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Posts tagged ‘new book’

A post mainly about writing

I began this blog expecting to use it mainly about writing.  After all, that was my new venture back in 2010 when the first of the four crime novels came out.  Then, of course, the unexpected happened and we upped sticks and headed over the sea to land in Ireland.  After the dust settled I found myself writing about writing that rather than actually writing.  In fact, for the last few years that’s been mainly the writing I’ve been doing. 

There are a number of reasons for this.  I think the whole Ireland adventure makes a decent story (and it seems you agree with me).  It keeps me working, at least a little.  The main reason why there have been no new books however comes down to the Impress debacle, long brewing but still a hammer blow when it landed.  My fifth Alex Hastings novel, “A Long Shadow”, was accepted for publication three years ago.  You may have noticed nothing happened.  Then supplies of the first four began to dry up and there was no communication from the new owners of Impress.  And then, suddenly, Impress went into administration.

Happy days – soon to be available again.

This was very frightening.  I, along with a number of others, was in danger of losing rights and copyright to my books – eleven years work ripped away.  A lot of time and energy was poured into fighting for the books and I have the rights back now but it certainly knocked my confidence in the publishing industry.  Agents, in my experience, are not worth bothering with for all sorts of reasons I can’t articulate without risking a libel case.  Publishers take control of everything – editing, printing, distribution, publicity – unless they don’t do it.  Or don’t do it properly.  Then books are published but just disappear in the huge sea of new titles.  It’s enough to make you want to give up.  And I was very close to that a couple of months ago.

Then Jacqui encouraged me to revisit a project I had been working on with my cousin, Jem Cooney.  I was wary of writing in a different genre but with Jem’s name on the book it took some of the pressure away.  We both have Tibetan Spaniels and both had a range of stories about breeding, showing and training them.  Together we wove this into a novel called “Puppy Brain” and it seemed a possible way back into writing again.

“Puppy Brain – A real underdog story”.

Wanting to keep more control over the development of this book I sought out a highly respected self-publishing firm, Grosvenor House.  They have been excellent – professional, quick and responsive.  I had my own publishing administrator, the excellent Melanie Bartle, and had all the help and support I needed.  Before this I viewed my job as mainly about writing but now I have some experience in cover layout, different synopses, metadata and a whole lot more.  It has been a rich educational experience and now – “Puppy Brain” will be published on November 24th!

Starting with the adoption of Lucy, a young Tibetan Spaniel, it follows the efforts of Liv and Petra to honour a promise.  They agreed to have one litter of puppies and try to show them, although neither had ever done this before.  They are told the dogs are not good enough and fit “only for pets”. When they try a few local shows meet fierce resistance from some people.  Determined to do their best they push on, making friends – and more enemies – as they go.

For those wary of cute fluffy dog books, this is NOT one of those.  Nor, for those of you who are anxious and soft hearted, is it about harm to any animal.  It is the humans who fight the battles in this book.  Anyone who has any knowledge of the dog world will know it can be warm, friendly and supportive.  It is also a real shark pool.  Ever wondered what it is like to actually show a dog?  Or – whisper it – try to qualify to show them at Crufts?  This story is for you.  Just like to support the underdog?  This is for you too.   

You can pre-order“Puppy Brain” on Amazon now and an e-book will be out in a couple of weeks.  You can also order from your local bookshop, or online in the next few days from most big retailers. These including Waterstones, Blackwell and the Book Depository.  I will have some first editions and am happy to sign and send a personal copy, though this will entail postage from Ireland. 

The details for the book are:

“Puppy Brain – A real underdog story”  by Jem Cooney and Jennie Finch.  The ISBN for the paperback is 978-1803812502. (USA) is also beginning to list the title and it will be available to order soon.  Other outlets include Barnes and Noble, Baker and Taylor and Chapters/Indigo. If anyone from Australia or further afield wants a copy please contact me and I will find your local supplier.

And may I ask a small favour?  If you like it, wherever you get it from, could you go to Amazon and leave a rating and mini review?  It can be just a sentence but it makes a huge difference, particularly to the computer algorithms.  These dictate whether the book will appear on search engines, be stocked and reordered or even be available at all.

