24 December 2012

Season's Greetings One and All!

Some say that it's New Year's Eve when they sit back and take stock ready for the coming year, but I tend to do it Christmas Eve afternoon. The presents are wrapped, the meals are planned, the dusting is done, the computer is switched off... well, nearly.

 It's been a bit of an emotional year - health, family crises - the sorts of things that money can't readily soften but where a little peace and a good hug can work wonders.

So as you gather round your tree to toast the season, don't just take time out to think about those who sit alone, make a difference physically. Sure, we can donate to charity - Age UK, Mind, the Salvation Army - even give a carrier of groceries to our local Foodbank, but what can beat seeing the eyes of a neighbour when they open their door to a big smile, a sticky bun and 'Let's have coffee!"

We can all make a difference to someone. And sometimes it can make a big difference to us.

Happy Yuletide.

14 October 2012

Last of the 1066 Battlefields - Hastings

On 14th October 1066 much of the English aristocracy fell on Senlac Hill near Hastings.

This is the battle that people think of when considering British history in 1066, but as the last two blogs intimate, a lot of back-story led to the defeat of King Harold Godwinson by the Norman French, not least of which was the weather. How different Mediaeval England might have been if the 'fair wind' had brought William, Duke of Normandy, to the south coast first. His force had been expected all summer and may well have been defeated on the shingle beach. That would have left Harold Godwinson with a single forced march north to tackle the men who had sailed in longships with Harald Hardraada of Norway. Would the English northern fyrd taken the day? Who knows.

It was never my intention to write a long post commemorating this date. Then I came upon a link via The Battle of Stamford Bridge Society, and instead I decided to copy it here. It is from The Battle of Hastings 2006 - a major re-enactment, if nowhere on the scale of the original. It is courtesy of English Heritage and television presenter, Dan Snow, narrates.

If you ever thought re-enactors were soft, here's twelve minutes to prove otherwise. Would you stand in a shield-wall beneath a hail of arrows, albeit not metal tipped? Without wearing a helmet? And that, as the saying goes, is the least of it.

6 October 2012

Paddling Across Mired Battlefields - 1066

It’s that time of year again, the anniversary of when the course of Saxon England irretrievably juddered hard left. Over the past couple of weekends I’ve attended guided walks led by the ebullient Russell Marwood of the York Archaeological Trust. They were a delight and I shall be looking out for some more.

The first was around the battlefield of Gate Fulford when, on 20th September 1066, the invasion led by King Harald III of Norway – Harald Hardraada to most of us – sent the English northern earls and the raised fyrd reeling. We modern battlefield walkers returned to our cars and flasks of hot coffee, leaving the risen ghosts of the victors to finish off the dying and march the couple of miles to the gates of York to demand food and hostages.

Last weekend we were at Stamford Bridge, east of York. Here, on 25th September 1066 the Norse army, or most of it, was disporting itself during a warm and sunny day. Harald Hardraada was awaiting more hostages, this time from northern England, in an attempt to persuade the population to support his march south for the Crown.

Unbeknown to him, the Crown, in the shape of King Harold Godwinson, his crack housecarls and a Midlands fyrd raised enroute, caught them off-guard after a forced march that would take some beating even today - about 185 miles in four days. The result was not so much decimation as obliteration. Mediaeval texts have it that up to 300 longships sailed up the Humber but only 23 sailed down. Harald Hardraada and most of his nobles were not among the survivors.

Russell Marwood doing this thing
Except… did it happen at Stamford Bridge?

As Russell Marwood explained, pinpointing the position of any 1000 year old open battlefield is no easy task. Usually there is little in the way of archaeological deposits. The victors, sometimes even the vanquished, did not leave valuable armour, weapons and accoutrements lying among the dead, even if, as a later writer maintained, the bleached bones of the fallen were still to be seen decades later.

Much of the “evidence” for such a battlefield comes from written texts, by triangulating information from several, in this case mostly from the Norse sagas as the English were, shall we say, a bit busy. Also, routes built by the Romans and maintained – and York would have had plenty - have been lost to us, or their archaeological footprints are still being discovered.

