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It's a beautiful location surrounded by snow-capped mountains. En route, we visited a textile centre for a demonstration of weaving and dyeing techniques. The next day featured a morning visit to the Ollantaytambo Inca fortress, superbly preserved and, in its day, a strategic, military, religious and agricultural centre.

We also took in some Inca ruins and a salt mine, as well as sampling the local corn beer. Machu Picchu. And so we embarked the next day on our second rail journey on the Perurail train to Machu Picchu. Not as grand as the Andean Explorer, it's still a nice train, and the countryside is stunning. Machu Picchu itself is one of the new Seven Wonders of the world, an amazing Inca citadel set between two mountain peaks - Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu - at an altitude of 2, metres. It was rediscovered by the American explorer Hyram Bingham in and includes more than buildings with baths, temples, altars and houses.

It's worth mentioning here that the Incas built terracing for various purposes, including agriculture; built walls of perfectly interlocking, often huge, stones, often transported considerable distances; created structures that perfectly lined up with the sun's rays on solstices; yet had no written language, which means that the purposes of many of their structures is the subject of speculation. In general, you don't go to Peru for the cuisine; but here, we'd opted for the hotel upgrade, staying at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, right next door to the citadel, where we enjoyed a fine dinner.

Next day, we were up early for a second, sunrise visit to the ruins and a walk to the now closed and unsafe-looking Inca Bridge. The afternoon saw us back on the train and headed to Poroy for the final leg of the tour - a stay in Cuzco. Our city tour took in the colonial church in the San Blas District, and the magnificent cathedral. We enjoyed an excursion to more Inca ruins, a night out with music and a display of traditional dancing, and, in our free time, visits to the Inca and Pre-Columbian Art museums. Homeward Bound.

Our journey home took 24 hours: a flight from Cuzco to Lima, an eyewatering five hours at Lima airport and a twelve hour flight back to Gatwick, still over two hours from home by the time we collected our baggage and passed through immigration and customs. I wrote most of this post on the Lima-Gatwick flight, because I can never sleep on aircraft.

Would I recommend Peru? You bet! So many sights, tastes and experiences that were new to me, and so much to learn about the old civilisations. At the time of year we went, it was warm to very hot during the days but could get chilly at night. Not for those who like their holiday to be a rest, but oh my!

My horizons have been well and truly broadened. Festival Time! It was the sixth festival to be held in Ivinghoe, Bucks since Avril Davies, I, and a few other enthusiasts founded it in It runs primarily to raise funds for the local community library and is entirely run and staffed by volunteers. The village school hosts us, and caretaker Mike is fabulous in helping us set up and take down. A lot of the hard work is in putting together an attractive programme and getting sponsorship.

Chairing the New Voices Panel with Mary Lynn Bracht, Vicky Newham and Lydia Syson Sponsorship included not only money, but also beautiful canvas goodie bags, plus brand new books, magazines and bottles of beer to go in them. The day went without a hitch, with lots of lovely feedback that made it all worthwhile. Theakstons Crime Festival. I barely had time to catch my breath than I was catching the train to start my journey to Harrogate for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

As last year, the place was absolutely rammed with crime writers and readers, enjoying a drink and waiting to hear twelve crime writers, including me, do a short reading from their work. All the readers sat round tables on the small stage in front window, awaiting our turn, which was decided by members of the audience picking names out of a had. I read from The Scars Beneath the Soul , and received some lovely feedback. But I also enjoyed hearing from my fellow crimeys, all of whom were great. Huge thanks to Victoria Vic Watson for arranging a fabulous event and for inviting me.

Reading at Noir at the Bar, Harrogate I spent the rest of the weekend taking in a few panels and live interviews and hanging out with friends I only normally see at festivals like this. A great moment was finally getting to meet long standing online friend and fellow crime writer, Linda Huber, in real life. Linda is a Scot living in Switzerland, and was in Yorkshire for a family event. I was so delighted she managed to make a flying visit to Harrogate. At a festival devoted to crime, it would be criminal to miss it. Putting our backs into it at Betty's Pick of the festival events for me was a live conversation between crime writing legend Val McDermid and equally legendary forensic anthropologist Professor Dame Sue Black.

All was not lost though — I discovered you can often score a late ticket from the box office tent about ten minutes before the start. I was lucky enough to get one, and even luckier, when I made my way to the hall, to be shown to one of the remaining vacant seats — in the front row!

Sue was thoroughly engaging, sensitive, and often funny, on the grim business of death. Her work includes climbing into mass graves where she begins the task of identifying victims of war crimes and piecing together how they died and what happened to them before death. Afterwards I bought her book — All That Remains — and took it for signing. I thanked her for her help with my research — and she remembered.

I was still grinning hours later. One more highlight deserves a mention. All too soon, my two festivals in a week were over and I was headed for home and back to work. Writing can be a lonely business. Killer Questions Caroline England. Born a Yorkshire lass, Caroline studied Law at the University of Manchester and stayed over the border, working in the city centre as a divorce lawyer.

