Saturday, 31 May 2014

Writing, the Devil, and Carl Jung - Guest Post by Jessica Smith

Using the Devil, the Lord of all Evil, as a fictional hero may seem strange to some. How could he be such a thing, right? Instigator of sin and destruction, the ultimate tempter. He fell from grace because of pride, and got the whole of humanity barred from the Garden of Eden. He reigns over sinners in eternal torment, burns them in Hell for eternity. Not such a nice chap, you'd think.

But every story has two sides, every tale multiple perspectives, and I like to believe that even the very darkest of souls contain shades of light within them. Every soul is capable of transformation, at least I hope so, and Lucius Devlin, the Godcorp Devil, is no exception.

When creating Lucius, and the overarching Godcorp storyline, I was inspired by the work of Carl Jung. I'm fascinated by his explorations of the psyche, and the myths and archetypes hidden within our human existence. Jung, and his many peers, have been pioneers in exploring the strange and powerful roles within our unconscious. The fool, the magician, the priestess, the crone, the orphan… the list goes on and on, each one of them resonating with us at a depth below the conscious mind (if you believe, of course). Their tales are part of our heritage; their journeys and struggles representative of our own. 

As a writer I have been striving to incorporate some of this unconscious wealth into my own work. The Devil's rocky road to self-realisation and redemption is symbolic of the shadow's struggle for integration. His relationship with the two female love interests in his life symbolic of his relationship with the smoky allure of the positive and negative anima. Even his housekeeper, Theresa, symbolises his relationship with the mother archetype, pure and nurturing.

Will any of this come across to the reader? I very much doubt it, and I'm dubious whether it even should. I only hope that on some level the struggle of the Devil and his path into the light, along with the struggles of those around him, resonate with some, and mean something. I hope it means something. Isn't that what all writers want? For their work to mean something? Touch someone? Move someone? Provoke some kind of genuine reaction?

For me, as well as making an unlikely hero of the Devil, Godcorp was about loss, genuine grief. I lost my boyfriend, Malcolm, in a bike accident when he was twenty-four. He wanted his life to mean something. I thought that maybe if I put his life and death in a book that would mean something. I thought the heart-bleeding, dredges of real-life grief on the page might mean something. I hope it does.

Writing is a strange old thing. You create an imaginary world, fill it with people who need to be as 3D as anyone you could meet in real life. You need a relationship with them, with their journey, their story. On top of that it needs to be coherent, polished, well-paced and structured. Then ideally it needs to look good, be packaged well and made available for as many people as possible to actually read the thing.

When the first Godcorp made its way into the public arena back last month I waited for the world to respond to my baby. I bit my nails while people read my story, and then I waited for the verdict. I'm still waiting, of course, for the tidal wave of response that every author dreams of. The world has not yet gone crazy with Godcorp mania (surprise) and I'm ready to release Godcorp 2 now, still waiting for that verdict. But Hell, I think that's as much a part of writing as anything else along the journey. 

I was at lunch this weekend with my family who are amazing people and believe in me no end. I'm lucky for that. 

"How's the book going?" they ask, with hopeful expressions. 

"Good,ˮ I say. 

"I thought it would have done better by now," is their verdict. "How many copies did 50 Shades of Grey sell?"

Considerably more than Godcorp is the answer, but really when it comes down to it, who cares? If I get to redeem the Devil archetype within my own unconscious mind that's good enough for me. After all, that means something. To me. It means something to me, and that is enough to keep me writing.

Check him out if you want, I think Lucius Devlin is quite a dish. He's really not so bad when you get to know him, honest. And that means a lot to me. 

About Godcorp:
'Sales' Midas Evie Stone has the world at her feet and high places to go, until the day her boyfriend is killed in a traffic accident.

Evie just knows it was not Malcolm’s time to die and sets out on a mission to rectify fate’s mistake and bring him back from the dead.

She uncovers the mysterious Godcorp organisation, but does God, the Almighty, really have a website?

Resurrecting the dead is no easy task. How much is Evie willing to sacrifice?

Her fate, and Malcolm's, rest heavily on one beautiful man - enigmatic business mogul Lucius Devlin, who wants Evie for his empire.

To reach Godcorp she will have to play the Devil, but will the Devil play fair?

