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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Review of A snitch in Time by Sunny Frazier




I have friends who live and breathe in the bright winter sun of the San Joaquin Valley and some who reside between the dark cool covers of books.  After almost six years apart, I spent a recent Sunday with Sunny Frazier’s Astrology Mysteries series heroine Christy Bristol.

As we join the story, in this third volume, Christy’s BFF Lennie has moved to the foothill community of Burlap.  Christy decides to take some much needed vacation time and visit her long time pal.  

Lennie and her current boyfriend run the small town newspaper.  They rush, with Christy in tow, to the scene of a murder hoping to get a story.  Christy, a clerk for the sheriff’s department, gets drafted into working for the unit that has been formed to deal with the sudden crime wave in the mountains. 

Deprived of a place to stay by an argument with Lennie, Christy is temporarily stashed in a ranger’s rustic cabin at the edge of the national forest.  As Christy types reports the body count rises.  The human denizens of Burlap are as strange to city girl Christy as the owl that keeps hooting her awake at night.  

There is a fanatical preacher who says the sharp increase in the mortality rate is the result of the sins of the community.  There is a mysterious informant that keeps calling and only wants to talk to Christy, saying a lawman killed Lester, her boyfriend. The ranger comes back to his cabin with a gun in his hand and then takes mysterious trips in the dead of night into the woods. 

Christy wishes she had cast a horoscope before the trip.  When she finally gets around to looking at hers there is bad news from her natal Saturn and Pluto.  Worst of all there is no Diet Dr. Pepper to be found two thousand feet above the valley floor.  No caffeine and a vicious killer on the loose - what is a girl to do?  Read the book and find out!

The book is fun, fast and a very pleasant visit with Christy’s circle of friends and family.  Sister Celeste (the nun) and frisky grandma appear as does the delicious Rodrigo, Christy’s DEA boyfriend.  Former love and current thorn-in- the-side Detective Wolfe is back to make Christy’s life interesting.  Shamus, the cat, has reached the teenaged fur baby stage and, as always, gets a smile from the feline fanciers among us.  The book can be read as a stand alone.  “Central” County (Fresno in real time) residents will run for the internet to find out how much of the story is fact and how much fiction.  The most exotic elements of the story setting are real and the truth is out there…Enjoy!

Review by Terrell Byrd, Current President of San Joaquin Sisters in Crime


Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Formulaic Mystery Template by Elaine Faber

Whether Thriller or Cozy mysteries, avid readers consume multiple books each year. They acquire reading material through book sales, garage sales, the library, borrow from a friend and sometimes,actually purchase from the author! There is a demand for a good story.

Let’s pretend for a minute, we’re an author desirous of launching a new mystery series. After careful analysis of a number of successful series,’ we see a tried and true template.

Our story needs a beautiful, blonde female sleuth. She must have a German Shepard in order to capture the animal lovers. The dog doesn’t have to solve crimes, but it helps. She needs an unusual job or hobby. Her sweetheart must be connected to the inept police department, otherwise how could she access the official information generally withheld from the public?

Other mystery series’ have already snagged off the best jobs or hobbies. We have book store owners, catering services, dog groomers, travel agents, writers, pet sitters, private detectives, etc. We need a career that hasn’t been done to death, but one that gives our sleuth access to plenty of potential murder victims. It is a series, remember?

How about a lady who pumps out septic tanks? She’d be in plenty of back yards spotting nefarious ‘going’s-on’, or how about the door-to door Avon lady selling wrinkle cream? Plenty of opportunities to look beyond the screen door and see someone bound and gagged…Maybe not.

Let’s stick with the lady plumber concept.

So let’s see…to follow the mystery template. The lady plumber and her quirky sidekick (did I forget to mention the quirky friend?) find a body in the pump house. Proceed to red herrings, unrequited love, and suspicious characters, all with alibis. Toss in some plumbing trivia, stopped up toilets, overflowing bathtubs, (a humorous scene or two), and move right on to the climax where our heroine agrees to meet the villain in a toilet warehouse, but doesn’t tell anyone where she’s going. Killer strings her up to the rafters, determined to have his way with her. Death is imminent. Her dog has tracked her scent. Detective boyfriend bursts down the door just in the nick of time. The killer is apprehended, every toilet lid lowered, and the heroine and detective drive the sewer truck off into the sunset. Sounds like a best seller.

