Character Traits

Character Traits: Meet Lily West of Bleak Waters

In this next installment of the Character Traits series, Lily West, a creation of author Gary Kruse, is featured. Gary describes himself as a writer of thriller and horror fiction about people on the edge of society struggling to discover themselves. That includes Lily West. Now, I will let Gary take over on this post.

Lily West is the main character in my new supernatural mystery, Bleak Waters. She’s in her early 20’s and when we meet her in the book, she’s standing on the water’s edge of Hickling Broad in the middle of winter, struggling to process the suicide of her father the previous summer. 

As a child, Lily used to get severe migraines which bought on ghostly visions, but these faded after a vicious intervention from her mother, Hetty. 

She lives and works in the Whippet, a fictional pub in Hickling village, and the villagers are like an extended family to her, and some of them stepped in to help after her father’s death. It’s a close-knit, rural community.

But like all villages, it has its secrets, and one secret in particular will shatter everything Lily believes. 

How did you come up with the character and his/her name?

Lily was one of the first characters I came up with for the book. I was on holiday in Hickling with my sons in spring 2019, and as with Badlands, the more time I spent in the area, the more my writer’s brain started whirring and I started getting ideas for a new story. 

In the first serious brain-storming session, I decided that the MC would be a barmaid in the village pub as she would be able to naturally interact with all the characters and also face conflict with them when she started asking questions about the central mystery. 

Initially, I struggled to come up with her name. I brainstormed a list of about thirty names, and as I was making notes and developing the character, Lily was the name that stuck.

Tell us more about Bleak Waters.

It’s part ghost-story, part mystery, part crime novel. A stranger, Theo Sinclair, arrives in the village of Hickling in the dead of winter asking questions about the disappearance of a young woman called Claire Baldwin twenty-five years earlier. At first Lily doesn’t trust Theo and won’t help him. She’s already got enough on her plate dealing with the questions raised by her father’s suicide, questions that make her wonder how well she really knew her Dad.

Theo’s arrival also seems to stir Lily’s long-buried curse of seeing the dead as the night after his arrival, she experiences the first twinges of a migraine and senses a shadowy presence haunting her room. 

Theo persists in asking Lily for help, and as Lily learns more about him and why he’s come to Hickling, gradually her reluctance breaks down. She starts to help him and as she and Theo dig deeper into Claire’s disappearance, the ghostly visions grow stronger, and Lily finds disturbing links between her father and Claire.

Already harbouring suspicions about her father after his suicide, she starts to realise that finding the truth may destroy everything she loves and holds dear, and force her to finally confront the ghosts that haunt her. 

Was a real person your inspiration for this character?

No, Lily, like all of my characters, is a mix of different influences and inspirations, not one real person. When I look back at the first notes, as I say, the character came from a need to have someone who could act as a go-between for the stranger arriving in the village, and the villagers themselves. 

The Whippet, the Pub in the book, was inspired by a real Pub in the village of Hickling called the Greyhound, and what struck me about the Greyhound was how it seemed to be a hub of village life so that naturally suggested making the main character someone who worked in the pub.

From there, Lily’s character evolved first through the notes and planning, then through the drafts. And naturally, the main character has to be the one who hurts the most, who suffers the most, and by the end of Bleak Waters, Lily has certainly done that.

Is your character likable or not?

According to the beta readers, yes! It’s interesting because when you read the reviews of my first book, Badlands, a lot of people felt that Willow was a tough character to like, but that characterisation came from her harsh back-story. 

When we meet Lily, she’s not world weary in the way that Willow was. She’s haunted, and guilt-stricken yes, but she’s still living at home, in her cozy village with people she loves, and she’s got a big heart. She cares and in some ways she’s an emotional open book, whereas Willow is more guarded and more defensive. But none of that was deliberate for either character. It all evolved naturally from the respective story’s needs.

Extract from Bleak Waters

Lily threw her phone down on the bed. Eyes gritty, the need for sleep clouding her thoughts now, she stripped and slipped on a pair of thick woollen pyjamas. She cleaned her teeth, peed, washed her hands then slapped out the light. In the dark, she crossed to the bed, yawned, and stretched wide. As she lowered her arms, a sharp pain stabbed over her brow. 

