At the Sharp End . . .

The World of Zoë Sharp − Author of the Charlie Fox Thriller Series

Zoë Sharp in Charlie Fox mode
MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 31 January 2016 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night . . . Redux: Opening Lines

Ready... Set... Go!

It's no secret that I am fascinated by the whole business of opening lines for novels. The opening line or two carries so much of the weight of expectation from the reader. To my mind it has not only to accurately portray the tone of the story, but also to encapsulate the voice of the writer.

Time is so short for most of us that, if we are not very quickly lured into a book, it tends to be put down and lost in the flow of Other Stuff that clutters up our lives. If the writer is familiar to the reader, they want to be quickly reassured that, yes, they can confidently snuggle down with another journey into a well-loved world of characters they know will satisfy and enthral.

If the writer is unknown to them, they may have tiptoed into the work by way of a personal recommendation, good reviews, glowing tributes from other authors they admire, and a jacket précis that seems intriguing.

None of this will matter a jot, however, if the opening line does not intrigue them and the prose does not slip smoothly down the throat. Either that or grab them by it and refuse to let go.

I've been thinking about this a good deal lately because I have finally finished edits on my latest standalone and have now jumped back into the next in the Charlie Fox series. I already had a rough idea for the opening, but as it shaped up it has become . . .


This week's Word of the Week is palimpsest, meaning writing material, as in a parchment, tablet or scroll, which has been used more than once, the earlier writing having been removed or erased. It can also refer to anything which has successive layers beneath the surface, such as layers of different paint on a wall. It comes from the Latin palimpsestus, or Greek palimpsēstos scraped again, and was first used in the early 1800s.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 24 January 2016 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

The End of An Era: Remembering George Weidenfeld
(13 September 1919−20 January 2016)

This week I have stepped aside from my usual blogging day to hand over this page to fellow writer John Lawton. He worked with the late George Weidenfeld, who died this week, both as an agent and as an author, and knew him over the course of many years.

George Weidenfeld

It isn't often one gets to write 'it's the end of an era' and have it rise above cliché. George Weidenfeld's death is just that – he was the last of those innovative influential Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who stayed on in peacetime to found publishing houses and reshape literary London. Off the top of my head . . . André Deutsch – from Hungary – Paul Hamlyn – from Germany – Walter Neurath – from Austria. Houses like André Deutsch, Paul Hamlyn, Weidenfeld & Nicolson and Thames and Hudson became pre-eminent in a very short time.

George was Austrian, like Walter Neurath he was Viennese, but from a younger generation. He was born in 1919. He was known as Arthur, and nicknamed Turli. I have always assumed that he decided to use his second name after his arrival in England in 1938 as it sounded very English.

I have a vivid memory of first meeting him. It was 1985. I was a young literary agent in London — publishers and agents were forever in and out of each other's offices. A visit to or from a publisher was no great shakes. It was the routine. Until the day the boss announced that George Weidenfeld would be visiting. The significance of this was lost on me, and it slowly dawned on me that we were being put on full alert, to expect something like the trooping of the colour.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 10 January 2016 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Music To Write By: the soundtrack of the novel

the fire lit by three in the afternoon

Well, Christmas is over and January always seems a bit of a lacklustre month. The days are starting to lighten fractionally, but I know full well that we have not yet seen the coldest part of winter. Even if the daffodils are somewhat optimistically poking up green shoots, spring seems a long way off.

It's not just the length of the days, however, it's the quality of the light when it does finally put in an appearance. Dull and gloomy, requiring a desk lamp even at midday, and the fire lit by three o'clock in the afternoon.

The roads are perpetually plastered in mud, and so are the sides of my car. The bike is tucked away in the garage. There's rain on every forecast, and if we make it through to March without snow it will be a first. In fact, as I write this the news is predicting snow and sub-freezing temperatures in the next week.


This week's Word of the Week is cuckquean. I hadn't come across this before, although its male equivalent, cuckold is far more common. Where a cuckold is the unwitting husband of an adulterous wife, so a cuckquean is the unwitting wife of an adulterous husband. Both have their roots from the cuckoo bird, which lays its eggs in other birds' nests and leaves them to bring up young not their own. Sometimes shortened to cuck, it came into use in the mid 13th century. The important part is that the spouse should be deceived. A related word, for instance, is wittol, meaning a man who is aware of his wife's infidelity and accepts it.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 27 December 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

HOLIDAY READING: from the Murder Is Everywhere crew

The Christmas and New Year holiday season is an excellent time to settle down with a good book. As this is my last Murder Is Everywhere blog of 2015, I wanted to leave you with a holiday reading list. And as my fellow bloggers here are a fairly modest bunch, I respectfully offer their latest titles as being well worth your consideration.


This week’s Word of the Week is facetiae, which means both pornographic literature, and humorous or witty sayings. It first came into use in the 16th century, from the Latin plural of facetia 'jest', from facetus 'witty'.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 13 December 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Author Websites: what would you like them to say?

This blog was supposed to go up last Sunday – December 6th. That it didn't was down to some bloke called Desmond, who walloped the northwest of the UK. He huffed and puffed and blew down if not my house, then at least my local electricity substation. Flooding, power cuts and much chaos ensued. More about that at a later date.

Last time, I wrote a blog about author photos, and what they say – or don't say – about the author involved. I think I've now got something sorted that says what I want it to about me and the kind of books I write. But more about that at a later date, too.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on upgrading my website to a WordPress site, which is currently a work-in-progress. . .


This week’s Word of the Week is anthropodermic bibliopegy, which means the covering of books in human skin. One of the few surviving examples in the UK is held by the Bristol Record Office. It was made from the skin of John Horwood, who was hanged at Bristol Gaol for murdering Eliza Balsum. Another is of the Red Barn murder of Maria Marten by William Corder in Suffolk in 1827.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 22 November 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Author Photos: what am I trying to say?

Last month, a friend sent me an interesting article entitled How To Take A Great Author Photo. It shows various examples of what makes a good or bad publicity pic, including some Before and After shots of the same people in different poses. And if it doesn’t exactly tell you how to take a photo, that’s a minor quibble.

The reason I’ve been looking at this again recently is that it’s time for a new author pic for myself. Never something I look forward to – after all, I spent 25 years on the other side of the camera partly to avoid appearing in pictures myself.

But sometimes you can’t get round it, so you have to run straight at it, yelling a war cry.

At the moment, if someone asks me to send an author pic, I tend to send out a couple, labelled Serious and Not-So Serious.


This week’s Word of the Week is boustrophedon, meaning an ancient form of writing that had lines alternately written left to right and then right to left. It comes from the Greek and literally means 'turning as an ox when ploughing'. From bous meaning ox and strephein meaning to turn.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 8 November 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Playing It Safe: Personal Safety Tips from Charlie Fox

I hope you'll forgive me this week if I hand over control to a kind of guest blogger*. I wanted to begin an occasional series about safety – personal safety, safety at home, in the car, on the street, in a dangerous situation. So, who better to talk about these topics than my protagonist, Charlotte 'Charlie' Fox?

Charlie had a short-lived career in the Women’s Royal Army Corps, passing selection for Special Forces training, but being dishonourably discharged following a court martial. (And I wouldn't ask her about that if I were you.) She then taught self-defence for women in a small northern UK city, and eventually moved into a career as a bodyguard – initially for a London-based outfit run by her former army training instructor, Sean Meyer.

