Tag Archives: mystery

On Writing Characters – Simon Grant








I write Simon Grant Mysteries series

Originally, I was planning to write only three books

–      Hiding the Elephant

–      Lock Up Your Daughters

and the forthcoming For the Love of Honey.

But just as book three, For the Love of Honey, started approaching its publication date, I had this brilliant new idea for yet another sequel. I don’t know all the details yet, I haven’t even got the title, but I do know why it needs to be written and why everything that will be happening in the story needs to happen.

How I know that?

Why I know that?

These questions brought me to another question: What happens to fictional characters when they’re off page? How well do I need to know my characters to keep them going from one story to another?

Rather well, seems to be the obvious answer. Well enough to make the readers care whether the Main Character lives or dies. Well enough to make the readers care for those that the MC cares about and dislike MC’s pet hates enough to immerse themselves into the next storyline. And therein hides the trap. Once the word ‘care’ comes into play, that’s it. When it happened to me, I was hooked. From that moment on my MC blossomed into Simon Grant, a person in his own right, someone I just had to know everything about if for no other reason than to keep him on side. I really can’t have my characters rebelling against me all over the page, can I? Knowing Simon rather well wasn’t good enough any longer. I had to know him intimately to move on.

By now, readers know that he’s calm on the surface and passionate underneath, occasionally quick tempered, a keen observer who doesn’t get involved unless he needs to, an amateur carver of wooden miniatures, alongside many of his other poignant traits.

On the other hand, I’ve stealthily learned that he doesn’t watch much TV. He enjoys riding, swimming, sailing and skiing but only when he gets a chance to do any of it himself. He’s not a good spectator. He knows that he should go to the gym more often, and he’ll get to address that in the Book 4. (Actually, I think that I’ve just found my working title for it: Book 4. As simple as that. It roils off the tongue rather well, doesn’t it?) On surface, he’s good with people, he can charm birds out of trees, but he’s got very few close personal friends, all of them carefully chosen. He likes to read but not murder mysteries or any other form of crime fiction, something that I find rather rude. Another thing that upsets me about him is that he’s not a foodie. Given chance, he’d live on sandwiches. Also, he’s quite clean, neat and tidy. I like clean. But neat and tidy?! Please?! Where has that come from? Mostly because of his parents’ high political profile, Simon is not political. He’s pragmatic, dealing with the world as it is, not as it should be. But, he’s a romantic. And how!

All those qualities will continue to seep through, meld with the already known ones, and make each new book that much more personal and revealing.

Anyway, why does all that matter?

To me, it’s like a well stocked cupboard at my disposal, full of exquisite ingredients required for production of a sophisticated, unique and intricate product, a.k.a. a genuine human being.

That’s the only way that I can think of to make sure that I won’t let him down and consequently, let myself down.



Posted by on 22/02/2013 in Uncategorized


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Tim Ellis – Writer

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So, here’s the thing! I was reading an article in Writer’s Magazine about Bernard Cornwell’s day, one of my favourite authors. So, I thought if Bernard can do it, so can I. My day usually begins about 5am, but I don’t beat myself up if I have a lie in now and again. The dogs (four of them) look at me as if I’m a sandwich short of a picnic. Three of them get up, go out and then go back to bed. They’re more normal than me – ain’t that the truth?I make my coffee – always been a coffee drinker, but I don’t mind the odd cup of tea if the whim takes me – and switch my laptop on (a Dell Ultrabook XPS13). I work off a miniature 8GB Verbatim memory stick. All of my writing is on there, but I do back-ups onto another memory stick, which I keep separately. And, of course, most of my writing is in numerous places online anyway! Then I get stuck in by checking my emails, my sales, my rankings, my facebook page and I’m off. Whatever the project is I get stuck in. The whole purpose of getting up at this ridiculous hour of the day is to work in peace and quiet with an uncluttered mind. If you’re going to procrastinate (or feed the monkeys) then you may as well go back to bed.

So, how did I get into writing? Well, I look back over my life and see the milestones that lead me here. As a teenager I wrote poetry, and that has continued. I was editor of a magazine called “The Gopher” in my early Army days. I used to play in the regional Scrabble championships, construct crosswords for fun, and read everything that I could lay my hands on. And then, one day about six years ago, after I’d read a book on Caesar by Conn Iggulden, I decided I could do that, so I wrote Warrior: Path of Desitiny. Since then, I’ve written twenty novels – mostly crime.

