Monday, 15 December 2014

I become a born-again BOOKWORM!

While I was doing the final editing for my most recent novel, Last Child, I made a decision.  I would not write in December.  The two novels and one novella I am gagging to write can wait until the new year.

This decision was partly provoked by the general lack of housework done recently (when you've been saying "I must give that kitchen a real thorough clean" for two months, you know you really must), the amount of times I'd told my husband I would do a,b and c "as soon as I've sent Last Child off for proofreading", but mostly because of my 'to read' list, which now covers two sheets of A4.  

So, on November 23rd, I officially became an Avid Reader!  I read a book, I review it straight away while it's still in my head, and move on to the next. You know what?  I'm loving it.  I haven't given myself all this reading time for years, not since I started writing again in 2010, after a break of (too long), and it's great.  No more do I think, "yes, I could read a bit of that book I've had on the go for three weeks, or I could edit Chapter Nine."  I'd usually go with the latter. Now, my business of the day has become reading.

In the last three weeks I have read no less than twelve books.  Well, twelve and a half, actually; as soon as I have written this post I shall go back to KILLING INSTINCT by Darcia Helle, which is bloody terrific - it's a murder/thriller type thing about two hit men who uncover an organisation that facilitates its clients most depraved fantasies.  I bought the book ages ago because I read about it in one of those '50 indie books worth reading' posts. If I hadn't taken this month off, I might never have got round to finding out how good it is. Incidentally, clicking on the title of each book I've mentioned will take you to its Amazon UK page.  That's the title, not the book cover!  

I've read some I knew would be terrific - HONOUR AND OBEY by Carol Hedges, for instance, the Victorian murder mystery follow up to Diamonds and Dust, which I thought was excellent, and the sequel is even better.  Then there's another chapter in the life of Val Poore, AFRICAN WAYS, about the three years in the 1980s when she and her family lived up a mountain in South Africa.  I've read Val's books about life on the waterways of Holland, so I knew I would love this too.  My favourite genre overall is historical fiction; the first book of my readathon (!!) was the 17th century THE GILDED LILY by Deborah Swift, which I liked so much I bought another book by her straight away.

I always read on my Nexus, on which I have the Kindle App.  I've come to appreciate this thing more and more, and actually prefer it to paperbacks. I love how I can just finish one and select the next. Yes, I've abandoned some, but I've made myself a vow to read to at least 10% before I decide if a book's not for me.  If I can't give a good 3* I won't review, simply because I won't have read the book.  So far I've only abandoned four, one of which I may give another go, because sometimes you can just be in the wrong mood for a certain type of book.

I've surprised myself by discovering genres I didn't think I'd like.  Fantasy? Magic? I always thought I began and ended with Game of Thrones.  But combine it with history and you have the excellent COURT OF CONSPIRACY by April Taylor.  I'm promising myself the next one in the series soon!

Other books I've given a well deserved 4* to are:

PATTERN OF SHADOWS by Judith Barrow (WW2 family drama)
BECOMING BEAUTY by Sarah Boucher (fairytale retelling)
LUKE'S #1 RULE by Cynthia Harrison (family drama/addiction)
MADE IN NASHVILLE by Mandy Baggot (country music scene romance)
SHEER FEAR by Geoff West (crime/child abuse cover up)

But now I must tell you about my Big Discovery!  
Which is Dylan Morgan.  You know how great it is when you find a new writer and think, I am going to love everything this person produces? Dylan writes horror, but not overly blood and gore stuff, more like Stephen King, including the totally brilliant THE DEAD LANDS ~ a post apocalyptic thriller.  

I didn't even know I liked this sort of book until I read it.  I loved it so much I keep boring people with how good it is, and straight after I'd read it I bought another of his, FLESH, abandoned my reading list and got stuck in straight away - it was just as good!  I'll be reading his whole catalogue before too long, including the vampire ones - she says tentatively... vampires stories are usually down in the 'genres I only read if I really must', like chick lit and comedy sci-fi.  I bet I'll still like it, though.  I won't rave on about Mr Morgan any more, though, in case I embarrass him - I'll just advise you to read my reviews of the books on the Amazon pages, and BUY one!

At the end of the year I'm going to do a Top 20 rundown of my favourite books of the year - now I'd better get stuck in, as I am determined to read at least eight more.

More anon!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Saturation Point

Yes, IT has arrived yet again, though I have been trying to ignore it.  I refuse to even think about it until December 1st, but today it's December 3rd.  This morning I did it, I forced myself to look down the Morrissons' aisle I usually avoid - you know, the one with selection boxes and all things red and glittery - in search of packets of Christmas cards that satisfy the happy medium between not-too-ghastly and not-too-expensive.  Talking of supermarkets, I'd prefer not to have to do food shopping at 9.30 in the morning to a backdrop of a juvenile Michael Jackson shrieking 'Santa Claus is coming to town' in two shops running, but there you go - and I whinged about that this time last year, HERE, so I won't do so again...

The saturation point to which I refer in the title of this post is that of present buying and receiving. The 'not thinking about it until December 1st' is mostly because I'm all out of ideas, you see.  Look, my sister is 57 and my brother is 50 ~ over the years we've known each other I've bought them both everything I can possibly think of for birthdays and Christmas, and I'm totally STUCK.  

What do you get the sister and brother with everything?

As for my parents - well, Mum is in a care home; Alzheimer's means that she doesn't know if it's Christmas Day, Palm Sunday or the 4th of July, so that's okay, but Dad?  He's 85.  A couple of years ago he said that he reckons he's got enough clothes to last him until he shuffles off this mortal coil. He's got shelves and shelves and piles of books, and has quite a busy life (his social life is more active than mine) so doesn't have that much time to read.  I've already given him DVDs of everything John Thaw has ever been in, he doesn't need any pictures or ornaments or kitchen equipment.  So what else is there?

Daddy in his long-lasting clothes (on his 85th birthday)

My husband is as bad - he has a wardrobe full of clothes I've bought him over the past five years, and apart from that, what he likes best is things with wires and cables and switches and flashing lights, none of which I understand, so it's best he buys them for himself.  He listens to audio books rather than reads, and downloads any that interest him.  In short, anything he wants he will buy anyway.  I'm the same - I can't really think of anything I'd like, aside from a cottage in Cornwall, a contract with a Big Five publisher, a night in a four poster with Josh Holloway (Sawyer in 'Lost') and to be ten years younger.  If I want perfume, I go and buy it.  Ditto clothes.  I have sufficient jewellery.  Don't even mention books.  I have enough unread ones to last me until my eyes fail.

Josh Holloway ~ all I want for Christmas

Last night I had a brainwave - I suggested to Husband that we don't buy each other anything this year. His relief and delight were such that if we weren't already married I think he might have proposed.  He reckons I'm the ideal woman because I do not require sparkly pink things with hearts on and over priced red roses every February 14th; saying 'you needn't get me anything for Christmas' and meaning it has confirmed this view!

Father and my niece, Freya - at 13, so easy to buy for!

Right - that's the annual festive moan over!  It doesn't help that most of my in-law family are Scorpio and Sagittarius so I've only just had to think of stuff for their birthdays.  Christmas wise, so far I have bought: Lindt chocolates for my husband's nieces.  Cadbury's Heroes for his nephews. Posh hair glitter and a gift token for my own 13 year old niece.  See, the teenagers are easy. Give it another 30 years, though, and I'll be just as stuck. Except that by then I'll probably be away with the fairies in a care home, too....

Mum and Dad sitting outside Mum's care home this summer.  It's very nice there, with a black cat who sleeps on the beds, and chickens in the garden!

You can't go wrong with a box of Lindt Chocolates!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Book reviewers wanted!

Do you enjoy reviewing books after you've read them?  If so, Rosie Amber needs you!

Rosie runs a very active book blog with all sorts of features ~ do take a look (link further down).  A very busy section is reviews from her book review team, which is currently a bit on the snowed under side.

If you would like to join the team, there is no heavy commitment needed.  All she asks is that you read your chosen book within a month of receiving the review copy from the author, and post the review on at least two sites (usually or, depending on the nationality of the author, and Goodreads).  There is always a long and varied list of books to choose from - you simply pick the one you'd like to read, and Rosie gets in touch with the author to send you a copy, which will be a mobi copy to go straight to your reading device (Kindle, iPad with Kindle app, etc).  

There is no minimum or maximum amount of books to review, and you can drop in and out as you wish.  

Other book bloggers welcome! If the review is posted to your own blog too, Rosie provides a link to it on hers, which is good for cross promotion of both.

You can see the original post asking for reviewers HERE and peruse the list of books currently on offer to review HERE ~ this changes all the time, of course, and involves many different genres.

If you're interested, please get in touch with Rosie via her blog or Twitter @rosieamber1, and give her the link to your Goodreads page if you write reviews on there.  

Many thanks!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

My Top Ten Blog Posts

This week, my blog got its 100,000th view!  I know there are hundreds of blogs that get a hundred times that, but I'm pleased with it, I thought it was a good time to do a rundown of my most popular posts since I started it, in March 2012.  

I never meant to start a blog, but I sometimes used to write articles to post on Facebook ~ people kept saying that writers need blogs, so I started off by just copy-and-pasting the Facebook ones, then thinking, what now?

Since then, I've realised what an excellent thing a blog is.  Often little ideas pop into my head about something that would be amusing to do; I used to just do them anyway, as word docs, and send them to friends; they'd have an audience of about ten...

Here they are, then, in reverse order!

Just click the title to get to the post...

10.  On the nostalgia theme at number 10 - in July 2013 I wrote a post about the cosmetics of my youth.  So many people identified with this; 1162 read it.   See Black nail polish, Charlie perfume....

9  Creeping in at number 9,  will you be joining the 1189 who wanted to know which is.... the grammatical error that even the most intelligent people make???

8.  Next, one from a blog tour started by a couple of British writers in 2013.  With 1277 views, here's my contribution, in February of that year to A VERY BRITISH BLOG TOUR

7.  At number 7, here's a post I wrote in June 2013 about my Twitter zodiac!  1504 people found out their Twitter 'sign' in THE TWITTERSCOPE!!!

6.  This is my absolute favourite of all my posts, ever!  It's actually three different ones, all on the same theme; links to the two others are provided at the beginning of this one.  I was doing the ironing one morning and thinking how amusing it would be to see people like JK Rowling, Jackie Collins and the woman who wrote 50 Shades trying to get their books known on Twitter.  Then I thought about Kerouac, Jerome K Jerome, Bill Shakespeare.... here's the result!  Total of 2292 views, written in summer 2013

See If the literary greats were self-published....

5. Into the top 5, and a post I wrote in October 2012 that's been passed around a great deal ~ Twitter tips!  It's fairly out of date now, and I'd definitely revise some of the strategies if I wrote it again; for instance, I've changed my mind about doing loads of retweets all the time, and would not advise anyone to do as I used to do, ie 2 sessions of 100 a day!!!   Like many noobs (I'd only been at it for a year), I thought it was mostly about getting retweeted.  But there's still some good stuff in the post.  2459 views - hope it helped some of them!

See Twitter Tips for Beginners

4.  At number 4, a guest post!  In April 2013 Julia explained why you need a proofreader.... it's a good one, written when she was just starting up on her own.  Since then she has gained a reputation for being one of the best, and speaking out against the 'cowboys' who waste writers' money by not doing their job properly. 3154 views.

See  Why do you need a proofreader?

3.  WHY has this one had so many views?  Don't get it.  3237 of them since March 2013.  I imagine it might be because these blog award things are a chain, and get views via other blogs.  Oh well, it shows they work, anyway! See my contribution to The Liebster Blog Award

2.  This one is still being passed around now ~ since May 2013, 3492 people have wondering....
How do you mend a broken heart?  

1.  ....and here it is.....the winner!  Since October 2012, no less than 5602 people have wanted to know some.....

Thus, I can safely conclude that my average blog reader is an intelligent woman of a certain age, who reads a lot, is maybe a writer too, uses Twitter, still believes in true love but is a bit cynical about relationships...  oh yeah, that's me, isn't it??!!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

So, you're not just a little square head????

Yesterday I did something I haven't done very often in my life, and which I find exciting yet just a tiny bit daunting...