In addition to her short story collection, Watching Horsepats Feed the Roses , Caroline has had dark twisty short stories and poems published in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies. Caroline draws on her legal career to write about secrets, betrayal and lies, hidden crime and 'what goes on behind closed doors'. It turned out I was writing crime fiction. Very much at the psychological suspense or domestic noir end of the spectrum, but crime nonetheless! Some people I read about in the newspaper or briefly meet pique my interest, so characters similar to them wander in reasonably formed, but even they are manipulated several times to make them multilayered like a Russian doll.

Or an onion. Despite their lavish house and apparently gilded veneers, they are ordinary, damaged human beings inside. When my youngest is at school I can write all day, but life has just got in the way over the past few months! Thanks, Caroline for answering my Killer Questions. Do you really know your friends? As the shock hits their friendship group, they soon realise that none of them are being as honest with themselves — or with each other — as they think. And there are secrets lurking that could destroy everything.

Killer Questions Linda Huber. Linda is an ex-physiotherapist who grew up in Glasgow but has lived over half her life in Switzerland, where she now works as a language teacher and writes novels. The inspiration for her books comes from everyday life - a family member's struggle with dementia, the discovery that a child in her extended family drowned in the s, and more.

Death Wish is Linda's seventh suspense novel, and tells the story of one family facing illness and death, while the people next door have a secret Her latest project is a series of feel-good novellas, written under her pen name Melinda Huber. But she soon gave up trying to stop me. I progressed to Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. My books are about families, especially mother-child relationships, with police action very much in the background.

I start planning with an idea — this happens and then that and that — and the characters grow naturally out of that. Often the original plot idea changes along the way, because of the people the characters develop into. In psych. Lower Banford in my book is around where Ilkley is in real life, for instance. Sex is always off the page, though I often have a touch of possible romance within the story. Violence is never graphic, but it sometimes need to happen to further the story. Different people see the same thing in different ways, and this is fascinating to write into a book.

I was continually thinking — what would she understand about this? How would she react? Can a child know this? I start knowing the beginning and the ending the ending can change along the way… Then I plan two or three chapters in more detail, and start writing. I love chaos — you should see my desk. I find routine stifling, but of course we need some kind of order in the daily chaos or the wrong things would be happening at the wrong times. Nothing like a last-minute panic for getting something done! And maybe a couple more books on the shelf. Thanks, Linda, for answering my Killer Questions.

The Paradise Trees. He had found exactly the right spot in the woods. A little clearing, green and dim, encircled by tall trees. He would bring his lovely Helen here… This time, it was going to be perfect.

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Killer Kool by Marty Ambrose

When Alicia Bryson returns to her childhood home in a tiny Yorkshire village, she finds her estranged father frail and unab le to care for himself. Her daughter Jenny is delighted at the prospect of a whole summer playing in the woods at the bottom of the garden, but as soon as Alicia sets foot in Lower Banford, strange and disturbing memories begin to plague her.

Unknown to her, she has a stalker. Someone is watching, waiting, making plans of his own. To him, Alicia and Jenny are his beautiful Helens… and they should be in Paradise. One of the best things about being a writer is going to literary festivals. And my festival season this year has got off to a brilliant start! Rebecca Bradley is a retired police detective. She lives in the UK with her family and her two cockapoo's Alfie and Lola, who keep her company while she writes.

Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day and if she could, she would survive on a diet of tea and cake. Find it on the blog. So, rather than interview Rebecca about the book, I thought it would be interesting to interview Ray — and who better to ask the questions than Claire King, Chief Reporter for the Aylesbury Echo in my own Archer and Baines books? Could you kick us off by telling us a bit about yourself and your career before your life changed so dramatically?

I have two children, whom I love very much, though they live with their mother as the job took me out of the house so much more than our marriage could manage. I love the job and I love the people I work with. CK: We both want to avoid spoilers for the book, but the blurb tells us you suffer from something known as face blindness. So how did it come about? RP: The medical name for face blindness is prosopagnosia and there are two types, one you are born with and the other kind, is caused by a brain injury, either a stroke or head injury.

My prosopagnosia was caused when I suffered a head injury in a car pursuit I was involved in at work. We were hot on the heels of a killer who had been murdering young women. The conditions were bad and his driving was reckless. I woke up injured and unable to recognise anyone. CK: And what exactly is face blindness? I still see them. I see they have a nose, eyes, a mouth etc. Imagine looking at a bunch of photographs of people you know, but they are upside down and their hair is removed. You can still see their features, but it becomes so much more difficult to say who they are.

CK: When exactly did you or the doctors realise something was badly wrong? RP: When my children came into the hospital to visit me. This obviously upset them. I hated that. Hurting them that way has been one of the hardest things. CK: It must have been terrifying. What was your first reaction? I let the doctors do all the tests they needed to do, but it took some time.

Can you imagine that? And I gather you hid it from your colleagues. Without giving away any spoilers, how on earth did you manage to pull that off? RP: One of the nurses in the hospital, Elizabeth, she was great, she told me about identifiers. You learn to identify people by other means. The way they walk or talk. Their hairstyle, or body shape.

At work people generally sit at the same desks. I worked my way around it and managed it quite well. CK: Did you tell anyone at all? RP: Helen my ex-wife. She had to be told so she could help me with the children. CK: And did that help? RP: It did. It helped having someone that knew, someone I could talk to and turn to. And then you have this new trauma where being able to identify someone is, to put it mildly, pretty critical. What happened? There was a murder. I happened to be there. RP: It was one of the worst times of my life.

I had let so many people down. Colleagues who relied on me and trusted me. I was gutted. But, I was also determined to try and do something about it. CK: But presumably he could have been sitting next to you on a bus, and you would have been none the wiser. So what did you do about the case? I started my own line of inquiry.

Separate to the incident room. I needed to resolve the screw up I had made. But what does the future hold for Ray Patrick? I have to live with this and get better at using identifiers. CK: One last question. RP: From what Rebecca has told me, this is a standalone story of what happened to me. Though she says there is the potential for one more. I believe it all depends on what readers think. CK: Ray, thanks for taking the time to talk about what must be a difficult subject for you.

Good luck for the future. RP: Thanks for having me! Returning to work following an accident, Detective Inspector Ray Patrick refuses to disclose he now lives with face blindness - an inability to recognise faces. As Ray deceives his team he is pulled into a police operation that targets an international trade in human organs.

And when he attempts to bring the organisation down, Ray is witness to a savage murder. The pressure mounts as Ray attempts to keep his secret and solve the case alone. With only his ex-wife as a confidant, he feels progressively isolated. Can he escape with his career and his life intact? Killer Questions 9: Lesley Cookman. Lesley started writing almost as soon as she could read, and filled many Woolworth's exercise books with pony stories until she was old enough to go out with boys.

Since she's been grown up, following a varied career as a model, air stewardess and disc jockey, she's written short fiction and features for a variety of magazines, achieved an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Wales, taught writing for both Kent Adult Education and the WEA and edited the first Sexy Shorts collection of short stories from Accent Press in aid of the Breast Cancer Campaign. Lesley's pantomimes are published by Jasper Publishing. So it was natural that I should attempt to follow in their footsteps. I prefer traditional mystery, myself.

Definitely a character! Off the page in both cases. I occasionally allow the reader to see the result of violence — the body — and my Libby is sometimes attacked, but nothing to frighten the horses. I write what I like to read. I do try, but things always go off the rails. So I fly into the mist with each one….

Oh, procrastinator. World class. Still alive…. Thanks, Lesley, for answering my Killer Questions. Rebecca is a ex-police detective and lives in Nottinghamshire with her family and two cockapoos - Alfie and Lola - who keep her company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day and, if she could, she would survive on a diet of tea and cake. Her website is here. As a series writer myself, I especially wanted to chat to Rebecca about the business of writing a series of novels around a regular cast of characters. Rebecca, first of all, congratulations on the publication of your Fighting Monsters.

Thanks Dave, firstly I want to say how much I appreciate you having me on your blog today. It feels a little surreal to be releasing book three, when I still know how excited I was to release the very first book in the series, Shallow Waters. So, in answer to your question, yes, there very much indeed is a whole other world inside of my head.

These characters live and breathe inside of me. They live with me all the time. The series is set in your home town of Nottingham. The setting is perfectly aligned to the real Nottingham. There are even real pubs and restaurants within the pages. If, however, I had cause to write about a school, that might be something I would consider creating a fictional version of.

Especially if there is a crime being committed within that location. With the pubs and restaurants, there is nothing happening in those other than good food and good company! The smaller, it may not be quite where I say it is. I know that some authors deliberately set out to write a series and then create a cast of characters. For others its almost an accident — they bring a detective into a story and then want to see more of them.

How did it happen for you? I did deliberately set out to write a series. There were snippets layered into the first one that were only indications of what is to come further in the series. I think there is a lot of room for story when you are writing a series.

You have the plot of each individual book, but you also have overarching stories that thread through the series as a whole. Each of your books has at least one specific case that is self-contained, but do you have a long-term story arc mapped out for Hannah? Several books in advance. Tell us a bit more about DI Hannah Robbins — what are her best and worst points? She not the most emotionally well-balanced woman.

She throws herself into her work and can be a bit standoffish because of this. She puts too much focus on what she is dealing with at work. However, she has a very good friend in analyst, Evie Small, who likes to attempt to keep her in emotional check. On the other hand, she is dedicated. If something bad has happened to you, or is happening to you, then you want her on your side. You already know the world and you know the characters. In fact, you more than know the characters, with each new book, they have grown and evolved with you.

They are a part of you. You can feel the world as you set to work. And the most challenging? But, though it is as I said above, there is the issue that you want your characters to continue to change and evolve as you progress with the series, which means you need to keep thinking of new stories, that not only engage a reader, but that impact on the characters and in a way that is in keeping with their world. So, with a standalone or the first in a series, the world is your oyster, you can create what you want, with a series, you are now tied to the characters and their reactions, their wants, needs and desires.

