Description isn’t very fashionable at the moment. People make little gifs of animals falling asleep and say this what readers do when they read description. Nothing and no one is described.

On the other hand, I do write descriptions. I have to. I need people to know what Whitechapel is like. Someone said I’d written the most vivid description of a kitchen they’d ever read. I didn’t feel like I could do without it – and I didn’t want to. I like description. I like reading something lyrical and evocative and seeing a place in my mind. I like the tiny unique details.

I’m told a long description can be a break in the plot. But sometimes that’s a good thing. Victor Hugo writes about five pages describing the Paris sewers in Les Miserables. But the description takes place after the trauma of the battle on the barricades and the tension of Javert’s hunt of Valjean and Marius. If the two events had been together there would have been too much happening at once. But that long description gives the reader time to catch their breath and calm down. It is also incredibly atmospheric.

So I say bring the descriptions back. They’re only temporarily unfashionable. People will want them back again. If you want to, write them.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Promotion Everlasting Promotion by Christine Duncan

I tried to write this post a couple of weeks ago and it just wouldn’t publish. I ended up with an empty post and I’m not sure why.
But I’m obsessed with promotion right now as the first two books in my series are about to be re-released. I’ve tried a few things I know I will do again. I feel that making a connection somehow is the key. So I will try to do talks to places, as I feel that I did well with that, although I dread it. I won’t go to conferences as I feel that even though I was usually on panels there and did talks, it wasn’t worth it in terms of sales.
I want a local angle. Last time I made t-shirts of my book covers and wore them out and about. I will probably do that again. But I have also thought about possibly putting a bumper sticker on the car. Has anyone done that?
Does it provoke discussion?
I will definitely do blog tours so I’m about to go to writer’s groups I know and ask if anyone has room for a guest blogger. I find that to be good for spreading the word on my books.
I know people who do news letters. I’ve never done one. I can’t decide what on earth you would write about for them. (Yes, I know interview my characters. Really? And then what? You have to do these at least quarterly, right?)
And Of course I’ll send the books out for review, and go on Goodreads. But I want to find a way to make a connection. Bookstore signings were always tedious to me. I know when I go to a bookstore and see an author there, I try to avoid their eyes, and sneak in the store without them seeing me. Am I the only one?

Touching The Past

Today I went to the Museum of London, and found the door to Newgate Prison. I saw it in front of me, heavy and dark and surprisingly small. I touched it, felt the iron beneath my fingers, measured my hand against the bolt, weighed the padlock. I stood there for at least quarter of an hour, just touching and watching and feeling and looking at this door.

I may not even use it. I think i might, but so far, all my research is speculative. It’s just random research, seeing what triggers, what fits, what can fall by the wayside. But it’s important that wherever I can, I see what I might write about. I touch it if I can.

The stories begin here, with me trying to connect to the past. I read about it, and find it, and see it and touch it. And then the story comes.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Book Covers by Christine Duncan

How do you decide on a cover? My publisher sent a picture for the cover of one of my books to me earlier in the week, asking what I thought. I liked it.
But what do I know about covers?
I searched online trying to decide what covers for a mystery novel look like. Turns out they vary. If the cover is a cozy, the picture is usually cozy too. The picture my publisher sent was cozy. Trouble is, my books, since they are set in a battered women’s shelter, are not usually viewed that way.
The covers of more dark mysteries (Noire) look to be black and white from what I could find, with slashes of red on more than the occasional cover. People who are famous seem to do away with the pictures pretty much. Their names are the important part, the title was next. Some of them were pretty brightly colored but the pictures, if there were any, were small, some even looked like water marks. I’m not famous, so I’m not worrying about that. Just observing.
None of this says any of this sells books. I’ve heard people say they bought the same book a couple of times because the cover changed and they didn’t realize it was the same book, and I’ve never understood that. Didn’t they read the synopsis? But aside from that, they went and bought it again, so there was something else about it that they liked, whether it was the author, or the blurb.
I went to the library to see what covers catch my eye. I don’t think I’m a good example on this one. It turns out, I tend read authors I’ve read before, or have read reviews on. Or I read the synopsis to see if I like it. Covers don’t tend to stick with me. But I did get a good book to read. It had one of those bright covers. You know.

Roald Dahl

This week was Roald Dahl day, the day when the writer would have been 100 years old. This was celebrated in fine fashion, with talks and shows all over the place, displays in libraries and bookshops and a lot of chatter on Twitter about how much his books were loved.

What was interesting is how many writers cited reading Roald Dahl as a child influenced them. My favourite Roald Dahl is Danny The Champion Of The World, and now I think about it, the book’s melancholy, even at happy moments, and the fiery and amused defiance of unfair authority.

I think the books we read as a child heavily influence us. I love mysteries, and that started with Enid Blyton. Wind in the Willows was magical and wonderful, and I saw how different people could be, that even a good person can be very badly behaved – I’m looking at you Toad. (When I was little, I wanted to be Toad. As I got older, I felt more like Ratty. Now I identify with Mole. Wonder if I’ll turn into Badger as I get older).

And then there was Roald Dahl. He made no bones about showing adults as cruel and nasty, and that they should be defied. He also gave us loving adults, and mysterious guides. But the focus was on children – small and apparently helpless, taking on the evil and darkness in the world, and winning.

Happy birthday sir, and thank you.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Promotion Again by Christine Duncan

Nothing To Do

You ever have a quiet week? One where nothing happens? I’m not talking writers’ block. I mean just when you have nothing to do.

Isn’t it odd? I mean, having nothing to do. We’re so used to the endless round of write edit write edit, proof read, edit, proof read, submit, publish, promote, start again that having nothing to do feels strange. I’ve submitted, and don’t need to write again for a a while and don’t even have research to do right now (not until I get to the library)

I listen to music. I watch The Night Manager again. I read a few books. I’m not restless, I just keep looking up and saying to myself ‘Isn’t there something I’m supposed to be doing?’ And the answer is ‘No’.

I suppose writing is really a 24 hour job. Even when I’m on holiday, I’m still writing, scribbling little notes, doing a bit of research. But when I’m really not writing, not doing anything, just sitting round, I feel like I don’t actually exist.

Yes, I know how strange that sounds. But that is what having nothing to do feels like.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby