Monday, 3 August 2020

Digging Deeper with Abbie Frost

The Guesthouse has been described as the classic remote house mystery. Seven disparate guests arrive on a lonely stretch of hillside in Ireland for an introductory budget break. But when the internet and mobile phone signals fail, and a storm blows in from the sea, they are trapped in a nightmare – with a killer lurking nearby.

The book came about after I’d given a series of lectures on the golden age of crime and was tempted to try a contemporary take on the traditional country house murder. Agatha Christie is the name that springs most readily to mind when you think of golden age authors and, although like everyone I have a soft spot for her detectives, it’s Christie’s darker and more sinister novels such as And Then There Were None, The Crooked House and Endless Night that really appeal to me.

The Guesthouse is definitely not cosy. In fact, it’s influenced, not just by Christie, but by some of the masters of gothic fiction such as Wilkie Collins, Daphne Du Maurier and Shirley Jackson. So there are hints in the book of something even more creepy than a straightforward murder mystery. And I’m thrilled that many reviewers have said not only that the book compelled them to read on to find out all the secrets, but also that they were scared to sleep afterwards! So it’s DARK, but hopefully entertaining.

Conversation between the protagonist and antagonist. (Some names and details have been changed to protect the guilty!)

He looked down at her. ‘Wakey, wakey,’ he said.

After a moment he knelt and pulled down her gag. She gasped for air, spitting out foul-tasting saliva, and he smiled.

‘What do you want?’ Hannah said. ‘Why are you doing this?’

His bright eyes stared down at her, full of intelligence. ‘It’s a long story.’ His hand reached to touch a lock of her hair.

She flinched away. ‘Get off me! Get the fuck off me!’ But when he stood up again and went to the door, she called out. ‘Wait! Where’s Maddie?’

            ‘Maddie?’ He looked back at her. ‘What a disappointment she was. So weak, so pathetic, just like her mother. She was hardly worth killing.’

            Hannah could smell smoke, but it was only faint. How long had she been unconscious? She needed to keep him talking. ‘You’re so wrong about her. Maddie made a career for herself, out of nothing. Or didn’t you know?’

‘Of course I did.’ He laughed. ‘I’ve been watching her for years. And I missed her, that’s the truth, I missed Maddie.’    

            The soft way that he spoke – so warm and comforting – made her shiver. ‘That’s why I brought her back,’ he said. ‘But aren’t you dying to know why the rest of you are here too?’ She swallowed but didn’t respond. ‘Of course you are.’ He grinned. ‘You see, you all have something very special in common.’

            ‘What? What do we have in common?’

‘You pissed me off.’ He laughed again. ‘That fucking policeman, hanging around all the time, trying to make people suspicious of me.’

‘He was just doing his job.’

He cocked his head at her. ‘Took to the old bastard, did you? Well I sorted him out. Got him off my back and out of the job without much trouble, but there always seemed to be some other do-gooder popping up.’

Hannah flinched as he touched her face, running his finger down her cheek and cupping her chin. ‘You all tried to ruin things for me. Although you, Hannah my darling, you have the unique distinction of being the only one who managed to do so.’

Hannah began to shake with a chill that reached all the way into her bones. She tried to move, to work her hands free, but the rope had been tied too tight by too practised a hand. He talked continually, his words spilling out of him as if the days alone had built up a torrent of language. He touched the picture that showed The Guesthouse in the background. ‘I’ve always hated this house. I thought about setting fire to it for years. Then I had a better idea, the perfect way to do it: a group of Cloud BNB guests ignoring all the warnings and throwing petrol on the fire when the generator failed.’

            Hannah watched him walk back and forth. She needed to keep him talking, give herself enough time to plan her escape.  ‘But why go to all that trouble? Why not just light a fire on the first night and get rid of us all?’

He stopped pacing and smiled down at her. ‘Now where would be the fun in that? No, I didn’t just want to kill you, I wanted to own you; I wanted you to know I was doing it.’

Hannah tried to swallow but her throat was too dry. ‘What about the others? The ones who didn’t even know you?’

‘The families? Call that guilt by association. Or a bonus for me. And they didn’t have to come. Hardly my fault if they couldn’t resist a cheap holiday.’

‘You’re insane. You’re fucking insane.’ She struggled against the rope for a moment, and then fell still.

