Tuesday, 24 November 2015

When writers might take some of the blame - Jo Carroll.

As many of you know, I've been to Nepal.

It was evident, within a few hours of my arrival, that many tourists have deserted Nepal. Talking with friends there, it seems that cancellations began the day after the earthquake. One big quake, it seems, is enough for most people to believe the country is shaken to the core - and will carry on shaking. While a few backpackers are making their way back, the big tour groups are still staying away. Without tourists - and their foreign money - Nepal cannot earn the income she needs to rebuild.

'It's the journalists' fault,' Ajay told me. 'They were here for two days, took plenty of pictures of the earthquake damage, and then left us to it. No one has come back, seen how things are now.'

He's right - anyone who saw those images might think that the whole of Kathmandu was flattened.

I took this picture from his balcony, looking over the rooftops of the city:

Does this look flattened?

Disasters make good stories - I get that. And sometimes stories can be a way of making sense of disasters - I get that too.

But maybe writers also have a responsibility to rewrite some of those stories to remind the rest of the world that life has gone on. I'm a travel writer, so you can expect me to tell it as it is. But fiction writers? Yes, even fiction writers.

In spite of anything we might watch on Saturday night television we don't believe that everyone in Scandinavia is a murderer. Nor (regrettably) is every Sicilian as beautiful as Montalbano. Yet how long will it be before we have books or programmes highlighting the beauty of Tunisia? Or the welcome that one can find in Iran (my neighbours have just returned from a wonderful, safe, holiday in Iran)? Or in Sharm el Sheikh? Or even in Paris? Will I be a lone voice reminding people of the wonders of Nepal?

I don't suppose those journalists feel that they have abandoned Nepal, or any other country touched by disaster. They were simply doing their jobs. But my friends in Nepal have reminded me that we can - and I think we should - also tell stories of recovery and of hope.

If you want to read some of my hopeful tales, there are links to my books on my website here.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Lev Butts Gives Thanks

I am going to interrupt the countdown of metafictional comics this month to say a few words about one of my favorite holidays: Thanksgiving (I'm afraid, though, that Groundhog Day has pride of first place in my holiday hierarchy).

I don't know if they celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK. Maybe the Canadians do (Any Canucks out there want to chime in here?). Maybe y'all were thankful for the extra space once we left. Maybe you were thankful for all the cool stuff we sent back. I mean, you have to admit that potatoes, corn, and kidnapped Indian maidens are pretty damned awesome.

Or maybe you were just thankful to have us gone.
Either way, I suspect that even if Thanksgiving is observed over the pond and beyond, it probably isn't given the gluttonous extravagance we make of it over here. All day eating all the turkey and dressing you want. Turkey sandwiches galore until yuletide? It's a gourmand's dream. Sure it's no Christmas or Halloween, but that's a feature, not a bug if you ask me: There's not a whole lot of commercialism driven by Thanksgiving, or at least what there is of it is really Christmas encroachment.

No. Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays where we are asked to just stop and spend time with family and friends. It's a time, not to buy more useless crap, but to give thanks for what we already have.

The day before we trample each other
for the privilege of buying ourselves
more cheap crap we don't need
I like the holiday because it forces me to pause, take stock of my life, and give thanks for things I all too often take for granted.

Since the holiday falls this week, I thought it might be a good idea to give a list of all the things reading/writing related I am thankful for. So here, in no particular order, goes:

The Borden Dispatches:  Many years ago, I was a copyeditor for a small publishing company in Atlanta. One of the first books I copyedited was the first novel by an as yet unknown Tennessee writer, Cherie Priest. The novel, Four and Twenty Blackbirds, would eventually be the first in a trilogy of stories about a girl named Eden Moore who sees ghosts and tries to set things right in the spirit world. Think The Sixth Sense or Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas novels with a literary and Southern flair. I loved the book, and when she placed it with Tor later, it got even better.

The Borden Dispatches, however, are even better. this duology follows Lizzie Borden in the aftermath of her parents' murders as she protects the world from eldritch Lovecraftian horrors. This unlikely combination of alternate history and the works of H.P. Lovecraft, is incredibly good; it may be her best work. The first novel, Maplecroft, is set shortly after the murders in Borden's hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts, and owes much to Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The second, Chapelwood, and alas probably the last, pulls from Lovecraft's Call of Cthulhu and takes place thirty years later in Birmingham, Alabama, during the historical string of axe murders that occurred throughout the early 1920's and the killing of a local priest.