When Sean was offered a partnership in Parker Armstrong's prestigious close-protection agency in New York City, Charlie moved with Sean to Manhattan. She has been based there ever since.

I had to laugh when I saw the title of this post, because let me tell you, 'playing it safe' is not a phrase that ever made it anywhere near my school reports – nor my military appraisals, come to think of it.

That doesn’t mean I'm reckless, don't get me wrong. If the situation demands it, I'll get stuck in, but not without weighing up the risks and the odds first. And I'll go a long way to avoid trouble if I can manage it. It was one of the problems I always found when I used to teach self-defence classes. People learn a few tricks and think they're invincible. Never has that old saying 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing' been more true than when it comes to personal safety.

Probably not a bad place to start.


This week’s Word of the Week is maschalismos, which means to prevent the dead from rising by making them incapable of doing so – ie, the cutting off of the feet, hands or head. The word comes from Ancient Greek and was also the term used in later Greek customary law.


*OK, so Charlie’s not exactly a guest blogger, but I always try to do what the voices in my head tell me to . . .

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 25 October 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Bouchercon and Beyond: summer travels in the States

This has not been an easy blog to write. Not because of topic or lack of inspiration, but for this reason:

Treacle assists with typing

What this means is that I’ve been away, and now I’ve returned the cat is determined not to let me out of her sight – or reach – for long. It’s very sweet, but a bit of a bugger when it comes to typing.

Like many of my fellow Murder Is Everywhere bloggers I’ve been over in the States for the annual Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. This year it was in Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina.


This week’s Word of the Week is Gardyloo, meaning the act of discarding waste substance from a height. It was used as a warning cry often heard in medieval Scotland as slops were emptied out of upper floor windows into the street below. The word is a corruption of the French, "Garde à l’eau!" – "Mind the water!" but may possibly be where we get the word ‘loo’ from to describe the lavatory. It was still in use as late as the 1930s and ’40s when many people still had no inside toilet.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 11 October 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

#ZoeSharpChat — short answers to shorter questions

My next blog will be about the Raleigh Bouchercon experience, but for now a little brief fun. One of my publishers, Felony & Mayhem Press, wanted to do an interview in real time on Twitter, and as with that old quote, "I’m writing you a long letter as I don’t have the time to write you a short one," they sent me a sample of questions ahead of time so I could prepare some short answers.

I didn’t check to make sure these hit the Twitter character-count maximum, but as other people joined in and the thing went back and forth like a game of team tennis, I thought it might be fun to reprint them here.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 27 September 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Organised or OCD? Travelling tips

I don’t think I’m paranoid. I simply like to be ready for any eventuality. Hence I carry duct tape in the boot of my car. Not for this reason:

So, it’s no great surprise that I like to be as prepared when I travel. By the time my next blog post is due in a fortnight, I’ll be in the midst of the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, this year in Raleigh, North Carolina. There are quite a few of the MiE crowd going, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to catching up with everyone.

This year I have the privilege to be one of the International Guests of Honor along with Scottish author/publisher/agent and all round Man of Mystery, Allan Guthrie. Our own Jeff Siger will be chairing our Spotlight Interview on Friday afternoon.

If you want to see the full schedule for Bouchercon, including all the fascinating panels where Murder Is Everywhere members are taking part, see here.


This week’s Word of the Week is actually several made-up words suggested by Lonely Planet:

Afterglobe n. The warm fuzzy feeling one gets after a long immensely satisfying trip.

Comeuppants n. When an obnoxious person loses their luggage and has no change of clothes.

Fearenheit n. Panic felt by Americans when attempting to comprehend temperatures in other countries.

Tuk-Tuk-Tuck n. The maneouvre required to wedge a large tourist into a small motorised tricycle.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 13 September 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

What's Happening At Home: a round-up of the oddities of UK news

I confess that I have not been spending much time at my keyboard over the last week or so. Not through any lack of desire of my part, but because I've been on too many drugs.

No, not the illegal type – the kind you have to be prescribed by the nice medical gentlemen at the local doctor's surgery.

I’ve got a bad back.

Bad backs are traditionally the butt of many jokes. Apparently one in three people in the UK will suffer back pain this year, and it's been one of the main excuses for those who wish to have time off work.

Trust me, I'd far rather be working.


This week's Word of the Week is hamartia, meaning the character flaw or error of a tragic hero that leads to his downfall. It comes from the Greek hamartánein, meaning 'to miss the mark' or 'to err', and was first used by Aristotle.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 30 August 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Making It Up As You Go Along: the latest new words

There have been some wonderful new additions to online dictionaries recently, although Grexit has never been one of my favourites. And now the spin doctors have coined 'Brexit' for a possible UK exit from the European Union.

Brexit or Grexit?

The latest I've come across is in connection with the Chilcot Inquiry into Britain's involvement in the Iraq War. The inquiry has come under fire (pun intended) for its long-delayed conclusions. Indeed, the inquiry was announced in 2009 and is still ongoing, with further delays expected due to the legal requirement of 'Maxwellisation'.

As I've done nothing but explore new words this week, I'll dispense with the usual Word of the Week, but I'd love to hear your favourite – and least favourite – new words, or old words with annoying new meanings?

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 16 August 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

The £180 million library that couldn't afford books, and the homeless young man who changed his life in a library; why we should fight for our libraries

Back in June 2013, the city of Birmingham (the one in the West Midlands rather than the one in Alabama) opened an amazing new library. Postmodern in design, it was estimated to have cost in excess of £183 million and was boasted as the largest public library in the UK and the largest regional library in Europe, as well as being the largest public cultural space in Europe.

Birmingham Library, 2013
Library of Birmingham, opened in 2013

An international design competition was held by the Royal Institute of British Architects and a shortlist announced in 2008. Dutch company Mecanoo were announced as the winners. Although reaction to the new design was generally very positive, there were one or two dissenting voices, including that of John Madin, architect of the Birmingham Central Library, built in 1974.


This week’s Word of the Week is fanfaronade, meaning swaggering, arrogant boasting, blustering manner; ostentatious display. From the French fanfaronade and the Spanish fanfarronada, from fanfarón, meaning a braggart.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 2 August 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

The lion-killing dentist versus the boy who loved to read: the worst and the best of human nature

There have been two stories in the news over the last week that have caught my attention above all others.

The first is that of Cecil, a thirteen-year-old lion living in the safety of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. He was one of the most famous lions for wildlife tourists visiting the country – recognizable because of his distinctive black mane – and supposedly protected. He had been tagged with a GPS collar as part of a conservation study begun by Oxford University in 1999, making it possible to trace his movements.

Cecil the late lion

Earlier this month, Cecil was lured out of the national park using bait. As soon as he was in an unprotected area he was shot by a hunter armed with a bow and arrow, which seriously injured the lion but did not kill him. His pursuers then tracked the wounded animal for forty hours before finally shooting him with a rifle and killing him. After being posed for photos, Cecil was skinned and beheaded.


This week’s Word of the Week is scripturient, meaning a violent desire to write*, from the Latin scripturiens, present participle of scripturire, to desire to write, desiderative of Latin scribere, from which we get scribe.
*as opposed to a desire to write violently, which makes one a crime/thriller author.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 19 July 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

UK: Road Rage Capital of the World

On Thursday evening, a retired solicitor called Don Lock was driving along the A24 near Worthing in West Sussex when he had a minor bump in his car, running into the vehicle in front of him. An everyday occurrence.

What followed was not.

