Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Newsletters

I hate being bombarded by emails about stuff, even when I've actually signed up for them. Over Christmas and New Year, with all the sales, I must have unsubscribed from umpteen mailing lists because I was getting them every day. Who has time to look at things like that every day? I don't.

My newsletter comes out just once per month. That's it. The only time I would send a second email in a month would be if there was a special offer for subscribers only - early notification of a price-drop, a money off offer or a freebie for them to thank them for their support.

My newsletters have a reminder of my blog posts from the month and also feature a few things, most of which relate to aspects of my novel The Wrong Kind of Clouds. I also include a short update about what I've been up to over the month.
[Not read The Wrong Kind of Clouds yet? Give it a whirl. The eBook costs less than a decent cup of coffee and lasts longer!]

The two main characters in The Wrong Kind of Clouds are Summer Morris who's a photographer, and LB Stewart who's a detective. My husband is a photographer and each month in the newsletter, I feature one of his pictures (such as this one here).

Boats at Salen on Mull, with double rainbow behind
© Colin Nicol
LB Stewart is a man who likes his food. In fact, he'd rather go hungry than eat a bad meal. Each month, I include in the newsletter a recipe that LB might cook. These might be main courses, cakes, soups... anything really.

Some of The Wrong Kind of Clouds is set in Malawi (a country close to my heart) and features a fictional charity that's loosely based on a real charity I helped to set up. In the book, the charity is called Samala (which means "to look after" or "to cherish" in Chichewa); the real charity is called Chimwemwe Children's Centre (Chimwemwe means "we are happy"). Each month I include a short update about Chimwemwe in the newsletter so you can hear what we're up to.

There's also a few links to things I found amusing or interesting over the month. These expose my eclectic taste I'm afraid and can range from glorious calligraphy, to a video of a dog hilariously failing an obedience test, through miniature mouse shops in Sweden or 3D scanning of a house in Pompeii.

Fancy seeing some glorious pictures, discovering new recipes, or getting my special offers or freebies? Then sign up for my newsletters. No spam, no selling of your details to anyone else and it only lands in your in-box once a month. And when you sign up, I'll give you a free copy of my novella "Gathering Storms" as a thank you.
[already signed up but didn't get the novella? Let me know and I'll send you the links.]


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The first 20 minutes

The first 20 minutes, for me, are the difference between not doing something at all and throwing myself into it wholeheartedly.

After the first 20 minutes of a run (and okay, some runs barely make it past that magical mark), a run can be wonderful. My muscles are warm, my breathing has settled into a pattern... my legs are moving, my shoulders are relaxed and it just flows.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Spotlighter Mini Meet Up StAnza

L-R Me, Sandra Ireland, Stephen Watt
As you may remember, there were 12 new writers selected for "Crime in the Spotlight" slots at Bloody Scotland last September. We've kept in touch and managed a mini-meet-up on Thursday, to support Stephen Watt at StAnza (Scotland's International Poetry Festival, held in St Andrews).

Sandra Ireland (author of the fabulous book "Beneath the Skin") lives not all that far from me, so I collected her from the train station and we headed to St Andrews on a gloriously sunny day. She was going to another event before Stephen's so I dropped her off at the Town Hall and headed for The Byre Theatre to see if I could find Stephen. He was indeed there and we had a natter and a walk around St Andrews (managing to freak out The Byre Theatre in the process who thought they'd lost him!).

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Meet the Author: Stephen Watt

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

You’re a poet and a spoken word artist. How did you get started in this field?

When I was 19 I was mugged twice within six months by drug addicts from Drumchapel and Renton. It shook me up. I never wanted revenge but I wanted to understand what led people to lives where they prey on the vulnerable to feed their habits. It was therapeutic to write poetry at the time – in between counselling sessions – and pick myself back up in a creative way.

You’ve won a number of poetry slams, perhaps most notably in 2011 when you beat 8000 others to win the Poetry Rivals Slam in Peterborough. Did that open a lot of doors for you? If so, what? What are your favourite memories from the event?
It was my first Slam so I didn’t really know what to expect. I travelled south with a friend with the intention of savouring a bit of poetry and then going out on the piss, having a laugh, do what we do. It completely caught me off-guard that I won the event. We celebrated until nearly 4am that night – such an unbelievable high. I’m sure it did open doors – it put my name out there (I had been performing for just 6 months when I won the Poetry Rivals competition), it earned me a book deal which led to a 100-person attendance in Waterstones, and of course led to a number of book sales which familiarised people with my writing.

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