The Unmaking of Ellie Rook

It’s been a busy week, with the Edinburgh launch of The Unmaking of Ellie Rook at the amazing Golden Hare Books, and a wee shindig at my local tapas bar Maxibells in Carnoustie (plus a friend’s wedding sandwiched in between).de449b79-1c90-415a-8ea3-59c668d14d23

 

All done and dusted, Ellie Rook is well and truly out there in the world! It’s always a tense time. As a new writer, it’s hard to see beyond that point where your first book lands in your hands, but now that I’m three novels in (actually more than that, but the fourth is in editorial and number 5 is in my head!) I have a chance to reflect on what life on the ink face is really like.

 

So, here are my top tips for new authors:

  1. Launch venue. Make sure you choose somewhere you feel comfortable, and where you are among friends. It can be a bit of an ordeal!IMG_1498Writers are by nature shy creatures, happiest in their normal habitat. Scrubbing up to go out in public can be a chore when your default setting is slumped in front of a PC. Being in the spotlight- well, a hundred ‘what ifs’ will be floating through your head. Comfort is your watchword, whether that means old shoes or being in a place you’re familiar with
  2. Ring the changes. Don’t be afraid to do something a bit different, although the standard ‘chaired’ chat is probably best for debut authors. Make sure you have someone you know in the chair! However, it’s good to experiment. Introduce some music or pair up with a poet or singer. Choose a theme, or pick a venue which relates to your book.

 

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The Yonderlees

The local launch of my second novel Bone Deep, included traditional music and spoken word, which lent a story arc to the evening. This time, I was keen to play up the woodland, watery theme of the new book, so at Maxibells, we had tables dripping with greenery and  my favourite local duo The Yonderlees put their own unique musical slant on the themes of the story.

I was able to use their PA too, which was very handy!

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                                                     Staunch supporters at Maxibells!

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Good friends are a must!

 

3. Take time to think about your guest list. A small, intimate gathering where guests are invited to drop in via social media, or a more formal ‘by invitation’ format? This can be tricky, unless you have a lot of contacts, perhaps from several different areas of your life.

Non-booky people can find a literary event boring and/or intimidating (and so can family members!) so bear that in mind when choosing a venue. Like a wedding, there will be the ‘ought to invite’ list and the ‘must have’ list. But it’s your day. Don’t let such things overshadow this great achievement.

4. Readings from the book. They must be short enough to whet the appetite, but long enough to break up the time. You have an hour to fill! This is where a musician or poet can help you out. Joint book launches are always an option if you’re a bit nervous.

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Rebecca Sharp at the Hospitalfield launch of Bone Deep, 2018

5. Book sales. If you are traditionally published, most events will be covered by your local bookseller, but you can order your own author discounted copies or provide your own books if self-published. I usually offer the gig to my local indie bookshop (The Bookhouse, Monifieth) because, let’s face it- we need them! If you’re selling your own books, have a mate on hand to help. You’ll have enough to think about!

6. Food and drink. Most bookshops, like Golden Hare, thoughtfully provide wine. (Do not quaff a whole glass before your talk!!) If you’re organising your own launch- how about some home-baking or tea in vintage cups? Ellie Rook was launched in Carnoustie with gin cocktails and a curry buffet!

7. Publicity A good way to herald the launch of your new book is by organising, or having a professional organise, a blog tour. We are so luck in the writing community that we have so many reviewers and book bloggers willing to support our work. My tours have been arranged by Love Books Group and it’s wonderful to watch it all come together. Sometimes bloggers who might normally post  about, say, beauty products or food, will come on board and introduce your book to a much wider audience. Social media is a creature which can offer enormous benefits in the right hands.

8.Reviews. After the launch everything will go dark. Nothing to do with the alcohol, but you’ll need to stick on your business hat. Everyone moves on very quickly and your book is just one of many struggling to the light. Try not to stalk Amazon and Goodreads as you wait for reviews. And you WILL get bad reviews. Steel yourself. It does not mean you have a bad book, but it just cannot appeal to everyone. Don’t allow yourself to dwell on the negative, it’s the enemy of creativity. As a wise person once said to me, ‘The people who write 1 *  reviews are not the people you’d ever be friends with anyway.’ So true. Stick with your pals and supporters- they are legion. Just make sure you invite them to your next launch!

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The Calm Before the Storm

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What to pack for Edinburgh?

I feel I’ve been keeping a low profile lately, but only because I’m conserving energy for what’s to come!

