Friday, 28 September 2012

The more they want....

Galilee Chapel, Durham
Amongst all the the hype that has hit the tv, newspapers, twitter and Facebook this week, this article is the one I found most interesting: click
The J K Rowling phenomenon is beginning to take on aspects of the J R Ewing style of doing things; in other words, a lawyer lies at the heart of her empire and he sounds like a human  rottweiler as he bludgeons critics and reviewers into silence. There have been embargoes on who can read the novel, let alone review it, and when they may do so, plus how many agreements they had to  sign before they're allowed to do any of it - it just doesn't sound like the normal style of publishing in Britain. The more they want, the less you give them has been the PR maxim since the first word leaked that there was to be a new book.

If all that is said in the Mail Online is absolutely accurate, then it could be that publishing as we have known it for the last few decades is about to change, for the article reads like the plot of a big business thriller. To be fair to the publishing industry, it seems it's the PR side of things that is the driving force. The ad men have got a grip and they're unlikely to let go.

Perhaps earning all that money changes a person's personality; or the lure of power is too great to resist. If you can have things exactly as you want them, then why not? Maybe we would all go for that if we could. but I can't help wishing the publication had been just as it is for any other author. Then the lady might have received an honest and accurate assessment of her new book.

I read Harry Potter and loved the imagination that created the HP world. The writing, I always felt, could have been better edited, and I skipped over quite a few laboured paragraphs. The subject, theme, premise - call it what you will - of this latest book does not, for many reasons, draw me toward reading it. I wonder how many other Potter fans will feel the same way? And how many of them will hopefully sample the new work, just in case they might like it?

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Two months rain

Our trip out for groceries yesterday was a little more adventurous than usual due to having a month's rain fall in two days. I drove the mini through several "puddles" that covered the entire width of the road and stretched twenty or thirty feet long - and this was up on the ridge, a hundred foot or more above the river. Twice we came up on a "road closed" sign and there was nothing to do but turn around and back track.
On the way home we tried a different route and though we passed plenty of flooded fields, we thought we'd got off Scot-free. Then we saw the car that had just nose-dived into the hedge row above a drop into a flooded field, turned the corner and had to drive through a huge swathe of water where the road dipped down the hill. Take two or three minutes and watch the video click taken in July -  it gives a good idea of life in the region at the moment!

Received a post card this morning from a friend holidaying in Venice - they had to trudge through a foot of water to cross St Mark's Square to get to a concert they'd booked. Seems the whole world is awash.

On a brighter note, this is only my third review for Reluctance: http://romantichistoricallovers.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/reluctance-by-jen-black/
so I have no shame in publishing it here in the hope you'll all read it.

Monday, 24 September 2012

A rainy day

Monkshood
It's raining hard and blowing a gale outside, so I've postponed my intention to walk up the hill and bank the latest book sales cheque received last week. Our "tame" blackbird has been on the fence, singing, twice already this morning. Evidently dh put out some sultanas for him first thing, and as I sat down at my computer I heard the bird again. I now know exactly what Dunnett meant when she wrote the phrase about a blackbird's cherried sentence. So I laid out more sultanas on top of the BBQ, and down he flew, looking very wet and downcast, and gobbled them up. Two feet seems to be his limit of tolerance for my presence. Of course, it could be his brother. They're very hard to tell apart. I'm hoping blackbird Dad reappears. He brought the brood to feed early in the spring, but they got so vicious they chased him away. Ungrateful kids! I'll know it's him, because while the youngsters have very sharp tips to their beaks, his was a tad worn and he had a couple of white feathers in his wings.

So, it's a perfect day for writing. I offered to help dh tidy his study, and if you knew what an effort that is likely to be, you'd applaud me! He, obviously not knowing when he is on to a good thing, shook his head and pulled a face. 'No, not today.'

So that leaves me back with a perfect day for writing. Unless I make a list for what I'm going to pack in my suitcase next month. But I can't think of sunny Australia when the weather is so miserable here. It is slowly dawning on me that I could be accused of procrastination here...No. Decision made. I'm off to do some writing. Honest.

Friday, 21 September 2012

CurtisBrownCreative


Saw on Twitter this morning that Literary Agency Curtis Brown is about to launch a site for aspiring authors.  It’s aimed at those who wish to achieve publication. There’s to be a Discovery Day at Foyles in Charing Cross Road where  a panel of agents will scrutinise first pages and hear a 30 second pitch.

