28.6.17

Wordy Wednesday with Fleur Hitchcock

Welcome to Wordy Wednesday - today in the hot seat I would like to introduce Fleur Hitchcock, author of Murder in Midwinter, Bus Stop Baby, and many others. The books are aimed at the younger reader, but I confess the story synopses sound like I might enjoy them too.


So Fleur, tell us about yourself,
I’ve  worked as a shop assistant, a dinner lady, a gardener, and a curator. I have two almost grown up children and live in the West Country and wrangle all the strands of my life. Since 2011 I’ve written books of all sorts for children aged 7 +

My most recent book is Murder in Midwinter which was published in October 2016  It’s about a very average South London girl called Maya. She’s on a bus in London when she spots a man and a woman arguing on the street. The man seems to be holding a gun and Maya takes a photograph with her phone. But he sees her do it. Soon after there’s a murder, and kidnap, and for her safety, Maya is sent far away from home, to the snow covered mountains of Wales, she can’t get out, but can someone else get in?  It’s a page turner thriller for children aged 9+

Do you have another job or are you a full time author? 
I also garden. It’s hard on my back and knees which aren’t getting any younger, but brilliant for my head and also allows me to listen to the radio which is something I really miss about writing.  Some people can write to music, but I have to have a pretty quiet house to function.

fleur hitchcock author

Why did you start writing?
I really don’t know – and I actually don’t think I remember beginning to write. I’ve always done it. It’s just I didn’t call myself a writer until I went back and did an MA in my mid forties.

List 3 things that are guaranteed to make you smile.
My neighbour the vicar jumping into his wheelie bin to compress the rubbish (even reading that made me smile, well done!)
Bumble bees.
Finding a table seat on the train.

Do you have any pets? 
We have some decrepit goldfish, but used to have hens. I loved them dearly, but so did the foxes. We’ll have hens again one day. But for now we have to make do with visiting pets.  Every summer, Nom Nom the tortoise comes to stay while his owner goes on holiday. He’s almost our pet, and I miss him terribly when he goes.

Who is your favourite author? Do they influence your writing or are they a total break from the sort of thing you write?
My favourite author is Rose Tremain.  Everything she writes is different, so much so that I couldn’t spot a Rose Tremain book except by the quality of the writing and the humanity of the characters. She doesn’t have a distinctive style as such but her work is  always character led, something I aim towards, and I think RESTORATION is a perfect book. If you haven’t read it, you really should.

Which book(s) are you reading at the moment? 
I’m reading a proof copy of “The Cost of Living” by Rachel Ward. It won’t be published until later on this year, so I’m terribly excited to get an advanced look at it. It’s a brilliant piece of “Cosy” detective fiction that begins in a supermarket with characters called Ant and Bea.  I’m racing through it but I know I have tottering TBR pile cramming in behind.

Where do you do most of your writing?
On any available flat surface in our house. Sometimes that’s my knees. In theory I have a desk in the spare room but it’s so cluttered I often can’t work. Right now it’s piled high with my accounts that will probably stay there, almost finished, until 30th of January.

Tell us about the character that you've written that you like the most - no spoilers!
That’s like asking which of my children I love the most!  I shouldn’t possibly choose, but I’m very fond of Amy in Bus Stop Baby.  She’s 12 and she’s angry and she can’t really express it.  The world only just makes sense to her and she finds adolescence difficult. She wants everything to be simple and logical and it won’t behave that way. During the book, Amy gets herself into trouble with everyone she loves because she jumps to conclusions. I suspect I love her because she’s a bit like I was at that age.
murder in midwinter

What is your favourite biscuit?
Choco Leibniz – they dunk well, no palm oil and they’re delicious. Excellent choice!

In the film of your life who would play you?
Oh dear – I really don’t know – but I suppose a young me would be a young Diana Rigg – kind of out of control and a little larger than life. Prone to wearing rather tight fitting clothing and creeping around solving crimes. The now me might be the late great Patsy Byrne – she played Nursie in Blackadder. I think Nursie was wiser than she looked. (I adored Nursie)

If you could genetically cross an animal and a vegetable, what would you pick and why? I like the idea of a potato and a sloth...could you get a lazier creature? (my soul mate) 
A badger and a beetroot – just imagine all that purple seeping into the white. BEAUTIFUL!

You can follow Fleur on Twitter @fleurhitchcock
And check out her blog page at www.fleurhitchcock.com
And buy her books via Amazon

21.6.17

Wordy Wednesday with Jack Strange

Welcome to Wordy Wednesday - today featuring Jack Strange!

wordy wednesday cat logo

Jack Strange has had a very varied career. He’s worked in a morgue, dug holes for a living, shifted heavy things on and off trucks, sold advertising space, and was, for a while, a Lawyer. 
Jack has always read voraciously and has wanted to be a novelist since the age of ten. He wrote his first novel aged fourteen. Jack enjoys parties and keeps himself fit. He is married with two adult daughters.