However, our group was led over the current bridge spanning a very swollen River Derwent to gain a view of a “hollow-way”, which sounded, and looked, as if it had come as much from the pages of one of JRR Tolkien’s masterpieces as a descendant of a Roman road. The river had been tidal at this time and Stamford – probably a derivative of “stone ford” – was just that. We learned that it could be crossed on foot at low tide as late as the 1960s. So what need was there for a bridge – the one a single heroic Norseman held for so long before a dastardly Englishman pierced his nether regions from below while in a “tub”, or possibly a coracle?

There are hefty stone foundations behind the older modern houses which might account for a bridge, and an old snicket – a pathway – still leaves the spot, crosses the modern road and rises up between more houses. But once a single thread is pulled, more than one tends to begin unravelling. Why send a fella with a pike out in a boat to skewer an enemy holding a bridge? Why not just loose a sheaf of arrows in his direction? Is the “rock that marks the spot”, or at least commemorates the general area of the deed, out by a couple of miles?

Commemorative seating at Stamford Bridge

 This is where we find there are interesting people among the group. Tom Wiles, from the area, is a re-enactor of the period strutting his stuff under the banner of The Volsung Vikings. He is also one of the locals who have formed the Battle of Stamford Bridge Society with a view to truly commemorating the date of the battle. There was a fascinating exchange between him and Russell Marwood, and the agreed opinion was that the Battle of Stamford Bridge was as likely to be the Battle of Catton, especially as Roman roads have been newly discovered in the area, and possibly the site of a bridge.

Methinks I need to lay my hands on a detailed Ordnance Survey map of the area and do a bit of internet research prior to having another day out. But this is for a series of books on the far horizon so there’s no great rush. Who knows what research others might throw up in the meantime?

As for the Mediaeval power struggle, it wasn’t so much Norse 1 – English 1 as the endgame for them both. King Harold Godwinson of England had no sooner washed the blood from his sword in York than word arrived that fair winds had allowed William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, to sail across the channel and his men were erecting pre-fabricated fortifications near Hastings.

What must Harold have thought? “Damnit” must have been the least of his epithets. Well, if he could do it once… And so he gathered his housecarls and those uninjured in the battle and set off south with a steely look in his eye. The Battle of Hastings took place on 14th October. Alas, now the steel in his eye turned out not to be just an attitude of mind.

William II, Duke of Normandy became William the Conqueror and, after a series of skirmishes which inflamed his temper no end, he was crowned King of England on Christmas Day 1066. For what happened after that the Brits still bear a grudge.

30 September 2012

Yomping Across Mired Battlefields - 1066

As a novelist using historical settings, I particularly enjoy yomping across the landscapes I'm interested in, even if they aren't necessarily going to feature in my fiction. It is even better when I am part of a small group being taken round by someone knowledgeable.

The past couple of Sundays I’ve been on the Yorkshire Archaeological Trust’s 1066 York Battlefields walks led by Russell Marwood. Russell might be an archaeologist but no mummified air of dry academia enshrouds him. From his wild hair to his bright yellow hiking socks, he is Mr Enthusiasm For His Subject – just what a writer needs to fill in a few gaps and light the flame of inspiration.

A condensed bit of background for those not versed in this part of British history:

In early January 1066 the English King Edward (known as The Confessor) died without leaving a blood heir, never a good idea. Harold Godwinson, his leading Earl, was elected to succeed him and in very short order became King Harold II. However, various people weren’t happy about this, particularly William II Duke of Normandy (modern northern France), and King Harald III of Norway. Each coveted the English throne - the stable kingdom and its efficient tax collection system, more like - believing it had been promised to him alone. Both started amassing ships.

By September it was down to the wire, so to speak, with only the weather, as ever, not being cooperative. Then the wind started coming from the north, and with it the Viking Norsemen, picking up allies in the Isles of Orkney enroute. Between 200-300 longships entered the River Humber close to where I live, sailing its tidal tributaries into the heart of England, then called Northumbria, north of the Humber (get it?). Their sights were set on taking York. Named Jorvik by the Norse a couple of centuries before, it had been their power base when the country had been split under the Dane Law, so it suited Harald III, now known more often as Harald Hardraada, to regain control prior to taking on the south of the country.

