Blogging experiences

A publication date and a tribute to two very good friends…

Promotional postcard
In this blog, I try to write mostly about crime-related topics, people, places and things that interest me, aspects of writing and other writers and their work. It isn’t intended merely as a vehicle to promote my own work; this was a conscious decision that I made right at the start, because I quickly tire of blogs by authors who use them too blatantly for this purpose.

However, I hope that you will look upon today’s post indulgently, because I have to confess that it is indeed about promoting my next book, Almost Love, which will be published on June 15th 2013. It is a promotional piece with a difference, however, because it also celebrates a gift to me by my publisher, Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt. Before In the Family was published, Chris designed a postcard based on the jacket; I sent this, with a short personal message, to as many people (friends, booksellers, librarians, colleagues) as I thought might be interested in it. I received some lovely replies; it may have helped to generate some interest in the book.

Today, Chris sent a similar promotional postcard for Almost Love. In fact, it features both the novels. I am delighted with it and I think that it is a thing of beauty. I’d like to share it with you; that is why it is the subject of today’s post.

I’d also like to say how much I appreciate Chris and Jen Hamilton-Emery, for their unfailing good-humour and encouragement and also for all their hard work on my behalf. Thank you, both!

A London Book Fair 13 seminar about using social networking to create author presence

Elizabeth Baines LBF13  3Chris Hamilton-Emery LBF13  4

I cannot miss the opportunity to comment in today’s post on the social networking session yesterday morning at the London Book Fair.  First, may I thank the very many people who attended and made the event very special indeed; you were a lovely, attentive audience and we all valued your interest and contributions.

Secondly, I should like to thank Elaine Aldred (@EMAldred, Strange Alliances blog), who very generously agreed some time ago to chair this session and, with her characteristic attention to detail, introduced the panel and provided a succinct summary of the key points arising, as well as modestly managing us and our timekeeping!

I was very pleased to meet and honoured to join my much more experienced social networking fellow panellists, Katy Evans-Bush  @KatyEvansBush) and Elizabeth Baines (@ElizabethBaines), and to be able to listen to the social networking supremo, Chris Hamilton-Emery, Director of Salt Publishing (@saltpublishing), all of whom provided different perspectives from my own.  However, though we may have addressed in various ways the topic of how to make the most of the best of social networking, I felt that we were unKaty Evans-Bush LBF13  5Elaine Aldred LBF13 2animous about the terrific value of what Chris called ‘the confluence’ of such media as Twitter, Facebook and personal blogs in creating author presence and profile.    I believe that we also affirmed the essential need to be ourselves (however uncomfortable it may initially feel to present our private side, as Elizabeth very pertinently explained) and to interact with the people we ‘meet’ in a genuine way.  We shared the view that ramming our books down the throats of our online audience in a ‘hard sell’, as some people do, is counter-productive; it is much better for us to engage with others in discussion of the things which matter to us, such as the business of writing, literature, topical issues and so on.  Katy pinpointed the effectiveness of social networking in creating a global family of friends and followers, something we also all felt.

All in all, the session emphasised that participation, helping others, reciprocating generosity and showing real interest in people whom we come to know online are crucial to creating a lasting author presence.  It is really important that authors recognise that they need to have such a profile; with it, books certainly do sell and, as Chris put it, without it they don’t.

Finally, we all accepted the inevitable consequence of managing all of the personal interactions online: it is extremely time-consuming and we have to find our own ways of handling that; if we succeed, the benefits are very clear to see.

My thanks again to all concerned in what was for me a very memorable occasion.

Christina James LBF13  6

It’s tomorrow! Making the most of the best of social networking…



Today’s post is a repeated ‘shout-out’ about tomorrow’s Salt Publishing seminar at this year’s London Book Fair, when there will be an opportunity to listen to Chris Hamilton-Emery, founding director of this world-renowned independent publisher, and three of its authors talk about how to use social networking to promote books and good writing.   There will be a question-and-answer session to develop discussion about the topic How to Build Social and Brand Equity on a ShoestringElaine Aldred, an independent online reviewer, will chair the occasion. 