I love how Priest is able to weave history and Lovecraftian mythology so seamlessly throughout these stories. I only hope she is allowed one day to write a third, and if you read them, maybe she will. Fear not, both stories are truly slf-contained and have a full sense of closure at the end.

Google Drive: No single tool has proven more useful to me and my writing in recent years than this one. I am able to save all my drafts, research, notes, and reference images in one place online and can access them anywhere I have an internet connection.

This has freed me from being chained to my desktop computer when I want to write. I can now take a laptop (or even my iPad, see below) to work, to a coffeeshop, anywhere with wifi, and write without fear of having left some important reference material at home (or worse, in a coffeeshop across state). Seriously, I cannot say enough about this tool.

Bluetooth Keyboards: Another tool I have come to rely heavily on is the bluetooth keyboard for my iPad mini. Where the Google drive has freed me to write anywhere I can lug a computer, this has allowed me to expand where that is. I can drop my iPad into my satchel and go just about anywhere. I only thought having a laptop was convenient, but that's just peanuts to the convenience of being able to type on my much smaller and lighter tablet.

Additionally, having one with backlit keys allows me to write in bed while my wife sleeps without disturbing her. Words cannot express my gratitude for this marriage-saving feature.

Word for iPad: I recently found that Microsoft had ported its main word processing program to Apple's iOS system, and I couldn't be happier. No longer do I have to write in whatever free word processing program I can find in the app store and then convert it before saving (though WPS office is the best one I found before Word for iPad. I can now save my documents directly to my online Dropbox as a .docx file and open it again in Word on my desktop later.

My only wish is that it would save directly to my Google drive, but maybe someday...

PagePal: Next, we have the PagePal. A wooden reading aid that allows you to read a paper- or hard-back book comfortably with one hand. You slip it over your thumb and position it in the crease of your book. The thing is tapered on both ends, allowing you to hold the pages down with only one hand.

More importantly, it allows me to read with my weaker left hand as I take notes with my right. As a writer and scholar, this alone makes it well worth the expense. There are cheap plastic tools out there that are similar, but this one is much sturdier and therefore, the better buy as far as I'm concerned.

Me: I am far more thankful, though, for my ability to write what I hope are interesting stories and articles. Without this talent, there aren't enough tools in the world to help me (except maybe a ghost writer, but who can afford that?).

You: Most importantly, I am thankful for the people who read and enjoy my stuff. I cannot express how much it means to me that the stories I make up to amuse myself actually find an audience outside my own circle of influence. That truly is what writing is all about. And without you people, I couldn't do it.

Thank you.

And yes, I am uncomfortably aware that on one level
this post manages to commercialize the very holiday
I praised for being noncommercial.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Flash Slam Dunk, Ali Bacon finds a new philosophy on a night out

Not long ago I blogged here about the possibilities open to writers of performing their work and I admit that I was thinking at that time that in view of the sudden death of my WIP, performance might be my next ‘career move’ (at least on the days when I consider myself as having a writing career!) However a few weeks ago when our writing group was invited to the Bristol Flash Slam, it felt like a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’.
It’s not that I have too much of a problem with standing up and opening my mouth, but flash fiction? In my writing life I may have come up with a couple of very short pieces, but I was never sure if they were truly ‘flash fiction’ or what they needed to do to bear that label.

Flash is not something I read much, although I do like hearing it. It has to be clever – yes? With flashy wordplay, a stonkingly original premise, brilliant execution and ‘an explosive ending’. Luckily the flash slam was a team event (and competition!) so I stood aside and made myself ‘reserve’ reader. No prizes for guessing what happened next. Yes, someone dropped out and so I pitched up with 250 words which I thought read well and hung together, but as we settled down on our team bench I was increasingly anxious that they weren’t the right ones for the occasion.

This graphic by Suzanna Stanbury (who also read on the night) sums up what I think flash fiction might be – and my piece contained none of these words! 
Waiting on our team bench (at the back!)*
I looked at my own frail story of love, death and its aftermath, the best I could call it was elegiac. I had a sinking feeling which I couldn’t even alleviate with alcohol for fear of slurring my inadequate words. Anxiety was heightened by not knowing the order in which we’d be asked to read. If I hadn’t been called up near the start, my increasingly constricted throat might have closed up completely!
But when it came to my turn (helped by an enthusiastic crowd whipped up by our super-charged host) the adrenalin kicked in, and I stood up and read and yes, it was okay. 

Not brilliant maybe, but okay. I mean I’m a writer. I can write. The applause felt genuine if not overwhelming. And even if the people who came after me really did hit the high notes: - a hilarious take on cafĂ© life enhanced by menu spoonerisms,  an extended image of rain falling as words, I certainly didn’t regret having said my piece. I felt even better when a member of the audience accosted me during the interval and said she had found it absolutely beautiful. What more could I ask?

A great host helps!*
So yes, performance – although I need to do it better – is still a good thing to do, and I still hold to the idea that shorter is better in front of a live audience. In fact since then I’ve tried my hand at another couple of flash pieces just in case I’m ever called upon again!

Since then our writing group has staged another event where a few of us read stories to an audience of local writers and guests. Compared to more established events in our area it was informal. 

Reading amongst friends
Although we asked for submissions in advance, we didn’t apply strict competition criteria or award prizes. Some people wrote a piece for the occasion (we were close enough to Halloween to have a spooky theme) others brought along previous work. It was at least partly just a chance to have an audience of our own making instead of having to wait to be selected by some other group of writers. It was relaxed, it was friendly and it was fun.  

Looking back on these two events I wonder now why I was so anxious (or was I just being precious?) about my flash fiction. In the hubbub of a Friday night in Stokes Croft, or a Sunday in Bedminster (Bristol peeps will understand!) did it really matter whether or not I conformed to some genre norm even if there is such a thing? And suddenly this feels like a rediscovery of something I may have lost sight of along the way. 

To be honest I’m not sure I ever saw myself as a ‘commercial’ writer, in terms of targeting a specific audience and giving them what’s required. But having published a book and tackled the marketing side, and having breathed the air  for quite some time of those (authors, tutors, agents, publishers) for whom best-sellerdom (or just sellerdom generally) seems to be the guiding principle, it strikes me that this philosophy of writing just doesn’t work for me. So here’s what does:
  • It’s not about what people want to hear
  • It’s about what I have to say
  • If I say it well enough someone will eventually listen
Obviously there comes a point when you look to the wider audience and adapt your work accordingly, but for me it has to start with what I want to write. If it finds an audience (via publication or performance) well and good. If not, at least I have the satisfaction of getting it off my chest.

Which seems to have brought me closer than I expected to Joanne Harris’ author manifesto of not following the whims of her readers. So there you are – if her success is anything to go by, it’s a philosophy that can work after all!

*Many thanks to Mel Ciavucco for her flash slam pictures and to Suzanna for letting me use her graphic. 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

An interview with David Wailing and his auto - Katherine Roberts

Don't panic, I'm not author David Wailing's auto... so far autos haven't been invented (or so he assures me), which is probably just as well because I'd be a rather scatter-brained one. However, I'm delighted to bring you this interview with the man himself, author of the fascinating Auto series of books set in London in 2022, when everyone has a digital personal assistant app known as an auto that handles all their online business and social activities... you know you want one!

David Wailing (not an auto)
Hello David, thank you for joining us today. How many books have you written/published? And which is your favourite to date?

DW: In total I’ve written nine novels, not counting a few that were started then abandoned. But only five of them have been published as eBooks. The others remain safely incarcerated in the attic like deranged family members we prefer not to discuss.

As for my favourite, right now I think the book I haven’t started writing yet will be the best thing I’ve ever done. And I suspect that will always be my answer!

Ah yes, it's the same for me too... the next book is always perfect until I start the messy process of actually writing it! Your Auto books deal with a scary future... how much is fact, and how much fiction?

DW: It’s interesting that some readers do find the Auto Series scary. I think a lot of us have a real love/fear relationship with technology!

There are many elements in the books based on fact or technologies currently being developed – things like self-driving cars. I’ve tried to extrapolate a lot from the present day, not just gadgets but also attitudes and social conventions. When we see a group of friends sitting together, all silently staring at their smartphones, it’s easy to imagine a future where people’s focus is entirely on their own private digital worlds. Maybe that’s what readers find scary?

Obviously autos themselves are still fictional, but you can see their roots in Siri or Cortana, and in virtual avatars that pretend to be real people. Also fictional are international laws which forbid all internet access unless via your auto, which identifies you no matter what you do. That sounds draconian, but already UK legislation is heading in that direction, insisting we all give up some privacy for the greater good. I’m finding that much of the Auto Series is gradually coming true in some way or another!

