Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Fiction news round up

Last week saw publication of new short crime collection Show No Mercy, which is also my first experience with Amazon's new KDP Select programme. Be interesting to see what happens. I also think that this may be Steven's best cover yet - I love it!

Convictions has shown up on a number of 'Top 5 books of 2011' lists over at Guilty Conscience. In appreciation of that, I have dropped the price at Amazon to 86p/99c until the new year.

Finally, Off The Record, edited by Luca Veste, is a collection of 38 short stories from 38 writers. It's close to my heart for a number of reasons, including that I have a story included and Steven designed the cover. Even better, all profits go to children's literacy charities, in the UK, the National Literacy Trust (http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/) and in the US, the Children's Literacy Initiative (http://www.cliontheweb.org/). For the next week, Off The Record is available for just 86p/99c.  Download from Amazon in the UK and in the US.

That's it for now - there'll be more book news in 2012.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Power crazy

I'm busy proofreading a business book entitled Getting Things Done in Business. (I plan to publish it shortly as an e-book, along with Putting it Across, about business communication. They'll be the first in my new series of business e-books.) Earlier I was reading through some information on power and it struck me how often I use power in my fiction writing — coupled, of course, with conflict, which is the next topic covered in the book. Anyway, I thought some of you might find it interesting, so here it is:

We tend not to think about it — or even to like to think about it — but all relationships are power-based. Good relationships arguably have power in balance, and we operate most of the time from a standpoint of equality or neutrality. When something happens to upset the status quo, however, power is likely to surface as an issue and be used as a lever.

Types of power
Working in the 1950s, the research of sociologists French and Raven identified five bases of power:

Reward power:
the ability to reward or offer benefit to someone in exchange for the desired behaviour;

Coercive power:
the ability to punish unacceptable behaviour;

Legitimate power:
the right to demand that certain behaviours be either demonstrated or avoided based on legitimate authority (a variation is information power, based on a person's ability to control availability and accuracy of information);

Referent power: power awarded by admirers; and,

Expert power: power awarded on the basis of recognised expertise or specialist knowledge.

Most relationships have more than one type of power. Your boss has legitimate power by virtue of his position. He has reward power and coercive power, which he can use in a 'carrot and stick' way to influence behaviour. He may also be awarded expert and/or referent power, but so might a member of your staff, as these aren't dependent upon hierarchical position.

Interesting stuff — or at least I think so, anyway!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Blasted Heath: a new name in digital publishing

New kids on the block Blasted Heath launched today, and they've got off to a cracking start. Some great books by some great writers, and the guys behind the venture - Allan Guthrie and Kyle MacRae - certainly seem to have some innovative ideas. Read more about BH in the Daily Record. And check out the website - there are some brilliant launch bargains to be had.

What are you waiting for? Away you go to the Blasted Heath!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

New titles and a new look for the blog

Okay, so the blog doesn't look hugely different, but I changed the title text and put monkey up there in the header, too. That photograph was a spin-off from a photographic project I did a few years back. Bought a bag of jelly letters and there wasn't a single 'E'. Went back and persuaded the nice woman in the sweet shop to pick some out for me.

'We're not supposed to,' she said.

'Oh go on,' I said, 'just a few Es ...'

And she did. But that was after I took this pic.

New titles: my second novel, Heartbreaker, was published on 7/10 and my second collection of short stories, The Writing on the Wall, on the 13/10. Well, it's actually a bunch of short stories and a novelette. When I started writing the title story, I figured it would come in at around four thousand words, but then it took on a life of its own, as they sometimes do. So I ran with it, and I love how it turned out. (Badly, natch!) Also in that book is a bonus story, Steven Miscandlon's Frigid Air, a tasty little tale that will have you holding your breath when you open your fridge door. Steven is responsible for the photography and graphic design work for the covers, too. I think he did a fantastic job.

Links in the sidebar for anyone who's interested, and all books are 86p/99c each throughout October. (Use the code YT56E at the checkout to get Convictions for that price at Smashwords.)

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Self-publishers beware - you could be paying too much tax

There are so many of us now who are self-publishing with Smashwords and Amazon, but if you are not resident in the US then you could have an additional 30 per cent of your income taken off you in tax. Smashwords and Amazon will deduct this automatically on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) before they send you your earnings, unless you provide them with the proper paperwork.

I've just completed the process - or at least, I have my final forms sitting on the bookcase by the door ready to be posted off tomorrow. If you're self-publishing and you're wondering how to avoid paying additional tax this, in a nutshell, this is what you have to do:

1) Get a letter from someone who's paying you.

2) Send it to the IRS with a completed form W-7, plus supporting identification. Provided everything is in order, the IRS will issue you with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

3) Send a completed form W-8BEN, on which you state your ITIN, to everyone who is paying you.

Writer Ali Cooper has written a very comprehensive guest blog post about the process over at Nick's Writing Blog. Rather than repeat the same information here, I'd recommend having a read of that as it takes you through everything step by step.

Amazon aren't as user-friendly as Smashwords overall, but they do provide examples of completed W-8BEN forms once you reach that stage. This page also has the address you need to send your form to for Amazon KDP. Incidentally, if you publish through KDP and CreateSpace, you will need to send a completed W-8BEN to both. The CreateSpace address is:

CreateSpace Accounts Payable
8329 West Sunset Road
Suite 200 

Las Vegas,
NV 89113

It may seem like a hassle to jump through all the necessary hoops, but if you do this as an integral part of your business start up process, it gets it over and done with. And - should your book(s) suddenly take off like a rocket - you won't be playing catch up and then chasing the IRS for a refund!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Today's conundrum: Is size important?

Well, is it? (Brazill – stop sniggering at the back, there!) No, seriously, is it?

I was thinking about this with regard to books recently, where it seems to me that we are in the process of moving from a world where a book had to be not only easy to categorize, but also of a certain length in order to be acceptable to a publisher (also to land on the right desk on the right day, not to be similar to anything else that had passed by recently and on and on and on …) to one where none of that matters anymore. In the old world model, first novels couldn’t be too long. Later novels had to be 70,000 to 100,000 words (ish). A new book came out once a year. Booksellers had to know which shelf the book should be put on.

But all that’s changed now. With e-books and, perhaps more importantly, the removal of mainstream publishers as gatekeepers, protecting readers from those hard-to-categorize, odd-length novels those unruly, irreverent writers kept trying to palm off onto people, stories are free to be whatever length they need to be to get their message across.

When I was first getting into the idea of e-books – the possibilities, the potential – I remember reading an interview with Stephen Leather in which he said he had tried and failed to interest his publisher in three novellas he had written. They were the wrong length. They were the wrong genre. Because he believed in his stories, he took the decision to put them out as e-books, and they became runaway best sellers. Even though they were priced at just 99c/71p each, they made him a shedload of money – which, more importantly, tells us that a shedload of people wanted to read them. People that mainstream publishing would have denied.

Of course, as well as shorter books and even individual short stories, there will be folk putting out longer tales, too. Which may or may not be a bad thing, depending upon the story and the writer. One of my favourite writers, Stephen King, was obliged by his publisher to cut a huge chunk of story out of what I reckon is one of his best books, The Stand. Years later, he had the clout to ensure that the uncut version was published, too. But it took years. And lots and lots of success. (And whilst I would argue that some of SK’s books would benefit from judicious editing, I don’t believe for one minute that need would have been behind the original decision to cut The Stand: the motivator would not have been art, but commerce. Bigger books cost more to produce and to ship.)

One of my favourite rock ‘n’ roll writers, Mick Wall, has recently started a daily blog over at Rock AAA and in this post he raises the question of size with regard to albums. He makes the point that since the CD format was introduced, many albums are simply too long. Back in the days when the old liquorice pizza was the method of music delivery, album size was constrained by how much you could physically fit on two sides of a 12” vinyl record. Now, with streaming, the album is dead. As Mick says, ‘The thing that matters now is the music and whether it’s actually worth a shit or not.’

And for writers and readers, the constraints are going, too. It doesn’t have to be about corporations. It doesn’t have to be about genre. It doesn’t have to be about size. It’s all about stories. And the only thing that matters is that they are good tales, well told, that people enjoy reading. To hell with artificial constraints. Long live readers, writers, and the stories they share.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Writers' News interview

Really pleased with this - I was interviewed recently by Writers' News, and the resulting article was published in Members' News.

Here it is here:

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Divided by a common language

Did anyone read this on the BBC News website last week? Following on from a previous article about how US English is changing the way language is used in the UK (and elsewhere), and which included an invitation for people to comment on which words or phrases annoyed them the most, a list of 50 of the most noted Americanisms was produced.

It's a funny old business. Language evolves, and I like that about it, and yet there are still some elements of that evolution that I find annoying. (See below.) There are other aspects that are wrongly labelled as evolution. 'Gotten', for example, which puts in an appearance at number 15, was used interchangeably in both the UK and the US up to at least the 17th century. After that it seems that the US showed a preference for 'gotten' whereas the UK preferred 'got'. This isn't a new word being introduced, just an old one making a comeback. Is it fair to call it an Americanism and to get annoyed if folk start to use it again in the UK?

It's probably fair to say that railing against this is akin to parking a chair on the beach and shouting at the sea to go back: it won't make a blind bit of difference. And for me, the things that are introducing Americanisms into UK English - books, films, TV shows and music - are things I would not like to give up. It's just a shame that some of the best things the UK sends over to the US, for example Red Dwarf and Life on Mars, are apparently only acceptable if remade for a US audience (and when I say 'remade', I mean 'ruined', certainly where these two shows are concerned). Maybe if that wasn't so often the case, the tide wouldn't always seem to be one way.

P.S. The ones in the list of 50 that I hate the most: 12, 25, 26, 30, 36, 44, 50

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Poor spelling hits the bottom line

Spelling mistakes and poor grammar routinely put me off buying from online shops, and it seems I'm not the only one. Online entrepreneur Charles Duncombe says an analysis of website figures shows a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half. (Read the full story.)

And it’s not just online that appearances matter. Businesses are judged by everything that appears with their name on it.

Time and again businesses invest in design, technology, research, marketing - everything but the quality of the writing. ‘Jenny’s a graduate, let her do it,’ is not an unusual decision. And yet, as we can see here, the quality of the writing - whether on a website, in a brochure or in a sales letter - can cost a business customers and profits. Unless there is complete confidence that staff can write to a high standard, skimping on professional help is a false economy.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Convictions - new review

I'm absolutely delighted to have received an excellent and insightful review of my debut novel Convictions from Luca Veste at his blog, Guilty Conscience. You can read it here.

Thanks so much, Luca!

If you want to check out Convictions for yourself, there are links in the sidebar. And thank you!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Gone Bad - new review

I'm thrilled to have received a blisteringly good review for my short story collection, Gone Bad. This one is from top class reviewer Elizabeth White, and you can read it here. Thank you, Elizabeth!

If you'd like to check out Gone Bad for yourself, there are links in the sidebar. And thank you! 

Thursday, 23 June 2011

All over the Internet like a rash

Well, it's been a brilliant few days for me (as Julie Morrigan) on the Internet.

First up, Sabrina Ogden wrote and posted a smashing review of Gone Bad at her blog, My Friends Call Me Kate. That was yesterday.

Sabrina was also generous enough to invite me to write a guest blog post for MFCMK, and that went up today.

Then to round off this embarrassment of riches, my interview with David Wisehart at Kindle Author also went live today.

Sincere thanks to Sabrina and David.

And if that wasn't enough, I also picked up Black Country Communion's second album today. Superb stuff. Highly recommended if you like your rock bluesy and your blues heavy. And I do.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

I don’t think Robert Browning was very good in bed.

I spotted a link to The 30 Harshest Author on Author Insults on fellow writer Iain Rowan's blog so, ever the opportunist, I pinched it. (As indeed did Stephen King with no.9, which he then redirected at Stephenie Meyer. Allegedly.) Mind you, the writers I know are a smashing bunch - maybe we've gone soft!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit

Over the past few days I've been lucky enough to have had a couple of interviews posted online.

Just today Dan Holloway, author of dark psychological thriller The Company of Fellows, invited me to answer some questions over at his place.

And on Sunday, the wonderfully talented Richard Godwin, author of many excellent short stories and stunning debut novel Apostle Rising, asked me some hard questions At The Slaughterhouse.

Thanks, Dan and Richard, and thank you if you pop over and have a read.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Bargain books for the bank holiday weekend

Well, it seems it's a holiday weekend in both the UK and the US, and since there's neither a fancy wedding nor a dead terrorist in sight right now, I thought some folk might be doing what I'm doing and taking the chance to catch up with some reading.

That being the case, I have dropped the price of 'Convictions' to 70p/99c, and I'll be leaving it there throughout June. That's the minimum allowed by Kindle, and short story collection 'Gone Bad' is available at that price, too. You could pick both up for less than the price of a coffee, which surely can't be bad. (You'll find links in the sidebar if you're interested.)

If you're wondering what they're like, these past few days have brought a couple of smashing new reviews, one each for Gone Bad and Convictions.

If you fancy a read but you don't have an e-reader,  you can get free software from Amazon in the UK (here) and also Amazon in the US. (There are others available too - Google will tell you all about them.)

Finally, my sincere and heartfelt thanks to all those wonderfully generous folks who have bought the books and/or taken the time to write reviews. I am extremely grateful.

Enjoy your weekend, folks, whatever you end up doing.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Two by two

The wonderfully talented Steven Miscandlon has a story up at Thrillers, Killers and Chillers. FRIGID AIR is his first new tale for some time and his debut at the site. Pop over and have a read - it's dark, clever and funny, and an absolute treat.

Smarty-pants Sam Adamson has not one, but two stories in anthologies published this week. He tells all here. (Read his vampire tales while you're there - they are brilliant!)

Charlie Williams is over at Criminal-E, talking about Blakey, Mangel and the forthcoming One Dead Hen.

And Declan Conner is doing the one man waltz over at Nigel Bird's Sea Minor.