I sit in the living room in my leather recliner chair. I have got a shed, but I’m not keen on spiders, and there’s no electricity in there. Now that I’m 60 years old, my wife says I can write where I want to – so I do. There’s only the two of us now – the son having finally got a life of his own – about bloody time I often say! So, life doesn’t get in the way of what I want to do much anymore. I started writing a while back when I was still teaching. The more I wrote, the less I wanted to teach. Then, four yeas ago I had a heart attack and survived. It was a good excuse to retire – so I did. I suppose I’m a writer now, and I don’t think there’s a retirement age for writers – they just get recycled through charity shops (Ha, ha! There wasn’t a joke for ‘old writers never die . . .’, so I just made that up). Maybe I should start writing humour! Hecklers can kiss my ballpoint pen!

It’s just 7am, and I’ve been doing a lot of administrative tasks since 5am relating to my latest police procedural bestseller The Terror at Grisly Park (Quigg 5), which I published on Monday. Yeah, being a writer means doing loads of rubbish that isn’t actually writing, which is probably a good job because otherwise my brain would turn to mush if I tried to write all day. So, I like to intersperse my writing with frequent trips to the kitchen to make drinks/snacks/chocolate, the odd tweet/retweet, reading the news/sports on Yahoo, and so on.

My days are mostly the same because I don’t want to do anything much except write. At about 8:45am I go for my shower, and then take the dogs for their first walk. Gives me a chance to think through what I’m writing and what I’m going to write next. I have a target word-count of 1,000-words a day, but again I don’t subject myself to self-flagellation if I don’t make it. Most days I achieve a lot more, but I work on a larger target of 10,000-words a week, 40,000-words a month, and a finished 80,000-word book in two months, which is what I’ve been achieving for a while now. Being old, wrinkly, crotchety and forgetful has its advantages.

After I’ve walked the dog I generally get back to writing for a couple of hours. At midday I have my lunch and watch something I’ve recorded on Sky+ for an hour, and then I have a siesta for an hour or two. I get up again and start writing. At around 3pm I take the dogs for their second walk, and then write some more. At 5.15pm I put my laptop down and watch Pointless (big fan Alexander and Richard), watch the news and then do a bit more work until about 8pm and then I call it a day and watch some TV. Most of my writing gets done between 5 – 8am when there are no distractions.


There’s lots of talk about planning, chapter outlines and a dozen other ways to write. Each to his own. When I’m writing police procedurals I like to have a title, the names of my lead character(s) and a location before I start – this means I own it. It’s mine. That’s it really. I then begin writing and go where the characters take me. I have a notebook by my chair, and I keep notes of what I’ve got to include in the future. I write in scenes, and I try to make each scene as interesting as I can. I suppose you can relate it to: Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves. If you’ve got your scenes right the book should be good – build it a brick at a time . . . Well, as long as you’ve got a plot, a story, interesting characters, conflict, and all the other things you’re meant to have in a book.The wife got up. I grunted at her a few times – she’s happy. Had a shower, walked and fed the dogs – they’re happy. Made a coffee and had a couple of pieces of toast – I’m happy. Back to writing. You know, I had a quick look at rules for writers – there’s a whole bunch of them that people have come up with from Diane Athill (who?), through George Orwell to Jeanette Winterson (who?). Anyway, I thought I’d let you know some of the ones I abide by:

1. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue (Elmore Leonard). Although sometimes I break this rule, but not much. I try to use actions, body language, or speech indiosyncracies to indicate who’s speaking,
2. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” (Elmore Leonard). I very rarely use adverbs (or “ly” words). Adverbs are telling – I prefer to show through actions and body language.
3. I don’t use “suddenly”.
4. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters (Elmore Leonard). I’m a bit in the middle with this one. I do give some description, but not too much.
5. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip (Elmore Leonard). Yes, I’m one of the readers that skip, and I keep this in mind while I’m writing.
6. Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue (Helen Dunmore). Yes, I tend to do this. I go to bed, and between the light and the dark, my characters show me where they’re going and what they’re going to be doing next.
7. A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk Helen Dunmore). While I’m walking the dogs, problems often get solved. If your instinct is saying it doesn’t work, your instinct is probably right – change it. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you it doesn’t work.
8. Don’t wait for inspiration. Discipline is the key. I agree. Get up, get writing. Do it every day – rain or shine. No excuses – just do it.
9. Use layering. When I re-read that one time I think about: The five senses, the descriptions, the dialogue, the emotions and feelings, body language, conflict, actions, the pace, active/passive, and long/short sentences.
10. Also, I keep it simple, I make sure there’s lots of “white space” i.e. I use a lot of dialogue. I like reading dialogue. I tend to skip over chunks of description when I’m reading.