It’s the beginning of a new series I hope.  I think Jem is happy just to see his name on a “real” book. I’ve got more stories bubbling away now so will probably pick it up and run with it for a while.  But never fear, Alex Hastings fans.  I have plans to publish “A Long Shadow”, hopefully next year and will be reissuing the first four books too.  It’s been a slightly wobbly journey but I feel I’m back on the right path again.

So, there we are.  A post mainly about writing for a change.  Just as well really – the weather is vile at the moment!

Keep warm and thank you for reading.

A Happy Halloween to you all

Well, we’ve had quite an exciting – and rather busy – time these last few weeks.  Halloween is fast approaching and autumn is definitely here. It’s stamping its mark on all around us, sometimes with a bit more force than we expected.  On the plus side, the wood is looking good and unusually for this part of Ireland the leaves are changing colour.  Displays of autumn shades were a regular feature of life in England but over here trees often stay green, if a bit battered, all through the year.  I think this may be because it is much wetter, but this year there was actually a bit of a drought, just for a few weeks.  This caused a modicum of panic, especially amongst some farmers, and also may have triggered the leaf changes. 

This needed some work
In less than an hour

Be assured, normal service has been resumed.  This last fortnight we have had some tremendous rainfall and very high winds.  On Wednesday I heard some strange bird calls and went to investigate. I was shocked to find a small tree had fallen over the road.  It was one of the almost-dead trees on the edge of the wood so we set to with clippers, axes and a reciprocating saw.  Jacqui used the saw, by the way.  I know my weaknesses.  Within an hour the road was clear and we had a pile of kindling and small logs.  And a great sense of achievement.  I think it shows how much better Jacqui is now – progress has seemed slow but it has been progress.

We had our second set of visitors last week. A dear friend and her son made the journey from England and it was lovely to see familiar faces again.  They hired a car at the airport and we met them in the nearest town to guide them through the lanes to the house.  I remember the first time we came here, to view it.  The satnav sent us along the longest and most confusing route possible until we had no idea where we were. And even less idea how to get back!  They had a very restful and happy few days, visiting a few places and helping out in the wood.  The weather was kind for them, bright if not sunny by day and cool enough to light the log burner at night.

A sad find for us

As the undergrowth dies back we can now get further into the wood and it was our visitor who spotted a body just past the oaks.  It had obviously been there a long time as it was picked clean but I’m fairly sure it was a badger.  A sad find as we love the idea of a set in the wood.  I rescued the skull before another animal could drag it away and it is on our monument.  There’s no sign of shotgun injury on the skeleton so it may have been poisoned by someone.  I hope not – they are beautiful creatures and we hoped they would be safe on our land.

Very odd fungi
Inside out in two days

Other interesting signs of autumn have popped up in the form of some white mushrooms growing along the wall outside.  These looked very strange, even more so when they matured after a few days. They seemed to turn inside out before melting away to an inky sludge.  I did some research and I think they may be Shaggy Ink Caps, also known as Judge’s Wig.  If they are then apparently they are delicious though very short lived.  I’m very wary however and will check with Wild Food Mary before we have a fry-up.

I have finally found a writing group locally.  It’s just begun but the members are a lively and talented bunch.  It gets me out of the house once a week and I’m getting used to being with other people again.  I hadn’t realised how far I’d retreated into myself over the past few years.  I think this is not so unusual and I must make a determined effort to keep in contact with people. Maybe even, if possible, make new friends.  We left a lot behind when we moved – and have few regrets – but the hardest thing was the people.

Now for some writing news.  I should have a new book out before Christmas.  This is not an Alex Hastings but though if it goes well I will probably go with these publishers for the next one. Written with my Irish cousin, Jem Cooney, it’s called “Puppy Brain” and is the first (hopefully) of three novels. I’ll have some dates and order details in the next few weeks. If anyone would like a personal copy I will have some to sign and send.  For the curious, here’s the cover “blurb”:

When Liv and Petra inherit Lucy, a Tibetan Spaniel, from Liv’s brother-in-law, he has one final wish, for Lucy to have puppies and one day to see them in the show ring. Despite never having bred or shown a dog before the women agree – after all, how hard could it be?