As well as the new Writing Services website, I have an author website under construction.

Some absolutely smashing reviews have been posted recently. New ones for GONE BAD have come in from Chris Rhatigan and Grooydaz39, and the first one for CONVICTIONS from Josh Stallings. Thank you, all, your kind words are very much appreciated.

And finally, in the spirit of twos that this post embraces, I'm posting it at both blogs. What a cheek!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Catching up

Now that my debut novel 'Convictions' is up and running, I happily have time to catch up with some reviews of things I've been reading as well as  reading some things I've been dying to get stuck into, which will themselves be reviewed soon. For starters we have Sean Patrick Reardon's novel MINDJACKER and Nigel Bird's short story collection DIRTY OLD TOWN.

Sean Patrick Reardon: MINDJACKER

LA psychologist Joel Fischer is a bad man. He’s also brilliant, and a sociopath. When Joel develops the DreemWeever, he creates a device that takes manipulation to a whole new level. When the device is stolen before he can deliver it to the Russian mobsters who commissioned it, things get very ugly, very fast. As Joel’s people race against the clock to retrieve the device, certain truths begin to emerge, fiction blurs into reality, and loyalties are tested. If you like fast-paced thrillers that keep you on the edge of your seat, Mindjacker is for you. It’s a wild ride, packed with musical references, taut as a drum, a great read that’ll keep you turning the pages right to the end. Highly recommended.

Dirty Old Town is a terrific collection of stories - in turns sad, funny, poignant, violent and chilling. My favourites are Sea Minor, Taking a Line for a Walk, and Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight). Having said that, each one of these stories is an absolute pleasure to read and will stay with you long after you’ve finished. This collection is highly recommended. Nigel Bird is a writer to watch.

I thoroughly enjoyed both of these books. I hope you do, too.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Dancing With Myself

I'm thrilled to have been included in Nigel Bird's excellent Dancing With Myself interview series over at Sea Minor. Great fun - thank you, Nigel!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Gone Bad at Criminal-E

I'm absolutely delighted to have been interviewed by Al Guthrie  for Criminal-E. Read it here if you are so inclined. Thanks Al!

Why I love harsh editing

Okay, I maybe don't love it. And maybe 'harsh' is too harsh a word. But there's a lot to be said for having your stuff read by someone who refuses to pander to your ego, someone who will tell you where you've gone wrong and where your jokes aren't making anybody but you laugh. I'm going through that process now - literally, as I write this - and it's not a comfortable experience. Bizarrely, it's not an entirely unpleasant one either. Because I know as a result of it I will end up with a better story to share with readers, I will have had the boils and carbuncles pointed out and they will have been smoothed and polished before my tale hits a wider audience. And that's better for everybody.

I've just received the email with the final comments and edits in it. I'm keen to read it and to start work on the next phase of 'the novel that has no name'. But I'm going to leave it until tomorrow, which looks like being another very busy day.

I can hardly wait!

Monday, 18 April 2011

I love writing

I do. I really love to write. For years now it's been the cornerstone of how I've made my living. At the moment, I'm finishing off some things and planning to start others so that I can offer more stories plus some business information as e-books. It's exciting, I have big plans for this. It'll make me some pennies, offer readers a better deal, and save trees.

So why am I behind on my writing schedule?

Partly because I've been ill. There's no doubt that put a crimp in my output. But even taking that into account, I feel I should have done more. Take this morning, for instance: I attended to the other things I needed to do pretty quickly so that my time could be devoted to finishing off a nearly-there novel, but I've spent the past hour doing non-essential stuff and putting off writing. It makes no sense whatsoever. (And now I'm writing this! As important as my blogs are to me, right now the book takes precedence. Or at least it should.)

If I was working on a new project, I might be able to claim acedia, a variant of which one writer reckons is a natural part of the creative process. We dust the computer screen, clean the keyboard, tidy the desk, generally potter rather than make a start not because we're lazy, but because there's creative stuff going on in our subconscious that has to happen for the good stuff to come through. Can I claim that for writing a scene that's part of the narrative in a work that's well underway? Well, it is a new scene and it's the first good look we get at a key character, so maybe. Do you think?

One thing's for sure: I need to leave you good people in peace and get back to the folk currently sitting round the kitchen table at the church retreat in Otterburn. One of them is more than he seems to be. But is he a villain or a victim?

Right - I think I've finally caught the mood of the piece. Off to write it before I lose it again.  Meantime, if spelling errors drive you nuts, you might like this. Enjoy!

EDIT: By George, she's got it! The last piece of the jigsaw just fell into place. I'll have to go back and seed this throughout the story, but for now - writing like a demon toward the finish line. I love it when it's like this - yay! :D

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Caffeine Nights, Gone Bad, and The Journal

Good things are happening, so I thought I would take the opportunity to share some of them here.