About me:
I'm Jessica Louise Smith and, like my protagonist Evie Stone, I'm from the rural county of Herefordshire - famous for cider and bulls. That isn't where the similarities end; I also lost my long-term, on-off-on-off-on-again boyfriend, Malcolm McClure, in a biking accident when he was just twenty-four years old. Hence Godcorp was born. After Malcolm died the questions that plague Evie were the ones that haunted me. Where had he gone? Why? How could I get him back? I'd never felt anything like it - the gut-wrenching pain and absolute, world-crashing, everything-I've-ever-known-is-wrong disbelief. I couldn't accept he was gone. Everything screamed: 'Mistake!' I began to wonder about the reality of the afterlife and Heaven. I mean, think about it, such an operation would have to be immense, and what kind of organisation that big never makes mistakes? The idea of Heaven as a massive corporate and Evie Stone's quest to bring Malcolm back home was born. Outside of being a writer I work, as Evie does, for a specialist IT sales agency. I sell business analytics solutions into the major UK banks and retailers, and have always had the jammiest streak in the world. It serves me well. I'm also a qualified NLP practitioner, Reiki Master and I've got the highest score on Bop-it of anyone I know. I got through to the screen test for BBC's The Apprentice a few years back and am now glad I didn't make it, as I'd never have written Godcorp. I'd say the book is my biggest achievement. It's just a shame Malcolm will never read it.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Just Writing a Book isn’t Enough! - Guest Post by Louise Wise

I’ve been a writer for many years now, and during that time I have learnt a lot about social media—and seen a lot of hapless authors trying to sell their book on the back of it.

The number one no-no is authors not using their name in social media (the name on the book they are promoting), and probably worse is building an entire author platform around a single title. What they do when they release another book? Make another website? Who’s got that amount of time?

Your name (the name on your book) is the SINGLE most important thing when it comes to social media. JK Rowling couldn’t sell The Casual Vacancy until someone let slip that she wrote it, so what does that tell you? If you need it spelling out you’re in the wrong business!

The next is on Twitter (my favourite waste of time) where authors overuse hashtags. Take for instance this:

#animalbooks Stop ur #dog fouling in the house. #animallovers #nonfiction #dogs #animals #canines #booksonanimals Http://

Like the word ‘said’ (as in I/she said) at the end of dialogue, hashtags have become invisible, so I read the above as ‘Stop fouling in the house’. Nice. Although the hashtags will take your tweet to people searching for those particular hashtags, they are unnoticed by everyone else.

It’s better to make several tweets with one or two hashtags, than one tweet with many hashtags. Use the hashtags carefully and NEVER in between your mini blurb. Your Twitter mini blurb is too important to have key words become invisible. And don’t use text speak—unless you’re targeting the school-age readership.

OK, my next no-no is saying your book isn’t very good. Why oh why would an author say that about their book! Madness. I’m sure most UKers understand the words ‘Ratner effect’. For those don’t know, Ratner was a British Jewellery shop whose owner said in a press conference that his wares were utter rubbish. The shop almost went under and had to rebrand sharply (now called Signet Group). So don’t admit to anyone that your book is rubbish because people will believe you. Admit to yourself only, and if you do, then for goodness sake pull it off and rewrite it!

On the other side of the coin, don’t brag either. I knew of a lady that was forever talking about how well her book was doing: ‘Five hundred copies in one day sold,’ she’d tweet. She was rightly proud of herself, but there is a fine line between being proud and bragging, and she had a few jealous people become nasty to her. Be humble, just not too humble.

Another thing I see a lot is the new author not being able to define their novel. I had a client whose book was labelled ‘general fiction’. I asked her to define the genre and she replied ‘Well, it has romance, adventure and sci-fi in it. It’s also aimed at YA although adults read it too, so I can’t define it any more than that. It’s a book for everyone.’

Er, no… some detest sci-fi, and some sci-fiers hate romance, and some adults won’t want to read what’s classed as a teen book! So she has alienated most of the people she’s trying to pull in without even trying!

Think like a car sales man. Someone comes into your showroom and says they want a car. What do you say? Do you wave your hand around and say, ‘Lots here. Enjoy.’ Or ask them what kind of car are they looking for, or better, what do they want out of a car ie family car, run-around, economical, speed.

It’s the same with genre. Be precise or risk losing readership.

Lastly, help other writers. Open up your blog and let people write articles for you, tweet for people, mention them on Facebook. Do what you want others to do for you, and you never know they may reciprocate.

Married, with four children, Louise Wise lives in England. She is a pharmacist technician by day and a writer by night. She was educated in an ordinary state school and left without achieving much in the way of qualifications; you could say she was the result of a crap school. Hungry for knowledge she enrolled in an Adult Education centre and studied English, maths and creative writing. Whereas other young girls asked for makeup and clothes for their birthdays, she asked for encyclopaedias!

