Tuesday, 29 December 2015

So You Want to Host a Podcast: Part 2 - The Nuts and Bolts


Today on Bookaholics we continue with the second part of the excellent article on podcasting by Andrew Chamberlain. I listen to Andrew's podcast on writing - The Creative Writers Toolbelt. I can assure you he knows what he is talking about. The link to the podcast is at the bottom of the page. If you didn't read the first part of the article here is the link



So how do you launch a podcast? In this blog I want to take you through the technical aspects of setting up a podcast, from planning to recording and releasing you work.

1.     Preparing to host a podcast
Once you have thought about why you want to create a podcast and what you want to say, you can move on to the issue of how you are going to make your podcast a reality. Here are some questions to think about:
-       Where are you going to record your podcast, and what equipment will you need? You’ll need to find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted and you can speak.  Then you’ll need a computer (PC or Mac), some recording software, and a microphone.  For recording software I’d recommend Audacity (www.audacityteam.org). Also, get the best microphone you can because sound quality really does matter with podcasts. For interviews I recommend using Skype, and Free Skype Call recorder software (www.voipcallrecording.com )
-       How will start and end your podcast?  Do you want to use a jingle? If you want to use some music you’ll need to create some or buy the rights to some. At the start of each podcast you should introduce yourself, and say what the podcast is about.

2.     Recording, editing, and saving a podcast


-       Plug your microphone into your PC/Mac and turn it on, ensuring your machine ‘recognises’ the microphone.
-       Open your recording software
-       Make sure the input and output devices are set to whatever you are choosing to use,
-       Press the record button and start speaking! Just a few words to start with.
-       Experiment with your microphone, where it’s placed, how you speak, and sound levels.
-       When you’re all done, record your podcast and then save a copy
-       With that copy you can now start the process of editing, clipping out all of the “ums” and “ahs” as well as any gaps or external noises. In my experience you should allow three to five minutes for each minute of finished podcast material.
-       Once you have your recording polished and as good as you can get it, save it as an MP3 file.

3.     Releasing a podcast

-       Once your podcast is recorded, choose a podcast host. Their main function is to ‘host’ episodes of your podcast on their servers. They will also provide an interface on the internet for people to download and listen to your podcast. I use a company called Podomatic, but there’s also others: Libsyn, Archive.org, Ourmedia.org, and Podbean. They will charge you for this service.
-       You will also need to create some artwork for an image to accompany your podcast. This is a square, 1400 x 1400 pixel image, representing your podcast.
-       Your podcast host will give you a web address for your podcast, and an RSS feed. This is the link that you have to give to a podcast client or pod catcher.  Their primary function is to promote your podcast and allow people to download it. The best example of this is iTunes, but there are others, their service is free and you can link to more than one.
-       Once your podcast is hosted, and the RSS feed is linked to one or more podcast clients, your podcast host should be able to provide you with stats for the number of interactions with your podcast, these could be plays, likes, or downloads.
And there you have it, your podcast is launched and out there!
The most important piece of advice is: podcasting is a marathon not a sprint. Before you start, think carefully about what a sustainable plan looks like for you, both in terms of content and consistency of production.
Good luck!


Andrew Chamberlain (www.andrewjchamberlain.com) is a writer and creative writing tutor. He is the host of “The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt”, a podcast that gives practical, accessible advice as well as occasional interviews with writers, editors, and other artists. You can reach the podcast on iTunes here.

Friday, 25 December 2015

The First Year as a Published Author


It's Christmas day and 2015 is fast coming to an end. This is a time when thoughts turn to the year past and what the new year will bring. Today's blog will be given over to introspection, a review of what has been, and a taste of what is yet to come. 

I cannot believe that a year has gone by since Killer's Countdown was published. Only one year since I put my first book out into the world and waited to see what would happen. Would anyone like the book? Would I find readers? I am told all authors feel like this, not only with the first book, but with subsequent books. I am pleased to report that Killer's Countdown was more than warmly received and is selling well. 

