Saturday, 31 January 2015


To foreshadow, according to my dictionary, means showing or suggesting an event beforehand. It is a fabulous thing to use in thriller writing and it can be used as much or as little as you like. It can be a very slight hint or could be a full scale seeing the future in some form or another.

In terms of gendering suspense, I think it is invaluable. It signifies to the reader that a particular thing is important and it raises tension so that the reader keeps the pages turning. I think foreshadowing is used to some degree or another in all romantic thrillers. It can be as subtle as an atmosphere or as obvious as a piece of information or an object of interest.
As writers we may shorten sentences and paragraphs, speed up speech and ratchet up the action to indicate that things are rising to a climax or something important is about to happen.  In films, we are all familiar with the notion of background music telegraphing turning an ordinary event into something sinister. This too is foreshadowing although one could think of it as creating a sense of foreboding.
The main thing about foreshadowing is that we use it early in a piece of fiction and then deliver on the promise later in the story. It is a skill that takes a degree of practise, I feel, in order for it to not appear obvious. The reader should have an ‘ah ah!’ moment later in the story and it should come as a bit of a surprise - if it’s done correctly. But one that when they look back, they see it was correctly done and they were not hoodwinked. The other thing is that if, for example, you show a gun early on in a story the reader will expect it to go off at some point later. So then you are using reader expectation to foreshadow and event for later in the tale.

So is foreshadowing another tool to make fiction enjoyable? I think so… 

So, do you use foreshadowing in your writing? Do you find it easy?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Emotive or What?

When out with friends for a chat and catch up, we often talk about the books we have read (or not read as the case may be).  My friends sometimes think I’m a bit ‘nuts’ as I tell them I often don’t finish novels.
I am a person who hates to waste time so I will only carry on reading a book if the writer has caught me up in a story (involved me emotionally). If I am not enjoying a book I will cast it aside and not waste further time on it. It doesn’t even have to be a really bad book for that to happen – it may simply be that it is boring me a bit. I know that sometimes if I continue it will get better but why should I bother when there are so many other juicy books to get stuck into. On the other hand I know people who will persevere with a book – provided it is not that bad! The engine that turns so-so fiction into well-loved and remembered books? Emotion!

When I ask friends what a book is actually about and they cannot remember I know it wasn’t that good. For me the plot has to hang together well and the story must engage some kind of strong emotion in me. Whether that is horror, happiness, sadness or sorrow, an emotion of some kind must be there. When I think back to books I read as a child/young woman I find it is the emotion I remember most clearly about the story.  

I generally judge a good book by how well I can remember it weeks later. If it truly stays with me, I know it was a great book. One such novel in recent months was “The Incredible Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”. That book almost brought me to tears at the end and I can remember most of it even though I read it a while ago! Whereas the one I read last week was fairly good but I can’t remember it without a prompt!

 Do certain stories have a big impact for you?

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Playing the Name Game

What is in a name?

Am I the only writer who agonises over names for days on end?  I guess I find it difficult because I think names are so important in characterisation. They give the reader clues as to what kind of person they should expect. It may seem arbitrary as we are all given names by our parents - when they have no idea what sort of people we will eventually turn out to be.  Then again, many parents agonise over their children’s names too! We give children names and then hope their characters turn out to be what we would want for them. But in the world of fiction we try to choose names that suit the character we are trying to create.
For instance, age and era play a big part in my choices. A woman who was born early 19th century would not be called Rhianna or Stacy. Just doesn’t ring true, does it? But Arabella or Victoria does. The age of characters is also important in deciding names. I can easily imagine an older man called Hector or Jeremiah but not a young boy. I think most readers meeting a character with these names would automatically have in their mind’s eye and older man even before any physical description is given.
Whether your character is the antagonist or protagonist is also important in naming. Although sometimes one might want to increase surprise by giving an evil character an innocuous name… I think it depends on how you are trying to present your story.
Male heroes names tend to be strong masculine names – they are not usually called Fred or Bert - but female heroines may also be strong ‘no nonsense’ names too. I wouldn’t choose a name like Ophelia or Primrose if I wanted my heroine to be seen as strong and capable. But then again, it is all a matter of personal choice… In fact, the more I think about it, the more I like Ophelia!!

When we are introduced to people in real life we may be told their names but it is not the only information we have of them. We can see how they behave, what they look like and hear them speak. We can make judgements about what sort of person they are (although we may turn out to be totally wrong, of course!)

But in writing fiction we have to give a strong first impression by words only to have the reader ‘see’ our character in their mind’s eye. I believe this is why names are so important. My two latest books had numerous name changes before I settled on names I liked.

