Monday, 12 March 2012

SAW writers conference

Just back from a wonderful weekend with the Scottish Association of Writers at Erskine. I was the key speaker for the Friday night, and as I stood there in front of all those writers I remembered the first time I came to that conference, sitting out there, listening to the Friday night speaker, wondering who I would meet, what I would learn, and if I would win any prizes. ( There are loads of competitions at this conference) In fact, almost the first time I was at the conference I won the women's short story competition, judged by the wonderful Alanna Knight, a real inspirations to writers still writing her Inspector Faro books. I was so nervouse I couldn't even  read out my story. Alanna had to do it for me. It was titled, This Could Be The Night, and the editor of Women's Weekly was at that conference, and she liked my story and bought it. That led to many more stories in that magazine and others, and also led to me wrting two romantic novels. I also won the Marty Duncan trophy for a humorous article. I was advised to send it to the BBC, who asked me to turn it into a short story which has been broadcast several times, I then wrote it as a half hour comedy play, which became a series on Radio 2. My Mammy and Me. That was even commissioned for television too. Never made it there....yet! From little acorns indeed!  and there I was, on Friday night, the speaker at that same conference. IThe lovely Joyce Holmes was the speake for the Saturday night.
   It was great to meet up with so many old friends and see how well they were doing with their writing. Alex Gray, now one of the most successful of the tartan noir crowd with her grim Scottish crime stories. Chris Longmuir, now an established crime writer who won the Dundee Prize just a few years ago. Joyce Begg, who was one of the adjudicators at the conference, and has won a shelf load of awards herself and is now a stalwart of many magazines writing serials and short stories. Nicola Morgan was there, fresh from her win at the Scottish Book Awards, and Katie Grant and Catherine Czerkawska and so many others.
I always came back from that conference buzzing with ideas, and this was no exception. I also heard two qutotes I must share with you.
If there is a gun on the wall at the beginning of a story, someone should have been shot by the end  of the story.   That was Checkov! Good advice too.
         After three hours of working, the orange is squeezed dry.  ( and that was my beloved Robert Louis Stevenson)
So I am off to do my three hours before my orange dries up!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

It's March already!

So here it is, March already. And on the 1st of this month Secret of the Shadows was published! The second in the Tyler Lawless series and I think the scariest book I have ever written. I can remember the very night I got the idea for this book. I was in Lancashire for the Book Festival there, doing a tour of schools and each night I stayed in a different hotel. One night I was dropped off at my hotel and when I went into the lobby there was no one at reception, just a very elegant lady sitting at the bar, sipping a cocktail. I can still picture her;  dark hair, long legs, black spiky stillettos, red and white spotted dress. I crossed to her and was just about to ask if she knew how to contact someone from reception when I realised she was a life sized doll! It seems this hotel is famous for its dolls. Scrooge was standing on the stairs, nightshirt, nightcap, lamp in hand looking so real it was scary, and on the way to my room I passed a waiter, carrying a tray of drinks, a napkin draped over his arm. If I hadn't known any better I would have sworn that he had stepped back just that moment to let me pass. I imagined them coming to life when everyone was in bed, and the hotel was silent, walking the corridors, climbing the stairs. So you can imagine that by then I was in a spooky mood. I had a large room and by the window, there was an armchair with two cushions and a reading lamp hanging over the back of it. I woke up in the middle of the night, and  in the darkness I could have sworm someone  was sitting in that chair . I almost fell out of the bed, switched on the light and of course there was no one there. The lopsided reading lamp looked like someone's head , and the cushions looked like someone's elbows, sticking out on either side. But when I finally switched off the lamp again, I could still swear that someone was sitting there. And I thought...what would I do if that shadow stood up and came toward me. And in Secret of the Shadows, it does.
   So many exciting things are happening in March. I now have an official trailer for Out of the Depths.  You have to watch it. It is terrific, voted on and chosen by the very people I write for! Mark Chong and his wonderful team have done a brilliant job. A future film maker I am sure of it. The winning school was Stewart Melville's in Edinburgh. I have shown the trailer at all the schools I have visited since World Book Day and they were all totally spooked by it. So it must be good. Check out to see it!
  I so love writing these Tyler Lawless mysteries. She is the heroine of the Unlawfully Dead, and with every book I discover something new about her and her special gift. She is learning too. Learning what she can do, and how she can do it. What I want to know is, what do you think Tyler Lawless should do next. Let me know via the websites. or
  I have already written the Dead Teacher story. I originally called this, Spiritted Away, but then I learned there is a Japanese animated movie with the same name. So I have to find a new title, and there will be a competition on the website to see if you can come up with one for me!
  And as if that wasn't enough, I still have the film to look forward to. I've been told it is all going well, coming together nicely. Going into production in the Spring! I am keeping my fingers, toes, eyes, all crossed so that nothing goes wrong.
  But I will keep everyone posted about that.