Monday, 27 April 2015

Focus on Crime Writing


Today on the blog we are going to be focussing on the Cromarty Crime and Thriller Weekend. For those Bookaholics who don't know about this weekend, it happens every April and is masterminded by Ian Rankin. As always this was a fabulous weekend, with great authors, who are also genuinely nice and funny in the extreme. Apart from meeting, and chatting to, the authors, the talks that they give are a highlight of the weekend. Each author brought their own unique perspective and I found them fascinating. Below is an overview of each of the talks.

The weekend started with a fancy dress, murder mystery dinner party. This had a 1945 theme, hence my wearing an army uniform. I failed to win the prize yet again. However, I was in good company, as neither did Ian Rankin. 

Saturday and Sunday were given over to talks by the authors. 

Louise Welsh talked about Writing the End of The World. This focused on her trilogy the first book of which is A Lovely Way to Burn. Denise read from this and had me hooked from the first page. This book shows how a well written opening can not only hook a reader, but grab then by the throat and pull them in. The second book is called Death is a Welcome Guest, but here's the kicker. It's not released until June. I will be the first person in the queue to buy it. After hearing Louise speak I will be looking very carefully at the opening of my crime novels in the future. 

Ian Rankin talked about using the real world in your books. The real world changes, and writers have to be aware of this. Whilst most readers do not care about minutiae, it is important to be correct where possible. It is also important to know about changes and reflect these in books, where possible. The example given was that of the change to policing in Scotland. They now come under one big umbrella as Scottish Police. 

Christopher Brookmyre focussed on Characterisation and highlighted this through the character of Jack Parlabane. As writers it is important to know what happens to characters and how they change. The real world will change characters, but more importantly our impression of characters. Chris, thinks that Jack Parlabane becomes more interesting as real life changes. 

Denise Mina said that in crime writing the reader is being told a story which will make some sort of sense. Crime writing comes from an oral tradition, therefore crime writers should listen to people who tell stories. She also quoted Graham Greene in that writers always need to remember the question in the readers mind. She also talked about writing adult comics and her experience of this. 

All the writers are fascinating and funny. I laughed for the whole weekend, and had so much fun. One thing they all have in common is that, whilst they all love being writers, and are thankful they can do this, they all wonder when it will come to an end. This can be summed up in something Denise Mina quoted. 

Teach a man to read an he'll read for a day. Teach a man to write and he'll experience a lifetime of paralysing self doubt. 

Another thing that these writers have in common, is that they all write outstanding crime books. You can find out more by clicking the link to their Amazon author page below.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Self Editing for Fiction Writers

It's another brand new day Bookaholics and I bring you a brand new post. Today the blog is both a writing and a book review blog as I bring you a review of an excellent resource for writers. 

Right from the start this book is both helpful and useful. There is a brief introduction, which sets the scene, and then it's straight into the meat of the book. Chapter 1 is Show and Tell. The authors explain what this is and demonstrate the difference with some useful examples. This involves giving a passage which does not quite work and then showing how it could be improved by changing, removing or adding words. This works well as it is easy to see the differences and how they were achieved. There are also exercises to do at the end of each chapter. The suggested answers to these are at the back of the book.

Each chapter uses a similar format and is equally as good. Chapters cover, dialogue, interior monologue, using beats, and point of view, amongst others. I would say it covers all those areas which many writers find difficult. The book is written in easy to read prose which puts the point across well.

The one thing I did find slightly jarring was the cartoons. I do not feel they added anything of value and the writing which accompanies them is difficult to read. The book is excellent without them.

Whilst more experienced writers may find they know much of the advice given in this book already, those newer to the craft will find it to be useful. I would suggest it is read before starting the first novel. Once the first draft is written then it should come into play to help shape and develop the novel. Overall, an excellent book which I can highly recommend


That brings us to the end of another Bookaholics post. See you all back here soon my friends. Until them, keep reading and writing.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Blogging for Writers

I have been doing a lot of blogging lately and that has got me thinking about why I spend my time blogging as a writer. It takes up a lot of time, and let's face it, wouldn't this time be better spent on writing my latest blockbuster crime book? So why do I blog as a writer?

Recently I gave a talk, and ran a workshop on blogging. I came up with the following reasons why blogging is important to writers. I am sure there are many more

  • Promotes a regular habit of writing
  • Can help to focus ideas
  • Makes the writer think about their writing
  • You will be come a better writer
  • Paying it forward
    • Sharing ideas
  • Supporting other authors
    • Book reviews
    • Hosting
    • Interviews
  • Engage with readers
  • Develop an area of expertise
  • Promotion and Marketing
  • It gets your name know within writing circles

Blogging is so much more than writing posts. It is also about reading, and commenting on other people's blogs. I read a lot of writers blogs and have learned a lot from doing so. Leaving relevant comments on other authors blogs is a good way to get known and to engage in the writing community. I say relevant as there are a lot of people out there who do nothing but spam blogs. This is not really the way you want to get known.

