The Writing Process Blog Tour

I’ve been nominated by Georgia Rose for the Writing Process Blog Tour – thank you Georgia!


A Single Step’ is Georgia’s first romantic suspense novel, and is the first book in The Grayson Trilogy. It will be joined by ‘Before the Dawn’ this summer and finally by ‘Thicker than Water’.  Her website is Georgiarosebooks  Georgia Rose

So, the blog tour:

I have to answer four questions about what, why and how I write, then link to the blogger that tagged me, and tag two or three more authors in turn.


1. What am I working on now?

I’m trying to get Nine Ten Begin Again ready for beta readers, the fifth in a series of whodunits set in the greater Edinburgh area. (Which is why the pic is of the fabulous Kelpies, which soar next to the M9.) The first four have led the characters up towards this book (in between bodies and murderous villains, of course) but there’s a fairly dramatic change in character interaction and it is really worrying me, to the point where I asked two beta readers for feedback on an early draft, something I have never done before. They approved it enthusiastically (I do love my beta readers very much indeed) so it is full steam ahead. Totally nerve-wracking, as the first four books are slowly picking up fans, some of whom may be resistant to the change.  Seven Eight had twelve beta readers and because I am so nervous I am recruiting even more for Nine Ten, if anyone is up for it? Filthy job, but someone has to do it.  I always need new readers, because of the series side, but want a couple more regulars this time because of the change in the dynamic.

 kelpies 009

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I write cosy whodunnits—also known as cozy whodunits—which is a fairly strictly controlled genre (not quite as bad as the original Detective Club rules) and if mine differ in any particulars, it is because my sleuths are neither young and trendy, nor ancient. They are semi-retired but not old. Baby boomers, really, and the hardest thing has been getting readers to see them as active and lively and not elderly Miss Marple-and-friends.  They are much more in the Rosemary and Thyme, or Murder She Wrote, age-group and I have a lot of fun with them. The books are possibly also a bit funnier than the conventional armchair detective novel, although there are some wonderfully funny ones in the genre.  The humour is very understated, my favourite readers are the ones that tell me they find themselves smiling all the way through.


3. Why do I write what I do?

That is such a good question, and I have no answer whatsoever. I started my scribbling life writing historical novels (so much research) and switched to alternating that with SF. I love SF, but am not very good at it from a purist point of view, as I have a very shaky grasp on the technicalities and am frowned on by the true fundi. Detective fiction is an absolute killer, because you have to work out a murder, a murderer, then reverse-engineer the story with clues and red herrings. The first was incredibly difficult and written for private reasons. If reading them is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, writing them is like hand-cutting each piece.  Very addictive, though. . . well, I’m addicted.



4. How does my writing process work?

With a murder, or mystery, that creeps into my thoughts and slowly evolves in the background. Eventually it takes shape enough that I can start feeding my characters into it. They have evolved to the point where their input shapes the story further and once I have a beginning, a middle and an end, I start fleshing out, that’s the best point of all, where I will be writing four or five thousand words in a session and the world recedes into a hazy background. Eventually the draft reaches a point where I think it is complete, I put it away for a month and try to catch up on real life.  The first major edit after a month is always a letdown, it is never as brilliant as it seemed! Poking, prodding, pruning and adding (with my beta readers in mind) gets it to the point where it can go for their input, which always provokes multiple rewrites. Finally it goes for editing, and I put a release date on the blog and order the cover.

Thanks for reading and I hope you find something of interest in this.


I am tagging two authors I have read and enjoyed, and my third is a bright new talent:

Andy Lake is a serious and highly regarded writer who, in a lighter vein, writes some of the best SF microstories in the business, check out those tabs on his website on

Susan Scott writes beautifully, I found her first via her book but she is a great blogger and there will be a wealth of blogs right now as she has just finished the April A-Z challenge on a difficult but nicely-realized subject

Kirsten Arcadio has a very evocative website and with one book out, one due and a third before the end of the year, is a talent to watch


Weddings and Seven Eight and chewing nails.

The wedding was great, such fun, and daughter and son-in-law are now getting thoroughly sunburned in South Africa, presuming they survived the dive with Great great whitesWhites which she’d set her heart on. I’m being very optimistic and assuming I’d have heard by now if they didn’t. They were going to be in a cage, after all, what could go wrong? (And yes, I saw Jaws too. Hush.)

So, once the excitement of the wedding weekend was over, and the hangover had finally subsided, I wasted a few days getting used to the silence and a few more listlessly doing some bits and pieces and have suddenly realized that my latest book launches in days and needs at least some help from me, eek. Apart from anything else, it had to go from the returned Edit-my-book version into Jutoh format, so the weekend has been spent doing that, and reading the Kindle simulation, and making changes, and re-reading, and making more changes, and today is the final final read-through and it gets loaded on Amazon tomorrow. How scary is that? Frankly, terrifying. I’d recruited more beta readers than ever before and two of them fell by the wayside. That’s not a good start! The ones who finished it, liked it and think it’s the best so far. Really? Five Six will always be my favourite, but then right at the moment Seven Eight is so familiar to me I have to do all the editing tricks in the book (reading it backwards, changing the font size, putting it in columns) just to prevent my jaded eyes from saying yeah, yeah, we’ve read this before, can we move swiftly on?

seven eight finalI do love the Festival, and the book is partly a celebration of the Festival. And Fiona Bentwood swears and smokes and is bitchy, she’s the antagonist but I sneakily rather like her. I really did enjoy writing the final third of the book more than any of the others, but I broke some writing rules with the opening scene and I nervously suspect that will come back to bite me. Keep it simple, the experts say, and quite rightly. The Festival is crowded, and lively, and the opening scene is crowded and lively, and those two beta readers faded on me (just never responded at all) and my nerves are shot. I’ve included the opening on its own tab in this website, and if you read it, and have some useful advice (other than, you know, ‘scrap the whole scene’ because it sets up most of the activity in the book so I can’t) you should definitely feel free to let me know. Preferably before I load it tomorrow night.