I've mentioned Caffeine Nights Publishing in a few posts on here, usually in connection with Nick Quantrill, author of BROKEN DREAMS and the forthcoming THE LATE GREATS, and Ian Ayris and his keenly-anticipated debut novel ABIDE WITH ME. Well, in addition to those good things, Darren Laws at Caffeine Nights has given me a very welcome job as part of his editorial team. I'm absolutely delighted about this and thoroughly enjoying working with such an innovative, forward-looking and dynamic business.

My debut e-book, GONE BAD, has started to attract reviews and - so far - they've been favourable. (I have no doubt that will change. I'll post a link to my first one star review here, when I get it. And no, I'm not encouragng anyone to go and write it!)

Sales of GONE BAD are modest but in line with targets (more on this soon). I'm hoping for a wee boost this month, though, because thanks to the hard work of the very generous Mr Laws at Caffeine Nights, I have some publicity. Ian Robson of THE JOURNAL newspaper interviewed me last week and wrote this feature. Thanks to Darren, Ian and Andy the photographer.Much appreciated!

So, if you are inclined to read GONE BAD, you can find it at Amazon UK, Amazon US and Smashwords for less than a pound.

And if you don't have anything to read it on, you can download something that will do the job free of charge from here. Which will also mean you can get lots of other e-books to read, including the ones published by Caffeine Nights. Can't be bad!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Busy busy busy

Well, a post here is long overdue but I have a pocketful of excuses, all of which boil down to one thing - like everyone else out there, I've been very busy.

I'm not complaining, far from it. But a couple of things at the weekend did make me stop and think. The first was on Saturday night, when a concerned voice said to me, 'It's almost eight o'clock on a Saturday. Aren't you going to pack in?' On Sunday, when I mentioned that I had taken a bit of time out to play a daft wee computer game for a while but had to stop skiving and get back to work, the same voice asked, 'Aren't writers allowed to relax on a Sunday?'

All of which made me wonder: how do those of you who work for yourself manage the split between work and not work? For those of you with a 'proper' job who are also writers, editors, publishers or whatever, it must be even worse. Do you actually have any kind of work-life balance? And how much does it matter, to you, to the people in your life?

For me, one of the biggest advantages of freelancing is being able to manage my own time. A short while ago I popped out to the shops for some odds and ends. (Cold remedies - blergh!) I was able to go before the lunchtime rush, which made it much less of a chore. Sure, I started early this morning and may well do some work this evening, but so what? If I do, I'll very likely be writing and that's more fun than anything else. That's what I did in the evenings when I had a 'proper' job, so it's no real change.

One of the things I miss is being paid regardless - sick pay, holiday pay, Bank Holidays, just being there and skiving. Would I go back? I might have to, at some point. It seems the things I am best at don't pay terribly well. But unless I'm obliged to, it would take one hell of an inducement to get me back into a 'real' job. (And I'll never have as good a boss as I do now! ;p)

This week's biggest regret: my observation that eating dried apricots is like eating tongues. Oh how we laughed - until the next time we each popped one into our mouths. Eeewww!!!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Barry Eisler Walks Away From $500,000 Deal to Self-Publish

Thriller writer Barry Eisler just walked away from a $500,000 two book deal because, as he said to self-publishing guru Joe Konrath, '...based on what’s happening in the industry, and based on the kind of experience writers like you are having in self-publishing, I think I can do better in the long term on my own.'

We all know there are big changes going on in the publishing industry, but this is a significant event by anyone's standards. Read a full and frank open discussion between Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath  here.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Really free

I'm not convinced that all of the best things in life are free - not until someone starts giving away Rioja, anyway - but there are many, many good things to be had that are free. Really free. No strings.

Here are two I found recently.

The Focus Booster
I have battled against distraction my whole life. I was still in junior school when it made its first appearance on a school report and that wasn't the last, not by a long chalk. I like to think I have an enquiring mind, but it's arguably more accurate to say that I have the attention span of a gnat. What do you think the Internet did for my productivity? Exactly! When I had a 'proper' job and was paid for turning up, that was less of an issue. Now that I have to make every minute count in order to earn the rent money, it's pretty important that I do whatever is necessary to stay focused.

And that's where the Focus Booster comes in useful. It's a wee widgety-thing that sits on top of all the other stuff on your desktop and counts you down to your next skive break. You can set the session length and the break length to suit yourself, but I have stuck with the default setting. That means I work in 25 minute bursts, after which I take a five minute break. And do you know what? It's working!