I could just leave it there and let you guess, but I won't!  Here is what I did - I met up with an online friend.  This time it was.... Carol Hedges!  For anyone who doesn't know her, Carol is a fellow writer I first met on Twitter a couple of years ago

The meet was Carol's suggestion; she lives in Hertfordshire and me in Tyne and Wear, so it would have been unlikely ever to happen had Carol's husband not wanted to see Watford (not Arsenal...!) playing Middlesborough (I always think Carol's BH - beloved husband - is called Bernard, though he's actually not at all - you know how you get these things in your head?  No?  Oh, okay, it's just me, then....).

Because of traffic problems, Carol was an hour late, which meant that I'd spent the time wandering around the Toon (Newcastle); the inclement weather turned my smooth and glamorous hair into an explosion in a mattress factory, about which I only complained ten times during the afternoon.  We met in a restaurant....

.... where I was delighted to discover that, like me, Carol isn't a 'foodie', will eat what is put in front of her and is more interested in vino and chatting than gastric delights.  We both had a starter consisting of smoked salmon, rocket and capers, loads of wine (I admit to having the lion's share, which is fair enough as I am a Leo) (good excuse, huh?), and that was all!  Anyway, we were talking at such a rate that a larger meal wouldn't have stood a chance.

The big question - were we as we'd imagined we would be?  Answer - yes and no! Carol thought I would be loud and quite caustic, but I'm actually fairly mild in company, unless I've known people for years, maybe quieter than my online presence suggests.  I thought Carol would be very nice and warm (which she IS!) and a sort of wise sage, but she was more like an excitable kitten!!!! More extrovert than I had imagined.  Dead good fun and interesting, which is what I had expected.  We had LOADS to talk about, and I think we'll definitely need a 'round two' to say all the stuff that we didn't get to say in the three and a half hours we spent together.

We had a token wander down to the quayside, because you can't visit the Toon without seeing the Tyne Bridge - and here is a picture of Carol with The Sage, Gateshead, behind her!

We also had coffee in a nice little cafe where a chap was playing guitar, which is just the sort of thing you want to chance upon.  

.... and when the man we shall call Bernard came to pick Carol up, they very kindly drove me all the way home - I live about 8 miles outside Newcastle. It seemed weird to have them drop me outside my house - no, Carol, you're supposed to be on my computer screen, not outside my house!! I pointed up to the window where I sit and write and tweet....  and here I am at my desk!  This photo was taken before I went to meet Carol - when my hair still looked nice! (Look, I know I'm a bit obsessive about my hair.  It's a Leo thing, all right??)

It was a fine afternoon, and Carol tells me that next time Watford are playing Middlesborough she will come up again - hopefully that time we can meet up with Jon Fletcher/Gardener too!  

I'm thinking of starting a Facebook page for pictures of writers meeting writers, but I don't suppose I will ever find the time... maybe when I've finished the current novel.

Cheersmy new real life friend!

ps ~ Twitter friend @WillowCWinsham just said to me that some of her best real life friends started as online ones.  Quick think - it's probably because you get to know each other first in the best possible way - by sharing thoughts, witticisms, experiences, preferences etc, without being distracted by others, getting pissed, prejudices over looks, etc.  So you already know that person is going to be on your wavelenghth ~ half the 'getting to know you' stuff is already done....

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Campaigning for the 36 hour day.....

Recently, I've read a few blog posts about etiquette on Twitter and in other aspects of our online lives.  

(nb: My Twitter community is based much around the world of writers, book bloggers, avid readers and moderately avid readers)

In an ideal world, all self published authors would have time to keep in touch with as many of our regular readers as possible. A priority should also be to support the wonderful book bloggers who give their time, free of charge, to help us promote our work, something I think is very important. 

As well as the book blogs, though, we see interesting posts by other authors, and want to comment on them, too, and share them around.  We want to look at their books, reading and reviewing the ones that interest us.  We want to make new contacts, be active on Goodreads, keep up our Facebook author pages, never ignore a Twitter message or an email.  We'd also like to help promote books we think are fab, reciprocate good turns done to us, and, of course, retweet back the people who retweet us (apart from those who do all their retweeting via @SomeCrapApp, of course!!).  We want to just chat to nice people who are nothing to do with the writing world, too, because writing is not all we are, right??? Yes, yes - we should do and want to do all these things!

