Tuesday, 21 February 2017

It's been one of those weeks...

Just 6 things? I wish!
I've had one of those weeks... you know, the ones where your To Do list looks just about manageable but you wonder if you might have put a few too many things on it. One where you think if you can just have a couple of solid days at it, you'll be fine...

And then the world and his brother interpret the phrase "I'm a writer who works from home" as "I do nothing all day. Please offload a ton of things on to me."

Well, that's been my week.

Don't get me wrong. Many of the things I've had offloaded on to me have been quite fun and interesting. Most of them have been related to my charity work and being a Rotarian and I certainly don't regret doing them at all. They've just taken me away from writing for most of the week.

If only my list looked like the one in the picture. Unfortunately, my current To Do list could fill a small book. Better get back to it!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Goodbye to Tom, Alys and Hannah. Hello to...

... Jason Isaacs!*

Naturally... but I'm really welcoming to my desk, brain, life and dreams: Alexander, Jemima, Fee and...

LB and Summer.

Yep - the next project will be to finish writing the second book to feature LB and Summer. It's already about half-written. I started it ages ago (2013!) and then realised that I didn't like the ending and instead of keeping my backside in the chair and figuring out what the ending should be, I got distracted by other, new, shiny things (um... an urban fantasy trilogy for the most part, plus Poisonous Minds and launching The Wrong Kind of Clouds). So, I never got back to fixing the ending and now lots of people want to hear more about LB and Summer. Which I accept is a nice 'problem' to have!

I currently have a more significant issue to sort out than the ending though (which I think I've fixed. Or at least have lots of ideas about how to fix). No, my major problem at the moment, is that I nicked the main character from this book, lock, stock and barrel, and put him in Poisonous Minds. Oops. But, creating a new main character is huge fun and I have a lot of ideas about him. He's already beginning to walk out of my brain and talk to me - both a good sign and a slightly crazy one.

So, it's time to re-open that notebook, fill up my favourite fountain pens, get that play-list back on a repeating loop and finish what I started all those years ago.

Tinkerty tonk, old fruits (and down with the Nazis).*

[*If you don't listen to Wittertainment (The Kermode and Mayo Film Programme on BBC 5 Live), those two phrases will make no sense at all. All I can say is that you really should listen to it because it's brilliant.]

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Meet the Author: Tom O Keenan

Tom Keenan
This month's author under the spotlight is fellow Spotlighter at "Bloody Scotland" - Tom Keenan. Thank you so much for letting me grill you, Tom!

Your first novel, "The Father" features a detective and a forensic profiler. Tell me more about them?
"The Father" features Jackie Kaminski, a detective inspector, and Sean Rooney, a forensic psychologist, erstwhile partners in love, but now partners in crime. Sean has retired. Too many murders, too many psychopaths, too many failures, had taken its toll. Jackie, however, tempts him out of his retirement with the one he has always wanted, a proxy killer. Can he do it, can he cope with this one?

"The Father" is the first in a three-book series. Did you always intend to write a series? How many in the series are currently planned out?
I was encouraged to write a three book Sean Rooney series by my publisher who believed there was more to come from him and this pair, and he was right - book two is with him to be published. Draft one of book three is pouring out of my mind into my computer.

What will you be working on once the series is complete?
I have another couple of books under way, but at an early stage. They will be very different in genre and content. I also fancy writing a children’s book, which hopefully will please my grandchildren; or historical crime fiction, which won’t.

The Father
You’re an independent social worker in the area of mental health and are a Safeguarder in Glasgow Sherriff Court. What does a Safeguarder do?
A Safeguarder protects the interests of vulnerable and incapable adults where legal proceedings in the sheriff court are being taken to transfer their decision making to another person or the local authority. My role as a social worker is much broader, providing reports for solicitor agencies supporting and defending clients also involved in legal proceedings.

That’s a big change from writing! When did you first start writing novels? And what made you start?
I started writing novels about ten years ago after completing a legal book across mental health legislations in Scotland. I had always written stories, however, and poems, songs, and plays after doing a playwriting course with 7:84 theatre company.

What was the first full-length novel you ever wrote (I realise this is not necessarily the same as the first you had published)?
"The Father" was my first full-length novel, although I had written a couple of books in its various incarnations, self-publishing under other titles. It really helped to see my work in a physical self-published form, then to polish it and get it right.

Do you have any regrets over choosing writing as a career? If so, what are they?
No regrets, although to be a full time writer is my goal. I still need a ‘day job’ to keep the wolves from the door.

You were one of the “Spotlight on Crime” authors featured in “Bloody Scotland” in 2016. What are your favourite memories from the event?
I just loved wandering around, taking in the event and the amazing atmosphere, seeing all of those famous authors face to face. However, appearing before Nicci French, husband-and-wife team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, who also write psychological thrillers, and to over one hundred people, was the highlight for me, and to hear about their particular writing technique.

