Thursday, 22 December 2011

Took my eye off the ball and stepped into the virus trap

So easily avoided, but alas I'll have to sneeze it out now. And there is an up side.

So much has happened in the last few weeks that no-one's feet have touched the ground. The day jobs kept a grip on Monday to Friday and the book signings and related stuff filled Saturdays and Sundays. So it was full speed ahead on all counts from mid November to mid December.

The trick is to be very aware of the point where activity stops, so as to be ready for the army of viruses that hang about waiting for that moment when a busy person goes 'Whew! Time for a bit of a breather,' which is when they dive in to take hold, unless the barricades are well up. Barricades come in all shapes and sizes. Mental preparedness seems to help, as can a vitamin-rich diet. But anyway, no point in regretting a lack of awareness at this point. The viruses have arrived, taken hold and made themselves at home.

However, through the fog of congestion, in between sneezes and whilst not seeing stars from the coughing fits, I can look back over the month with a glow of satisfaction. Incredible though it seems, we shifted several thousand books, we had a stack of good publicity and the icing arrived to top off the cake the day after the final pre-Christmas event, with an offer from a publisher wanting to take the books to Canada and the USA.

Book shops rock!
We started here
... and ended here a few weeks later...

Monday, 19 December 2011

The cop always collars the crime writer.

The final day of the Yorkshire book signing tour was incident-packed, but before we came close to having collars felt, to the shoplifting incident or to the electronic capture of the missing books, we found we were still in a mystery race with the book distributors.

The race is who gets to the store first: us or the books? The mystery is why they seem so keen for us to win.

It's been touch and go with half a dozen of the venues, but we've now started to hit the individual shops' best-seller lists, which makes the bumpy ride worthwhile both for us and for the store managers who have pulled out all the stops to make the events successful. Especially Adam in Hull, Prospect Centre. We'd sold out of Like False Money and had a customer wanting a set of all three books. Adam's gizmo told him there were another two copies in the shop and, despite it being the busiest day of the year - not helped by a serious shoplifting incident - he hunted them down. They were in the crime section, not in the shoplifters' pockets.

The other final Saturday pre-Christmas venue was WHS, Kingswood, tucked cosily into the Kingswood retail park. It's the smallest of the shops I've been to. Would it attract in the buyers of crime fiction? For the first 30 seconds, I wasn't sure, then Seaside Radio arrived in the person of broadcaster, Paula Coomber, and a steady stream of shoppers followed, most of them happy to stop and chat and many to buy books. Before our allotted time was up, there were just four books left - and no Like False Moneys. This time, there were none lurking in hidden corners, but Agent raced off and scrounged a few from another branch.

Frustrating though it is to have no books left when there are still readers wanting to buy them, it's an amazing feeling to see an empty table where there had been a stack of books.

In all, that's eight venues since publication mid November and we ended where we started, back in WHS Prospect Centre, Hull. It wasn't in the original plan to return to any of the venues, but we were delighted the books were selling well enough that they wanted us back. But maybe those shoplifters took advantage, knowing the law would be diverted because the cop always collars the crime writer.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

La Scala short story competition shortlist and prize presentation

The prize presentation has been delayed to the New Year but the shortlisted entrants will be notified before Christmas.

La Scala Studios had planned to run the prize presentation for their 2011 short story competition to coincide with a local East Yorkshire Dengie qualifier and puissance competition in December. However, because of a problem at the venue, the qualifier has had to be delayed into the New Year and is now expected to be held in February. The competition organisers have taken the decision to delay the prize presentation and to hold it at the same event as the delayed qualifier, unless there should be a further delay, in which case the prize presentation will be held as a separate event at a different venue.

All shortlisted entrants will be notified before Christmas and details of the prize presentation will follow as soon as they are confirmed.

Anyone wanting further information or clarification, please leave a comment on this blog and it will be answered here.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Scarborough Rocks!

An inauspicious start to Scarborough book signing day.

After previous experiences with loose wheels, what would go wrong today? It was a clear run through, a sunny day, beautiful sea views on the way. If we hadn't known the way and had used the SatNav, that might have unnerved us, because it can't cope with the new road into Scarborough and degenerates into hysterics as the little arrow tracks across fields and the voice rattles out, "Turn right - do a u-turn - keep left". Last chance for a big glitch on the journey would have been to find the multi-storey full, but it wasn't.

And on to WH Smith, Westborough where the Manager, Russell, had the signs and the books all waiting for us. It was all going far too smoothly. The obvious trap now would be to score a duck on the book sales front and indeed the first few minutes went by without a taker. But then things picked up and we estimate we sold a book every two minutes and for the first time ever we sold out!!

Big thanks to everyone who helped to make it such a success.

Yay! Scarborough Rocks!

Crime comes to Harrogate: WHS Victoria Shopping Centre 10 December

The Yorkshire based crime series featuring PI Annie Raymond is now out in paperback.  I will be in WHSmith, Victoria Shopping Centre, Harrogate signing books on 10 December from 12 to 2.  Do call in and say hello.
WHS are doing a special deal – get the first three books for £15.

Books in danger on way to Monks Cross

When author and agent arrived for the book signing at WH Smith, Monks Cross, York, it should have been to a heap of books ready-delivered from the distributors. The hitch that had delayed the arrival of the stock is covered in a previous blog.

Monks Cross has its own car-park, but the shopping centre covers a vast acreage - 100, 200, I'm not sure. The fact there were no spaces near WH Smith was a good omen for a book signing. However, the books had to make it unscathed from car to shop and the borrowed sack barrow now had three reliable wheels and one that had lost its sprocket, pin, or whatever the thing is that keeps the wheel on the axle (as related in previous blog).

Loss of the wheel was not an option whilst the barrow was loaded. It turned out that it took the length of three author steps for the wheel to work its way to the dangerously-close end of the axle. So with the agent manoeuvring the barrow, the author fell into a rhythm of three steps, skip and a sideways kick. A kind of grotesque parody of Strictly.

By this means, the books were delivered in pristine condition. Store manager Tom matched the special 3-book deal in other branches and we sold the first full set of three before the books were properly stacked on the table. Again, the time flew by in conversation with all the people who approached (or were strong-armed to) the table. One of those who came along was York author, Joan Emery, whose pen has been stilled for a few years by a bout of ill-health. She's back at her keyboard now, so watch out for her name popping up on the shelves again.

There's something that happens when I sign crime novels in a branch of WHS - the law takes a keen interest.

We slipped under the radar in Coney Street, but they caught up with us here. 'Mayhem across the York area...? Out of control sack barrow...? Not us, officer. Clear case of mistaken identity. We're just quietly signing and selling books.' A pleasingly high number again. Thank you to Tom and Matthew in the store and hoping that all new readers enjoy their purchases.

Friday, 2 December 2011

New novel coming out on Litopia Radio

The great thing about Litopia After Dark for a writer of contemporary PI novels is the way it completely freed me from the constraints of the world of the 21st century licensed private investigator. It isn't that it doesn't fascinate me to inhabit the world of private investigation, and even scare me a bit when I get mistaken for the real thing (that's a whole other blog) but it's said that a change is as good as a rest and it was good to dive briefly into the world of Johnny and Priscilla of Magenta Delicious, the novel being written week by week by the guests on Litopia After Dark.
It goes out on Sunday nights at about 8 pm, but all the broadcasts are published as podcasts. You will find 'Bach to the Future' right here.