Some of the rules I break with wild abandon:

1, Keep your exclamation marks under control (Elmore Leonard). No, I tend to use a few more than 3 per 100,000-words!
2. Read it out loud. I can already hear it in my head, so I tend not to read my work out loud. Although the wife has caught me muttering to myself on occasion.
3. Cut. What I write is usually the finished product. There’s nothing to cut generally because my writing is minimilastic anyway. I re-read what I’ve written, make some minor changes, etc., send it off to the proofreader. Make some more minor changes.
4. Avoid using a thesaurus. I use the online version whenever I lose a word, or I need a definition. My memory isn’t what it was, and Statins make it worse, so I break this rule when I need to.
5. Cut out the metaphors and similes (Esther Freud). No, I break this rule regularly. Metaphors and similies are like old friends.

Well, I think that’s about it. A life in the day of Tim Ellis.

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Posted by on 07/02/2013 in Uncategorized


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DOUBLE TROUBLE now available at Smashwords again.

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Posted by on 16/07/2012 in Uncategorized


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DOUBLE TROUBLE – Two Simon Grant Mysteries in a single volume


This edition contains the two first Simon Grant Mysteries: Hiding the Elephant and Lock Up Your Daughters.

Set in Northamptonshire, they feature Detective Inspector (soon to become Detective Chief Inspector) Simon Grant,based in Wellingborough and mostly dealing with the rural areas of the county.Unlike his serene environment, Grant life and loves are complex and turbulent and the brutal crimes that he’s solving never fail to grate against one or another of his sore spots.
Written in literary style, the novels and story lines appeal to readers who enjoy immersing themselves in an opulent, lush human drama.

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Posted by on 07/05/2012 in Uncategorized


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Daily Quotes 50












The Hales kept away, aloof and inviolate in their role of chief mourners. A funny little couple with faces like two sprouting potatoes and dressed very much alike were the first to ask if Grant expected any more murders. Oh, no, Grant most certainly didn’t expect any more murders. Mr. and Mrs… er…, they supplied a name but not very clearly, they needn’t worry at all. Statistically, Northamptonshire was one of the safest areas to live in. It went from there. Mostly about unreported burglaries and the uncouth youth of today, nothing like it used to be. Mrs. Powell asked if Grant thought thatCheshirechap would know Lennie Unsworth’s whereabouts. Yes, Grant was confident Mr. Humberside would be able to offer significant help with that line of inquiry.

Bloody hell. Humberside’s capture and return to theUKmust have been already splashed all over the news. BloodyCarlton.

‘Well, wherever she is, Lennie won’t be coming back to any lead parts again, that’s for sure.’

‘How’s that, Mrs. Powell?’

‘Haven’t you heard, Inspector? This place is closing after the next show when the lease runs out. Can’t pay the rent. Not now that Fran’s gone. The Masters woman’s been making some noises but she’s got no money of her own and I can’t see her husband paying for it. But, she’s got what she wanted. Hale cast her as Salome. Apparently, my accent was too much of the Fens. I ask you. It’s been twenty years and more since I’ve left the Fens. My Hugh and I celebrated our twentieth in June.’

The potato couple said they had been thinking of switching over to the Wellingborough Operatic anyhow; he had a lovely baritone. Someone said the Operatic was good but a bit old fashioned for his taste and he himself was joining a writers’ group. He was a creative type.

Grant thought he could see the top of Emma’s head or the curve of the neck on several occasions, but the room was quite crowded by now.

‘You wanted to talk to me, I believe, Inspector. What’s the poor little me accused of?’