When the 79-year-old great-grandfather got out of his car, the driver of the car he’d hit stabbed him repeatedly. Despite the attempts of attending paramedics, Mr Lock died at the scene.

Road rage victim, Don Lock

Up to that point, Don Lock must have felt life was smiling on him. He had just celebrated 55 years of marriage, had recently been given the all-clear after a cancer diagnosis, was fit enough to be cycling up to 150 miles a week, and was looking forward to the birth of his sixth great-grandchild later this year.


This week’s Word of the Week is biblioclasm, meaning the destroying of books or other written material, particularly the Bible. Or, alternatively, you could have libricide, which also means the destruction of books. Somehow, the former suggests a catastrophic disaster in which every book meets its maker, while in the latter a single library perishes.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 5 July 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

French Impressionist: an Anglophile's view of rural France

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been in France – house-, cat- and dog-sitting in the Midi-Pyrénées region.

Two beautiful cats – mother and daughter – who slept on my bed and occasionally woke me during the night by having fisticuffs or deciding to pounce on my feet . . .

Spatz and Inky-puss
Spatz and Inky-puss

. . . And a lovely dog who quite happily rode out in the car on daily explorations around Aveyron and had her own boudoir built into the kitchen, complete with central heating for the winter months.

the lovely Mosca, reclining
the lovely Mosca, reclining

Previously, my only experience of France was doing some photographic work in Paris. Let’s just say I did not see the best side of that city – the only time I’ve stayed in a hotel where the lobby not only boasted two armed guards stationed there all night, but also had a TV set in one corner playing a hardcore porn channel. Not exactly the city our Cara writes about!

But rural France is not Paris, so I tried not to have any preconceptions about this visit. The impressions I came away with have made me seriously consider relocation.


This week’s Word of the Week was provided by the ever-fragrant Everett Kaser and is anastrophe, which means an inversion of the usual syntactical order of words for rhetorical effect. It comes from the Greek anastrephein meaning to turn back. John F Kennedy used anastrophe for greater effect when he reversed the typical positive-to-negative parallelism in his famous line: "Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country." Yoda was a great one for anastrophe: "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will."

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 21 June 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Most Stupid Criminals

As crime writers we work really hard to make our baddies (I was recently taken to task for gender-biased generalization by referring to the antagonists in my books as "bad guys") realistic. Generally speaking, they are not maniacal geniuses with a penchant for hollowed-out-volcano living, classic G-Plan furniture and fluffy white cats.

Donald Pleasence as Blofeld

However, neither are they in the running for the Darwin Awards for gross stupidity. Of course, the Darwin Awards are primarily given to people who have removed themselves permanently from the gene pool in the most idiotic and spectacular way. What I’m interested in here are those individuals with no talent for crime, yet who insist on committing it. The very ones, in fact, we would struggle to put into a book for fear of the inevitable cry: "Surely that would never happen!"


This week’s Word of the Week is hamartia, which refers to a protagonist’s fundamental flaw or error which leads to a reversal of fortune from good to bad.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 31 May 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Looking For Someone To Hate? The ten
most-hated professions in the UK

When I’m writing, I always love to play with people’s preconceptions about character and place. Just because I set FOURTH DAY in a cult in California, for instance, doesn’t necessarily mean you know who the bad guys are going to turn out to be.

And although ROAD KILL was set predominantly in Northern Ireland, there was very little mention of the sectarian violence, which was still very much ongoing at the time. You have to be aware of it, because it shapes the landscape into which you set loose your cast of characters, but not to the point of cliché. I’ve featured motorcyclists in many of my books, and not a meth lab between them!

My villains have been a varied bunch – usually not the most obvious choice – and not all of them were thieves and gangsters from the off.

But when I recently came across this list of the ten most-hated professions in the UK, I thought it would be fun to reveal them here with a view to the villains yet to come:


This week’s Word of the Week is taeniacide, meaning the killing of tapeworms, or an agent – especially a drug – that kills tapeworms.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 17 May 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Cutting to the Chase: 36 Questions to Ask on a First Date

Being at the CrimeFest convention in Bristol this weekend has provided a lot of food for thought, mainly about our relationships with other people, how we perceive ourselves, and how we develop our characters.

Inside the Minds of Business Prospects

It was perhaps some form of karma, therefore, that I came across a link online to a blog on which referred to a piece in the New York Times from January this year. The article claimed that anyone could fall in love with a stranger by asking them certain questions and then staring into their eyes for four minutes. The blog suggested that it could be used as a means of cutting through the does-he/doesn’t-he, will-she/won’t-she uncertainty of early dating.

It would be an interesting exercise not only to try on a first date, but also to a character. In my case I think it will prove very useful for filling in those awkward pauses that sometimes occur during social occasions with comparative strangers. Try ’em and see what you think:


This week’s Word of the Week is catafalque, a wonderful word I found in Kate Griffin’s book. It means a decorated wooden framework, bier or box supporting the coffin of a distinguished person during a funeral or while lying in state.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 3 May 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Ruth Rendell RIP

"I think you’re getting things a bit out of proportion, Mr Parsons."

With this line – from the first chapter of her debut published novel, FROM DOON WITH DEATH – so began the illustrious career of Ruth Rendell, who died yesterday, May 2nd at the age of 85.

Ruth Rendell
Baroness Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell was brought up in east London. She began her literary career as a journalist on a local Essex newspaper. Even then her flair for fiction became apparent when she wrote up a dinner at a tennis club without attending, and therefore failed to mention that the chairman had dropped dead halfway through his after-dinner speech!


This week’s Word of the Week is deracinate, a lovely word I happened across in a novel by Robert Wilson which I’ve been reading for the panel I’m moderating at CrimeFest later this month. The word means to pull up by the roots, to isolate or remove from a native culture or environment. From the Old French deraciner, from the Latin radix a root.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 19 April 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Playing with perspective — the amazing street art of Julian Beever

When I write I always love playing with people’s preconceptions. My good guys are rarely all good, and there are usually some redeeming features in my bad guys. It’s not only the characters I try to do this with, but the situations and locations as well. And whilst I hope I never cheat the reader, what you think is going on might not be case.

Julian Beever self-portraits

When I worked as a photographer, it was often said that the camera never lied. Fortunately, though, it could be made to be exceedingly economical with the truth. It all depended not only on lighting and filtering but also on exactly where you placed the camera in relation to the subject of the shot.

Someone who is a master at playing with our visual perception is British artist Julian Beever. Julian studied art at Leeds Met. University and did a variety of different jobs, from English as a Foreign Language teacher to tree planter.


This week’s Word of the Week is anamorphosis, which comes from the Greek anamorphoun, to transform. It means a drawing or projection, which presents a distorted image that appears natural when viewed from a certain angle, or with a suitable mirror or lens.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 5 April 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

From Diana to Venus — how the days of the week got their names

I’ve always had a fascination with words and their origins, particularly those words that have come into common usage. And surely there can be few words used quite as frequently as the days of the week?

Sun over Jerash in Jordan

Having said that, it wasn’t always straightforward to pinpoint which day was which. Way back around the First Century AD the Roman Empire used the nundinal cycle which used a ‘market week’ that actually had eight days, so The Beatles had it right . . .


