How famous a writer would you really want to be?

Yup, I know, international best-seller and household name. That’s the kneejerk reaction, right?

When I first starting publishing books I was convinced I was putting myself under a spotlight for the whole world to see. I’m pretty sure other writers can identify with that, because of course we are. Some are cautious and call themselves totally different names. Some do use their real names, or switch to using their nom de plume all the time, bring it on.

However, the world has quite a lot of calls on its attention. Several million writers, for starters, and unless they are phenomenally successful, writers come pretty far down on the list. From being terrified of the spotlight, we move to diffident attempts to attract it (er, hello?) to actively trying to get noticed, to shrugging and accepting that there may be a handful of people glancing our way occasionally. On a good day.

I genuinely hadn’t realised how far my own attitude has shifted until a member of the singles website which enjoys my patronage did a blog about one of my books – the guide to using a singles website, Looking For Mr Will-Do-Nicely.  It was a decidedly barbed blog, wondering aloud how many people from the website would find themselves in the book, and the first few comments were definitely a little paranoid. A website friend sent me a hurried whatsapp, you have to get that blog deleted! Contact the moderators, they are very helpful, they can take it down.

Are you crazy?

I wasn’t thrilled – the blog was barbed – but as Barnum said, no such thing as bad publicity. The book doesn’t point any fingers at individuals, only at types. It gives really good advice. It’s even listed on my profile on the website, and more to the point, it’s not private. It is for sale anywhere in the world. Anyone can buy it. I wish more people would. Everyone on a singles website, for starters.


My website buddy was slightly horrified. But she’s being negative. Whatever you do, don’t comment on the blog! It will stir up all sorts of trouble.

Umm – like people talking about the book? I did appreciate her concern, but it came from her personal horror of being targeted by the malicious. Individuals crave privacy, writers crave publicity.

I commented on the blog, mainly to defuse the paranoia, and there was laughter and a little discussion before the singles turned their attention to another blog and the whole tiny storm in a tiny teacup faded into yesterday’s news.

Makes me wonder, though, having embraced the spotlight, how bright would I want it to get? It would certainly be nice to sell more books, and all the marketing in the world can’t replace being discussed. All advertising, PR and marketing is aimed at starting discussion!  He who shouts the loudest gets the most attention, and I’m rubbish at shouting.

Can you imagine achieving fame, though?  Shifted from behind the parapet, and hoisted into full view  … after those early anxieties I hadn’t thought about it at all, but these days, ouch. To be even mildly or briefly in the spotlight is to be sniped at by any mean-spirited numpty giddy with the power of being able to fire their assault rifle from cover. To be so famous that every fretful tweet you ever wrote in a bad mood was hauled up out of context and shredded, every unguarded word you ever added to a public Facebook debate was given the rubber-hose treatment, and every decision you made was criticised by the following trolls? It happens to politicians, it happens to celebrities, and it happens to household name writers, good or bad.

So, not too famous.  Selling a few thousand books a month would more than cover it. Ta.

(That singles one, you should tell any mature single you know to get it. No, seriously. Good advice. It’s not in the margin with the others because it isn’t fiction. Click here for an Amazon near you, ebook or paperback)


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.


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.



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

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

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


NYR. Get a life.

I haven’t done an IWSG post for quite a while but wanted to pass on a bit of gentle advice from my cousin, who said she’d been set a story theme at school which their teacher told them was life advice as well. She’d come to realize it, and she thought it was time to remind me. The theme was ‘The Machine That Ran Away With Its Driver’.

I joked that it was too late for that, but was typing away furiously at 03h00 this morning when it suddenly clicked into focus. Oh. Right. Maybe I was becoming just a little obsessive, yes? Blame the new year, if you kelpies 009will, because I published my first book on January 1st 2013 and wanted to put out a birthday omnibus (which by the way I did, at 02h00, and there’s a clickable link in the side bar), and I also wanted to start pulling all sorts of plans learned from ALLi into place for 2014. So there were more deadlines than there would usually be, on top of finding time for the job that pays the bills, and I’ve been writing until 2 or 3 in the morning for the last couple of weeks. I could have spent Christmas with my family but cried off because of the killer drive, and worked through, only stopping briefly on Boxing Day to see some friends who had flown to Scotland to see the amazing Kelpies.

Was my machine, is my machine, running away with me? The friends were on a tight deadline and hadn’t originally been coming to mine, but we had to come here after all to cut the padlock off their suitcase. It made me realize, as I hadn’t before, how much of a pigsty the house was becoming. Five half-empty coffee cups around the computer, for starters. Thank goodness the unopened Christmas presents weren’t in the lounge—no Christmas decorations up at all, for that matter. Who had time for Christmas decorations? Or opening presents? Or eating? I lost four pounds over the Christmas break (not complaining, you understand. Just saying.)

Yes time is short, and running out at a terrifying rate, and yes I’m happiest when I’m writing. But it’s supposed to be my bliss, not my controller, so my new year resolution is to chill, just a little. Walk the dog more than once a day. Get a life, if I can find time for it between working and writing. Scratch that, make the time.

Happy New Year, and may 2014 find you always in full control of your machine.