They really are the ones dictating the books. Are you going to be concentrating on Hannah and her world for the foreseeable future, or do you have plans for titles outside the series? I have already written another book, outside of the Hannah series. It can either be taken as a standalone or a series. I also have plans for another standalone that I want to write fairly soon, as well as the ideas for the next two Hannah books at least.

I wish I could write faster because I do love this storytelling business. Do you think the series will draw to a natural conclusion? I think it will draw to a natural conclusion on its own at some point. I would hate for it to go stale and would rather bring it to an end before readers start to get fed up of it. I would miss them though. Just thinking about not writing them, as I type this, feels weird. Not having them in my head with me…. If you can do so without any spoilers, what can readers look forward to in Fighting Monsters? I have a blurb for you to answer that question!

In his possession; the name of a protected witness from his trial. For DI Hannah Robbins, it's a race against time to find Talbot's killer, and locate the bystander before it's too late. But as Hannah delves deeper into the past, she begins to question the integrity of the whole operation. Again, thanks for having me, Dave. I really enjoyed answering these questions. You can get Fighting Monsters here.

Killer Questions 8: Robert F Barker. Born in Liverpool, England, Robert F Barker served thirty years as a police officer and detective, much of it working in and around some of the Northwest's grittiest towns and cities. He likes to write stories that are dark and edgy, but still reflect the real world, which as he discovered, is often far stranger than anyone can dream up.

As a Senior Investigating Officer and Firearms Incident Commander, he experienced the pressure that comes when dealing with major crimes, as well as what it means to have to make life-and-death decisions in the heat of live operations. He splits his writing-time between his family home in Cheshire, and the beautiful island of Cyprus, where he finds inspiration for a series of Cyprus-based thrillers which he intends will compliment his UK novels. Bob, why did you choose crime as your genre? As a former police officer and CID detective, it would be easy to say it was the most obvious and natural choice.

That said, when I first began writing in a serious way, I was not too sure just what my chosen genre would be, or even what I wanted to write about. My police background means I was lucky enough to meet a huge number of characters, good and bad, during my service. Many of them could quite easily fit within the pages of a crime novel, but I can honestly say I am yet to use a character in my novels that is wholly based on any one person. Location is always important in a novel — but especially so, I think, in the crime genre, where atmosphere so often plays an important part in the story.

However, I might then describe the aftermath to a violent death in some detail, as by then it is a crime scene and therefore a key element of the story. As regards sex, as anyone who has read Last Gasp will know, a key character in the story is a dominatrix, and facets of her interests and lifestyle are relevant to the plot. For me, sticking rigidly to the single-person point of view is too restrictive, while going the other way, using a multi-person point of view, risks leaving the reader unsure who to root for.

I will then write the first, maybe half, of the novel, letting the story take me where it will and introducing characters and sub-plots as and where they naturally occur. Around halfway, I will usually start to do some, limited, planning, usually just enough that the story can begin to steer itself back towards the ending I have had in mind to that point. At that stage I may do some more detailed planning to make sure all the plot points will be adequately resolved, and all the loose ends tied up.

That is when the post-it notes and white board in my office come in handy! Even while writing the last few chapters you can suddenly find your preconceptions ambushed by a humdinger of an idea you simply MUST include usually a killer twist so you have to then go back and make sure it fits in with all that has gone before — which can be the tricky bit.

More the latter, I think. Disciplinarian - whenI have the time to focus on the writing. We are lucky enough to have a place in Cyprus where we manage to get away four or five times a year to help boost our Vitamin D levels, he says! Though I have been writing for several years now, my decision to go all out as an indie author means I feel like I am just setting out on this exciting journey.

From that point of view, five years seems a long way away and in that time all my plans may change. Who knows? Thanks, Bob, for answering my Killer Questions. They include those who walk Whitehall's corridors of power, as well as others in high office — maybe even the upper echelons of the Police Service itself. When members of that network start dying, Carver suspects that someone is out to make sure that their involvement at least, remains hidden -and will stop at nothing to do so. Needing information fast but right now chained to a desk, his only recourse is the one person whom he vowed to never have contact with again — the extraordinary and dangerously-seductive dominatrix, Megan Crane.

Killer Questions 7: Amanda Robson. T his has set her in good stead for writing her debut novel, Obsession. Obsession, is a gripping Greek tragedy for modern times, and her new book, Guilt , is available for pre-order. My novels are psychological thrillers. Nowadays I tend to start with the idea for a story and then make the characters up.

Interesting question. I show it, because I write in first person so it seems as if it needs to be there. I have to do a lot of plotting and planning or else it all goes pear shaped. It must be wonderful to have such a carefully structured mind that you can write with imagination and structure without a plan. I envy writers like that. I have heard Joanna Trollop at a festival say that she starts knowing just how she wants the novel to end. How brilliant is that? I work hard in an organised way with a regular morning start time and lunch break, trying to pretend I am in a normal job.