Some voices can do that. Everyone else stopped talking and slowly moved away. There was far more of Alicia Masters outside her dress than in. Did she know this was meant to be a wake?



‘You coming, Sir?’ Rav Singh returned into the house.

‘In a minute. We’ll follow yout in in my car.’

‘How’s the albatross?’

Grant turned towards the crystal mirror in a baroque frame and tapped his own shoulder. ‘I can’t see any. Can you?’

Singh laughed. ‘Neither can I. See you at the Station.’ He turned to leave, then laughed again. ‘There’s been a turn-up back at the ranch. You’ll never believe this. Monica, the Super’s secretary, eloped yesterday.’

‘Don’t be an idiot, Rav. Women of Monica’s age and disposition don’t elope.’

‘She did.’

‘Who with?’

‘Samantha’s, the Super daughter’s, fiancée.’ Singh waved cheerily and walked off.


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Posted by on 24/01/2012 in Uncategorized


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Daily Quotes 49












The Word on Sunday and a few others ran it on the front page. The qualities varied from a small marginal item at the back to a couple of columns among other news from the Balkan war. The gist of it was the same. The British navy patrolling theAdriaticsearched a Turkish ship for evidence of supplies of arms to Bosnians. The ship was on a return trip and any evidence gathered was purely circumstantial, but they found a stowaway. The upshot was that Cedric Humberside, the hit and run driver in the baby Silcock case and later implicated in the brutal murder of Frances Swan and mysterious disappearance of the dead woman’s best friend, Helena Unsworth, a Hallbrook veterinary surgeon in the CroatianportofSplit, that very same Cedric Humberside was being brought back toBritainand justice. In addition to a very good photograph of Humberside, The Word scooped with a few more details. The British were to transport the prisoner toZagreb, the capital ofCroatia, in a military aircraft and escort him from there toLondonimmediately on the scheduled flight.

‘You know what that means, don’t you?’ Grant was fuming. ‘Carlton’s made sure that every single paparazzi in the country and his aunt are there to meet that plane.’

‘Let him have his fun. What’s the harm?’

‘I don’t know yet, but I’d have preferred a news blackout.’ It was no use taking it out on Debbie. She seemed livelier today. ‘You’ve consulted young Matthew on a number of points, I take it?’

‘A girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. All in a good cause.’ Debbie grinned.  ‘Matthew doesn’t think there’s a way of breaking the PIN unless the card happened to fall into the hands of high tech professionals.’

‘So, what does that tell us?’

Debbie shrugged. ‘Apparently, there have been cases inAmericaof crooked bank clerks observing customers punch their PIN into the machine through security cameras and then accessing their account that way. Not likely in this case. The hole in the wall inSt. Albanshasn’t even got a camera. But, Mrs. Unsworth may have written her PIN actually on the card. Matthew says lots of people do that.’

‘As simple as that?’

‘Lighten up, Boss. Something about this case has got to be simple.’



The first thing Grant saw through the half-open door was an oversized shadow on the wall. The profile was grotesquely reminiscent of Miss Piggy with glasses.

‘I’ve told you,’ Jennifer Spriggs materialised by his side from thin air. ‘Just as I’ve been saying all along.’

Grant produced a card from his inside pocket. ‘Call this number, ask for Inspector Singh. We’ll need two cars. And Singh himself,’ he whispered.


‘Please.’ He reached back into the pocket to hand her his mobile but she had already pulled her own out of a fancifully beaded bag.

‘He’s mine, Grant. Mine!’ Spriggs literally gritted her teeth. ‘And don’t you forget that.’

‘I won’t.’


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Posted by on 23/01/2012 in Uncategorized


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Daily Quotes 48












Emma tried to reach Branton from the main road but was unceremoniously turned back by two boy policemen. She drove on, turned into a circular road, passed a burning car and a group of youngsters around it who mercifully ignored her, carried on past several semi-circular buildings that went under the collective name of Branton Crescents and reached the first tower block by driving along a narrow path between two long rows of lock-ups. Like all the others, the tower block had a name but most letters were missing. Among the graffiti she managed to make out a big letter N above the entrance door. At the bottom end of a side street on the right a turbulent crowd of bodies was pushing away towards some invisible target. The noise penetrating the tightly shut car windows sounded like singing. Cheering. There was a strong smell of smoke and the sky above the row of some ten or so two-story houses with their own small lawns was red. An ambulance appeared in her rear view mirror, its lights and siren on full blast. Screeching, it turned somewhere left. As she was leaving the last of the still working streetlights, Emma reached into the glove compartment and fixed her DOCTOR ON CALL plate onto the windscreen.

