J. WOOLLCOTT – Writing Mysteries Set in Northern Ireland

I’m a debut author, Canadian, and have just signed a two-book publication deal with Level Best Books. My first title, A Nice Place to Die, is due for release in early August 2022. Blood Relations, number two in the series, is due August 2023.



The books are set in Northern Ireland, where I was born and lived for over twenty years. They are police procedurals featuring DS Ryan McBride and his partner DS Billy Lamont, and while they deal with murder, I do add humour and focus on the setting and characters.

Like many of us, I’m sure, my journey to publication was long. I worked (in broadcasting) until I decided to take early retirement, write, and travel. Well, we all know what happened to travel!

As an unpublished writer, I entered a few competitions and won the Mainstream Mystery and Suspense Daphne du Maurier Award in 2019. I’ve been long-listed four times for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Awards, and I was finally shortlisted in the CWC Canadian Awards of Excellence in 2021.

I applied for a few grants to conferences. While I never received a grant, I did come to the attention of one of the committee members who had read and enjoyed my first few chapters. She asked me to send her the book to read. I did not, however, feel it was ready to send out for such professional scrutiny (she was a publisher!) and asked that she allow me some time. Two years later, with Covid in between and many more rewrites on my part, I resent the manuscript. This time she read the whole book and offered me a three-book contract. I ended up deciding to go with two books to start, publishing schedules are short, and I take a long time with my books!

I started out as a pantser. I wrote my first book, Abducted, in one linear process. Honestly, I can’t believe I did it that way. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. That manuscript, however, did get long-listed in the CWC annual awards competition. That gave me such a boost. I started my second book, the first in the Northern Ireland series. I began to write it the same way and quickly got lost in the plot. Frustrated, I took Simon Wood’s class, Plot Thickeners, via Sisters in Crime. He showed us how outlining and plotting out make life easier. I wouldn’t say I am a total outliner; I wish I was, but more like a hybrid.

I can’t say exactly the best book I ever read, but I love Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series. I also love November Road by Lou Berney. I enjoy police procedurals so I must mention the wonderful British writer Susan Hill. And I just finished an older book, The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Arnim. It was fantastic.

The take-away for me on this journey is, don’t rush your work. Write the best book you can. Take classes, ask for help, write and rewrite. Join critique groups. Read in your genre and outside it. It’s taken me about four years to write A Nice Place to Die. The first edition of that manuscript was not very good. It’s a process. Certainly, for me, as a new writer, joining Sisters In Crime was the single most important thing I did—classes, critique partners, advice online, and making writer friends. Going to conferences is costly but worth it, and if you can afford a professional editor, so much the better. Enter competitions and apply for grants. Why not?

A Nice Place to Die is due for release in August 2022. –  It’s 2016, and Northern Ireland remains a deeply divided province by years of distrust and hatred. But not all crimes are related to the troubles, and Northern Ireland’s past history is the least of Detective Sergeant Ryan McBride’s problems. He has enough to worry about with his latest murder inquiry. Unwilling to risk losing the case, he breaks the rules and fails to disclose a one-night stand he had with the victim. As to the investigation, it’s going nowhere fast as one-by-one, his prime suspects are murdered.

Blood Relations is due for release in August 2023 – Retired Chief Inspector Patrick Mullan is found brutally murdered in his bed. Ryan and Billy are called to his desolate country home to investigate. In their inquiry, they discover a man whose career was overshadowed by violence and corruption. Is the killer someone from Mullan’s past or his present? And who hated the man enough to kill him twice?

I’m a graduate of the Humber School for Writers in Toronto and BCAD, University of Ulster. I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, and the Suncoast Writer’s Guild.

Where can our readers contact you and order A Nice Place to Die?

Buy the book: https://amzn.to/3CGIzi0
My email is woollcottauthor@gmail.com
My website is jwoollcott.com
Twitter: @JoyceWoollcott



  1. Katherine Rams;and

    Good luck with your debut, Joyce. I hope it’s going well. This is a great novel for your launch. I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Valerie J. Brooks

    Joyce, I’m a sucker for Irish writers. Full disclosure: my husband is of Irish descent and has the gift of the Irish when it comes to writing to me and professing his love.

    I’ll be sure to check out your novels. Thanks for all the juicy info about you and your journey.

