Thursday, 20 February 2014

Little Books and Big Ambitions

I recently read an interesting post from Leigh Russell, author of the Geraldine Steel series, in which she reminds readers of the value of having a publisher. Having recently started work on a set of humour ebooks, along the lines of The Little Book of Cynics, I found myself smiling at her post.

She's right, of course, that having a publisher (and an agent, come to that) enables a writer to concentrate on what they do best (and enjoy the most!): writing. I'm an advocate of self-publishing, initially by necessity and now by choice. I submitted my fantasy, Covenant, to more agents and publishers than I could shake a manuscript at. There were one or two nibbles, but in the end none of them came to fruition. 

Books are written to be read, so what's a writer to do? I decided that publishing Covenant myself would provide several benefits:

1. It would give me a final version of the book, after a final, heroic edit. (A lovely idea, but for the 33 typos subsequently discovered and now fixed.)
2. It would put the book out there for public scrutiny, allowing for the prospect of feedback and reader engagement.
3. It would draw a line under the book and enable me, the writer, to breathe out a sigh of satisfaction and then go and start writing something else. (Or, in my case, spend time working on the other three novels.)
4. It would pave the way for book sales and all the good stuff we associate with being a successful writer. To date, I've had a magazine review Covenant and I've made some money.

However, as an indie / self publisher, you not only wear many hats, you're also responsible for not dropping any of them. You get 100% of the choice and 100% of the responsibility for making it all happen.

But we're skirting around one of the issues here; we're avoiding the literary elephant in the room. No, not this one - the other one: literary achievement. The argument runs that becoming a selfie will most likely end in financial disappointment, whereas conventional publishing... Well, that's the thing about publishing - there are no guarantees. Delving into any bargain bucket will show you that.

I think that writers need to have a mature conversation with themselves and with one another. We're not all going to the prom, as I'm fond of saying. In the cold light of day my fantasy, Covenant, will never trouble the bestseller list, regardless of how it's published. That doesn't mean it's without literary merit (however that's defined), or that it won't show a healthy profit over its lifespan. 

Not every book gets on the podium. There are so many factors at work  including context, timing, luck, connections and the actual style of writing. As a writer / author, you can only produce your best work and then put your work out there. (And then promote your book mercilessly!)

I decided to produce four little books because I'd written material that really didn't fit anywhere else. I did approach some humour publishers, but nothing materialised, apart from an honest and interesting conversation about the economics of impulse purchase / gift titles. Mindful of that discussion, I've opted for ebooks. It's an easier, lower cost route to market and, given the proliferation of devices and platforms, coupled with the unit price, it makes more sense.

My forthcoming quartet of ebooks comprises:
Man Up! The wisdom of ignorance. The male mind laid bare.
Wise Up! Modern wisdom for those with a short attention span.
Newsclash. Real news stories + boredom = satire.
The Little Read Book of Project Management. An alternative glossary of terms.

I'll announce the birth of my other little darlings on my personal blog, over at www.alongthewritelines.blogspot.co.uk

Sunday, 9 February 2014

VIDEO: Attitude Is Everything

video
Conor Devine, author of Attitude is Everything which we featured on Strictly a few weeks ago, talks about his book in which he outlines his fight against MS. Conor's book is available from Amazon and other bookstores.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

All for One - the power of community

Writing is a solitary business. You exist for long periods of time in your own imagination, agonise over the details of your creation, edit to within an inch of your page margins, and then...well, generally, you're on your own.

However, being part of a writing community, whether it's in cyberspace or in a face-to-face group, offers many benefits. These can include:
- A space to share experiences and support. Pretty much anything that has ever happened to a writer has already happened to another one. 
- An opportunity to give and receive constructive feedback. 
- A forum to exchange golden nuggets of opportunity (competition deadlines, useful resources, submission windows, etc.).
- A chance to showcase your work. Think: 'scared face in a safe place'.

Of course, one must choose wisely. As the late, great comedian and free-thinker, Bill Hicks, once said, "There are some serious pickets of humanity out there."

A Word with You Press - based in Moscow, Idaho (better read than dead) - combines a physical location with an online presence and an international reach. I've been part of their universe since 2011, following a trail of words until I became one of the team.

Led by author, raconteur and editor-in-chief, Thornton Sully, AWwYP has diversified and developed to run online writing competitions (which they insist on calling contests), running workshops in-situ, publishing books, offering editorial and publication services, and offering a sales portal for books. Because you can never buy too many books, right? 

The A Word with You Press avowed mission statement is:
Putting Gravitas on a Lo-Carb Diet.


If you visit the site, you'll see what I mean. And now a word from our sponsors...with US grammar...


A Word with You Press is always looking for ways to have fun on the internet and to meet and inspire new writers.  We do this with regular contests with unusual prompts and sometimes even more unusual prizes. (although our last contest prize was a straight and simple $500).

We have come up with a great contest for Valentine's Day. Jerry Rubin once wrote that the word "love" had lost all value because "Cars love Shell." Help us give the word's true meaning and passion once more. Write a love story between four and five hundred words, or a poem of up to 300 words, and somewhere in your story use the phrase: "but it was only a rumor."
Prizes for the winner and runner-ups.

It's a great chance for writers in your group to hone their skills, write to a deadline within certain parameters, get their work published online, and get valuable feedback not just from the editorial staff but from other writers who regularly enter our contests. And maybe even get bragging rights as a winner!

Here is a link to our current contest:

http://www.awordwithyoupress.com/2014/01/15/roses-and-chocolates-and-thorns-oh-my-our-first-contest-of-2014/

Will you help our on-line community grow by passing this email and link along to those in your own writing group?

Please do pass this on, and share it with all manner of social media.

And a happy Valentine's Day to you!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Attitude Is Everything!



Irishman Conor Devine went from being a successful business entrepreneur with a glowing future to a shadow of his former self within a matter of weeks. At the age of 28 while on his honeymoon he began experiencing a range of frightening symptoms, ending up in hospital on the paradise island of Mauritius. It was a devastating start to married life and Conor was eventually diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

He has penned his journey in a new book: Attitude Is Everything and it's an inspiring 'bible' for anyone on a journey similar to Conor. Now a champion of MS and an advocate of healthy living and adopting a positive mental attitude, Conor, a qualified Chartered Surveyor, hopes to inspire others with his formula for success.

I read the opening chapters with a pounding heart – the initial symptoms that took hold of Conor – the pins and needles, balance problems and pressure in his head, the dash to hospital and his isolation on a strange island, the place where he should have been celebrating the start of married life. Back home Conor undergoes investigations to find out what this mystery virus is, and then his world grinds to an abrupt halt when he is told he has Multiple Sclerosis, a neurological condition that affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord. He is riddled with anxiety and stress and his future looked uncertain; his career and football brought to a halt.

After a short period of dwelling on the condition and allowing it to weigh on top of himself, Conor decides to grab life and adopt a new, positive approach, fuelled by his strong spiritual faith. It pays off as he manages to suppress his symptoms and go on to lead a relatively normal life. Now Conor is the successful principal of GDP Partnership which specialises in the field of real estate and corporate restructuring and he is a keen sports enthusiast, regularly taking part in marathons and triathlons.

Readers of Attitude Is Everything: My Multiple Sclerosis Story can follow his inspirational path of staying positive and adhering to a healthy diet and exercise plan and see how, no matter what befalls you in life, that it is possible to overcome everything.

Visit Conor’s website at www.conordevine.com where you can read more about his experience and buy a copy of his book.

Monday, 6 January 2014

World Book Night 2014

I have to admit  I was slightly, slightly put off by this annual event which started a few years ago, simply  because its title includes the word 'night'.

Being a prolific sleeper (I have to have at least 8-9 hours' sleep a night otherwise heads roll - usually  mine)  I was torn between my love of books -versus- my love of sleep.  So I tried to ignore the World Book Night's first few forays, believing that I'd be complete rubbish at it and wouldn't even be awake to carry out any allotted 'duties' this task entailed.

Until a couple of years ago when a colleague did something completely unexpected and handed me a copy of Meg Rossoff's "How I live Now" and I was stunned into what a simple exercise the World Book Night truly is.  And that I was being given one of the books during daylight hours only made me happier.  I know, I know - how small is my brain?  I don't  think I'd realised how to work the 'FAQ' links back then - that's MY excuse anyhow. :(

Delighted doesn't begin to describe how it felt being handed this book.  This brilliant book, which I'd already read courtesy of my daughter who'd read it at school and passed it to me; it's one of those stories that sends shivers, makes the senses spike and heightens both the sunshine and the shadows of the world we live in, will always live in. If you haven't read it then please do; you'll be SO glad you did.

I took the book, of course I did, and then I passed it straight onto a other colleague who hadn't read it and who was equally delighted.

Can you think of a better way to encourage somebody to read a book - especially if they're not known to read very much - than to give them one you've already read, enjoyed and can 'sell' the story to?

I can't.

And the only (I'm reluctant to say 'drawback' because this really isn't one, or it's so insignificant that it shouldn't be) downside (*insert suitable replacement word*) to becoming a 'Giver' on World Book Night is that you have to pick your allotted box of books up from whichever point you decide to have them delivered to (Waterstones/Smiths/other pickup points I believe).

The 20 books on the list this year are here: BOOK LIST and the date, as usual is 23rd April.

I've picked 'The Humans' by Matt Haig - I read this a couple of months back and loved it.
'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' by John Boyne - which still brings a lump to my throat.
and 'Getting Rid of Matthew' by Jane Fallon which I read years ago and I still remember the delight it gave me.

Which ones will YOU choose?



Friday, 3 January 2014

"What is the most sensible river in the world?"

Answer: (from a Christmas Cracker) THE SEINE.


So did we all have a good Christmas?  A merry, festive season full of fun, frolics and an assortment of other eff words… (like ‘faffing’ I mean… why – what do you THINK I meant?) *ahem*.  Focus.  Oh there’s another.  Slippery  little buggers aren’t they?  And did we all like the Queen’s Speech and the Open All Hours and the return of Sherlock on New Years’ Day – what HAVE we done without him *sigh*.

And writing.  Have we done any writing? 

If we’re talking about the Royal ‘we’ then, no.  We haven’t.  Not a blind solitary single… actually hang on, I did find a short story I hadn’t quite finished and – well, finished it off.  Sort of.  It’s one I wrote in my ‘People’s Friend’zy towards the latter part of last year and even though I’ve had every single one of the six I sent in (duly tempered and with no sweary words and not even a *hint* of Bad Things) returned with a nice ‘thanks but no thanks’ I’m a devil at trying.  I could give up but that’s too easy isn’t it?  I stall; that’s what I do.  I’d like to imagine that I do a Crouching Tiger Bruce Lee style impersonation at this juncture – you know, before going in for the slowly, slowly and KILL! Scenario, but I don’t do that at all.  I slink off, have a bit of a bleat, get a bit angry, vow never to write another word because I’m clearly sh*te and then bit by bit I regain my composure. 

Because writing’s a bit like breathing for me.  If I don’t do it for long enough I start to die a little. Inside I mean.  And metaphorically I mean.  Alright then, meta-drama-phorically.  But don’t we all, us writers, feel that way at times?  We are the tortured artists who dream up neverworlds where people who don’t exist are created and nurtured and dressed in  funny clothes and made to say weird things to impossible other things and some will die, some will cry and others will kill or love and all this comes from the one same body we’ve also got to drag around a supermarket twice a week in the Normal world.

It doesn’t make sense.  At least it’s never made sense to me.

This festive season (and what misanthrope christened it that please?) I’ve been to so many social gatherings and entertained so many people that my head feels as if it’s been peeled, squashed inside a blender and switched to level 5.  And my eyes are still whirring around – see them? I know – too visual – and on top of all these leftovers too.  Just call me Blenda.  (coming to a Christmas Cracker near you).

I sat afore so many merrimakers during this season of goodwill that I am still surprised Ant and Dec weren’t there at some stage.  And if they had been I’d have been the first (possibly only) one to have risen to her feet, puffed up her chest and announced “I AM A WRITER – GET ME OUT OF HERE!” (please?).  

Because there’s only so much small talk and so many shortbread cookies a writer can take before it breaks their spirit and they begin to imagine perhaps ‘writing’ was something they’d imagined having done in another realm of fantasy and this is what Real Life is all about.  Cold Sprouts, bits of tinsel stuck down the sofa, queues of miserable faces in DIY shops and newsreaders saying the same thing they always say but wearing different outfits in which to deliver it.

Oh I could not imagine a chillier world in which there were no opportunity to make stuff up and make people smile in the process. 

Back to work, everyone -
the world needs us!

So, forget the Hokey Cokey, chaps – Writing’s what it’s all about!

Happy New Year one and all!  

And may 2014 bring us all unheralded delights.