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

U is for … Re-United?

Repairing a friendship is easier said than done.

Fern Mortimer turned her back on her old life after a hit-and-run accident, and it was only years later when she rejoined the workforce that a persistent redhead – Nessa – made the effort to be her friend. The invitation to join Nessa and three others on a summer holiday offered Fern the chance to start afresh.

What followed was supposed to be a relaxing holiday in the Algarve, but meeting the other girls – particularly Raven – only fuelled her self-doubts, sending her scuttling back into the safety of her shell.

Yet, when Fern became the victim of an apparently unwarranted assault – albeit an unsuccessful attempt to drown her in the Med – it was Raven who came to her assistance. The question arose regarding Nessa’s whereabouts and the answer was hard to stomach.

Supporting Fern throughout the trial months later back in Portugal, Raven showed herself as a loyal friend. But Nessa had all but ostracised herself from the girls, taking the side of the attacker – her boyfriend, Stefan Pereira.

Could their friendship ever be repaired?

Read the prequel – The Fifth Wheel – now and sign up for my newsletter to find out what happens before, during and after the trial when Courting Danger is released later this year.

Posted in A to Z challenge, cliffhangers, mystery, series, suspense, thrillers

T is for … Thrillers, Series and Cliffhangers

First up, let me admit that thrillers are by far my favourite books to read. However, that said, I love, love, love a series and will choose those over stand-alone stories in many cases.

So, based on my reading preferences alone, here are the top 5 elements that will draw me in to a story.

  1. Setting – I’m a sucker for a great setting. But not just the visual aspects. As a reader i want to feel as though I’ve been parachuted into the scene – wearing an invisibility cloak, of course. I want to feel the scorching sun or biting wind, smell the smoke , hear the footsteps behind me and touch spiky thistles or slimy walls.
  2. Clues – Let me be part of the investigating team, piecing the puzzle together, screaming at the protagonist when he/she misses something obvious or cheering when some minute detail garners importance.
  3. Twists – Not just an obstruction that frustrates the MC (although those are necessary too) but a twist that takes my breath away, making me turning that page filled with anticipation and dread.
  4. A simple solution – Along the way, there should be triumphs and pitfalls, teasing and confusing the plot, but a simple solution at the end is sublime. An outcome that is so elegant and effortless you can’t believe you missed it.
  5. A killer hook (not a cliffhanger) – I want a story that engages me with the characters, makes me interested in what else they have to offer and convinces me to want to read more about them. Of course, the story itself must be resolved – because to not do that just makes me switch off and never pick up another book by that author. If I have invested time and grown to care for these characters, then I want more. Give me a killer hook that will placate me until the next adventure is available. Don’t leave me in limbo.

Don’t leave me dangling … give me hope 🙂

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

S is for … Stefan Pereira

Character profile

Name Stefan Pereira (aka Jorge)

Age: 28

Description: Scandinavian blond, 6’1, ice-blue eyes, trim beard, lean physique. (Although, as Jorge, he is clean-shaven and dyes his hair dark brown)

Born in Portugal to a Swedish mother and Portuguese father, Stefan grew up in the Algarve, but moved to England as a teenager with his mother. His father left them shortly before, taking Stefan’s younger sister with him.

He was a fastidious child, neat and orderly. Very bright and quick to learn, soon understanding that certain behaviour earned him attention.

These days, he listens attentively and is a keen observer of people. He demands attention when he talks and enjoys controlling the conversation. Not one who will admit to being wrong, he bears grudges and has a childish need to get his own back when he feels undermined.

Doggedly determined, he never gives up on what he wants and sees no obstacle as too big to prevent him from getting his own way. Manipulation is his forte and he will stoop to nothing to meet his goal. His relationship with Nessa is a convenience, suiting his purpose but he has no plans for anything long-term. She is a disposable asset to him.

With an artistic streak, he appreciates beautiful things, but is obsessive about such items being soiled by the manhandling of other people. Everything he owns has a specific place and is not there for anyone’s pleasure but his own.

He can be beguiling, charming, sociable and friendly but generally prefers his own company. He admires attractive women with a clinical detachment. He loves sailing and is at ease on the ocean.

Emotionally, he is a solitary figure, with little regard for anyone but himself. However, he retains a soft spot for his younger sister, although they grew up separately. During his time in the remand centre his cellmate, Alfonso, befriends him. For the first time ever, Stefan encounters new emotional responses that baffle and surprise him.

Is he finally growing up? Showing concern for others is not usually in his make-up, although he can fake it without breaking a sweat, But, recent encounters seem to have more of an effect on him than he is used to, hinting at a caring streak behind his mask.

And just when you think he may be changing for the better, he goes and throws another spanner in the works. Life with Stefan Pereira is far from dull.

 

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, beta, books, reading, review

Q is for … Quiet time

I knew I’d get stuck on Q. Happens every time, and yeah I know X & Z are still to come and I can’t take a pass on those too.

So, I’m having some quiet time – reading for pleasure, maybe squeezing in the odd chapter or two of a beta read I’m working through, I might even write up a book review too. But, nothing today is related to my theme directly – but reading is important. As is some downtime. I’ve learnt to take my time when it comes to writing or revising my stories. I’ll still meet my deadlines, but some days are just not meant to be writing days.

So, hope you all get some breathing space too.

And I promise not to pull the same stunt on X & Z 🙂

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, food and drink, Mediterranean, olives, Portugal

O is for … Olives

For me, table olives fall into the ‘yuk’ category, yet the Mediterranean is awash with them. I’ve tried them, over and over again, really trying my hardest to find some that I like (well, like might be too optimistic, I’m not expecting to like them, but I’d quite like to find a variety that I can at least swallow without gagging!)

In Courting Danger, my characters also have a love-hate relationship with the olive. Despite its relatively small size Portugal manages to rank as the world’s 8th largest producer of olive oil at around 50,000 tons (thankfully my aversion doesn’t apply to the oil:) )
There are seven varieties of olives in Portugal with the most prolific being the Galega a small dark brownish black olive.

Galega olive trees are mainly grown for their oil however they also make delicious table olives.

The olives have a sweet delicate fruity flavor in contrast to the green rich fleshy Spanish Manzanilla olives or the dark smooth meaty taste of Greek Kalamata olives.

So, is the olive a fruit or a vegetable?

It’s the question everyone asks – don’t they?

Well, ask no more:  An olive is a a FRUIT!  The general rule is that an edible plant can be categorised as a fruit if it has seeds, but if it is seedless, it is generally a vegetable.

This is good news, because we are constantly told to each more vegetables.  I can at least say no to the olive now 🙂