Monday, 25 May 2015

4 Top Notch Books on Editing for Writers

I have been editing book two in the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries for the past few days. Writing the book is the easy part. Editing, as all writers know, or will find out, is the hard part. In preparation for editing I have been reading some excellent books on the subject. So today I bring you four, which I think every writer should have in their arsenal.

The Little Book of Self Editing for Writers by Bridget McKenna



This is a cracking little book. It is only 96 pages long, but every page packs a punch. It is in three parts.

1. Search and Destroy
2. The self editor's toolkit
3. Self editing resources

I read it through quickly and then used it to transform my manuscript. McKenna uses Zombies to illustrate some of her points. No, I am not joking. Yes, it does work. It is the most brilliant tip I have come across. You will, of course, have to read the book to find out more.

Part three has a self editing checklist. I used it to go through my manuscript and again transform it into something readers will love. Using this checklist will help any author eliminate areas which will slow the manuscript down and take the reader out of the story.  I loved this book and is one I would highly recommend.

Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King


This is one I have reviewed before, but I make no apologies for including it in this list. This book is an excellent addition to the library of any writer. It covers every aspect of editing and takes the author through them in simple steps. It is clearly written  and uses examples to support  explanation. This method works and it is easy to see at a glance how your writing can be improved. This book also contains checklists to use when editing. It also has a number of writing exercises to help the author develop their craft. This is one I cannot recommend highly enough.





APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Kawasaki and Welsh

This book isn't specifically about editing, but about the process of writing, self publishing and marketing your book. However, it does contain an excellent chapter on editing. This is chock full of links to resources which will help you to edit your book. Overall, the book is excellent, but for the purposes of this blog, the section on editing is outstanding.







Polish Your Fiction by Jessica Bell

This is not a large book but every piece of advice within it is solid and helpful. As Bell says in her introduction it is not about writing a book, but about polishing it with a good edit. It covers all the key areas such as:

1. First Line Hook
2. Character consistency and point of view
3. Dialogue tags
4. Tightening Descriptions
5. Removing superfluous words
6. Identifying and replacing overused words
7. First person and Third person pronouns.



There are more chapters but this gives you a general feel for the way in which this book helps you to do an in depth edit. It is one which all writers should read and have by their side during the editing process, and one which I highly recommend.

Now for a bonus book.

Self Publish Your Book by Jessica Bell

This is not specifically about editing but does contain some excellent advice on how to format your book if you are self publishing. It takes you through all the steps you need to get your book finished and ready to publish. The steps are easy to follow and will save you a lot of time









So there we have it my Bookaholic friends. Another one for writers. However, I am reading a cracking crime book at the moment so will be back with another review soon. Until then, keep reading and writing.



Sunday, 17 May 2015

Interview with Scottish Writer Christine Richard




We continue with the Scottish theme on the blog as I highlight some great Scottish writers and books. Today I am joined by Christine Richard, author of Whitewalls, a contemporary Scottish saga. Welcome Christine. It is a real pleasure to have you join us on Bookaholic. Thank you for agreeing to answer some questions about your life and your writing. I know you are busy so it is kind of you to take time out to meet with me.

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

I was born in Yorkshire but came to Scotland with my first family as stepmother to three baby boys whose mother had sadly died and had my daughter, Fiona, who designed the book cover of ‘Whitewalls’ and prepared it for publication. I remarried and had a second family of stepchildren. One of my sons, Christopher died four years ago of heart failure and we all miss him greatly as he was a ‘golden boy’ who went round the world doing good! As far as my own history to date is concerned I have always been involved in politics, since the age of 16 and current affairs. I stood for Parliament three times and served as a Councillor in Edinburgh for 12 years – four of them as Leader of the Opposition. In 1992 I was made an OBE and I am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Simultaneously with politics I have had a career as a qualified Business Studies lecturer and non-executive director. I have been scribbling both poetry and prose from a very young age. Now, I suggest that is quite enough about me!

Can you tell us something about the setting for your book?

My book ‘Whitewalls’ is a Scottish family saga set in the present day. The title comes from the name of the house, which is a Scottish Baronial style whitewashed house which I have set on the banks of the River Tweed. It is the heart of the family which has four generations included from boy and girl twins aged 9 to a very naughty great grandfather, Sir Alistair, who is still being naughty in his eighties. There are two sides to the family, the Douglas’s (named after a racehorse owned by my late husband, John) and the Bruce’s. As well as the Borders I have locations in Edinburgh Perth, Yorkshire, the Cotswolds, London and France. Rosie who is in her fifties is the gentle matriarch whose mission in life is to ensure the happiness and prosperity of her extended family. What I wanted to show in writing this book about and upper middle-class family who, on the surface, have everything – money, lovely homes, talents and successes but who suffer the same troughs and peaks as the rest of us.