This week’s Word of the Week is anfractuous, meaning sinuous or circuitous. It comes from the Latin anfractus, meaning winding, turning, or bending around. This in turn comes from frangere meaning to break, from which we also get fracture and fragment, the prefix ‘an-’ meaning it bends around in an unbroken manner. Originally used to describe the curved nature of the auditory canal in the ear, but could just as well be applied to the plot of a good crime novel, which twists and turns but can still be followed to the end.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 22 March 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

The dangerous lure of motorcycling — and why I decided
to make Charlie Fox a biker

Friday heralded the first day of Spring, and with it budding flora, lengthening days, and reckless thoughts of being unpicked from the winter underwear.

Grumpy cat

It also prompted thoughts of getting my Triumph Street Triple out of hibernation and shaking the dust from its wheels. In fact, apart from days that were icy or actually snowing, it was only the disgusting amount of salt they spread all over the roads in the UK during the winter that stopped me riding it right through.

Once you get biking into your bloodstream, it’s very hard to get it out again. This is the first British bike I’ve owned, and there’s something rather satisfying about riding a machine from a company whose heritage goes back to 1902. I’m also in some very good company . . .


This week’s Word of the Week is thrasonical meaning bragging or vainglorious. It is taken from the character of a boastful soldier, Thraso, in the play Eunuchus by the ancient Roman playwright, Publius Terentius Afer, better known as Terence. Nice way to insult someone to their face without them realising you’re doing it.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 8 March 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

The Importance of The Right Setting

I’m doing rewrites on a book at the moment, but not the sort of rewrites I’ve done in the past. I would have thought that by now I should be well-versed in this kind of thing, having written twelve books, but this is a new one on me.

I’m not changing the story, as such. That’s not to say, when the book reaches the editing stage, there won’t BE story changes that need to be made, but at it stands I’m reasonably happy with it. It flows, twists and turns, and it makes sense - in as far as a thriller set against a backdrop of the supernatural CAN make sense. I’ve invented a world with certain rules and the inhabitants of this world follow those rules.

Just as, in a vampire story, the Creatures of the Night cannot roam the countryside in daylight, eat garlic bread, or cross the threshold without being invited in. The jury’s still out on the whole ‘sparkling’ debate.

Vampires don't sparkle

This is not a vampire novel, by the way.


This week’s Word of the Week is Stygian which means excessively dark or gloomy, having its roots in the Greek stygios and relating to the River Styx, the main river of Hades, the underworld, in Greek mythology, which the dead had to cross, hence the practice of putting a coin in the mouth of the dead as fare to Charon, the boatman.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 22 February 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Mad as a box of frogs — the art of analogy

At the Love Is Murder conference in Chicago earlier this month, I was asked to give a 90-minute Master Class connected to the craft of writing a crime novel. Mine was called 'Getting Your Plot Together', which pretty much did what it said on the can.

As mad as a box of frogs

Of course, in trying to cram in everything that I felt was important when it comes to planning out your story, deciding what suspense is (and how to create it) I inevitably ran out of time before I ran out of material. I hope all those who attended found the notes I sent out later useful. In fact, many of them were kind enough to email and say just that. It makes all the late nights swotting and worrying over the coursework worthwhile!

One email in particular I received last week has stuck in my mind . . .


This week’s Word of the Week is catachresis, from the Greek for 'abuse'. It means the use of the wrong word in a given context, such as using 'decimate' instead of 'devastate', or 'ravished' when we mean 'famished' or 'ravenous'; using a forced figure of speech, such as "'Tis deepest winter in Lord Timon's purse." (Shakespeare, Timon of Athens); using a word that isn't entirely correct because otherwise there would be no suitable word, such as describing a chair as having 'legs' when we mean the posts that hold the seat off the floor; or the replacement of a word with something more ambiguous, such as changing 'unemployed' to 'job-seeker'.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 8 February 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

An Unexpected Pleasure

This weekend I’m in Rosemont - part of the Chicago urban conurbation - for the Love Is Murder conference. So, I leave snow in the Peak District . . . for snow in Illinois instead.

Chicago snow plough

No fun to land at O’Hare and then spend nearly an hour with the pilot rumbling round the airport perimeter looking for somewhere to park amid the 200 other planes that were looking either to do the same or for a cleared runway from which to take off.

And here was me thinking that places like this were always better prepared for their weather than we ever are in the UK . . .


This week’s Word of the Week is retronym, which means a word that has to be retro-fitted with an addition, newly because things change as time goes on. Hence we need to specify ‘desktop’ computer as opposed to ‘laptop’ computer, and ‘acoustic’ guitar to differentiate it from an ‘electric’ guitar. This word was sent to me by our very own regular follower, Everett Kaser. Thanks, EvKa!

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 25 January 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

New Days

Winter is upon the UK good and proper. I arrived home to tales of wild and unpredictable weather, power-cuts and general transport mayhem. If it isn’t the airports hit by thundersnow, it’s the Channel Tunnel hit by truck fires and electrical problems. It all seems a far cry from the balmy hills of Tuscany.

Montisi vista

Getting away to Italy over New Year was an opportunity to take a deep breath, absorb some stunning scenery along with the history and the architecture, and get my head back into a writing space.


This week’s Word of the Week is nuncupative, meaning oral, i.e. spoken rather than written. Its English usage can be traced back to the 16th century and it usually refers to a will or testament made in extreme circumstances when someone was terminally ill or mortally wounded. Under Roman law, a nuncupative will could take the form of a spoken declaration in the presence of witnesses. Such wills are supposedly still admissible in some US states.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 11 January 2015 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

A Different View

When it got to Christmas 2014 I realised that I needed a break. I know to some people the entire life of a writer may seem like one long holiday but nevertheless I felt I needed a complete change of scene.

The fact that rural Derbyshire had just disappeared under six inches of snow might have had something to do with it, too, although as a skier I like the white stuff.

Tuscan hill-top villa

So, when the friend-of-a-friend offered me three weeks’ cat-sitting in a villa in Tuscany, how could I turn it down?


This week’s Word of the Week is feuilleton, meaning a story published in instalments. It originated when French newspapers began to include separate sections devoted to literature, art, fashion or even fiction, a practice quite normal today but innovative at the time. The word is a diminutive of feuillet, French for sheet of paper, derived from Latin folium, leaf, which we are familiar with as folio, a leaf or page of a book.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 28 December 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

The Weather Outside Is Frightful . . .

The greetings of the season to all of you! Well, the snow arrived yesterday to the UK with predictable chaotic results.

Normally I’d be absolutely delighted, because I’m a sucker for snow and like nothing better than to get out there and build weird snowmen. In past years I’ve done an Easter Island head, a giant teddy bear, a great white shark and something that was supposed to be a Chinese lion dog but went somewhere awry along the way. I also attempted an actual-size horse, but the snow turned powdery halfway through and I couldn’t get its legs to stay on

However, this year I attempt to fly out of the country tomorrow (December 29th) so I can’t help but wish the roads had remained dry and clear until after I go wheels-up from Stansted.


This week's Word of the Week, my last of 2014, is chionophobia, meaning an extreme dislike or fear of snow. The word originates from Greek chion meaning snow and phobos meaning fear, aversion or dread.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 14 December 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Arguments With My Cat . . .

OK, I’ll admit right from the start that the cat involved in this tale isn’t actually mine. I’m currently house- and cat-sitting while the owner’s out of the country. Not, I sometimes think, that merely living in the same house as a cat should imply ownership on part of said human in relation to said feline.

Traitor cat

In fact it’s far more likely that the cat views the humans it deigns to share space with as ‘staff’. We mistakenly view them as our ‘pets’ or -- worse than that -- as a working animal whose purpose in life is to keep the interior of the house free from small furry pests of any description.

