19 Oct 2016

The Seasoned Traveller

 Hello my little chickadees 

I discovered recently through Wikipedia that chickadees are a group of North American birds in the tit family. Species found in North America are referred to as chickadees, while other species in the genus are called tits. Their name reputedly comes from the fact that their calls make a distinctive "chick-a-dee-dee-dee" sound. So there you go, that's something else you've learnt. Ok so many of you smart pants out there are going to tell me that you knew that.... tips hat.

Anyhows, today on my blog I have a very seasoned traveller, Sheila Mary Taylor Belshaw aka Sheila Mary Belshaw aka Sheila Mary Taylor the author, who hails from Cape Town, Menorca, and the UK, depending on the time of the year.

So tell us all about yourself Sheila.
Hi Tee, I’m thrilled to be interviewed by you, one of my longest standing writing friends. And being one of many admirers of your lovely books, it is indeed an honour.

Tee Why thank you my friend. You can leave any loose change in the plate at the bottom of the page :-) 

Do you want the book, or the shorter version? Well, I’m sure it will be the shorter version, and I presume you want the unedited version, because reading your very vibrant blog, I gather you don’t like your victims to stand on ceremony, but to tell it how it is, warts and all. So here it is in a nutshell …
Eldest daughter of two of the most wonderfully academic Scottish academics I have ever known - a lecturer in psychology and behaviorial science, and a teacher of English – both published writers, so I’m not surprised, looking back, that I was a rebel. Doing no school work because there were so many more exciting things to do in Cape Town (what an amazing place to grow up in!) – riding, trick-skating in nightclubs, hunting, dancing, swimming, climbing Table Mountain, camping, lady jockey at the races – and then scraping through my exams by only revising the night before so that the academic parents decided I was not academic material and did not send me to university !!! Nor did they let me pursue my dream to be a famous ballet dancer!
My rebellion was to escape to the UK to further my dance career, but instead I met my future life partner –the irresistible Colin Belshaw, a brilliant mining engineer who would give me a privileged life and three wonderful sons.
Writing? Oh yes, it was always in the back of my mind, striving to get out, but because I thought you had to have a degree to be a writer … sadly I was a very late starter.
Editing. Another late start. I developed this skill when I worked closely with Penguin, who published my mother’s three works of fiction thirty years after her death. This led to her winning the South African Posthumous Literary Award, and I consider this four-year labour of love – editing her long-lost unpublished manuscripts – my most important literary achievement. I then went on to edit books for friends, and was later employed by Taylor Street Publishers of San Francisco as their chief editor – a job I absolutely adored. 

Where do you live
This is always a difficult question, especially when you have to fill in forms and state your address and phone number. Colin and I are nomads. We live in the UK, Menorca, and Cape Town. All three homes are home. When I open the front door, I am home, never on holiday, although they say that a change is as good as a holiday! I have not experienced a winter since 1998.

Past hobbies? Calligraphy, believe it or not. And illuminated manuscripts! And taking photos and sticking them into albums! Remember that? But making up stories about the photos so that the album read like a book … I suppose this was the unborn writer in me, bursting to be released …
Photography has now become my main hobby and I would like to go on a course to become a better photographer.
Please note that I do not consider writing to be a hobby, but as my raison d’etre...
I have always loved listening to classical music, especially Beethoven and Mozart, and I do still dance – twice a week at the Fitness League. I have other hobbies, but for instance you would probably consider that sticking off-cuts of my favourite plants into washed-out wine bottles and when you see the roots growing, sticking them into flower pots, to be child’s play …

Pets – furry or human
Cats we can’t have because Col is allergic to them, but when we lived in Zambia (for 33 years) we always had dogs. Poodles took the place of my children when they went to boarding school, and I ended up breeding them and teaching myself to clip them because where we lived, no-one else could do it. As a teenager, my horses were also my pets, and one of them used to follow me into the house, walking through it as though it was perfectly normal for horses to walk around in houses, pushing me along, nuzzling me with his lovely soft nose … Oh, don’t get me started …

What do you do to chill out
I drink two glasses of pink wine every evening. Never more. Never less. Not because that’s the limit, but because my body tells me it is, and gone are the days when I didn’t care if I had a hangover or not. Although sometimes – not very often – I might be tempted! But I’m not. Oh, and because I love it, and because I am always the driver!
But my real chill-out moments are walking on the beach. There’s nothing like it to make the soul soar into the realms of fantasy and freedom – of a feeling that raw nature is what life is all about. The wind in your hair, the clouds, the mountains, the smell of the sea, the roar of the waves, the birds, the dolphins, the grasses swaying gracefully on the dunes … Fish Hoek Beach in Cape Town is the best beach in the whole world. Every day I get up at dawn and drive to the beach, my camera charged and ready to record the most beautiful sunrises ever seen. And not just sunrises, but life and nature and like-minded people who find joy in the wonder of nature. I have travelled a lot and have never found anywhere else on earth that is quite like this.

