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Showing posts from May, 2018

Reluctant Murderer Debbie Young Finds Partners in Crime at CrimeFest

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In the same month that I joined the Romantic Novelists' Association, I also pitched up on a panel at CrimeFest. An unlikely duo, you might think, but my cosy mystery series has a foot in both camps, with a strong romantic subplot  underpinning the murder in each novel.

In some respects it's a similar situation to visiting Greenwich and being able to stand on the Meridian line with one foot in the east, the other in the west. Further variety is added by a generous helping of comedy running throughout my books.

But I'm by no means the only one to tread such a complex path, genre-wise. Fellow CrimeFest panellist Alison Morton adds alternative history to her crime/romance split.


A Multiplicity of Murderers

Just because two authors write in the same genre, doesn't mean their books need have much in common. While each of my books has "Murder" in its title, none of them are that dark. One reviewer, Rosalind Minett, a career psychologist, describes mine as "upli…

Keeping it short: N M Browne

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I am a reluctant short story writer  and, though I have contributed work for the fabulous 'Author's Electric' Collections Flash in the Pen and Another Flash in the Pen,  I don’t often write much at less than 60,000 words.  It is a kind of a meanness in me I think: the same kind of meanness that makes it hard for me to part with beautiful packaging and plastic take-away containers, because even though they are always the wrong shape and I’ve invariably lost their lids - they might just come in handy one day.   It is the same with story ideas, unless very slight, they might just come in handy one day and why give away a story at 2,000 words when, with careful husbandry and a little ingenuity, you could spin it out for 80,000 and sell it as a novel? Of course in my rational mind, I know that will never happen - short story ideas have the wrong kind of heft and weightfor novels- just as I know deep down that I will never actually use exotic, oddly-shaped packaging except to waste…

Dinosaurs, Ratty Things, and Pure Undiluted PB juice.

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A Book Birthday this month, on the 1st of May. Meet friendless old Stan whose only passion is for money which he never actually spends - he just enjoys counting it. Cue his somewhat overweight Fairy Godmother who can still fly - well she's magic, so no problems there. She's come to, rather reluctantly, give him his obligatory three wishes, but hey! Stan's clever, and take the obvious route of asking for even more wishes. If you want to know what happens next, you'll have to buy the book. It's published by Franklin Watts at Hachette Children's, and you can find it on their website.

It's an old story, of course, and based on greed and its possible consequences. The earliest version was called, I think, HOW THE SEA BECAME SALT, and there's another one about a magic porridge pot. The moral is that greed, and wanting more and more of something without thinking of the consequences, tends to misfire. These ancient stories seem to be in our blood and get re-told…

When Does Dependency on Email Become Addiction? Andrew Crofts

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When you work alone most of the time, and when you need the outside world to buy your products or bring you interesting commissions, you have to depend on some sort of communications lifeline. The question is; when does “dependency” tip into “addiction”?
It used to be the post. Every day I would be waiting eagerly for a precious letter of acceptance from a publisher, or an enquiry letter or – most crucially – a cheque. Most days there was that inevitable moment of disappointment when the postman was walking away leaving nothing of interest on the doormat or, far worse, a manuscript thumped in with a rejection letter.
Then I got a telephone line of my own and that became my lifeline. I hardly dared move out of earshot of its ring, (phones were still tethered to the wall). I dreamed of the day when someone would invent a cordless phone so I could at least go out into the garden while waiting for the wonderful calls that came so sporadically.
Before someone got round to the cordless pho…

A House Filled With Books by Dipika Mukherjee

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My first blog for AE was about my brother's accident. What a bittersweet year 2016 turned out to be, with accolades for my writing coming at a time of terrible personal tragedy.

It has been two and half years now since my brother, Professor Amit Mukerjee, was hit by a bus in Kanpur while cycling with a group of students. As the days pass, the hopes for a complete recovery diminish. He is able to move only a thumb and forefinger in response, and is under 24 hours nursing care in my parent's home in Delhi.



Over time, we have started to accept that he will never be able to teach in his classroom again; it will be a miracle if he is able to sit up and feed himself.

We dream about a day when he will be able to turn the pages of his beloved books again. Hope springs undaunted, as long as he still breathes.

