My top book marketing tip …

swimmer In the olden days

In another life I was a successful marketing manager – I even have a degree on the subject. So, when my first book, The Blue Suitcase, was published a couple of years ago,  I was not daunted by the thought of marketing it. Far from it. It seemed as easy as floating on water. And I certainly didn’t think I needed to use social media to help me – I’m sort of old school when it comes to technology. This is still my phone today. You get the picture?



I only realised how wrong I was when my techie son insisted I set up a twitter account and blog and I saw both paperback and ebook sales soar. I’ve been blogging and tweeting every since and, until recently, I even thought I was quite good at it. But that was the voice of ignorance and before I discovered the wonderful blogs by the super blogger, editor and writer Belinda Pollard and the excellent writer and blogger Molly Greene.

Small Blue Dog Publishing

blog it

The future

I now realise I have merely been dipping my big toe in the social media pool. There is a whole lot of stuff  I could be doing to market my books and my time better – as anyone who has a blog will tell you, keeping a blog can suck the creative life blood out of you, if you let it!

So, I’ve made a decision! In the run up to the launch of my new novel, Killer Shoeshine, I am going to plunge into the deep end of the social media pool and make some changes here.

Change number one

One of the first things I’m going to try and do is make a new landing page for my blog and  book/s. I read an excellent piece about landing pages in Belinda’s helpful blog post: 2 enduring, low-cost, book marketing tactics.  And if you are looking for strategies to help you market your book/s,  my top tip is to follow Belinda’s and Molly’s blogs! (Molly even has a great book on blogging called Blog It).

Mistakes will be made

Of course, mistakes will be made. Especially as the techie son who helps me with all this stuff  is away on his travels! But, mistakes or not, sink or swim, this neo-luddite is moving on ;)

So, what about you? Do you embrace social media or do you run from it?  Do you think writers can be successful without using social media? Do you have a book marketing tip of your own? Whatever your thoughts, I’d love to hear them, so do please leave a comment :)


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What do you do to de-stress?

When I want a break from writing I like to go for a walk. I especially love “luxuriating” in the smells and sounds of woods.  Some people call this “forest bathing” or “shinrin-yoku.” I talk about “shinrin-yoku” and  the importance of  getting away from  it all – especially our keyboards – in this week’s Crime Readers’ Association blog: (Move Away From The Keyboard!). Please do go have a look :)

However, there is one thing I  forgot to mention in my CRA post, so I’ll do so now. Remember in May, I told you that my daughter got Mossy the puppy, yes? Well since then three things of note have happened.

1: The number one son-in-law-to-be proposed to Josée, the number one daughter :)


2: The happy couple, plus Mossy, who is now the size of a small wolf, have moved  in with us while they build their own home (I have written about this wonderful happening here in the lovely Leither Magazine : 2 People, a Puppy and a Parcel of Land).


3: Daughter Josée has started a dog walking venture called Josée’s Happy Hounds – she has always loved those darn dogs!




Josée’s main thing is to take small groups of city dogs on “wild walkies” ie: walks in woods, up and down hills, along streams and beaches. A kind of shinrin-yoku for dogs. And I sometimes go with her. When I do, we are – as you can imagine – accompanied by two or three or four dogs. While we’re ambling, or hiking as Josée doesn’t tend to do ambling, I’m replenishing my much deleted attention; getting the benefit of de-stressing by being with nature; and stimulating my sleeping creative subconscious (for more details on what I mean by all this stuff see the CRA post!), but I am also enjoying the company of my lovely  daughter and her wonderful dogs! So, what I forgot to say on my CRA blog post is that while shinrin-yoku  is good, it is even better when shared with others :)






So, if you are a writer, what do you do to unwind from the keyboard? If you are a reader, what do you do to de-stress?

Do you agree that getting away from the civilived world for a few hours is good for  us?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts so do please take a peek at the CRA blog and leave a comment here and/or there. And if Like that Facebook button and/or  share on Twitter etc,  you will receive my undying appreciation :)



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Delighted to be a featured author for the Crime Readers’ Association!

The Crime Readers’ Association (The CRA)

The CRA was set up by the Crime Writers’ Association to give readers news and information from their favourite authors along with tips for beginners working in the genre. So, if you love reading crime fiction, and/or are an emerging crime writer, why not consider joining? It’s free and all members receive a regular newsletter as well as editions of the CRA magazine – Case Files.



