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Thursday, 19 October 2017

Introducing Daydreaming Designs

book, tote-bag, daydreaming-designs
Image: Daydreaming Designs
As a massive bookworm, I'm also a big lover of pretty much anything book-related. From bookmarks and bags to decorations and artwork, bookish swag adorns my home, making it a real haven of peace, relaxation, and, of course, plenty of books!

So when I heard about an exciting new start-up venture featuring book-themed swag, my interest was definitely piqued - I just had to take a look!

Daydreaming Designs is a brand new business just starting out and currently in the early days of production. I've worked with the owner, Faye, on a number of blog tours and other bookish TWG content, and as always, it's nice to support the people who have previously supported you.

Having said that, I'm honest about the content I post here on The Writing Greyhound and would never agree to host a review or feature a product which I wasn't genuinely interested in or passionate about. For that reason, I'm pleased to say that I absolutely love Daydreaming Designs' first product - a gorgeous printed tote bag.

book, tote-bag, daydreaming-designs
Image: Daydreaming Designs
Let's talk about the slogan. If you're as big a bookworm as me, then you're pretty much guaranteed to have experienced the same thing. I've lost track of the number of times I've said that exact phrase, whether it's in a bookshop, looking at adverts, reading other fabulous book blogs or simply just in conversation with friends or family.

But while I'm sure we can all agree that the bag is great, it's time to talk specifics.

As Daydreaming Designs is still in the very early stages of getting off the ground, generating interest and spreading the word, there is a minimum order target of 50 bags necessary before any are printed. Put simply, if the target isn't met, then no bags will be printed, full stop.

While this may seem a little harsh, it's worth remembering that the costs associated with design, production and shipping aren't cheap. If only a few were sold, for example, it really wouldn't be worth going to all the effort and expense. For that reason, if you want one, you'd better make sure to place your order and let all your bookish friends know - before it's too late!

The last date for orders of the 'Have it, haven't read it yet' tote bag is 29th October 2017. After this date, if the minimum target has been met, all orders will be processed and a new product and design will be released. If the target isn't met, all existing orders will be fully refunded and no products will be created. 

What do you think? Will you be buying one of the bags? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Interview: A.H. Richardson

books, cover, ah-richardson
Image: A.H. Richardson
Fans of Agatha Christie and English countryside settings rejoice, because today I am pleased to welcome author A.H. Richardson to The Writing Greyhound for a chat about everything bookish.

Welcome to the blog! Let's start with a little information about you and your background.
Hullo, Lorna, and thank you so much for your interest. I was born in London (the big London, not the Kentuckian one!) and am daughter to the well-known British composer Clive Richardson, a prolific composer and concert pianist, so I grew up surrounded by 'artists' of all kinds, especially of the musical variety. My childhood was peppered with interesting people like David Lean, Alfred Hitchcock, and lots of actors. I studied drama at LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art,) and was at school with Vicki Eggar, who changed her name to Samantha Eggar, so life was interesting for me growing up. I travelled everywhere in Europe, and am fluent in four languages.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I have always loved writing, even as a youngster, and won prizes for essays and compositions, but never actually wrote a book until my late sixties! (See ... it's never too late!)
Tell me about Murder in Little Shendon.
Murder in Little Shendon is my first mystery, and writing this was great fun. I read my first Agatha Christie when I was nine, and got hooked on all her stories. Although born and raised in England, and in London specifically, I have always loved country life and little villages, they always seemed to house fascinating characters of all types and backgrounds. The idea of a peaceful little village like a Hallmark Card, filled with reprehensible evildoers appeals to me enormously. I can't tell you too much about Murder in Little Shendon, I may give things away ... that would never do; but I do believe that it will keep you guessing.
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Image: A.H. Richardson
How do you get inspiration?
My inspiration comes from my characters, they just dance into my head and demand to be put into a book, so I try to accommodate them.
Do you find it difficult to write crime fiction?
Is crime writing difficult? It can be tricky, because you must tie up all the loose ends while (cunningly) covering all the bases, and trying to keep the reader engrossed and on the wrong track, that's the hard bit.
What draws you to writing murder mysteries?
Writing murder mysteries is quite exciting, and I think that it is the challenge that I enjoy. It is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle and making the pieces fit somehow!
What do you love most about writing?
I think I love it because it is a pure art form, like painting or sculpting. You get an idea and create something from nothing ... such fun.
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Image: A.H. Richardson
Which authors inspire you?
I loved all the Dickens' books, and the Bronte sisters - the English was beautiful, the stories powerful and they have lasted through the years.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
To aspiring writers, I would say, 'Just Do It!' Pick your subject, write about it, and don't abandon it - it may be that 'best seller' - you never can tell.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
My all-time favourite book is probably Jane Eyre - I loved it then, and I still do now.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I love to paint and sculpt (playing in the mud!) and also have fun with my three dogs; two older pugs, and one three-month-old highly rambunctious English Bulldog!
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on Murder on Baringo Island with my two famous sleuths, Sir Victor and Berry Brandon. It is proving challenging!
To find out more about A.H. Richardson and her work, you can visit her website. Murder in Little Shendon is available to buy now.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

One Week in Wales: Day Seven

pen-y-fan, mountain, wales
Image: Lorna Holland
Missed the last instalment? Catch up here

The morning of our last full day dawned crisp and clear, weak sunlight filtering down over Brecon and casting a hazy glow over the distant mountain tops surrounding the town. Despite still feeling a little tired from yesterday's excursions, we vowed to make the most of the day and round off our holiday in style before the long drive home the following day. To that end, as we enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast supplied by the lovely Gail, we finalised the plans we had already outlined the night before.

After all, a delicious meal of a full Welsh breakfast (for him) and a toasted muffin with smoked salmon (for me) was the perfect fuel for climbing a mountain.

Yes, you read that right. To make up for the lack of proper walking we'd been able to do throughout the trip thanks to my illness, we decided to give it one last hurrah and really go for broke. Although Brecon is surrounded by many hills and mountains (the Beacons really are spectacular) there is one in particular which dominates the skyline and always draws the eye. Pen y Fan - the highest mountain in South Wales. It's imposing, it's challenging, and we were about to tackle it on a quest to reach the summit at 886 metres above sea level.

Despite constant reassurances that we didn't have to do it if I wasn't feeling up to it, I was determined not to let the glandular fever beat me. Both of us share the common trait of extreme stubbornness, but luckily, this can also play to your favour as it prevents you from giving in, providing that extra source of motivation to keep you going to the very end.

Being somewhat notorious for my terrible sense of direction, I left him in charge of the route and instead, focused on mentally preparing myself for the challenge to come. Admittedly, these preparations could have been much better, as I remembered to lug my camera the whole way up the mountain but didn't think to bring even one bottle of water between us. For someone under doctor's orders to stay hydrated, that really wasn't my smartest move.

Regardless, it was too late to turn back now. The heights of Pen y Fan awaited us.

Despite thinking we had selected the easiest route up the mountain, it turns out somewhere we had gone wrong and actually ended up on a much more challenging trail. After an initial steep climb, the path then alternated between misleadingly flat lulls and ridiculously steep inclines, with little in-between.

The whole way up and down is meant to only take a few hours, but at my pace, peppered with continual rest stops, it took us a lot longer. Still, this wasn't a problem, as we took things in our stride and had plenty of opportunities to check out the stunning scenery as we got increasingly higher up the mountainside. We also had the added bonus, if you could call it that, of a helicopter constantly flying to and fro above our heads, tasked with the mission of bringing sacks of materials to help rebuild another footpath.

However, while the scenery was undoubtedly stunning, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that it was easy. Dealing with glandular fever isn't exactly a walk in the park at the best of times, so deciding to climb a mountain while still suffering probably wasn't the smartest idea I've ever had. Still, I'm stubborn, I was determined, and no matter how long it took, I was going to reach the summit.

And that's just what I did.

pen-y-fan, mountain, summit, wales, couple
Image: Lorna Holland
The journey up was probably one of the most difficult things I've done. I had neared my limits, both mentally and physically, but I just kept going - I refused to allow myself to give up. The climb made the both of us tackle our demons and face our fears, yet the fact that we helped one another and pushed ourselves to make it together is something that really stood out to me then and still does now as I look back. And let me tell you something - standing on the summit of Pen y Fan, looking down on Brecon like a tiny chocolate box town below, was the best feeling in the world. With my man by my side, it truly felt as though we were on top of the world; we had conquered our challenge.