Day job
My day job was first to love my parents, who looking back were quite extraordinary, and then to love my husband and my children, and all the wonderful people I have known who have contributed to this amazing life that I am lucky enough to still be living as though I am a mere twenty-year-old. 
But that’s not really what you wanted to know, is it, Tee? Day job? Well I’ve had lots, but my day job now is to keep my husband well and happy, under the dire circumstances that we both try very hard to keep our heads above.

Tell me about your books Sheila. When you first started writing. How many completed. Work in progress
When did I first start writing? I wrote a poem when I was about ten. My mother sent it to the Cape Times and it was published. I wrote twenty-page letters to my aunts and cousins in far-away Scotland. When I left home I wrote on those flimsy blue airmail letters to my mother every week until she died.  But as I said earlier, I didn’t always want to be a writer because I was convinced you had to have a degree in English; I wanted to be a dancer …     
It took a near tragedy to start writing in earnest when my beautiful youngest son Andrew was diagnosed with OsteoSarcoma at the age of eighteen and given a 15% chance of survival. “Fly With A Miracle” (now “Count to Ten”) was the result of my feverish scribblings on scraps of paper while sitting at his bedside hour after hour, day after day, month after month, wondering whether he was going to live or die.  

How many manuscripts are completed
Ten, all published. A few more unpublished but still on the back burner. The first five, published by traditional publishers, are long out of print: four romances, The Nightingale Will Sing , Diamonds of the Sun, Savage Paradise, The Shadow of the Flame, published by Thorpe Publishing (only after Mills & Boon rejected them because the plots were too “complicated”!); and Fly With a Miracle by Denor Press, London.

Then when the digital age exploded I took a plunge into the e-book revolution with my first legal crime thriller – Pinpoint, published by Taylor Street, and was a best seller in the top 1,000 on Amazon.com for four months. Taylor Street (no relation to me!) also published Count to Ten (the rewrite of Fly With a Miracle), Dance to a Tangled Web, Golden Sapphire, and Eldorado. And these were all later published by Precious Oil. My latest book – Lari’s Castle was published by Bardel, who have also re-published Pinpoint, Eldorado, and Dance to a Tangled Web, and are planning to re-publish all my other books in the very near future.


Work in progress 
Silent Justice. The first book I have ever struggled to finish. It’s a legal thriller set in Cape Town, and its progress has been severely curtailed by the circumstances of my husband’s serious illness. But I’m pressing on, and I will finish it soon! After that I am going to rewrite those very early published romances, putting back all the spicy bits that at the time had to be removed!

If you could have any animal from time immemorial as a pet for long freezing days and nights, what would you choose and why
Definitely not a rabbit or a rhino or a rat or a reindeer. Nothing from time immemorial. A Poodle, of course, like the lovely apricot Poodles I use to breed long ago. They are almost human and you can talk to them and they talk back to you, and they love you unreservedly.

Do you prefer heat OR cold
I think that has to be heat. We lived in Zambia for many years, as well as Tanzania and Ghana, so I am more used to heat than cold. I remember choosing the European winter for our long leave from these tropical countries, and skiing in Switzerland and Yugoslavia were our favourites. How exhilarating it was to feel the tingle of cold air on our faces!

Fantasy holiday… 
Where would you choose to go if someone else was picking up the tab
Wow! Tee, if you’d asked me this twenty or thirty or forty years ago, I’d have said Las Vegas or the Maldives or Hong Kong. But actually my secret dream is Katmandu. Long ago I read a wonderful book by Han Suyin called The Mountain is Young, set in Katmandu. (She also wrote the best seller “A Many Splendored Thing”, made into a film). I still read it regularly. I fell in love with Katmandu and wanted more than anything else to go there, but it never happened. It’s too late now, but I can still dream, can’t I …

Are you with a traditional publisher or self published
Because I’ve been published by both I suppose the modern word for this is Hybrid … )

Favourite meal (hot and cold)
I’m extremely lucky that my darling husband Col is the main cook these days, even though I once did a Cordon Bleu Cookery course in London because of all the entertaining I had to do in Zambia. He cooks the main meal every night (I do the breakfasts and lunches) and I have to say that I love all his meals, but my favourite has to be roast lamb and all the trimmings! Followed by a Mini Magnum chocolate ice cream!

Favourite drink (hot and cold)
Pink wine, of course! There’s nothing to beat it. Rosé. Rosado. And Pink Champagne. Why? Because it’s delicious, and because white wine gives me gout. And red wine puts me under the table! My favourite hot drink is Rooibos Tea, which is grown in the Western Cape of South Africa, has no caffeine and no tannin and is full of things that are very good for you.

