Welcome To My Blog

Book reviews ... Author interviews ... and anything else I think might be of interest to writers and readers.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Stop Dead by Leigh Russell

 I'm very excited to have Leigh Russell here today, talking about her latest novel 'Stop Dead'.

Tell us about your latest book, ‘Stop Dead’.

In ‘Cut Short’, ‘Road Closed’, and ‘Dead End’, Geraldine Steel worked for the Murder Squad in Kent. In ‘Death Bed’ she moved to London, so ‘Stop Dead’ is the second of the London novels. Once again the reader follows Geraldine’s search for a killer who proves to be elusive as well as deadly. The only clues the police have are two samples of DNA found at the crime scenes.  The first of these matches the DNA of a woman who has been in prison for twenty years, the second is from a woman who has been dead for two years. It makes no sense, but Geraldine has to solve the mystery if she is to find the killer who has embarked on a killing spree. 

The last two books have seen a move to London for Geraldine. How has this opened up new possibilities for you as a writer?

My main interest is in character, so probably the most significant difference for me was the opportunity to introduce her new team, Detective Sergeant Samantha Haley and Chief Inspector Reg Milton. While pursuing a murder investigation, Geraldine establishes relationships with her new colleagues and adapts to working in the Met. 

Has ‘Stop Dead’ got a really juicy baddy in it?

It’s important for me to understand my characters, otherwise they risk becoming two dimensional functions of the plot. Like all my villains, the killer in ‘Stop Dead’ is a damaged character, in some ways as much a victim as the people who are killed. Nevertheless, the nature of the killer’s experience leads to some quite horrific murders… It is quite tricky to talk about it without revealing the killer’s gender!

Geraldine Steel seems to be a big hit.  What is it about her that has made her such a good series character?

When I wrote ‘Cut Short’ I didn’t expect anyone to read the manuscript, let alone publish it. It certainly never crossed my mind that ‘Cut Short’ might turn out to be the start of a series. So Geraldine Steel turned up, unplanned, as the detective who would solve the case in ‘Cut Short’. She managed that quite efficiently and believably, and seemed to catch my readers’ imagination before I really knew her. Most authors of series plan their protagonist’s life story before they begin writing but Geraldine is evolving throughout the process of writing the books. I wonder if this is what interests her fans - the ambiguity and development in her character that makes her seem real.

Do you think crime writing particularly lends itself to long running series, and why?

Yes, By its nature, crime writing is episodic. The detective is the thread that runs through the series, moving on from case to case, while each book has its own complete story. So an author can continue indefinitely with different murder cases to be solved.

What’s next for you?  Are you going to continue writing books about Geraldine, or do you have something else up your sleeve.

Yes to both! Initially my publisher offered me a three book deal for Geraldine Steel. Those three books all became bestsellers so my publisher asked me for another three books. ‘Stop Dead’ is the fifth book in the series, so I’m currently working on the sixth. I’m meeting my publisher in a few weeks’ time to discuss our next contract - hopefully for the next three Geraldine Steel novels! We are also exploring the possibility of a spin off series for Ian Peterson, the sergeant Geraldine left behind in Kent when she moved to London in ‘Death Bed’. I’ll keep you posted!   

What’s been the most exciting thing to happen on your writing journey so far?

There have been so many highlights, it’s impossible to pick just one.  Here are a few that spring to mind: signing a contract with my publisher, seeing my books on the shelves in bookshops, being shortlisted for a CWA Dagger Award, being sent a personal endorsement by Peter James, reading good reviews in The Times – in fact good reviews anywhere - being invited to share Jeffery Deaver’s champagne al fresco on a summer evening, meeting Lee child, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Clive Dexter, and all the crime writing gang, receiving an invitation to teach on the Greek island of Skyros, spending time with a Murder Investigation Team… but the biggest thrill is still writing!

Thank you for interviewing me here and keep writing!

Thanks to Leigh for sharing those thoughts about writing and giving some tantalising hints about 'Stop Dead'. I can't wait to read it now! 

You can pre-order 'Stop Dead' for Kindle now here.  

And you can buy Leigh's other books here.


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Jane Wenham Jones at Chez Castillon

You'll probably remember that I was very excited earlier this year about my visit to the wonderful writing retreat, Chez Castillon. Chez Castillon is an amazing place  in Castillon la Bataille near Bordeaux and St Emilion, and the very lovely Mickey and Janie have turned it into the most fantastic retreat for writers and artists.

