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New Year Resolutions

Has anyone learnt the skill of knitting time?

2017 has rushed past at an alarming rate. I toyed with the idea of trying to take life at a slower pace in the year to come. Having retired more years ago than I like to remember, life should really be getting less hectic, but the chances of that are pretty slim. Fundamentally it means giving up at least one of my activities. My mornings are devoted to exercise – yoga, tai chi, Zumba, line dancing and pilates. Giving up any one of these, would be counter-productive – I need to keep healthy – and there is no way I want to write less – in fact, the opposite!

Many of my writing goals for the coming year don’t change much from the ones I always make:Update website. Priority has to be to sort out my new website. The template I bought in the summer – if not earlier is still sitting there and its technology continues to defeat me.

  • Write more. I felt so proud of myself for achieving 50,000 words of the next Fiona Mason novel for NaNoWriMo, but I have not looked at it since. I MUST get down to some serious writing. I’m not the world’s fastest writer, but it would be good to get not only ‘Blood Flows South’ plus a second Aunt Jessica published this year.
  • Read more. There are shelves of reference books still sitting there in my study that I never make time to read and I dare not look at the number of books I’ve downloaded onto my Kindle – it was something like 400 last time I looked!
  • Learn Twitter. That’s been on the list for a good 5 years and I can’t remember where I put the book I bought to learn up on it.
  • Plus – I also have two Ancient history lecture cruises to prepare for and I need to do a vast amount of research before I can begin to even sort those out. As I need to make trips to the British Museum and to Oxford’s Ashmolean museum, I can’t afford to leave the research until the last minute.

Back in 2015, I created an elaborate spreadsheet detailing my goals for the year broken down into twelve month-long blocks using the smart. It was divided into two major sections – writing and marketing. Looking back on the year, the writing goals I fulfilled without too many problems, but I doubt I met even half of my marketing project goals. I seriously underestimated how long each of those marketing tasks would talk. I realised early on that one month was not enough for me to master Twitter (I’m still so terrified of it, I still haven’t opened the book I bought on the subject) or look at the book I have on getting the most out of Goodreads. I’m not going to bother spending time creating another spread sheet, but I am determined to stop procrastinating and at least make a start on both books this coming year and at the very least, crack Twitter.

I find mapping goals for the year ahead quite a depressing activity. I know it should enthuse and encourage, but even using the old SMART principal hasn’t helped at all. I’ve done very little the last few days – I have a cold – nothing disastrous, but I’m feel very sorry for myself.

On the plus side, I’ve just been given another 5* review for Blood in the Wine and the nights are getting lighter so life is not that bad.

What are your New Year resolutions? Do the excite or depress you?

My NaNoWriMo Experience

Those of you who read last month’s post will know that I intended to attempt the NaNoWriMo challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month. I knew that many of my friends had done it, but for the last few years, I have been away on holiday so 2017 was my chance to give it a go.

I didn’t expect to achieve 50,000 words in just 30 days. I’m a slow writer at the best of times averaging 500 a day – if I manage 1000 words, I feel very proud of myself – but I thought the discipline would do me good.

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The dreaded to-do list

There was a time when retirement was meant to be when you slowed down and took life easily. Like so many of my contemporaries, that idea seems to have passed me by.

Even my writing to-do list gets longer by the day. I haven’t done any work on the next novel in months. I’m currently busy trying to get to grips with Scrivener – a tool to help writers keep track of projects and which many authors swear by. A couple of months ago, I bought a new website template which is proving considerably more complex than I ever imaged and I’m not getting very far with it. Currently, my eBooks are on Amazon and I’ve decided to make them available in other outlets. Another learning curve to climb. I also need to spend time learning more about how to utilise things like twitter and a whole host of other marketing strategies. I have books on making the most of Goodreads and Facebook, how to understand Search Engine Optimisation (still not sure I even understand what that means) plus several other books and tasks that have been at the bottom of my to-do list for years! Continue reading

Jemima, Jessica, Louisa? – What’s in a name?

Little did I realise the flurry of response posting the proposed book cover for my new series on Facebook would provoke. Murder in Morocco is the first in a new series I’d planned to call the Aunt Jemima Mysteries. But it seems “Aunt Jemima” conjures up a very different picture for my American friends from the eccentric, go-getting if now elderly adventurer that I envisaged. I hadn’t appreciated that the name is offensive to some people in the US where it can be derogatory label and conjures up images of an obsequiously servile black woman.

I’ve lived with Aunt Jemima for over eight months and it’s not going to be easy to find her a name that doesn’t change her personality entirely. I suggested Jessica but that didn’t go down too well either.

Names are crucial – they reflect personality and changing a lead character at this stage in the game is no easy task. I’ve had lots of suggestions on my Facebook Author page – keep them coming – but it might help to know more about my eponymous heroine. Continue reading

Do writers suffer for their art?