To be fair, there are lots of ways to change up the various topics; hobbies, quirky friend, red herrings, suspects, mysterious packages, murder, theft, kidnapping, contraband, illegal alien housekeeper, secret message, identity of villain (always the most unexpected cast member), etc.

This is the formulaic template, with assorted variations, that most mysteries stories follow.
Where are the brave authors willing to break the mold, or at least daring to write a mystery that doesn’t end with the heroine strung up in the barn (figuratively speaking)? Sadly, as long as the public is willing to buy these trite storylines, mystery books continue to follow the same template.



Elaine Faber Bio:

If you are an animal lover and mystery lover, I guarantee you will love Black Cat’s Legacy and Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, a cozy mystery that dares not to follow the typical mystery writing template. Available at Amazon in print and e-book.

Read more about my mysteries at www.mindcandymysteries.com
Elaine.Faber@mindcandymysterie.scom







Friday, February 20, 2015

Go Ahead, Break Some Rules by Cora Ramos

Cora Ramons on the right with other members of SJ SinC

SJ SinC member and past president, Cora Ramos,  shared some tips she garnered from our guests at our last meeting, Catriona McPherson and Simon Wood.

Rules for series characters:

See the character grow through the series. What is the overarching goal?

    1. You shouldn’t be able to sum up your character in one line. You can’t describe a ‘personality succinctly. You can get to know someone–over time.

    2. You need a ‘voice’ for that character. Take out all that is not her/his voice in the re-write.

    3.The character sees himself and knows that he’s not perfect.
                     
On the other hand, a good crime novel does not have to have good or great characters. So, plot, pace and high stakes can make it alone. Think about James Bond, Jack Reacher, Robert Langdon—they are not complicated figures, but they maintain a certain attitude—that’s about it. Yet they pull us through book after book. We don’t have to know why a personality does what he does only that he reacts in certain ways.

A true flaw in your main character has to have a cost. You have to do it in a way that works. (Girl on a Train and Gone Girl—unlikeable characters). 

Characters do NOT have to want something. It limits where you go with the character. Your hero can have unresolved desires and wants if he is a series character.

The take away—don’t be bound by the rules and advice of other writers, especially when they don’t work for your story. Sometimes a new and fresh way of writing wakes people up. I guarantee you will find it hard to put down Simon’s novel, The One That Got Away?



Is there a rule that you break in your writing?

Or do you try and follow famous authors' rules consistently?

P.S. Some exciting news from member Lorie Ham, the editor and publisher of the online magazine, Kings River Life:

“Just Desserts for Johnny” by Edith Maxwell, published by Kings River Life, has been nominated for an Agatha. You can read the story here: http://kingsriverlife.com/01/04/just-desserts-for-johnny-mystery-short-story/

   


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Using a VSS-Vaguely Specific Setting by Andrew MacRae

Using a VSS – Vaguely Specific Setting

Readers of my novels featuring “The Kid”, a mostly-retired professional pickpocket, frequently comment on the setting; a somewhat recognizable San Francisco, except that it’s never named.

This is due to my fear of being caught out for an inaccuracy should I set the stories in a real city. Instead, I can rearrange geography and landmarks as needed, not adhere to a musty old, hoary concept called reality.

Case-in-point: In “Murder Misdirected” The Kid walks along the foundations of an old amusement park near the ocean. I call it Playland by the Beach, and people familiar with that old amusement park know exactly what I’m talking about, while those who aren’t, have no problem figuring it out, based on the name.



But… the first group, those who recognize the name, are wrong. The foundations of the real Playland by the Beach are long paved over by development. The Kid is really walking atop the foundations of the Sutro Baths, an Edwardian age, glass-walled, swimming palace, that burned to the ground in the mid 1960s. It would have interrupted the narrative flow to call it the Sutro Baths, as then I’d be obligated to explain to the reader what they were. Instead, I engage in a little bit of slight-of-hand, and not limited by reality, things work out just fine.

Another Example: In “Murder Miscalculated”, the opening scene takes place at an old army post in San Francisco. Fort Mason was once the embarkation point for two million service men and women as they left for the war in the Pacific in WWII. Now it is a center for non-profit activities.


In my story, Fort Mason has become Fort Williams where a classical-jazz combo plays on the lawn. This bit of fakery was in honor of a favorite musician from my youth. I’ll leave it to classical and jazz aficionados to figure that one out.