Now there's a brilliant opportunity to attend a course at Chez Castillon led by the talented and inspiring Jane Wenham Jones.

Is There A Book In You?

For anyone who longs to be published, whatever stage of the journey they are at.
Tutor Jane Wenham Jones
Date Saturday 6th October – Friday 12th October 2012

Course Fee £825 per person.

The hospitality of Chez Castillon makes it the perfect environment for writing and relaxing. Mickey and Janie are the perfect hosts, and the provision of food and drink is abundant and seamless.

Katie Fforde will be there too to offer guidance and advice to participants and also literary agent David Headley! What could be better than that!

You can find out more about Chez Castillon here.

Meanwhile, so you can see how beautiful it is, here are some photos ...

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Guest Post from Victoria Connelly

 I'm very pleased to have Victoria Connelly here today to talk about her trilogy of magical romantic comedies, 'It's Magic'.

I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  I started my first novel when I was fourteen and used to take it to school and pass it under the table for my friends to read during Maths lessons.  Of course, it was a romantic comedy and I’ve never stopped writing them since.
I never finished that first attempt at a novel and it was many years and many rejections from agents and publishers later that my first one was published.  It was called Flights of Angels and it was about a young widow who has her own group of tiny guardian angels to take care of her.  It was a romantic comedy with a touch of magic but that touch of magic was what stopped it being published in the UK.  Nobody seemed to think that readers wanted magic in a rom com.  However, things were different in Germany where five publishers set up a bidding war for it.  It was a whirlwind experience and resulted in four different editions of the book being published as well as a film being made – an experience I’ll never forget!

Then came two more magical romantic comedies.  Unmasking Elena Montella about a woman who is given a magical Venetian mask which helps her choose which of her three (yes – three!) fiancés is the right one for her.  And Three Graces about a young woman who marries a duke and goes to live in his ancestral home only to find it’s haunted by a rather opinionated eighteenth-century ghost.

I had so much fun writing these books but they were never published in the UK even though they’d done so well in Germany.  So, whilst writing my ‘straight’ rom coms like A Weekend with Mr Darcy and The Runaway Actress, I’ve decided to make my magical rom coms available on Kindle where you can buy them individually or as a trilogy called It’s Magic

So, if you like your rom coms peppered with naughty guardian angels, magical Venetian masks and haughty ghosts, give them a try and let me know what you think.  I really hope you enjoy them.

You can find out more about Victoria on her website,  or follow her on Twitter at @VictoriaDarcy

You can find 'It's Magic' here.  

Thanks to Victoria for being such an interesting guest!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Prime Time by Jane Wenham-Jones

I'm really pleased to have Jane Wenham-Jones here today, to talk about her new book 'Prime Time'.

'My new novel Prime Time was inspired by some of the bizarre things I’ve got up to, in the name of publicity for my various books. This has included appearing on a variety of TV programmes which has sometimes been huge fun and sometimes led to me watching the re-run through my fingers…

Here are a couple of things I’ve learned along the way…

Keep quiet
Once you’ve been miked up – usually with a power pack attached to your waist somewhere (for this reason it’s useful to wear a skirt/trousers and/or a belt rather than a slinky dress, although all is not lost if do you opt for the latter – it just has to sit on the chair behind you) and a small lapel microphone, make sure it is switched off before you a) say anything rude about the producer/your fellow guests and b) you go to the loo.
Stories abound of entire production crews listening to the sound of the uninitiated having a pee, dealing with their nervous flatulence or discussing their sex lives with whoever’s in the next cubicle.

Check someone’s doing your make-up
They usually are if it’s a magazine / celebrity type programme, and usually won’t be if it’s current-affairs / news job. But this is not set in stone.
I went on something called The Good Day Show on Legal TV, a Sky channel, a few years ago and made an assumption. So I sat around, flicking through magazines, waiting to be called into make-up, only to find time had marched on, and the call was to go straight into the studio.
I knew I was in trouble when I glanced at the monitor to see the young and beautiful American presenter, Tracy Falke appearing to be at least a decade older.
With that lighting, I’d have been struggling if they’d employed their entire cache of concealer but with no time to even get on any slap myself, I realised I’d look about ninety.
"No, you didn't look great, love," confirmed my friend Lyn-Marie Fabes. "Rather tired."
"You looked fine," Hazel, my publisher, declared loyally, adding doubtfully, "though I noticed you weren't wearing any lippy," which I realised translated as: "you were so ancient your mouth had disappeared".

