Sunday, August 21, 2011

Moving home...

In the last two weeks, I've moved house! Both in real life and in cyberspace... So although I will be leaving my blog up here for all the previous entries, in future you can find out about my life and antics on - or on Twitter - @KateWritesBooks

There's lots of exciting stuff happening over the next few months, including publication of my first YA novel, Soul Beach - so do please say hello over at my new site.
Happy August!

Monday, May 16, 2011

May Days

At the moment I have one of those never-ending to do lists, and updating the blog keeps slipping to the bottom. Two novels to write, and when I'm not doing that, I'm busy working with fantastic web designer, Katie, on my new website. I promise that should appear any minute now. And when it does, obviously, I will be a reformed blogger. Possibly ...

In the meantime, I'd love to hear what you like to see in an author website? Do you have any websites you love that represent everything that's right? Do let me know, so I can make sure the website offers all the right elements!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mad March Harrison

Well, as usual, I have spent most of this month tearing around like someone who never quite catches up with herself. Brighton, Liverpool, London, Barcelona. A crazed whirlwind - and that's without talking about all the imaginary places I've been visiting in my head.

News from the Beach

I've posted it on Facebook, but at the top of this post, you can see the fantastically exciting cover for Soul Beach, my first YA novel.

Even more exciting is the fact that it's going to be one of the first books to be published as part of the brand new Indigo imprint from Orion - all the books are aimed at young adults and I took a sharp intake of breath when I realised quite how cool my fellow authors are on that list. They include Harlan Coben, Sally Gardner, Marcus Sedgwick, Holly Black and Sara Grant.

Last night I finished the first, extremely rough draft of the second book in the Soul Beach series. I'm not going to show it to anyone until I have done a whole load of work on it, but it's been a fascinating process because the imaginary world I began developing in the first book, has been growing and changing and getting creepier. I wanted to finish this one early as I am also putting the very final finishing touches to the heading-for-the-presses UK version of the first in the trilogy, and I wanted to make sure I hadn't written something in Book 1 that would tie me in knots in Book 2: little details like birthdays, anniversaries, physical descriptions that might work better if they are changed to fit the story that follows.

I am part-plotter, part fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pantser when it comes to writing, but with a trilogy you can come unstuck very quickly unless you keep track, and with an alternative world, you are courting even more danger. So, wish me luck with the second draft.

Secret Shoppers and the book after that...

The beautiful hardback and the minimalist ebook of The Secret Shopper Affair has been out in the world for just over a week now, and I've already had some lovely reviews and emails.

It feels weird leaving Sandie, Emily and Grazia behind with my next book, but I reckon I've inflicted quite enough pain and suffering on them to be going on with, so now I'm working on a new, standalone title, The Last Chance Boot Camp, which follows a group of women who are desperate to get into shape - desperate enough to sign up for a military-style residential fitness course that will test them to their limits. I did hands-on research late last year and it was one of the toughest weeks of my life. I am having flashbacks every time I write about star jumps, press-ups and six a.m. runs. But it's a great setting for lots of conflict and change - the things I love to write about - and I hope it'll be a fun read. The book will be out next January (assuming I get my act together) when we're all merrily trying to keep our resolutions.

Web world

If you've visited my website lately, you may have noticed that, um, it's not actually there. Well, actually, as of this weekend there's a holding page as we are working on a redesign with extracts and news about both my adult and YA titles, plus lots of writing tips if you have a book inside you bursting to get out (hmm - is it just me, or does that sound like a medical emergency?). I hope it'll be launched really soon, so watch this space.

I've also sorted myself a page on Facebook - so glad they no longer call them 'Fan Pages' as that was too cringe worthy, but if you want to 'like' my page, I will like you back!

Right, ought to go and do some actual writing, eh? Hope you're enjoying the spring sunshine (if you're in my hemisphere - if not, then have a bountiful autumn).

Bye for now,


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Authors for Japan

If, like me, you're watching the pictures of the devastation in Japan with a sense of helplessness, author Keris Stainton has come up with a brilliant idea to raise funds.

Whether you're a reader or a writer or both, there's bound to be something you'll love on the site - signed books, character name offers, mentoring, critiquing. In total there are 150 items or pledges on offer - and the bidding is open now until Sunday 20th.

I'm also offering a critique of a first chapter/2000 words plus query letter of either a Young Adult or women's fiction novel - even if I do say so myself, I am a pretty good editor of other people's work and I know I can help you improve your work.