How hard do you find book promotion
Far too hard to do. And I’m useless at it anyway. Which is why none of my books are selling at the moment. I didn’t realise, but I do now, how lucky I was when my first five books were published by traditional publishers who also did the promotion. And also when Tim Roux first published my books, starting with Pinpoint, and somehow he managed to promote them as well, so that I had all the time to write, plus a very nice little income, thank you very much, which sadly came to an end when Taylor Street Publishing was closed, and I also lost my job as their chief editor.

Any tips or hints you’ve found that were successful for you in promotion 
I wish I could answer this one, Tee, but I can’t. My own fault, I know, but I just wasn’t born with the ability to sell things. Some people are, and I envy them. It’s a gift. I probably couldn’t sell a bucket of water in a drought …

Favourite genres to read and write
I’ve never really put the books I love into a “genre”. I love books that explore psychological problems. I love books that feature a character who is flawed, or damaged, or has been wrongly accused of something. And I love books that admit that there are very few problems in life that do not have romance at the core. I did write a few “romances” when I first started writing, but this was only because one of the writer circles I joined said you had to write “romance” because this was the way to fame and fortune! But Mills & Boon turned down all my romances because the plots were too “complicated” … and … well they had things in them that their readers would be shocked at! They were eventually published by Thorpe, but only when I cut out the “complications”! So to answer your question, I always seem to read books by authors who have a deep understanding of human nature, with some mystery and some romance in them too.

And I suppose this is also what I love to write. But I cannot categorize it into a genre. Something triggers a spark. I see a difficult situation. One sentence drums into my subconscious and suddenly it grows tentacles and it’s a paragraph, and then it’s a page, and it keeps growing from this one magical germ, and I don’t know where it’s going to lead, but the more I write, the more it grows and the people in it become real people and they have problems, and then they start writing the book themselves, so every day I wonder what is going to happen next …
Oh, the joy of writing!

You’ve set up your own publishing house using FB writer friends to help run it. What would you name it? Who would you choose to run the different departments? As the owner, how would you ensure the FB staff achieved success

I have to smile at this question, Tee. There is absolutely no way I could set up my own publishing house! And what would I name it? “Last Chance Publishers”?
Okay, you win. So in my dreams I’ve set it up. Who do I choose to run it? Well, nobody would be better than you. And clearly I’m the chief editor, for the same reason! You are also the blog expert. Poppet has to be the cover designer and John Holt on the techie side. Nobody to beat them. And then there’s the very important editorial committee who’ll decide which books we will publish – all of them writers I admire:  Gerry McCullough, Babs Morton, Nigel Lampard, Mel Comley, and lots of others who know who they are, so we can have a party when we’ve finished choosing the books …

Amazon.com Author Page:
Amazon.co.uk Author Page:

Link to Pinpoint YouTube Book Trailer:

Thank you Sheila for agreeing to 'hang around' in my chilly wet cave and I'm happy to see you survived !

 Laters Potaters

10 Oct 2016

Off the wall and insane

Hello my little chickadees

On my blog today I have an off the wall, insane nutter (her words). Consequently we really get along as Bev is almost as crazy as me. No one is crazier that me, take my word for it.

So then here she is. Take it away Bev Allen



“Bev is married and mother of two adult children….” 
Or, Bev is a crazy old woman who writes weird short stories about things like a bloke having sex with his garden pond and, when she has remembered her medication, sci-fic/fantasy adventures liberally laced with soldiers. She has a fondness for soldiers which should not be taken to mean she stands on street corners in garrison towns.

Where do you live?

Slap bang in the middle of the English Sires, in a town with a bleeding castle for god’s sake!. Me, a died in the wool South London working class girl with the sort of accent that makes the middle classes check their wallet and count the cutlery. How the hell did that happen? I think I wasn’t paying attention one day and someone kidnapped me.


I make patchwork quilts and before you get any ideas about sewing bees, Laura Ashley hexagons and dear old ladies sitting around peering over their glasses and silver thimbles twinkling in the candle light, you need to understand todays quilters have moved on are, by and large half way around the bend with a fabric addition which makes crack cocaine look like mild sedative.

Pets – furry or human

Furry. Very, very furry. An old git of a Birman called Fitzwilliam Darcy Big Chief Paddy Paws Our Cat Allen. He hates my husband just as much as my husband hates him and I think he plans to live forever just to annoy the old man.

What you do to chill out

I like a sauna. I think I might have been a lizard in a former life, an iguana perhaps, or maybe a kormdo dragon. (BTW, the spell checker wanted that to be a condom dragon)

TEE   Dontcha just love spellcheck

Day job

It’s been a while since anyone paid me, but should anyone ever do so, it will probably be for some research work, usually military. The last lot was for work on Delhi Durbars…I only mention it because it isn’t often you get the chance to slip “Delhi Durbar” into the conversation without people giving you a funny look.

