As climate change starts to move up a gear, so we begin to experience greater extremes of weather. Even in the normally temperate UK, last month’s heatwave has given way to torrential rain, high winds, and flooding. (Yeah, welcome to August.)
I’ve been interested in extreme weather for many years. In fact, one of the things I’ve always wanted to do is go tornado chasing. Just as long as I didn’t have to get too close.
But, with this in mind, I wondered what were the most extreme instances of extreme weather that had ever been recorded. And if you’ve wondered about that, too, read on…
When it comes to the worst recorded rain, it rather depends on how you choose to measure it. The most rain in one minute, for instance, was 31.2mm/1.23in in July 1956 in Unionville, Maryland. Holt, Missouri had the most in an hour—305mm/12in in June 1947.
When it comes to really being hit by rain, however, you need to go to the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean during cyclone season. During Tropical Cyclone Denise in January 1966, Cilaos on Réunion recorded 1825mm/71.9in of rain in 24 hours. In January 1980, Cyclone Hyacinthe brought Commerson the most rain in a single tropical storm—a whopping 6433mm/253.3in. And Cyclone Gamede hit the same place again in 2007, this time dumping a record 4869mm/191.7mm of rain in four days.
Just in case you were wondering, the least rainy place on record is Quillagua in Chile, which receives less than 0.2mm/0.0079in per year.
The most snow within a twenty-four-hour period was in Capracotta, Italy in March 2015, when 2.56m/100.8in fell. The most in a calendar month was 9.91m/390in in Tamarack, California in January 1911.
The widest area ever covered by a single snowfall was when between 1-76mm/0-30in fell across nine countries in South Africa in August 2012. The deepest snowfall recorded was on Mt Ibuki in Japan in February 1927 when 11.82m/38.8ft was recorded.
Read the rest of this blog over on MurderIsEverywhere.
There will always be some authors whose work you absolutely adore. As soon as you hear their latest book is available for pre-order, you can’t wait to stake your claim on a copy. You get hold of your book on publication day and lock yourself away to devour it almost non-stop. Woe betides anyone who dares to interrupt you for anything short of the house being on fire.
I know—I’ve been there. With my favourite authors, I love their voice so much I’d read their shopping lists if I could get hold of them without coming across as a creepy stalker type.
And even then it might be worth it…
But when it comes to authors I’ve never read before, I’m always happy to take recommendations. Personal—from people I know and whose reading tastes mirror my own—is always best. But this is no longer always the case.
A survey carried out last year by BrightLocal showed that a staggering 91% of 18-34-year-old consumers now trust online reviews as much as personal word-of-mouth. Not only that but:
- Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust the product.
- 86% of consumers read reviews before making a buying decision. (And if you go back to that 18-34-year-old age bracket, the figure rises to 95%.)
- 57% of consumers will use a business only if it has 4 or more stars.
- 40% of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past two weeks.
So, if you’ve enjoyed a book and feel other people would, too, why not leave a review to help them not only find it, but have the confidence to give it a try? Your opinion matters, and carries just as much weight with potential readers as a conventional magazine or newspaper review.
Of course, whatever review you leave, it’s got to be an honest one. If you’re reading a series and didn’t enjoy the latest instalment as much as an earlier one, then say so. In fact, having a range of reviews (providing they’re predominantly positive, of course!) sometimes has more clout than only having five-star ones.
Reviews don’t need to be long or involved. They don’t need to examine the structure in great detail, deconstruct the narrative arc, or explore the underlying themes. (Some people enjoy going into this kind of depth, and it’s always fascinating for the author.)
A few sentences saying what you liked about the story and the characters works just fine. All reviews, short and long, help other lovers of books to decide what to read. After all, people read far faster than authors can possibly write, so there is always a desperate need for more fuel to feed the flames.
And reviews really help authors. Not only do they provide encouragement for those days when the words just will not come, but they also nudge sales along and help authors to be able to keep writing the books that you love.
So, would you be prepared to review books you’ve enjoyed on Amazon and goodreads? (Or, if you read on an ePub reader, on Barnes & Noble’s Nook site, or Apple Books, or Kobo?) Or maybe even a few lines on one of the crime-reading groups on Facebook?
If you’re already a regular reviewer, you’ll know exactly what to do, but everyone has to start somewhere, right?
How do I Review?
The first piece of advice I’d offer is always to write your review elsewhere and then copy and paste it into the review box on the appropriate site mentioned below. I know with reviews, or comments on blogs or other online forms, that it’s Sod’s Law, the longer the piece you’ve just written, the greater the likelihood you’ll press the Post button and your hard work will be eaten by the cyber gods, never to be seen again!
