Losing the plot – “to cease to behave in a consistent or rational manner”

Okay sure that’s one meaning and covers a lot of behaviour. Irrational anger, yup, lost the plot. Dithered helplessly instead of following a clear course of action – also lost the plot.

There is the literal meaning. Your plot of land, your home. Losing that, losing everything.

There’s a third meaning for writers, a little more up close and personal, when the characters hang around listlessly and shrug at words thrown hopefully at them instead of charging off joyfully in new directions with the writer scrambling to keep up.

I gave up trying to direct my characters around book four and just followed their lead, admittedly sometimes with my eyes popping.  Now, poke or suggest or wheedle as I may, the final plot simply won’t string together. The quartet know they’re on their last book, about to be made redundant, and you could cut the atmosphere with a blunt axe. Damn it. The series has picked up a small but loyal following waiting with interest to see how the quartet disentangle themselves and work out who done it for the tenth and last time, me as much as anyone, and I’ve given them the plot and will they come to life and play with it? They will not. Not so much lost, in this particular case, as being stonily ignored. I’d give up and try to think up another but I like this one and I surely have some say?

I know, that was whiny.

Funny how one informal phrase can resonate on so many different levels. Well, funny isn’t the mot juste, really. Not laugh out loud funny. Not even funny peculiar. But now I’ve picked the phrase to pieces it no longer even makes sense. I’ve lost the plot.




Emptied plate

From the time I started this series of whodunits based on the nursery rhyme One Two Buckle My Shoe I’ve had an uneasy eye on the tenth book – Nineteen Twenty My Plate Is Empty. The titles always had to fit the story – in some cases they’ve suggested the story – and I’ve only had to cheat twice, (Seven Eight Play It Straight and Seventeen Eighteen Past Lies Waiting), but that empty plate has been lurking in the shadows for a long time.

Nailed it.  (Phew!)

My main protagonist, Edge Cameron, has always had life handed to her on a plate. Her first husband left her a wealthy widow, her second husband fortunately had a massive life insurance policy, and she earned a reasonable income as a scriptwriter.  She has a TV series going into production which could, if it takes, make her a very tidy bundle.

Disaster when her production house, along with others, is cleaned out by person or persons unknown and her plate is abruptly emptied . . .

When the first likely suspect turned up dead, the trail seemed to have gone cold, until Donald, who has been financing productions for a while, notices one of his fellow investors seems to have come out of the disaster with more, not less, cash, taken himself off to Paris, then vanished off the grid.

Then a friend travelling through France by campervan with her dog and cat spots the missing investor near Boulogne in a fancy motorhome and the hunt is on.

Well, that’s the gist. Some of the research was provided by my recent life, no surprise there. The checking into moving illegal money around, in these days of intensive money laundering controls, is doing my head in a bit, and may yet get the police at the door if I ask too many questions. Any international financiers, especially operating on the shady side of the law, who could offer some suggestions? Completely confidential, of course. No need to bump me off after we’ve talked. That only happens in books.

In the meantime I’ll just crack on with writing the rest of it.


I’m so topical I don’t understand why I’m not an icon

Just call me Ms Demographic, Demi for short. I’m a babyboomer, for starters. Born between 1946 and 1964, and a little fed up that my retirement age moved from nicely handy to six years further down the line.

I’m a writer of breezy novellas who, thanks to the ebook and POD revolution, could publish myself. That’s a bigger demographic than you might realize. Last time I checked there were over 13 million books out there, and I checked Amazon.com right now, as I’m typing this – in my main category, Mystery Thriller and Suspense, there were 6829 new releases in the last 30 days.  (One of them is mine, 17 18, woohoo). There are over half a million in that category alone.  I do get pretty excited about occasionally popping into the top twenty thousand writers, but the reality is that only authors consistently in the top thousand enjoy the dizzying excitement of being able to support themselves with their writing.  Still. My books pay for my holidays, and I do take a lot of those.

I’m a mature single – that’s an absolutely huge demographic – and have been on a singles website for a few years now. Research, of course,  but I take my research seriously, been there, done that, got my heart broken (okay, dented) and wrote the book(s). (Being the mature single is the demographic, writing On Meeting Mr Will Do Nicely and a couple of novels was a bit more niche.)

I was made redundant  recently, that’s a growing demographic, and for the second time.  With all those extra years to fill in before I can start living off the fat of the land with a (partial) British pension, I’m part of that other demographic, the one that thinks oi, life the way it is hasn’t really ticked all my boxes or rung all my bells, is it time to try something else?

There’s the demographic of the many, many Brits who bolt to the sun to try that something else in a warmer climate. A staggering percentage of them chose Spain. Never one to buck a trend, I found a dilapidated (i.e. affordable) townhouse in a fairly perfect white village, and decided that was it, future sorted. Sell the house in Scotland, buy the house in Spain, which is way big enough to run a couple of Airbnb options (another growing demographic) and Bob’s your uncle.

