A couple of weeks ago, I resigned myself to the horrors of a new computer.

This is always a nightmare of acclimatising to upgraded operating systems, trusty programs that are no longer available, and incompatible files.

I hate it.

It’s one reason, I confess, that I finally went over to the Dark Side with my last computer and bought a MacBook Air. It’s been absolutely wonderful, and has served me faithfully for the past seven years—far longer, I have to admit, than any of my previous PC laptops lasted.

And it’s not ready for the great parts bin in the sky quite yet. Removing all the accumulated rubbish and rebooting the operating system will apparently see it keep going for quite a while longer. At least, I hope so…

The real problem is that when I first gave myself MacBook Airs and graces, I was not doing nearly as much photo manipulation as I am now, having taken a deep dive into cover design. I need something with a faster processor and now seemed the ideal time to go back to a desktop. So, I’ve bought myself an iMac and, once I stopped cursing at it and threatening to throw it out of the window—and when I discovered how to switch off the dreaded Cloud that seemed to be eating all my files and regurgitating them in corrupted guise—I think I’ve finally made friends with it.

The almost blank desktop screen is strangely calming.

But, I did say ‘almost’ there. Because already four or five folders and icons have crept onto the right-hand side and I know I won’t ever get a better time to bring some organisational order to the way I work.

The question I face is…how?

At the moment I have, for example, a folder marked FICTION. That leads to more folders titled things like CHARLIE FOX SERIES, LAKES TRILOGY, SHORT STORIES, STANDALONES, etc.

Those in turn lead to more folders, one for each title. So, in the case of the latest Charlie Fox novel, I have a pathway that goes FICTION > CHARLIE FOX SERIES > BAD TURN.

So far, so good.

In the {TITLE} folder live all the peripheral documents, such as:

Acknowledgements. There’s nothing worse than the book coming out and you realise you’ve forgotten to thank someone who provided vital information right at the start of the project. I keep a document on the go and drop names into it as soon as they occur.

Jacket Copy. This is the brief book synopsis that normally appears on the back of the book jacket, or on the retailer page. I usually write this before I even start on the book itself, to keep myself tuned to the basic idea. It can be very helpful to run this by interested parties and watch their reactions carefully. If they look intrigued, you know you might just have something…

Metadata. By the time I’ve finished a book and it’s ready to upload, this file usually runs to about 25 pages. It contains every piece of information on the book that I need in order to register the ISBN number and upload it, including keywords, categories, page counts, descriptions, etc. Trying to go through this process without a giant crib sheet is incredibly difficult. I can’t believe it took me so long to put together a template for this file.

Outline. Sometimes this is the kind of thing I could show a publisher but more often than not, it’s my own personal writing outline, with a full character list, back story, and what happens off-camera to explain how the elements of the story slot together. It changes—a LOT—during the course of writing the book. I will usually also have:

Story Breakdown. This is more like a conventional publisher synopsis, with the plot divided into three acts and the turning point of each act noted. This is more of a note on structure than story.

And then I have my Summary. Even if you don’t plot beforehand, I always recommend keeping a summary of the book as you write it. Just a paragraph on each chapter with the main point of action, dialogue and character development. If structural edits are needed afterwards, I note them on the summary to work out how best to incorporate them into the book as a whole.

Other folders in the {TITLE} folder are BOOK, which is where I actually keep my work-in-progress documents. I’ve always written each draft chapter in a separate document, then dropped it into the overall book doc when it’s done.

There’s also a COVER folder, where I keep different versions of the final cover images, including the spine and back cover, hi-res for print use, and lo-res for website or internet use.

Another folder is called EDITS AND FEEDBACK, which is fairly self-explanatory. It’s where I keep all the emails and notes from beta readers, my Advance Reader Team, copyeditor, and proofreader.

A further folder is marked RESEARCH, where I store any articles on related topics, and images that might come in useful while writing, such as this one of the layout of a truck braking system, which anyone who read BAD TURN will realise the significance of.

I also keep any pictures of actors, etc, who have the look of characters in the book. I labelled this one of Everett McGill as ‘Conrad Epps’:

And this one of Oded Fehr as ‘Khalid Hamzeh’:

I also keep a folder for REVIEWS, although I try not to look at them too much. That way, madness lies…

And then there are the folders for book production—PRINT and VELLUM & EBOOK.

