Saturday, 25 October 2014

The PINK SOFA meets Lorraine Mace

Lorraine Mace, who also writes as Frances di Plino, is another of the Crooked Cat writers. She is able to turn her hand to several genres: crime fiction, children's fiction and very witty articles for Writer's News. Like me, she does the occasional school visit to enthuse children about reading and especially about reading her books. I asked her to talk about one of these visits.

''As authors, one of the banes of our profession is that we very rarely get feedback from our readers. Sure, we get reviews on such sites as Amazon and Goodreads, but if one compares the number of sales to the number of reviews, it is clear that we have no idea what the vast majority of our readers think of our books.

Writing as Frances di Plino, I am the author of the D. I. Paolo Storey crime thrillers. On the first three in the series I have, in total across and, just 81 reviews – and some of those are duplicated, appearing on both sites! As I know I sell far in excess of 81 copies each and every month, it means the ratio of reviewer to reader is somewhat skewed.

Under my real name, I write children’s novels. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit two schools to read to prospective readers – and this is where the point of the above information comes in. Suddenly, I moved from faceless author with invisible and mainly silent readers to a (slightly shaking) real person in front of a hall full of extremely visible (and potentially vocal) students.

If you intend to read to a large group of children, let me warn you here and now: it is not for the fainthearted!

At the beginning, they will gaze at you with such intensity you will be convinced your skirt is tucked into your underwear. Such is the power of their collective stare, even if you are male and know full well you are wearing trousers, you might still glance down to see if a bit of Victoria’s Secret (or Primark’s finest) is on show.

By the time you have stammered out who you are (if you can still remember) and told them the title of your book (ditto), you will be wondering how it is possible that only two minutes have passed out of the forty-five you have been allocated.
As soon as you begin reading, those intent little faces will switch off and you’ll wonder if you’re actually reading to yourself. I can honestly say I have never felt so alone as I did while reading Vlad the Inhaler at the first school. Every few lines, I took the opportunity to look up and engage with my listeners. At least, I would have done, if they had even glanced in my direction.

They looked out of the windows, stared at the ceiling, studied their feet, picked their noses, and generally gave the impression that they would rather be anywhere than in that hall, at that time, listening to my book!

By the end of the passage I’d selected, I felt completely demoralised and was on the point of vowing to give up writing completely. The hall was silent, the intent stares back, and it was with no real expectation of success that I asked: any questions?

The moment when a child put up her hand has stayed with me ever since. Her question? “Please, miss, where can I buy your book?”

That opened the floodgates. Hands shot in the air, attached to squirming bodies intent on gaining my attention. The questions were brilliant – showing they’d listened to every word. Nearly all the children dragged their parents in at the end of the day to buy a signed copy.

The reading at the next school followed that exact same pattern – but this time I didn’t allow myself to be fazed by the stares, or the apparent boredom while I was reading. The time at the end flew past with, once again, intelligent and thought-provoking questions being fired at me from all parts of the room.

I have several other schools to visit this term and I’m still a bit nervous at how my listeners will react. After all, children are the greatest levellers – if they don’t like something, it shows.

But when they engage with a book you’ve written, there isn’t anything else in the world that will provide an ego boost to match it.

A page of great reviews on Amazon? Pah! Give me a room full of excited children asking what’s going to happen in book two, or telling me which character from Vlad the Inhaler they would most like to be, or meeting up with them in the bookshop later and finding out Vlad the Inhaler is now their favourite book in the whole world. No five-star review even comes close.''

Lorraine Mace is the humour columnist for Writing Magazine and a competition judge for Writers’ Forum. She is a former tutor for the Writers Bureau, and is the author of the Writers Bureau course, Marketing Your Book. She is also co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam of The Writer's ABC Checklist (Accent Press). Lorraine runs a private critique service for writers (link below). She is the founder of the Flash 500 competitions covering flash fiction, humour verse and novel openings.

Her debut novel for children, Vlad the Inhaler, was published in the USA on 2nd April 2014.

