Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Publishing Journey by Tara Fox Hall (@TerrorFoxHall)

It's always an especial pleasure and privilege to welcome Tara Fox Hall to my blog and today she's stopped by to tell us about her personal road to publication.  I can't wait to hear it, so over to Tara...

I’ve been a published writer of fiction for the last five years, and have written non-fiction for the last fifteen. As the other authors writing to this topic have already said, getting published wasn’t easy.

Like my dear friend Jenny Twist, I began with articles in a local print publication; my articles were on nature and animals, and published in a little magazine called Catnip Blossoms! which sold—you get one guess—catnip via mail. From the beginning, I was very good at putting a message of hope and inspiration into a page or less, and I wrote many articles over the next ten years.

And that’s how it likely would have stayed forever, until my mom suddenly got sick and was given six months to live in 2006. The book I’d always said I would write for her but hadn’t gotten past the first ten pages was suddenly my number one priority.

I hated novel writing at first. Not only was I unable to think of a good plot or exciting characters, I had never been great with grammar or all the rules of contractions, punctuation, etc. I hated simply sitting STILL for hours on end. Out of desperation, I wrote about what I knew, which was vampires, romance, and horror mixed with farm life, pets, faith, and self-reliance in the face of fictional supernatural situations that my everyday normal life hadn’t equipped me to handle. When I gave my mom the first draft of the beginning two chapters, she hated it because it “wasn’t exciting enough.”  So I revised it, adding some gunplay/explosions, general mayhem, deceit and a lot of suspense and hot sex. The latter, which I had always found difficult to write, was suddenly easy, as I had just gone off The Pill after close to two decades and my hormones were raging out of control along with my moods. I poured all that energy and emotion into my novel, which quickly went from a few measly pages to 200K, and then beyond, as Mom demanded sequel after sequel (Her cancer was a VERY welcome misdiagnosis).

I hadn’t planned on publishing my new “epic”, but with both my mother and husband pushing me, I sent the final draft to an “official editor”—read paid editor—and she proceeded to trash it and gave me a long list of recommended fixes (remember above where I said I had plot problems and grammar was not my friend?). I revised further, and then began to send out queries to multiple agents at this editor’s advice. This phase lasted for years, as I revised and submitted, and received thousands of rejection letters (okay, just about over a hundred really, but it felt like thousands). I further revised my queries, my synopses, my first novels (by then I had three: Lash, Promise, and Immortal Confessions), and with the help of a small non-profit, Wolf Pirate Publishing/Wolf Pirate Project, went thought a very-intensive 6 month writing workshop with the book Promise, hacking it to ribbons which I eventually wove back together into two complete and polished books, Promise Me and Broken Promise

While that experience gave me the skills to successfully handle the editing stages of writing, I was no closer to getting my books published; more queries netted only more rejections. I even tried hiring a submission service, which just netted me a few nibbles but no bites and yet more rejection letters. BUT…this service suggested something I hadn’t thought of before: taking an excerpt from the book and making it a novella, then submitting THAT. They also suggested trying to publish other short works, to give my queries for my longer works more credibility. Suddenly, all my experience with my non-fictional short stories was useful, and might make the difference; the rub was I needed new works to submit, not previously pubbed articles. Energized, I cranked out a plethora of short horror stories— that genre had the biggest market in print, and online flash fiction was all the rage—and I had a lot of nightmares to provide material. I published a few short stories every month in the spring and summer of 2011, then finally was able to place Surrender To Me, an excerpt from my novel Immortal Confessions, with Mélange Books. Mélange also contracted for Promise Me and its first few sequels.

Happy ending? Kind of. I am still with Mélange Books these 4 years later, and the Promise Me Series is on its 11th book, with #12 coming out in a few months (Immortal Confessions is book #5 of that series). Lash evolved into its own series. My fantasy paranormal historical series detailing my weresnake antihero-protagonist adventures is on its fourth book and its second publisher, Double Dragon (the first small press, Bradley, went out of business). My horror stories have found a home at Hazardous Press in their various multi-author anthologies and my own single authored The Tightening Spiral. A new paranormal series will also debut at Mélange in 2016; the first book is called A Good Year. But my joy now is tempered by burnout. 

Jan Ruth mentioned the two kinds of writers in her blog a few weeks back. In 2011-2012, I was firmly in the know about everything current, and I devoted all my spare time to learning my craft, and putting out as many works as fast as possible (Writer type B). Now I’m in the other camp (Writer Type A), which is where I initially started out on this journey. 