Where did you get the inspiration for your book?


In a way this is the easiest question. I followed the sound advice ‘write about what you know’

Your book sounds really interesting. Can you tell the readers about it.

In a way I have mentioned some of this already. But here is some more! Art is one of my interests and one of the main characters, Rosie’s husband, Jamie, is an artist as well as helping his father, Roddy, to farm at Roddy is a widower. Polly, their daughter, is married to Richard, an Edinburgh lawyer and they are the twins’ parents – Minty and John. Horses are another interest of mine so they feature too. Hughie Bruce is Rosie’s brother and their mother, Lady Elizabeth Bruce was married to the rascally Sir Alistair who she divorced many years ago. The house belongs to the Douglas family. Charles, Jamie and Rosie’s son, is a professional soldier currently in Afghanistan and in love with a lovely actress, Maggie, who has red hair and green eyes. She is very close to her grandmother, Florette, who is French. Hughie is married to Virginia and they live in an Elizabethan Manor house in the Cotswolds. So it is quite a complicated story with a large cast and, I think, just as you had read enough about one group I take the reader along to the next part of the family at a different location.

When you are not writing what types of books do you read?

I read all kinds of books from the classics, the Brontes who lived close to where I was born and I have a full set of their books. I read political biographies and autobiographies, I like Rosamund Pilcher’s work and found some inspiration in her storytelling, also Penny Vicenzi and for light relief, Jilly Cooper.

Have you any other books in the pipeline?

Yes, I am completing the sequel to ‘Whitewalls’ which took place over one spring and summer, with the title ‘Autumn at Whitewalls’ which will be launched in time for that season and the early Christmas market. As the first one this will be published by New Gewneration, which is part of Legend Press and a good halfway house between self publishing and mainstream. They are very helpful.

As a new writer what would be your number one piece of advice to other new writers?

Just do it! Don’t ask too many people’s advice. Whatever you choose to write about it has to be your composition. It isn’t easy. So many people have said to me ‘I could write a book, if only I had time!’ If you want to write with enough passion to do it you will find time. Once you have started make up your own ‘rules’ about how you go about it. Get to know your characters, do your research where necessary. Every time you get to a point where you have an idea what is going to happen next, STOP. This will be the perfect time to begin your next session.

If you were to choose one writing book to recommend to a new writer what would it be?

I wouldn’t. Apart from the few simple rules I have mentioned – research, characters and plot (the plot will change as you go along) own your own work.

Now we are going to get personal. What would you say is your favourite type of music?

Classical music – Rachmaninov, Mozart, Beethoven and Debussy.

Do you use music to help you write? If so what type?

I prefer to write in silence – no distractions.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Theatre, concerts – I am a patron of the Edinburgh Festival and King’s Theatres Trust’ I helped to obtain the Festival Theatre (which I was allowed to name) when I was a Councillor. I enjoy spending time with family and friends as well as horse racing and the countryside. I am Arts Editor of online magazine Lothian Life and do book and exhibition reviews. Also I am an accredited ‘journalist’ covering the Edinburgh International Festival (I served on the Board of that for the maximum 6 years) I am sure that is more than enough.


Thank you for answering my questions so patiently and in such great detail. I have loved getting to know you and your work and I am sure my Bookaholic readers will enjoy meeting you too.

You can find out more about Christine and her work by clicking on her Amazon Author Page

You can buy copies of the book from Amazon UK and Amazon USA by clicking on the links below. 


     

I will receive a few pence commission if you buy the books through these links. You do not have to do so and can buy them by going direct to Amazon





Saturday, 16 May 2015

Book Launch: On a Wing and a Prayer by Ruby Jackson


On Tuesday evening I had the honour of being invited to the launch of On A Wing and a Prayer by Ruby Jackson. This was held in Waterstones, Dundee and has to be the most entertaining book launch I have attended. Ruby Jackson held the audience in the palm of her hand as she told tales of the people she met whilst researching the book. The book is set during World War 2 and for the book Ruby Jackson interviewed people who did extraordinary things during this period. The accounts of what they did had the audience spellbound. 