Now you are probably wondering why it says blogging tips at the top of the blog and not a tip in site. I am a regular contributor on the Authors Electric Blog for which I wrote a Top Ten Tips for Authors post. You can read it by clicking here

I contribute to the following blogs on a regular basis:

More Than Writers The blog of the Association of Christian Writers

Do Authors Dream of Electric Books A collection of Indie Authors who talk about books and all things writing

Around the World of Inspired Fiction Mainly reviews of Christian fiction

And of course the one you are reading now my very own Bookaholic 

I am going to finish with an excellent resource for all those writers who blog. This is a book called Novel Blogging: A Writers Guide to Blogging. You can buy by clicking on the link below. 

If you buy the book through this link I will be given a few pence payment through Amazon Affiliates. You do not have to buy this way and can go direct to Amazon.

That is it for another week my bookaholic friends. See you all back here soon. Until then keep reading, writing and blogging.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Book Review: I'm Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork

Today I am excited to bring you a great new voice in the Nordic Noir genre.

I love Nordic Crime and I was looking forward to reading this book by debut author Samuel Bjork. I was not disappointed. What a brilliant book. The story line is taut, the writing, draws you in and the plot is excellent. As this is the first book in, what I hope will be, a series, Characterisation plays a large part. Bjork excels in this area. Each character is different and has a distinct personality and speech pattern. This makes it easy to differentiate between them. However, the main character, Mia Kruger, is exceptionally well written. She is complex, multifaceted and haunted by demons form her past.

In this book Mia is dragged back from the brink of suicide by the lure of one, last, dark case. A serial killer is murdering young girls and leaving them with a note around their neck, "I am Travelling Alone." This description alone had me wanting to read more. From the first word to the last I was hooked and could not put this book down. I would say that Samuel Bjork is an exceptional new voice in Nordic Crime and definitely one to look out for. The book is atmospheric and sets the scene for the novel well.

A definite highly recommended from this very satisfied reader. If you like crime books then do not miss this one.

I was given a copy of this book from Amazon for review purposes. I was not expected to provide a positive review, and my review is based on my reading, and enjoyment, of the book. PLEASE NOTE the book is not published until July. It is available for preorder via Amazon.

That's it for another Bookaholic day. See you all again soon with another great book. Until then, what are you waiting for, get reading. 

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Was Judas Iscariot as Black as he Was Painted?

Good morning Bookaholics. A beautiful morning it is too, The sun is shining, the birds are singing and spring has sprung. The perfect day for sitting outside with a nice glass of something cool and a good book. What's that you say? It's snowing where you are. Another perfect day for curling up with a good book. Today I bring you a very different kind of book but I am sure you will enjoy it.

This has to be one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. We don't hear much about Judas Iscariot, and indeed, even the bible does not go into great depth about him. My first thought on seeing this book was, how could anyone make a factual book about Judas Iscariot, when all we really know about him is the fateful kiss? well, I can assure you that Peter Stanford has managed this. The book is not only well researched but interesting to the nth degree. It doesn't just go into the Biblical accounts, but also the Apocryphal Gospels and historical accounts. Stanford's research is so detailed it even goes into architecture which depicts Judas such as an arched doorway in Jerusalem, and Whistler's Judas Window in a Church in Dorset. It also covers such things as the Trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, and icons and paintings depicting Judas.

Given that this is a historical examination of the life of Judas, one would think it would be dry and boring. Far from it. Stanford's writing style is such that the book is highly readable. The chapters are fairly short and look at Judas in both historical and contemporary accounts. Judas continues to fascinate today even down to analysing the lyrics in Bob Dylan's songs. This demonstrates the level and detail of the research which Stanford has carried out. I love the A-Z of Judas which runs through the book. A couple of examples are

B: Judas Beer
Y: Judas yellow, a colour of paint.

These snippets are one of the things which help to lift this book out of the humdrum and in to the exceptional. You will need to buy the book to find out what Z covers, but I can assure you it's not what you think.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I really could not put it down it was so interesting. It is not often a non fiction book does this to me.

I was given this book by the Publisher in return for an honest review. I was not at any time asked to provide a positive review. I have done so based on my reading, and enjoyment, of the book.


That brings us to the end of another Bookaholic review. See you all back here soon. Until then, grab a good book, even this one, and keep reading.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Interview with Phillip S. Davies - Children's Writer

Today we welcome Philip S. Davies to bookaholics. Welcome Phillip, thank you for joining us. It is a real pleasure to have you here with us today.

I am sure the readers would love to hear a bit about you. Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a Brummie lad, and still support Birmingham City Football Club, but have lived in far too many places around the UK since then. I’m the youngest of five siblings, but only twenty minutes younger than my identical twin brother. And yes, we’ve played twin tricks on our family and friends. I’ve been happily married to Ann for twenty years, and we have two children, Mark (12) and Rachel (9).

You came to writing via a bit of a different route. What gave you the impetus to change careers to become a writer?

Between 1997 and 2012 I was a Vicar in the Church of England, and noticed the absence of young people from most churches. So what were they doing, these older children, teenagers and young adults? They were at school, on social media, watching films and television, and (some of them) reading books. I began to read some of the grim, dark and tragic stories being published in teenage fiction today, and saw the dividing lines from adult fiction being blurred in terms of violence, sex and bad language. I could sit and complain about this, or I could do something about it, by writing more wholesome, uplifting stories of my own. So I began to write.

Is there a particular place, which is important in your book? If so can you tell us something about it?

One key scene takes place in a desert canyon. I wrote it with a particular place in mind: Sabino Canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, Arizona. Since my first visit there in 1985, I’ve been back several times, so it’s a clear and vivid location for me.

Are you able to tell us a bit about your first book without giving too much away?

Destiny’s Rebel is a teenage fantasy adventure set in an imaginary medieval world, with castles and kingdoms, swords and sailing ships.
Kat is ten days away from turning eighteen and becoming Queen. And she’s dreading it. She runs away from her responsibilities, only to get captured. When she discovers a threat to her Kingdom, can she return home in time to save her people? And does she even want to, if it means accepting her destiny?

Where did you get the inspiration for the book?

The first idea came in January 2006, when I woke up one morning having had a vivid dream. I could remember it: the main characters, the situation and the world. I made a few notes, and I’m very glad I did, because it was three years later that I started to write it. The main story has remained the same ever since.

When you are not writing what types of books do you read? What would you say was the best book you have ever read?

The advice to novice writers is to start with what you know and love, so it’s no surprise that I love teenage and young adult fantasy. I grew up on Tolkien, so my best ever book would have to be The Lord of the Rings, but I enjoyed also the science fiction of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke. I try to read across the wide spectrum of current teen fiction, and I’d say the best of these are Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games and John Green’s The Fault in our Stars – both deserved bestsellers.

Who would you say was your favourite character in any book you have read?

If I’m allowed to choose two, Gandalf and Frodo! Gandalf is a wizard of immense wisdom and power, but hides it under a shabby and sometimes playful exterior. Frodo is an ordinary hobbit, thrust into the most extraordinary circumstances and responsibility, and finds within himself the courage and resilience to see his task through. Mind you, I also love those characters with uncertain loyalty, such as Smeagol/Gollum and Severus Snape...

Now we are getting personal. What is your favourite food?

Lemon cheesecake flavoured ice cream.

If you could travel to any three countries in the world where would you go?

America, Australia and Canada.

Why these countries?

They’re all English-speaking! Although I speak French, I’m not confident at it. I also love the wide open spaces. Instead of crowds and cities, I prefer the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon, beaches, rainforests, deserts, mountain ranges, lakes, and so on. I love the cultivated greenery of the English countryside, but when I go on holiday I want something different.

If you ever have a day off from writing exciting books what do you like to do in your spare time?

Spare time means family. We go to coffee shops for morning coffee and afternoon tea, and mooch around the second-hand bookshops.

I know you are a Christian. What role does faith play in your book?

My novels are not explicitly Christian, but they do have a spiritual worldview. I enjoy placing moral dilemmas before my characters: what to do with our lives, our priorities, the place of duty, loyalty, friendship, selflessness, ambition, service and so on.
My fantasy world doesn’t have dragons, elves or goblins, so it’s a human story, but there are gods. My characters wrestle with issues of faith, guidance, healing, prayer, power, purpose, and so on. I’m intrigued by destiny, fate or the divine will in my stories, and how much we can choose for ourselves about our lives.

Now that we are all excited about your debut novel, when will it be available to buy?

I’ve finished the final revisions for my publisher, Books to Treasure, and the manuscript is now with the proof-reader and the cover design artist. The book is due to go to the printers in June, for Advance Review Copies to go out in July, and for the release and launch in September 2015.

Thank you Philip. I, and everyone at Bookaholics wish you all the very best with your book. Perhaps you would join us again when your book is published.

See you all back here soon my Bookaholic friends. Until then keep reading. 

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Meet the Author by Katie Aged 11

Recently I was at a local primary School to do a talk for World Book Day. One of the pupils, Katie, agreed to do a blog post about the visit. 

An amazing author came to my school. She told us about her lead up to being an author .
I really enjoyed it. It was very inspirational and made me want to write like her. She got us all writing our own opener for a crime book which I loved doing. It got everyone very excited I had so much fun and a lot of people in my class liked it.

My opener was 
As a young boy was walking home from school two police cars were parked out side of a tree. As he walked by he said in he's head "I shouldn't have done that," he went home and told his dad that he killed a man and hid him up a tree but now I have told I have to kill you now that's two men dead. 3 more to go.

Thank you Katie. I had better watch out or you will be taking my job over as a crime author. It was a pleasure to have you on the blog, and I am glad you enjoyed the visit.