Earlier this month, the family finally made preparations to bring his belongings to New Delhi from Kanpur, closing that chapter of his life. The truck with his belonging trundled…

Monsters and Wolves -- by Susan Price.

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When this blog appears I shall be nowhere near any electrical device capable of displaying it. I shall be right up in Scotland’s top-knot and while I’m up there, intend to visit Morag. She’s Nessie’s little known sister, who keeps herself to herself in Britain’s deepest stretch of inland water, Loch Morar. The most reported sighting of her was in 1969 when two local men ran into her, literally, while messing about in a boat. One of them hit her with an oar and the other fired his rifle at her— whereupon Morag sank beneath the water and I’m not surprised.

The men described her as being brown with rough skin, nine meters (thirty feet) long and having three dorsal humps. They said her head was thirty centimetres (a foot) wide and she held it forty-six centimetres (18 inches) out of the water— until they so rudely interrupted her.

The most recent sighting of Morag was in 2013, by two holiday-makers, who claimed to have seen her three times in two days. If I’m lucky enough to meet her, I sha…

My kick up the backside -- Jo Carroll

I’m doing a short, online course. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll not tell you which one - I may review it when it’s done, but right now we’re in the thick of it and it’s too soon for reflections. (Just in case any fellow-participants should drop by this blog, I never name or shame anyone! In fact I don’t write about anyone without their permission.)
No, the reason I’m raising it here is to highlight the reason I’m doing the course in the first place. I’m playing with another novel - it’s simmered for long enough and I must either write the wretched thing or give up and start something else. 
But I’m finding this beginning really hard. Not the first sentence - I’ve got that. What’s hard is settling into the obsession that comes with writing anything as big as a novel. Resistance takes the form of: additional research (including all the spin-offs, reading everything that is interesting but irrelevant), writing character monologues so I can get to know them better, then going for a lo…

Lev Butts Does It Again

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It's been a good bit since I went on a diatribe about dissing the self- and independently-published writer. Almost four years, in fact. I thought I had put it all behind me. I thought, naively, that I had won.

I really did.

I had hung up my shootin' irons, beaten my sword into a ploughshare, and turned my spear into a pruning hook. I was all ready to sip tea on my porch and reminisce with the young'uns about the ol' days fightin' the good fight for writer equality.

Then I saw a social media post from a writer I respect (who shall remain nameless, partly to protect his privacy and  partly because he's a local poet, so you wouldn't know him anyway) that advised his followers not to take writing advice from self-published authors who think high word counts equal quality writing. I'd share a screen shot, but I can't find it now. It has either been edited, deleted, or is buried so far down his news feed that it finally hit China.

Now there's a lot t…

Sci-fi season: Ali Bacon reads out of her usual box

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Recently a writer friend (who it has to be said ranges widely across genres)  remarked on how people wilfully discount huge swathes of  literature because of an apparent antipathy to one particular genre. In this I count myself guilty since, pace John Wyndham in his pomp, I have pretty much avoided sci-fi all my life.  And I doubt that this throwing down of the gauntlet would have stirred me to change my ways if three sci-fi books  hadn't come my way this year, all by writers whose work I knew in other contexts and which I was eager to read. So how did I get on? Avoiding any arcane discussion of what constitutes sci-fi and its near relatives, these books were remarkably different in the style of the narrative and the worlds they created and so I think I picked a good sample for my tour of future worlds.

I found The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett (recently out in paperback) a gripping read, especially the opening in which heroine Jamie  contemplates the possibility that in …

Turning History into Fiction - Katherine Roberts

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Historical fiction. Guaranteed to make children's publishers nervous, unless it's about World War II, the Roman Empire or Ancient Egypt - in other words unless it's on the school curriculum. Adult publishers take a broader view, but there are still branches of historical fiction that sell better than others (romance, epic adventure) and periods of history that are more popular than others. For me as a reader, the most successful historical fiction takes an interesting period of history and gives it a fictional twist. While I admire accurate historical background and detail, the last thing I want in my fiction is a history lesson - when I need that, I'll read non-fiction instead. So here are some tricks for turning history into successful fiction:

1. If your hero or heroine is a well-known historical character, you could tell the little-known story of their youth or teenage years. This is the approach I took in Bone Music, my novel about the teenage years of Genghis Kh…

Some random musings about corvids by Sandra Horn

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