Saturday 29 November 2014

So You've Published A Book?

Last Tuesday, the sequel to Diamonds & Dust came out. It's called Honour & Obey (I'm into linked titles) and if you cast your eyes to the right space bar, you can see it. I'm into linked covers too. If you click on either cover, you can read a free sample. It would be easy now to sit back and preen. Many writers do. The book is out. Let the sales start.

Oh no they won't!

Writing a book and getting it published, by whatever conduit you use, is only the start. To get any sales, you have to make people aware of your masterpiece. In this blog, I'm exploring some of the ways I use to promote my work, because unless you are out there, loud and proud, nobody will notice you.

1. Social Media: I've blogged before about how to use Twitter; you can read it HERE. And about using blogs to enhance your digital presence - read it HERE. Suffice to say that most of my sales come from Twitter. And practically all come from people recommending the books to other readers, and that comes from me chatting, interacting and posting funny stuff. In other words, I'm a friend first, an online character second, and a writer selling books third.

2. Press Releases: The local press are (usually) delighted to receive a press release, a publicity pic and a free copy to review.

2a. Press Releases: Anywhere your book is set will be delighted also.

3. Local Radio: Contact them via Twitter, phone them up, arrange to do a studio interview. Listen, I sound like a 15 year old mainlining helium, but I still do it.

4.National Press: Will be interested if you have a brilliant backstory, particularly if it involves abuse, or hardship. Also if you earned shedloads of advance shekels or you are very very photogenic. I haven't cracked this one yet. Maybe you will.

5. Literary Festivals: Everybody's doing it. Local library will have contacts of yours. Get in touch. I did the first St Albans Literary Festival this November. I ran a workshop on how to get published ... ooh, and I had some books on a side-table.

6. Signings: Local bookshop is worth approaching. If it's Waterstones, good luck.

7.Talks: WI - you have to audition and be approved, but it's worth it. Local book clubs/writers' groups are also worth contacting. If you write YA or childrens' fiction, schools are always keen to have a visiting writer. Make sure you get paid - the Society of Authors has recommended fees.

As you now see, there is a lot more to being a writer than merely writing. Writing is the ''easy'' bit! And lest you should eye your mainstream published brethren and mutter 'bet they don't have to do all this' - YES THEY DO! Big publishers are very selective about who they spend their publicity budgets promoting. If it ain't you, you will still have to do the legwork. I've spoken to some ''famous'' names, and it is so.

Finally - make sure you are registered for PLR - Public Lending Rights: that's the money paid by libraries every time your book is borrowed. You can register at Every little helps.

If I've missed out your favourite publicity medium, then please mention it in the comments. Congratulations on being a published author, welcome to the club. Now get out there and sell!

Saturday 22 November 2014

THE PINK SOFA meets Carol Anne Hunter

The Very Late Carol Anne Hunter – Writer?

Every now and then,The Pink Sofa falls in love with one of its guests. Carol Anne is its latest crush. I met Carol Anne when Crooked Cat asked me to advise her as she entered the tricky land of Social Media. Carol Anne is a whirlwind of fun mixed with compassion and a HUGE writing talent. The smitten Pink Sofa is reading 'Project Me' at the moment, and wishes you all to know that it is THE Go-to book this Christmas (stuff my new book - but that's furniture for you). In honour of Carol Anne's visit, there are bowls of mincemeant ice cream and chocolate cupcakes on the coffee table. Go Carol Anne ....

The Very Late Carol Anne Hunter – Writer?
If you ask me what I do, I’ll say I’m retired, or a carer, or I work part-time behind a bar. I never say I’m a writer, although it’s all I want to do, it just feels too grandiose to be me. Or maybe it has something to do with the time it took me to write my first book and see it published – six years all in, although I wasn’t writing full-time and there were long spells where I didn’t touch the manuscript at all. But I always came back to it and I knew I couldn’t let it fester in a drawer. It also has to do with my disbelief at being published at age sixty. 

The term ‘late starter’ should be my mantra. So should ‘endurance’. I don’t mind telling you that Crooked Cat offered me a contract from the book’s fourteenth submission. I comfort myself with the thought that much better writers than me also braved this test of self-belief. Dedication is the name of the writing game; persistence is its publishing partner.
Carol's latest novel
Twenty-seven years of working with Jobcentre Plus (DHSS as was) gave me lots of writing fodder, which was often less to do with the behaviour of our public and more to do with the characters amongst our staff. The men at the golf club are a great source of banter, too, especially when they’ve quaffed a glass or two.

 I also hail from a huge extended family – my mum was one of eleven and I’m one of around forty grandchildren (give or take). The eight year old me would be sent behind the couch to play while mum and her sisters gossiped about family matters and boy, did I have big ears. I’d pick up on snippets such as, ‘Remember when whatshername had the B-A-B-Y?’ While they rattled the skeletons in the family closet, I learned the clan’s secrets. 