Can I self-publish? Yes, and I have. Those nature stories that started my career are now their own anthology called Deep Breaths: Tales of Hope and Inspiration. I loved putting that book together with a lot of help (thank you again, Su Halfwerk and Jenny Twist J). But do I see myself doing that for all my future works? Probably not, as I just do not have enough spare time anymore. My publishing rate has also slowed tremendously, both from increased workload from my day job, and sheer lack of desire to write stories just to get my name out there. As any writer will tell you, promotion is a huge part of writing, and it takes its toll until finally you crack under the strain. As of this writing, I am officially burnt out. I also have not written anything new just to write since 2014. Am I stopping writing? No, I just need a short break, to ignite my fire again. 

And I thank you for listening to me, as reliving my hard-won publication here has created a much-needed hot spark to get me writing again.

Tara Fox Hall is an OSHA-certified safety and health inspector at a metal fabrication shop in upstate New York. She received her bachelor's degree in mathematics with a double minor in chemistry and biology from Binghamton University.

Her writing credits include nonfiction, erotica, horror, suspense, action-adventure, children’s stories, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal fantasy Lash series and the paranormal romantic drama Promise Me series. 

Tara divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice. All of her published children’s stories to date are free reads on www.childrens-stories.net.

Contact Tara here:




Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fly or Fall by @Gilliallan - My review

I can see from my stats that over 900 of you looked in during the past week, which was given over to celebrating the Accent Press release of Gilli Allan's excellent novel Fly or Fall.  This is one of the best stories I've read in recent months, so here's what I thought of it:

I was delighted to receive a review copy of Fly or Fall, since I have thoroughly enjoyed previous titles from this author, whose writing style is a little reminiscent of the excellent Deborah Moggach.  What an engrossing story this is - Gilli Allan just gets better and better in my opinion.

The story concerns the quiet and self-effacing Eleanor, as she journeys through a traumatic period of her life.  Having become a teenage wife and mother, all she has known is devotion to her own invalid mother, her children and her husband.  Her 13 year old twins sometimes seem to be more worldly-wise than her.  She's suppressed her own needs and desires so completely that she seems almost without personality.  As such, she is quite difficult to relate to intimately and the reader has to get to know her in the same way as the other characters.  Nevertheless, it's impossible to dislike her.  Like all Allan's characters, Eleanor is complex and real.
 
Eleanor's husband, Trevor is a rather devious, self-serving man; I suspected and disliked him from the outset and at no time did he redeem himself.  Yet he was no less real - in fact I felt I knew him all too well!  Having sold Eleanor's family home in Battersea for a substantial price, Trevor moves his
family to the country to enjoy 'clean air, green fields, a house with a proper garden and a driveway'. Trevor selfishly pursues his new career and indulgences, while Eleanor tries to fit in with her sophisticated neighbours and sort out the marathon renovations of the new house.  Enter Patrick, the builder, a likeable rogue, whose constant harmless lies make him enigmatic and fascinating and who extends a warm hand of friendship to Eleanor, helping her through her most difficult times.

The village of Downland is peopled with interesting characters, Katherine, Felicity, Elizabeth and their husbands as well as Patrick and the even more mysterious David, to whom Eleanor is secretly drawn.  But no one in Downland is quite what they seem, as Eleanor has to discover in often painful ways.  This includes her own family and most of all, herself.
 
Ms Allan writes about seemingly ordinary people in ordinary settings, but, of course, neither is ordinary.  The characters are richly drawn in all their complexities, yet grittily realistic and engaging.  The settings are carefully painted with the reverence of an artist who has a deep affinity with the countryside. 


The story is compellingly told with a well-sustained narrative flow.  I found it deeply engrossing and sat up late into the night more than once, unable to put it down.  It gathers momentum, like a snowball rolling downhill, hurtling towards its dramatic conclusion.  I look forward to reading more from this talented writer.  Undoubtedly she deserves all five cute cats!

About Gilli Allan

Gilli Allan started to write in childhood, a hobby only abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge but, after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon Art College.

She didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or television. Instead she was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid before landing her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when she was at home with her young son that Gilli began writing seriously. Her first two novels were quickly published, but when her publisher ceased to trade, Gilli went independent.

Over the years, Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop in her Gloucestershire village.  Still a keen artist, she designs Christmas cards and has begun book illustration. Gilli is particularly delighted to have recently gained a new mainstream publisher - Accent Press. FLY OR FALL is the second book to be published in the three book deal.