I've noticed social conventions changing too. It used to be terribly bad manners to answer a call or text when meeting people face to face, yet now this is so acceptable that friends sitting together even text each other across the table. Of course many 'meetings' take place online now. We met on a Kindle forum, where most of the discussion naturally concerns ebooks. Considering your subject matter, are you a confirmed ebook author and reader? Or do you have a secret paper habit?

DW: Mostly I read using my Kindle, as it’s especially good for new books and for sampling. I am still happy to read paperbacks, although it’s rare that I buy them any more. For books you already know and love, paperbacks are ideal as they allow you to skip back and forth to read your favourite bits, which is tricky to do on a Kindle.

Speaking of skipping back and forth through the book, I know that you also offer editing and proofreading services. Do you do all your own editing? And is this easier or harder than editing someone else's story? 

DW: I do self-edit but it’s much harder for me to edit my own work than someone else’s. My author brain and editor brain can’t really co-exist, it’s one or the other. So like every writer, I rely on others to check my work and help me polish it. If you want to produce anything to a high standard, you really do need other pairs of eyes to look over it, no matter how experienced you are.

I agree two pairs of eyes are better than one, especially for proofreading, though I find cover design the most challenging part of publishing indie. Who does your covers?

DW: I do! With the help of some pre-purchased imagery. I’m no graphic designer but I can just about put together something effective, as long as the design is fairly simplistic.

I'm impressed! Apart from getting to design your own covers, what's the best thing and the worst thing about being an indie author?

DW: There are lots of wonderful things about being an indie author, but the best is that it’s even possible. The simple fact that there are now platforms for writers to directly reach an audience is something I still find staggering. We all tend to take this for granted, and give Amazon and the rest a hard time when they’re not perfect. But I spent two decades submitting my work to publishers and amassing piles of rejection letters, despite hearing horror stories from authors who did get a publishing deal, only to find they were treated terribly and hardly made any money. There was no choice, it was the only game in town. But now we make the rules ourselves, and that’s something we should always be grateful for.

The worst thing is that because we can all now publish our own books, it’s even harder to get noticed. The flipside of that great freedom is that everyone else has it too!

Also, as with any new industry, a number of middlemen (promoters, advertisers, social media sites) have sprung up to make money out of authors’ desperation to reach a wide audience. Unfortunately it’s becoming the case that authors with the highest disposable income enjoy the greatest success, as they can afford the high promotional costs. Just like with traditional publishing, many people make a living out of books – but it’s rarely those who actually write them.

Sadly true. Finally, if you were marooned on an alien planet with your Kindle and had forgotten to pack your charger, how would you use your last few precious minutes of battery life...?

DW: I would turn on my Kindle’s wi-fi, log into the nearest interstellar sub-etha network, type a message (very slowly, using the Kindle 4’s painful keyboard) to flag down a passing spaceship, and hitch-hike back to the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy. No prizes for guessing which book inspired that!

Thank you very much, David... oh, and don't forget to pack your towel!


Find out more about David Wailing and his books at www.davidwailing.com

The Auto series is available for Kindle with some great promotions coming up in the next few days...

AUTO 1 (FREE download between 23rd and 27th November.) 

AUTO 2  (available from Monday 23rd November)

Or try the separate stories in the Auto series for 99p each.

Katherine Roberts (not an auto) is a fan of the fantasy/science fiction genre and writes books for younger readers. Her backlist is now available as ebooks, and her latest series about King Arthur's daughter is available in both hardcover and paperback, too. Find out more at www.katherineroberts.co.uk