Two Puppies, One Promise, No Chance.

So, thank you for reading and a Happy Halloween to you all.  It’s a public holiday here – not because of Halloween but just the October one.  Have a good and safe night and I’ll be back in two weeks.

It’s flaming June – flaming awful

Yes, it’s heading for summer but here in mid Ireland flaming June is, quite frankly, flaming awful. I know Ireland has a reputation for bad weather but this year it’s been all over the place. January, for example, was very nice. Sunny, mild and promising the earliest of early springs, we were ready to enjoy it. Colin, our redoubtable postman, soon crushed our enthusiasm. A warm January always meant a cold and stormy few months to follow, he said gloomily. He was right, but even he didn’t predict this flaming awful June.

Storm Alex and a “Jacob’s Ladder”

A lot of it is down to Storm Alex that sent high winds and cold showers across to us for a couple of days before the storm itself hit. Since then we’ve had ten days of storm force winds, icy rain and sudden, short, bursts of tantalising sun. We’ve still got the heating on morning and evening and actually lit the fire a couple of nights. Here’s hoping it turns into flaming June soon.

Our solitary Iris
Poppies in a tiny corn field

Everything is growing, of course, and we have been waiting for our wild flower bed to burst into life. It did, putting forth what we hoped was the first of our 60 Irises. Alas, we got one. One beautiful but solitary flower in a sea of unidentified leaves. A few more flowers have poked their heads out in the last few days including some lovely poppies but they appear to be surrounded by some sort of wheat or corn. I suspect this is due to the bird feeder. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea putting the bed just underneath it. Still, we may be growing some of our own bird seed for next year.

We have had some problems with deliveries despite the nice new road (although that only reaches half way along. The rest is still a farm track). After waiting in all day for a courier we received a message saying they called but there was no one home. We spent several minutes stamping around the house, muttering and cursing. Apparently the parcel, due by 8.52am, was back at the other end of the county by 9.22, which is total nonsense. Jacqui sent a furious and scathing reply as all deliverymen use the Eircode and satnavs, generally with no problem. Without it we are almost impossible to find.

When we calmed down we decided it was a good thing nobody could hear us. They might send the men in white coats to take us away as mentally deranged. Though they probably wouldn’t be able to find us unless we sent them the Eircode. We had a lot of fun imagining the phone call.
‘Can we have your Eircode please?’
‘Er, no.’
‘Ah come on – we can’t find you without it.’
‘Absolutely no!’
‘Don’t be difficult now. We’re paid by results and we’re below our quota for this month.’

One good thing about the flaming awful June should be I have no excuses for not getting on with my writing but this has become a dispiriting exercise recently. My publisher has been very ill and in a small firm this makes progress extremely slow. I signed the contract for “A Long Shadow” (Alex Hastings 5) fourteen months ago but there has be no progress at all since then. There is an eighteen-month deadline on “exploitation of rights” but I don’t want to evoke it yet. So I’m stuck unable to write book six as I don’t know what will happen to book five – or the others. There’s no publicity and book four isn’t linked to the series on Amazon. This is despite requesting it and the relisting of the e-book over a year ago. It is rather depressing as I feel all my work is just fading away.

After a long talk Jacqui and I came up with a new strategy. Some of you may know I have Irish relatives, the Cooneys from around Cork. They include a cousin, Jem, who is a bit of a writer and a dog lover. We have swapped stories and shared experiences and together come up with an idea for a new book, maybe several books. As I am already published and have more experience I am doing a lot of the writing and editing but we will publish under his name, “with” me. I know there is sometimes resistance to writers swapping genres from some readers and I do hope to return to Alex Hastings soon. This arrangement allows Jem’s stories to get out there. And there is a bit of a mystery/crime element to the books, especially if we get to do the second one.

So there we are, still toddling along. I’ve pulled my shoulder again and can’t use the strimmer. You can almost hear the nettles sniggering with delight. Little do they know I have acquired a weed burner and as soon as the wind dies down I’m out there to settle their hash! I don’t think I should try it in this weather. I’d probably burn down the wood. That would really make it a flaming awful June.