Where is your ideal writing space?
I moved home about a year ago, opening a B and B in a farmhouse in the highlands of Scotland, so I lost my garret (in my attic) which had been my writing space for a few years. Now I write in a room which was used as an abattoir for the farm, I suppose an appropriate place to write about the dark world of murder and mayhem.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
Dexter Petley of the Writers Workshop said of one of my first drafts: “On the whole, an enormous edit is needed, re-routing the stronger material through a better narrative.” I did this, changing the point of view to first person, giving it a personal voice, changing the whole book for the better. Also, I think Hemingway’s “The writer's job is to tell the truth," is hard to beat (A Moveable Feast) and for ‘writer’s block’, “do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. Write the truest sentence that you know and then go on from there.”

Now time for some more random questions...

What’s your radio tuned to most often?
Radio Scotland for current affairs and Scottish culture and Radio 4 for the drama and any book stuff.

You’re stranded on an island. You can choose one of the following three things. Which do you choose and why?
1. Limitless supply of paper and pens.
2. A computer which will never run out of battery and which can access the internet, but you can’t post anything/get help via it, only read what others have put up.
3. An endless supply of loo roll.
A limitless supply of paper and pens. Then I can write without the distraction of having access to the internet and I can use the countless scrunched up papers used in editing as loo paper (sorry toilet humour!).

You can only wear one of the following colours for the rest of your life. Which colour do you choose?
Yellow. Orange. Green. White. Pink.
Green, to reflect my Irish genetics.

Jason Bourne or James Bond?
James Bond every time, but only with Sean Connery!

Cats or dogs?
Border collies any day of the week!

City or country?
Country, since I moved to the Highlands. City, when I lived in Glasgow. I am a city boy who loves the country!

Real book or e-book?
Real book every time, although I must confess to downloading lots of e-books (for reference purposes only you’ll understand!).

Fountain pen or biro?
Fountain pen is my preference, but I rely on biros for everyday use.

Thank you so much to Tom for letting me grill him!

You can keep up to date with all of Tom’s news on his website at: https://www.tom-odgen-keenan.co.uk/ 
You can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TOKeenan
And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tom.keenan.54584

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Book Finds: January 2017

Each month I showcase a small selection of books that I have loved reading. Some of them might be best sellers, but the majority of them won't be.

So, what treats do I have to share with you this month?

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Goodbyes are always difficult...

I've finished editing "Poisonous Minds" (crack open the fizz!) and so it's almost time to say goodbye to this lot of characters...

It can be difficult. I've lived with these characters for years now. They've gone from initial scribbles in a notebook to feeling like real people to me. I've laughed with them, cried over them, loved them, wanted to murder them. Have murdered some of them... but now, it's time to open a new notebook, fill up a fountain pen and start living with some new people.

Many years ago, I wrote a short story that was selected for the book "Almost An Island (An Anthology of Fife Writers)". The story was called "The Writer" and in it, the characters from a writer's book emerged from the ether in her head and into reality. They were physically real and started to badger her about the plot of the book. They didn't like what she was doing and wanted her to change it all. The book reflected how I feel about my characters. They become so real to me that they do talk to me. They do want to change the plot (sometimes for the better, but not always!) and I do feel bereft when their story is finished and it's time to focus on someone else.

My head is a crowded place a lot of the time, full of characters nagging at me. I write to get them out of my head and onto the paper because (mostly) they shut up then. Although, that then just leaves a space for someone new to fill.

So, at the moment, it's farewell to Tom and Hannah and Alys - the three main characters in "Poisonous Minds" - and hello to...

Ah. Yes. Who is shouting the loudest at the moment? Summer and LB from their next book? Finn and Reagan from The Trilogy? Or James and Anna from another thriller?

You know... they're all being pretty loud and obnoxious right now, yelling, "My turn! My turn! Me! Pick me!"

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The End is Nigh...

Well, only the end of editing "Poisonous Minds" which will hopefully be the next book to be published, but that feels like a massive milestone, given how much I've been struggling with it and how long it now is since I first started writing it!

I started "Poisonous Minds" in 2013 and finished the first draft by early 2014. It then got left alone while I wrote the first two books of an urban fantasy trilogy (written during 2014-2015). That done, I went back to "Poisonous Minds" (which at this point was still called "Six Deaths").

Roughly this time last year (January 2016), "Six Deaths" went off to beta readers with a feedback sheet and an alternate ending and two alternate titles ("Adapt or Die" and "Poisonous Minds") and I edited what I'd done of the urban fantasy trilogy while I waited for their feedback to arrive.

Most of my beta readers got their feedback to me by the end of March and I made various changes to "Poisonous Minds" over Spring of 2016 - just before and just after the launch of "The Wrong Kind of Clouds".

And that's when it all started to grind to a halt!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

2017... plans, plans, plans!

Books, books, books!

I have a slight feeling of deja vu as I write this... I seem to recall writing a post about this time last year on my plans for 2016, most of which didn't quite pan out as hoped. I got a lot of stuff done in 2016, it just wasn't necessarily quite what I'd planned to do!

But, ever the optimist, I've put pen to paper (naturally... I'm an analogue lass!) and drawn up a scarily large list of writing projects that I want to complete. This year, however, I've not put any deadlines on the list. Cunning, huh?

What I would really like to achieve this year is to get "Poisonous Minds" published and have at least one other book ready to publish (if not actually published). I have a whole heap of other writing-related goals too, but those two are the main ones.