Writing as Frances di Plino, she is the author of the crime/thriller series featuring Detective Inspector Paolo Storey: Bad Moon Rising, Someday Never Comes and Call It Pretending
The fourth in the series, Looking for a Reason, is due for release by Crooked Cat Publishing on 28th October.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Infrastructure Issues

As many of you know, I am a local community activist, or thorough nuisance, depending upon which side of Harpenden Town Council table you sit. Apparently I am known in some quarters as: ''The Coldharbour Lane Witch'' - a label I wear with pride. For the past six years, I have fought the 100% Tory Town Council to preserve a small council ex-allotment site, home to several species of listed Wildlife, from being sold off so a local developer can build ''affordable housing'' - a euphemism for ''housing that only rich people moving from London can afford or investment opportunities for ourselves or our friends.''

When we moved to Harpenden 23 years ago, there were people who still referred to it as ''the village''. They'd be hard put to do so now. Development has taken place at a ferocious rate, with all the concomitant evils of a high street that becomes Carmageddon during the rush hour, the school run and any problems with the M1. Now the Green Belt is being threatened, and the usual Nimbys who have staved off development in their area for EVER are re-bleating their mantra that ''the council has plenty of land within the town for development'' - ie: push more houses into poorer areas (like mine) so WE - your core voters can continue to enjoy our pleasant views.

Stupid cycle crossing
The picture above gives you an idea of what life is like here when it rains. Thanks to tarmacking a natural path to turn it into a cycle way and the utterly stupid cycle crossing (see right) which funnels all the water down from the main road into the road at the back of my house we now have regular flooding. This is exacerbated by the ''2 for 1'' building nearby and, should the plan to build on my site, just beyond the trees in the 2 flooding pictures, go ahead it can only get worse.

Recent flood with 2CV
And then there are the regular sewage overflows - which Thames Water knows all about but says they are not going to fix as it would mean relaying the whole main sewer which would cost too much. The Tory leader of the Cabinet stated at a recent Planning Meeting that the current building plan for 500 more houses couldn't take into account any infrastructure backlogs - translation for the uninitiated: we don't give a toss about 'small' local issues like drains, potholes, crumbling sewers, overcrowding, flooding, roads, parking, school places etc because they are the concern of the County Council.

State of the art patchwork road
No joined up thinking is being done. The County Council are currently running an infrastructure deficit of millions, so are probably not  - wild guess here - going to spend it fixing our 'small' local issues either. Even if they aren't small to the people who live here and get flooded or who can't park outside their own houses or are worried about future sewage backup if even more pressure is exacted upon the system, or who feed the badgers and care about the Roman Snails.

Hopefully, we can show them exactly how we feel about things next May, when most of the Town Council is up for re-election. A perfect storm is brewing, both in the real and the murky world of local politics. Mops and buckets at the ready.

Friday, 10 October 2014

The PINK SOFA meets Andrew French, author

Andrew French is one of the many writers I met on Twitter. He has a wicked and wonderful sense of 
humour and is totally worth following at @AFrenchAuthor. He's also very supportive of other writers, and retweets their stuff regularly. BH took Andrew's first book, Assassin's Run to Italy with him, and enjoyed it immensely. He is now reading the third one. I have just started the first one. The Pink Sofa is reading the second. Says it all.  In honour of Andrew's visit, there is freshly brewed coffee and chocolate cupcakes on the coffee table.
I asked Andrew how he got into writing...

'' I have always dabbled a bit with writing. I wrote comedy scripts when I was at school, some of which I submitted to the BBC. I always fancied the thought of writing a book but always managed to find a good reason not to. For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed reading spy stories, Ian Fleming, Len Deighton, Alistair Maclean and Frederick Forsythe being my particular favourites.

When my youngest son, Matthew was born with some medical problems, I took the decision to give up work to care for him full-time. Once he became fully well and went to school I tried unsuccessfully to resume my career. A man taking a four year sabbatical makes him less attractive to employers apparently. So, no longer being able to find a good reason why I shouldn’t, I decided to write a book

I spent most of my working life in the funeral service. I began making the tea and sweeping up for a few hours a week in the local family-run Funeral Directors. I found the work fascinating. So much so, I became a full-time funeral assistant after a few months. My progression from then on was somewhat meteoric. I qualified as a Funeral Director, then as a bereavement counsellor specialising in children’s grief. The family-run business was acquired by a large independent funeral company and I became the branch manager. Two years later I became the company’s head of operations and two years after that I was the Managing Director responsible for thirty-three funeral businesses across England and Wales.

