New promotional Tees

It has finally stopped raining in Neasden, the sun is shining and there are fluffy little clouds in the sky. I have already booked my summer trip to the Baltics and my novel is well on the way to completion. It is time, I think, to think about a promotional effort for the blog, book and website.

Last year, I designed a T to promote my website using an image of Helsinki and had it printed by Vistaprint. The results were good and I have been happily wearing my promotional tees all year.

Promotional Tee

Promotional teeshirt for my website


This year I have decided to go for something a little bolder. The first design is  printed on a light grey cloth and has travel as the theme. The two images I have added promote the Czech Republic and show a collage of photos I created for a calendar and a wall painting I found in a pub on Wenceslas Square. The back of the t-shirt has the URLs of my website and blog.


Promotional T-Shirt 2014


Not a bad effort I think. I can’t wait for it to come.

Next up a promotional T for the book, blog and website combined. I might even go for some business cards as well.


London Book Fair

I have just signed up for the 43rd London Book Fair which is being held at Earls Court on 7 -11th April 2014. If you sign up before the event you get an “early bird” ticket for £30 which is a saving of £15 on the door price. Having checked through the seminars and events on offer I think it is more than well worth the £10 a day.

As a budding author and e-Publisher, I am interested in the many events aimed at writers and self-publishers. There seems to be quite a few seminars and sessions on both these areas as well as the chance to pitch a book “Dragon’s Den” style.

The website is already a mine of information and well put together. In the Author Lounge there are a couple of videos on Helping Readers to Discover your Books and finding an agent. These are very helpful. Even if you are not going to the event, it’s worth dipping in to see what is on offer.

Baltic Journeys

It is that time of year again. The wind and rain are lashing the UK and the weather is miserable. It’s time to think of summer travels. More specifically, it is time to think about medieval city centres, fortresses, historical buildings, trains, trams and seaside holiday resorts.

Shocked at the cost of Easter holidays in the UK and continental Europe, I decided to set a budget of £500 and to see what I could get for 10 days. The answer is, a lot if you are prepared to shop around and lower your standards a little.

In the summer, I am out and about for most of the day so the room I stay in is a place where I type up my notes, upload my photos and sleep. I don’t need fancy furnishings or a view of the sea. I just need clean and comfortable. Working on that basis I have chosen basic accommodation in the heart of the cities I am visiting. I used an online booking site for speed rather than booking with individual hotels, as I normally do. I have booked into the Nord Hostel Tallinn, Jannessni  at Parnu and Baltic Hostel, Riga.

I have gone for dirt cheap and basic when it comes to flying – Ryan Air. I have a very small wheeled suitcase/computer bag which fits the Ryan Air specifications, so I reckon there should be too much trauma at the airports. My hot tip for travelling light is to take things which you can wash and dry easily. Muji sells laundry soap sheets which come in small packets and weigh only a few grams. They are brilliant for travel washing. Last summer I picked up roll on sticks of sun protector which are smaller and lighter than sun creams, so they will be going in the bag. Save the space in your small carry on bag for the essentials like camera, iPad and Kindle.

The itinerary is London > Tallinn > Pärnu > Riga > London. The total cost of flights, hotels and transfers is £343.98. Additional costs are going to be a day trip to Helsinki, a trip out to Narva, a day trip to Tartu and a visit to Saaremaa.

Jumping on the Bandwagon

East London on a very cold early February morning. The tube system buggered up by TFL who decided to cut north west London off from the capital forcing residents to endure the rail replacement bus service which passes for transportation on a London weekend or bank holiday. A huge empty shell which was once a major London brewery. A queue of people starting on the first floor, going down the steep stairs and stretching round three sides of said building, spilling over into trendy Brick Lane.

Inside the kind of dog runs you find in airports and banks, funnelling people up and down towards their goal. It is cold, very cold. Acquire a paper wrist band so can go in and out. Arrive at the action. There’s an interview with Adam Price the writer of Borgen, Sidse Babett Knudsen who played the first female Danish Prime Minister before there was actually a female Danish Prime Minister and the spin doctor Pilou Asbaek. All conducted in English, which these Danes speak as well as an educated native. The microphones don’t work properly and the organisers have run out of the headphones you need to hear anything at all. There are not enough chairs and there is only one screen projecting the interview. Give up. Did I mention that it was bloody cold?

I liked Borgen 1 and 2 as the PM was portrayed as a strong determined woman with principles overcoming the odds, such as betrayal by her husband and a child having a meltdown. Gave up on series 3 after two episodes. Very glad to hear there will not be series 4 but I do like the acting style of Sidse Babett Knudsen, so I hope we see her again soon.

Fancied watching the Bun Off but there was a stand off between the organiser and a section of the audience who refused to leave their seats so the event could be set up. Went off for the much publicised Scandifood since not much was happening there. Queued for ages for food only to discover it consisted of hot dogs or meatballs with mashed potato. There were no hot drinks. The food was provided by a British company selling specialising in Scandinavian food. IKEA does it better, if you are reading guys.

Managed to get a seat at the front of Screen 2 to watch The Bridge episode 9. I haven’t seen series 2 so didn’t know who anyone was apart from the two detectives. That didn’t matter as it was interesting. Having got a seat and some headphone I stayed where I was. Next up was a session in which Carsten Bjornlund and Marie Askehave talked about the world wide success of the Killing. The moderator was a guy called Neil Midgley, whose claim to fame is having temporarily lost the famous Sara Lund jumper in Edinburgh, and Emma Kennedy whose claim to fame is that she wrote a totally pointless book on The Killing. Carsten looked bored and disinterested, Emma Kennedy was annoying and Marie Askehave was very chatty and interesting. It was still bloody cold. Several people got up and left, which was probably a good alternative to smothering Emma Kennedy was a mini Sara Lund sweater.

Emma Kennedy

Emma Kennedy and a mini Sara Lund sweater. We were meant to be impressed, I think.

Next up it was the discussion with Hakan Nesser, Arne Dahl and Barry Forshaw. This, for me, was the saving grace of the whole event. The two authors were fluent, interesting and actually discussed their books. Barry Forshaw didn’t detract from the event, making him the best interviewer of the day.

I left after this interview. TFL had no restored any trains to NW London so I had to take two buses. It took 2 hours to get home and I then had the pleasure of sitting in front of a hot fire wishing I had gone to my creative writing class instead.

PS The boss of Arrow Films has admitted it was a disaster and is refunding the ticket price of £27.50 to those complained. Well done.

Nordicana 2014

The first Scandinavian book I ever read was Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg and was captivated by its description of the physical and social landscape of Denmark. The story was a simple detective one – was there a crime, and if there was who was the perpetrator. The snow played an important part in both covering up and uncovering the crime. The cause and detection of the crime were linked to the bleak Danish landscape in winter and the resultant social issues.

I had always grown up thinking of Denmark and Sweden as the perfect European countries with lovely houses, lakes and fjords, forests, snow covered mountains, excellent education systems, social equality and fully functioning welfare states. IKEA arrived and brought with it wonderfully spare Scandinavian furnishing and design. Denmark and Sweden were paradises, was they not? They were the countries Britain should have been but had never even got close to. Then the popularity of Peter Hoeg’s 1992 novel brought us a darker side. Copenhagen was not quite the Danish paradise we had thought.

The Sweden of lakes and brightly painted houses became the Sweden of deep social problems. Crime readers had already been aware of this through the 10 crime fiction novel Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö wrote between 1965 and 1975 showing that Sweden was as crime ridden as anywhere else. In addition, the unsolved 1986 murder of Olaf Palme hinted that something was amiss in Swedish society. Then Henning Mankel, with his Wallander series, took us to the Scandinavian dark side between 1991 and 2009. Ystad is a small Swedish town which seems to have a murder rate similar that in Midsummer Murders and suffers from many social ills.

The tradition of looking as the darker sides of modern Scandinavian society is continues with writers such as Håkan Nesser, Arne Dahl, Anne Holt, Helene Tursten, Camilla Läckberg, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Liza Marklund, Jo Nesbo, KO Dahl, Asa Laarson, Stieg Larsson and Arnaldur Indridason to name but a few. These writers not only set their books in a bleak physical landscape (tower blocks, remote communities and run down parts of cities) but also in a bleak emotional landscape. They reflect the economic, social and political problems affecting northern European countries in a time of economic crisis, mass immigration, the breakdown of social cohesiveness, distrust of the political system and the personal situations of the protagonists.

Why they resonate so much with English speaking audiences is, I think, that we still revere Scandinavian style but are also dealing with many of the same social issues. In addition, we have been prepared for gritty reality crime drama by such writers as Linda la Plante and series such as Waking the Dead, Spooks and Silent Witness.

The interest in Scandifiction and Scanditelevision was evident in the 3000 people who turned up for the first day of the two-day event in London, Nordicana. At this event were many stars of Swedish/Danish television crime series such as the cast of Borgen, The Killing and The Bridge. The fans were able to hear the writers, producers and actors talk about the making of these programmes and the influence they have had around the world. The novelists Arne Dahl and Håkan Nesser were also on hand to talk about their books and distinctive style of writing.

There is an online review here:

Programmes such as Borgen have brought us a greater understanding of how the Danish political system works and shows that, even though Denmark has a small population, it has similar issues to the UK. The use of a female politician as the main character, a year before a female PM was elected for real, reflects the way women are now stepping up to take the reins of power.

The Bridge and The Killing both brought us a strong female detectives taking the lead in crime cases, some thing which is also reflected in modern Nordic-Scandinavian crime novels. There was also a grittiness in these programmes which contrasts sharply with the almost cosy approach of Vera, a series by Ann Cleeves which deals with the same post-industrial landscape as the Nordic-Scandinavian writers.

Hakan Nesser and Arne Dahl at Nordicana 2014

Hakan Nesser and Arne Dahl at Nordicana 2014

Will we see a similar style of writing transferring to British crime fiction, I wonder.