Friday, 20 November 2015

I am a writer. Am I? by Sandra Horn

A good while ago now, when I was a very junior Psychologist, still working under supervision, I was given an office recently vacated by a Social Worker. In order to make the change clear, so that I wasn’t bothered all day long by people looking for her, my boss commissioned a new sign for the door. The hospital carpenter interpreted the instruction ‘clear’ to mean letters about six inches high. I came into work to find PSYCHOLOGIST screaming across the door. I couldn’t help thinking of Lucy from the Peanuts cartoons, sitting behind her orange box under a sign which read THE DOCTOR IS IN. This wasn’t funny, though. I felt a total fraud – hadn’t even completed my finals at that point. It should have read trainee psychologist. Now, whenever anyone asks me what I do and I say, I’m a writer,’ that writ-too-large Psychologist sign flashes into my head. If I had a sign on the door here, it would read Writer?
This was brought to mind by a recent post on Facebook – words to the effect of (can’t remember exactly) ‘Don’t call me a procrastinator! I happen to like working at the last minute of a panic-stricken deadline.’ It made me smile and cringe at the same time. Not that it’s always last-minute with me, but I do need a deadline to focus my thoughts quite often. I picture all of you, dear Authors Electric, with your ordered lives, treating writing as a proper job, at your desks in the morning... and here am I, a rank amateur, pithering about and letting myself be put off by a mood, domestic trivia, a bit of a headache, etc.etc. I find it odd – I write because I need to; to paraphrase Vila, the thieving character from Blake’s 7, which some of you may remember, ‘A writer is not what I am, it’s who I am.’ So what’s all this procrastination rubbish about? I wish I knew. I’m absolutely sure that creativity and chaos don’t need to go hand-in-hand; writers do have tidy desks, organise their research effectively, keep regular hours. Other writers, that is. Proper writers.
Strangely, give me a brief and a deadline, and I’m a model worker. I’ve never yet had to ask for an extension when I’ve agreed a finish date. My poems for BBC Active teachers’ packs were a joy to write (rewrite, rewrite), for example, to very tight requirements and timescales. I loved working like that. Leave me to my own devices, though, and I’m prone to setting myself near-impossible challenges, for one thing, never mind the moods, headaches, domestic stuff. My never-to-be-finished YA novel ‘Fire and Silence’ (running title) has a mute central character, for example. I’ve tried changing it so that he speaks. Disaster. It doesn’t work. He IS mute, and that’s it and all about it. He came like that. That means changing the POV from time to time. So be it. So be it for over twenty years now, and counting. For my play ‘Little Red Ella and the FGM’, the challenge was to write about FGM in a way that allowed discussion to open up non-threateningly for young people; discussion about owning one’s own body, about the power of tradition and cultural imperatives. Finally, with about four hours to go to the deadline (Yes, it was one of those times!) I got it into pantomime-like rhyming format and sent it off. Inspiration plus perspiration. 

I do like a bit of inspiration. That’s how The Mud Maid came about. I saw the sculpture and her story just fell into my head. No pithering about there, I sat down under a tree and scribbled the outline, then worked on it with commendable efficiency and despatch. If only it could always be like that! Many inspirations are still in note form somewhere, the initial spark having failed to kindle the fire. Or they did produce an end result which was then rejected comprehensively by everyone. Clearly, the sparks were not divine.
Tomorrow is the deadline for finishing this blog. Also for a re-submission of a play wot I wrote, which needs some re-writing. And we’re nearly out of bread. And I think I have a headache coming on...

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Reading my way from Dundee to Auchmithie; by Chris Longmuir

In last month’s post I talked about my reading tour of Dundee, and what a brilliant time I had with the American tour group. As I said at the end of that post, my time with them was not over, and I was to join them on a visit to Auchmithie the following day. Click on Reading my Way Round Dundee to read last months's post.

For those of you who do not know the area, Auchmithie is a historic fishing village on the east coast of Scotland. It is only a few miles from Arbroath where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1320. Arbroath is also famed for Arbroath smokies which are cured and smoked in the town. However, Auchmithie was actually the place where the smokie originated, maybe they should be called Auchmithie smokies.

Auchmithie regularly celebrates their historic roots with the HAAR festival, which they organise every second year, and unfortunately this was not the year. But there was a surprise in store for the American visitors, because the tour guide, myself, and Ann Craig, who helps to organise the festival had collaborated to provide an entertainment by the re-enactment group in the local church.

But back to the start of the day, our meal in the But ‘n’ Ben Restaurant, famed for it’s seafood, particular its smokies and smokie pancakes. Unfortunately, I don’t like smokies so I settled for fresh battered haddock and chips, and I have never seen or tasted such a light golden batter as the one that coated my fish. And I won’t even mention the desserts, they were to die for.

After the meal I read scenes from A Salt Splashed Cradle where the fisherwomen carry the men, on their backs, to the boats. They did this in Auchmithie before the harbour was built, and the reason they did this was so the men would not have to go to sea with wet feet. The readings went down a bomb, and I sold several books from my book bag. Surprisingly, I also sold some books to other diners in the restaurant who were not with our party.

We left the restaurant in good spirits and walked to the church where the re-enactment group were waiting. Ann Craig, in the role of Annie Gilruth, a historical character, enacted scenes from the early days of the village which described how progressive this woman was, and how she instigated improvements in village life, not all of which were readily accepted by the villagers, as one argumentative scene revealed. The group sang fisher songs, danced, and acted scenes. It was a brilliant performance, and if you are in the vicinity of Auchmithie next September it’s well worth a visit to Auchmithie to see this group acting out village life, as it was in the past, on the streets.