She winced, pressed her fingertips against the bone and rubbed the skin. The pain made her stomach squirm. It bought back memories of the migraines that had plagued her early adolescence. 

Back then, the migraines had gotten so bad they left her speaking in tongues and seeing visions, seeing people that were not, no, could not be there. Still, she had been migraine free for almost ten years now. This was probably just tiredness. Lowering her fingers, she turned to draw back her bedclothes. 

The pain flared. A shadow moved in the corner of her eye. Vague and blurry. Heading for the door behind her. Sucking a gasp, she spun to get a better look. Saw nothing but the door locked and latched. 

The pain faded but didn’t vanish completely. She blinked in the dark but saw nothing now. 

Skin crawling, but convincing herself she was overreacting, she turned back to the bed. As she reached for covers again, she sensed a movement in the dark behind her. And a sound. Like a footstep on the laminate floor. 

She froze. The pain in her brow throbbed. A scent lingered in the air, faint, and ephemeral. It smelt like the ghost of a memory. It was the smell of sweat and sun-cream. Fists clenched tight, Lily turned and peered into the darkness behind her. 

“Dad?” she whispered. 

Her voice broke the silence. The pain disappeared and the feint scent vanished. Lily stood in the dark, heart trembling, breathing quickly, two questions consuming her thoughts. 

Had she imagined that sense of movement, the footstep, the ghostly smell? Or were the migraines, and the visions that came with them, starting again? 


Authors Bio

Gary Kruse is a writer of thriller and horror fiction about people on the edge of society struggling to find who they are, where they come from and where they’re going. He has won and been shortlisted for several short story competitions and his debut novel, Badlands is an Amazon bestseller. 

Bleak Waters is his second novel. 


Bleak Waters:

Author Website:





The Sacred Dog

A Good Guy: Frank Hooker

Yes, Frank Hooker may be a good guy, but he’s also a flawed one in my new book, The Sacred Dog, which is out Dec. 27. That’s what makes him a realistic character in my mind. Let me tell you more.

Frank owns The Sacred Dog, the only bar in Holden, a small, hick town in Western Massachusetts, where the locals like to drink beer and gab about what’s going on in their lives and their neighbors’. He’s a local himself since his family has lived there for generations.

He’s the kind of guy that will greet you with a smile and a welcoming word. He’ll toot his pickup’s horn when he passes somebody he knows. Frank would stop if he saw someone whose car was broken down on the side of the road. If a family in town has a tragedy like a fire or illness, he’d be the first to give. And he’s the type to take in a stray dog and name his bar for the animal.

Frank’s divorced. He thought he and Verona could be happy forever but she was bored with their life and got tempted to cheat with her boss. After the divorce, she took their daughter, Crystal to live in Florida.

A secret in this town: Frank’s not really Crystal’s father. But he married Verona, who he had been dating before, when he found out she was pregnant. Yeah, Frank, who raised Crystal as his own, is that kind of guy. He even made the trip several times to Florida to see her. Now Verona is moving back home after three years. Frank doesn’t quite know what to make of it.

Most people would agree Frank is a good guy, save for Al Kitchen, but he has his reason. Frank unfairly blames Al for his brother’s death. Al and Wes were best buddies who liked to get into stupid trouble. Al was in the car crash that killed Wes, but not at the wheel — a fact Frank won’t accept. He openly hates the man, which naturally doesn’t sit well with Al.

The only reason Frank lets Al come into his bar is because his grandmother begged to let him have two beers. Frank goes along with it because he figures it’s better to keep his eye on someone he doesn’t trust or like. He’s waiting for Al to do something wrong and then he’ll be out for good.

This whole thing is twisted in Frank’s head. I predict nothing good is gonna come from it.

LINK: Here’s how to find The Sacred Dog on Amazon:

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: A half pour of IPA brewed by my son Zack at his Floodwater Brewing in Shelburne Falls, Mass. But at Frank’s bar the locals only drink from the bottle.

6Ws, Author Series

6Ws with Author Kateri Stanley

Kateri Stanley is the next author featured in this 6Ws series. Her latest book, From the Deep, is a modern day, dark fantasy thriller. She says fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid might enjoy reading it. Now that makes me curious. Read on to learn more about Kateri Stanley — a pseudonym by the way — and her writing.

Who is the author Kateri Stanley?

I’m a British-based writer moonlighting under a pen name, I work a regular office job by day, and I live with my boyfriend and our cat. I love my music, movies, TV shows and a video game here and there. Big fan of comedy. I’m an introverted geek. 

What is your latest book? 

From the Deep is a modern day, dark fantasy thriller. Based in the fictional town of Drake Cove. It follows fisherman, widower and single dad, Julian Finch who finds out that two of his colleagues have been murdered. His hometown is struggling under a huge hot media spotlight as their controversial practice of The Culling hits headlines everywhere.

The suspects of the murders come in the form of radical animal rights group, Fighters Against Animal Cruelty – FAAC. They go wherever the politics is trending and detests the town because of the brutal killings of pilot whales which are eaten.

After a hate attack goes viral, Julian and his daughter, Emily stay with a family friend, Frank Blothio. He is an ex-fisherman turned writer and political activist who does not have the best history with the animal rights movement, or Drake Cove as a whole. As Julian integrates into the Blothio way of life, he discovers heinous secrets and disturbing truths lurking beneath the skin of his hometown that will change his life forever.

Fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid might enjoy it.  It was published by indie publisher, Burton Mayers Books on the 6th May. 

When did you begin writing? 

I’ve been writing since I was a kid whether it was jotting down a diary, ideas, short stories, bad poetry, fan fiction, lyrics. But I didn’t start writing with serious intention to be published till I was a teenager when I started working on my first original idea.

 How do you write? 

I normally have an idea in my head and I let it simmer for a while. If it doesn’t go away, it will naturally mature, spread legs and blossom. I jot them down, might do a bit of research. then I start writing, typing up the first draft. Sometimes the ideas change and I go with the flow of it.

 Where do you write? 

At the moment, I write in my office at home and when I have a breather, I’ll scribble something down or jot it on my phone during my lunch break at work. 

Why do you write? 

It’s linked to my mental health. I have a lot of characters and stories swimming in my head. I feel alive when I write. If I didn’t, I’d probably be in a mental hospital. 

Links to books and social media: 







From the Deep on Amazon:

Forgive Me on Amazon: 

All links: 

The Sacred Dog

The Bar in My Book

As readers of my Isabel Long Mystery Series will note, country bars are an important part of each book’s setting. After all, they are among the few public gathering places for people who live in the rural hilltowns. That’s true for The Sacred Dog, the name of the bar and the title of my book that will be released Dec. 27.

Frank Hooker is the owner of The Sacred Dog. In my last post, I revealed why his bar got that name. Originally, he named it for his wife, Ronnie, but after that ended in a d-i-v-o-r-c-e, it didn’t make sense to keep it. So, instead he renamed it after the dog he adopted, a patient stray who hangs out behind the counter and puts up with the bar’s noise. 

The Sacred Dog is the kind of place where people drink, joke, and get away from their families. Occasionally, newcomers and tourists will stop by, but this is typically a watering hole for locals.

Certainly, I have spent many a Friday or Saturday night at a country bar, drinking, talking, and even dancing when there was a band. I even tended bar once. It’s a great place to people watch, a definite hobby of one. (Working the Beat, no. 5 in my mystery series, is dedicated to Steve and Diane Magargal, the former owners of Liston’s in Worthington, which Hank and I frequented when we lived in that town. No, the bars in my books are not Liston’s, but it certainly has been an inspirational place.)

Frank’s bar has its regulars. Early Stevens, a lifelong friend and most loyal customer, began delivering mail after he gave up his farm. Monk Stevens, his nephew, supports his family with an assortment of jobs, including as the town’s dump attendant. The Dixon brothers, Lloyd and Royal work the town’s only dairy farm and often smell of fresh manure no matter how clean they are. Then there is Jerry Smith who is always hiding out from his wife. Big Mary is the only woman in the group but she knows how to dish it back to the guys.

The regulars typically engage in town gossip and playful banter. I use their conversations to create a bit of levity, which I believe helps heighten the book’s dark story, which centers on a nasty feud between Frank and the one person not welcome at his bar — Al Kitchen. That’s because Frank blames him for his brother’s death in a car crash. Al wasn’t at the wheel but Frank won’t believe it. Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with Al, who grew up in a tough household. Actually, his grandmother is the only reason Al is allowed at The Sacred Dog. She begged Frank to allow him two beers.

There’s a lot more to this feud. And I will admit nothing good is gonna come from it.

Here’s an excerpt. Frank’s interest perks up when he hears the regulars talk about Al Kitchen.

“Nah. What’d he do now?” Early asked.

“Al’s truck struck the end of the garage after he dropped a load of gravel for a new septic going in at a house in West Holden,” Monk said. “What I heard is Al took the corner too fast as he was leavin’. He just kept on goin’.”

Jerry let out a long whistle. “I mean you don’t hit the side of a garage without knowin’ it,” he said. “I’d like to hear him explain that one away to his boss. You all know what a bastard he is.”

“Guess his granny will have to pay his boss a little visit.” Monk’s head reared back, proud of his joke.

Frank glanced at Early, who tipped his head. So, it was true, he thought. Al screwed up again. What else was new? Early shook his bottle. He was down to his last sip of beer.

Early gave him a wink. “Looks like this bottle’s got a hole in it, Frankie boy. See if you can get me a real cold one this time.”

Frank laughed. “You old son of a bitch,” he said, as he reached into the cooler. “Hey, where’s Mary tonight?”

The row of men in front of him shrugged or shook their heads, except for Jerry, who wore a sly smile. The others turned toward him.

“Oh, a little bird told me Mary has a date,” Jerry said. “I’m not gonna tell you with who, ’cept he lives at Wrinkle City and his wife died a few years ago.”

“Vincent Snow? Him? He must be about twenty years older than Big Mary. Only real old folks can lived in those houses.” Monk sniggered. “Guess Mary’s been doin’ more up there than takin’ out the trash.”

Frank mopped the counter top. The men sitting in front of him, his best customers and best friends, had a good beer buzz working. When he looked at Monk and his Uncle Early, they seemed like young and old versions of the same man. Jerry leaned forward.

“Well, I’ll be. Mary and that guy, Vincent Snow. But, hey, we all get lonely sometimes,” Jerry said.

Monk slid off his stool and headed toward the jukebox. Frank knew what was next. Sure enough, Monk dropped coins inside the slot and moments later King of the Road began a-twanging on the jukebox. Monk, who returned to his seat, slapped in time along the edge of the bar. Beside him, Jerry joined in. Their heads were back, and their voices squeezed high.

Someone at the tables yelled at them to shut up, but it was only in jest, and then the phone began ringing. Jerry began waving his hand when Frank picked up the receiver. Of course, it was Cindy Smith on the other end. Her voice was so shrill Frank couldn’t bear hearing it a moment longer. “Sorry, Cindy, I haven’t seen Jerry tonight. I’ll be sure to tell him you called if he stops by. Night now, darlin’.”

Jerry gave Frank a thumbs-up, and Frank responded in kind as he hung up the phone because tonight he felt all was well in the world.

LINK: The Kindle version of The Sacred Dog is available for pre-order. Dec. 27 it will magically appear in your device. Paperbacks will follow at some point. Pre-ordering helps with ratings and I am grateful if you do. Here’s the link:

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: I saw this amusing sign a few years back in front of a bar.

6Ws, Darkstroke Books

6Ws with Author GJ Scobie

Today’s featured author for my 6Ws series is GJ Scobie, author of The Kill Chain. GJ uses his expertise working in cyber security to create this cybercrime thriller, published by darkstroke books. A busy author, remarkably he has just completed his 13th novel and is onto the next. Here, I will let GJ take over this post.

Who is author GJ Scobie?

I work in cyber security and I’m a Certified Information Systems Security Professional. I have trained in Ethical Hacking and have a particular interest in how technology impacts on our everyday lives. As a public speaker, I regularly present at industry and government conferences and roundtables on various aspects of computer security including sessions on Ransomware, Mobile Security and Cyber in the Movies. I also participate in the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with my show, “My neighbour hacked my toothbrush” highlighting the dangers of internet connected devices in the home. In my writing, I deal with the dark side of technology and how it affects society reliant on computers. I live in Scotland and, when not writing, love to explore my native country, taking more photographs than I can ever hope to catalogue.