In my defence, their chats were educational. Well, as far as spelling went, that is. And I have a handy quirk – I can remember almost every one-liner, put-down or clever remark ever uttered in my presence, all of which have been captured and stored in my computer, and are jostling for their moment on a page. One came in email form.  I messaged a friend late one night before climbing into bed and signed off with ‘Nite nite, I’m off to bobos.’ She came back with, ‘ooh, is that yon new night club in town?’ Priceless. Like I’d ever be caught dead in a night club.
After early retirement I didn’t want to go back to targets, deadlines and budgets, but I craved a challenge. Then I thought back to my early thirties when I’d taken an English ‘O’ level night class. The tutor, who was more accustomed to being ignored by twelve year olds than teaching enthusiastic adults, refused to mark my first submitted essay and accused me of copying it from a book. I was so busy flouncing out of her class that I didn’t catch on to the compliment at first. My indignance took me back to a different class the following year and I achieved an ‘A’ in the English Higher. With distinction. And bells and whistles. And a happy dance. Every cloud…

I wanted to take my studies further but by then I had met the man I later married. He was starting up a new business and I became his part-time company secretary and step-mum to his three kids while still working for DHSS full-time. Writing was relegated to the bottom of the work pile, hence the reason I didn’t take it seriously until I was fifty-five, post-marital and retired.

I’m currently working on Book #2, the sequel to Project Me. I’ve had to take my foot off the writing pedal due to my mum’s deteriorating health but I won’t pull on the brake the way I did in my thirties. Instead I’ll slow it down, write when I can and hope I reach the finishing line while it’s still relevant.

I’ve always written in some form or another. Funny poems are my forte and once I get into the zone it all seems to flow as if it’s being fed down via some cosmic link. I love word play, gritty dialogue and attitude and I hope that comes over in my writing.

What’s the new dream? Now that the book is published, I suppose it’s to have someone make the movie. I’d love to see my characters brought to life. It’s unlikely to happen, given the odds and the number of fabulous stories out there vying for attention, but it would be amazing all the same, and the only way I’d ever get to meet the gorgeous Douglas Henshall since I wrote the part of Maggie’s ex-boyfriend, John, especially for him.  
   Well, a girl needs something to aim for, doesn’t she?
Crooked Cat Books:
Combined website/blog –

Friday 14 November 2014

Please Please Me: Sex and the Victorians

A mechanical vibrator

One of the joys of writing Victorian crime fiction is the unexpected area of research that you innocently type into Google, not anticipating anything to appear. And then it does. For my current book, I wanted to explore some of the myths surrounding the ''sexually repressed Victorians'' legacy.

The biggest myth was that the Victorians, particularly women, ''hated'' sex and were all frustrated and miserable. They certainly did not and were not. Queen Victoria for one, loved it. The morning after her wedding night she wrote ecstatically in her diary that sex was ''a foretaste of heaven''. The Victorian era marked the start of the ''information age'' and there were manuals, pamphlets and advice books on love making, if you knew where to buy them.

Victorian women were not the sexually passive creatures they have come to be seen as. The lives of famous courtesans like Cora Pearl, and ''Skittles'' -  one of the 'pretty horsebreakers' who rode out on Sunday afternoons in Hyde Park, totally naked under her riding habit, show that female sexuality was as expressive and varied as it is today.

Don't ask
Of course there were exceptions. The notion that girls arrived at their wedding night pure, sexless and ignorant to be awakened (or not) by her husband can be seen in the forlorn comment of Mary Sidgewick, married in 1859 at the age of 18 to a much older man. She later wrote in her diary: ' how I cried at Paris....the nights!' However, the importance of the female orgasm was certainly known about and seen as vitally important in a relationship. Sexual pleasure, especially female sexual pleasure, mattered.

This was because the Victorians believed that a woman in a sexually satisfying relationship was more likely to become pregnant, thus the idea that masturbation was not a good idea. A book entitled The Art To Begetting Handsome Children, published in 1860, had detailed instructions on foreplay and love-making within the marriage relationship - for the Victorians, of course, this was the proper and only place for sex to happen.

electromechanical vibrator
The other myth is that the Victorians used vibrators via pelvic massage administered by the medical profession to induce orgasm in women, who were supposed to suffer from hysterics. The release of the ''hysterical paroxysm'' (orgasm) purportedly helped the poor things to calm down. To aid this, the Victorians apparently  'invented' the vibrator, because there were far too many women and not enough strong-handed doctors.

1890 hand-cranked vibrator
Frankly, I find this difficult to believe. Victorian vibrators (see pics) are the most unsexiest things I have ever seen. I can't imagine any women, however 'hysterical' reaching orgasm with one of these devices clunking and buzzing away down her lower end! Luckily, there were many more attractive aids available. Victorian sex toys were many and varied, often crafted in ivory, or wood or leather.

Some were decorated with flowers or delicate silver tracery.
All were created to enhance women's sexual pleasure. For the Victorians, sex, pleasure and love were important concepts, and they were just as preoccupied, fascinated and eager to experiment as we are today.