Finally: My most recent novel, “The Hour of the Pearl” and yet to find a home, is a historical mystery, set in 1948 in Monterey California. My detective has his office on Cannery Row, on the second floor of the Wing Chong Co. General Store. Well, anyone familiar with the history of Cannery Row, and I consulted quite a few in writing the novel, will tell you that there were only apartments above Wing Chong’s, and certainly no offices.

To which I reply, ‘piffle!’ If any place deserved a second floor PI office, it’s Cannery Row.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.






Bio: Andrew MacRae is a misplaced Midwesterner who lives and writes mysteries in the San Francisco bay area. He is the author of numerous short stories, two published novels from Mainly Murder Press, and the editor of “The Anthology of Cozy-Noir” and the soon-to-be-released “And All Our Yesterdays”, both published by his imprint, Darkhouse Books.





Monday, February 16, 2015

Two of the Past Presidents of San Joaquin Sisters in Crime

Jo Ann Lucas and Cora Ramos


Over the years, we've had many presidents of the SJ chapter of Sisters in Crime. Some served longer than others, but all did a wonderful job.

The two former presidents pictured, Jo Ann Lucas and Cora Ramos, were the only ones who attended our latest regular meeting which was advertised as a Presidential Day.

The room was artfully decorated in red, white and blue.

One of our guests, Catriona McPherson, is this year's president of Sisters in Crime International. (You can read more about her if you scroll down through the blogs and also Simon Wood who appeared with her and is the Publicity Chair for Sisters in Crime.)

Terrel Byrd is our president now.

Keep watching this blog for information about our next meeting.

Some personal information about each of our special members, no don't panic, it's just some tidbits I know:

I met Jo Ann for the first time at the organizational meeting for this chapter. She always wears the greatest jewelry, and most especially her earrings.

I met Cora the first time when she was my roommate at the first Bouchercon I ever attended--it was in Monterey. JoAnn was there too. Cora and I were invited to a breakfast at a Bed and Breakfast where me met publisher Margo Powers and several other mystery writers.

Anyone else want to share something about JoAnn or Cora?

Friday, February 13, 2015

A SNITCH IN TIME by Sunny Frazier



Long time member of San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime is proud to announce the latest in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries--A Snitch in Time.


The Inspiration for A Snitch In Time

I patterned my fictitious town of Burlap after a community in the Sierra Foothills of California. When I worked as secretary with the Fresno County narcotics team, my men patrolled the area. Manning the phones, I would receive allegations that seemed so crazy that I had to go explore the town for myself. I conned Kate Anderson to go with me and we brought along a bulky video camera.

While the people and plot are pure fiction, much of the setting is not. There really is a Buzzard Tree in the middle of the school playground, starving marijuana growers would come out of the National Forest to steal the children's lunches. The Turkey Testicle Festival does exist as an annual charity event. There is a fenceless prison where the inmates fight forest fires. The locals call us “Flatlanders” and we had some choice names for them as well. Many of the law enforcement characters are based on people I worked with. The opening scene may or may not be an urban legend.

I made Kate pose as a corpse in the strange cement sculptures we found by the side of the road. As I was video taping it, the local postal delivery person clomped up on horseback, watched us in silence, then road away. 


I don't have the imagination to think up such things. Life is strange enough!       

When sheriff's department office assistant Christy Bristol takes a long weekend to visit her friend, Lennie, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, it's not the vacation she anticipated. A murder has just occurred and Christy is conscripted by the homicide team to handle the reports. To add to her frustration, she gets in a fight with Lennie over her friend's arrogant boyfriend and has no place to stay. The detectives put her up in a forest ranger's cabin while he is away fighting fires.

As the body count grows it becomes apparent the killer is targeting undesirables in the town of Burlap. One of the victim's girlfriends calls Christy and accuses a deputy of the murders. Christy doesn't know whether to believe the snitch or not. Could a killer be hiding behind his badge?

The ranger returns to his cabin only to find he has a roommate. Things get a little too cozy, especially when Christy's boyfriend shows up unexpectedly. The solution? Solve the case before her life gets any more complicated. Using astrology, Christy casts a reverse horoscope to profile the killer but puts her own future at risk. 

And time is running out.     



