Posted in A to Z challenge, Courting Danger, courtroom drama, The Blackleaf Agency, The Fifth Wheel

W is for … Who, What, Where, When & Why?

The 5 Ws of storytelling – as applied to my  next release Courting Danger 

  • Who

Who’s involved? From the character profiles already posted, this should come as no surprise that the story revolves around the four lives of Fern, Raven, Nessa and Stefan.

  • What

What’s it all about? Principally a court case, following on from Stefan’s attempt to kill Fern last summer. The story aims to look at both sides of the case and deliver the reasons behind each character’s actions and motivations.

  • Where

Where is it set? Primarily in Portugal for the trial, but then it’s back to England and the fictional town of Framleigh.

  • When

When does it take place? It picks up eight months after the girls’ summer holiday. Since that time, Stefan has been in the remand centre awaiting trial, and plotting for his freedom. Fern & Raven returned to Framleigh after the attempted drowning and now make their way back to Portugal for the trial. Nessa had also returned to England, but kept away from the others and soon found herself back in the Algarve, renting a villa near to the remand centre to be close to Stefan.

  • Why

Why am I telling this story? The summer holiday tale was originally planned as a short story for an anthology, and is told in The Fifth Wheel. But I soon realised I couldn’t leave it unresolved. The pursuit of justice meant there had to be a follow-up story. Then, the characters took over and wanted more attention. So much so that there is another story (or three) to follow – Heirlooms & Heiresses being the first one that sees the girls start up a new venture as Private Investigators in their very own business: The Blackleaf Agency.

Posted in A to Z challenge, Courting Danger, The Blackleaf Agency, The Fifth Wheel

V is for … Village life

 Framleigh: a profile.

Framleigh, where Raven, Fern & Nessa grew up is a fictional village in rural England

Here are some facts to fill in the blanks regarding the girls and their village.

  • How does the setting uniquely belong to your characters?

It’s their birthplace and home – although Nessa moved to the city a while back, before the holiday in Portugal. All three girls grew up in the area; Raven and Nessa attending the same school while Fern lived on the outskirts in one of the modern estates.

  • Why is this setting important to them?

Fern sees the village as a secure place, somewhere she can avoid life and restrict her time to her family and Dougal. For Raven, the village is all about family ties, childhood memories and community spirit.

  • How do they feel about this setting?

Fern considers it to be her safe haven, calm and steady. No nasty shocks or unexpected dramas. Raven, on the other hand, does feel a sense of claustrophobia at times. Yet, she also appreciates how it makes her feel comfortable and competent.

  • What does the setting look like?

Framleigh is centred around a village green. The old Tudor Manor House is now a hotel. The village pub and the community centre at the church are the regular haunts for Nessa and Raven. The river Sreve skirts the village, marking the boundary between the hamlets of Frampton and Tonleigh. To the west is town of Gaukwich, where other facilities exist (police station, Post Office, Library)and the ‘big’ city of Worford lies approx twenty miles to the east, through arable land and midsized farms boasting award-winning livestock breeds.

  • What does the setting smell like?

The village now boasts a mix of old-world charm, farm land and the occasional office block giving a nod to more modern times. Traffic has increased, bringing pollution to the area and smog, which together with the stench of farmer’s spraying crops, animals and hops gives the area a unique and varied perfume. On top of that, the villagers partake in traditional activities such as cook-offs (cheese, jams, cakes and local ale  all feature heavily.

  • What does the setting sound like?

Generally peaceful, except on market day or during fetes, when the local hotel and shops are filled with tourists and competitive stallholders vying for prestigious rosettes.

  • Is there a taste or touch sensory experience related to this setting?

The experience is one of overwhelming peace and quiet,except during rush hour or when the schools end for the day.

  • What role will this setting play in your story?

The setting provides both background and back story and memories. In future stories, for example in Heirlooms & Heiresses, the village and its residents, facilities and layout feature more heavily.

  • How would a stranger coming into this space feel?

The vibe is calm and unsuspecting, homely and comfortable, quaint and traditional – but with modernity advancing at a steady pace in future tales.

Welcome To Framleigh – Have a Good Stay 🙂 

Posted in A to Z challenge, character profile, Courting Danger, courtroom drama, Female sleuths, The Blackleaf Agency

R is for … Raven Hegarty

Character profile.

Name: Raven Hegarty

Age: 25

Description: Black-haired, 5’9, brown eyes, olive skin, very attractive. No fuss girl, no make-up, or jewellery.

