Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Is 'Freebie' a Dirty Word?

These days I seem to be inundated with lists offering me free books.  Often I don’t have time to look at these, but sometimes I do and occasionally might come across a new book or author that interests me.  And I’m very grateful.  My free downloads are sparing, however, and I never download a book until I’ve read the description and taken a peek inside to make sure the writing style appeals.  Life’s too short to waste it reading uninteresting or badly written books, and let’s face it, there are plenty of those out there.

I know the blood, sweat and tears that go into producing a marketable novel and for an author to then
make his or her work free is a kind and generous act, so when I’ve finished reading a free book, I try to show my appreciation by leaving a review.  My reviews are almost invariably positive, because I don’t download books I’m likely to hate.  I see reviews as showing appreciation to the author and hopefully a helpful tool for future readers.

Perma-free 'The Apple Tree'
As an author, I’ve also made my books free and in fact over the years have given away thousands of copies – I even have one book set permanently free.  What happens to those downloads is a mystery, because I rarely receive much feedback in the form of reviews as a result of these freebies.  Like all authors, I give away my stories in the hope of reaching new readers and bringing them a little bit of pleasure.  The only way I know if a reader has actually read my book is if she or he makes contact or leaves a review.  And like all authors, I know the value of reviews.  Good and bad.

It seems to me there is a growing breed of people who spend their time downloading freebies just for the sake of it.  Whenever I make a book free, downloads go through the roof.  What happens to the book then is a mystery.

Except, of course, for those people who love to complain because you’ve inflicted a free gift on them that isn’t to their liking.  Last year I participated in producing a compilation of excerpts with fourteen other authors.  Apart from giving samples of our Cinderella-themed stories, we also included recipes, party games and such.  Although we couldn’t have made it any clearer that this was a sampler, the complaints poured in from readers who felt cheated because the freebie contained only excerpts and not complete stories.  Clearly there are people out there who expect everything for free – in this case fifteen complete novels in one set. 

So why do we authors continue to punish ourselves by giving away our hard work?  Have we brought this sorry state of affairs upon ourselves?  Have we made ‘freebie’ a dirty word?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Guest blogger @JennyTwist1 writes: A Warning from History

I saw a documentary last night on Hitler’s rise to power. British viewers can access it on catch up BBC4 3 Feb 00.00 hours. Or you can watch the You Tube video:  http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xq1ym0_the-nazis-a-warning-from-history-1-helped-into-power_lifestyle

If you haven’t time to watch it, I’ll give you the gist. The thrust of the argument is that Hitler was not ‘destined’ to be the leader of Germany, as his supporters believed, but was helped to power by the existing (democratic) government, who believed that he would pull the people together and that, once in office, they would be able to tame him. It was a time of deprivation in Germany, not only was the country in the grip of the Great Depression, but it had to pay reparations for the First World War. 

Hitler was a great orator, with great appeal to the masses and he promised change. He promised to destroy the existing ‘corrupt’ government. 

Although he made it quite clear that what he was actually offering the German people was tyranny they lapped it up. They had had enough of democracy. It wasn’t working for them.

Is this ringing any bells?

What I found particularly chilling was one of the Nazi Party’s slogans that I had been unaware of before - “Germany first, Germany first, Germany first!” I'm sure you must remember Trump’s constant repetition of “America first” during his inauguration speech, extending his arm as he did so, his hand clenched in a fist. It was not the traditional Nazi salute but somehow it reminded me inescapably of the Nazis.

This is the first of a series of episodes. I hope the world survives long enough for me to see the rest.

About Jenny Twist

Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family.
She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant (she was The Lovely Tanya), she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history, at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.
She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic.
In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, knitting and attempting to do fiendishly difficult logic puzzles.
She has written three novels - Domingo’s Angel – a love story set in Franco’s Spain and harking back to the Spanish Civil War and beyond - and All in the Mind – a contemporary novel about an old woman who mysteriously begins to get younger and The Owl Goddess.
She has contributed short stories to many other anthologies, of which two –Doppelganger and Uncle Vernon have been released as short ebooks.

Other works include the Mantequero series: novellas about a Spanish mythological figure, and An Open Letter to Stephen King & Other Essays, a compilation of non-fiction essays and articles.  Her latest novella, The Minstrel Boy, was published in the anthology Letters from Europe in 2016.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

'Do not go Gentle into that Good Night' -posted by Guest Author @JennyTwist1

Last week I wrote a piece about the Flower Power generation, suggesting that we had sold out. Now I would like to apologise to all those who protested vehemently that THEY didn’t sell out. They still believe in fellowship and justice.

I didn’t actually intend to imply that the entire generation sold out. Of course I don’t believe that. I myself never sold out, for a start. Nor do I blame those who did sell out. They were up against an irresistible force.

This is what I think happened.

It is my belief that big business put an end to love and peace.