    • Joyce

      Ah Valerie, I think by now everyone has a bit of Irish in them, we get around you know! Thanks for the nice comment,

  3. DonnaRae Menard

    See I told you Joyce, it would be great. You’ve got positive vibe reviews everywhere. Good luck my friend. (Can I call you that?)

    • Joyce

      Thank you DonnaRae! You’re the best,

  4. Michael A. Black

    Ireland has a long history of turning out fabulous writers so I’m wishing you the best of luck in continuing that tradition. It sounds like you’ll fit right in.

    • J. Woollcott

      Thank you Michael! I appreciate your kind words,

  5. J. Woollcott

    Thanks Vicki,
    Might have something to do with the host’s excellent direction!

  6. Vicki Batman

    Good morning, Joyce and George. Very good interview!


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LIS ANGUS – A Visit From Canada

Lis Angus is Canadian; she grew up in Alberta but moved to Ontario for university and has lived there ever since. Early in her career, she worked with children and families in crisis, switching later to work as a policy advisor, business writer, and editor while raising two daughters. As a child and teenager, she loved writing stories; she didn’t come back to writing fiction until she’d retired. 2022 is her breakout year, with her first short story published in February and her first novel, NOT YOUR CHILD, released in April.

NOT YOUR CHILD A strange man insists Susan’s twelve-year-old daughter Maddy is his granddaughter, abducted as a baby—then Maddy disappears, but he has an alibi.

Excuse my blogger intrusion but here is a review by Jim Napier in The Ottawa Review of Books. I just had to share this with our readers.

Although she has published short stories previously Not Your Child is the author’s debut novel, and it is among the strongest such works I’ve seen. It is original and polished, with believable dialogue and a strong sense of atmosphere. The characters are engaging and nuanced; the author is particularly effective in portraying the obsessed grandfather in a partly sympathetic light. Add to that a crisp pace that keeps readers engaged until the very end and you have a sure winner. Highly recommended.

To read the entire review, I’ve included the link: https://www.ottawareviewofbooks.com/single-post/not-your-child-by-lis-angus?fbclid=IwAR1hpczBZI4fAU6uX6rvZDlf8oHLni7NSFhX6HOS77NpyuUbJSOwOFSvowk

If anyone had told me as a teenager—when I was reading Writer’s Digest and sending stories off to Redbook and Ladies Home Journal—that it would be decades before any of my fiction would be published, I likely wouldn’t have believed it.

My high school teachers praised my writing (though they saw only my assigned essays, not my fiction.) I fully expected that writing would be my life.

And so, it proved to be, though not in the way I would have expected. I have indeed spent my life writing, though I didn’t return to fiction until a few years ago.

Raised on a farm in rural Alberta, I was a practical girl. Freelance writing did not appeal to me. If I were to be a writer, I’d need a job that paid me to write. So, I enrolled in a journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

That’s when the plan got sidetracked. At that time, Carleton required first-year Arts students to take a variety of courses; journalism courses were not offered until the second year. And my attention was grabbed by the social sciences: psychology and sociology. I ended up not taking any journalism courses—instead, after graduating, I accepted a position at a treatment centre for children and adolescents with behavioral and mental health issues.

Skip ahead a few decades, through years that included working with children and families in crisis, earning two graduate degrees, switching into a business career, and raising two daughters while working full-time. I did a lot of writing in those years, reports, articles, and policy papers. I learned how to write clearly and persuasively, structure an argument, and self-edit.

It was satisfying, and I was good at it, but it was all business-related, non-fiction writing.

In the back of my mind, I always thought I’d come back to fiction. I enrolled in some online fiction writing classes. Those classes were useful, but I didn’t pursue my fiction writing dream any at that time.

Skip ahead a few years again, to 2017. Suddenly my agenda was clear. Around then, I bumped into National Novel Writing Month. November each year—thousands of people around the world take on the challenge of writing 50,000 words in thirty days.

The idea intrigued me, and I thought, “If not now, when?” I had no idea if I could write 50,000 words in a month, but I plunged into the task.

I had a basic idea for the novel, an image that had flashed into my mind: what if someone showed up claiming that your child wasn’t yours? I wanted to flesh out that concept. What kind of characters would be involved? What could lead to that point? How would the story unfold?

