A walk on the not entirely domesticated side

Professional writers research their target market before putting pen to paper (fingers to keyboard)—identifying current trends, or the next trend, leads to success and sales. The sex market is huge and apparently still growing. The undead seem to be holding steady. Edgy thrillers with lots of tension have always been solid.

I didn’t even think about target markets (no secret there, I’m decidedly unprofessional) but lucked out to a small degree, as there is a new, tiny surge in older characters;  albeit feisty octogenarians whereas my characters are in the babyboomer age bracket (born between 1946 and 1964). Write what you know, so they say, and I’m a babyboomer myself, with one eye on the future, and I created the sort of place I would like to live. I added murder for armchair detectives, and more by good luck than judgement, it has worked. There are now five books in the series, and I am slowly collecting readers and reviews and so far so good.

The next thing professional writers do is nurture their target market and grow their readership by giving them more of what they like. Publishers, in fact, pretty much insist on this. If you have a successful formula, stick with it. My youngest regular reader is in her twenties and the oldest in his seventies (i.e. readers who have been in touch). Most seem to be in the forty to sixty-something age bracket, and so far so good, have been enjoying the vicarious experience of senior dating websites, or traipsing round the Edinburgh Festival. Those are things they’ve either done themselves, or could have an interest in, and no traditional publisher would have blinked either.

The latest book, though, Nine Ten Begin Again, takes my average reader into an environment they would never explore themselves and I’m wondering with both interest and trepidation exactly how far vicarious curiosity goes.

Would you dress up in disguise and head off to a club marketing itself as the fun alternative to BDSM and leather fetishism? Well, normally, me neither! But would you be intrigued by a vicarious glance into that world? Hell, I hope so.  I have no idea whether I have shot myself in the foot with a vengeance, or successfully entertained readers who have heard about that whole world and aren’t averse to learning a tiny bit more with characters they already know and trust to behave as they would themselves.

Nine Ten Begin Again is on a promotion price for its first week, click on the title, the cover below, or on the cover in the sidebar. And please let me know what you think!

nine ten kindle


Nine Ten Begin Again

nine ten kindleYup, Nine Ten has joined the family and just as soon as I have worked out again how to add it to my sidebar (I add things to my sidebar 3 or 4 times a year. I’m sure I will master the skill one of these days) will start selling like hot cakes.  In the meantime clicking on the cover in this blog should, at least in theory, connect you to the Amazon that enjoys your custom.  Oh, and if you’re quick about it, you’ll get it on promotion price. The first few days of each book are promotion days, glitches are part of the deal. If you missed this blog until after the promotion price, you should be on the mailing list.

I’ve always said Five Six was my personal favourite but Nine Ten may have overtaken it. I’ve read it through about a gazillion times over the last few months but still find myself smiling at certain times, and the beta readers commented that they smiled a lot too*. It was certainly an odd book to write, in that it started as a short story about Donald (I write microstories about the characters, call them hops and move them to their own tab on this website) and the characters took matters into their own hands and romped away with me panting after them and trying to call them back to heel. (My dog doesn’t listen to me either.)

So there I was with a very long short story which was refusing to quit, and a plot (after a contract job at a bank) which was trying to turn itself into a book, so I shrugged and put them together and asked my two all-time favourite beta readers to have an alpha look at the resulting draft. Yes, they said. Make it so.

Blame them.


*okay, apart from the one who was so shocked by the Donald bit of the story that she didn’t want to read on. But the others, and there were twelve of them, male, female, 30 something to 60 something, new and regulars, Scottish, English, American and South African, smiled a lot.


QR Codes

So, because I will otherwise probably forget myself how to do it, a quick blog on QR codes because this is quite cool for writers, even in the very, very basic way I understand it. It seems if you want to put a smart phone link onto, say, a bookmark or your business card, or a poster advertising your books, you use a QR code. The smart phone can scan that, and being very smart, is whisked to your linked market.

