I’ve just spent the last twenty minutes trying to come up with a blog post that people might find interesting, that won’t get me into trouble or trolled, or isn’t about my dog’s gastrointestinal reactions to the new dog biscuits we’re giving her (it can get quite ‘atmospheric’ in my study at the moment). I could write about my upcoming new book, but I want to save that for the next post. So, here’s a summary of the other things that have been going on at my writing desk lately.
I’ve completed three courses with the Australian Writers Centre: Copywriting, Content Writing, and Freelance Writing. I’m not quite sure where these might take my writing, but at the very least I’m hoping to get some more guest blog post gigs. I’ll let you know how that goes.
I’ve recently returned to my old website on Weebly. I’d moved to Wix and gone for a darker look, but the cost of renewing was more than I was willing to pay. Weebly had a good deal, and my website has had a revamp and is up and running. The bonus to returning is that my old blog is still there, so I get all of that back again! I did think about going to WordPress, but every time I’ve tried WordPress in the past it’s made me cry with frustration. Weebly is better. Weebly doesn’t make me cry!
I’ve been starting to gather more information about the FBI in preparation for re-writing the book I wrote last year. I don’t want to say too much, but it’s a new series I’m planning and I’m pretty excited. I’d love to go on a rant about the accusations being flung the FBI’s way right now, but I’m going to button my lip. I’ll let my stories do the talking.
That’s about it for now. Don’t forget—if you’d like to pre-order a copy of Focus, let me know! You can find out more about it HERE.
What a couple of weeks it’s been. I’ve launched a book that also completed a series and enjoyed a blog tour with The Code (thanks to everyone who joined in!).
So, what happens next?
Good question. I went back and looked over the goals I set myself for 2018 to realise—with quite a bit of surprise—that I’ve already met them! I’ve sent The Code out into the world, Writing Roundup is going along nicely, and I’ve done a course on book cover design. Not what I expected to find.
In which case, what DOES happen next? Perhaps I should put more effort into my reading list. Or maybe I should write some short stories with a view to publishing the anthology I want to do. Perhaps I could take a break from writing (as if!). I have a book awaiting editing and one I’m working on as well that could be next. Or maybe start a new story? The more I think about it, the more possibilities come to mind.
I guess taking a break is off the list then, or at least a complete break. I do feel the need to step back a little and give myself some space. Launching The Code was more emotional than I anticipated, and I also worry that if I push myself I risk taking the fun out of writing. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing it’s that I need to do what feels right at the time. If I’m not writing from the heart, with excitement and joy, then it won’t work. I can push myself, and have done so in the past, but it doesn’t yield the best results (that translates to ‘requires a lot more editing’). It’s not worth it.
The conclusion? I’m going to take a few days to think and consider in an emotional way the options I have. One will stand out—one always does—and then I’ll be off writing again.
For those who missed out on the great posts that made up the book tour for The Code, here are the links, starting with a lovely review:
https://www.facebook.com/SJsBookBlog/May 6 (and on GoodReads - see below)
And the rest:
The wonderful ladies at Loving the Book have organised a book blog tour for The Code, running over the next week. Because of this my blog will have a different schedule for the next week - I'll be posting links to the generous blogs that are posting during the tour so those who aren't on social media can still check it all out.
The first post is from Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews blog - don't forget to enter the giveaway!
Please consider supporting the bloggers who are taking part in the tour by clicking the link and visiting their blog. Thank you.
I’m not really sure where the idea for The Code came from. When I arrived at the end of Secrets Within I knew I had to write a book for Ryan, but the rest is a bit of a mystery. I know it started with the graffiti, but the ideas for the plot came slowly after that. There was a fair bit of staring into space as I mulled over different scenarios I could use. Some things can’t be rushed!
During the writing of Seeing Red and Secrets Within, I became familiar with certain areas of the New London submarine base. One of my tools for research is Facebook. I like to follow Pages that relate to the subject matter and came across the New London MWR Page (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation). There was information on programs run by the base library, located at the Dealey Centre on the base. It was the perfect central spot to set up the crimes—though I have taken a chunk of license with the actual library and surrounds. I had a setting, which did help with the plot.
One of the hardest things I found with writing The Code was keeping track of the plot—what clues there were at each step, the messages, even which day of the week it was. The story grabbed me and ran, and it was hard keeping up. I ended up with a chart of who, what, where, when, clues, etc, I could refer to. Imagine writing a scene where the three investigators were recapping and not being able to clearly remember the details! Once I had it mapped out it became so much easier.
