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How do I fulfil my daughter’s voracious appetite for books?

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I’m not bragging, my little boy can hardly be persuaded to pick up a book. He’d much rather be on Forza Motorsport or building Lego. If I could divide the book love out between them a bit more evenly then I would. But they are their own people and that’s just the way it is.
My husband and I were both book worms as kids, but I don’t recall being quite so speedy at reading as my daughter seems to be.
We spent every Saturday morning at the library when I was my daughter’s age, in the town where I grew up. I took a pile home with me at lunchtime and then we returned the following week to either renew or exchange. But in these days of constant access to the internet, youngsters know exactly what the next book in a series by their favourite author is. They aren’t prepared to simply take whatever happens to be on the young adult shelves of the local library.
Maybe schools need to be more up to date with the titles they offer. I know of other youngsters in my daughter’s class who have read every title in the entire school library and have been told that anything else they have is too ‘adult’ for them. But let’s face it, when you are a competent reader from a young age, you read whatever you can get your hands on. I read my Gran’s Victoria Holt’s and Georgette Heyer’s from when I was my daughter’s age. I’d worked my way through every single Agatha Christie before I was eleven years old.
I have tried to push my old favourites onto my first born but she often finds them old-fashioned and the prose style laboured. She has a very definite idea of what she likes to read and I want to encourage this passion as much as I can. Luckily, she is perfectly happy to spend her pocket money on books. Otherwise, we would be in trouble.
I trawl the second hand shops whenever I can and so does my mum. We tend to keep her well supplied that way. What would be really great is if the Kindle versions of her favourite titles weren’t quite so expensive. I keep my Kindle price low and my books are adult length. This would give us another option to keep her appetite satisfied.
I suppose if the supply ran dry she might be forced to turn to those old classics that we all read when there was nothing else available. However, there is no ‘nothing else’ these days. There’s always the TV and our various household internet devices. My fear is that if I cut off the supply, she will turn to something else and I really don’t want her to.
The sight of my daughter with her head in those books is a wonderful thing to behold, so I shall just have to keep thinking of ways to keep up.

How I used my book titles to create a strong author brand

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I write two separate series of detective, mystery novels. When I set out to pen the second series, featuring my new main character; Scottish policewoman DCI Dani Bevan, I wanted all the titles of the books to share a common feature.
This decision wasn’t pre-planned. When I make a choice about my next title it is usually quite early on in the planning process. The title helps me to formulate and develop the storyline. I need to have it in my head as I write. With the Dani Bevan books, I knew that the first instalment was going to be called ‘Against A Dark Sky’ because I wanted to create the image of a mountain set against a dark, stormy background in the reader’s imagination. The plot revolves around a suspicious death which takes place on Ben Lomond, when the weather turns bad without warning during a hiking expedition.
Once I had this first title fixed, I was keen that all of Dani’s subsequent cases should follow a similar theme and that the ‘dark’ element should be retained in each new book. ‘On A Dark Sea’ was the follow-up novel. The title was a natural progression from the planning phase as the story begins with a young woman’s perilous journey across dangerous seas at night, in a small fishing boat.
The other titles then flowed quite naturally as the series continued. ‘A Dark Shadow Falls’, ‘Dark As Night’ and ‘The Dark Fear’ were the books which followed.
I didn’t really realise at the time, but by creating this ‘dark’ series of books, I was building a kind of title-based brand for the Dani Bevan novels. Because of the nature of the titles, it was clear to my readership whether they would be getting an Imogen and Hugh Croft Mystery or a DCI Dani Bevan police procedural. I’m an avid reader of crime novels myself and I like to know exactly what I’m getting from a book. An author’s brand plays an important part in re-enforcing this and making the genre clear to consumers.
My Dani Bevan books are slightly different from the Imogen and Hughs – they are ‘darker’ and although containing humour, they are more brutal in subject matter than their sister series. The titles reflect this perfectly and help to formulate the brand.
The next book in the DCI Dani Bevan collection already has a working title; ‘Girls Of The Dark’, which I am hoping to be able to release before Christmas.
So, if you are looking to establish a strong author brand, you would do well to consider the title of the book itself, which can be a very powerful tool for conveying just exactly what your series wants to say.

The change of season can give you ideas to kick start your writing.

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I should really be concentrating on promotion. I’ve just released my eleventh novel, The Dark Fear. I’m still excited about its completion, don’t get me wrong, but the change in the season, as we slip from late summer into autumn, is giving me ideas. I’m sure it’s the same for all those who make their living in the creative sector. We need to follow inspiration from wherever it comes and at certain times of the year, it comes more readily than at others.
For me, the shortening of the days and the turning of the leaves from green to gold, encourages me to shift the tone of my stories slightly. For a mystery writer, the season in which you work has great significance. Summer suspense is full of the intensity created by long, hot days and characters throwing off the shackles of work. Winter perhaps lends itself best to the thriller author, providing the backdrop of dour weather and dark evenings. But to me, autumn is the preferable season. The landscape changes significantly; bonfires are lit and the temperature drops, so that the heavy boots and jackets come out. But it doesn’t have the stark bareness of mid-winter.
My plots change accordingly and I am finding that a new story is forcing its way into my mind. I wouldn’t wish to lose this moment of inspiration, so I will follow my urge to get back to the wordprocessor. They say that the most effective promotion is to keep writing more books. Lets hope that’s true, because it’s the part of the job I really enjoy the most. I will take the excuse given by the change of season to allow me to get back to it.

What do you do when your conscience comes calling? Review: An Inspector Calls.

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I approached the BBC1’s adaptation of JB Priestley’s haunting drama An Inspector Calls with some trepidation. It is well trodden territory for TV and radio producers and the text studied by pretty much every schoolchild in Britain.

However, the assured performances of Ken Stott, Miranda Richardson and David Thewlis soon had me hooked. It’s so long since I have read the play that I couldn’t make any comment upon accuracy, which I suspect was a blessing.

All the twists and turns were there and the clever clues that make Priestley’s work a proper detective mystery. But what struck me most was the unnerving aptness of the story’s message. Priestley’s play, set in 1912, on the eve of the apocalyptic First World War, is an allegorical tale of the risks we run when we ignore our responsibility to others.

The Birling family are confronted with their own failings in respect to their treatment of a poor young woman, Eva Smith. The unpleasant realities of her predicaments are transported into the Birling’s comfortable drawing room by way of the mysterious and all-knowing Inspector Goole.

Thankfully, the production is subtle and doesn’t lay on the spookiness with a trowel. The real suspense and chills are caused by the powerful script itself. But what really lingers in the mind, long after the Inspector has gone, is the striking modern parallels.

In recent weeks, we have found the humanitarian crises of the wider world invading our own parlours. This production certainly made me consider how well I would fare if my conscience were to call uninvited.

The play is a classic, largely because the story is still relevant today.

The mark of a truly great piece of detective fiction.


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