But there was a surprise in store for me as well, because at the end of the performance I was invited to join them to read scenes from A Salt Splashed Cradle. I must say I never thought I would do a reading from the pulpit, but it was a great experience.

The group scattered to investigate the village, and as I took my leave of them, I reflected it was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Chris Longmuir


Apple iBooks

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

A Binge on the Backlist by Catherine Czerkawska

... supernatural, folklore, custom and belief ...
When I find an author I love, I’m a binge reader. I’m reading my sixteenth or seventeenth Phil Rickman novel at the moment. I’ve lost count. I began with the Merrily Watkins series as recommended to me simultaneously by a couple of friends. This was before the television series, which I didn’t watch, because by the time it was shown, I had very definite ideas about the characters and I didn’t want to interfere with them. I enjoyed them all, although they did grow very dark towards the end of the series, almost too dark for me. And Jane, Merrily’s daughter, sometimes irritated me to the point where I wanted her to meet with a sticky end. But these were minor matters and I was never going to stop reading. From there, I moved smoothly on to Rickman’s backlist, novels written and published in the 1990s, big, meaty books, right up my street: earth mysteries, witchcraft and the supernatural, folklore, custom and belief, the occasional murder, but all told brilliantly – what a wonderful storyteller this author is!

I find myself racing on, late into the night. And I’ve been reading these books at the same time as I’ve been writing a fairly hefty and demanding new novel myself. But they’ve been just what I’ve needed to take my attention away from my own obsessions. I generally read in the evenings, or – especially when I’ve been writing late into the night – in bed for an hour or so before falling asleep. Every time I go back to one of Rickman’s books it has been a sheer pleasure, the kind of excited anticipation that you only get with a good book.

Once you’ve come to the end, you just want to move smoothly on to the next.

The thing is, though, that I would never have been able to do this without Amazon. Well, I would. But it wouldn't have been easy. I’ve read all of these books on my Kindle, and with the exception of a single short story that I ‘borrowed’ with Kindle Unlimited, I’ve bought them all, steadily, one after another and sometimes two or three at a time.

I checked in one of my local bricks and mortar bookstores last week – I love this bookstore and visit it and buy from it – but they had only one or two Rickman novels in stock as far as I could see and none of that dense and wonderful backlist. I know they could have ordered paperbacks for me but that would have been an expensive business and I would have rationed myself. Or I would have thought better of it and moved on to another author. The simple fact is that we can't all afford to spend as much as we would like on books. 

Most of my purchases were made in that frame of mind where you’ve finished a great book and want more of the same and you want it NOW. They were made late at night when I had come to the end of one novel, heaved a sigh of satisfaction, clicked on that little cart on my beloved Paperwhite and bought a couple more, just to be on the safe side.

I don’t blame the bookstore for this. They only have the shelf space to accommodate the backlist of a handful of starry authors. I still love them, still browse and buy from them (and drink the occasional coffee there as well). But when I’m absolutely addicted to a writer and want to binge, it’s Amazon I’m going to turn to. And when I think about that as a professional writer, I would be crazy if I didn’t want other people to do something similar with my own work - even though I have nothing like Rickman’s amazing backlist.

I don’t know which book to recommend most. I liked Night After Night best of all, but it's the second or third book involving a few of the same characters. You don't have to read them in order, but it's more satisfying if you can. Rickman clearly becomes fond of certain characters (so does the reader) and continues them into new and different series and mini series. The novels are scary, but not revolting in the way some crime novels are revolting – or at least I don’t find them so. The supernatural elements are well handled and believable. The characters are likeable and the villains suitably villainous. The landscapes sing off the page. You’ll want to visit these places if you don’t already know them. And he really knows his stuff where folklore, custom and belief are concerned.

So I can recommend them. But unfortunately, the end is in sight. I've almost read them all. He has a new novel coming out soon. Will my backlist binge last until the new book is out? Well, probably. But after that, I’ll have to move on, find another writer to satisfy the urge. 

I seem to remember that I had a mini binge on China Mieville some time ago. Then I got distracted. But I see that there are a lot of his novels I haven’t read yet. Which cheers me up no end. And a television series of The City & The City - one of the best novels I have ever read - is planned, which doesn't cheer me up at all, because I can't understand how anyone could ever squeeze that amazing novel into the constraints of television. I'll probably stick with the novel. 

So tell me - what books do you binge on? And whose backlist have you found irresistible? 

Catherine Czerkawska