Friday, 16 February 2018

Writing Crime

I like to read crime novels. I think I have read almost every book that Agatha Christie has ever written. I must admit that I rarely watch the TV series and I have never really enjoyed any of the film adaptations. I like to imagine the characters in my head and seeing someone portray them on screen is like watching someone imitate your friends.
Why was Agatha Christie so popular? I don't think anyone ever has the answer. Poirot was, of course, a very strong character and we all had implicit faith in him and his ability to solve the crime. The same goes for Miss Marple. The novels are dated now and yet they don't lose their appeal. I still occasionally re-read Death on the Nile, which I consider one of her best stories. There is not too much gore even if her liking for the use of poison was a bit creepy.
I love rummaging among the books in charity shops. You never know what you will find there. This is how I came to be currently reading Linwood Barclay's No Time for Goodbye. An engaging book, and well written, it is keeping me interested. I see it got mixed reviews on Amazon and most reviewers had the same opinion as me.
What made me write crime fiction? I really do not know. It started with a visit to Killarney while attending a family wedding. The scenery down there is breathtaking in the true sense of the word. Mountains are mysterious - I know, I grew up on a farm where we looked across the valley at the mountains in the distance. My father used to forecast the weather from them. If they stood out sharply against the skyline, it meant rain and if they were enveloped in a haze, it meant it would be fine.
Although my first love is the sea, I also love the mountains, all mountains. They have been there for countless centuries. So that is where my Sergeant Alan Murray stories began.
Which reminds me, time to get back to my laptop.

Friday, 26 January 2018

The latest Sergeant Alan Murray mystery available now on Kindle

This post is really a plug for my latest novel in the Sergeant Alan Murray series which is now available to order on Amazon Kindle. The print version will be available next week. Here's the link:


A COLD CASE OF MURDER: (Sergeant Alan Murray series)

Murray's wife Sheila disappeared on Ardnabrone Mountain many years ago and despite several investigations no trace of her was ever found. When DS Lee Sheridan is assigned to revisit the case, Murray is sceptical. The locals will hardly take a city girl, a stranger, into their confidence, he feels. But just as he has convinced himself that Lee is wasting her time, human remains are discovered on Ardnabrone Mountain. Could this be the lead they have all been looking for?

I really enjoyed writing this story even though, at times, I was stumped every so often. Not writers' block exactly but a "where do I go from here?" feeling.
A lot of readers had asked me what really happened to Murray's wife and I had to confess that I didn't know myself - until I started writing the story.  I hope everyone finds it satisfactory. 
Well, it's out there now and I feel like a mother watching her child trotting off to kindergarten or taking its first unaided steps.  Will it be OK?  Should I have done more? I edit my novels at least ten times if not more and yet once I let them go out into the world, the feeling persists that there was something I could have done better. I think many writers experience this, so I am not alone.
Having said - or written - all that, I must admit that I love writing, love shaping the story and watching the characters in action (they seem to take over when I get into the story and go their own way a lot of the time). It makes up for all the hard slog of writing every day - facing a blank screen when starting a novel, knowing what to write in the next chapter - otherwise why would we do it? It's not as if we all hit pay dirt and are rolling in money. It's who we are, I suppose.
Before I get too philosophical, I had better move on.  For one thing, I need another cup of coffee, for another, I need to take the clothes out of the washing machine and hang them out to dry.

Oh, one more thing. If any of my readers have not read the Sergeant Alan Murray mysteries, the first book in the series DEATH IN A LONELY PLACE is free on Kindle from today until Monday. 

Here's the link:
Death in a Lonely PlaceTwo women are abducted and murdered in the sleepy village of Ballyamber at the foot of Ardnabrone Mountain in Co. Kerry. When Garda Sergeant Alan Murray and his assistant, Jim Flynn start their investigation they uncover the loves, hates and intrigues behind the peaceful village fa├žade.
Helen Brophy is on her way to Ballyamber determined to put the past behind her and start a new life when she encounters a dark figure loading something into the boot of a car at Ardnabrone layby, an incident which will ultimately put her life in danger.
Murray and Flynn are in a race against time to find the killer before he strikes again. Then another woman goes missing.

I hope you like it!  Happy reading everyone!

Friday, 12 January 2018

This Writing Life

Today is stormy here by the sea. The tide is coming in with a strong south-easterly wind to fling the water against the sides of the boats. The river makes gurgling noises as it laps against its banks.  I love this kind of weather. I almost envy the seagulls who float about the sky, drifting on the wind as if they really enjoyed it. We are lucky that we don't have a full moon or a new moon as with the gale force wind coming from the south-east, this would possibly mean flooding in the lower reaches of the town. I didn't stay out too long as I am still recovering from a nasty virus which I picked up over Christmas/New Year.
It was good to get back in the warmth but no excuse for not returning to my writing. I am doing the final edit on my Sergeant Alan Murray series novel A Cold Case of Murder. Here is a preview of the cover:
Murray's wife Sheila disappeared on Ardnabrone Mountain several years ago and despite several investigations no trace of her was ever found. When DS Lee Sheridan is assigned to revisit the case, Murray is sceptical. The locals will hardly take a city girl, a stranger, into their confidence, he feels.
But just as he has convinced himself that Lee is wasting her time, human remains are discovered on Ardnabrone Mountain. Could this be the lead they have all been looking for?

I have edited and re-edited the story countless times. Some famous author once said that writing is re-writing and I am inclined to agree. But it is a labour of love.  I am sitting here in the spare bedroom which I use as my office. Outside my window I can see the river, swelled now by the incoming tide and I can hear the wind whistling through the street. Time to get back to work!

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Looking back at Christmas with lots of hindsight

Well, it all seems like ice ages ago now, doesn't it, that whirlwind of activities and "I musn't forgets" that heralds Christmas each year for so many people? How did your festive season go?  As a child growing up in rural Ireland I was often struck by grown-ups asking each other "how did ye get over the Christmas?"  I used to wonder what they meant. Now I begin to see that we have made the Christmas season into a marathon to be run according to the laws of advertising.
Yes, I'm on my little soap box, here. As I was travelling around Christmas time which involved sitting in airport lounges waiting for flights etc.,  I read a lot of magazines and newspapers centred around the festive theme. Almost without exception they gave advice on how not to get too stressed out, on how to cope, on what to buy and what not to buy as Christmas presents, how to cook the turkey.  The lists went on and on. It sounded more like advice for troops going into battle. The joy of a family holiday, of a get-together, seemed to me to have been totally lost. I found myself wondering not for the first time, why we have to go to all this trouble, including in many cases a visit to a church service when we are not church goers - one mother who did this told me her child kept asking when Christmas was going to start and she herself was appalled that the service lasted an hour!
I love cooking although I am not good at traditional dishes. Does it matter? If people want to sit around my table then they should expect a delicious meal (no - not turkey!) which I have cooked without getting a nervous breakdown over it. I should be happy and relaxed to see my guests, knowing I had done all I could to make them welcome and provide them with a nice meal. And I want to see them enjoying themselves and I want to enjoy myself without wondering if the table decorations are up to scratch. Conversation and laughter should be the order of the day. Is more than that required, and if so, why?
A trip to McDonalds or SuperMacs or a good old-fashioned Chinese takeaway and a good chat around the table is surely preferable to all that glitzy complicated stuff I read about in those magazines.
OK, I've got that off my chest.  To all my readers: A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Monday, 18 December 2017


I wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas.  Peace and joy to everyone.

I intended writing a post this past week but didn't get around to it. Isn't it amazing how many Christmas things you get involved in? Coffee mornings for charities, quick calls on friends and acquaintances to wish them a happy season and of course those Christmas dinner events which are such fun but so bad for the waistline!

I love everything about Christmas, the Christmas tree, the lights, the presents wrapped up in colourful paper, the general buzz about town. Most of all I love, though, I love being together with my family and watching my grandchildren's excitement on Christmas Eve (which is when the presents are given in Germany, where I shall be visiting my daughter and her family).