BIO:


Sunny Frazier trained as a journalist and wrote for a city newspaper, military and law enforcement publications. After working 17 years with the Fresno Sheriff's Department, 11 spent as Girl Friday with an undercover narcotics team, it dawned on her that mystery writing was her real calling. Both “Fools Rush In” and “Where Angels Fear” are based on actual cases with a bit of astrology, a habit Frazier has developed over the past 42 years.

Books are available on Amazon, Kindle and Nook as well as the Black Opal Bookstore.
http://www.blackopalbooks.com/shop-our-store/blackopalstore

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Maltese Falcon

THE BIG BIRD IN MYSTERY



by SJ SinC member, Jo Ann Lucas

There were three different movie treatments of The Maltese Falcon under different names, but the 1941 John Huston one is the most famous. For this movie props of the bird were made of both lead and plastic. two of the 4 pound, 5.4 ounce resin birds from the movie have been found. One (as of 2005 source of info) resides permanently in the Copyright Officer of the Library of Congress.

The other was found in a New Jersey flea market and sold for $92,000.00 in March of 2000.

Christie's auctioned off the lead model in 1994 for $398, 500.00. That's more than it cost to make the movie, and it was a record breaker for highest paid movie prop.

And in 1997 Harry Winston, Inc. -- the diamond and jewelry people -- made a ten pound replica in 18k gold. It is set with cabochon Burmese ruby eyes and has two sets of interchangeable claws, one gold and the other coral. If that wasn't enough, dangling from its beak is a platinum chain with a flawless 42.98 carat diamond. The Bird was valued at $8,000,000.00 by 2005. At today's prices -- Whew!


Indeed, "The stuff that dreams are made of."

From Wikipedia:



The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Private eye Sam Spade and his partner Miles Archer are approached by Miss Wonderly to follow a man, Floyd Thursby, who allegedly ran off with her younger sister. The two accept the assignment because the money is good, but Spade also implies that the woman looks like trouble, though she projects wholesome innocence. That night, Detective Tom Polhaus informs Spade that Archer has been shot and killed while tailing Thursby. Even later that night, two officers visit Spade at his apartment and inquire about Spade's whereabouts in the last few hours. Spade asks what the visit is really about. The officers say that Thursby was also killed and that Spade is a suspect, since Thursby likely killed Archer. They have no evidence against Spade at the moment, but tell him that they will be conducting an investigation into the matter. The next day, Spade gets a visit from Archer's wife, with whom he has been having an affair. The widow asks Spade if he killed Miles so that they could be together. Spade dismisses her and tells her to leave, and coldly orders his secretary Effie to remove all of Archer's belongings from the office. He then goes to a new address left in a note from his client, whose name he learns is Brigid O'Shaughnessy. He also finds out that Brigid never had a sister, and Thursby was her acquaintance who had betrayed her. Later, Spade is visited by another man, Joel Cairo, who offers Spade $5000 if the private eye can retrieve a figurine of a black bird that has recently arrived. While Spade …

Marilyn Meredith's comment on the movie:

I recently re-watched this moive and frankly, there were places that I laughed out loud. I doubt very much that I did that the first time I saw it. 

The acting is rather stilted, and it seems to me that the plot itself left much to be desired. I'm sure I read the book that it was based upon, but don't really remember how I felt about it then.

About the acting, my husband says that back then, almost everyone acted like they were on stage. 

It was fun to see Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre on the screen again.

If you've never seen the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon, take a look at it and see what you think. 


Monday, February 9, 2015

The Fresno Connection to the Maltese Falcon

The March SJSinC meeting will be a part of the Fresno County Library Big Read for 2015.  

This year the celebrated book is The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.  

Warren Harris will speak on “The Fresno Connection.”  As with most great detective fiction there is a real life basis for at least one character in the book; Fresno was a base of operations for the notorious Midget Bandit – the flesh and blood basis of Wilmer ‘the gunsel’ Cook.  Join us on Saturday, March 14 at 10:00 a.m. as Warren Harris shares his love of pulp fiction and the investigation of historical mysteries.


Speaker Bio:

Freelance author and pulp magazine historian Warren Harris has had the usual occupations for a writer including covering crime and courts for the Las Vegas SUN and other newspapers, conning the gullible as a telephone psychic, helping run a family business, assembling kits to ward off space aliens, working as a temp in a mortuary and running office equipment on the graveyard shift.

A long-time member of the Pulp Era Amateur Press Society, while not reading and collecting pulp fiction he specializes in investigating historical mysteries with pulp fiction connections.

