Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Loneliness of the Long Distance...Writer

A long walk concentrates the mind wonderfully...
I’m not sure whether I like walking or not. I think I must do, or I would’t have challenged myself to walk a certain (ridiculously high) number of steps, every day, culminating in a spectacularly silly number over the whole year. And being someone who is very much target-driven (which is why schemes like NaNoWriMo are so productive for me) I’m still plugging away.

That said, when it’s cold and wet and miserable (this being Scotland in May we have a word for it — dreich) the challenge isn’t that pleasant. On mornings when I can combine it with a trip into town (walk there, bus back) or something else which needs to be done and can be done the long way round it’s a positive pleasure to stroll along the cycle paths communing with nature. But when it’s wet and the water is dripping down the back of my neck or running into my shoes, I do wonder why I bother.

Never mind. I do it. It’s coming along nicely, too — and I’ve discovered a real benefit from, of all things, a writing point of view. Two benefits, in fact.

The first is that it’s a rich source of ideas. The things you see. The people you see. The dog walkers, the mothers struggling with small children or, in one case, wandering along in a cloud of serenity with a toddler screaming and stamping alongside. The strangers who smile and the ones who don't. The dogs that dart off into the bushes after rabbits. The man in a business suit, running. They all have stories and I don’t know what they are. So I make them up.

The second is probably far more useful (because really, right at the moment I don’t need any more ideas). When I have a plot problem, which is most of the time and almost always related to how to make the expected happy ending sound like a surprise, or at the very least not the happy ending the reader thinks I’m leading up to, I find a good walk helps.

If I can take my mind off the joggers and the sparrows and the rabbits then as I pound the streets I often find that my characters (don’t laugh) begin talking to me. More realistically, they talk to each other, in my head. They explain their motives. As I’m pounding the streets of Edinburgh or wherever else I might happen to find myself, they argue. They moan. They explain their motives to one another. This morning, rather astonishingly, my villain revealed his sensitive side and, by so doing, exposed his motivations and made it quite clear that the ending I have planned for him just won’t do. He wouldn’t behave like that and now I know why.

I still don’t know how I’ll resolve his dilemmas -- and, indeed, those of my hero and heroine. I’ll need a few more walks before i can do that. But I do know that I have to treat him more sensitively that I had thought.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep walking.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Introducing April Wood: Book Blogger by Mary Smith


I thought I’d do something different for my post this time and was delighted when April Wood, agreed to be interviewed.

April Wood is an aspiring romance author, book blogger, author interviewer, and a caffeinated book reviewer. When she is not glued to her computer or a book, she is busy taming wild spiderwort, obsessing over her gardens to the point of insanity, feeding wildlife, and propagating her ever-growing collection of African violets. She lives in a beautiful historic Tudor colonial with her Rock Star husband and their beloved black cat Madison, in Massachusetts, USA.

I can’t remember quite when or how we ‘met’ but I’ve been following April’s blog for a while. I got in touch to ask if she’d be interested in reviewing No More Mulberries. She was, she gave it a great review, which by the way led to a quite dramatic sales spike mainly in the UK. She has also interviewed me and later she interviewed Miriam, one of my book’s characters. I was very pleased when she agreed to a change of roles and be on the receiving end of the questions.

Hi April, it’s great to welcome you to Novel Points of View blog.

Hi Mary! Thank you so much for inviting me for an interview. I will TRY to be interesting. ;)

I have no doubts about that, April. First off, can you tell us for how long you been reviewing books?

I have been reviewing books since May of 2013.

Over two years now. And I know you have quite a following both on your blog and Facebook. What got you started as a reviewer? Did you start with your blog or did you review firstly on Amazon/GoodReads and other sites?

Originally, I had a blog titled, ‘In Case You Were Wondering…’ and I wrote about current events, dream interpretation, and book reviews. One of my best friends, author Jennifer Allis Provost, suggested that I should create a blog dedicated solely to book reviews. I thought it over and eventually made the switch,

I love the quote about a well-read woman being a dangerous creature – how did you decide on that name for your blog?

Oh, I love that quote too. I was trying to think of a clever blog name, and that quote kept popping up in my brain. Eventually, it stuck!

What’s the motivation to review books publicly?

Good question. Honestly, I like the free books, book swag, and getting to network with my favourite authors.

What sort of feedback do you receive from authors? Go on, dish the dirt – but don’t name names!

LOL! Oh boy, would I ever love to name names. I write fair and honest reviews, and not everyone agrees with what I have to say. I hate giving anything less than three stars, because I know I’m going to hear about it…I’ve been attacked on Amazon, and through personal email by people with fake accounts, regarding my reviews. I have my suspicions as to which authors are behind these incidents, based on my latest negative review. Fortunately, I LOVE most of the books I read. I only accept books that I think I will enjoy, but once in a while, I am WAAAY off. That sucks!

You say you won’t accept books you don’t think you will enjoy – what might be included in your ‘not going to enjoy’ category?

‘Rape fantasy’ drives me crazy. Once in a while, an erotic romance author will sneak that into the book somewhere and my eyes will roll back into my head. I recently read a book that featured this throughout the novel, and I gave it two stars. Really, two stars was generous. Basically, if the novel doesn’t fall under the category of ‘romance’, ‘paranormal’, ‘fantasy’, or ‘women’s fiction’, I’m not interested. However, if I have read something by the author before, and enjoy their writing style, I will give their book a chance regardless. J I’m flexible.

From the reviews on your blog you seem to have fairly eclectic reading tastes – do you have a favourite genre? If so – what is it?

My favourite genre is women’s fiction, but paranormal and fantasy novels have taken over my blog! J Fortunately, I love fantasy and paranormal. I’m also a huge fan of the romance genre.

Have there been surprises? Books you were looking forward to reading, which disappointed?  Or the other way round?

Actually, yes. I can’t even tell you how many books that I thought would be okay-ish, that ended up being my favourites. It is so funny how that happens. Good writing = good writing, whatever the genre is! I can always appreciate good writing.

You review books which are traditionally published and indie published – do you think indie publishing has now become accepted as mainstream? What differences have you seen in self-published books over the years?

Oh yes. I definitely think indie publishing is accepted now. Back in the day, it was considered embarrassing to indie publish. People would think that your book was lousy, and that was why you published it yourself. That just isn’t the case anymore. So many authors are taking their rights back on their traditionally published books, and publishing them on their own. It’s like the cool thing to do now-a-days.

You do author interviews – did that come later and what prompted this aspect of your blog?  Do you interview authors whose books you haven’t read or do you always read at least one of their books first?

I prefer to interview an author after I have read their book, but I have made exceptions.
Author interviews did come later, and at first I was just “playing” around, interviewing authors who were also friends. Then I interviewed author Zoe York  and I felt like a real interviewer. LOL!

I haven’t read any of her books but I’ve seen the sizzling covers! Tell us about interviewing characters from books?

Actually, Mary, I’ve only interviewed Miriam from your novel, No More Mulberries. I have another character interview in the works, but that’s it. I enjoyed interviewing Miriam, because it brought the character to life for me. It was such a neat experience.
 
I’m sure other authors would be up for letting one of their characters loose to do an interview with you. I found it fascinating because, after I started answering the questions, I found Miriam taking over and not always giving the answers I would have given. That’s the trouble with character – they tend to take over.
You also write – can you tell us a little about what you are working on? Are you looking for a traditional publisher or do you plan to indie publish?


Yes, I wrote a romantic, medical suspense called Pathological Lover that I sent to several publishing houses. I received a lot of excellent feedback, but have put that project on hold for now. I keep telling myself to dust if off, and work on it some more, but I’ve lost the passion I had for it.
 
Oh, April, I hope you regain your passion for it or for writing another novel. Don’t give up. Okay, I’ve been dying to ask about this rock star husband of yours. Is he a professional musician? Does he tour and do you go with him – or is that when you catch up on your reading?

YES! LOL! He is a vocalist for the hardcore/metal band Speak Well Of The Dead. They play out locally, around New England, and have opened up for some major acts. They have also made two cds. I used to make every single show, but lately I have been a lousy ‘band wife’, and have chosen to stay home for the last few. I’ll get back out there, because I do love the atmosphere and watching my husband sing.

How should people get in touch if they are looking for a review? Interview?

If authors are interested in a review or author interview, they can visit my website at http://www.aprillwood.wordpress.com, where they will find my official policies.

April, thank you so much for doing this interview for Novel Points of View. I’ve really enjoyed it. 

Thank you. This has been fun!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Negotiating the minefield: book promotion in the digital age by Jenny Harper

The other day I spotted what every author dreads – a two-star review on Amazon. Grr! Still, I suppose you can't please everybody. I took a deep breath, opened the review, and this is what I found: "Haven't read it yet, but enjoy all the books I have purchased through Amazon."

What?

So it's there, it's dragging down my averages, and she hasn't even read it!

Well, that's the world we live in. Amazon sends automated emails to purchasers, whether they've bought a carrot slicer, a curtain or a book, asking if they'd like to review the product. Now, it takes a little longer to read a book than to use a carrot slicer or look at a curtain – especially if the purchaser has bought several books – but some people are just plain obliging, I guess.

I talked about the review to friends on various loops, and there was lots of sympathy. One or two told me I could write to Amazon and ask for it to be taken down. Others told me they'd had similar reviews – what to do? Ignore it? Shrug it off?

It started me thinking about the minefield we have to navigate as authors in the digital age. It doesn't really matter whether you have a publisher or are an indie, you will still need to be active on social media, and be savvy about how best to spend precious time on social media when (as I suspect) you'd rather be writing.

I'm very fortunate – I'm a member of a terrific group called eNovelAuthors at Work. It's a resource site for indie authors, and I was accepted into it when a) it was small and b) I was self published. When I landed a contract with Accent Press, I offered to withdraw from the group, but the lovely founder, Jackie Weger, has let me stay on. Even if you're trad published, though, I would urge you to take a look at the site. There's a great resource page and some excellent blogs. Here are links to one or two:

eNovel author resources
eBook promoters - the best and the worst
3 easy tasks you can do for author exposure

Just in these three pages there's a load of great information – because knowing how to work the system and milk social media is a minefield. eNovel authors pool their experience so that we can take advantage.