So, example. Say like me you use Booklinker, which will link browsers to their version of Amazon (which is also quite handy) (and you can then keep track of how often the link is clicked, and from which countries, which can also be handy), you would go into a site like this http://goqr.me/#t=url and feed in your Booklinker link and get something that back in the sixties would probably have been called Op Art (and been thought pretty groovy, I suspect) and that is your QR code.

If you scroll down my sidebar to the very bottom you’ll see two examples because you can embed them as well as save the images.  (Using a text widget, but you knew that, right?)

And then anyone with a smartphone who sees your poster or your promotion material can scan it and Bob’s your uncle and at least in theory you have a sale. You have certainly found another way to introduce Potential Buyer to Book.

Heavens, I know this is insanely basic and there is tons more to the subject! I’m rubbish at this sort of stuff. You cleverer types go and create your own codes, here’s a potentially useful site for you. Enjoy. http://www.qrcode.com/en/about/

Thanks to fellow writer JJ Alleson on LI for this tip!


Flashfiction anthology > 30 authors – selling now on Amazon and Smashwords

No secret that I do enjoy my SF as long as it doesn’t bog itself down in technology or take itself too seriously, and as a commuter I particularly enjoyed flashfiction collections, because you don’t get so caught up in the story you forget to get off the train (miss one station, tops). So this anthology is going to be pretty good news for anyone who enjoys a good variety in their SF. There are of course a few flashes of serious technological cleverness for the purists, but most of the stories are fascinating whatever your genre. Or, as the press release puts it, this is an eclectic selection of stories by both established and emerging sf authors, ranging from traditional character-rich tales to cutting-edge speculative fiction

The anthology is on Amazon (clickable link) and Smashwords and going into bookshops shortly.

The press release went on as follows:

The Future Is Short: Science Fiction in a Flash, an anthology of 57 microstories by 31 authors, edited by Jot Russell, Paula Friedman, and Carrol Fix. Lillicat Publishers 2014, ebook editions available June 29 through traditional online stores, print version forthcoming July 2014.

Step through the borders of reality in these 57 evocative tales by 31 science fiction authors.

Discover wonders and horrors of science and speculation in this sparkling collection. Swift to read but unforgettable, each story evokes a universe, a concept, a feeling human or alien.

These tales, each under 725 words, hold truth and laughter, comedy and tragedy. For instance: aliens take a novel view of a most human pastime in Perihelion editor Sam Belloto’s “What’s Past Is Past.” A Palestinian woman’s brilliant medical breakthrough carries a cutting barb, in Andrew Gurcak’s “Collateral Damage.” Unlike NASA, prizewinning British author Andy Lake asks, “Did Curiosity kill the cat?” Despair and horror turn to hope—perhaps—in Carrol Fix’s “Rebirth.” Revolution may come too late for the inter-species lovers of “Sentience,” by award-winning author Paula Friedman. One man’s decision will save or condemn a civilization in much-published Richard Bunning’s harrowing “Meek Survive.” Mike Boggia’s “Everyman Dies, But Not Everyman Lives” locates the heart of human-nonhuman encounter.

You should get it. It’s a cracker, and at $4.99, a very good deal.

Picking neighbours for Grasshopper Lawns

I live in a rather untidy work-intensive home and would move into the Lawns in a heartbeat. Independence, a weekly cleaner, social life on tap and lock-up-and-go holiday capability? Haud me back!  I’m just not sure I’m interesting enough to meet their requirement of an interesting past, plus of course the place doesn’t exist . . . damnit.46

A long time ago I was a letting agent (I have been many, many things in a fairly turbulent career) and I had a few retirement village units on my books. People would buy them, then want to rent them out until they were ready to move in themselves. So what is a retirement village? How long is a piece of string?