The road was littered with broken furniture, oil drums, overturned rubbish bins, cans and bottles. She put her long lights on and concentrated on driving.  Several quick moving figures ran across the road in front of her, disappearing into the darkness. She pressed the door locks down.  On two occasions she had to climb the pavement to get round the obstacles on the road. As she passed Block J a figure stepped in front of the car and she stopped with a jolt. She lowered the window only when her headlights caught the fluorescent yellow POLICE patch on his chest.

‘Is your visit absolutely necessary?’ He had seen the plate on the windscreen and she silently blessed her own foresight.

‘Of course, Constable. No one would come here tonight from choice.’

‘You’d be surprised. Where are you going?’

‘Block C.’

‘Follow me.’ The young PC dissolved into the darkness and within seconds she heard the engine of his motorbike, and the single, powerful beam of light came on. He was careering in front of her, turning right and left through the maze of concrete buildings and she followed the best she could. It took them ten minutes to reach Block C. It was mostly in darkness and looked deserted.

‘Most of the action is in the west crescents. I won’t be able to wait for you. Will you be all right?’ He did not turn the engine off and urgent noises were coming out of his radio.



The TV room was quite small, twice as long as it was wide and felt cushioned in. The ground floor of Little Manor featured a mix of stone flagged and parquet floors covered with rugs of one kind or another, depending on the nature of the room. The TV room was carpeted wall-to-wall and the heavy, lined curtains seemed to be permanently drawn together. Apart from the recliner, there was also a corner suite covered in something stripy, a line of bookcases with certain amount of unused space, a non-descript occasional table with a number of video cassettes on the bottom tier and, of course, a TV set on its own aluminium stand. With a small indoor aerial it would have looked more appropriate in a museum.

‘Lucky I’ve got my own upstairs,’ Angel whispered into Grant’s ear. ‘If one could get a sound on this set it would be probably taking in Middle English.’

Pippa giggled and said that her father would have probably never replaced his old set if it hadn’t broken down and he couldn’t watch golf any longer.

Not many people came to watch. According to Angel’s whispered report, Rufus’ first session of the evening involved Bunty Friel, the female Bunty as distinct from Bunty de Wilde. The one Andrew Retz used to call Female Bounty, based on the experience of a series of one-night stands over the period of four years. Virtually everyone had flocked in and the session had to be moved to the sitting room to accommodate the audience. With a little help from Rufus,Bethanyaka Bunty Friel travelled all the way back to the thirteenth century continentalEurope, exact location unspecified, to be burned to death at the stake.

‘I’d bet she and Rufus had rehearsed it over and over again beforehand,’ Angel concluded. ‘But Bunty’s agony was very convincing. The audience was deeply satisfied. I’ll give them that.’

Bella’s act was promising a lot less excitement and had to compete for attention with the arrival of fresh trays of food. Only a few sauntered in and most of those seemed more interested in the content of their own and everyone else’s plates.

‘Must be well over twenty per head,’ said someone Grant couldn’t see. ‘Have you been asked for any contribution yet?’

The answer was inaudible.

‘They make me sick,’ Angel grumbled louder that the politeness of a hostess should have allowed. ‘The Old Man has never asked anyone for a contribution. He does it all off his own back.’

‘Why?’ asked Grant.

‘Showing off,’ said Alex.

‘I wish Mr. Smithers would get on with it. Get it over and done with,’ Grant heard Ransome speak for the first time. He stood by the door as if he wasn’t sure he was welcome.

Rufus looked around, his eyes demanding silence.

‘Are you ready?’ he asked.

Bella nodded. The pendant on her chest was rising up and down fast.

Rufus bent over her and brought his golden medallion with emerald trimming closer to her. ‘You know who this is?’

She nodded again. ‘Stinky,’ she said.

‘And you want to travel back to say good bye to him?’

She hesitated a little but nodded eventually. ‘Yes, I suppose so.’


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Posted by on 22/01/2012 in Uncategorized


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