Monday, 23 April 2012

World Book Night and My Own Give Away

Tonight is World Book Night and I’m delighted to say that once again I’m taking part. This year I am giving away the excellent Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham. This book is one of my personal favourites and I included it in my selections when my editor asked me for my own Top Ten.

Last year I gave away copies of Killing Floor by Lee Child and so far every book I’ve given away has been gratefully received. 

I’ve already shared out about a dozen books with colleagues at work and I plan to take the others over and offer them to the guests of the hotel I manage.

Last year I was fortunate enough to be granted an interview with Lee Child and when I questioned him about World Book Night he said he was honoured to have been included. I hope to interview Mark Billingham later this year and I will of course be asking him about WBN! 

In-keeping with World Book Night I have enrolled one of my ebooks into KDP Select and it will be FREE all day Friday the 27th of April. So do me a favour and spread the word while grabbing yourself a free copy.

Please feel free to use the comments section to share what you are doing for WBN with me and my reader.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

A Hypocritical Rant about Falling Grammar Standards

OK folks I’ve bit my tongue long enough, but now I’m going to have to raise the issue of modern day grammar. Or more correctly the falling standards of grammar. 

Firstly let me say that I speak with absolutely no authority on the subject as I TWICE failed my English exams at school. Although the school were kind enough to appeal on my behalf and I got a nice letter telling me that I’d been granted my ‘O’ level English.  

I’m also as guilty as the next person with regards to typos. In my mind these are forgivable. What is not forgivable are the fuckups where there is written instead of their or even they’re. Come on, for fucks sake. They mean three totally different things.

My own failings have over time weighed upon me and have turned me into a grammar demon. I work hard to get things right for others when writing and I expect the same courtesy back. 

In my professional life I frequently get E-mails and Facebook messages which look as if a child of two has been bouncing a ball on a keyboard before accidentally hitting send. One Facebook message had nineteen (YES 19!) grammar mistakes in a four line paragraph. The content was based on sensible questions so the writer was obviously in possession of some functioning intelligence. Nineteen mistakes were there though!  

Being the calm and reasonable person that I am, I spent twenty minutes decrying falling education standards and then went for a smoke before replying. This muppet had just wasted half an hour of my precious time just because they either couldn’t write properly or didn’t care enough to make a tiny effort. 

Little shortcuts like writing U instead of you I can almost tolerate because of text speak which is a whole new lazy language. American English with its different spelling of certain words gets automatically translated without any internal ire, but show me repeated incidents of some fuckwit getting were, where and we’re all mixed up and I get so wound up my teeth start to itch.

As for the great apostrophe debate don’t get me started… 

Please comment below on what annoys you about other peoples’ grammar.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Trying a New Style of Writing

When Matt Hilton first told me that he was planning to put together an anthology of all the tough guy stories where action and pace were more important than believability I was instantly intrigued. First of all I love the suspension of disbelief you have to have with such novels. Matt was harking back to 70’s and 80’s writers I quite honestly hadn’t heard of. However he explained the style of writing to me and I instantly knew what he was talking about. It’s the kind of story where the hero is unbeatable and cannot be killed no matter how improbable the escape.

The modern master of this genre is Matthew Reilly and I love his books dearly for their sheer pace and the escapism they provide. In cinematic terms it’s Roger Moore running across the alligators when playing Bond, any of the Rambo or Die Hard films. Every movie Schwarzenegger ever made with the exception of Twins (although you kinda have to suspend belief for that one too). Throw in Airwolf, The Dukes of Hazard and the A-Team from the small screen and you have the perfect idea of what you gotta do to suspend belief with heart pumping action.

Anyone who has read my stories though will know that I tend to write in a darker, grittier style than the gung ho, beat ‘em up style of extreme action thrillers which I so enjoy reading. However I really fancied trying my hand at this style, so I skipped work on my debut novel for a day and had a wee go at something different. It was difficult yet fun, challenging yet rewarding and most of all – it was a film playing before my eyes. All I did was write down what happened in my mind’s eye.

 It was still a structured story I was writing, so I had to leaven the action with explanation and consequences. I also had to write with a much greater disregard for the rules of believability than I’m used to. I try wherever possible to make my stories as realistic as possible, yet here I was doing the opposite and pushing the boundaries back further and further with every passing set piece. I had to write fight scenes which is not something I’ve done much of outside my Harry Charters stories.

 I submitted my piece in all its sword fighting, belief suspending and blood pumping glory to Matt and I was accepted as a contributing author to Action – Pulse Pounding Tales – Volume 1.