Since the first book came out I have published a further two in the series, Killer's Craft and Killer's Cross. Readers have taken DI Shona McKenzie to their heart and the books are flying off the shelves, in both the physical and digital sense. It has been a whirlwind year of book launches, signings and talks. I consider it a privilege to meet readers and to talk to them about both my books and writing. I have appeared in many guises and there has been a lot of fun and laughter along the way. Signings have taken place in cafes, restaurants, shopping centres, craft shops, fairs, Waterstones bookshops and CLC bookshops. I've given talks in libraries from Dundee to London, at conferences and in village halls. Also at the three book launches in Waterstones Dundee. Again I consider all this to be a privilege and I feel blessed. All three books have been bestsellers on Amazon and in bookstores. As an author I cannot describe the giddy feeling that this brings. I certainly didn't imagine that at the beginning of the year.

So what of 2016. I am looking forward to what the new year will bring. I will be ushering it in with a free book which will be available on my website - http://www.wendyhjones.com and on this blog. For those of you who are fans of Shona you will understand why it is called DI Shona McKenzie's Guide to Killing Your Boss. For those of you who haven't yet met her this is your chance. This will be the only book in the series which will be free, so it is well worth downloading. As a little taste here is the first reveal of the cover.


It seems fitting as a writer to start a new year with a new book. However, the fourth book in the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries is well on it's way. I am hoping it will be released in April. You will find out more on this blog in due course. I am also working on a book on Marketing and Promotion which will be released in March. It's a busy time, and I couldn't be happier. Knowing that I am writing books that others enjoy is a heady feeling. Being a writer is a blast.

I hope you my Bookaholic friends have had a fabulous Christmas and that your stockings were stuffed with lots of lovely books. May your new year bring you joy, peace and happiness. If you are a writer I wish you all the very best with your writing and your books. Thank you all for spending the last year with me and supporting me every step of the way. I look forward to spending the next year with you on a myriad of adventures. 






Monday, 21 December 2015

So you Want to Host a Podcast: Part 1 - Lessons Learned




By Andrew Chamberlain


Just over two years ago I realised that there was a gap in the range of podcasts available to writers. There were some great podcasts out there, like “Writing Excuses” and “The Creative Penn”, but I couldn’t find anything that offered practical, applicable advice.

So I decided to start a podcast myself. I reasoned that if I was going to find out more about the craft for myself, I might as well share it with others.

And so “The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt” (CWT) was born. The podcast is a mix of short, fifteen minute episodes that explore different facets of creative writing, and longer interviews with writers and editors. Two years and fifty episodes later I’m still producing one podcast a fortnight, but I’ve also learnt some lessons.

First, I have realised that there are three essential “C’s” to podcasting, these are:

- Content

- Consistency, and

- Capturing an audience

You’ll notice that none of these directly relate to the technical challenges of podcasting. Those challenges are real, but you can overcome them. The real key to podcasting success is to get those “C’s” right. Here’s how I try to do that.

Content

I’ve learnt that if you want to host a podcast, you have to work out why you want to say something before you work out what you want to say. I wanted to create the kind of podcast that I’d find helpful as a writer. I had to work that out first before I decided what I was going to say.

I’ve also learnt that I need to present the best content possible. That means doing the research, thinking for the audience, and presenting the material in an engaging and clear fashion so that they’ll keep coming back for more.

Consistency

From the beginning I realised that I needed to keep up a regular output of material. I chose to create one episode every fortnight. On one occasion I decided to give myself a fortnight off, but when I came back after a month with a new episode my download figures had slumped. It can sometimes be hard work but consistent output is essential.

Consistency also applies to the sound quality of your work. I am sure that I lost some listeners in the early days because they were not satisfied with the sound quality. Fortunately, some of them liked the content enough that they were prepared to tell me they weren’t satisfied – bless them! That’s when I invested in a new podcasting microphone.

Capturing an audience
We all know that it’s not enough to write a book, as the author we have to invest in marketing and selling it. The same thing is true with a podcast. The challenge with podcast marketing is that there are so many ways to do this. Here are some of the things I’d recommend:

- Give each podcast a snappy and compelling title, it does attract more downloads

- If you have a website, set up a page on it to tell people about your podcast. If you don’t have a website, consider setting up a blog on something like Blogpress, or blogger.

- Start a Facebook page and a Google+ page for your podcast and link episodes to it regularly

- Start a group on Goodreads (goodreads.com)and invite people to join this

- Start a twitter account and comment on your episodes when they come out

Finally, remember that podcasting is a marathon not a sprint. Focus on the three C’s, and try to maintain the standard of what you are doing in terms of the audio quality and content. Good luck!