Michael Prentiss is the hero of my spy novels. I introduced him in the first book, Assassin’s Run set in 1980. Prentiss is a sixteen year old young man attending the army’s selection centre to join the Royal Military Police. He is, however, recruited by a secret army intelligence unit known as The Detachment, or simply, ‘The Det’, for an unofficial operation in Londonderry. The Det’s role is to combat the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland at the height of ‘The Troubles’.  

The Michael Prentiss series
Michael Prentiss is a man born out of time. He believes passionately in chivalry, not as we know the word today, but in its truest sense of courage, bravery, honour and defending the innocent whatever the cost. Prentiss is one of three main characters in my books. Michael Prentiss, Colonel Charles Mabbitt, the CO of The Det, and Richard Jordan, one of its best operators. These are my three musketeers. Although all my books have rather intricate plots with many twists and turns, they are first and foremost character driven. I take the reader on a journey, following the lives of these three men and how their experiences change them, not always for the better. 

Prentiss in particular has developed into a complex and multi-faceted character. What I love most is the bond the three men develop over the six years over which the four books are set.
I spend a great deal of time research. As the books are set in the 1980’s I have to ensure that everything is ‘right’. From the cars they drive, the food they eat and the locations I put them in, I make sure that it is as factual as it possibly can be. This gives the stories a feel of authenticity and almost one of nostalgia to those reading it that can remember that period.

I felt it was important to publish both in e-book and conventional book form. As popular as the e-book has become there will always be those who prefer to read an actual book. To hold a book and turn it’s pages one by one, admiring it on a bookshelf is a pleasure in itself. No matter how advanced technologically we become I feel there will always be a place for a traditional book.

I am now a permanent stay-at-home-dad. I try and write every day when I’m not doing the washing and ironing and cleaning, you know, all the exciting things of life. If the inspiration light bulb goes on I can write for six hours straight, typing like Jessica Fletcher in the opening credits of Murder She Wrote. Other times I struggle to write a paragraph. I spend a lot of time working out the plot. The trouble with writing about terrorists is that you have to come up with a plot that’s not only feasible but believable. This means the further I get into the book the more absorbed I get with it until it pretty much takes over my every waking moment.

When I’m not writing I love watching TV. Most of my free time however is spent with my wife Alison and my youngest son, Matthew. They keep me sane. Alison is my greatest critic and best friend and Matthew just makes me laugh all the time. I’m a lucky man.''

You can download a FREE sample of Assassin's Run HERE

Thanks Andrew. Finally, someone who publishes in both formats! So, while Andrew tucks into coffee and cake, why not join him on the sofa ... there's plenty of room and ask him a question.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Those ''Little Moments''

Who was it said they wished there was a stair lift that reached the top landing before you'd forgotten why you wanted to go up there in the first place? No, I don't know either, but the first three words of that sentence are currently proving to be rather a leitmotiv for my life. Do not get me wrong: I love entering vintagedom. The hair has never been redder, the attitude sassier or feistier and as for caring what the world and its partner thinks of me, I'm so waay ahead of Rhett Butler.

And yet, over and above all the feist and sass and damn, there are moments when stuff .... well ... somehow eludes me. A realization that was brought home vividly the other week as I stood outside a John Lewis store cursing because it was shut, and suddenly perceived the reason I couldn't get in was because I was pushing a door marked pull. Similarly, when I arrived back home minus the things I'd bought as I'd managed to mislay them somewhere between the counter where I paid for them and the homeward journey. And again the time I had a full-on public row with the Automated EE woman because I dropped my credit card while topping up the mobile on a moving bus and she didn't do ''hang on, just got to pick up the credit card''.

No, I am not going gaga, to use the medical terminology. Just getting a little .... what's the word I'm groping for? Yes, that. Like the other day I was waiting at the bus stop to catch the Luton bus, when I was actually supposed to be catching the St Albans bus which comes on the opposite side of the road and goes in the opposite direction. Fortunately remembered just as it turned the corner. Poor bus driver nearly had a heart attack as I dived in front of his wheels, arm outstretched.

