Monday, 25 July 2011

Crime Cental, the SAS, Tuscany and Hamish McHaggis!


July has been a busy month, with a trip to Charney Manor  ( my room was the window above the door to the left).  It was a wonderful week spent in the company of about 30  SAS types.

No! Not that SAS  the OTHER ones the
Scattered Authors Society!

(more likely to be armed with pens than guns, although perhaps that is no less dangerous??)

'the pen is mightier than...'  etc.

 We talked about all things writing-related ( you might be surprised at how wide a topic that can be!) having no need to concern ourselves with the worry of boring the others in the company, as might happen at home!  Some interesting discussions took place about the future of the publishing business, the rise of ebooks, Kindle and the like, and what we children's authors can do to keep our careers going, our books in print and, hopefully earn a crust in the process.

There were opportunities to explore less tangible ways to unlock the creative flow and we were also free to hideaway and have peace to write, if that was what was needed.

The food was good, wholesome and plentiful and the sweets far too delicious!

I have been to Charney once before and again I found the experience creatively energising.  The writers in the SAS (Scattered Authors Society), always a welcoming and incredibly imaginative bunch, are also a lot of fun to be around.  With such a range in ages, writing styles and expertise it was a fabulous opportunity to share ideas and to discuss all the ups and downs in a writer's life.

The SAS is not about writers getting together to moan about the things that go wrong in the publishing world, although we do a little of that too, it is about getting together and making things happen, such as the ABBA  (Awfully Big Blog Adventure) Lit Fest which started out as an idea that developed into a fabulous showcase of  talent from the SAS. 
It took a lot of enthusiasm and hard work, especially for the small but dedicated litfest team, and it turned into a great success.  Due to it being an ON LINE book festival you never need to feel you have missed out because itis all still there to enjoy here on the ABBA site  at the  ABBA online lit fest

This month I am also the editor for Crime Central blog  it is always fascinating to see the variety of posts.  There is today's post by Susan Price about her fabulous Sterkarm series showing how crime can be protrayed in fantasy.

We had Jo Cotterill talking about crime in a completely different setting, in her Sweet Hearts series  book 3  Forget Me Not revolves around much gentler but no less criminal, crime. 
 There have been interviews with the four editors finding out about  
The Opposite of Amber -Gillian Philip, 
When I was Joe- Keren David, 
Heartburn- Anne Cassidy and  
my own- Dead Boy Talking. 
We have had Adele Geras, Keith Gray and The Bookette telling us about books they have read and enjoyed and also reviewing crime novels for us. A variety of guest bloggers, Malcolm Rose, Rachel Ward, Cathy MacPhail, and a host of others join us regularly.  It is quite amazing how many writers have a criminal slant!


But some of July has been hiding away in 'Tuscany'  my writing hideaway, where I love to sit and hopefully let the images of what I am writing take me away to that 'elsewhere' populated by my characters.

I am enjoying the peace after a very hectic first half of 2011, before it gets busy again.

  But I have to say that I am looking forward to the second half of August when it will be time to hotfoot it into (hopefully sunny) Edinburgh because it will be time once again for my favourite time of year,  the Edinburgh International Book Festival.  

This year I will be there for various events. If you are around come and say hello.

On Thursday 18th August 2011 - 5.30pm 
I will be reading as part of the Amnesty International Imprisoned writers series

On Friday 19th August 2011 - 5.00pm

I will be talking about the research I did for Spider and Dead Boy Talking (Chaired by Philip Ardagh)

On 25th August 2011 - 11am  

I will be running a writing workshop (THIS EVENT IS SOLD OUT)

and finally as part of the 
Edinburgh International Book Festival Schools programme 

I will be speaking to primary school children  about  Hamish McHaggis  on 30th  August 2011

Here is Hamish at a previous festival appearance, with the fabulous staff in the Author's Yurt
(I wonder -did he need an author pass to get in ???)

Friday, 8 July 2011

Kids Lit Quiz - TV News report

Quizmaster Wayne Mills and the winning UK team from Cockermouth
 The Kids Lit Quiz is fabulous fun and the authors who attend the heats are as competitive as the kids (even though our scores don't count)
It is an annual literature competition for children aged 10 to 13. It puts readers onto the stage and lets them compete for fantastic prizes.
The quiz has heats in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada and China, winning teams qualify for national and world finals.
The International World Final and 20th Birthday Celebration Quiz  will take place in Hamilton, New Zealand on 19th  July 2011.   Two teams from the UK will compete.

The winning team from Cockermouth School (UK champions) and the team from Bristol Grammar School (English champions.)

See kidslitquiz website  for details.

Wayne Mills the Quizmaster and originator of the Kids Lit Quiz was awarded the Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's New Year Honours list 2011.

I just saw this great New Zealand TV news report all about the new national sport READING!

NZ TV news video

This report of the recent New Zealand  KLQ national final, held in the Parliament building in Wellington, shows how much the young competitors enjoy the experience.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Video blog on ABBA online lit fest this weekend ..... and forever!


One of the best things about an on line Literary Festival is that it will be there all the time so you can dip in and out at anytime you like and it will still be there to enjoy.

