Monthly Archives: December 2016

End of another year

The dwindling pages in my diary tell me that 2016 is running to its close. It’s been the year when I published my third novel, The Art of Breathing, and had new covers designed for the other two, so that they look like a handsome three-some. As part of the launch/re-launch of the #Scarboroughmysteries:

  • I ran a workshop at Beverley Literature Festival;
  • I was interviewed on BBC Radio Humberside and Beverley FM. I had a piece in the Scarborough Review;
  • I was interviewed on several blogs, including by Margarita Morris https://goo.gl/AYxKHA , by Kate Colby https://goo.gl/IjEFzS , by Anne Goodwin https://goo.gl/t34qi8
  • I had my launch at WH Smith in Scarborough on the 29th

    October;

  • since then I have given/facilitated five talks or workshops;
  • local book shop Wardle & Jones (http://wardleandjones.co.uk/) has stocked – and sold – my books. My books are also available in Book Corner Saltburn (http://www.bookcornershop.co.uk/) and The Book Shop, Kirby Stephen. As well as on Amazon in Kindle & paperback.

To be honest, I am not entirely sure what my next writing project will be, my creative reservoir (as Alan Garner puts it) needs to be nourished and re-filled. I expect to write #scarboroughmysteries 4 at some point. But at this precise moment I am also exploring other possibilities, at least partly aided by doing the Curtis Brown on-line novel writing course with Lisa O’Donnell.fjordjune16

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Beach cleaner volunteers 2016

2016 wasn’t just about book publishing – though it feels like it! Hubbie & I had a lovely trip to Norway. Plus, along with a sterling group of volunteers, we did a beach-clean every evening of the summer hols. And I partook in the thriving cultural life of my little town – Coastival; Beach Hut productions; Hull 2 Scarborough Line; Open Mic; and the Mark Hearld exhibition at the Art Gallery, to mention a few.

Of course, I have not been unmoved by the many national/international events which have punctured the year. I have felt anger and deep sadness at the war in Syria and the other evidence of humanity’s potential for unfathomable inhumanity, including the EU’s disappointing response to the migrants attempting to escape persecution, violence and poverty. Then there was disbelief at ‘Brexit’ and Trump. The only way I get through is by concentrating on the random acts of kindness and the extreme bravery of those who do take a stand and make a difference.

I am taking a break now, but will be back blogging in January 2017. Wishing all my readers the very best for the solstice (winter or summer, depending on where you are) and the attendant festivities which you may choose to celebrate. Here’s to a creative and nourishing 2017 for all.

 

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Author interview: Margarita Morris

margarita-m-in-green-400Today I am thrilled to welcome Margarita Morris to my blog, not least because she sets novels in my home town, Scarborough, and (from her writing) appears to be entranced by the place as much as I am.

Margarita Morris is an indie author. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and two sons. When she’s not writing, she enjoys swimming, yoga and singing with a local chamber choir. To date she has published four novels. Oranges for Christmas is a Cold War historical thriller about a family separated by the Berlin Wall. Set in 1961, it tells the story of Sabine in East Berlin and her brother, Dieter, in West Berlin and Sabine’s attempts to escape the East German secret police. The Sleeping Angel is a Young Adult mystery/thriller set in 1870, 1970 and the present day. Set in and around Highgate Cemetery it intertwines a Victorian mystery, a vampire hunt and a murder. Scarborough Fair and its sequel, Scarborough Ball, are mystery/thrillers set in the seaside town of Scarborough, England. Scarborough Fair combines a Victorian mystery with a modern day crime story. Scarborough Ball continues the modern day story but moves the historical story on a generation to the 1920s, the age of cinema, flappers and wild parties.

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Click to order: Scarborough Ball

What are you currently working on?
This year, 2016, has seen the publication of Scarborough Fair and the completion of Scarborough Ball which is up for pre-order and will be released on 16 December 2016. It’s taken me around 20 months to write and publish both books. I’m not entirely sure what my next project will be. I have a few ideas lined up which is a good position to be in. I intend to take a little time to play around with those ideas and see what takes root.

