Thursday, 15 January 2015

January news roundup

It's 2015!
Which means that come September it will be ten years since I was made redundant and I embarked upon my career as a fiction author. Ten years! I know it's a worn-out cliche, but it really does seem like yesterday--well maybe last week at most. I had a nice Christmas and hope you did, too. It's been an exciting start to the year, which began with a few emails from Amazon Publishing to congratulate me on passing a milestone sales figure for my first book In the Blood since Thomas & Mercer re-published my titles last March. As a result, In the Blood has been featured in Amazon UK's 'Top Selling Books of 2014', which was a very nice surprise.

I was also contacted the other day by a charity organisation called CLIC Sargent, who are the UK's leading charity for Children's cancer. They invited me to join in a fundraiser called 'Get in Character', whereby an auction is set up on eBay enabling people to bid on the chance to have a character named after them in the authors next book, of which they also receive a signed copy when the book is released. I think it's a great incentive and I jumped at the chance to help out. I'll be posting more details about it as soon as I have the auction date. Please bid as much as you can afford to donate, and the winning bidder will forever become a part of my Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mysteries! I think that's pretty cool--like donating to charity and having a star named after you, only smaller. :o)

Also this month, my second book To the Grave is being featured in a Kindle UK January sale and is on offer for just £1. I'm very pleased to see so much interest in the book, which entered the top 100 Kindle bestseller charts early in the month and is currently residing at No.45. The offer runs until the end of January, so if you've not read it and think you might like to, there's still a couple of weeks left to get it at the low price. You can find out more about To the Grave on my website, or the Amazon Kindle store, and you don't need to have read In the Blood first to enjoy it.

My next book... 
I hit the ground running just as soon as 2015 dawned--okay it was the 2nd of January and I've been sitting down ever since, but you get the idea. I'm hard at it. The word count has increased by about 4000 words, which doesn't seem that much to show for two weeks, but I'll put my hand up now and say that I'm finding this one a real toughie, and the research is slowing my word count down more than I had hoped it would. Still, some things shouldn't be rushed, and I believe that writing a book is one of them.

I'm trying to get inside the head of an historical-narrative character,  a man this time, and we don't even speak the same language. It also dawned on me recently that I set myself quite a challenge as soon as I published In the Blood, because it began a legacy that has meant I have to juggle three stories in each book: the historic and present-day narratives, and JT's larger story that is beginning to unfold across the series of books. Perhaps even more challenging is that I'm not writing historical fiction set in the same period each time, whereby my knowledge of that period grows with, and can be used in, each book. I have to learn about that period in history afresh every time I sit down to write a new book.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. In fact, I think this setup helps to keep things fresh and interesting for me as the author, and for the reader, who gets something a little different with every book. It just takes time. Rest assured though that I'll remain hard at it, and gradually we'll see that word count over on the right reach the target of 100,000 words. Only 81,639 to go!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Merry Christmas 2014!

Click HERE to watch


Wow! I can't believe a couple of months have passed since I last posted a blog entry. Where did the time go? The reason is that I've been so focussed on writing my next Jefferson Tayte mystery, and the research for this one has been pretty intense so far. As you can see from the word count to the left of this page, I've made a healthy start, and I hope to pick up the pace further in the New Year.

Looking back on 2014, I can truly say that it's been a very exciting year for me. My existing three books were re-released with Thomas & Mercer in March, I had a film crew pointing cameras and fluffy microphones at me soon afterwards, and then in October my fourth book, The Lost Empress, was released. I've also just heard that the German language edition of In the Blood has moved into production and is being copyedited right now for release early next year. It's going to be called In der Blutlinie.

Here's the cover, which is much the same as for the English language version, but with a different text layout.

In other news, the film I made for Amazon KDP earlier in the year about my journey as an author was featured in the latest edition of the KDP newsletter. I had always thought how good it would be to get a mention someday, and now it's happened! As a result, the number of views on YouTube quickly soared past the 2000 mark. If you've already seen it, thanks for watching. If you haven't, here's the link again: Behind the Cover: featuring Steve Robinson

I can't imagine that 2015 is going to be quite as exciting for me as this year has been, but one of the wonderful things about publishing is that you just don't know what's around the corner. The next highlight for me, so far as I can see, is to finish my next book, which I hope to be able to tell you more about as 2015 progresses. If you want to see how I'm doing, you can always pop back and have a look at my current word count, which I'll be updating on a regular basis.

I hope you enjoy watching my animated Christmas card. It's a bit of fun, and please feel free to share it. As always, I'd like to thank for your support, and I wish you a very merry Christmas and a wonderful 2015.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Video: Behind the Cover: Featuring Steve Robinson

The mini-documentary I was asked to make for Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing earlier in the year has now been released. It focuses on my eight year journey since being made redundant from my career in telecoms, to realising my dream of becoming a full-time author. I hope you enjoy it.

