Monday, 19 February 2018

Crime at the Castle

Do you read crime novels?
Do you fancy trying your hand at writing a crime novel?

If the answer to either of those questions is “YES” then Crime at the Castle is a must.

You have a chance to hear the very best Scottish crime writers as they tell you how it is done in a series of talks and writer’s workshops in what must be one of the most inspirational venues imaginable. Glamis castle is holding its very first crime writers festival on Saturday the 24th February 2018.

The cost for the day is £55 and for that, you get to hear four speakers, or hear three speakers and take part in a writers' workshop. Lunch is included in the ticket and there will be book signings between the events.

Speakers include:

Lin Anderson, Chris Brookmyre, Caroline Dunford, Alex Gray, Sandra Ireland, Wendy H. Jones Chris Longmuir, Michael J Malone, Denise Mina, Shona MacLean, Val McDermid, Jackie Mclean, Frank Muir, Caro Ramsay, Craig Robertson, Douglas Skelton

Have you booked your tickets yet? No? Well hurry up because it's selling out! Click on the link below for more details of the event, including how to book.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018


(I wouldn't have a disposable cup OR a straw...
but otherwise this is a fair representation!)
The first round of edits - the structural editing - is done (though history teaches me that my editor will still want to shift several scenes around when she gets her hands on it). This is my least favourite bit of editing. I prefer the next stage: tightening it up and trying to make it sparkle. I enjoy spending time on the words, once the foundations are sorted. Only once a house is built, can you start decorating it. So with writing.

Structural editing starts with The Giant Spreadsheet which helps me to see where things are too long and also where there are gaps. Colour-coding which characters are in each scene shows me that sometimes characters seem to have wandered off, mid-manuscript. Where did they go? They need bringing back into the fold. Or I see that a thread that I thought was well woven in is actually half frayed and sticking out. Or not tied off at the end. Seeing the big picture helps me to make sure that it holds together the way I imagined it would.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Are you gender-biased? Chances are, you are.

The past week has been full of stories about gender bias. There's been the on-going argument at the BBC about the gender pay-gap, and The Guardian had a piece about whether monsters must always be male (you can read it here) and how few female characters in children's books even speak, let alone are the main character. There was also an interesting programme on BBC Radio 4 about women being biased against women. If you didn't hear it, you can listen to it or download it here (and I genuinely recommend listening to it).

You are probably gender biased, even if you don't think you are.

Much of our bias is thought to stem from the brain taking 'short-cuts'. The example given in an analysis of the radio piece (the analysis can be found here) cites burning yourself on a hot pan leading to your brain making a quick association between 'oven', 'hot' and 'pain'.

Likewise, if a person sees disproportionately more men than women in positions of power and leadership, and disproportionately more women in more lowly-ranked jobs, their brains quickly associate men with power and responsibility and women with less powerful, lower value roles.

So, what can we do to try and avoid this bias?

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Giant Spreadsheet of Editing

They say there are two kinds of writers: planners and 'pantsers' (who write by the seats of their pants). I'm a planner. And a scientist. Double-whammy!

I've just finished the first (rough!) draft of the book that follows on from "The Call". Yes, the one I've been writing since 2013. The one I've abandoned a couple of times and written "Lies That Poison" and two books of an urban fantasy trilogy instead. Anyway, I finished the rough first draft last Monday and so have moved on to my next stage of editing, which is to produce The Giant Spreadsheet.

I write early drafts of books using Scrivener and one of the features of the program is that you can export the novel outline to Excel. The folder and document titles are exported, along with notes, word counts and a host of other things. I'm mostly interested in the titles, notes and word counts for each document (for me each document equates to a scene), and I add in information about which characters are in each scene (using colour coding).


Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Tea and plastic

My husband and I are tea drinkers. I don't drink coffee. I can't actually ever remember liking coffee. But tea - I love a good cuppa.

Like many other people I've used tea-bags for most of my life, but I'm not buying them any more. Not while they are full of plastic.

Wait, you thought tea-bags were made of paper? Hm. Partly true. They do have paper, but they also have a thin layer of plastic mesh, which doesn't biodegrade. It's there mostly to heat-seal the two layers of the tea-bag together and is usually polypropylene.

We'd suspected this for a while as we have a compost bin and used to put the used tea-bags in there. When we came to use the compost, there would always be the ghosts of tea-bags in the compost. At first I thought these were just the bags taking time to rot down. They're not. They're plastic and they will release microplastics into the environment. If you still don't know why microplastics are bad, read this... And if you really want to learn more, read this report by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Supportive friends, I thank you!

It's not been a great week. I came down with a cold to end all colds, I started hating what I'm writing (yes, again...), my productivity sank like a stone and I seriously considered abandoning the book (again. I first abandoned this one in 2013).

I have to say, the writing community is a fabulous one! When I said that I was struggling with the book and ready to chuck it all in, I got so much support with people offering to have a natter and talk through the issues, others encouraging me and saying "Don't give up!"

Knowing they all had my back, I filled up a trusty fountain pen (well, I do have rather a lot!) and tried to brainstorm why I was stuck with the book and what I hated (most) about it.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Morning pages and Meditation

This is one of my favourite poems. It reminds me that I need to take time and slow down and that once I do, I'll see the world differently.

Some days, my head is whirling - too many things to fret about; too many ideas for books... When it's like that, I need to slow down. Actually, I need to stop, but I'm not good at stopping. Never have been. After a lot of trial and error (and a need to find something before I burned out completely) I've found that a combination of "Morning Pages" and a brief meditation does me the power of good.