Now, if I see that an email has come in, the longest I need to wait to check it is 25 minutes. Previously I would look at incoming mail immediately. It also means I do the 'I wonder if anything's happened', 'I wonder who's around' mad clicking thing in a five minute burst after concentrating on the task in hand for 25 minutes. I suspect it helps that I'm ever-so-slightly OCD, but what the hell! Whatever does the trick! Give it a go and see what you think. Feel free to share your thoughts. I'll be with you in 25 minutes!

Free e-book reader applications
I've got two, greedy girl that I am. I started off with the Kindle for PC application, then found out about Adobe Digital Editions. (I got it to check e-book formatting for Smashwords.) Anyway, while I decide if I need a Kindle or some similar device, they keep me in e-books.

Mind you, should you decide to get yourself a free e-book reader application so you can have a look and see what all the fuss is about, you will quickly find that you now have access to a bunch of free e-books, too. That's right - one free thing leads to another. How cool is that!

My Kindle for PC malarkey actually had some books available when I downloaded it: Aesop's Fables, Treasure Island, and Pride and Prejudice. They may well not be to your taste (I hate Jane Austen) but it means you can see how it works, and then start looking around to see what other goodies are out there.

I wouldn't be without my e-book reader application now. Or my Focus Booster. In fact, using them both in tandem, I can read an e-book for five minutes in every half hour period and still get things done. Result!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Being a Twit

Twitter. Just the word fills me with horror. Then there is all the associated terminology: tweets; twitterstream; twitterers; conversationalists; marketers; followers; autofollow ... it's enough to make a sane person scream.

Twitter, as I've observed before elsewhere, makes me think of a field full of people all shouting as loudly as they can, all on 'transmit'. Apart, perhaps, from the stalkers.

And yet, and yet ....

People keep tellng me I should be on Twitter. That if I tried it, I'd like it. They've even given me some hints and tips as to how I can minimise the pain (thanks, Sam). The latest person to get on my case is Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, via the Smashwords Marketing Guide.

All of these people may be right in what they say. It might be fun, it might be informative, it might help me to spread the word about my writing. And it's not as if I'm afraid to admit if I've been wrong about something, the most recent proof being my about-face on e-books.

But Twitter! I don't know how to get past the fact that I find it puerile, that I utterly despise the very notion of it. There might be something good in it, but if someone told me there was a gold sovereign in a cowpat and all I had to do to get it was put my hand in and ferret about, quite frankly I'd pass.

So, there we are. I'm no further forward than I was when I first seriously considered Twitter, some months back. And, for today at least, I'm not sticking my hand in the cowpat.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A steep e-learning curve

It's less than two weeks since my mind was opened to the sheer potential of self-published e-books and my first one is already for sale. As changes of opinion go, this one has been pretty radical.

Perhaps the most insightful observation made to me about this was that I was initially looking at e-books from the point of view of a reader who would far rather have a 'proper' book, and moved to the standpoint of a writer who wanted to be able to have direct contact with readers. I think that sums it up quite nicely!

I've learned a lot over the past couple of weeks. Luckily, there's a lot of help and advice out there for folk like me who are just catching on to this phenomemon.

Smashwords have a brilliant free style guide written by founder Mark Coker. There's no doubt that it didn't only help me to format my e-book correctly for Smashwords, it also paid off when it came to producing the Amazon version. Smashwords also offers a marketing guide, which I'll be looking at next. There's help from Amazon, too - not least, their DTP Quickstart Guide. 

Perhaps the most valuable and certainly the most inspirational help, though, is thriller writer J A Konrath's blog, A Newbie's Guide To Publishing. If you have any interest in e-publishing, I recommend it to you wholeheartedly, along with the e-book of the same name. (I'm working my way through that slowly, reading a handful of pages each evening.)

I'm not done yet, though. The Kindle version of the book is still pending at Amazon and once that step has been completed there'll be more to learn and do to actually get it listed in the Kindle Store. The book is available now, in a range of formats, from Smashwords, but acceptance into the premium catalogue, essential for wide distribution, is still pending. After that, I'll have to assign an ISBN (which looks straightforward) and then sort out the necessary forms with the IRS so that I don't pay tax in the US as well as the UK.

All of which assumes the book will sell and generate some income. And guess what? It already has!

Friday, 4 March 2011

E-publishing - first steps

Okay, so now I have a schedule of titles and a plan of action for my foray into e-publishing. The first book will be a collection of short stories, and whilst all but one have been previously published, a bunch of them haven't seen the light of day for some time and others have not been previously available other than in paid-for publications. (In fairness, some of them can still be read online for free, but the price on this e-book will be very low indeed.)

I have the content and the cover and I'm all ready to upload my e-book - which may bring on another bunch of issues, depending on how easily the file converts - but for one thing: copyright.

