Sunday, 31 March 2013

Carnival of the Indies - a rich source of information for writers

I'm thrilled that 3 of my recent posts* have been included over at The Book Designer for the Carnival of the Indies.  The Carnival features a list of fabulous blog posts from a huge range of writers, full of excellent and useful advice and insight.

Do check it out:

*The posts are
Lessons in Indie Publishing: Free books and the mystery of Amazon rankings
The Business of Writing: Part 1
Are chapter titles an under-used marketing tool for writers?

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Words spilling out

I am finding that my brain is working faster than my fingers on the keyboard. The screen is full of errors.  And my words tumble out in a jumble, or I can’t find the right word.

A friend tells me it’s my age.  Maybe the menopause.
Or is my brain overheating?  Or trying to rewire?

If there are too many things in your head some of them will just fall out.

Related post:

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Slaves to the machines?

The sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov spoke of the concept of Singularity – the evolution of man and machine to form a new being, resulting from the rewiring of our brains as the result of the way we use and develop technology.

We are slaves to our machines.  I think Asimov would enjoy the irony of that.
Can you imagine life before computers?  Before mobile phones?  Before phones? Before TV?

Machines are writer’s friends in so many ways – they have provided us with so many opportunities to create work and get it published and accessible.  I remember typewriters, and the frustration of typing out a novel, using copious amounts of tippex, to realise that actually I need to move Chapter 2 to the end of the book.  Which often meant typing the whole lot out again.  Planning was essential in those days, using paper and pen to map out the structure.  It changed the creative process.

I love the flexibility of word processors and the way I can contact people using email.  The internet provides me with a 24 hour library for research.  But I do often feel like I am chained to my machines – the slavery of my own making.  After all, we do have choices.  But I also worry about the addictive nature of much of our digital technology, and the way we depend so much upon it.

I’ve always had a fascination with robotics and the way that we use machines and how we allow them to take over our lives. And the way that visionary writers such as Asimov and Philip K. Dick imagined futures that are genuinely prophetic.

I wonder what the future holds – will we become further fused with our machines or will there be a backlash? Is the tyranny of technology a double edged sword?

Check out some great articles on the topic here:

Friday, 22 March 2013

Blogging V Writing?

Like many writers, I often consider the relationship between writing and blogging.  I enjoy blogging, which is, after all, writing. Right now, I enjoy blogging more than writing novels.  So I spend more time on it than writing novels.  Then I feel guilty because I'm not working on my novel.

I just came across this thought-provoking post by L.L.Barkat which asks the question, "Is blogging a waste of time for writers?"over  at Jane Friedman's excellent blog.

I'd love to know what you think.

Related post:

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Are chapter titles an under-used marketing tool for writers?

Are descriptive chapter titles an under-used marketing tool for writers?  I've been considering this recently in relation to indie published titles.  Smart writers need to use every marketing tool available to them and I haven't seen much written about this, so wonder if I am in the minority?

I recently read a great piece by the wonderful Joanna Penn called
How EBook Readers Shop And The Importance Of Sampling about marketing and free samples and how we chose to buy books.  The link is here and there is an interesting discussion in the comments about whether or not chapter headings add any value to the Table of Contents in an e-book.  It got me thinking.  I'm a big fan of reading a sample from a book before I buy it, whether browsing in a bookshop or via Amazon.   I thought about everything the potential reader considers before making a purchase and wondered how, or if, having a list of actual chapter headings would make any difference. 

Most of my books simply list the chapters, ie Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. Yawn. However, my most recent indie-pubbed backlist title, Beware of the Horse, was originally written with Chapter titles, each of which suggested action or emotion, and I decided to keep these in. I know it might be old fashioned now, but it means the reader can skim down and see if they like the sound of what they might encounter.

Bizarrely, this book is selling a lot quicker than any of my previous titles and I wonder if giving these "teasers" has contributed to that? I don't know the answer, but I wonder if chapter titles are an under-used marketing tool for writers?  To test it, I am going to use this technique again and see what happens. I know I write books for teens and pre-teens, so maybe it is more acceptable to use such descriptive labels in this genre.  But, as a reader, would I feel assisted or patronised if there were chapter titles in books for adults?  What do you think?

Related post:

Saturday, 16 March 2013

What if? Guest blogging at The View Outside

Today you will find me guesting over at The View Outside asking the question, What if?

Writers are constantly asking “What if?” And after we have answered this question, it then follows, “What then?” This got me thinking about the choices we make, as human beings and as writers. One aspect of writing fiction that I love is that of problem solving...

Do visit The View Outside, a wonderful blog, to read the full post and comments - and add your own!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Versatile Blogger Award

I am grateful and delighted that two wonderful bloggers have nominated me for the Versatile Blogger award, namely:

Vikki at and 
Linda at

Thanks, guys.  Sorry it's taken me a while to sort it out. So here goes.....

I have to state 7 facts about me.  Rather than adopt my usual random approach, I decided to be more focussed about this and concentrate on things that are meaningful to me.  I thought about words, and this led to thinking about letters and letter writing.  So my 7 facts all relate to letters that have significance in my life.

1.     When I was a child in the 60s and 70s, I was in love with Superman (he was a cartoon series, long before the wonderful Christopher Reeves films).  So I decided to write him a letter telling him this.  For some reason I thought he lived in a cave, so I addressed the envelope as such and popped it in the post-box.  Not sure what the Royal Mail did with it but strangely I never got a reply.
2.     My teen heart-throbs were actors Christopher Lee, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing. The latter was my biggest crush and I wrote him several letters over the years, simply addressed to Peter Cushing, Whitstable.  I got a reply and a signed photo, a treasured possession which I still have.  I didn’t get to meet him in the flesh until very many years later, by which time I was married. It was at a book signing for his autobiography at Waterstones, Tunbridge Wells and was a surreal experience.
3.     I wrote my first (unfinished) pony novel when I was 8 or 9 (in pencil in a large exercise book).  It was about two sisters searching for their stolen ponies.  They were at boarding school and when they set off on their pony quest, they made sure they took lashings of food with them (my favourite childhood books at the time were Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven adventures).  I wrote to publisher Armada, who produced most of the pony books I adored,  and asked them how many words you needed for a novel to be published and they replied politely with the answer “at least 40,000”. I kept the letter and when my first book was published by Collins Armada it was like a dream come true.   
4.     As you will have gathered I was an avid letter writer and I still enjoy writing letters.  As a child I had several penfriends, one in New Zealand.  We kept in touch well into adulthood when we were both married and she had children, and we got to meet in the UK eventually.  Anyone remember penfriends?  Do people still have them in this age of social media?
5.     I love receiving letters.  Now we use email I get a lot less but I would become so excited when the postman appeared, wondering what he might bring, and disappointed if nothing arrived. If I had to leave for school/work before the post was delivered it was quite frustrating. (Anyone recall when the first post arrived before 7am?  When there was a first post?)
6.     If you remember the days when you submitted to a publisher via snail mail you will recall saving and re-using large envelopes and stamps and queuing at the local post office to send off your precious manuscript and wait months for that familiar thud as your SAE returned like a boomerang - with a rejection slip. Or, conversely, the occasional surge of joy if the response was positive!
7.     Every time I had anything published, whether it was a letter to the local paper, an article, poem, story or novel, I always sent a copy of it to my Mum and Dad, wanting to share my success, however small, enclosing a handwritten note on a postcard or decorated notepaper.  After I lost both parents to cancer and was sorting out their house, I found every cutting I sent and every letter I wrote, all kept proudly in a drawer.  

I am nominating the following fabulous bloggers for the award:

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Writing from the heart and for the heart

I recently organised a talk for local writers and students by Script Developer Katie Boyles and Film Producer Christine Cheung in which they explored what they look for in a good script.  It was a fascinating talk and many of the observations were so relevant to novel and short story writing that I had to share a few key points.  All of these are questions we should be asking ourselves when we write a story. 
  • What is the story?
  • Whose story is it?
  • Do we care about the protagonist's journey?
  • Is the story event led or character driven?
  • At the end of the story, does it stay with us?
  • Do we care? 
In summary we need to be writing from the heart and for the heart

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Fear of falling, failing and flying

Towards the end of 2012 my role of novice blogger changed.  Instead of feeling like an observer of the blogging community, looking from the outside in, I became a more active participant, engaging with and commenting on other blogs, and meeting virtually (and actually) with some wonderful people.   It’s taken me a year to achieve this.  What was I scared of? 

When I started my blog just over a year ago, I didn’t really know what I was doing with it.  It lacked focus and became a random collection of opinion pieces, advice I hoped was helpful to other writers, some diverse guest posts and the occasional ramble and rant.  A bit messy and untidy in structure.  More like the cluttered room than The Beautiful Room.

I started 2013 with the aim of being more focussed and structured, with specific days for themed posts.  That never really happened and my blog continues to be like my mind – overcrowded and haphazard. The only difference is that I am trying to be a bit braver about my inner thoughts. Previously, I’ve tended to shy away from revealing myself through my blog posts, yet most of the posts that I admire are the ones in which the writer isn’t afraid to do that, where what they write is personal and brave and authentic.  We all want to connect with other people.  It’s what life is all about.  It’s why we love to read, because we want to engage with realistic characters that resonate with us, that we can identify with. To show us that we are not alone in the world.

I recently read an excellent post from The Book Designer about blogging and I especially loved this phrase, which is so true and apt:

Before you’ve created your own blog, you don’t realize how much a blog is like a garden. In both you need to put in work up front, maybe a couple of years of it, before you start to get the benefits of a bountiful harvest.

Check out the post here

Writing a blog is definitely a long term process.  You have to work to get results, to nurture it, to learn, and to be patient.  Gradually, if you do the groundwork, it will grow. And so will you.

Related post:

Monday, 11 March 2013

Cat Lovers: FREE e-book until March 13th!

My e-book Coming Home is available to download FREE until midnight March 13th (my birthday!). Here is the link:

This is the first time this title has been part of Amazon's free promotion, since all my royalties are being donated to the charity Cats Protection.  However, sales are slower than I had hoped and the free promo has helped previous titles so I am hoping it will do the same for this one, since the ultimate aim is to raise funds for Cats Protection from sales of the book.

It is, amazingly, currently No.1 on in the top 100 free e-books under the children's e-books/animals/cats category which is exciting, (but there are only actually 8 titles in this category!). It is also 23 in Literature and Fiction/Children's Fiction/Animals category. In the UK, it is currently ranked as follows:

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,784 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

These rankings are updated HOURLY so this can change in the blink of an eye (almost!)

So if you know any cat lovers, do let them know!

Related posts:

If you are a cat lover you might also enjoy:

Sunday, 10 March 2013

The power of books

I wanted to share with you a really beautiful post by writer Joanne Phillips that I came across for World Book Day.  It's a personal journey of what books mean to her and so elegantly expressed and poignant.

It made me think about what books meant to me, and how your choice of reading matter can reflect what is going on in your life at the time; the way books can provide an escape from the world, especially for those of us who are naturally shy (even though we might try to hide it!); the way we can learn from books, both non-fiction and fiction.  Other people's stories help us to understand ourselves.

Today is Mother's Day, a fact I usually try to forget, having lost my dear Mum to cancer just over a year ago. I am thankful that she initiated and nurtured my love for books, and have fond memories of her sitting on the bed and reading bedtime stories to me when I was a small child.  It also brings tears to  my eyes.

Anyway, these words of Joanne's especially resonated with me:

In difficult times I often retreat back into a book I’ve read before. I’m one of those people who get too tense to enjoy a film – or book – until I know the ending. Once I know how things turn out I can watch or read again and derive far more enjoyment this way. (I once commented to my husband that I wished I could skip to the end of my life and make sure it all turned out well, then come back and live it in a more relaxed way!)

If only that were possible.  If only we knew from the beginning how our own stories would end. We would no longer have to face the fear of the unknown. I'd urge you to read Joanne's post here:

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Publishing, writers, vanity and hypocrisy

I just read a really interesting post about indie publishing and why there is still a stigma attached to this area of publishing, which probably goes back to the days when those who self-published were accused of "vanity publishing."  Check it out here:

In any other aspect of entrepreneurial business, anyone who invests their own finances in their business project is considered passionate and deserving of admiration.  It is also assumed that if you expect others to invest in your business, then you should also be investing your own money.  It's the ultimate proof of your faith in yourself and your ability.  And artists and musicians are also admired if they invest financially in their talents and skills.  So why are writers regarded differently?  It doesn't actually make any sense. Are we so insecure in our own judgement that we require a gatekeeper such as a publisher or editor to decide for us what is good and what isn't?  And what about all those writers whose work was rejected by publishers repeatedly, only for them to go on to astounding commercial success at a later date after an innovative small press invested in their work, or they self-published (and consequently the book is  later taken up by the big publishers).  We love that kind of story.  It's inspiring.  Tenacity against the odds.  It gives us hope.  And we respect the writer for persevering.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Art of Time Management

My timekeeping and time management leaves a lot to be desired.  I try hard but it's a daily struggle.  When I started blogging just over a year ago, I sometimes thought I would never keep on top of everything that needed to be done, and now I am indie publishing my backlist, promoting, marketing, using social media such as Facebook and Linked In, there is more to manage.  It is on my list (and part of my marketing plan) to venture into the scary world of Twitter over the summer.  I enjoy all of this activity (although I don't seem to be working on the novel writing much recently!) but I am always open to ideas about how I can improve the way I structure my time.

So I found this post by Jane Friedman both refreshing and instructive. I love the title:

The advice is beautifully simple and highly practical.  As a big advocate of To Do Lists, I like the idea of having a Stop Doing list!  There is also advice on dealing with guilt, obligation, limiting certain activities, even if you enjoy them (maybe especially if you enjoy them!), being self-disciplined and improving productivity.

Essential reading for writers!

Related post:

Sunday, 3 March 2013

A Sense of Community

When you start out with a blog that you also hope will promote your writing, the advice is always that it’s not about selling or marketing directly but becoming part of a community.  I didn’t get this at first but over time, I began to understand and now I would reinforce this advice heartily.  The writing community, and especially the indie publishing bloggers, are generous, helpful and very supportive and I am so grateful to be part of this.  Whatever social media you use, it is all about community.  That’s why people enjoy and engage with social media, because it’s a way of connecting and communicating.  It’s what life is all about.

Walking along Folkestone Old High Street recently, where new, enterprising ventures constantly spring up (and sadly also close down) I was reminded of this.  I tend to visit the same cafes, not just because I like the food and coffee, but because it’s about familiarity, chatting with people, being part of the community.  And it hit me that being part of a community isn’t specific to writers - it’s essential for all new businesses and enterprises.  Whatever you sell – product or service – success depends on building trust and relationships with customers.


Related post: