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It’s Right Windy!

This week the weather on the Hebridean island where I reside has been, as a guest at my wedding once commented, right windy. We’ve seen the power of nature once again up close as causeways were closed, and roads and streets flooded. Thankfully everyone seems to have stayed safe.


Living with the more extreme weather up here becomes part of life. I belong to an archery club who, if we shot outdoors at this time of year, would have to shoot sideways to let the arrow return to the target. We cancel meetings when the conditions look rough and non-essential travel is not advised.

Here’s a few youtube clips to give you a flavour.


I’m currently writing my second Highland & Islands Detective novel and the extremities of the weather are going to feature quite heavily. We’re on the Black Isle this time but with winter comes snow, sometimes in a mere dusting, other times in large dollops. The changing features of the season and the frustrations it causes make writing about the landscapes of northern Scotland fascinating. Linking them to the problems suffered by my two detectives helps bring a realism to the stories and gets past the simple picture perfect beaches and moors the brochures sometimes show.


Whilst I stretch the detail of how people misbehave in the Highlands, I never feel the need to “big up” the weather and its impact. For a writer, the elements and how they deal with the landscape and us mere humans give a tapestry to write against that is second to none. From water to land, snow to rain, wind to sun exposure, it all happens here in one of the most dynamic weather patterns there is. They say up here, if you don’t like the weather just wait an hour. And they’re right!


Change is always rife with the Highland weather and that means challenge, picking your time for whatever jobs you have and taking the moment when it comes. No wonder it paints a great scenery to write a story over.

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My First Detective Thriller

One of the joys of living in a place for a long period of time is that you get to see it in its fullness, good and bad, different and passionate. Couple this with a desire to write a different genre of fiction than I previously had and you begin to understand the genesis of my new novel “Water’s Edge”. But little did I know where the writing process would take me.


I live on a conservative island where changes that cut against both traditional and religious views can dominate the debate. Yes, there are extremes in this, but there is also a vast number of people who simply want to get on with life and learn how to get by with everyday necessities. But often the extremes of the argument do not allow this to happen. And it was this effect that was to dominate my main character.


Seoras Macleod, born and raised on the Isle of Lewis returns after a long time away, forced by his job to make a return to the scene of the worst moment of his life. The death of his wife years before has dominated his personality, and left in him a conflict with his God and his view of life. Through the resultant clash, I was able to throw the newer way of seeing things against the older conservatism and hopefully find the good and bad in both.


In societies the unspoken, lying beneath the veneer of normal life, shows where things are really at and I use the murder of a young woman to drive my detectives through this layer, exposing the lies beneath. This caused my murder mystery to become more of a thriller, events becoming less of a conundrum and more an act of social discovery. But still some have said they didn’t see the perpetrator coming.


Ultimately the book explores how wholly different characters can find support in extreme circumstances to drive through their mission when the house of cards around them starts to kick when toppled.


“Water’s Edge” my first Highlands and Islands detective thriller is available in paperback right now in my own store, or at Amazon (UK / US / AUS / CAN). If the eBook is your preference then you can pre-order here until the 1st Dec 2019 when it goes on full release. Check the 3 chapter sample out here. And let me know what you think. Book 2 is underway because all things come to the surface eventually.

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Beware the Brandished Torches!

One of the hardest things in writing is telling a story about a place everyone knows, The fact is they live there…, with you…, and like you they know everything about the locale. Except they don’t. And neither do you, the writer. This is because everyone views any place they interact with and contribute to through their own experiences. This is what makes stone-walling seem like honourable defence, one person’s bigotry seem like justified anger and one person’s paradise another folk’s hell.


As a writer taking on the challenge of story telling about the area around you, even if the characters are fictional, though based on various people one knows or has had experience of, you have to be careful. Not in case they come for you in the night, pitch forks at the ready and dipped flaming branches giving the night sky an eerie glow and your feet a hot toasting. Not in case some people don’t speak to you, offend by who they believe themselves to be in your story. No, the part to be careful of is to say what the story wants to say.


Stories are generated from thoughts and deeply held observations or beliefs and therefore deserve to be written in their entirety, not altered for passable consumption. And should the writer fear having caused offense if they are actually describing what is? Surely worse happens. They could simply put the book down in boredom. Now that would be devastation. So write to your observations, your revelations, your take on this life.


And so remember me, when you see the brandished torches, or the small boat with the man, hands tied behind his back and walking a modern day plank into the sea. They will say, he wrote to his convictions, he called it as it was. Short career though!

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The Changing Face of Evil

Don’t panic, you’re not about to get a lecture on the current terrible state of the world, rather a bit of an observation on the dark characters we seem to be getting on the screen and in our books.

Nice Tie

I think it all started when we started taking what would have been traditionally evil characters and creatures, and made them a bit more friendly, more human (if indeed we are friendly). Suddenly werewolves were simply shape shifters following a social change agenda, wronged and mistreated. Vampires were just unlucky people who didn’t want a break in the summer sun. And ghosts were actually helpful, misunderstood souls who were in the wrong place due to some supernatural accident.

Noone knew his years on the dole


I remember growing up and evil was evil. Often there was no understanding of why the bad stuff was happening, why these dark things of the night wanted to do these horrible actions to us. They were simply evil. It seems with changing times and the acceptance that old ideas about different lifestyles, race and social classes are erroneous, our characters seem to reflect that. In fairness I remember it starting in “Cabal” by Clive Barker, a super novel I thoroughly enjoyed but one that invoked sympathy for the dark things, even if they were all far from perfect.

“Don’t you just love him and his lights!”


Maybe it is a good thing that art mirrors the times we are in, but forgive me if I crave that unfathomable entity that simply wants to destroy because that’s what it is. It has no understandable social make-up, no difficult back story, no sad tale of its own – it is simply evil. And it is distinctly un – human, bearing nothing of our qualities, unfathomable. I guess it’s because against such a thing we can throw the full weight of our aggression and defence, knowing there is nothing to understand, nothing to rectify in its past. Today’s depictions don’t allow us that luxury and in truth, neither does real life, and it really should not.


But this is fantasy so give me one more malevolent, undeniably evil being to pit my fragile heroes against. You know you want to.

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Has Electronic Life wiped out Books?


I recently read an article about Jacqueline Wilson (link) and amongst the views attributed to her was that she believed that “Electronic life has wiped out books.” This seems like a strong statement but what is the truth behind it? According to the Washington Post (link) there has been over a 16% decline in adults who read at least one literary work per year from 1982 to 2015 from just under 57% to 43.1%. I find that quite shocking as the percentage in 1982 already seems low. 
Apparently there are more things to amuse us nowadays. With our smartphones we can surf the web or read our emails, play games or watch more television programs. I am a fan of television series and do watch a number of films and programs a week but one important thing I find with the cinematic art form is that while it may exercise your brain with issues brought to the fore, it doesn’t drive your imagination.

Surely imagination is the well spring for creativity. Without imagination our whole society would struggle to function. How would we develop, how would we grow without that capacity to think what would be and then working out how to get there? And surely books are the playground for that creativity.


I’m not saying that books are the only playground for any of the creative arts will do that. Sculpture, basket weaving, drama, embroidery, painting, etc.. are all pastimes that will drive the imagination. But when we simply hover over what I would call static detail, that which is fixed and cannot be changed, then our imagination will die.

I don’t think Jacqueline Wilson is totally right, well, not yet. But she certainly has hit the nail on the head with how things are heading.

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What’s your Favourite Book Den?

You love reading but you need to find that place where you can be surrounded by books, where you know you are in the book zone, the go away and leave me zone, the no disturbance zone, the promise of more books zone (and if you’re me the joy of having coffee on tap as well zone!). Let me wet your appetite with a few quality choices.

Sleeping bag at the ready and cosied up amongst all your books. Walls of books but I ain’t so sure about the light in there.

Carpetlessleprechaun Rating: 7/10

 

A classy look and feel with the rug compensating for the cool wooden floor. Some good natural daylight to read with and a blazing fire to sit in front of – although that looks like a fake! And how do you reach those books at the top, I’d need Indy with his lassoe.

Carpetlessleprechaun Rating: 6/10

Well the colours aren’t the greatest but there is a ladder here to get to the high books. Also a secret compartment which to hide those nefarious books (Necronomicon perhaps?). TV in case you want to compare the movie with the book. However not overly cosyand a bit dull really.

Carpetlessleprechaun Rating: 7/10

Slanty! I really love this piece of furniture, funky and unusual but to be honest whats with these wooden floors. Cold, cold, cold. And that seat’s a bit bland to sit at, no recline option I think!

Carpetlessleprechaun Rating: 5/10

Yes, it’s /a library but it’s a blooming nice one. Love that staircase and the lounging chairs on the left. Definitely a place of quiet and relaxation but I wonder what their coffee rules are? And if you nod off and snore?

Carpetlessleprechaun Rating: 7/10

Bit of a couples corner and I don’t mean you and a book. Maybe depends on your partner, if they read or not. And those blasted wooden floors again.

Carpetlessleprechaun Rating: 6/10

Now we’re talking. Who cares what else is there and I might even sacrifice the coffee for a cool beer! Unfortunately I live in the Hebrides so this is a total pipe dream. But it’s a sweet dream.

Carpetlessleprechaun Rating: 9/10

So what tickles your fancy here. Let me know by commenting below. And happy reading wherever you are!