News about books and that boot in the wood

I began this week thinking there would be no news for the blog but it seems I was wrong.  First I would like to share some writing news with you all.  The fifth book in the “Alex Hastings” series is due out next year though the actual publication date depends on a lot of things beyond my control.  I’m waiting for an editor and for my publisher to do the cover design and say whether he or I will supply the “blurb”.  Then the e-book version needs setting up and final proofs have to be checked.  This is the tedious but so important part of publication – and it takes months sometimes!

I had finished the book itself several times in a number of different forms over the last few years.  This is because I became embroiled with an agent (who will be nameless) who promised a lot but seemed to constantly change her mind about what she wanted.  After rewriting, editing and adding sections she finally decided she wanted the whole thing moved to the year 2020.  Eager as I was, this was a step too far – and impossible.  The Levels have changed beyond recognition since the 1980s, the Probation Service scarcely exists and Alex and her friends would be retiring.  Now restored to its former, more coherent form I hope “A Long Shadow” will be with you soon.

Even more exciting in some ways is the news I have signed a TV option for “Death of the Elver Man”.  Jon Moore, the manager of a new media company, Blue Trotter Media Ltd is hoping to turn it into a four or six part drama and has also taken future options on the other books so if it is a success there may be more.  Now is the time to start “fantasy casting”!  Jon is very skilled and experienced with TV and film work to his name, particularly in the field of special effects and prosthetics.  Moving into production will be a new step for him and I am looking forward to working with him and the team.

Now, I promised an update on the boot.  Well, that is all turning rather strange.  When I went into the wood to dig it up earlier this week it was gone.  There was no sign of digging, nothing seemed disturbed but I couldn’t find it anywhere.  After a lot of hunting I spotted the sole propped up against one of the oak trees.  The disappointing news is it is just the sole of an old canvas trainer or something like that but – how did it get there?  I also found a discarded medical mask pushed into a pile of sticks and grass off to one side.  That was definitely not ours.,

Of course, as a crime writer I am constantly making up stories and constructing narratives so here are some possible explanations.  Most prosaically it was moved by a fox or badger – but then why was there no sign of digging?  It had probably been there for years, certainly as long as we’ve been in the house so why now?  And would an animal have propped it up neatly on a tree?  If it was human intervention maybe something was buried under it and retrieved.  Or perhaps it pointed towards something buried or hidden and it was moved to hide the trail from prying eyes.  Or maybe someone is just messing with our heads. 

So, for all those of you who wonder, “Where do you get your ideas?” there’s always something you can toy with.  Everything is copy, they say and the world is full of details and events that can become a story.

Finally, there’s still no movement of the car – or movement of the car.  Fingers crossed for next week.  I’m checking my bike over as I may need to do the cycle ride into the nearest town soon.  And this week I wrote more of Alex Hastings 6, including two “crane” days.  Feels like a successful week after all.

The start of a new garland

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible…

Another week has flown by – another week without transport here in the depths of rural Ireland.  The insurance saga grinds on though I feel we are making some progress.  The garage collected the car at stupid o’clock on Tuesday and checked it over.  Not surprisingly it passed the NCT (the Irish MOT) and we had the precious certificate for the insurance company.  Just one problem though – they demanded “physical proof” of the NCT, either a copy in the post or a fax.  No, they said, they had no mailbox so a pdf was not possible.  The nearest post box is about five kilometres away and who the hell still has a fax at home?  So thank you to our lovely builder who drove into town especially to put it in the post.  Now we wait – and hope.  This is one aspect of normal service we really do need to resume.

We rely heavily on deliveries at present, for obvious reasons and Jacqui has been very pro-active in dealing with our current wave of unwanted and uninvited residents.  It’s been much cooler these past weeks – just as well as the local farmers appear to be emptying their slurry tanks over the county in preparation for winter.  We often do not open the windows which keeps out the smell and a lot of the flies.  There are fewer insects now but it is still a relentless infestation.  It will be better next year as we are rooting them out inside.  We are also removing the main attractions in the garden including three Leylandii trees they love.  We are less enthusiastic and intend to dig them out and replace them with something smaller and native.  In the meantime we have a stunning range of products to combat the flies, horseflies, wasps and mosquitoes.