I want to continue to use one name for business books and another for fiction. I want to e-publish both types of book. I don't think I'm going to be able to keep the identities separate, however, and I'm in a quandary as to how important that may be. For starters, I will have no copyright protection on books published under my pen name unless I register every publication with the copyrighting service, or include a copyright notice showing my actual name. I suppose I could create a publishing company and copyright everything under that name, but I hesitate to take such a step as I'm not convinced it's a good idea.

I have a couple of days to get my head round this, but whilst I need to get this right, I don't want it to unnecessarily delay the start of this project. It's exciting! I can't wait to see what happens! And I'll report progress here, of course. (Another month and zero sales - awaaah!!!)

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Should I just get on with it and hope the two types of books don't alienate the two types of potential reader? Does anyone other than me even care about this stuff?

Anyway, in the meantime, here's the cover for the collection. It matches my fiction blog and I love it! (And yes - I know that's yet another name, but it's going to be 'the one' from now on - probably! ;p)

Monday, 28 February 2011

In which our heroine accepts the inevitability of change...

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that e-books just don't light my candle. I like 'proper' books, books you can hold and smell and flip through and hoard like a fire hazard on dusty shelves that make a house feel like a home. Try doing that with your Kindle!

I felt the same about the whole vinyl to CD revolution.

However, now as then, there's no point in 'doing a Canute'. Change isn't just a-comin', it's here.

Two things I read yesterday (along with much Internet clicking and pondering of options and opportunities) have really kicked my brain into gear on this one. That and the fact that the traditional publishing model seems to me to be, if not dead in the water, then certainly floundering and spluttering and hoping someone will throw it a lifebelt.

The first piece I read was in The Observer. It tells not only of the success established thriller writer Stephen Leather has enjoyed, selling as e-books novellas his publisher had turned down, but also of paranormal romance writer Amanda Hocking, who went from an author unable to secure an agent to the world's best selling e-book writer in less than a year.

The second piece I read  was by New Jersey writer Kevin Michaels, who has just released his first novel, LOST EXIT, as an e-book. That in turn led me to this piece, by MONK author Lee Goldberg writing on thriller writer Joe Konrath's website. These are facts and figures that are impossible to ignore. And I suspect the majority of people who love to read will continue to buy 'proper' books, simply adding e-books to the ways in which they enjoy stories - just as so many of us write for and read stories, news and blogs online.

Just to top it all off, The Bookseller reports today that Bloomsbury predicts 2011 will be 'the year of the e-book'.

I have outlines written for a couple of non-fiction books that I honestly believe have a market. What I don't have is a publishing deal for them. Armed with my new-found knowledge, what do you think would be the best way for me to proceed? Should I do the rounds of agents and publishers, submitting speculatively and waiting months at a time for a reply? Or should I simply write the best books I can, self-publish them as e-books, setting my own prices, and let the readers decide if there's a market?

Doesn't really need thinking about, does it? Please excuse me, I have to go now - I have an e-book to write!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

News round up

Just these past few days, there seems to have been a wee explosion of good stuff to be had and to be heard about, so I thought I'd round it all up here.

First up, there's something amazing, unique, exciting, fantastic, cool and swinging going on over At The Bijou. That swell dame ABSOLUTELY*KATE has charmed the incredibly prolific, insightful and super-cool Mr ROBERT J RANDISI and together they present the one, the only, THE RAT PACK REVUE!  The Revue plays Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday matinees, check it out, don't miss a thing, be there or be square. I'm absolutely thrilled to be in with a story - also playing are Eric Beetner, Paul Brazill, Kevin Michaels, Sean Patrick Reardon, Anthony Venutolo and the dame herself, Absolutely*Kate. And there's lots of stuff from Mr Randisi throughout - as he says himself, he's going to 'work the lounge' before he 'hits the main room'. All good stuff.

Next up, Paul Brazill - he gets everywhere, that man! No complaints about that, he's a class act, and to prove it, he's camping out over at Mulholland Books with some fine advice: TEN CRIME BOOKS TO HELP CURE YOUR HANGOVER, no less. See, a fine author and a generous humanitarian to boot.

I was reading an article the other day about becoming a Writer in Residence and how it can only be a good thing for all parties, when blow me down, but didn't Nick Quantrill, author of BROKEN DREAMS, go and land himself exactly such a gig! Now the newly ensconced Writer in Residence at Hull Kingston Rovers, and with a second book, THE LATE GREATS, due out later this year from Caffeine Nights Publishing, Nick is flying high. Great to see someone enjoying such well-deserved success!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Big Society

If, like me, your heart sinks whenever you hear this nonsensical term, the following will not surprise you in the least. Wandsworth Council intend to create a  'Big Society' Library, which they reckon will enable them to save more than £155,000 by 2012 - partly by 'deleting' (their word for 'sacking') five staff. This is purely a cost-cutting exercise and is in direct response to the cuts imposed on them. Maybe the 'deleted' staff will be able to keep on doing their jobs as unpaid vounteers, for the good of The Big Society.

So is The Big Society all about cuts, then, as its many detractors claim? Apparently not. David Cameron, while attempting to justify plans to sell off public services, explains that The Big Society is about: '... rebuilding responsibility and giving people more control over their lives'.

Not convinced? Try The Telegraph, where Iain Hollingshead channels seven year old Nancy Cameron to afford us this explanation. Finally, a bit of clarity. From the mouths of babes...

Monday, 14 February 2011

Reasons to be cheerful

1. In the midst of all the libraries angst, there's this. Great news, and fantastic for Stockton, lucky people!

2. If you're skint, the Internet can be a terrific source of lovely, free things to read. Paul Brazill signposts the way to some good stuff here. Help yourself and enjoy - and have a wander around his site while you're there. There's even a story for Valentine's Day to be had, courtesy of guest blogger Rizzy Rodham.

3.  Spring is on the way - yes, it's still winter and it's still pretty cold, but you can feel a hint of it in the air and I saw crocuses poking their heads up in the park last week. Which prompted me to make this. Can't be bad!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Libraries campaign

After the successes enjoyed on the day of action last Saturday, some of which get a mention here, the libraries campagn continues. Authors Julia Donaldson, Kate Mosse and Tony Parsons, and Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, put their two penn'orth in here. In the article, Kate Mosse tells us that:

'There are more than 5.2 million adults classed as "functionally illiterate" - with skills lower than expected of an 11-year-old.' 

That's worryingly debilitating. It's hard to imagine how a person can cope with such a disadvantage, since so much of what we do on a daily basis depends upon our ability to understand the written word. And whilst it's a problem that runs deeper than having access to books and other materials that will stimulate the mind and encourage people to learn and develop their literacy skills, surely shutting libraries is another nail in the coffin. Especially since many libraries work in tandem with adult literacy and numeracy initiatives.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Quick round-up

Baroness Warnock wades into the fight for libraries as a national day of protest against library cuts is planned for Saturday 5th February.

I might not like e-books, but it seems that many, many people do, as Amazon reports that for the first time Kindle e-book sales overtake paperback sales. Read about it here.

And finally, there's this from literary agent Janet Reid, which Ian Ayris posted a link to today. I liked it, so I though I'd share it.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Been to the library lately?

No? Well, if you were planning to visit, it may pay you to go sooner rather than later. Government cuts continue to threaten our libraries, although happily people are fighting back, some of them in quite innovative ways. And they seem to have started a trend! Good on them!

I wouldn't have read a fraction of the books I read as a child without the library service. I couldn't have written my last book without public library resources to draw on, and without libraries, I doubt I'd even be a writer. Perhaps I don't use them as much as I once did, but I would hate to think we lost libraries. There are kids growing up as I did, with little or no access to books, people without the money to buy all the books they wish to read, students who want to read widely and who can't get everything they want elsewhere. Then there is the social aspect - for some, a visit to the library gets them out and about and gives them a chance to meet with people. Writers read their work and meet their readers in libraries as well as in bookshops.

The Bookseller is campaigning strenuously. Read the manifesto and demands here - and please sign up. Every voice helps. The Bookseller have also published the list of most borrowed books in 2010 - it makes interesting reading. See it here.

If anything on the list catches your imagination, why not pop into your local library and borrow it? Even if you are only an occasional user, your support right now would be appreciated.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Calling all writers

All those in or around north east England, anyway!

As I've mentioned here before, I make jewellery and accessories which I sell online and at craft fairs. As a result of this, last year I met Fiona and Dean Teasdale, who run the Maker's Market craft fairs in the north east of England. Fiona and Dean have come up with a novel and brilliant idea; namely, the Maker's Market Writers' Meet.

There's a market at the Seaburn Centre in Sunderland every month this year, starting on Sunday 23rd January, and each one will feature a Maker's Market Writers' Meet. The Meet is going to be an opportunity for writers of all ages, levels and genres to get together informally and chew the fat about all things wordy. If you're interested and can make it, we'd love to see you there. If you want to, bring your work and take the opportunity to discuss it with other writers. Share ideas on getting your stuff out there with different kinds of people who have different approaches. This is your chance to inspire and be inspired!

The cafe will be open, so you can enjoy a cuppa while you chat, and as a bonus, stall space will be provided to sell self-published work, so you can boost your profile and your readership, too. It's also a great opportunity for book-lovers to find out about writers and writing in the region.

The Market is open between 10am and 4pm. I'll be there with some sparkly things for Valentine's Day as well as looking forward to having a natter with other writers and readers. Where else can you buy handmade cards and gifts, have a coffee, chat about writing and publishing, and sell (or buy) self-published work? Come and join us - you know it makes sense!