To say I was delighted is a massive understatement. Other contributors include Matt Hilton (obviously), Stephen Leather, Adrian Magson, David Barber and Stephen Savile. There are many other talented authors still being accepted and for a beginner like myself, being accepted is beyond my wildest dreams.

Submissions are still open, so if you want to join the party. Get writing.

Sunday, 1 April 2012 - Editor Chris Simmons Speaks Out

My good mate and fellow reviewer on asked me to write a piece on reviewing. I am not sure that would be very interesting to you who are now reading Graham’s blog (plus it would make this a very short piece, indeed!). So, I will begin at the beginning as the great chroniclers say – don’t worry I won’t be making ‘War and Peace’ look like a pamphlet! I’ll tell you how started to germinate in my head.

I have always been a staunch fan of crime fiction. People say it is the poor relation with regards to general fiction, but crime fiction has matured over the decades and the gap has narrowed somewhat in recent years with better writing and more focus on the characters populating the story rather than using them as chess pieces in a puzzle as happened in the Golden Age of crime fiction. It was Nana Simmons who got me in to crime (not literally, although she did have a very colourful life). In the early eighties there wasn’t a sub-genre called ‘Young Adult fiction’ and when you’d done Enid Blyton and The Hardy Boys then you were a bit strapped for books. But Nana Simmons handed me an Agatha Christie who she herself loved. It was called ‘Sad Cypress’ and it was a revelation to me. I got the crime fiction bug and I have been happily afflicted with it ever since.

Fast forward thirty years and a room full of crime novels. Despite finding many like minded individuals over the years it was always fun to try and find the latest talent. In recent years the tabloids that had once reviewed a large number of crime fiction novels had now dwindled to a paltry number. Was this a direct effect of the Internet? I have heard many differing reasons from readers, authors and journalists – far too many to go in to here.

I have always enjoyed fresh talent and although we all have our favourite author whose latest book we covet when it is released (my family know not to even bother conversing with me when the new Ruth Rendell is in my hands until the final page has been turned) there wasn’t much in the way of publicity for new authors. It appears that you have to earn your spurs before being given a nice marketing budget for your title, except in very rare cases.

So out of my frustration I started to put together It simply started as a conversation, the ‘What If?’ scenario. If I had a crime review website what would I want to put on it if I had the choice? Automatically I came up with ‘Fresh Blood’ which is THE most heavily contested page with publishers. It has gained such respect from publishers and new authors alike that it is something I am particularly proud of. ‘Author of the Month’ was a given as everyone likes to read about their favourite authors, myself included. And of course, ‘Classic Crime’ as I love the classics and those forgotten authors who paved the way for today’s crime writers should be given their own fanfare. went ‘live’ on the 1st March 2005 and has gained respect over those years. In fact, I didn’t realise it was going to be such a success and would open so many doors for me (becoming a judge for the CWA John Creasey/New Blood Dagger has been a great privilege and a direct effect of our ‘Fresh Blood’ page). As the years have gone by I have been blessed with great reviewers who are as passionate as I am about the genre and my team have kept to my initial mantra. If you love a book, review it. If you hate a book, then say nothing. I feel there is nothing worse than being venomous towards a book. reviewers are objective – to say what they enjoyed and what they felt didn’t quite work in their eyes. However, the overall review should be positive – you have to remember these writers have been writing this book for months, if not years. Who has the right to pull apart someone’s hard work simply for the pleasure or by the fact that they can? But in the same breath we have always wanted to be fair to our readers as we are advising them what books to buy with their hard earned money.

Another mantra from the very beginning was to tell people what was good out there in the crime fiction arena. I wanted to ‘promote’ crime fiction – not tell people what not to buy. Not all books are amazing and brilliant. If your favourite author comes out with a bad ‘un, do you reject them immediately? No, you say they had a bad day and their next one will be back to their normal standard (which it invariably is). Would you want to pick it apart and hold all the bad things up to the light? Not really. Crime fiction readers are generally a kind hearted and loyal folk. So, if you have ideas to start reviewing my advice is keep your integrity, think of the writer’s integrity before you flush their work down the pan, think what sort of review YOU would like to read and be honest, but not brutally so. Oh, and be ready for the mother load of crime books to come flying through your letterbox. I am still staggered by the amount I receive each day – staggered, but still enchanted though as it is like Christmas every day. My postman doesn’t feel the same way. I am sure he was a lot taller when I first moved here than he is today!