Then there is the mobile phone. I put it down. Somewhere. Most of the calls to my mobile are me ringing it from the landline to find out where it is, having looked up the number beforehand because I can never ... umm ... thingy Thank goodness it's only a cheapo Nokia, suitable for the technically challenged and easily replaceable if I ever flush it down the loo. Which is always a possibility. Gawd knows what might happen if I had one of those £700 bendy i-Phone 6 things.

My best friend Elissa and I have these ... whatsits ... every time we go out together. Sometimes we find ourselves driving along somewhere without the slightest clue where we're supposed to be heading, though we knew when we started out. Or we can't find her silver Toyota in a multi-storey though in our defence there are always so many silver Toyotas in multi-storeys, silver being the go-to colour for most modern cars that it isn't really our fault. We have been reduced to pacing the aisles clicking her key fob in the hope that the car will respond eventually.

It's infuriating, but there appears to be nothing I can do to prevent it happening. And it does seem to be happening with alarming frequency. Whatever it is. So there you are ... who are you again? Anyway, you'll have to excuse me now: I have an elsewhere to be. Or I will have, once I can remember where the hell it is.

SEE ALSO: Aldi Antics
                     Transports of Delight

If you would like to read my short story 'The Fair Infanta' on Wattpad, you can do so HERE

Friday, 26 September 2014

Serial Killers

As you probably all know, Diamonds&Dust, which was rejected out of hand by my ex-agent as ''not remotely publishable'' and subsequently went on not only to be published, but to be up for the CWA Historical Dagger, the Walter Scott Prize and the Folio Society Prize, is now developing offspring.

It wasn't meant to. Seriously. Grateful as I was to Crooked Cat Books, I didn't envisage trotting out the two Victorian detectives Stride and Cully again. But like lily pond paintings by Monet and Haydn String Quartets, once I'd started, it seemed logical to keep going.

Thus the sequel, Honour&Obey whose title alone will be a cause of much distress to the US market, will hit the literary stratosphere in November. You have probably seen the Tweets. You may even have been invited to the virtual Facebook launch - please note: Victorian dress is compulsory and to those who attended last year's launch, yes we have secured the services of Ralph the Marvellous Performing Dog once again.

There are those writers who regard a series as a bit of a ''cop-out'': after all, you've got all your characters already written for you. To them I would say: writing a series is MUCH harder than producing a one-off text. And I know what I'm talking about: this is my second series of books. (The Spy Girl series for Usborne was the first)

The main problem is that, unless you started with the idea of writing a series, and few authors do, they just tend to evolve, you are stuck with whatever you wrote in the first one. You cannot radically alter the appearance nor personality of the main character/s without readers going ''What the ...?'' After all, it was how they were in book 1 that will keep them reading books 2, 3, 4, 5 etc. You can and must develop the main characters, but in essence, they have to bear some resemblance to how they were in the beginning.

Then there is the problem of keeping the plot momentum going. I find book 2 is usually the easiest, as it seems to evolve naturally out of the first one. Book 3, however, is far more problematic. New areas have to be introduced to keep the reader interested. Some fundamental shifting of perspective must take place, or else book 3 becomes merely a watered down version of the previous two. Actually, book 3 is usually the pivotal one upon which the rest of the series rests. If you cannot pull it off successfully, it is best to admit defeat and pretend you only meant to write two in the first place.

By book 4, the pitfall is over-confidence. You have run the gauntlet of three books. You feel the surge of expertise as fingers hit keyboard. This, after the previous three, will be a doddle to write. You have your characters, you know how the story arc works. Sometimes this attitude pays off: I still think Dead Man Talking, the fourth Spy Girl book, is the best plotted. However, beware: book 4 can so easily wonder off into alien territory, or become a repetition of book 3, with added lacklustre.