Shooting the film was a lot of fun, even if I was pretty nervous about it beforehand. It's wonderful to be able to look back on the day through the medium of video. We visited a few locations: my home and garden, the river in the village where I live, and for the afternoon we took the train into London to shoot outside St.Paul's Cathedral, which features in my third book, The Last Queen of England. I've uploaded some new 'behind the scenes' photographs from the day, which were taken by the stills photographer, Jason. That's him on the right. Thanks Jase! You can click on any image to see the larger versions in the gallery.

I was asked to grab my hat and put it on
in the mirror before heading off to my cabin.

Shooting the 'hat' scene by my back door.

Being interviewed outside my writing cabin.

Sitting on the sofa inside my cabin,
reading my second book, To the Grave.

Being interviewed by the river.
Fluffy boom mic and all!

Tapping story ideas into Notes on my iPhone.

A portrait by the river.

The dome of St Paul's Cathedral.

Shooting outside St Paul's Cathedral. I found
this bit quite scary as it's a very busy area, with
people walking close by, often stopping to watch.

I wonder what I was thinking about?

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The hat's out of the bag!

If you've been following my blog, you'll likely know that I filmed a mini-documentary for Kindle Direct Publishing earlier in the year. I had expected to see it sooner, but it makes perfect sense to release it just a few days before the release of my new Jefferson Tayte Mystery, The Lost Empress. During a telephone conversation with my editor on Monday, I was told it would be out towards the end of this week. Then last night, via Twitter, I saw the photo above of me in my writing hat by my back door, along with the announcement that the film would be out tomorrow!

It may also come as no surprise to some to know that I write while wearing a bucket hat, and I've been promising to post some pictures of me wearing it for some time. It began as a practical way to block out the sunlight streaming through my kitchen window, where I wrote much of my first three books. From there the hat became a way to block out my peripheral vision to reduce distraction while I was writing. I felt this helped me to focus. Since then it's become something of a quirky superstition, and I wear it whenever I write in the belief that I won't write well unless I do - as if it's a direct link to my muse and he won't call on me unless I've got my old bucket hat on. The threads are wearing a bit thin now, and I really hope it lasts at least long enough to finish my Jefferson Tayte series. It's crazy, I know, but it got me wondering about other authors' quirks, and I soon discovered that, not only wasn't I alone in this, but that my need to write in my trusty old writing hat is a rather mild quirk by comparison to what I found.

As a means to shut out distraction, towards the end of her life and due to her illness, Flannery O'Connor used to write facing the plain wood of her dresser. Facing a blank canvas in one form or another seems commonplace amongst writers, and to paraphrase Francine Prose, that seems like the perfect metaphor for being a writer. Francine Prose writes in her husband's flannel pyjamas, by the way.

Truman Capote has said that he can't think unless he's lying down, so he reportedly wrote   horizontally. William Faulkner would stay up late drinking whiskey with a friend, and then disappear to write in the mornings, repeating the process come evening. Alexandre Dumas was superstitious about the colour of the paper he wrote on. He liked blue paper for novels, and when he was once forced to used cream paper he was convinced that it upset his writing.

Edgar Allan Poe believed his cat, Catterina, to be his literary guardian. Vladimir Nabokov wrote most of his books on index cards and was very particular about the type of pencil he used. Early 20th century author, Thomas Clayton Wolfe, reportedly wrote while leaning on his refrigerator because he was so tall. And my favourite... John Cheever used to write in his underpants because he saw no sense in creasing the only suit he had at that time. You could call that practical and logical, but it's certainly eccentric.

Do you know of any other authors' writing quirks or superstitions? If you're an author, perhaps you have one of your own. I'd love to hear about it. 

If you'd like to watch my Kindle Direct Publishing video, do pop back
over the next few days. I'll post it here on my blog as soon as I can.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

New Information page for The Lost Empress now live on my website

I've created the information page on my website for my new Jefferson Tayte mystery. It includes my inspiration for the story and how I set out to tell it, plus some facts about the Empress of Ireland, along with a few links to some of the websites I visited during my research. Here's a LINK.

You can also now hear the prologue from the audiobook edition, as performed by the very talented Simon Vance, who recorded the first three books in the series.

Early indications from professional readers who have received advance copies of The Lost Empress are very promising. Here are some of the highlights from those early reviews already posted on Goodreads.

Praise for The Lost Empress from advance copy readers...

'An utterly gripping story.'

     'I loved this book - it was engaging from page one.'

'I would highly recommend this book. It’s a cracking story.'

     'A tremendous novel of treachery and suspense.'

'A true trust no one tale that spans all ages.'

     'More genealogy, and the genealogy was really interesting.'

'The fourth in the series, this is, I believe, Robinson’s best.'

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Technology, and its impact on genealogical research.

Technology is changing the way genealogists conduct their research. But in the long term, is it changing for better or for worse?

I came across a quote on Goodreads today. It's a conversation from the third book in my Jefferson Tayte genealogical mystery series, The Last Queen of England, and once again it got me thinking about the way family historians of the future will go about their research.