Uppark in West Sussex
How Londoncentric is that? They don’t even both to mention that Charing Cross Road is in London! There may well be 8 million people in the capital, but that means that there are  54 million living elsewhere in the country!

Anna Davis of Curtis Brown claims she wants to work with writers, and find new talent. If she would just come out of London, I think she would find dozens. Not everyone can afford the time and money to go down to London for a 30 second pitch and have the first page of their novel scrutinised.  Quite apart from anything else, the experience is painful.  The rail journey to London from Newcastle, by no means the greatest distance in this country, takes 3 hours at best, five at worst. On top of that, there’s the need to get to the station in the first place, which could take easily an hour or more by car. Then there’s the taxi from King’s Cross to Foyles.  Flying wouldn’t be any better – still there’s the need to get to the airport from outlying areas, a two hour wait at the airport, probable delays at Heathrow, and the tube  into London, which is horrendous for those who are not familiar with it. Makes you tired just thinking about it.
At a guess, anyone living north of Peterborough will rely on the website. Which is what I shall do, since it promises an agency writing school, a submission portal offering feedback and a writing room with industry news, tips, interviews and live webchats with agents. Here's the link: http://curtisbrowncreative.co.uk/

Read the whole article, without my grousing, at http://www.thebookseller.com/trackback/180106
 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Current publishing in the UK


Elvet Bridge - the other side
Here are the current stats for  UK book sales, comparing Jan-June 2012 with the same period 2011. The UK Publishers Association states that the value of total sales of books (all formats) has increased by 7.1%

Sales of digital fiction increased by 188% in value terms

Overall digital sales (fiction, non-fiction and children’s books) increased to £84m against £30m last year; 12.9% of the total value of sales, up from 7.2%

CEO of the Publishers’ Association thinks these figures indicate that publishing in the UK continues to perform well in spite of the recession and that digital sales demonstrate that readers and publishers are embracing e-book reading.
I think this is good news, too! Looking at Sales Reports for  Self-Published Kindle books - which is fascinating and can soon become addictive! - it is astonishing to see the difference in UK sales and US sales. Of course, the populations are so very different, something like 62 million against 220 million (the last time I looked), very nearly 4 times larger. Heaven knows I may not be typical, but my US sales are between 2 and 3 times greater than my UK sales.
Everyone is waiting to see what impact India will have, since the US reports now include sales in that country, which has another huge population. Given that there may only be a small percentage of Indian residents who can afford to buy a Kindle and books through it, there may not be a great difference. It is also said that India has a very good range of books at very low prices, and that most book publishers prices will be way too high to compete. We shall see!

This is the link to the original report: http://www.thebookseller.com/trackback/177906

 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Downton Returns


Elvet Bridge, Durham
There’s a nice warm glow inside me from watching the first episode of Downton Series 3 tonight. It may have dissipated by tomorrow morning, so I thought I write my blog tonight. (It is 11.23pm Sunday in case you are wondering.) All the usual things were present – the settings, the clothes, the banter, each character annoying another in a way that made me salute those folk who are always ready with the smart repartee. I like the way some characters have grown, wonder why others seem to be regressing, but it all adds to the enjoyment. Of course, there are those who denigrate the show on Twitter. Well, there would be, wouldn’t there? Some people just can’t agree with the majority, no matter what. They have to be different for nothing much more than the wish to be well, different.

Something interesting that I haven’t checked out yet is this:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2012/sep/12/novel-written-live

Someone has begun writing a novel and is doing it online so everyone can read as she writes. The links are there, so tomorrow, when I’m feeling wide awake, I’ll take a peek. Knowing the state of most first drafts, it’ll be a hoot, but no doubt there will be a certain fascination in watching what goes down on the screen. For a while, anyway. No doubt the urge to hit the critique button will threaten, but I shall sit on my hands and resist. I suspect interest will soon wither and die. But who knows? Could this be the novel-writing future? Pay as you view? I’m sure there will be some who will try it, but it won’t be me.

Friday, 14 September 2012

The Rose of Raby

Approaching Raby Castle
from the Raby website
In August this year University of Leicester archaeologists began searching for Richard III beneath the car park on Grey Friars Road, Leicester. They discovered the garden of Robert Herrick, a former mayor of Leicester. Christopher Wren senior (the father of the architect), recorded in 1612 that he had visited the mayor’s garden and noted a memorial stating that ‘here lies the body of Richard III sometime King of England.’ This was the last record of the location of the medieval king’s body.