I have never got further than book 5 (and Usborne turned it down) so I cannot speak from experience, but I can say from avidly reading crime series, that some writers manage to sustain plot, characters and reader interest beyond book 5, but many more don't. The trouble with series is that publishers LOVE them. They are easy to market, and each book sells on the back of the previous ones. Thus the temptation to go on churning them out year after year, when by rights the whole thing should have been allowed to quietly slink off and hide in a dark corner after the fifth one.

I have been told, though, that the ''real money'' comes from a 5 book series, which means most other writers will have been told this too. This is probably why some of them are keeping doggedly going 10 + books later. I can't see myself getting as far as a fifth book right now. Mind, I never thought I'd get as far as a third. In the meantime, I plot on with book 3, crossing my fingers, hoping that it will avoid the ubiquitous potholes and that I can pull it off successfully yet again.

If you would like to download a free sample of Diamonds&Dust A Victorian Murder Mystery, you can do so HERE. US readers can do so HERE

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Flying Solo

Taxing times at Hedges Towers. As some of you know, BH is off on his Annual Italian Jaunt, visiting lovely places, eating lovely food and indulging in the twin cultural pursuits of opera and football. Oh, and a further visit to the Maserati factory in Modena, just in case this year, they might be giving away free samples.

I did seriously think about joining him for a week, despite my known travel phobia, but then I fell foul of the Passport Office, who wanted to charge me an inordinate amount of money to renew my passport and have now refused to send back my old one plus the photos I paid for. So I am confined to the Kingdom of Westfield (population: 2) - if you remember, we seceded from the rest of Harpenden in a defiant gesture against what we see as a ruthless and totalitarian regime.

I could, of course, issue my own passport, but the printer is playing up (see below). However, I may start opening diplomatic negotiations with Scotland, should the Yes vote win the day on Thursday. I am happy to offer the newly refurbished shed as a Caledonian Consulate and I'm sure, once we have our flag and anthem worked out, we we can all come to some mutually amicable trade arrangement.

Be that as it may, the usual Things That Go Wrong thing has kicked in. Keys have walked. My mobile phone vanished for 24 hours. The 2CV has had carburettor problems, which Big Dave assures me have been 95% sorted. The 5% is waking me up at night though. Along with everything else. This always happens whenever I fly solo: I am wide awake at 2 am, over-thinking and focusing obsessively on stuff. It's a form of Attention Surplus Hyperactivity Disorder, thought after a week of broken nights, it all feels more like one slice of a madness sandwich.

Were this not enough, I am also being re-awoken 4 hours later by the Astonishment of Kitten, whose arrival is heralded by crashes, squawks and the thunder of tiny paws. It is pretty well impossible to be cross with a kitten, but one jumping ecstatically on you at 6 am could prove the exception to the rule. If I could only train her to make and bring up a mug of coffee, she'd be slightly more welcome.

Meanwhile paperwork piles up, disasters rain down, the grass continues to grow and I get increasingly irate with Classic FM presenters: It's anTITHesis, for goodness sake - any alternative proNUNciation is totally abHORrent. Ah, the joys of flying solo.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

A Letter To My Granddaughter, Aged 6 Months

A little stewed apple goes a long way

Dear Avalyn Grace

I wrote to you 6 months ago, when you were born (here it is). So much has changed since that day, so I thought I'd write to you again. The biggest change has been in you. Here you are, sitting up (a bit topply still but you're getting there) and beginning to enjoy some solid food - even if much of it gets spread all over your face.

You now recognise members of your family - your eyes light up and you smile with delight whenever you see your mum and dad and gratifyingly, when you see your granddad and me. Your smile is as wide as Africa, and brightens the dullest day. You have started to ''sing'' loudly and frequently delight bus passengers and people in restaurants with your vocal talents. At least, we hope they are delighted.

A smile as wide as Africa

You still don't go through the night - luckily your mum mastered the art of sleeping standing up while doing her Territorial Army Training - we wondered at the time whether it was a skill she'd ever need to use in the future. How wrong we were. It's certainly coming into its own now.

Along with your stunning ability to keep two grown adults awake during much of the hours of darkness, you are also managing NOT to conform to the many expert baby manuals they dutifully bought when you were born. You ''should'' be rolling, you ''should be'' cutting teeth, you ''should be'' doing this...or that....but alas, you haven't read the books, so you are developing at your own pace.