He just chuckled and turned back to the photos. ‘I’m not insane, I just like to live freely.’ He carried on, the sound of his voice echoing in the silence. ‘I decided not to plan anything too rigidly, so even I didn’t know how it would all pan out. That’s the best thing about experiments, you never know what might happen. What you can use. When that annoying little cat started hanging around the place a few weeks back I thought of bashing its head in there and then. But I left it in case it came in handy later. And it did.

As he stood there by the wall, something about his shape and size sent a memory flickering into Hannah’s mind. A tall shadow standing in the storm by the outhouse, wrestling with the door.

‘I saw you!’ Hannah said. ‘When I went out in the storm.’

He laughed. ‘You almost caught me, but you always were clever.’

‘But what were you—’

A sound cut Hannah off. The sound of something collapsing in the house above them. He went to the door and looked out. ‘Not long now, princess, not long now.’ He rubbed his hands together. Relishing the moment.

Hannah closed her eyes and remembered those words from another time. Not long now, princess, not long now.

‘Time to go,’ he said.

Who would you choose to play each of them in a film or TV series?

Emilia Clarke might fit the bill for Hannah.

As for my villain, I’d go for Hugh Grant or maybe Jason Isaacs.

What is the creepiest action taken by your antagonist?

Creepy moments abound in The Guesthouse, but whether the antagonist is responsible for them all is for the reader to decide! For me the most sinister is when the protagonist is dozing in the warm bubbles of her bath and wakes to the realisation that someone has been in there with her, close enough to touch her, but has disappeared leaving the door still locked. All that’s left behind is the lingering smell of a distinctive cologne.


You use an app, called Cloud BNB, to book a room online. And on a cold and windy afternoon you arrive at The Guesthouse, a dramatic old building on a remote stretch of hillside in Ireland. 

You are expecting a relaxing break, but you find something very different. Something unimaginable. Because a killer has lured you and six other guests here and now you can’t escape. 

One thing’s for certain: not all of you will come back from this holiday alive…

Abbie Frost is the author of five crime novels published by Harper Collins. Her first four books, written under the name Chris Curran, are psychological thrillers or domestic noir and critics have called them ‘compelling.’ ‘truly gripping,’ (Sunday Express) ‘cinematic and well-constructed. In 2020, with The Guesthouse, she also began writing as Abbie Frost.

Follow Abbie/Chris on Twitter:  @FrostyAbbie


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Friday, 31 July 2020

Competition News

Flash fiction shortlist
I am delighted to announce the shortlist for the second quarter 2020 of Flash 500's flash fiction category is now up on the site. You can read the titles here. The new quarter is already attracting entries. Find out more here.
Novel category
The novel category is open until midnight on 31 October 2020. You can find out more here.
Short story category
The short story category is also open for entries until the end of February 2021. If you have a story up to 3,000 words, in any genre, you could be in line to win £500/£200/£100. Make us laugh, make us cry, but, above all, make us feel!
Full details of all three competition categories can be found on the Flash 500 Home Page.
Kind regards, 

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Wednesday, 29 July 2020

JJ Marsh talks about her fabulous Beatrice Stubbs series

Beatrice Stubbs and her European Eggcorns

It wasn’t supposed to become a habit. I thought I’d try it once and could stop anytime I liked. Fifteen books later, look at the state of me.

The Beatrice Stubbs Series erupted out of a sense of frustration. A neighbour, due to relocate to Singapore, offered me her crime fiction collection for twenty francs. Bargain, said I, and carted home four boxes of hardbacks. Around the fifth book, I became frustrated. By the seventh, I was flinging them against the wall.

Why is so much crime fiction so horribly clichéd? Why are there no better roles than rape victim or dysfunctional pathologist? Where are the real women, with other interests than being discovered knickerless in an alley? Where are their families, partners and friends who drink too much rosé?

It IS possible, I vowed, to write a well-rounded character and a crime story that is neither ‘cosy’ nor violently misogynistic. I researched further and discovered a whole lot of crime writers who eschewed obvious tropes to write thoughtful, deeper novels. One of whom is our esteemed host, who I would describe as a mentor. Others would be Sheila Bugler, Gillian Hamer and Abbie Frost.

Enter Beatrice Stubbs, a 50+ detective with an irrepressible appetite, a long-term partner she refuses to marry, a gay wine-merchant neighbour and a constant battle with bipolar disorder.

