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Archive for July, 2007

A life of crime…

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Cornwell Internet spent the end of last week at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. We saw it as an opportunity to meet members of the Crime Writers’ Association who were travelling from all over the country for the Festival, an excuse to get together with clients from the north of England, and a chance to cheer on Mike Jecks, whose novel The Death Ship of Dartmouth was in comtention for the Novel of the Year award. Coincidence being what it is, the first person we saw – she pulled up alongside us before we had even reached the conference venue, as we were walking down from our B & B – was the client whose home is probably closest to our own, Sheila Quigley! So we arrived at the Crown Hotel in style, in Sheila’s splendid 4X4. Our plan was not to attend panels, but to hang around the foyer (and bar!) where we could hope to meet people, but we had bought tickets for the awards ceremony, and the party which followed it. The ceremony took the form of a panel of the six shortlisted authors (chosen by a public vote from the longlist), chaired by Natasha Cooper: Christopher Brookmyre was stylish in a black kilt, but Stephen Booth stole the show with his confessions of a goat breeder (he admitted that one reader had written to point out to him that in his seven books to date, no-one ever had sex except the goats!).

Michael Jecks did not win the Novel of the Year award: as he predicted in his Newsletter – “I rather anticipate a contemporary story winning…” – the prize went to Allan Guthrie for Two Way Split. But there was a degree of reflected glory for Mike, and for the CWA: Two Way Split made its first public appearance in 2001, when it was a runner up in the CWA’s Debut Dagger Award, the competition for unpublished novelists which has a great track record in spotting the best-sellers of the future. And as it happens, the CWA member who organised the contest in 2001 was Mike Jecks.

Off to the party, at which Simon Theakston himself was behind the bar – I’d love to be able to report that he pulled a pint for me, but no, he had assistants to do that! A surprise treat was getting to talk to John Baker, who was not attending the festival, but had come from York for the party: in all we caught up with five of the seven Squaddies: in addition to John Baker, Ann Cleeves, accompanied by the group of Americans with whom she was about to take the Queen Mary to New York – she promises to try to post to her diary from mid-Atlantic; Martin Edwards, playing a slightly anxious mother duck to his group of Americans; Margaret Murphy very briefly, as she had had a difficult drive over; and Cath Staincliffe, a particular pleasure as we have fewer opportunities to meet.

On Sunday morning, we were back at our post in the hotel lobby, which enabled us to arrange an interview with Allan Guthrie. Among the things he told us were: that the title under which the early draft of Two Way Split was entered for the Debut Dagger, Blithe Psychopaths, has been the working title of all his novels to date, but that his publisher won’t allow him to use it; the he grew up in Orkney, and reads the crime column in The Orcadian in amazement at how little crime there is there (“Vandalism could have caused serious injury” turns out to refer to a plant pot being moved onto the pavement); that he is a fan of the hard-boiled American crime writers of the 1930s and 1950s (and that Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, like François Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black, was based on a Cornell Woolrich story); and that his latest book is a novella for reluctant adult readers, an exercise which he found very instructive, since he tries to write in the voice of his characters who are precisely the people at whom these books are aimed.

Then, for a treat, lunch at the Loch Fyne fish restaurant, coffee back at the Crown where we ran into Sarah from the Yorkshire Post, who is in charge of their series of “OutLoud” podcasts by authors; I’d already encountered this feature, since Nicholas Rhea‘s daughter Tricia had recorded a piece about her book, Benedict’s Brother; now Sarah was waiting for the participants in a round table discussion from the festival – including Sheila Quigley! And that’s where we came in…

Google unravelled

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

Anne Fine has sent us a cutting from The Author, in which Steve Johnston, author of a forthcoming book called 50 Ways to Make Google Love Your Website, advises authors on how to persuade Google to rank their site as highly as possible.

He offers three pieces of advice, and I’m relieved to see that the one he places first was also the main theme of our own article on this subject: Google indexes text, not pictures, and if there is no text on a page, Google can’t index it.

His second point follows on: Google matches words on the page to words people search for. It isn’t as easy as it sounds to produce text that covers all the possible variants without being repetitive. On a recent new site for Triangle Translations, I had to make sure that both "translation" and "translating" came near the top of the page, and that the languages offered were all listed: a human being might know that "all major languages" included, say, English – German, but Google wouldn’t.

Steve Johnston’s article also argues that Google needs a certain amount of content on a site before it can rate it as "relevant". Content also makes it easier to attract links, which are the third factor in Google’s rating system discussed in the article: if a site is a good source of information, people are more likely to link to it! The world is full of people trying to fake this, by placing links to their site in text that pretends to be a comment or even an entire blog (nuisance spam makes it all but impossible to run a guestbook on a web site nowadays – but that’s another story). But if you offer relevant information, real people will be happy to link to it – and you can encourage your friends to do so! It all helps…

The internet is another country; they do things differently there.

Monday, July 9th, 2007

It’s sometimes difficult to persuade designers (whose graphic design skills may well be far in advance of my own) that those skills may need to be adapted for use on the internet.

Yet there’s no shame in not knowing something; the shame is in being unwilling to learn. I was looking this morning at Todd Klein’s blog. Todd Klein is at the top of his field, which is lettering comics. If you’ve read Sandman, or any of the ABC imprint, you’ve seen his work, and he has won the Eisner award (the comics’ Oscar) in twelve of the past thirteen years.

And he wrote in his blog:

Several people viewing my site have pointed out to me that the lettering in the balloons and on the tabs at the top of most pages appears "jaggy." As soon as it was pointed out, I knew they were right, and soon after I figured out why it hadn’t occurred to me sooner that this wouldn’t look very good, even though I’ve been staring at the evidence for months.

And he goes on to explain the problem (which was purely one of applying print techniques to web graphics), to thank the people who pointed it out, and to promise to put it right. The blog entry ends: "And if you notice any other design goofs, please let me know"

That’s what I call style!

Client photos

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

Literary awards are not, of course, the only reason for congratulations. There’s a different kind of good news from the New Rope String Band: Vera had a baby boy, Lucas Robert Tyldesley, on June 26th. Scroll down the front page of their web site for a photograph.

Found elsewhere on the web: the archives of photoblog NYC Photo contain many good things, including pictures from last year’s Left Coast Crime which put faces to many of the names appearing on the web site of the Crime Writers’ Association.

Votes for all!

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

A little while ago, Roger wrote that our client Michael Jecks had had his novel, The Death Ship of Dartmouth longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Award; now, to our delight, he has been shortlisted. The winner is chosen by vote, so it is once again my pleasure to urge everyone to vote for Mike: all you have to do is follow this link! (And if you haven’t read the book yet, there’s more information, including how to buy a copy, on the author’s site.

If your genre of choice is fantasy, rather than crime, you may be more interested in the news that has had his novel River of the World longlisted for a British Fantasy Society Award; you need to be a member of the BFS to vote this time, but if you are, please do. Again, more information about the book and how to buy it is available on the site we set up for Chaz to promote this series.

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