If you’re doing your own make-up, have a steady hand
And take your time. I still have a small eye injury from hastily stabbing myself with a mascara brush before presenting a short film on Margate for The Politics Show back in 2007. By the time filming had finished – it took all day – I could barely keep that eye open and by the next morning it was swollen shut. I had to drive to Brighton to do the voice-over wearing a patch and whining. There is a still from the programme on the internet, showing me scowling, with eyes like slits. Aside from that it was a great experience – even when the locals came out and started yelling at me.'

Prime Time by Jane Wenham-Jones

A British romantic comedy by Jane Wenham-Jones, author of 'Perfect Alibis'.

Laura Meredith never imagined herself appearing on TV, she's too old, too flabby, too downright hormonal, and much too busy holding things together for her son, Stanley, after her husband left her for a younger, thinner replacement. But best friend Charlotte is a determined woman and when Laura is persuaded on to a daytime show to talk about her PMT, everything changes. Suddenly there's a camera crew tracking her every move and Laura finds herself an unlikely star. But as things hot up between her and gorgeous TV director, Cal, they're going downhill elsewhere. While Laura's caught up in a heady whirlwind of beauty treatments, makeovers and glamorous film locations, Charlotte's husband, Roger, is concealing a guilty secret, Stanley's got problems at school, work's piling up, and when Laura turns detective to protect Charlotte's marriage, things go horribly wrong. The champagne's flowing as Laura's prime time TV debut looks set to be a hit. But in every month, there's a "Day Ten" ...

Prime Time is published by Accent Press, and is available from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Waterstones.com all other good book retailers.
Jane is the author of four novels and two non-fiction books –  Wannabe a Writer? – a humorous look at becoming a scribe – and Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? a guide to the art of book and self promotion.  As a freelance journalist she has appeared in a wide range of women's magazines and national newspapers and writes regular columns for Woman's Weekly and Writing Magazine, where she is the agony aunt. Jane is an experienced tutor who is regularly booked by writing conferences and literary festivals to run workshops and give talks on all aspects of the writing process. She is also a member of Equity, has presented for the BBC on both TV and radio and has done her fair share of daytime TV, particularly when promoting her controversial second novel Perfect Alibis (subtitled How to have an affair and get away with it...) It was those – sometimes hair-raising – TV experiences that inspired Prime Time, her new novel. For more information see http://www.janewenham-jones.com and http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com.

You can buy Prime Time here ...


 Many thanks to Jane for being here today ...

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Cornish House by Liz Fenwick

To tie in with the imminent release of the The Cornish House by Liz Fenwick, you can read a guest post by me on Liz's blog about 'One Thing I've Learnt'. Liz has a number of guest posts on this subject during May and they make for fascinating reading.

You can also find my review of The Cornish House over on Bookersatz. I highly recommend it.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Chez Castillon

You know how sometimes you meet new people and you just know that you’ll want to know them for ever? Well, that’s how I felt when I met Mickey and Janie at Chez Castillon.

Chez Castillon is an amazing house in Castillon la Bataille near Bordeaux, and Mickey and Janie have turned it into the most fantastic retreat for writers and artists.

I was out there for a few days at the end of last month and I had a wonderful time. The hospitality of Chez Castillon makes it the perfect environment for writing and relaxing. Mickey and Janie are the perfect hosts, and the provision of food and drink is abundant and seamless.

Add to this great tuition from the talented Adrian Magson and the stimulating company of my fellow students, and my stay at Chez Castillon was just perfect.

You can find out more about Chez Castilon here. They’ve got an array of writing and painting courses coming up, including 'Is There A Book In You?' with the gorgeous Jane Wenham Jones.

Meanwhile, so you can see how beautiful it is, here are some more photos ...

If you want a writing retreat or course in incredible surroundings with wonderful company, I highly recommend Chez Castillon.

Friday, 13 April 2012


Two of the loveliest people you could hope to meet have got together to release a book of short stories. They are Caroline Smailes and Nik Perring, and I am delighted to be hosting one of the stories on my blog today.

As well as stories by Caroline and Nik, there are fab illustrations by Darren Craske.

You can buy Freaks here and here.

But in the meantime, here's a little taster for you.