Supplies for the “Flyminator”

The biggest step forward this week was finally getting the gas boiler in and running.  The gas tank was installed back in May and filled in June but we were still relying on the old oil boiler for hot water – which it refused to supply unless we were running the heating.  Now we can turn on the tap and – presto, hot water!  You really don’t know how happy that makes you unless you’ve had to rely on immersion heaters or slow warming tanks.  We are just adapting to many different things here but this was one thing we could change.  As far as we are concerned it comes under the heading “Quality of Life”. It also frees up a big area at the back of the Majestic for storage. Hopefully we will have a reliable water supply and heating for the winter.  Almost normal service !

So on to developments on the writing front.  This whole project has meant I’ve scarcely written anything for several years.  I had packed away all the sources and reference books, notes and pictures along with my trusty computer.  There is an old Jewish saying (with thanks to Rabbi Blue).  If you want to make God laugh then tell him your plans. In the absence of contact with readers, bookshops and libraries the plans I had drifted away.  They became inconsequential next to the real-life drama we were living.  When we moved into the house I discovered my lovely big writing desk was missing and we had no way to replace it.  It seems a small thing in the whole big adventure but it was almost the last straw.  Then I began this blog, just a few words every week but the discipline has been very good for me. 

My writing corner is still small and crowded but we hope to locate another table soon – when we can drive again of course.  I found some of the maps I’d marked up in a box and the original manuscripts for the first five novels too.  Yes, there is a fifth book with the publishers and there are plans for the next year.  Those of you who have followed this page since the beginning may remember I used to make a paper crane every day I wrote 1,000 words.  My garlands were left behind in the studio but finally, this week, I made a start on Book Six of the Alex Hastings series.  And so I have made my first Irish paper crane.

Hopefully the first of many

It has been a long and occasionally painful journey but gradually normal service is being resumed.

Paranoia (or Trouble in Dystopia)

It is easy, even commonplace, to live with a twinge of paranoia nowadays. We live surrounded by cameras with computers in our cars, trackers in our phones and even smart chips in our passports. We are counted out of the country and counted back in again, our phones are besieged by people wanting us to share information with us and any electrical item could betray us in a second if we do not constantly change our passwords, protect our pins and produce two forms of identification if we want to use a bank account.
So the sense of being watched, checked and monitored is not really paranoid at all is it. After all, it’s happening to everyone so we’re not being picked on as individuals – are we?

Well, I find the whole thing both depressing and fascinating. That’s why I’m a writer – take really bad stuff and think about it for months. That’s what I call job satisfaction. A while ago I had a long muse on the current state of the world and ended up playing “What if..?” As in, “What if the jet stream gets stuck round about Oxford?” or “What if the housing crisis became so bad it became illegal to occupy more than one room per person?” or – well, you get the picture. One of the things I began to muse on was the immense amount of processing power every Western person has at their disposal. I remember when a Commodore 64 was a high-end fancy games machine. You need more memory than its pathetic 64k just to boot up your old beat-up phone.

This was an interesting line of thought and I found myself blocking out a new story, a dystopian mystery book set in a slightly futuristic but recognizable Britain. It was going really well. I began to mine my ridiculously diverse education, mixing technology and psychology with a big dollop of discourse analysis and was just at the end of the fifth chapter when – disaster. Although I saved the latest draft when I looked for it the next day it was gone. Nothing remained, even from the auto-recovery. I had emailed and printed the first four chapters but number five was where it all began to happen. It had a ghost virus, a virus that assembles itself from random bits of code to sneak through firewalls and steal data from anyone who might suspect the truth.

The odd thing is, every other file was intact, but when I tried to download a previously saved copy from my memory stick that vanished too. I’m sure it is just co-incidence and I am now being paranoid but still, it seems strange. So if you’re reading this please pass it on just in case it begins to fade away…..