Fly or Fall - The Blurb:

Wife and mother, Nell, fears change, but it is forced upon her by her manipulative husband, Trevor. Finding herself in a new world of flirtation and casual infidelity, her principles are undermined and she’s tempted. Should she emulate the behaviour of her new friends or stick with the safe and familiar?

But everything Nell has accepted at face value has a dark side.  Everyone - even her nearest and dearest - has been lying. She’s even deceived herself. The presentiment of disaster, first felt as a tremor at the start of the story, rumbles into a full blown earthquake. When the dust settles, nothing is as it previously seemed. And when an unlikely love blossoms from the wreckage of her life, she believes it is doomed.

The future, for the woman who feared change, is irrevocably altered. But has she been broken, or has she transformed herself?

You can purchase Fly or Fall by clicking here
Or connect with Gilli here: 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Gilli Allan and the Road to Publication (@Gilliallan)

Another British writer for whom I have great respect is Gilli Allan, who has just signed a book deal with Accent Press.  To coincide with Accent's release of her excellent novel Fly or Fall, I managed to track Gilli down to ask a few probing questions so we might get to know her and her absorbing stories better.

I see your work as dramatic and controversial - about real women and real life.  Does this reflect what you like to read yourself?  Do you find fictional heroines in general to be realistic or over-glamorised?

I've read my share of romance over the years, particularly in my teens and early twenties, about impossibly beautiful and desirable heroines in glamorous jobs, their only flaw - a tendency to be a bit snippy.  Perhaps I've a jealous and spiteful nature (I am a Scorpio, after all) but these perfect creatures, pining after the aloof hero - almost from the start of the book - increasingly annoyed me.  

The only reason for engaging with this kind of story is if you care. I found it hard to care about the drop dead gorgeous, but misunderstood, heroine, and grew less and less willing to invest the time to discover exactly how the obstacle to ultimate happiness - union with the equally gorgeous, misunderstood but rich, alpha male - would be overcome.

I know I'm caricaturising, and of course there are authors who have always written about real women in real life situations - Joanna Trollope, Elizabeth Buchan and Debborah Moggach, to name just a few - but their work could not be called romance, or even, necessarily, overtly romantic.  

The primary reason I began writing, when I was a child, was to create the story I wanted to read. And this is still the driving force behind my writing.  I prefer to read about, and therefore to create, a woman with flaws, weaknesses and failings. A woman who isn't a beauty.  A woman who has to deal with the realities of life.  A woman who has objectives other than the search for love.  A woman who makes mistakes.  A woman like me. (I am still 28 in my head.)

I can do no better than paraphrase the original blurb from TORN. I prefer to face up to the complexities, messiness and absurdities in modern relationships.  Life is not a fairy tale; it can be confusing and difficult. Sex is not always awesome; it can be awkward and embarrassing, and it has consequences. Love is not always convenient or neat; it doesn't manifest when or where or with whom you expect it to.
  
In recent years, with the loosening of the big publishers’ strangle-hold, it seems there are more authors like me being published, authors who want to set a love story in a more demanding context.

What inspired you to write your first novel and did you always know it would cross different genres, or did it just evolve that way?

In my youth I started writing many stories, but never finished anything, so I’ll talk about my first completed  novel  - Just Before Dawn. I have to confess that the original inspiration for writing this book was mercenary.  I was at home with my young son. As a family we were feeling the pinch.  One evening I was ironing in the kitchen and listening to Radio 4 - a programme was about Mills & Boon, which talked about the money their most successful authors could earn.

 ‘I used to write that sort of thing,’ I thought to myself. ‘I bet I could write and (more importantly) finish one now.’ I now know many aspiring authors have had the very same thought, and few can do it.  I also know that the rewards talked about in this programme were rather overstated, and since those days they've probably decreased in real terms. 

As I stood there ironing, I recalled the advice from English teachers to ‘write about what you know’. I thought back to my own life and an idea sprang out at me.   After I’d folded the clothes and put them in the airing cupboard, I found a notepad and a pen, and began immediately. 

Just Before Dawn, published in 1986, was about a rather innocent country girl who arrives to live and work in London.  Her first real boyfriend is a bit of a lad, and he leaves her pregnant.  She suffers a miscarriage and the story, rather bizarrely, is about a developing relationship between her and the Obs/Gynae consultant. When I first had the idea it actually made me chuckle. I wasn't laughing at miscarriage - I am very well aware it is no laughing matter.  It was the scenario I’d dreamt up which amused me, and my chutzpah at choosing it still astounds me.  ‘If I can pull this off I can write anything,’ I thought at the time. 


