Thursday 22 December 2011

Took my eye off the ball and stepped into the virus trap

So easily avoided, but alas I'll have to sneeze it out now. And there is an up side.

So much has happened in the last few weeks that no-one's feet have touched the ground. The day jobs kept a grip on Monday to Friday and the book signings and related stuff filled Saturdays and Sundays. So it was full speed ahead on all counts from mid November to mid December.

The trick is to be very aware of the point where activity stops, so as to be ready for the army of viruses that hang about waiting for that moment when a busy person goes 'Whew! Time for a bit of a breather,' which is when they dive in to take hold, unless the barricades are well up. Barricades come in all shapes and sizes. Mental preparedness seems to help, as can a vitamin-rich diet. But anyway, no point in regretting a lack of awareness at this point. The viruses have arrived, taken hold and made themselves at home.

However, through the fog of congestion, in between sneezes and whilst not seeing stars from the coughing fits, I can look back over the month with a glow of satisfaction. Incredible though it seems, we shifted several thousand books, we had a stack of good publicity and the icing arrived to top off the cake the day after the final pre-Christmas event, with an offer from a publisher wanting to take the books to Canada and the USA.

Book shops rock!
We started here
... and ended here a few weeks later...

Monday 19 December 2011

The cop always collars the crime writer.

The final day of the Yorkshire book signing tour was incident-packed, but before we came close to having collars felt, to the shoplifting incident or to the electronic capture of the missing books, we found we were still in a mystery race with the book distributors.

The race is who gets to the store first: us or the books? The mystery is why they seem so keen for us to win.

It's been touch and go with half a dozen of the venues, but we've now started to hit the individual shops' best-seller lists, which makes the bumpy ride worthwhile both for us and for the store managers who have pulled out all the stops to make the events successful. Especially Adam in Hull, Prospect Centre. We'd sold out of Like False Money and had a customer wanting a set of all three books. Adam's gizmo told him there were another two copies in the shop and, despite it being the busiest day of the year - not helped by a serious shoplifting incident - he hunted them down. They were in the crime section, not in the shoplifters' pockets.

The other final Saturday pre-Christmas venue was WHS, Kingswood, tucked cosily into the Kingswood retail park. It's the smallest of the shops I've been to. Would it attract in the buyers of crime fiction? For the first 30 seconds, I wasn't sure, then Seaside Radio arrived in the person of broadcaster, Paula Coomber, and a steady stream of shoppers followed, most of them happy to stop and chat and many to buy books. Before our allotted time was up, there were just four books left - and no Like False Moneys. This time, there were none lurking in hidden corners, but Agent raced off and scrounged a few from another branch.

Frustrating though it is to have no books left when there are still readers wanting to buy them, it's an amazing feeling to see an empty table where there had been a stack of books.

In all, that's eight venues since publication mid November and we ended where we started, back in WHS Prospect Centre, Hull. It wasn't in the original plan to return to any of the venues, but we were delighted the books were selling well enough that they wanted us back. But maybe those shoplifters took advantage, knowing the law would be diverted because the cop always collars the crime writer.

Sunday 4 December 2011

La Scala short story competition shortlist and prize presentation

The prize presentation has been delayed to the New Year but the shortlisted entrants will be notified before Christmas.

La Scala Studios had planned to run the prize presentation for their 2011 short story competition to coincide with a local East Yorkshire Dengie qualifier and puissance competition in December. However, because of a problem at the venue, the qualifier has had to be delayed into the New Year and is now expected to be held in February. The competition organisers have taken the decision to delay the prize presentation and to hold it at the same event as the delayed qualifier, unless there should be a further delay, in which case the prize presentation will be held as a separate event at a different venue.

All shortlisted entrants will be notified before Christmas and details of the prize presentation will follow as soon as they are confirmed.

Anyone wanting further information or clarification, please leave a comment on this blog and it will be answered here.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Scarborough Rocks!

An inauspicious start to Scarborough book signing day.

After previous experiences with loose wheels, what would go wrong today? It was a clear run through, a sunny day, beautiful sea views on the way. If we hadn't known the way and had used the SatNav, that might have unnerved us, because it can't cope with the new road into Scarborough and degenerates into hysterics as the little arrow tracks across fields and the voice rattles out, "Turn right - do a u-turn - keep left". Last chance for a big glitch on the journey would have been to find the multi-storey full, but it wasn't.

