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.

 

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.

 

The Writing Process Blog Tour

I’ve been nominated by Georgia Rose for the Writing Process Blog Tour – thank you Georgia!

 

A Single Step’ is Georgia’s first romantic suspense novel, and is the first book in The Grayson Trilogy. It will be joined by ‘Before the Dawn’ this summer and finally by ‘Thicker than Water’.  Her website is Georgiarosebooks  Georgia Rose

So, the blog tour:

I have to answer four questions about what, why and how I write, then link to the blogger that tagged me, and tag two or three more authors in turn.

 

1. What am I working on now?

I’m trying to get Nine Ten Begin Again ready for beta readers, the fifth in a series of whodunits set in the greater Edinburgh area. (Which is why the pic is of the fabulous Kelpies, which soar next to the M9.) The first four have led the characters up towards this book (in between bodies and murderous villains, of course) but there’s a fairly dramatic change in character interaction and it is really worrying me, to the point where I asked two beta readers for feedback on an early draft, something I have never done before. They approved it enthusiastically (I do love my beta readers very much indeed) so it is full steam ahead. Totally nerve-wracking, as the first four books are slowly picking up fans, some of whom may be resistant to the change.  Seven Eight had twelve beta readers and because I am so nervous I am recruiting even more for Nine Ten, if anyone is up for it? Filthy job, but someone has to do it.  I always need new readers, because of the series side, but want a couple more regulars this time because of the change in the dynamic.


 kelpies 009

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I write cosy whodunnits—also known as cozy whodunits—which is a fairly strictly controlled genre (not quite as bad as the original Detective Club rules) and if mine differ in any particulars, it is because my sleuths are neither young and trendy, nor ancient. They are semi-retired but not old. Baby boomers, really, and the hardest thing has been getting readers to see them as active and lively and not elderly Miss Marple-and-friends.  They are much more in the Rosemary and Thyme, or Murder She Wrote, age-group and I have a lot of fun with them. The books are possibly also a bit funnier than the conventional armchair detective novel, although there are some wonderfully funny ones in the genre.  The humour is very understated, my favourite readers are the ones that tell me they find themselves smiling all the way through.

 group

3. Why do I write what I do?

That is such a good question, and I have no answer whatsoever. I started my scribbling life writing historical novels (so much research) and switched to alternating that with SF. I love SF, but am not very good at it from a purist point of view, as I have a very shaky grasp on the technicalities and am frowned on by the true fundi. Detective fiction is an absolute killer, because you have to work out a murder, a murderer, then reverse-engineer the story with clues and red herrings. The first was incredibly difficult and written for private reasons. If reading them is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, writing them is like hand-cutting each piece.  Very addictive, though. . . well, I’m addicted.

 

 typist

4. How does my writing process work?

With a murder, or mystery, that creeps into my thoughts and slowly evolves in the background. Eventually it takes shape enough that I can start feeding my characters into it. They have evolved to the point where their input shapes the story further and once I have a beginning, a middle and an end, I start fleshing out, that’s the best point of all, where I will be writing four or five thousand words in a session and the world recedes into a hazy background. Eventually the draft reaches a point where I think it is complete, I put it away for a month and try to catch up on real life.  The first major edit after a month is always a letdown, it is never as brilliant as it seemed! Poking, prodding, pruning and adding (with my beta readers in mind) gets it to the point where it can go for their input, which always provokes multiple rewrites. Finally it goes for editing, and I put a release date on the blog and order the cover.

Thanks for reading and I hope you find something of interest in this.