My whole family are. We pull each other along with our compulsive work ethic. Thanks, Amanda, for answering my Killer Questions. The number 1 bestseller is back! Your sister. Her secret. The betrayal. There is no bond greater than blood. When the body of a woman is found stabbed to death, the blame falls to her twin sister. But who killed who? And which one is now the woman behind bars? Zara and Miranda have always supported each other. But then Zara meets Seb, and everything changes. Or are deeper resentments simmering beneath the surface that the sisters must face up to?

The question is, who? You can buy your copy of Guilt here. Killer Questions 6: Susi Holliday. I recently spent a great evening at the London launch of her new book, The Deaths of December. Susi is the author of Black Wood , Willow Walk and The Damselfly , a trilogy set in a slightly creepy Scottish village based on her own home town. She works as a pharmaceutical statistician and lives in west London. I was a big horror fan when I was younger, so I think the dark psychological aspects of criminals was something that always interested me.

I enjoy the mystery solving aspect of crime and trying to resolve things for the victims. I actually considered joining the police at one point, but I became a scientist instead. Well when I started writing my first novel, Black Wood , it was very much in the psychological horror camp, with a bit of crime from the past.

With the first three books, there is a recurrent character, my policeman — Davie Gray. In Willow Walk , Marie was developed along with the storyline. In The Damselfly , Polly was fully formed as she had already been very briefly mentioned in the first book and I always knew she would come back to try and redeem herself. My fictional town of Banktoun is crucial to the stories. It has often been cited as being like a character in itself. There are sex scenes in the Banktoun books, but in The Deaths of December there is only a thwarted one. I like a good sex scene, if done right.

I keep the violence to a minimum, although there is one scene in my latest which was fast and dark and horrible and I wrote it while feeling anger and I think that shows. It was necessary to the plot, so I kept it, but in general I prefer to keep the violence to a minimum. I always write multiple viewpoints. I like to tell the story from many different angles, to keep the suspense and the pace and to make it interesting to write. A fair bit of plotting and planning. I start with an idea and email it to myself, then I keep adding to it until I have the story formed. I then try to do a formal chapter by chapter outline, but usually I write a few chapters first, maybe up to a quarter of the first draft, then I sit back and replot the rest in detail.

I have tried to wing it but I have always found myself stalled at 20k. I might go back to some of these abandoned works and resurrect them one day. I write in short bursts, mainly — often in a notebook on the train or tube. I like the idea of a routine but I never manage to stick to it. I work well to a deadline. Too much time on my hands and I will squander it badly. Thanks, Susi, for answering my Killer Questions. It looks like a regular advent calendar. Until DC Becky Greene starts opening doors The police hope it's a prank. Because if it isn't, a murderer has just surfaced - someone who's been killing for twenty years.

But why now? And why has he sent it to this police station? As the country relaxes into festive cheer, Greene and DS Eddie Carmine must race against time to catch the killer. Because there are four doors left, and four murders will fill them It's shaping up to be a deadly little Christmas. Handling Stress as an Indie Author. Being an independently published author is the best job in the world for me. I love it, because all the decisions are mine. I decide on the book package that will be published, the pricing strategy and the publication date.

I can make absolutely sure the book is as good as I can make it. Of course, the potential downside of being free to set my own deadline could be that I find it too easy to coast along. So, in just a few short weeks, I needed to get the word about The Blood That Binds out there - notifying the publication date through my Subscribers Club newsletter and through social media, getting it on pre-order, arranging a blog tour, creating press releases, flyers and trailers, and organising a great online launch party — whilst simultaneously putting the finishing touches to the book package.

They wanted me to write a blog post, sharing productivity tips to help encourage work-life balance, lower stress, and inspire others to be as productive as possible in their day-to-day lives. My first thought was that this was way too stressful a time to be thinking about this! I also figured that this piece could tie in nicely with my blog tour. So here goes….

As I said earlier, the actual writing of the book is less stressful for me than getting it down that final straight to publication. But the business of orchestrating a good launch, with so many things to be done, on top of the demands of my other job and from daily life, could easily be overwhelming. What keeps me focused, and makes it all seem a lot less daunting, is to have a plan. In a former life, I did my fair share of project manager and project director roles, and I draw on that experience to treat the publication phase as a project. I have a standard Word template with all the tasks I need to complete, from sending the book to my editor, through publication to the end of the blog tour.

Each task is broken down into its elements. All I have to do is take a shot at how long each element will take, set a target date, and everything on a version of the template for that particular book. The plan will show each task element, when it needs to be done by, who else if anyone is involved, and how long to go to publication date after that element is completed. It gives me confidence that the publication date I settle on is achievable, and I know what I need to do in any given week.

It works for me. I can see at a glance where I am in the overall scheme of things, and I also know how much time I have available for other aspects of my life. My four tips for combatting stress as an Indie author:. Have realistic, achievable goals. Have a plan. Killer Questions 4: Nic Parker. Nic was born in Her love for the horror genre flourished in early childhood. She enjoyed the opulence of genre productions in the eighties, chasing after forbidden video nasties with friends, and reading mainly Clive Barker and Stephen King.