The first book – designed to be a one-off – took me three years to complete. Guided by such astute voices like those above, I workshopped my novel chapter by chapter. The main character took on distinct characteristics. One example would be Beatrice’s ‘eggcorns’. She takes commonplace phrases and reinterprets them – ‘that’s the way the cuckoo crumbles’, ‘Close, but no guitar’, ‘not worth rushing off on a wild goats’ chase’. 

Occasional reviewers attribute these to authorial error, but Beatrice fans email me every week with fresh suggestions for her #bealines.

Then there are the locations. I’m a passionate Europhile having lived/worked in France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland. Where better to set a serial killer of Fat Cats than Zürich? Wine fraud on in industrial scale? Rioja country. A psychotic stalker in the dead of winter? The remote island of Sylt on the German/Danish border.

One of the best things about the research is that a gang of writing mates often come with me to ‘assist with the research’. Or to put it more accurately, drink wine and eat cheese.

Today, I’m sitting in the garden plotting the twelfth in the series, having written three other novels in the interim.

As I said, I can stop anytime I like. I just don’t want to.


Jill grew up in Wales, Africa and the Middle East, where her curiosity for culture took root and triggered an urge to write. After graduating in English Literature and Theatre Studies, she worked as an actor, teacher, writer, director, editor, journalist and cultural trainer all over Europe.

Now in Switzerland, she writes crime and literary fiction to entertain readers with enthralling stories and endearing characters.

Her Beatrice Stubbs crime series topped the Amazon best sellers in “International Mystery & Crime” in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US.


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Monday, 27 July 2020

Digging Deeper with Jane Risdon

Digging deeper into Undercover: Crime Shorts by Jane Risdon …

Many thanks for allowing me to tell your readers about Undercover: Crime Shorts, my first collection of short crime stories under one cover, and hopefully not the last.

Undercover:Crime Shorts is a wonderfully satisfying anthology of seven short stories which transcend the crime fiction genre providing a ripping yarn with more twists and turns than Spaghetti Junction, irrespective of the reader’s fiction preference.

Sweet Sable: The Red Siren  (from Undercover: Crime Shorts – written in the style of the era of the crime noir fiction).

Sweet Sable is a Jazz singer in Hollywood in the late 1930’s, but that is not all – she has another talent which might just get her killed. She has skipped town after her sting - wealthy, married, dodgy, would-be politician, Jack Grady, discovers she has robbed his safe, taking evidence of his crimes and lots of loot, with her. He sets his henchman Carlo on her trail…

‘What do you mean, she skipped?’ Jack yelled at the thug in front of him who was sweating like a Chinaman in a restaurant kitchen. ‘How?’

‘I dunno, she just skipped.’ The man didn’t meet Jack’s eyes, hanging his head, terrified. ‘She got wind, is all.’

‘Got wind? How did that happen?’ Jack walked around his solid oak desk and stood almost toe to toe, with his flunky.

‘I belled her, told her nicely she gotta give your stuff back like you said. But she hung up. I went round there to persuade her, but she was gone already. Took off when I wasn’t watching.’

Jack sat down again and glared at the man in front of him who shifted uneasily. ‘I said scare the crap out of her if she didn’t play ball right away.’ He thumped his desk. ‘I meant get her to understand the implications straight off if she didn’t give. I didn’t say send her running. I didn’t tell you to take your eyes off her, not even to hit the john.’

‘She won’t go far, where she gonna go?’ We’ll soon find her boss.’ The man waited, it could go either way now, he knew. His life was in the balance. He could end up with a ruby necklace like Luigi who’d messed up big time last year. He was lucky he didn’t have to do the hit, he’d been friends with Luigi since they ran numbers for the Mob back in Vegas years ago. Who’d make his hit, he wondered, shivering in-spite of his sweat. He didn’t know how much more he could take. Numbers were one thing but killing: he’d had a belly full.

‘Your last chance, hear me? Your one and only chance. You find her, you get my stuff back and then you get rid of her. No mess, no noise, no-one will ever know what happened – not even me. Got it?’ Jack leaned over his desk and shoved his face right into the sweating man’s face. ‘Got it?’ he shouted again.

‘Sure boss, don’t worry, she’s history already, no sweat. We’ll get it all back.’

‘There’s no we about it. You do this on your own, you tell no-one and don’t tell me about it either. Do it, do it quietly and keep your mouth shut or you will be meeting Luigi faster than you can blink. You leave my stuff in my mailbox and I’ll make sure you get paid. Then you disappear. Now get out of my sight.’

