Tag Archives: #amwriting

Word crimes – or how to catch a killer by their writing.

A book has just been published that is described as a ‘must read’ for any crime writer looking for ideas. I would like to suggest it could also be a useful guide for anyone wanting to include letters or other messages in their work that ring true for the characters they are portraying. I.e. Would my character really use words like that? Is the writing consistent with their age, level of education, intelligence etc?

The book in question is More Wordcrime – Solving crime with linguistics, by John Olsson. Olsson is a forensic linguist and, as the title suggests, this is not his first book on the subject. He is often used as an expert witness for trials where the authorship of letters, text messages, suicide notes etc. is in dispute. His job is to identify the use of words, slang, spellings, and grammatical structures that are out of the ordinary for the alleged writer of the text.

One case he cites is David Ryan, who was jailed for the murder of Diana Lee. At his trail his defence was that he wasn’t at the scene at the time of her death as she had sent text messages the next day. However Olssen’s examination of the text showed the last few texts were not in keeping with her usual style. (She didn’t use spaces after commas; he did and had sent the texts himself from her phone to deter friends and relatives from looking for her).

Often a message written by someone purporting to be another will show that they know enough about them to use a particular phrase they are associated with, but use it in the wrong place, or too often. One murder victim, for example, regularly started her Facebook messaging with ‘Haha …’ Her killer continued her messaging after the murder to distract from the actual time of death – but he put ‘Haha’ at the end of each message as well – something she never did.

Some of Olssen’s findings were not helpful to the police. For example witness statements from ordinary people that used technical terms (like ‘extrajudicial,’ or ‘proceeding in a vehicle’ instead of driving a car) would suggest the witness had been given some inappropriate assistance in writing their statements.

Aside from crimes he cites that could inspire a crime writer, his work demonstrates to all aspiring writers how to aim for authenticity in their fictional missives. You still might not find a publisher, and may decide that an actual jewellery heist, or kidnapping an heiress, would be more profitable than writing about it. But at least you stand a better chance of getting away with your crime should you choose to cover your tracks with fake texts and letters.

Links to my books

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

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https://twitter.com/meegrot

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Writing together – a novel experience (1)

I don’t think I’d be very good as a co-author. I struggle to compile a shopping list with my husband without getting irritated, and as for joint authorship of friendly little missives on the Christmas and birthday cards we send out – don’t go there!

So I’m always very impressed when I hear about two or more people collaborating on a novel – especially when it all works out and their work gets published. Even more so if they are – and remain – married.

There are plenty of examples of successful collaborations. To start with a couple of married couples: there’s the British couple Nicci Gerrard and Sean French who write psychological thrillers together under the pseudonym Nicci French. There are also the children’s books authors Janet and Allan Ahlberg – although maybe they were able to maintain marital harmony by dividing their labours, with Janet doing the illustrating and Allan the writing.

Although the books were published under one name, the famous jockey Dick Francis always acknowledged Mary, his wife, in each book. She is widely credited with licking his prose into shape after he came up with the plot ideas. When she died he collaborated with his son, Felix.

Sometimes writers who are famous in their own right get together on a joint work with considerable success, as did Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (Good Omens). Despite his diagnosis of dementia, Pratchett continued writing until he died, including writing the Long Earth Series with Stephen Baxter.

The most recent, and well publicised, collaboration is that between former president Bill Clinton and James Patterson who worked together on The President is Missing.

Ann Evans and Rob Tysall

Robert D. Tysall and Ann Evans

I haven’t had the chance to interview Bill and James, to find out how their collaborative efforts were for them. But on my blog on the 8th August the children’s, romance, and thriller author Ann Evans and her co-writer Robert D. Tysall (better known as a musician and photographer) will be answering questions about their new novel-writing partnership.

  • Was their recent collaboration on a novel successful?
  • Are they still speaking to each other?
  • Let alone still working together?

Find out by reading my next blog…

 

Links to my books

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

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https://twitter.com/meegrot

A Bestseller’s tips for aspiring writers.

