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.

 

Advertisements

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.

laugh

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

Nine Ten Begin Again

nine ten kindleYup, Nine Ten has joined the family and just as soon as I have worked out again how to add it to my sidebar (I add things to my sidebar 3 or 4 times a year. I’m sure I will master the skill one of these days) will start selling like hot cakes.  In the meantime clicking on the cover in this blog should, at least in theory, connect you to the Amazon that enjoys your custom.  Oh, and if you’re quick about it, you’ll get it on promotion price. The first few days of each book are promotion days, glitches are part of the deal. If you missed this blog until after the promotion price, you should be on the mailing list.

I’ve always said Five Six was my personal favourite but Nine Ten may have overtaken it. I’ve read it through about a gazillion times over the last few months but still find myself smiling at certain times, and the beta readers commented that they smiled a lot too*. It was certainly an odd book to write, in that it started as a short story about Donald (I write microstories about the characters, call them hops and move them to their own tab on this website) and the characters took matters into their own hands and romped away with me panting after them and trying to call them back to heel. (My dog doesn’t listen to me either.)

So there I was with a very long short story which was refusing to quit, and a plot (after a contract job at a bank) which was trying to turn itself into a book, so I shrugged and put them together and asked my two all-time favourite beta readers to have an alpha look at the resulting draft. Yes, they said. Make it so.

Blame them.

 

*okay, apart from the one who was so shocked by the Donald bit of the story that she didn’t want to read on. But the others, and there were twelve of them, male, female, 30 something to 60 something, new and regulars, Scottish, English, American and South African, smiled a lot.

 

Christmas Kindle – the gift of a portable library

kindle bookmark

 

I loved this tweet when I saw it and hope Rossetti Rogers will forgive me for borrowing it here, but it is oh so relevant to this post.

A very successful blogger with a huge readership invited independently-published authors to toot their books on his blog today for the Christmas market. His website may yet collapse, I think I darted in at number 285.

If you want to know who and where, ask. I find it very odd that I have more readers all the time, yet you drift silently in, read (often more than one entry) and then drift away. Yes, you. What for you do that, you doan wanna talk, eh? Eh? Am I scary?  

The older I get the more prone I am to these little conversational detours.

Anyway, I pitched quite the persuasive spiel, all the while knowing the chances of anyone making it down to #285 without having spent their entire Christmas budget were slim to non-existent. Maybe, I thought, I should be pitching my spiel, not on a passenger liner, but in my own tiny canoe. And maybe you, the silent passers-by, will be struck by the logic and force of my argument and I’ll rack up a sale or two. Well, I might have, if I hadn’t already aggressively italicized you away.

But here’s the pitch. (If WordPress font permits, in big loopy letters.) (nope, WordPress preferred to stay understated. Bold and italics yes, Algerian 24 no.)

This entry is for those of you buying a Kindle for a slightly older relative who has never had one before. You KNOW you’ll have to download the first book for them, because they’ll never do it themselves and there’s a real chance your lovely gift will end up being a coaster otherwise. But what to download?

What you need is a cozy whodunit, clean as a whistle, perfect for the armchair detective, novella length (making it easy-read AND affordable) and the first in a series so they’ll be motivated to go looking for the next. One reader, converted. Oddly enough many of my readers are in their forties, even thirties, but the books work all the way up to ninety plus, have a look, you’ll see why. You’ll thank me.

One Two Buckle My Shoe

Of course if they’ve ever done any website dating for senior singles, you’ll want to download the newest one in the series instead, because that’s all about our heroine diving into the deep end of the dating pool, the end where the predators lurk, and it’s proving the best seller so far: Seems we’ve all done some website dating.

I even quoted one of my 5 star reviews, trying to make it sound as though there were hundreds and I had picked one at random. That’s salesmanship. I hope that’s how it comes across, anyway.

Five Six Pick Up Sticks

 

5 star review on Amazon.com from Scottiedog “I enjoyed both the earlier books, they’re fun to read and neatly solved. I like the characters and the retirement village setting, and there’s always a twist I miss, even though by this book I was watching closely for clues because they’re so obvious in retrospect! This book is slightly different in that Edge is put squarely and deliberately in the firing line and even though she’s a main character and I know she won’t be killed off (right?) I was reading faster and faster as the end approached. I think it’s the best so far- fun and exciting”

We may never know. But I’d kick myself for not even trying. And the point remains, getting a Kindle is lovely but, er, what next? You’re a lovely generous person for giving it, but you have to follow through.

Happy to help.

 

 

Five Six Pick up Sticks, a murder mystery by E J Lamprey

Yay, the third book has been accepted. This is a great way to read sample chapters 🙂

First Chapters

five six final

 

Buy from Amazon

 

Website dating for the over-fifties is definitely a boom industry, but for some it has been a dead end, and the Scottish police want to know why. Sergeant Kirsty Cameron’s aunt Edge is the right age to become the bait in their investigation, and even has some recent murder-solving experience on her CV, making her the perfect candidate. 

The third whodunit in the Grasshopper Lawns series dives gleefully into the murkiest end of the senior singles dating pool (where the predators lurk) with Edge secretly hoping to meet someone special. It’s spring, and it seems the rest of the world is in love, is there someone out there for her? Preferably not the murderer, of course. 

The murders of the recent past were solved with her friends Vivian, Donald and William, but this investigation is so covert, not even they can know why she is suddenly so keen…

View original post 8,282 more words