They all had one thing in common, available to anyone over the age of fifty five.  Let me quickly tweak your perception of people over fifty five. This blog is liberally Michell Pfeiffer 1958scattered with celebrities who qualify—it has to be said that none of them do live in retirement villages (unless of course Beverly Hills counts as such) but they are all over fifty five in these photographs. Fancy one or more as a neighbour? (I should probably say here that I don’t earn a penny from this blog and am posting these pics in admiration, ack, please don’t sue me!) Kevin Bacon and Michelle Pfeiffer just scraped through the age restriction. Sean Connery could have been there since 1985 (In fact most of the pics are clebs born in the forties who could have been there years.)


Sean Connery 1930 Kevin Bacon 1958So, back to retirement villages I got to know in my letting days: I had one unit on my books in a purpose-built apartment block in the heart of Rosebank, which was a very upmarket suburb in Johannesburg. The apartment was large and sunny, there was a showpiece (award-winning) large shared courtyard, oh, and an excellent restaurant set-up, with meals at extremely good prices. Rosebank was a shopper’s dream back then (as best I know, still is) with superb restaurants, cinemas, and easy access to Patrick Stewart 1940theatres. The security, always an issue in Johannesburg, was faultless. It was, without question, the sophisticated urbanite’s ideal choice. As it happened, the first couple I took to see the place were put off by the elevator (we saw someone hurrying over to join us, the husband put his elegant walking stick out to stop the doors closing, and the elevator chopped his stick in half and swept us upwards and away, eek) but the next people I took, a very energetic jet-setting couple in their late fifties, signed up promptly on a five year lease.

Twiggy 1949Another on my books was a charming one-bed cottage in a complex in Bryanston, which is some twenty miles into the countryside. There were about thirty chocolate-coloured face-brick attractive cottages, each with their own little garden,  in the high-walled facility, and a central building with an excellent library, lovely reception rooms, and good frail care facilities for when life throws a hiccup. I let that one to the first viewer, who was delighted. I think what sold it to her, as much as anything else, was that as we passed the good local shops there were two horses patiently waiting in the parking lot while their riders were getting fish and chips, and renting a DVD. She loved that, the town-and-country feel of the place.

Pierce Brosnan 1953My personal favourite called itself a country club, rather than a retirement village. It was well out in the countryside, any prospective tenants had to be able to drive or be forever reliant on the place’s minibus service. It sprawled across about ten acres of land, superbly laid out and maintained. Tennis courts (four), bowling greens (two), inside and outside pools (one of each), and the houses were free standing, two bedroomed, spacious, and mouth-wateringly attractive. There were no frail care facilities, if you got sick nobody liked you any more, you had to leave. And the rent on that one was as much commission as I earned in a good month, but oh my it was lovely.Christie Brinkley

You’ll understand therefore that to me a retirement village is a desirable place to spend your leisured years, and I am constantly taken aback by the perception of a shabby old age home smelling slightly distressingly of wee. I should probably explain that I write whodunits set in a Scottish retirement village. Reader perceptions of retirement villages are definitely of interest.

Denzel Washington 1954

Grasshopper Lawns has drawn from all the places I got to know but also from the place where my mother finally grudgingly moved, which was for Europeans only (i.e. not white people, but people of any colour who were originally from Europe) and had a hodge-podge of cottages, one bed apartments and studio units set in lovely gardens with good security. Her neighbours were German, Dutch, Scottish, English, and one Russian (so exotic), and she absolutely loved the place and wished she had moved earlier. Told you and told you and told you, Mum.

Grasshopper Lawns has alternating bachelor and studio self-contained units, around a central house with library, pub, etc, is in the beautiful Scottish countryside some twenty miles from Edinburgh, and you have toDiane Keaton 1946 be single, and be an interesting person with an interesting past, to apply. Murders do happen, but only a few have been on the actual premises. Only one actual resident has been murdered; well, so far. And now that I think about it, since I invented the place, they have to let me in.  Now I just need to look the part.  No worries.