Lives in Framleigh (a fictional village in Warks), with her mum, Rachel. Boyfriend is Finn Delaney (PC at local station, was a trainee with her and they re-met when she began her Tae Kwon Do classes – he is a part-time instructor at the community centre)
She was training to be a PC when her mum was diagnosed with MS. Gave up her career to care for her mum and worked in a supermarket to make ends meets, but resigned out of boredom – and after a masked gang raided the store during one of hers shifts.)
When her mum’s condition deteriorates, Raven is forced to accept help from the community. As she realises that she cannot be the carer her mum needs, she decides (encouraged completely by her mum) to retrain. Upset at missing out on her chosen police career, she is keen to work in a similar field, and retrains as a PI so she can work from home. She yearns for fulfilment, to feel that she is making a difference. She detests injustice of any sort and has attended many protests and demos to have her voice heard.
When a former very close friend (Nessa) chose a new man over her (and Fern) during a recent and much-needed holiday, Raven was incensed. The fact that the man was using Nessa and tried to drown Fern resulted in them attending his trial in Portugal and Nessa still stood by him. Raven disowned Nessa and became best friends with Fern, the victim.

Her mum, Rachel, is also dark-haired, but greying at the temples. Slim build. Pale skin, often in pain but puts on a smile.

Finn is tall, strawberry-blond-verging-on-ginger, wavy hair, broad-shouldered, big hands, grey eyes. Quite serious. Fascinated by forensics, wants to branch off to CID. Allergic to animal hair.

She is a sociable woman, loves pubs and dancing, gets on well with old folk since she admires their values and stories of past adventures. She has no time for misbehaved kids, jobsworths, call centres, salesmen in general (Smarmy smooth talkers)
Enjoys going to the rifle range with Finn. Takes mum to various support centres at hospital. She is determined and focused. Raven is a fighter. Impulsive, hot-headed, loud, abrasive and opinionated She doesn’t suffer fools. Acts first, thinks later. Too quick to get involved. Meddlesome. She has been stuck in a rut for the last two years and yearns for excitement and something to focus her intelligent mind on. Assuming that her loved ones are safe, she will jump into any adventure feet first and trust her instincts for a successful outcome.
But she is a very faithful friend – unless betrayed.
She is scared of getting MS like her mum yet avoids doctors in case something is found.
Feels betrayed by Nessa, but misses her friendship. Feels let down by officialdom and has a deep loathing for bureaucracy and paperwork of all sorts..

Raven is the glue in the story and holds much of the cast together. Her reactions are always pivotal and wide-reaching.

Posted in A to Z challenge, Courting Danger, female PIs, Private Investigators, The Blackleaf Agency

P is for … becoming a PI

Setting up The Blackleaf Agency as a private investigations business meant Raven – and later, Fern – had to undergo some extensive training.

Which meant I had to do some proper research (and I love research – almost more than writing the story)


Below are the elements of the course Raven chose to complete. (Details provided from the Institute of Private Investigators site)

  • The Characteristics of an Investigator – what type of individual carries out effective investigations?
  • Investigation Method – a proven template applicable to all investigations. If you only learn this methodology you will be able to conduct an effective investigation!
  • Taking Instructions and Client Relations – make sure you get and retain paying customers.
  • Statement Taking for Investigators – a core skill for anyone, taught by an experienced police detective and his private investigator counterparts!
  • Interview Law and Practice – how to elicit information from both the helpful and the obstructive!
  • Case Management – how to manage an enquiry so that it is successful, your clients needs are met, and expensive mistakes are prevented.
  • Incident Scenes and Exhibits – how to make sure that your exhibits are properly taken, stored and produced for forensic examination.
  • Tracing Investigations – need to find someone? Take this lesson and apply the skills personally as well as professionally!
  • Court Procedures – the law and practical aspects of taking cases to their ultimate end – a court hearing! Investigation by Computer – learn to utilise computers in investigations, an essential skill!
  • Surveillance and Recording – learn how when to use surveillance, and the practices and pitfalls of selecting a surveillance team.

All this, and specific skills and considerations relating to core investigative practices – process serving, criminal investigation, self-management, and more!