Many of us dream of being writers (preferably famous ones) from an early age, and may even draft an opening chapter or two whilst still in primary school. Few of us, however,girl-writing-fourth-grade  will actually finish a novel before leaving school or college. Even fewer will get anything published at that age – even if our grannies think what we’ve done is absolutely brilliant.

Some of us will sustain the dream into later life. Then, as the distractions of work and a growing family fall away, we pick up a pen and, with an optimism soon replaced by grim determination, many set-backs, rejection letters and, finally, a bit of luck (if we’re lucky!) complete a book that actually gets published.

The older aspiring writer can draw inspiration from advice given by Joanna Trollope Joanna Twho once said “you can be too young to write – because you haven’t lived enough – but never too old.” Think of Ruth Rendell writing bestsellers in her eighties, PD James doing the same into her nineties, and Diane Athill, who didn’t start getting her own work published till her nineties, is now over a hundred, and maybe not finished yet.

Trollope maintains that people write better from the age of thirty five, simply because they have more experience of the ups and downs of life and love by then. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get into training meanwhile. Most important, she says, is honing your powers of observation – the hallmark of all successful novelists. Also, remembering to keep a notebook with you helps, so you can jot things down as they happen, or as they occur to you: ideas, observations, snatches of dialogue, interesting place names, intriguing names for businesses or shops, names people give their children or pets.

I added the last few examples myself but, as this famous bestseller once said, “No amount of noticing of other people is ever, ever wasted, for a writer.”

Well, it works for her!

Links to my books

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

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https://twitter.com/meegrot

 

Are you in a Reading Slump?

I’m not sure if it’s the hot weather, moral turpitude, or advancing years, but I’ve been struggling to read much recently. Reassuringly though, I have just read an on-line article from the Times and Sunday Times, and find I am not alone. Help is at hand so, if you are struggling too, here are some of the tips sent in by readers:
Sleeping_Reader1 Read something short. The speedy sense of achievement will fill you with motivation to read more.
2 Reread a favourite childhood book to reconnect with the excitement of reading as a kid.
3 Try an audiobook.
4 Read a short-story collection. Easy to pick up and put down again.
5 Don’t feel guilty about abandoning books. Keep picking up new things until you find something that engages you.
6 Reread a “comfort” book. Something you’ve read before and know you love.

I am going to try out a few of these tips next week when I take a short break. (Maybe it will rain and I will have to stay in and make my own entertainment as there is no Internet on site).

I am also struggling to write much at the moment. The story-line is coming along nicely in my head, but is refusing to find its way onto paper or screen. So I’m taking an empty note-pad and plenty of pens with me and hope that, along with finding the mojo to read a bit more, I will actually put one of the said pens to paper.

Links to my books (in case you are looking for something pretty short to read!)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

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https://twitter.com/meegrot

 

How to be a prize-winning author.

Anne TylerAnne Tyler is an American writer who has written twenty-two novels, won the Pulitzer prize, been shortlisted for the Booker prize, and had one of her books turned into an Oscar winning film. Her latest book, Clock Dance, has just been published and is likely to sell well. Very well – she has a huge following of both male and female readers and has sold more than ten million books since she started writing over fifty years ago.

Unlike most novelists, who are encouraged / expected by their publisher to seize every opportunity to promote their books she has, for the past forty years, refused to go on book tours or appear on chat shows. Her books sell largely on her reputation, and positive critical reviews. She will, however, allow the occasional newspaper interview and recently talked about her writing technique to Louise France.

The author has a small office in her home where she stores her ideas for novels on index cards and jots down the initial outline for each novel on one page. She writes the first draft in longhand, with a black gel pen, onto blank sheets of A4 paper. Numerous revisions are then made to the handwritten draft before she feels pleased enough with her work to type it into her computer.

But that is only the start! She then re-writes it in longhand and, after that, reads it out loud into a recorder so she can pick up what still doesn’t sound right, make further changes and, finally, pull together a manuscript she is satisfied is ready to go to her publisher.