Andrew Chamberlain (www.andrewjchamberlain.com) is a writer and creative writing tutor. He is the host of “The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt”, a podcast that gives practical, accessible advice as well as occasional interviews with writers, editors, and other artists. You can reach the podcast on iTunes here.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Book Review: A Very Private Grave


After a hectic few on this I have actually been able to breathe again and do some reading. What to pick when you need a new book.min my case it is usually a mystery. So today I bring you ne which is a mixture of contemporary and historical. 

I have had this book on my kindle for some time but, as I say, have only just got around to reading it. I really wish I had read it sooner. This is the first in one of Donna Fletcher Crow's series and introduces the reader to Felicity and Anthony. A beloved priest, father Dominic, is found bludgeoned to death. Following this felicity and Anthony have to flee from the monastery in order to protect themselves. This leads to a chase throughout the UK whilst they investigate the murder. Without giving too much away ecclesiastical history forms a large part of the story. The historical research in the book is sound and I found this aspect fascinating. The sense of place in this book is also excellent. I learnt so much about different areas of the UK, including Scotland, where I live. This is a first class book with a strong plot and likeable characters. 

I am looking forward to learning more bout the characters in future books. It is always both interesting and fun to see how characters develop in a series.

There we have it for another day my bookaholic friends. I will be back soon, but until then, keep reading. 

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Rest and Recreation for Writers




Good evening my Bookaholic friends. Apologies that this blog has been neglected for a few weeks. I have been manic, chasing around the country doing book signings and generally enjoying my life as a writer. The third book in the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries was released three weeks ago and since then my feet haven't touched the ground. The book was launched in Waterstones, Dundee and a great time was had by all. I gave a talk on hanging, as you do, and somehow or other it turned out to be funny. The audience obviously thought so as you can see from the photograph below. 


It's a wild life being an author and I love every minute of it. However, often it can be difficult to take time out to relax. Rest and recreation is important for a number of reasons. The main one is so that I can recharge my batteries. A bit like the energiser bunny I just keep going and going. However, if I, or any other writer, keeps going at this pace I will eventually run out of steam. The second is to allow the brain and the mind to recover. It is difficult to come up with new plots and think of saying things in different ways if life is being led at a hundred miles an hour. The brain needs to relax and recuperate as well. 

Things have calmed down a bit now and I will be taking it a bit easier on the lead up to Christmas. I will be having a break between Christmas and New Year. I intend reading all those lovely books I know I will be getting fro Christmas. If you are an author think about what you can do to treat yourself well and to take time to recharge your batteries. Look after yourself.

So there we have it Bookaholics. See you all back here soon for another reading and writing update. You can buy the books, including Killer's Cross, but clicking on the book covers on the right. 


Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Juliet B. Madison - Incarnate Justice




Good morning Bookaholics. Today I’m delighted to welcome Juliet B Madison back to the blog to tell us about her new book. Incarnate Justice, the first title in the Psychic CID paranormal crime series, was released on 23rd November 2015.

No I will give the floor to Juliet.

Incarnate Justice is set in the future – 2040 to be exact – and combines the traditional police procedural with the use of psychic powers and the paranormal to assist in crime solving. It’s set in the fictional UK city of Ashbeck, which is also the setting for the DI Lyle series.

Here’s the blurb

In 2015 thirteen-year-old Ellen Shaw disappeared without a trace. No traces of her alive or dead were ever found and the police dismissed a Psychic’s help.

In 2040 the recently formed Psychic CID are called in to investigate when decomposed human remains are found. The original Missing Person case files yield no clues

Newly promoted DS Joe Lamont has been plagued by disturbing dreams since his early teens and he feels a connection to Ellen that he can’t explain.

Will Lamont’s intuition prove to be a hindrance or a help and can Psychic CID solve the case and get to the truth about what really happened to Ellen?

There will be 5 titles in the Psychic CID series; one based around each of the five main Psychic CID characters.

DS Joe Lamont is the new boy in Psychic CID and he is the focus of Incarnate Justice.

DCI John Silva

DI Evelyn Lynch

DS Martin Crayford

DC Maria Whitfield

Here is an excerpt from the prologue of Incarnate Justice, which is set in 2015.

Moira Hart felt very cold suddenly. She had left the coffee shop and returned to her flat. The central heating was on but the ethereal chill penetrated her very marrow.

