Thursday 25 February 2010

Enough to put your back up

Is it just me or do other people experience uncanny problems with their computers? You could say I only notice when problems occur on the odd days when I urgently need my set up to work, and don't register other glitches that happen...

It's over 2 years since my publisher asked for the final MS of CUT SHORT. That was the evening my hard disc failed. How's that for timing?

Last week my publisher wanted the final changes for ROAD CLOSED. I typed out what was wanted, ready to send. My internet connection vanished. Bad timing.

Can this be coincidence? Of course, I know it is, but I can't help feeling,"As flies to wanton boys are we to the gremlins in our computers..." to paraphrase Lear, badly.

With my awareness of potential risks lurking around every corner (I do write crime fiction!) I have an automatic weekly back up on my PC. I save my work daily on a PC, netbook and memory stick. And yes, I have my back up for internet access. If all else fails, there's always my dongle.

But where's the back up for ME when I feel like packing up and switching off?

It's enough to put anyone's back up.

On a more cheerful note - see below for some photos from my recent meetings with real people!

Wednesday 24 February 2010

It's a hard life...!

In case you thought I was doing nothing but work at my writing, I thought I'd share a few photos taken when I was out and about this week.
Here you can see me hard at work giving a talk to a book club. Fortunately they loved CUT SHORT. I met one of them at a book signing last year, and they kindly invited me to go and talk to them. They were really welcoming, and very interesting. The group includes two speech therapists, an experienced social worker and teachers - all very relevant to CUT SHORT.
On Saturday I signed at the Get Writing Conference at Hatfield University. I wasn't able to run a workshop, as I had a Very Important Meeting with my publisher that morning (!) but I did go along to sign at lunch time. The photo shows me with Bibiophile Helen. (We haven't morphed into pixies - I'm holding a poster.) In her review, Helen described CUT SHORT as 'a thoroughly gripping, sprint paced, creepy thriller' which she 'couldn't put down.'

Finally, here's a photo sent to me by Stanmore College, where I gave a talk before Christmas. The students described CUT SHORT as 'gripping' and 'a good read'.

So it's not all head down writing. I do get out and about and meet people, which is great fun.

If you'd like a visit to your book club, writers circle, school, college or library, feel free to contact me. You can leave a comment here, send a message via the contact page on or use the email on my profile.

Monday 15 February 2010

Living the Dream

You can read my web interview with bibliophile Helen J Beal which appears after her review of CUT SHORT -
"I couldn’t put ‘Cut Short’ down – a thoroughly gripping, sprint paced, creepy thriller... Steel is a brilliant and sympathetic character the reader really roots for... A thoroughly satisfying read AND I have just pre-ordered Leigh’s next title, ‘Road Closed’ on Amazon."
Thank you, Helen!

If anyone had told me two years ago that I'd be sitting at my desk as a published author right now, I would have been surprised. The past eight months have been an amazing experience. Fortunately, CUT SHORT has sold well, and received good reviews. Recent ones include a man who advised readers to "Buy this book. Steal it. Whatever you do, read it" which made me laugh (Please don't steal my book!) and someone called Mary who praised me for "going for the jugular." I like that! Here's a link to a reading from CUT SHORT

Yes, I've been very lucky so far.

Handing over ROAD CLOSED to be printed is rather different. Of course I was nervous about the publication of CUT SHORT, but that was a quick peek over the parapet. No one knew about it. I could duck down into anonymity again, hiding behind a pseudonym. With ROAD CLOSED, I have fans with expectations. And I no longer have the excuse of being a debut author, with its connotations of innocence, naivete and youth (ha!)

Yes, I'm living the dream. Yes, it's gone about as well as it could so far... and now my head is well and truly above the parapet.

No going back now.

So here I am, blogging and tweeting, emailing and linking, anything to avoid dotting the last i and crossing the final t of ROAD CLOSED so it can be handed over for printing.

Am I nervous? Who, me? No way. I'm not nervous... I'm terrified.

ROAD CLOSED can be preordered on Thank you to everyone who has already preordered

Thursday 11 February 2010

Going for the Jugular...

Having sold out in just one week in January, ordered 500 copies of CUT SHORT. I should be pleased... but you're getting to know me and my 'What if' questions. So despite all the great reviews this week (links on previous post) I started wondering... what happens if no one else buys it?

Then I read this lovely comment on my blog which really cheered me up.

"In all honesty, even as a woman myself, I have never been a follower of women writing crime. They never seem to go for the jugular, and always hold back. That was until I heard crime writer Sam Millar praising the hell out of this debut novel, Cut Short. I immediately bought it on Amazon, and was delighted with it. Really great writing, and terrific story. Can’t wait until your new book hits the shelves."

I know some authors are only interested in sales of 1,000s, but I'm still genuinely thrilled when one person enjoys CUT SHORT. I don't think that will ever change.

And how's this for a great review on this week -

5 out of 5 stars
Excellent, 9 Feb 2010
By Cormac Mac "Crime king" (London) See all my reviews
"Cut Short is an excellent first novel. It was recommended to me by a friend who loves the Karl Kane series of books by crime writer Sam Millar. I wasn't disappointed. Steel is a name you will be hearing more of in the future.
Buy this book. Steal it. Whatever you do, read it."

(my red highlighting)

Monday 8 February 2010


CUT SHORT listed in a reviewer's TOP 5 READS of 2009

Before CUT SHORT was published, someone made a point to me along these lines: 'While you are writing your book, it belongs to you. Once it is published, the reader can say what they think about it.' In effect, you lose the right of reply. This is as it should be. A book must stand or fail on its own merits.

I'm very happy with how my book has fared so far. My publisher is brilliant at their business, producing crime thrillers, but they lack the clout and influence - aka the marketing budget - of the large publishing houses. CUT SHORT has not had the benefit of front-of-store displays, or placement on the 3for2 tables. It has not been bought a place on the bestseller lists, or been promoted by amazon in any way. It is just out there and I'm grateful that enough people have bought it to necessitate a second reprint in six months. In its own small way CUT SHORT has been a resounding success, tiny though it is in the grand scheme of the publishing world.

I have no idea what contribution reviews have made to this success. Most of the reviews of CUT SHORT have been very positive, but it is always a nerve wracking experience knowing that a review is about to be published and waiting to read it.

Here is an extract from a review this week by Michael Lipkin, Senior Editor for a major publishing house in the US. The review appears in Noir Journal and The New York Journal of Books.

"As the story races to its gripping conclusion, there’s not a moment when the reader won’t be either fearful for another possible victim, hopeful that the killer will make one fatal mistake, or desperately waiting for Steele to discover that one missing clue.
This is an excellent book—the kind one might read for hours on a winter evening before a roaring fire. Russell pulls the reader into an intense involvement with the characters, the town of Woolmarsh, and the search for the killer.
Truly a great start for new mystery author Leigh Russell."

and another 5 star review on today -

Excellent, 9 Feb 2010
Cormac Mac "Crime king" (London) - See all my reviews

Cut Short is an excellent first novel. It was recommended to me by a friend who loves the Karl Kane series of books by crime writer Sam Millar. I wasn't disappointed. Steel is a name you will be hearing more of in the future. Buy this book. Steal it. Whatever you do, read it.

CUT SHORT is included in 4 for 3 offer on

Guess what? sold out again just after they restocked. More copies on the way...

Wednesday 3 February 2010

plot and character

I’m sometimes asked if I base my characters on real people. Many authors do. It is well known that Sherlock Holmes was based on the observant physician, Joseph Bell, who taught Conan Doyle at Edinburgh Medical School.
My own answer to the question is always ‘No’. The better I know a person, the more difficult it would be to base a character on them. Real people are endlessly complex and frequently contradictory. The same person can be grouchy or optimistic, sociable or yearning for solitude, placid or foul tempered, confident or reticent – you get the point.
I wonder where other writers 'find' their characters. I'm not sure where mine come from.
In crime fiction plot is key. I thought multifaceted characters would be confusing but Cut Short has been criticised for its characters lacking depth. So I need to rethink my approach.
In Road Closed I worked on my main character, Geraldine Steel. She has become more engaging (I hope!) But has the plot suffered as a result of my focus on Geraldine? I don't think so, but I still have a long way to go before I'll be satisfied that I've mastered the craft of writing.
As I complete my editing of Road Closed and begin to think about book 3, Dead End, I need to keep my wits about me.
I know the formula:
engaging characters + dramatic plot = great crime thriller
But will my experiment produce the intended results?
How do other writers juggle plot vs character?

New review of CUT SHORT on Noir Journal

Monday 1 February 2010

The busy life of an author

I can't believe it's almost two weeks since I last posted here. The time has flown by so fast I feel quite dizzy. Apart from teaching, and dealing with life, I've been spending every second working on ROAD CLOSED. The final deadline is looming - in fact, it's already passed but my publisher has generously allowed me a little Leighway (ha!)
There's so much to think about. If something happened on Saturday, I can't later refer to it taking place Monday, etc. It should be simple - I make a plan - but I always get in such a muddle! I'm going to make a much more detailed plan for book 3.
Must go - more chapters to check. Is it hard work? Yes. Do I regret embarking on this crazy writing career? No, no, NO! I love it.

As for CUT SHORT - the reprints are done and it is back in stock on amazon. Here are the links again, in case you feel like clicking.
and an extract