Anne Tyler is already well into her twenty-third novel. Recently she has given up writing all day. She writes in the morning and allows herself to read other people’s work in the afternoon. She reads fiction and doesn’t like memoirs, finding them too intrusive into real people’s lives. Perhaps a fitting stance for someone who is so unassuming about her own fame and talent, and who recently described novel writing as “A very odd way of making a living. Just telling lies.”

Odd it maybe, but it’s worked for her! Though, if her technique is anything to go by, it is certainly not an easy option. Writing a prize-winning novel is hard work.

 

 

My Amazon author pages and other social media links

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

Facebook: fb.me/margaretegrot.writer

Twitter: https://twitter.com/meegrot

 

 

 

Meet Nuzo Onoh – the Queen of African Horror

 Nuzo Onoh is a British writer of African-Igbo heritage. Popularly known as “The Queen Nuzo 3of African Horror,” Nuzo was born in Enugu, in the Eastern part of Nigeria (formerly, The Republic of Biafra). She experienced the Nigerian-Biafran war as a child refugee, an experience that has influenced some of her works. She first came to England as a teenager and attended The Mount School, York, (a Quaker boarding school) and St Andrew’s Tutorial College, Cambridge, from where she obtained her A-levels. She holds a Law Degree and a Masters Degree in Writing, both from The University of Warwick, Warwickshire.

Nuzo has been championing the alternative horror genre, African Horror, and has featured on multiple media platforms both online and offline, promoting this unique horror genre. She is included in the reference book, 80 Black Women in Horror and her writing has also featured in multiple anthologies. She has written several blogs for Female First Magazine and has also given talks at several events about African Horror, including the prestigious Warwick University Law Society.

A keen musician, Nuzo plays both the piano and guitar and enjoys writing songs when not haunting church graveyards and the beautiful Coventry War Memorial Park. Her book, The Reluctant Dead (2014), introduced modern African Horror into the mainstream Horror genre. Her other books include Unhallowed Graves (2015) The Sleepless (2016) and Dead Corpse (2017). Nuzo has two daughters and a cat, Tinkerbell, and lives in Coventry

What is the title of your most recent book? Dead Corpse (published 31st October 2017). Dead Corpse is an occultic story of supernatural possession and vengeance. It follows the lives9781909484870_cov2.indd of three generations of medicine-women. Ọwa is a diminutive, albino woman, who suffers years of abuse and ostracism from her community because of the pale colour of her skin. She comes from a long line of medicine-women, high priestesses to the earth deity, Aná. Her mother is the late Xikora of the Leloole curse, a powerful medicine-woman whose name, even in death, still strikes awe and terror in the twelve villages and beyond.

Ọwa lacks the ruthlessness of her late mother, Xikora, and is treated with contempt by the villagers, who confuse her gentle nature for weakness. Until the day her only daughter, Aku, is kidnapped and murdered for ritual purposes by “The Fat Man”, a corrupt politician protected by the village chieftain, the police and the witch doctor. Ọwa turns to the Earth Goddess for justice. Suddenly, an entire village awakens to the deadly fury of a powerful medicine-woman, as the dreaded Xikora returns to wreak her special brand of justice on the people responsible for her grand-daughter’s death.

Based on the true plight of African Albinos, Dead Corpse is a ghost story of betrayal, vengeance and redemption.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding? I think any writer’s greatest challenge is to keep writing despite everything – sickness, divorce, loss, depression, bankruptcy or whatever else that life throws at one. Ours is a solitary work that requires the strongest of discipline to keep plodding on regardless. In my case, the most rewarding part of writing is when I finally type “The End” after completing a book, in spite of my personal challenges. Nothing tastes better than that celebratory glass of wine.

What does it feel like to be a pioneer writer of African horror? How did you get Nuzo 2started?  When I started writing African Horror, there was nothing like my work in mainstream horror. We had some South African horror writers who didn’t necessarily write African Horror or classify their work as such. As mine was an unknown work, I realised it was vital to create a brand before thinking of approaching publishers or agents. So, I set up a publishing company and started publishing my books. I also started promoting the genre with aggressive media publicity campaigns, using various professional book publicists at significant personal expense to get the word out. Thankfully, now, all that work has paid off and I find myself referred to by numerous reviewers as “The Queen of African Horror.” Better still, there are now a few writers who use the term, African Horror, to classify their work. I am proud to be the first African Horror writer to feature on Starburst Magazine, the world’s longest-running magazine of cult entertainment, as well as the first African Horror writer to feature as a guest speaker at the upcoming Birmingham Horror Con in October 2018. My works have also featured in numerous horror anthologies and podcasts and I’m in the process of pitching to traditional publishers, now that I’ve successfully built the brand.