Louise used her general love of romantic fiction and interest in astronomy to write her first book. The book received many rejections stating the novel was too original for the current market, until finally, an agent took the book on but subsequently failed to find a publisher for it. Instead of becoming despondent, it made Louise realise that becoming a published writer WAS possible. She turned her back on traditionally publishing, threw herself into the indie world and went on to publish her first chick lit book, A Proper Charlie and then Oh no, I’ve Fallen in Love! 

As for the ‘too original’ Eden it has been such a hit that Louise has now followed it up with the sequel, Hunted. So far, they are both selling well.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

How to set up shop - virtually by Cally Phillips

This post is partnered with my regular blog slot of 4th June in which I’ll look at the ‘whys’ of setting up an online store. For this slot, I’ll confine myself to how to set up an online store for ebooks. Sorry, there are no pictures but that would take me another half hour or so of time I don’t have and if you’re interested enough to read this, I don’t think pictures will do much but distract you. If you’re easily distracted… (see, lost them already!) What it lacks in pictures it makes up for in hyperlinks. Much more useful things.

Let’s start at the very beginning:

The price objection
The first thing is, it’s going to cost. While you can set up an online store using a variety of free software, I have not found (and believe me I’ve tried) any way to set up a store which will allow digital downloads without forking over money.

So now we’re looking at cost and ease of use.  I researched this area for a couple of years (during which  time options changed of course) and the best I came up with for cost and ease of use was Weebly.
Weebly is an easy to use, drag and drop website. You can have one for free, but to host a store you have to upgrade to the Pro or Business site.  For digital download you need to use the Business site.  I’d used Weebly free for over a year and been very happy with their interface and service and ease of use, so when it came to paying money for an ecommerce add on, I bit the bullet.  Here is the link to my own online virtual bookstore. (Great bargains to be had!)

In a nutshell: Why use Weebly? It’s easy and it holds your hand through the set up process.  I’m sure there are other options but I’ve not found one that suits better.  Weebly also gives you a blog as part of the website so you can have all your online activity in one place. And like I said, it’s an easy, drag and drop interface with online help at every step.  As one who first started building websites in Dreamweaver in the 1990’s  and then migrated to Wordpress (free version) in 2011, Weebly has made life a lot easier, quicker and simpler and until I needed ecommerce, it was also free.

And the downsides?
Of course there are downsides.
You have to pay in dollars annually in advance for your ‘monthly’ subscription. Currently for the Business site it’s just shy of $20 a month.  (£12) This is the only version of Weebly which allows you to sell digital as well as actual products, so for ebooks it’s the way to go. 
Here’s their own description of how the ecommerce features work.
But you are interested primarily in how to sell ebooks (digital product) through your own website, right?

Becoming a virtual bookstore.
Okay Step 1. Bite the bullet and set up the Weebly site (you can put your own domain name – recommended if you’re running a ‘professional’ type store) or use a weebly one.

Step 2.  Either decide to ‘migrate’ your old site with all blog gubbins etc to Weebly (thus saving you money if you are paying another host, or saving you time if you have a range of ‘free’ options around cyberspace) or build a whole new site from scratch – or just build a store. I think it’s missing a trick simply to use Weebly for the ‘store’ feature though and since you’re paying you might as well get full use of the facility.  So now, for around £150 a year you are getting a fully configured website, blog and ecommerce store.  Put it that way, if you’re already paying for hosting, it’s probably not that much extra.

Step 3.  Have your product ready. That means have your ebook digital  files ready for upload. Cover images and blurbs at the ready.   If you’re smart you’ll sell in both Kindle (mobi) and epub formats and you may want to cover all bases and sell pdf too.  Calibre is the simplest conversion tool and now (I’m happy to say) you can pretty much rely on it and not have to worry about learning Sigil – unless you are going to do complex things requiring images). 

Step4. Do a bit of research. Go online and look at digital stores, virtual bookstores etc  - this alone will show you that while it may seem a bit of a gamble at this point, the challenge to Amazon is coming and you may as well be ready for ‘niche’ online sales opportunities of the near future. (More on this in the companion ‘why’ post on 4th June.)

Step 5.  Set up your store.  Drag and drop the products.  Insert your product blurb, set your price and upload the files. Apply ‘coupon’ discounts, set the number of times or days which a person can download the ebook.  Remember that you may have contractual obligations re Amazon who reserve the right to price match (I don’t know if Smashwords do this too) when fixing your price. But at your own store you can offer short term discounts for personal promotions.  (If your ebooks are on Kindle Select you can’t even begin to think of setting up your own store by the way!! Never forget the small print.)