I’ve really enjoyed writing the characters of Ryan and Alex. Ryan has been in the New London books from the beginning, but it was a joy to explore who he really is and bring him into the spotlight. Alex was as elusive to me as she was to Ryan in the beginning. Like the plot, it took time to reveal her personality and I loved her way of driving Ryan mad with her answers to questions. So much fun!
As I wrote in my blog post last month, it is a little sad to be finishing the series and leaving the characters. I satisfied I’ve left them all in a good place and I have so many other stories waiting to be told that I need to move on. It was wonderful to visit New London last year and tour the submarine museum located beside the base. I’d finished the book shortly before I left, and the stay in New London was a fitting way to celebrate the series.
If you have read the first two books, I hope you enjoy the final story. I’ve loved the journey of writing them, but now it’s time to move on.
A simple post this week for several reasons I won't bore you with.
I've posted some photos from New London and the museum outside Submarine Base New London, the setting for The Code. My visit there last year was wonderful - joyous and to a degree overwhelming. To see the place I'd written about and where my characters live really was indescribable. We didn't have much time there, and as you can see the weather wasn't the greatest for sightseeing. I saw enough to be content with my descriptions.
For those who have read the first two books in the series, I hope you can see the characters here the way I could.
Morse first was developed around 1837 when someone developed a method of transmitting electrical pulses along a wire. The need to create a language using these pulses saw the earliest form of Morse. The current International Morse Code came into use around 1865 and is still used by aviators, amateur radio operators, and the military, and others. The best-known Morse code message is the universally acknowledged emergency call of SOS—three dashes, three dots, three dashes, all without spaces in between ‘---...---‘.
The idea of using Morse code in The Code came simply because I wanted to make the messages more mysterious, easier to leave (faster than writing letters), and to add to the confusion around what the messages meant. The Navy uses Morse code and its personnel are trained to use it, so it seemed appropriate for it to be used in a Navy setting. It also meant that it could be read by the people finding it.
I found a fun tool while researching Morse code – the SCPhillips.com Morse code translator.
.. / ..-. --- ..- -. -.. / .- / ..-. ..- -. / - --- --- .-.. / .-- .... .. .-.. . / .-. . ... . .- .-. -.-. .... .. -. --. / -- --- .-. ... . / -.-. --- -.. . / / - .... . / -- --- .-. ... . / -.-. --- -.. . / - .-. .- -. ... .-.. .- - --- .-. .-.-.-
For the record, this Morse message is a simple repeat of the sentence above it, created using the translator. Check it out here and have some fun!
And yes, the Morse on the cover of The Code reads 'code'.
I'm thrilled to announce that the third and final novel of the New London Books, The Code, will be released on April 29th!
Writing the series has been a wonderful journey. There was never meant to be a series, but like so many other things in my writing, it just had to happen. This final story - Ryan's - is the perfect way to finish and it's given me huge satisfaction to share the stories.
NCIS Special Agent Ryan Gilmour finds himself back at the New London submarine base, the result of a posting swap with a friend. He settles in to wait for a chance to lead an investigation and for a woman who can capture his fickle heart.
When a vandal carves a Morse code message onto a building on the base, Ryan crosses paths with librarian Alex Ware. Her ability to avoid answering his questions leaves Ryan convinced she is hiding something. Determined to find out what it is he seeks her out, but his persistence only leads to conflict and frustration.
As a second act of vandalism rapidly follows, and then a third, Ryan is given the lead in the investigation. The attacks become sinister, the trail of Morse code messages with each act taunting Ryan and his team, daring them to break the code before it’s too late. And at every turn is the elusive Alex Ware.
Will Ryan and his team find the key to solving the case? Will Alex let down her guard and tell Ryan her secret?
Can they uncover who is behind The Code?
Preorders are available now!
Ebook - Amazon
Print - from the author here
Book covers are one of the things I spend a lot of time thinking about. All of the advice out there says you should never design your own cover, and its great advice. Even those who have graphic design skills are advised to leave cover design to others. And yet I do my own. The decision is generally a financial one. Enough cost goes into producing my books as it is without adding cover design costs on top—it’s not something I’m willing to add onto my publication budget. Okay, so if my books had nicer covers perhaps they’d sell better. My cover for Secrets Within recently scored me an equal first place in a popular vote, so I’m going to keep doing my own designs—for now, anyway. At least I have only myself to blame if it doesn’t work.