Date:  Tuesday 16th April 2013

Time: 11.30-12.30

Place:  Cromwell Room, EC1, Earls Court

I’ll be joining Katy Evans-Bush, writer and editor, and Elizabeth Baines, novelist and short story writer, to offer some personal experiences of social networking as a means to achieving an online bookworld presence.   Readers of this blog will already guess from previous posts here about both Salt and social networking, how much I personally value the opportunities provided by the Internet to meet and mingle with booklovers across the world.  I have also made it very clear just how proud and privileged I am to be supported as a writer by Chris Hamilton-Emery and how exciting it is to be associated with an independent publisher with the finest of literary lists.

I hope to become real to at least some of my ethereal friends at the London Book Fair this year!

Fiona Malby (@FCMalby) offers me the chance to post on her blog today!

Take Me to the Castle

Author FC Malby (‘Take Me to the Castle’) has given me a precious place on her blog today, March 11th 2013, to write about something very special to me: The Fine Art of Bookselling. Sincere thanks to her for this hospitality!

Two retiring types… in one day!

Death Comes To Pemberley

Yesterday, as I read the first instalment of an enchanting new blog by Charlotte Sing (@oncealibrarian), the Pope announced his retirement.  This was a piece of serendipity, as the blog-post was also about retiring and what it means.  It doesn’t perhaps seem strange that a librarian of thirty-six years’ standing should retire, but it does seem – if not odd, then – worthy of comment that a Pope who has reigned for rather less than eight years should decide to retire, even though he is eighty-five years old.  Apparently only four popes (out of a total of 265 since St. Peter became the first) are definitely known to have retired; four others might have done.  The last documented papal retirement happened 598 years ago, in 1415 (interestingly, at a time when the concept of retirement was unknown to the common working man or woman).  They are therefore very rare events indeed, averaging one every five hundred years or so; so Pope Benedict’s was very slightly overdue.

Why does it seem so odd, though?  These days, most people expect to retire at some point.  Typical exceptions are monarchs and monarchs-in-waiting – Prince Charles, aged 64, has yet to get started! – and people engaged in some of the professions.  As well as clergymen of all creeds, lawyers, judges, academics and doctors often work far beyond the accepted retirement age.  And authors, of course.  I am conscious that one of the things that has always attracted me to becoming a writer is the fact that (unless my mental faculties decide to go AWOL) I shall not have to retire.  P.D. James wrote Death comes to Pemberley in 2011, when she was 91; George Bernard Shaw wrote and saw performed Shakes versus Shav in 1949, when he was 93; and, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the oldest author to have a first book published was a British woman, Bertha Wood, who was born on 20th June 1905. Her book, Fresh Air and Fun: The Story of a Blackpool Holiday Camp was published on her 100th birthday, on 20th June 2005.

Personally, I find this a delightful state of affairs.  It means that, although I have spent many years working as a bookseller, academic and researcher, I can, if I play my cards right, expect to spend even more time writing and always have a profession.  I don’t begrudge the Pope his retirement, particularly as it is rumoured that he, a published writer, wants to spend more time writing himself.  I wish him a new lease of life instead.  And the same also to Once a Librarian:  Welcome, Charlotte, to this world of bloggery!  We writers are a hardy breed… and mischievous, to boot.

A century of posts…

cricket bat

So, one hundred posts since becoming a blogger and I’m still at the crease.  I have been bowled over (not out) by the response from my readers, who have so far been very supportive of my innings: cheering me on by their positive comments here and on Twitter; generously sharing my best shots and kindly looking the other way when my technique almost had me out.