 

I am tagging two authors I have read and enjoyed, and my third is a bright new talent:

Andy Lake is a serious and highly regarded writer who, in a lighter vein, writes some of the best SF microstories in the business, check out those tabs on his website on http://andylake.co.uk/

Susan Scott writes beautifully, I found her first via her book but she is a great blogger and there will be a wealth of blogs right now as she has just finished the April A-Z challenge on a difficult but nicely-realized subject  http://www.gardenofedenblog.com/

Kirsten Arcadio has a very evocative website and with one book out, one due and a third before the end of the year, is a talent to watch  http://www.kirstenarcadio.co.uk/kirsten-arcadio/

 

GL Archives – Alistair, 1998

Edge says in Five Six Pick Up Sticks that she met her second husband through an introduction agency, and that they only had eight years together, she was always glad they never wasted any of that time. One reader said it was out of character—that Edge wasn’t the type to take a man home on a first date. It wasn’t quite like that. . . it’s a slightly soppy story, and it started in August 1998.

 computer dating

Join one of those computer dating agencies. Not to date people, if you don’t feel ready for that, just to meet other single people, with some shared interests.  I know you said you’re quite liking being independent but it sounds to me as if all you do is sit and write all day, that’s not a life. Forty two is far too young to be a widow and James would never have expected you to sit around doing a Queen Victoria for the next forty or so years!

Anyway, think about it. They do computer profiling, you list all the things you think are important, and what you want from people, and they match you up,  Gordon’s secretary is getting engaged to a man she met that way.  If you go through a proper service you pay, she paid quite a lot, but you do meet people also prepared to pay!

Edge re-read that part of Vivian’s long email, and looked back at the leaflet that had come through her door that morning, promising a select introduction service. Straws in the wind . . . taking a deep breath, she picked up the phone and made an appointment for later the same afternoon.

By the time she’d been there half an hour, she was wishing she could escape. She’d had photos taken, her interests—a short and alarmingly dull list—recorded, and just wanted to escape Jolene, the efficient and slightly scornful interviewer.

‘I don’t really want a match as such.’ She clasped her hands slightly nervously  and tried to concentrate. ‘I was widowed about a year ago, and most of my friends are married or living abroad.  My best friend’s in Africa, she suggested this might be a way of meeting other people in the same position, who just want a friend to go to films with, the occasional meal, and if I do have to go to formal events with a partner, someone reasonably presentable. I’m not looking to fall in love, being on my own for the first time in my life hasn’t been all bad, I’d like to explore it a bit more. What I’d really like is a man friend, not involved with anyone, who just wants to be friends. Do you set up friendships?’

‘So you like going to films, eating out. What kind of films?’ Jolene shifted her gum to the other side of her mouth and typed Edge’s halting answers straight into the form. She escaped finally with relief and not very high expectations. Her list had sounded boring even to her own ears, Jolene hadn’t bothered to acknowledge her request for a male friend other than with a roll of her eyes, but had marked her file as someone looking to expand her horizons rather than settle down. Very grandiose, but true enough. She let herself into the apartment and switched on her computer, making coffee while it booted up. The phone rang as she sat down to work. Jolene, from the consultancy.

‘Gunny, do you remember talking to a man in the waiting room here today?’

‘No, I didn’t talk to anyone. I did see a man I thought I knew, he looked very familiar, but I couldn’t think why.’

‘You might have seen him on TV. He’s an ex-rugby international, he’s been on a couple of talk shows.  Anyway, Gunny, he asked specifically to meet you. The woman in the waiting room, he said. He doesn’t match your profile at all, but he was really persistent, may I fax through his details, and if you really aren’t interested you can let me know? If you are, I’ll give him your details, but to be honest you don’t match his profile either.’

He’s way too young Edge emailed Vivian but that was a bit of an ego-pat, that he wanted to meet me, wasn’t it? But apart from anything else he was listed as wanting to start a family. Well, I wish. I might go for lunch as an ice-breaker, could be good to have a first date where I know nothing can come of it. If he asks, of course, after he sees my file!

2010-10-17 16.17.44

‘I really hope you aren’t called Gunny because you’re an Arsenal supporter?’ Alistair’s eyes laughed at her and she laughed back, enjoying herself.  When he’d entered the restaurant and looked around for her she had felt the same little shock of recognition she’d experienced in the waiting room, and didn’t think it was from TV; within minutes they’d been teasing and joking like old friends.

‘I’m not really called Gunny at all. My real name’s Beulah Bentwood, and my husband called me Gunny because of my initials. I had to give a computer name to the agency, so I thought it was as good as any.’