The first battle was on 20th September at Gate Fulford, just south of York. With the River Ouse blocking one side, the English set up a shield-wall at Germany Beck – amazingly still running – and awaited the opposition. But with all this water swilling around it was tough to call the axe-blows with certainty. The natural flood plain at that end of the shield-wall turned into a mire. The English couldn’t hold the line and…. English 0 Norse 1.

Russell Marwood gave us a very good rendition of the whys and wherefores as we walked along. He even got us grouped, and moving, as a section of shield-wall on the bank of the Ouse where it is met by Germany Beck. Looking down that gentle slope, as a member of the fyrd, the raised militia, I don’t think I would have been too joyful about standing my ground as one of the four or five deep behind the front shields. England had been at peace for more than a generation. My training would have been cursory at best, and I was supposed to stand against the finest of Norway coming at me in full mail armour and carrying the sort of blood-reputation which has lasted to this day.

We battlefield walkers might have gone off to our warm cars and hot lunches, but the Norse advanced to York, promising to keep the walled city intact if it gave up plenty of food and hostages from among its leading citizens. Would you have argued?

The whistle will blow for the second half next time. Do call back in a few days. I might even have some pictures.

If you are interested in a bit of further reading:

23 September 2012

Home from a holiday and still unpacking. Armed with whip & chair, I hit my mountain of emails to discover that I've won an award. Well, Torc of Moonlight has. If you're quick enough you'll catch it on the front page of http://indiebookoftheday.com/ and if not it can be found *here*.There's even a certificate and a neat web-badge:
Many thanks to the unknown reader who submitted the novel for consideration. I'm pleased that you, and all the other readers who gave it a multi-star rating, found it such a fascinating read. The second in the trilogy is growing, and now there's no excuse to tarry, is there?

19 August 2012

Beneath The Shining Mountains - New Cover

The new e-cover for Beneath The Shining Mountains is now live on Amazon USA and UK, and also on Smashwords. Barnes & Noble and the iBookstore should be updating shortly.

And, despite the fact that this is an ebook, it will shortly be able to stand on its own two feet, or 276 pages, as a print book. Watch this space.

To make life easier, sign up to have my short but chatty Newsletter delivered to your Inbox. And yes, you can unsubscribe as easily as subscribing. That's the joy of it.

8 August 2012

Earth - The Final Frontier

It's been a busy few days. I've been formatting Beneath The Shining Mountains for Createspace, which of course means tweaking the text (again), and looking for elements to use in its new cover; there's the w-i-progress to add to (far too slowly for my liking) and, of course, the day job to negotiate.

But tonight I stepped outside, glass of wine in hand, and was the first in the family to spot the International Space Station as it followed its line across the sky. Could hardly miss it really; it was the brightest thing there, often to be seen despite the cloud.

So what brought this on?  http://vimeo.com/45878034 is what. Note: if you have a laptop like mine, first time around you'll need to give it time to load. It is HD after all. Then sit back and enjoy an awesome four minutes. And add the sound. It's beautifully restful.

Oh yes, and I also saw a satellite, and recognised The Plough. I could get hooked on this, y'know. The w-i-progress is in danger of falling behind during these balmy, cloudless evenings. Tomorrow I think I'll organise a lounger and a pair of binoculars. And perhaps dream of seeing Earth the way the astronaunts can.

25 July 2012

Guest Blogging on Lindsays Romantics

Today I'm guest blogging across on Lindsay's Romantics about my Native American Beneath The Shining Mountains. For once I've included images of reproduction artefacts from my days as a re-enactor.

The blog is part of a three author series - The Lindas - where we talk about why we chose to write in our particular sub-genre. It finishes Friday, so do call across if you have time.

20 July 2012

Review: The Suspicions of Mr Whicher

It's not often that I review books on this blog, but this one begs to be an exception: The Suspicions of Mr Whicher - or The Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale is hardly new (2008) - I read the updated 2009 copy, and it well deserves the many accolades and awards it has garnered. It is truly fascinating on so many levels.

