My First Collaborative Author Event – Noir at the Bar

Last night was a first for me as not only did I take part in Noir at the Bar, Manchester, but I also met several popular and successful authors. It’s hard to believe that, despite publishing books since 2012, it’s the first time I’ve actually met another published author apart from my cousin, Lily Kramer, who recently published her debut novel, Song on a Loop.

Meeting other authors has always been one of those things I intended to do but never quite got round to it. So, when the wonderful Robert Parker invited me to take part in Noir at the Bar, Manchester I jumped at the chance. The line-up of authors was fabulous and I felt really privileged to be amongst such talented writers. Here’s the billing of the event:

So, what is Noir at the Bar?

It’s a collection of gritty crime authors and aficionados of the genre who gather in an informal setting to have a drink and a chat and share readings. The idea originated in the US and there have been Noir at the Bar events in several UK cities but this is the first in Manchester.

The venue for the event was Lock 91 in Manchester. We used the Loft Study bar area which was ideal, with a small stage and its own bar. There were nine readings altogether of six to eight minutes duration by eight authors plus a wild card. The readings took place in sets of three with a brief introduction to each author by our host, Robert, and a half hour refreshment break after each set of three. Authors names were pulled from a hat by a member of the public who won a signed book by that author.

I must admit that I was glad of the bar area. It is the first time I have ever given an author reading and the first time I have done any public speaking for about 30 years. Needless to say, I was more than a bit nervous. I was the last author before the wild card and by that time I had plucked up some courage (most of it Dutch and from an optic). So, after a brandy or six I took the stage.

It’s tricky trying to select a passage of the required length, which can also work on its own for readers who aren’t familiar with the book. I chose an excerpt from Danger by Association, the third book in my Riverhill trilogy where a paedophile is being released from prison and preparing himself to adapt to life on the outside while also trying to fight his unnatural urges. The passage leaves the reader guessing what will happen next. I was told by my friends and Robert that I did well but I’m not sure whether they were just humouring an overanxious, tipsy author.

Despite my nerves, the evening was an extremely enjoyable event. It was great to hear the work of others, meet authors and readers, and chat about the industry with like-minded people. I’m glad I stepped outside my comfort zone and gave a reading, and I am keen to get involved in future author events. Noir at the Bar, Manchester was a great success and hopefully the start of many more to come. Big thanks go to Robert Parker who was an excellent host and did a brilliant job of organising the whole thing.

Now that I have experienced the event and am familiar with what is involved, I am keen to invite my readers to future Noir at the Bar events. I will publicise them in advance via the blog and social media so that readers within easy reach of Manchester will be able to attend. I look forward to seeing you there in the future.

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Blood Ties Launch Day

Hurrah! It’s launch day for Blood Ties, the second book in my latest Manchester crime trilogy. I’m thrilled that it’s finally available through several digital retailers, and I thought I would share another excerpt with you to celebrate the launch.

This next excerpt takes place inside prison when Adele and her friend, Caroline, are witnessing the prison bully, Shazza, in action:

Anna’s head flew back and she took a step backwards. Then Shazza let go of Anna’s T-shirt and Anna passed her something out of her pocket. Anna’s movement was slow, her shoulders slumped, as though she had given up the item reluctantly.

‘What the hell d’you think she’s up to?’ Adele asked Caroline, lowering her voice so that Shazza couldn’t hear her.

‘She’ll be stealing cigs or something off her,’ Caroline whispered.

‘She can’t do that!’ said Adele, affronted.

‘Oh yes she can,’ said Caroline quietly. ‘She’s Shazza. She can do what the bloody hell she wants, and she gets away with it.’ Adele stared back at Caroline, the resentment written all over her face. ‘Don’t even think about it!’ Caroline advised.

‘What?’ asked Adele.

‘Saying anything to her about Anna,’ Caroline whispered. ‘You’d be a fool to mess with her. It’s best to leave it alone.’

Then Shazza left Anna and continued in their direction. Adele noticed that as she walked across the room the other inmates either kept their heads down or greeted her enthusiastically. It was obvious to Adele that they were trying to ingratiate themselves. Shazza had a confident strut. It was as though she was enjoying the attention.