What is your latest book?

The Kill Chain, is a cybercrime thriller set in the present day, and was published by darkstroke in July 2022. It was inspired by news reports of black hat hackers, nation state sanctioned cybercrime and the debate over privacy in a connected world. The Kill Chain (the term given to the stages of a cyber-attack) is set in the present day, the story taking off from what should have been a private moment years before; a long game played by threat actors determined to take control for political and economic gain, while their victim struggles doing what they believe is right based on a code of ethics versus his need to keep his marriage, friendships and reputation intact. 

When did you begin writing?

I’ve always written but looking back it was around 2010 when I started to think about seriously finishing a novel and submitting it. Since then, I’ve drafted one novel a year. A number of these novels have never been queried. The last four I’ve written, including The Kill Chain, all received full manuscript requests, so the last couple of years I’ve had good feedback which has resulted in being published. The Kill Chain was my eleventh novel. I’ve just completed my thirteenth and I’m busy planning the next.

How do you write?

I’m an early riser and write for a couple of hours before work. I write most days, but don’t stress if I feel I need to take a day off to do something else. I’m one of those writers who believes writing is not just about putting words on a page, but all the other activities necessary to write those words in the first place. If that involves reading, thinking, going out to visit locations, speaking and listening to people, always looking for inspiration from the world around me, catching snippets of conversation as people pass by, this is all part of the process for me. I imagine I have this ‘writer’s filter’ through which everything going on around me passes through, and what is collected is all material for new books.

The only tool I use is Microsoft Word, typically one document with the draft, another with the initial plan and notes. I also scribble a lot using pen and paper as ideas come to me during the day. I did use my mobile for taking notes, but that meant having to transfer those notes and I just find it quicker and easier to use pen and paper and then type what’s written down if it’s needed. I’m a technology geek, but I like to keep my process as simple as possible.

Where do you write?

Up until the pandemic I wrote on the train. My commute to work was almost an hour each way and with the travel time to the station and waiting on platforms, it was the best part of three hours on top of working full-time. I had no choice, but to learn to shut the world out and write surrounded by strangers. It used to be time I filled with reading, but once I started writing seriously, it was part of my day I could use to complete my novels. Cafes and station platforms when trains were delayed and the journey itself, became protected time to write. I rarely wrote at home as I always took the weekend off, satisfied with the progress I had made during the week.

When the pandemic started, I moved to working from home and now only travel one day a week. Having to learn to write in silence in a room with a desk was strange and it did take some adjustment. My writing initially slowed as I’m surrounded by books and music and guitars to distract me, and I would say during the first six months of that period, I found it difficult. However, I adjusted and now I still rise early, but instead of commuting I have my own study and desk and a door I can close.

When I was commuting, I did listen to music, but only during the return journey in the evening. I don’t know why, but I didn’t put headphones on in the morning. I recall the morning session was more writing and the return journey, editing what I had written. Today, I rarely write or edit when music is playing. I have a great sound system, with speakers on either side of my desk, but I find I end up spending more time listening than writing. 

Why do you write?

I think it’s a way of coping and making sense of the world as I see it. My job is stressful, and I find when I write I am not worrying about anything else other than the characters and the world they inhabit. I was brought up with books and my family were always reading. My father had a boxroom that was lined with shelves and stacked to the ceiling with books. As a young child I used to go in and sit on the floor and browse whatever I could reach. From an early age I wanted to write my own book and place it on a shelf beside the others. 

More about GJ Scobie: parting words and links.

I self-published a future cyber thriller in February 2022, The Copernicus Coercion, the first in a series featuring body hackers, the manipulation of computer networks via internet-connected implants and rogue Artificial Intelligence. I’m currently working on a sequel to The Kill Chain, called The Kill Switch and finalising a science fiction fantasy series called The Clockmaker Conspiracy. This features a parallel world run on steam, accessible via a quantum portal, and is on a collision course with our own. 

I blog at and can be found on Twitter and Instagram @gjscobie

The Kill Chain is available here:

The Copernicus Coercion is available here: