Sunday, 22 March 2015

A possible effect of Kindle Unlimited that no-one's mentioned yet.

......and not a very good one from a writer's point of view, either.

So, Kindle Unlimited, right?  Readers know that they can read/listen to audio books for free for just £7.99 a month, and writers know that instead of (some) sales on their monthly download report, they're getting KU Units, which may or may not financially equal a sale, I haven't a clue, I've never got round to looking.  What happens is that you get one unit if the reader reads past 10%, I think, and more if they carry on reading.  I can't be bothered to work out the sales vs KU units, I really can't; I just look at the units and think "oh good, they liked 'em enough to carry on reading", and that's all. 

In our household we are signed up for Kindle Unlimited.  My husband decided it was a good idea as he listens to lots of audio books, and I buy too many Kindle books.  It's only recently that something's occurred to me, as a reader and purchaser, that must affect us chaps sitting on the other side, too, ie, the writers.

If I've talked to a writer a little (usually on Twitter) and I fancy their book, I generally buy it, not because I think they need my £1.50, but because every sale is good for their Amazon visibility and maybe more so than a KU download (I don't know if it is or not, please don't tell me!).  Those I buy on KU are usually the other ones I fancy (say, that I've read about on a book blog post, or seen on an Amazon browse).

Like most people, I have a Kindlefull of books, some of which I will look at within the next few months, some not for a year or more.

Kindle Unlimited is not actually unlimited at all, of course; you can only have 10 books out at a time.

As the months have gone on, this is what I have noticed.  When I see a book I fancy, I will go to download it on KU.  At this point, Amazon will tell me that I have to return one book before I can do so.  It shows me my list of ten books I currently have on the KU facility.  To download, I must return one.  Now, this is the key thing that affects all people who publish on Amazon, whose books are on KU.... many people (I imagine), I look at so many books that sometimes, dare I say it, I don't always remember exactly what it was about one in particular that appealed to me.  But, oh, I've just seen another one I really, really want to read.  So in order to download Book A I might give Book B back unread.  Intending to get it again some time, you know?  It might be that intelligent looking post apocalyptic thriller that I spotted when I was looking at Kate Mary or Dylan Morgan's books.  That edgy contemporary drama I read about on A Woman's Wisdom.  Back it will float into the huge, gaping and seemingly limitless vault that is Amazon, never to be seen again.  Never to be read, never to be followed up by its follow up.

If I had bought it, though, like in the olden days before KU, it would have remained on my Kindle.  I would have thought, hmm, nice cover, interesting title, I'll have a look, at some point that year.  I might have loved it. Reviewed it favourably. The author might have been someone I recommended to others, etc etc etc.

Example: I downloaded Dylan Morgan's The Dead Lands soon after it was published.  It wasn't an immediate 'go to' book; I thought I might not like it as the description included the dreaded words science fiction.  I had it for about eight months before opening it, at which point it blew me away.  I am now a big fan.  Had I downloaded it on KU, it might have been rejected in favour of another, and lost forever.

If this is what I, a fairly average Amazon customer, am doing, you can bet that a hell of a lot of others are doing so, too.

ps, my short stories, Nine Lives, are currently free (link above and to right), and What It Takes, a cheery tale about sibling rivalry, stalking and obsession, is half price for a week from the 27th.  Once downloaded, you can keep them until you want to read them, too!

Friday, 20 March 2015


Amazon Category Frustration!!!!

I have just discovered that putting my latest book (a modern re-telling of Tudor history) into the Amazon category 'Alternative History' (which is undeniably IS), also means that it must go into 'Science fiction and fantasy', which it most definitely ISN'T.  I realise any fiction is fantasy, really, though my contemporary family/romantic drama is not what is generally meant by the term in the bookselling world, ie, dragons and magic rings, imaginary lands and men with hunky chests turning into vampires. 

Here: (though indeed it will probably be out of the genre chart by the time you read this!) 

I will just add that when I chose the category Fiction > Alternative History, I didn't go via Science Fiction by mistake!!

And while I am here, why is there STILL no 'rock fiction' category, or any categories suitable for fiction about the music industry/musicians?  

Similarly: to me, the term 'lad lit' means the sort of books by Nick Hornby and David Nicholls that are made into films starring whoever the current version of Hugh Grant is, but Amazon seems to think it means SAS adventures, which is logical, I suppose.  I'll stick with calling those 'just an ordinary guy who eventually gets the girl' dramas 'bloke lit', I think, like I used to.

Amazon, get yerselves sorted....

Friday, 13 March 2015

Things that make one feel old....

Yesterday I was in Home Bargains, and was pleased to note that whoever puts on the music to entertain shoppers whilst they peruse the extensive range of cut-price household cleaning materials and toiletries (nowt like a bit of Kool and the Gang with your Mr Muscle) was no doubt in my age group and probably indulging themselves with some memories.

(Incidentally, the best supermarket for music is Morrissons in Cromer, Norfolk - unusually light rock orientated, rather than crap pop stuff.  Lots of Steely Dan.  Yes, that was me grooving down Tinned Vegetables giving it "I've seen your picture ~Your name in lights above it", etc ) 

Anyway, as I was saying, I was at the checkout queue, still enjoying these sounds of the 70s, when someone asked the old dear behind the till the name of the particular tune that was playingShe didn't know.  I looked up and said "Liquidator by The Harry J Allstars.  I remember it from 1971." (yes, yes, I know, it actually came out in 1969).  The "old dear" smiled at me (pityingly?) and said these words:  "Oh, I wouldn't have known that, it was... before my time."


Much though I was terrified of skinheads in the early 70s, I did kinda like some of their music.  So here's Liquidator.  

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

New beginnings, life begining at 40, first day of spring, etc!

I wrote this last week...

I was taking my morning constitutional this morning in the park, enjoying the sunshine and looking at the crocuses; even though I like autumn and winter better than the warmer/lighter months, there's something so smile-inducing about the first signs of spring life.  New beginnings are forever a thing of magic and possibility, are they not?  

Talking of new beginnings, change, etc, I was also thinking about an email I'd had from my friend Peregrine (not his real name) this morning.  We'd spoken recently about a mutual friend, who I will call Lucinda.  Neither of us had heard much from her for some while.  However, Peregrine told me he'd 'messaged' with her the night before.  I asked how she was; Peregrine said that she seemed down in the dumps, a bit 'blahhh' and 'like everything was over, her life was just going to carry on the same as it is now, forever' about which she was fairly pissed off.

Lucinda is 40.  I am a 'wee' bit older than that.  This week Lucinda will be 41, which Peregrine says was depressing her further, particularly as she works in a very image conscious/youth worshipping orientated business (she's gorgeous, by the way!).  I was a bit "oo-er" when I reached my 40s, too, so I've written this to everyone who feels similarly about it:

Dear Lucinda and other People-Who-Think-Life-Ends-At-40:

It so doesn't!  A whole bunch of stuff happens after the jowls start sagging and the grey hairs and crows feet appear, and you appreciate it all more when you're older, too.  Since my 40th birthday, I have:

  • Moved counties twice.  I would never have predicted either move as I drank into the early hours at my 40th birthday party.  Amazing what life can throw up at you, eh? 
  • Published ten books.  I wouldn't have predicted that, either, as Kindles weren't around!  I was writing at the time but the only chance of my ever being read by anyone aside from family and close friends was to find an agent and be traditionally published (likelihood: miniscule). 
  • Discovered life 'online' - no, it's not real life, but it kind of is, too.  It's weird.
  • Had about five different jobs.  
  • Made stacks and stacks of new friends, both online and in 'real' life, through jobs, house moves, my writing life, the social life I used to have (!!), some of whom I know will be friends for a long time. 
  • Discovered and developed new interests.
  •  Seen my niece, Freya, born (well, not actually being born - you know what I mean)
Freya with my dad, about 2012

  • Ended a less than satisfactory marriage and got married again, and had another long (five year) relationship and three short ones.
  • Visited places in the UK I'd never been to before, and been in an aeroplane for the first time (look, I know it's pathetic, I just haven't travelled much!)
  • Heard new music, read new books, seen new's endless. 