Even though I’d included many of the tropes I thought necessary, it wasn't accepted by Mills & Boon, unsurprisingly. But, in writing that book, and, probably more importantly, having it published by a newly established publisher, the die was cast.  A love story, within a real and challenging scenario, was ‘my thing’.  I should mention that the mercenary motive which prompted me to embark on the project was soon subsumed by the sheer magic of creating that book.  And I never actually made much money.  My publisher ceased trading a few years after publishing my second novel, Desires & Dreams

Has any part of yourself crept into the heroines of any of your stories? 

As I describe in the previous answer, the initial idea for Just Before Dawn was based on my own experience of miscarriage. Married, and working as a freelance artist in advertising, I was 18 weeks pregnant when I first miscarried a pregnancy.  No explanation was offered.  After an interval of a few months I became pregnant again. This time I lost the baby at 21 weeks.  At the time it was a very emotionally turbulent experience, which I felt I needed to get out of my system somehow.  I seriously considered writing about it - maybe an article or something?   But I was an artist, not a journalist. Where would I send this article? Who would be remotely interested in publishing it?
  
It was only after I’d successfully been through pregnancy, this time with a minor surgical intervention and a period of hospitalisation,  that I felt I needed a money-making project which would enable me to continue at home with my son (I wanted to avoid going back into the rat race of advertising). It was then that I had the idea of writing my experience into a novel, as described in the previous answer.  The naiveté and innocence of my heroine reflects something that was true of me in my early romantic escapades.  And what she goes through is something I went through, although in different circumstances.
  
Incorporating some real experience is something I have done ever since in my books.  But using my own life as trigger for a story does not mean I write autobiographically.  I think of something that maybe I've seen or heard or has happened to me, but then ask myself the question, ‘but what if...?’ And though none of my heroines are *me* there are aspects of me in every one of them.  But then there are aspects of me in most of my characters!  

What is the most unusual characteristic you've bestowed on the hero of any of your books?

I'm a bit stumped by this question. I don’t think I've given any of my heroes a characteristic which is unusual in itself. But do you mean unusual in the romantic lead? I've definitely done that.   I enjoy subverting the romance stereotypes, so several of my heroes are impoverished.  A couple are blondish rather than dark, and one is a bit short.  There are two male leads in TORN.   One is the conventional hero ‘type’, but the other is a dyslexic farm worker, living in a caravan.

And most recently, Patrick, from FLY OR FALL is a compulsive liar. But then everyone in FLY OR FALL has been lying and although his fabrications are the most blatant and obvious, they are, arguably, the least serious.


Fly or Fall blurb:

Wife and mother, Nell, fears change, but it is forced upon her by her manipulative husband, Trevor. Finding herself in a new world of flirtation and casual infidelity, her principles are undermined and she’s tempted. Should she emulate the behaviour of her new friends or stick with the safe and familiar? 

But everything Nell has accepted at face value has a dark side.  Everyone - even her nearest and dearest - has been lying. She’s even deceived herself. The presentiment of disaster, first felt as a tremor at the start of the story, rumbles into a full blown earthquake. When the dust settles, nothing is as it previously seemed. And when an unlikely love blossoms from the wreckage of her life, she believes it is doomed.

The future, for the woman who feared change, is irrevocably altered. But has she been broken, or has she transformed herself?

Do you think you'll always write women's fiction or do you have desires to experiment and if so, in what way?

Who knows?  I keep thinking my life would be easier if I gave up the dream of writing altogether and did something else with my time.  I could go back to art, although I was never the real driven kind artist - beret on head, palette of oil paints on the arm and an easel in front of me. Maybe I should find some other, less self-absorbed and insular hobby.

What I most enjoy reading is crime and thrillers. But I don’t particularly want to write in this genre.  For one thing I'm not clever enough.  The intricate plotting of someone like Sophie Hannah would totally defeat me.  And the idea of all that research - the forensics and the police procedures....! An author like Mark Billingham has obviously built up a network of friends and associates in this world. I’d be launching myself into it from a standing start.  Also, and more seriously, if I wrote in this genre, it would seriously dilute my pleasure in reading it.
  
I already have a problem losing myself in women’s fiction. When reading it I am either consumed by envy and feelings of inadequacy, or I am highly critical and can’t subdue my internal editor.  (I told you I'm a nasty Scorpio, didn't I?) There seems to be no middle ground where I can simply enjoy a story in this genre. So I kind of feel I'm stuck with what I am writing, although I'm sure my protagonists will eventually grow older. Or I will give up completely, and then I can stop worrying about reviews on Amazon, or online promotion. I know my husband would like it if I spent fewer hours and days with my nose pressed to PC, and more time being sociable. 


You can purchase Fly or Fall by clicking here
Or connect with Gilli here: 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why I had to Leave Self-Publishing: The Truth About my Affair, by Jan Ruth (@JanRuthAuthor)

Today I'm handing over my blog to an author for whose writing I have nothing but admiration.  If you haven't read any of her books, do so now - you are in for a real treat.  Over to Jan Ruth.

I don’t regret a minute of being with John. Our imaginations have been virtually married for two years now. We’ve shared a lot of words and he knows more about my literary fantasies than my husband ever did. And people talk, don’t they? Not only about how good we were together but how would this relationship end? Would there be tears or jubilations? Well, as is usually the case, a little of both.
So, poised on the brink of something new to begin in 2015, this is an overview of my publishing journey so far, from its shaky start to its exciting, bitter-sweet finish. It’s also a final testimonial to my wonderful editor, John Hudspith.
Snakes and Ladders
My self-publishing journey has been up and down, round the houses and back again. It’s a different experience for each and every author. Any perceived failure or success is dependent on a lot of individual criteria, how you measure it and what you learn from it.
Throw into this mix, hundreds of online experts clamouring for your attention and offering advice – most of it speculative and out of date in less than a week – from how to market your book, how to design its cover, why you need a click-through Contents page, why you don’t need a click-through Contents page and why a dark blue fancy font with pink dots says hysterical, not historical.
Waiting somewhere along the line is a Comma Buff; offering to proofread your material at £1.50 per 1,000 words. For a joining fee you can be a member of his gang, appear on an incredibly popular site or be included in a brand-new advertising strategy called the Pay-it-Forward-Tweet-Team. Not sure? You can bet your last dangling participle that someone, somewhere, has written a blog-post about it. You may be swayed by several writerly pieces about publishing, but I’m not sure I was ever convinced that anyone has that top-secret information about the Amazing-Amazon-Algorithms, or the reason one book sells dozens of copies on every third Friday in October on Nook, but never on Kindle although occasionally on the Spanish version of Scribd, if the wind is blowing from the east. And as soon as you’ve got to grips with those new sub-genre keywords – juggling the dice all the way to IndieBooksIndia – that hot new site –  the goalposts change again, and oops… everyone’s been pirated on IndieBooksIndia. There’s no time to work on your new novel, you need to dash-off an angry email, or two, or three, or four and have a good rant in each and every one of the 42 groups you’re in on Facebook – and a tweet for good measure. Confused and  utterly exhausted yet? Take a deep breath, there’s more…
For varied fees, you can enter your books to win badges: the coveted Golden Cuckoo, a Silver Songbird maybe or – oh, the shame of it – just scraping a Bronze Blackbird. Will it help sales? Will it help readers find you? Writers are always seeking validation, and awards and reviews are a major emotional player in the game. To put these awards and maybe more than that, into some perspective, consider the journey of Book One:
He was born a humble paper copy 15 years ago and adopted by a London agent. He was praised and patted on the head by Pan Macmillan and other notables throughout nursery school. He was a trier, re-inventing himself many times in order to please but eventually, he was declared non-commercial and almost destroyed.
Then King Kindle came to Slush-pile City.
Smoothed out and loaded-up, he became self-published, where he suffered an abused spell as a badly behaved electronic copy, running with the wrong crowd. He was rescued just in time and re-educated in his late teens by John Hudspith. Loved and reviewed positively after this by many readers, he even rode high in the Amazon rankings with BookBub. Despite all of this, he was rejected outright by Blah Blah Award, but he soldiered on. Finally, his fate was sealed, he was signed with Accent Press and the book lived happily ever after. True story.
So, maybe you’d be better investing in 50 reviews? You’ve heard that the magic number is 40 and then huge sales and mass visibility happens of its own accord. Maybe you should give that nice friendly author a five-star review and then maybe… Oh, hold on that’s unethical, isn’t it? Well, yes… to some authors, but not to others. And if I upset said author on a later date with my political views on Facebook, he might change it to a two-star review.
The problem – and rather conversely the joy too – is that there are no rules, but self-publishing is sometimes more difficult to navigate than a re-write of War and Peace. Ask a simple question and you will get fifty different answers.
It’s certainly a game of hissing snakes and slippery ladders.
There is money to be made in self publishing, but not always by the authors. 
Who are you?
Camp One. You write full-length fiction, which can take anything up to 12 months to produce in its polished form. You write because you have something unique to say and hopefully to not only entertain but to inspire and inform. You may have been traditionally published before. You write because you are inspired, and challenged by the craft of writing, and strive to improve and develop. Your only keyword is quality. You struggle to sell, but your reviews are numerous and positive. Your audience tend to be mature and still enjoy paperbacks and bookshops. You might be seeking an editor to work with, who has the skills to teach where necessary, and nurture your positive traits. You dislike self-promotion and trying to run with the crowd. You’ve likely learnt the craft over many years but struggled to get published or agented because your work fell between traditional genres, or didn’t quite cut it. You’d love to attract a publisher.
Camp Two. You enjoy writing but you wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t pay for itself. You approach self-publishing as a commercial venture. You are prolific, you write popular serials, novellas and novelettes; often across several genres with a specific market in mind, keep up to date with the latest promotional sites, know how to play the system with keywords, and buy all the ‘how to’ books. You tend to make your own book covers, format everything yourself, and your books are available on every obscure platform you can find. You write ‘how to’ books. Your audience are young, read stuff on their iPhones and probably enjoy whatever is current, like American steampunk fantasy, or fetish erotica. It doesn’t bother you that the camp is set on moving sand, you are quick-thinking and adaptable. Your books sell well. You’re not seeking a publisher and you don’t need an editor.
These are wild extremes in self-publishing. Of course, it depends who you are, the adaptability of your camping equipment and how well you can handle a variety of cooking pots and pans when the chips are down, rain is pouring through the canvas roof and wait, there are enemies on the horizon… a huge semi-colon with a machete!
Who is John Hudspith?
If you are poised on the brink of self-publishing your first book, or if you already have a row of these beauties on your virtual shelf but maybe harbour a niggling doubt they could be better… please consider talking to JohnHudspith first and listen to one, clear opinion. If you spend on nothing else or have limited funds available, editing and proofreading is King and Story-is-everything-else. I’ve worked with well established literary agencies and respected agents in my distant past and in my opinion, John’s advice and editing is on a par with London prices, at a fraction of the cost. I could have saved myself heaps of time, dead-ends and cash.
Who am I?
I’m Jan Ruth, I’m a self-published author and I’m in camp one. I’m glad I self-published, although I may not sound as if I enjoyed the experience. Publishing my own work was a steep learning curve but it’s now at an end for me. Visibility is increasingly difficult over in camp one and there’s only so much one can do before some sort of burn-out happens. But one man’s burn-out is another man’s fuel… it rather depends on which camp you thrive in.
I’ve had forays into camp two but without lasting, or consistent success. This is why I have made the decision to leave self-publishing and I’m very happy to announce that I have signed a 5-book deal with Accent Press. After my family, I have to give massive thanks to my editor John Hudspith, because without his support, both professionally and as a friend and mentor, I would not have arrived at this point. I’d have given up, Once Upon a Long Time Ago. So, on to new beginnings for 2015. And keep the camp fires burning.
ABOUT MY BOOKS
Fiction which does not fall neatly into a pigeon hole has always been the most difficult to define. In the old days such books wouldn’t be allowed shelf space if they didn’t slot immediately into a commercial list. Today’s forward-thinking publishers - Accent Press being one of them - are far more savvy.