The young girl had not passed, Moira would have had a sense of it if she had, fuelled from the brief intimate look they had exchanged, but Moira knew that she was in trouble. She didn’t even know the girl’s name and she knew better than to go the police. What could she tell them? The words I’m a Psychic usually made the eyes of officialdom glaze over and were usually accompanied by a “Thank you Madam, but we have enough resources at hand to investigate this ourselves.”

She sighed deeply. She would have to keep close to Spirit and follow its lead as well as following the media. They reported all known details but some were kept back as a means of weeding out cranks. But maybe she was ahead of herself? After all, the girl had not passed. She was sure of that more than anything. Until she turned up, dead or alive, Moira was powerless to act and she hated that.

***

Doreen Shaw awoke with a start. She had drifted off and she awoke to a chilling feeling. It was gone seven pm and still Ellen had not turned up.

She picked up the phone with shaking hands and dialled her daughter-in-law’s number.

“Hello,”

“Janet, it’s Doreen. Is Ellen with you?”

“No, I’ve been at work and just got home. I thought she was going to yours after school?”

Doreen felt the chill increase despite the warmth in the room.

“She isn’t here, Janet, She never showed up.”





LINKS

Buy Incarnate Justice

Kindle

Kobo,

itunes

Nook

Psychic CID social media links

You can Like the Official Psychic CID Facebook page

You can Follow Psychic CID on Twitter

You can visit the Official Psychic CID website

Friday, 13 November 2015

It's November and that means ...


Good morning Bookaholics. I trust you are all having a fabulous day. Today I am going to talk about the month of November. What's that got to do with reading I hear you ask. Well, it has a lot to do with reading, and writing of course. 

This morning my little corner of Scotland had its first snow of the year. Admittedly, not enough to build the cheery wee chappy above, but snow nevertheless. Along with snow comes very cold weather. I'm cuddled up in a blanket writing this. The heating is on, but my office used to be a garage and it's not terribly well insulated.

November also brings the first Christmas songs of the year. Personally I would rather these waited until December, but that's life as the saying goes. It also brings the first Christmas adverts and the kids go into overdrive. Everyones thoughts turn to buying Christmas presents. 

November also brings long cold nights. It is dark in Scotland by 4 pm. The curtains are drawn and the heating is on and all of us readers know what that means. Yes, it's more time to curl up with a good book. I have a reading pile which is so huge it is threatening to fall over. I've decided on a bit of eclectic reading this November. Here is a small section of what I will be reading. 


To writers November also means NaNoWriMo. This stands for National Novel Writers Month. This month writers, from all corners of the globe, will be writing up a storm. They will be counting words like a demon, and every word counts. They will update their word count daily on the NaNoWriMo site as they work towards the 50,000 they have pledged to write in November. They will be checking their buddies total and wondering how they are doing in comparison. Novels will get written during this month and the winners will rejoice. It is a time of elation, and a time of despair. Despair if you are not meeting your target for the day. Despair as you realise that you have to make that superb word total into a manageable manuscript. I am storming ahead with my fourth book in the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries.

This year, November also sees the arrival of the third book in the series, Killer's Cross. It will be launched in Waterstones, Dundee on 16th November. It is available from Amazon on the link to the right. In the UK signed copies are also available from my website and would make a fabulous Christmas present. See, I'm also solving your Christmas present problems in this blog.

Bodies with crosses carved on their chests! All left outside Dundee Churches! All members of the religious community! DI Shona McKenzie has to find the common factor linking the deaths, and catch the killer before he strikes again. Is her latest case as simple as it seems?




So November means a lot of things to a lot of different people. Whatever November means to you, my wish is that it brings you lots of lovely books to read. If you are a writer, and doing NaNoWriMo, my hope is that it is going well. My wish is that you will see that winner's video. I am off back to the writing. I will see you all back here soon. Have a great, fun filled, November. 


Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Bare Necessities



Today I'm thinking about the bare necessities for a writer. What is it we need in order to write and be creative? Most of us will have a computer, or maybe even a desktop and a laptop. We may have an office, or a small corner of a room where we write. Wherever we write there will be a desk or a table. If we really dig down deep then most of us will have a cup of coffee or tea next to us. Some people may not be fortunate enough to have all of this but will be writing using a notebook and pen, sitting at the kitchen table, or on the sofa or the bed. 

