What’s Your First Draft Like? – Louise Voss

Today I am thrilled to welcome Louise Voss to the blog to talk about her first draft process.

71hhgFa6AsL._UX250_Louise has been writing for the past seventeen years, with many twist and turns in her career. She started her publishing life with four novels for Transworld/Black Swan, the first of which, To Be Someone, was published in 2001 with its own CD soundtrack.

To Be Someone was followed by three more contemporary women’s fiction novels, Are You My Mother?, Lifesaver, and Games People Play, until she successfully switched to publishing thrillers with Mark Edwards in 2011. She and Mark were the first British indie authors to reach No.1 on the Amazon charts with Catch Your Death, where they stayed for the month of June 2011, with their novel Killing Cupid also at No. 2. This led to a four-book deal with Harper Collins.

Today Louise is a hybrid author, ie. self-publishing her solo novels and continuing to publish with Mark. Thomas & Mercer have just published From The Cradle, their fifth novel together, and her first solo thriller, The Venus Trap is out now.

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

If it’s a book of my own, I write a page of the roughest of notes about the premise…and then usually ignore it for the next six months.  It will be in the back of my mind, but it takes me ages to take the plunge and get stuck in.  (Unless it’s a co-written book with Mark, which always involves a preliminary meeting with wine and endless circular chats, out of which we somehow manage to extract the beginnings of a plot). What I write first doesn’t necessarily end up as the first chapter, though.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

No, not really.  I wish I did!  The only thing I usually start with is a main character rather than an event or incident.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

Straight to keyboard – especially now I’ve discovered the joys of Scrivener!

How important is research to you?

Not hugely. I normally do it on a ‘need to know’ basis as I go along.  Some novels require more than others, though.  I remember doing a lot of research about aromatherapy and adoption for my second book Are You My Mother? and quite a bit about the pro tennis circuit for Games People Play.  

How do you go about researching?  

I prefer to talk to people face-to-face than to conduct exhaustive research online or in books. I’m not averse to reading the odd complementary book on a subject, but not usually more than one.  But I’m a strong believer in ‘write what you know’ – or, frequently, ‘write what a friend knows’!  I have friends who have been, or are, pro tennis players, aromatherapists, actors, popstars… and all of these occupations have featured in my novels.  When it comes to geographical research, Mark and I generally take turns in setting our books in places we each know well.  We once came a bit of a cropper describing a place that neither of us had ever been – entirely incorrectly, as a reader on Kindle pointed out!  Luckily this was when we were self-publishing, and it was easy to fix. So we’ve not made that mistake again.

My new novel, The Venus Trap, didn’t require any research at all because it’s all either set in the protagonist’s flat, where she’s being held hostage, or it’s extracts from her teenage diaries. Oh wait, yes it did – I did a bit of research on 1986, fashions, music, politics, for the diary entries. But that was fun.

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

Again – Scrivener.  It’s a marvel.  Pre-Scrivener it would be on index cards (see attached photo) or in folders on my desktop – both physically and digitally.

Louise

No need for index cards anymore, with the arrival of Scrivener!

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

I write in a pretty linear way, once I get going.  Mark and I do when we co-write, too.  It’s rare that we jump around a lot from one part of the draft to another – mostly because we only plan in chunks of about 10-15 chapters ahead.

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

Um – no!  Lots of tea.  However, I do always have the twelve steps of the Hero’s Journey – as described in Christopher Vogler’s excellent book The Writer’s Journey

to hand in case I get stuck, plotwise.  It’s helped me out of a few holes.

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

Ha ha, I wish it were the latter!  This does happen sometimes, but usually I’m very aware of the outside world.  I tend to write as much in the café of my gym, or in coffee shops, as I do at home.  When I’m at home I’m too liable to be distracted by cats trying to lie on the keyboard, washing to be done, the fridge to graze out of…and my bed.  Oh, the siren call of the afternoon nap!  Best avoided by leaving the premises.

What does your workspace look like?

I do everything on my Macbook so my work space is wherever I happen to be sitting – or standing.  I’m trying to do more work standing up as I have a compressed disc in my neck caused by spending too much time hunched over a computer, so currently my workspace is the kitchen counter with the Macbook resting either on top of my Nespresso machine, or my bread machine.  Right next to the fridge.  Dangerous.

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

Keep getting the words out…

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

Just a word counter.  I’ve always aimed for a thousand words a day, when I’m doing that first draft.

So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

Nine months, like gestation… I always think it’s in fairly good shape – until an editor gets hold of it, obviously.

In what format do you like to read it through, e-reader, paper or the computer screen?

Probably e-reader for the first go through it, although could be any of the three, depending on various factors like whether my printer has any ink in it, whether I can be bothered to buy paper, where I’m going to be over the days ahead.  Ereader definitely the best to read on, but the hardest to make notes on.

What happens now that first draft is done?

I do another draft, maybe give it to a couple of readers and incorporate their suggestions, but probably nothing too major will change until the editor gets involved.  That’s when all hell breaks loose… although, seriously, that’s my favourite part of the process because I know it will end up as a far better book.

You can find Louise on her  website, twitter and Amazon.

The Venus Trap.

23743829Jo Atkins’ sixteenth year was disastrous: she lost her dad, was assaulted by a stranger, and then had her heart broken. For the last twenty-five years, she’s believed that nothing could ever be as bad again.

She was wrong.

Now, still smarting from her recent divorce, pretty, self-effacing Jo finally gathers the courage to enter the dating scene. She meets Claudio, whom she vaguely remembers from her youth, but after a few dates decides he’s creepy and politely tells him ‘thanks but no thanks’.

But Claudio has no intention of letting her go.

Instead of never seeing him again, Jo wakes up sick and terrified, handcuffed to her own bed. She is given a week to prove her love for Claudio—or he will kill her.

Claudio, it turns out, is a man with nothing left to lose.

The Venus Trap tackles the emotional impact of divorce, the perils of modern dating and the age-old powers of lust and obsession.

 

You can find all previous First Draft authors HERE.

Contact me if you wish to do the Q&A.

 

 

 

Do You Want To Win A Signed Copy Of Shallow Waters?

IMG_9193Last night Shallow Waters jumped back into the Kindle top 100 chart and I was absolutely thrilled. I have been so amazed at how well it has been doing. It has had some lovely reviews and now it’s back in top charts.

To celebrate, I am giving away 2 signed copies of the paperback. And to be in with a chance of getting yourself a copy of one of these, all you have to do is be on the mailing list.

Not only are you in with a chance of winning a signed copy of Shallow Waters by being on the mailing list, but you will receive updates, news and other giveaways (as this is the second already). You will also know straight away when DI Hannah Robbins 2 is due for release. By being on the mailing list, you won’t miss a thing, but neither will your email inbox be inundated. I know how tiresome that can be.

So, if you’re already sitting pretty on there, don’t worry, you’re fine. If you want to sign up to have a chance for a signed copy, you can sign up HERE.

I will do the draw in two weeks time and on video as I did the name in the novel draw. This draw is open worldwide.

You can get hold of Shallow Waters on Amazon UK and Amazon US as well as all other stores, including Kobo, Nook, and Google Play.

Thanks, everyone!

 

5 Ways To Poison Your Boss

Stuart Miles: freedigitalphotos.net
Stuart Miles: freedigitalphotos.net

 

So, you hate it at work, the boss is an over-pompous  arse or a complete and utter bitch. You’d obviously do  a much better job. But there’s only one problem,  Okay, two; your boss loves it there and you’re only  the paper-copier and tea-maker.

Here’s what you can do….

 

  1. Belladonna: You could make your boss a fruity tea for a change, using the berries, tell them it’s good for them, get in their good books, then watch them die a slow and painful death as they become disoriented, hallucinate, become aggressive and feverish before convulsing, coma and death.

2.  Hemlock: Another plant, but this time you’re going to see the results pretty      quickly. Well, five to ten hours quickly. And as their body dies you get the          joy of knowing their mind is alive and well until the end.

3. Pufferfish: You might have trouble getting hold of this little fella, but it’ll           certainly do the trick, but only if you do it properly because there’s a 50/50       survival rate and people are known to be left in zombie like states. (oh,               maybe you don’t mind that!)