As an author I have been described as a combination of literary-contemporary-romantic-comedy-rural-realism-family-saga; oh, and with an occasional criminal twist and a lot of the time, written from the male viewpoint.
No question my books are Contemporary and Rural. Family and Realism; these two must surely go hand-in-hand, yes? So, although you’ll discover plenty of escapism, I hope you’ll also be able to relate to my characters as they stumble through a minefield of relationships, family, working, pets, love ...

I hesitate to use the word romance. It’s a misunderstood and mistreated word in the world of fiction and despite the huge part it plays in the market, attracts an element of disdain. If romance says young, fluffy and something to avoid, maybe my novels will change your mind since many of my central characters are in their forties and fifties. Grown-up love is rather different, and this is where I try to bring that sense of realism into play without compromising the escapism.

First book released by Accent Press: SILVER RAIN
Book Description: Black sheep meets good shepherd - can black and white become silver, or just a dangerous grey?
Alastair Black has revealed a secret to his wife in a last ditch attempt to save his marriage. A return to his childhood family home at Chathill Farm is his only respite, although he is far from welcomed back by brother George.

Kate, recently widowed and increasingly put upon by her daughter, sister, and mother, feels her life is over at fifty - until she meets Alastair. He's everything she isn't, but he's a troubled soul with a dark past. When his famous mother leaves an unexpected inheritance, Kate is caught up in the unravelling of his life as Al comes to terms with who he really is.



