’s not anywhere, as far as I can see.”

“She’s usually early. Wonder what’s up.” Jamie rubbed his hands together. It might be spring according to the time of year, but with its wide glass front and the open garage at the back, the showroom was cold.

“She maybe went to get cakes,” Frankie suggested hopefully.

“Without her coat? I doubt it!” Jamie retorted.

“Well, she was probably out on the lash last night and slept in.”

“Could be, but I still can’t see her leaving last night without her coat.” Jamie shrugged and turned away, trying to hide his disappointment. “It’s fucking freezing in here. I’ll make us a coffee first to warm us up, then I’ll try phoning her.”

“Phone her first, Jamie. You know you want to.”

When Jamie wandered back to reception from the office he plonked a mug of coffee in front of Frankie.

“Her mam says she never went home last night. Do you know if she was going out with pals or the like?”

“I don’t know. You gave that guy a test drive in the Bentley and I went home. A fellow came in just as I was leaving, but Jenny said she would see to him because she would stay on and lock up with you.” Frankie smiled. “I thought, aye aye, nudge nudge, say no more. So off I went. I picked up the twins from their child minder on the way home. You know?”

Jamie frowned. “She wasn’t here when I got back, and the showroom wasn’t locked up. I was pretty pissed off about that. But I couldn’t see nothing missing, so when the guy said he wanted to think about the Bentley, I just locked up and came home.”

“Nothing was missing except Jenny, you mean.”

“I didn’t know that. I thought you’d both just buggered off.”

“Like we’d ever do that. Your pop would skin us alive when he got hold of us. Do you think I’ve got a death wish?”

“Funny accent the man had,” Jamie said. “European or something.”

“Jamie?” The head mechanic, Gary, called across the showroom. “Where’s that old blue Volvo that was waiting to go through its service?”

“What old Volvo? I don’t know. Don’t you keep a log of all the cars you work on?” Jamie asked angrily.

“Aye, but we didn’t get to this one yesterday. It was just waiting outside for us to get started this morning. The customer asked us to give it a service, then put it up for sale. Said he had a buyer for it who’d pay eight grand, but he might need a test drive first. I told him he’d need a brain test if he was paying that much for that car. But it seems like he was right; it must have been sold. ”

“So what happened to the paperwork?” Jamie shouted. “We’ve not sold any fucking old Volvo. Where is the damn thing?”

“No idea.”

“So what do I do now? Jenny’s not in, and a fucking car has gone missing. This is a truly rubbish start to the day. Pop is going to bloody skin me.”

Frankie shrugged, “Phone Jenny’s mam back? Maybe the man she spoke to took the Volvo.”

“I suppose I should. I don’t fancy it though. She shouts. I don’t think she likes me. Then what do I tell Pop about the car?”

“I think you’ll need a chocky doughnut before you do that. I know I will!”

“I’ll need more than a fucking chocky doughnut, Frankie, if we’ve lost one of his customer’s cars.”

author pic 2

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 ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ and Hunter’s Revenge are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books.

Hunter's Revenge Banner

Enjoy!!!

One Cornish Summer! (or “What we did on our Holidays”)

A Blog post celebrating the paperback launch of Liz Fenwick’s latest book, One Cornish Summer. (her best to date!)

Cornwall is firmly linked in my childhood memories as THE place we went to on holiday. My Grandmother and Great-Grandmother bought a tiny fisherman’s cottage in St. Ives for £200 in 1948 after my Grandfather had died.

Every summer we would drive down from south Manchester, long, long before motorways existed. We would start at 5 in the morning and stop for a picnic breakfast on the A36 outside Gloucester, then Bath and the south-west, arriving as dusk fell. At that age, the journey was part of the holiday, although we always stopped at the same places through the day. I’ll gloss over the time my parents left me in my portable high chair, hanging from a farm gate. (they realized I wasn’t in the car after about 100 yards).

The A30 going into Cornwall was no better then than now! The road was slower, but the traffic was a lot lighter. There were some famous bottlenecks along the way; some of them are still there, re-designated as “road improvements”.

Holidays in St Ives were one long beach day after another. Porthminster, Porthmeor, Westcott’s Quay, the Harbour.

John - Cornwall - 1955
On the beach near The Island, St. Ives

 

A family of four can’t fit in a tiny cottage, so half the family would decamp to stay with my uncle and aunt at their farm in Leedstown. A real old-style small Cornish mixed farm where my Aunt and uncle ran a herd of Channel Island cows, kept pigs and raised chickens. I still remember the year my uncle got a tractor! It was Dobbin the horse before that.

Just after the War, there were still fields being cut by scythe by a gang of miners when they came off shift. The farm had no electricity then, so taking a candle to bed was a real adventure.

 

My Uncle, Ralph Harvey James, came from a long line of Cornishmen, and his grandfather was the last Purser of the Botallack mine on Cape Cornwall.

Horsedowns
A modern shot of the front of Horsedowns Farm

Of course, when you are aged six, summers lasted forever, and the sun always shone. I have no memory at all of it raining! It seems we only remember the good times at that age.

 

 

A couple of years ago, we started holidaying in Cornwall again. While the family members are long gone, the magic still remains.

Perhaps with all that history, it was inevitable I would fall into writing historical romance. There is a book coming eventually featuring the Harvey James family!

John’s first historical novel, Heart of Stone, was published in October 2017 by Crooked Cat Press. Set in Ireland, and about more of John’s ancestors, it continues to garner 5* reviews.

http://viewbook.at/Heartofgoldlink

~ About Liz Fenwick ~

img_0087Liz Fenwick, award-winning author, ex-pat expert, wife, mother of three, and dreamer turned doer, was born in Massachusetts, and at the age of twenty-six moved to London where she fell in love with an Englishman. After nine international moves, she now spends her time in Cornwall with her husband and her mad cat, writing stories inspired by the beautiful Duchy.

Find out more at www.lizfenwick.com, follow her on Twitter @liz_fenwick or visit her Facebook page @liz.fenwick.author.

~ Where to find One Cornish Summer ~

Goodreads            Amazon UK          Amazon US

And, from today, in bookshops everywhere!