4. Nicotine: Now we’re getting into quicker territory. Usually within four                 hours your boss will be toast after poison by nicotine. You might have to           get a bit creative on how to deliver this one though. Maybe mix it into their       hand cream and watch as it depresses the brain and spinal cord,                         paralysing skeletal muscles including the diaphragm.

5. Rhododendron: Yes, you read that right, the good old Rhododendron bush is     going to be the one that rids you of your boss about six hours after                       ingestion.

I hope that helped. Happy hunting! :)

Cover Questions – Before It’s Too Late by Jane Isaac

Today I welcome Jane Isaac to the blog to answer some questions about the cover of her upcoming novel Before It’s Too Late.

Author PicJane lives in rural Northamptonshire, UK with her husband and daughter where she can often be seen trudging over the fields with her dog, Bollo.

She ambled through life, fell upon a career in the civil service, made great friends, met her husband and holidayed frequently – all endless fun. But there was something missing. To fill the void she took up numerous courses including French, art, law, pottery, personnel management and even sign language.

The turning point came fifteen years ago when with her husband they took a year out to travel the world and a friend gave her a journal to keep as a present. This journal was to become her most treasured travel companion, apart from her husband of course! When reading the diary, years later, she could smell spices in Kuala Lumpur, hear the street music of Bangkok, feel the thick heat that pervades the wonderfully clean Singapore, see the red earth of Australia.

Realising the power of words, her love affair with writing began. she enrolled on a creative writing course and started writing articles for newspapers and magazines. She then discovered fiction and, in 2007, embarked on her first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, which was picked up by an American publisher. And she’s never looked back.

Front cover 17 9 14

I love the cover Jane. It’s very atmospheric. Moody. Were you able to have any input in the design and if not, are you happy with the results?

Hi Rebecca, Thanks, I really like it! I was asked at the beginning if I had any particular ideas, and of course I did! My preference was for a cover that conveyed a combination of the mood of the novel and the picturesque Warwickshire countryside where it is set. The artist seemed to really understand the ideas put forward and captured the notion so well that the end result was almost a scene from the book.

The cover has drawn me in with the heavy sky and bleak setting, I’m intrigued. What are you allowed to say about the book right now?

I’m glad it’s intrigued you. The novel opens as Chinese student, Min Li, is knocked out and abducted whilst walking the streets of Stratford-upon-Avon alone late at night after an argument with her boyfriend. Min later wakes up in a dark pit, trapped in total isolation. While Min is fighting her own demons, Detective Inspector Will Jackman heads the police investigation tasked with finding her and discovers a web of secrets and lies that force him to break down political and cultural barriers in pursuit of his aim.

It’s about how people aren’t always what they seem, and how sometimes inadvertent actions can come back to haunt you.

Before It’s Too Late? That’s foreboding. I’m rubbish with titles. At what point did the title come to you?

Not until the very end! I find titles incredibly difficult to come up with too. The novel had several working titles but none of them really fit and it wasn’t until I had completely finished it that the panic set in. I had a huge brainstorming session with my husband and this one cropped up. With Jackman set in a race against time, and the kidnapper lurking in the background trying to change the course of the investigation, it seemed to convey the sense of urgency.

When is the publication date?

1st June 2015.

And without giving anything away, if you could be one of the characters, who would you be and why?

It would have to be DS Davies, who assists Jackman with the police investigation. She’s sharp and engaging, but also bubbly and always manages to find the humour in any situation.

Thanks for talking to me Jane, it’s been great having you and I know Before It’s Too Late will be a great hit with readers!

Thank you for having me. I enjoyed answering your questions.

You can find Jane on her website, Twitter and Amazon.

Recently Read – How To Market A Book by J. F. Penn

How to Market a Book by J. F. Penn

Genre: Non-fiction

18135290The first job of an author is, of course, to write great books, but these days, their second job is to market them.

Marketing isn’t a skill that most authors have naturally, and there is little formal training. But when your book hits the shelves, and the sales don’t start rolling in, there’s only two things an author can do. Keep writing more books and … Get to grips with marketing.

This book is for authors who want to sell more books, but it’s also for those writers who want to think more like an entrepreneur. It’s for traditionally published authors who want to take control of their future, and for self-published authors who want to jumpstart a career.

There are some short-term tactics for those who want to kick up immediate sales, but the focus of the book is more about instilling values and marketing principles that will help your long-term career as a writer.

It’s also about going beyond just the book, because the methods in this guide can take you from being an author into professional speaking, making money from other products and creating opportunities that you can’t even imagine yet.

There are no rules in this game, but learning this kind of authentic marketing has certainly changed my life, so read on and I’ll share everything I know with you.

How To Market A Book covers an extensive range of marketing principles, strategies and tactics:

Part 1: Marketing Principles – including myths, how to balance your time, co-opetition and generosity

Part 2: Prerequisites for Success – including an understanding of yourself and your target market, professional editing and cover design, your book page on the retailer websites, pricing and the use of free

Part 3: No Platform Needed – Short-term Marketing – including how to get book reviews, paid advertising, using traditional media and tips for TV, radio and press releases

Part 4: The Author Platform – Long-term Marketing – including the reasons why a platform is a good thing, author branding, your author website, list-building and email marketing, content marketing and blogging, audio and podcasting, video and book trailers, social networking, professional speaking, and becoming an author-entrepreneur.

Part 5: Launching Your Book – including how launching has changed, soft launch, launch spikes, post launch and relaunches as well as lessons learned from some major book launches.

Plus/ tips for when you get overwhelmed and plenty more links to further resources.

My thoughts:

Well, the blurb for this book practically covers everything there is to say about it. And the book is as comprehensive as the blurb. It’s not a get rich quick type of marketing book. J. F. Penn also known as Joanna Penn from the Creative Penn website and Podcast states;

The focus of the book is more about instilling values and marketing principles that will help your long-term career as a writer.

And that’s what this is, writing and marketing yourself and your work in a long-term way advice book.

I don’t think it’s just for indie authors as not many traditionally published authors have a lot of marketing input from what I’ve heard and it’s not just about how to sell your book, it’s about setting yourself up for the long haul; websites, blogs etc, so I believe any writer can read this and gain from it.

Joanna has a really common sense approach to everything and often evidences what she advises with examples from her own working life.

There were some things in here I was already doing, or already aware of and other snippets of great information that I could take away.

The one thing I found difficult was that the book was made to be interactive. It’s filled with links where you can go to find more information or evidence of what she was saying, but for me, reading this on a Kindle Paperwhite, the links were useless. If you were reading it on a Fire or iPad or some other similar device, you would love it. For me, I became frustrated.

Overall though, it is filled with sensible, well thought out advice for any author in today’s world.

If We Were Having Coffee – We’d Ask Is CreateSpace Environmentally Friendly?

The #weekendcoffeeshare is the brainchild of PartTimeMonster. We sit down every weekend and share our week in a more informal, personal way than maybe the rest of our blog posts are written. Feel free to join in.

24.11.14 235

If we were having a lovely soothing cup of tea (you can have coffee if you really have to – but I have a lovely Rose tea from Betty’s in my cupboard) I’d tell you it’s been a bit of a weird none week for me this week as it was half term for my youngest. The weather was rubbish and my health was blah, so we didn’t do anything.

But on Monday I did the whole of the weeks course work for a Future Learn course I’m doing which is on Branding, so I felt particularly good about myself that day. The first course I started with them I didn’t complete but the timing was bad, the end of the course coincided with me preparing for the release of Shallow Waters. Future Learn is a great facility for short courses to give you a taste of longer courses the university may offer. They are full of great content and get your mind working. With this Branding course, I wondered if I would be able to glean any information on Brands and how they work and if I could apply it to an author brand. So far on week two I’ve learned that the product needs to be good first and foremost and then it’s about customer experience rather than what the brand wants. Social media have changed the way a lot of information is exchanged and any brand, of any description that doesn’t move and adapt as quickly as its target audience is going to struggle.

Also, there is an issue of social awareness with brands. Is the brand socially aware? What are they doing to help people or the planet because society is finding this a more and more important issue. So for me, I looked at my Createspace printed book for Shallow Waters and couldn’t see the FSC sign (Forest Stewardship Council) on it, so I don’t think it is printed on environmentally friendly paper.

