Showing posts from November, 2014

The Wisdom of Hindsight by Jan Ruth

A few funny words of wisdom for very new authors, and those in charge of household appliances. Self-Publishing. If I could go back and start again, would I do anything differently? Yes, all of it! You see, I never read the instructions for anything . Half the programs on the new washing machine will never be used because I don’t have the patience to read the manual. I learnt about self-publishing the hard way, but maybe that’s not necessarily a negative. Sometimes, if you make horrible mistakes along the way, you’re not likely to forget them, or repeat them. Now, where’s that powder, the one that doesn’t foam? The one I was told not to use under any circumstances, the one that clogged the entire cycle... The Pre-Wash: 1. Editing & proofreading. 2. Cover design & formatting. 3. Website & social marketing platforms. Editing & Proofreading. There are many, many books out there which are badly in need of a good soak and a pre-wash. I confess to having a head

Winter Recycling: N M Browne

Today I was thinking of all the things I love about being a writer. One of them is that even the very best writers recycle themes, ideas, phrases, even plots. I am not going to claim greatness, but to prove my ecological credentials, here is a blog post I wrote some years ago. Nothing has changed in the interim, or at least nothing that changes my views on these: ten reasons I like being a writer. 1. As an author you can lie in bed with your eyes shut claiming (sometimes legitimately) that you are not dozing but plotting... 2. Cafe Coffee and croissants post JK Rowling are a morally justifiable, if not a legally acceptable, expense. 3. You can still work in your dressing gown/birthday suit/wellies without anyone lecturing you on ‘inappropriate workplace attire’ or indeed horrific taste/cellulite. 4. You can still feign shock at parties when nobody has heard of you: ‘Oh but I always thought you were very well read...’ or ‘well I suppose my books are rather demanding.


To  continue the theme of publishers who nurture, or don't, my experience with Walker Books, my first publisher was very positive - in fact, I thought of them as my second family. Newspaper articles were written, at the time, about the experience - always positive - of being a Walker author, about being called, often at weekends, with exciting sales news or small publicity titbits, of the creche, of the private taxi service if you were working late with an editor (one of my most treasured memories was of being driven in a black cab from Vauxhall to Muswell Hill on an icy clear night, with all the lights of London town around me, and me feeling like a queen). Oh, and the parties - the unforgettable parties (do they still happen?) - the barn dance one where they brought in bales of straw, to celebrate their entry into the American market, the Halloween one where someone who shall be nameless turned up in a VERY explicit devil costume, and, of course, the Crystal Ball... Times hav

Marketing Steam - Andrew Crofts

Self published authors know that they can’t do everything themselves. We may have decided that we do not need the “full raft” of services that the big publishing houses offer, but we do need the help of some of the clever people who slave within the bowels of those giants. Before anything else we need editors to keep our words under control, and we need designers if our covers are to look as good as, or better than, the ones churned out by the big guys. Both editors and designers are fairly easy to find on the internet and don’t cost too much if the book has a budget and a chance of earning some money back. But then we come to the marketing side of the business, or creating “discoverability”, as it tends to be called these days. This is altogether a knottier problem. Back in May I wrote in this slot about a “real life 50 Shades of Grey" which I had been hired to ghost for an anonymous European lady. The book worked out well and one of the biggest agents in London agreed to ta

Is The Pen Mightier Than The Sword? by Ruby Barnes

My twitterprofile claims I am the oldest ninja in town. There’s an element of truth to this. I’m currently three years into my fourth attempt this half-century to master karate. I’m not getting any faster, I’m not getting any more flexible, but I am getting stronger and more determined. After a year of practise with the katana (a two-handed sword beastie of the samurai variety) I did a solo performance at the club’s recent fundraising show in front of an audience of 300+. A lot of attacking imaginary opponents with three feet of polished nastiness, all to the tune of Prokofiev’s Montagues and Capulets (go to 1:39 and it’s from there) . It was a two hour programme and my mad frenzied attack was scheduled just before the interval. So how did it go? Almost immediately I was inexplicably out of my expected timing sequence with the music and the ponderous thump of that Montagues and Capulets section required me to strike, thrust, push imaginary dead bodies off the bla

