The Bluebell Informant Cover Design: Part 2

A week ago, I took my first few steps into the world of marketing.

The Bluebell Informant is close to being completed and is looking good for a late summer release and, as part of my marketing campaign, I am going to give a small insight into the stages I go through turning my novel into an eye catching book that people will want to pluck from the shelves.

Now, unlike many writers, I am a little bit ahead – mainly down to the fact that I have quite a good idea of what I want my front cover to look like. I also have the advantage that, whilst I am not the world’s greatest artist, I do have enough skill at being able to sketch what is going on in my head to be able to recreate how I think the cover should look.

In my last post on the subject, Part 1, I revealed the sketch that I drew for The Bluebell Informant to some generally favourable responses. Some of my colleagues even suggested that, armed with my sketch, I should start approaching cover designers to get it made properly – which I did eventually do, but only in so far as to enquire about the technical bits and bobs…

You see, whilst I have a clear idea in my head of how the cover could look, I have no idea whether the reality would be anywhere as good as I intend it to be.

I could find that the marvellous image I have in my head simply doesn’t look good in print. And, with that possibility in mind, I’m not about to go steaming up to a cover designer and pay good money for them to create it without having a fair idea in my own mind that it’s going to look good.

Thankfully, in addition to my minute artistic talents, I am competent enough on Photoshop to be able to make a basic attempt at turning my sketch into something more akin to the final product.

So I set about producing the cover image and this is what I came up with. I should point out at this stage that this is little more than a mood board image at the moment and will not reflect the final cover, but I think the elements are starting to come together.

What do you think?

TBI2

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Book Review Rankings

2016 has been a year of change arounds for me.

To start of with, I decided to update my newsletter to make it look a little more user friendly. I am also in the process of redesigning my author website and will hopefully be able to publish the changes in the coming months.

But another change that I’m looking to implement is the way I deal with book reviews.

I figured it’s all well and good for me to read a book and then upload my opinions into the internet, but I’m not really comparing titles to each other. I might like two titles and I might have given them both 5 star reviews, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I enjoyed both as much as each other…

So, starting from now, I’m incorporating a league table of all the books I have read and reviewed on this blog since last summer.

The first table is below and will be added to with each review I do – how many rankings do you agree with?

  1. The Devil’s Detective
  2. Time and Time Again
  3. And Then There Were None
  4. The Murder Bag
  5. The Woman in Black
  6. The Slaughter Man
  7. You
  8. Death on the Nile
  9. The House of Silk
  10. The Private Patient

 

A Little Teaser from The Bluebell Informant

Watching carefully, Giles edged closer towards the doorway, her ears straining for her signal.

On the platform, a man with blonde dreadlocks, a scraggily beard and a tattered, red-chequered jacket, stepped up to the doorway and peered inside at Giles and Baker. His eyes were warm and welcoming but, as they focussed on Baker, they seemed to cloud over and, in that instant, he withdrew a few steps away from the train as though it were giving off some tremendous heat. He didn’t move any further, but his eyes did glance intermittently up and down the platform. The swirl of passengers embarking and disembarking the train swarmed around him and, all the while, he glared past Giles towards Baker whilst his face contorted into a singular yet unmistakable snarl.

 

The sharp beeping returned and the green buttons flashed yellow once again. The man took one last look up the train, closed his eyes and slowly stepped forward and clambered in through the doorway. He inhaled sharply as he came alongside Baker, the grimace on his face unmistakable and the object of his disgust undeniable.

Giles took her chance. She grabbed hold of Baker’s hand and pulled him forcefully off the train. As they clattered on to the platform, the doors slid silently closed behind them and the train began to move away.

She didn’t wait to see what became of the dreadlocked man. From the way he was dressed he was probably just some hippie that had as much disliking for Baker’s policies as Giles did. But she didn’t want to take the chance. She strode straight towards the exit ramp, Baker striding in her wake, and within minutes the two of them were moving along the concourse towards the exit barriers.

Giles hesitated. The barriers were closed.

‘Do you have a ticket?’ she asked, turning to Baker. She slowly pulled out her warrant card and nodded apologetically towards the barriers. ‘I can probably blag my way through, but two of us might draw too much attention…’

She looked around as the other passengers passed them by. Already some of them were throwing glances in their direction: some excitable, others in disgust. One couple a few paces ahead of them had actually stopped and pointed at Baker before taking out their camera phones to take some snap shots.

Baker had noticed it too.

Without hesitation, he gave a confident nod and plunged his hands deep into his pockets, his fingers scurrying around from something in the deepest recesses. The confusion registered on his face for just a moment and then his hands withdrew, empty and clenched tight. He smiled sheepishly at Giles.

 

‘We didn’t have time,’ he said slowly, his hand rubbing at his chin as he tried to hide the shame in his face . ‘I’ve never…’

‘No time for that,’ Giles interrupted. ‘We’ll just have to improvise.’

What’s The Bluebell Informant all about?

Today, I started work on the fifth draft of The Bluebell Informant, the first instalment in my D.S. Giles series. I have spoken a lot about my progress on the story, and the second in the series The Court of Obsessions, but I have been keeping the particulars of the story under my hat.

True, I may have been dropping the occasional hints now and then, but I haven’t actually talked about what it’s all about.

Until now.

Max is an enigma. A man never seen, only heard. A man never met, but well-known.

A man running for his life…

Enter Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles. The only person who can protect him.

When Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles is called out to a murder scene, she thinks it is a relatively straightforward affair. But when the prime suspect turns out to be one of her most valuable informants, Giles is forced to choose between bringing him to justice and freeing him so that she can stop an even greater evil.

Set in the Kent countryside and the gritty streets of London, Giles races to get her informant to safety as powerful forces, and even some of her closest colleagues, hunt her down to stop the informant from talking…

What is The Bluebell Informant about?

The story of The Bluebell Informant is about several things really. It’s about deceit, it’s about corruption, it’s about revenge – but at the heart of it, the story is really about the relationship between Giles and her informant, Daniel Baker.

Giles is Chinese by birth and Baker is the former leader of the Britain’s Own Party, a far-right party (with quite extreme anti-immigration policies) that has managed to win a recent General Election and form a government. On the face of it, these two people should absolutely despise each other and, throughout the book, they are constantly sniping at each other and reach points where they just want to be rid of one another.

 But both have something substantial to offer the other. Baker has information that is vital to one of Giles’ ongoing investigation and Giles is the only person who can possibly get Baker out of the trouble he’s in. So the two characters have to form an uneasy alliance, learn to trust each other and put aside their differences if they are both going to survive.

Where did the idea come from?

The 2015 UK general election was a massive influence on me. I had been working on another Giles story, The Court of Obsessions, when I decided that I needed to write a prequel. I already knew roughly how I wanted the story to go, but I wasn’t entirely clear on the details.

When the general election was in full swing, there was a lot of stuff flying around on the internet, particularly aimed at UKIP, with a lot of scare-mongering and viciousness thrown into the mix. And it got me wondering, if all these people were right, what sort of world would electing a far right party like that end up creating? From that, I started building up the story of Baker and his fall from grace and it really lifted off from there.

The first part of The Bluebell Informant is set in Edenbridge, where you live at the moment. Is there any reason for that?

A lot of writers say that you should write what you know, which is something I can sort of relate to but at the same time I like researching and writing about the unfamiliar. But the truth is the whole environment around Edenbridge gave me so much inspiration for this book that it would be a disservice not to set it here.

Obviously, writing about Edenbridge makes a lot of sense – I live here, I play rugby here, I work nearby. But actually the real reason why it got set here was because of the breadth of environments you have around here. Just walking from the town and upstream along the river, you move from the old town into a modern housing area, and then from there you hit the playing pitches and beyond that lovely country walks with old WWII pillboxes scattered around.

There is just so much history packed into a small area and so much inspiration around that it is really hard to not be inspired by it all.

Not to mention, on the more logistical side of things, if I ever get stuck, it is so convenient to just walk out of my front door and be at the locations mentioned in the novel in a matter of minutes.

And the murder itself?

The murder is the catalyst that sets everything off. A man is found dead on the river pathway, propped up next to a WWII pillbox with a bullet in the back of his head. He’s a complete John Doe, no way of getting an ID, and Baker is pegged immediately as the prime suspect by the local police.

But, despite all her misgivings towards him, Giles starts to suspect that something isn’t quite right and soon discovers that Baker is actually one of her informants, a guy who calls himself Max. He claims that the murder was all self defence and that he is the victim of an attempted assassination. He also has information that not only implicates quite a powerful man in a string of murders but is also capable of completely toppling the government.

From that point onwards, Giles is left with a bit of a dilemma. Does she take Baker in and try to solve the murder, or does she try to break him out so that she can take down the bigger threat?

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting more features about The Bluebell Informant. Stay tuned for all the latest, including sneak peeks and teasers.

Why do gun amnesties work?

A few days ago, the West Midlands police launched what they called the ‘Weapon Surrender’ Campaign, an initiative focused on Birmingham where owners of weapons are being urged to hand them in. For the next six months, weapons of all types can be placed in secure bins – no questions asked.

The reason for this campaign is unfortunately rather a simple one.

In recent months, the number of gun-related incidents has been on the rise and the West Midlands Police are eager to stem the flow.

But do amnesties actually work and do they do anything to stop the problem?