 Tell me about your books. When you first started writing. How many completed. Work in progress?

As I said, I write two sorts of things, the long stuff is the sci-fic/fantasy adventure stuff and the shorter fiction is the weird, thrill or chill, take your pick.

I can’t remember when I started writing, but I do know it was a defence mechanism. I have all these people in my head and they all have stories and if I leave them in there they cause problems, mainly by making me what I like to call absent minded, but my family refer to as “crazy as a box of biscuits”. If I write them down, they aren’t in my head and I can go to the shops for bread and milk and not come back with a tin of smoked oysters and an avocado.

What really got me started was being one of the winners of SFX magazine’s short story competition. On the strength of this I got a commission from Big Finish.
I got to write a DR. WHO story! And I got paid for it and it is in a HARDBACK book! AND…Tom Baker himself signed my copy.
(Pause for dealing with family who are groaning and saying “is she doing the Dr. Who happy dance again?”).

TEE   Blimey!! Go Bev!!

My first book “Jabin” is the story of an unwanted, unloved kid searching for security and a place to call home. His struggles are set against a world dealing with terrorism, religious fundamentalism and political unrest. Yeah, yeah, I was making a point, but I mixed in loads of action and some sex and some violence and a positive ending (sort of), so what is not to like? And lots of soldiers, as I said before, I like soldiers.

Book two is also me on one of hobby horses, the environment. This time my young hero is not a victim, in fact being one for five minutes would probably do him a lot of good. “The Tattooed Tribes” is an adventure story set on a forest world; a tribal maiden has been kidnapped on her wedding day and if there is not going to be a blood bath something is going to have to be done about it. Enter my heroes. Less violence, less sex, no soldiers, but lots and lots of trees and bushcraft.

“Solemn Curfew” is a novella I wrote for a big anthology which disappeared when the company publishing it did the same. It’s about cooking and greed and thwarted ambition. If you like your mushrooms blue and your cooking done by naked men, this is for you.

WIP is a sort of fantasy adventure book (but no magic, I can’t do magic, it feels like cheating) about a bastard prince who rebels against his king and is defeated in battle. Rather than being chopped as the little bugger deserves he is given a second chance by the mercenary commander ( woo hoo…soldiers) who helped beat him. What follows is a rite of passage story with muskets.
I like muskets, they go bang and black powder smells SO pretty.
I’m also working a couple of short stories for the horror/dark fantasy market, one is about slugs and a stick blender, the other is about a werewolves and the perfumery trade.

If you could have any animal from time immemorial as a pet for long freezing days and nights, what would you choose and why?

I like orangutans. They’re orange. And if you’re lucky they turn out to be librarians.

TEE  Note to self.... double check medication given to the victims in cave. I wonder if there is a gas leak in there somewhere? 

Do you prefer heat OR cold?

Either, so long as its dry heat or cold. Sogginess in all forms is repellant.

Fantasy holiday… Where would you choose to go if someone else was picking up the tab?

Obviously I want to go to Vulcan, but in the absence of warp drive I suppose I’d settle for Tahiti or Tonga or even Fiji. Hell…why be picky if someone else is picking up the bill, I’ll have an extended tour of Polynesia taking in Hawaii.

Are you with a traditional publisher or self published?

The books are currently published by Wild Wolf, but the novella “A Solemn Curfew” is self-published. The short stories are either with various publishers or on my web site.

Favourite meal (hot and cold)?

Hot …Shellfish linguine with loads of shellfish. I love shellfish, in fact I have never met a marine mollusc I didn’t like.
Cold… Caviar. You can muck it about with chopped egg and sour cream and blinis if you really feel the need, but all I need is a spoon.

Favourite drink (hot and cold)?

I like gin. I like it with tonic, ice and a slice of cucumber (not lemon or lime, the acid upsets the gin).
And I like coffee, using like as in “I like to breathe”.

How hard do you find book promotion?

Like shoving a red hot boulder up a steep slope well-greased with melting lard

Any tips or hints you’ve found that were successful for you in promotion?

None, but if you know some I’m prepared to offer you my first born. He’s tall enough to be very useful when it comes to high cupboards and he can fry chicken a treat. I will deliver him free if you can come up with something.

TEE  Can I have him anyway Bev? He sounds perfect.

Favourite genres to read and write?

I read fantasy and cosy crime mainly, but I have some odd tastes in non-fiction stuff which I won’t list because it tends to confirm everyone’s suspicions about me. If I tell you the last book I bought was on ritual sacrifices, you’ll get the picture.
To write, I think I like the weird best, I can’t seem to sustain it over a whole novel, but I can turn your stomach in about 5,000 words on a good day, but I like writing the longer stuff as well because it gives me time and space to explore people and their darker side.
Try being the fat, bespectacled kid of an abusive bully of a father and you really understand the dark side.

You’ve set up your own publishing house using FB writer friends to help run it. What would you name it? Who would you choose to run the different departments? As the owner, how would you ensure the FB staff achieved success

LOL, now we really are pumping the depths of fantasy.
Name….”Prospero Publishing”. ( Because …”we are such things as dreams are made of….)
I’ve no idea who to get to do the work, I don’t think I’d be mean enough to ask any of them. Cruel and unusual punishment. (Mmm…there’s an idea for a shortie, I must work on it)
As owner I would have no idea how to make it work, I can’t get my own stuff to sell, so how the hell I would sell other people’s I do not know.
If you push me for a sensible answer (you’re mean and I may stamp my foot at you) I think it would have to be a co-operative with everyone fronting up money for publicity which would be shared equally with all authors and I think every penny earned in royalties would have to be ploughed back into more publicity for at least five years. Tough on anyone who suddenly becomes the next JKR, but probably the only way.

Phew...there you have it folks.
Laters Potaters

4 Oct 2016

And then there was a cross, stitcher

Hello my little chickadees. How are we all today?
I've been poorly with a hacking cough but hopefully Ive seen the worst of it now.

So fresh from my torture chamber I have Kristen Stone author and publisher. Take it away Kristen. Oh wait you can't... 
Let me take that bag off of your head and the gag out of your mouth. It's your own fault for screaming and disturbing my neighbours. Right there you go.

I can't believe you did that Tee. I could hardly breathe.

Tee Note to self... Could be useful for next victim

       I was born way back in 1951 in post-war London. Many places around my area were still hidden behind holdings while reconstruction work was going on. I was a city child, rarely let out alone, never played in the street, didn’t know what a field was, so all these memes going around about how great life was for kids back in the fifties are lost on me.

      I am a feminist’s worst nightmare. I never wanted a career, all I’ve ever wanted to do is sit in a quiet room and write. I have happily lived as a kept woman for 42 years. Well, technically I have been married and supported by a wonderful caring, considerate husband who has provided me with everything I have ever wanted. I might have felt differently if he had been one of the nasty ones! Luckily my needs have been simple. Give me a typewriter, computer, laptop and/or tablet and I am happy.  Hubby is very understanding and doesn’t complain about my lack of interest in cooking although I try to provide for him every day. I must confess I do drive him to drink on occasion. More than occasionally actually; every Sunday to be honest when I drive him to the next town to meet his mates.

I have one daughter and three grandchildren. Sadly they will all have to work hard to get the luxuries I have enjoyed (well, the youngest is only six so it will be a few years before she starts work, then who knows what she will have to do).

              Where do you live?

In the middle of England, generally called The Midlands. And I mean THE MIDDLE of England. You can’t get much more middle than where I am. Several nearby places lay claim to being the centre of England. It’s a two hour drive to the sea if you go east, west or south. Scotland gets in the way if you go north, but that is pretty much two hours away too. We live in a nice little bungalow in a small village, but I must confess to having a bit of wanderlust at the moment. I keep rearranging the furniture to make me think I’ve moved.


     When I find a spare moment I enjoy doing some cross-stitch, although I have to wear milk 
   bottle  bottomed glasses to see what I’m doing. I also do a bit of knitting, something I can do whilst watching TV. Nothing ever seems to fit properly, or last once I put it in the washing machine, so I’m knitting a scarf at the moment. I recently bought a book on how to crochet. I bought the book. Haven’t actually opened it yet.  

Cross stitch 

Pets – furry or human

 An elderly arthritic Staffordshire Bull Terrier shares our life. Her name is Mutley but she answers to Oi! Stop that! Come here! and Eh! as well. She has a lovely nature, only ever barks at ghosts, and would greet any intruder with a waggy tail and lick them to death. We had her for about six months before we realised she COULD bark when she barked at her reflection in the window on a dark night.


               Cats are a no-no in our house as hubby is severely allergic to them. Found a little kitten once, managed to get in the kitchen when he was on his way out to work and didn’t notice it. He touched it, rubbed his eyes and then couldn’t see for the rest of the evening! Luckily we found where it belonged and sent it home.

       What you do to chill out

           Spend far too much time watching things on the TV, usually Netflix and such, not much on the main channels if you ask me! And if I’m not watching TV I’m playing games on my tablet. Trying to keep my mind active, of course.

     I also belong to a gym at a nearby Hotel. Not near enough if you ask me! I don’t use the actual gym as I can’t stand the music they bombard you with to, supposedly, encourage you. I do like the swimming pool, however, and go at least once a week (will be going once I’ve finished writing this). I’m not sure the hot chocolate I have while relaxing after my swim doesn’t actually give me more calories than I use swimming, but it’s a chance to read or even write. Sometimes I take my writing machine with me and hammer out a few words in the post-swim period. Especially in the winter. It’s nice and warm by the pool. 