However, I would venture to say that the most essential bare necessity for a writer is words. Those and something to write them on. Why am I thinking about this I hear you ask? Well, this is November and November for many people means NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month to give it its full title. During this time writers pledge to write 50000 words in 30 days. This means that the bare necessity to meet the challenge is 1667 words per day. The idea is to free flow write and this can free up the mind and allow the words to flow. For some this works and for others the pressure means that they dry up completely. 

I think this is a good habit to cultivate. To write a set amount of words per day. When you sit down to write then your body knows it is time to create. NaNoWriMo gves the writer permission to prioritise writing and everything else can wait. I think we should all make this a year long habit.

That's it for another day my Bookaholic buddies. If you are doing NaNoWriMo then more power to your elbow. Have fun. If you're not, enjoy whatever book you re reading.

Friday, 23 October 2015

The Power of Words



It is now day six of the blogging challenge and I am thinking about words. This is from the point of view of the reader and the writer. Most writers will have had a love affair with words since the first minute their parents read them a story. Without knowing it children are absorbing words and learning how these can fit together to form conversation. During story telling they are learning how these can be used to bring pleasure. The words are supported by the pictures in the book which is being read.

Before long the older child can read stories themselves and the words help them conjure up images in their head. They also start to use words to tell their own stories. Thus writers are born. As writers we take time to craft each word we write. We search for just the right word which will alow the reader to conjure up an image of the scene. Each and every word in our work is thought about and used to create unique sentences. These sentences then form paragraphs, chapters and an entire book.

When reading, the reader is not aware of the individual words. Many of them will not really register, and yet as a whole they pull the reader into the story as in the picture above. It is that which the writer is trying to achieve when searching for the perfect word. And we love every minute of it. There is no greater feeling than knowing you have used just the right word.

There we have it for another day Bookaholics. See you back here tomorrow. I'm off to craft some more words on my next novel.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Reading More Widely


Day five of the blogging challenge and I'm still going strong. As I said in yesterday's blog, I haven't been feeling too well.  However, one thing which any writer can still do whilst ill is read. In order to be a writer you also need to be a reader. Now I read voraciously but mainly in the crime genre. It is often good for a writer, and in fact an individual, to expand their horizons in regards to reading choice. This allows the writer to view things from a different perspective and avoid becoming too narrow in their viewpoint. Their writing can be strengthened as they absorb the variety of ways in which writers express themselves.

Last week I was away from home and staying with friends. I was entertaining a two year old and he wanted me to read to him. He had a wide variety of books, but one which stuck with me was Ted's Birthday Bus. This was simply written but demonstrated beautifully how to build suspense and provide a surprise. My young friend loved this facet of it as well, resulting in my having to read it about fifteen times.

I appreciate that this may not be the best book to help me develop my writing skills. So I have bought the first book in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, and Archbishop by Michelle Guinness. Completely different from each other and also different from my usual choice of book. I am looking forward to reading them and will report back when I have done so.

There ends day five of the challenge. I will see you Bck here tomorrow for the next instalment in the series. Until then keep reading and writing.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Proofreading for Writers



Day four of the blog writing challenge I had set myself and I almost fell at the fourth hurdle. I'm ill today and really could do with a day off. However, publication day is sneaking up fast and there is proofreading to be done. For the umpteenth time. Killer's Craft has been proofread by a number of people. It has been looked at practically with a magnifying glass. Still errant typos creep in. I am sure this is the single most difficult, and yet important, task of any writer. I wrote a blog recently about the Hunt for the Lesser-Spotted Typo. You can take a look here.

There is notother way to flush out typos than to go through the manuscript word by weary word. It's not even the type of job which can be done with music on. I'd get carried away with the music and typos would fly past me unseen. They would then bury themselves deeper into a place in which the hunt has already taken place. As the end is in sight one would think it was a time for celebration. But no, it's time to start again.

So please forgive me if I seem a bit harried today. A little pale and wan. I will leave you now to go back to the hunt. See you all back here tomorrow. If I survive that is.

Enjoy your evening Bookaholics. Until I return, keep reading and writing.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Book Review: The Flame Ignites by Donna Fletcher Crow




The Flame Ignites

For my third day of my 31 Day Blogging Challenge I bring you a review of a cracking prequel to the best selling Elizabeth and Richard series. 