Saturday, May 16, 2015

Do We Still Need Conventional Publishers? By Jenny Twist (@JennyTwist1)

It's always a great pleasure to hand over my blog to the wonderful Jenny Twist and today she contributes to my debate on self- vs traditional publishing.  This article is taken from her excellent collection of essays: 'An Open Letter to Stephen King and Other Essays'  

In the modern world of e books and print on demand it is all too easy to imagine that conventional publishing will lose its raison d’être. It is now possible to produce your own book for nothing. Obviously this is a great boon for authors, especially the vast majority who were unable to get accepted by a publisher. But is it really such a boon? What do publishers actually do for their authors?

Having accepted an author’s work, it is the publisher’s job to put it into publishable form, i.e. make sure it is properly edited and provided with good cover art
Few, if any, authors are competent to proof their own work. No matter how good you are at proof-reading it’s very difficult to spot your own mistakes. You see what you expect to see, what you know to be there. You knew what you meant when you wrote that sentence, so may not realise that it doesn’t make sense to somebody else.

The independent author wishing to produce work of a professional standard has to, therefore, employ a professional proof-reader. One way round the cost is for authors to proof each other’s work. This is in any case often the way small press publishers handle editing, using their own authors rather than employing a professional.

Cover art is something else again. There are, of course, authors who are perfectly competent to do their own artwork. Perhaps more than you think. Creative people are often creative in more than one field. And there are packages available, free, for applying lettering to your original artwork. So it can theoretically be done at no cost. But my own experience has been that a professional cover artist is indispensable. 


Original Sketch
Final e-cover

I came across this when one publisher I approached would not accept submissions without cover art. I literally spent weeks trying to find the definitive picture of an angel for my book. I wanted a carved wooden angel – the kind of statue so beloved in village churches in Spain. I couldn’t find a single picture that conveyed what I wanted. Eventually, I did my own drawing based on a stone carving. And I still hadn’t a clue how to do the lettering! Luckily I was rescued from this task by having my manuscript accepted by another publisher. But the experience made me realise that I, for one, was definitely not up to the job.

One of the things that you might think publishers do for their authors is promote their work. Wrong. The publisher’s job is to produce a product fit for the marketplace and make it available to the public and booksellers. It is not part of their brief to do promotion campaigns. Even the big publishing houses do very little of this. In fact, they are unlikely to do anything at all unless you are already a celebrity. It’s one of those Catch 22 situations. The chances are the only thing they will do is produce a monthly newsletter. So there is very little advantage for the author in using the conventional route as far as promotion is concerned. You have to do your own anyway.

You can promote without spending any money at all, using social network sites, writing blogs and newspaper articles, doing interviews on local radio and organising book signings. All this is free but very time-consuming and it is a constant cry from authors that they have no time to write because they spend all their time promoting.

There is actually no way round this. Even if you spend vast amounts of money on advertising, you probably still have to do a fair bit of promotion work. You could be the best writer that ever lived but no-one will buy your books if they’ve never heard of you.

There is, however, one major advantage conventional publishing offers the author. It confers respectability. A conventionally-published author has been vetted, accepted and polished by a professional organisation. Many new self-published authors have great difficulty being taken seriously. Some review sites actually refuse to review independent authors.

And there is one further advantage of going the conventional route – the publisher deals with

the distribution through booksellers. Booksellers are usually quite happy to deal with publishers since they take the books on a sale or return basis and have nothing to lose. In order to offer the same deal the independent author has to buy vast numbers of copies of his own book and negotiate individually with booksellers. The financial risk is enormous, not to mention the time spent approaching each outlet.

But what has this change in the business done for the reader? Well, for a start e books are much cheaper than printed books and there are literally thousands offered free every day as authors vie to get the attention of readers. Great, isn’t it?
Well, yes, it is, but we now have the problem of what to choose. Thousands of them! Where do you start?

I have gone from downloading anything that looked vaguely readable, to restricting downloads, even free downloads, to books by authors I know to be good, or people I have been wanting to read because I have come to know them on the social networks.

I have become jaded with free e books because so many of them are really badly-written. Sorry, but I’m afraid it’s true. Most independent authors produce badly-edited, if not unedited work. Many, if not most, have only a passing acquaintance with good grammar. And, I’m sorry to say this, but the vast majority have no talent for writing. I have read some truly awful books in the last few years.

For every great writer who never made it out of the slush pile in the publisher’s office there are hundreds who should never have been in print in the first place. Whatever you may think of conventional publishing, it at least operates as a filter preventing the really bad authors getting through.   