‘Bentwood?’ He looked surprised. ‘Any relation to the actress?’

‘She’s James’ daughter. Do you know her?’

‘Not really; we’ve dated a couple of times, nothing serious. No interests in common.’

‘You and I don’t have any interests in common either.’ Edge pointed out slightly reluctantly, and he laughed aloud.

‘I know, your file was disastrous. No rugby, no bridge, no desire to go flying all over Europe for spot weekends away, and you don’t want to start a family. The only good thing was that you were open to new interests and new experiences. I like to live life on the edge.’

She choked on her wine, and he had to pat her on the back. ‘What did I say?’

‘No, nothing.’ No point, this was a once-off lunch—then to her own surprise she blurted out, ‘my middle name is Edgington. Since I was a little girl everyone but James has called me Edge.’

His face lit with laughter, and he covered her hand on the table.  ‘Excellent. There you are. Can’t have more in common than that.’ The lunch had flown by and he’d left reluctantly, already late for a meeting, and promised to call her. She phoned Vivian as soon as she got home.

‘He’s so completely wrong in every way – he’s nearly eight years younger than me, he wants a family, he lives half the year in Malta, he has his own four-seater plane and likes to go away nearly every weekend, he’s a bridge fanatic and you know how useless I am at the game, but Vivian, we laughed so much. It was as though we were best friends who had lost touch and we were catching up after a long absence, it was so comfortable, so easy. I can’t imagine meeting anyone I could ever like as well. I’m sitting here wondering what to do with myself until I can see him again.’

Vivian’s voice down the phone was amused. ‘You’ve got it badly. Will you see him again?’

‘I hope so,’ Edge said fervently, then smiled into the phone. ‘I think so, though. I hope so. We were so completely in synch, we were practically ending each other’s sentences by the end of the meal. I felt quite taken aback when he had to go, as though nothing could be more important than what we were saying. Quite ridiculous, I know. Hang on, there’s someone at the main door.’  She went to the intercom and pressed the speaker. ‘Hello?’

‘Edge? Alistair. Alistair Cameron.’

‘It’s him. At the door,’ Edge said slightly breathlessly down the phone. ‘I didn’t give him my address! What do I do?’

‘Let him in, but keep me on the phone. If he’s drunk or scary I’ll phone the police for you. Go on, Edge—you said it yourself, you really like this guy.’ Edge nodded and buzzed the door release, then opened her front door and waited .

Alistair smiled slightly tentatively as he mounted the stairs and saw her waiting. ‘This is going to look a bit stalkerish. I sat in that stupid meeting wondering why I had thought it was important.  As soon as I could escape I tracked down Jamey Bentwood and made him give me your address. I just felt—we barely scratched the surface at lunch. May I come in?’

She studied him, trying to suppress the smile on her own face, then nodded. ‘Yes, of course.’ She held the door wide. ‘I’m on the phone. Vivian, I’m going to have to go. Everything’s fine. More than fine.’

Beginnings – a prequel microstory

‘So what’s your news?’ Vivian carefully put coffee down on Edge’s sidetable, and sat with a little ‘oof’ in the opposite chair.  ‘You sounded really excited on the phone.’

‘I am, a bit, I got a fantastic offer for the flat, so that’s it, done and dusted. Selling.’

‘But the flat was beautiful! I thought you loved it!’

Edge shook her head. ‘I rattle around in it, much too big for one. I write and eat and practically sleep in one room and the rest just gathers dust. And no garden, and that hellish couple with the screaming baby as neighbours, and I could never just up and go when I felt like it. I’ve got big plans for the future.’

‘You’re not leaving Scotland?’ Vivian looked alarmed and Edge snorted.

‘No, idiot. But I do want to travel a lot more than I have been. And I’m tired of living on my own.’

‘What, you’ve reconsidered and you’ll come share with me?’

‘God, no. I love you like a sister but share a house with you? Never. I can’t think of a way of ending a friendship faster. I decided I want a nice tiny place to myself, interesting neighbours, good security so I can lock up and go whenever I feel like it, and I still want to be near you and near Kirsty and to be able to put people up when they come to visit. And I’ve found it! Just the place. Have you ever heard of the Grasshopper Lawns retirement village?’

‘You’re too young to go into an old age home. Anyway, why on earth would you want to?’

‘It’s not an old age home. They’ve got totally independent apartments, a fabulous garden, and guest accommodation facilities, and they only take people with interesting pasts, I was interviewed by the bursar, the administrator and the smallest and most perfectly groomed woman I’ve ever seen, who used to be a Cold War spy. Patrick recommended the place. And Vivian, I want you to apply too, we can be neighbours.’

Vivian was already shaking her head. ‘Oh, no, Edge. I have to keep the house so the kids can come visit. And I don’t really like meeting lots of strangers, I like the quiet life, you know that.’

‘I do know that. And I don’t approve, and you know that. The kids visit, what, every other year? Vivian, how long have we been friends?’

‘Every time someone says that, it means they want something.’ Vivian sipped gloomily at her tea. ‘You know how long. Since we were eight.’

friends for beginnings

‘And in all that time, have I led you astray?’

Vivian started to laugh. ‘When have you not! You were the most terrible influence on me!’

‘Nonsense. I got you out of your music room and away from your endless scales, and you hauled me out of reading every play ever written, and the pair of us were very good for each other, we always have been. I have a feeling about Grasshopper Lawns, I think it could be a bit of an adventure, and I have to insist;’ she suddenly faltered, shook her head and sat back. ‘Wow. Flashback. I won’t insist. But I really, really want you to think about it. Come look at the place. Help me move in. Okay? And I’ll tell you what else they have, dogs, in the main house, and they’re divine, they’re Labradors. Any of the residents can take one for a walk whenever they like. In fact the bursar, Hamish, an absolute duck, said there’s such competition sometimes that residents adopt one and then the Lawns gets another from Labrador Rescue.’

Vivian weakened, as Edge knew she would. ‘Oh, I have missed having dogs around. But I don’t have an interesting past, I’d never get in. A Cold War spy, heavens!’

‘And a few writers, and a Russian ballerina, and a mercenary and an actress. Why not an opera singer? I told them about you and they want you to apply. And I want you to apply. And you know me, I always get my way in the end. I’m more stubborn than you are.’

Vivian sipped slowly at her tea while Edge watched her with bright eyes. Finally she said, ‘you really have one of your feelings about this place? That it would suit us?’ Edge nodded and she sighed. ‘Okay. Tell me more about the dogs.’

buster

Endings (microstory)

Every cell in the human body, doctors say, is replaced within a seven year period. This story is about Vivian and Edge, but it is dated over seven years before the Grasshopper Lawns series starts, so it is also about two totally different people.

bench for endings

Gordon Oliver watched his beautiful wife walk slowly up the stairs under the bougainvillea-vivid trellis and rubbed his chest absently with his right hand before taking a gulp of his whisky. Perhaps, to others, she was no longer as beautiful as the girl he’d married nearly thirty years earlier, but her smile still lit the room. Doctors. What did they know? He rubbed his chest again and as Vivian reached the patio doors and vanished from view, switched his attention back to her best friend who still sat hunched and frozen, staring out to sea.  He quickly finished his drink and topped the glass up with orange juice, turning his head to smile as Vivian joined him.

‘Not budging, eh?’

‘I’m worried sick. If she would only cry! She cried after James died, but she hasn’t shed a tear for Alistair. She’s just a polite fading shadow. I’m convinced she’s made her mind up, that the only reason she’s going back to Scotland is so that whatever she’s planning won’t upset her friends here. She can say her mother needs her, and she wants to see more of her niece, but it’s just words to deflect me. I know her.’

‘I’ve never known two people as much in love as they were, but women have been widowed before, darling. They survive.’

‘She’s so intense, though. Usually so vital.’ Vivian sniffed the air, then looked reproachfully at her husband. ‘Oh, Gordon.’

‘Hey, you’re the one with bronchial lungs and don’t tell me you haven’t sneaked a puff or two in the last three years. A wee dram won’t kill me.’