And on to WH Smith, Westborough where the Manager, Russell, had the signs and the books all waiting for us. It was all going far too smoothly. The obvious trap now would be to score a duck on the book sales front and indeed the first few minutes went by without a taker. But then things picked up and we estimate we sold a book every two minutes and for the first time ever we sold out!!

Big thanks to everyone who helped to make it such a success.

Yay! Scarborough Rocks!

Crime comes to Harrogate: WHS Victoria Shopping Centre 10 December

The Yorkshire based crime series featuring PI Annie Raymond is now out in paperback.  I will be in WHSmith, Victoria Shopping Centre, Harrogate signing books on 10 December from 12 to 2.  Do call in and say hello.
WHS are doing a special deal – get the first three books for £15.

Books in danger on way to Monks Cross

When author and agent arrived for the book signing at WH Smith, Monks Cross, York, it should have been to a heap of books ready-delivered from the distributors. The hitch that had delayed the arrival of the stock is covered in a previous blog.

Monks Cross has its own car-park, but the shopping centre covers a vast acreage - 100, 200, I'm not sure. The fact there were no spaces near WH Smith was a good omen for a book signing. However, the books had to make it unscathed from car to shop and the borrowed sack barrow now had three reliable wheels and one that had lost its sprocket, pin, or whatever the thing is that keeps the wheel on the axle (as related in previous blog).

Loss of the wheel was not an option whilst the barrow was loaded. It turned out that it took the length of three author steps for the wheel to work its way to the dangerously-close end of the axle. So with the agent manoeuvring the barrow, the author fell into a rhythm of three steps, skip and a sideways kick. A kind of grotesque parody of Strictly.

By this means, the books were delivered in pristine condition. Store manager Tom matched the special 3-book deal in other branches and we sold the first full set of three before the books were properly stacked on the table. Again, the time flew by in conversation with all the people who approached (or were strong-armed to) the table. One of those who came along was York author, Joan Emery, whose pen has been stilled for a few years by a bout of ill-health. She's back at her keyboard now, so watch out for her name popping up on the shelves again.

There's something that happens when I sign crime novels in a branch of WHS - the law takes a keen interest.

We slipped under the radar in Coney Street, but they caught up with us here. 'Mayhem across the York area...? Out of control sack barrow...? Not us, officer. Clear case of mistaken identity. We're just quietly signing and selling books.' A pleasingly high number again. Thank you to Tom and Matthew in the store and hoping that all new readers enjoy their purchases.

Friday 2 December 2011

New novel coming out on Litopia Radio

The great thing about Litopia After Dark for a writer of contemporary PI novels is the way it completely freed me from the constraints of the world of the 21st century licensed private investigator. It isn't that it doesn't fascinate me to inhabit the world of private investigation, and even scare me a bit when I get mistaken for the real thing (that's a whole other blog) but it's said that a change is as good as a rest and it was good to dive briefly into the world of Johnny and Priscilla of Magenta Delicious, the novel being written week by week by the guests on Litopia After Dark.
It goes out on Sunday nights at about 8 pm, but all the broadcasts are published as podcasts. You will find 'Bach to the Future' right here.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Book signing where the wheel came off

It would never have happened to Annie Raymond, the PI heroine of the 3 books out in paperback, being signed in York on Saturday 27 November. Wheels, both real and virtual, escaped their moorings in an attempt to upend one or both of the book signings.

WH Smith, Coney Street, to start with: we met some great people, both readers and writers. The store manager, Chris, gave us a special 3-book offer, and we ended up selling more books than ever, and certainly more than we'd hoped for given the mini disasters related below. The one regret was inadequate time to explore the store itself, which is an Aladdin's cave over two floors. However, we'll be back in the New Year.

It was the metaphorical wheel that fell off before the real one. We were alerted in a phone call a few days before the event. Stock glitch. The posters were up, customers were asking for the books, the press had shown an interest, author and agent had committed the (not so simple) itinerary to memory, but no books had been delivered and none would arrive in time.