Featured Author

Every month the CRA invites different crime authors to be their ”featured author”. Each Friday of the month the said featured author chats on the blog about stuff to do with books and writing. It’s all really interesting stuff. And, as it happens, this month I am the CRA’s featured author! Yay! I’d love it if you popped over and took a look at their blog.  You’ll also get heaps of appreciation (and Brownie points) if you also “like” that little Facebook button and share on Twitter! But I’d especially love to hear what you think about the posts, so do leave a comment on the CRA blog – that might just get you a gold star ;)


The Crime Readers' Association

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Book Covers: What makes a good one?

sbdp-email I’ve just read the excellent blog post, Book covers: Should we put people on them?, by Belinda Pollard. Belinda is an Aussie writer, editor, publishing consultant at Small Blue Dog Publishing, lover of dogs, the wilderness and things spiritual. In her post Belinda talks about what makes a good book cover.  This is very timely as I’m in the middle of developing a book cover  for my new crime novel (Killer Shoeshine) and eager for all the advice I can get.

As you would expect getting it right is not straightforward, what one person loves another hates. But there is some evidence to suggest certain covers sell more books than others.  In a nutshell Belinda says for a cover to work it has to immediately do three things:

  • stand out on a crowded shelf? (i.e. be distinctive)
  • be clear about its message
  • engage the reader emotionally.

And one of the best ways for a cover to achieve this is to place somebody on/in it. She quotes  from Derek Murphy of Creativindie who says:

Having a person on/in the cover creates intrigue and interest. But only if done right.”

Okay, “getting it right” may be easier said than done, but the message loud and clear is:

People sell!”

This was a shock for me.  You see, I personally hate seeing people on book covers, especially when they are generic photos of stock models. But what I have suddenly realised (in one of those rare light bulb moments) is that when it comes to covers what I personally like or don’t like doesn’t matter.  The important thing  is for the cover to do the three above things. It’s fascinating stuff and Belinda has convinced me. Now all I need to do is convince my publisher, AKA the long and suffering other half ;)

What do you think? Do you like seeing people on covers of books? Not convinced? Why not go over to Belinda’s  site and check out the full article? It really is worth a read. Plus, Belinda wants your help! She is running a straw poll on two possible covers for her new wilderness thriller, Poison Bay* (due out at the beginning of next year).


As you can see, one cover has a person on it, the other doesn’t. Which do you prefer?  Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to tell Belinda your answer and to see the results!

*Belinda briefly says of Poison Bay: My book is about a bunch of people with a shared secret who go trekking in the New Zealand wilderness. Let’s just say, they don’t all come home.  ;-)




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Do you judge a book by its cover?

jpeg A friend gave me the award winning The Whaleboat House by Mark Mills (which started out as Amagansett before it was republished with the new title). This was lucky for me because I loved it but would have never picked it up based on either of its titles or the dreary brown cover.

Almost all the best books I’ve read have been suggested by friends. What about you? How do you chose a book? A friend’s recommendation? A review? The title? An award of some sort? Or do you judge a book by its cover? I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially as we’re now coming up to designing the cover for Killer Shoeshine ;)

Finally, a HUGE thanks to all for your thoughts on the title for my new novel. You’ve been very helpful. We are leaning towards “Killer Shoeshine” but this may change  before or even after it’s published! Meanwhile, as a thank you for your input we put your names  into a hat and Juliet Wilson’s came out!

Well done, Juliet (AKA CraftyGreenPoet)!  You win a copy of The Blue Suitcase or Food of Ghosts, paperback or ebook!

Front Cover food of ghosts cover final4


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what is the secret to being a successful writer?

yurt When we think of successful creative people we tend to think of artistic geniuses like Shakespeare or Michael Angelo or Wordsworth or Mary Shelly … you know who I mean, special people. However, research shows categorically that there is no specific personality type associated with creativity. In other words being creative is not just about special people doing special things. Turns out we all have creative abilities but we’re not always sure how to tap into them.

pat b One way we can  tap into our creativity is by working hard at something, keeping going regardless. If we persevere, nine times out of ten that eureka moment will happen. For us writers, this can mean setting out to write with little or no idea of how our story will finish. Possibly pegging away for what seems forever before a creative light bulb moment. You’ve heard that phrase, coined by the writing guru Robert McKee, “writing is a discovery we rarely know where we are going …”?  This is what we mean by it.

Now, pegging away is fine but it takes courage and blind faith to boldly keep writing when you’ve not sure where you’re headed, especially when there are no guarantees. After all, it’s not a foregone conclusion we’ll have our eureka moment every time. There will be mistakes. We may even end up with  something we’re never happy with. But you must not be discouraged. The acclaimed writer Pat Barker has three unpublished novels in her drawer. These unpublished novels did not stop her being a success.

So, what does this research mean for you, the emerging writing? It means there is no secret to being successful. You can be a success if you:

stop worrying about having a special writing gene (we all do it!) because there isn’t such a thing

have a little bit of courage

a lot of blind faith

and don’t give up!

It won’t necessarily be easy, all that pegging away takes time, so you’ll have to find some, but as long as  if you have the guts and the will to do it, you can be a successful writer.

‘One of the great secrets of success is “pegging away.” No disappointment must discourage, and a run back must often be allowed, in order to take a longer leap forward.’          

Amelia E Barr

Have you ever  struggled to finish writing a story? What made you carry on? Or did you stop?  Are you struggling to finish something now? What is the hardest part about “pegging away”? I’d love to hear from you, so do leave a comment :)




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Help, new crime novel needs a title!

Food of Ghosts:Kindle,-2 I have finally finished the edits to the second DS Louisa Townsend mystery. The first book in the series is called Food of Ghosts. Here’s what Liane Adam, a recent Amazon reviewer, said of Food of Ghosts:

“A gripping thriller which I couldn’t put down. Marianne’s writing is accessible and well observed and characterisation convincing. I can’t wait for the next installment of this classic whodunit! At times it reminded me of The Killing as at various points you become convinced of who the killer is. Highly recommended.”

The new novel is tentatively called:  Killer Shoeshine in Suva

Does this title interest you, even just a little bit? Does it suggest a cosy read or a gruesome read or neither? Does having Suva in the title attract your attention? Do you know where Suva is? Do you care? Do you like a title to be obvious or mysterious? Do you like one word titles, such as REDEMPTION, or long literary  titles like The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night? Do you have any title ideas of your own? Yes? I would love to hear them :)

By the way, shoeshine boys feature heavily in the story, which is set in Suva (Fiji), and there is a killer and DS Louisa Townsend needs to find him, or her.

Why do I need help with this? I am terrible when it comes to titles. I can forget them as quickly as I notice them. I even forget the names of authors, which is why I often buy the same book twice. (Have you ever done that?) So any thoughts will be much appreciated.

As a thank you for leaving a comment and/or sharing this post on facebook or twitter or gmail or Linkedin etc one lucky person will win (yes, I said WIN!) a free copy of either Food of Ghosts or The Blue Suitcase, your choice.

If you do share the post, do make sure to tag me so I know to include you in the draw! The winning name will be drawn on the 3rd October.

PS: On a completely different note, as requested, here are some pics from our recent stay in la belle France, including the renovated bathroom and some oysters. Why oysters?  I had for them very first time. My verdict of the oysters? Not nearly as bad as I thought. A fresh sea taste and actually quite nice :)



lavander veggiwa

winefest man





brambles2 quince


lazing about

Vive the good life in France!




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Only in France …

photo 1-1 We are still in France. On the way to the dump with our DIY rubbish we came across the above. The sign says ‘trolly of wooden off-cuts for sale, 9 euros!’ Well, apologies to all my French relatives and friends, but only here could you buy a shopping trolley full of landfill – those off-cuts were not wood!  The stuff we were dumping was better than the stuff on sale so, no, we didn’t buy it ;o)

Luckily there are lot of other lovely things about being in France which more than make up for some of the more unusual stuff. Such as the view of the collared dove from our bedroom window …


the vines …


and the flowers …




and not forgetting the donkeys, of course ;o)

donkey 2


ps:  btw the bathroom is almost finished, the big unveiling coming soon!

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Gone plumbing in France …

I am in France for the next wee while with the other half. The plan is to give the bathroom and kitchen in the house we inherited many years ago a bit if a make-over. We’ve started with the bathroom. If you know anything about French plumbing, you’ll know that this will be challenging  – French plumbing is old fashioned and tricky and downright complicated, and don’t even get me started on paint! – but we’ve brought some stuff  with us to make the job easier.  BTW the blue bath and sink are going not coming!


french plumbing

blue bath

plumbing But, hopefully, there will also be time to do a bit of  this …


and this …

sunbathingrbear1 and this …


and this …

cyclehome and this …

nachamps sign

and this …


and this …

P1030959 and this … P1040268

and this …


and this …


and this …


and this … pain raisin and this …

cafetaba and this


Bonnes vacances :)


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Review of Trish Nicholson’s Inside Stories – a great addition to the writer’s bookshelf!