Writing can have its downside. At some stage, many of us have probably suffered from lower back pain, aching shoulders, sore eyes or headaches. And then there’s something called writers bottom! Spending much of the day tapping away on the keyboard can even lead to serious conditions such as repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel syndrome.  We all know how important it is to have a decent chair at the correct height, but how many of us end up huddled over to stare at the screen? My husband is constantly moaning at me for doing so. I can only hope that five hours of yoga, tai chi and Pilates, plus a similar amount of time line dancing and Zumba each week make up for my slovenly posture at my desk. Knowing the theory is one thing, it’s the putting into practice that can easily fall by the wayside. Continue reading

Wannabe Writer Beware!

Writing is like a drug. You may start with the odd story or poem, but you can soon find yourself wanting to do more. Before you know where you are, you’re on the hard stuff – the novel and there’s no hope after that. One thing leads to another. The pushers (agents and pundits) tempt you to write more books on the premise that the more novels to your name, the easier it is to market them or (your readers)that they can’t wait to read the next one. By then, you’re hooked. Unless, you’re writing, there’s a massive hole that needs constant feeding with ideas. Be warned! There’s no Writers’ Anonymous to help wean you off it.

There’s even a word for it. Hypergraphia. It is defined on Wikipedia as a behavioural condition characterised by the intense desire to write. Continue reading

The Pros and Cons of Writing a Series

I’d written short stories for some time with moderate success before deciding to tackle a novel. At the time, some fifteen years ago, I happened to be reading a great many novels by writers such as Nicci French, Minette Walters and Barbara Vine. I loved the edginess of their writing, the idea of the main character finding her life spinning out of control – taken over by events she can’t explain, and if she doesn’t sort it all out, she will end up dead. What interested me was trying to capture the fear, that unease, the tension of wondering what is going to go wrong next? Thus, All in the Mind and Watcher in the Shadows became my first published novels. I was having problems writing the latest psychological suspense and it was my then agent who suggested that I should think of having a series character. Her argument was that it would be easier to sell them to the publishers, but that wasn’t the reason I decided to give it a try.

I’d had the idea of a tour manager for a coach company as a main character for some time. In the spirit of the Golden Age whodunit tradition, it would give me a limited number of people as suspects – my coach passengers, a driver who would be my protagonist’s confidant and partner plus the added advantage that each book would be set in a different country and have a limited time scale – the length of the holiday. Not that things turned out quite like that. Novels and characters take on a life of their own! The agent’s prompting came just at the right time and so the Fiona Mason Mysteries were born. Continue reading

Author Interview on ‘toofulltowrite’

First and foremost, I wish you all a happy and productive New Year.

Towards the end of the year, I was approached by David Ellis and asked if I would agree to be interviewed for his toofulltowrite website subtitled as a Creative Palace for Artists and Author Resources. David asked some interesting questions that had me scratching my head at times and here is the result.

PORTRAITS 043_cr 300 tallAuthor Interview – Judith Cranswick

Welcome to the latest installment in the Author Interview series and we are finishing out the week with a bang.

Tonight we speak to Award Winning author Judith Cranswick about her crime thriller novels and what makes them so special, engaging and worth reading.

 

Hi there Judith, thank you for taking the time to be with us today to talk about your thrilling stories.

Blood Hits the Wall front cover copyLet’s start with your latest novel “Blood Hits the Wall” – Book 4 in the Fiona Mason Mysteries Series. Please tell us more about Fiona, how she has evolved over the course of four novels and what sleuthing adventures and sticky situations she is going to find herself dealing with this time round?

In the first book in the series, “Blood on the Bulb Fields”, Fiona was recently widowed. She had spent the last nine years looking after her terminally-ill husband. When he died, family and friends suggested she get herself a little job to keep herself occupied though becoming a tour manager for a coach company wasn’t quite what they had in mind. Fiona has grown in confidence as the year (and the first four books) has gone on and in “Blood Hits the Wall”, on her tour to Belin and the Elbe Valley, her relationship with MI6 chief, Peter Montgomery-Jones develops though they continue to find themselves at odds with one another all too often as they pursue their separate objectives. This time she wants his help when the group is detained in Berlin following the murder of their local guide, but he has his own secret mission which he cannot jeopardise. Continue reading

The Life-Gets-in-the-Way Factor

writng-adviceWriting magazines and blogs are full of helpful advice for how to deal with the problems we writers sometimes have to face – dealing with writer’s block, “soggy” middles, constant interruptions and even finding the time to write. I’ve even read articles about finding your best time of day to write – as if most of us could choose when we sit in front of our computer screens or pick up a pen – or the best place to write. One thing I’ve never seen written about, but something I frequently struggle with, is when life gets in the way.

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