It’s the wedding of the year on Wednesday June 19th. It starts at midnight BST and ends twenty four hours later. It’s:
The Summer Wedding Murder.
The eighth STAC Mystery hits the virtual bookstands in a little under four weeks, and here is the cover revealed for the first time (almost).
First the wraparound cover for the paperback.
And then the front cover for the e-book.
You want to know what it’s about before you make you up your mind? Well it’s summer, there’s a wedding and there’s a murder.
What more can I say?
It couldn’t be simpler to gatecrash this wedding. Just go to the Facebook Launch Page and invite yourself. If it doesn’t work, put a note on my timeline and I’ll invite you.
We expect to see you in your wedding finery. I’ve asked my missus to wash my flat cap and press my muffler especially for the event. And naturally, you’ll be expected to bring a gift for the bride and groom, but being as how this is a virtual wedding, you can bring a virtual gift. There’s only one rule about gifts. They must be as useless as possible. Forget about the combined barbecue and fast breeder reactor. I’ve already ordered it, but anything like that will be most welcome.
Don’t forget Wednesday 19th June. We’re looking forward to seeing you.
Over the last two years, I’ve posted night on 400 pieces to this blog. It was no surprise to learn that the most popular post is “Home”. The second most popular with is a post entitled “One Small Click of the Mouse” which was a promo post from May last year, covering the early chart progress of The Filey Connection.
I was quite surprised when I discovered that the third most popular, way ahead of the pack, is a piece I put in February 2012, entitled Rules for Writing Whodunits.
I repeat it here in full, with the links updated.
Exchanging emails with my very good friend Maureen Vincent-Northam the other day, she suggested a plot for the STAC Mysteries. Here’s an outline:
The Sanford gang of middle-aged rockers are on a week’s holiday at a caravan park in Cornwall. A mob of hippie type travellers invade the field next door. Someone is murdered, Joe, Sheila and Brenda investigate and solve it.
Do you like it? Are you frothing at the mouth with anticipation? Hmm. You need to know more before you can make your mind up? Sorry, but you may have quite a wait because it’s all I know right now.
The purpose of that little exercise was to demonstrate just how little I know about my titles when I start work on them. I don’t know who was killed or why or whodunit.
There are rules to producing whodunits. The crime should be carried out very early on. The detective and the killer should both appear no later than chapter two. The text should be sprinkled with red herrings and false trails. The clues should be laid out in the text so the reader has a chance of solving it.
All very laudable, but whoever laid them out should have checked on a few titles from the Queen of Crime. In Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, we’re well into the book before we meet the killer and we meet him/her before the crime is committed. Poirot himself doesn’t show up until page 101 in my copy.
I’m not comparing myself to the genius that was Agatha Christie, but from my point of view, there are no rules.
In my current WIP, another STAC Mystery, the real crime is not committed until the end of Chapter 5 (ish) and in The Filey Connection (published by Crooked Cat on March 2nd, plug, plug) it’s even later. In The Handshaker, there is no clue to the killer’s identity until very late in the novel, and in Voices, we don’t meet the real nemesis until near the end of the book.
So what am I doing while leading up to all this? I’m doing what my reading of Agatha Christie taught me; building up the background, inking in pictures of the location, establishing the various motives and possible suspects… oh and I’m chucking a few clues about, too.
I don’t have anything against rules and using them to plan my work. It’s just that even when I do, the story and characters take over from me, and usually, half way through the book, I learn that the person who I thought dunit, didn’t. It was someone else and for entirely different reasons than I first suspected.
Compare it, if you will, to route planning. I spent years of my working life travelling up and down the UK, so much so that there is nowhere I haven’t been and I know the roads like the back of my hand. As a consequence, I don’t own a satnav, and the result is I get there without running into narrow back lanes where traffic has been banned for the last year.
If I start with the STAC gang at a caravan park and a bunch of hippies moving in next door, it means that anything can happen. And it frequently does.
There are rules. I ignore them without fear. Joe and his pals will sort it out for me.
The popularity of this post has led me to conclude that there are people out there eager to learn how to write whodunits, and in order to assist, I’m going to tell them.
But I can’t tell anyone how to write a whodunit, because I don’t obey the rules. So instead, I’ll tell them how I write whodunits.
