Does a writer need a website?

Does a writer need a website? Absolutely. It represents you and your writing to the world. You can control what is on your website and how you reach out to your audience. It is your homebase. As Kimberley Grabas puts it, your website is “a marketing and networking hub and a portal that allows communication to flow between an author and his or her readers.” ( Kimberley has some tips to pass on.

What should the webpage be about? The writer and writings. This is where you sell yourself and your writing. It is not a place for sharing family photos.

What is the purpose of the website? To promote the writer and writings. The website promotes you, it promotes your books and it promotes your ideas.

Who is the target audience? Current and prospective readers. Readers might want to find out more about you and your books; prospective readers might check you out and then be encouraged to read your books as a result.

What should be on the website? Writer bio, book info, contact info, events etc.

Website or Facebook page? Possibly both though people seem to find out more about books by doing web searches and reading websites ( Some authors have author Facebook accounts in which they only write about their books and connect with their fans. It sounds like a really good idea.

How often should you update your website? Ideally, monthly. If people return to your website they want to see something new and some evidence that you are engaging with your readership. If you post something new on a regular basis, then you will get return traffic. I bought a template for my website which I have been busy adapting using HTML and Javascript. I have total control over my website, which I think is essential for writers.

What about a blog? A blog is a good way of communicating with a wider community on a regular basis and getting feedback on what you are writing. There is some good information on setting up a blog for writers on  this website:

How expensive is a website to run? If you can do a bit of the HTML stuff then creating a website is actually cheap. Notepad comes free with Windows and you need a little coding knowledge to use it. Professional, and easier, software is Dreamweaver. This is expensive, but you can download a free trial. Dreamweaver allows you to have design view (for non-techies) or coding view (for techies). You can create beautiful website with a little persistance. Alternatively, you can buy and template and adapt it, get someone to make the site for you (very expensive) or build a basic site using Blogger, WordPress or any of the other free alternatives. It will cost a few pounds to buy a domain name and around £30 a year for hosting, depending on the package you buy. I am currently trialling a new version of my website ( which is a template I bought on the Internet and then adapted using Notepad.

Does a writer need a Twitter account? Not unless you are really really famous and people are going to follow your every word or you have a brand new book out and you want to publicize it. Then, I would consider have a book specific Twitter account.

Indie writers need all the promotion and marketing tools they can get so a dedicated website has to be a must, in my opinion.




Day Trip to Winchester

The Cathedral city of Winchester is situated just one hour away from London and is a very pleasant place to visit. The poet John Keats stayed there and the author Jane Austin died there. Naturally, there are tourist trains and memorabilia connected with these two literary figures. In addition, the city is home to several army museums, museums of local history, a cathedral and some pretty stone medieval buildings. It is also home to King Arthur’s Round Table.

My friend and I spent an afternoon looking wandering around the streets popping into museums, shops and pubs. We found some very nice examples of wattle and daub buildings, did a little bit of the river walk, wandered along streets of traditional terraced houses, toured a couple of traditional pubs, did a little shopping and had a lovely lunch. When we left in the evening there were still mahy things we had not had time to see so we were left wanting to pay another visit.

The Round TableKing Arthur’s Round Table in the Great Hall at Winchester



Walking in the footsteps of your characters

How important is it to walk in the footsteps of your characters, especially if they are based in real time in a real place?

When plotting my novel, Hirve Park, I set many of the scene in places I had already visited and knew reasonably well. I had tramped those streets and taken photos in those place while on holiday. I also made copious use of street plans and the internet to fill in the gaps or to reassure myself that I had got details right. Then, two days ago, I revisited the scene of the opening chapter. I had got many details right but I had forgotten about the wall below Toompea Hill and the car park in the dip to one side of the park. It had also been several years since I had walked up the street to Toompea Hill and had not remembered that it came out right in front of the Parliament and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. There is also a viewing platform overlooking the park. Another detail not readily noticeable on maps and which I had forgotten. As a result of the trip, I am now going to have to change some details in the description of the crime scene since that is not a fabrication.

I have also visited three other important locations on this trip in order to see the world through the eyes of my characters. I have a scene in which my two police officers drive all the way from Tallinn to Narva in order to stand at Herman Fortress because they have had a tip off that persons of interest are heading back to Estonia. They POI would be travelling from Ivangorod in Russia, over the Narva Bridge and then into Narva. They would then take the E20 road directly to Tallinn. I watched a few Youtube videos of the area but once I stood there I could see exactly what cops would have seen. Having done the trip I can now envisage some scenes playing out along that road.

At some point, my cop heroes are going to have to take a holiday. Since they are not highly paid they are not going to get far. I imagine, that like most Estonians, they are going to holiday around the Baltics. One of the top domestic holiday spots in Haapsalu, a small seaside resort around 90 km from Tallinn. This area was populated by ethnic Swedes and Baltic Germans until they escaped by boat in 1944, leaving behind the remains of a 19th century tourist centre. It has now been redeveloped and renovated to its former glory and the tourists are back again. I can imagine Jaana and Mart going there for a weekend.

My chief detective hails from Parnu, the Estonian Summer Capital, and would have lived in a wooden house near the centre which is not dissimilar from the one I am sitting in now. I imagine him coming back here for summer holidays and hanging out in the bars in the old town. To get to those bars he would have to walk across the bridge and into Vee. Just like I did yesterday.

So, the answer to the question I posed at the beginning of this post is that “yes, you do need to walk in the footsteps of your characters in order to properly understand them and where they come from.”

What’s your writing routine?