‘I’ll never smoke again, though. And you shouldn’t drink, the doctor said it wasn’t good for you. I couldn’t bear to lose you, not after watching Edge agonizing over Alistair, that’s why I’m so sure she’d going to—well. Could you speak to her?’

 

bench for endings

 

 

Gordon sat down heavily on the bench next at Edge, who didn’t seem to notice. ‘Edge, my love. How long have you and Vivian been friends?’

She stirred, surprised, and finally looked at him sideways through the sweep of her shoulder-length hair. ‘Forever. Since we were eight. You know that.’

‘You’re like sisters, and she knows you better than anyone else on Earth. And she thinks you’re going back to Scotland to kill yourself.’  Edge was shocked into stillness for a moment, then shrugged.

‘You never did flinch at saying what was on your mind. I’m saying goodbye, yes, I doubt I’ll come back to Africa, too many memories. I loved being here, but I love Scotland too. I think it will be easier to live one day at a time there than here, and I’ve family there, real family, not happily-married friends who feel like family but also remind me every day of what I’ve;’ she paused, and finished thinly. ‘What I’ve lost.’

‘Okay, good. One day at a time is fine. You’re a pretty woman, and a strong woman, and in time you’ll realize again that life is sweet, but until then I need you to keep going for Vivian’s sake. Because she’s going to need you.’

She finally turned to look at him, her face pinched and thin with all the weight she’d lost, but a spark of curiosity in her sunken tearless eyes. ‘Why? What are you saying?’

‘I’m saying the doctor said I can smoke and drink as much as I want, now, it can’t make any difference. I’m staying off the fags, for Vivian’s sake, but we’re selling up. Vivian’s always wanted to go back home, and we’ll be following you within the year. She doesn’t know why, and you’re not to even hint at what I just told you. Her parents aren’t in the best health so she’s accepting that as the reason. The kids are staying here, their lives are here, but Vivian and I are returning to Scotland, to spend time with her parents.  When they go, and I go, I’m sorry, Edge my love, but I have to insist you be there for her.’

Vivian, watching anxiously from the window, saw Edge put her hands to her face, then lean her head on Gordon’s shoulder and weep in total abandonment, her shoulders shaking with grief. Vivian’s heart swelled with love as she watched her husband put a comforting arm around her best friend’s shoulders and turn his head to stare out at the endless, ever-changing sea.

Happy New Year, and happy birthday to Edge and co.

This blog introduces my new mailing list, and if you sign up you get a free Lawns story as a thank you, and notifications of pre-publication special prices, and other general sweeteners to encourage you to stay subscribed. After this blog, the offers will likely only be on the emails. Go sign up now, I’ll wait, it’s the button at the top of the sidebar.  Oh, and there’s a free book offer in the blog too.

This is also happy birthday to Edge, Vivian, Donald and William, who were officially born on the 1st of January 2013, when I got a New Year resolution sorted in recordNOT USED time and published my first novella on Kindle. The book – which very nearly went out with this cover, don’t laugh – was very  nearly a textbook for newbie ineptitude.

I doubt I’ll stop making errors any time soon, but I’m not quite the naïve writer who with much muttering and cursing and referring to help topics, published  One Two on Kindle and shyly sat back, thinking the job was done.  Such an innocent. But if I had known then what I know now, a year down the line, I probably wouldn’t have done it. Far from job done, it was job barely begun.

The joy of novellas is that they’re a pleasure to write; forty to fifty thousand words is a piece of cake.  Writing a thousand words an hour is the easy part. Editing, pruning, tidying and rewriting, updating feedback from beta readers, waking at three in the morning to suddenly realize I hadn’t actually explained a key timing issue (the moon phases in Five Six) is a job. A very badly paid one, and the hours are brutal.

The Lawns books are also now in paperback, and an omnibus Kindle edition of One to Six is coming out tomorrow, January 1st, to mark the anniversary.  It’ll be $5, so, since the books are $2.99 each, there’s a saving of up to $3.97. I should probably have said that earlier. I’m still rubbish at marketing.

