Suspense and Snowdrops: a weekend in the life of a crime writer.

As if the rugby wasn’t exciting enough on the opening weekend of the Six Nations, Morgen Bailey, author, editor, and all round good bod, joined me at Bedford Central Library to facilitate a two-hour Crime Writing Workshop on ”Suspense and How to Build it”. This was our second such ‘Morgan and Morgen’ interactive group for keen writers and readers. Given the positive response we received, it won’t be the last.

Busy in the children’s section of Bedford Library!

 Alfred Hitchcock once said of the suspense genre: ‘Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood met the Big Bad Wolf.’ However, I’m not sure he ever used a game of Giant Jenga to illustrate the meaning of the word suspense. I’m only sorry we were far too busy to take photographs of the moment the teetering tower toppled over.

Thanks go to the library for having us back and for allowing me a moment in the main library to promote my latest book, Fat Chance. It was heartening to see the place buzzing with activity and so many children selecting their next book. (None of mine, I should point out. That would be wrong on so many levels).

Snowdrops for Nurses

Then on Sunday there was a drastic change of tempo. A subtle shift in the level of intrigue.

I should explain.

As an ex-nurse, I was more than willing to volunteer to help out at a charity open garden event where I live. What an eye-opener…

Always willing to learn, I am now in possession of greater knowledge about the humble snowdrop and the underworld of the snowdrop collector – I kid you not.

There are around 2,500 different varieties of snowdrop (click for a BBC Countryfile article on the subject with astounding facts about Galanthus nivalis ‘milk flower of the snow’). I was amazed at how many Galanthophiles exist in the UK and what lengths these snowdrop fanciers will go to in order to possess a particular snowdrop variety. The village event raises a considerable sum for charity not only because of the hard work and dedication of the two snowdrop obsessives concerned, who, with help from friends, open their gardens to the public, but in large part as a result of galanthomaniacs purchasing for their collections.

Money? In Snowdrops?… Yes indeed, a single rare bulb can fetch hundreds of pounds and, most recently, well over a thousand pounds has been paid for a rare example.

As I was effectively the bouncer on the garden gate, I was asked to keep an eye out for sneak thieves making off with the more unusual snowdrops that were for sale, or worse, anyone attempting to help themselves from the garden. There were ‘observers’ in place, mingling with the crowds for that very reason.

On hearing this, my writer’s nose started twitching and my eyes widened at the realisation that the humble snowdrop may yet be central to a crime novel. There is a book called Snowdrops by A D Miller but the plant is not the main theme (‘Snowdrops’ refers to bodies that are found when snow melts, a Russian expression apparently).

I wonder… the snowdrop bulb is a source of galantamine, used in modern medicine. Of course the bulbs are poisonous too…

Book Birthday: Fat Chance by A B Morgan

Fat Chance by A B Morgan, out today on Kindle at a criminally low 99p

I’m smiling because it’s publication day!

I have an irrepressible sense of humour and therefore, despite the thought provoking subject matter of the books I write, there is always something to make the reader grin and on occasion to laugh aloud. Suspense is all very well but readers need a break from the tension now and again.

So, as the country heads for uncertainty and Teresa May’s Brexit plan seems destined for the recycle bin of parliamentary history, grab a copy of Fat Chance (Kindle or paperback via Amazon) and snuggle up. Inside the shiny cover you will meet Ella Fitzwilliam, she’s about to get herself into a proper pickle.

What is the book about? here’s the blurb:

A missing barrister, a severed thumb and fat chance of finding out the truth.

Ella Fitzwilliam’s world is about to spiral out of control. She’s not cut out to be a private investigator. With little or no aptitude for the job, she’s been sent undercover to expose the hidden lives of two men who meet nearly every week at Buxham’s – a private members’ club where portions are large and secrets are held in strictest confidence. 

One of those men is Harry Drysdale, a defence barrister, and the other is Marcus Carver, an eminent surgeon with a tarnished past and much to lose. Ella knows he has unhealthy appetites, she’s sure he’s feeding his perverted habits and putting his female patients at risk but she has to prove it. 

When Harry Drysdale goes missing, Konrad Neale TV journalist tries to reveal the truth behind the lies, but some of the secrets start to reveal themselves… and they are big.

Thanks to all at Junction Publishing, #JunctionPublish for bringing the story to life. Happy Book Birthday.

Fictional Character begs for his life.

 ‘My name is Barney Ribble, my given name is Kevin but no one ever calls me that. I exist only inside the imagination of Alison Morgan and on the pages of two books, so far. I’m not the main character, but I still matter and if you don’t open those books then I fade away into the distant memory of everyone who once read about me.

Not only do I cease to live, but my mates, and my sense of humour all lie hidden, waiting for you to breathe life into us again. Fair enough I swear a bit, but apart from that there’s nothing to dislike. Now my old mucka Konrad Neale, he’s a different case in point. The flash git has got himself into a spot of bother a time or two and no mistake. Check out The Camera Lies, you’ll see what I mean. Bloody hell. Psychopath central. What she wasn’t capable of isn’t worth mentioning!

Then get your nose into a copy of Stench. When I try to help young Rory Norton because everyone thinks he’s killed the woman they found under his floorboards,  I ask for Konrad’s help but no … he manages to make matters worse.

Next? You’ll have to wait until January. Of course I know what happens in Fat Chance, but I’m not telling you. I’ll remind you nearer the time, how about that?

Experiment time: A little audio snippet, does it tempt you?

Here is my confession. I have only recently become acquainted with the work of Philip Pullman and I downloaded The Ruby in the Smoke as an audiobook. The narration by Anton Lesser was sublime and, without doubt, contributed to my decision to read more books by Mr Pullman.

I do enjoy a good audiobook, but nothing irritates more than a bad one. Rather sadly I’ve come across too many examples of badly read stories – some beautifully written –  and I do wonder how much negative influence a poor audio experience can have on future book sales.

In a risky experiment I have created a short audio sample, a reading from part of a chapter of Stench, (written and narrated by me).

My question is this: Would a short audio sample tempt you to buy the book? Or would you be more influenced by a written sample?

 

When you are a writer, thinking is working.

 I dragged my poor unsuspecting mother along to her first literary festival on Saturday, and she loved it! BeaconLit Festival  has been running since 2013 and this year attracted such authors as Carole Matthews, Louise Jensen, Tony Klinger and the highly entertaining double act of Mark Billingham in conversation with Martyn Waites – both of whom also have a background in stand up comedy and goodness me did it show. My sense of humour too …

The author panels were lively, informative and positive, giving voice to newer authors as well as seasoned bestsellers. What made it all the more enjoyable was being able to chat to other authors, writers and avid readers in a relaxed atmosphere and to join in a creative writing workshop run by Morgen Bailey, editor, author, literary judge and a woman with more energy than the Duracell bunny.

What golden nugget of wisdom did I glean from the day?

That I am not as mad as I thought. “Hurrah!”

Lousie Jensen admitted to having no idea where her plots would take her – me too. Mark Billingham asserted that, like me, he is constantly thinking of ideas for the next book and will vacuum up interesting anecdotes pocketing them for later use. His sidekick Martyn Waites confirmed that it’s perfectly reasonable to consider musings and imaginings as working, as long as the ideas make it to the page in one way or another.  So going to the pub is research.

As well as accepting that we all seem to be kings and queens of procrastination at times, I  also learnt that those of us who write crime thrillers are untrustworthy and devious people watchers always on the lookout for a story, a juicy tale, an unusual titbit or a twisted perspective on a simple situation. Perfectly normal.

I’m just polishing the manuscript for book number five and the good news is that today I have also been working on the next idea for a story. I did this while cleaning the bathroom. I was talking to myself a lot, pretending to be in conversation with the dog, of course. Yes … I am working.

 

Coming soon

A dead body, a hidden past, whispers and accusations, motorbikes, unsavoury neighbours and a decent into mental illness. All that for only 99p on Amazon. Available for preorder.

 

Christmas can be murder …

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It’s Christmas. Your house is invaded by relatives and friends who gorge themselves on your yuletide hospitality. Some of them are a delight, but let’s face it after the first hour you want a return to peace and quiet and free use of your own bathroom. Drinks and nibbles are rapidly followed by the trauma of opening presents and putting your acting skills to good use. ‘That’s lovely, just what I never knew I wanted.’ The fake smile on your face begins to ache.

Christmas dinner is a feast for the gluttonous, sport for the mother-in-law’s thoughtless tongue, and an ordeal for the cook. You hope in vain that no one suggests party games too late in the day when Uncle Bernard has drunk enough to become obnoxious, and you pray no one will linger late into the evening begging for another slice of gammon and cold turkey.

Grandpa is snoring and farting. The older siblings are cheating at monopoly and threatening to sue each other. Granny is trying to teach the small children a game they are neither interested in nor understand. Young Toby is bashing his Power Ranger into her shin in protest, while his sister smears Silly Slime into your carpet. Teenagers are sulking and you, the hosts, stand at the sink washing up, again.

Do unfestive thoughts begin to creep in? ‘I could happily throttle the old bag’. The sort of intrusive wish you wouldn’t want others to know about? If, heaven forbid, you have house guests staying over (what possessed you to agree to that?!) these flights of fancy may become tempting.

Make certain you research wisely if you are plotting against an unwelcome, offensive relative …

or alternatively indulge yourself by reading some #crime fiction!

Allow your imagination to do the killing.

Agatha Christie is hard to beat for bumping off unwanted guests but I suggest you spread your search wider, get inventive.

Warning #Divine Poison doesn’t contain nuts: it’s not a story about murdering Christmas guests either, but it is a deadly distraction, a way of escape and a source of inspiration for would-be poisoners. Pick up a few ideas for next year’s Christmas dinner. (available on Amazon).

Merry Christmas. Ali Morgan x