This weekend 9th and 10th July is the ABBA  awfullybigblogadventure 3rd birthday and in case you have missed all the people talking about it on line there is new look website and there will be a fabulous line up of children's writers - blogging, running competitions and chatting on video, too.

It is one thing to write a blog but it is quite another to agree to appear in a video, quite a scary proposition.. but I do tend to jump in before thinking too hard about things.  I thought it would be an interesting idea so I spoke to my good friend and fellow writer Cathy MacPhail who I know is usually keen to have ago at something a bit different!!!

In the very early stages of my writing career I had the chance to be a student at Totleigh Barton in Devon, one of the Arvon Foundation Writing Centres, where they run creative writing courses for writers at all stages of their writing life - from beginners to more experienced writers.  I found it a fantastic experience so I was delighted when I was asked to tutor a course on Writing for Children at an Arvon Centre, hoping I could make it just as exciting an experience for the students, as I'd had myself in the past.
Cathy with one of our students

Cathy MacPhail and I had spent a week last summer at the Moniack Mhor Arvon writing centre in the north of Scotland.  I blogged about it at the time  in a post called  The Arvon Magic   We decided that we could make a video with us discussing our week and the lovely people we had as students on the course.

Making the video was a bit scary, but once we got started we just began chatting about how we approached the week as tutors, and some of the things that happened.  In the end it all went well, in fact we almost forgot to stop! 

So this weekend our video will be on the ABBA on line  Lit Fest at 5 pm on Sunday 10th July and soon after it will be available on YouTube, too-   Now that is really scary!

The great thing is if you can't make it at the weekend you can come back another time and check out all the weekend's blogs and videos etc.  because they will still be there.

Just remember the competitions will have a closing time or date, so do check that if you want to enter any of them and win some great books and giveaways.

So come along and join in the fun  and check out the  Online Festival Programme.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Friday, 6 May 2011

Crime Central Interrogation - Gillian Philip puts Linda Strachan and DEAD BOY TALKING under the spotlight

Gillian Philip put a series of interesting questions to me about Dead Boy Talking... 

here they are...
1)What made you decide on that particular and unique narrative voice?

2)The novel has a harrowing storyline and you don't shrink from the horror of events, with some brutal description. But you chose not to show the crucial moment of Josh's stabbing and to keep it  "off screen". Was that something that seemed natural from the outset or was it a deliberate choice? 

3)Skye is an original and fascinating character. Where did she come from inside your head?
We get some very vivid pictures of what goes on inside Josh's head as his life slips away. Did you research the physical and psychological aspects of the dying process, or was this something you wrote by instinct?

4)I found Gary a hard character to like (which isn't to say I didn't find him fascinating, even in his absence!) How did you feel about him and what he'd done to Josh? 

5)And the crucial question:  Were you ever tempted to make the ending different - at any point in the writing process?

For the answers to all these questions and much more - see  Crime Central Blog


This month a giveaway competition to win  a signed copy of The Long Weekend by Savita Kalhan

and a fascinating blog about why she writes crime fiction for teens.

Find out why Peter Cocks moved form writing TV to YA

So  why not drop over to Crime Central and have a look!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Wigtown Spring weekend 30 April/1st May Events for Tinies, Teens and Writers

Wigtown Spring Weekend Events -
I'll be there this weekend so why not come along whatever age you are!
For teenagers and those interested in writing for them.........
SATURDAY 30th April 3pm-4pm County Buildings (£3)
Linda Strachan talks about her latest book DEAD BOY TALKING, and her award-winning novel SPIDER.
and on the SUNDAY 1st May for the younger ones......
11am-12noon County Buildings
HAMISH McHAGGIS stories (age 4-10, £3) 
To book tickets please contact 01988 403222.

Last chance to win signed copies of both Spider and Dead Boy Talking

ON Crime Central there is a chance to win both books during April.  Just answer one easy question The last date to enter is 30 April and winners will be notified on 1st May.

Check out the blog for the chance to hear what Keith Gray, Adele Geras, The Bookette, and others have to say about the best in crime writing.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

6# Auckland- Last stop in New Zealand School Tour

Driving through some amazing scenery on the way, we left Hawkes Bay headed back north again.

We arrived in Auckland - the last stop in our New Zealand tour - and on our way to have lunch at one of the waterside restaurants

we came across some rather unique and interesting horses.

We also had a chance to see Cunard's new Queen Elizabeth, which had just sailed into port and dwarfed everything else around.

 The following day I was to visit two schools in the Henderson area the first was the Bruce McLaren Intermediate school where Carol Brooks was waiting to meet us.
I was speaking to two groups about Spider and Dead Boy Talking.

This is the school hall, prepared for my visit. It had some very colourful artwork on the walls.

I really enjoyed the visit and there were lots of interesting questions.

 There was also a chap from 'the ministry' visiting the school that day who sat in on  one of the sessions. I didn't find out he was there until I met him afterwards but, apparently, he was impressed!


At St Dominic's College with Pam Waters
We were collected at lunch time by the lovely Pam Waters from St Dominic's College, who was taking us for a quick lunch before the afternoon visit in her school.