On the night of 30th June 1860 the Kent family and live-in servants retire for the night. By the next morning one of their member, a child, has been brutally murdered, and all eyes in the quiet Wiltshire village of Road turn to the seemingly respectable family living in the grand, secluded house.

If that sounds like a typical Victorian whodunnit, please be aware that this is no work of fiction. This book, written in extremely accessible language, is a biography not just of a murder, but of London's fledgling detective service, of Victorian attitudes and class snobbery, and, so pertinent to our own time, trial by media - newspapers and journals in this case - as the unsolved case took the country by storm.

It became the event that launched the Victorian country house murder genre - The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868), generally regarded as the first British detective novel, mirrors the case so closely as to make modern writers shudder. Charles Dickens is another celebrated author who we see in a less than golden light. How members of the family, and their servants, managed to survive the emotional and physical strain is beyond me. But it was the author's postscript to the 2009 edition that touched me most, bringing the Kent family into sharp, very human, relief.

Kate Summerscale is a fine writer and obviously has more than a touch of the detective about her, going by her research. For those interested in this period of English Victorian life the book is a veritable mine of information, all backed up by 50+pp of index and chapter notes, a fascinating read in themselves.

The image came from Amazon UK

13 July 2012

Hostage of the Heart update

My Mediaeval Romantic Suspense Hostage of the Heart now has a bright new cover from Karri Klawiter. It's live on Amazon and Smashwords, and will be feeding through to other stockists in the next week or so.

By way of celebration, today the novel has a spotlight on BlurbsInBloom. Do go across and give it a Tweet (it's the new hug, y'know).

The site uploads covers & blurbs in Sweet and Sensual Romances, so if you are wanting to add to your TBRead list without having to wade through masses of x-rated blurbs, this is a good site to bookmark.

Have a great reading day!

21 June 2012

Updating the Ebooks

The publishing industry does not stand still. The indie ebook industry moves at the speed of light.

It is just two years since I stopped researching the pros and cons and took the plunge. Despite the enthusiasm of others, particularly in the USA, I wasn't expecting great things. I've been pleasantly surprised and, on occasions, not a little humbled by the reaction of readers.

During those two years the changes have been phenomenal. On Amazon, ebooks now outsell both hardback and paperback books as the world embraces digital reading. The new generation of ereaders are available in colour, and the screen quality and size of Smartphones mean that a dedicated ereader isn't even needed.

Throughout, I've maintained a professionalism in the editing and formatting of my words. Despite acknowledging the limitations of delivery, I take it as a personal slight to my integrity when a conversion goes awry, and do all I can to ensure that my fiction arrives before my readers the way it was intended. This has stood me in good stead.

Now I am updating my ebook covers to the same level of professionalism. Yes, I enjoy making a cover, but I don't have a natural flair for the artform and I don't have time to learn how to get the most from the software. I need the expertise of someone who looks upon her work as I do upon mine.

Dead Men's Fingers is the first ebook to get its new look from Karri Klawiter. Call back. You'll be seeing more of her work here shortly.

9 June 2012

Rain, Rain go away...

Looking back, it seems that the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in London last week got off light. According to the weathermen, summer as we remember it is coming no time soon.

As we sit here in our jumpers, with the central heating kicking in occasionally, and the lights on because we can't read in today's version of daylight, my husband wistfully remarks that in twelve days time we pass the equinox and the nights will begin to draw in for winter.

He can be such a joy.

8 May 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

Last Friday I gave a talk to Bridlington Library Writers. They were an appreciative group and I hope I left them enthused to study their own writing, and the writing of others, from a slightly different angle.

During the tea break a gentleman quietly pushed a tome towards me. He'd been present at a previous talk I'd given and knew of my interest in Native American historical life-styles. The book was trade paperback size, a good 1.5 inches thick, and sported a beige rough cardboard cover with a rather crude depiction of an “Indian” in a canoe in white-water. Handbook of Indians of Canada. The print, in two columns, is arranged on 57 lines per page, which will give an idea of the print size – it looks like 8pt or 9pt tops. As can be imagined, it hardly seems as if it has been opened. I accepted it with what I hope was good grace.