The Victorians built things to last. I had a coal-fired range in my kitchen in Manchester that was well over a hundred years old and still worked perfectly. I cooked on it exclusively for two weeks until they came to fit the gas, and thereafter I used it as a warming oven.

But twentieth century manufacturers realised this wouldn't keep the wheels of industry turning so introduced planned obsolescence. When this still wasn't producing enough sales they engendered an entire culture aimed at making us want things we didn't need and also making it necessary for both partners in a family to work in order to buy these things.

I think this did more to destroy the old way of life than any other factor, including Women's Lib. 

We now live in a world which is gobbling up the world's resources at an alarming rate, filling the seas with plastic waste and engendering global warming on a scale that is fast becoming irreversible. 

Until the advent of Trump I thought that this was the major problem facing the human race. Now I think our most immediate problem is Trump. Specifically Trump. What he is doing to oppose action on climate change, including withdrawing from the Paris agreement on climate change, is worrying enough but he is also goading other governments into starting a war. I think he's just itching to get his finger on the button and see what happens.

During the campaign last year he said he wouldn't be averse to using nuclear weapons in Europe because 'Europe is a big place'.

So it may be we won't have to worry about the environment after all. Trump may have the final solution.  

I stand with all the brave protestors who are right now besieging America’s airports and I believe that these protest movements that are going on all over the world and particularly in America stand a very good chance of success because they scare the American government. The country is like a tinderbox ready to go off with one spark. Do they risk civil war or do they dump Trump?

So we have to keep speaking out. Thank you to all you people who responded to my previous post. Please keep fighting and tell all your friends.


Do not go gentle into that good night ~ Dylan Thomas 1914 - 1953

About Jenny Twist
Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family.
She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant (she was The Lovely Tanya), she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history, at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.
She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic.
In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, knitting and attempting to do fiendishly difficult logic puzzles.
She has written three novels - Domingo’s Angel – a love story set in Franco’s Spain and harking back to the Spanish Civil War and beyond - and All in the Mind – a contemporary novel about an old woman who mysteriously begins to get younger and The Owl Goddess.
She has contributed short stories to many other anthologies, of which two –Doppelganger and Uncle Vernon have been released as short ebooks.
Other works include the Mantequero series: novellas about a Spanish mythological figure, and An Open Letter to Stephen King & Other Essays, a compilation of non-fiction essays and articles.  Her latest novella, The Minstrel Boy, was published in the anthology Letters from Europe in 2016.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Whatever Happened to the Flower People? By Guest Author @JennyTwist1

We were the generation that was going to change the world. We made love not war (I can hear my


father saying, “One wonders whether they are capable of either.”). We Banned the Bomb.
We lived in communes and went on peace marches and sang protest songs. We joined the CND. We camped out on Greenham Common.

What happened to us? Did we all become merchant bankers, business tycoons or, Heaven forbid, politicians? Do we smile indulgently at our younger selves who were so naïve we hadn’t realised that the important thing was making money?

We sold out. We sold out and now we have got what we deserve. The two greatest world powers are ruled by a madman and a psychopath, and the fascists are marching again all over the western world.
People I know, nice people, say that we can’t take any more refugees because Britain is full and we have enough on our plate with our own homeless. And so we turn away the desperate and the destitute who are dying trying to escape the bombs and their own harsh regimes.

The Earth, our only home, is slowly choking to death.

And we shake our heads and say that perhaps it won’t be so bad. Maybe Trump won’t turn America into one huge unreality show. Maybe Brexit won’t destroy the British economy and our cherished National Health Service. Maybe it doesn’t matter that Theresa May has scrapped the Human Rights Act and ordered more nuclear weapons. Maybe climate change is a hoax.

We should be marching in the streets again. We should be camping outside the White House and the Kremlin and the Houses of Parliament. We should be writing to our MPs and our senators and demanding another election, another referendum.

We should not just be sitting here afraid to speak out.

What happened to the flower people?

About Jenny Twist
Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family.
She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant (she was The Lovely Tanya), she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history, at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.
She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic.
In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, knitting and attempting to do fiendishly difficult logic puzzles.
She has written three novels - Domingo’s Angel – a love story set in Franco’s Spain and harking back to the Spanish Civil War and beyond - and All in the Mind – a contemporary novel about an old woman who mysteriously begins to get younger and The Owl Goddess.
She has contributed short stories to many other anthologies, of which two – Doppelganger and Uncle Vernon have been released as short ebooks.
Other works include the Mantequero series: novellas about a Spanish mythological figure, and An Open Letter to Stephen King & Other Essays, a compilation of non-fiction essays and articles.


Her latest novella, The Minstrel Boy, was published in the anthology Letters from Europe in 2016.
  