      Day job

      I’m officially retired now. When I did work it was usually as a typist, audio, copy, make-it-up-as-you-go-along. Nothing spectacular or worth writing about. I hate these writing courses that tell you to write about what you know. I spent a few years working part-time as a check-out girl (old woman) too. I’ve only ever worked part-time and have had several breaks from work to try writing. If only self-publishing had been available then!

The longest I’ve ever stuck to a paid job is about 4 years. On the other hand I volunteered as a Guider for just over 20, maybe 25 years. At some point in this career I was in charge of Rainbow, Brownie and Guide units which covers girls from the age of 5 to 15. All at the same time at one stage.  At one point I was working in three units at once, taking up three evenings every week. For the love of it. Moral of the story? Don’t pay me! I was also the Division and Country PR rep for a bit but didn’t really enjoy that as much as the actual working with the kids.

     Tell me about your books. When you first started writing. How many completed. 
     Work in progress?

       I’ve completed six books now. Edge of Extinction, The Penhaligan File, Shattered Dreams, Silent Love, DayStalker and If The World Hadn’t Changed which is my latest. They are all different. The first and the last are fictional prophetic novels (can’t think of another way to describe them.) Shattered Dreams and Silent Love have been described as Human Interest, which basically means they are books about how people cope with their lives. The Penhaligan File is my first attempt at a thriller, and DayStalker is a short written in protest at all the reluctant doe-eyed vamps who really don’t like actually sucking blood from people, that seemed to be about at the time. DayStalker is a marmite book, you either love it or hate it.
You can check them out here on my website http://www.kristen-stone-the-writer.com/http://www.kristen-stone-the-writer.com/

        I am currently working on a prequel to The Penhaligan File. Must confess trying to be thrilling is difficult, I haven’t got a devious enough mind. I prefer writing about people, fictional people. And a prequel to Edge of Extinction about Kianda Mala’s early life. Yes, two completely different books at once!
When did I start writing? I completed my very first novel when I was about fourteen. Hand written in the biggest exercise books I bought from Woollies and stuck together with sellotape. I actually showed it to my English teacher who thought it was very good. What stopped me writing for most of my adult life was the careers interviewer who told me “You can’t just be a writer.” Obviously they had never heard of Enid Blyton or Agatha Christie. Sadly I believed them and was too timid to forge a career as a reporter which was their alternative.

      If you could have any animal from time immemorial as a pet for long 
freezing days and nights, what would you choose and why?

I would like something like Pete’s Dragon. I think a dragon would be very useful for getting me to the shops in a carbon friendly way. Although if Dragons produce methane the same way cows do, maybe that wouldn’t be a good idea. But I like the idea of flying to the shops. And if it is a fire-breathing dragon it would come in handy on long winter nights.

     Do you prefer heat OR cold?

Neither actually. I prefer warm. The temperature of an English summer is enough for me. Warm   enough not to need socks and coats, but not hot enough to make you hot and sticky. If I could choose a climate I would make it rain at night, and be sunny during the day. To be honest it is the colour of the sky that has more effect on me than temperature. A cold, bright day is better than a hot cloudy one.

                                            Fantasy holiday… Where would you choose to go if 
                             someone else was picking up the tab?

       The moon. I quite fancy going to the moon. You wouldn’t get disturbed by anyone else, apart from the crew who took you. I often wonder about where I would like to live on earth but there doesn’t seem to be a place that is not suffering some sort of trauma. The moon seems perfect!

Are you with a traditional publisher or self published?

            Self published under my own publishing label. I work with several other authors, the full list can be found on our blog. http://dld.bz/cPehN

Favourite meal (hot and cold)?

      Anything cooked by someone else. I hate cooking. I do it, but I’d rather be doing something else.

Favourite drink (hot and cold)?

    Tea when I’m at home. Coffee if I’m out shopping (don’t trust shop bought tea) and usually lager or Guinness if I’m out with hubby for a drink. Don’t really like wine – well I like some wine but there are so many different varieties I never know what I like and what I don’t. If I’m on driving duty it will be raspberry and apple J2o.

How hard do you find book promotion?