I mapped out an initial outline and went to work. And I succeeded! I wrote 50,000 words that November.

I set that draft aside for a month, then had another look at it. I realized that it wasn’t a novel yet: it was a beginner’s effort. I wasn’t even sure what it needed or what I needed to learn, but I didn’t want to give up on it.

At that point, I made a smart decision. I joined Sisters in Crime; an organization founded to support the professional development of women crime writers (though it now has many male members as well.)  I also joined one of its sub-chapters, the “Guppies.” Through the Guppies, I took many excellent fiction writing classes, learning about novel structure, pacing, character development, plotting, voice, suspense, and other topics. I also connected with other writers, some at my own level and some published and award-winning authors.

All the while, I was working on my novel. I revised and rewrote, adding and subtracting characters and storylines. I moved scenes and chapters around. I engaged a professional editor to review my drafts and give advice, and I also got feedback from a small group of early readers (friends and writing colleagues).

I’d heard that agents would look more favorably on writers who show they are serious, including setting up a web page. Looking at other authors’ web pages, I realized their purpose is to promote the author’s books and writing careers. I had no fiction credits to my name. But decided to set up a website anyway. Around then, Black Cat Mystery Magazine announced it was looking for story submissions. In a fit of optimism, I submitted a story I’d written a dozen years previously but had mothballed. I thought that if they accepted it, I’d have something to feature on my website. And in March 2020, they did accept it!

Meanwhile, I sent queries to about twenty agents. A few asked to see my manuscript, but ultimately, they all rejected it. I figured the novel needed more work, so I paused my queries while rewriting it. A few months later, I tried again with a revised draft and another set of agents, but the result was similar: some expressed interest, but none offered to represent me.

During this time, I’d been exchanging manuscripts with other writers and absorbing their critiques. By my sixth draft, I concluded I needed a completely different ending, so I threw out the final 25% of the novel and wrote a new one.

In early 2021, I began my third round of queries. This time I decided not to limit my queries to agents but to also approach a layer of smaller publishers who were willing to consider un-agented submissions,

And I started to get some encouraging signs. The new agents were no more enthusiastic than those I’d approached in the earlier rounds. Still, several small publishers gave me detailed suggestions for improving the novel and said they’d be willing to take another look if I revised it. (At that point, I was already working on a seventh draft, based on input from a second professional editor.)

I also was selected as a finalist in the 2021 Daphne du Maurier contest for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, in a division for unpublished authors—and I ended up placing second among the six finalists.

And—in a final breakthrough—in July 2021The Wild Rose Press offered me a contract for my novel, NOT YOUR CHILD.

At that point, I still didn’t know when issue #11 of Black Cat Mystery Magazine was going to be published; that was the one that would feature my short story. I joked that it was a race between BCMM and Wild Rose Press as to which of them would be the first to publish my fiction. As it turned out, BCMM won the race by a whisker: the issue came out in February 2022.

NOT YOUR CHILD was released two months later, on April 18, 2022— four and a half years after I decided to plunge into National Novel Writing Month. So much happened during that time, yet in another way, it seems like it’s been like the blink of an eye.

It’s been an amazing time for me, learning new skills and becoming part of a wonderful community of writers. I’m grateful for all the help and support I’ve received.

Now I hope readers will enjoy the novel. I hope they’ll love my characters and that they’ll be caught up in suspense as they turn the pages to see how the book ends.

 Website: https://lisangus.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lisangusauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lisangus1

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lisangus459/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59436824-not-your-child

Purchase links: https://books2read.com/notyourchild



  1. Alfred J. Garrotto

    Seeing you open your first box of books, brought back a memory of my doing the same thing when I opened the box and saw my first novel, A Love Forbidden. I confess I broke down and cried (truth… I sobbed).

  2. Michael A. Black

    Your story of tenacity and believing in yourself is very inspiring. Congratulations on your success and best of luck in your writing. i’m sure many more books are in your future. Keep writing.

  3. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you, Lis, an hearing about your writing journey! Your accomplishments so far are to be admired, and much success with your debut novel!

  4. Lis Angus

    George, thank you so much for hosting me! It was great to visit your blog.

    • George Cramer

      Glad you could make it and share your experiences.


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