Radar equipment helped pinpoint where to dig, and on September 5th the team discovered the lost Franciscan friary known as the Church of the Grey Friars. This week human remains have been found – male, showing evidence of battle wounds and a slight curvature of the spine. Excitement is sky high, though battle wounds as a cause of death would not be unusual in 1485, and it would be a reasonable guess that in times of poor nutrition, bone deformities like rickets would also be common.  DNA testing of the bones will take eight to twelve weeks. Any DNA found will be cross-referenced with that of Michael Ibsen, whose mother was a direct descendant of Richard’s eldest sister, Anne of York.

Richard III was the youngest surviving child of Richard, the third duke of York, and Cecily Neville, who was known as the Rose of Raby because of her beauty.  Raby Castle and estate is in Country Durham, not far from me, and so she feels like a local girl. Mad, I know!


I have to say it always amazes me that:

a)    DNA can be obtained from bones 527 years old

b)   That there can possibly be any link with someone alive today

c)    The links always end up with someone not living in the UK

d)   People who do the family trees can be so certain of their links when they deal in a period where births and deaths were never recorded, and names were so commonly used.

 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Revision Fatigue

Durham Market Square
In spite of the rain clouds and the dull, windy sky, I'm feeling pleased with life. That's because I have finished - hurrah! - what is probably the fifth edit of  my first Matho story.  I haven't been counting the edits, but this one feels like I'm really getting the hang of revising a story.
I was pretty chuffed with the first draft, but that was probably four years ago. I made the big mistake and sent partial submissions out, and of course got rejections. About six months later, I had another look at the story, wondering why it didn't have agents queuing up at my door. That's when I saw all the niggling little repetitions and awkwardnesses, even the occasional plot problem.

A year on, and I went through it again, and found still more to change. Does this process never end, I wondered? Will I be doing this ten years from now? Then I read a piece about revising and though I can't remember who said it, I jotted down the four things that really count: Conflict, Suspense, Drama and Emotional Intensity. One or the other of these should appear on every page.

The full meaning of the phrase Revision Fatigue hit me. The story was as good as I could make it and I didn't want to go through the damned thing again....but I knew I needed to do it. Nobody warns you about this process. Some authors blog about doing their umpteenth edit, but like every other newish writer, I must have glossed over it. I certainly didn't properly take it in.

But you know what? This time around, I gave myself permission to be ruthless. I chopped boring bits (yes, there were some) re-drafted sentences so they were less clunky, upped the intensity every which way I could think of and even subjected poor old Matho to be a bit of torture along the way. Punctuation and missed words (yes, there were still some of those, too) chapter endings and beginnings - all were given the old critical eye. I re-wrote two chapters from a different POV because I thought it gave the whole more intensity. The last chapter was finally finished off properly. I think I'd got so tired at the end of writing 110,000 words that it had always got short shrift. Now it is done, and I can can go off and have a jolly day out. Yeah!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

New group and sex scenes


There’s a new space for authors to tell Guardian readers about their new book. Here’s the link:-http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2012/sep/05/authors-tell-us-about-your-work?commentpage=1#end-of-comments
Galilee Chapel, Durham
In the spirit of try anything once, I’ve put a few words up about Reluctance. The site declares it has come about in response to the articles in the Guardian about reviews and sockpuppetry, and has just been set up. Perhaps there’ll be no tangible result as far as I’m concerned, but it’s an interesting move in a world full of e-groups. As I write, there are something like 250 entries on the site.

Someone on the Guardian pages is claiming that accepting a free book in order to write a review is bribery. I can see their point, but I feel it will annoy a lot of people. They also claim that publishers have paid for reviews for years – it’s just that we never knew about it. There may well be more on this topic in the next week or so.

Our writers meeting didn’t have anything like enough time to discuss writing sex scenes –we only just got started, commenting on how sex was written in days gone by when it was time to depart. Hardy, as everyone probably knows, had Tess go into a wood and come out pregnant without writing a word about making love. (Tess of the D'Urbevilles)
I don't think that would do with today's readers. Our host had a copy of the notorious 50 Shades (which I still haven’t read, though I enjoyed reading the husband’s take on things : http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/aug/31/fifty-shades-el-james-husband) and we wondered why the books have suddenly taken off (is there no phrase that suddenly seems like a double entendre?) as it has. Could it be that a generation has suddenly discovered erotic writing exists? Or because with Kindles they can be read in public with no one knowing?
After all, erotica been around as long as people have been reading and writing – check out the link for proof of that, should it be needed. But one wonders how people could have remained ignorant of it for so long. Perhaps the idea that reading has almost become a lost art has had something to do with it? And maybe – here’s a happy thought – maybe erotica will stimulate (Sorry!) those people in reading lots, lots more!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Lightbulb Moments