In a nutshell, more good things have happened since I turned forty than in all the years before it.  Hands up who thinks I ought to send this to Lucinda (bearing in mind that she and I only met in 2008, too!)......

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Julie, Julia or Juliet?

Something occurred to me when choosing names for the characters in my latest novel ~ how a name affects your impression of someone before you've even met them.  Sometimes a character arrives in my head with his or her name attached, other times I try up to six different ones before settling on one that feels like the person I'm writing about.  In one of my earlier books, Nobody's Fault, one of the main characters is called Tara.  She was one of the former type; I wanted her to be called Emily but found that I kept typing 'Tara' by mistake; obviously my subconscious had already decided that was her name.  It was right; she wasn't 'sweet' enough for Emily.  My apologies to all the sharp and edgy Emilys out there - it's just what the name says to me!

What I'm getting round to, though, is something that's not just of interest to writers.  It's how names mean different things to us all, and how previous experiences affect how we feel about anyone else with that name.  Sorry, people called Andrew, but you will always be the boy in my primary school class who used to have embarrassing 'accidents'....!  I got to thinking about all this again during the reading of a book the other week.  The heroine was in her late 20s, small, pretty, with long wavy blonde hair.  She was called Marian; sadly, she didn't work for me because in my head she was in her early 40s, plain and a bit mumsy, probably because I remember, as a child, meeting my cousin Marian who was ... plain and a bit mumsy.  Marianne, however, would have conjured up the picture the author intended....

.... because sometimes a name so similar to another can say something entirely different, can't it?  Like this:  in my mind, Julie is a pretty blonde who works in a factory in a 1960s film.  Substitute the 'e' for an 'a', though, and Julia is a dark, rather glamorous and serious literary critic or actress (or a dark, rather glamorous proofreader, in my sister's case).  Add a 't' and she becomes Juliet, a demure girly-girl in long flowery dresses.

How do you feel about your own name?  I was christened Theresa, which I dislike.  I decided I wanted to be Terry when I was twelve, and all my friends wanted the boys' version of our names because, we thought, it sounded cool.  I like Terry.  I grind my teeth with annoyance if anyone calls me 'Kerry' by mistake.  This mostly happens when I ring up for taxis; Mr Dial A Cab pulls up outside the supermarket and shouts 'Taxi for Kerry!' and I go 'grrrr'.  No offence to any Kerrys reading this, it just isn't right for me.  My second husband was called Alan, which he loathed, so much that he used his schoolboy nickname of 'Stodge' throughout his adult life.  No, he wasn't fat; it's a long story.  He said he always wanted to be called Steve, which, he thought, was the ideal guy name.  I agree with him; I like it, too.  I was always pleased when someone I fancied turned out to be called Steve! 

Here's another one like the 'Julie' thing - a Michael known as Mike is a nice married man who works in an office and has 2.4 children, barbecues on weekends, does DIY on bank holidays and makes regular visits to his parents.  Mick, however, is a rock guitarist with a leather jacket and a big black motorbike.  >>>Vroom>>.....  Should Mick remain Michael, though, he's a doctor with a barrister wife who has relaxed but rather self-consciously sophisticated dinner parties.   As Micky, he's a cheeky chap who does a few dodgy deals.   If he's Mikey, he's under ten.  

Love interests in novels are Richard, Patrick, Daniel, Johnny, Marcus, Max, Ben, Jack, Sean, Jared ~ or maybe that's just me, too!  But recently I read a novel in which I guessed who the heroine was going to end up with as soon as I read his name.  I thought, you wouldn't waste that totally Mills and Boon name on a guy who doesn't get the girl!  I quite like to give my sexier male characters very ordinary names - the one in my latest book is called Jim!  A while back, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article about how to write a romcom which is HERE; in it I've suggested names for various characters.  In the comments one writer** says that she sometimes tries to put readers off the scent by giving a dull character a glamorous name, and vice versa, but received complaints when she called a love interest Doug.  It's my dad's name, I can't comment!

One thing I love about starting a new book is having all those new characters to name.  It gets harder and harder, though; I've used a lot of my favourites.  I've got a Jared in the novel I've just started; I last used it when I tried (unsuccessfully) to write a Mills and Boon, in 1995; yeah, yeah, it's a bit of a cliche romantic guy name but I do like it.  I might dig the M&B out some time and have a look at it to see if it's as dire as I remember, just for a laugh.  Generally, though, I'm with Emily Barr (who is NOT a sweet, girly Emily!) on wanting to call every nice male character Patrick.  I last used it in Nobody's Fault in 2011 - perhaps I can use it again now?! 

**yes, I was totally made up to have Jill Mansell comment on my lowly blog, in case you're wondering! 


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

What does 'I love you' actually mean?

Alas, it often means very different things, even to two people who are uttering those three little words to each other at the same time.  How many times have you heard a brokenhearted friend say "I don't understand; how could he just go?  He told me he loved me!"?  You may have said it yourself.  

Perhaps one person was saying "I can't imagine my life without you in it", while the other just meant "You're so exciting and exactly what I'm looking for, right now".

Sometimes it means the more sinister "I have an ideal in my head about the person I will love, and I want you to be 'it'"~ more on that one later!

I thought about this whole subject a great deal whilst writing my latest book, Last Child, because it features so many variations on the man/woman relationship.  Although not 'romances' by any means, my books do tend to be based around affairs of the heart, and I draw not only from my imagination but also from my own experience and observation of others This aspect of life has always been both interesting and so important to me, perhaps one of the reasons why I've never allowed it to fall into the second place necessary when you have children (actually, that's only just occurred to me!). 

Children or not, it isn't so important for everyone; there are those like Hannah (she appears in both Kings and Queens and Last Child), who prefer to keep such extremes of emotion at arm's length: "Some people need romance and passion like they need air to breathe, and some don’t.  I belong to the latter camp.  I’m happy to be a friend and confidante to those who need help in related crises, but have no desire to experience the despair that so often follows the joy."

(Sensible?) people like Hannah are just not made for the 'grand passion'; those explosive chemistry type of affairs, illicit as such things so often are, in which the two people have an immediate lust thing going on but also "that indefinable ingredient ‘X’ that turns attraction into love" ~ I won't say which two characters the one in Last Child involves!  The sort of love that leads people to leave long term partners, make crazy decisions, and tends to either burn itself out, painfully, or keep flickering away forever, even if the two are not together - think Burton and Taylor!  Even if we haven't the film star qualities of these two and our affair does not involve exclusive hotels, yachts, huge diamonds and newspaper coverage, I think everyone should have at least one of these sort of experiences in their lives!  Shame they don't always end in happy ever after...

In the second part of Last Child I've written two characters who, sadly, mean completely different things by those three little words.  His 'I love you' means 'I'm very fond of you but I'm really in this relationship because it gives me everything I need socially and financially', whereas, alas, hers says: 'I am obsessed with you to the point of not being able to live without you' ~ yes, for those who know their history, it's my modern day Philip of Spain and Mary Tudor.  

Old family friend Will Brandon makes this observation about 21st century would-be king Phil Castillo: “Lucky fella; a cushy job with a generous salary, a place in the bed of an attractive young woman whenever he wants it, and a nice little rent-free bolthole in the village when he doesn’t.  Can’t be bad, eh?”

...whilst poor Isabella feels like this:  "The ferocity of my love for him scared me, sometimes.  I couldn’t think about anything but him.  We’d be sitting at home watching television, but I’d be unable to concentrate on the programme.  I’d gaze at his face, study its angles and expressions, and I’d want to devour it.  Sometimes when we made love I left bite marks on his skin; he said he loved my passion, but I think it scared him a little, too."

Philip of Spain and Mary Tudor

This sort of relationship can work if the less enamoured is basically a decent person and appreciates where his/her bread is buttered (a young woman being totally spoiled by her doting, older, rich husband, perhaps!); sometimes love can grow out of such a situation, though more often than not the one with more to offer ends up with a broken heart.  I'm so glad I don't have the psychological make-up that allows me to be as eternally obsessed with someone as Isabella is with Phil; I know someone who suffers this affliction (poor her); her 'love' for the man in question colours her whole life, even if she rarely sees him. 