This theory was put to the test by the slight ‘difference of opinion’ I had with the cat-with-whom-I-share-space recently.


This week's Word of the Week is felicide, meaning the killing of a cat. I wonder why there should be a special word for that? But to balance the scales there's also felicificative, meaning a tendency to make happy, possibly even as the result of being owned by a cat.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 30 November 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

The Best Laid Plans . . .

OK, let me just say that I was not intending to do a picture-heavy blog this week, even though my trip to Iceland was BRILLIANT (and Iceland Noir wasn’t bad, either . . .)

But then between getting back from Reykjavík and sitting down to scribble, this happened:

oh, my poorly finger!

And no, the dark mark you can see towards the right-hand side of the sliced bit of finger is not muck, it’s where I got fed up of the damn thing splitting open again and stitched it back together myself over the kitchen table.

So, that decided it. Pretty pictures and captions it is.


This week's Word of the Week is aurora borealis, from the Latin aurora meaning sunrise, or Aurora who was the Roman goddess of dawn, and boreas being Greek for the north wind. The name was first used by Galileo in the early sixteen-hundreds. The meteorological phenomena are caused by charged particles coming down into the atmosphere and causing optical emissions. They are, of course, otherwise known as the Northern Lights or, in Icelandic, norðurlósin*.

*Thanks to our own Yrsa for the translation.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 9 November 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November


As I write this blog, I’ve just come in on Saturday evening from watching a local fireworks display, and pretty magnificent it was too. There was a huge bonfire, too, of course, although with no guy effigy perched on the top. When I was a kid, November 5th (or the nearest Saturday to it) was always known as Guy Fawkes’ Night. These days it seems the generic Bonfire Night has taken over.

And it also seems that more people know the Guy Fawkes’ mask for the movie ‘V for Vendetta’ than they do for the man on whom it is modelled.

But the mask is still worn by protesters the world over when they want both to retain their anonymity and show a symbol of opposition to the government of the day. It would seem that these days more people applaud Mr Fawkes’ intentions rather than his notable lack of success.


This week's Word of the Week is deartuate, meaning to dismember.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 26 October 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Now Is The Time For The Burning Of The Leaves

Autumn Reds

A couple of weeks ago I was out in my car − with the roof down, naturally − and all I could smell as I drove past a wooded area was fallen leaves. That and bonfires are the smells of autumn past for me. And the title of this blog, taken from the poem by Laurence Binyon, was one that appealed to me because Binyon was born in a house in Lancaster − my old stamping ground. The house still bears a blue plaque bearing his name as its claim to celebrity.

Now is the time for the burning of the leaves.
They go to the fire; the nostril pricks with smoke
Wandering slowly into a weeping mist.
Brittle and blotched, ragged and rotten sheaves!
A flame seizes the smouldering ruin and bites
On stubborn stalks that crackle as they resist.

But despite this affection for the smell of the aforementioned fallen leaves, Autumn is not my favourite time of year for several reasons. The days start to shrink, so that by four thirty in the afternoon the light is definitely starting to recede. After this weekend, here in the UK, the clocks go back an hour as British Summer Time ends. Left to my own devices I’d shift the clocks half an hour and leave them be for the whole year. None of this Springing forwards or Falling back to remember.


This week's Word of the Week is nerterology, meaning the lore that pertains to the dead, from nertero, from the Greek nerteros, lower, and in plural nerteroi, those of the Classic underworld, the dead.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 12 October 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Mustn't Grumble

We here in the UK are not noted for our optimistic outlook on life. Ask anyone, "How’s life treating you?" and you’re likely to get the response, "Not bad." Or even, "Not too bad."

Not actively miserable—most of the time—just not exactly bursting with the joys of spring, either.

Grumpy cat

We Brits are generally not the happiest bunch in the world—that honour is taken by Denmark—with the top ten in this year’s World Happiness Report looking like this: 1 Denmark 2 Norway 3 Switzerland 4 Netherlands 5 Sweden 6 Canada 7 Finland 8 Austria 9 Iceland 10 Australia.

And in case you were wondering how the UK fared, we were a gallant 22nd, behind Costa Rica (12th), Mexico (16th), the USA (17th) and Belgium (21st).


This week's Word of the Week is sinecure, meaning a job that requires little or no work for the money. It’s from the Medieval Latin phrase sine cura, which means quite literally without a care. Sinecure was originally used to describe the holding of a clerical post for the church without the bother of having to care for people’s spiritual wellbeing. Such posts had been abolished by the beginning of the last century, but by then the word had come to mean any paid job with few responsibilities attached.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 28 September 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

On Passage

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks aboard a 45-foot Grand Soleil, a rather lovely yacht belonging to friends who were happy to have a slightly rusty crewmember to help with the usual hand-to-hand stuff in harbours and anchorages.

Corfu Harbour

I started my Ionian odyssey in Corfu, where I was picked up by dinghy from a waterside café on the other side of the bay from Corfu Old Town. This was the last time dry land would feel steady under my feet for two weeks.


This week's Word of the Week is viduifical, meaning widow-making. Dates from the early 1700s. Sometimes applied to golf, or even to sailing . . .

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 14 September 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Going Out of Your Way, Not Getting Out of The Way

There used to be a guy who ran my local municipal tip − that’s garbage dump in American − where I’d go if I wanted to dispose of items too large to fit into the standard-issue blue bin bag and put out for collection every week. Now, landfill is a universal problem, but the council are enlightened enough to have separate skips − OK, dumpsters − for garden waste, wood, metal, electrical appliances, as well as the usual recycling bins for glass, tin foil, paper, plastic, batteries and glass.

Can you spot the cat?
Can you spot the cat in this pic?
Took me a little while (my eyes aren't what they were)
but I got there in the end.

Nevertheless, there’s an awful lot of stuff that gets thrown away for no good reason other than its owners don’t want it any more. Working stuff. Stuff that, if they could be arsed, could be given away with a postcard in the local newsagents’ window, or put on a swap site like FreeCycle, or taken to a car boot sale at the weekend. One man’s rubbish, after all, is another’s treasure.


This week's Word of the Week is sophomore, which means a second-year student. I'm sure most of you have come across the word, although it's used far more in the States than in the UK, but did you know it comes from sophos, meaning wise, and moros meaning foolish? I'm saying nuffink . . .

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 31 August 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Travelling Light

By the time my next blog comes around in two weeks, I’ll be in the Eastern Mediterranean, crewing aboard a yacht belonging to some friends.

My kind of yacht

Not a holiday by any means, though, because I have some ideas bubbling away for which sailing the waters of the Ionian will be very useful research. Plus, my role is foredeck gorilla. I will be hauling on things and jumping over the side to swim mooring lines ashore rather than lounging elegantly on deck in a designer bikini. (Erm, OK maybe not. After all, this is me we’re talking about)

Yeah, I know – it’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.

So, with the trip less than a couple of weeks away my mind starts to turn vaguely towards packing. Only vaguely at this stage, because there seems to be a hell of a lot that needs doing before I can even begin to think about actually putting stuff in a bag.


This week's Word of the Weekis lethologica, meaning being unable to recall the precise word for something. And if you become obsessed with trying to recall it, this may lead to loganamnosis, which when you do finally remember it can become onomatomania, where you repeatedly use the word or where it intrudes into your consciousness, like getting a song stuck on constant replay inside your head. I’m sure there’s a word for that, but for the life of me I can’t think of it . . .

