Posted in Writing

On Becoming an Amazon Bestseller

screenshot showing orange bestseller flag on Best Murder in ShowThere are worse ways for a writer to start the week than discovering that overnight one of your books has been awarded the coveted orange “bestseller” flag on the Amazon store serving your home turf (UK in my case).

I admit I’m chuffed, even though I know the flag will disappear as soon as another book knocks it off the top spot. And that’s just as it should be. If every Amazon bestseller flag remained in place for ever, the system would lose its value – and authors would become complacent and vain.

What This Means

To be clear, the bestseller flag doesn’t mean it’s top of the whole Amazon UK ebook chart, but top of a particular category. In this case, Best Murder in Show is currently #1 in the “cozy culinary mystery” list. Over the weekend, it also hit #2 in the “cozy crafts and hobbies mystery” class.

Both of these are sub-genres of the larger “cozy mystery” chart. All four Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries usually float about somewhere in the top 100 of that list in the UK Amazon store.

If the Category Fits…

With the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series featuring plenty of food and drink (a large part of the book is set in a tea room or the pub, with Hector’s hooch a popular feature) and hobbies (amateur dramatics, writing, dressmaking, gardening, etc), it’s a good fit for these two sub-genres.

illustration of bookshop and tea room
Hector’s House, the village bookshop and tea room where Sophie Sayers works (Illustration by Thomas Shepherd of http://www.shepline.com)

That’s a relief, as Amazon’s classifications can be a bit hit and miss, confusing readers and frustrating writers. A recent bestseller in “non-fiction dog-care” was a detective novel in which the heroine’s sidekick is canine. I hope she is an exemplary dog-owner.

What’s Next for Sophie Sayers?

But for now I must set aside such distractions and press on with this week’s writing priority: preparing for my proofreader the manuscript of Sophie’s fifth adventure, Springtime for Murder.

More news of Springtime for Murder will follow shortly, when I unveil its new cover and set it up for pre-order in the run up to its October launch.

You can buy Best Murder in Show in paperback or ebook online here

or order the paperback from your local bookshop quoting ISBN 978-1911223139.

Posted in Events, Personal life, Writing

Village Show Cluedo

photo of giant vegetables next to model house
For vegetables bigger than your house, visit Hawkesbury Horticultural Show *

My column for the August 2017 edition of Hawkesbury Parish News

A few years ago, an old school friend from abroad came to visit me here in Hawkesbury and was keen to learn about village life. He took a special interest in our famous Hawkesbury Horticultural Show.

At that point, I was a member of the Show Committee, and I was responsible for producing the schedule each year. Although the next Show was some months away, I was able to show him the draft schedule, and his eyes widened at the huge range of entry classes and trophies.

photo of the 2017 schedule
Our copy of this year’s schedule, slightly dog-eared after much use

“Wow, this sounds just like the sort of thing you see in Midsomer Murders,” he enthused. (They watch a lot of British television in the Netherlands.) “Is there a prize for Best Murder in Show?”

Reluctantly I had to disappoint him, but I squirrelled away his suggestion for future use, and earlier this year I published a novel by the same name, the first in a series of classic cosy mysteries set in the fictitious village of Wendlebury Barrow.

It now occurs to me that our Horticultural Show would also make a cracking setting for a localised game of Cluedo: “Entries Secretary, in the Produce Tent, with a Prize Marrow” or “Show Chairman, in the Village Hall, with some Celery”. The possibilities are endless.

Here’s to another inspiring Show Day for us all – and may we all live to tell the tale.

*Actually, that house in the photo above is really a tea cosy – which I turned into a doorstop by stuffing it with a house brick and some of my husband’s old socks, and covering the base with a piece of his old corduroy trousers. Result: second prize in Class 471 – “a functional object made from all recycled material” 

cover of Best Murder in Showcover of Trick or Murder?
If you’d like to find out more about Best Murder in Showand its new sequel, Trick or Murder? click hereBoth are available in paperback and ebook.

Posted in Events, Reading, Writing

Recommended Reading: The Grass Trail by A A Abbott

What will you be reading this weekend? The new thriller The Grass Trail by A A Abbott is currently top of my to-read pile – and it’s hot off the press!

Launched from a Prison Cell

Where better to launch a crime novel that opens in a prison cell?

I confess – I’ve allowed it to leapfrog to the top of the pile, having acquired my copy only this Tuesday, inspired to read it by the author’s excellent launch event in Bristol that evening, to which my sister and I were pleased to be invited.

A A Abbott is a Bristol-based author whom I first met last year when we were both part of a local author event at Foyles’ Cabot Circus, Bristol branch, along with historical novelists Lucienne Boyce and David Penny. She’s an energetic and engaging character, very upbeat and passionate about her writing, at the same time as being a high-flying accountant, and it is her career in finance and commerce that inform the worlds of her books.

photo of blue gate with government logo and lock
Setting the tone from the minute we arrived

I so enjoyed her company and her earlier books – The Bride’s Trail, The Vodka Trail and Up in Smoke – that I invited her to take part in the most recent Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. She’s a great speaker and good fun, so I knew that this week’s launch event would be enjoyable. To add to the fun, she’d booked a very apposite but unusual venue: the old prison cells of Bristol’s former police station in Bridewell Street, now a commercial venue called The Island, but retaining the forbidding atmosphere of its previous purpose.

photo of grim courtyard secured with barbed wire
Not an easy place to escape from

First, we were invited to join her in a long room painted entirely in black – a sinister and dramatic setting for Michael MacMahon, another local author friend (author of Back to the Black, funnily enough, a self-help book about personal finance). Michael’s an actor, voice artist and coach, specialising in public speaking (his next book will be a guide to making effective wedding speeches), and he is also a Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest regular. His memorable rendition of Prospero’s speech is now a regular part of the Festival’s traditional closing ceremony, and it makes my spine tingle every time. (I’m now kicking myself that I didn’t think to ask him on Tuesday whether this was Prospero’s Cell!)

Both Michael MacMahon and A A Abbott were on top form

Here his role was to interview Helen (A A Abbott is her pen name, artfully chosen to put her at the top of any alphabetical list of authors!), and they made a great double-act, talking about this book and her writing in general.

Then we were led away to the…

image of "Cells" stencilled in black on to a grey wall

… where Helen gamely treated us to a reading from the opening of her new book, which is set in a prison cell.

Sentenced to read…

The lively opening scene, in which prisoner Shaun Halloran is introduced to his new cellmate, made me laugh out loud (a bit echoey in a prison cell!) and left me keen to read the rest asap.

Next Book, Please, David Penny!

David Penny’s latest book is his medieval Spanish crime series

By coincidence, next evening there was another event that would have had me grabbing a copy of David Penny‘s latest book, The Incubus, if only I hadn’t already read it! He was featured on the television programme A Place in the Sun, filmed back in February when he and his lovely wife Megan were guests on the show seeking a new holiday home in the Axarquia region of Spain in which his historical novels are set. It’s now available to watch on Channel 4 on demand here.

Suffragette City

A great follow-up to her earlier excellent book about the Bristol Suffragettes

Fortunately, the same can’t be said of Lucienne Boyce‘s books – although I’ve read all her fiction and enjoyed it very much, I have on my Kindle her latest non-fiction book, The Road to Representation, a collection of essays about the Suffragette movement, always a fascinating subject, and this little book will be perfect to dip into in between the fiction.

What will you be reading this weekend? I’d love to know!

Photo of "Best Murder in Show" in the window
Getting my weekend off to a great start was this image of my latest novel in pride of place in the window of a local independent bookshop, the excellent Cotswold Book Room in Wotton-under-Edge. (Thanks to my friend Chris Taylor for the photo.)

 

Posted in Personal life, Reading, Writing

Writing: You Couldn’t Make It Up…

For Writers’ Wednesday (#ww), a post about writing fiction. This post first appeared on the Authors Electric blog, for which I’m now a regular monthly contributor. (I write a new post on the 30th of each month).

Debbie sitting in a bluebell wood with a copy of her book
If you go down to the woods today…

If you go down to the woods today…

When I started writing my new series, the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, and set myself the ambitious target of publishing a cycle of seven novels over two years, I had no idea how much I would come to enjoy escaping into its fictitious Cotswold village of Wendlebury Barrow.

Cover of Best Murder in Show
Set in Wendlebury Barrow – my second (and entirely fictitious) home

Having now drafted the first three in the series – Best Murder in Show was published in April, Trick or Murder? will launch in August, and Murder in the Manger will be my 2017 Christmas special (no surprises there) –  I feel as if the characters are old friends. I feel entirely at home with them.

That shouldn’t really come as a surprise, because in real life, I’ve  resided in the small Cotswold village of Hawkesbury Upton for over a quarter of a century.

picture of Debbie on winding footpath with the Hawkesbury Monument in the distance
The long and winding road to Wendlebury Barrow – I mean, Hawkesbury Upton

Both the fictitious and the real village are safe, fun but eccentric places to live. (Well, safe apart from the odd murder – only in Wendlebury Barrow, ouf course.) Frequently heard in response to Hawkesbury Upton events is the phrase “You couldn’t make that up!” There are probably more implausible events happening in the actual village than in the pretend one.