Carlo ran from the room before his boss changed his mind. Now he had to find the broad before she did damage with what she took. His head ached with fear and worry. He’d be watching his own back from now on. He didn’t trust his boss any more than the would-be politician trusted him.

Who would I like to play them both in a film or TV series? That is a hard one. I can think of actors from the 1930s who would be great, but today? Cripes.

Alec Baldwin would make a great sleazy Jack Brady.

Benicio del Toro would make a fab world-weary thug, Carlo.

The creepiest action taken by a protagonist in Undercover:Crime Shorts is probably in The Honey Trap when the murderer – a serial killer – dispatches his victims during sex. He washes their hair, bathes them and dries their bodies before laying them out naked, in a certain pose, on a bed. All done with tender loving care. All done in the knowledge he cannot be touched for his crimes.

Undercover: Crimeshorts is the ideal companion for the crime fiction fan’s daily commute. You’ll run out of journey before you run out of book with this cleverly crafted mix of crime fiction short stories. Beware, as you might miss your stop.…

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Friday, 24 July 2020

Friday Fiction Feature: The Cry of the Lake

This week’s Friday Fiction Feature is from Charlie Tyler talking about The Cry of the Lake.

Have you ever pressed ‘post’ on social media and then realised, even though you’ve checked it several times, you’ve still managed to spell something wrong?  That sinking feeling is how I want you to feel when you read this psychological thriller brimming with misunderstandings and unfixable mistakes. 

Writing and editing during Covid-19 has meant that, at times, it has been hard to keep focused and, although The Cry of the Lake was finished before this period of isolation, I think it reflects the unrest we’ve all, at times, been struggling with.  All of my characters are trapped in their own little worlds; one of the characters, Lily, has an embedded memory as well as having locked-in speech.  The language I use evokes that same panicky feeling of being caught inside a vivid, but surreal time warp – like being on the inside of a snow globe looking out at the world.  What you see on the surface; the cosy English pubs, the summer fetes, the quaint lakeside cafés and the sunshine will draw you in, though you won’t be able to leave until you’ve discovered what made Grace the monster that she is.  In a time where people of authority are saying one thing but doing another; this a thriller just right for 2020 and beyond; where you should no longer assume that what people in power tell you has a shred of truth to it. 

The Cry of the Lake centres around the relationship between deeply troubled sisters, Grace and Lily, and Grace’s step-daughter, Flo.  The sisters have immersed themselves within an idyllic, chocolate-box environment, playing along at happy families whilst harbouring a terrible secret.  The setting is based on my own hometown and the surrounding villages.  I feature the well of King Charles I which, according to legend, was where he stopped at to water his horse after defeat at the Battle of Naseby (1645).  It sounds grand doesn’t it?  But unless you are actively searching for it, you wouldn’t know it existed – it is nothing more than a fenced off rectangle of slime! 

A murder is committed and, though you know exactly who is responsible from the first paragraph, I have three strong, distinct, female voices all taking it in turns to tell you their side of events before you pass judgement on their actions.  And, although my anti-hero Grace presents herself to you as a completed jigsaw puzzle, throughout the story I dismantle her until you are left with the one solitary piece which explains her motives.  There is an all-important twist, but it’s up to you to decide whether it’s enough for you to sympathise with her behaviour.  I hope you’ll read it and share with me your views and, despite the trail of mayhem and murder, I would like to reassure you that it is also a tale of love, friendship and ultimately hope.  

A gruesome discovery unravels a dark trail of murder and madness…

The Cry of the Lake is a psychological thriller set in an idyllic English village, where, despite tranquil appearances, the relationship between two families is about to turn toxic. 

A six-year-old girl sneaks out of bed to capture a mermaid but instead discovers a dead body. Terrified and unable to make sense of what she sees, she locks the vision deep inside her mind. 

Ten years later, Lily is introduced to the charismatic Flo and they become best friends. But Lily is guilt-ridden – she is hiding a terrible secret which has the power to destroy both their lives. 

When Flo’s father is accused of killing a schoolgirl, the horrors of Lily’s past come bubbling to the surface. Lily knows that, whatever the consequences, she has to make things right. She must go back to the events of her childhood and face what happened at the boat house all those years ago. 