As sister Erin observes about Isabella:
"Love’s a weird thing.  It so often has so much other stuff attached.  Sometimes it’s more the fulfilment of a need.  Exhibit one: Izzy and Phil Castillo.  When she met him she was starved of love and affection, and just needed a good shag, in the opinion of most of the men at Lanchester Estates.  She saw mirrored in Phil’s empty blue eyes the image of herself in which she needed so badly to believe but was never truly convinced by, so when she felt her dream slipping away she clung to it by any means she could because she was terrified of going back to how she was before."

The final third of Last Child brings with it three more faces of love: duty, true soul mates, and that curious one of which my character Amy is guilty ~ she thinks she feels true love for her husband, Robert, though she is more in love with an ideal.  
Robert says: "Amy doesn’t really love me, anyway, although she thinks she does.  She loves her fantasy of me as one of the heroes from her stupid romantic novels, not me, the real me, how I really am."

I think this is more common that people realise (or admit), particularly amongst women who, when younger, daydream about their wedding day/future marital bliss, and amongst men who weave fantasies about their ideal woman - anyone who has been in a relationship with one of those men who tell you they adore you then try to change everything about you from your friends to your hair colour to the height of your heels will know what I mean by this one!

Being the object of this sort of 'love' should make the recipient want to say "Oh, excuse me for not being the person you've made up your mind I ought to be - not!!!", but, sadly, it all too often makes low self-esteem even lower; men who think love = protection and control have a radar that detects the sort of women who will put up with it.  As for women for whom "I love you" means "I want you to star alongside me in my fantasy of a perfect life.  Here are your lines and stage directions; if you deviate from them I will sulk" - they need a course in growing up!

As for 'duty' love, Robert's relationship with Amy begins because he is on the rebound, but grows into something genuine; however, he feels guilty for falling out of love with her almost before the ring is on her finger, and tries to make the best of it.  Erin thinks such duty is misplaced:
"If you don’t love someone, don’t stay married to them.  End of.  Don’t waste her life as well as your own.  Let her find someone who loves her, instead of putting her through years of anguish."  

As for Erin and Robert, their connection is a continuing theme throughout the book.  But are they true soul mates, two people who fit together so perfectly, or is their love destined to bring nothing but heartbreak (she says, as though writing a blurb for a romance book.....!)???

I hope if you have downloaded the book you enjoy finding out, and, whether you have or not, that you can relate to some parts of this post; I'd be interested to hear about anyone's own experiences, and promise I won't use them in future novels!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Erin and Robert.... 21st century versions of Elizabeth 1 and Robert Dudley!


This is my husband's favourite piece from my almost-ready-to-publish new book, Last Child ~ spoken by Erin, my 21st century Elizabeth I.  One of those little things I've noticed over the years, that, inevitably, found its way into a novel....

“It’s a strange one, that,” I said.  I was thinking of my sister, too.  “Sometimes the people most lacking in self-confidence are the most demanding.  They’re so terrified that they can lose everything in a moment that they become clingy, which gives the impression that they see their own needs as all-important.  Their lack of self-esteem makes them self-obsessed.  It’s a curious contradiction.”
Robert smiled.  “When did you get so wise?”
“All the time I was reading books and thinking about stuff instead of cooking men’s dinners,” I said.  “And earning a living, observing people and the way the world works, instead of getting stoned at student parties and swotting up a load of crap for stupid exams that I’d forget within a couple of months.”

He also liked this bit, from the beginning of one of Robert's chapter. Alas, Robert is married to the wrong woman....

"When husbands don’t spend enough time at home, they’re always the ones who get the blame, aren’t they?  For not being supportive, a good husband, etc.  The onus is never on the wife to be less bloody boring so he might want to spend more time with her.  It’s like, because she keeps the house nice and irons his shirts he should give up the rest of his life to making her happy."

If you haven't already seen it and would like to, my original post about the book is HERE  

Not long now.....