2014 is all about getting serious. I want reviews, and the experts (independent publishing may still be in its rebellious spotty teens, but there are experts, and when they are best-selling experts, you listen) say each book needs at least a hundred reviews to make a ripple in the general reading public. A hundred! One Two has around a dozen scattered over the Amazon websites around the world, and the others are trailing behind even that. Readers say they like the books, they tell me on Twitter and Facebook and even on LinkedIn, and they must be telling each other for the sales to carry on trickling in (Five Six sold better in its first week than the first two combined, in their first weeks, and all of them are selling slowly but steadily) but they don’t tell Amazon.  I gave away 500 copies of One Two and got a big jump in sales on the other two, but only three reviews out of it. So that didn’t work, I’m not sure I will do it again.

Instead, anyone who emails Elizabeth.Lamprey@yahoo.co.uk with the link to a review they’ve published on one of my books gets their choice of the books listed at the end of this giant blog, or, if you already have every book written to date (thank you!) goes on the list for the next. I’d much rather give away a free book to a reviewer who has already taken the trouble once, and if they enjoy it, might do so again, than in random promotion. I don’t know whether I mentioned it yet but reviews are really, really important. I did? Worth saying again.

I’m having silhouettes drawn of the characters (rough draft at the end of the blog), and eventually there’ll be sketches (why, why did I not spend ten thousand hours drawing as well as writing?) but until then here’s your very rough visual shortcut to the birthday kiddies.

the group

 

The list of Grasshopper Lawns books by EJ Lamprey (with clickable links where the book is already on sale) which can also be claimed in Kindle format by existing reviewers 

One Two Buckle My Shoe unpopular resident Betsy Campbell called the police to report a murder, but was dead when they arrived. The police could do with some inside information, and luckily Sergeant Kirsty Cameron’s aunt is right on the spot. 

In Three Four Knock On My Door it’s handsome devoted nephew Simon, and the enigmatic Dallas from Louisiana, who come knocking. And Death, complete with scythe. The amateur sleuths solve murder in between unexpected family, winter picnics, mad dogs and Englishmen.

Five Six Pick Up Sticks   Website dating for the over-fifties is definitely a boom industry, but for some it has been a dead end, and the Scottish police want to know why.  Sergeant Kirsty Cameron’s aunt Edge is the right age to be the bait in their investigation, and she’ll be monitored at all times, so nothing can go wrong . . .   

Seven Eight Play It Straight is due out early in 2014  Edge’s stepdaughter is appearing in a Fringe production during the Edinburgh Festival;  but  as always when the four friends are around, murder is never far away. Sergeant Kirsty Cameron can’t help much this time, she’s been suspended during the investigation, as her aunt is a suspect . . .

There’s a ghost story called The Passing Of Mrs Parker Woodburn , by EJ Lamprey (the link is to the lovely short story site Alfiedog.com, which at 39p is a better price than Amazon.) Mrs PW was quite put out about being murdered. . .

Science Fiction novelette Time after Time, published under the name Joanna Lamprey. Being different can be hard to live with. Finding out that what makes you different is going to change your life, in ways closed to nearly everyone else on Earth, is pretty heady stuff. You can’t blame a girl for getting a little carried away. This is a story about travelling back through time. And the importance of not acting without thinking, when twenty or thirty thousand years hang in the balance.  Oops.

(Be warned, one of my usual beta readers did not like this book, and one, who doesn’t like SF, couldn’t carry on reading. Two refused to even try as they don’t like the genre. The other beta readers for the book don’t read my Lawns books, they are SF only. So, only one beta reader who likes both this and the Lawns books.) 

There’s also a handbook, Beta Reader (and how to prepare your book for beta reading) which is on Kindle at 99c and also available in paperback. Most reference books are more convenient in print but frankly, because of the way this one is set up, Kindle works well. If you are using it as an edit guide, you’re working through one task at a time, and that fits with a Kindle screen just fine.  If you’re reading it to learn more about beta reading, why pay extra for a paperback? And if you’re beta reading for me, or generally claiming it as a free book, but don’t for whatever reason want the Kindle version,  it’s not too big for PDF, I think about 75 pages.

 group 3

Christmas Kindle – the gift of a portable library

kindle bookmark

 

I loved this tweet when I saw it and hope Rossetti Rogers will forgive me for borrowing it here, but it is oh so relevant to this post.