Technological Scary Biscuits by Susan Price

Technology. How can you not love it? Space-craft on meteroids - The Ghost Drum in paperback even if it did fall over. And - an even greater achievement as far as I'm concerned - my book, The Ghost Drum , available in paperback again, after years out of print. I knew when I finished it that it was the best book I'd ever written - though now, having re-read them all as I turned them into e-books, I think that its successors, Ghost Song and Ghost Dance, are, in some ways, better. Ghost Song is, I think, more lyrical and poetic, while Ghost Dance is altogether darker, with a more complex story. They were originally published for children but none of the books are particuarly childish. Although they're 'fairy-tales' of a kind, they're based on the often bitter and cynical older stories, which were told by adults to adults, and reflected a kind of magical-realism response to often hard lives. All the books were published in America, as well as the UK.

This is not a revolutionary post by Jo Carroll

I know I'm a pedant. So sometimes I need to creep into a corner and give myself a talking to. Language moves on. 'Gotten' will become an acceptable import from America whether I like it or not. But there is one word that makes my hackles rise whenever it is used inappropriately (which is most of the time.) Revolutionary. A revolutionary (noun) is a man or woman whose actions or beliefs promote comprehensive change in systems or in thinking: Che Guevara was a revolutionary. So was Darwin. Revolutionary (adjective) describes the beliefs, ideas, or theories that underpin that change. So Darwin's discovery of evolution upended all previous assumptions about creation and the impact of his thinking rumbles on today. But the word has been adopted by the advertising industry and become meaningless. So here, for any ad-men or ad-women who might drop by this blog, is why I will never buy anything that you describe as 'revolutionary:' Shoes cannot be revolutio

Lev Butts' Top Ten (Part III)

This month I continue to count down the ten most important books and/or series in my life. If you haven't seen the first four you can see numbers 10 & 9 here and numbers 8 & 7 here . Last month I looked at two books that changed the way I look at life. This month I look at two books that changed the way I look at writing. 6. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman This may well be the first book I ever bought based solely on the cover and author. I didn't read the summary until I was standing in line to pay. As you may be able to tell from the previous two entries, I've always been a fan of fantasy. After discovering Tolkien (see last month's entry), I delved into other fantasy series: I read Terry Brooks' Shannara trilogy , Marvel comics' run of the Elfquest series , anything about King Arthur I could get my hands on (more on that later), and Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series (see September's entry). However, in 1996, while wasting ti

Why true life stories often don't make good fiction (aagh!) by Ali Bacon

The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing (with chapters by lots of well-known writers) has been on my shelf for a while. I’ve taken it down from time to time and consulted odd sections but never read it from cover to cover. Well you wouldn’t would you? But when I was looking for another topic, a chapter caught my eye that I hadn’t noticed before. ‘Why true-life stories often don’t make good fiction,’ by Alyce Miller Aagh! If I had seen this before I might not have spent several years of my life attempting something that’s if not impossible certainly very difficult, viz. a fictional version of a life-story that for some reason reached out and spoke to me several years ago and is still (just) a work in progress .  Alyce Miller suggests that the writer who 'finds' a powerful or moving real life story is often too close to it to do it justice. Because he/she already has emotional investment in it, she fails to create this for the reader.  Restricting the plot to ‘the way

Confessions of a Worrywart by Pauline Chandler

Some days, I’m completely exhausted well before nine o’clock in the morning, what with breakfast tv and the terrible news, and replying to messages on email, Facebook and Twitter.   Then there’s the daily paper to read. It’s all frightful. There’s no sense of calm any more. Have you noticed? Everyone’s worried to death and it can’t be good for us.   And I've discovered something terrifying about bread.   After two weeks, the white sliced bread, bought as an economy move, has not gone mouldy, which must mean it’s completely sterile.  It's dead. When you eat white sliced bread, you’re putting dead bread in your mouth. I’m never going to buy white sliced bread again. Ever.   Then there's the ladybirds. They're gathering in the corners of the window frames in the sitting room and kitchen, small crowds, cuddling into hibernation. They bother me and then again, they don’t bother me. They’re not noisy and I get a really good feeling from the thou