I don't have a day job.  I don't have children.  I have a husband who doesn't make too many demands on my time, and who thinks my writing is more important than the housework.  I have very little social life - BUT!! I still find it hard to keep up with everything I 'should' be doing, although I do actually want to do most of it. I've just come back from a few days away, and have spent many hours catching up with emails, tweeting, retweeting, Goodreads fiddling about, blog reading, thanking people, following back Twitter follows - and I haven't even LOOKED at Facebook!  My plan has been to do all this today so that tomorrow I can go back to my current novel, which has been drumming its fingers and saying 'where the hell have you got to?' for the last six days.

Okay.  Look.  I try to support the blogs who feature me as much as possible. I do lots of retweets every day, but (I hope) not enough to annoy my followers, I keep up with emails, I - oh, you know.  I do as much as I can, while still leaving myself time to write, and occasionally push the hoover round and actually watch a bit of telly with my husband from about 9 pm onwards. I plan to read 2 indie books per month, but for the past two months it hasn't happened - Rose, it's not that I don't like your book, I just haven't had the time to get past 15%!  That's another thing; I've had to do quite a lot of research reading for the novel I'm currently writing, and much of my time has been taken up with that.

What I want to know is this: how on earth do people who try to do all this, AND have full or part time jobs, and children, ever find the time to write a novel to promote in the first place???? I sit back in awe of anyone who manages it!

I need 36 hours in the day, so what must it be like for them?

I suppose I just want to say, if someone doesn't RT you back, or hasn't answered your email yet, or hasn't reviewed your book when they said they would, cut them a bit of slack.  They may not be terminally rude (you soon suss out the people who are); they may just be very, very busy.

Okay, I know, I could have used the 20 minutes it took to write this post to do some retweets, instead.....

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

It's just like real life!!!!

I was just reading this excellent post by Paula Nancarrow about online networking - it's very interesting, and it's HERE - and as I did so it occurred to me that we form relationships online in the same way we do in real life, because our social selves remain as they are whether communicating in a virtual or physical way.  The patterns exist similarly.

Not that many years ago, before I moved 250 miles away from everyone I know, I had a very lively social life.  I knew loads of people in loads of different places, I went out a lot and 'interacted' all over the place - you know, just like we do on Twitter - and, just like with all the thousands of Twitter followers, those social relationships varied from a brief occasional nod, to great friendships. 

1999, I think.  Now, I just go on Twitter

There were the people whose names I knew but I never spoke to - they're like the Twitter followers with whom you never interact, though you might see their faces/names occasionally.  The people I met once in a pub or at a party, and never met again - like those 'Tweeps' who thank you for following them, then you make some comment about each other's bio, and that's the last of it. Those I'd wave to across the road (the Tweeps I might RT or congratulate on a great review), those I'd chat to now again if I bumped into them in a pub (those nice little 'passing the time of day' conversations you have on Twitter!), the friends of friends I'd get to know because of our mutual acquaintance but never particularly connected with myself (EXACTLY the same as Twitter!), the many, many people I knew and liked (my larger network), and the smaller amount of people I really clicked with - Phil, Joel, Carol, Val, Peter, Geoff, Jackie, Mary, John, Rosie, Ali, Mark, Emma, Jen, Jenny etc, I am sure we would get on just fine in the real world too!

Me and various chums, in 2003

There are those with whom you have a particular interest in common - on Twitter, with me, it might be Aerosmith, or Tudor history, or TV programmes like Nashville, Homeland, 24, Game of Thrones; there are the people with whom you have a little flirtatious banter, and those you know will always make you laugh.  There are those you go to for advice, those you consider rude (Block!), or whose opinions you disagree with so much you have to stop yourself tweeting back (or walk out of the pub!).

I wrote an article about the different Twitter types, ages ago; it's HERE if you haven't already read it, and would like to.

Twitter, Facebook, whatever - they're not advertising forums, they're communities, just like the real life ones, and the same rules apply, too. Politeness costs nothing, and what you give in you get back - usually.  There are many books about how best to use Twitter (an excellent one for writers is Twitter for Writers by Rayne Hall, HERE), but I think to sum it all up is that the way to function best within this online life is to think of it as you would any other community, and realise that friendships and associations are formed in the same way.

In real life conversations ramble on, too, so I'll stop this one now, before I get away from the original purpose of this post!