Facebook Author Page

Amazon Author Page
amazon.com/author/jennytwist

Twitter: @JennyTwist1

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016

How I Read ~ A Guest Reviewer Writes ~ #ASD #Asperger's

I came across Lise Lotte when looking for bloggers to read and review my latest book, Cocktails and Lies.  I became so fascinated by Lise's story, that we struck up a kind of correspondence which resulted in me inviting her to write a guest post on her reading experiences for my blog.  As a former English teacher, I'm always fascinated to hear about readers' perspectives, and because Lise's autistic spectrum disorder, I thought her story might be of interest to authors and readers everywhere.  Over to Lise.

Lise Lotte
My name is Lise Almenningen and I am the owner of the blog humanitysdarkerside.com. Along with that I run a few other blogs on various topics. I also happen to be ASD/Asperger's/Autistic.

I did not know I had Asperger's until about the same time I started my first blog, 2012. Until then, I just figured I had some unusual quirks that I tried very hard to suppress. When I realized all of that strangeness was normal for me, I stopped fighting it so hard. Surprise. Surprise. Life got simpler.

I believe the greatest commonality in Aspies, is how different we perceive what we see/observe/feel to non-ASDs (or neurotypicals/normals as you like to call yourselves). That is both our best friend and our worst enemy depending on what we are doing and who we are with. As a reviewer (once I let myself out of my preconceived idea of a reviewer), I believe being Asperger has shed new light on texts.

I am addicted to reading and will try to read anything. That does not mean I will finish, because not all writing is worth finishing. Whether a text is worth finishing has nothing to do with the author's level of education, expertise or category. I have read academic texts whose authors cannot have been beta-ed and "trashy" authors whose writing is so poignant, I am incapable of putting the text down. Sometimes a text is so technical, I am incapable of ever understanding it. I would not know if the author is good or not in such cases. But I will give them a try.

When I review a text, I will first read it through. I need that to set some kind of anchor in my mind. Then I will do research. If the author has a website, I check out what they say about themselves. Things like where they are from, have lived, interests etc. influence my interpretation of the text. If the author is from the US, I review with a different eye than if the author is from South-Korea.

When stories are about topics I know little about, I will check out terms. Lynette's Cocktails and
Lies had police titles I needed to know the definition of so I could know if they fit into their roles. The same thing with her main character. I know little about insurance, so I looked up that title as well. If the information might be of interest to people reading my review, I will link to it.

Then I check out the net to see if any other person has reviewed the story. If their review appeals to me, I will link to it. When I can find them, I try to include up to five other reviewers and prefer it if there are both good and bad reviews. Sometimes that isn't possible, because I am doing an ARC. I try to include any art I can find on a story. If there are translations, I dig up as much as I can about them and link to that information as well. One Norwegian author, Jo Nesbø, has a huge following abroad. If you check out my review on him, you will see what I mean about translations.

Once the preliminary work has been done, I pick up the story again and try to figure out how I want to approach it. From then on, it is all character-driven and my main question to myself is: Can I believe in this person? Has the author answered their own questions? This is also vital to character-driven stories. If you claim to write a mystery, there should be a mystery to solve. Another thing I look for in my characters is some complexity. This goes for children's stories as well as adult stories. I reviewed an illustrated children's short-story called One Less Meg that exemplifies what I mean.

Romances can be troublesome for me, and this probably directly
related to my ASD. I think that has to do with the type of interaction that authors give their characters in addition to the formulaic form I find the category struggles with. One of these is "the three-some". This has become a particular problem in YA stories that must think they target young girls (preferably US girls). It certainly is not a new concept. Zane Grey wrote about them in his Romance-Westerns. But instead of being a tool the three-some often feels like a fail-safe. Aspergers is a wonderful reviewers tool in that it categorizes details and shares those categories with me when cued. Maybe it is more difficult to get away with easy solutions when your reviewer is an aspie. Maybe. But if you write excellent romance, without or without excellent sex-scenes, I'm all yours.

Violence is another area that authors seem to use as a fail-safe. Well-written violence that fits with the story is preferred. I just reviewed a story called The Broken God with a little boy in it called Zoshi who broke my heart. The violence towards him wasn't of the gratuitous type, nor was it explicit/gory. Instead, we followed his feelings while traversing a dark place. Then, the moment came, and it was quick. But the intensity of being in this eight-year old mind blew me away. Again, One Less Meg was also a violent story, but appropriately so.

Authors seem to struggle most with tightening their stories up and using their resources (betas, editors, etc.) for what they are worth. I understand the desire to keep things. It is something I struggle with as a reviewer. But both reviews and stories need to be slashed and slashed again, or re-written, or ... (you know the theory). Unless you are a "one of a kind" author, writing hurts. This article certainly did.


As a reviewer, I love authors. You are brave people who take a chance on a fickle public. I want you to succeed and want you to do your very best to deliver a product you can be proud of. That is the frame of mind I try to be in when I review your stories. And don't be too hard on yourself when something falls through. Failures do teach you where to go next. At least they have done that for me.