By the time we had finally made it back to the car and gulped down plenty of water, time was ticking on. I was in no fit state to do anything and he wasn't faring much better, so we headed off in search of Crickhowell and our final night's destination.

A post shared by Lorna Holland (@themaxdog) on

After stopping off for a well-deserved meal at Prezzo in nearby Abergavenny, we checked into our hotel for the night, the luxurious Manor Hotel. The hotel is situated on the hillside and gives stunning views across the valley (even though our window looked out on a flat roof, a whitewashed wall and a kitchen vent) and was by far the most upmarket stay of our trip. Of course, when we discovered the room came with complimentary use of the on-site swimming pool and spa facilities, we were definitely glad we saved this till last!

Deciding this would be just the way to ease our aching muscles, we instantly headed down to check out the facilities. The pool and spa were virtually empty, meaning we had the complex pretty much to ourselves, so we busied ourselves making full use of the pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. By the time we left, we felt refreshed and invigorated - the perfect antidote to a long day of mountain hiking!

Dinner that evening was enjoyed at a local pub in the village. It was nothing particularly fancy, but we enjoyed the food and made the most of each other's company nonetheless, reflecting on our week and looking back on the experiences we had shared.

love, couple, relationship, happy, holiday
Image: Lorna Holland
After all, taking the leap to go on holiday with someone for the first time can be quite a nerve-wracking experience, especially given our on-the-go travel itinerary and my current health issues. But despite that, we both agreed the trip was a resounding success - we made countless memories and shared some amazing times together. This week will be one which I will remember for the rest of my life - I'm just glad to have shared it with you.

Have you enjoyed reading One Week in Wales? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 16 October 2017

Everything You Need to Know About Writing a Book

book
Image: Jennifer Scott
Is it true that everyone has a book inside them, waiting to be written? Perhaps not, but you may well think you have a great idea for a story, how-to guide, or memoir, just begging to be put down on paper. However, writing a book isn't as easy as it looks. Here's everything you need to know about writing a book yourself.

Why Do You Want to Write?

The reason for writing a book will be different for everyone. You need to decide what your reasoning is, as it will inform how you approach writing. For example, you may want to write because you feel there's a gap in the market for your book. Maybe you've been asked to write, or you just feel the need to get your idea down on paper. Whatever the cause, know your reasoning before you start working.

How is Your Idea Unique?

There are a lot of books being published every day, and many will cover the same topics you mention. You need to discover just what it is that makes your book unique. Does it look at a subject from a different angle, or give a new perspective on an old formula? Whatever it is, have that idea firmly in your mind as you write. That edge could be just what you need to get published.

Are You Approaching Writing Professionally?

Many would-be writers give up as they see writing is just too difficult. If you approach the process properly, though, it's easy to get that manuscript written. Treat writing your book as a professional process. This will be harder if you have a day job, as you'll be working normal hours on top of writing your book. However, even if you can only dedicate half an hour a day to your book, do it. Set time aside every day to write, and don't deviate from this routine. Little by little, that book will get written.

Have You Set Goals?

It's a long, hard process if you don't give yourself goals. The best way to keep yourself motivated is to set weekly goals for yourself. Having a set word count to reach is often the best way of doing this. If you can see your progress, it's easier to stay on target and get that book written.

Do You Have a Dedicated Writing Space?

As with any task, the environment is important. Think about where you can write every day. For some people, it is easier to focus in a quiet and distraction-free office. Others prefer to work in a coffee shop with access to hot drinks on tap. Figure out what works best for you, and go for it.

Don’t Give Up!

Sometimes, things won't go to plan. The book may not feel like it's working, or you'll be turned down by publishers. Writing is a tough business, but the rewards are worth it. Take your time and have back up plans in case things don't go your way.

If you have a book in you, it's time to write it. Now that you have the information you need, you can write the book you've always wanted to write.