The Midget Bandit articles online.

Here's a brand new post on the Midget Bandit with some breaking information by a Portland crime writer who is helping me out with some
research:


And here's the start of Midget Bandit week over at Don Herron's site:

http://www.donherron.com/?p=6847

Simon Wood and Catriona McPherson a Hit!

What a treat! We had the president of Sisters in Crime International, Catriona McPherson and the Publicity Chair, Simon Wood as Special Guests at our regular meeting.

What a special meeting it was!

We were celebrating SinC President's Day and had two former presidents of our San Joaquin Chapter on hand too. Everything was decorated for president's day and we had lots of surprises.

We also learned that The Society of the Coveted Dead Bird has a website to promote our annual writing contest: http://deadbirdaward.wix.com/coveteddeadbird/
.
Catriona delighted us with her wonderful accent as she read a bit from her books, A Deadly Measure. and The Day She Died.

In case you didn't know, Simon also has a wonderful accent, and he talked about writing his new stand-alone, The One That Got Away. 

He explained that the inspiration for this one was "survivor guilt' and PTSD.

When working on a book he likes to do personal interviews and also visit the places where things are going to happen and at the time they will happen.

He coniders his writing as a 9 to 5 or 6 job.

It was a delight to hear both of them talk about their books and how they write.

Submitted by Marilyn Meredith

Thursday, February 5, 2015

2nd Appearance for Catriona Mc Pherson and Simon Wood

While they are in the area, Catriona McPherson and Simon Wood will also be speaking  Saturday, Februrary 7 at 2:00 p.m. at A Book Barn in Clovis. 

To attend, please make a reservation with A Book Barn directly.  You may reserve a place on their website or call them at 559-297-9052.  The topic for this will be:

WORLD BUILDING—THE KEY TO SUSTAINING A SUCESSFUL SERIES

A series is a great way for hooking a readership and keeping them hooked. The tough thing about writing a series is sustainability.  If it doesn’t evolve or develop then it goes stale.  That’s where world building comes in.  With a little bit of forethought and planning, a series will always remain fresh.

Award winning authors Catriona McPherson and Simon Wood will provide writers with the building blocks—from setting to characters and everything in between—for creating a long lasting series that will keep readers coming back book after book.

The Book Barn is easy to find, it's on the north side of Clovis Blvd, big two-story building. Lots of parking in front and around back.






Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The One That Got Away by Simon Wood


 Zoe Sutton was on the way to her dreams.  She was working on a PhD in Environmental Science, her chosen path for doing some real good in the world.  She had a loving family, great friends and a happy life.  Zoe took a trip to Las Vegas and on the way home left her life behind in a small town she can’t remember during a night she can’t forget.                           

A year later we see Zoe, no longer a young professional working as a mall cop.  She escaped from a serial killer but is now a prisoner of PTSD and survivor guilt.  She has cut herself off from family and friends.  She struggles with sudden rages and loneliness. She seeks out situations for confrontation and self-medicates with alcohol.   All that changes when her worst nightmare is broadcast on the local news.  A woman’s body has been found mutilated by the same faceless man who scarred her. Is he here in San Francisco looking for her, the one that got away?      

When I was a college student we studied survivor guilt in my psychology classes.  Having lived a rather sheltered life I did not really understand how someone could blame themselves for the non crime of continuing to live when another dies. 

Time and experience teach lessons that cannot be learned from books.  I am older, wiser and sometimes feel the weight of blame for the small tragedies of life that I could not prevent.  ‘If only’ and ‘I regret’ the soul wails.  I may know in my mind that I have no entry on the fault side of life’s tally sheet and yet there is a black mark that is never completely removed from the  heart.  I know that my guilt is mild in comparison to those that continue breathing when chance rips out  the spirit of another in their place.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
Simon Wood has done a spectacular job of portraying the guilt ridden Zoe in this book.  She is realistic in thought and deed.  The abrupt shift from fun loving girl to socially agnostic woman is both heart rending and believable.  

This book is scheduled for release on March 1, 2015.  Let’s hope for a traditional “in like a lion’ March.  Start this book when the wind rises.  It is so absorbing that you won’t even hear the roar of a hurricane outside.  Enjoy!  
--Review by Terrell Byrd, President, SJ SinC

(This review was taken from the SJ SinC newsletter.)



