Is this thing on?

I'm back

Hello out there.

I hope you and your loved ones are coping with the world going crazy. While social distancing isn’t exactly anything other than what I usually practise, it’s pretty hard to focus on what’s going on. Is this the end of civilisation? Will there be an apocalypse, with looting on the streets?

I don’t think there will be, but I was seriously fearing it. A trip to a local supermarket on Monday morning, where pretty much everything was the most-stocked I’ve ever seen it, was pretty reassuring to know there won’t be Walking Dead-style looting.

And there have been a few good news items this week, in amongst all the selfish arseholes treating the lockdown as a holiday. The UK’s NHS will most likely avoid catastrophic overloading because of the lockdown, so if you’re unfortunate enough to catch it and need hospitalisation, then you should be fine. Also, there will be home antibody tests rolled out soon — basically, if you’re positive, you’ve had it and can fight it off if you get infected again. At the moment, because the levels of testing have been so low (but they’re increasing significantly), the data we have is pretty sketchy, so this will help give a baseline picture and influence the strategy in the future. And another positive is that the genome for Covid-19 is pretty simple and isn’t showing many signs of mutation — the reason the ‘flu keeps coming back is it has eight times as big a genome which means it mutates in the wild and keeps reinfecting.

So the end is maybe not so much in sight as a brief flicker of light right out there in the darkness that might or might not be a tunnel. We’re not sure.

I know it’s been a while since I did one of these. The trouble with frequent things is you miss one, you miss six months. I got quite busy with writing and editing the second Max Carter book, which should be out in a few months. It wasn’t easy, but having been fortunate enough to visit Seattle and the Pacific Northwest really helped with the sense of place and all that goo stuff.

Right now, I’ve been working on a lot of self-published stuff, with a focus on my Scottish books. This year, I’ve written two Cullen and Bain novellas, the first of which is out now. “City of the Dead”, with “World’s End” following in June. It’s an interesting format, as it lets me focus more on the bits of the story I want without hurtling towards a sizeable word count. And I think the scene-by-scene stuff is some of the best I’ve done, dark and funny, as all good Cullen books should be. So long as they keep selling, I’ll do more of them. I’ve got until May to come up with an idea for a third one, and keeping them on a quarterly cadence is pretty easy and it keeps you lot in Cullen, whereas I’d normally just not bother, as the prospect of 95,000 words in one go with him is just too much.

Anyway, I republished the first five Fenchurch novels after Amazon Publishing gave me the rights back. There’s a Lee Child quote somewhere about writing the front list to push the back list, something like that, but this will let me push the backlist without having to write a lot more under a deadline, which is something I really hate. I’d like to do another Fenchurch in December and have a solid idea for it. When I opened the proof files I had, the first two were PDFs so were just horrible to convert. In the end, I edited the first two books, the first from about 86k to 77k and the second from 95k to 81k, and they’re a lot better for it, a lot more punchy. And sales have been promising in the relaunch, so thanks if you’ve been spreading the word!

And right now, I’m working on the second Vicky Dodds book. Finally. Entitled “Flesh and Blood”, it’ll be out maybe 1st July if I can pull my finger out. I’ve had two contracts for it, both of which got swapped out for Fenchurch books, which just sold a lot more and the series had run cold. Since I got the rights back to “Snared”, edited it and republished as “Tooth and Claw”, the sales have been good enough to let me think about doing it. I’ve had two separate ideas for a sequel and developed an outline. The first cut in 2015 was based on the second novel I ever wrote back in 2007(?), entitled “Before the Fall” (it was absolute garbage) but took it in a very different direction. I subsequently bowdlerised it into Fenchurch 4, though it’s really nothing much like it. (I should have a look at it and see if there’s any interesting stuff in it). The second pass was summer 2018, and this is what I’m going through just now. Taking a lot of work to get it just right, but I’m tweaking my outlining method to focus on different things, ideally to make the editing easier, if not the writing!

Hold tight and keep it locked down! There is a light at the end of the tunnel.


Sleepless not in Seattle / Monday, 28th October 2019

How one man battles through a book

[Sorry, admin issue meant some silly sod set this for 7:30pm rather than 7:30am]

This week I’ll give you two sides of the same coin. As you’ve been bored by my tales of travel—just about recovered from it, thanks—I’ll bore you with tales of why I was there.

Meet Max Carter, my new hero. He’s an FBI Special Agent based out of the Seattle Field Office and heads up the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment unit. He’s got a wife, Emma, and a young daughter, Kristy. Any child going abduction in America is automatically a federal crime (as opposed to a local police jurisdiction), so he has to find them. This is what a big chunk of my next six months of work are going to be about.

Currently, I’m weaving my way through the first draft of the second book in the series, with the not-very-serious working title “Oh no not my sweet baby”. I work to outlines and wrote a good chunk of this outline back in July 2018, but since signing with Bookouture and editing the first book a lot, I’ve spent a few weeks this year reworking it, both to fit the character changes but also to strengthen the story.

Anyway, I’m still suffering a bit of fatigue and trying not to pressure myself too much, but I cleared 21,000 words in the first week, which is a wee bit on the slow side for me. I do think is hitting a higher quality bar than my usual first drafts. I reckon it’ll be another three weeks of writing then a week to read it through again before it goes to my editor to tear it apart. Luckily I’m a grumpy get and don’t really care if I’m missing Xmas. Bah humbug and all that.

But having been in Seattle and taking the ferry across to Bremerton has really helped with writing about the area. Getting a real feel for how the locals see the city. And giving me a few cool places to set the story. Seattle is a fascinating city and it really validated the decision to write about the place.

(And a large part of why I’m so tired is the old juggling five projects thing. Three of them are out of my hands, leaving me with just two Carter books to do, this one by December and the third by April. One of the advantages to working this way is I’ve had to focus on the outline for book three before I wrote book two so I’ve got some big changes to make to the end of this one, which will free me up a lot to make book three much more standalone than the first two. So I’m getting over the hump with it. Roll on December!)

And this week will be entirely focused on ploughing on with the second book. Aiming for another solid 20-25k, even with the clocks going back. I hate that.

And the other side of the coin is the preorder release of the first Carter book, TELL ME LIES. Look at that cover too. Gorgeous, isn’t it?

It’s available from everywhere, not just Amazon:

Apple Books:
Google Play:

Have fun this week and don’t let the clock change break you.


The future / Monday, 21st October 2019

What one man will be working on

I’m just about recovered from my travels. Had some weird weird dreams where I swear I’ve been sleeping in a berth on a ferry somewhere in Washington state, but it’s really really similar to my bedroom at home but it clearly isn’t the same place. And of course it is. Must be a mild form of PTSD or something. Or jetlag, which I suffered badly from over there, waking between 4:30am and 5:30am every day. I know why Starbucks open so early, it’s to cater for jetlagged Brits.

Anyway, it was a gruelling trip. Not work as in events or anything like that, but work as in being constantly switched on and taking everything in. Soaking up the location, the people, the sights, the sounds, the smells. I walked 30,000 steps every day in Seattle. I visited a few crazy places I’d earmarked for FBI book 2, including taking said ferry journey across the Puget Sound to a small town called Bremerton. I made a pilgrimage to Kurt Cobain’s house in the Lake Washington district of Seattle (1.5miles from our airbnb). I sat in a train for 12 hours through Washington and Oregon. I drove through Oregon to the small town of Weed in northern California, following the 65 mile trail to Mount Shasta on the horizon — I swear it was like driving through a Reacher book cover, just missing the ex-services dude walking into the distance. We drove down to Redding in California, and there’s absolutely no reason to drive there, it’s a nothing town. We drove to Portland, but on the way I KILLED THE CAR by putting diesel in a gasoline tank. In Britain, it’s really hard to buy a petrol SUV, but not in America. And the Enterprise folks didn’t think to mention it to a limey-ass SOB like me. The tow truck guy picked us up in Yreka, CA (surely an abuse of Eureka, which is over on the Oregon coast), and he let us ride in his cab while he blasted out his prepper audiobook at ludicrous volume. A prepper is someone preparing for the apocalypse. Walmart sell magazines for preppers. Anyway, after the greasiest-ever lunch (half a packet of pastrami and a load of cheese in a fried sandwich) at Medford International (I suspect they have one flight a day to Mexico or Canada), I drove us up to Portland through rural Oregon. Portland was a blast, a really cool city, full of hispters doing their thang. I much preferred Seattle though, as it felt real. Glad it’s where I’m writing about. Powell’s books is incredible, a whole city block filled with books. I had to jettison lots of stinking clothes to fit all the books I bought in my case back. Three flights in 36 hours and I was back home in the borders, feeling like I’d never been away. Funny how it works like that.

Okay, so now I’m back. What does this week hold? Well, I’ve got to start working on the second FBI book, which I’ll hammer on with on Monday. I’ve made a lot of changes to it based on location research, but also from working on the revised synopsis to book 3, which needed a hell of a lot of work. But it’s opened up a can of worms in the ending to book 2, so I’m having to rework that as well. All fun and games, but it won’t impact the writing of book 2 next week. So it’ll be heads down thumbs up from me next week. I’ve got about 90,000 words to write in about four weeks, but the outline’s 25,000 words and has been signed off by my editor. The biggest issue will be keeping it short rather than having enough.

And that’s all for this week. Hope you’re enjoying these — next week’s will be back to normal, hopefully along with me.

— Ed

Ed James is away / Monday, 14th October, 2019

One very tired man mistypes everything

Seriously. Every word is a typo.


I write this at 6:59 in a Starbucks in Portland, Oregon. USA. Mark Edwards and I arrived here late yesterday after a FUN day driving from Northern California. And everything *really* is bigger here. Oregon is about the size of Germany but has the geography of a ten-mile stretch of the M6 through Cumbria. Or at least the bit we drove up did. I’ll come back to the fun and games we endured in a later missive, but we shifted our plans from getting a train to San Jose (don’t get trains in America is my advice!) to driving up to Portland.

Amazing city, in a different way to Seattle which is literally an Amazon city. As you know, I’ve got a deal for three novels set in this part of the world, of which one is written, another is outlined and a third I did a revised synopsis on the plane over. Reassuringly, the location stuff for the first book worked quite well, but actually being in the city gave me a different feel for the place. Soaking up the culture, the people, seeing the places. All that jazz. And I got some great ideas for scenes and for another book. I also validated some locations for book 2, including a brilliant ferry crossing that I can barely remember through my jetlag, where I got some good material from smalltown America rather than big city America. We spent some time with my friend, Kim, who I used to work with before I scribbled for a living, and she lives here and showed us around some funky neighbourhoods in North Seattle, rather than downtown as they all say. And forcefed me some amazing vegan ice cream and hoppy IPA.

We just spent a couple of days down in south Oregon and north California, Klamath Falls and Mt Shasta. Crazy landscape and crazy people. I’ve got at least six book ideas I could write down there, I swear.

No photo this week. My instagram will be on fire.

But Project Bigtime is senseless. Literally. It’s called Senseless, and I can announce that it will be published by Headline in ebook in March and paperback in July.

Here’s the blurb:

Six weeks after vanishing, Sarah Langton is suddenly found - half-crazed and starved close to death. 
Without a single clue, the police struggle to find answers.
But when another missing person reappears, broken by months of solitary confinement, a deadly pattern becomes terrifyingly clear: a twisted predator is driving his victims to madness.
D.S. Aidan Corcoran, still haunted by a previous case, and Dr Marie Palmer, a leading criminal psychiatrist, must work together to find a link between the survivors - and unravel the deadliest of puzzles. And when another woman disappears, every second will be critical...
With a gripping hook that grabs you from the very first page, this chilling thriller is perfect for readers of Chris Carter, M.J. Arlidge, Sharon Bolton and Fiona Cummins.

And here’s the link to preorder it!

Two recommendations from this week. One, JOKER is incredible. Two, EL CAMINO (the Breaking Bad film) is incredible.

Now, I’ve got to get some sleep before 24 hours of travel. Or something. NEVER AGAIN. Love and kisses as ever.

— Ed

Travel grumpy / Monday, 7th October, 2019

How one man badly prepares for a trip


As you read this, I’ll possibly be somewhere over the Atlantic on my way to Seattle.

This is a week off, so of course I spent ages messing about with my website. I’m pretty pleased with it. It’s kind of live just now, but I’ll redirect all my other domains towards it in a couple of weeks once I’ve ironed out the kinks. Have a look and let me know what you think:

Doing that made me look at my backlist with a different eye. I hated the first two book covers. So I did some new covers for the first two Cullen books:

And for some reason I can’t fathom, I’ve relaunched the two Supernature books. Book 1 is now BAD BLOOD, previously published as JUST WALKING THE DEAD:

And Book 2 is now COLD BLOOD, previously published as SHOT THROUGH THE HEART:

If you haven’t bought them, take a look. While they didn’t sell anywhere near as well as my crime stuff, I do have a soft spot for them and I get emails asking if I’m doing any more (incredibly unlikely, but you never know). And I can’t seem to escape being asked about them at book events, so I might as well own it. Plus I did all that work and spent all that money on them. If you want to check them out on Amazon, do so here: Bad Blood; Cold Blood. (At the time of writing, the series page hadn’t been updated to reflect the resequencing…)

Project update

No real updates, given I’m supposed to not be working, aside from Project BIGTIME having a cover and, while I can’t show you it yet, it’s DAMN DAMN GOOD. I’m ridiculously excited about it.

Photo of the week


Been reading Joe Abercrombie’s A Little Hatred, which is a sort-of fantasy novel in a sort-of series. I’d better explain that. So it’s in a medieval fantasy setting, but one that’s undergoing the industrial revolution and all the pain that ensues. And it’s book seven in a sort-of series. The first three novels are among my favourite things ever, a sprawling epic with incredible characterisation. The next three were patchier, with book 4 and 6 being pretty damn good, but the fifth (The Heroes) just a horrible grind. I’d say I’m enjoying A Little Hatred, but the first third is a masterclass in having way too many POV characters. And I know I’m one to talk for having too many characters in a book, but this is brutal. My understanding is he wrote the trilogy in one burst and it’s being released annually, so there’s obviously a lot of worldbuilding needed to support the story, but this was slow. At around 40% it kicks in and I’m really enjoying it now.

I bought a Nintendo Switch last week and blasted past Link’s Awakening, a 2019 remake of a 1993 Gameboy game. I played the original, my first Zelda, and got stuck halfway through. I’ve beasted loads of Zeldas since, and managed to batter through this in a week or so, and not particularly intense playing. Really enjoyable, though. It looks and sounds incredible, and the gamplay didn’t feel too janky. In what’s going to be a mistake, I started Dragon Quest XI, a REALLY LONG Japanese RPG. It’s great so far.

TV watching has mostly been the second season of Vice Principals. We watched the first one back in 2013/14, I think. It was an HBO show that Sky Atlantic had, but the second season never showed up. So I bought it on Amazon and it’s brilliant. Danny McBride and Walton Goggins are on top form in this.

And that’s us. Week 4 of 12 of the test. I’m enjoying it, let me know if you do or don’t. Please!

— Ed

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