Yesterday I opened it, magnifying glass in hand. It’s not a handbook, it’s an encyclopaedia. The edition might date back to only 1971, but the information it contains is part of a work started in …1873… and only completed in 1910. The map attached to the back cover mentions Treaties dating from 1850. A random opening of pages shows mention of meetings at Montreal in 1778, mention of the Kiowa, Dakota, Sauk & Fox, which rather blurs the distinction of …Indians of Canada.

Where the gentleman got it from, he didn’t say, but I now need to hunt him down to thank him properly. What can I say? Wow! What a resource.

23 April 2012

Happy Birthday... ZX Spectrum!

It's not often I get all nostalgic, but today is the 30th birthday of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

For those among us who have Smartphones carrying enough oomph to control a moon landing, the ZX Spectrum was the first affordable, family-friendly computer system available in the UK. It was about the size of a paperback book and had rubber keys. We didn't buy the first but got the second edition in all its glory - with 48kb memory no less. Yes, that is no mistype.

However, computer system as a description could be viewed as a bit rich. It was, basically, the keyboard. To make the thing work you needed a television as a monitor and a tapedeck, that's audio tapedeck, so as to upload the games. And word processing software.

Yes, we might have been purchasing it as a Christmas gift for our primary age son, but as soon as I saw it in action I knew I could write a novel on it, rubber keys and all. And I did. Hostage of the Heart took its first tentative steps via the ZX Spectrum.

Games? The one I truly remember was Harrier Attack where you had to get a Sea Harrier off the deck of an aircraft carrier, take it on bombing mission, under fire, to an island and get back safely before the plane's fuel ran out. We won't go into how many times I totalled the aircraft on the carrier's conning tower as I lifted off. Let's just say it was easier to write novels.

Ah, happy days...

16 April 2012

We’d like you to come on the radio…

It’s the sort of telephone call that sets the heartbeat rising and the palms sweating. ‘Of course,’ I hear a calm, professional voice say. ‘I’d be delighted.’ In my other ear is a fearful woman screaming ‘Are you mad?!

But of course, writers are. I’m on a deadline with my own work (mornings) and a deadline with client work (afternoons), but the entire day disintegrated because of eight minutes on air. I was asked out of the blue because the radio station, local BBC – let me not suggest that this was national network – was airing figures from Nielson Bookscan that UK paperback sales had dropped 25% in the last year. Was it due to the rise of ebooks? They needed someone who read them and the writer they had initially called had passed on my name.

I thought I’d be chatting with a small group, but no, it was me and a bookshop manager. Oh dear. Clearly this was expected to be a spectator, or at least a listener, sport. I spent the entire morning pulling together figures, sounding out other authors who had ebooks both via indie upload and publisher’s upload, and drinking far more tea than was good for me.

Tuning in to the station fifteen minutes before it rang so as to get a feel for the presenter’s stance, I found myself listening to a heated argument about selling cigarettes in brown paper packaging in an attempt to cut teenage smoking rates. Is this what I was letting myself in for? Before my slot came an exchange about the deaths of race horses at the country’s prestigious meetings which was so vitriolic that it extended beyond its time. Did people really want all this confrontation across their lunch hour?

I decided they didn’t, or at least I didn’t and, while my shadow was sitting in a corner with her head in her hands, I started playing the interview for laughs. And we did have a laugh, mostly at the presenter's expense, which is good radio, I guess. Me and the bookshop manager got on very well. Why wouldn’t we? We both want our readers to enjoy their purchased books, whatever form those books take. That’s what it’s all about, enjoyment.

14 April 2012

Colours to light up the World

I love this time of the year. Some days the heating is on full blast, others we are able to sit outside to eat breakfast. But no matter whether it is bright sunshine or ominous cloud and Arctic wind, there are the spring flowers to light up our lives.

This photograph is part of our garden, just in front of the patio. Beneath the yellow blaze of marsh marigolds a pond is teeming with tadpoles. Ah...

13 April 2012

Featured At...

Well, Friday 13th seems to be the day to embrace.

Beneath The Shining Mountains is the Featured Book at Guerrilla Wordfare. Thanks to Lizzy Ford for hosting. Question: how many print books did this novel sell in its original format?

Reading A Writer's Mind: Exploring Short Fiction - First Thought to Finished Story is the focus of a long interview on writing and associated subjects across on Why Did You Write That Thanks to Peter Lewis for asking such searching questions.

Dead Men's Finger's received a double accolade in the shape of a blog feature  'New Western Writer Comes To Town' on IcyStoneBlackstone.com and a cracking in-depth 5 star review from Toni V Sweeney.

Thanks to all who hosted. If you have time, do stop by to have a look or leave a comment.

8 April 2012

A New Page

After a six week lay-off to attend to family commitments, it is time to re-assess The Plan and move back into gear.

The Bull At The Gate, the sequel to Torc of Moonlight, has been resurrected and I'm going through Chapter 2. It's set in York, a city with more history per square metre than London, and in keeping with Torc the story is based in very real streets. With Torc I spent a lot of time in Hull walking the areas I was using and taking photographs. I did the same in York, but this time there is the added bonus of StreetView from Googlemaps. It is already proving a boon, and saving me sifting through digital photographs which should be filed far better than they are. [Slapped wrist]

But to start me off I have a spotlight for my Mediaeval Historical Hostage of the Heart across at Historical Fiction Excerpts What, exactly, has the Lady Dena been given to drink? And what will happen if she doesn't?

4 March 2012

Read An Ebook Week - On Now!

Yes, Sunday 4th opens Read An Ebook Week across at Smashwords.com, where readers will find lots of goodies on sale at a discount, or even free, suitable for every make of ereader. All my novels are being offered at 50% discount until Saturday 10th March, 23.59hrs Pacific Standard Time.

To gain a 50% discount use the coupon code RW50 at the checkout:
Torc of Moonlight 
Dead Men's Fingers by Tyler Brentmore
Contribution to Mankind and other stories of the Dark - use the coupon and get this for FREE!!

The best of it is, you can "gift" a novel to someone, too. Just follow the instructions. It's never been easier to indulge yourself, or someone you love.

29 February 2012

Updates - Am I Bald?

There's nothing quite like having a laptop go belly-up for causing sheer panic. It didn't die, exactly, the Windows Installer file was deemed corrupted needing a Recovery return to factory settings. Cue a mad session of archiving to an almost full free-standing hard drive.

Recovery itself was fairly painless, as was reinstalling the files. It was the sheer hassle of re-installing the software that caught me unawares. I'd forgotten they, too, would all return to factory settings, needing passwords and all sorts of odd input. The amount of hair-tugging... it's a wonder I'm not bald.

However, as the saying goes 'these things, too, shall pass', and they did. Or, to be more precise, they are. I still have to reload Dragon Naturally Speaking, and for the life of me aren't sure where my 'profile' will be saved, so I may yet have to reteach it all my idiosyncrasies. And we were getting on so well.

Despite the set-back,  there is news:

Dead Men's Fingers is now live at Smashwords for those wanting ePub or other formats, and has already been placed on a reader's Favourites list. There is still a bit of tidying to be done with the admin for this alter ego of mine, like figuring how to run two Google usernames from the same account, but I'm getting there.

The Bull At The Gate, the second in the trilogy of contemporary paranormal thrillers which started with Torc of Moonlight, is finally rising through the gears after far too long a suspension. It feels good to be home.

10 February 2012

Tyler Brentmore Rides Again!

Another book cover, another ebook - this time a Western.  

Dead Men's Fingers was written some years ago due to my accepting a dare to write one. Much to my surprise it was taken by a UK publisher, but that publisher didn't want the author name Linda Acaster emblazoned across the cover, so Tyler Brentmore was welcomed to share my desk.

The novella - it's 35,000 words - is still around in normal and large print, so when the rights were reverted I sluiced the dust from my slicker and reacquainted myself with Tyler Brentmore. My androgynous counterpart has a website of his own http://www.tylerbrentmore.com, and its header carries one of my photographs, taken on location as our press officer might say. Well, if I can imagine a writing alter ego I can imagine a press officer.

