Interesting Times & Handsome Heroes!

I’m delighted that two of my heroines are in the news this week – not only Freya, heiress to the ancient House at Ladywell, but also my Victorian sleuth, Charlotte Richmond. Find out more below and see some almost entirely gratuitous photos of actors who would look pretty good as my heroes and/or villains!

Williams and Whiting, an independent publishing house, announced yesterday: ‘We are delighted to announce we have signed Nicola Slade in a five book deal.   Three of the books will be in the Victorian widow Charlotte Richmond series and two in the retired headmistress Harriet Quigley contemporary mystery series.   The first Charlotte Richmond book Murder Most Welcome will be published in February, to be followed by the other Charlotte books and the first two Harriet books.’

I’m so pleased that Charlotte will have a new lease of life, in ebook and paperback, and hopefully will find new admirers as she goes about her daily life in Hampshire, stumbling across far too many corpses!

Left: Nathaniel Parker would be perfect as Charlotte’s husband – is he dead? Or is she about to get a nasty surprise?



And Noah Huntley would do very nicely as Mr Knightley!


The House at Ladywell (published by Crooked Cat Books in November) now has around thirty Five Star reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites, which is fabulous. This a terrific one from Nancy Jardine, author of historical and mystery novels. Ladywellfinalcover

‘This was a thoroughly enjoyable book that I wished I could read in one sitting since I was engrossed. As it happened I read it over one day and one night! The tale of the house at Ladywell slowly unfolds with historical glimpses of the surroundings and the inhabitants over the centuries from the earliest Roman times to the present day. Those snatches of previous residents are skilfully interwoven for the reader as the new owner delves back to uncover details about the previous occupants of the house bequeathed to her. The perpetuity of descendants of one family being in situ over 1500 years and more has, I think, got to be a rare occurrence anywhere but it rings true for The House at Ladywell.
The characters are beautifully drawn and the writing and editing superb. The background of Freya Gibson is eventually revealed but the revelations, I think, further enhance her strong character. I’d love to meet Patrick- that successful author and the man in Freya’s life! The supporting characters are also well rounded, especially Nathan the man who can get Freya anything decoratively speaking and the tiny Mary Draper who is like a little whirlwind.
The supernatural aspects of the house work immediately: the ‘house’ now winding a positive spell of its own! (hopefully all previous negatives having been set in ‘balance’).
To be recommended for those who love a good mystery; a satisfying romance; and those who enjoy a little dash of the supernatural added in for good measure.’

And here’s another great review, this one from best-selling mystery novelist, Lesley Cookman: A really beautiful book, not at all the usual romance or mystery. Shades of Elizabeth Goudge, maybe?

In an ideal world (the one with the deal for the film rights) Patrick would be played by Richard Armitage!

And finally, just to make it easy for you to read Ladywell (and maybe do a review, which would be lovely) here’s the link to Amazon!
(Photos taken from promotional sites…)



MALICE DOMESTIC Mystery Convention: 3rd-5th May, 2013, Washington DC


Malice Domestic is an annual convention held in or near Washington DC every spring. What makes it stand out from other writers’ conferences is that it’s aimed at fans as well as writers, the aim being to promote cosy and traditional mysteries. I’ve wanted to go for years but it’s a long way from Hampshire!  This year, though, my first four cosy mystery novels from Robert Hale are to be reissued in eBook format in June and July, so it seemed a good idea to spread the word!!

 After our week in Williamsburg we arrived at the hotel in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington DC. This was the venue for the convention and it worked very well for us. I swanned around feeling writerly while The Engineer went sight-seeing – today the Red bus tour, tomorrow the Blue bus, that kind of thing, finishing with a trip on a DKW, an amphibian vehicle, so he’s seen the city from the bottom of the river!

 Malice was a large and glossy affair, with nearly 600 attendees, but everyone was friendly and I had a great time. The Malice Virgins were welcomed very cordially but with a warning: Do not pursue authors into the Ladies’ seeking autographs, and particularly Do Not slip a pen under the cubicle door along with a book to be signed!  The first day I met up with an internet friend for a long catch-up session, which was fun, and later in the day came the opening ceremonies, a live charity auction and a Welcome Reception where I pigged out on yummy nibbles.

 Saturday was the main day for the discussion panels. New attendees were warned not to overdo the panels and take breaks which was good advice as talks began to blur after a while but I attended The Armchair Traveller: Mysteries Set In Exotic Locations, mainly because it was chaired by another internet friend of mine. It was an excellent choice though, because Aaron Elkins (who later received a Lifetime Award) was on top form and had the audience rocking with laughter.

 The next one was featured my Malice debut! Tea, Scones & Death: Mysteries set in the United Kingdom – about the perennial attraction of English Village mysteries for North American readers. Many of the discussions took place in side rooms with audiences of around 50 people but Peter Robinson (International Guest of Honour!) was also on the panel so I was slightly stunned to see an audience of a couple of hundred. It was a lively discussion and the audience were very interested.