She is an avid book collector, passionate about art and likes to try out new recipes from her many cookbooks. Nic li ves in rural Germany with her husband and six cats. Descent to Hell is the first part in the Hell trilogy with main character Charlie Ward. How would you describe your genre? My next projects also include thrillers, both supernatural and psychological.

They come forward from out of thin air and then just begin a life of their own. They are probably excesses from decades of watching horror movies and reading horror books and comics. That depends on the story. I think there are authors that can vividly describe surroundings or cities with few words but I also enjoy learning more about a city or place where the story is set. In general I think the focus should always be on the characters. Yes and definitely yes but I would never write torture porn scenes, as they are obsolete. Before I sit down to write the story has advanced about 70 percent already in my head.

Especially this year, with my part-time job, six cats to tend to and our ongoing refurbishments in the house and my surgery in September it was sometimes hard to get any writing done at all. I hope I can find more time to write in I am German, discipline is embedded in my DNA ;-. Descent to Hell by Nic Parker. Armed only with courage and determination Charlie has to survive in a forbidding place filled with despair and anguish. He must face challenges no mortal should ever have to undergo that threaten to destroy his very soul.

Check it out here. Watching a Book Festival Grow. But still…. Lately, an awful lot of these memories are of BeaconLit, the literary festival in my local area that I am privileged to be involved with. The first festival was a half-day affair in a marquee on a slightly wild and windy day. The marquee billowed, the wind tried to blow through, but the audience enjoyed two top-class panels crime and romance — and some workhops and stuff in the break.

We had a new associate in Chorleywood Bookshops, our nearest independent bookshop which has supported us ever since , and ran five events throughout the day. This time around we obtained some invaluable extra sponsorship and were also able to include some extra goodies in goodie bags that had previously contained just the programme brochure and some flyers.

We are constantly trying to reach out to a wider audience, but the charm of the event, which partcipants and punters alike love, is BeaconLit's village feel. We get a lot of local help in putting the festival on. The school lends us the venue, we hire extra chairs from Ivinghoe Town Hall which volunteers ferry back and forth in the backs of their cars , and local people loan us sound equipment. Tesco Tring, less than four miles away, not only gave us some invaluable sponsorship, but one of its staff volunteered to help set up and on the day, and worked exremely hard. These are the things that really contribute to the unique 'local' atmosphere.

An eclectic afternoon kicked off with freelance writer Sandra Smith interviewing Buckinghamshire and Berkshire Life editor Jan Raycroft, and then it was my turn. I got a break from moderating this year, but on the day poor Alison Bruce was unwell. Fortunately, Adina Campbell loves BeaconLit so much that she stepped in at short notice and made a great job of opening up Tracy Buchanan, Fergus McNeil and me on how we create a sense of place in our crime novels.

We still have a lot to learn about reaching out in ways that will really boost our audience to the scale our excellent guests deserve, and not all of our new ideas work out. We put on a festival that is praised for its organisation and its quality, and that our audience and everyone who takes part thoroughly enjoys. The best thing about this year is that the work is no longer falling on three pairs of shoulders.

We have a new, enlarged and invigorated committee with a festival under its belt and already planning the next one! If Ivinghoe, Bucks is a manageable journey for you, you could do worse than to see for yourself in Gorgeous Galapagos. How do you describe the indescribable? There is nowhere on earth like the Galapagos Islands. If there is a Heaven, and it's anything like the Galapagos, I'm booking my place now.

But, for some strange reason, the tour we had chosen was undersubscribed and had to be cancelled. We went to Bhutan instead, but after we booked that trip we were contacted by Steppes again. They had another Galapagos tour, departing in May that was definitely running. Would we like to go? You bet we would. This tour had the added attraction of being accompanied by TV naturalist and wildlife photographer Monty Halls , who also happens to be President of the Galapagos Conservation Trust. It meant missing Crimefest this year, and I must admit to being gutted when I found how many of my online friends I'd miss meeting in real life, but this was a holiday high up on the bucket list.

The main feature of the trip was a cruise around several of the islands, with plenty of opportunities for snorkeling - something neither of us had ever done, so we booked ourselves a course of three beginner lessons and bought ourselves some kit, including a mask with prescription lenses for me. It was to prove a good call. We experienced our first snorkeling in the sea, our first close quarters with marine life, and our first underwater photography.

Swimming with baby sea lions was something I'll never, ever forget. Our adventure began at Heathrow, from where we flew into Quito in Ecuador via Amsterdam. We had two full days in Quito, with a day in Guayaquil at the end of the holiday, but I'll blog about that another time. The real excitement started when we landed at Galapagos Airport after our internal flight from Quito.

A short bus transfer and we stood on the pier awaiting the dinghy panga to take us to the MV Evolution , which was to be our home for the next week. It's a nicely appointed boat. Our cabin was a decent size, and tour director Steve and his team looked after us well and managed to keep delicious meals coming, three times a day, with nothing too much trouble. After settling into our cabins and having a briefing, it was time for our very first landing on an island, where we saw an abundance of frigate birds, sea lions, red Sally Lightfoot crabs, blue footed boobies yup - they have bright blue feet , as well as some marine iguanas.

Be warned - it's on the Equator, and the sun needs to be treated with respect - cover up, use plenty of sun cream and wear a suitable hat! Our party of 30 was generally split into two random groups, each led by one of the Evolution's naturalist guides, Alex and Sam, and these guys really know the islands, their history and geology, and their unique indigenous wildlife. We got a real sense of what Darwin had seen on his visit, and how his ideas about the origins of species took shape.

Alex the Guide. Keeping the islands the most special place on earth and I'm going to keep right on saying it isn't easy. It requires a passion, and making sure visitors don't forget the basics. So nothing is to be taken away from the islands, nor left on them. The creatures are fearless of humans, and the way to keep it that way is to treat them with respect. It still means you can get pretty damn close - generally within touching distance.

We'd met up with our fellow travelers in Quito and, over the next week, we all got to know each other pretty well. They were a lovely, friendly bunch. No one formed cliques, and you could sit on any of the four tables in the boat's dining room with any permutation of group members and be sure of an interesting chat and some real laughs. I could give you a blow by blow account of each day, but it would get wearisome for you and not to the experience justice.

The pace was fairly relentless, although there was usually an hour or so to put your feet up. But it meant as much as possible was packed into a week that flew by. Every day was filled with blue sky, glorious sunshine and astonishing sea and sky. Each island had its own character and its own creatures. So, rather than give you a daily diary, here are all the things we saw:. Birds: frigate birds, blue footed boobies, tropic birds, pelicans, penguins, Darwin finches, herons, red footed boobies, nazca boobies, vampire finches, short eared owls, storm petrels, mockingbirds, Darwin doves, hawks, flamingos.

On land: sea lions, land iguanas, lava lizards, giant tortoises many over years old and some over weighing more than pounds.

Amphibious: Sally Lightfoot crabs crabs, marine iguanas. Under water: More fish than you can shake a stick at, sharks, baby seals, giant turtles. It was the best time. And we didn't visit all the islands, so we have an excuse to go again one day! We return to normal life with so many amazing memories.

Our thanks to Steppes Travel for putting together an awesome tour; to the captain and crew of the Evolution for making us so at home; to Alex, Sam and Monty, for enriching the experience. Missing you already. We won't forget you. My love of mysteries started early with Enid Blyton I could often be found reading the Secret Seven under the bedclothes by torchlight! I love a good page turning whodunnit with twists and turns aplenty so when I set out to write a novel, it seemed the obvious choice for me. I aim for a mixture of police procedural and psychological.

It takes me a long time to get to know my characters. I start off with some initial ideas and add the layers slowly — description, background, hobbies, family life, motivations — until they become real to me. Only then, do I feel I can start to write their story. I think the importance of location is wholly dependent on the story. In my first book, An Unfamiliar Murder, I set it in a fictional Midlands county, loosely based on Northamptonshire which gave me the opportunity to move things around and play with the settings to suit the story.

With the second in this series, The Truth Will Out, I used the same Midlands setting, but also sent one of my lead characters to hide away in a very real setting in the Scottish Highlands because I wanted it to be somewhere people could picture in their minds and relate to. The juxtaposition between the kidnap in the novel, where the victim is kept in a disused pit, and the stunning Warwickshire countryside seemed to present a savage beauty that worked well.

I think how sex and violence are received is a very personal experience to the reader. We all have different levels of what is acceptable and what key words work. There are times when additional points of view creep in to inform the story. I did this a lot in The Truth Will Out — by the third chapter we know who the serial killer is, but sometimes it can be more captivating to find out what they are thinking and what their motivations are.

The extent of my planning has changed as my writing has progressed. I did very little planning for my first book and it took me almost eighteen months to complete. I have a day job and a family so tend to squeeze my writing into gaps as and when they appear. Often, late at night when the house is quiet I may catch an hour. With my hectic lifestyle I do strive for some discipline with my writing, setting aside hours here and there, but often fail.

Book Search

Writing books is predominantly a hobby and one I do because I enjoy it. Thanks so much, Jane, for coming on and answering the killer questions. The crime fiction world is a vibrant, friendly community of authors, readers, bloggers and publishing industry professionals. You only have to go to any crime writing festival or event, or watch the chatter on social media to see what I mean. The sad thing has always been that most of us can usually make one, maybe two festivals a year. Now, at least for those of us who can access London, that might have changed.

Several publishers have committed to sponsoring the events, with Orenda Books doing the honours for that inaugural meeting in the College Building of City University.

ONE SMALL SPARK

It was accompanied by mini-cupcakes, wine and a chance to buy the books. But the very best part of it was the social interaction. Afterwards, the pub was packed. It was so good to see so many old friends, make a couple of new ones, and meet a number of online mates in real life for the first time.

The idea of a monthly get together is quite fabulous, and will certainly help fill the gap between festivals. If you like the sound of it, check it out here. I like both types of allotment shift, really. But the second type is a gift to a writer. First, you can get on and do what it is you actually went there to do, which ultimately leaves more time to bang away at your computer keyboard. Both my father and my grandfather had been quick to escape their formative traps. Eldon by coming to England from this apparent pearl of an island, and Lee, fifty years later, by leaving England, his birthplace.