I had thought before I started that this game would be a little local affair, with breaks for tea in front of the village pavilion, a close circle of forgiving friends and a relaxing drink in the local afterwards.  I thought that I would be familiar with every bump and hollow of the word-wicket and hoped that I wouldn’t be stumped for carelessness.  However, I realise now that my sporting efforts are on view to the world, with an already astonishing number of regular spectators from around the globe, and I can tell that they are very knowledgeable and will expect no less than a perfect performance, especially when the standard of the game is so high.  As a result, here I am, practising ever more rigorously and maintaining my fitness, worrying about each stroke.

Right now, I’m acutely aware that I’ve stretched to breaking point a very extended and not particularly appropriate metaphor and, before I lose whatever blogging credibility I have, I’ll say how much I have enjoyed writing these hundred posts, reading reactions to them and doing my best to reply.  The blogging community is a warm and friendly one, ever willing to communicate and producing entertaining and enjoyable writing; for me, it’s rewarding and stimulating to discover new blogs and new posts.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to share my experiences, ideas, attitudes, opinions and beliefs with an ever-increasing number of people.  I value your responses and hope that you enjoy giving them.

I’ll try very hard to sustain your interest for the next hundred posts!

Gosh, ‘The Versatile Blogger’ award! Thanks, Anabel Marsh!


Several people have recently made very complimentary comments about my blog; I am, naturally, pleased to enjoy favourable feedback as it makes my daily commitment feel really worthwhile!  Since starting social networking in October, I have been much struck by the incredible kindness and support of the online community around me – so much generosity and warmth!   Now, to cap it, Anabel Marsh, a very experienced and entertaining blogger about travel and children’s literature, has nominated me for ‘The Versatile Blogger’ award, which allows bloggers to be really nice to each other!  Anabel’s personal regard for my blog is what really means most to me, though the award is a fun thing in itself.  According to its rules, I have to say seven things about myself and here they are:

  1. A few years ago, I might have said my favourite pastime was cycling.  On an all-terrain tandem, my husband and I went on some pretty ambitious excursions, here and abroad, including the Alps.  However, as his appetite for speed increased (and my screams – we once broke the speed limit cycling through Holmfirth!), I became more fearful.  Last year, my birthday present was an individual bike, so my appetite for cycling may revive.  In the meantime, I most like walking with our Pointer dog in the countryside, watching it change subtly almost every day, enjoying the dog’s antics, keeping fit and, of course, thinking about what I’m going to write when I reach home again.  It’s also amazing how much you can spot going on in and around a small village, if you’re nosy!
  2. If I had to choose one favourite place, I’d say Spalding, but the Spalding of the past rather than the present.  Although my novels take place in the present, they are set in the Spalding of the past, which now seems to me to have been a magical place.  That I have not lived there since I was eighteen enables me to preserve almost intact my memories of how it was then (though of course I still pay visits).  Other favourite places are Paris (the first European city I ever visited and where I spent my honeymoon), Leeds (mis-spent youth) and London (dirty, noisy, magnificent).
  3. Sorry to be predictable, but my favourite book of all time has to be Emma. There are few books that I read twice, but I re-read all of Jane Austen’s every five years or so.  I always find something that I haven’t spotted before and she always teaches me something new about writing.  I don’t really have a favourite crime writer – too many candidates; if really pushed, I’d probably choose Le Carré’s Smiley novels (if they count as crime).  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo made a big impression on me when I first read it, but I find the later Larssons far-fetched.  I admire Anne Zouroudi, Michael Dibdin and Donna Leon for the quality of their prose and I like Peter Robinson and Stephen Booth because they write about places that I know.
  4. I love cooking!  I’ve been baking my own bread since I was first married.  We grow vegetables, apples, plums and soft fruits and I try not to let any go to waste.  I preserve jams and chutneys, for which various members of my extended family place orders.  I’ve always baked cakes and pastry items – girls growing up in the Lincolnshire of my youth learned to make pastry almost before they could walk.  I’m definitely a Nigella Lawson fan; my only quibble is that she always uses the most expensive ingredients, so sometimes I substitute more economical ones!
  5. Things I hate the most: i) Way out ahead of the others has to be my yearly tussle with my tax form!  If it were possible to murder an organisation, my choice would be the Inland Revenue.  ii) I don’t like gratuitous rudeness; it is usually as easy and certainly more effective to be polite.  iii) I wish my husband would learn to use the laundry basket.
  6. My favourite holiday:  We love long holidays in France, staying in secluded rural gîtes to indulge our love of walking, cycling, reading and writing.  (The outlines of both my DI Yates novels were written there.)  If anyone has any recommendations for good quality self-catering in other countries, I’d appreciate them.
  7. My ideal evening:  Write for a couple of hours; cook a nice dinner and serve with wine; have an interesting conversation with my husband and / or immediate family; either read a good book or watch a film.

Anabel, I hope that you enjoyed reading this information!  Thank you for your nomination; I am very touched and honoured by it.  I really enjoy visiting your blog and I’d like others to use the link here to come and meet you.

Now, according to the rules of the award, I am supposed to nominate fifteen (!) other bloggers, but that seems silly and I intend to nominate just one, the one I really admire for versatility beyond the norm and for serving the interests of a huge creative community drawn to her by her encouragement, support, wit, humour, kindness, content scope and, most important of all, knowledge.   She is Rhian Davies, It’s a crime! (Or a mystery…) , on Twitter as @crimeficreader.  She is under no obligation to be bothered with continuing this process, but my nomination will, I am sure, be understood by very many indeed.

Blogs I follow: Are you on my list?

BlogsSomeone I know in the real world asked me why I had chosen to follow the bloggers who feature on my homepage.  In fact there are more of them than appear, but they are not WordPress bloggers and the widget doesn’t display their avatars.

As you know, I’m a novice wordwright in the blogosphere and I had to start somewhere, so I set out to choose bloggers who interested me for one reason or another.  It was a natural thing to follow Laura Ellen Joyce (Bloody Mary Bloody Mary Bloody Mary), as she is a fellow debut crime writer on the Salt Publishing list; her site is all about necrophilia and other horrors, so I was lost in that from the word ‘go’!

I wanted a spread of bloggers who would keep me up to date with crime fiction I would otherwise miss and the two journalists who set up Crime Fiction Lover do just that, as does Petrona*, who provides a monthly and very insightful account of her personal global crime reading, and Sarah Ward, whose Crimepieces site does not preclude interesting dips into other genres (I like a rogue blogger!) and provides intelligent reviews.  As you know from a previous post here, I admire skill in reviewer writing and Laura Wilkinson earned my regard with her focus upon Carys Bray’s Sweet Home; she also does quality writer interviews, as does the site Best Selling Crime Thrillers, which does exactly what is says on the tin!

Then there are my top bloggers, for different reasons, but not in any hierarchy:  I was touched by the fact that Rhian Davies, It’s a crime! (Or a mystery…), gives profile to debut authors; I now have come to love her witty tweets and hilarious pictures on Twitter (She’s a cat lover, too!).  Elaine Aldridge’s Strange Alliances immediately struck me for her very skilled reading, of books such as Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse and Jane Rusbridge’s Rook, which produces author interview questions that guarantee an incisive portrayal of authors out of their own mouths!  Mel Sherratt, self-published, successful and proud of it, and her killer heels, is a wonderful example to new writers who can’t find a publisher; deserved joy to her!  I have profiled Carol Hedges in a recent post, but I only had to see her pink 2CV and read her zany, ironic posts and ‘Pink Sofa’ interviews to be hooked.  Finally, there is Rosalind Adam, an incurable nostalgic, who delights with her memories and her insights into the City of Leicester – a woman after my own heart!

I could have found others, but the range needed to be manageable and I can safely say that they have made my ingress into blogging more than a little exciting and piquant!  Thanks to them all!  Sorry if you haven’t featured here; I may find you in due course…

*I learned on Monday December 17th of the death of Maxine, @Petrona_.  May I offer my sympathy and condolence to all who were close to her.  I know from both Sarah Ward and Rhian Davies that she will be much mourned and missed.

Blogger reaches 50!

KeyboardSo here is blogpost 50; for this, at the cricket wicket, I might get applause, but as a blogger, I’m a realist and I’m certainly not oh-so-modestly holding my keyboard up in acknowledgement.  ‘Blogger’:  what a distinctly unpoetic word!  From this point forward, I shall call myself ‘wordwright’, which has a much more traditional craft ring to it (in fact, it might well suit someone as a pen-name), because that’s what this is all really about:  finding a voice where none was before, in the lonely ethereal novice-blogger desert where only the odd flower blooms to waste its fragrance on the air (a brazen borrow).  I’ve seen myself through the eyes of hardened desert denizens, watching with amusement from atop a dune or a mountain as I have gone wandering round in circles and loops and along crazy tangents, calling out to anyone who might be there to listen to my voice and mostly not getting a reply, even when heard.  Directionless.

Yet, bit by bit, post by post, I think I’ve found my voice, which is not the same one I use as a novelist, nor as a twittering tweep, nor, indeed, in real life.  That is the wonder of being a wordwright; you can project different voices to suit the place and the time.  (I’m saving my verbal ballgown for a red-carpet day!)  Here, at, I did say on my ‘About’ page that you, my welcome visitor, could piece together clues to put on the transparent crime board in the incident room; since then, I’ve been carelessly dropping all kinds of clues about me in front of you, as I’ve selfishly pursued my writing interests.  It has been interesting to me, all this, for to post a daily blog is a challenge and has now become a need, for me.   Unlike a diary, a blog can have an audience (occasionally, thank you, you’ve made yourself known!), even if I can’t see it or interact with it; consequently, each post must be carefully wrought and turned on the wordwheel into as perfect a piece as possible.   My view of you is as of those unseen natives of the desert, who can see so clearly and judge so finely my efforts to find my way, and your very high standards put me on my mettle to meet them.

If you are a regular visitor here (my upwardly mobile site stats tell me you’re there), please do materialise from time to time.  You have no idea how welcome you are!  You know I’m not going to alarm you with: “OMG, this crime fiction is sooooooooooo awesome!”  It’s not my voice.

Helix pomatia comes out fighting to avert a local crime

Get the measure of the foe before the fray  -  helix (pomatia) rules, ok?

Get the measure of the foe before the fray – helix (pomatia) rules, ok?

Yesterday, on Twitter, I amused myself (and, apparently, the good people of Harpenden, in Hertfordshire) with abusing literary quotations in support of the Westfield Action Group’s attempt to achieve Town Green status for a recreational green space threatened by town council development.  The land has, in its favour, a resident colony of threatened and protected Roman Snails (helix pomatia), which for me symbolise the very small and vulnerable with at least the potential to conquer the very strong; in essence, a David versus Goliath.  This is the stuff of legend, of the imagination and of crime writing, for here is the opposition of good and evil, life and death, virtue and vice, in the midst of which is the lone law enforcer (a Sarah Lund, say!) doing battle with the big wheels of government, international conglomerates and criminal organisations to strike at the heart of wrongdoing, often at the expense of his or her own personal life and peace of mind.  We love the chance to see the mighty fall and are captivated by the process by which it can, sometimes, happen; it is the sign of the weakness at the heart of all of us that cries out for justice.

So, today, there is a public inquiry and the town council, bulwarked by a barrister, is meeting on the metaphorical field its no doubt much under-rated opponent, the Chair of the Westfield Action Group, fellow writer and blogger, Carol Hedges, whose local community story immediately grabbed me when I read about it in my first visit to her blogsite.  I believe that she has a fair chance of success, not least because of the presence of the snails, and I sincerely hope that the process she has no doubt had to be obsessive about has not turned her into one of those manic lone rangers of the crime novel!

Here is one of yesterday’s tweets, for illustration:

Westfield: This other Eden, demi-paradise, this fortress built by Nature for herself against the council and its barrister.

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