Thank heavens for private events and that the agent was holding some stock, but it meant he had to arrive with both the author and the books. The author is self-propelling, but he had to borrow a sack barrow to transport the books. The distance between car-park and WH Smith, Coney Street, York, is short (ish) but plays out the varieties of the historical town. Steep hills, narrow gaps, cobbles, twists and turns. The loaded barrow raced along with a penetrating rattle that cleared a path through the crowds. It was the return journey, empty, bouncing back over the cobbles, steps and twists of York's streets that one of the wheels flew off.

Interlude: busy intersection; escaped wheel; author wrestling to keep 3-legged barrow in control whilst agent risked life and limb dodging traffic to rescue the fourth wheel before it was squashed. Happy ending with thankfulness for the general good-nature and tolerance of the British motorist, content to be entertained by the antics rather than annoyed at the obstruction.

And thus on to Monks Cross having a barrow with only 3 reliable wheels to transport a stack of books that must not be damaged. The question that loomed large was how close will we be able to park. The answer turned out to be 'not very'. But happy with a good event in Coney Street and unaware of the law awaiting us at Monks Cross, we set off... to be continued in next blog.

Monday 28 November 2011

The long arm of the law tackles author crime in Hull

Signing books in WH Smith, Prospect Centre, Hull is a dodgy business, especially when someone tips off the authorities that it is crime from cover to cover.

Annie Raymond, PI heroine of the three paperbacks just out, would have anticipated this and made provision. For the author, no such option. With store manager, Adam, having done a great 3-book deal, the books flew off the table and I signed with ever greater care. It's a strange phenomenon that once you sign your own name again and again, you start first to forget how to spell it and then to have doubts over what it actually is.

For an author, there is no better place to sit and sign books than WH Smith, Prospect Centre, Hull. It's a busy hub, an amazing store and fascinating just to watch the crowds come and go.

Store manager, Adam, runs a bustling book shop in trying economic times, for which he deserves a medal. He is also well known as a supporter of local authors, whose books sell well from his shelves. Sales at this signing broke previous records, which is exactly the result we were all looking for.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Beverley Guardian photographer breaches space-time continuum

As the author of the Annie Raymond PI series, first 3 books just out in paperback, I find myself falling more and more into investigator mode and questioning the motives of people I meet. Are they telling me the truth? Does what they say add up? Are there any signs of a hidden agenda?

But why would I suspect a photographer from the Beverley Guardian?

She came early to the signing on Saturday 19 Nov, before we'd started really, and took some pics of me with store manager, Philip, who runs one of only a handful of the 'books only' WH Smith stores in the country. He also runs a conventional WHS just up the road. He's a busy man.

We chatted with the photographer, who happened to mention the rest of her itinerary for the day. Her next but one assignment was in Out Newton (for those who don't know the area, that's a long way on twisty country lanes) and she was due to arrive ten minutes after leaving us. Surely she would be very late for that appointment and would get successively later as the day wore on, arriving at the final garden party just before midnight.

Was her relaxed demeanour just consummate professionalism or was something else going on? Did I hear a very distinctive noise in the background a moment after she left? I don't know for sure, but what I do know is that when I arrived, I spotted an old-fashioned police box at the corner of Toll Gavel. It wasn't there when I left!

Local author, Linda Acaster, dropped in, also with far too much to do but no time-machine to help out. We agreed that the world would be a better place if people could take more time out to sit back and contemplate the world around them. We couldn't enlarge upon the theme, however, as we both had other places we had to rush off to.

The signing went well. But maybe it's the Beverley Guardian that has the real answer...

Saturday 26 November 2011

Yorkshire based crime series out in paperback 3 Dec: WHSmith, Scarborough

There are lots of reasons to come to Scarborough at any time of year and here’s another.  The international award winning crime series featuring PI Annie Raymond is now out in paperback.  WHS are doing a special three-book deal.

I will be in WHS Westborough, Scarborough signing books from 12 to 2 on Saturday 3 December.  Do call in and say hello.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Time for crime in York: 26 Nov WHS

Yorkshire-based private detective, Annie Raymond, is out and about in paperback and in York.  Saturday 26 November. WHS are doing special deals on the trilogy at £15 the set of three.  Books include the international award winner, the Doll Makers.