PRINT contains the content pdfs for the paperback, hardcover and large print editions, the cover templates and actual full-wrap cover files, and the downloaded proofs. If I’ve used any special fonts, they’ll be in another folder in this folder.

The VELLUM & EBOOK folder contains the Vellum document, which is the program I use to convert a Word doc to ebook formats and print-ready pdf, plus the mobi and epub files for both the ARC and the final versions, and the Vellum-produced cover images to upload.

And that’s about it.

What you have to bear in mind is that BAD TURN is book 13 in the Charlie Fox series. I have another 12 {TITLE} folders in the CHARLIE FOX folder, each of which contains all those elements. Often, when I’m putting together a metadata file for one book, I check back to see how I did something on the last. It involves quite a bit of hopping about and I regularly have so many folders open on the desktop I struggle to work out which is which.

It’s not enough to label a folder COVER, I have to call it BT-COVER just to be sure I know which folder I’ve found. Because, that’s not the only place I keep covers…

In the main FICTION folder, I then have another called COVERS. This is where I keep the PhotoShop files of all the covers I’m working on, the jpg images of the final cover, the original images that make up the different covers, their attributions and picture credits, as well as all the draft versions, and covers I played about with that didn’t quite make the cut. I also keep versions with and without a border. The latter feature is something I realised I needed when I started having covers that were either black or white, to make sure the cover edges are visible on all backgrounds, as you can see from the image below.

The reason these are all together like this is because, when I’m building one cover it’s very important to get the elements lined up with those that have come before it. I need to make sure the author name and series indication is in the same size font and in the same position on the cover. For that, it’s easier to keep everything in one place.

Or, at least, I think it is…

Things have become a little easier since I discovered how to use an Alias on a Mac desktop, which is basically a shortcut. (And I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to work that one out.) But I’m still left wondering, is there a better way to do this? A more logical layout? A better critical path analysis?

What do you use? All advice gratefully received!

This week’s Word of the Week came courtesy of EvKa. It’s trophallaxis, meaning the mutual exchange of regurgitated liquids between adult insects and their larvae. It also means the transfer of food or other fluids among members of a community through mouth-to-mouth or anus-to-mouth feeding. Along with nutrients, trophallaxis can involve the transfer of molecules such as pheromones, organisms such as symbionts, and information to serve as a form of communication.

(Note to self: if asked to ‘communicate’ with EvKa, ask questions on method before agreeing…)

You can view and comment on this blog over on Murder Is Everywhere.

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As I write this, early in October, the news is full of what’s happening in Syria. In human terms, it’s an utter tragedy that is unfolding as we watch. In political terms, the ramifications could resonate world-wide.

Normally, I shy away from commenting on politics. But last year when I was looking at the underlying themes for BAD TURN, the latest Charlie Fox crime thriller, I knew there was going to be an international arms dealer involved. I also knew I there were going to be differing opinions within the dealer’s organisation about which side of a conflict he was going to supply—or refuse to supply—with arms and equipment.

Syria was, to me, an obvious candidate. And not just Syria but the Kurdish population of the region. The Kurds inhabit eastern Turkey, areas in the north of Syria, Iraq and Iran, as well as touching into Armenia and Azerbaijan, almost up to the border with Georgia.

When Syria slowly disintegrated into civil war following the Arab Spring, the rebels, including the Syrian Kurds, were supported by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. The Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad was backed by Russia, Iraq, Iran and Hezbollah.

The situation in the region is incredibly complex and has no easy solution. I knew the Kurds had been instrumental in the suppression of ISIS in Syria and northern Iraq. I also felt, rightly or wrongly, that the Coalition forces involved in the first Gulf War had called upon groups such as the Iraqi Kurds to rise up against Saddam Hussein, then abandoned them to his not-so tender mercies afterwards.

The civil war in Syria has been ‘characterised by a complete lack of adherence to the norms international law’ according to a United Nations report. More than five million Syrians have fled the country during the conflict, with over six million being recognised as Internally Displaced Persons. An estimated 13.5 million required humanitarian assistance.

While both sides of the conflict are guilty of human rights abuses, the Syrian regime was named by the UN as one of the worst offenders on its annual ‘list of shame’. It is estimated that at least 60,000 people have died through torture or the dire conditions in Syrian government jails since 2011. Many of the violations are judged to be war crimes.

As things seemed to quieten down over last winter, I wondered if the underlying themes I’d chosen for BAD TURN were still relevant. And particularly the point that one of the major players in the story might have a certain sympathy for the plight of the Kurds and want to find a way to assist.

For one thing, during their battle against ISIS, the Kurds captured and held many thousands of accused ISIS members in detention camps across north-eastern Syria. This included more than ten thousand actual fighters as well as supporters. Pleas for international help in dealing with these detainees have gone unanswered.

Now, with  the Turkish incursion across the border into Syria, there are fears that the inevitable chaos could lead to a wholesale release or escape of prisoners and ISIS regaining a foothold in the region.

When I originally looked at the situation in Syria as a theme for BAD TURN, I saw it as a larger conflict being played out on a smaller stage. I tried to condense it down into one man’s efforts to do the right thing when there was no right answer. Events of this month have suddenly made it all rather more prophetic than I ever intended.

Somehow, I’d much rather have been way off base.

Today is the finale of the Blog Tour for BAD TURN. Day 10. Thank you for sticking with me this far. Today I’m honoured to have the book reviewed by the fabulous Noelle Holten of Crime Book Junkie. Noelle is a best-selling author in her own right, so it’s a little bit like asking a professional builder to give their opinion on the work you’ve carried out on your own house…

Set mainly in New Jersey in the US, Charlie Fox is back and takes the reader on an adventure filled with fear, control, protection, anger, payback, manipulation, power, corruption and a search for the truth…but there is so much more!

Hells BLOODY Bells! With an explosive opening that instantly grabs the reader, Bad Turn will have you racing through the pages! The premise of this novel was intriguing and I loved how the reader learns a little bit more about Charlie Fox’s backstory which is then sprinkled throughout the novel—teasing you to carry on if you want to know more. Full of suspense and tension, the author once again has nailed it—a brilliant narrative and action packed read—it was like watching a movie in my mind! Superb!

I absolutely ADORE Charlie Fox—and you see a little bit more of a vulnerable side to her in this novel which makes you like her even more! Charlie is doing what she does best and accidentally uncovers a sinister ploy to kidnap a wealthy woman—the wife of an arms dealer. If she was hoping for the quiet life while house-sitting, she should have known better…after all, she IS Charlie Fox!  Determined as ever to see the job to the end, she comes up against some of the toughest characters, but they are no match for Ms Fox!

Read the whole of this review on Crime Book Junkie.

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For the past ten days since the new Charlie Fox novel, BAD TURN, came out, I’ve been on the road—virtually speaking. I’ve travelled halfway around the world without ever leaving my desk. I’ve been Blog Touring—or perhaps that should be Tour Blogging?—rather than the physical kind of touring. And it’s been fun.

Of course, in the past I’ve travelled all over the place to libraries and bookstores for the publication of various books in the series, quite often using a trip to the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention to kick things off. As Bouchercon is held in a different city/state every year (even making it over to the UK several times) it means that the starting point has also always been different.

But, this time around I knew I wasn’t going over to Bouchercon and work-in-progress projects are beginning to pile up. So, doing another blog tour, ably organised by the fearsomely efficient Ayo Onatade, seemed like a good choice.

I’m told that sometimes authors rely on their blogger hosts doing a series of reviews but I hesitate over this way of doing things. What happens if one of the reviewers involved really doesn’t like the book? After all, I would have thought they have far too many books on their teetering TBR piles to read it first, just to make sure.

So, I prefer to do guest posts and articles on topics related to the book, mixed in with a few reviews where blogger/reviewers are happy to do them.

Read the whole of this blog over on Murder Is Everywhere.

For Day 9 of the Blog Tour for the launch of BAD TURN, I’m with the superb Sharon Bairden of Chapter In My Life. For this, I wrote a guest post on HEroes vs SHEroes, particularly in those old thrillers where the women were more decorative, shall we say, than useful.

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Bad Turn, the latest in the Charlie Fox series from the brilliant Zoë Sharp. And I think we need to give praise to that cover! Isn’t it stunning!

Thanks to Ayo Onatade for inviting me to take part. I’ve got a cracking guest post lined up for you all.