The 'bucket list' of achievements means nothing as far as you are concerned. You are doing your own thing, riding your own wave. As you will spend most of your young life being measured against a set of ridiculous and arbitrary developmental milestones, go ahead. Refuse to be straitjacketed and enjoy being yourself.

I cannot believe that a whole six months of your life has sped by and in another six months, you will be a year old. Soon after that, I shall be looking after you when your mum returns to work. Admittedly I'm not one of the ''experts' but I have my own 'bucket list' all ready. On it are: love, cuddles, fun and adventures. And I promise you, I will make sure you manage to achieve them all.

With my love


Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sward

Most of you know that I am a local ''activist' (or bloody nuisance, depending upon what side of the Council fence you sit). For the past seven years I have campaigned to save an ex-allotment space from being sold off for ''affordable housing'' (see: if you have enough time or a strong stomach.)

Much of the campaign has been conducted via letters in the local paper. The Editor is happy to publish what I see as wryly witty Swiftian missives, because they wind people up, and anything that provokes debate is good for sales. The letters have quite a following ... especially when I get piled into, and I have to say that very little of what I get on Twitter compares to the splenetic rantings of the ironectomied in response to something that was written with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Which segues nicely into the new Strategic Local Plan - something all local authorities have to produce. Ours has now shuffled shamefacedly into the light of day. An independent consultant has looked at a Google Map, seen some green bits, and decided they'd be good to build on. One bit contains a local bluebell wood and a newly refurbished teenage playground, but let that pass. The main problem is that a rented farmer's field to the North of Harpenden (the posh Tory bit that NEVER has any major development. Ever.) has been highlighted as a potential housing estate.

Cue angry letter from 'No I Am Not A Nimby' resident, saying that it would be far better to sacrifice local allotments than build on his bit of ''Greenbelt''; allotments being a minority hobby, taking up a lot of urban green space that could be more usefully turned over to housing. It needed a reply, so I wrote to the paper proposing that instead of sacrificing valuable allotments that provided havens for wildlife, and food for hard-pressed families, the council might like to turn over some of the local golf courses to satisfy housing needs instead.

I suggested that there seemed little benefit in keeping all these rolling swathes of green grass merely to allow a small and exclusive elite to wander across hitting little balls into holes (sic). This would preserve the Greenbelt AND the allotments together. The response was immediate and totally predictable. However in an unexpected twist, last week when the furore appeared to have all died down, lo! another letter - not from One Of The Usual Suspects, but from someone actually supporting my 'suggestion', saying what a very good idea it was, and that they hoped the council would seriously take it on board.

I am gleefully awaiting the inevitable response, pen in hand, ink pot at the ready.

If you would like to read a free sample of my novel Diamonds& Dust, A Victorian Murder Mystery, you can do so HERE. US readers can do so HERE

Update: Another letter in this weeks' local paper supporting my idea of building on golf courses. This could run and run....or stroll and stroll.

Friday, 29 August 2014

8 Top Blogging Tips

This blog first appeared on my Twitter friend @TerryTyler4's site. I am re-posting it here as it stands alongside the 3 Twitter posts: Twitter For Fledglings. Blogs seem to be falling out of fashion again and I think I am one of the few who still posts regularly, which is a shame. Hopefully, this may encourage a few people to start their own blog, or restart regular blog posting ...

