#KillerFest15 – Mental Health and Crime

#KillerFest15 – Mental Health and Crime

I was privileged to take part in Killer Reads and Waterstones' Killer Crime Festival 2015 with a Twitter chat about mental health and crime fiction. There were some great questions and an ongoing discussion afterwards about crime novels featuring protagonists with mental health problems. Please share your recommendations in the comments. [View the story "#KillerFest15 - Mental Health and Crime" on Storify] If you enjoyed the chat, why not check out #psywrite, the monthly Twitter chat about mental health in fiction. We're taking at break for March but we will be back for your questions in April! And if you have any detailed queries for your writing, please get in touch - I'm always happy to help with accurate and sensitive mental health portrayals....
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Sticks and Stones: Mental Health Stigma and Crime Fiction

Crime fiction is entertainment. Writers' primary goal is to entertain. But what is the impact of the written word on the most vulnerable people in society? Does crime fiction contribute to mental health stigma? What is stigma? The term stigma refers to the negative stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination directed towards a group - in this case, people with mental health problems. For example, the stereotype "schizophrenics are psycho killers" may lead to attitudes like "all mental patients should be locked up" and "I don't want a nutter around my children" and actions like avoiding people with mental health problems, opposing mental health facilities in their neighbourhoods, and beating a man to death. Stigma is not just about public attitudes to mental health. People with mental health problems can direct these negative attitudes towards themselves - self-stigma: "It's my fault I'm depressed - I'm not strong enough to cope." There is also institutional or structural stigma, where organisations discriminate against individuals, such as quietly...
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Crime Cymraeg: A Tour of Welsh Crime Fiction

Forget Nordic and Tartan Noir. From drug dealers in Cardiff to PIs in Aberystwyth, Crime Cymraeg is a broad church with something for everyone. Wales is curious mix of busy port cities, kooky university towns, coastal tourist traps and rural isolation. It has a thriving capital city next to some of the most deprived areas in the UK, the post-mining legacy of the Valleys. It has a glorious national park, with mountains and lakes, award-winning beaches, and a heavy reliance on state jobs, manual labour and hill farming. It has a rich cultural history, from bardic poetry to male voice choirs to the Welsh language revival during the latter half of the twentieth century. It is the birthplace of Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey and the peerless Aneurin Bevan, founder of the National Health Service. No wonder this varied nation has produced such a diverse range of crime fiction. I've been reading a lot of Welsh crime fiction while researching The Amy Lane...
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Freudian Script: Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia: a mental health problem that everyone's heard of and yet receives little attention in media or movies. In this week's Freudian Script, we will explore the definition of agoraphobia, its connection to panic attacks and other mental health problems, notable examples and writing tips on how to portray agoraphobia sensitively and accurately. DISCLAIMER: This blog post is designed for writers of fiction. If you are concerned that you or someone you know has symptoms of mental health problems, please see your doctor. What is agoraphobia? From the Greek "fear of the market/gathering place", agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder characterised by fear, anxiety and panic in public places, mostly open or crowded spaces, resulting in avoidance. The phobia part is similar to any other phobia - spiders, heights, small spaces - because a phobia is an exaggerated anxiety response leading to avoidance. I'm emphasising avoidance here because it's a really key part of agoraphobia. The definition hinges on the anxious person's splitting of the world...
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Dynamic Duos: The Crime Fighting Partners Formula

What makes great crime fighting partners? One mind, two bodies? Opposites attract? An office romance - or bromance? Or do you simply need a yes-man for your genius? I explore what makes crime fighting partners successful and compelling - and the building blocks required for writing a solid partnership. As the old Hollywood maxim goes: "The same, only different". But first, a little background... Crime Fighting Partners: A History From the very beginning of detective fiction, our heroes have worked in pairs. C. Auguste Dupin and his anonymous narrator friend, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson - a great detective can hardly impress if he has no one to question him. Early cinema derived heavily from detective fiction, including Dupin and Holmes, and brought Lord Peter Wimsey and his camera-wielding valet Bunter to screen. In the world of comic books, Batman Issue #1 introduces both Caped Crusader and acrobatic sidekick Robin. In the world of television, the 1960s brought an explosion of crime fighting partners in...
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2013 in review

So now is the time of year where writers waddle to their blogs, stuffed with Vegetable Wellington, and reflect on how everyone in the industry got the goddamn breaks except them. Or some such thing. My goal for this year was simple: seize my opportunities and write! Here's what happened: - I submitted my Cyber Crime Sleuth novel to Carina Press and it was accepted for publication. It will be published as BINARY WITNESS in May 2014! - I wrote the first draft of the Cyber Crime Sleuth sequel for NaNoWriMo 2013. - I wrote a short film called "A work of art", which was shot under the expert eye of Emma Ashley in August and is now in post-production. - I started work on a Wine and Women feature script with Nicholas John of Changeling Films. - I was a guest of Euro #scriptchat, talking about Multi-Platform writing. - I started a new blog series called Freudian Script about psychology for writers. It's been on hiatus but will...
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Writers’ Tools: How Google Maps Can Enhance Your Narrative

Now that NaNoWriMo is over, I have a few moments to do something other than pour words into my novel. One of my most invaluable tools this year, and in 2011, was Google Maps. My mystery series is set in Cardiff and spills out into South Wales. While I was resident in Wales for seven years and spent five of those years in Cardiff, I am currently living in London. Therefore, real life research would require hopping on the train and having a limited wander in the time available. Or I could just look up my location in Google Maps, plot out the route and make notes on the twists and turns of the adventure. For example, here is a chase sequence from the first novel - from Cardiff Central station to the River Taff: (To orientate you, the station is at the very top of the image and Cardiff City Centre is north of that. The river runs south towards Cardiff Bay.) This is...
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Retitling: A Book by Any Other Name Would Sell as Sweet?

Further to my post last week about the acquisition of my novel by Carina Press, I thought I'd shed some light on one aspect of my journey to publication: retitling. The working title for my novel was Ctrl+Alt+Del. I'll admit that I was pretty happy with it - I felt it captured the elements of hacking, stalking and murder pretty aptly. However, Carina rightly pointed out that search engine results would commonly bring up the keyboard shortcut in preference to the novel. Therefore I was asked to go through a retitling process. It started with a Title Worksheet. This involved teasing out information about the book that could feed into a new title: genre, themes, conflicts, etc. The next stage was coming up with a new list of possible titles. I was surprised how difficult I found this, as I've always found picking a title one of the easiest parts of writing. Of course, this may because I'm naff at it... For inspiration, I decided...
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From Twitter pitch to two-book deal: How I became a Carina Press author

So, it's official: I am a Carina Press author! Now I've signed on the dotted line and finalised my first manuscript for publication, I want to share the story of how my manuscript was acquired by Carina Press. My story begins on April 4th 2013. I had just returned home at half-nine in the morning after a long night shift. As I got into bed, I decided to check Twitter one last time. On my timeline, I saw folk promoting #carinapitch - an opportunity to pitch to a digital-first imprint of Harlequin via Twitter, with editors favouriting your Tweet as a request to read the manuscript. (If you've participated in #PitchMAS or something similar, you'll be aware of the format). Sounds good, I thought. An opportunity to hone my pitching skills. So I crafted my Twitter pitch and scheduled it for while I was sleeping. Ctrl+Alt+Del: An agoraphobic hacker and a streetwise ex-con team up to hunt down a serial killer in Cardiff. #carinapitch—...
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