A very successful blogger with a huge readership invited independently-published authors to toot their books on his blog today for the Christmas market. His website may yet collapse, I think I darted in at number 285.

If you want to know who and where, ask. I find it very odd that I have more readers all the time, yet you drift silently in, read (often more than one entry) and then drift away. Yes, you. What for you do that, you doan wanna talk, eh? Eh? Am I scary?  

The older I get the more prone I am to these little conversational detours.

Anyway, I pitched quite the persuasive spiel, all the while knowing the chances of anyone making it down to #285 without having spent their entire Christmas budget were slim to non-existent. Maybe, I thought, I should be pitching my spiel, not on a passenger liner, but in my own tiny canoe. And maybe you, the silent passers-by, will be struck by the logic and force of my argument and I’ll rack up a sale or two. Well, I might have, if I hadn’t already aggressively italicized you away.

But here’s the pitch. (If WordPress font permits, in big loopy letters.) (nope, WordPress preferred to stay understated. Bold and italics yes, Algerian 24 no.)

This entry is for those of you buying a Kindle for a slightly older relative who has never had one before. You KNOW you’ll have to download the first book for them, because they’ll never do it themselves and there’s a real chance your lovely gift will end up being a coaster otherwise. But what to download?

What you need is a cozy whodunit, clean as a whistle, perfect for the armchair detective, novella length (making it easy-read AND affordable) and the first in a series so they’ll be motivated to go looking for the next. One reader, converted. Oddly enough many of my readers are in their forties, even thirties, but the books work all the way up to ninety plus, have a look, you’ll see why. You’ll thank me.

One Two Buckle My Shoe

Of course if they’ve ever done any website dating for senior singles, you’ll want to download the newest one in the series instead, because that’s all about our heroine diving into the deep end of the dating pool, the end where the predators lurk, and it’s proving the best seller so far: Seems we’ve all done some website dating.

I even quoted one of my 5 star reviews, trying to make it sound as though there were hundreds and I had picked one at random. That’s salesmanship. I hope that’s how it comes across, anyway.

Five Six Pick Up Sticks

 

5 star review on Amazon.com from Scottiedog “I enjoyed both the earlier books, they’re fun to read and neatly solved. I like the characters and the retirement village setting, and there’s always a twist I miss, even though by this book I was watching closely for clues because they’re so obvious in retrospect! This book is slightly different in that Edge is put squarely and deliberately in the firing line and even though she’s a main character and I know she won’t be killed off (right?) I was reading faster and faster as the end approached. I think it’s the best so far- fun and exciting”

We may never know. But I’d kick myself for not even trying. And the point remains, getting a Kindle is lovely but, er, what next? You’re a lovely generous person for giving it, but you have to follow through.

Happy to help.

 

 

Coffee – Cake And Crime Event – With E J Lamprey

There’s been a murder, how great is that for a blog title? And it’s a grand blog, Lynsey really knows her stuff!

THERE'S BEEN A MURDER

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Life may not begin at (nearly) sixty but it certainly takes some unexpected turns for golden girls Vivian and Edge, fellow residents at the Grasshopper Lawns Retirement Village in Scotland, after the murder of an unpopular resident. Edge’s niece is a sergeant in the small local police force, so they are not only kept up to date, they start picking up clues that no-one is passing on to the police.

The murder sparks off a lively investigation, friendships with bon vivant William (a vast and charming SF writer) and sardonic new neighbour Donald, and will be enjoyed by armchair detectives everywhere.

This is the first in a cosy whodunit series set in the beautiful Firth of Forth area just north of Edinburgh.

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In One Two Buckle My Shoe the engaging Edge and Vivian solved a flurry of murders at Grasshopper Lawns with their new friends Donald and William, but life…

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