Step 6.  Counting the money.  Sadly, right now the ways of getting money in are limited in the UK to paypal (which people can use credit/debit cards  to pay with but YOU need a paypal account to take the money) so you’ve got to figure in transaction charges and run a paypal account. But that’s not too expensive or onerous.

So these are the basics in how to set up an online store which you can use to sell digital download product (ebooks) – and of course when you have the store you can also sell physical goods too.  
And if you want to give it a go to see how easy it is to buy – go to my store and pick up a bargain! (that’s from the Bill Kirton school of not so subliminal marketing!)

Now you have till next Wednesday (June 4th) to work out reasons WHY you’d want to set up an online store for ebooks. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Three Ulcers, a Hospital Nightmare and a Reading Fest by Enid Richemont

Here it is - the cover image of my very scary, but very funny, short chapter book for early readers. The inside illustrations, or at least those I've seen, are delightful. It's not easy to portray a cat in the process of turning into a boy, and Gustavo achieves this splendidly - his cat drawings are so witty.

 Since I last blogged on Authors Electric, I have been very ill, and in hospital, which turned out to be one of the worst experiences of my life. I was automatically placed on a geriatric ward where, already frightened by my condition, I was subjected nightly to the disturbing and haunting cries of a very small and rather distinguished-looking, but deeply demented old lady who kept repeating two phrases: "You're amazing", and, "In the mist". Irritation combined with my inevitable writer's curiosity - who was so amazing? and just what was she seeing in the mist? It would have been impossible to engage her in any kind of conversation, so I began making up my own stories.

I was told that I had three ulcers and put on hefty medication which I hope will work. Convalescence has been much slower than I expected, but one of its side effects has been a personal reading fest. My daughter lent me a very impressive debut Young Adult novel self-published by a friend and neighbour of hers, which, from the reviews on the back cover, seems to have already taken off agent and publisher-wise. It's an erudite and very unusual novel, dealing with the sudden illness and eventual death of a sibling, and the story is told via the Latin names of plants, classical music, art, skateboarding, sex and Shakespeare. The book is called: 'If Everyone Knew Every Plant and Tree', and the author is Julia Johnston. Look out for her in the future.

I then moved on to Fay Weldon. I used to read her a lot, then got tired of her rather flippant style of storytelling. 'The Cloning of Joanna May' became a sanity-saver for me, and likewise, although lesser so, one of her early books, 'Down Among the Women', both bought from a charity shop. David's huge library is also at my disposal. We had very different tastes in books.  He was passionate about fantasy and science fiction - not always my kind of thing, and I always lacked his scientific expertise - but it has certainly enriched my life, and I'm now into an amazing anthology of time travel stories. 

New books/illness/NHS battles, an amazing new writer

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Real Life "Shades of Grey" - Andrew Crofts

Their enquiry stood out from the others that came through that day. James emailed that he and his girlfriend, Penny, lived in Switzerland and were looking for a ghostwriter to tell their love story. He warned that it would contain sexual elements that many would find shocking, but that there would be many lessons to be learnt from it.

Dear Mr. Crofts, if possible, I think that meeting up with us, seeing who we are, hearing us out, would not be a waste of time.

He told me they would be in London the following weekend and would be staying at the Dorchester in Park Lane. Curiosity got the better of me. “Fifty Shades of Grey” was selling millions of copies a week and female sexuality was the hot topic of the day. Since I was going to be in Mayfair anyway, interviewing an African leader whose memoir I was just finishing off, I suggested I pop into the Dorchester once I was finished.

The African leader had a busier schedule than expected and finding myself free in the middle of the day I sent James a text. He invited me to join them for lunch at Zuma’s, a famous Japanese restaurant in Knightsbridge. It seemed that fate was working to make this meeting both pleasant and convenient. Even if nothing came of the book it would be an interesting lunch and would pass the time until my African client was free once more.
The composed, confident couple I found waiting for me at the bar with perfectly chilled glasses of white wine were extremely good looking, but with no hint of arrogance. They managed to be both reserved and charming at the same time, intent on making me feel comfortable in their company despite the very obvious fact that they were completely wrapped up in their adoration of one another.

Plate after plate of tiny, elegant delicacies were presented at the table by discreet waitresses and one chilled bottle of wine followed another as they slowly revealed their fable of true love.

It started with love at first sight when they were little more than children and was shattered a few years later by the realities of adult life and the expectations of their families. Just like Romeo and Juliet the young lovers were forced apart by circumstances but, unlike Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, these two had been given a second chance and they had turned it into something magical and extraordinary and deeply sexual.

By the time the espressos were being served I was hooked and had agreed to fly out to Switzerland the following weekend with a tape machine. That was the start of a journey deep into the lives of a couple who together have discovered some of the most profound secrets of personal happiness.

One of the skills necessary for ghostwriting is the ability to ask very personal questions without causing people to clam up with embarrassment. Exactly how far, I wondered, could I go with my questions this time? How much detail would they be willing to go into?

Initially Penny was more reserved in what she wanted to talk about than James was but gradually, as the three of us spent days together talking, she became more sure of what she wanted to reveal. Because James had done most of the talking initially the first draft of the book had too much of a male slant, but it made it possible for Penny to see what she didn’t want and she started to open up more with her own descriptions of their relationship, both physical and emotional. That was when the book really started to take on a life of its own.

Monday, 26 May 2014

The Evils of Multi-tasking - by Ruby Barnes

Modern life is complex. 

Sometimes I wake up of a morning, usually a Monday, and the birds are singing in the trees. All my projects – be they writing, home or day job – are like ripe fruit ready to be picked. I’m so grateful for the opportunities that life presents.

Other days I wake up with a huge weight on my chest. Each project is like a rock on a medieval torture board, squashing me flat as a suspected witch. I can’t draw breath and one more task will finish me off for good. Those days are thankfully few and are just to be got through in one piece. I can’t even reach up to remove a rock and spend the day just concentrating on breathing, knowing the next day will be better. 

I’ve wondered about this phenomenon because the projects on the good days are often the same as those on the bad days. Perhaps the good days are when I have my optimistic head on me and I’m anticipating the rewards of a job well done. On the bad days I’m scared of failure. Failure is a real risk.

Why would a complexity of projects result in failure? Because of the evils of multi-tasking.

Multi-tasking has taken on a new meaning in the modern world of social media and mobile devices. Phone calls, text messages, emails, tweets, snapchat, instagram etcetera are granted the right of interruption. People don’t want to miss out on any potential form of communication. Perhaps the future of our race is to swarm virtually around global trending topics and memes. We think we’re individuals but all we’re really doing is just liking, forwarding, retweeting, commenting with catchphrases and pasting selfies into the swarm. This isn’t real multi-tasking. It’s compulsive communication syndrome (as coined by Dr Barnes in May 2011). 

Not only is social media granted the right of interruption but correspondents expect an immediate response. This can avalanche into constant interaction with no real outcome. I spent the evening on the computer no longer means hours spent surfing websites. It involves online groups, chat threads, emails, twitter conversation etc. Meanwhile the important projects are neglected.

Supposing compulsive communication syndrome can be neutralised, it leaves the more traditional multi-tasking dilemma. If you are working on a computer then the issue is usually obvious. Multiple programs, multiple windows. These represent your projects, all calling for attention. Should you shut them all down, except for one, and work on that? Why not keep them all open and spend an hour on this one, a half hour on another? In that way several projects can be managed simultaneously. Surely that’s more efficient? In short, no. It’s not. 

There are numerous articles on the web about the inefficiency of multi-tasking. Studies are carried out from time to time and confirm that productivity suffers because the transition between tasks is not instantaneous. It takes a while to switch off the thought processes relating to the previous or concurrent activity. The other main problem exhibited is a self-discipline challenge to avoid distraction with email, phone calls etc. All this sounds suspiciously like the compulsive communication syndrome so nothing new here.

So let’s suppose we overcome the transition problems and the distraction. Now we get to the nub of the thing. The term multi-tasking originates from the computer industry and refers to the ability of a microprocessor to process several tasks simultaneously. Human brains don’t work in this way and what we actually do is switch from one task to another. Therein lies the problem. 

I had my eyes opened to the pitfalls of this a few years ago when I attended a course on the Theory of Constraints (sounds like bondage but far less interesting.) 

If you multi-task and switch between projects before completion then the tasks at the top of the pile are inevitably delayed (see diagram, acknowledgement to If there are other things dependent upon these tasks then they are also delayed. This is why things get started but seem to struggle to get finished, be it writing, day job or home. 

So what’s the answer to being more productive with your multiple tasks and making the most of all the opportunities they present? Focus. Prioritise your tasks and focus on one at a time, to completion. Hard wire your avoidance of distractions by turning off apps, closing down multiple windows, logging out of email. You will be surprised how quickly individual tasks can be completed. 

Now, I just have to go check my Amazon sales figures, answer a few emails and post a picture of my karate weapons on facebook. But I’m allowed to do it because I finished this blog post on time.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Running With Wolves - by Susan Price

          Well, it's been available on Amazon's Kindle platform for some time now. But at last, at last, it's available as a paperback book, published by PriceClan. A paperback, that will clatter through your letter box, wrapped up in brown card, and solidly thump onto the mat. Or carpet. Or floorboards, or whatever you have under your letter-box.
          I set out to achieve this more than a year ago, when I received lots of emails from teachers, asking where they could buy copies of the book. It's always gone down rather well in schools, when I've read it aloud, and it seems many schools want to use it as a class reader.
          But it was out of print, and second-hand copies were selling on eBay and through Amazon market-place at silly money.
          So I commissioned new illustrations from Andrew Price, and published the book on Kindle, where it's selling rather well.
          But some teachers said they would prefer a paper book - and, of course, there are thousands of people outside schools who might like a paper copy too.
          So Andrew and I tackled CreateSpace, which has quirky little ways all of its own - and found that even when we got the book past the bots, the cover Andrew had designed didn't look half so good in ink on paper as it had as pixels on a back-lit computer screen. Back to the drawing-programme. (If you want to know more about this tiresome process, there are links to blogs about it on our 'How-To Page.')
          One of the great things about CreateSpace, for writers, is that there is no money to pay up front. I didn't have to go to Funding Circle, to try and raise the money to pay printers and distributors. Amazon pays all the up-front costs, and publishes 'on-demand.' They take their costs from the sales-price, and forward the rest to me as a royalty - and a considerably higher royalty than I would earn for a conventionally published paperback.
          I decided to put out two versions: one with the illustrations in black and white, at £6.28, and one with illustrations in full colour, at £7.99.

          It'll be interesting to see which one sells best, and if it changes around Christmas.

               The black and white paperback can be found here.

          And the one with colour illustrations can be found here.

          Now, at these prices, with conventional publishers, I would probably get a royalty of something like 45p per copy sold on the black and white, and 59p on the colour. With CreateSpace, I don't get an advance, but I do get more than twice the royalty for every copy sold.     

          If you live in America, and you'd like a copy, follow the UK link given above. Then go to the browser box at the top right-hand corner of your screen, where it says:  Click on this with your cursor, and change '' to '.com/' 
         Change nothing else. Go to the other end of the browser box and click on the arrow. You will be taken to The Wolf's Footprint page for America, where you will find, to your delight, that the American black and white paperback copy costs only $8.09.
          There are much cheaper hardback copies, but they are second-hand, so not only will it not be this new and collectable edition - PriceClan's first production! - but it will be filling the pockets of second-hand book traders instead of putting bread on the table of this struggling writer. I aint even kidding.
          The full colour edition, in America, costs $9.89.
          The book was only published in 2003, yet I am already meeting and hearing from adults who tell me it was a favourite book of theirs when they were children.
          This, it has to be admitted, creates a certain big-headedness in a writer.
           Still - eight quid or ten dollars, for a book that will last for years, and quite possibly live in your child's or grandchild's imagination for the rest of their lives.

Susan Price has won the Carnegie Medal and The Guardian Fiction Prize.
          Her website is at

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Chopping it all down - by Jo Carroll


is all that remains of my apple tree.

It was, once, impressive. Its blossom hung heavy in the spring. I sat in its shade to read in the summer. It kept my neighbour and I in apples through the autumn.

Then last year it began to look sorry for itself. My tree-man (everyone should have a tree-man - or woman - someone who knows all about trees and shrubs and comes round every now and then to give them a serious talking-to, and sometimes a serious pruning) frowned, broke off a twig or two and said it had a hint of green, leave it, it might recover.

I left it - but, as everything else burst into bloom this spring, my apple tree stayed resolutely bald. It was obviously an ex-apple-tree. It was gone before. Its fruiting days were done. And so it has had to come down.

It wasn't fun, taking it down. It involved a lot of noise and lugging logs up and down the garden and general harrumphing because (to be honest) I loved my apple tree and was sad to see it carted about with such lack of ceremony. But sometimes, needs must.

And in its place - at the moment - nothing but space. Potential. Decisions to be made about plants, or shrubs, or maybe just to grass it over and put up a swing for the grandchildren. Or a pond? (But next door have cats ...) The garden looks surprised, the unfamiliar light given surviving plants a different hue.

Sometimes my writing it like that. I write because I love it - but sometimes my pages of scribble need more than an edit, they need the delete button. And that's fine - for in place of the drivel is potential. Start again. Anything can happen. The blank page is only terrifying if we let it be. Instead it is the seedbed of ideas: some will grow and others will wither and some will develop a shape of their own without any apparent intervention from us.

That, surely, is the joy of writing.

(For those who are interested, the book about my trip to Cuba has not succumbed to the delete button but is currently with a copy editor. It should come out towards the end of June - keep an eye on my website for details - )

Friday, 23 May 2014

Between a Block and a Hard Place by Lev Butts

It's summertime here in the sunny South (and, I guess pretty much everywhere else in the northern hemisphere). My papers are all marked, my grades are turned in, and for the first time since teaching high school, I have three whole months where I don't have to be anywhere (Don't get me wrong, I still have work  to do, but they're all online classes).

Three whole months of limitless opportunity.

You get me, Alice Cooper; you really really do.

At least it seemed so two weeks ago when I locked my office door and drove home. I spent the hour and a half drive meticulously planning how I would get ALL of the writing done this summer. I was going to finish the Lovecraft book I'm editing AND finish the next installment of Guns of the Waste Land. Hell, I'd even try to tap out a little more on the next story in my Ragnarok retelling. Maybe even write a new blog post for my woefully underused personal blog (I've grown so lazy with it, I forgot to even link my last Author's Electric Post there).

However, the vast fields of promise and opportunity that looked, from the high vantage point of a fortnight ago, like this:

now more closely resemble this as I move further and further into my summer:

I'd blame it on the crippling drought, but that ended a couple of years ago.
So what happened? How did I get from the excitement of a new adventure waiting just over the horizon to this barren waste land of Facebook-checking, Youtube watching, and cat picture staring?

Other than the fact that Grumpy Cat never really gets old?
Writer's Block.

It took me a while to get it, but all of my comic book reading, video-game playing, and television watching that I had told myself was just me unwinding from an academic year was just my avoiding writing. 

I realized this when I found my self actually doing chores around the house instead of writing. Got a dish out? Let's wash that shit right the hell now. Maybe I should make the bed before writing. I wonder if I should rotate my tires, and clean the carburetor on the Bug first?

At first I thought it was just laziness. I had set myself a task, albeit one I thought I'd enjoy, so now I was bound and determined to not do that task. Then I realized, it was more like I knew what would happen once I sat down at the computer:

Not. A. Damned. Thing.
All my productivity, then, had been a mask to hide my lack of productivy.

Writer's block

Severe writer's block
I had a lot to do, but I was afraid I'd not be able to do any of it, so I'd sabotage all of it.

The web is chock full of writing pundits weighing in on how to beat writer's block.

They all suck.
So I'll go ahead and add my two cents worth, as well. Here's my five best ways to fight writer's block:

Your's suck, too.
5. Trick Yourself

This trick works especially well if you have multiple projects as it's really just a variation of the above-mentioned doing-chores-to-feel-accomplished-without-really-doing-what-you-need-to-be-doing procrastination technique.

Decide which project is the most important one to you, and do the other one in order to avoid it.

In my case, I have two major projects: the Guns sequel and the Lovecraft book. Guns is going to be harder because it requires actual creativity and writing. The Lovecraft book requires research and transcribing mostly, though I do have to write the introductions at some point. 

This week, then, I have been working diligently on annotating the selections in the Lovecraft book and transcribing my interviews with various authors.

I'm so happy even the dread-shadowed plains of Leng
cannot smother my sheer joy.
It has worked great until this morning, when my subconscious got wise and realized what I was up to. Hence this post. See? Every time I dread writing on one thing, I move to another. The secret is to keep writing something. Keep faking accomplishment by actually accomplishing something.

It's just like the chore thing: I have avoided writing, but I have also, undeniably, achieved something.

I mean, really, those paper clips weren't going to organize themselves were they?
Of course there are problems here, too. What if both projects are equally important? What if you only have one project? What if the problem is that you want to write but have absolutely no idea what to write?

Well, that's where techniques 4-1 come in:

Well, shit.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Book Cooking by Susan Price

       Since we still don't  have a regular blogger for the 22nd, I thought I'd pop up with a reminder that the authors are still cooking.

Tasty treats and unusual eats from Authors Electric blogging collective! Eating your words, devouring a book, writing and food go together like fiction and chips. Here’s a chance to cook from our books with e-readable recipes, or just get the not-so-skinny on what keeps authors stoked while they scribble: some of it yummy, some of it funny. An ebook to binge or snack on, where the calories are certified virtual. Dig in!

         The idea for the anthology came from seeing bookshops piled high with shiny books by cooks and chefs and more cooks. Hey, that's our space! The Electrics felt we should fight back.
         So here's a taster for our writing. It's a book for dipping into, for reading in short bursts on bus or train, a way of trying out a few of Authors Electric's writers before taking a bigger bite.
         You will find pieces here on the care and feeding of your writer...
         The care and feeding of your whippets...
          The care and feeding of your murderous Scottish reivers...
          The care and feeding of your detective inspector... Oh, and much more. Actual, real recipes that turn into real food on some of the pages.
          And it's only 77p.
          $1.28 to our American readers - can I say fairer than that?
          Oh go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on...
          Go on.
          Here's the link - Cooking The Books.
          Go on!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Surfing, Fishing and Foggy Days – by Pauline Chandler

May 21st 2014    Surfing, Fishing and Foggy Days –  by Pauline Chandler

I’ve been writing this novel for eight years.  I know. It’s a very long time and I can imagine a variety of responses. An agent might say: ‘We need a book a year, at least!’ A publisher will say something similar: ‘We can’t wait.. write something else..move on..’ If you’re not a writer, it might be :  ‘What’s taking  you so long? How hard can it be?  Enid Blyton, Patricia Cornwell, that pink lady, Barbara Cartland, etc, etc …they all wrote at least one book a year, if not more, so why can’t you do that?’ 

I have to tell you that for writers there is nothing worse than a deadline. DEADLINE. Dead line. The line beyond which, if you're not standing there, wild-eyed and breathless, manuscript in hand, you are, or might as well Such a cruel word. 

A writer might say, ‘Yes.  It happens like that sometimes.’ A writer will understand my problem. You do, don’t you? 

Writing is like surfing.
For a while you pootle about in the shallows, sketching out an idea, then a wave of confidence comes along and carries you high, as you write several chapters, which are all marvellous! Then someone says they’re not so marvellous and you’re dumped in the shallows again, but you keep going and try again, get back up on the board and steady yourself, ready, because you can’t let the idea go, because you’re convinced of it, you know there’s something there…something.

Maybe fishing would be a better analogy. You write and write, fishing for the magic that will bring your story to life, that elusive little fish that’s darting about just out of reach while you dangle your hook in the water and wait and wait and wait. Or, let's get real for a moment, in my own case, not fishing as such, but cleaning, cooking, washing, gardening, walking, all the time with my head in a different place, sitting on the bank of the lake of stories, staring into the water. 

Sometimes if you’re lucky, a whole section will come to you like a gift;  a scene, an incident, a snatch of conversation, even just a phrase, that you know you will never change, because it’s part of the finished book. When I wrote ‘Mr Rabbit the Farmer’, a text for the Oxford Reading Scheme, it was the pictures that came to me, slotting into the 32 page format like clockwork.
Where did that come from? It was a huge surprise! I was able to provide a reasonable brief for Eric Smith, the illustrator, who brought my ideas brilliantly to life. Don’t ask me how that happened. I’m no artist. 

In the case of ‘Warrior Girl’, for the story of Joan of Arc, I wrote the death scene first, very quickly, with trembling fingers, and didn’t change it.  It must have been on my mind, you know, from the first moment of deciding to write about Joan and her terrible death. Perhaps I’d been working on it subconsciously. Whatever the case, the finished piece came to me and was’ right’.  

It’s rare though, that it happens. Mostly, I plod and hack and weed and stumble on. It was reassuring to hear Alan Bennett recently speaking of writing as ‘very difficult’. And another hero of mine, Alan Sillitoe, saying he wrote every novel eight times over, before he was satisfied it was ‘right’. Then there’s George Eliot, who threw away over 100,000 painstakingly handwritten words to start again.           

My new book is written:  I do have a complete draft, but I know it’s not ‘right’. The writing process I go through is like watching fog clear from a view.  
(Copyright: Alec McCann for BBC Weather)

Surfing, fishing, foggy days! Hope you’re following all this.

Time after time, day after day, the fog stays solidly in place, clearing perhaps for a moment, a sentence a scene, a chapter. Then it swirls about and closes down again, but, eventually, if I keep going, it clears like magic - boom!- and I can see the way clearly, and it’s ‘right’.  Or right enough to show a professional editor. It’s a wonderful moment. Eureka!

I’m lucky in not having to earn my living from writing, so I can indulge in this lengthy process, as I search for the ‘right’ words. Modern publishers won’t wait, I know, which is why I’m thrilled at the way the market is changing to favour more self-publishing. I will finish my book and publish it when I’m ready, when it’s ‘right’.

Pauline Chandler May 21 2014