Ruby Jackson does an incredible amount of research for her books. She tells the tale of contacting Fortnum and Mason in London. She needed to know the cost of honey during WW2. Fortnum and Mason told her she needed to speak to their archivist. What? Who would have known that a London store would have an archivist. I also learned that Fortnum and Mason have bee hives on their roof. How interesting is that? Something else I learned was that many rich young men, who had their own planes, handed them over to the military for the war effort. I could go on. 

Attending this event has made me think very carefully about how a book launch can be entertaining, interesting and informative. I hope that Bookaholic readers will also take some ideas away from this blog on rethinking their own launch.

So what is the book about. This is book 3 in the Churchill's Angels series, which is about four plucky girls from Dartford, Grace, Sally, Rose and Daisy. This book tells the story of Rose, an ordinary working class girl, who joins the ATS. You can rest assured that the historic details are 100% accurate as, in most cases, they come straight from the horse's mouth. If you like historical romance then this is an excellent book which I would highly recommend. You can buy the book from Amazon UK or USA by clicking below. 

     

See you all again soon Bookaholics. Whatever you are reading, enjoy.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Book Review: Fixed in Blood by T.E. Woods


Good evening Bookaholics. I realise there has been a lot of writing talk on the blog recently so to make up for it I am bringing you a review of a top rate book. All the mystery fans out there will love this one. 

I really enjoyed Woods first book the fixer and was looking forward to this new offering. I was not disappointed. Woods is an excellent storyteller and uses words to good effect. She draws the reader in and keeps them reading. I was engrossed in the story form the first word. 

Initially the different parts of the story seem a little disparate but once you get to know the characters and the story better they start to pull together. In fact the wondering where it is all going is part of the overall tension. There is tension aplenty in this book. There are parts which are high octane and others which are slower paced, but the tension never eases up. 

I liked the characters, particularly that of the Chief of Detectives Mort Grant. He is not a caricature but a real person, confident, knows what he is doing and yet with his own foibles. Woods uses dialogue to good effect to keep the story moving and to give characters their own voice. 

Some parts of the book are really creepy and the reader feels like they are in the presence of evil. There are some parts which are not for the faint hearted. Given the themes of the book such as the sex trade, they are necessary for the story and help to set the tone of the book. I feel they are handled well. The resolution of all the storylines and the way they pull together is excellent. I certainly wasn't expecting the end. 

This is a top notch book, fast paced and engrossing, and I would highly recommend it. 

   

This book will not be available until 16th June. However, it is available on preorder from Amazon on the link above. 

That brings us to the end of another review and book aloha blog. See you all back here very soon. 


I was given a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. At no time was I asked to provide a positive review. The review is imperial and based on my reading and enjoyment of the book. 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Interview with Scottish Author Rosemary Gemmell




Today on the blog we welcome highly talented Scottish author Rosemary Gemmell. It is a real pleasure to welcome a fellow Scot to Bookaholics. Thank you for taking time out of, what I know is, a hectic schedule to join us.

many thanks for inviting me along to your blog Wendy

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

Now that my two children are well grown up, one with a child of his own, I’m lucky enough to be a full-time writer, although I don’t write full-time hours! I also have a very supportive husband and I reward him by doing some of his admin and proof-reading.

I was a well-published short story and article writer before turning to novel length and I still like the variety of different types of writing, including poetry and children’s. I write historical romance and contemporary novellas with a touch of mythological fantasy as Romy, and tween fiction as Ros. The Highland Lass, published by Crooked Cat, is the first novel under my full name.

I live in the beautiful west coast of Scotland and am inspired by living so near the sea and countryside. I love to share information with other writers and often adjudicate competitions, one of the best ways to learn what works!

In what way are The Highlands important to your story

Although my new novel is called The Highland Lass, it doesn’t take place in the usual highlands of Scotland. The title is significant for another reason. The novel is set in the present and the past and the historical chapters trace the story of Highland Mary, one of Robert Burns’ great loves. The highland part refers to the area of Argyllshire where Mary grew up speaking Gaelic, which gave her a lilt to her voice and earned her that name when she moved to the lowlands of Ayrshire. The other significance is the letter the modern character, Eilidh, find addressed to her late mother, where the unknown writer refers to her as his ‘highland lass’ – all part of the mystery!

What is it about books set in Scotland that would excite the reader?

One of the most popular aspects of Scottish-based books is the wonderful scenery that incorporates mountains, glens, rivers and lochs. The Highland Lass takes the reader on a journey to Argyllshire, Ayrshire, Loch Lomond, Glasgow and Inverclyde with Eilidh trying to discover the identity of her father while researching Highland Mary and Burns. Some readers have said they learned a lot more about this area of Scotland!