Of course, the point of the site isn't just to buy yourself something nice - it's also to raise funds. So take a look at the fab items on there and get bidding! I am off to choose something I like, too!
Keris has done an amazing job and we're spoiled for choice.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible

Arrrrgh! My website's gone and disappeared. And so has my energy to blog. But I went on a social networking course yesterday and realised that it's the WORST thing I could do, web-wise. So I am here to say that VERY soon, I hope to be a fully-fledged Web 2.0 author.

In the meantime, here's the rather lovely cover of my new book, The Secret Shopper Affair, which will be out on March 17.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My own Secret Shopper Affair - do you want to join in the consumer fun?

As you'll have noticed if you come here often, I don't. Not any more... I have lost by social networking mojo a bit, and was looking for a way to get it back. Then, this morning, halfway through the most pleasant eye test of my life (!), it came to me. I wanted to put my secret shopping experience into practice.

My Dutch cover - spookily, the spy's eyes are exactly the same colour as mine!

Most of my paid secret shopping has involved assignments where I have to go into a store, ask specific questions, note the performance of the staff member involved, and then write it all up at home.

There are a couple of problems with this: a) it involves adopting a role, which feels strange and awkward and can lead to b) the person offering a service realising that you're either a bit deranged or a mystery shopper, and changing their behaviour to reflect that. Obviously there are reasons why stores want standardised tests: but it doesn't represent the day-to-day experiences we all have as consumers. It's a snapshot, based on an atypical encounter.

I've noticed that few other stores have attempted to overcome this: Superdrug give you a receipt with an offer of a discount next time if you give feedback on your purchase, while the Co-op near me has a touch-screen where you can rate your shop as you go along.

That's quite odd, as you feel distracted by the messages, and it's also rather uncomfortable to be giving feedback 'secretly' while actually facing the check out assistant. Superdrug's system is also flawed - how many of us will make a routine of logging on when we get home to judge how well the member of staff packed our mascara, or if they offered us stamps? Though I have to say, I've noticed that in both chains, the staff seem friendlier than average, so maybe it is working for them.

Then, this morning, I had a really terrific experience when I went to the optician. No, they didn't miraculously sort out my short-sight, but every member of staff was friendly, helpful, efficient and went out of their way to help and explain things.

I did thank them at the time, but it made me want to say it in public - and then I thought it might be fun to get into the habit of giving feedback on every transaction, via Twitter and Facebook. I might also collate them on the blog.

Now, it's true I have a habit of coming up with ideas and then giving up (see last year's Photo of the Day. Or rather, don't, as they stopped mid-March).

But this could prove cathartic and enjoyable - so why don't you join me, then post with the tag #secretshopper on Facebook or Twitter (I am KateWritesBooks on Twitter) and let's tell the retailers what's working - and what's not..

Secret Shopper Kate xx

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year

OK, not my most original heading for a blog post, but as I have been absent for so long, I wanted to start small.

I will be back again soon, full of resolutions and plans for 2011, not to mention a redesigned website. But in the meantime, may your year be as sweet as a Salted Caramel Cupcake. Wishing you health and happiness and good books to read.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The mysterious case of the disappearing website...

Well, it's publication day - the perfect day for my website to disappear! I am looking into it, and hopefully I will crack the case soon and all my chapter excerpts and inane ramblings will be back online with the minimum of delay.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

New books, writing in a rush - plus your chance to be a khaki-clad Action (Wo)Man

Ugh, don’t you just hate it when the clocks go back?

Here in Barcelona, we’ve been trying to hold off the moment when we switch on the central heating (itself a luxury – many apartments have no heating at all) but last night we succumbed. Though when I went out to buy emergency tissues for a developing cold, I found it was warmer outside than in.

Anyway, as many of you will be aware, November doesn’t just bring darker evenings, but also National Write a Novel in a Month Month or whatever it’s called now. The name confounds me, but I do like to join in. Usually I fail – it’s somewhere around about the middle of week two (i.e. today) that apathy sets in and I begin making my excuses. Even though as a full-time writer, I have fewer excuses than most…

This time, I’ve chosen to work on the second in my Soul Beach trilogy, which might be easier to write in a rush than a stand-alone book. And the Nanowrimo target of 50,000 words isn’t all that far from the 65,000 final tally of the first book in the series, whereas my adult books are closer to 110,000. So it does feel like I could write a whole novel in this time – albeit a novel in hideous shape!

So I am fitting in my 1667 words a day around my two hour daily Spanish class, my bike ride there and back, a trip to the gym (am trying to stay fit after my monstrous Fitness Boot Camp, which I will blog about another time but is the muscular equivalent of Nanowrimo, except with no motivational chocolate biscuits, and a lot of shouting from men in khaki). Plus, my page proofs – the final chance to correct errors before a book goes to print – are due to arrive from the UK this week for The Secret Shopper Affair, and also my editor from Orion Children’s is sending me some editorial notes for the first Soul Beach book.