Watch this space.
Like an author without an editor, quite honestly.
Self-publishing is here to stay, so we might as well get used to it. Along with self publishing comes self-editing and frankly, it’s not a good idea. Editing is not just about correct spelling and grammar, it’s about looking at the big picture and suggesting amendments where necessary.
It’s difficult to read your own work and be objective. When I proof my work, I tend to speed read and that means skipping whole chunks of it. In addition, when it comes to a complex explanation, I know what I’m trying to say, so it’s easy for me to say, “fine.” Having an editor read through, gives me another viewpoint.
I turn out the STAC Mysteries for fun. You’ve probably noticed. An idea hits me, a few scenes come together, the final clue which tips the scales dawns on me and I start writing. Before you know it, another STAC tale is complete.
Only it’s not complete. It’s only half way there. It has to pass the stiffest test yet: Maureen Vincent-Northam.
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I’ve mentioned this lady many times. Maureen is a Herefordshire lass, but she can still write and speak good English, innit? More than that, she can spot a typo at a thousand paces, and she’s a whodunit aficionado. She is, in short, the best editor I could get for the money… I mean the best editor I could get for whodunits. If the plot doesn’t quite hang together, if the protagonist is acting out of character, if the murder itself is impossible, Maureen will spot it.
As a case n point, consider the next STAC Mystery, The Summer Wedding Murder, due for release quite soon. I finished it, sent it off to Maureen, she pottered with it, dealt with the typos and the other bits and pieces, then sent it back with her report. She guessed whodunit too early. I thought I’d been smart, but I wasn’t smart enough.
Along with this shocking news came a few recommendations to correct the problem. I set to work and it needed another 4,000-5,000 words to put it right, but we did so.
Had I decided to edit the book myself, I would have left it, sent it off to Crooked Cat, and they might have picked up the problem. Like any publisher, they work to fairly tight deadlines in a crowded schedule, and such an event could have resulted in major upheaval.
So it goes the editor before it goes to Crooked Cat. It costs me. Hard cash. And regulars will know that I don’t part with money easily, but it’s worth it in the long run. By the time Crooked Cat receive the manuscript, it may need a couple of tweaks here and there, but no more.
So if you’re considering self-publishing, or you want your M/S in tip-top condition before you send it off to a publisher, do yourself a serious favour and get an editor.
Click to visit Maureen’s Website
I read this quote on Facebook a couple of weeks back. It ran something like; you know you’re a writer when instead of singing in the shower, you run through dialogue.
Facebook can be quite a pain with these quotes, and normally I dismiss them without a second glance. But this time, as opposed to the trite, allegedly inspirational crap, there was more than an element of truth about it.
With STAC #8, The Summer Wedding Murder completed and safely packed off to Crooked Cat Books, it’s time to turn my attention to the next STAC Mystery, number 9, working title, Costa del Murder. In case you can’t guess, it’s set in Torremolinos on the Costa del Sol. It’s not entirely coincidental that my wife and I spent a week there in January.
I’ve actually been working on this for a few weeks, but I was concerned with Chapter One, some (or all) of which will appear in the back of The Summer Wedding Murder. Now I need to write the rest of it, and I had one scene in mind; a conversation between Joe and a suspect, which takes place in an outdoor café on the seafront.
I’ve just written that scene. It runs to 2,000 words and it took me slightly over 90 minutes.
There are days when I struggle to write 1,000 words in eight hours. How come this one tripped so lightly out of my head and onto the screen? Simple. Instead of singing in the shower, I talked in the bath.
Whenever I took a bath I ran this scene over and over and over again, like an actor rehearsing his lines without a prompt. By the time I came to write it today, I knew it off by heart. All I had to do was type it out.
Naturally, this has not gone unnoticed in the Robinson household. My singing has been likened to the noise of an angle grinder cutting through rusty steel, only less tuneful. So the missus was quite pleased not to hear me, but rather concerned that I appeared to be talking to myself.
“I don’t see why you’re so surprised,” I said. “Every time I speak to you, I might as well be talking to myself.”
This may appear a priceless system for getting the job done. 80,000 words could come from 40 baths. But it would mean getting a bath every night for the next six weeks, and if I did that, Her Indoors would swear blind I had another woman somewhere.
I was supposed to flag this up yesterday, but I got bogged down with revisions to the next STAC Mystery, The Summer Wedding Murder.
Frances di Plino wrote this crime thriller, Bad Moon Rising. An excellent read, fully deserving of the plaudits it receives. It’s the kind of dark and gritty thriller I’d like to turn out, but I’ve reached that point where I know my metier is light-hearted fiction.
Frances also lives on the Costa del Sol. Marvellous, innit? Not only does she write better than me, but she lives in semi-permanent sunshine. Some people have all the luck.
Anyway, this smashing lady spends part of her time interviewing others, and guess who she turned to this week? Got it in one. Unfortunately, most of the cast of Midsomer Murders were busy, so Frances asked me to step in at the last minute.
“It’s fine as long as I don’t have to give away any real secrets, like the identity of the killer in the next book or the location of my wallet,” I said.
So if you want to learn 10 Facts About David W Robinson hop on over to Frances di Plino’s place now… before the Midsomer Murders mob come back off lunch.
There are those moments in life you never forget.
July 17, 1970 was a warm, Friday afternoon. My wife was in labour, and back then, the father was not allowed anywhere near the delivery room, so I nodded off to sleep in a nearby waiting area. About four o’clock, they called me in to meet my eldest son.
I have four children. My daughter had been born a year before, and my other two sons would follow over the next four years. I recall hearing about their births, and I’m sure I was somewhere in the vicinity, but I don’t recall meeting them for the first time.
David was different. He was only a few minutes old, he hadn’t even been cleaned up. The midwife handed him to me, he opened his eyes, took one look at me, and screamed the place down.
That kind of thing tends to stick with you.
Well yesterday, 43 years on, it was his turn to take on the mantle of parenthood, with the arrival of his first child, Ava Rose, who checked in at 5lb 13 oz.
So I’m pinching space on the blog today to congratulate David and his partner Sarah and to welcome Ava.
In a comment yesterday, Stepheny Houghtlin asked what does STAC mean? Well, Stepheny, it’s an acronym for the Sanford Third Age Club, but Third is usually written 3rd.
When I think about the membership, it’s not strictly accurate. The definition of a third ager, as near as I can ascertain, is one who has moved into retirement. Most of the STAC members are still working, or of working age.
When I first came up with the idea I wanted a group of people who were essentially old enough and wise enough to become amateur sleuths and have the necessary funds to take them all over the country and/or continent. I settled on folks who were over the age of fifty and members of a social club. It seemed natural to combine the two, and the Sanford 3rd Age Club was born.
The town of Sanford doesn’t exist and by extension neither does the Sanford 3rd Age Club, but I wish it did. I’d join tomorrow, and I’ve had emails and comments from other third agers who say they would too.
The STAC Mysteries don’t pretend to be anything but light-hearted whodunits. They’re certainly not slice of life material, but I do use them to demonstrate that us old gits are more like teenagers than teenagers. We still get drunk, we still argue amongst ourselves, we still sulk when things don’t go our way, and if any younger person is going to insist we’re no longer capable of bedhopping, well I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. By age group, older people have one of the highest incidences of STDs.
We tend to be wiser, but that’s because whatever is going on, we’ve probably seen it before. Age doesn’t make us any smarter. We’re just as capable of stupidity as younger people. It’s one of the reasons I remain unimpressed by celebrities and their antics. Whatever they’re doing, I did thirty, forty, even fifty years ago.
Why don’t we spell the Sanford 3rd Age Club out in full in the books? Well, we do. Every cover has a black logo running across the top right of the front, declaring it to be A Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery. You can see it in the picture above (even if you can’t read it).
Most of the time it’s referred as STAC, however, and that was my doing. Joe’s grumpiness is a factor of his age, not his deductive abilities, and on that basis, the tales can be enjoyed by anyone of any age, provided they enjoy whodunits.
You may have noticed I haven’t posted for the last week (did I hear someone say, ‘Thank heaven for small mercies’?)
Fact is, I’ve been busy. The Summer Wedding Murder, STAC Mystery #8 was finished and sent off for final editing, I had to rough out a new competition using Pinterest (stand by for an announcement on that in the next few days) and of course, Sir Alex Ferguson retired. As a diehard Manchester United supporter since the 1950s, I couldn’t let that pass without at least a mention.
I’ve also been planning the future for the next year and a half.
With eight STACs written and several more planned, I need another distraction, and it’ll come from two directions.
In the course of The Summer Wedding Murder you’ll meet a genealogist named Madeleine Chester, Maddy to her friends. A buxom blonde in her mid forties, Maddy is about to get her own series. Stay tuned for further news.
I also decided it’s time to try and revive the tradition of farce in the shape of bumbling British berks who always come out on top. The first DDS mystery should hit the editor’s desk some time in the summer.
It’s too early to say whether my publisher, Crooked Cat Books, will pick up these series, but they have agreed to look at them. Given the success of the STAC Mysteries, I’m hoping they’ll look favourably on them.
In the meantime, today (Monday) is going to be a busy day. I have the media reports on Sir Alex’s finally appearance at Old Trafford to read, my granddaughter Hannah sitting her exams, and we’ve just heard that Sarah, my eldest son’s partner, is in labour, about to deliver another grandchild, so we’re waiting by the phone for news.
Busy, busy times.
I spend most of my life in pain from one problem or another, mainly brought on by years of ignoring medical advice.
Now there’s a novelty: someone with health problems NOT blaming it on other people.
Unusual or not, it’s the truth. If I’d taken better care of myself when I was younger, I wouldn’t have most of the problems I have right now: arthritis, COPD, type 2 diabetes, being the three major culprits.
Right now, I have some muscle problems with my back. I’ve been in chronic pain since Wednesday afternoon, and matter reached a head in the early hours of Friday morning when I had to see the emergency doctor. We’re gonna start looking into it this coming week. In the meantime, the missus and I spent the day in Blackpool yesterday, and it was pure agony.
I always believed that pain is the body’s way of telling you you’re still alive, but yesterday, it was extreme, and I felt like saying, “Okay, I’ve got the message.”
As a novelist, however, there is a plus side to this. I can make my characters suffer the same problems.
I’m a boomer (born between 1964 and 1970) Joe, Sheila and Brenda and most of the STAC gang are boomers. It would be strange if they didn’t suffer the same trouble as me, although, aside from Sylvia Goodson’s diabetes, and Sheila’s gallstones, it’s never been addressed… yet.
In the near future Joe is gonna start feeling the pinch of too many cigarettes, too many late nights and early mornings, and not enough rest. And he’s gonna find out the same way I did, by suffering a suspected heart attack.
The only difference is, Joe is more intelligent than me. He’ll listen to medical advice (eventually) and he has two people at his side who will make him do as his told. My missus has tried to make me do as I’m told, but it didn’t work. Not because the missus isn’t forceful enough, but because I’m too stupid to listen.
Dogged by health problems again, in continuous pain, I was at stupid o’clock this morning, pottering with bits and pieces and I learned that Murder at the Murder Mystery Weekend has now been in the UK Kindle Crime, Thriller & Mystery/Mystery/British Detectives top 100 for 21 continuous weeks.
It’s not on its own.
The Filey Connection and A Murder for Christmas entered the same chart within a week or two of Murder Mystery Weekend, and both have been there ever since. By the end of January. The I-Spy Murders and A Halloween Homicide had joined them, meaning that all five STAC Mysteries available at that time were in the British Detectives top 100.
My Deadly Valentine eclipsed them slightly when it was released in February by entering the same chart on the day of its release, but it never really caught the imagination like other titles and it peak position was number 22.
The Chocolate Egg Murders was a different proposition altogether. This title also entered the top 100 on the day it was released, but it really took off, and within a week of the launch it sat at number 7, ultimately climbing to a peak at number 5, a position it held for almost a week. It’s beginning to fall off now, languishing in the 25-35 area, but it’s been creditable performance.
I’m sure that serious number crunchers could build a range of theoretical models to account for these performances, and I’m equally certain that my own ideas will fit in somewhere. If I knew why it was happening, I’d bottle it and make a fortune selling it to other writers.
But to be truly honest, I’m not asking why. I’m simply grateful that my characters, situations and their inbuilt puzzles have caught on.