When researching The Bluebell Informant and The Court of Obsessions, I asked myself that very same question. If there are people out there with guns and have the desire to use them, whether they are in robberies or acts of violence, surely they will have no intention of giving them up just because the police ask nicely and promise not to prosecute.

Alright, there may be a few who have somehow come across a gun and enjoy the power of owning such a weapon (even if they have no intention of using it) who may be obliged to get rid of it before they start down a dark path that they can’t easily turn back from. But, for the most part, the sort of people who are likely to hand such weapons is are the good members of the public – the type of people who have granddad’s old WWII pistol locked somewhere in their garden shed.

If these are the kind of people giving up firearms, what impact is that really going to have on gun crime? Gangs will still have their guns. Would-be bank robbers will still have their guns. The idiots who buy guns as some sort of status symbol will still have their guns…

With logic like that, it’s little wonder that such a large part of the American populace is kicking up such a fuss over the idea of tighter gun laws. I mean, if the only people who aren’t giving up their guns are the criminals, what good is that actually doing?

Surprisingly enough the answer (in the UK at least) is ‘quite a lot’.

See, the police aren’t stupid. They know that criminals and gangs aren’t going to give up their weapons just because they’re asked to. Those weapons are out there amongst the criminal classes now and they are never going to be recovered until someone does something stupid that alerts the police to their presence.

But the police can do something about stopping the flow of guns into the UK.

I recently penned a first draft of a short story called The Bullet With My Name On It which tells the story of how a gun finds its way from America to Britain where it is then used in a brutal murder. As part of my research for the story, I took a look at how guns come to arrive in Britain, given that it is illegal to import, sell or own pistols, semi-automatics and pump action firearms.

As I waded through the research, I began to understand why gun amnesties are so important.

You see these days there are three main ways in which someone can get their hands on an illegal weapon (and I’m not talking about legal firearms that gun clubs and farmers tend to have). Sometimes weapons are smuggled in. Sometimes people order blank firing weapons from the US, have them shipped to the UK and then convert them to fire real ammunition. And sometimes, old antique guns are acquired and renovated so that they can fire again.

That means your granddad’s old WWII pistol (which surprisingly is legal to own under the Firearms Act as a Trophy of War or a Weapon of Historical Interest) could well be stolen or bought, renovated and then sold on to whichever gang or criminal has an interest in acquiring it.

So, as much as it may pain people to hand in their family heirlooms, it may end up being a good thing in the long run.

Last time London held a gun amnesty in 2014, over 350 firearms (including one disguised as a walking stick!!!) where handed in. That’s 350 firearms that can’t be used in gun crimes.

And that’s got to be a good thing…

 

America vs Britain – Which has the most democratic elections?

I have recently been following the presidential primaries over in the US and have come to a very blunt conclusion – the Americans do elections far better than we do in Britain.

For a while, I didn’t really get the American system. I knew there were a load of separate bits and pieces that went on throughout a election year. And I knew that at some point in the summer the two candidates running for President (and their vice-presidents) would be announced.

And I know that what follows this looks something akin to a reality TV show public vote where the wannabe presidents (portrayed like some kind of movie stars) travel the country trying to garner as much support as possible before the final showdown in November.

It appeared so over-the-top, so theatrical, so bizarre that I often wondered how the American public could take the whole ordeal seriously…

I mean, the candidates arrive at mass rallies (with supporters who look more like they’ve arrived at a Justin Bieber concert than at an election event) where they give powerful and emotional speeches to cheers and adulation. It’s like that famous speech scene towards the end of the movie, Independence Day

But, despite all of the streamers, the little red, white and blue bits of paper floating around in the air and the overindulgence in fireworks, I believe the American elections are far more democratic than the British ones will ever be…

Let me show you what I mean.

In Britain, we have a wide variety of political parties. Some represent the far-right wing some represent the far-left wing and others are dotted in between.

Every election we, the British public, are invited to cast our votes as to which political party we want to govern our country. Whichever party gets the most votes, in theory, wins the elections and forms a government either on their own, if they have a majority, or with another party until they can make a majority. The leader of that party has already been determined long before the election by a vote from the party members…

Sounds pretty democratic, right?

But here’s the thing.

At the same time we are invited to elect which local official we want to represent us in Parliament – i.e. which MP we want. However, by voting for an MP, we are also casting our vote for which party we want to govern the country. So if, for instance, we had two MPs (A and B) and we wanted MP A’s party to win the election, we would feel obliged to vote for him or her even if we thought MP B would do a better job…

Starting to sound a bit suspect now, isn’t it?

Then we have another conundrum. Party A may represent your views on how the country should be run, but the leader of Party A is not the sort of person you feel should represent our country on the global stage. The leader of Party A cannot be removed as leader (and will probably not be if the election is won) unless he fails to gain his MPs seat in his own constituency. In fact this outcome is so unlikely that, when I writing this scenario in The Bluebell Informant, I had to check that it was actually possible for it to happen!