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 17 August 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Wrongs and Rights

RIP Jeremiah Healy

My words this week are fragmented, but that’s the kind of week it’s been. To begin with, I was stunned to learn the devastating news that fellow author Jeremiah Healy took his own life a few days ago. Jeremiah Healy and wife SandraJerry was one of the good guys, one who made me feel most welcome when I attended my first US convention in Florida.

Severe depression is a terrible illness for all affected – and by that I mean those closest to the person as well as the one suffering. A bad way to put it, I know, but if someone you love is depressed, everybody around them suffers the agonies of knowing there is nothing they can do to make it right.

My every sympathy goes to Jerry’s wife, fellow author Sandra Balzo. To quote her on the late Robin Williams earlier this week: "Severe depression is as far away from 'the blues' as Ebola is from a cold."

We remember people by the size and shape of the hole they leave behind them in the world. Dammit, Jerry, you’ve left a big hole.

Something For Nothing

To DRM or Not to DRM?

It seems a minor point, after that, to move on to the subject I was intending to bring up this week – the subject of torrent sites and illegal free downloads. It bugs me, but not enough to go stalking those responsible, wearing a ghillie suit and camouflage cream. If a site offering freebie downloads of my books comes to my attention, I’ll do something, but I don’t go trawling the Tinterweb looking for them.

Likewise, I don’t add DRM (Digital Rights Management) to most of my ebooks. DRM is supposed to prevent the user from making copies of the work, but I’ve always gone on the theory that for those people tech-savvy enough to want to do it, bypassing DRM is no barrier, and for the rest of us it’s simply annoying. I recognize that this is a similar argument to not locking your doors at night, on the grounds that professional thieves will know how to break in anyway.


That’s all from me, except for my Word of the Week, which is tristifical, an adjective meaning to cause to be sad or mournful.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 3 August 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Passing Through . . .

Ever since my house sold last year officially I’ve been of No Fixed Abode. Of course, one of the joys of being a writer is that you can carry out your chosen profession almost anywhere. In the past I’ve done just that, managing to scribble away while on planes or trains, or indeed in automobiles.

In fact, I once sent this pic in when asked by those fine folks at The Kill Zone for a shot of my workspace:

My mobile office

Judging from the comments, people obviously hadn’t quite cottoned on to the fact that in the UK we drive on the left-hand-side of the road, and therefore the right-hand-side of the car. I only ever worked on my laptop when in the front PASSENGER seat, just so you know, but these days I’m the driver anyway so that option is no longer open to me.


And finally, this week's Word of the Week is argle-bargle, which is copious or meaningless words or writing.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 20 July 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Talking Down

I’ve always hated the phrase ‘the battle of the sexes’. Not quite one of my pet hates, but close to it. By some quirk of fate I grew up with a total lack of acceptance for the normal stereotypes. I don’t recall my parents ever telling me there were things I couldn’t do based solely on my gender rather than my aptitude. Besides, I never had much of an interest in the more girly dolls, preferring the family Meccano set in its lovely wooden box. If only I still had it now. (sigh)

Meccano set

This week has brought home the gender divide in a number of ways, however. Some good and some bad.


And finally, this week's Word of the Week is amphibology meaning a sentence or phrase that is grammatically ambiguous, such as "I'm sorry it took me so long to answer the door. I was just playing Tomb Raider in my underpants." (One I heard recently — honest!).

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 6 July 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Last month I was invited to take party in several events in libraries around the UK in celebration of National Crime Reading Month. It always fascinates me, when I do these, the kind of questions that come up at the end. This time round it seemed to be one particular comment that sparked people's curiosity.

Character traits

I'd said, in a joky kind of way, that although one would expect that the author had absolute control over the world they create, in my experience that usually isn't the case. Yes, I invent the framework, the location and the situation, but once I've put my characters down into those events, all bets are off. They have a tendency to take their own route and ignore whatever plans I might have had for them at the outset. And the more I try to force them into a preconceived course of action, the more uncooperative the character becomes — as anyone would if forced to do something they really didn’t want to do.


This week’s Word of the Week is proclitic, meaning a word pronounced with so little emphasis it becomes part of the following word, such as t’was, where the first word — it — has been swallowed up by the second. This originated in the mid 19th century, from modern Latin procliticus (from Greek proklinein 'lean forward'). Likewise, enclitic, meaning a word that follows on so closely it’s become part of the preceding word, such as not in can’t.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 22 June 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Facing Up To It

This week sees me returning to a topic I’ve raised before in blogs—writing groups.

Are you a member, or have you ever been a member, of one? What did you feel you got out of it? If you stopped going, why?.

Lemming Writers

When I first moved up to the Lakes I looked for a local writing group and one was just forming. Great, I thought, but when I rang to make further enquiries alarm bells sounded from the fact the organiser spent the entire phone call telling me about her own writing background and didn’t ask a single question about what I might be working on. Still, I went to the first meeting . . .


And this week’s Word of the Week is postiche, an adjective meaning superfluously and inappropriately added to a finished work; counterfeit or false. Also a noun meaning an inappropriate hairpiece or wig.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 8 June 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Four Meals Away From Anarchy

Yesterday morning I was working away on my laptop when there came the most amazing thunder and lightning storm, accompanied by a downpour the weathermen had predicted with the word "monsoon" attached. Not quite my idea of a monsoon, but pretty impressive all the same.

If this had happened a few years ago I would have hurriedly shut down my computer, disconnected the hardwire to the modem, and resorted to using a myPad (pencil and paper) or neck-top computer (also pencil and paper) until the storm had passed.

Thunder and lightning

Now, however, I just yanked out the power lead and carried on wirelessly.

Ah, how times have changed.


And this week’s Word of the Week is facinorous, which means atrociously wicked, from facinus, a crime

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 25 May 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

The Memory Game

As you may have realised, I TOTALLY forgot it was my MiE blog today. (Bad writer, no biscuit!).

Derren Brown

And forgetting something so important reminded me of something I read a few years ago, in a book by Derren Brown called TRICKS OF THE MIND, about dramatically improving your memory. Derren Brown, for those of you who are not aware of him, is part illusionist, part psychologist, and all showman. The Guardian newspaper described him as, "Clearly the best dinner-party guest in history—he’s either a balls-out con artist or the scariest man in Britain." His various TV series over here have dumbfounded and entertained in equal measure, and while the knowing style of his book has taken a bit of getting used to, the information contained in it is just fascinating.

And why is this relevant here? Because, if I understand him correctly and extrapolate accordingly, fiction writers should have the best memories ever. Elephants should be as fickle goldfish compared to us lot.


Oh, and before I forget, this week's Word of the Week is zeroable, which is a word that is able to be omitted from a sentence without any loss of meaning. I try to eliminate all zeroable words at the copy-editing stage. Doesn’t always work, though . . .

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 11 May 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads


In today’s rush-rush-rush world, we are constantly trying to take on more work—usually all at the same time. It may seem exhausting, but I’m a believer that the more you do, the more you can do. Up to a point, of course, but I find that achieving a number of small goals during the day is encouraging enough to have an energising effect.

Unable to focus on the task at hand

Trying to juggle too many things, however, just causes stress. I have a theory that we only have a certain tolerance and ability to absorb stress. And once that elastic has been stretched way past breaking point, things never quite go back to the way they were. Or, if they do, it takes far longer than we may think to recover.