So, how to review:
On Amazon, go to the page of the book you want to review, scroll down the page and, on the left-hand side, you’ll find the star symbols and the [Write a customer review] button.
Click or tap the button, which will prompt you to sign in to your Amazon account, if you haven’t already done so. You’ll then get this screen to complete and fill in as you wish.
Goodreads helpfully provide full instructions:
On the book page on Apple Books, alongside the [Details] button is one for [Ratings and Reviews], as shown here for the first of my Lakeland trilogy, DANCING ON THE GRAVE:
Choose the [Ratings and Reviews] option, which gets you to this screen, allowing you to give a star rating. You can just rate a book one to five stars (one being low and five being high) and not leave a review. But, if you do, you’ll be asked to sign in to your account before you can go any further.
Scrolling down the book page on Kobo you’ll get to this section which invites you to share your thoughts and [Write your review].
And Barnes & Noble’s Nook book pages have a very similar option to be found by scrolling down the page to the [Write a review] button.
What kind of things do I say?
If you’ve read lots of book reviews, then you already have a good idea of what’s required. And, if you haven’t, just treat it like writing to a friend to tell him or her about the book you’ve just finished and why you think they ought to read it, too.
The only thing you don’t need to do is explain the premise of the story, as the book description on the page does that. And, please, don’t give away spoilers in the plot. Imagine reading a review of the movie The Sixth Sense, or The Usual Suspects, and it told you the big twist at the end before you’d had a chance to watch it for yourself.
It’s always a good idea to plan and write out your review in advance, so you can copy and paste it into the site. This saves the frustrating experience of having all your careful words disappear in a computer glitch.
- Decide the star rating for the book of 1 to maximum 5. This is not an index of quality, simply an indication of how much you personally liked the book.
- Think about a short title for your review that sums up what you think of the book.
Then choose a few of the following—or all of them if you want—and write in your own words:
- whether you liked the book
- what you liked most (or least)
- how you felt about the characters
- if you felt you could relate to them—did they seem like real people?
- if you felt the story kept you turning the pages
- if you recommend the book—and, if so, why?
Above all, your review should be honest, from the heart, and help other readers to discover new authors and new stories. And that, in turn, sells more books. So, everybody wins!
It’s perfectly acceptable for you to receive a free ARC so that you can produce your review. In fact, Amazon now requires you to mention this. So, if this has been the case, then at the end of your review, you should simply say: I received a free Advance Reader Copy of this book for review.
That’s it. Hope this has helped you with the What, Why, How and Where of reviewing. That just leaves…
Reviews on goodreads can be added anytime as you work your way through your To Be Read pile. They can be added for books that are not yet published or ones that are on pre-order. Reviews on the retailer sites, like Amazon and Apple, need to go up as soon after publication as possible, to give a book that initial boost.
If you like an author’s work, they would really appreciate you saying a few words about their books. But other readers will appreciate it even more.
This week’s Word of the Week is esprit d’escalier, which can be literally translated as ‘the wit of the staircase’ and means the predicament of thinking of the perfect response too late to use it. It apparently comes from a time when the smartest of Parisian gatherings happened in mansions that had their reception rooms one floor above the ground. Thus to think of a witty retort while on the stairs meant you had already left the party and the moment to use it was past.
Virginia Woolf famously said that what a woman writer needed to work was “a room of one’s own” and “£500 a year”. Of course, when she said that in 1928, women were not welcome in many of the institutions that were open to male writers, and £500 / $650 a year was a pretty hefty income. (It works out at around £30,000 / $37,500 in today’s money.)
Sadly, ninety years later many writers don’t earn much more than £500 a year. And that’s at the non-adjusted rate. Only a small fraction—a mere 5%—make in excess of £30k and even then they perhaps not do so with any great regularity.
Last month, the Royal Society of Literature published its own findings from a 2018 survey funded by the Author Licensing and Collecting Society into UK authors’ earnings. The report, called A Room of My Own, makes fascinating if sobering reading.
The RSL points out that although more than 184,000 books are published in the UK each year, and that sales of books and journals rose to £5.7 billion / $7.1 billion—not to mention all the other media which books give rise to—the majority of authors earn less than £10,000 / $12,400 a year. Considering the hours involved, that’s not even minimum wage.
But, for many of us, this is not simply a job. It’s an urge, an obsession, a compunction, and a catharsis. We write because not writing would be infinitely worse.