As Shazza drew closer to Adele and Caroline, she stared directly at Adele. Despite Caroline’s advice not to look at her, Adele couldn’t resist taking a curious peek. Shazza’s features were rigid and unflinching, and as their eyes locked, Adele could feel her piercing glare through vivid turquoise, beady eyes. It seemed to cut right through her.

Then Shazza sauntered by, nodding and grinning at Caroline as she passed them. She didn’t say anything. But Adele knew in that moment that Shazza had made her an enemy and a cold shiver of fear ran through her.

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I hope I’ve tempted you to go and grab a copy if you haven’t already done so. Here are the links for the various digital retailers:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2C7MllX

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2HwmovN

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2sGi4qp

iBooks: https://apple.co/2omUg5x

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Blood Ties Blog Tour

Ahead of tomorrow’s publication for Blood Ties, I thought I would give you details of the blog tour. Here are all the blogs that will be featuring Blood Ties in the following couple of weeks:

And here are the links for each of the blogs:

That Thing She Reads: http://thatthingshereads.blogspot.co.uk/

Donna’s Book Blog: https://donnasbookblog.wordpress.com/.

Cheeky Pea Reads and Reviews: http://cheekypeereadsandreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Jane Hunt Writer: https://jolliffe01.com/

The Secret World of a Book Blog: https://thesecretworldofabookbloggerblog.wordpress.com/

Bookish Jottings: https://bookishjottings.wordpress.com/

Good ‘n’ Ready: https://reviewerladygoodnready.blog/

Ginger Book Geek: https://gingerbookgeek.wordpress.com/

Dash Fan Book Reviews: https://dashfan81.blogspot.co.uk/

A Sky Filled with Sparkling Stars: https://askyfilledwithsparklingstarsblog.com/

Love Books Group: https://lovebooksgroup.blog/

 

I hope you enjoy reading the various reviews, features and author interviews.

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Blood Ties – Excerpt

As it’s only just over a week until the launch of Blood Ties, the second book in my latest trilogy, I thought I would tempt you with an excerpt. This particular passage occurs after Adele’s prison friend, Caroline, has just confided in Adele about her crime:

They remained there for several minutes, Adele now also in tears and shaking. She didn’t know what to say. What could she say? There were no words to explain why either she or Caroline had reacted so violently to their tormentors.

As she sat there silently, a rush of thoughts flashed through her mind. Everything made sense now. The way the other prisoners were wary of Caroline, even though she seemed such a caring person. And the way she and Caroline had been drawn to each other.

Eventually she spoke. ‘Did you seek me out?’ she asked.

Caroline looked up, her face red and blotchy and streaked with tears. ‘I know what you’re thinking,’ she said. ‘That perhaps I thought we would understand each other because of… our crimes. But no, not particularly. I mean, I knew what you were in for, and maybe I’d have judged you differently if it wasn’t for my own experiences. But I didn’t deliberately seek you out. I just liked you as a person.’

Adele nodded, unsure what to say next.

‘Well, it’s out in the open now,’ said Caroline, with a sardonic smile.

‘I won’t hold it against you,’ said Adele. ‘How could I?’

And as she spoke those words Adele realised just how much her world had changed. At one time she’d have run a mile from someone who had committed such a heinous crime, no matter what the circumstances were. But inside these walls she saw Caroline as a best friend.

Their crimes were similar. They shared the guilt. And Adele knew that no one would ever understand Caroline in the same way that she did.

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I hope I’ve given you a taster of what’s to follow. If you want to pre-order your copy, here’s the link again for Blood Ties.

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Some Quotations I Like

Words can be very powerful. They unlock a whole wealth of meaning and are capable of eliciting strong emotions. Sometimes you read something in a book, which is so poignant that it stays with you. At other times there are sayings that are so widely used in everyday speech that we overlook where they originated from. This is often the case with Shakespeare.

I’ve put some of my favourite quotations below but I’m sure there are others that I’ve temporarily forgotten. I couldn’t resist adding a few from my own books. I think most writers have moments when they’ve written a line or two that they’re particularly proud of, so please excuse my self-indulgence in including a few quotes of my own.