I’m doing a soft launch at a lower price up to the official launch, in the eternally optimistic hope of getting a couple of reviews on there, and will soon be twisting beta reader arms to post reviews, but the rest of the pre-launch promotion has pretty much been torpedoed by the wedding. Five Six got a proper planned detailed launch and outsold both the previous books in their respective first weeks so I have no-one to blame but myself if poor Seven Eight falls flat on its colourful little face. It is a book born in my first (and last!) NaNoWriMo, but most of the fifty thousand words written then had to be stripped away ruthlessly, scrubbed, and slotted back in new ways; if not discarded altogether. Writing under a deadline was absolutely horrifying and lends itself far too much to quantity over quality, the editing was a nightmare. It is still the longest book in the series so far and definitely rambles a bit too much in the Exposition but that’s to lull the reader into an easy doze as they are ushered gently past clues and red herrings. I want alert readers to spot the murderer, of course I do.  That makes the traps more exciting. But it can’t be too easy. Moving swiftly on . . .

(Ah, just seen the good news on Facebook—they survived the shark dive. Phew.)

Time for the tontine

Some people are gifted wordsmiths and could sell ice cubes at the North Pole. I’m anti-gifted, I couldn’t give away water in the desert. That’s why I’m putting this forward to writers, because there’ll be some convincing and hard-talking needed.  Just sift through my ramblings and see if you also think tontines are the best hope for our financial futures, eh?

Author Thomas Costain wrote a book in 1956 called The Tontine, which as its central thread tracked four characters in their late teens and early twenties. Their parents invested the – at that time enormous – figure of one hundred guineas each in a tontine set up after the battle of Waterloo, with the capital finally to go to war veterans.  The venture caught public interest and millions of pounds were invested. Three of the characters were to be the final three survivors, and in their eighties were receiving annual interest cheques worth, in modern terms, hundreds of thousands of pounds.   The book covers sixty years of dramatic change in England and abroad, through the Industrial Revolution and the emancipation of women, and is fascinating, you should read it, but the point of this blog is, isn’t it time to bring back a tontine system for old age?

The tontine took its name from Italian banker Lorenzo de Tonti, and at its simplest, one buys in to one’s age group, the funds are invested for a tontine period which usually equates to pensionable age (so those investing at age twenty would be in for a forty year investment period) during which all interest would be reinvested. When the tontine matures, the annual interest is instead divided every year between the survivors.  Wikipedia describes it as a combination of a group annuity and a lottery. The older you live, the better off you will be – a dramatic alternative to the future facing most of us now.   You are gambling on living longer – and it is the word ‘gamble’ that ended the tontines originally. Gambling on the outcome became so heated that the last few survivors had to be guarded 24/7 so that bookies couldn’t nobble the favourites!

The first tontine was in the Netherlands in 1670, and over the next century there were state tontines in England, France, and some German states. They were optional, not obligatory, and therefore not fully subscribed, which was eventually their downfall – to be truly appealing, the capital has to be huge.  I believe the answer is for a government itself to pay in for every registered citizen (maybe, if the ID system is really to go ahead in the UK, as a carrot dangled in front of a reluctant population?) and for people to have the option to increase their stake.

Personally I’m at the age where I couldn’t hope for a tontine period of longer than 10 years (unless I bought into a group with a longer period to run) but I really wish there was one. In my direct line, only one ancestor has failed to make it to eighty. My maternal great-grandmother cleared a century with ease. These bones are built to last, but oi, my finances.  Will they stretch another twenty, thirty years? Offer me anything where my investments would improve by the year, and I’m in.  A thousand pounds, absolutely. Five thousand? Er – gulp – okay.  If I was really, really sure I’d make it through to the final stages I’d beg, borrow or steal to invest every penny I could, to get a bigger percentage of those huge final payments.

If I got knocked over by a car two days after committing the funds, too bad.  Them’s the breaks.  If I died one day before an annual payment, I lost out for that year and so did my heirs, but then of course I wouldn’t care because my financial worries would be over for good.  It is the most personal investment you could ever make.

The Waterloo Tontine of the book was privately run and turned out to be a fraud, but was intercepted and run properly. (Really. Read the book. It’s huge, but fascinating.)  Governments, however, really should be looking at bringing back the state tontine.   With increasing longevity the tontine for twenty-somethings would potentially only run out of survivors in eighty years, but in the meantime there’s a huge cash injection from the twenty somethings, thirty somethings, forty somethings, etcetera – all the different groups.  Those already over pension age would probably start receiving interest payments immediately on their group’s capital, but even for them living the longest would pay off the best.

Anyone with me on this? Who wants a tontine system for themselves, and their kids?  If this has caught the eye of just one person who can talk well, and spread the word, that’s a step towards assuring a future for old me.  She’ll be ever so grateful.