Where do you get the inspiration for your fiction?

Anywhere and everywhere, from snippets of news or history to places I’ve visited. My Aphrodite and Adonis series was inspired by a visit to Cyprus some years ago, as it is known as Aphrodite’s Island and I’ve always loved mythology! Some of my short stories were inspired by paintings or photographs. Inspiration is literally all around if you look at it with a writer’s mind.

Which is your favourite character in any of your books and why?

I think it’s still the hero from my very first novel, Dangerous Deceit, set in 1813. Lord Sheldon is my ideal male character: strong, brave and sensitive with a respect for the heroine, Lydia’s, headstrong independence.

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

I read constantly, especially in the evening. I love a variety of genres from historical romantic intrigue, to crime and modern mysteries. I also love philosophical type novels that make me think. I have lots of favourite books but one of my all-time favourites which I read many years ago is Knowledge of Angels by Jill Paton Walsh and I keep meaning to re-read it one day.

What are you working on at the moment? Without giving too much away can you tell us something about it?

I’m trying to finish the third novella in the Aphrodite and Adonis series which I promised the publisher, Tirgearr, some time ago! That’s the priority, but I’m also working on a couple of other novellas in different eras and the first in a Victorian crime series set in my own area. Plus several articles and the odd short story.

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

Apart from chocolate you mean? I love Chinese food with noodles and the occasional Italian or Indian dish. I also adore salmon.

If you could travel to any one country in the world where would it be and why?

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many countries already as my husband works in travel. I loved Canada and one of my eternal favourites is Venice. Of those I haven’t yet seen, I quite fancy India (though husband doesn’t!) as I’ve often been fascinated by its culture, colour and noise, through films and books set there.

Who is your favourite author and why?

As with books, I have many! One of my favourites is Sarah Waters and I always look forward to her new books as she is such a wonderful storyteller, no matter where or when the story is set. Fingersmith is one of the best novels for its unexpected twist and turns and I love being surprised like that.

If you ever have a day off from writing exciting books what do you like to do in your spare time?
I love going out for coffee and walks with my husband at the weekend, especially beside the coast. Even during the week, I make sure to meet up with friends now and then over coffee or lunch. I also enjoy visiting interesting places or exhibitions as they often provide inspiration. I love swimming and dancing and both have been neglected recently so I’m aiming to put that right. I can only sit at a computer for so long before I need a distraction. These days, I’m sometimes called upon to look after my gorgeous wee granddaughter who will soon be three and that’s a great delight.

Thank you Rosemary. It has been a real pleasure chatting up with you and getting to know a bit more about you. It would seem that all my guests have one thing in common with me, we all love chocolate. I love Rosemary's Video which accompanies her book.







You can find out more about Rosemary and her books below as well as the links to buy The Highland Lass from Amazon UK and USA

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Interview with Donna Fletcher Crow


Today on Bookaholic I am honoured to welcome Historical Crime Writer Donna Fletcher Crow. Donna writes The Monastery Murders which are set in the UK. I know you are a busy lady Donna, so thank you for taking time out to join us and tell us about your books. 


I love being here on your blog, Wendy. Only thing better would be being together in person so we could share a cup of Scottish Blend tea.

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


Wife of more than 50 years, mother of 4, grandmother of 13 ½. Writer of 45 books— mostly novels of British history. Enthusiastic, but haphazard, gardener and fussy tea-drinker.

Could you tell us a little bit about where you are from?

I am one of those rare Idahoans that is actually a native. Most of our population is from other states who have discovered the delights of our unspoiled, uncluttered state. Idaho is mountainous and agricultural with wide open spaces. Really a lot like Scotland— I always feel very at home there. As, I’m sure, did my Scottish ancestors who emigrated here.

I think this is a perfect place for a writer to live because our pace of life is slightly slower, so hopefully one has time to breathe and think. This was especially true of my growing up as I was an only child living on a farm. I made up stories in my head to entertain myself. 

 
 



Wow what a beautiful place to live Donna. Your photos make me want to visit. 

Could you tell us a bit about your writing and your books?

I think the most important thing is for a writer is to write from their passion and my passion has always been British history— ever since I wrote my first short story about King Arthur when I was in the third grade. Therefore, whether I’m writing romance or mystery, contemporary or historical, all my stories have a lot of British history, especially Christian history, in the background.