Sooner or later the rush to get free books will die down and readers will begin to be more discerning. They will be prepared to pay for a book, provided they are confident they will be buying something of good quality. And this, surely, is where conventional publishing will come into its own.

If there is one area where conventional publishing can really justify its existence, it is in the provision of high quality books. I’m not talking about literature here. I’m talking about good, readable stories with well-constructed plots and believable characters, written in good, grammatically correct English.


Sadly too many publishers, especially in the small press, do not do this job very well. I am surprised at how many bad writers are being accepted and at how poorly their work is edited. In my opinion the only way the small press will survive is to maintain a rigorous standard of excellence, and that means no cutting corners. It means employing professional editors, rather than using their own authors to edit each other, a practice which only exacerbates the problem of taking on semi-literate authors in the first place. And maybe it means doing a bit more for their authors than just publishing their work, like providing proper marketing services.

Those publishers who do this will attract the best writers and will gain a reputation of excellence. And maybe conventional publishing will survive. 


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

New Release - 'In Loving Hate' by Lynette Sofras #MFRWauthor

Formely published by MuseItUp Publications, I'm delighted to have received back my publishing rights to my romantic suspense In Loving Hate, in order to publish it myself at a lower price.

It's out today, only $2.99 plus tax, or £1.99 in the UK.

Blurb:

How far will the rich and powerful go in order to achieve their goals? That is the question Lyssa must decide when she finds herself caught between two formidable adversaries: powerful business tycoon and shipping magnate, Alex Andrakis and close childhood friend, ‘Dynamic’ Nell Winters, brewery heiress and prolific businesswoman.

Following the failure of her marriage in Greece, Lyssa returns to her family home in London, to discover that her mother, a once-celebrated actress, is now facing crippling debts.  When Lyssa begins to investigate these, she becomes embroiled in the intricate business dealings of Nell and her arch-rival Alex.  Irresistibly drawn to widower Alex and his unhappy young son, Lyssa begins to uncover some unexpected and disturbing facts. 

The more involved she becomes, the more shocking are the discoveries she makes.  The conflicts culminate in a frightening battle for survival as Lyssa finds herself the prime target between the possessive Nell and obsessive Alex.   With her loyalties deeply divided, can Lyssa make the right choice for everyone concerned?

Review copies are now available.

Excerpt:

“Nicky, ela!  We’re leaving.”  Alex interrupted coldly from the doorway.
Lyssa turned quickly, surprised at his hostile tone.
“Oh not yet, Alex.  I want to talk to Lyssa.”
“Now.” Alex’s face looked like thunder.
“But you said—”
“Forget what I said.  We’re leaving.”
Lyssa watched him in confusion.  “Is there something wrong, Alex?  Perhaps I can help?”
He threw her a contemptuous look.  “Help?  Oh I think you’ve ‘helped’ quite enough.  I suppose I must congratulate you on a job well done, Lyssa.  I promised to do nothing without consulting you—you might have offered me the same courtesy in return.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Your technique, Lyssa.  A clever little trick, but your tactics stink”
“Wait…I don’t understand”
“You ought to have followed your mother onto the stage.  Your performance certainly fooled me.”  He turned and began pulling the protesting boy up the staircase.  She followed them in bewilderment as far as the oak door, where he turned and cast a final, angry look at her.  “Goodbye, Lyssa.  I wish you and your cunning friend every success.”
“Which friend?” she whispered to herself after he disappeared and before she recalled that she only possessed one.
She turned towards the drawing room where she found her mother pacing the floor in agitation, ramming her stick vigorously into the thick, silken pile of the carpet at every turn.
“What happened, Mother?”  Lyssa asked, as she watched the limping figure.
“Poor Alexis is a little upset about it all,” Dame Constance explained.  “I didn’t expect him to take it quite so badly—in fact, I’d hoped he might be rather pleased for me.  I think I shall go and lie down.  That young man has quite exhausted me with all his questions.”  She limped toward the door, stopped upon reaching it and half turned to face her puzzled daughter.  “And Lyssa…thank you, my dear.  Please don’t imagine that I’m unappreciative of your efforts.  This is a great load off my mind.  Oh, and if you are off to see Nell, why don’t you ask her to dine with us one evening?  Or, perhaps I really should ask her myself?”  Dame Constance continued to muse over the question as she left the room.
Lyssa stared after the retreating figure of her mother; still an elegant and commanding woman, despite her limp and advancing years.  Then Lyssa repeated Nell’s name inaudibly, with a slow nod of her head.