But I often find it helpful to do two things at the same time—particularly if they’re totally different in nature. We have a creative side of the brain and a practical side. Distract the practical side with something physical and it often leaves the creative side free to problem-solve and, in my case, come up with answers to sticky plot-points that have been defeating me for days.

Take this week, for example . . .


This week's Word of the Week is berserk, usually used in the context of ‘to go berserk’. It comes from ancient Norse warriors who were noted to fight with great ferocity that was almost uncontrolled. The word itself comes from the Old Norse berserkr and it’s thought that originates from their style of dress, combining bjorn (bear) or maybe berr ‘bare’ (without armour) and serkr (coat).

Two chances to multitask in your reading material

Thrilling 13

Also this week, I have news of two chances to multitask in your reading material. They say the way to read more books, is to surround yourself with them and dip in and out. If that’s the case you’ll love these two e-boxed sets just out.

Adrenaline Rush

The first is THRILLING THIRTEEN, which offers ten mystery thrillers, two novellas and a short story from some of today’s top thriller writers—oh, erm, and me. I've chosen to include ABSENCE OF LIGHT: a Charlie Fox novella, which finds Charlie working as security advisor for a Disaster Recovery Team after a major earthquake. Even if you've already read this book, there's plenty more for you to enjoy.

The other e-boxed set is ADRENALINE RUSH, containing seven thrillers by even more top mystery thriller writers, including a different book from me. In this case, my recent standalone THE BLOOD WHISPERER, featuring former CSI turned crime-scene cleaner, Kelly Jacks, who went to prison for a crime she can't remember.

Both collections are available for the eye-wateringly reasonable price of $1.30 or just £0.77.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 27 April 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

With All Undue Respect

You treat people with a respect you somehow do not expect to receive yourself.

This was said to me last year by someone I’ve known for a long time, if not closely. I had no idea he’d observed me well enough to form such an opinion one way or another.

The only thing that changes . . .

My first instinct was denial. Or not quite denial but certainly qualification. Respect is not something that can be expected—not in the present world.

It has to be worked for, earned.

And once you have it, you can’t simply hang it above the fireplace like a dusty stag’s head trophy and expect admiration from all comers. It has to be carefully maintained or the moths will turn it into little more than a memory.


Instead of a Word of the Week, this time round I have a selection of quotations on the subject of respect—or lack of it. For example:
'"With the greatest respect," I said. Always a nice phrase to use when you intend to speak without any.'—Charlie Fox

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 13 April 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

What not to say to a writer

Last week I went to a party. An unusual event in itself for me, but this was doubly unusual because it was a party of non-writers. Thanks for not letting my ego . . . Over the last few years my few social gatherings have tended to be at writing conventions, so I find myself largely Among My Own Kind, as it were.

However, this was different. I found myself in a group of people, very few of whom I’d met previously, and none of whom were writers. Not only that, but they didn’t quite have a handle on exactly what it was I did for a living.

It is a bit of a peculiar occupation for those not involved in it to grasp, I admit, and I’ve often discovered that when people don’t understand what you do, they are—unintentionally, I’m sure—incredibly rude about it. Now, don’t get me wrong. These were otherwise terribly nice people, but after a while I started to play Writer’s Insult Bingo, and very nearly scored a Full House.


This week’s Word of the Week is agraphia, meaning an inability to write, although it differs from the usual writer’s block as it is defined as a language disorder resulting from some form of brain damage. It is noted that there’s no direct treatment for agraphia, although some people can learn techniques to help them regain a portion of their previous writing abilities. It is often accompanied by aphasia (speechlessness) and alexia (the inability to understand written words).

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 30 March 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Music & Lyrics (But Without Hugh Grant)

Music and Lyrics

Music plays a huge part in my writing, even if it never appears on the page. I’m not just talking about having the characters sitting around listening to blues, or jazz—or country and western, come to that. My characters very rarely get the opportunity to relax enough to do so. I’m talking about the actual business of writing.

For me, nothing creates mood or atmosphere faster than music and I exploit this phenomenon to its fullest extent whenever I sit down to write. I used to have a huge collection of CDs—everything from Gregorian chants to Zydeco, via Philip Glass, Linkin Park and Goldfrapp. Since moving, however, finding room for all those CDs was going to be a problem, so I uploaded them all onto an external hard drive and some onto my smartphone. It’s been an operation of partial success, but I’m working on it.


This week’s Word of the Week is anomie, which is a useful word to know if you’re stuck with a load of vowels in a game of Scrabble. It means social instability or resulting from a breakdown of standards and values; personal unrest, alienation, and uncertainty that comes from a lack of purpose or ideals; general lawlessness.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 16 March 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Taking It On The Chin

Literary critic

Somebody once told me that writers have to take more criticism in a year than most people have to deal with in a lifetime.

The advent of the internet has turned everyone into a critic. Not just that, but an anonymous critic. In some ways this is good, if it allows somebody to speak their mind when they would feel constrained not to do so otherwise—for whatever reason.

Of course, in other ways it’s terrible, because it allows people to be snide and nastier than is called for, secure in the knowledge that there won’t be any comebacks should they happen ever to bump into the author they’ve slated.


This week’s Phrase of the Week is Sweet FA, meaning anything boring, monotonous and not worth describing. Although this has come to mean Sweet Fuck All, it actually stands for Sweet Fanny Adams. Fanny Adams was an eight-year-old girl from Hampshire who was found murdered and dismembered in the eighteen-sixties. At about the same time as this crime, the British Navy changed their rations from salted tack to tins of low-grade chopped-up sweet mutton. The new ration was tasteless and unpopular, so sailors suggested with macabre humour that the new meat was the remains of the murdered girl, christening the ration Sweet Fanny Adams.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 3 March 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Understanding "Row-DYE-lin"—PROVIDENCE RAG by Bruce DeSilva

Bruce DeSilva

I'm delighted to have the opportunity this week to do a Q&A with the charming and talented Bruce DeSilva, author of the Liam Mulligan series set in Providence, Rhode Island, and to chat with him about the reasons behind the location for his multi-award winning novels.

Zoë Sharp: PROVIDENCE RAG, the third crime novel in your series featuring investigative reporter Mulligan, is yet another beautifully observed book. And once again, the story is set in “RowDYElin.” I know you now live in New Jersey, but how much time did you spend in Rhode Island in order to write this?

Bruce DeSilva: I made several road trips to do research and to catch up with family and friends who live in the area. But I grew up in a little Massachusetts town twenty miles from the Rhode Island border, started my working life as a reporter for The Providence Journal, and lived in the state for years. I know the place well.


I invited Bruce DeSilva to contribute this week’s Word of the Week and he suggested the German noun serienmorder. "It means," he explains, "exactly what it sounds like. The word was coined by a German detective named Ernst Gennat in 1930. Robert Ressler, one of the first FBI profilers, is generally credited with coining the English equivalent, serial killer, in 1974."

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 16 February 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Great Uncle Bulgaria

However great the internet is for research—and I speak as someone who’s watched the World Wide Web develop from its first faltering 'very-novel-but-what-use-is-it?' steps—I still feel there’s no substitute for the real thing. And by that I mean seeing, smelling, touching and hearing whatever it is you’re trying to write about. Particularly when it comes to creating a sense of place.

Skidoo research in Bulgaria
No substitute for the real thing—hands-on skidoo research for a future Charlie Fox adventure!

I appreciate that as scribblers of fiction our fundamental job is to Make Stuff Up but, even so, adding just a tinge of authenticity to a piece of work can make all the difference between the whole setting of the book ringing false or true.