My best known work is the epic Glastonbury, an Arthurian grail search covering 15 centuries of British history from the birth of Christ through the Reformation.

My most recent release is A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary, book # 4 in my Monastery Murders. In this series Felicity, a thoroughly modern American woman goes to study in a theological college run by monks in a monastery in Yorkshire. Each book requires Felicity and Father Antony, her church history lecturer, to look deep into history to find the clues to why people are being murdered today.

In A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary Felicity and Antony struggle with personal and family problems as they explore St. Frideswide, the Oxford Martyrs, John and Charles Wesley’s Holy Club, and the Oxford Movement as murder stalks Oxford’s hallowed shrines.

Where do you get the inspiration for your fiction?

My plots either start with a story from history I want to tell or from an area of the UK I want to explore in depth. One of my major goals as a writer is to give my readers a “you are there” experience— my books are a bit of a travelogue— in order to do this I have to experience the place first. My plots often grow out of the settings. I often look around in an atmospheric setting and think “What a great place to hide a body.”

How do you carry out the research for your books?

Once I’ve settled on the bones of my story— the setting, the historical background, the major plot points, my characters’ personal relationships — I read everything I can find on the subject on this side of the Atlantic. Then I plan my onsite research trip which will hopefully cover everyplace my characters will visit.

Through the years this has provided the most incredible experiences visiting museums, castles, ruined monasteries, and out-of-the-way historic sites. The more crumbling the ruin, the more remote the site, the dustier the artifact the better I like it. Readers can see pictures from my research trips on my website under Research Albums.

When you are not writing what types of books do you read?
My writing is a model of the classic advice, “Write what you like to read.” I started out writing romance. When I suddenly realized I couldn’t read another romance I switched to writing historicals. When I began to feel I needed “something more” to keep the pages turning I began specializing in murder mysteries, which have long been my “default position” in pleasure reading.

What would you say was the best book you have ever read?

Other than the Bible, I assume you mean. That’s always first every morning. Beyond that, it’s easier to name my favorite authors. Jane Austen is my great literary love, Persuasion my favorite of her books. I wrote A Jane Austen Encounter in my Elizabeth and Richard literary suspense series as a tribute to her. My favorite mystery writers are Dorothy L Sayers, The Nine Tailors probably my favorite, and P. D. James with Death in Holy Orders topping the list.

What is your favourite food?

Ah, Christmas cake with lots of marzipan, salmon and American style salads. All with cups of good strong tea.

If you could visit any country in the world, where would it be?

No prizes for guessing it would normally be the UK. Even if I lived there I could never visit all the places I want to explore. But just at the moment I’m going to have to say Japan because our oldest son and his family— which includes four of our grandchildren— are moving there and besides the fact that we will miss them, it has always been important to me to share my childrens’ experiences, just as I always try to experience my characters’ adventures.

Have you got any more books planned? If so, are you able to tell us something about them?

Always, Wendy! I have two books in the editing process right now. The Flame Ignites will be a prequel to my Elizabeth and Richard literary suspense series. It is set in an autumnal blaze of red and gold leaves in 1984 when Elizabeth and Richard first meet. Literary figures are the belovd American novelist Elswyth Thane, with whom I shared an extended friendship via postal mail, and Rudyard Kipling. Very few people know Kipling lived in New England and did some of his most important writing there.

My next Monastery Murder also has a fiery title: An All-Consuming Fire. This is set in a monastery in Yorkshire at Christmastide and I don’t mind divulging that it includes Felicity and Antony’s wedding—modeled on our daughter’s English wedding, likewise to a priest. The fire referred to in the title is Richard Rolle’s mystical work The Fire of Love. The English mystics Rolle, Walter Hilton and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing provide background.

Thanks for joining us and answering the questions Donna. I, and the Bookaholic readers, appreciate it. I am sure many of us are looking forward to reading your books. 

Thank you again for inviting me, Wendy. I’ve had fun visiting. And I would like to invite your readers to visit my website to see more about all of my books, including trailers of some of my Monastery Murders, pictures of my research trips and photos from my garden. I would also love to have you follow me on Facebook.

And since you were so kind to share pictures of Dundee with me, here are a few photos of Boise, Idaho: 





You can find out more about Donna and her books at Amazon UK and Amazon USA



Finally Bookaholics, I have read some of Donna's books and they are excellent. Well worth buying now. Once you start you will want to read them all. Enjoy the books and I will see you all back her every soon.




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.