I’ll be signing books in WHS Coney Street from 12:00 to 2:00

And in WHS Monks Cross from 2.30 to 4.30

Do call in and say hello if you’re in the area.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Book signing 19 Nov: WHS Books, Beverley – Annie books out in paperback

WHS Books, Toll Gavel, Beverley is one of just a handful of dedicated book shops in the WHS chain.  I’ll be there from 9.30 to 11.30 on Saturday 19 November hoping to draw in the crime lovers.  Last time I was here, we were joined by a local MP and a set of local authors.  I haven’t canvassed parliament, but I’m hoping to catch up with the local author circuit.

Paperbacks out 19 Nov: WHS Hull, special deal – 3 books £15

Annie books now out in paperback and WHS Prospect Centre, Hull are selling them on special offer.  The trilogy for £15.  I’ll be there from 12 to 2 on Saturday 19 November in amongst the Christmas shoppers hoping to covert some new readers to crime.  Last time I was here, the law intervened, but we’re hoping to get away with it this time.

Friday 11 November 2011

And so on to Slaithewaite... via Durker Roods

The Durker Roods Hotel stands back from the road in Meltham and looks busy despite a lack of any useful signage to bring people in. We managed to miss it first go, having been minutely directed from just 200 yards up the road. However, it was worth finding. With several hours between our Ladykiller event in Meltham and one in Slaithewaite at the library, we stopped off at the Durker Roods to relax for a while in the way that writers relax best and to have a bite to eat.

And so on to Slaithewaite... I left the homicidal SatNav in its box and followed Ladykillers Zoe Sharp and Lesley Horton on the winding route to Slaithewaite library. Given Lesley's reading in Meltham about how insurance fraud accidents are staged, I was wary pulling out behind her at junctions, but we arrived intact.

Slaithewaite has a lovely little library with an air of busyness; a place that people use. Great to be there at this time of uncertainty for libraries. And this event was full. And again it was a very enjoyable event to take part in; a welcoming crowd, a lively Q&A and a welcome Yorkshire cuppa.

Ladykillers bring murder and mayhem to Meltham

The first task for me was to meet up with fellow Ladykillers, Zoe Sharp and Lesley Horton, prior to our joint event in Meltham. And that was easier said than done. Our SatNav works to the millimetre anywhere south of the Humber estuary, but doesn't like Yorkshire at all.

Everything was going well as far as Huddersfield town centre where the road layout must have changed. Having been directed into an oddly curved side street, I felt a reluctance to follow the instruction to 'turn left' up and over the brow of a hill. I listen to my instincts. I'm a writer. And what a good thing. A moment later, two lanes of cars poured over the brow showing clearly this was a one way street - and a busy one - in the other direction. I turned back and took a random main road until the little arrow (and my nerves) had settled down enough to take me on a safe route through the town.

My next moment of distrust was when I found myself heading "for 2 miles" up Halifax Road because I was fairly sure it ought to be Huddersfield Road, but still it seemed roughly the right direction so I sailed along up a hill to a big roundabout where I was to "take the 5th exit" which proved to be back the way I'd come so I thought perhaps there would be an immediate left turn that had necessitated doing a full loop of the roundabout. Not a bit of it. I was urged to go back down Halifax Road "for 2 miles". I was in a SatNav loop.

I stopped and reprogrammed it with a more generic Meltham address which took me back down Halifax Road, across to Huddersfield Road and on up to Meltham where it stopped me a mile or so short of my destination. From there it took only three phone calls to Zoe, two enquiries from passers-by and a posse sent out to search for me and I'd arrived.

The Carlisle Institute is an imposing building with high-ceilinged rooms, in demand for all types of events.
For our event there had been a ticket mix up, the message had gone out that tickets were sold out before they were, which kept the numbers below capacity. But that didn't matter. It was a lively event with a well-engaged audience who kept the question and answer session going well beyond the appointed time.

I was given a wonderful cup of tea in a usefully sized mug. For someone who has just spent a week at a conference in Slovenia desperate for a Yorkshire cuppa that was a real treat. In fairness, I should add that lack of 'proper' tea was the only downside to Slovenian catering which was otherwise outstanding.

And so on to Slaithewaite...

