Saturday, 12 January 2019

What do writers DO?

Good question. And most “civilians” have some seriously strange ideas about us. Here are some truths.

Over 90% of writers earn less than £6,000 per annum and a high percentage of that a lot less, so, sorry, we are not all millionaires. Most of us have a day job to pay for luxuries like the mortgage and food, which, of course, makes writing something else to fit into a busy life. This writer has also found that most people who ask what you do and you tell them, tend to have a wide-eyed, almost panicked moment as if we stepped off the latest spaceship from Mars. Please let me reassure you. We are mortal, just like you. We also suffer from washing machines flooding the kitchen, mice learning to tap-dance in the attic and the power-steering failing as you go up a hill.

Now I have sorted out that misunderstanding, let me tell you what writers really do, or, what this one does. One of a writer’s secrets is routine. I cannot settle if I haven’t cleaned my teeth or walked the dog. And my day begins relatively early - around 6am in summer and 7am in winter. I am now a past master at walking the dog in semi-darkness. It is just as well I live near the east coast of Lincolnshire. 

My working day begins at 8.30, which usually means I have time between breakfast and getting to my desk to prepare dinner. This ensures that my nagging inner voice isn’t telling me to do something else when I am trying to work. And work it most certainly is. Very few writers write alone, so your family needs to know you are working and only to disturb you if there is a dire emergency or they haven’t seen you for hours and creep in proffering coffee.

Every writer works differently, so you develop systems and practises that work for you. The only act writers truly share is that of writing, but don’t ever stop experimenting with other writers’ methods for you may find one that suits you better than the one you currently use. Approach these with an open mind and try to put aside a few hours to see if they fit your mindset, your genre and the way you work. Some writers write all day with a long walk in the middle. Some begin to write after lunch and carry on until late evening or even into the small hours. I am an early bird. I can achieve far more between 6am and 2pm than at any other time of day, so that is when I write.

 Writing can be likened to a knitting pattern. There is the rib border at the bottom, which forms the solid base for the pattern to come. The pattern can be changed by the use of colours - stripes, fair-isle. Or the pattern itself can change to form a more complicated pattern, like an Aran, with its twists and cables.
This is my writing pattern. I have the initial idea, which can be sparked by anything I read or see. This is that first flush of anything being possible and I let my brain whirl around all the what-ifs? during the dog walk, when I am in the bath or travelling somewhere. For a crime writer, the bones of the plot are an early must-have. Perhaps it will be the method of murder that comes as that first spark or a twist on something ordinary to make it extra-ordinary. 

For the new series I have begun, set in the time of the Wars of the Roses, one of my first essentials was a research bibliography, which will appear at the end of the book. How people spoke, court etiquette, what people ate, how they dressed, travelled, what their houses were like and the rest of it. This information gives believable flesh to the bones of my plot. This series introduces Gideon Rooke, stable boy on the wrong side of the Yorkist/Lancastrian war who has to question whether blind loyalty is in England's best interests. Hopefully, Loyalty in Conflict will be available in the early part of 2019.

A plot is simply the sequence of events in your story and sometimes switching them around can give you a new perspective and a new plot. However, just writing a book on a sequence of events tacked onto a background of 15th century living would be boring in the extreme. For me while the bones of the plot are still in the melting pot, I need characters. For it is the characters who will drive your story. People are people whether they live in the 10th, 15th or 21st centuries. They have desires, needs, flaws, reverses, hopes and dreams. It is the use of these traits within the events of your story that will make your writing sing. They will experience triumphs and disasters that will affect their views and actions on both their lives and the lives of those surrounding them and those reverses or triumphs will affect the events in your story.

Once I have these loosely settled in my head, or more likely, as index cards — I use Scrivener, but plenty of people buy index cards and use those — the hard boring bit begins. Writing. There are many quotations about writing, my favourite is by Hemingway —  There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. And believe me, some days, it really is like that, days when finding every word is like wading through treacle. So this is when you have to employ two other weapons in the writer’s arsenal. Persistence and bum-glue. For without them, you will never finish your magnum opus.