So, I am again faced with the issue of voting for someone to be my Prime Minister (even though I don’t think he will do a good job) or voting for a party that will not represent my views.

At this point, I am really beginning to wonder whether Britain’s elective process is anyway democratic at all.

Is it really a democracy if I can only vote between two fundamentally flawed options?

Now, in contrast, let’s take a look at how the Americans do it.

To start with, there are only two parties – the Republicans and the Democrats.

Seems a little undemocratic to me, but it does get better…

In American elections, voters potentially have two chances to determine who they want running their country, although the system is a little more convoluted.

In the presidential primaries, voters are invited to vote in a ballot – the result of which will determine the number of delegates each candidate has supporting them. Some of these primaries are open (meaning that a voter can vote for whichever candidate they want from either party) or closed (in which a voter can only vote for a candidate in the party they are a registered member of).

Each state has its own primary (or caucus depending on the state) and the result of this pre-election election supposedly gives a good overview of which candidates the country are backing in the race for the White House.

From the results of this election, a presidential candidate is chosen. That candidate then chooses a vice-presidential running mate and, together, they go around the country trying to drum up support.

Now, this is why I like the American system.

Let’s say that I wasn’t a massive fan of the Democrats, but I quite liked the idea of Hillary Clinton being president. In theory (provided my state offered an open primary), I could vote my interest in Hillary being the president. Then, once all the delegates have been dished out, if Hillary isn’t chosen as the presidential candidate, I have the option now of choosing between two other people (a Republican and a Democrat) in the actual race for the White House.

My first vote is not the be all and end all. If I don’t like the result after my first vote, I can change my allegiance away from a particular party. I am given more opportunity so that I don’t feel forced to vote for a candidate I don’t like just so that I can get my party in. Likewise, if I like a candidate but not a party, I can change my mind if my candidate fails to make the grade.

It’s not a perfect system – no system is really. But that ability to choose, not only the party I think represents me best, but also the person who will lead that party into the election is about as democratic as it’s going to get.

 

 

Writing, Rugby and D.S. Giles

My 2016 started with a bang.

Barely a few days had passed before I was frantically typing away on my keyboard, trying to race through my latest draft of Judged by Obsession – not an easy task when having to fit my writing around copious amounts of overtime from work (after all, I do have a wedding to pay for). My time was also somewhat hindered by my recent desire to relearn how to play rugby (something that I quickly found was having a ridiculously good impact on my state of mind, even if it was leaving me slightly battered and bruised).

But I was making steady progress, although regrettably I had been unable to find time to update my blogs and newsletters…

Until now.

So, allow me to update you all on my exploits.

Firstly, the rugby…

For those of you who have met me, I don’t look like a rugby player. I’m not large and I’m not overly strong. The last time I played rugby was in my school days when, by some luck, I happened to be one of the larger kids. However, as the years progressed, everyone else seemed to grow (in both directions) whereas I stayed very much the same size prompting me to give up the sport altogether.

Last October, I took the step to start training again and, recently, I have had the honour of being selected for the first XV for my local team. Whilst I wouldn’t say I’m great at rugby, I think I have some potential and, with enough practice, I may even become a half-decent winger…

Although I’m not sure my body will ever forgive me…

Secondly, the writing…

Last night, I finally completed my redraft of Judged by Obsession, the second story in my D.S. Giles series.

This was a big step for me because, as some of you may recall, Judged by Obsession (or Obsession as it was known in earlier drafts) was originally supposed to be the first in the series but, due to some issues I was encountering with my main character, Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles, I decided to go back and write what I termed as a prequel novella in the hope of solidifying some of the character’s back story.

The result of this step backwards was The Bluebell Informant that, apart from being instrumental in the development of the Giles series, also turned out to be a good story in its own right. So much so that it will now be published as the opening chapter in the Giles saga.

So I now have two D.S Giles stories that are in various stages of editing and a third in the planning stage. But I did have one problem…

Try as I might, I couldn’t make Judged by Obsession work as a title.

I knew I wanted the word ‘obsession’ in there, after all the whole book is about obsession and the various forms it takes, but I couldn’t make the title work for love nor money…

That was until I chatted with my wife-to-be about it.

I won’t bore you with the ins and outs (for the simple reason that I don’t want to give too much of the plot away) but the discussion ended quite abruptly when my future wife suggested a title that seemed to fit in perfectly with the others.

I’d be interested to see what you think. Do these titles ignite your interest in the series? Do any of the three stand out as being weaker or stronger than the others?

Let me know your thoughts.

So, for the first time, here are the titles of the first three books in the D.S. Giles series.

The Bluebell Informant

The Court of Obsessions

The Anonymous Jury

Are you excited yet?