 

“We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan

 

“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

 

“As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.”

Shakespeare, King Lear

 

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

 

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!”

Shakespeare, King Lear

 

“If music be the food of love play on.”

Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

 

“If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.”

Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop

 

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…”

Shakespeare, As You Like It

 

“It was terribly beautiful to Tess today, for since her eyes last fell upon it she had learnt that the serpent hisses where the sweet birds sing.”

Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles

 

“Justice” was done, and the President of the Immortals (in Aeschylean phrase) had ended his sport with Tess.”

Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles

 

“Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.”

Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

 

“O, what may man within him hide, Though angel on the outward side!”

Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

 

“Ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies.”

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

 

“My advice is, never do to-morrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time. Collar him!”

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

 

“Time and tide wait for no man.”

Geoffrey Chaucer

 

“Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained”

Geoffrey Chaucer

 

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

Alexander Pope

 

My Favourite Quotes from my Own Books

“Signs of desperation were already painted on their grubby little faces.”

A Gangster’s Grip

 

“This was his sort of area; a place where the menacing and the vulnerable co-existed.”

Danger by Association

 

“… eager to escape the foul stench given off by her unwashed clothing and her tendency to leak urine; a result of years of child-bearing to children she rarely saw.”

Born Bad

 

Have you got any favourite quotations? If so, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to add them in the comments box below.

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A Message to Aspiring Authors – Don’t Give Up

As the end of another year approaches I thought it would be good to write a blog post which might give encouragement to other authors. I recently read a post about famous authors who were initially rejected but then went on to be successful. Most of us have heard of authors who were initially rejected but it’s always encouraging to find out more about them. You can read the post here.

It made me think of my own journey. Admittedly, I’m nowhere near in the same league as the authors mentioned in the above post but this past year or so has seen a big turnaround in my writing career. In August of 2016 I signed a contract with Aria Fiction at Head of Zeus, and subsequently published my first book Born Bad with them on 1st July of this year. They have been excellent to work for and I’m looking forward to the launch of my second novel with them in March 2018, which is entitled Blood Ties and is already available to pre-order from Amazon.

So, back to the beginning. I started writing in 1999 when I began studying for a writing diploma with the Writer’s Bureau in Manchester although I had dabbled in a bit of poetry prior to that. The course was very comprehensive and took me until 2002 to complete.

As part of the course, students were encouraged to submit their work to agents, magazines etc. depending on the particular module being studied. It was during that time that I submitted the first three chapters and a synopsis of my first novel Slur to various agents except that, at that time, the novel was called Nightclubbin’ and had a chic lit feel to it.

Despite rejections I continued working on the novel and completed it. Then, becoming a bit disillusioned with the number of rejections I received, I put it on the backburner but swore I would return to it one day.

It actually took me 15 years before I eventually returned to my first novel. In the meantime I had changed the title and a lot of the plot and it became a crime novel.

I have documented much of the journey towards getting Slur published in previous blog posts entitled The Story of Slur and My Favourite Rejection Letter if you want to take a look. Throughout that period I read as much as I could about the craft of writing, the publishing industry (which has undergone many changes in that time) and how to promote your work.

Prior to publishing Slur independent publishing really took off and I decided to publish two parenting books. I had already drawn up an outline for one of them as part of the studies for my writing course, and I thought it had potential. It was called Kids’ Clubs and Organisations and I followed it with Great Places for Kids’ Parties.

Both of the books took up a great deal of time and effort especially the second one, which I published in colour. Unfortunately both books bombed despite one of them being featured on a well-known parenting site. They sold less than a hundred copies each, most of which were through public libraries and entailed a lot of effort in getting to the right people then sending the copies on. Apart from the library sales the books sold no more than a handful each, and left me feeling deflated after all the effort I had put in.

After I published Slur, I instantly saw a different reaction amongst friends and families and it was much better received than the two parenting books. Feeling encouraged, I went on to publish a further two novels, A Gangster’s Grip and Danger by Association, and the three books form a trilogy. I eventually made the decision to withdraw the two parenting books from the market, which I wrote about in the article entitled Why I’m Withdrawing my Parenting Books.

