Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Interview with Lesley Kelly

The pandemic is spreading.

On Friday, three civil servants leading Virus policy hold a secret meeting at the Museum of Plagues and Pandemics.

By Monday, two are dead and one is missing. It’s up to Mona and Bernard of the Health Enforcement Team to find the missing official before panic hits the streets.

Lesley Kelly
This week, I'm delighted to share my interview with the fabulous Lesley Kelly with you all. I first met Lesley back in 2016, when we were at Bloody Scotland and we've stayed in touch ever since. Lesley is the author of 'A Fine House in Trinity', which was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize, and the series 'The Health of Strangers'. Her latest book, 'Death at The Plague Museum' is the third in this series. Her books are absolutely amazing, so if you've not yet read them, what have you been doing??

Your fourth book, ‘Death at the Plague Museum’ has just been released. This is the third book in the Health of Strangers series. Tell me a bit about it?
The Health of Strangers series is set in a parallel Edinburgh where there has been a Virus, not unlike Spanish flu. Most people survive the Virus, but around 5% of the population dies. My books focus on the Government response to this. In this world, the Government have established a regime where everyone needs to go for a health check every month. If you don't turn up the Health Enforcement Team (HET) come and track you down.
The HETs are made up of seconded staff from the health service and the police, and nobody really wants to work for them. The staff of the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team are all there because they've blotted their copy books in some way. However, they are markedly more competent than the other HETs across Scotland so any difficult cases involving sex, religion, or politics makes their way to them.
In the latest book, Death at the Plague Museum, three civil servants had a secret meeting at the Edinburgh Museum of Plagues and Pandemics on a Friday night. By Monday, two of them are dead and one of them is being hotly pursued by the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team…

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Finding an editor... using Reedsy

Choosing your editor is possibly one of the most important decisions you'll make if you're self-publishing, I reckon. It's a close call between the editor and the cover designer. Both roles are there to make your book stand out from the crowd and shine. They are the final polish. An unedited (or badly edited) book can be the difference between me rating a book as 2* in a review or 5* and I'm sure I'm not alone in that.

I've had two amazing editors so far, but both of them preferred to edit crime and what I need now is an editor who likes fantasy, so, I'm in the process of finding a new editor for the Trilogy. It's daunting! There are a gazillion editors out there. Even a quick look at Joanna Penn's list of approved editors is enough to make your heart sink into your boots and never reappear, because there are just so many. Where do you even start?

Well, where I've started, is to look on Reedsy. Why? Because it was less daunting, I could easily select what I was looking for to draw up a shortlist and I could send the same brief to five editors.

There are hundreds of editors on Reedsy (as well as cover designers and website designers and so on), located all over the world. The process of shortlisting potential editors is very easy.

Once you've set up an account with Reedsy (name, email address), you can then see this side panel.

If you select Marketplace it takes you to this selection panel:

Here, you can select what it is you're looking for. I was looking for a copy-editor, for fiction, genres fantasy and urban fantasy, language English UK:

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Writing notebooks: what I use when I write a book

This post was originally written for Nero's Notes, where I'm one of the blog writers, but I thought it would be interesting to my readers, too.

A few weeks ago, I talked about the notebooks I use to capture ideas (Writing notebooks: 'capture'). Today, I'm going to talk about what kind of books I use once an idea has enough oomph that I think it will be a book.

This noodling around could be thinking more about the setting, or plot or the characters. Usually, it's a bit of all three, though plot and characters often seem to come together.

I used to use A4 Clairefontaine Age Bag notebooks and all notes went in them. They had a decent amount of real-estate and were fabulous for writing in with a fountain pen. They were a one-stop scrapbook of ideas which in some ways was great - everything was in one place, but were often fairly disorganised. I'd often start out intending to do notes on setting in one colour, on characters in another etc., but then by about 40 pages in had forgotten to do that! If I went back to them after any time away, I was flipping back and forth through them to find things. Fun, but inefficient. The paper is amazing. The rest of the notebook is 'no frills' with no ribbon markers, no elastic closure and no pocket in the back cover, but for what I wanted, they were brilliant.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Crutch-word slaying

I'm almost there with the first book of the trilogy... I'm in the middle of line edits and crutch-word slaying and then it will go off to a professional editor to find all the bits that still need fixing.

I was feeling especially pleased with myself just before I started on this, as I managed to create a macro in Word that would, with a couple of clicks, highlight all of my over-used words in the ms. I'm not saying I managed to create the macro the first time I tried (or even the second, third, fourth...) but I did eventually make it (and even made a 'How To' sheet to send out to a couple of writer friends so that they can create their own versions).

Crutch-words are words that an author relies on and uses far too often. I know what most of mine are (though maybe some new ones have crept in). If I spot them as I'm going through edits, I try and kill them off, but inevitably, hundreds of the little critters still make it through to the line-edits. What my macro does is to change all of the crutch-words (that I know of) into the same word but with yellow highlighter on it. I've then printed off the whole ms (and got umpteen paper-cuts as I've stacked the pages neatly) with the words highlighted.

Next up is going over every word of the ms and tightening it all up as much as I can. I used to hate this stage, but now I love it. It's a bit depressing how much yellow is currently on each page, but it's better to kill off those over-used words now, than leave them in.

It's a slow process. I can't do more than a short section in one sitting or I find my brain stops working on improving it all and just reads it. I'm using my 30 minute sand-timer and then getting up and stretching/having a walk/doing something else before going back to it. The print-out is 268 pages long and the only way I can tackle things like this (without going doolally) is to split it into small chunks.

I have to say, I'm so excited to have reached this stage with it!

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

A good excuse to start a new notebook...

Which one to choose??
Not that I really ever need an excuse... but, the time has come for me to do some serious research into self-publishing and so, naturally, I need to keep it all in a new notebook!

But which one? I mean, it's not like I don't have a gazillion to choose from!

Ideally, it will be about A5 size, though B6 would also work. Despite loving B5 notebooks for book planning, I think they might be a bit big.

Since I'll be collecting a selection of information in the book, numbered pages and an index/table of contents would be useful.

And of course, it's going to have to be fountain pen friendly paper!

There are 4 main contenders:

  • Taroko Design Breeze A5 (Tomoe River paper, numbered pages, table of contents, dot-grid paper)
  • Rhodia A5 soft cover (Rhodia paper, dot-grid, no TOC or page numbers)
  • MD notebook A5 (great paper, lined, no TOC or page numbers)
  • Life A5 notebook (great paper, lined, no TOC, no page numbers)

On the whole, it would seem like the Breeze is the best option, as it ticks all the boxes. It's a really lovely notebook, and I've been in danger of not using it, precisely because it's so nice. But, it's dot grid and I'm not such a great lover of that for writing notes (rather than plans or lists). The dots are 5 mm apart, which is a shade too narrow for writing on every line, but a bit too wide-spaced to use every other line. A 4 mm spacing would have been perfect...

That knocks out the Rhodia too, so it's a toss-up between the MD and the Life. I have several of each kind. I think I'll go for the Life notebook, because I know the paper is amazing and there are these small marks on the top and bottom lines of each page which make it really easy to draw a table if needed. I don't mind having to put in my own table of contents, or number the pages.

I'll keep you all posted as I move through this new phase. I'm both excited at it all, but also terrified!!