There are many other resources out there too, of course. Whether you're trad published or an indie, you'll need to have an Amazon author page that really works for you. Here's how: Your Amazon Profile

If you're thinking of putting your books on Facebook sites, how the heck can you work out the best ones to use? Apart from following suggestions in the eNov resources, here are marknpablos suggestions. And here's another blog, from the excellent Indies Unlimited, on how to make the most of your Facebook page.  Just to back it up, try these 8 tips to outsmart Facebook.

Make your links look smart? Here's how.

If you're geeky, and like your decisions backed by research, here's a general article on the reading habits of today. And another useful article on bargain ebook buyers, this time by the god of indies, BookBub.

Talking of BookBub – they posted recently on whether FREE promos work – essential reading for doubters!

So what did I do about that review? One of my fellow eNovellers gave me what I thought was really sound advice – he pointed out it might be the best review I had. Why? Because people often look at the worst review first – and as it's clearly nothing to do with my writing, they would go on to look at the better/best reviews and hopefully buy the book. Good thinking.

There's a huge amount of information out there, and a thousand promo sites waiting to gobble your budget – but a ton of useful advice too.

I think that being an author in the digital age is very much a mixed blessing. Love it or loathe it – what's YOUR view?



Sunday, 10 May 2015

FAVOURITES By LINDA MITCHELMORE

Favourites.....we all have them, whether it be a food, a drink, a flower, a place or a friend. Or a book? A book we wrote ourselves, perhaps? I've had four novels and two novellas published now (with a signed contract on another novel - ALL THE BLUE SAPPHIRES - for which I'm waiting for edits). I've been asked to blog on numerous blogs as each book or novella got to publication day.I've only ever been asked to answer questions about a particular book, its characters or setting, its plot or, perhaps, the inspiration for the story. I've never been asked to compare one of my books against the others as many top-name authors are in one-page interviews in magazines like Woman's Weekly Fiction Special and Good Housekeeping. (In your dreams, Linda!)Our books are our babies, aren't they? How can you compare? We don't compare our children, or admit to loving one more than another, do we? But don't we all have a soft spot for the child (or book) who struggles; the one who doesn't, perhaps, achieve as the others achieve? So....I am asking myself the question - 'Which was your favourite book to write, Linda?' I can answer in a heartbeat - RED IS FOR RUBIES. It's a contemporary novel, set in the glorious South Hams in Devon. It is written around the world of art(ceramics and paintings) and has no less than four love stories running through it. There is lost, but never forgotten, love. There is the desire to love again having once been burnt. There is lust at first glance that turns into love. There is love that dies in an instant with a very public revelation. And this book has its dark themes running through it as well - mental health issues and deafness. In this book my main female character is older than those in my other books. She is almost fifty and perhaps that's the reason it's not selling nearly as well as my other novels and novellas. Hugely successful saga writer, June Tate, gave me a glowing review for RED IS FOR RUBIES - with which I am thrilled. Somebody loves my Lydie and Ralph, Jonty, Becca, Grace, Drew, and the others. They were all very real to me when I was writing them and in my heart I believe this book has more emotional depth than the others. I still believe in Lydie and I know women of a certain age will equate to her life, her problems, her reasons for doing what she does. Like that child who struggles at sport, or academically, or in relationships, I'm not giving up on her yet!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Taking Yourself Seriously by Gill Stewart



Am I a writer? A proper writer? 

I was first taken on by a literary agent in 2008. I have been a ‘published’ writer since 2009, with four novellas that have also gone into Large Print. I have been on the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) committee for the last two years. But I have to admit that I’ve only started to feel like a real writer over the last few months. Why? Because I suddenly have two full length novels out in paperback. And to someone of my generation that’s what a real book is – paper and ink that you can hold, with a proper cover and blurb and dedication.

I suddenly feel I can tell people I’m a writer, because my stories are no longer just in magazines or in Large Print in the libraries (not that I don’t appreciate having my books in the libraries – PLR is very welcome!). Now I can show friends the actual books. I can put cover photos on Facebook (or here). I can point people to where they can buy both the real book and the no-less-real (I suppose) e-book.

I can offer to give talks in schools and to book groups. I can go along to book festivals and feel like more than an aspiring writer. Why does it feel so different? Why is it so much easier to take myself seriously as a writer? It’s not that I’m making much money (yet ...). I think it’s that someone, somewhere is taking me seriously – and I need that final validation to take myself seriously as well.

So many thanks to fellow members of Paisley Piranha (https://sites.google.com/site/paisleypiranha/), the collective with whom I published my Young Adult novel Music and Lies in March. And many many thanks to the lovely Accent Press (https://www.accentpress.co.uk/) who have just brought out the first of my women's contemporary novels, Sunshine Through The Rain, in April. They are bringing out the second, The Lost Woman, in July.

I know I’ve got a long way to go, and will probably (definitely) never be a famous a name. But I am a real, published writer. And that makes me happy.