I love Donna Fletcher Crow books so was excited to read this new one. I was parricularly interested in the fact this is a Prequel to the excellent Elizabeth and Richard series. As well as being a mystery the book also reveals how they met. The mystery in this book is gentle and is not the main focus of the book. However, there is enough mystery in there that I wanted to find out what happened. This is handled well and blends in well with the rest of the book. Where this book comes into its own is characterisation. The characters are skilfully drawn and come across as both real and engaging. I loved seeing how the relationship between Elizabeth and Richard developed. They play well off each other and I definitely was left wanting to know more about them. Much of the book covers a correspondence between Elizabeth and an American author named Elswyth Thane. These took place many years before the book begins and brings the history of literature to life. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of many long dead authors. The research done to ensure historical accuracy is evident, ensuring a fascinating read. Far from being boring, Donna Fletcher Crow, brings the history to life in an imaginative way. She is a skilful writer and this is evident from every word. This is a superb book which I have no hesitation in recommending.

I was given an advanced release copy of this book for review purposes. At no time was I asked to provide a positive review. My review is based on my reading, and enjoyment, of the book.

See you all back here tomorrow my Bookaholic friends. Until then keep reading and writing. 

Monday, 19 October 2015

Research for Writers


In day two of my blogging challenge I am looking at research for writers. I am sure that all writers would agree that research is crucial in informing their writing. I would venture to say this is true in all genres, even in Fantasy. Not being a fantasy writer I can't actually comment on that, however, as a crime writer I think research can often be key. This is not just for ensuring accuracy but also as ideas for future plots. The most unlikely things can make a crime writer's mind go in seriously deranged directions. 



I am currently in London and when I discovered that there was a Crime Museum Exhibition at the Museum of London, I had to go. This is a temporary exhibition so I paid my money and took my chance. What a fabulous couple of hours. The museum is packed with evidence from crimes throughout the history of the Met Police, as well as other artefacts I never even knew existed. How about Death Masks from offenders hanged outside Newgate Prison. The earliest one I could see was that of James Greenacre aged 42. He was known as the Edgware Road Murderer and was hanged on 2nd May 1837 for the murder of his fiancee, Hannah Brown aged 47. I'm never going to stroll up the Edgware Road in quite the same way again. 

An older case, but no death mask on display was that of Henry Fauntleroy in 1824. He was the last man to be hanged in Britain for Forgery. Another interesting facet of this case is that he was a partner in the bank from which he stole the money. He admitted guilt but his defence rested on the fact he said he did it for the good of the bank. Funnily enough they didn't believe him. He was hanged outside Newgate Prison in front of a crowd of 100,000 spectators. That's some audience. 

Exhibits include The Kray's Briefcase and a stocking mask which literally is made from the top of a stocking. There are outlines of numerous real cases with the artefacts from these cases displayed alongside them. The most modern exhibits are those from acts of terrorism including the 7/7 bombings. This certainly makes you think about the fragility of human life. It is fascinating in a macabre sort of way. 

As a writer, research can come in many different guises. It is worth looking to see if there is anything you can do which will help you with your writing. My day out has certainly helped me. Look around and see if there is anything different you can do that will help you. It is so much fun being an author so make the most of it. 

There we are for day two my Bookaholic friends. See you back here tomorrow for the next blog in the challenge. Until then keep reading and writing. 



Sunday, 18 October 2015

31 Days of Blogging



I have just heard about the 31 Day Blogging Challenge which starts on the 1st October every year. This means blogging every day in October for 5 minutes a day. This is 5 minutes of free writing. Now I realize I am late to this party but I thought I would give it a go. I will spill into November which is also NaNoWriMo month. I love a challenge. Bloggers need to decide on a topic in advance and mine is going to be writing and reviewing. This fits in beautifully with this blog's topic. So, look out for 31 days of insights, fun, frolics and challenges as I stimulate the old grey cells and firce them to think of 31 different sub topics. Then comes the hard part. Writing cogently about these. I am hoping it will make me think more clearly about the art of writing, as well as help others along the way.

So there we have it bookaholics. A brand new post every day for 31 days. It would be great if others could join me. You can find out more about the 31 Day Challenge on the link below.

31 Days of Five Minute Free Writing

See you all back here tomorrow. Until then keep writing and reading.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

An Alternative Anthology


Today I am going to be taking a look at anthologies from the point of view of a writer. However, this is an anthology that is worth buying and reading. 