I'll preserve the site for the Westerns. Yes, there may well be more, but don't hold your breath. I have a queue of ongoing projects to complete, so ideas resurrected from mere notes in a file will have to wait their turn. In the meantime I'll be adding interesting facts about the Old West - well, interesting to me, because that's what fires a writer's imagination.

At the moment Dead Men's Fingers is only available for the Kindle, but other formats will join it, just as soon as I figure how to manage multiple author-names in the software. Life is never dull, huh? God bless technology.

Currently available on all Amazon Kindle store sites including:
Amazon USA $2.99
Amazon UK   £1.95

If you have time, mosey across to read an excerpt.

21 January 2012

Writers never stop learning

At least they shouldn’t. The industry is moving so fast that it’s difficult to keep abreast of all we need to, but that doesn’t mean we should disappear into our comfort zones and plug our ears. More than any other time in the last century we have to be all things to all people – writer, editor, distributor, promoter – it’s almost as if we’ve returned to a more technologically advanced 19th century when the likes of Dickens and Twain had to take their own works by the scruff of the neck and propel them into the hands of an audience.

Over the last ten days I’ve taken two online seminars. They didn’t deliver information I hadn’t already heard, but they’ve not been a waste of my time. I wasn’t looking for something innovative; I was looking for an angle I could transfer to my own situation.

I’m currently revising a Western for upload as an ebook. One look at the array of covers round this post should make most readers blink. Er… another genre?

According to most received wisdom this is spreading myself dangerously thin. Writers should focus, on one genre, on one aspect of that genre… and I agree – to a point. It’s what I tried to do when I first started. But where did that leave me when editors changed, when lists contracted? Even having an agent didn’t help. I have writer friends who have needed to change their author names twice or three times just to keep a foot in the print industry, and those are the ones I know of. It’s not something writers tend to boast about, often seeing it as a failing on their part. I’ve come to see it as anything but.

The Western will come out under a pseudonym, but only because that way it’ll link to the print versions. The cover, though, will be on this blog, despite it standing chalk to cheese beside my other fiction.

At the top of this blog I state that I’m not a pigeon. Maybe I was never meant to be. Perhaps few of us are. Perhaps it’s merely a mantra we’ve been led to believe is the truth.

9 January 2012

Talking the Writing

Seaside Radio, local to Holderness where I live, were good enough to offer a joint interview with myself and Crime writer Penny Grubb. Much to our surprise the interview was video, not audio. Our interviewer, Paula Coomber, was after a loose chat with plenty of frivolity. I'm not sure this was quite what she bargained for, but all three of us enjoyed our afternoon, and it sure beats being shut in a room quietly tapping at a keyboard.

Parts 1 and 2 are already up on YouTube. Pour yourself a cuppa, grab a biscuit - both are just below shot - and come join us.

Interview Part 1
Interview Part 2

I can see the potential here for video book chats, and for audio podcasting, especially with Reading A Writer's Mind... Time for some research, I think.

6 January 2012

Being interviewed for Radio - by Video!

I know it's already 6th, but it seems hardly two minutes since I was watching London's fireworks on the television and saluting in the New Year. My work life has been busy right across the festive period. People seemed to clear their desks in my direction before they broke up for Christmas.

As a result there are various things in the pipeline, to be revealed as they mature. The first was a joint invitation for me and Crime Writer Penny Grubb to be interviewed by Paula Coomber from Seaside Radio, which is based in the Holderness area where we live.

So yesterday we pulled up at Penny's place to indulge in a big pot of tea and lots of biscuits for what I took for granted was to be an audio interview, to be augmented by a couple of snaps for Seaside Radio's website. Imagine my horror when out of a medium-sized camera bag came a very small video camera. It's a good job it held an enormous memory card because once we started...

As readers of this blog will realise I prefer to hide behind my bookcovers, but I'm offering a straight pic of what we look like as a warning in advance of the YouTube video, which I'm told is going to be in two (long) parts. If you think this is bad enough, wait until you see me animated!