[Super Power: The ability to make oneself unseen to the naked eye]

If I stay totally still,

if I stand right tall,

with me back against the school wall,

close to the science room’s window,

with me feet together,

pointing straight,

aiming forward,

if I make me hands into tight fists,

make me arms dead straight,

if I push me arms into me sides,

if I squeeze me thighs,

stop me wee,

if me belly doesn’t shake,

if me boobs don’t wobble,

if I close me eyes tight,

so tight that it makes me whole face scrunch,

if I push me lips into me mouth,

if I make me teeth bite me lips together,

if I hardly breathe,

if I don’t say a word.


I’ll magic meself invisible,

and them lasses will leave me alone.

Many congratulations to all involved in Freaks!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Day Retreat For Writers

I'm pleased to announce my very first ...Italic

Day Retreat For Writers – 28 April 2012 - at Delapre Abbey in Northampton

Sessions will include ...

Ideas are everywhere – an interactive session focussed on sourcing ideas and making them work.

Free writing session. Take one of your new ideas and start turning it into a story.

Question and answer session. Group discussion of markets, subbing, other directions for your writing, or anything else.

A chance to read out work and get feedback. You can read out what you wrote earlier, or bring something along with you to read out if you prefer.

What next? Goal setting and any final questions.

Please get in touch, by emailing me via my profile, if you'd like more information or a booking form.

You can also find details of my other courses on my website. www.helenmhunt.co.uk


Friday, 24 February 2012

Latest News From Leigh Russell

As regular readers of this blog will know, I'm a big fan of Leigh Russell's writing and I'm very pleased that her new book, Death Bed, is now available. I got my review copy a couple of days ago and I can't wait to read it.

You might be interested to know that there is a Limited Special Edition Hardback of Death Bed, individually signed and numbered. It is available only on http://www.noexit.co.uk/dbspecial/ as a collector's item, or gift. The publishers are only printing 200 and they're a bargain at £20.

Leigh has also let me know about a great new service she is providing for writers.


Internationally bestselling crime writer LEIGH RUSSELL is offering expert critique to published and aspiring authors.

Benefit from Leigh’s experience of writing a bestselling series, combined with her skills as a creative writing tutor.

Leigh runs regular workshops for The Society of Authors, and for the annual Get Writing Conference hosted by the University of Hertfordshire.

Leigh will highlight the positive aspects of your writing, while suggesting ways you can improve your manuscript to make it fit for successful submission to agents and publishers.


For details of submission and fees contact http://www.leighrussell.co.uk/contact.php

Leigh Russell’s novels have attracted glowing reviews in many publications around the world, including The Times, US Publishers Weekly and Star Magazine and have been:

o shortlisted for a CWA Dagger Award

o in Top 50 Bestseller list on amazon

o a Top Crime Book on Crime Time (voted by readers)

o a Top Read on Eurocrime

o No. 1 international bestselling female detective on kindle

o a Great Crime Sleuth on Lovereading

You can hear Leigh talking about crime fiction, how to get published, and many other topics, as well as reading from her books, on her Author Channel http://www.youtube.com/user/LeighRussellAuthor

For details of submission & fees contact http://www.leighrussell.co.uk/contact.php

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Short Story Courses and Workshops

I'm delighted to now be able to share full details of my courses and workshops for early 2012.

Participants on 2011 courses said:

‘Very good value for money’, ‘The course is excellent and a must for anyone wishing to break into the women’s magazine market’, ‘Very supportive and constructive feedback’, ‘A fantastic day’.

Insight Into The Women’s Magazine Fiction Market – 3 March 2012

This workshop will look at writing for the increasingly tough and sadly shrinking women’s magazine market. So if you’ve been writing for a while and want to find out more about this market, this workshop could be for you.

This one day workshop is aimed at people who are interested in writing for the women’s magazine market. It will assume some existing experience of writing short stories and offer help to those who have not yet started to submit stories but would like to, and people who have been submitting for a while but want to increase their chances of success.

The market at the moment is very tough, and there are no guarantees of success, but you can maximise your chances by finding out as much about the market as possible.

We will cover:

• The current state of the market;
• How to tailor stories for particular magazines;
• Making sure your story stands out from the rest;
• What to avoid doing;
• Rewriting stories for a different market.

Lunch and light refreshments are included. The cost of the course is £35 which also includes a critique.

Moving On Short Story Workshop – 31 March 2012

This course will be practically based and will help participants work towards the first draft of a story for their chosen women’s magazine market. They will receive a critique of their story once they have had a chance to finish it after the course.