As writers we are often asked to contribute to anthologies. We also feel that we should be contributing to anthologies. For me it is a way of flexing my short story writing muscles. As an author I mainly focus on writing novels, but short stories are a good way to develop brevity in my writing. Every word needs to work for the story as a whole and needs to be carefully chosen. 

Unfortunately, lack of time meant that I was unable to contribute to this particular anthology. This was a shame as this one was a little different. Firstly, all the stories were based on the characters from a particular crime series, starring DI Frank Lyle. The challenge was to choose a character and write a crime story form their point of view. This makes for an interesting read, seeing how the different authors interpret and give voice to the characters.

The second, and most important reason for this anthology is that the proceeds are all going to Macmillan Cancer Support. This came out of the tragedy of the editor losing a loved one. I love the way that out of tragedy came hope, and a thought of others in the same situation. 

So today's blog supports a worthy cause.



Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Forgetful heart by Lucy Mills


Good morning my fellow Bookaholics. It's a dreary day here in Bonnie Dundee. It's lashing down with rain and cold. In fact it's the perfect day to put the heating on, grab a coffee and a chocolate biscuit and curl up with a good book. Today I bring you an excellent Christian book which I think every Christian should read. 

Forgetful Heart is one of the most insightful and interesting books I have read in a long time. We are all living in a world where we are bombarded with information and it is often difficult to remember who we are, never mind what we are meant to be doing. In this book Lucy Mills draws us into the very heart of God, who never forgets us. She outlines what is important and what we need to remember about ourselves and our relationship with God. 

However, this book is so much more than that. It is well researched and full of interesting facts and wisdom. Each chapter takes a different aspect of memory and skilfully draws us back to the bible for answers. I love the way in which the bible quotes and insights are interweaved and relevant. This is a book which you will read through once as you re enjoying it so much. You will then want to delve into it more deeply and slowly. You will also want to return to it time and time again. 

Forgetful heart really spoke to me on many levels. It made me take stock of my life and what is important. It made me think of what my business is doing to both me, and my relationship with God. Mills is a skilful and passionate writer and I am sure we will be hearing more from her in the future.

This is an inspirational book which I would not hesitate to recommend.


       

So there we have it for another day my Bookaholic friends. See you all back here very soon. Until then, keep reading. 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Book Review: The Jazz Files


I have a treat for you today my bookaholic friends. I am reviewing a rip roaring historical crime novel starring Poppy Denby.

This is the first in the Poppy Denby series and I am already looking forward to the next. Poppy is an engaging character, well rounded and full of life. I could imagine her perfectly. At the start of the book she has moved to London to look after her elderly aunt, Dot. Dot encourages her to apply for a job amd she soon finds herself working as a junior reporter at The Globe. When one of the reporters dies, Poppy sets ou to investigate. This leads to an excellent mystery which I found hard to put down. The story is well written amd the characters real and interesting. There is a good pace and this is maintained throughout the book. Overall, this is a well written mystery which I would highly recommend.

Find out more at Amazon UK

That's it for another bookaholic day. Who knows what book I will be reviewing next. Tune in to find out. Until then, keep reading.

Monday, 21 September 2015

All Together at CRT by Eleanor Watkins




Today on bookaholics we have a guest post by highly talented and prolific children's writer, Eleanor Watkins.

I spent the first part of this week at CRT (Christian Resources Together) at their annual retreat in Derbyshire, and I haven’t quite come down to earth again yet! My forty-third book, The Village, historical fiction for YA, was to be launched with Books to Treasure. It was my first time at CRT, and I’d rather expected it to be busy, bustling, and all about business, networking, making deals and selling goods. Serious business stuff!

How wrong could I have been! All of the above were happening, it was busy and often noisy, and hard work for the stall holders, staff and people behind the scenes. But along with all that, what stood out for me was the sense of excitement, expectancy, hope and sheer joy! Old friendships were reaffirmed, new friendships made, amazing coincidences discovered, interesting people met, inspiring experiences shared. We listened to some excellent speakers, applauded those who won awards in their particular fields, helped one another, prayed together, laughed a lot, sometimes shed a few tears.