Christmas blessings to you all!

Monday, 4 December 2017

Christmas is on the way

I was in Cork city doing a bit of shopping (a very little bit, I might add) and I can tell you that Christmas is well on its way there. Nearly every shop I passed was full of people checking out jewellery, watches, bed linen, furniture, TV sets and mobile phones. The clothes shops were having a field day and there was hardly room to squeeze past those racks with special pre-Christmas offers.

It was a cold afternoon with bright sunshine - ideal for that festive season feel. I have to admit that I bought a few things on the spur of the moment and didn't buy what I actually came for, which was a pair of walking shoes. But it was all fun. In another few weeks, when Christmas is almost here, it will be a different story for a lot of people. Panic will have set in and wild buying sprees will be the order of the day.

What if? I asked myself as I sidestepped a harassed husband whose wife was trying on dresses and trying to elicit an opinion from him of what suited her best. What if we all calmed down, didn't get distracted by all those advertisements portraying snow covered streets, adorable children, roast turkey with all the trimmings, Santa Claus and his reindeer and a family wreathed in smiles of joy?  What if we said not this year, not like that and set out to relax and enjoy rather than running around and trying to ensure that everyone was having Christmas fun? Just supposing we bought all our food ready to eat from the supermarket instead of basting the turkey, glazing the ham and peeling Brussels sprouts on Christmas morning? What if we just heated it all up while we lazed around drinking mulled wine or champagne and chatting to family and friends? What if we said no presents this Christmas? Instead we'll have some family time, play board games? What if we went to church and sang all those half forgotten Christmas carols?

I, for one, am not brave enough but it is what I genuinely would like to do. Christmas time is family time for me and in all the preparations and fuss leading up to it, I sometimes forget that. But if I tried to implement even a quarter of the suggestions in the above paragraph, I am convinced that,courtesy of my family, I would end up in the International Court of Human Rights or be mentioned dishonourably in an Amnesty International bulletin. So I'll be in the thick of it this year as every year. And I will enjoy it. But a little piece of my heart will be saying ever so softly slow down, take it easy, enjoy the spirit of Christmas without all that glitz.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Spending the proverbial penny

 I am one of those unfortunate individuals who have what is sometimes called a "weak bladder". I think that with me at any rate this is partly psychological because if I find myself anywhere where there is no easy access to a toilet, I immediately want to "go" and get into a panic. The knowledge that there are a lot of people like me is cold comfort when I am struggling along the street of an evening when shops are shut and there is no public toilet in sight. So many eateries have those big scary signs which say "for patrons only" and well, when a girl's gotta wee, she's gotta wee somehow or other, even if she doesn't want to buy a coffee which will only make her want to wee again in an hour's time.

I was therefore intrigued to learn what the city of Bremen in North Germany is doing in this regard.  They have a scheme entitled "Nette Toilette" which translated roughly means "nice toilet" and you can use the rest rooms of any restaurant or cafe which has a sticker to this effect in the window. You are not obliged to buy anything. Wow! I wish more cities had this feature, it would save me many a frantic search. Participating restaurants and cafes get paid between €50 and €100 a month for providing this facility. A spokesperson for the city said that Bremen saves around €450,000 per year on the scheme compared to the upkeep of public toilets which were not always as clean as could be desired. From the point of view of the restaurants and cafes, it does direct more traffic to their premises even if not everyone actually sits down for a meal or a coffee. You can even download an app with a map of all the locations! That's what I call public service.

Click here if you understand German or simply want to view the map of free toilets in Bremen.

Bremen's free toilets (in German)
If you scroll down you will find a map giving the locations of the free toilets Nette Toilette.

This would be such a boon to me when I embark on my Christmas shopping next month. It's all psychological, I guess, but the knowledge that there are toilets easily reachable would be one of the main comforts to all that trekking around the shops!

This post is adapted from my original blog post entitled The Smallest Room - Facilitating the Facilities on my blog