Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Craziest Story I Ever Heard

by Steve Cavanagh

On Saint Patrick’s Day 2011 I lost my mother to cancer. If you’d told me that day that exactly four years later I’d have written a novel, gotten an agent, had multiple auctions for the publishing rights and just seen my first book hit the shelves – I’d have said you were crazy.
And I’d be right. That is crazy.

In 2011 I wasn’t writing. In fact I hadn’t written anything for about fifteen years. In my late teens I wrote a couple of screenplays, didn’t get them sold, and gave up writing around the age of 20. At 35 I was fairly rusty. I hadn’t written anything in the intervening period and I’d no plan to return to that life. I was a lawyer with a decent salary, a young family and I worked pretty long hours in a law firm just outside Belfast, Northern Ireland.

But something happened. My mother was the person who gave me my first crime novel – Silence Of The Lambs. I was hooked ever since. She gave me the love of reading and she encouraged me to write. Her passing felt wrong, like we were robbed. Something inside of me said that some good had to come out of this; that somehow I had to try and fix things. What could I do? At that time I had a new baby, and in hindsight I’m pretty sure I was depressed.

In September 2011 I decided I was going to have another shot at writing. A novel, this time. I was going to write the kind of novel that my mother would’ve enjoyed reading. This was one more roll of the dice – for her. I started writing at night. I’d begin around 10:30 and write until my head hit the keyboard. It felt desperate. But I enjoyed it – because I was escaping into a fictional world that I could control. When I was writing I wasn’t thinking about my own problems.

Around nine months later I had a book. Now I wanted to see it on a shelf. So I set about looking for an agent. Like everyone, I got rejections. A lot of them. So I kept revising the book, and submitting. In April 2013 I got an email from a respected agent telling me that the book would never be published. That was on a Monday night and I’ll never forget how terrible that felt – like I’d failed my mother. On the Wednesday of the same week I got offers of representation from some of the biggest and best agents in the UK.

September 2013 my first novel was sold in a four-publisher auction to Orion Books – who publishes some of my heroes like Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben and Ian Rankin.

The Defence was published in the UK on 12th March 2015 and I visited my mother’s grave. I told her that I’d done it. The pain was still there.

But I knew she was there too.

Steve Cavanagh was born and raised in Belfast and is a practicing lawyer. He holds a certificate in Advanced Advocacy and lectures on various legal subjects (but really he just likes to tell jokes). He is married with two young children. The Defence , has been chosen as one of Amazon's great debuts for 2015, as part of their Amazon Rising Stars programme. In 2015 Steve received the ACES award for Literature from the Northern Ireland Arts Council. Steve writes fast-paced legal thrillers set in New York City featuring series character Eddie Flynn. The Defence is his first novel. Find out more at or follow Steve on Twitter @SSCav.

Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren't that different. It's been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn't have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie's back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter, Amy. Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial - and win - if he wants to save his daughter. Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his 'client' and ensure Amy's safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible? Lose this case and he loses everything.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

My Writing Journey

By Mark Leggatt

How did I get here? Well, the journey from Day One to the moment my first book ‘Names Of The Dead’ was accepted for publication by Fledgling Press took quite a while, so let me give you the abridged version.

Around eight years ago, on a sunny Tuesday morning, in a wee village outside Toulouse in southern France, I was lying in the bath, thinking what I was going to do for the day. I had a few months off between work contracts, so I was enjoying the time off, mooching around the house, chopping firewood, and taking long walks in the forest with our Cairn terrier. But I was getting bored, and rather than a Eureka moment, I had a JFDI moment, and decided to finally stop talking about writing a book, and actually do it.

I have always carried a notebook on my travels. I had years of scribbled notes, half written chapters, sketchy sketches of characters, and plots with more holes than a colander. I counted my notebooks. There were around 150 of them, in various sizes. I scanned through them for hidden gems, but I got the feeling that I wasn’t going to find anything of much use (in the long term, I was wrong, they were crammed with golden nuggets, but I just couldn’t see it.)

So, I decided to start from scratch. I drove up to the next village and found a newsagent, where I stocked up on pens, pencils and an artists A3 sketchpad. I arrived home, cleared the dining room table, and started scribbling.

I had no where I was going, but that was fine. All I wanted to do was write, keep writing, and trust that I’d find my way. Well, I did, but it took me a lot longer than I expected.

It was four years of work before I was ready to submit to agents, and another three years before I found an agent. In total, it took eight years before I was accepted for publication. But in all that time, after that first day, there was no way in hell that I was giving up. I had a objective, and I was determined to see it through.

The first few months before I went back to work were spent scribbling any story that came into my head, and walking around the garden, followed by our dog, who was wondering what the hell I was doing. Plots came, plots went.