Anything else is a bonus.
Read the rest of this blog on MurderIsEverywhere.
I’m all for a challenge and I genuinely enjoy acquiring new skills. It’s probably for this reason that I am au fait with the basics of building a dry stone wall, what to do on a Formula 2 sidecar outfit, how to use an electric arc welder, or the etiquette of engaging in a sword fight. You never know when such knowledge will come in handy.
I confess, though, it wasn’t entirely with research in mind that I ventured out onto the waters of the River Derwent this week to try my hand at rowing. This past winter, I’ve been plagued by increasingly painful back problems and have been advised by my physio that I need to do some physical exercise beyond giving my brain a workout behind a computer keyboard, or undertaking general DIY.
Neither of which count, apparently.
To read the rest of this blog and find out how I got on, click over to MurderIsEverywhere.
First off—confession time. I’m not a football fan. In fact, I can think of many things I’d rather do than sit and watch football. And the list of things I’d rather do than be compelled to actually play the game probably includes cleaning the oven. Or the drains.
The closest I ever got was playing rugby in a friend’s back garden when I was about seven. A particularly enthusiastic tackle brought the side of my head into close contact with a concrete clothes post, resulting in the yellow top I was wearing turning a glossy shade of red down half the front and most of one sleeve.
It did not inspire me to take up the game.
But, on the plus side, it gave me an early insight into how much minor head wounds bleed, which has since proved very useful research.
I can appreciate any kind of physical skill, however, and the fact that the England Lioness team have done so well in recent years has not been lost on me. Finding a picture of the current squad was no easy task, it has to be said. I did a quick search to see if I had as much difficulty finding a pic of the current men’s team. A pageful popped up right away.
The annual Gypsy and Traveller Horse Fair, which takes place at Appleby-in-Westmorland in early June is reputed to be the largest of its kind in Europe.
Around 10,000 Gypsies and Travellers attend from all over the UK—including Irish Travellers, British Romanichal, Welsh Romanies (Kale), and Scottish Gypsies and Travellers. The New Fair, as it’s also known, attracts more than 30,000 visitors.
Although at one point I spent several years living in Appleby, I never actually went. The crowds and the inevitable traffic jams getting in and out of the town were the main reason. As is always the way, it wasn’t until this year, long after I’d moved, that I decided I should go.
Read the rest of this blog over on MurderIsEverywhere.
A new six-part crime drama series started this week in the UK on ITV. Set in Morecambe and called The Bay, it stars Morven Christie as a Detective Sergeant, Lisa, who is assigned as Family Liaison Officer when fifteen-year-old twins go missing in the seaside town. Her job is to support the family and be on the inside for the police investigators.
As soon as the distraught father, Sean (played by Jonas Armstrong) arrives home, however, she discovers that he’s the bloke with whom she had a quickie while on a girls’ pub crawl the night before. Much complication ensues.
Morven Christie’s recent TV credits include Grantchester, Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence, and The A Word. Jonas Armstrong’s recent outings include Ripper Street, Troy: Fall of a City, and Line of Duty. The work of playwright and screenwriter, Daragh Carville, The Bay has been mooted as ‘Broadchurch in Morecambe’—which I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t yet got around to watching.
I confess, though, that I do quite like TV dramas where one story is told over a number of instalments. You do seem to get more depth to the characters and, ultimately, more sympathy for the victim—and in some cases for the perpetrator as well.
Of course, I’m equally a fan of TV series made up of standalone stories—more like the way a book series is structured. At least if you miss one, you can still follow what’s happening in the next episode. Although, now we’re in the age of catch-up and box set TV, that’s not as much of a consideration anymore.
To read the rest of this blog, visit Murder Is Everywhere.
On Friday evening I went to see The Magic Showcase, a group of four magicians who perform in sequence over the course of an evening. Actually, I’ve just looked up the collective term for a group of magicians and it turns out it’s an Illusion, appropriately enough.
The show was organised by one of the illusionists performing, Tom Wright, and also included Dave Burns, Arron Jones, and John Morton. The event was held to raise money for Hulland Community Pre-School. If the packed house and crowded bar was anything to go by, they should have achieved their aim.
It’s a long time since I’ve watched any sleight of hand, and then it was by fellow mystery author James Swain, who is noted to be one of the best card-handlers out there.
This show was great fun, and the four performers were not above taking the rip out of the audience in the name of an easy laugh. I was surprised to be picked out, as for some reason in the past I’ve always managed to put out a ‘don’t pick on me’ vibe. I must be mellowing in my old age. Still, when Arron Jones asked me what I did for a living and I answered, “I’m a crime writer,” he paused a moment and then said, “I can’t think of anything funny to say about that…”
Going to watch The Magic Showcase was as much for research purposes as for anything else. An idea has been germinating in the back of my mind for a while with legerdemain, deception, and misdirection as main parts of the story. I wanted to see it for myself, live and up close. Some bits I could spot, but others remained thoroughly intriguing bits of mystery.
One piece from the show highlighted a feeling I had for this story—whatever it eventually turns into. John Morton put two envelopes, A and B, onto stands on the stage. He picked out an audience member and told them that one envelope contained a £50 note, and the other a lottery ticket. The guy chose A. Morton then put an X sticker on the A envelope and a smiley emoticon sticker on the B envelope, all the while asking if the man was sure, and didn’t want to change his mind. Periodically during his set, he would ask again if the man was certain of his decision, hinting that he’d got the wrong one. When it came to making his final choice, the man changed his mind and opted for envelope B. Sure enough, that contained the lottery ticket and the A envelope contained the cash. I’m sure, had the man gone for that one at the beginning, Morton’s patter would have been subtly different. And I’m sure it would still have ended up with the magician keeping hold of his money. Psychological mind games are a fascinating part of the act.
To a certain extent, when we write, crime and mystery authors try to accomplish the same sleight of hand with words—or should that be legerdemot? We throw a clue into the mix but try to distract the reader from what it is with a flourish of description or action at the same time. The more accomplished the wordsmith, the less likely the move is to be noticed. It all has to be smooth and seamless and entertaining.
Just like magic.
This week’s Word of the Week is prestidigitation, which means conjuring tricks performed as entertainment. The word comes from the French preste (from the Italian presto) meaning nimble or quick, and the Latin for finger, digitus.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received about writing fiction was to read the words aloud. Reading your own work really helps you to pinpoint those clunky bits of narrative or dialogue, or those descriptive scenes that go on for just a bit too long.
Better yet, I’ve found, is to get somebody else to read your work back to you. After all, you as the author know how the rhythm of the story should run and where the emphasis should go for maximum dramatic effect.
But, if those clues are not present in the way the words are presented on the page, then your reader is never going to be able to reproduce that same rhythm in their head. I’ve always believed that more than the subject matter, the characters or the plot, it’s the individual voice of the writer that turns casual readers into continuing fans.
When you pick up a book by an author unknown to you, before you’ve finished the first paragraph—often even the opening sentence—you just know if you like the sound of that writer’s voice. I had this with the first Robert B Parker novel I picked up, the first Ken Bruen and the first Lee Child. More recently, I happened across the Wyatt Storme series by WL Ripley. They all have such a distinctive style that flicks a switch inside my head. Something in the back of my mind goes, “Yes!” and I have to read on.
If you would like to read on, go to MurderIsEverywhere.
There’s no doubt about it, spending most of your day hunched over a computer keyboard does not do your neck/back/shoulders any good. I’m making regular trips to my physio at the moment in order to be able to keep working while still actually being able to sleep at night. In this job, it counts as Repairs & Maintenance.
He examined my upper spine and said it looked like I’d been, “dropped repeatedly on my head.”
Yeah, thanks for that.
But, all this has got me wondering about a better way to work. If you read my blog of a few weeks ago, you’ll know I’ve been experimenting with dictation software. Sadly, there are times when there’s no substitute for sitting down with hands on keys.
Yes, I do have a proper ergonomic typing chair at my desk. If I’m away I have a mesh backrest which I can attach to a normal chair to give more lumbar support. But, I’ve also been looking at standing desks (a treadmill desk being a Step Too Far, methinks) and kneeling chairs. I’d love to hear from anyone who has experience of these, so please drop me an email if you use either and find them brilliant/terrible.
I’ve even looked at kneeling chairs which have an added backrest. The reviews are very polarised, however, which makes me a bit reluctant to try one without a personal recommendation.
Besides, where would the cat sit? Ah, across my hands as usual…
This week’s Word of the Week is egotist, which comes from the Latin ego for ‘I’. It means an inflated sense of your own importance, feeling intellectually or physically superior to others. This is versus egoist, which does not necessarily mean to feel superior to others, but certainly to have an unpleasant preoccupation with yourself. Whereas to be a narcissist is to have a recognised psychological disorder where a person shows excessive self-admiration. The name comes from Greek mythology where Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water.