 
Simon Wood

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Total Freak Out of Gideon Mack by Catriona McPherson

The Total Freak Out of Gideon Mack
(Or “Yes, sometimes I scare myself.”)

I had written six Dandy Gilver mysteries – 1920s, fabulous clothes, a butler, you know the world we’re in – and while they have their creepy moments, the words that cropped up again and again in reviews were words like “witty” and “delightful” and even “charming”. (I’m not complaining: “witless”, “disgusting” and “charmless” could have cropped up. Then where would I be?)


But then I wrote something a bit different. As She Left It has no butlers, the characters wear Tesco leggings (think Target brand) and there’s no nostalgia to cast a sepia glow. 

It was when I started going to events to talk about As She Left it,  and even more so the follow-up - The Day She Died, that I first started to get the question “Do you ever scare yourself when you’re writing?”

And the answer is that I do. Sometimes I can be writing a scene and my cat brushes against my legs then bolts from the room because I’ve shrieked and jumped out of my chair.  It’s pretty funny when a cat is perfectly balanced between a. wanting to nag you for her dinner and b. still being annoyed with you for making her look uncool. (Cat “owners” will understand. Dog owners will be reminded why they prefer dogs.)

But the truest answer to the question is “Yes, I sometimes scare myself writing, but the worst scare I ever gave myself was signing.”

Let me explain: I happened to be reading a wonderful book by James Robertson called The Testament of Gideon Mack, about a Scottish minister (of the church not the parliament) who meets the devil.  I can’t recommend this book highly enough to anyone who wants to understand Scotland. **So long as you don’t mind being creeped out seven ways to goosebumps.**



Early on in the story, Gideon is out for his daily run in the woods near his home, when he finds a standing stone – an ancient, lichened, weathered, enormous standing stone  . . . that wasn’t there the day before. For some reason I found that one of the most unsettling things I had ever read. No one else runs in these woods and there’s no one to tell, who would believe him.  From that moment Gideon is on his own.



I was on my own too, alone in my house on the hillside in Galloway while my husband was travelling.  We had no neighbours, no other houses in sight across the valley.  I loved it there, in the peace and solitude, and had never been frightened to be alone. With no mobile phone reception. And no one in screaming distance.



I had watched The Sixth Sense alone in this house; I had read the end of Stephen King’s Dumas Key, alone in this house in a power cut, by the light of a guttering candle.  This was not a creepy house.

So, this particular time, when I was reading Gideon Mack, I was also signing stock for Goldsboro Books in London.  They’re a wonderful bookshop who sell signed first editions at cover price and have always been good friends to me. (You might know them as the bookshop who got boxes and boxes of first editions of The Cuckoo’s Calling signed by “Robert Galbraith” and didn’t put their prices up even when the truth came out. They just sold those millions of pounds worth of books to their regular customers for the price on the jacket and got priceless great publicity for themselves, as part of the deal.)

Anyway they had sent me three big boxes of hardbacks, lots of bubble wrap but also quite a lot of books, to sign and return. I had finished with them and the FedEx guy was coming to pick them up the next day. I needed to remember to take them downstairs. But it was late and I was tired. So I left them in my study doorway, one on top of the other, where I would see them when I came out of my bedroom at the other end of the landing in the morning.

Get it? I made a tower of three big boxes in an open doorway  where I would see them and remember about the FedEx guy.

Well, it half-worked. I went to bed, read another few hair-raising chapters of Gideon Mack and nodded off. About four o’clock in the morning I woke up and set out to go to the loo (it was an inconvenient house, with no upstairs bathroom). The moonlight was shining in the landing window. I stepped out of my bedroom door . . .

. . . and saw a stranding stone in my house! A great hulking monolith of an ancient standing stone growing right out of my carpet! Gideon’s stone!  In my house! A harbinger of the devil!

It took me a long time to reach out and turn on a light, eyes squeezed tight shut. I opened them a tiny crack. It was still there, but it was made of cardboard, not stone. And it was three boxes and I needed to scamper to the bathroom pretty urgently.

 And that, dear readers, is the worst fright I have ever given myself in my career so far as a writer. I still loved the house – Fintloch – and it was a wrench to leave it. I’ve used it as the setting of the book that’s coming out in September 2015 – The Child Garden – and I’ve put a standing stone in there too.


 Catriona McPherson will be at the February Meeting of San Joaquin Sisters in Crime.