Travel allowed me to read widely, and I’ve spent about ten years dotting from job to job in various airport lounges three times a week. I’ve lived in every sort of hotel from a five star palace in Den Haag to a seedy dive in Montmartre, where the lights of the Moulin Rouge flickered outside my window, the carpets were as sticky as treacle, and you could hear the whorehouse banging away next door.

I noted everything down as I moved from city to city. Amsterdam, Berlin, the history of Paris and it’s inhabitants, and any news that I found interesting, plus the people involved. The research gave me tools for my toolbox, and a platform to research the softer skills of dialogue and emotion, to draw the reader into the mind of the characters. These softer skills I had to develop, and through imagination and observation, I wrote down why people acted in the manner that they did. What were their fears and motivations, what drove them on, and what fear (or strength) stopped them? I used my notebooks to record these thoughts, and educate myself in what exactly was driving my characters. I wanted my characters to do what they wanted to do, not what I wanted them to do. It took time, and a lot of notebooks, but my characters emerged, along with their passions, strengths and fears.

Four years later, I was at a point where I could justify and explain why my story would work. That was the beginning of Names of The Dead. I took the decision to lay aside all the previous work, and call that my “Prentice Piece”. Then I picked up the pencils once more, read my notebooks, and began the plot for Names of the Dead.

Yours aye,


How I Got to Where I Am and What a Crazy Ride It’s Been

by Daniel J. Barrett

I have absolutely no business publishing a book at age 66 but here I am. How did I get here? Is there anything worthy to share with my fellow writers?

I’ve had a varied career over many decades. I was in banking. I worked for an international manufacturer, traveling worldwide as the manager of planning. Marketing said I was the only finance person who spoke English and not finance. I went on to become a financial consultant and grant writer.

I wasn’t any more prepared for writing grants than I was for writing books when I started. Being a grant writer meant reading 10 newspapers a day and keeping current to win financial awards. I made the grants readable so anyone could understand my proposals and their goal--to serve the most at-risk youth. It worked. We won $200 million dollars to help kids. Learning on the job paid off.

Six years ago, I decided that I was tired of television, other than watching baseball, and I started reading books. I’ve read 1,600 books over that time. Why? I wanted to learn what made a great book fun to read. I’ve read over 450 different authors. Were they all good? No, but a publisher thought they were. It was their decision.

Two years ago, I took the plunge and began writing novels. I’ve always learned the hard way, so I transferred my fearlessness in writing grants to my desire to create fiction. What I didn’t know about writing novels now makes me cringe. Did you know you’re not supposed to use semi-colons in fiction? I didn’t. Quotations, punctuation, and contractions became a Berlitz course, and when told to fix something. I did. Being pigheaded and stubborn with my desire to publish actually paid off. Here I am.

Like a present from heaven, Black Opal Books sent me an email and told me that Conch Town Girl had promise. I brought the novel up to publishing standards and they gave me a contract. I revised two other books and received another contract. I have just finished my fourth book in two years and will be sending that in shortly. As soon as Conch Town Girl was released, I had to learn the publishing and marketing side of being an author. All while continuing to write grants full time.

What is the point of this blog? Never give up? Don’t worry what people tell you or think about your writing? Be true to your heart? Stay on course? If you start something, finish it?

I wanted to prove that I could do anything I wanted when I put my mind to it. I can. You can. Anyone can. We teach this to at-risk kids. They don’t get an opportunity to have someone tell them they can be anything they want, at age 15, or at age 66. Colonel Sanders, age 65, started Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1955 and sold it 10 years later to John Y. Brown, Jr., the future Governor of Kentucky. Colonel Harlan David Sanders became a multimillionaire and international icon. You can will your way to success. Just try.

Daniel J. Barrett was born in Rutland, Vermont and has lived his entire life in Troy, New York, ten miles north of Albany. He is a graduate of both Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y. with a BS in Finance, and from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y, with an MBA in Management. Dan has had a varied career with extensive international experience, traveling worldwide. You may contact him at

Julie Chapman grew up in Key Largo, a tenth-generation Conch, raised in the Florida Keys by her grandmother, Tillie, since Julie’s parents were deceased. Then one night Tillie has a car accident and ends up in a coma, leaving Julie and her best friend Joe to wonder if it really was an accident. As Julie and Joe start digging for the truth, they uncover some dark and desperate secrets that can not only cause them a good deal of trouble, but also cost them their lives.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Welcome to the Club

By Julia Dahl

I’ve been reading mysteries and thrillers since before it was probably appropriate. I was in the Agatha Christie book-of-the-month club in elementary school, and by high school had graduated to Stephen King, Christopher Pike, Patricia Highsmith, Dean Koontz, and John Grisham. But it wasn’t until I happened upon a copy of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects that I actually thought I might be able to contribute to the genre I love so much.