Above all, there was the feeling that we, as Christians, however diverse our particular activities, were all part of a bigger whole, all on the same journey, sharing the same goals, eager to share the good news that there is light in this dark world. And that, for all of us, the foundation we all stand firm upon is the solid rock of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The last worship session, with a message from Rob Parsons, was special, and summed it up for me. With illustrations from his own family life, he reminded us that whoever we are, however high-flying or humble, we are precious. We are loved. We have a place in God’s Kingdom, and we have been brought to the Kingdom for such a time as this. The words of a well-known song adapted from an old hymn by Edward Mote, shown by Rob in a film clip of his 4-year old grandson singing in the street at a time when his mother was gravely ill, say it all:

‘ Christ alone, cornerstone,

Weak made strong, in the Saviour’s love,

Through the storm, he is Lord,

Lord of all.’

Can’t wait for next year’s CRT retreat!
Thank you Eleanor. Eleanor's latest book, The Village was launched at CRT.



You can find out more about Eleanor and her books on her Amazon Author Page

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Book Review: The Peace Garden by Fiona Veitch Smith




Good morning Bookaholics. I trust you are all well and enjoying whatever book you are reading. If you are looking for a new book then today I bring you a cracker of a crime thriller. 

This is a book on two levels. At its most basic it is about a young girl who sets out to investigate why plants are going missing in an English suburb. This seemingly simple premise leads to an exciting thriller which takes the reader on a roller coaster ride. It plays out in both England and South Africa. This is during the apartheid era and the depiction of life for black South Africans during this time is superb. The characters are well rounded and come across as real. The reader can almost palpably feel the anger emanating from Thabo, a young Black teenager. Natalie, the main character is also real and the reader sees her grow and develop throughout the book. 

The settings also play a large part in the book. They are beautifully drawn and the reader can imagine them perfectly. Veitch Smith contrasts them and then skillfully pulls them together. 

Fiona Veitch Smith is an excellent writer and I look forward to reading more from her. This is a book I can highly recommend.  You can buy it by clicking on the link below. 

     

So there we have it for another day Bookaholics. See you all back here soon. Until then, keep reading. 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Village by Eleanor Watkins



Good morning bookaholics. Sorry I haven't been around lately. Life has been busy and I've been at 2 conferences. More about them later. In the meantime I have a review of a fabulous YA book for you..

The Village is set in an English Village during the time of the plague. It is seen from the viewpoint of three different children - Ellen, William and Sam. Each child is unique and I love the way we see the village and the effects of the Black Death through their different perspectives. The book is well researched and great attention paid to historical detail. However, do not be fooled into thinking that this is a dry book as it is not. The story is fascinating and kept me reading to find out what happens next. I genuinely could not put it down.

The attention to detail in this book is exquisite. At the top of each chapter there is a small illustration. This illustration is repeated on the page number. The icon is different for each character so emphasizes the character who is speaking in the particular chapter. I love this. It demonstrates that a great deal of thought has gone into it's production. All kudos to the publisher, Books to Treasure. 

This is a book which I can highly recommend. Children will love it and I am sure adults will too. 

Amazon UK The Village

Amazon USA The Village

There we have it for another week bookaholics.  See you back here soon.

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in return for an honest review. At no time was I asked to provide a positive review. This is based on my reading, and enjoyment, of the book. 


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Writing Crossover Fiction


I have been listening to a lot of podcsts recently about both writing and marketing. A recurring theme is to understand your audience and write for them. Now to a great extent this is true, although some people may like multiple genres. When marketing your books this also holds true. 

Regular readers of this blog will know I write crime books. These are realistic and therefore deal with the seedier underbelly of Scotland. They pull no punches when it comes to description. The descriptions of the city are both real and factionalized. In other words they are as authentic as I can make them. 

Long before I heard this advice I had decided my target market was anyone who read crime books. Many people on here will know I am a Christian. Many Christian authors will only write for a Christian Market. My books are not Christian and contain no Christian themes. They have been written for the secular market. However, they have been written in a way which means they can be read by anyone. There is a fine dividing line when writing crossover crime fiction. The books need to be gritty and absorbing, whilst avoiding themes such as sex, or containing too many swear words. I feel I have managed the balance in the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries.

 



Many people have asked me how I have managed to write a book about the police and criminals with no swear words. Especially since my books are definitely not cozy crime. I have made this issue a part of the books. Shona is totally against swearing and this is a recurring, if minor, theme. It leads to some comedic scenes and many readers have said they like this aspect of the book. It is also fun to write. 

That' sit for another week bookaholics. If you want to take a look at the books then you can do so by clicking on the links on the right. See you all back here soon. Until then, grab a good book and keep reading