What do I do about this? If you pick up any of the books you read, you will more than likely find the FSC sign on the book because publishers have signed up to be environmentally aware, yet Createspace don’t have it. This makes me unhappy. Shallow Waters mostly sells eBooks, but it does sell a few paper copies and I have made them available. As an author brand, what is my social awareness if I provide books that I don’t know the origin of the paper? I think this week I might email Createspace and see what response I get and update you next week.

What are your thoughts on how we read and our impact on the planet in our pastime? Or how do you view brands? Is how they manage outside social factors important or do you not care?

#1000Speak For Compassion

Compassion-Logo-FINISHEDAt the end of January a couple of bloggers, Lizzi and Yvonne were inspired to start 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion following conversations about local and international affairs they had heard about. The campaign? To see if they could get 1000 fellow bloggers to post about compassion on the same day. It didn’t take long for a trickle of people to sign up and for that trickle to turn into a flood as people showed their compassion for the project. They wanted to help. To spread the word. To put their voice to a group and try to make it heard. And that day. That day is today.

 

 

I didn’t know what I was going to write about and this post is going up at the last-minute, to be honest. Pretty much as I do everything! But it came to me yesterday when I read another blog post, which I shall put a link to shortly. The post as I read it actually made me cry. Maybe it was partly because I’m feeling a little fragile because of my own disabilities at the minute and how much they are taking away from me but mostly because of the ignorance of the people this blogger was talking about. Her disability is completely disabling but invisible when she’s clothed.

What she talked about was the way in which she was treated by people who didn’t know she was disabled and how badly disabled, but, to be honest, how badly shouldn’t even come into it. Why are we, as humans, so goddamn judgemental? She rushes into a disabled toilet, I wait for a lift (elevator), and we are both given the rolling eye treatment. She was then also treated even more disgustingly and in front of her child.

I want to ask you, next time you see someone waiting for a lift, going into a disabled toilet, parking in a disabled space, to hold your tongue, your eye movements and just think for a minute. You don’t know this person, their life, their problems. You can’t help them, but you can show them some compassion by just letting them get on with their life the best way they can without feeling guilty about doing so. Disability isn’t always visible, but it doesn’t make it any less real.

Click the link below to see the post.

 

To The Woman Who Tutted at Me Using The Disabled Toilet. 

 

Crime Book Club’s February Meeting and March’s Choice

Last night the crime book club met once again on Google+ Hangouts to discuss our latest choice which was The Chalk Circle Man by Fed Vargas.

It was a great meeting as usual. We had a new member join, but unfortunately she wasn’t able to access the hangout, but we are going to work on resolving that for next time. She did sit and listen to us for the full meeting though. We had apologies from Denyse and Steph who were both sick, so we wish them both well and quickly, There are also a couple of other new members joining us next month. It’s so good to see us steadily growing.

Fred Vargas and The Chalk Circle Man. It was a mixed reception to the book but an enjoyment with a mixture of annoyance at the same time. This we were told wasn’t her best book and was not the first to be translated even though it is the first in the series. It’s unique in style and completely sways away from crime genre tropes which maybe throws die-hard crime fans a little. But we all agreed that we have or would read her again. You can watch the meeting below.

 

The book that has been chosen for next month is In the Blood by Lisa Unger. 

20736539Liar, liar, pants on fire . . . College senior Lana Granger has told so many lies about her past that the truth seems like a distant, cloudy nightmare.  But she meets her match when she begins babysitting for a volatile, manipulative eleven-year-old boy.  Soon after Lana takes the job, her close friend Beck mysteriously disappears.  Lana instantly begins fabricating stories – to friends, to police, to herself.  Why doesn’t her account jibe with those of eye-witnesses?  Lana will do anything to bury the truth about that night … and about her life.  But someone else knows her secrets.  And he’s dying to tell.

 

Because I have plans on the night we should be meeting next month, we are putting the meeting back a week so it is Wednesday 25th March. 8 p.m. GMT.

I am also working on something exciting and different for April. Keep your fingers crossed it can be pulled off and it’s something everyone will enjoy! I’ll let you know soon if it can be done.

