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, 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.

12 October 2013 – Today I'm Guest of Joe Hartlaub on the KIll ZONE Blog Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

A Leap in the Dark . . .

Every writer makes constant leaps in the dark. In fact, taking a great big bound into the unknown is standard operating procedure for most of us. The Blood Whisperer Every time I sit down at my keyboard and open up a new file—chapter one, page one—and the only thing visible on a stark white screen is a little cursor in the top left-hand corner, it always seems to be flashing, not in a friendly way, but in an impatient, ever-so-slightly taunting way.

As if to say, "Get on with it."

As if to say, "Last time was a fluke, wasn’t it? And the time before that. You can’t do it again, can you?"

At least, writing my Charlie Fox crime thriller series, I’ve always had the reassuring feeling in the back of my mind that I’m on ground that, if not exactly safe, is at least a known quantity. After all, I know people love the character of Charlie. Many email me hoping for a hint of what’s going to happen in her tortuous relationship with her former training instructor and close-protection boss, Sean Meyer.

And even if I push the boundaries a little with what I put the pair of them through, ten books into their story it is easy to slip beneath their skin.

Not so with a standalone.

My first standalone mystery thriller, THE BLOOD WHISPERER, came out last month. It’s been a while in the making, and I wrote it because I wanted to explore a different world to that inhabited by Charlie Fox . . .


This week's Word of the Week is amphibology, meaning a phrase or sentence that has an ambiguous meaning or one that can be read in more than one way. It comes from the Greek amphi-, 'both' and ballein 'to throw', so it could be translated as 'to hit at both ends'. A nice example I was given was an editor who has received an unsolicited manuscript: "I shall waste no time in reading your book!"

My Australian Guest Blog, 8 October 2013 Like me or Friend me on Facebook Follow me on Twitter I'm on goodreads

The Usual Questions . . .

Has your interaction with fans, for example, at conventions, affected your work?

Yes, hugely. I love meeting readers and getting their feedback on my books. I've also put a number of character names up for auction in aid of various literary charities at the Bouchercon mystery convention or Left Coast Crime. It's always been a delight as well as a challenge to include not just the winning bidder's name, but also some little character asides only they would recognise. And all for excellent causes.

Is there any particular incident (a letter, a meeting, a comment) that stands out?

Quite often in these charity auctions someone will offer 'have breakfast/lunch with the author'. I decided to go a little further and once put 'have breakfast . . . and go to the gun range with the author'. And then the lady who made the winning bid had been blind since birth . . .