Thursday, 24 August 2017

Pre-order The Secret Mother

My new psychological thriller THE SECRET MOTHER is now available to pre-order!


‘Are you my mummy?’ the little boy asks.

Tessa Markham comes home to find a child in her kitchen.
He thinks she’s his mother. But Tessa doesn’t have any children.

Not anymore.

She doesn’t know who he is or how he got there.

After contacting the police, Tessa comes under suspicion for snatching the boy. She must fight to prove her innocence. But how can she convince everyone she’s not guilty when even those closest to her are questioning the truth? And when Tessa doesn’t even trust herself . . .

Pre-order your copy via:  Amazon Kindle   iBooks   Kobo   Google Play

Nook is coming any day now.

Paperback and Audiobook coming soon...

Monday, 26 June 2017

Just signed a three-book deal with Bookouture!

I'm excited to announce that my next three thrillers will be published with Bookouture!

"Natasha Harding, who joined Bookouture from Harper Collins in the role of Associate Publisher, has made her first acquisition for the commercial publisher.  

Natasha has acquired World Rights for three new psychological thrillers by digital sensation Shalini Boland, direct from the author. Shalini has previously self-published three titles and is a top-ten ebook bestseller."

You can read more about the deal on Bookouture's website  here.

Monday, 19 June 2017

How to write a psychological thriller

I’m fairly new to the genre having written three thrillers with a fourth – The Secret Mother – in the making. But a few authors and readers have asked me how I write, so I thought I’d share. Take from my writing experiences what you will.

I used to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants girl with a general idea of plot, but nothing concrete. On average it would take me eight months to write a novel with much wailing and gnashing of teeth in between. Now, I plot the novel right down to the final twist, and move it one stage further by taking my basic plot and outlining each chapter in detail. Using this method, my last three thrillers each took me 2-3 months to complete, mainly because I knew exactly what I was going to write each day – there were no blank spots leading to writer’s block. I can’t believe I left it so many years to work this way. It’s a revelation.

Each chapter must work hard to add to the story. If it doesn’t move the plot along then it doesn’t belong. I always keep in mind my character arc and the overall theme of the story. I try to treat each chapter like a mini-story, with its own build up and climax, ending each chapter with an unsettled feeling or a question to be answered, drawing the reader along so they always get that urge to read ‘just one more chapter’.

Main Character
A strong plot is all very well, but I also want an interesting main character. A character who goes on his or her own personal journey aside from what’s going on around them. So they start off at point A, but finish – changed in some way – at point B. If the reader doesn’t care about the character and their goals, they won’t care about the story.

Because I write psychological thrillers, I concentrate hard on the level of suspense in the book, keeping it rising with each chapter, backing the protagonist into terrible scenarios – physical or emotional – where the reader wonders what the hell they would do in that situation. I’ve had readers tell me they’ve yelled at my characters, telling them to do xyz to get out of their situation. Another reader wanted to climb into the pages and ‘beat the crap out of’ one of the bad guys in The Best Friend. As well as plot and dialogue, I like to use symbolism, such as weather, scenery etc. to subtly add to the atmosphere, layering the tension bit by bit until the reader has no fingernails left.

If I’m adding twists to the plot (which I always do), I try to ensure they don’t come completely out of nowhere. There’s a fine balance between tipping the reader off too early, and not foreshadowing at all so the twist feels too sudden and out of place, leaving the reader feeling annoyed or confused. Unless you’re going for a subtle build towards the revelation, you want the reader to discover the twist, drop their jaw in disbelief, think ‘of course’ and immediately reread the book to find the exact place in the narrative where the twist was originally hinted at. That’s a five-star review, right there ;)

Of course, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But, as long as most of my readers are happy, then so am I.

I hope these insights into my writing process have helped somewhat. I’m always learning and striving to improve, but these are my discoveries so far. Happy psych-thriller writing! Feel free to comment below with any other tips and advice.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Millionaire's Wife - Preview

The Millionaire's Wife comes out April 27th. You can read Chapter One here!
Can you ever really know the ones you love?
Anna Blackwell lives a charmed life with her husband, in a clifftop mansion overlooking the ocean. But things haven’t always been this way.
After seeing a news report about the death of a woman on the other side of the world, Anna realises that her past has caught up with her. That her greatest fear is about to come true. That it’s her turn next.
Uncover a web of lies and deceit in this chilling, twisty suspense thriller.

Chapter One
3rd January 2017, Barbados
The man watched her hasten down the stone steps, slightly ahead of him, her bare, tanned legs lithe and slim – a combination of good genes and regular dance classes, more like a teenager than a woman in her late twenties. For a moment, he felt as though he were watching a memory, a video on his laptop of someone he used to know. He gave himself a shake and followed her.
‘Come on, slow-coach!’ she called, dark ringlets bouncing around her shoulders. She threw him a glance over her shoulder, a teasing grin. He smiled back and put on a spurt of speed, scooped her up in his arms and jogged down the remaining steps with her until they reached the arc of pristine sand which curved around the turquoise bay, its backdrop of trees swaying in the breeze. The sand sifted pleasantly beneath his soles, warm and soft. Later it would become a white-hot furnace, impossible to walk on with bare feet, and he’d have to dig out his flip flops from the beach bag.
Katie wriggled out of his arms and pulled him along by the hand to their favourite spot under the morning shade of a benevolent palm, far enough away from the manchineel trees with their poison fruit and deadly sap.
A cursory glance left and right, showed two other couples already on the beach, stretched out on bright towels, and one older woman on her own, nose buried in a paperback. It was a week day, so no sign of the weekend yachties and speedboat owners who would moor up in the bay often staying until sundown. No. Today, the view was of empty ocean and sky. Perfect.
Dropping her towel and bag on the sand, Katie twirled her hair up into a makeshift bun, fixing it in place with a hairband from her wrist. ‘You coming in?’
‘Later. I think I’m going to relax for a while.’
‘Lightweight,’ she teased. ‘The woman in the villa next to ours said she saw whales in the bay yesterday. I’m going to swim out and see if I can spot them while it’s still early enough.’
‘Don’t go too far,’ he said, knowing she’d most likely ignore him.
He’d never been on holidays like this before he’d met Katie. Yachts, mansions and ski slopes had not been for the likes of him. Katie, however, had been born to it. While he’d been skinning his knees learning to ride a second-hand bike at the local skateboard park, she and her parents had been gliding across virgin snow, flying to far-flung continents on safari, or watching prima ballerinas twirl on famous stages. She had led a charmed life.
Surely, the parents of a girl like this should have been horrified when she brought home a nobody like him – a dirt-poor, classless loser with no career to speak of. But he had been proven wrong. The Spencers were nice people. Warm and welcoming. Non-judgemental. Nothing like his own family. To give himself credit, he did have a decent sense of humour and a beautiful face. He had always been admired. Charm was his gift.
And so, it had been an easy thing to become absorbed into this family. He and Katie. The golden couple. Shining wherever they went. He had shrugged on her privilege with ease, taking it for his own. Long-haul flights to distant lands, skiing, safari-ing, visiting the ballet, the opera. Moving in dizzyingly high circles without once losing his balance. They were a pair. And she loved him without reserve.
Peeling off his t-shirt, he began applying sun lotion to his torso, watching as Katie walked across the beach in her skimpy bikini towards the gently lapping ocean, its water the perfect temperature. Not like the English Channel back home which would steal your breath, needle your skin and finally give your stomach an icy punch. No, Barbados seas were warm yet refreshing. Already up to her waist, Katie struck off away from the shore, her arms powering forward. He watched her for a moment and then lay back, gazing at the palm fronds and blue sky above, trying to let his mind go blank for a while.
It didn’t do to overthink things.
He lay there for some time before he heard the noise. Faint, at first, like a lazy bumble bee or a neighbour’s lawnmower. Then, growing louder. An engine, determined, fast, the random crashes of its hull against the ocean’s surface. He imagined himself sitting up and looking at the sea, searching out the source of the noise, but his body was locked in place, too tense to move. He couldn’t stop staring at the impossibly blue sky. Could barely breathe.
A scream jolted him from his brief stasis and he jerked upright before springing to his feet. As his senses sharpened, he saw the other sunbathers running towards the ocean, their hands raised against the glare of the sun, pointing, shouting. Beyond them, a white speedboat bounded out to sea, its wake contaminating the glassy blue ocean. His eyes scanned the water for Katie. No sign. Maybe she was hidden by the chop from the boat.
He sprinted down to the water’s edge, shielding his eyes from the sun, trying to locate her.
‘Did it hit her?’ a woman with a German accent cried out to him. ‘Did you see?’
‘What?’ he replied, panting.
‘The boat out there. I think it might have hit your friend.’
‘Are you sure?’ he questioned, his voice slow and stupid, his mind frozen. ‘The boat? It hit my wife?’ He dove into the water, powering through the ocean to reach Katie.
He felt the company of another swimmer beside him – a concerned sunbather wanting to help. The boat was already a pale dot in the distance, its motor a receding hum. He didn’t know where to look for her. Stupid. He should have been looking out for her instead of staring at the sky. But the man ahead of him knew where he was going, his long, powerful strokes propelling him towards a fixed point. He would follow that man.
A crimson stain like a beacon spread out before him, already losing its bright hue, turning pink and dissolving into wisps. Soon it would be absorbed into the ocean. But still no sign of Katie. This is where it must have happened. Where the speedboat had collided with his wife. He took a long gulp of air and dove down. He couldn’t let the other man reach her first. The crystal water showed him what he needed to see.
Her body was whole, but had been mangled, torn up, beyond repair. One side of her head was missing, ribbons of red following her descent. He looked away briefly, noticing the blurry shape of the man from the beach next to him. Then, he turned back, swam towards his wife, took hold of her slippery body and kicked up to the surface, gasping for air.
The man rose up with him, clapping him on the shoulder. ‘Jesus,’ the man gasped. ‘Let’s get her to shore. That fucking speedboat, man.’ A South African accent. ‘Shall I help you . . . with . . . her?’
‘No. I’ve got her.’ He knew how to tow an inert body. Remembered it from his lifesaving classes. The South African swam alongside him as he carried his dead wife, the smell of sun and salt and blood in his nostrils, a strong desire to vomit, a blank void in his brain, a trail of blood in their wake.
Back on the beach, one of the women was shaking her head and crying, the other two had mobile phones clamped to their ears, no doubt calling the emergency services. The other man on the shore took Katie’s legs and they carried her between them, up the beach away from the shoreline towards his and Katie’s favourite palm tree. They laid her on her towel, where she’d been standing less than an hour earlier. A numbness overtook his body and he realised he was shaking.
Someone placed a warm towel over his shoulders, but the shivering only increased.
‘He’s in shock.’ A woman’s voice, loud and authoritative.
‘It was his wife,’ the South African said.
‘Do you think they’ll catch them? The people in the speedboat?’
‘I gave the police a description of the boat over the phone. Didn’t see who was driving it, though. Surely they can track it on radar?’
‘No chance. They’ll be long gone.’ An English voice.
‘Irresponsible bastards.’
‘I can’t believe it. Poor woman.’
‘Poor guy.’
The crush of words wove through his consciousness, but he didn’t respond. He closed his eyes and clutched at the towel around his shoulders, desperately trying to stop the shivering and act more coherently. React. Respond. Cry. An arm slid around his shoulder – the South African. ‘The police will be here soon, mate. Don’t worry. They’ll catch them. Those bastards will get what’s coming to them. Don’t you worry about that.’
The Millionaire's Wife will be available on April 27th
on Kindle, in paperback and slightly later as an audiobook.


Monday, 17 October 2016

Chilling Psychological Thriller - The Best Friend


RELEASE DATE - October 20th 2016

Now available to pre-order!

Limited-time, new-release price of 99c / 99p


Toxic school mums, money worries, paranoia, murder...

They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer . . . Wrong.

Louisa’s new best friend has it all – the house, the status, the money.
But she’s also hiding a dark secret. And as Louisa is drawn
deeper into her friend’s life, events take a chilling turn.

Available for 99c for a limited time from:

Amazon US   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU


Will also be available in print and audio very soon

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Best Friend - a chilling psychological thriller

My new thriller The Best Friend is now available!!
They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer . . . Wrong.
Louisa’s new best friend has it all – the house, the status, the money – but she’s also hiding a dark secret. And, as Louisa is drawn deeper into her friend’s life, events take a chilling turn . . .

Here's a sneak peek...
It’s him again. And I’m pretty sure he’s following me. I mean, I can’t be a hundred percent sure, but I’ve seen him here three times already this week, and he was there at the corner shop on Monday, and yesterday at the garage.
‘Mummy,’ Joe says, tugging on my arm. ‘Mrs Landry said my picture was the best in the class.’
‘Wow,’ I say, taking his small, sweaty hand in mine. ‘That’s fantastic.’
‘Well, maybe not the best in the class,’ he amends. ‘But she said it was really good.’ Joe lets go of my hand again and leaps into the tempting pile of yellow and brown leaves that has drifted up against the school fence. He stamps his feet, a grin on his face, enjoying the crackle and crunch of autumn.
The man is about a hundred yards away, on the other side of the road. He has a scruffy, sandy beard and he’s wearing one of those awful sea-captain-type hats. He looks like a tramp, but I don’t think he can be very old. I’m sure he’s not a parent because I’ve never seen him with a child. Maybe I should report him.
‘Don’t go running out of sight,’ I call, as Joe spies one of his friends up ahead and abandons the pile of leaves.
‘I won’t!’ he yells back, his sturdy legs stomping off down the pavement.
The man has dropped a little further away from me now, but he’s still there. I know it. My skin prickles. I feel his eyes on my back, but I curb the urge to turn and double check. I don’t want him to know I’ve noticed him. Maybe I’m just being paranoid. He probably lives somewhere around here. He could be just an eccentric millionaire or something.
‘Joe!’ I yell. ‘Wait for me at the bottom of the hill!’ I stride a little faster, squinting in the late afternoon sunshine. I should’ve worn my sunglasses.
Joe has stopped. He’s chatting to a tall blond-haired boy on a silver scooter. My heart lifts knowing he’s managed to make friends quickly. He’s only been at Cerne Manor Prep school for two weeks, but it feels like he’s been here forever. He already loves it. Jared was right – this place is perfect for him. Okay, it costs an arm and a leg, and we’ll be skint forever – finding the termly school fees is going to be a challenge, but Joe is the happiest he’s ever been, and that’s what matters.
‘Who’s this?’ I ask Joe, finally catching him up.
‘Tyler. He’s in my class.’
‘Hi, Tyler. Where’s your mum?’ I ask.
He points behind me, up the hill. ‘Talking to her friends, as usual,’ he says, rolling his eyes.
I swivel my head to see a group of glamorous mums clustered around a white four-wheel drive vehicle. They’re laughing and chatting in a haze of colourful dresses, scarves, shawls and bangles. That’s the other thing about starting a new school – it’s almost worse for the parents. I’m the new mum on the block and I don’t feel quite up to talking to them today. My nail varnish is chipped and I’m sure I must seem dowdy in my jeans and plain blue shirt. My four-year-old niece, Megan, comes here, too, but she finishes half-an-hour earlier than Joe, so I never get to see her or my sister, Beth, at school pick-up, which is a shame. It would be nice to have someone to chat with. To not feel quite so much of a newbie.
‘Well, it was nice to meet you, Tyler,’ I say. ‘Have a lovely evening.’
‘You, too,’ he says, politely.
Joe takes my hand again, and we cross the road. I steal a glance behind me, and sure enough, the man is still there, following slowly at a distance, his head down. Joe and I turn left down a side-road.
‘Okay, Joe,’ I say. ‘How about you and I have a little race?’
‘I thought your knee was bad,’ he says. ‘When I wanted you to come on the trampoline yesterday, you said
‘Well, my knee is bad,’ I say, feeling the joint twinge in anticipation. ‘But it’s probably okay enough to run to the end of the road. Winner gets an ice cream.’ That’s all I have to say to get Joe to move like there’s a stick of dynamite under him. He’s off. I follow him at a jog. My knee aches, but I ignore the pain and keep going. If that guy really is following me, I don’t want him to see where we live. I catch Joe up and we run along the pavement together until we reach the next road. I let him win by a head.
‘Yessss!’ He pumps his little fist into the air.
‘Let’s cross over,’ I say, taking his hand.
My heart drops as I turn and see the man at the end of the road. He’s speeding up now. Not quite jogging, but walking pretty fast. I can hear my heart beating, whether from the run or from anxiousness, I can’t tell. Should I call someone? The police? Jared? And say what? No. It’ll be okay. Joe and I can lose him. We’ll have another “race”.
Joe and I cross the road. There’s no one else around, other than a few cars whizzing past far too quickly – late for school pick-up, no doubt.
‘Okay,’ I say. ‘Ready, steady . . .’ He’s off again, his rucksack banging against his back, his feet slapping the pavement. I limp along behind him, my poor knee clicking and grinding.
‘Does that mean I get two ice creams?’ he asks when I finally catch him up again.
‘Only if you want to be sick.’
‘I won’t be. I could have two different flavours. One for dinner, one for pudding.’
I take his hand and we turn into another side road.
‘This isn’t the way,’ he says.
‘We’re going a different way, today,’ I say. We jog across the road and turn right and then left. I throw another glance behind us, but I can’t see the man anymore. The sun has dipped behind the houses and a couple of street lamps flicker on. I shiver, even though I’m warm after our exertions.
Finally, we leave the side streets behind and come to Penn Hill Avenue. It’s busier here and so Joe and I head towards the crossing. Joe is still chattering away, but I’m too preoccupied to pay him any proper attention. I usually love our walk home. It’s a chance to catch up on everything he’s done that day. A chance to chat without the distractions of TV or video games. But that creepy guy has unnerved me.
The green man flashes at the crossing and we stride across the road, leaving the leafy glamour of Lower Parkstone and heading through narrower streets to our characterful four-bedroom house at the top of the hill. My knee is throbbing. I can’t wait to get in and sit down with a cup of tea.
‘Mummy, do you want another race?’
‘You go ahead. I’ll time you. See if you can reach home before I count to ten.’
My phone pings. I pull it out of my bag and swipe the screen to see a new text message, number unknown:
Hi Louisa! Darcy here – Tyler’s mom. I got your number from the class list.
Wondered if you guys wanted to come over after school tomorrow.
Tyler can’t stop talking about Joe. We can have a cuppa while they play xxx
I text her back:
That would be lovely. Thank you.
Can you text me your address? Louisa X
I smile. Maybe the mums here aren’t as snobby as I first imagined.
Even better, I haven’t spotted that creepy man again. I’m starting to feel a little silly for worrying about him. Why on earth would I have a stalker? What would anyone want with me?

The Best Friend is now available on Kindle and in paperback.