We will cover:

Coming up with a killer idea including mind-mapping and treasure-mapping techniques;
Thinking of a great title, but not being afraid to let go of it;
The difference between a twist and a surprise;
Creating great characters and writing convincing dialogue;
Using themes and motifs to lift your story out of the ordinary.

Lunch and light refreshments are included. The cost of the course is £40 which also includes a critque.

New for 2012

Day Retreat For Writers – 28 April 2012

Come and spend a day with fellow writers being inspired, exercising your writing skills and sharing your work in a supportive atmosphere at Delapre Abbey. I’m a short story writer, but all writers are welcome to come to this one and benefit from meeting other writers in a supportive atmosphere.

The cost of the retreat is £22. Lunch is not included but you’ll be able to purchase refreshments from the Abbey Tea Room.

All these courses are held in Northampton. Full venue details and maps provided on booking. Please email me for a booking form.

Online services

If you can’t make it to a workshop, don’t forget I now offer the totally flexible Hop On Hop Off online course (details here http://www.helenmhunt.co.uk/?page_id=37 ) and a critique service (details here http://www.helenmhunt.co.uk/?page_id=15 ).

If you have any queries about any of the above, please feel free to email me via my profile or leave a comment here.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Expected by Sarah England

I've been aware of Sarah England for a while now as an extremely talented short story writer. Her stories regularly appear in all the magazines and are always a fabulous read.

Sarah's also written a novel, and today I'm thrilled to have her as my guest to talk about that. This is what Sarah had to say about 'Expected'.

You know I’ve read an awful lot of chicklit - and what struck me more than anything, particularly with the hugely successful Shopaholic series, not to mention Bridget Jones - was that the female protagonists were upper middle class and rather well off. They had adoring families they could run home to. They had nice jobs in the city, friends with fab apartments, and they met dishy men who they wanted to marry and have children with. Well - funny and well written these chicklit books might be - but realistic??
So my heroine, Sam, is working class - from a sink estate she has no desire to return to. Sam dreams of having a career - yearns for a nice, safe place to live, and desperately doesn’t want to end up as a single mother on benefits like most of her school friends. So she makes a mistake and moves in with the outwardly desirable and very middle class doctor she met at a party. Instantly her mother spreads the news, begins to plan the wedding, and wastes no time in pushing (no pun intended) for grandchildren. So now Sam is trapped.
I’ve been trapped, have you? I’ve been trapped in a lousy marriage, when my job was precarious and someone at work was gunning for me because my face didn’t fit. I’ve been vulnerable and scared. And I’ve been badly let down by the one person I thought I could run home to. So what keeps us going? Well hope, youth, optimism, fantastic mates and a massive sense of humour. And that’s where Expected comes from. Only I couldn’t leave Sam without a bit of spice - I think we’ve all looked up and met the eyes of a drop-dead gorgeous sex on legs - take me now - kind of guy?! Oh - just me then. Anyway, she deserved a treat after all she’d been through. Bit of a catch at the end, but ….well, never let it be said I do cheesy!
The fun bit? Oh venting fury and frustration! And the creation of monster mouse, Bernie O’Reilly - the smiling assassin. Yes I did have a giggle. Actually I loved writing this book - I had a blast!! Hope you like it too!

Thanks Sarah, the book sounds fantastic.
You can buy the book at Amazon in the UK here. Or in the USA/Aus here.
And you can find Sarah's website and blog here.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Writing Courses

I've got some new workshop dates set up for the beginning of 2012. Full details are on my website, but in brief ...

Insight Into Writing Short Stories For The Women’s Magazine Market will run in Northampton on Saturday 3 March.

Moving On In The Women’s Magazine Fiction Market will run in Northampton on Saturday 31 March.

New for 2012:

Day Retreat For Writers

Come and spend a day with fellow writers being inspired, exercising your writing skills and sharing your work in a supportive atmosphere.

The retreat will be on 21 April 2012 in Northamptonshire. Exact location to be confirmed.

Further details of the two workshops can be found under the ‘Workshops’ tab on my website. For a booking form, or if you have any questions, please get in touch via the contact page on my website.

And now for something completely different ...

If crime writing is more your thing, the fantastic Adrian Magson will be offering a course at Chez Castillon in April. Adrian really is a fantastic tutor, I've been taught by him so I speak from experience. And it's in France. What could be better?

More details can be found here