And then comes the wondrous day, 70/80/100 thousand words later when you can type The End. Except that this is the time you discover it is not the end, it is only the beginning. The beginning of editing, proof-reading, beta-readers and either finding a publisher or going down the not always smooth route of self-publishing. And then, you hold your published book in your hand or see it on Amazon Kindle or whatever. But you are still not finished for now comes marketing. Every day or at least several times a week. Trying to raise your profile so that you might, just might, get a few extra readers. And please don’t kid yourself your publisher will do this, unless, of course, you are your own publisher. No, you have to do it. And you have to keep on doing it. 

Then, there is just the little matter of the next book… and the one after that. 

You can read more about April Taylor here:

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Has Your Festive Reading Been Up To Scratch?

How many books did you receive this Christmas? Please say you were gifted some, even if you gifted them to yourself. It’s a time for trying out new authors, new genres.

Alas, the outcome doesn’t always live up to the promise on the covers. Linda Acaster was left not just feeling short-changed, but annoyed enough to write a series of posts pointing out deficiencies in some of those she read.

Why? Because most were from mainstream publishers.

Ohhh, don’t rile a reader who’s also a writer. Catch her first post, on Openings, HERE, and don’t make the same mistakes with your own novel.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Thanks for the Reads and Happy New Year!

We hope you've enjoyed your year. Thanks for reading our blog, and our fiction and non-fiction. We appreciate your visits and your Shares.

Wherever you are in the world, as we come to the end of 2018 we raise a glass and wish you all

a joyful and contented New Year!

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Launching New Georgia Pattison #Christmas #Mystery

It’s that time of year again. Yes, the dreaded C word, and a time when everywhere you look, there are light-bejewelled fir trees, reindeer, more food than anyone needs and wall to wall Christmas music. A time when we try to beg for peace on Earth and charity to our fellow man. And, like Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol, we all want to carry that into our lives throughout the year and not just at Christmas. 

It is also the time for authors of serial books to offer a short Christmas story featuring their hero/heroine. And I am no different. Readers of the Georgia Pattison Mysteries will know how easy it is for our early-music soprano to become embroiled in deep trouble, frequently to protect her friends who have become unconsciously involved in a murder. And, of course, Chief Superintendent Michaela Hamilton always needs Georgia’s knowledge of the musical scene or the people who are under suspicion to help her tread through the minefield of suspects and evidence and come up with the real killer.

The 2018 Christmas Georgia story is The Bleak Midwinter and follows in the usual tradition of the Georgia Pattison Mysteries, has a musical title. If you are new to our somewhat acerbic  but insatiably nosy sleuth, she began her exploits in Whistles After Dark. There are two full-length stories, Dearly Ransomed Soul and Laid in Earth. But you can find her other Christmas adventures in The Midnight Clear, where she meets her beloved, Sir Edward Broome, and The Shepherds’ Farewell.

In The Bleak Midwinter Georgia is invited to sing at the carol concert in the small Worcestershire village of Ash Buckingham and stay at Highfield Manor for the festive season. However, on Boxing Day she finds a body draped over the fountain outside her bedroom window. Chief Inspector Hamilton, pulled out of a warm bed and made to drive miles through thick snow without the benefit of coffee, determines that Georgia knows the suspects much better than she does and inveigles her into helping track down the killer. When it becomes clear that the murder may have connections to Georgia and Ned’s holiday in Rhodes, things take on a much more sinister turn. 

You can find The Bleak Midwinter  here:

You can read more about April Taylor here:

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Torc Of Moonlight Trilogy - Christmas Special Price

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat... 

Seasonal promotions are hitting all the digital stores, including Linda Acaster's Torc of Moonlight Trilogy boxed set. For a very limited period this 900+ page fantasy romance is a mere £2.99 / €2.99 / $2.99 or equivalent. Grab it while you can.

The over-arcing story follows Nick and Alice through three books and nine years as they grapple with the realisation that Celtic folklore is based very much on living fact. How did she come up with the storyline?

'I tripped over it, or should I say I kept tripping over it, as I undertook various walks along ancient byways in my home county of Yorkshire. History might be buried, but it's not always dead. 

'Clean water plays a huge part in our lives. Today it's chemically scrubbed and piped into our homes; in Victorian times the village pump helped to keep clean water from the local spring; before the mechanical pump the spring itself would be surrounded by a stone well-head to help retain the purity of its water with its run-off allowed to pool in the ubiquitous village pond. It is here The White Lady, protector of the water, is found within "folklore" in the county histories written by country gentlemen. 

'The White Lady was no mere ghostly form in previous centuries, but she was always female. The traditional Well-Dressing festivals of Derbyshire, rich in Christian symbolism, are an attempt to conflate and thus suppress the belief. The same was attempted in the medieval period where stone churches dedicated to All Saints or All Souls were built close to springs venerated at the end of the farming calendar - the Celtic year-end festival of Samhain demonised by Christian teaching into All Hallows. Despite now being a largely secular country, we don't let go. Halloween is now the most commercialised "festival" next to Christmas.'

For readers of Barbara Erskine, Robert Holdstock, and Phil Rickman, the Torc of Moonlight Trilogy is on offer for a limited time only:

Amazon   ¦  Kobo   ¦   iBooks   ¦   Nook   ¦   All formats

Catch up with Linda Acaster via her Website, Facebook, or Twitter where she'd appreciate an RT of her pinned Tweet.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Writing contemporary crime in a fast-changing world

Giving talks is part and parcel of being a writer and is something that all Hornsea Writer members do from time to time, but it isn’t – or certainly shouldn’t be – just a matter of pulling a previously made talk out of the cupboard and taking it along for an airing. 

Read Hornsea Writer, Penny Grubb’s view on this in relation to a recent talk she gave to the Hornsea U3A. See more HERE

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Medieval CSI anyone?

Nowadays, we are used to watching crime shows on the television and witnessing up-to-date forensic techinques. Invaluable though these programmes are for the modern crime writer, how does the writer of historical crime help his medieval investigator find the killer? 

The biggest weapon in the medieval investigator’s armoury is the ignorance of the killer. He won’t realise the marks left by his feet or hands reveal his identity. That said, the detective must use his five senses much more than modern-day detectives. Our detective might see blood on someone’s clothes although they won’t be able to tell if it is human or animal, but, unless he is a butcher or flesher, that blood is a pointer towards further investigation. Or perhaps he finds a torn piece of leather, or sees a stain that shouldn’t be there.

However, it is in the less-used senses that the medieval detective must find most of his answers. The smell of someone’s breath or an odour emanating from a suspect’s/victim’s clothes, or the last dish eaten by the victim, tasting the dregs left in a beaker, or touching the body to try and calculate how long the victim has been dead. The senses must be used together, so the appearance of a body, along with how cold/warm it is, the state of blood found on or near the body and other odours coming from the victim, will add to the investigator’s knowledge of the circumstances of the crime.

When it comes to transport, we now have databases of wheel-patterns and vehicle characteristics, including the fibres from vehicle carpets. But how about when all you have are horses, wheeled carriages/carts, and people walking? Do any footprints look strange? Is there the mark of a split sole or that the sole of one shoe appears more worn down than the other indicating the killer walks with a certain gaitSize of footprints is key. If the investigator can find a shoe that fits the imprint Again, the medieval killer probably won’t have the faintest idea his footprints left at the scene are shouting his name to the detective.

Horses and their gait may also help the detective deduce what happened at the crime scene. Was the horse walking, trotting, cantering or at a full gallop? Do the horseshoes have any unique markings on them? Where did that loaded cart go? We can tell it was loaded because of the depth of the wheel ruts and if one wheel was a bit loose, that, too, will showThe distance between wheels will tell our detective whether it was a common cart or a carriage. carriage means the detective has to tread carefully because someone of high status is in the frame.