If you would like to download a free sample of Diamonds&Dust, A Victorian Murder Mystery, you can do so HERE.  Honour&Obey, A Victorian Crime Thriller can be viewed HERE

Friday 7 November 2014

Don't Leak On My Parade

Tricky times at Hedges Towers. We have a leak in the flat roof, and water is coming in and soaking two walls. Thus the bathroom contents are currently on the landing, and the utility room is in the hallway. Apart from the worry of water damage and the bill to have the roof fixed - we now know it needs to be completely replaced thanks to the disreputable cowboys who fitted the original one, we are also having to get up in the night to change the newspaper that is soaking up the water

Which meant we were pretty fed up by the end of the week, when BH and I went into town to close his annual savings account at the bank and transfer funds elsewhere. He has to be physically there because I, despite being married to him for 39 years, and in full possession of every identity document of his that you could shake a stick at, am not now allowed to open or close or do anything without his actual presence, thank you, even though we apparently own 60% of the bank concerned.

We both think it's preposterous and a waste of our time. Especially as we used to be able to open and close accounts for each other, and we have a joint account there anyway. So, picture the scene therefore: It's Saturday morning. We are anxious about the roof. We are cross. We have not slept well. We have heavy colds. We are fed up with stupid bank protocols. What followed was something Samuel Beckett would not have been ashamed to own. As I recall, it went like this:

BH:  You don't need to stay with me.
Me:   Really? Are you sure?
BH:   I can manage perfectly well. You go and wait over there.
Me:   Over here? OK. I'll wait.
Young Female Bank Person: So Mr Hedges, what is the name of the savings account?
BH:   I don't know. It's just a savings account.
YFBP: I need the actual type of account.
BH:   Oh for goodness sake. (calls) What's the name of the account?
Me:   I thought you told me to wait over here.
BH:   I don't know the name of the account.
Me:   You said you could manage.
BH:   I could, only I don't know the name of the account.
Me:   So you want me to come over there now?
BH:   Yes.
Me:   You don't want me to wait over here?
BH:   No.
YFBP: (smiling rather too brightly) Right. Let's start again...

That was pretty much as good as it got. We agreed afterwards that we'd never made it through a bank visit quite so speedily before. Bank Person couldn't get rid of us fast enough. None of that 'while you're here ..'' stuff that usually heralds them attempting to flog you naff insurance. It was: Pretend to smile, press the buttons, print the paperwork, please please go away now. We are thinking of hiring ourselves out to other bank customers.

See - every now and then being old has its advantages, and we need all the advantages we can get as neither of us are getting any younger. Certainly we're not getting any saner. Quite the opposite. And given the way that we are becoming more and more incensed with the red-tapery of life, we may soon be carted off to the nearest psycho-geriatric unit in matching his and hers strait-jackets. If the water from the roof doesn't carry us off first.

If you would like to read a FREE sample of my novel Diamonds&Dust, A Victorian Crime Thriller, you can do so here

Saturday 1 November 2014


Hello. My name is Carol Hedges and I write crime fiction *nervous smile*. Look, I'm a nice person. Really I am. I drive a pink car; I have a peach-pretty blog. I help old ladies over the road (usually they're me). But. Somewhere deep beneath the surface lurks a dark, manic, twisted soul who likes nothing better than plotting how to murder, maim or mutilate people.

I have often wondered whether writers choose their genre according to their personality type: Chicklit writers are all heart (and cupcakes); Children's writers have secretly never grown up; Horror writers are replaying their monster-under-the bed fears. It would make interesting research for someone with nothing better to do.

One thing unites most writers: they usually start at the beginning of a book, and work their way in a sequential narrative until they reach the end. Crime writers differ. We do it backwards. We start with the crime and who committed it, then work out why and how it happened. Thus in each of the Spy Girl books and the three Victorian Crime novels, I always write the last page first.

This is followed by the 'hook' at the beginning, then by the bulk of the story. Sometimes I have as much of a clue as to what is going to happen next as my characters. I like this sort of writing, as it is always challenging - I couldn't do the JK Rowling 50 pages of notes and a couple of grids schtick, as I'd get bored. Very Bored. I have to walk away from every writing session thinking: Okay, how the hell am I going to get my character out of THIS?

Another fun aspect of writing crime fiction is the way that the story always unfolds in unexpected ways. Characters you never knew existed emerge from some mental alleyway and suddenly take centre stage. Often carrying weaponry. Is this the same for other genres? Please tell me if it is so. Because my current series of books are set in the mid-Victorian period and reference Charles Dickens quite a bit, I have got used to the proliferation of ''extras'' and am relaxed about their appearances and disappearances. With weaponry. As in life, so in literature.

On November 18th the follow-up to Diamonds&Dust will hit the bookstores, both physically and digitally. I have posted the cover at the top of this blog, so that you can read the blurb and get an idea of the story. As you see, it contains the two detectives from the first book  - but in a completely different narrative. Though afficionados of Diamonds&Dust will recognise a few familiar faces. I hope, if you are kind enough to read it, you will enjoy it as much as I did writing it.