This summer (July) sees the release of my third novel for Polygon THE UNMAKING OF ELLIE ROOK. Ellie had her first outing this week at Noir @The Bar, Edinburgh, before a hugely supportive audience of fellow writers. Thanks to all of them, and especially to Jacky Collins and Kelly Lacey for inviting Ellie and myself to the party!

 

In other news, BONE DEEP, in its stunning new jacket, will be unleashed on American readers in just two weeks time! Gallery Books are gearing up to run a huge Giveaway on Goodreads and I’ve also contributed an article about the relationship between folklore and psychological crime stories for CrimeReads, a popular US online magazine.

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BONE DEEP coming soon from Gallery Books

And speaking of folklore…June also sees the beginning of a series of workshops I’ve planned at the Two Sisters Cafe, Carnoustie. Entitled FINDING INSPIRATION THROUGH FOLKLORE, this course, being run as part of my Creative Scotland award, will bring together writers, poets, musicians and artists as we scour our rich storytelling heritage for inspiration. The workshops are full subscribed, but look out for the other courses I’ll be running for Lifelong Learning Dundee in October.

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A corn dolly from Something Corny, Inverurie- a prop for my Folklore Workshops!

Over the last few months I’ve had the great pleasure of taking part in the Love Stories Panel, with authors Noelle Harrison, Laura Lam, and Ella Hayes, ably chaired by Dawn Geddes. Sponsored by House of Elrick Gin, we visited Waterstones Edinburgh, Waterstones St Andrews and Blackwells Edinburgh to discuss how we approach love, sex and romance in our books and the relevance of the ‘romance novel’ today. Obviously I was representing the black cloud of toxic relationships everywhere! We enjoyed some lively discussions and brilliant audience participation, all washed down with a delicious honeyed gin cocktail (Monarchy of Bees) mixed by the talented Talia!

Remember, remember…

It’s November already and I’ve hardly had time to draw breath.

Until now.

Now, the Cursed Virus of ’18 has finally struck and breathing is but a fond memory. Here I am, lounging around in my pjs eating toast and feeling sorry for myself – the perfect time to ponder the highlights of this summer!

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Once Bone Deep was well and truly unleashed on the world in July, it was time to take a little jaunt in the company of the fabulous Sarah Maine.

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Sarah’s novel The House Between Tides was chosen as August’s Scottish Book of the Month by Waterstones, so we managed a whistle-stop tour of some top branches: Argyle Street, Perth and St Andrews, met some lovely readers and booksellers, drank lots of tea and even grabbed a delicious St Andrews curry!

IMG_20180811_095028_084But no rest for the wicked writer. As everyone knows August is BOOK HEAVEN in Edinburgh, with not only the International Book Festival in Charlotte Square, but a raft to of other exciting booky fringe events.

First up was Blackwells Writers at the Fringe programme. This is a real treat for readers, and a great showcase for authors, with a series of panel events stretching throughout the month of August. The lovely Ann Landmann was on hand with the introductions, and to make sure our books were in pride of place.

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The VERY Stockbridge basement which features in Beneath the Skin, round the corner from Golden Hare Books!

And then we joined the lovely staff at Golden Hare Books, for Myth, Mystery & Memory: Women Writing Scottish Fiction. Here, we discussed Bone Deep, Sarah’s current novel Women of the Dunes and  the similarities between them. Both are ‘stories within a story’. As storytellers, we agreed that we like to delve into that deep dark vein of the oral tradition and emerge with something powerful and new!

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It would have been rude not to accompany Elizabeth to the Authors’ Yurt!

And onto the EIBF! My writing buddies Elizabeth Frattaroli and Dawn Geddes were very busy bees this festival, with Elizabeth, as co-coordinator of the South Scotland branch of SCBWI, chairing a Freedom to Write event, and Dawn enjoying a ‘roving brief’ with my favourite Scots Magazine. As book correspondent, Dawn is always on the look out for the best  in Scottish writing talent, and we attended some excellent events.

 

 

I have to go and blow my nose, but next time, I’ll be reminiscing about a very special event at Barry Mill, Noir at the Bar, Edinburgh and the fabulous Wee Crime Fest, Grantown-on-Spey!

Bone Deep – an evening of music and spoken word

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I can’t believe it’s been two months since Crime at the Castle (and two months since I last updated my blog…hangs head in shame) so let’s hit the ground running with a look at what’s been happening in my booky world!

My second novel Bone Deep will be published at the start of July, so in the run-up to the big day, please join me on Twitter (@22_ireland), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Sandralowireland/) and Goodreads. I’ve not been very active on Goodreads, so please follow me- I need all the friends I can get!

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We decided to get the celebratory ball rolling in April with a concert in the atmospheric surroundings of Hospitalfield, Arbroath. My friends at Hypercoaster Music had the tricky task of bringing together nine virtual strangers, with only an ancient murder ballad in common…and they nailed it! The audience were enthusiastic in their praise, and appreciated how well the performers ‘gelled’, which demonstrates the power of music and art to unite us. It was stirring stuff, as each artist interpreted the ballad of The Cruel Sister* in their own unique way.

 

 

The highlight for me was reading from Bone Deep accompanied by the harp! I’d never attempted anything like this before, but I knew I was in safe hands with super-talented writer, poet and musician Rebecca Sharp. When you read the book, you’ll understand that a very special harp is pivotal to the story, so it was quite emotional for me, not only to hear the instrument playing in the background, but to experience each unique and haunting interpretation of the theme of the evening.

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Author, actor and director Heather Osborne helped me to set the scene with our take on the history of The Cruel Sister ballad. Rebecca, and Emil Thompson treated us to a deliciously dark interpretation of the theme, which involved a Crow Box, a Singing Bowl and a little bit of magic! Spoken word artist Stephen Watt delivered a thought-provoking and poignant set,  exploring the darkness of our own psyche, while folk duo Shamblestone wowed us all with a raw and powerful rendition of the Twa Sisters (video on their Facebook page!). Lisa Rigby and Stuart Clark finished the night off with a fantastic set, including a most haunting and memorable version of The Wind and Rain.

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Huge thanks to Tash and Andy at Hypercoaster, to all who took part, and helped out on the night and beforehand. I really hope we can do it again some time!

Next week, I’ll tell you a little more about the story behind the story, and we’ll look at the history of the ballad itself.

 

 

*The Ballad of the Cruel Sister was the inspiration behind Bone Deep. I wanted to show how the past can impact on the present. Strangely, there’s a link between Hospitalfield and this book! In 1813, Sir Walter Scott visited the house, and was inspired to use it as the setting for his novel The Antiquary. Some 11 years previously, Scott had published a collection of Border Ballads, entitled The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders. As a teenager, I chanced upon this tome while rummaging through an old bookshop in the Borders. The Cruel Sister ballad, with its powerful themes of sibling rivalry, betrayal and murder really captured my imagination. Little did I know that some forty years later I would be standing where Scott once stood, talking about my own novel!

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A Story Within A Story

sandra ireland author 6It goes without saying that writers always have a swarm of story ideas buzzing around in their heads, and a notebook beside the bed, just in case one of the little blighters escapes! I often feel like a ghoulish beachcomber, picking through the bones of real-life situations in search of meat. A tiny piece of flotsam can lead me into a new novel, short story or poem.

So why, when anyone asks about my own story, do I want to scuttle away like a hermit crab?

Because it’s personal, and as any writer will tell you- we don’t do personal, unless it’s neatly wrapped in fiction and we can hide behind it. In the modern, media-savvy world, getting up close and personal with the author is all part of the publishing deal.

This, I have to admit, is something I struggle with. I lurked on Twitter for ages before I was brave enough to compose that first Tweet. I blanched at the thought of the ‘professional head shots’ required for publicity purposes, and giving interviews? Why would anyone come to an event to hear me speak?

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Dawn Geddes

If all this sounds disturbingly familiar, never fear! There is now professional help available for us weak-at-the knees newbies. I have just completed Week One of a startlingly helpful course devised by Dawn Geddes, a freelance journalist, with a background in public relations and media work. Dawn, a fiction writer herself, knows only too well what it takes to make that leap from behind the keyboard to star in your own show.

In Week One of her four-week online course, I was faced with an Author Story Questionnaire. What? Authors have stories too? They do, and they’re not made up. At first it was difficult, but the more involved I became, the more I began to recall the interesting aspects of my life, the bits that I never think to talk about, because I hate talking about myself! It was a real voyage of discovery, and to return to my beachcombing analogy- soon I began to unearth buried treasure. Suddenly, this writer has a backstory!

Using Dawn’s tailor-made tools, I have now re-vamped my website. Take a look. Tell me what you think. I wanted it to reflect the noirish tone of my writing, and if readers are interested in ME, it stands to reason they’ll give my books a whirl.

So, a whopping five stars for Week One of the ‘Be your own publicist’ course. I will report back on Week Two, but in the meantime, check out Dawn’s course HERE