The glare from the window flattened the room. I wondered what the rest of the place looked like in daylight. I changed into my shorts and went in search of breakfast. A couple of parasols had been put out on the terrace and two waiters were squatting down by the pool. I ordered the local menu and was served a plate of raw roti, some red desiccated coconut and a glass of sour undrinkable juice. I asked for bottled water and was given a jug. I just felt disappointed. Most of that first day I spent adjusting to the heat and the humidity. It was something I had only ever experienced before in horticultural glasshouses, and it was difficult for me to believe that the temperature was not temporary.

Inside the hotel I walked around in a daze, ducking into the dingy comfort of the arcade room every half hour or so to punch a bunch of pinball buttons and swill another glass of iced lotus-brew. The atmosphere, even in the aromatherapy room, was absolutely stultifying. Nowhere did I see any sign of other guests. When I got out of the water, I heard the buzz of a small aircraft and saw a military plane disappear behind the ailing cassias. Although there were no obvious transport facilities at the hotel, I was still confident I could find a way to visit some of the places Lee and Eldon had been to on their one and only journey abroad together.

He was seventeen when he first came here, brought to spay his respects to the ancestral land Eldon himself had spurned for decades. They had visited graveyards and sleepy suburbs; they had done a grand tour of the country which Eldon recounted time and again over the years. He would conjure up the house for me. A sand garden with lantana shrubs and bougainvillaea.

Hundreds of butterflies. And a breadfruit tree. I loved that place, my little Eden, so much more than the big manor house that our lot liked to pretend was the family heritage. His brown finger would trace their route along a network of red roads as though he was trying to soothe the veins of a lachrymose eye.

The shape of the land itself had changed. Political gerrymandering had played socks with every bloody thing. My father, on the other hand, seemed to have seen something that the older man could not. Something irresistible that brought him back, again and again. First to meet my mother, on her first long-haul holiday; and then again for their honeymoon; finally it brought him back in the middle of a war, for ever.

On my second morning I got up earlier, before the heat became unbearable, and took a walk outside the wails of the hotel. A broad strip of macadam meandered up to a sentry-point. I noticed the flash of mirror-light as a gun, or camera lens, hidden in the pill-box caught the rays of the sun. In the other direction, about five hundred metres down the road, was the village. I was keen to explore it, imagining that perhaps there I might discover the hidden charm of a long-suffering but colourful land. I found a few ramshackle bungalows and, within the ramparts of an old fort, a pockmarked shopping mart boasting a drug store and a couple of bazaar stalls with some trinkets and a few essential dry goods like rice, flour and soap.

Hardly any people were around. Inside a bakery, I spotted a couple of women in muted saris and a solitary man in a sarong, his shoulders drooped as though the blades had been ripped off. I tried to talk to them — English was supposed to have become the common link language along the coast — but no one was willing to speak to me. The women quickly retreated, and the man simply stared at me as if he had been hypnotised. The sense of subjugation was something I had not expected on an island so infused with myth and mystery.

This was a place, it seemed to me then, devoid of any joy past, present or future. It was impossible to imagine what the attraction could have been for anyone. As the days passed, I began to feel disheartened. The sun seemed cancerous on my skin, and the water was starting to feel too hot for swimming, even in the dark. I thought, if only I could reach one of the famous sites Eldon had talked about I might gain some satisfaction but there seemed no way of getting anywhere. Nothing else had been available.


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The hotel staff, when they deigned to appear, were hopeless. The receptionist would always summon the bellboy whenever I asked about excursions. Special approval required. Even the barman at the cocktail hut pruned his lips and withdrew into his shell when I tried to question him. It seemed I was in a place where conformity, or silence, was the only safe strategy for survival, and ignorance a kind of haven. I was so disgruntled I spent the rest of the day trashing the decrepit minibar in my room.

This could not be the same island that Eldon had talked about, that my father had loved, that I had read so much about. I had seen no animals, no birds, hardly any life. The trees, the plants, the buildings, the land, everything was drab. That evening, when I emerged, I banged into the drinks trolley parked at the poolside and knocked over an ice bucket. I ordered more lotus-brew and a packet of mouldy buns and derided the barman.

I was too sozzled to care what he thought of me. I felt thoroughly ashamed the next day and wanted to apologise to him. There was nobody around to say sorry to. I decided then it was time to pull myself together and do whatever I could on my own. Six days had passed since I had landed. There was no point in hanging around. Explore as far as I could by foot, if nothing else.

It was midday. The heat was searing, but I felt it had to be now or never. Walking, at least, was not forbidden. Any restricted area, I reckoned, would be fenced off or something. The rules would become clear, if there was a danger of violation; that seemed to be the way programmes ran everywhere.

I headed for the outer ramparts of the village. A dusty dog, stretched out in the shade, roused itself briefly; there was no other sign of life.