Of course, The Blackleaf Agency and Raven & Fern are fictitious – but the devil is in the detail. If this new investigative duo are to be taken seriously in this line of business, then they have to be professional and do whatever a ‘real’ person would be required to do. After all, they have to be believable – fiction or not – readers are an astute breed and they can spot an imposter a mile away. 🙂


Posted in A to Z challenge, Heirlooms and Heiresses, Private Investigators, The Blackleaf Agency

H is for … Heirlooms & Heiresses

That title trips off the tongue, doesn’t it? 🙂

Heirlooms & Heiresses is the next in my Blackleaf Agency series, and the very first ‘serious’ case as well as a personal mission for my new sleuths, Raven & Fern.

Case 1 – The heirloom

A missing painting. But the thief is soon revealed. however, returning the picture is not so easy. Provenance of ‘The Stolen Countess’ is already an issue and as siblings fight over ownership, disputing their grandfather’s will, Raven and Fern trace the painting’s journey across Europe during WWII.

Case 2 – The heiress

A ‘kidnapped’ baby. A friend in need. But can they claim kidnap when the child is in her father’s arms? This case sees the private investigators at loggerheads as friendships are tested, loyalties are questioned and emotions run high.

Can The Blackleaf Agency solve these cases? Managing two cases at once is a big ask. Especially for a new company and two inexperienced  operators. Is this business doomed before it even has really started?

Heirlooms & Heiresses will either make or break the Agency. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end!

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Posted in A to Z challenge, character profile, Courting Danger, The Blackleaf Agency, The Fifth Wheel

F is for … Fern Mortimer

Character Profile

Name: Fern Mortimer

Age: 24 (turns 25 before the trial in Courting Danger)

Description: Blond, slim, 5’5, blue eyes

Distinguishing features: Wheelchair-bound following a hit and run accident 5 years ago (although she can walk a few steps, but only a few)

Lives: In Framleigh (a fictional village) in Warwickshire, England with her parents and her Pomeranian, Dougall

Loves: Besides her parents and Dougall, she is a shoe-a-holic, preferably Louboutins; she enjoys reading and watching movies. Visiting libraries, museums and galleries – anywhere she can avoid social niceties and chitchat. Generally prefers small, intimate groups and loves classical music and her soft-top car. Drinks coffee, Horlicks and Tia Maria with coke (not all at once)

Dislikes: Water (as in the sea and swimming pools);Time-wasters, moaners, people who want everything done for them. People who park in disabled bays when they have no right to. Hates root vegetables, camomile tea and olives. Oh, and not forgetting water, water and water!

Profession: Was an accountant at Hann & Merrie (after studying with the OU during her recovery period) before the ‘watery incident’, but since the trial she has been training to be a PI to join her friend Raven in The Blackleaf Agency.

Family: Mum (Mary)– is always in garden tending to plants and herbs. Cooks a lot. Dad (Stan) —suffers back pain from bending over car bonnets all his life. Makes car kits. Good at DIY. Both worry constantly about her and have sacrificed much to be her support network when she hid herself away from her former friends and lifestyle. Dog (Dougall) – is three years old, loves cheesy triangles and afternoon naps.


In summary:

Fern is stubborn and fiercely independent. She’s quick thinking, reactive, positive (most of the time), cautious not reckless, considered. But she is also reclusive and retreats into her shell when she’s uncomfortable in large groups. Yet she is undeniably loyal to the end. She has a kind heart, wants to help but fears being taken for granted.

She has nightmares, relating to drowning and won’t seek help. Water scares the hell out of her (you got that, didn’t you?) She has few friends since her own self-enforced hermitage, but has grown very close to Raven now. She wants to be taken seriously, but is risk-averse. She doesn’t handle change well and over-analyses everything, which frequently leads to missed opportunities.

Posted in A to Z challenge, Courting Danger, The Blackleaf Agency, The Fifth Wheel

D is for … Disabled characters in books

I’m not a fan of the word ‘disability’ myself. It feels so negative, particularly when the person being labelled thus is often no less capable than those who dole out the description.

Many words beginning with ‘dis’ have similar connotations : disappointment, disbelief, discard, discomfort – I could go on.

Labels are unnecessary – after all, if we each did the same things in the same way, how boring would the world be?

Which is why I seek to include characters in my stories who ‘do things differently’. Whether it’s as a result of an accident or illness, they find alternative ways to achieve their goals.

These people are not ‘Hollywood-style’ token characters who find a cure or recover from their problems. They are real people who adapt and overcome throughout their whole lifetime.

Because that’s what real people do. No gloss, no glitter – just real life and real issues.