Thursday 28 March 2013

Learning about my family

When it comes to interviews, I'm an old hand. In fact, Mystery People have just invited me to write about doing live radio interviews, as I've done so many.  Still, it's a new experience to be learning something new about my daughter in an interview she's just given (and I'm not talking about the reference to lego...! ) Click on the link to find out more... Subba-Cultcha Introducing

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Calling America

Message for my US blog buddies - there's a chance I might be making a trip to Miami later this year. If anyone lives nearby it would be great to see you!

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Radio Interview

I enjoyed chatting to Danny Smith at Radio Verulam 92.6 FM. If you'd like to hear the interview, you can listen again on the Radio Verulam website. Tuesday 19th March 5.30 pm. Hope you find it interesting.

Radio interview

If you're in the area, you might like to listen to my radio interview on 92.6 FM at 5.30 today 19th March.

Thursday 14 March 2013

New Series

Here is the provisional cover design for COLD SACRIFICE, available to download in June, in print September. The wording has not been finalised - is 'murder investigation' too long? 'murder mystery' too cosy?
In the meantime, STOP DEAD (5th in Geraldine Steel series) is in print in May.

Monday 11 March 2013

Blinding with the obvious

There was a time when good manners and ways of approaching people were common practice. Now it seems everything must be assessed and accredited. In an age when family support groups are dwindling, external corroboration is taking off, whether it be via social media or ‘professional’ certification. These certificates are not given out for free. For a degree, diploma, driving test or piano exam, someone is footing the bill. But these processes answer a basic human need for validation.
Now Waterstones is setting up an academy where employees will be taught how to sell books. They will study modules with titles like: ‘Engaging your customers’ and ‘selling to customers’. This has been announced amid a fanfare of self-congratulation, as a UK “industry first”, a professional qualification in bookselling, run in partnership with the University of Derby - who are presumably not offering their support gratis. The Senior Learning and Development Manager at Waterstones said: 'We are delighted to be working with the University of Derby Corporate on developing this innovative course for booksellers.’ (University of Derby Corporate?... A bookseller managing to sell books is an innovative idea?)
As if that wasn’t enough to demonstrate the bookstore chain’s belief in the symbiotic relationship between education and books, Waterstones has reassuringly announced its commitment to the academic books market.
Oh, and on 26th April Waterstones is closing six of its twelve bookshops on university campuses, in Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry, Derby, Keele and Swansea. (No fanfare.)

Sunday 3 March 2013


Once I shared an embarrassing ‘secret’ with a group of friends. I was a tad tipsy at the time. ‘Don’t you find that always happens?’ My question was greeted by blank faces and a chorus of ‘No’s. So I’m not going to stick my neck out here in public and suggest that every published author reacts like me on seeing their first ISBN number.

I danced round the room (only my devoted husband would acknowledge my clumsy gyrations as dancing, but still….) I learned my ISBN number off by heart, wrote it in my diary, displayed it on my desk – I was as silly with it as I had been with the name of my first boyfriend, which I scribbled in the back of my school books and inside my pencil case. (In case you’re wondering, I can’t remember that particular ISBN number any more. Or the name of my first boyfriend.)

The idea for an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) was dreamed up in Britain in the mid 1960s. It rapidly caught on as an international system for identifying individual books, to avoid the confusion of books being allocated different codes by each distributor. 150 agencies now issue the codes worldwide, one per country. With so many books uploaded daily, a uniform means of identification would seem more necessary than ever. Yet paradoxically, with the phenomenal growth in digital self-publishing, there is discussion about whether ISBN numbers are necessary or relevant today. Publishers buy blocks of ISBN numbers, but for an individual writer self-publishing their own book, it is an additional cost they might not wish to incur for a title that is unlikely to enter large distribution chains.

A further threat to the uniform system was introduced when Amazon established the Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN). Other suppliers followed suit. A brief scout online revealed four separate codes on UK sites alone for one of my novels in ebook form. That’s just the ebook. Including different editions of the paperback, audio books, large print, and the rest, worldwide, I can’t imagine how many codes must exist for just one book. As the system fragments, the notion of an ISBN number does begin to seem a little outdated.

Seeing my first ISBN number was genuinely thrilling. It signalled the transformation of my words into a real book with an independent existence. With so many books published, it is likely there will be another book with the same title, maybe even written by an author sharing your name. But an ISBN number was once a unique tag, ensuring an individual book could be correctly identified anywhere in the world without risk of confusion with another title.

It is true that if we abandon ISBN numbers it will make no difference to books per se. Perhaps the system is becoming unworkable with so many outlets globally for so many more books. Maybe I’m being sentimental over the memory of my excitement at seeing my first, special, ISBN number. Yet for me as an author ISBN codes represent more than a practical function, facilitating communication along the distribution chain. I can’t help feeling that something significant will be lost if we abandon the ISBN number. It’s nothing tangible. But like cloned life forms, books will lose a touch of magic in relinquishing their unique DNA.

Ironically, the ISBN number in the title of this post is sadly not the original ISBN number of the first edition of Cut Short which is now out of print. The cheap initial edition has been replaced by a glossy B format edition.