Somewhere in the middle of that, I will be fitting in a little light Christmas shopping, and a trip to the UK. Oh, and possibly a masterclass in making chocolate desserts.

That last one really is a very tough research job, but someone has to do it.

And – how could I leave it till now – The Secret Shopper Unwrapped is out in paperback this week! It’s a really Christmassy novel, with a fabulously festive cover, and it takes up the stories of Emily, Grazia and Sandie – plus a new, very stroppy secret shopper who will shake everything up. If you'd like a taster, the first chapter is on my website…

Or you can win a lovely fresh copy over at Mel’s wonderful High Heels and Book Deals blog, where there’s also an interview with me, plus a picture of my favourite blue suede shoes. The Daily Mail announced this week that Clarks shoes are now the height of fashion, something I realised years ago. I never saw myself as a trend spotter but there we are!

Oh, and in other news - if you're after an unusual Christmas present, you can bid to name a character in one of my novels after yourself, a friend or family member - and in aid of a great cause, Autistica, which is the largest UK charity researching the causes of the condition. I will admit I am very nervous about being on the list with some seriously famous and 'proper' authors - including David Mitchell and Maggie Gee - and there's a distinct possiblity I might have to bid for my own character, just to make sure I am not the only writer with no bids at all. The winning name will pop up in my Boot Camp novel - so if you fancy yourself as a honed PT instructor or a reformed couch potato, this could be the one for you. Go on. It could be fun!

The auction begins on November 11.

I'll be back at the end of Nanovember with a final word count. Meanwhile, if you’re Nano-ing too, I am caffeinefuelledwriter – do buddy me!

PS: spare a thought for my neglected Ford Ka on Thursday as it goes in for its make-or-break MOT. It’s been more loyal to me than I have to it, but I am hoping it will make it through the rain …

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kate's Kindle Diary Day 5 and beyond: Don't go changing...

Due to a nasty autumn bug, I've been able to share more quality time in bed with my Kindle. After nine days with my grey companion, I think I am on safe ground saying that it’s more than a flash in the gadget pan... I have found my perfect e-reading match.
He might be simple. He might be a little limited. Too matt, bordering on dull at times. But, in the (supremely patronising) words of Mr Joel, I don't want clever conversation.
I love you just the way you are!

I really look forward to picking K up, and to selecting something to read that exactly suits my mood. No different from having a shelf-ful of glorious books, I guess except that a) I don’t normally buy lots of new hardbacks on the off chance I might like them enough to read past the first chapter and b) if I have too many books on the bedside table it generally freaks me out and makes me feel very guilty.

Yeah, just like Billy J, I do like the fact that the Kindle is a one trick pony. It makes it hard for me to do anything BUT read – laptops and iPads have so many other distractions, but the Kindle is for reading and I actually think it might even improve my attention span, which has been seriously eroded by surfing. There’s no over-functionality here. It does what it’s meant to. OK, there’s a browser but the temptation to check email is severely diminished by the fact that it's a terrible faff.

Sample downloading is my new vice, but it is definitely encouraging me to embrace new genres and new authors – though, crucially, I still haven’t bought anything. I will, honest. But for now, I am enjoying the pick ‘n’ mix qualities of the Kindle.

As for what it means for writers, well, many smarter people than me are pronouncing on this. I do think that that first fifty pages, always absolutely critical, becomes even more important now. In conventional bookstores, it’s the cover, the blurb on the back and the first page that seal the deal, especially for newer/less well-known authors. The e-reading fraternity have more to go on, so a cracking first paragraph must be followed by fifty more pages up to the same standard. Once I do purchase, I will be pretty sure I want to stay with that author.

Niggles – well, it does feel weird to be restricted to the UK store. I understand all about rights – a lot of my income comes from selling my work in different territories (countries or regions) – but I wanted to look at How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely (a novel, rather than a self-help book, though obviously I would love to know how to do it myself) the other day, and while it’s been published in the US, it doesn’t arrive here till next May. Somehow the question of different rights in different territories seems less relevant and more archaic when you’re downloading. I don't think rights should necessarily be changed or relaxed, because they are so important for the publishing industry, but it's an issue.
Final statistics:
Samples downloaded: 47
Classics: 8
Children's classics: 4
Money spent: £0

Oh, and one final whinge. Where’s Scrabble? The Americans have been able to download it for a while now, yet there’s no sign of it here yet. Grr.
***Mumbles off moaning whose language is it anyway. Then goes onto Kindle store to search for books about the invention of Scrabble/global English etc etc etc.