This is my contribution to the Work in Progress Blog Tour. You can follow the links to and from my post to find out about what various writers are doing at the moment.

Thanks to David Wailing, author of the ‘Auto’series – an often very scary glimpse of what we might be in for if social media and other technology carries on developing the way it’s going – for nominating me to carry on the tour. Here’s a link to his own post about ‘Auto 2’: http://www.davidwailing.com/2015/02/work-in-progress-blog-tour/


These are the rules for participants:

  1. Link back to the post of the person who nominated you.
    2. Write a little about and give the first sentence of the first three chapters of your current work in progress.
    3. Nominate some other writers to do the same.


I see David has joked in his post about how much I write, so I don’t think it will come as a surprise when I reveal that I have multiple works in progress just now. In fact this isn’t always the case, because it can be much harder to write more than one thing at the same time. But it has happened this year that for some weeks I couldn’t face even looking at the novel I wrote in November for National Novel Writing Month, so I planned the third novella in my Edwardian series in the mean-time, and then I managed to write the first draft of the novella while the NaNoWriMo novel was away for printing (a proof-reading copy) after some essential edits and the addition of around 12,000 words. It has also happened that I’ve decided, for reasons that are fairly mysterious even to me, that I should probably make a start on the ninth novel in my mystery series in March, so I’ve been mulling over scenarios, titles and plot ideas for that as well as almost making myself late for a meeting by taking a few preliminary notes.


Anyway, because the novella is the freshest in my mind as well as being a guilty pleasure because it was such fun to write, I will use that as my ‘work in progress’ for now.

This story is set in Edinburgh in 1911 when dramatic events occurred at the Empire Palace of Varieties – and not just as part of the scheduled stage acts, either. I have chosen to view some of the scenes from the viewpoint of an Italian clarinettist, Antonio.


Chapter 1


Antonio stared at the woman. She had been watching the rehearsal from a box on the first tier, her sketchbook balanced on the ledge in front of her. From time to time she leaned over the book, apparently drawing in it with a pencil or perhaps a stick of charcoal.


Chapter 2


‘Could we not get the train instead?’ whined Betsy as they crossed the road at Canonmills and made their way along by the Water of Leith.

‘We’d just have as far to walk to get to the station,’ said Mrs Martin. ‘I don’t know why you’re so tired all the time. When I was your age we used to have to walk everywhere. We didn’t have the money to get the train or the tram. It didn’t do us any harm.’


Chapter 3


The Great Lafayette was in an even worse mood today. One of the violinists said his dog, Beauty, famously the most pampered canine in Europe, was ill. But at least the rehearsals were over and done with, the show had gone ahead and the audiences had poured into the theatre as usual.



But that’s more than enough about me for now. I have asked fellow-writers Matthew Drzymala and Anne Stenhouse to continue the tour. Their posts about works in progress will be available any day now if you follow the links below.

Matthew is the writer of the Bumpkinton series of stories set in a quintessentially English village. I think if you like the Pitkirtly Mysteries you will be interested in his work too. Here’s a link to Matthew’s blog: http://matthewdrzymala.com/

Anne is a writer of historical novels including ‘Bella’s Betrothal’, set in Edinburgh in the 18th century. I’ve very much enjoyed reading these, and I look forward to finding out what she’s working on next. Here’s a link to Anne’s blog: http://wp.me/31Isq

This morning I reached almost 7,000 words in ‘Adventure at the Palace of Varieties’. I think I may be nearing the halfway point with the plot as it will probably be about 15,000 words altogether. It has been quite difficult to re-capture the lighter style of the first two ‘Edwardian adventures’ as I know there is a really grim real-life event just about to happen in the story! It will be even worse later on if I take the characters forward into World War One as I am sort of planning to. But (a bit annoyingly as there are at least 2 more things to be written before that) I’ve had an idea for an interesting approach I can take to it.

Backstage tour ticket

Backstage tour ticket

There is quite a lot of information online about the Empire Palace of Varieties because of the grim event I’ve mentioned above, and some people reading this may already have heard of it. I won’t go into detail just now, but apart from doing internet research I often like to visit relevant places as I write. In this case I discovered I could get a ticket for a backstage tour of the Festival Theatre,  which is built on the site occupied by various theatres over the years, dating back I think at least to early or mid Victorian times. One of these theatres was the Empire Palace of Varieties, the setting for my story. Another more recent one was also called the Empire, but it ended its working life as a bingo hall, before the Festival Theatre was built in 1994.

As you will see from the picture, the earliest I can get a ticket for the tour is April, so I am hoping all the people who have bought tickets for February and March are not also researching for similar stories! I will have most of the thing written before then and indeed I hope to be well into ‘Pitkirtly IX’ at that point, but there will undoubtedly be some gaps I can fill in after the tour.

The WordPress elves, monkeys or whatever they are, have produced some rather generic reviews of the year for all my blogs, which are more of interest to me than to anyone else, although I’ve posted one on another blog just to see what it looks like. This blog post is more specifically a review of my writing year and a little glimpse into how I see 2015 going as I unveil my annual writing plan. I’ll start with that.

Writing plan 2015

Writing plan 2015

I’m not sure how it has already managed to acquire the statutory coffee stain! Another familiar feature is the arrow moving something from one part of the year to another, this time before the year has even started.

I am all ready to start on two things tomorrow. One is to attempt to read right through my November NaNoWriMo project without losing the will to live halfway through, and the other, which I hope will be a lot more fun, is to start a new Edwardian story, ‘Adventure at the Palace of Varieties’. I apologise to anyone who might prefer me to write another Pitkirtly mystery first! I’ve been waiting to write the ‘Palace of Varieties’ for quite a few months.

Anyway, that’s for next year! (You can probably tell from the way I’ve approached this blog post that I prefer to look forward than back.)

After resolving at about this time last year not to try and write/publish so much in 2014, I managed to publish 3 novels and my small set of 2 novellas during the year as well as writing the first draft of a novel in November. Looking back at my records, I see there was ‘A Tasteful Crime’ in February, ‘Two Edwardian Adventures’ in late July followed swiftly by ‘The Coronation Quest’ in early August, then  a more sensible gap before ‘The Christmas Puzzle’ in mid-October. Both the latest Pitkirtly mysteries were more successful than I had ever dreamed of, with ‘The Christmas Puzzle’ reaching no. 1 in the cozy mystery category on Amazon UK and hanging around the top 20 for several weeks – it is still in the top 40 at the time of writing this. ‘A Tasteful Crime’ also did very well, but I can’t remember if it actually reached no. 1 or not. I discovered during these times that it takes a lot of sales to stay in the top 5 even of such a relatively small category.

I’m not even going to bother trying not to write so much in 2015. I will just go ahead and write as much as I feel like writing. I have quite a few ideas for writing projects, probably enough to keep me busy long past this time next year, as you may see if you look closely at my writing plan!

A Christmas Treat

A Merry Christmas to all my readers, and please welcome my guest, Matthew Drzymala


I think if you read on you’ll see why it’s particularly appropriate to post my interview with him today, Christmas Eve. Our writing has something in common, which is that we write stories set in places that haven’t quite got themselves into the 21st century yet (or even the 20th, some might say). I’ve enjoyed reading some of his stories and I have a couple more on my Kindle waiting to be read over the festive season.

Here’s a link to Matthew’s blog: http://matthewdrzymala.com/

You’ll be able to find out more about him and his writing over there. I hear he interviewed a really famous mystery writer recently as well!

Anyway, let’s move swiftly on to the questions.

1. First of all, something which is possibly foremost in your mind at the moment. Please tell me about your latest publication.

My latest release is called Albert’s Christmas. It is the fourth story set in my fictional village of Bumpkinton and the second to be set at Christmas. This story is set around the village tramp, Albert Scatterhorn who steps forward to fill some very big black boots and a fluffy white beard.

Albert has had small cameos in two stories and has a sad past. I touch on that in this story, but not too much, I have a draft of story that is all about Albert which explores how he became a down and out, but I don’t plan to release that for quite some time yet.

[Here’s a link which should enable you to buy ‘Albert’s Christmas’ from your local Amazon store wherever you are (clever, isn’t it?):  http://authl.it/B00Q1J55GS]

2. Do you like Christmas yourself? Are there any special festive traditions in your family? Or do you like to do anything in particular on Christmas Day?

I love Christmas, always have. We don’t have traditions as such, no. Since meeting my fiancée we tend to spend the day together. We open presents while listening to Christmas music (non of that Wizzard and Slade rubbish, more like Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and Chris Rea. Who doesn’t love Chris Rea?).

We stay in or sometimes meet our friends for a drink but the evening is spent watching TV. I tend to take the telly for Doctor Who and Elaine for Call The Midwife and Strictly. We just love spending the day together. If the weather is nice we may have a walk in the park. You see all the kids on their new bikes that you know will probably mangled by May in a dusty shed somewhere.

3. What made you think of Bumpkinton? Is it based on a real place or is it your idea of a perfect, old-fashioned English village? (or maybe not quite so perfect)

Bumpkinton came about due to tiredness. It’s true. I took a creative writing course and we wrote a lot of stuff. As the months went by I was writing a lot of dark stuff. I was writing murder stories, quite horrific stories that involved a lot of bloodshed. We had to write a story for our last lesson and I was mentally drained. I really couldn’t think of much, I was struggling to find anything to write.

Then I thought ‘Write something light’. It was that simple really. I took to the internet and asked my friends to throw lots of names at me for characters, normal and a bit silly and a few of my Bumpkinton characters came from there. Then I just wrote a very silly story.

Thatis the story about Albert. It was the first one I wrote but due to events that happen in parts of it, I need to write a few stories before I get to that point in time. In essence everything I’m writing now is a prequel to the original story. I think I will save that story until I decide to put Bumpkinton to bed. The storyline of that one always makes me smile. For now it’s gathering dust, but one day it’ll be out and I think it’s probably going to be the silliest of all of the Bumpkinton’s.

It’s not set on any village that I know. It’s really just a setting for a colourful band of characters. The village is bigger than I’ve shown and there are more characters to come who haven’t even been mentioned yet. They will appear eventually. I intentionally didn’t base it on anything real. The characters at times are very caricature. I want to make the stories light and fun, hence there’s no swearing in them. The worst I’ve put is in Albert’s Christmas when a character says ‘Balls’ but that’s about as bad as it gets.

4. Have you ever lived in a place like Bumpkinton? Or would you like to live there, among your characters? Would there be any downsides?

I’d love to live in Bumpkinton. Father Whitworth O’Grady is the character I love writing the most. Everything I write for him is just effortlessly easy. Some characters are more awkward, but Whitworth is just a pure joy. I’d like to meet him and have a pint at The Ploughman’s Itch (the Bumpkinton pub, nothing sordid!)

I think Amelia Goose, the village busybody would irritate me to hell. She is there to annoy and believe me, she can be annoying to write. I feel though if she grates on me to write, she will grate on readers and that is exactly what I want her to do. I want people shouting ‘Shut up, Amelia!’ because invariably she ends up being silenced for her annoying views.

Other than her though, I think I’d fit right into Bumpkinton. I wish it existed.

5. Now some background information. How long have you been writing fiction?

 I started to write when I took part in NaNoWriMo in 2011. I wrote a children’s novel which I still haven’t perfected. However, I’m working on a collection of short stories that involve the main character when he was younger than he is in the unfinished novel. I will finish it one day. I want to flesh him out more in the short stories and it may give me more options with the novel and help piece some bits together.

I wish I could say I’ve written since I was little, but I can’t. I was an avid reader and did write some stories when I was small, but it kind of died away in secondary school. However, taking part in NaNoWriMo fired my enthusiasm to try my hand at writing stories. I’m still learning, I know I can get better but that will come with experience.

6. What was your first story about?

If you mean that I remember writing, I’m not sure. I do remember one I wrote when I was eleven in school. It involved three friends going to a haunted house and one of them fell and got their leg caught in some broken floorboards. I can’t remember too much else about it though.

My first published story was a duel release. Last Christmas was written in a week as a very late Christmas tie-in for my first Bumpkinton novella, Bittersweet. They were released on 21st December 2013 (the day before my birthday).

7. Are you working on your next publication at the moment? Or perhaps having a well-earned rest?

 I have bits and bobs written but I’m not concentrating on one thing at the moment. I plan to write five short stories with my novel character. I’ve written one so far and I have a chunk of next year’s Bumpkinton novella written, although I did that last year!

I may make that one into a novel, I’ll have to see how far it goes naturally. It also has my favourite story title so far. I can’t announce that yet, but if people thought Amelia Goose and Artichoke Caruthers were odd names, wait until they see the name of the character in the title of the next one.

However, I don’t plan to write much more now until January.

8. What do you do when you’re not writing?

 Watch TV shows, mostly. I watch a lot on catch up. I’m currently working my way through The Walking Dead at the moment. I like to socialise with my partner and our friends and watch football. I’m a Manchester United fan, which raises a few eyebrows living in Liverpool. Let’s just say I’m not very popular with taxi drivers when they want to talk about Steven Gerrard and I tell them I’m a Mancunian. I’ve had a bit of colourful language thrown my way in the back of a cab in the last year or two! Haha

I probably don’t do too much to be honest. I used to Snowboard when I lived in Manchester as it has an indoor Ski Slope but I don’t get to it much anymore.

9. If you could go and live anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

Anywhere Elaine wanted to be. Wherever she is is the best place in the world.

Or Vienna.

10. Would you be interested in being part of a colony on Mars?

Only if I get to handpick the people that go :D


 Thank you, Matthew, for some very good answers. I’m very much looking forward to my own Christmas visit to Bumpkinton.


I would quite like to spend all my time in Pitkirtly. It seems a pleasant enough place, apart from all the suspicious deaths and the weather, and once you get used to the people they are fairly friendly. I’ve always wanted to live by the sea as well, at least when I haven’t wanted to live in the hills or in town.

Brighton in the rain

Brighton in the rain

Mostly when not in Pitkirtly I don’t go too far away from it – not as far as Brighton, pictured here for no particular reason. For example, I am currently writing a sequel to my dystopian novel of Scottish independence for National Novel Writing Month. Somehow this has managed to involve people messing about in boats on the Forth and other people trying to find their way around in the Cairngorms. Sadly the plot is too long for November so I may have to summarise the last part in order to get to the end of this first draft. Even more sadly, this situation isn’t unprecedented. In fact I can reveal that I did the same thing while I was writing ‘Frozen in Crime’. Towards the end I wrote something like ‘But they didn’t know what really happened until much later’, and filled in the details during the first edit.

Occasionally I do stray quite far from Pitkirtly, either geographically or in time. I plan to do this again around Christmas, when I will have two weeks off work, only one of which is taken up with helping with pantomime props, i.e. hanging around back-stage at the theatre for hours on end and springing into action every half hour or so to make sure something gets on to the stage. Or, in the case of a football that once had to be carried by a very forgetful actor, sprinting down to the dressing-room to fetch it.

Anyway, after all the props are packed away for the next time, I will be either still researching or actually writing a new novella in my ‘Edwardian’ series. I was very tempted to write this for NaNoWriMo as I thought it would be more fun than the grim dystopian future, although in fact the grim etc etc has turned out to be a bit lighter-weight than I thought and may turn out to be the only comic grim dystopian sci-fi novel ever written.

But if you’re now wondering why I haven’t plunged into ‘Pitkirtly IX’ yet, I want to get to the stage where I am really looking forward to visiting the place and the people again before starting on it. I haven’t made my 2015 writing plan yet but I’m guessing this will probably happen round about February or March. A more complete 2015 writing plan will follow later.

The Marination Process

No, that  isn’t a novel title, although having said that it looks a bit as if it could either have a cold war spy theme, or be some sort of bio-thriller. I just thought I would say something about why I always have to leave my writing to lie around doing nothing for a while once I get to the end of the first draft. Because I don’t really have an image that expresses the idea of marination, I will use a picture I took yesterday while waiting for my first tram.

At the tram stop in Shandwick Place

Waiting for the tram

I suppose the link here is that this was a project that took a long time to marinate! Incidentally, until yesterday I felt as if I was the only person in Edinburgh who hadn’t yet sampled the trams. I was reluctantly impressed.

The reason for leaving it to marinate is that I need to get some perspective about the novel, and in particular about the plot, which seemed so logical and believable while I was writing it, and which will probably turn out to be as watertight as a sieve when I read it through again without the pressure of having to make it up as I go along. Why did I introduce a character in chapter 2 and then forget all about him? (It’s quite surprising how often this happens!) Where did the person who was originally supposed to be central to the story disappear to after chapter 23? (Again, this is only too common) What on earth was Mr or Ms X doing in that particular place in the middle of the night?

Sometimes I put off starting again because I already know there is something so badly wrong that I will have to take the whole thing to pieces and start all over again, but on this occasion I don’t think that should be necessary. All the pieces are there and more or less in the right order. I think all I need to do is to explain some aspects of it a bit better. But of course I won’t know that for sure unless I can get to the point where it can begin to surprise me as I re-read it. So I’m using all my will-power and a lot of distraction to stop myself from re-opening the Word file too soon. At this rate I should last at least until Monday.

As usual, ‘Pitkirtly VIII’ is taking a slightly different shape from the one I expected. One of the characters – a new arrival – has decided to do something very silly. Of course that  in itself isn’t all that surprising. If characters didn’t do anything out of the ordinary then novels would be extremely boring. I’m just waiting at the moment to see where this particular example of silliness will lead. When I say ‘waiting’ I mean writing on through it all and desperately trying to get to the right outcome.


Not Pitkirtly but Dunfermline

In some ways I feel as if I go through a time warp when I ‘visit’ Pitkirtly, and I was reminded of this when I went to Dunfermline for the day recently. This isn’t because Dunfermline itself is stuck in the past – far from it –  or because I have based Pitkirtly on Dunfermline, which I haven’t, but because I have memories of it which are stuck in the 1950s, when we used to go there to see my granny, and I also tend to dwell on family history when I go there as I belong to a group of people who are all descended from a coal miner who lived there in the 17th century. Apart from anything else, this shows that it isn’t always just the aristocracy who can trace their ancestry back that far!

I’m about 25,000 words into ‘Pitkirtly VIII’ and starting to consider possible titles for it. I like ‘Night of the Living Elves’ which came to me first thing this morning, but I very much doubt if that is the one it will end up with. I am writing at the rate I planned to write, which means I may finish the first draft by mid-September. There will still be some editing to do before publication.

I’m trying not to take on any other random projects in the mean-time but sometimes I can’t resist them. That was what happened with the Edinburgh ebook festival (this link is for the home page: http://www.edebookfest.co.uk/ – either search for ‘Sheila Perry’ or look for ‘writers’ residencies’ in the drop-down list of categories to find my 3 historical research articles) and also in the case of two articles on bar-coding in museums I was asked to write for a museum registrars’ website called Registrar Trek: The Next Generation.





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