And can you tell us a bit about your publishing company? My publishing company is Canaan-Star Publishing. It’s a paid self-publishing company of Print-on-Demand (PoD) paperbacks/ebooks. We undertake every aspect of the publishing process from personalised book-cover design using licensed images, to formatting, ISBN assignment, worldwide distribution and registration with the British Library. We don’t offer unpaid editing work and expect manuscripts to be publish-ready. We offer authors two separate book-covers to choose from and the entire process from the signing of the contract to their books getting published is approximately 6 weeks. I started out initially publishing my own books but have since branched out to publishing writers from all over the world, including authors who were previously traditionally published but trying the self-published process.

Please Visit www.canaan-star.co.uk for more information.

What is your top tip for an aspiring writer? Always repeat the mantra: “It’s only a matter of time.” If you have a story to tell, tell it, regardless of who likes it or hates it. Your characters want their stories told, that’s why they came to you as their mouth-piece. Don’t let them down because you’re upset nobody’s buying your book or believing in you. Persevere, believe and trust that one day, the world will wake up to your words. It takes a split second for your destiny to change. Don’t sabotage your success by giving up too soon. It’s only a matter of time.

What are you working on at the moment? I’ve just completed my next book, A Dance for the Dead, a 92,000-word novel of betrayals and ghostly vengeance. I am now polishing it off with a professional coach with a view to getting it traditionally published. I’m also writing some short stories to pitch to various online publications.

What do you like to read? Anything that grabs my attention, which isn’t always horror works, although I have a partiality for Japanese ghost stories and writers (Yoko Ogawa, Murakami, Koji Suzuki, Otsuichi, Ishiguru etc). That said, my all-time fav books are Gates of Fire by Steven  Pressfield and The Godfather by Mario Puzo.

Where can readers find you?

Website: www.nuzoonoh.co.uk

Twitter: @nuzoonoh

Goodreads: goodreadscomNuzo_Onoh

 

 

 

Words we owe to Africa.

Next week I am excited to have the ‘Queen of African Horror’ on my blog, talking about her work. As a tiny warm-up act I’m doing an African themed blog today. First, here’s a small selection of words in English that we all know, but don’t necessarily realise have an African origin.

Africa_map_sunset_motif

  • Banana
  • Banjo
  • Chimpanzee
  • Impala
  • Jumbo
  • Macaque
  • Okapi
  • Safari
  • Zebra
  • Zombie

 

 

And here are a few African proverbs that I think might include a lesson for the aspiring writer of any genre or nationality.

Wisdom: The fool speaks, the wise man listens. (And takes notes – could come in useful for a piece of dialogue one day)

Learning: You learn how to cut down trees by cutting them down. (Good writing comes from practice, practice, practice…)

Unity and Community: If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. (Join a writers’ group to help you achieve your goals)

Friendship: Show me your friend, and I will show you your character. (Good tip re developing the synergy between characters in your story)

Money and Wealth: Do not let what you cannot do, tear from your hands what you can. (OK so maybe you aren’t going to write a best seller straight away. But that’s no excuse for not writing anything)

Love and marriage: Love has to be shown by deeds and words (Remember – show not tell, at least most of the time).

Patience: To run is not necessarily to arrive. (No point writing 5,000 words a day, if they are rubbish and not publishable)

Food: Words are sweet, but they never take the place of food. (Very few authors can live on what they earn from their writing …)

Good words are food (… but it is very satisfying to try!)

That’s it for today. I hope you will be brave enough to join me next Thursday (28th) for a journey into African horror.

My Links: Amazon author pages:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO