Category: Books

Historian? Author? Writer?

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One day, Rebecca Rideal wrote a history book, intended for the general, non-academic reader. You know the type – the sort of person who is interested in history, wants to know about the world they live in and what shaped it, but doesn’t want, isn’t interested in, perhaps hasn’t had the sort of education where they can handle, a dry academic monograph. We should be glad – after all, back in January, we were told that ‘Popular history writing remains a male preserve.’ Good ol’ Rebecca, doing her bit to redress the gender imbalance!

Rideal was interviewed in The Guardian, and The Guardian pulled out some exciting-sounding quotes, because, well, it’s a newspaper, and that’s what they do. Especially now that online newspapers are obsessed with lacing their bylines with as much clickbait as possible. ‘The time of the grand histories is coming to an end,’ Rideal declared. It’s a headline that makes people sit up and take notice, and sit up and take notice, they most certainly did! The Guardian is no doubt raking in much advertising from Rideal’s interview, but unfortunately for Rideal…. well…. Some people on Twitter got upset.1)It’ll be a cold day in Hell when I’m able to say 5 minutes have gone past without some people on Twitter not being upset about something, but there we are.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. It’ll be a cold day in Hell when I’m able to say 5 minutes have gone past without some people on Twitter not being upset about something, but there we are.

Wherein the author poses in a bookshop

 

Helen went to Waterstones

Helen went to Waterstones

Today, I went to Waterstones in Birmingham and saw Poison Panic on the shelf. It was my book! In a book shop! Not only does my book exist, but… it was on a bookshelf! In a shop! So I paused by it, and posed in an awkward fashion, with Tom Hardy’s naked torso just out of shot above my head, Ian Brady leering into the side of the picture, and PD James (gawd bless ‘er) just lurking beneath.

My book. Hurrah! There were more copies on the other shelf. Thanks to the combined forces of coincidence, my surname, and the alphabet, Poison Panic sits next to a book on the Hell’s Angels, written by the bloke who gave Lee Marvin the stripey T-shirt he wore in The Wild One. So I’ve been told.

Appropriately, perhaps, another poisoner can be found beside my Essex ladies – Carol Baxter’s The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable, on Tawell, the “Kwaker”, accused of murdering his mistress with prussic acid. He was caught when the police chased him down using the telegraph, after Tawell had escaped by train. There wasn’t a letter Q on it, hence they spelt Quaker “Kwaker”. You’ll meet him in Fatal Evidence – although Professor Taylor wasn’t an expert witness at the trial, one of his books was. Had there been Waterstone’s in the 1800s, I’m sure Taylor would have stood by his tomes on the shelves too, and asked someone to do a quick sketch as cameras weren’t too quick back then.

Hel's poisons

Hel’s poisons

And so that’s what I did on Saturday.

Poison Panic book launch party

I wasn’t sure about having a book launch party. Was organising it going to be a lot of faff when I wanted to crack on with book #2? But in the end, I thought… why not have a little bash. There could be some wine, perhaps a cake, and maybe a few chums if they felt like turning up after work.

Surprisingly, poison bottle cakes are popular.

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Live Poison Panic Twitter Q and A

If Victorians did Twitter.

If Victorians did Twitter.

My book Poison Panic is published on Thursday 30th June. Join me between 12pm and 2pm for a live Twitter questions and answers session. Use the hashtag #poisonpanic

If anyone asks something that requires a long answer that Twitter won’t cope with, I’ll reply on here and link to it. I reserve the right not to answer all questions asked.

I look forward to speaking to you!

Bird image from The Graphics Fairy.

How to index a book – or not

Arsenic, arson, Bulwer-Lytton....

Arsenic, arson, Bulwer-Lytton….

Apart from the obvious difference between fiction and non-fiction – one’s pretend and the other isn’t (more or less) – a non-fiction text should have an index. Indices are awesome, a handy way to zip around a book without having to wade through the entire tome, but have you ever stopped to wonder what compiling an index involves?

This is something I have been wondering since I started work on Poison Panic, for the simple reason that my book would need an index. Gulp.

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Birmingham RNA Writers Day

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A scribble of writers?

Writing can be a lonely endeavour, so it’s great that there’s ways for us to meet up. There’s local groups, or there’s associations and organisations you can join, depending on what genre you write in. As I write historical crime and fiction with a romantic twist, I’ve joined the Historical Writers’ Association, I plan to join the Crime Writers’ Association, and I hope one day to join the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA).1)To join the HWA and the CWA, you need to have been commissioned to write a book by a publisher. The RNA is similar, but it also has an annual New Writers’ Scheme, whereby you can join after submitting a manuscript to them. The RNA has also opened its membership to self-published authors who have sold a particular number of novels.

I have to say that the RNA are one of the most active (and pro-active), friendly and welcoming groups you could ever wish for. You don’t even have to be a member to attend some of their events. I have been to several lunch meet-ups with the ladies (and a bloke!) and on Saturday, I was one of the presenters at the Birmingham Chapter’s Writers Day. Held in the rather grand environs of the Radisson Blu on Holloway Head, this was a full day with five speakers and opportunities to mingle – and sell books! I think everyone learnt something, be it about planning, revisions, marketing and social media, and how to publish short stories.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. To join the HWA and the CWA, you need to have been commissioned to write a book by a publisher. The RNA is similar, but it also has an annual New Writers’ Scheme, whereby you can join after submitting a manuscript to them. The RNA has also opened its membership to self-published authors who have sold a particular number of novels.

Lament for an Unavailable Spy

spy

At some point, Poison Panic will be available on Amazon. How very exciting. Because I had a couple of minutes in which my brain demanded something to do and because it had no better idea, I searched for my name on Amazon. I wasn’t surprised that it queried if I’d spelled “Barrell” correctly, suggesting I was looking for a Helen of Troy barrel hot brush – but I was surprised that it returned a result for Lament for a Trapped Spy. It’s a novella I wrote as a teen and self-published like a fanzine, some stapled-together photocopied pages. I sent it through the post for a couple of quid, and about 50 were ever produced; it’s been out of print for years. How on earth did it get on Amazon?

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Where have all the bookshops gone?

Photo nabbed from the Birmingham Post.

Photo nabbed from the Birmingham Post.

Ever since I’ve lived in Birmingham, I’ve loved the fact that there’s two massive Waterstones, and I do so love a Waterstones. They were divided by about 200 metres of shopping street – one, inhabiting a grade II listed grand wedding cake of a building with a huge high ceiling and gilt-covered curlicues (which used to be a bank) and a tall, imposing, many-floored 1930s building.

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