This week’s Word of the Week is eureka, which is most commonly recognised as the exclamation made by Greek scholar Archimedes when he stepped into his bath and realised that the amount of water displaced by his body meant that the volume of irregular shaped objects could now be measured with precision. It comes from the Greek heúrēka, meaning "I have found (it)".

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 2 February 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night . . .

It was a dark and stormy night ...

I'm fascinated by opening lines. It’s a question I always ask other writers: "What’s the opening line of your last/latest book?" and it’s amazing how often they can’t quite seem to remember, or maybe they’re just a little embarrassed to be able to quote it verbatim off the top of their head.

For me, nothing is harder to write than that first sentence. I’m reminded of the famous quote—can’t remember who originally said it—that goes: ‘After three months of continuous hard labour, he thought he might just have a first draft of the opening line.’ Always gets a laugh, but the terrible thing is that it’s not far off the truth.


This week’s Word of the Week is adoxography, meaning fine writing in praise of trivial or base subjects, or eruditely praising worthless things.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 19 January 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Oh the irony . . . handling writer's block

I set out this week to write a post about writer’s block. For several hours all I had was the title, which struck me as somewhat ironic. Maybe I should have set out to do a post on writer’s extraordinary productivity instead.

Cure for writer's block

I’ve never really considered that I suffer from writer’s block. I view my work as a craft not an art, and whilst I’m always striving to become a better craftsman, that doesn’t mean I can get away with sitting around waiting for the muse to strike. Putting arse in chair and putting fingers on keyboard generally works for me. This is a job, after all, no longer a hobby. For years my screensaver has been a revolving line of text which reads: Get On With It.


This week’s Word of the Week is aeolist, meaning a pompous person, or someone who pretends to have inspiration or spiritual insight.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 5 January 2014 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Having a Stab At It

Well, 2014 is under way. Come the end of this month it will officially become the Year of the Horse, according to our Lisa Brackmann and if you’re one for making Resolutions, top of many a New Year’s list will be finally to get that novel Finished and Out There.

Mind you, although there have never been more ways of independently publishing your work, there’s no doubt about it that many of us crave the sense of approval that comes with a traditional publishing deal. If you’re currently sitting at home contemplating your as-yet-unseen masterpiece in the crime, mystery or thriller genre, but are finding the process of submission a bit daunting, hope is at hand.

There is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel in the form of the Debut Dagger Competition from the CWA—the UK Crime Writers’ Association.


This week's Word of the Week is monophthong, meaning a simple vowel sound.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 22 December 2013 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

The Year is Dead. Long Live the Year.

The festive season is a time of mixed emotions for me. More of an end than a beginning.

Being a pessimist of world-class proportions, I have a tendency to look back at all the things I didn't achieve over the course of the year and, naturally enough, they stick in my mind a lot more firmly than the things I did manage to get done. I seem to recall standing in exactly this spot at exactly this time at the end of 2012, thinking the same things.

So, what makes people actually make a big change in their lives?


This week's Word of the Week is zumbooruk, which is a small cannon carried on the back of a camel. Goes nicely with zabernism, a misuse of military power.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 8 December 2013 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Still Calling Out My Name

December already. Where did the year go? Well, I ask that question but in reality I know the answer. It passed in a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Highs and lows that sit like peaks and valleys of a mountain range on the horizon, one that is rapidly disappearing into the gathering dusk of another year.

Some of my highlights, though, involve travel. Like many people I have a bucket list of places I really want to see. And if I remember 2013 for no other reason, it will be because I managed to tick one-and-a-half things off that list.


Yeah, I know, but stick with me on this.


One of this week's Words of the Week is petrichor—the scent of rain on dry earth or the dust after rain has fallen. For a handful of other favourite words, do follow the above link to this week's complete blog.

From Iceland Noir in Reykjavik—Sunday, 24 November 2013 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Quirky keyboard

Quirky. That’s the first word that springs to mind when I think of Iceland. Raw and beautiful, sure, but quirky most of all. I love the sly sense of humour that comes across so well from the people, the friendliness, and the laid back attitude.

For someone who’s used to travelling to the States and being grilled by Immigration on the way in, the bare glance given to my passport at Keflavik was a surprise, the way the bus driver forgot to apply the handbrake when he stopped to let someone out on a hill on the way to our hotel, the way we were told to leave coats hanging on an open rack because “there is no crime in Iceland” was all a delight.

Of course, considering I am in Reykjavík for Iceland Noir, Iceland’s first festival of crime fiction, that’s a bit of a drawback. Still, better for all the crime to be committed on the page than on the streets—especially considering the long dark winter nights that are the current norm.


This week's Word of the Week is blamestorming, which is to sit around in a group discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.

MURDER IS EVERYWHERE—Sunday, 10 November 2013 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Playing With Words

This past week or so has been a period of enormous upheaval. I know I’m listed here as being of No Fixed Abode, but this is now literal as well as literary. I have moved house, something I’ve done many times in the past, but for the first time I have no permanent new home to go to. It provokes a curious feeling of detachment — almost of weightlessness.

I can’t quite decide if it’s rather freeing or scares me half to death.

The only constant is work. The written word. At the moment I have rewrites on an existing book that really ought to be completed before Christmas, and the planning of a new book to keep my mind occupied. I’ve also been talking about writing — no substitute, I know, but the closest I’ve got to the Real Thing recently.

First up was at the 60th anniversary event for the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) at Foyle’s bookstore in London . . .

27 October 2013 – Another guest blog at MURDER IS EVERYWHERE Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Getting from There to Here (Take 2)

I blame Jeff and Stan. They ambushed me in the bar at Bouchercon last month. One minute we were recounting our favourite Flanders and Swann songs, with much juvenile giggling, and the next I’d been talked into joining this illustrious little gang. I’m still not entirely sure how we got from there to here.

I don’t even drink.

But, here I am, nervously smoothing down my hair and straightening my Sunday-best frock, trying to remember my lines and hoping not to be met with, at best, a blank-faced stony silence.

And it occurred to me that I really ought to introduce myself properly to my new bloggers and bloggees. So here goes.


This week's Word of the Week is absquatulate, meaning to leave abruptly or quickly, or to flee. As opposed to levant, which means to run off without paying a debt, or abscond, to run in order to evade capture or justice, usually taking something or someone along with you. If your dog gallops out of the house and hot-foots it down the garden, he’s absquatulating. If he has the Sunday roast clamped in his jaws while he does so, he’s absconding.

20 October 2013 – Today I begin a new blog at MURDER IS EVERYWHERE Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

Getting from There to Here

Have you ever stopped and looked around you, and wondered how you got from there to here? I’m not talking about those momentary lapses during familiar journeys when the autopilot takes over, and you suddenly realise you’ve missed your junction on the motorway. Nor am I indulging in some deep cosmic navel-gazing.

Instead, I’m asking the question on a more down-to-earth level—when you first became aware that there was this nebulous thing called ‘a career’ and that you were expected to have one, what did you imagine you would become?

Being a horse-mad child, I naturally wanted to emulate my show-jumping heroes—or in this case, heroines—and in particular Caroline Bradley, who really set light to the sport until her tragic death in 1983 at the age of only thirty-seven. Sadly, being jumped up and down on rather a lot by very large horses with very big feet soon proved to me I don’t have the nerve for the really big fences, although being a riding instructor is still more or less my only professional qualification.