Saturday 8 October 2011

Scarborough Writers' Circle: fair pay and perseverance pays

On 4 October I was privileged to be guest speaker at Scarborough Writers' Circle. This group has been going since 1948. It's a dynamic and diverse group of writers that routinely attracts a good turnout to its fortnightly meetings. In my view, it's the diversity that's the key to its strength. Many groups narrow their outlook as the months and years go by - focusing on a particular genre, level or type of writing. Not so the gang in Scarborough. I talked to writers, published and unpublished, working in a wide variety of genres and areas.

I was asked to talk on two topics: the first was in relation to my work as Chair of the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society. This is a topic close to my heart, but as it touches on copyright, secondary rights and IP legislation, it can be something of a soporific. However, Tuesday evening's audience was on the ball and kept me on my toes with a lively Q&A session. The message behind my talk was this: respect your fellow creators' copyright, expect them to respect yours, and always remember that fair pay for fair use is your right.

I was also asked to talk about my own route to publication as a novelist. There's a long tale, but I abridged the pain of it into quarter of an hour or so and believe I left behind me the very clear message that perseverance pays.

I also left behind me invitations to the Scarborough signing for the first three of my novels, out in paperback in mid November. WH Smith, Westborough, Scarborough 12.00 till 2.00 on Saturday, 3rd December.

Saturday 1 October 2011

To be or not to what?!?

Like False Money is out in paperback in November and that gave me the chance to do what I've wanted to do since the first hardback edition hit the shops - find and exise a spurious 'be'.  It's the typo that got away from everyone. A real irritation.  They didn't allow any edits when the hardback was reprinted.

I thought I knew where it was - roughly.  But no, it wasn't obvious.  Hiding itself again.  But no word can hide forever in the digital age and I did a search on 'be', checking every one of them.  Who'd have thought there would be so many?  And by a quarter of the way through the book, what a ridiculous word it had become.  Be? be? bebebe.  Beeeee.... A positive buffoon of a word that no writer in their right mind could possibly think of using.  How was I ever to write another book, in fact, because I knew that 'be' would have to show its face.

Found it in the end and exterminated it.  And it's turning into an ok word again, thankfully.  I can see myself using it... or be myself using it... or see myself being it....  And bees apart, I love the new cover.  Here it is:

Monday 29 August 2011

The opening salvo in a century of grapes

We think they are a variety called Black Hamburgh but can’t be sure.  This is the first bunch to be harvested.

Apparently they can crop for 100 years or more so it is a certainty that the vine will outlive the garden room. 
From this:

To this in one summer:

We might make wine one day, but unlikely this year.  Unless the weather holds for another 4 or 5 weeks not enough will ripen.  And anyway, they taste very nice and we’ll have eaten them before anyone gets round to remembering where the demijohns are stored.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Nominee for Worst Idea of the Week Award

The idea: that Snowball, young H’s new hamster, would love to have an hour in the small hen run on the lawn.

Turned out to be a hole in both the idea and the run.  Didn’t spot it until going to check up on him.  Too small a gap for a hen to squeeze through but a breeze for an adventurous hamster.  Feared it might mean a trip to the pet shop for a lookalike, but spotted him in the flower bed under the crab apple tree.

G said later he thought I was weeding (as if).  I was rugby tackling a hamster in amongst the lobelia.  He’s safely back in custody now.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Robin Hood’s Bay and Whitby

In honour of G’s birthday we went to Robin Hood’s Bay.  It ain’t ’alf steep, but great views.  And amazing old streets.

And then on to Whitby – some great book shops.  Loads of Dracula-related stuff of course.  Some interesting looking boat trips, but we got no nearer than watching them set off.  Even more amazing old streets, quite a maze.  We got lost.

Lovely weather, enough walking for muscles to be complaining next day.

Monday 18 July 2011

To eat or not to eat...

First sighting of a puffball at LTF coincides with the camera screwing up so it has been sitting there for two days now – see all the bite marks?  Not ours. Despite always saying we’d eat puffballs because they can’t be mistaken for anything else, we’re not mushroom-pickers by nature and found ourselves wondering if it was something else, something deadly.

However, we can find solace in the blueberries in their first year under cover (hard luck, feathered friends, these are ours)

and the pears that are on their way – first year of fruiting for this tree.  Gravity-defying fruit by the looks of it.  I forgot to flip the picture before uploading it.