Despite being well received, Slur wasn’t a success straightaway. I held a promotion at the end of 2015, and made Slur free for a few days. I paid to advertise the promotion on various sites and, to my delight, this led to a dramatic increase in sales of Slur and the two other books in the trilogy. Subsequently the rank of the books improved on Amazon making them visible to more readers and also to publishers.

The improved rank only held for about six months, after which time the sales slipped again in a matter of weeks. I tried subsequent promotions but wasn’t able to emulate the success of the first one. Fortunately for me, however, the temporary improvement in rank had enabled my books to come to the attention of my publishers who approached me to discuss my work. This in turn led to me signing a three book contract with Aria Fiction in August 2016.

If you are an independent author and want to find out how to promote your books, there is a lot of information available on the Internet and in book form. In particular, I recommend Let’s Get Visible by David Gaughran as a very useful guide. Sandra Beckwith also has a very helpful website at: https://buildbookbuzz.com/ where you can sign up for a newsletter with lots of free tips on book promotion. You may also find the ALLi website useful at: https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/.

It has been a long journey to gaining that publishing contract but ultimately a very gratifying one. And it isn’t over yet. On 1st March I will be publishing my second book with Aria, Blood Ties, which is already available for pre-order and is the second part of a trilogy. Then I’ll be publishing the third and final novel in the trilogy later next year.

Once the three books are published I have no idea what lies in store but I have many ideas for other novels and hope to continue writing and publishing books for many years to come. The future is a bit scary as I now depend totally on writing books for my income. However, the future is also tremendously exciting.

If you’re currently feeling disillusioned, having written a book or more and not yet seeing the rewards for all your hard work, don’t give up. Immerse yourself in as much information as you can relating to both the craft of writing and the promotional side of things. Then keep on going until you reach your end goal.

I’d like to end this blog post by wishing a Merry Christmas to all my blog readers and a very successful 2018.

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Writing though the Chaos

Friday 3rd November is a date that will probably stay in my mind for a long time. It was the completion date for my house move. I wish I could say that I am now happily settling into my new home. But no…

The party at the bottom end of the chain pulled the plug on the whole thing three days before we were due to complete. It turns out that they were nowhere near ready to move, but that information didn’t filter through to me until three days before the proposed completion.

So here I am, two weeks on, living out of boxes, sleeping on a mattress on the bedroom floor and still waiting to hear whether I might be moving in the near future.

It’s so frustrating!

For almost three weeks I have been in a state of limbo. I left out just enough things to keep me going until the move and, as we have passed Friday 3rd November, I have had to buy things which I already have in storage somewhere. I’m also constantly tripping over things that have been left out for the move, and I have the bruises to show for it.

To complicate matters I have things stored at three different houses as well as a mountain of boxes at home. And to complicate matters more, even if I know where something is in my home, I still can’t get to it.

The problem is that the boxes are heavy and due to a health problem I am not allowed to lift heavy weights. I find myself staring longingly at a plastic box and wishing I could lift the boxes on top of it so that I can get to the contents. It’s so tempting and I confess that I have been naughty once or twice. I’m just not patient enough to wait until someone is around who can help me.

Against this chaotic background I am still trying to write. I had a whole week without writing when I thought I was moving and had to pack up quickly. This was also very frustrating. I take my writing seriously and hate anything getting in the way of it unless it’s a holiday, and I’ll definitely need one of them soon.

The other thing about writing is that it can provide an escape from stressful situations. So, a stressful situation that keeps me away from my writing is a double blow.

Currently I’m still waiting to hear whether contracts might be exchanged on Monday. I’ve found it difficult to concentrate on work today as I know that once I receive confirmation of exchange of contracts it will be all systems go.

If contracts are exchanged on Monday then hopefully we will make the new proposed completion date of Friday 24th November. It would have been nice to have known before the weekend but I’ve come to appreciate that things are never straightforward when it comes to moving house.

So, I won’t count on it until it actually happens. Here’s hoping…

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