What has inspired your most recent novel/writing?
I like books that have a strong sense of place, for example Berlin, Highgate Cemetery and Scarborough. Scarborough is the quintessential Victorian, British seaside town and as a family we’ve had many wonderful holidays there. You can stand on the beach in Scarborough and see the medieval castle on the headland, the Victorian hotels and spa buildings, the old 1920’s Art Deco cinema and the modern amusement arcades all at once. It was this sense of layers of history in one place that inspired me to set a dual-time story in Scarborough.

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Click to order: Scarborough Fair

How would you describe your writing process?
I do a lot of rewriting. It takes me a few months to hit 60,000 words, at which point the story is essentially in place. I take quite a few wrong turns along the way and quickly build up an outtakes file. Once the plot is sorted, I then add in more layers and bring the scenes to life which substantially increases the word count. My husband is my first reader and he always provides constructive feedback. After he’s read it, I do a major rewrite and another edit and polish. Then it goes to the proof readers for final checking.

What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
So far all my books have been set in places that I’ve visited. I went to Berlin (including East Berlin) in 1987 before the Berlin Wall came down so I have first-hand experience of Communist East Germany, although fortunately I wasn’t interrogated by the Stasi. I took my family to Berlin in 2013 and we visited the Berlin Wall Memorial site at Bernauer Strasse, the former Stasi headquarters and the former remand prison.

For The Sleeping Angel I booked myself on a tour of Highgate Cemetery and also spent time just wandering around the streets of Highgate and Hampstead Heath, soaking up the atmosphere. As for Scarborough, we’ve had lots of holidays there.

But most of my research comes from reading books. For Oranges for Christmas I did a lot of research into the building of the wall, life in communist countries and the methods people used to try and escape from East Berlin. Whilst writing The Sleeping Angel I learned about spiritualism, Victorian burial practices, the work of Christina Rossetti at Highgate Penitentiary and the events surrounding the so-called Highgate Vampire in 1970. Scarborough Fair saw me exploring the world of Victorian lunatic asylums and for Scarborough Ball I learned about early cinema and popular dance tunes of the period.

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Click to order: Oranges for Christmas

Maps often play an important part in my research. For Oranges for Christmas I invested in a huge fold-out map of Berlin and marked the outline of the wall in highlighter pen. Otherwise Google Maps works just fine.

If you are indie published, why did you choose this route? What are your five tips for would-be indie authors? What are the pros & cons to indie publishing?
I chose indie publishing because I was frustrated with the slow process of submitting to agents and then not hearing from them for ages. I actually wrote The Sleeping Angel before Oranges for Christmas and a couple of agents were interested in it, but it got no further. So I put it in a drawer and moved on to Oranges for Christmas. It was whilst writing Oranges for Christmas that I started to hear about indie publishing and by the time I had finished the novel, I decided I wouldn’t bother submitting it to agents. I’d lost faith in them and was keen to try this new route.

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to indie publishing, but that’s something I enjoy.

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Click to order: The Sleeping Angel

The pros and cons of indie publishing are two sides of the same coin. Yes, you have to do a lot of work yourself, but on the other hand it puts you firmly in control of your own creative process. Here are five key tips:

  • Make the effort to learn about the industry. There are some excellent resources out there. One of the best is The Creative Penn website and podcast by Joanna Penn. Another excellent podcast is The Self Publishing Formula with Mark Dawson and James Blatch. I listen to podcasts whilst I’m doing the ironing or cooking.
  • Make sure your work is edited and proof read. You don’t want to look like an amateur.
  • Get a professional cover. I tried designing my own first covers for Oranges for Christmas and The Sleeping Angel. They weren’t terrible (I hope) but they certainly weren’t brilliant. Since then I’ve had all my covers professionally designed and I love them.
  • Connect with other indie authors through your website (WordPress is recommended) and social media.
  • Be prepared to pay for marketing and advertising. You can get a big sales boost if you advertise a sale on a site like Bookbub or EReaderNewsToday. Unfortunately Bookbub is very difficult to get on, but I keep trying.

How can readers find you and learn more about your writing?

My author website is margaritamorris.com. Here you can find out about all my books and read my blog.

I also run the good writer where I blog about grammar tips, self publishing and creative writing.

You can find me on social media:

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Goodreads

Instagram

 

Book links:

Oranges for Christmas

The Sleeping Angel

Scarborough Fair

Scarborough Ball

 

 

7 things you need to know about crime writing

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Today I am thrilled to welcome Nick Quantrill to my blog. Nick is an established crime novelist based in Hull. His latest novel, The Dead Can’t Talk, is published by Caffeine Nights Publishing: https://goo.gl/LyXc9F

 

 

Here he offers some useful & precious nuggets of guidance to budding crime writers:

You need a protagonist
All stories need a protagonist, someone who can give a story its essential structure. Of course, not all protagonists are born equal. Some are paid professionals, typically a police officer or investigator of some kind, but equally, they can be the person we pass in the street with no secret powers or a well-motivated amateur. The choice is yours. Your protagonist doesn’t even need to be a good person. Sounds like a contradiction? Think about someone like Tony Soprano. The key to him being such a compelling protagonist is that he has his own strong moral compass.

You need a worthy opponent
If you’re going to test your protagonist thoroughly, you need to really disrupt their life to see how they react. Their opponent can be pure evil, or they can also be more complex and nuanced. It’s a case of perspective. They can be misguided, manipulated by darker forces or maybe motivated by revenge. People are rarely either good or bad. The grey area is where crime writing thrives.

You need a location
Deciding on a location will go a long way in helping you decide what type of crime novel you’re going to write. Will your story be set in a contemporary location? If so, you need to consider how well you know it and what your research needs are. Will it be urban or rural? If you’re going to tackle the historical novel, you’re opening up a whole different can of research worms. You also need to consider how contained your story is going to be. All worlds have rules and norms, all characters have a stake in the world and interact with it differently.

You need a plot
“Where do you get your ideas from?” is a question often asked of any writer, and the truth is ideas are everywhere. The trick is in working out which ones can sustain a novel. More importantly, it’s about working out what interests you. Maybe it’s an injustice that makes you angry, maybe it’s a need to explore a particular location to make sense of it. Once you’ve got your motivation it’s a case of working it up into a plot and making the structure work.

Don’t sweat the sub-genre
Crime writing seems to contain more sub-genres than ever – police procedural, domestic noir, psychological thriller, serial killer…the list goes on and on. Some sub-genres are very much in fashion at the moment, some always will be and some will come and go. The publishing world moves so slowly, chasing the market is likely to prove foolish. There’s so much advice to cut through when writing, but it doesn’t ring truer than write what you want to write. It’s the only way to find your voice and tell a story with passion and commitment.

Crime writing is not the pariah of the literary world
Think crime writing is for writers who aren’t technically skilled enough to write beautiful prose tdct-final-coverand deep meaningful thoughts? Think it’s only about cheap thrills and tricks? Think again. Crime writing can be pure entertainment, but it also has the capacity to go far beyond that. Crime writing looks the world firmly in the world and says it as it is. Crime writing can examine where money, power and influence intersect and offer up perspectives beyond our own understanding. It has the power to challenge and question our opinions.

Crime writers are friendly
I don’t know why they are, but they just are. Maybe it’s being treated as literary outsiders which leads to crime writers huddling together, maybe it’s dealing with dark subject matter on a daily basis, but crime writers know how to let their hair down. If you want to find industry professionals, go to the big crime festivals and mingle, seek advice. If you want to meet likeminded people and receive encouragement, also go. You’ll find you’re more than welcome.

Learn more about Nick & his work: http://www.nickquantrill.co.uk/