Can Lily and Flo discover what is hiding in the murky waters of the lake before the killer strikes again?

Author bio:

Charlie signed with Darkstroke in May 2020 and The Cry of the Lake is her debut novel.

Charlie is very much a morning person and likes nothing more than committing a fictional murder before her first coffee of the day.  She studied Theology at Worcester College, Oxford and now lives in a Leicestershire village with her husband, three teenagers, golden retriever and tortoise.

FB: @Charlietylerauthor 

Twitter: @CharlieTyler17 

Insta: @charlietylerauthor

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Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Tom Gillespie #interview #writerslife

A massive welcome to Tom Gillespie who is here to tell us about his writing life …

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?

I would say my strange book bends genres- It is part psychological thriller, part Scottish Gothic mystery with a sprinkling of horror and magical realism.. So either a smorgasbord or a Bloomenthal bomb blast... you choose!

What made you choose that genre?

I’m allergic to rules

How long does it take you to write a book?

This is the second iteration of The Strange Book. I wasn’t happy with the first cut, and once I’d regained my fortitude and courage, I ventured back into Jacob’s weird world and completely reworked the novel, re-structuring , chopping and changing, and adding a completely new section. I thought if F. Scott. Fitzgerald can do it..then hey!  So all in all, it’s taken around 9 years, from initial teeny wee flash story to this, the final director’s cut, as it were.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

My method has changed recently. I used to scribble in notebooks and scraps of paper.. on anything I could find when inspiration struck.. Then I would end up with shoeboxes full of weird illegible hieroglyphics. Now I’m much more systematic and organised. I set aside a few hrs each day (usually early morning), and let my brain loose on the computer keyboard. When I’m in stream of consciousness mode, I lock my little editor gremlin up in a cupboard so that he can’t interrupt my flow. Then when I’m in editor mode, I do the same with the crazed, bohemian writer, who to be honest, complains a lot less about being shunned under the stairs.

Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know.

A few years ago, I shared a couple of drinks with Edna O’ Brian on a train from Bristol to Manchester. She was heading to the Hay on Wye festival but missed her stop (or was on the wrong train) and seemed delighted about it! She was hilariously inappropriate, and she gave me some sound advice. She said in this business, trust no one, especially yourself, adding ... with bloody train timetables.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

When I was wee, I created a picture book based on ghost stories my friends had told me or they swore they had experienced. I was about 46 😊

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I play guitar and write songs…when my wife and daughter are out...and read, read, read.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

Typos and spelling mistakes are sentient beings

How many books have you written?

This is my second novel. I have a collection of short stories coming out in October.

Do you Google yourself? What did you find that affected you most (good or bad)?

When I google myself I always land on a young champion Australian surfer.. and when anyone asks, I pretend to be him.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

Lee Van Cleef.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have on your computer?

None... but I have a loft stuffed full of notebooks and shoeboxes!

Amazon link (universal)




Tom Gillespie is a novel and short fiction writer. His stories have been published worldwide in journals, e-zines and creative anthologies including East of the Web, Linden Literary Review, The Ogilvie. His work also features in The Federation of Writers, Scotland New Voices Anthology.

Glass Work Humans – A collaborative collection of Short Stories will be published in Autumn 2020.

The Strange Book of Jacob Boyce is the first of a trilogy of novels set in Tom’s hometown of Glasgow, published by Vine Leaves Press, and available to order now.

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Tuesday, 21 July 2020

I Ran 16k and I Stayed Upright!

If anyone had told me that at the grand old age of 65 I was going to train for a marathon I would have laughed myself into stitches – instead of which, I have this tendency to fall over and (sometimes) require them.

Last Sunday I ran 16k. The last time I did that I fell after 1.5k and had to run the remaining 14.5k with blood running down my leg. Not a pretty sight for the poor passers-by and not comfortable for me. 

My knee is now on the mend and I only have the scabby remains to worry about.

Fortunately, this time I managed to stay upright for the full distance, which meant (in theory) I could enjoy the run more. In some ways I did, but as the humidity was excessive, I wasn’t able to attain a good pace. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

This shows how last week went, starting with the 5km on the Monday. I was pretty pleased with the total.














I’m sure my children and grandchildren think I’m mad, but I’m determined to give the Seville marathon a go. I’m a bit terrified of the week below when I have to do it, but as it’s a couple of months off, I’m not going to fret about it just yet!











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