Nigh impossible. Promotion is very difficult as nobody is interested in the million or so independent authors out there in the ether, so what I recommend is:
Adopt the name of the latest high flying celebrity. Write a book, or get someone to write it for you – that’s what they often do; push it out to all the newspapers, TV channels, et al using that name. With any luck they won’t realise you are not the said celebrity until you turn up for the interview on The One Show, Loose Women, or whatever. By which time lots of people will have bought your book, and even more will buy it when it is splashed all over the media that you used someone else’s name. If you are lucky you can look all doe-eyed and flash your eyelashes at the lawyers, and say you didn’t realise Kim Kardashian was a real person (you can always spell it differently so that it sounds the same but isn’t exactly the same. Although actors don’t use names that are already in use, I think that is out of mutual benefit, I don’t think you can copyright a name). If, on the other hand, you get thrown in gaol because you couldn’t pay the hefty fine imposed by the courts for misrepresenting yourself as someone famous, you can spend your time languishing at Her Majesty’s Pleasure writing another block buster, which will be an instant success when you get out of gaol and use your experience for promotion devices to get interviews on TV and the papers.
Failing that, tweet regularly. 

Favourite genres to read and write?

      As long as it’s well written I read about anything that comes my way. Mostly indie authors these days, but I also read other stuff. Currently reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, intriguing style. I also read The Night Manager and The Last Kingdom. I usually have a couple of books on the go at once so I can swap depending on my mood.

                                  You’ve set up your own publishing house using FB writer 
                                         friends to help run it. What would you name it? Who would you 
                                  choose to run the different departments? As the owner, how 
                                   would you ensure the FB staff achieved success

  I think I would call it The Best Books Ever. I would ask Sessha to be our graphic designer. Charlotte to be editor in chief. And I would have Tee Gee as our marketing and publicity manager. If I knew how to make it a success I would already be rich! 

Now looking at the clock, it’s about time I got dressed, walked the dog then went for a swim. Thanks for having me in your cave, Tee.

My pleasure Kristen but if there's a next time I will tighten the manacles to stop you hitting the cave walls. You have been warned.

Laters Potaters

12 Sep 2016

Mrs chicken in the haunted cottage with Mrs Morton

Hello my little chickadees and how are we all today?

That headline sounds a bit like a Cluedo clue. 

On my blog this time we have B A Morton (our Babs) who not only lives in a haunted cottage but has a chicken called .... wait for it ... Mrs Chicken who wanders the garden at will.

How do I know it's haunted?  because I can see one of the past inhabitants at the top left window. (Yes i know there are people in the right hand window but can you see anyone in the left hand one? Some of you may.) It fascinates me to be honest and Babs and i have had many discussions about it over time.

Anyways enough about that. This is about Mrs Chicken. Er.... as you were ...  I mean Bab's writing and her ongoing affair with Michael Buble and chocolate.  Can I just put it out there that I also have a thing going on with Mr Buble and chocolate?

Right then lovely Babs tell me all about yourself....

Bio/ Where do you live?

Born in Newcastle, B.A.Morton (Babs)writes across a number of genres including crime, romance, horror and historical fiction. After a twenty year civil service career, she and her family escaped the rat race and relocated to Upper Coquetdale in the Northumberland National Park. She now lives in a haunted cottage built on the remains of a medieval chapel (The inspiration for her Wildewood Chronicles series).
A member of the Crime Writer’s Association and the International Thriller Writers, she is a self confessed crime fiction addict.

The Haunted Cottage

Pets – furry or human

Definitely fur and feather. We’ve always had dogs in our family and currently have a Border Terrier (our fourth child) and also look after our son’s Jack Russell on a regular basis. Both are rat assassins but have a healthy respect for Mrs C our pet chicken. We also have a number of very large goldfish which my daughter brought home from university when they were very small goldfish.

Mrs Chicken

What you do to chill out

We have a large garden which keeps us busy. I also dabble with crafty stuff (Dolls houses/furniture renovation etc.) I enjoy researching for my historical novels and of course I love to read. I enjoy crime fiction and lately I’ve been reading a selection of anthologies and short stories. It’s good to step outside your usual genre once in a while. Oh and I have been known to listen to a little bit of that chap Buble’.

Tee: Geroff woman!! He's mine I tell ya! All mine!

Day job

I used to work in the village surgery, until NHS cuts put the kybosh on that. Now I write full time. Which means I think about writing full time and write when I feel like it.

Tell me about your books. When you first started writing. How many completed. Work in progress?

I suppose like most writers I began writing at an early age, scribbling in notebooks at every opportunity, but my route to publishing came via Harper Collins Authonomy site where I met good friend and fellow crime writer John Holt who nagged me to enter The Yeovil Prize, a literary competition, and subsequently introduced me to my first publisher. I was introduced to my second publisher via another Authonomy friend Alfie Robins who writes cracking Northern crime fiction. My first novel, Mrs Jones, a crime novel set in New York, was published in 2011 and proved popular with readers. This was followed up with the next in the series Molly Brown. Since then I’ve also published one novel and three novellas in my medieval Wildewood Chronicles series (set in Northumberland and the Holy Land) Two North East based psychological thrillers Bedlam and Twisted were published last year by Caffeine Nights Publishing.
I always have a number of WiPs on the go, and tend to switch between them as the mood takes me. Currently these include follow ups to Wildewood, Bedlam and a brand new Newcastle based crime series. I also have a short story destined for a charity crime anthology being pulled together by Bloodhound Books which should be out in time for Christmas.

If you could have any animal from time immemorial as a pet for long freezing days and nights, what would you choose and why?

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve always had dogs and most have lived to be a good old age -18yrs plus. I couldn’t choose between them to be honest, so I’d have them all and they’d take over the sofa and I’d end up on the floor!

Do you prefer heat OR cold?

I guess it would have to be cold as I can’t be doing with hot weather, not that we get much of that in the UK. I like snowy days curled up in front of the log-burner with a dog by my side.

Fantasy holiday… Where would you choose to go if someone else was picking up the tab?

Australia, my daughter’s second home. She’s told us so much about the places she’s been to, we hope to visit at some point. I’d also like to catch up with much loved, Australian writer friend, Jacoba Dorothy, while I was there. Having said all that, I haven’t been on a plane since 1978 so it would definitely be an adventure. I might have to write a book about it…. Gullible’s Travels – one small writer and a big metal flying thingy.

Are you with a traditional publisher or self published?

A bit of both. When my first publisher closed, I re-published my earlier books through my own Twisted Ink Publishing imprint. The last two crime novels are with UK crime publisher Caffeine Nights and my short story, has been accepted by Bloodhound Books. I think it’s beneficial to scatter words widely.

Favourite meal (hot and cold)?

Hot would have to be a proper Sunday roast with Yorkshire puds, or homemade soup with dumplings…yum yum. Cold, come on…. brownies and icecream – obviously!

Tee: I can taste the roast and soup/dumplings from here.

Favourite drink (hot and cold)?

Hot – Hot chocolate with marshmallows of course and maybe some shortbread to dunk in. Cold - I’m not much of a drinker so it would be a soft drink, maybe something like homemade lemonade in a large glass jug with lots of ice, in the garden with strawberries.

How hard do you find book promotion?

Increasingly difficult and frustrating. There are so many books out there and without investing cash in promotion it’s very difficult to make any headway. I don’t find it easy to ‘sell’ and believe the endless self promotion often seen on social media, can have a detrimental effect on sales/readers. It’s a balance between letting folk know you’re there without boring them rigid.

Any tips or hints you’ve found that were successful for you in promotion?

I think it’s good to engage with readers whenever possible. Most popular writers have ‘teams’ loyal to their ‘brand’ who can help raise a books profile via word of mouth. Reading work at events, writers group etc helps to get the word out and sharing events with other creatives such as musicians and poets helps to extend your circle. If there’s nothing in your local area, then you could get together with other local writers and create your own event. Joining appropriate groups on FB and taking part in discussions is another good way to spread the word but don’t just pimp your books! Bottom line though – reviews are crucial.

Tee: OMG I've become a pimp !!!  :-) 

Favourite genres to read and write?

Crime fiction, twisty turny psychological crime, is my first choice to read and write. I love a tortured soul trying to do the right thing against decreasing odds. However I also enjoy historical fiction particularly the medieval period and love the research involved. I have a library of books on the crusades and the Templar knights.

You’ve set up your own publishing house using FB writer friends to help run it. What would you name it? Who would you choose to run the different departments? As the owner, how would you ensure the FB staff achieved success.

Well I already have my own publishing house Twisted Ink Publishing, but if I was to draft in some FB writer pals to help out, I’d have your good self on promotion and marketing, Tee. I’m sure you could twist a few arms up backs to get us the best promotional deals for the least dosh and make sure our books are in prime position in  every bookshop window – or else!(not that you’re scary… eeek! But there is rumour of a torture chamber and an online order for thumbscrews) 

Tee: Damnation I thought that was a reasonably well kept secret. Hm!

I’d have Reggie Jones on the entertainments committee, because he would keep our spirits up, and we’d probably need some high jinx by the end of the first day. Plus, he could help drum up some more business...boom boom. I’d have those two reprobates John Holt and Alfie Robins on the door, keeping the riff raff and e-book pirates out. As crime writers they know all the biz on dealing with undesirables – and getting rid of the bodies. 

Tee: Psst... I've got a body buried in my back garden - It's under the mock orange bush shhh

Audio versions of all our books would be produced communally (see Live Aid and Acorn Antiques) I will supply the coconut shells and reel to reel tape machine. Staff members would be rewarded for success with their own weight in chocolate and disciplined for any scallywag behaviour by having to watch said chocolate being scoffed by …erm….me! 

Tee: Babs your a woman after my own heart. (Thinks... Maybe I could use her in my torture chamber with that sadistic attitude)

Link to Amazon Author page    
Books written by B A Morton

I can certainly recommend the above books by Babs.

So for now

Laters Potaters