I was initially drawn to the cover – all black but for a single, menacing razor blade. When I turned the book over and saw the author picture, I remember thinking: I know her! And I did, sort of. My first job out of college was as an intern at Entertainment Weekly where Gillian was then a television writer. We chatted occasionally, and she was always very nice. When she got promoted, I applied for her position but it went to a much more talented culture writer and I ended up at another magazine.

I took Sharp Objects home and read it in about 48 hours. When I was finished I had a mission: I was going to write a mystery novel.

I picked up Sharp Objects in 2007, and in 2012 I finished writing my own mystery/thriller, Invisible City. What now? I knew enough to know that just sending the manuscript to an agent who didn’t know me was likely to get my book thrown on the slush pile. So I took a chance: I sent Gillian Flynn a Facebook message. We hadn’t seen each other or spoken in more than 10 years, but this was before Gone Girl came out so she wasn’t yet an international sensation. I figured, why not try?

The message I sent was short -- just a quick intro (You may not remember me but we both worked at EW…), a description of my book, and a request: Do you have any advice for a new writer?

Two weeks later she emailed me back saying yes, she remembered me, and that she had mentioned my book to her agent who thought it sounded interesting.She said you should send it. A couple months later, I signed with her agent – my agent. Six months after that, we sold Invisible City and its upcoming sequel, Run You Down, to Minotaur.

In the year since Invisible City came out, I have been astonished by the generosity of writers in the mystery and thriller world. Cara Hoffman, author of So Much Pretty and Be Safe, I Love You has become a friend, and when I was terrified at the prospect of finishing a novel in a year she talked me off the ledge: You’ve done this before. You’re better at it now. And she was right. Lorenzo Carcaterra, author, most recently, of The Wolf, invited me to his book club and recommended Invisible City to readers of the New York Post. Hank Phillippe Ryan, author of Truth Be Told, introduced me to Lee Child and Julia Spencer-Fleming while we were at Bouchercon.

Writing a novel is a solitary endeavor, but publishing, promoting and selling a novel – all the things that turn one book into a career - is the opposite. You need relationships, you need support. I’m here to tell you that this community is silly with support. And I’m honored to be a part of it.

Julia Dahl is a journalist specializing in crime and criminal justice. She currently writes for and her feature articles have appeared in Salon, the Columbia Journalism Review, Pacific Standard and many others. Her first novel, "Invisible City," is a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and was named one of the Boston Globe's Best Books of 2014. Julia was born in Fresno, California to a Lutheran father and a Jewish mother, and now lives in Brooklyn.

INVISIBLE CITY is the story of Rebekah Roberts, a Florida native whose Hasidic Jewish mother abandoned her as an infant. Now a tabloid reporter in New York City, Rebekah is called to report on the story of a murdered Hasidic woman in Brooklyn. She soon learns that because of the NYPD's habit of kowtowing to the powerful ultra-Orthodox community, the murder may go unsolved. Rebekah can't let the story end there. But getting to the truth won't be easy--even as she immerses herself in the cloistered world where her mother grew up, it's clear that she's not welcome, and everyone she meets has a secret to keep from an outsider.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March Debut Releases

It's the first Thursday in March and that means new releases. 

Please take a look and let’s celebrate these debut authors' success!

Steve Cavanagh - The Defence (Orion Books) March 12, 2015

Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren't that different.

It's been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn't have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie's back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter, Amy.

Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial - and win - if he wants to save his daughter.

Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his 'client' and ensure Amy's safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible?

Lose this case and he loses everything.

Glen Erik Hamilton - Past Crimes (William Morrow) March 3, 2015

Van Shaw was raised to be a thief, but at eighteen he suddenly broke all ties to that life and joined the military—abandoning his illicit past and the career-criminal grandfather who taught him the trade. Now, after ten years of silence, his grandfather has asked him to come home to Seattle. But when Van arrives, he discovers his grandfather bleeding out on the floor from a gunshot to the head. With a lifetime of tough history between him and the old man, Van knows he’s the  main suspect.

The only way he can clear his name is to go back to the world he’d sworn to leave behind. Tapping into his criminal skills, he begins to hunt the shooter and uncover what drove his grandfather to reach out after so long. But in a violent, high-stakes world where right and wrong aren’t defined by the law, Van finds that the past is all too present . . . and that the secrets held by those closest to him are the deadliest of all. 

SJI Holliday - Black Wood (Black and White Publishing) March 19, 2015

Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo's story. Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun.

But what is the connection between Jo's visitor and the masked man? To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?