In ""The Afterlife of Darkmares" all the character's names had something to do with gardens or countryside. It simply made me think harder to come up with names. For example the old lady was called Cora Gimbletree and the main character's was Kate Linden. There was also Redwood, Culpepper, Garford and Blackthorn - surnames of other characters. It also helped that the story was set in a small village in rural Derbyshire.

By contrast The Witcheye Gene had modernish names such as April, Gregory and Vince. However the main character was called Kendal ( which had a backstory all of it's own) because her parents were in Kendal Cumbria when they discovered they were having her. But I chose carefully for the name of the villain... I cannot tell here as it would spoil the story...

How much importance do you give to naming your characters? Do you agonise or go with the story and change the name later to fit the character?

Sunday, 11 January 2015


"Society bristles with enigmas which look hard to solve. It is a perfect maze of intrigue."
Honore de Balzac

Intrigue - I just love this word.
It conjures up a misty twilight kind of world for me as I associate it with mystery and skulduggery. Almost a Sherlock Holmes kind of world in my mind… 

Maybe that is why I tend to think of it as a kind of old fashioned word which is rather less used nowadays. It suggests a halfway stage between outright puzzling questions and curious, rather vague, passing fascination with something or other.
When I looked ‘intrigue’ up in the dictionary, I found it can in fact, mean a puzzle or questionable scheme. But interestingly it can also mean conspiracy, double dealing, trickery and even, of course an affair.
n writing romantic thrillers it is unquestionably the raising of interesting questions and mini puzzles of the ‘will he/won’t he succeed’ variety that make up the entire plot of an edge of your seat thriller and a romantic read to boot. In other words the story must intrigue the reader from start to finish and that intrigue should rise to full on tension as the conflicts escalate and the hero get’s into worse and worse trouble.
So when I write my novels, I start with some intriguing questions (enough to pique reader interest, I hope) and pose some attention-grabbing dilemmas but then things get rough!

A good dollop of skulduggery helps as does some trickery on the part of the villain. Together with a spoonful of double dealing and a large splash of romance you have the recipe for a darned good roller coaster read.
Do you use intriguing questions to pique the readers interest at the start of a book?

Tuesday, 6 January 2015


Hurry, hurry... Sale now on.

"The Witcheye Gene" reduced in price for a few days only! get your copy now! or


Kendal MacIntyre has fought long and hard to overcome the emotional scars of an unhappy childhood to create the successful boutique business she now has. Having lost her husband to cancer she is driven by one thing only – to see her daughter April have all the advantages in life that she herself was denied. So when someone appears to be snooping, she is terrified that her shameful secret will wreck April’s chances in life and she stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the hereditary trait of ‘special’ sight. But when an evil killer threatens the very existence of her family, she knows she must face her demons if she is to save the one thing she cares about.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

All you need is Love

LOVE - (All you need is…)

Where would we be without love? More to the point where would our writing be without it? For in one way or another it features in most works of fiction. When I say love I’m not just talking about the romantic notion of love, I am talking about the emotion of caring for something or someone in an unconditional way.
For me the notion of love is intrinsically linked to its opposite, hate. This dichotomy is the engine which drives most rollicking good stories. There is nothing readers like more than to ultimately see love (and other similar admirable qualities) triumph over evil. Whilst I may not write particularly romantic stories, love always features (in some form or another) in all my fiction. 
Love is one of the most basic of human emotions and we have all experienced it at some point in our lives. It is so strong that artists over the ages have written about its power in songs and verse. It is the very bedrock of human happiness and without it we would all be hard put to survive.

The most primitive and basic form of love is that of mother and child. Love is the protective umbrella that we are all reared under and mother love can - quite literally - achieve almost impossible tasks.
What a fabulous premise to underscore a great story! And what a great adversarial emotion to stand against a destructive protagonist…
In my novel writing, ‘love conquers all’ is a frequent theme – it may be parental love, it may be romantic love or it may even be love of a belief, place or group of people.  ‘Love thy neighbour’ is also a common theme when one or more people are racing to save a population or even the whole human race. I have often heard of great sacrifice in order to save one single pet! So love at its best is a very admirable human quality that most of us understand.

Whilst some may think it a simplistic theme, it is a mighty powerful ally in the structure of a modern story. And far from being solely the thematic concern of the romance genre, it ought (in my opinion) to suffuse all our fiction.

The antagonism of love and hate makes for rich pickings in terms of rising tension and suspense and, as fellow human beings, we can all empathise with and cheer for the main characters who think it worth fighting for.

The story is generally richer for a good dose of love and we readily identify with the emotion and therefore the impact of the story is increased.

So do you use love (especially unconditional love) in your writing? Do you think it enhances your story?