Okay, working in Spain would be challenging, since my Spanish so far consists of knowing how to order coffee, and increasingly talented in the areas of point-and-or-mime, and that’s after seven holidays in rapid succession in Spanish-speaking territories.  All I can reasonably ask of the house is that it will earn enough to pay for its own maintenance and upkeep.

No problem. Teach the Spanish to speak English. So I did a TEFL course and am currently busily gaining vital experience as a teacher through an international online agency. That’s a smaller demographic, I’ll grant you that, but it too is growing.

Demographically, I am in so many Venn diagrams that Windmills Of Your Mind is becoming my theme song. I’m a human fidget spinner.

Surely I can turn this wealth of overlapping demographics into cash terms somehow? Brexit and the dratted General Election are playing merry havoc with the pound / euro exchange rate, and I do need that rate strong to do the house-and-fix-up thing. Scotland’s will-we, won’t-we rumblings about independence has slowed the house-sales market to a crawl. Tchah!

Ideas on cashing in on my demographic potential ? Anyone? Ta.

What makes a granny? This is not a rhetorical question, I need an answer …

What comes to mind when you hear the word Granny ?  And WHY in the name of all that’s holy is this a cross -section of what I get when I looked online for granny cartoons?  Rocking chairs, zimmer frames, grey or white hair – remember Wayne Rooney’s “granny” scandal? She was in her late forties.  Lots of grannies are. Do the math. Have a child in your early twenties,  your child pups in his / her early twenties –  don’t really need a calculator, do we?

So women with children have a reasonable chance of being a granny in their forties, a fairly good one in their fifties, almost guaranteed in their sixties:  yet all the cartoons show dear (or feisty) old ducks, Indian summer gone, winter well on its way, average age, hmm, 80?

And hey, on the subject of 80 – Sophia Loren is 80, and going on tour. The first word that sprang to my mind when I watched her being interviewed was not ‘Granny’.  I have a cousin who is roaring into her 80s. She’s tall, plays golf, skies, gardens, travels a huge amount, she’s fresh-faced and fit as a flea, you’d unhesitatingly knock 20 years and more off her age. She’s very good at being a granny, skies with the grandkids and all. Not a rocking chair in sight.

But back to the fifty-something granny – I said to a male buddy that I was looking into the granny thing and his instinctive reaction? He said he couldn’t help, he never met either of his.  He’s sixty, single, and has dated several .

It’s a sign of the times that we of potential granny age aren’t seen automatically as grannies, and I’m very happy about that, but what word would sum up the woman whose offspring has produced offspring, if they aren’t dear old ducks?

Hence my opening question. What comes to mind when you hear the word Granny? This isn’t idle wittering, I’ve challenged myself to write a ‘granny’ story but this granny – you know me by now – is not a dear old duck.  I have no idea what her grandchild is to call her.

South Africans have a lovely option with the Zulu word for grandmother, gogo, pronounced gaw-gaw,  which I will absolutely claim in real life when the role is available. It’s a bit niche, though, Zulu not being one of the world’s widely-spoken languages.

I’ll be back to worry at this question later, but for now I’ll leave you with this, because it is currently my favourite cartoon.  In fact – I know Goodreads blogs don’t always include my pics – I’m going to add it to my profile, because I really do like it.  The credit to source shows on the photo.


Happy endings (no, not that sort. Although mentioned.)

“If you want a happy ending you have to decide where to stop your story – Orson Welles”

I am slightly addicted to twists whether I’m writing a whodunit, a microstory, or any of the other ways in which I kowtow before my muse. The one on the drawing board has several twists. There’s one, though, which turns the whole story from a slightly OTT love story (the alert reader is already saying hang on just a minute) to a slightly creepy stalker story, to abrupt terror. In two paragraphs it goes from mildly steamy (and wildly romantic) to chilling, and I didn’t even plan it that way. I love it, though.

Hence the Orson Welles quote. I could literally stop the story at its happy point and leave most of its readers contented.

Not going to, though. The book in question (and I only say this because I am personally annoyed by dangling hints and coy half-references) is still in process,  The Money Honey, and it’s odd in many ways.

Only once before have I had a young protagonist*, because I find mature characters much more intricate and interesting, but Miranda’s story starts when she’s around twenty, in 1996, and the reader follows her for the next twenty years.

She only came into existence because she’s a large part of the backstory for Seventeen Eighteen Past Lies Waiting, which is being published soon. I wrote her story separately, to get it clear in my head, and then I got engrossed in the challenges it presented. I hadn’t a clue who my target reader was, but sometimes books take on a life of their own and this is one.

There was tons of rewriting for Seventeen Eighteen, as it happened, but the beta readers who have now read both books were pretty positive in their feedback. However, the beta readers who only read Money Honey weren’t. They found the ending, with its sudden introduction of a bunch of amateur sleuths from the Lawns, thoroughly confusing.

By the time that feedback was trickling in, I quite liked my Money Honey but I could see their point, as a stand-alone book she would need an ending of her own. So I borrowed from a few other authors faced with similar situations, and Money Honey has three endings.