We don’t eat these, but neither did the slugs this year.

 And we won’t eat these if they grow up to give us eggs.

And on the subject of first crop, these aren’t doing so badly and if they ripen, we might end up drinking them.

Saturday 2 July 2011

Local authors caught red-handed peddling crime in Hull city centre

Following a tip off, Humberside police raided WH Smith, Prospect Centre, Hull, this afternoon to find two local authors openly urging the populace to take to crime. 

[photo by Linda Acaster]
Although a pair of handcuffs was flourished, both officers steadfastly refused to adhere to stereotype, opening with a single "hello" and not the traditional trio.

Author, Penny Grubb, with the evidence of the Jawbone Gang, the Doll Makers, and Like False Money out in plain view, had a go with “It’s a fair cop”, but the wily officers were not going to be outwitted so easily and no one said, “You’re nicked”. 

Penny was signing books with Sylvia Broady (the Yearning Heart) on a red hot summer day in Hull.  Afterwards, people wandered down to Vanillaon Ferensway for post-signing eats and drinks where Les Pooley provided sumptuous fare.

If the authors were hoping for a wholesale confiscation of books (via the tills), they found the boys in blue dodging a strip search of their wallets, being not so easily led as politicians into mass crime purchase.

A couple of other local authors called in: Linda Acaster, novelist and writing coach and Robert Jaggs-Fowler, physician-poet.  Also on hand was fabulously talented local broadcaster, John Butcher, whose Windy Old Weather CDs are now available from his website where you can try before you buy.

Thanks to Adam and his team at WH Smith, who did the business with some great scene setting, and thanks also to all those who came along.

Saturday 25 June 2011

Local MP Engulfed in Crime

Beverley and Holderness MP, Graham Stuart, out shopping for a birthday present for a friend was taken unawares when he found himself surrounded by crime writers in WHS Books in Beverley, East Yorkshire this morning.

Award-winning crime writer, Penny Grubb, was there signing a copy of her latest novel The Jawbone Gang for another local award-winner, ValWood, whose historical sagas regularly hit the best-seller lists.  Before long the shop was crowded, and unluckily for Mr Stuart, the crowd was awash with local writers: Linda Acaster (paranormal romance); Stuart Aken, prolific writer and prize-winner in several genres; Madeleine Macdonald, novelist and regular columnist in the Yorkshire Post; Avril Field-Taylor (more crime); Karen Wolfe (comic fantasy); SylviaEdwards, Sylvia Broady and I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone.

This was not good news for an MP out shopping for a birthday present because writers are facing a lot of threats at the moment and have strong views on the importance of libraries and of valuing the creative industries, but to be fair to Graham Stuart he seemed happy to stay and talk on the various issues. 

And he left with a copy of The Jawbone Gang which I feel showed perfect judgement in respect of birthday present selection.  Although honesty compels me to note that from one or two things he let slip, I suspect our local MP’s friend would have chosen a book more directly concerned with the finer technical aspects of the internal combustion engine.  Let’s hope they both become converts to local crime.

L-R: Liz Smith and Yvonne Needham, senior academics from Hull University; Stuart Aken, Penny Grubb, Linda Acaster, Madeleine Macdonald.  Photo: Valerie Allison

Monday 2 May 2011

An Amazing April

This is the jungle from the big cats' perspective

And this from ours:

No rain equals no mud so the hens are laying clean eggs

And there are nests all over the garden, including a wren in here only visible to those who know where to look

and a dopey dove sitting on this egg out in plain sight.

How she'll keep an unruly chick in such a poor excuse for a nest, I don't know.

The pond is almost dry

but the lilac is out in style

Onward and upward into May.

Sunday 27 February 2011

A crocus fest at Lilac Tree

Including white ones with halos. I’ve never seen anything like it. It isn’t the camera. Or if it is, it’s my eyes too.
The snowdrop battalion still marches down the garden
But crocuses – or croci if you prefer – are out in all colours.
It’s not just snowdrops and crocus. The winter pansies are holding their own
Along with these things – the ones whose name I can never remember – something-anthemum I think.
The daffodils are poised too.
We are not free of the threat of snow which would not be good news, yet they come back in greater numbers every year so maybe we shouldn’t worry.