Here it is:

    ‘So what’s your topic for tomorrow?’ Tayte asked, changing the subject. Marcus had been a key speaker at the genealogy convention for many years, and this year Tayte knew he had something controversial planned.
    ‘Technology,’ Marcus said, relaxing again. ‘Specifically the World Wide Web and how it’s changing the way we genealogists do our job—and not necessarily for the better.’
    Jean seemed surprised by his negativity. ‘Surely the Internet’s making things easier, isn’t it?’
    Tayte agreed.
    ‘In many ways, yes,’ Marcus said. ‘Access to archives has never been easier, but there are serious downsides. There’s a price to pay.’
    ‘How so?’ Tayte asked.
    ‘Well, take e-mail for example. People don’t write to each other anymore, do they? Once my generation’s gone, the written letter will be consigned to social history. Tell me, Jefferson. When did you last write a letter?’
    Tayte had to think about it. When the occasion came to him, he smiled, wide and cheesy. ‘It was to you,’ he said. ‘I wrote you on your sixtieth birthday.’
    ‘That was five years ago.’
    ‘I still wrote you.’
    Marcus looked sympathetic. ‘It was an e-mail.’
    ‘Was it?’
    Marcus nodded. ‘You see my point? Letters are key to genealogical research, and they’re becoming obsolete. Photographs are going the same way.’ He looked genuinely saddened by the thought. ‘How many connections have you made going through boxes of old letters and faded sepia photographs? How many assignments would have fallen flat without them?’
    ‘Too many,’ Tayte agreed.
    ‘I can’t see genealogists of the future fervently poring over their clients’ old e-mails, can you? Where’s the fun in that? Where’s the excitement and the scent of time that so often accompanies the discovery?’
    He had Tayte there, too. Tayte’s methods were straight out of the ‘Marcus Brown School of Family History.’ Tripping back into the past through an old letter and a few photographs represented everything he loved about his work. It wouldn’t be the same without the sensory triggers he currently took for granted.
    ‘So what’s the answer?’ Jean said.

Technology is certainly changing things. On one hand, and while we're in transition, it appears to be for the better as we genuinely have the best of both worlds. The old photographs and letters still exist, waiting to be discovered, and access to archives really has never been easier. It also seems that every week a new online resource is made available to us, which we can search from the comfort of our homes. All good stuff then...

But what about those old photographs and the letters we currently take for granted? The vast majority of those memories - those connections to the past - will someday only be available on personal hard drives in the form of digital photos snapped with our cameras, and emails locked in a folder that is all too easily deleted or otherwise destroyed in time. We take more photographs nowadays of course, and many are uploaded to the internet, potentially making research easier. But what happens to all that data when a person dies and their website or blog expires - their personal computer sold on or destroyed? Perhaps the important data will be handed down, much as we've become accustomed to handing down family photo albums and personal letters. But I do wonder.

I love technology, and ultimately I think it will continue to make genealogical research better. But this has certainly got me thinking. How will technology shape things for the genealogist of the future?

What do you think? I'd love to know. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Photographs from Italy - the Dolomites

Last week I was in Italy, in lovely Corvara, which is right at the heart of the magnificent Dolomite mountains. My companions were my best friend from my school days called Andy, and a rather heavy backpack full of camera gear as we're both keen amateur photographers - in case you didn't know that already. The decision over what to take on the trip proved a challenge for both of us as space was an issue, as was weight. That's Andy on the right, by the way. We've known each another since we started secondary school, age twelve.

It you're interested in the camera gear I took with me, please read on. If not, you can safely skip this paragraph. For those still reading on, I can highly recommend the F-Stop Tilopa rucksack. It proved tough and comfortable with a fully loaded large slope ICU (Internal Camera Unit). For this trip I loaded the bag with a Canon 5D mk3 camera body and three lenses: 14mm f2.8L, 35mm f1.4L and a 135mm f2L, the latter of which I bought specifically for the trip for some extra (relatively lightweight) reach, especially when coupled with my 1.4x or 2.0x teleconverter, giving 189mm and 270mm. The 14mm is quite a specialist lens, and this time around it saw very little use. I love it, though, and just couldn't bear to leave it behind.

What did prove useful was a Canon 500d close-up lens. It screws onto the front of other lenses like a filter, reducing the close focus distance. Coupled with my 135mm f2L, I found it a very impressive travelling option. The combo allowed me to leave my macro lens at home, saving space and weight while letting me get close enough to capture some great detail. Also in my bag was a tripod and ball head, a small flash unit, several filters, a three litre water bladder and, and...

Anyway, onto the mountains, and as with my books, it's great to be able to share my passion like this. Thank you Internet, and most of all thank you for visiting my blog to see some of the shots I came home with. Overall, I took close to 1000 photos during the week, which boiled down to 60 shots that I felt best captured the trip and the majesty of these truly wonderful mountains. It's been difficult to choose which photographs to put on my blog, and which to leave out. These are some my favourites. Click on any image to view  in greater detail. I hope you enjoy them.