And so as usual I sat Jack down with a (virtual) beverage of his choosing, and we talked...

jack strange author

Do you have another job or are you a full time author? If you do something else (international spy?) what is it and do you like it?
Regrettably, I have another job. Two other jobs, in fact, so I'm on my way to rivalling George Osborne - but I don't get paid nearly as much as him. I'm a lawyer and a handyman, as well as being a writer. It's an odd combination, I know, but hey - we writers are supposed to be different, aren't we?

Why did you start writing?
To change the world, earn fame and fortune, and finally retire to a desert island with a good bar and a rocking city close to my beach house.

List 3 things that are guaranteed to make you smile.
My bank balance (that's an ironic smile by the way);
Tory party promises (so is that);
and any episode of 'Fleabag' (Google it, if you haven't heard of it).

Do you have any pets? 
No, I used to have a cat called 'Udi' and when she died I couldn't cope with the emotional loss so I never got another pet. They definitely would hinder the writing process. Udi used to demand attention when I needed time to myself to study law; she'd do the same if she was around when I was trying to write.

Who is your favourite author? Do they influence your writing or are they a total break from the sort of thing you write?
That's such a tough question as I could name twenty or thirty or more favourite authors who all have an equal claim to my affections. If I had to narrow it down to one, it might be Russell H Greenan, largely for his novel 'It happened in Boston'. We have things in common - we're both lineal descendants of Edgar Allan Poe, and accordingly, cats feature in my writing and in his. His books are hard to categorise, and maybe mine are too - but we both sit comfortably in the horror genre. And we both like to use dark humour in our books. I wouldn't want to claim I've written anything as good as 'It Happened in Boston' - but there's still time!

jack strange book

Which book(s) are you reading at the moment?
'Junky' by William Burroughs and 'Salvage' by Duncan Ralston. The opening of Junky is textbook, in that it's the perfect opening to draw you into a story; and the author's use of detail is outstanding. Would-be writers could do a lot worse than to read this book and draw a few lessons from it.

Which three cities would you most like to visit and why?
(1) Timbuktu - it's always seemed to me to be exotic, mysterious and remote. Plus it has some amazing libraries. I like libraries.
(2) La Paz - it's the current highest capital city in the world, I believe. The views from my hotel room would be tremendous, and I'm sure I'd enjoy a rocking night life there. I have a feeling the drinks are cheap, too.
(3) Novosibirsk - the largest city in Siberia. I'd love to snuggle up in front of a warm fire in a Siberian bar, with a vodka in my hand and the winter winds raging outside.

Tell us about the character that you've written that you like the most - no spoilers!
Henderson the cat. It's not just me - everyone who's read my books says he's their favourite character.
Here's a link to a recent review of a book of mine - note the comment about Henderson. Many readers have said similar things.
zomcats jack strange book

What is your favourite biscuit? 
Jack Strange never eats biscuits. He wouldn't be able to rock the pullup bar if he did.

In the film of your life who would play you? 
The young me would be played by the young Jude law (if we could go back in time!) - because we both had charm, insouciance and good looks in abundance in our youth. The old me would be played by Vladimir Putin if he ever turned his hand to acting - for obvious reasons.

If you could genetically cross an animal and a vegetable, what would you pick and why? I like the idea of asparagus and a giraffe...tender neck
A tory politician with a...wait a minute...they're a cross of animal and vegetable already. Mainly vegetable.

Amazon links to Jack's books:
Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse
Amazon USA
Amazon UK

Zomcats!
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

Confessions of an English Psychopath
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

20.6.17

Top Ten Twitter Turn Offs

I've blogged about Twitter before. But as it seems to change almost weekly, and as I'm closer to10k followers now (brag brag) I thought I'd do an update. But rather than tell you how to tweet, I'll tell you what turns me off a tweeter (and I'm not alone - I checked)


RTing too much. 
Everyone loves a RT and it's good to share other people's tweets and links. Bloggers especially adore it if you share their tweets with links to their blogs. But RTing the same person, all at once in a huge RT dump is lazy and annoying, after a RT I might take a peek and follow that person, if I'm not bothered I won't . If I follow them you don't need to RT 10 tweets of theirs, I'll see them anyway. And if don't follow them chances are it's because I don't want to see their tweets - a string of them is going to be a turn off. I might even turn off your RTs from my timeline, thus never seeing a single RT you tweet ever again, even the important ones. Do a single RT and suggest people follow the tweeter if you really think their stuff is that good.