I love living in Hawkesbury Upton, and although I’ve been careful to make all my characters and events fictitious, I write about Wendlebury Barrow in celebration of the kind of village life that surrounds me.

I’ve only once so far caught myself writing “Wendlebury Upton.”

Of Darker Places

Which leads me to wonder whether authors who write much grittier crime books than mine feel the same about the grimmer worlds that they have conjured up. Do they live in places like that? Do they want to visit them? I don’t think so.

Yes, I do know about catharsis, but the closest I get to enjoying it in fiction is in the likes of Alice in Wonderland, with its classic “oh thank goodness it was only a dream” moment.

As for me, I’d rather feel safe all the time, whether weaving stories in my fictional world or walking the streets of my home village.

Not for me the more violent books, films or television programmes that my husband enjoys. You probably know the sort of thing I mean: where the soundtrack consists almost entirely of the physical impact of violence (fists on flesh breaking bones, bullets sinking into fleshy targets) and the dialogue would be half the length if all the swear words were omitted.

Or maybe that’s why he watches them – precisely because they make me swiftly leave the room. Perhaps straight afterwads, he channel-hops to “Strictly”.

Incitement to Murder

However, I must admit that writing the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries is also in part a response to his previous complaint that “nothing happened” in my three volumes of short stories – well, nothing violent, anyway.

My pre-planned series of titles commits me to at least one murder per book. My only problem now is that I’m getting so attached to the characters that I don’t want to kill any of them off.

Which my neighbours in Hawkesbury Upton will probably be very glad to know…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
cover of Trick or Murder?
Available to pre-order now

The first Sophie Sayers Village Mystery, Best Murder in Show, is set in the summer months, at the time of the traditional village show, so it makes the perfect summer read. It’s now available to order Amazon in paperback or ebook here, or from your local neighbourhood bookshop by quoting ISBN 978-1911223139.

The second in the series, Trick or Murder?, an autumnal story set around Halloween and Guy Fawkes’ Night, will be launched at the Hawkesbury Upton Village Show on Saturday 26th August).No wonder I’m getting the real world mixed up with my fictional one!) Meanwhile you can pre-order the ebook on Amazon here.
Find out what readers are saying about Sophie Sayers here

Posted in Reading, Writing

On Joining Authors Electric

Authors Electric blog banner

A quick newsflash about a new regular event that I’ve added to my busy schedule: I’ve joined the collective of authors who blog together as Authors Electric.

Yes, I know, the last thing I need is something else on my to-do list. After all, I’ve somehow managed not to write a single post for my own blog so far this month, and the month is running out fast.

Switched On

I’ve been watching the Authors Electric blog for a while, and found it an interesting concept with lots of good posts worth reading. 30 authors belong, each committing to posting on a specific date each month, and the 31st is kept for occasional guests. I have known, liked and respected a few of the authors for a while.

Plugged In

I’d always thought that if a vacancy arose, I’d be glad of the opportunity to join their throng, I am very grateful to Electric Author Ali Bacon for nominating me and to the group for accepting me as a member.

Keeping the Current Flowing

I find writing monthly columns for the Tetbury Advertiser and the Hawkesbury Parish News a useful discipline, as well as a subtle way to publicise my books. As both of those are very local outlets, and have mid-month deadlines, I thought the much wider audience of Authors Electric and the end-of-month deadline would be a good fit. As I do with the TA and HPN columns, I’ll flag each new post up here too. The only difference is that those first two go out in printed magazines rather than blogs, so I reproduce the columns in full here as that doesn’t detract from their audience. As  Authors Electric is online, I’ll just flag up the flavour of it here with a link to the post so you can hop over and read it there if you’d like to.

Initial Surge

So here we go with a link to the first post, which is about the joys of series of books, rather than one-off novels. Always Leave Them Wanting More celebrates series of books from a writer’s perspective, and recommends other series that I enjoy as a reader. (Honorable mentions there for Lucienne Boyce, Celia Boyd, Anita Davison, David Ebsworth, JJ Marsh, Rosalind Minett, Alison Morton, David Penny, and David Ebsworth – as well as Dorothy L Sayers, M C Beaton and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, of course!) Comments, including sharing your own favourite series, are welcome!

And now, back to my to-do list…