On arrival we were presented with a bag full of books and goodies but whereas most conferences I’ve attended have provided carrier bags, I’ve promoted my large, strong canvas, zipped (two compartments!), Malice bag for use as weekend luggage!  As with most writing conferences you can always swap the books for others and I sneaked in some of my own books as it wasn’t possible to sell my UK hardbacks there. There were also lots of promotional goodies and bookmarks and I brought home a couple of the dafter ones, a bookmark for a doggy detective, with a tiny bone-shaped dog biscuit attached in a plastic bag for No1 daughter’s puppy, and a cat-related mystery series that offered a bag of catnip, though the Fat Lump remains unimpressed.

 I’m the world’s least competent photographer but I did manage a snap of of the UK’s Peter Lovesey at a signing: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was amused by the bookmarks and spotted the Golden Retriever sleuth, lots of cat detectives and cat owners who were detectives, innkeepers, coffee shop owners, bog-body experts, gardeners, farmers, restaurant mysteries and lots of knitting, crafty and quilting ones too. I think someone could do well with a series about a tea shop that sold knitted coffins on the side, for burial in the field next door. With added cats.

 The big event on the Saturday night was the Agatha Banquet when the awards were made and on the Sunday we all trooped off to a lavish tea party and closing ceremony.

 It was fun but to spend that amount of money again, I’d need to be promoting a book, I suspect – still, it made a great hook to hang the holiday on, so who knows?

Interview with writer Linda Priestley (aka Linda Gruchy)

Now and then I’m planning to interview other writers, so to kick off this occasional series we have a visit from Linda Gruchy, a successful short story writer, who has had great results from e-publishing her crime novels.

Q) Linda, I know you have an agent who is very excited about your work and is actively seeking a traditional publisher, so what made you decide to self-publish some of your novels?
A) I want the best of both worlds. 🙂 Publishing as an industry is changing so rapidly that it’s hard to predict where it will go over the next few years. It is certainly becoming harder to be published in the traditional way and I can’t see it improving. My previous agent tried placing Death in Spigg’s Wood but it was declined because of the diminishing market and because then I had no track record with publications. That has changed now.
My current agent wanted to focus on placing my more recent books with a traditional publisher, but we thought it would be a good idea to be able to show good e-book sales of my earlier work when approaching a publisher. All my e-books have had a favourable reception, and, in addition to free promotion downloads, I have sold well over a thousand copies of Death in Spigg’s Wood.. Death in Flitbury Marshes is catching up fast.

Now a few of the questions that readers always like to ask:

Q) Why crime writing? What led you to choose that particular genre?
A) It was accidental, really, though. I’ve always enjoyed crime as a genre. I was chatting with a friend and said, “That would make a cracking crime story. I’ll go and write a novel.” I don’t think she believed me. I wrote two more before I managed to find my first agent, but had no publication track record, so I switched to writing short stories and articles for magazines.
I also write Romances (which often ends up with a crime element). I didn’t want fans of Death in Spigg’s Wood to feel miffed over the genre change so I publish my Romances as Linda M Priestley and my crime stories as Linda Gruchy.

Q) How do you manage the compromise between what you want to write and what you believe will attract readers? Have you had to make difficult choices?
A) My first drafts of Death in Spigg’s Wood were very self-indulgent. I had to cut lots of material that I loved but really didn’t move the story on. Writing for a particular market is a good discipline and makes me much more aware of the readers’ needs. It’s not so much attracting readers as entertaining them. I like to give good value.
My reading tends to be quite eclectic, so my writing reflects that. I think I’ve had to compromise more when writing for a traditional publication because of their word count constraints and perceived market requirements. I don’t mind that, it’s a good discipline, but I do like the editorial control I have over my e-books.

Q) Do you have your novel planned from the start or do you just let it happen?
A) I start with a basic idea and let it grow from there. I plan roughly what’s ahead and usually know the sort of outcome I’m aiming for, though with one, a historical adventure, I just let the story take me and hadn’t a clue where I was heading. I find the story seems to evolve as I go along. I also find that doing research for the novel will seed ideas which make the story stronger. That makes the first draft. The story is honed into something readable from there.

Q) Your books are very realistic, do you use any material from your own life?
A) I used to do kickboxing, so I used that in Death in Spigg’s Wood (though I’m nowhere near as good as Meg the main character). When I started writing I had no knowledge of the criminal justice system, so had to do an awful lot of research My novels might seem realistic, mainly because I hate it when a novel doesn’t make sense. With crime there is often a compromise between reality and writing a good, fast paced yarn .
In my latest Romance (Book Lovers by Linda M Priestley) I used my own experiences of breast cancer thirteen years ago so bring that sense of realism to the novel, hopefully in a good sense rather than a morbid one.
Earth Magic is a Romance set on some allotments. I was an allotment holder for many years until we moved to Essex. I still miss it. Earth Magic will be free to download from Amazon 4th to 8th September 2012 to celebrate the release of Book Lovers.

You can find out more about Linda and her books on her Blog, which also features her wonderful photographs
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