Miranda’s whole story is about the unorthodox choices she makes (the working title was Step By Step) so it felt right to let those readers who have engaged with her make the final choice for her.  They will choose whether she calls an old friend for help, which is where Seventeen Eighteen came into the picture – or whether she tackles the situation herself, the way she’s always done – or whether the original storyline from Seventeen Eighteen holds true, but this time she and her son take on the challenge together.

No confusion there, then.  grin

It really has been a very challenging book, I’ve put it aside at least five times and every time it has come yammering after me demanding attention. She’s so unlike any of my other characters, and so very in need of a happy ending.

And yes I know the other meaning of that phrase. In fact that’s why Money Honey is going out under the Clarissa name, not EJ Lamprey. Lots of happy endings, and never, it seems, one for her.

Seventeen Eighteen has finished its rewrites, gone off for editing, started its countdown, and will be out shortly. Oh, and one other oddity – they share the same cover photograph. Slightly different cropping, a lighting difference, but the same photograph. I’m not being cheap, I’m not even being Scottish and practical, I simply couldn’t decide which cover to use it on. It feels right to have it on both.



*Lucy, in Time Before Time, by Joanna Lamprey


Question to writers – when your guest character’s iceberg is getting invasive, how do you solve it? #amwriting

I’m assuming it’s the same for every writer, that each character is an iceberg, only 10% of them showing in the story but the writer has to know the other 90%, see it clearly, to give that 10% credibility –  not only what they look like, you have to know the main events shaping their lives, how those brought them to the point of your story and made them into the person they are.

Oh, I know in some books that is the story but in whodunits, murder and the solving of the murder is the priority. There simply isn’t the time, and the reader certainly doesn’t have the patience, to delve off into hugely detailed backstory for every character. That’s the huge advantage of a series, of course, but although my main characters can drift amiably through the shipping lanes of the series, each book is stand-alone and has one-off characters.

Those destined to die are easy. Pick out the traits which made them ideal cannon fodder. grin

Those who are to live, but will not become series characters, not so easy. I’ve got an iceberg of note on my hands now, because I’m throwing words at the first draft of Seventeen Eighteen (Past Lies Waiting). My guest character accidentally killed a man when she was in her early twenties, which is the direct cause of her deliberately killing a man in her early forties, and she’s on the run. Her eighteen-year-old son is in direct danger and she ropes in his biological father, who is Donald. So that’s where 17 18 starts (and gets its title) but I’ve never before wrestled with a twenty-years-and-counting backstory.  Tell you what, I never will again.


To keep her history straight in my head, I kept jotting separate notes, and writing out little scenarios, and populating the twenty years with the people who shaped her into a woman I could identify with,  yet who would kill a man. Eventually I had written nearly more about Miranda’s backstory than I had put into 17 18 itself, and all I needed of it was enough to explain her to the 17 18 reader.

Here’s the thing, though. There’s ten thousand words in my jotted outline and I’ve barely scratched the surface. She fascinates me, she’s taken on a life of her own and that twenty years just keeps growing in my head. Hence the title of this blog.  How do you solve a problem like Miranda, stop her sinking your crisp and tidy whodunit with the massive iceberg she has become?

TV has long since given us solutions – a spin-off – and I’m trying it. As if it isn’t hard enough to write one book, I’m now writing two. At the same time.  Bouncing from one to the other as details need to be clarified and tidied, and trying not to think ahead to the time when they come out of their resting period and need editing . . .  EJ Lamprey only writes whodunits, so Step By Step (working title) will be a Clarissa book, and Clarissa books are a little more, er, worldly. They do have a strong storyline, that’s important to me, so right now the focus is on Miranda’s story, I’ll flesh in the sexier bits on the second draft.

I’ve spent my whole life reading voraciously but I’ve not knowingly come across this solution to the character iceberg before, and I’m wondering how common it is? Anyone?

COUNTDOWN to corpse – that’s it, 15 16 has launched. Try the PDF – https://elegsabiff.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/excerpt-15-16.pdf

The thumbnail – It’s the eighth in the series and the first in the classic format, a country house, a houseful of guests, even a body in the library, and it all happens because William inherits a slightly decrepit shooting lodge from his decidedly eccentric uncle. Uncle was an illusionist, something of a genius in creating optical and mechanical illusions, and the attempts of William, Vivian, Donald and Edge to solve the case are definitely hampered by Robertson Manor’s peculiarities.

This blog was created to provide a preview which you can now see on Amazon itself, but there’s an excerpt from nearer the action, HERE


If you’re new to the Lawns, by the way, the first book (One Two Buckle My Shoe) is on a permanent promo price (cover in the margin, or click on the title) or the first three books are bundled for US$ 3.00  (One To Six, Buckle to Sticks)

OR – because it is the Edinburgh Festival – I have Seven Eight Play It Straight on a giveaway from Thursday for the weekend.
Fifteen Sixteen_high Res