G R Jordan, the Carpetlessleprechaun

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Cover Reveal for the New Austerley & Kirkgordon Adventure

Generally the third one is the hardest to do in a sequence. Bowlers taking on the batsmen for that elusive hat-trick realise there are many more 2 wickets in a row hauls than hat-tricks. There are plenty more strikers who score twice in a game than three times. Only in golf is there more three putts than two putts.

However I think my artist Jake (Jake’s website) has managed to pull this one off. He has taken the elements of the previous covers (the shadows of our heroes, the 60s B-movie titles and the centre piece of the main enemy) and changed the colours away from the previous dark tones. Yet there still remain the promise of threat and evil.

The story this time is taking us to an unknown land and central to the story is a large temple that is seen on the cover along with our old friend Dagon. Entitled Dagon’s revenge, I feel I’m not letting any of the story slip away too freely by stating this.

If you haven’t read any of the story so far you can get a starter for free by clicking on either of the books below and joining my newsletter for further updates. You’ll receive an eBook in return and be kept up to date with new books and many offers.

Look out for the new book Dagon’s Revenge prior to Christmas!

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What is it With Covers?

When you go hunting for a book, do you judge a book by its cover? And if so, in what way. I’m a self-publisher and so covers are important to me as they are the first line of attack in amongst a mass of books of reaching my audience. But I have a dilemma. Is the cover I like, the cover I want and which I think best suits my book, the cover that will draw the audience?

In short, no!

If there is a cover that is unusual, wacky or just downright weird, I’ll probably pick a book up and read the synopsis. The natural assumption in my mind is that everyone else will do the same. The trouble is that I always assume I am normal. Well in taste, though my wife happily points out quite often(too often!) that I am not normal in most things. The grapefruit yoghurt with mushrooms incident is a common example she quotes. Alas some people do not like adventure! (By the way my son keeps pointing at the cover above and saying “Mum-ma”. He has many people fooled.)

And so it would seem with books. Readers seem to want a book to have a cover that is similar to something they liked or know is already popular. Thrillers these days tend to have someone in shadow on the front, especially thrillers about gunmen or agents. Others go for the title in large lettering and some sort of fast motion behind it. And then there’s romance which has varying levels of couples in arms, fully dressed but big loving smiles for the gentle romance and naked but very carefully positioned bodies for the erotic tales.

I get what is going on but in honesty I feel very sad about it. Not that it will stop me following suit. To not do so as a newbie author would be story suicide. So expect my upcoming novels to reflect the genre. It’s all marketing these days alas.

I once bought a book by Clive James based on the cover called “Cultural Amnesia”. Simple but intriguing, I sought out what was inside. It remains to this day one of my favourite books. And yet I doubt I would have ever have read it if someone had simply said to me it was a collection of short essays about people of our time. I owe a debt to that artist.

And isn’t this a life lesson. Sometimes we need to go with the flow for good and solid reasons. But you know what, we don’t have to like it.

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Writing Update and a Sneak Peak at a new cover!

So last time I was explaining that Book 2 of Austerley and Kirkgordon’s adventures, “The Darkness at Dillingham” was with the editor for a final pass and should be available pretty soon. But what else am I doing?

I have a mermaid fantasy based around a Scottish Island at second draft stage. The concept is that mermaids arrive on the shores of the island causing many different reactions ranging from hate to joy, wonder to disgust. A media circus ensues and the normal island life is upset as greed and then rumour cause many to fear the creatures. Meanwhile, a young islander finds and then protects one of the mermaids causing some comedy moments as he involves a woman of his dreams. All in all it’s a fun romp with some serious tones.

I have also embarked on another urban fantasy series but this time with a female protagonist. Scarlett is a bored call centre clerk who gets involved with a race to explain the signifigance of a prized glass which seems to be wanted by evil hands. It’s early days but it is fun to have to see everything from the other sex’s perspective.

Also in the mix is an allegorical piece set in a fantasy land, a world war one ghost story and the tale of a Singaporean bin inspector. Yes, I know, how rock and roll!

But back to Austerley and Kirkgordon. Book 3, with a working title of “The Nether Lands” is first draft complete. And when I say working title, I do mean working title as so far none have made it onto the final cover. But also at first draft stage and rapidly advancing is a novella piece to accompany Book 2 and which will be available in the hardback edition of “The Darkness at Dillingham”. It’s entitled “Cally”, and guess what, it’s about Calandra. Providing a more detailed back story to the characters is fun and certainly “Footsteps” helped bring Austerley and Kirkgordon’s relationship in “Crescendo!” to life for me.

And as promised, here is a cover reveal and it’s for “Cally”. Personally I think this is one of the best covers my artist has compiled for me. Jake has really grabbed Cally’s persona for me and the essence of the story in one picture. So I’ll leave you with the cover and look forward to talking more next time!

image

If you haven’t got into the joy and wonder that is the Austerley and Kirkgordon series then you can find the first book “Crescendo!” here in all formats. The “Cally” cover was designed by Jake Clarke and you can see more of his work here.