Guest Post

HEroes vs SHEroes

BAD TURN: Charlie Fox #13

Zoë Sharp

I’ve always loved to read thrillers, starting back with Alistair MacLean, Ian Fleming, and Arthur Hailey and reading just everyone in the genre from there onward.

The only problem I found was with the women portrayed in those old books. They tended to be a bit on the passive side. And even today, if you read action/adventure novels, you still come across female characters who seem to have no role other than to be rescued by the hero, scream in a firefight and tend to the wounded.

I wanted to read about women who would do their ownrescuing. If they screamed in a firefight it would be more by way of a war cry, and they would be more likely to deal outwounds than have to deal with them, thank you very much.

That was when the character of Charlie Fox really started to come to life in my head. I wasn’t sure, when I first began to write about her, that other people would have the same desire to read about such a strong, no-nonsense heroine. Fortunately, they did and still do—BAD TURN: Charlie Fox #13 is just out. So far, the series has seen Charlie go from teaching people to defend themselves in a northern English city to working for a top New York close-protection agency. Although, this time out her employer—as well as her motivations—are a little harder to fathom.

It bugs me a little that I have to use the word ‘strong’ to describe Charlie. To me, she’s a capable woman who happens to work in a very male-dominated field. To succeed, she’s got to be not simply as good as the men, but demonstrably better. There’s no reason why she can’t be as skilled with weapons or why she can’t have the same mind-set as the guys she works alongside. No reason why she can’t fight on equal terms, either.

Read the whole post over on Chapter In My Life.

Today is Day 8 of the Blog Tour for BAD TURN, and today is another review stop, this time with the excellent Jen Lucas of Jen Med’s Book Reviews. And wow, what a great review! I’m thrilled by her take on the character and the story.

Today it is my great pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for the thirteenth Charlie Fox nove from Zoë Sharp, Bad Turn. My thanks to Ayo Onatade for inviting me to take part and to the author for providing an advance copy for review.

My Thoughts

Oh how I do love a good action/thriller story, and one with a strong female lead is always an added bonus. Charlie Fox has to rate up there as one of those brilliant characters I can’t wait to hear more about. She is strong, determined, principled, sometimes helped along by a little luck, but more often than not saved by her own quick thinking and ultimate skill. I may have been late to the party, but I’m enjoying catching up. So when I heard that there was a new book on the horizon, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. And what a book it is.

Everything has changed for Charlie and when we meet up with her again she is down on her luck. Out of a job, she is living the . relative quiet life as a house sitter. Quiet that is, until she happens upon an ambush in the middle of nowhere and finds herself caught up in an unexpected gun fight. One thing leads to another and Charlie’s quick thinking and fast action leads to a job offer that she cannot afford to turn down. But nothing is quite as it seems with either Charlie, or the woman she is employed to protect and what follows is a mixture of mystery, action and high tension thrills that kept me hooked from the start to the finish of the book.

I really love the character of Charlie Fox. Author Zoë Sharp has created such a believable and, ultimately, likeable character that you absolutely want to go on an adventure with her. She is not infallible, capable of making the same mistakes as any other woman on the planet, especially when it comes to her feelings, but she is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to her skills in protection and defence. You can tell the author’s own experience, training and research has been put to perfect use here, giving you just enough explanation to put you, as the reader, in the heart of the action, but not so much as to bore you with the detail. It makes the action sequences more thrilling. Heightens the tension as you can practically feel every blow, hear the ticking of the cogs as Charlie works out how she is going to get out of the mess she is invariably in.

Read the whole of the review over on Jen Med’s Book Reviews.

My Day 7 stop on the Blog Tour following the publication of the thirteenth Charlie Fox crime thriller, BAD TURN last week, is with the splendid Karen Cole at Hair Past A Freckle. Karen read the book to review for today’s post. I always wait for the verdict with bated breath…

I think it’s safe to say she quite liked it!

I’m thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for Bad Turn today, many thanks to Zoë Sharp and to Ayoola Onatade from for inviting me and for my advance digital copy of the novel.

I loved the previous Charlie Fox story, Fox Hunter and have been eagerly awaiting her return in Bad Turn. This is the thirteenth book in the series but Zoë Sharp certainly hasn’t let her protagonist stagnate and I was looking forward to discovering what she would be up to this time around.