Due 2019
Many writers make their detectives apothecaries or healers because plants were – and still are – very important in crime detection. Nowadays, analysis of plants in tyre treads can tell investigators where a vehicle has been and lead the detective to the dump site. This was key in the 2005 murder of Joanne Nelson in Hull when analysis proved that the combination of plants in the suspect’s tyre treads pointed to only three places. Writers of medieval crime will often use the discovery of a plant near the scene of the crime, but the plant does not grow there. Finding where the plant does grow is a key indicator of where the killer has been and a lead to his identity.

Occupations in medieval times were much more physical than many are now and the detective will be on the lookout for pointers to a suspect’s job. Have the victim’s clothes any trace evidence? Sawdust, ink, stone dust, marks from what look like fingernails? These might point to a carpenter, a clerk, a mason or even a lute player. And, when questioning a suspect, the detective will look closely at their hands. Are there any defensive wounds from say, the victim trying to wrench the strangler’s hands away?

So writers of historical crime have to be a little more imaginative in their CSI clues, but that all adds to the fun.

You can read more about April Taylor here:

Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Joys of Re-reading

I’ve always been an avid re-reader, but it occurred to me how much more re-reading is possible now than it was when I first went back to revisit a William story and discovered the joys of adventuring through the same territory – discovering things I’d never noticed before, things I’d forgotten.

These days with so much available online at the click of a button, it’s not just books that are easy re-read candidates, but stories, articles, letters, random accounts of odd experiences; things that would rarely have been contenders for re-reading. And of course ‘Joys’ is not always the word. When a lot of time has passed, things can appear in very different lights. Attitudes change, cultures change, the written word dates along with everything else. Re-reading can be a salutary experience full of more surprises than seem possible.

My latest re-reading venture (other than my well-thumbed stack of favourite books) was this series of interviews I did some years ago with a diverse group of SciFi authors. 

Friday, 2 November 2018

#SFF at Waterstones Hull, 10 November

Among her many talents, member Shelli Horst runs Humber SFF, a group which brings speculative fiction authors to Hull, 2017's City of Culture. 

This time she's blagged her way into Waterstones bookshop to host a triple author event:

Daniel Godfrey, published by Titan, writes near-future SF, so near-future it's difficult to stop the hair rising on the nape of your neck. 

Ren Warom, published by Tor, Apex and Fox Spirit, writes in the dystopian world of cyber-punk, among other sub-genres.

RJ Barker, published by Orbit, leads readers into the grimdark epic fantasy world of assassins and magic.

The event on Saturday 10th November is free, but seating is limited. Book your place HERE.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

‘Beta’ the Devil You Know

I love the excitement of a good book on its first read, but I’m an inveterate re-reader. It’s so much safer at the end of a long day to settle down with a reliable favourite; either a book I know or one by an author on my ‘authors worth reading’ list. With no external stimulus, I might never read another new book. Recognising this trait in myself, I tried joining reading clubs, but they never worked out. I swayed between cherry picking and forcing myself to keep up, and eventually after ploughing through a couple of books that didn’t spark my interest at all I gave up.

Then a few years ago, I found the answer. I began beta reading new books for a publisher with an eclectic list. The variety has been amazing. Have I enjoyed them all? No, but I count the real turkeys on the fingers of one hand, and I’ve encountered some amazing new authors.

From last year’s new offerings here are two books I’d never have found otherwise. They’re as different from each other as the proverbial chalk and cheddar but have added two new names to my ‘authors worth reading’ list.

Mary Brown’s I Used to Be is a debut novel from an author in her 80s. She got the idea for it whilst listening to William Golding at Reading Literature Festival several decades ago. My review is HERE.

Walt Pilcher’s Everybody Shrugged is a clever (and very funny) parody on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged – well, that’s the way I saw it. Rand does not get a mention. My review is HERE.

Left to my own devices I would not have picked up either book. Thank heavens for beta reading!