One last thing, to keep up to date with the books to be voted on (because we don’t get many votes) and dates of meetings etc, it might be worth signing up to the book club newsletter, but don’t sign up if you get the blog posts by email as the information is always on the blog. I wouldn’t want you to get it twice. You can sign up here.

Happy Reading!

What Is Your Experience Of Disability?

This question is the first in a list of 52 questions (Don’t worry, I may not do them all) on Rose B. Fischer’s blog. It’s part of an awareness raising campaign called Redefining Disability. I’ve mentioned my own disability a few times, I’ve seen a lot of campaigning for the raising of mental health awareness recently and I’m following the Models of Diversity campaign so I thought I’d join in Rose’s Redefining Disability project and occasionally pick a question and talk about how my own disability affects me and my life.

redefining-disability2

What is my experience of disability?

It’s been a gradual experience, to be honest. My disabilities are Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS) . I was only diagnosed about four years ago but because the EDS is genetic I’ve obviously had it all my life and I had been what I thought was a hypochondriac. Wow, was that a blessing to find out I wasn’t and all this time, I wasn’t just lazy, this tiredness was real. I wasn’t bringing on the mind numbing migraines myself, they were real. Being told I was disabled was a relief. But getting that diagnosis was difficult because EDS is a little heard of disorder. The symbol used by EDS charities for EDSers is the Zebra because at training school doctors are taught, ‘if they hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebra’s.’ In other words, think more common, not rare. But we are those zebra’s.

As I’ve got older my symptoms have got worse and more unmanageable. Before, I was a reasonably active person. I lived, I enjoyed life, I did a skydive when I was 17 or 18, I forget, I socialised with friends regularly, I dated, I got married, I continued to have a social life. I had a great job, an active job I loved. Between all of this I was getting the migraines which would lay me out of action for between 2-3 days but I coped. And besides, I didn’t have children, I could sleep in if I was tired.

Now things have changed dramatically, joints hurt, a lot. I’m fatigued beyond reason. So much so, I live my life by to-do lists and a diary, making sure I don’t have to do too much in a day and don’t schedule live, going out the house events, too close to each other. I live by my diary.

The largest joint that is giving me problems is my head/neck joint and that gives me a myriad of symptoms, wracking pain in my neck and head so that I can’t move, as well as nausea. I’m wearing a hard collar while I wait for a neurosurgeon in the States to look at a special MRI scan. It’s this that is controlling what I do mostly because it is this that gives me the most problems. Unbelievable body slamming pain.

My experience? Other than the diary needing to be used to plan my life, is that I carry with me a huge sense of loss. Of having my life ripped out of my arms. physically and forcibly. Completely against my will. I hate this damn collar. I’m locked in this green plastic cage and yet I couldn’t bear to take it off because of the pain I’d be in without it. I even sleep in it at bad times because at those times I find I’m asleep on my stomach with my head completely twisted to the side and I’m surprised to find I’m in agony the next day!

My experience of disability is loss. Huge unbearable loss. My career is in tatters, my social life non-existent, I feel useless. Yes, I have to keep going. I have no other choice. My mind is still alive and well and active (if somewhat sluggish at times). It’s why writing is so important to me. I’m being stripped down piece by piece and I have to try and build something new from the ground up.

Can you imagine having to do that? Do you do that? How do you cope?

We shouldn’t shy away from disability or its effects. I hope my honesty doesn’t make you squirm or make you want to leave the blog. It was a hard post to write, but this is the person behind the book and all future books! Let’s buck the trend of ignoring what makes us uncomfortable and just take ten minutes to acknowledge it from time to time.

 

Is Being A Lawyer Really Like Being A Con Man?

Last night I interviewed crime author Steve Cavanagh for the bite-sized interviews feature. Steve is a working Lawyer in Northern Ireland and has released his debut legal thriller, The Defence – reviewed Here – set in the US.

I spoke to him about what it’s like working as a lawyer and writing about it, dipping into real life scenarios, the differences between how he practices law and how it works in the States and what artistic licence he used. Also the question that has to be asked – does he really think lawyers are con men?

Watch below to see what he says. It is slightly longer than the ten minutes, but it’s worth your time. Steve’s a great interview.

And don’t forget you can subscribe to the YouTube channel so you don’t miss anything I put on there.