I had a great afternoon speaking to about 60 girls in the school library.


The following day I was to visit Elm Park School, the last in the tour.  The school is in Pakuranga Heights in Manukau and Belinda Johnston is the school e-Learning/Library Facilitator (what a great title!) who came and collected us from central Auckland.

The school has a new purpose built auditorium which was bright and airy, exactly what was needed on a hot and sunny day.

 I was actually beginning to get used to it being hot in February! 

I spoke to two groups of classes that morning with about 200 children in each. 

I read from What Colour is Love? and  Hamish McHaggis to the younger children and Greyfriars Bobby, Spider and Dead Boy Talking to the older classes.

With lots of fun and great questions, it was a wonderful way to end my tour of New Zealand Schools.

I would like to say a huge thank you to all the teachers, librarians and young people I met, who made it such a wonderful experience.

New Zealand Book Council
I would also like to  say a huge thank you to Noel Murphy, Emma Gallagher and all the team from the New Zealand Book Council, who helped to organise the the tour.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

WIN signed copies of Spider and Dead Boy Talking

Over on Crime Central all this month is the chance to  WIN
one of 3 sets of signed copies of  

Spider and Dead Boy Talking.

      Just answer one simple question.  clue: look on my website for the answer!

Competition is open internationally and closes on 1st May 2011
Check out the Crime Central website  for full details and lots of other interesting information on your favourite crime books  and authors.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

5# Napier - Hawkes Bay. Tamatea Schools and Bayiew.

Leaving Wellington we set off on the long drive up north towards Hawkes Bay.

There are wineries all around the area and we were to meet up with some friends at the Craggy Range winery for lunch.

Sitting outside in the beautiful countryside with stunning views of the 'craggy' mountains and delicious food and good company it was a great way to spend the afternoon.

The area has many wineries and the weekend we were there the Mission winery was holding the annual concert which is a huge event, sold out well in advance and is known for hosting top stars such as Rod Stewart.  This year it was Sting who was playing to the sell out crowd.  This caused a slight problem for us because we had not known about it beforehand and had hoped to stay in the area for a couple of days but after the first night, and my schools visits the following day there was no chance of finding any accommodation in the area.

But due to some incredibly generous people, we were offered a beautiful house to stay in, by a lovely couple we had met at the wedding, a week previously, family friends of the bride's parents.

 Their house was situated in Bayview, just around the bay from Napier and was amazing, with the added delight of  exquisite views.

Now that the accommodation was sorted there was a chance to have a look around the art deco city of Napier.... 
  In 1931 a devastating earthquake demolished much of the city but it was rebuilt in art deco style.

Every February they hold a weekend art deco festival.

On the Friday I was to visit two schools in Napier.  In the morning it was Tamatea High School, where I was taking a couple of classes, to do some creative writing.

I had a lovely morning there and there were some really interesting writers with great ideas!

In the afternoon when we arrived at Tamatea Primary School  we were met by a piper in full highland dress who started to play and walked ahead of me, leading me in a procession to where the children were all sitting beside a veranda, waiting for me.

I felt like royalty as I sat on the bench seat and listened to their kapa haka group who sang a Maori welcome -  a powhiri.  It was lovely. 

The head teacher welcomed me and told me they were having a Scottish week in honour of my coming to the school. One teacher, originally from Scotland was even wearing a white dress and tartan sash and the Head Teacher had a tartan cap on, too.

After the welcome I went to speak to two classes Yr 5/6 and told them all about Hamish McHaggis and friends.  It was a delightful afternoon.

All too soon we were heading off again, this time back to Auckland for the last three schools.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Crime Central Giveaway

This month (April) on 
Crime Central blog 
there is a chance to win one of three sets of signed copies
of BOTH my teenage novels 

The competition is open internationally and runs until 1st May with just one simple question to answer.

Visit A blog to celebrate crime fiction for teen readers, and read interesting blogs by a variety of writers who write about crime, read reviews and find out how crime writers minds work and have your say, too.


A blog to celebrate crime fiction for teen readers, run by authors Anne Cassidy, Keren David, Linda Strachan and Gillian Philip. Find out about new books, leave your comments and reviews, read interviews with authors.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

4# Wellington: Visitng schools - and sightseeing

The fourth school I visited was St Marks Church School, in Wellington.

The sun was shining as we drove around the waterside towards the school.    I met Tracy Nel the school librarian in the information centre, where we were joined by P1-3 classes and their teachers.

I read from What Colour is Love? and Hamish McHaggis.  The children helped me create some great characters and had fun learning some Scots words, too.

Read their report on my visit in their Re-marks newsletter (term 1 week 2-2011)

 Before leaving Wellington we spent a bit of time sightseeing......

A floating ball high above us


and finally we made our way to the wonderful Te Papa museum . we could have there stayed twice as long, there was so much to see,  and some fabulous interactive exhibits.

But sadly we had a fairly strict itinerary to keep to, so we were soon leaving Wellington on our way north to the lovely Hawkes Bay area and the Art Deco city of Napier.