I am delighted to welcome back to Jaffareadstoo
Write the book you want to read …
By Gillian Hamer
… has always been my motto. So, why, with the release of my next novel, CRIMSON SHORE, have I taken a step away from my love of pushing boundaries and writing cross-genre novels – and settled into mainstream crime fiction?
With my first three indie-published novels (The Charter, Closure & Complicit) I had taken my love for crime fiction, archaeology and history, plus a bit of paranormal, and mixed them altogether to result in a series of thrillers each with an otherworldly edge. And I was delighted with the results and so it seemed were the public at large.
Traditional publishing markets were, alas, not ready to welcome my recipe for cross-genre. At the time I still had a literary agent, who had made it clear from very early on in our representation back in 2010 that mixed-genre would not sell. ‘Crime readers read crime,’ she said. ‘Ghost stories are read my lovers of paranormal. A crime reader doesn’t want to read about ghosts. If publishers can’t see a market, they won’t buy the books. It’s all about sales for them.’
I didn’t agree but felt in no position to argue. With that ringing in my ears, I adapted one of my books into a straight crime detective series. For my own tastes, I still added a bit of a spooky element with the death of a psychic who foresaw murders. ‘Nope,’ came back the reply, ‘it’s still too paranormal, cut the psychic. How about a teacher?’
Through gritted teeth I rewrote the book. And rewrote the book. And then, just for fun, rewrote it again. I wrote the second in the proposed series whilst I was waiting for the first one to be agreed. I knew my writing was getting stronger, and finally it was deemed ready to pitch to publishers. And so began another waiting game. I filled my time and continued with my cross-genre writing on the side, and by the time Triskele Books came into being in late 2011, I had two completed manuscripts.
Six months later, I was called down to London to meet an editor from a leading large publishing house. She loved my writing, she loved the characters, adored the location – but she thought the second novel had a stronger storyline. Could I make book two into book one of the series? I flinched at the amount of work, re-introducing characters and rebuilding relationships. But I smiled and nodded. And could I change some of the characters and take away some layers, add a stronger central core? Er. Yes, I thought, I suppose I can. You’re the experts, what have I to lose?
In the same twelve month period as I published both The Charter and Closure, I rewrote book two into book one and waited almost eight months to get a reply. The reply when it came was devastating. ‘I have other authors now, my books are full for this year, plus for personal reasons I cannot take on new authors.’
To say I felt let down is probably an understatement. I parted company with my agent, amicably, and decided that was the last time I would waste two years of my life. I’m not saying people in the industry aren’t experts and that up-and-coming writers should not listen to advice – of course they are and of course you should – but I just felt I’d been asked to jump through one hoop too many.
The positives? I’m back in control and with the increased success of indie-publishing, Triskele Books are carving a real reputation for their quality books and strong time and place brand. I now have two and half books written of a detective series I am really excited about, with characters I almost know as well as my real-life family and friends, and huge scope for developing storylines into the future.
Plus, I have three spooky novels under my belt that I am proud of and which have built me a great audience of readers.
So, now the proof is in the pudding, as the first book in The Gold Detective series, titled CRIMSON SHORE, will be released 1st June 2014. And I can’t wait to see what readers think of my move into straight crime fiction.
Does that mean the end to the ghosts and historical crime novels? Of course it doesn’t! Remember, always stick with your instincts and set out to write the book that you would most like to read.
You can find me at
follow me on twitter @gillyhamer
or like me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gillian-E-Hamer/279383198798678
Excerpt from Crimson Shore (release date June 1st 2014) in e-book and paperback.
Jamilah Patel looked up from her magazine. An article on eyebrows and the latest trend of ‘threading’. Jamilah hated her thick, glossy black brows and these girls looked so sophisticated and sexy. Not that she had any hope of getting them done. Her mam would have a fit and die if Jamilah ever came home looking like one of these models. She glanced at her watch and sighed.10:41pm. How could one hour pass so slowly? She hated the last hour of her shift, especially on quiet nights. She’d already cashed up as much as she could and locked the cigarettes in the storeroom.
She glanced up at the CCTV camera in the corner of the small shop. Bane of her life, it was. Without it she’d already be outside, taking the pump readings, ready to catch the last bus at five past. But she knew first thing Mr Palmer did every morning was check the previous night’s tape. He’d made a big thing of telling her that in her interview, made it clear he knew what time the bus went through and how getting the job relied on her having transport. Thankfully, her mam hardly ever used her Micra. Palmer made an equally big thing telling her she was paid an extra quarter of an hour to cash up and lock up, which meant lights did not go out until eleven pm on the dot.
Though who he thought might wander out this way in those last five minutes, she’d no idea. It was too early for the drunks to be leaving the pub and too late for the nice folk to be this far out of town. Since the new dual-carriageway had cut the island in half, the A5 was more or less abandoned. Once thriving villages along its route now left like ghost towns, empty shells of what they had been for over two thousand years.
Mr Palmer had told Jamilah that, with a catch in his voice and a wistful look in his eye, almost like he could remember right back to the days when legions of Roman infantry had laid the very foundations. She knew the garage had been in his family for three generations though, and she also knew how much his takings had suffered in recent years with the by-pass and more supermarkets spreading onto the island.
