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Monday, 26 December 2011

Did Santa put a Kindle in your Stocking?

Well, did he? Last year I got so fed up waiting for Santa to bring me one that I gave myself a Christmas present, a lovely brand new Kindle which I quickly clothed in a swish red leather jacket. I was in book heaven, and my fingers just itched to load it up with books.
So, I imagine that if Santa was good to you and brought you one, you’ll be looking forward to filling it with books. Well, you’re in luck because Amazon has loads of free books in their Kindle store, some of them good, some of them not so good, and some of them downright awful. So how do you choose?
I played safe and downloaded some classics. You can’t go wrong with them. I went for things like The Adventures of Tom SawyerThe Legends of King ArthurPride and Prejudice, although I’m not really a Jane Austen fan, and there were several more. But being a crime writer I then turned to The Picture of Dorian GrayThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – and of course, I couldn’t resist one or two horror novels like Dracula, - Frankenstein, - and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Now I don’t know what your tastes are, but when you get tired of reading the classics – and who wants to read nothing but classics? Well, maybe you do, but I’m afraid my tastes veer towards fast paced modern fiction so it didn’t take me long to start exploring the lists of other books. And there are plenty to choose from with a variety of prices from the ridiculously cheap to the over the top expensive.
I discovered that a lot of traditional publishers have something which is called the Agency Agreement which keeps their prices higher and does not allow Amazon to sell them cheaper. But there are loads of authors out there who are writing what is termed Indie books, it just means independently published books, by authors who are bypassing the publishers. Now, you can find loads of good books published by Indies, and also some, which to be polite, are not so good.
So how can you tell the difference? Well, a lot of the books on Amazon allow you to ‘Look Inside’ and by clicking on the cover you can read a short part of the book on the Amazon website. There is also the facility to download samples onto your Kindle, although I’ve always resisted this because I don’t want to clutter up my lovely Kindle with loads of samples.
There are also some websites and blogs, like The Famous Five Plus and, although this latter one is not solely for ebooks and promotes authors with print books as well. Here is my page on although there are many more authors to choose from. I’m sure if you root around the internet, you’ll find a lot more. It’s also worth googling the author’s name and title of the book you are interested in, and checking up on the reviews, because there are lots of reviewers out there.
So, whether Santa brought you a Kindle, or whether like me, you decide to give yourself a Christmas present, happy reading. And I hope you’ll cast your eyes over my selection of ebooks when you’re looking around.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Wish I Was Here

Oh what I wouldn’t give to be here again, setting off for Venice on the Orient Express. Following in the footsteps of Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot, and even sharing Rupert, the same cabin steward David Suchet had when he went adventuring on this famous train.

Waiting for my Bellini at Victoria Station

If I close my eyes I can imagine sitting in an Orient Express carriage at Victoria station, in London, waiting for my Bellini and lunch as we pull out on the first stage of the journey to Venice. The British Orient Express takes me to Folkstone to change to the luxury coaches which will transport us via the Channel Tunnel to Calais Ville, where I will board the continental Orient Express. This is the real deal, the train that David Suchet travelled on, and before him, Agatha Christie. This was the inspiration for her novel Murder on the Orient Express, and I can see why.

Departure from Venice - Now which one is Poirot and which one the victim - hmm

Two days of luxury, good food, pampering, and great entertainment, await before arriving in Venice for a lovely five day holiday. Pure bliss. Then home again on the return journey by Orient Express, from Venice to London.

Rupert, my lovely cabin steward - I'll let you into a secret, they don't actually use the seats at the end of the carriages any more. They have a cabin instead. But Rupert obliged by sitting in the seat for me.

The price for this holiday was quite horrendous, of course, but it’s a once in a lifetime experience. And I had money to burn. I had the fabulous check I received as part of my prize when I won the Dundee International Book Prize with my crime novel Dead Wood. So, for a week, I could pretend I was another Agatha Christie, off looking for murders and Hercule Poirot, or maybe a detective of my own. Off to write Another Murder on the Orient Express, and while doing so I was living the high life.

I would do it all over again in a blink.

Hmm, there’s a thought. I wonder if there are any more prizes I can enter for, and maybe instead of wishing I was there, I could actually go. And if I do go, Reach for the Stars is the book I will take to read this time instead of Murder on the Orient Express, because I'll be reaching for the stars and fulfilling my dream all over again.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Recognition at Last (I think)

Why am I so excited today? Well last night when I browsed Amazon on my iPad, my eye was caught by the cover of my crime thriller Dead Wood. It was in a Listmania list, apparently posted by Poison Pixie Publishing, and no, they are not my publishers. Dead Wood was published by Polygon. I have no idea who Poison Pixie Publishing are, but they’re my new heroes. Thanks, Poison Press Publishing.

So, my curiosity stimulated, I clicked on the list, and the first name I saw in it at number 1, was Barbara Vine. Below that was Nicci French at number 2 and 3, number 7 was PD James, and number 10 was Michael Connelly. I fully expected to be number 100 or even 1,000, because these are very successful, well established crime writers. But what was that at number 14 – Eek, it was my Dead Wood. I couldn’t believe it. My book was number 14. Further down the list were other fabulous writers, Jo Nesbo, John Connolly, Ruth Rendell. Surely it couldn’t be true.

I’m still rubbing my eyes and I go back frequently to the saved page on my iPad to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. And I wasn’t dreaming. I’m there at number 14. Thank you Poison Pixie Publishing and thank you to all the readers who enjoyed Dead Wood so much that it warranted a place on this list.
Recognition at last. How sweet it is.