Jennifer Scott is a business developer who works in different areas of education, technology, security and various types of online marketing. Prior to business developing, Jennifer was a consultant and managed a security services provider and developer.

Have we missed anything off the list? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Interview: Ted Galdi

On the lookout for the perfect thriller to sink your teeth into this weekend? Author Ted Galdi is here to talk all about his writing, his inspiration, and his latest novel An American Cage.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I’m an East Coaster who moved out to Los Angeles a few years ago. Growing up, I always had some sort of writing side project going on, often very casual. After college, I worked in the software industry and ventured into novel writing in 2013 when I decided to sit down and do Elixir, my debut.
How did you first become interested in writing?
There was no “moment.” I guess I was born with a love of storytelling, the same as a musician is drawn to music at an early age. I love any sort of good story, from epic novels to funny stories my friends tell me about their weekends.
an-american-cage, ted-galdi, book
Image: Ted Galdi
Tell me about An American Cage.
This was a fun one for me to write. It’s a fast-paced thriller like Elixir but aimed at more of an adult audience, so there was an opportunity to play around with a more complex theme. On a related note, I wrote Elixir in a very “sparse” writing style, while An American Cage is more layered in terms of language.

It’s a story about a suburban kid who winds up in maximum-security prison due to back luck. He and his two friends from jail escape. The book follows them over a twenty-four-hour period as they struggle to cross Texas to freedom in Mexico.
How do you get inspiration?
I enjoy a wide variety of entertainment. From books to music to movies to art. These are the things that inspire me most. A lot of Elixir was inspired by songs by The Cure, my favourite band, while the ideas behind An American Cage were sparked by a bunch of articles I read on the philosophy of consciousness.
What draws you to writing thrillers?
I feel stories should be both entertaining and thought-provoking. Thrillers provide the raw material for entertainment. High stakes, high danger, extreme situations. However, thrillers that offer nothing more than this are very forgettable. Reading them is like riding a roller coaster. They can be fun for the short period you’re on them, but once the ride is over, they’re out of your head. A good thriller, at least to me, is one that goes beyond an adrenaline rush. It should have “literary” elements baked into it. Interesting characters interacting in the context of an interesting theme can make a book stick in the head of a reader long after she’s finished.
ted-galdi, author
Image: Ted Galdi
What’s your writing process?
I wish I had some wild ritual I did…it’d make for a much better answer to this question. In reality, my process is pretty standard. I spend a decent amount of time thinking about a theme (boiled down to one sentence), the main characters, and a high-level plot. This would be phase 1. Phase 2 is an outline, a few words on what should happen in each chapter. Not much more detail than that. Phase 3 is the actual writing. I shoot for 2,000 words a day. For my first two books, I did five drafts before I felt they were ready.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
To me, it’s the constant balancing of plot, character, and theme. These are your main ingredients and they always have to be working together. The analogy I always give is one of a chef preparing a dish. He needs to be mindful of not just the ingredients themselves, but how they’ll interact with each other.
Which authors inspire you?
My favourite author is John Updike. I also really enjoy David Foster Wallace and Cormac McCarthy.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Don’t be intimidated by page count. A novel is 80,000 words, which sounds like a lot. But if you can only do 500 words a day (which is just a couple pages in Microsoft Word) you’ll have a completed first draft in only 160 days, less than six months. A little a day.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
I love The Catcher in the Rye. The Rabbit series, by Updike, which isn’t one book, would probably be my all-time favourite read though.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I care most about leaving an impression with readers. It always makes my day when I get an email from a reader telling me why they liked something I wrote. If this keeps happening, on a wider scale as I release more books, I’d be elated.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
The first thing I do every day after I get my cup of coffee is a crossword puzzle. I’m totally hooked. I’m a big modern art fan too. And go to museums a lot. Often by myself. I really like one not too far from me in LA called the Hammer. I’ve been skiing my whole life and try to go a few times each winter. I’m that crazy guy going down the double black diamonds at full speed. Which often doesn’t end well.
What are you currently working on?
Another thriller. Still on the first draft, but it’s moving.
Ted's novels are available to buy now. To find out more about his books, you can visit his website or find him on Facebook or Instagram.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!