I am a fan of books on writing, whether they talk about the writerly life or deal with the nitty gritty of how to hone your writing skills. I even reviewed some of  the ones I found most helpful (see Books On Writing in the tool bar above), although I ran out of steam at number 19 – didn’t even get round to writing about Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way or Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones! No matter. The thing is, I was recently given a copy of Inside Stories (for Writers and Readers) by Trish Nicholson and asked if I’d like to review it.


I was excited at the thought of reading a new book on my favourite subject. However, it’s a tricky thing agreeing to review a book by someone I don’t know. After all, there are some pretty poor books on writing out there too. What if Inside Stories was one of them? I worried unnecessarily. Inside Stories is one of the better books I have read on writing recently, and below is my review.

trishprofilenew First of all, who is Trish Nicholson? Briefly …

Trish is an anthropologist, photographer and writer of short stories and creative non-fiction. A compulsive scribbler, her writings included a monthly magazine column; newspaper features in the UK (The Guardian, The TimesThe Times Educational Supplement) and in Australia (Melbourne Age), and three non-fiction books on anthropology, staff development, and responsible travel.

Trish has done many things but at the moment she lives on a hillside in the Far North of New Zealand along with a few thousand native trees. To find out more about  this extraordinary woman, you can visit her website Words In The Treehouse, where I discovered that Trish and I have more in common than just writing as we have both lived in Papua New Guinea! (You can read an earlier blog post on PNG here ).

PS: Trish is running a series of writing workshops in the UK in September and October, for more info check out the home page of her website.

Inside stories (for Writers and Readers)

In the How To Use This Book section of Inside Stories, Trish says of the book “it may not make you rich and famous but it will inspire you to better writing and more perceptive reading.” Absolutely. Writing is not just about getting published and making it “big”, not that Trish would be against that, I am sure. As writer Anne Lamott says, “Writing can give you what having a baby can give you: it can get you to start paying attention, can help you soften, can wake you up …”

What I most like about Inside Stories is that it looks at stories from the perspective of both the writer and the reader. This reading/writing combo approach is refreshing and insightful. In much the same way as writer John Cheever believes “I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss – you can’t do it alone,” Trish maintains “a story is not complete until a reader has experienced it.” The reader is as important as the writer and Inside Stories is a “celebration of readers and writers of stories”. According to Trish, understanding how and why writers write and readers read can help make us better writers and readers. Having now read her book, I believe her.

Each chapter of Inside Stories is themed and looks at specific aspects of the writing or reading process. The chapters are followed by stories and/or articles written by Trish, which illustrate some of  the reading and/or writing techniques referred to in the preceding chapter. Trish discusses the writing process behind the creation of these stories and generously shares the feedback she received for some of them. This makes for fascinating reading and is as helpful as the technical advice Trish gives in the chapters  – and the stories (and articles) are great reads.

You can read the book as a whole or dip in and out as you wish. Either way, it is full of sound, helpful advice, presented in an accessible way. The focus is on the short story because as Trish demonstrates in the book, the form has a great deal to teach us. There are exercises and quotes from the great and the good. My favourite is one by Mark Twain, who once said he didn’t like reading novels or stories. When challenged that he wrote them himself, he said,

“Quite true: but the fact that an Indian likes to scalp people is no evidence that he likes to be scalped.”

This makes me laugh every time I read it. My second favourite quote is by Chekhov, who said,

“Brevity is the sister of talent.”

The book is also littered with Trish’s own lovely tidbits, such as:

“The muse doesn’t make deliveries, she only has pick up points, we have to go and meet her.”

“Our heads are like wheelie bins.”

“There is no magic inspiration in moleskin.”

There are also tips on entering competitions, a history of the Short Story, including one of Aesop’s fables, a reference to Pliny The Younger, some Celtic story telling and the world’s oldest short story, and more so much more.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Inside Stories and thoroughly recommend it. It is a great addition to any writer’s (and reader’s) bookshelf and worth temporarily breaking one of Trish’s only two writing rules for, which are: keep writing and keep reading.

Inside Stories (for Writes and Readers) is published by Collca and you can buy it here: 


a Highlander (plus a newspaper rollie cigarette) from Papua New Guinea

a Highlander (plus a newspaper rollie cigarette) from Papua New Guinea

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