Welcome to Barnard Castle LifeWe're off  gallivanting again today. We're off to Barnard Castle, click one time haunt of Richard III, where dh and I will then split. I'm off to a Border Reivers Writers' Group lunch for a couple of hours, and dh will enjoy a stroll around the country town, the antique shops and a pub lunch. He may even go as far as Bowes Museum, but no doubt I'll be driving back home!

Barnard Castle is in the south of County Durham, and it's about as far south as our group extends. It's only fair that the member who lives there should have everyone come to her instead of it always being Sue who travels miles and miles to reach us, whether we're in the Tyne valley, Morpeth or as far north as Alnwick. Today we're supposed to be discussing sex/seduction scenes, taking examples of our own writing of said scenes for discussion. That'll be fun! Maybe there will be notes on it here on Monday. Maybe I'll report my funny little experience with the Amazon tags - which all reverted back to normal when I checked a couple of days later. I've even considered re-instating them! I could at least label Far After Gold as a steamy romance....

Last night I had a lightbulb moment. I've re-written a whole chapter of the first Matho story in the last few days, and I suddenly realised the chapter would read better from Meg's POV because she has more to lose and it will give the reader a chance to feel Meg's fear and observe Matho's anger at her betrayal. So when I get home this afternoon, that's what I'll be doing.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Sockpuppetry

If you've been following the literary row about sockpuppets, then reading Dean Crawford's blog is calming. The Guardian has a long article for those who want to catch up on what's been happening: click and there are a couple of links so you can find out more.
I find it amazing that some authors think it's worthwhile to spend so much time writing anonymous praise of their own work and denigrating the work of fellow authors. If a book can't achieve some measure of success without such lies, then it can't be a very good book in my view.
Trying to imagine why they do it leads me to thoughts of fear. Fear of failure, of falling sales. Perhaps publishers do it, thinking to help sales along. Every publisher will have people who live in fear of losing their job because they've backed the wrong author too many times. Perhaps authors do it because they fear their contracts will not be renewed. If sales of the latest book fall, publishers don't hesitate to cut the string, and once that happens, finding another publisher can be hard. Livlihoods depend on sales, and I imagine desperation can set in for those concerned. It can't be easy when the well runs dry and ideas don't come any more.
So many things have become possible with the internet, but I bet Tim Berners-Lee never envisaged sockpuppetry.
I don't know why, but Blogger won't let me upload a pic today. I'll try again later. ( Later - one minute to midnight, and I can load the pic with no trouble.)

Monday, 3 September 2012

Amazon tags


Amazon is a strange and wonderful thing. Maybe you know, maybe you don’t, but I have 3 books published by two independent publishers in the States, and 3 I’ve self-published on Amazon. Now, I can check every day what is happening saleswise to the self-published titles, which is wonderful; for the other three, I rely on hearing once a quarter or so that they’ve sold a few copies.

I got quite a surprise when I looked at Amazon the other day to see if I’d garnered any new reviews. I hadn’t, but something else caught my eye. There is a section that allows me, and any reader who cares to take the time, to tag any book. I’ll admit I’m probably not very good at tagging, and don’t fully understand what it actually does in the mythical Amazon algorithms, but I think (and hope) it makes the book easier to find. My tags are the unexciting kind – historical romance, romantic suspense, Regency romance, Vikings – that kind of thing.

Imagine my surprise therefore, when I glanced down the screen and the words forced consent caught my eye. Some kind person has tagged my book FAR AFTER GOLD with the following tags: erotic romance, erotic fantasy, forced consent, steamy romance, threesome, Kindle erotic best, sexy fiction. Threesome? Erotic fantasy? Well, maybe to some people a steamy sex scene – no more graphic than many I’ve read in modern literature from Mills & Boon to Philippa Gregory – equates to erotica. Maybe Amazon thinks that some of the 50 Shades success will rub off on my book and they’ve added the tags…. Who knows? That’s one of the mysteries of Amazon – you never know who is doing what. But I assure everyone there are no threesomes in my books!

The pic this time is a view of Durham Cathedral's Lantern Tower across the Cloister. Click on it to enlarge and enjoy the detail!