RTing competitions. 
Everyone loves a RT comp. I know I do, I've even won a few but try to space your RTing of them out a bit, otherwise you'll clog up people's timelines with tweet after tweet of "RT to Win", and quite frankly that's boring. As above you might find people switch off RTs from your account, but worse, people that don't know how to do that - or those of a tetchy nature, might just mute you or unfollow.

Auto DMs.
On twitter there is the ability to send a private message or 'DM' (direct message) Some apps allow these to be automated and they can be used as a greeting. Some bloggers swear by them for increasing interaction on other social media but in my experience, and the experience of many other people, it's a huge and annoying turn off. If I get a DM I expect it to be necessary and important - if you just want to say hello or thank me for following, you can do that in a public reply. Thanks. Personally I reply automatically to auto DMs with the following:
 
You are welcome to use this approach too.

Auto tweets. 
Horoscopes are high on this list. Why do I care about your horoscope? But also telling me how many followers you have gained and lost on a daily basis (I don't mind occasionally being told you are having a clear out btw, that's amusing and we all like a good purge, it's the automated tweets that are so tedious). Or game auto tweets, I don't care your grew a new fish, killed an extra ninja, gained a new star etc. Why not take a wee look through the applications that have access to tweet on your behalf once a month and remove the ones that you don't need. The saddest accounts are the ones where a tweeter has left twitter and for the last 3 months all there is on the timeline is a stream of horoscopes....

Huge reply 'chains'. 
Recently twitter introduced a fabulous new feature which sounded cool until you actually used it. The Twitter names of people in @replies no longer count toward the over all character limit. Handy if a couple of people are in a conversation, but less so as more and more people join. In fact for reasons no one understands, Twitter allow up to 50 people in a single tweet. If you are chatting in a chain of people this large and each person replies to each tweet (often with an inane 'LOL me too' ) you mentions column on twitter goes crazy. Luckily you can mute conversations, but of course you might miss something, it's a risk I take though. Once there are more than 5 people in a tweet, I bail out. It doesn't help that Twitter hides the list of people so it can be hard to spot that you've joined a huge chain.


Unsolicited advice. 
This can range from the best place to buy a dress to medical advice, most of the time if people want advice they will ask. If you know someone really well of course it's like any friendship and you can chat away, but if you have just followed someone, or worse, still don't follow them but spotted a random tweet about diabetes, telling them you have a cure is definitely a twitter turn off! People often chat about things and ask for help, if you like helping there are plenty of tweeters out there for you to @reply to, just try and confine it to those that ask. No one moaning about "another night up with my colicky baby" wants to hear that they are doing it wrong and you are the guru, if they want advice they'll ask, otherwise, assume they tried your idea already.


Constant link drops.
If you are a blogger or even if you read the news a lot it can be tempting to add lots of links to interesting articles (I do it myself) but try and chat as well. On mobile phones many people won't click through to read now and will forget about it later. Add a few links by all means but keep up the chat - a tweet stream that is all links is broadcast media, not social media, to be social we start debate, and we reply. Give it a go.


Never replying to anyone. 
Following on from the link drops, those tweet streams that are just post after post with no interaction at all, annoy me. If you never reply to anyone else it shows a lack of social-ness in your social media. Don't be the person that is all 'me, me, me' . Reply to people that send you @ messages but also reply to tweets people send. You liked a cute cat picture? Tell the person that posted it. You laughed when they dropped their ice cream in their lap? why not tell them about when you sneezed on your dentist to make them feel better, have a chat, it's nice.(Thanks for reading this far by the way, have you done something new with your hair? it looks nice)

Tagging someone in a conversation that's about them!
Unless it's something nice. If person A is slagging off person B do not tag person B in the tweets. The same for companies, if the original tweeter wanted them to know they could tag them themselves. If you think it's worth tagging, for example a brand has let someone down, send a DM to ask them if they know that 'company B' is on twitter, tell them the @name and let them tag if they want to. Of course if someone is saying how absolutely fabulous and amazing I am, then do by all means tag me, somethings should be shared....


Being mean. 
You'd think this would be obvious but starting a fake account, lying, trolling (*deliberately saying provocative things you don't mean, just to get a rise out of someone), and being unpleasant for your own entertainment is the biggest Twitter turn off of all. At best you'll be blocked and ignored, you may be reported to twitter. At worst case scenario you can be reported to the police. Play nice or don't play. You have 140 characters, try and spread joy, we really have enough pain in the world without your 2ps worth.

Big thanks to the other bloggers and tweeters who shared my pain.

What the Redhead Said
A Cornish Mum
The DADventurer
Tattooed Tealady
Counting to Ten
Over 40 and Mum to One
Amy Treasure
Scrapbook blog
Illustrated Teacup

What are your top twitter turn  offs? (oh and do we follow each other there? @Tattooed_Mummy )