She glanced outside. The road was empty, the night still and damp and cold. She was distracted by her reflection in the bright glass, turned her head one way then the other, pouted and flicked her long black hair over her shoulder. Jamilah. Translation: beautiful and graceful. Was that what they meant by irony? No doubt her parents meant well at the time. Her nose was too big and had an annoying bump right in the middle, and her skin was always greasy no matter what type of cleanser she used. Her mam said she’d grow out of it, but her mam said that about most things, and she was nineteen now. How old did she need to get? As for graceful, well, that was another joke.
She closed her magazine and checked the digits again. 10.51pm. How could only another ten minutes have crawled round? It was like time had slowed to a stop.
Headlights caught Jamilah’s attention and she looked up. A car swerved across the road, clipping the kerb as it pulled onto the forecourt and lurched to a stop. She was immediately alert. Youths or drunks. Either meant bad news. It was a big black car, with black windows, parked just outside of the spread of the neon light from the canopy. It reminded her of a huge panther, waiting in the shadows, ready to attack its prey. There was a sense of movement inside, but no one appeared. She leaned forward. She couldn’t see the number plate from that angle and the headlights were glaring straight at her anyway.
Aware that she’d be visible behind the glass, she slid down from the stool and made a big show of pulling down the roller shutter over the meagre display of alcohol behind the counter. Whatever they wanted, they’d need to be quick. Another glance at her watch told her she only had another four minutes to go.
She bent to turn off the power to the display cabinet and pushed the button to run the end of day procedure on the Lottery machine. She jumped as the door at the far end of the shop rattled. Someone thumped the glass, three times, four. Jamilah stepped back to her stool and leaned across the counter, trying to twist enough to see the door, but it was out of her vision. The black car was gone. The door rattled again. She sighed and pressed the button on the tannoy.
“Hello? Can you come to the Night Pay window please?”
Jamilah’s heart picked up speed. Please don’t let it be drunks. She had to go out and read the pumps in a minute and she couldn’t do that if there were yobs hanging around. She’d had to ring Mr Palmer one night, before last Christmas, when two gangs had decided to use the forecourt as a boxing ring. Her boss hadn’t been well pleased, neither had the police when they arrived to find the gangs had scattered.
The door rattled again.
Bloody hell. Jamilah scowled and pushed the button on the tannoy with more force, staring out into the false brightness of the canopy lights.
“Hello? I said the door’s locked. Can you come to Night Pay? I’m about to lock up.”
To reiterate the point, Jamilah cut the lights, leaving just the middle row for her to see by.
She waited. This was ridiculous. If this was no more than kids pratting about, she’d make them wish …
A white face appeared at the window. Jamilah lurched backwards; a brief scream of surprise escaping her as she banged her shoulder against the metal casing of the cigarette cabinet. She saw bloodshot eyes, a wide mouth, lips moving, tears streaming down the round, chubby face of a middle-aged woman. Her dyed black hair was pulled back tight, gold rings in fleshy pink ears caught the light from the shop as she swung her head one way and then the other, checking over each shoulder. The woman raised both fists to bang on the glass and Jamilah noticed grazed knuckles and torn, bloodied fingernails.
The mouth opened wider, showing brown, stained teeth as the woman grimaced, her words louder now, clear through the glass.
“Help! Help me. Jesus … help!”
Jamilah began to tremble but shook her head, remembering Mr Palmer’s words. Trust no one. True, the woman looked in genuine distress, but it could be a set up. He’d drummed it into her all through her training, never open the door to anyone at night. Anyone for any reason. To break that rule was instant dismissal and she couldn’t afford to lose her job if she had any chance of ever getting off Anglesey. But this poor woman, she looked terrified, who was she running from …?
Jamilah pressed the tannoy, fighting her inner instincts. “I can’t open the door, love. What’s the matter? Do you want me to call the police?”
The woman shook her head, opened her mouth and screamed again.
Jamilah stepped away from the glass, afraid to be so close to the beating fists, now leaving a slug’s trail of glistening red across the surface of the window. She slid her hand into her bag and reached for her mobile. No way was she going to be trapped in here all night. She wasn’t paid to sort this kind of thing. Mr Palmer would have to come down from the village —
A black shape loomed behind the woman’s frantic face. Jamilah saw it first, squinted against the shop lights to make out its form, even before the woman sensed its presence. It seemed to glide down like a giant bat, red-tipped talons folding silken wings around the woman as it landed, dragging her backwards. The woman was large, fat even, her bosom pushing against a blue t-shirt, rolls of fat squeezing a muffin-top over navy jogging bottoms. But in her agitated state she stumbled off-balance, arms reaching out towards Jamilah as the black shape dragged her backwards. Their eyes met for a brief second, and Jamilah let out a sob, feeling the scorch of pain and terror as the shape seemed to consume the struggling figure. The woman jerked, once, twice as the shadows next to the car-wash swallowed her whole.
Jamilah coughed to clear the lump that was wedged in her throat. Her head spun and her legs were jelly. She knew she could no more go outside than she could fly to Mars. What the hell was that? What just happened? And what was that thing?
Another howl, louder and more terrifying, pierced the night.
Jamilah held onto the wall and slid to her haunches. Using the shelter of the counter as cover, she dug out her mobile, scrolled past Mr Palmer’s number, and with shaking fingers pressed 999.
© copyright Gillian E Hamer 2014
Gillian ~ Thank you so much for being our guest today.
Jaffa and I wish you much success with Crimson Shore.
Gillian is very kindly giving away a Kindle copy of Crimson Shore
to one lucky winner of this giveaway