One of the ways I get ideas for covers is to search book cover images for the genre of my books. This is where I come across my biggest issue. A large number of romance suspense novels feature sexy men and women, ripped abs, etc, but I can’t put that on my covers. Not because I’m a prude, but because it would be false advertising. I don’t put sex scenes in my stories, so covers like that would be misleading to the reader. I also worry that the people on the cover may influence the reader’s imagination. I want my readers to be able to picture the characters in their own way. As my books also fall into the romantic thriller description, I tend to go with the more thriller type of cover. More representative of my books than the abs! They can still feature the couples, etc, but more of them focus on setting. Where is the book set? What is one of the pivotal scenes and where is that set? Much easier to do—until you try to find the right image! It is generally easier than trying to find the right looking person/couple in the correct pose. And when you’re an amateur like me, setting is easier to work with. Colours can be adjusted to set the right atmosphere and simple Photoshop tweaks can change things in an image that aren’t quite correct.
I’ve recently done a short course through the Australian Writer’s Centre on cover design. It was very helpful and reinforced some of the things I’d worked out for myself (and they didn’t use any of my covers as examples of ‘poor’ design – phew!). On the whole, I’m happy enough with the covers I have for now. I have no plans to change them anytime soon and will continue to enjoy putting them together.
I’ve been working on edits on one of my manuscripts and needed to do some fact-checking around DNA testing and result times. I found some interesting stuff!
Rapid DNA testing
Rapid DNA testing is most commonly used to determine the relationship between donors, and is also used to determine if a suspect has been involved in another crime in a timely manner. A swab is taken—it only works on body fluid swabs, usually from the mouth—and the results used to search current databases. The test takes about 2 hours to complete. The test doesn’t need a lab as it uses a portable machine.
Standard DNA testing
This can be done on any sample. The test itself takes 24 to 72 hours, but actual processing times depend on the workload of the lab doing the testing – anywhere from a week or two to several months.
What can it prove?
DNA testing is only 100% certain when it comes to excluding people. It can prove someone wasn’t at a crime scene better than it can prove they were. DNA can degenerate, making accurate results difficult to produce.
Imagine your DNA being found at a crime scene when you’ve never been there, or know the people involved? Scientists are still learning about the transfer of DNA and we shed cells wherever we go. Nor does DNA have a time stamp. A person who was at the crime scene 2 weeks before the crime was committed may find their DNA caught up in the case.
And to finish, some interesting facts about DNA
Plant DNA can be used to solve criminal cases
Every human’s DNA is 99% the same
Humans and cabbages share 40-50% of their DNA (Source)
As is customary at this time of year, I’ve spent some hours over the past week thinking back over the year that’s almost finished.
And it’s been quite a year.
The highlight was, of course, the dream trip to the USA to visit the settings for my books. It’s been two months since I returned and I still think about it every day. And yes, I want to go back.
I’ve published another two books, Secrets Within and Bombshell, written three books, several short stories, over 60 blog posts, plus other bits of writing (my recent ‘random writing’ equalled one third of a novel). Not a bad effort.
Then there’s the thirty-seven books I’ve read—there’s been one more added to the list since my blog post last week. I also taught myself how to use InDesign (to a degree) and learned more special effects on Photoshop (which included a bit of frustration and the occasional swear word).
I learned how to deal with my personal physical limitations when it comes to actual writing, aka not pushing the dodgy hand so far that it spasms and hurts.
And I’ve had several more story ideas. Still no writer’s block!
What’s on the cards for 2018?
I will publish at least one book, hopefully two. One of the books is the third and final book for the New London books, and I’ll be celebrating that milestone with a launch party/celebration with family and friends. I hope you’ll think about coming along, but more about that later in the year!
My newsletter – Writing Roundup. The first edition of Writing Roundup is currently in the final stages of preparation for launch on this coming Sunday. I’ll be focusing a fair amount of effort on it each month as it will be my main way of giving back to my supporters.
I will write at least two new books. Depends on the hand.
I also want to do some professional development, particularly relating to book cover design. I have a course in mind and it should be fun to play around with techniques and ideas.
I think that’s enough goals to start with. No doubt the year ahead will throw up its own challenges and I’ll deal with those as they arise.
I hope you all have a wonderful New Year and 2018 is kind to you!
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