At the start of the book she has reached a crossroads in her career having quit her job in close protection with Armstrong-Meyer. Unfortunately the position also came with an apartment—and her former boss, Parker Armstrong had rubber-stamped her Green Card and firearms licence. Having been essentially blacklisted from the world of close protection, she is house—and cat—sitting in rural New Jersey. However, trouble has a habit of finding Charlie and when she becomes involved in the attempted kidnapping of Helena Kincaid, the wife of billionaire arms dealer, Eric, she quickly realises she has little choice but to accept the position she is offered working with the Kincaids as Helena’s protection.

It soon transpires that although the world of arms dealers is a shady one, the major players had at least reached an agreement to not involve their loved ones in their dealings. Therefore, the foiled ambush on Helena could trigger a war between some very dangerous people. Helena’s response to her new bodyguard is intriguing and not what I expected at all. After a terrifying encounter which resulted in bloodshed on both sides, it would have been understandable for her to be grateful for the reassurance of a highly trained companion but the situation with Mrs Kincaid isn’t that straightforward. At first she isn’t a particularly likeable character but revelations about her upbringing and her past experiences help to explain her attitude and I thought the relationship between the two women was absolutely fascinating.

Read the rest of Karen’s review on Hair Past A Freckle.

Today is Day 6 of the Blog Tour, and I’m over at By The Letter Book Reviews, the guest of the marvellous Sarah Hardy. I’m talking about changes that have taken place through the series.

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I’ve always said that when you write a continuing protagonist in a long-running series, you have to make a choice right from the beginning how much you’re going to allow them to change.

Keeping them static does have its distinct advantages, I must admit. For one thing, it doesn’t matter which book a new reader picks up first, as they’re not going to encounter any big spoilers for earlier stories. It’s also a lot easier for the character not to age significantly, although I think most readers accept that book-time works at a far slower rate than real time.

When I began writing the Charlie Fox series, I knew right from the outset that Charlie herself was going to develop and grow from book to book. Part of the fascination with the character for me is being able to set her personal as well as professional challenges in each story. I like to take her on a personal journey—one that she will learn from and grow in some way—quite apart from the dramatic events of the book.

At the beginning of the series, in KILLER INSTINCT, Charlie was not yet working as the close-protection specialist she later becomes. She was still very much an amateur when it came to her involvement with crime. By that I mean that she didn’t work for any kind of agency, private or government, who were paid to investigate. She gets caught up in events and has to deal with them as best she can to find a way out, protect the people she cares for, and to survive. It turns out to be very good training for what comes later.

Charlie is a little more raw at that point in her life, she’s still looking for direction and purpose after being kicked off the Special Forces training course she’d fought her way onto, and then being thrown out of the army altogether. At the start of that story she’s on the way back up from her lowest ebb, and I included a nod to her then-job working nightclub security in the latest outing, BAD TURN.

Read the rest of this article over on By The Letter Book Reviews.

Day 5 of the Blog Tour for BAD TURN and today I’m the guest of the terrific Tina Hartas at TripFiction, recalling my visit to rural New Jersey and why I felt the state made a great location for the opening scenes of the book.

New Jersey may be the sixth smallest state in the US but it certainly punches above its weight when it comes to a reputation for corruption and crime. After all, it was home to Tony Soprano, and while I acknowledge that the Soprano family home on Stag Trail Road was fictional, North Caldwell NJ was not. What better state to locate my own international arms dealer with possible ties to the darker side of the trade?

Before I got out and started exploring, all I had really seen of the place was the inside of Newark Airport, parts of Jersey City, and the train ride under the Hudson to Penn Station. I admit that these areas were probably not really New Jersey’s best side, although the view across the river from Jersey City to Manhattan Island was quite something.

It was a pleasure, therefore, to rent a car and drive out west from Newark into the rural farmland that makes up so much of the state. I passed signs for places that I’m used to seeing at home in the UK—Bedminster, Tewksbury, Bloomsbury and Hampton—just not in that order.

Once I got off the main 78 highway, I found myself on winding roads bordered by woods and fields. The traffic thinned almost to nothing. And my mind, as it tends to do, turned to thoughts of…ambushes.

Read the rest of this post over on TripFiction.