I found this article very interesting. I have no routine whatsoever and write only when I feel like it though I do find that having Scrivener software has made the adhoc approach easier. The main thing for me is that my writing space be free of clutter.


Do you have a routine for writing? A way of doing it which has become habit and which you know will get the best out of you? I was thinking about this having read a recent article on the subject.

Many famous writers seem to have these habits. I think the reason is that, to write a novel you need to get your backside on the chair and your fingers on the keyboard – regularly and for long periods of time, just to get the work done. I know only too well that novels don’t write themselves.

Murakami_Haruki_(2009)Here’s what the brilliant Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami had to say on the subject in an interview:

“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do…

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Narva and Ivangorod

The trip to Narva from Tallinn was an interesting experience, in many ways. Firstly, the journey by coach seemed never-ending as it took around three and a half hours via the E20 and several small towns; secondly, the town itself, especially around the bus and rail stations, consisted of three storey high apartment blocks built to the Soviet minimalist and functionalist template; thirdly, the two castles are erie; and finally, the railway station is a passport control station as well as dilapidated station.

To begin with the coach journey. The whole journey started off well with lunch in a cafe and a ticket from a modern ticket office. The bus itself had a personal computer on the back of each head rest. I was able to watch the progress of the coach on an interactive map. I mean, how cool is that? I filmed a bit of the journey to help me with writing scenes for my novel. I have no idea what the Russian woman next to me thought! After three hours, the excitement had worn thin andI just wanted to stand up.

When we arrived at the car park, which appears to be a bus station as well, I found one of those multi-directional signs which could be pointing to anywhere. It didn’t really help and I was wishing I had learnt a little more Estonian. I am not a Brit for nothing, so I set off in what seemed to be a reasonable direction. I found a very interesting hydro electricity station and took a few photos of it. I have no idea if it was Estonian or Russian. All I know is,that 25 years ago I would have been arrested for even looking at it. Times have changed.

I followed a path to the left and saw an amazing sight. It was the fort at Ivangorod in Russia andHermann Fort in Estonia. Connecting the two is the bridge over the River Narva. I was transfixed. I have never been to the USSR but it looked scary enough from Estonia. I am writing this, by the way, as Kiev is trying to protect the Ukraine from the Russians. The enemy of freedom was there before me. It was a sobering moment.

I made a short video to show the folks back home and tried to have a conversation with a Russian war veteran. I met this old guy standing looking at the Russian fortress. He had a couple of medals on his chest so I tried to ask him about them. I understood he got one from the Siege of Lenningrad.
From what I remember, that was a particularly brutal battle. Whatever I think about the Russians in gereral, I have to admit he was a brave man.

The day I was in Narva it was particularly hot and there were very few citizens around. When I looked down over the edge of the cliff, there they were. Hundreds of people were sunbathing on the stretch of sand in the middle of the Estonia side of the river or swimming in the river. On the Russian side there was nobody.

There was a queue of traffic standing on Narva Bridge, waiting to cross over to Estonia. In 1940 and again in 1944 Russian tanks rolled over that bridge and crossed into Estonia. It took until 1994 for them to roll back over to the other side again. The Great Guild Hall in Tallinn is currently showing video footage of the occupation, as is the Estonia History Museum.

Having explored the area around the river and taken photos of the two fortresses it was time to think of getting back. I had an idea that there was a train to Tallinn at 16:23 which was confirmed by a wall-mounted timetable in the ruin of a railway station. There was no sign of any ticket selling activity or customer service and the doors to the platforms were firmly locked. The only activity was in a room to the side of the great entrance hall where a Russian passport control and border patrol had been set up. I managed a few photos of the border control because no-one was looking.

There were several other confused people at the station rattling doors and trying to make sense of notices written in Russian. I met a young German girl called Elisabeth who has been volunteering in Tartu since January and we had a nice chat about life in Estonia and so on. While we were talking a young Estonian businessman assured us that there was indeed a train and that it was faster and more comfortable than the bus.

He was right. The train was air conditioned, had wi-fi, was spacious and at least an hour faster. It was also cheaper. Why do Estonians run around on buses, then?

There is a crucial section in my Hirve Park novel which happens in Narva and I am glad I made the journey out there. It is a trip I would recommend to anyone who wants to know a little more about Estonian history, the Cold War and our relations with Russia.

The Road to Narva

In my novel, Hirve Park, the two detectives tracking down the murderer of the body in the park find themselves on the E20. I am tracing their footsteps in a coach which is almost hurtling along the same road.

The journey from Tallinn Bus Station to Narva is not for the fainthearted as it takes around three hours. The E20 turns out to be less motorway and more of an A road. We seem to keep approaching junctions and small villages on a regular basis.

The bus driver is keeping up a running commentary in Estonian pointing out interesting buildings and places. So far, we have been through a couple of small villages and seen a super huge energy factory. To my left we have a couple of wind turbines and the are massive. We have also gone past a village with a statue of a weeping mother in the centre which I guess has something to do with the large cemetery we passed on the outskirts. A reminder that this is the road the Soviet tanks came down twice to annex Estonia.

We have now arrived in Rannu, which is a settlement about 133km from Tallinn. It appears to have a few farms and a cafe.

Much of the scenery consists of trees and fields. The four lane section has narrowed into two lanes but I can see the coast line across the fields.

At around 65 km from Narva the scenery has gone back to trees and fields. We just passed a small roadside shop selling miniature wooden windmills. They looked cute.

I am looking forward to seeing the Hermann Fortress where my two police characters camp out for an evening waiting for the suspects to cross over the Narva bridge from Russia.