When my first book was published in 1992, the internet was in its infancy, ebooks were a glint in some geek’s eye and Amazon was just a sapling. There was no need to develop an online presence as there was no real ‘online’. And anyway, there were bookshops in every high street.
Fast forward twenty-two years and my, how things have changed! Now the proliferation of self and small publishers, advances in digital publishing, the sad demise of local bookshops and the all-pervasive presence of the internet means that any writer who wants to be seen or to promote or sell their work has to use social media platforms. One of my favourite online platforms comes via my blog.
I started the blog on May 12th 2012 principally because I was planning to self-publish an ebook, Jigsaw Pieces. The kind friendly writer mentoring me told me I needed a blog and I always do as I’m told. The first post was read by three people, one of whom (my mentor) was nice enough to comment. Now, the blog regularly gets 500+ hits a week, rising to over 800+ as it travels gently through cyberspace and can elicit as many as 40 comments.
I don’t sell a lot of books via my blog, but that isn’t its primary purpose. It is an outlet for other types of writing; a space where I can share my thoughts on life and stuff and people can read them and get to know me. Hopefully if they like what they read, they THEN might go on to try one of my books. 
So what makes a “good’’ blog?
Posting regularly. I put up a new blog every Saturday morning at 8 am. This encourages a regular reading clientele.
Responding to comments. People like to know their comments have been read and absorbed by me. Sometimes, whole strings can develop, as people also interact with each other, which is great fun to follow.
Varying the content. I blog about local politics, my writing processes, the madness of life in general and the Adventures of the 2 Grumpy Old Sods aka me and my husband.
Using Twitter hashtags. I use these as ways of targeting the blogs at a specific readership. Some tags are obvious : #wwwBlogs are posts written on Wednesday by (largely) women writers.#MondayBlogs opens the door on Mondays. I also use #UKAD, a generic site for all sorts of writers and artists. Or, depending on the content, I may use #histifc for posts about Victorian life, or #amwriting for advice posts.
Hosting fellow writers. Every month I feature a Guest Post which is a chance not only to draw other people to the blog, but also gives a platform to another writer with a new book to publicise. Supporting my friends is a big part of what I believe in as a writer.
Eschewing advertising. There is money to be made from selling advertising space on one’s blog. I don’t do this, as it detracts from the content. Also I feel we are bombarded enough with adverts in everyday life.
Visiting & commenting on other blogs. Essential. Apart from being a polite acknowledgement that someone has taken the time and trouble to comment on mine, it also helps me to become known by the writing/reading community. And there are some great posts out there.
Writing guest posts. A great honour, as well as another opportunity to get out and presence myself somewhere else. Unless absolutely snowed under with life, I never turn down an invitation because who knows who may be reading my words?

If you would like to download a free sample of Diamonds&Dust, A Victorian Murder Mystery, you can do so here. US readers can do so here

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Present Tense

A very frenetic week at Hedges Towers. Those of you who follow the adventures of the Two Grumpy Old Sods will know we recently lost our remaining elderly cat Holly, having said a sad goodbye to her brother Bart in November.

As a house without cats is like a BLT sandwich without the B, I decided to go kitten hunting round the animal rescue places. At first, without much success. Oh, they HAD kittens, were up to their kneecaps in kittens, but that was last week. Two kittens? 'Fraid not.

Then last week, we struck gold. Four out of a litter of five kittens at the Blue Cross had been reserved. The fifth, a little tortie, was still looking for someone to take her home. And, I was told, would be better as a solo kitten. Welcome Halley - called after the man who invented comets.We always seem to give our cats similar sounding names (Honey, Holly, Halley): because as senescence descends, it makes it easier to remember.

So, currently, I am kitten whispering as she finds her paws and destroys the house. The cosy bed has been rejected, the edge of the carpet substituted for the scratching post and she has turned her nose up at the Whiskas kitten that I was assured she ate. So far so normal.

I was engaged upon yet another 'find the kitten' exercise when, pulling out BH's favourite chair, I discovered a SpaceNK bag tucked behind it. Now, BH, bless him, has a bit of a rep for losing my birthday and Christmas presents. Two years ago, he lost an envelope of vouchers for my favourite clothes shop. Luckily, the owners remembered him buying them, so let me ''spend'' them.

When I say BH ''loses'' presents, what he actually does is hide them so securely that he can't remember where he put them in the first place. This is because I go present hunting. The SpaceNK bag was meant to be last year's Christmas' present. I had carefully written down exactly what I wanted to make it easy for him. (The same tactic, apparently, is currently employed by women all over the country who have run out of that Nars blusher called Super Orgasm. The SpaceNK staff say whenever they see a man creeping cautiously into the shop holding a piece of paper, it's a safe bet that's what they've come to buy).

So, we have a new kitten, and I have reserves of my lovely Nude Treatment Oil. Bit of a win:win situation. I'm now hoping Halley will help me track down this year's Christmas present.....even if it is by default.