Monday, 31 December 2012

Guest Post: Resolutely Writing into the New Year - by Die Booth

   Authors Electric are grateful to Die Booth for stepping in at the last minute, when the guest blogger booked for today failed to provide a post, despite being reminded several times. (Something we do not appreciate.)        So, with thanks, we hand over to Die...


          It’s that time of year again - the Resolutions time. The time when writers everywhere - regardless of experience - start to make those bullet-pointed to-do lists for the new year. I’m making mine now (right here, in this blog post!) so let me share it with you.

          Things I learned in 2012

Re-Vamp
          2012 was another steep learning curve for me as a fairly new, self-publishing writer. I spent 2011 writing for and co-editing the Re-Vamp project with fellow author LC Hu.
         This was an initially online project that took all those done-to-death horror tropes right back to their traditional roots, in the form of artwork, video clips, poetry and choose-your-own-adventure, but mainly short stories.
          The online nature of the project let writers from all over the world take part and allowed for an unlimited amount of audience interaction. It also gave us a very real lesson in the amount of work it takes to run a project like that - reading competition entries, controlling sock-puppet votes, editing the stories that were chosen for the final project anthology, print layout, e-book layout, promotion - the list goes on.
          The amount of work involved was immense, yet at the end of it we were exhausted but had produced an anthology that all the contributors can be really proud of.

          2012 saw me talking about Re-Vamp and my experience of self-publishing at The Chester Literature Festival. The reception I got for the book there was fantastic and the main thing that everybody said was ‘you self-published this? But it looks so professional!’ To a one, they all expected a self-published horror anthology to be poor quality and littered with mistakes.
At the Chester Literature Festival
          This is a misconception that is still widespread about self-published books and in particular e-books and sadly it’s not entirely based in fiction. The ease with which it’s possible to publish your own books these days is a double-edged sword; it gives authors more control, but it also gives the readers little quality control. So what’s the solution?

          This year, determined to get some ‘legitimate’ publishing credits under my belt, I started sending stories off to anthology open calls. Not being a complete novice I attempted to exercise a certain amount of discretion in choosing my targets. Reading examples of previously published work where possible, avoiding dodgy cover-art and brand new presses whose submission guidelines were riddled with typos - that kind of thing. I thought I was being pretty savvy, but still managed to end up with a story in a professional, successful and highly advertised anthology from a prolific (should’ve tipped me off a bit!) publisher, in which I counted no less than 326 errors.

          Comparing my experiences of the past two years, Re-Vamp, although much harder work to produce and much less successful in the profit and reader circulation stakes, was by far the more rewarding.

          So, what have I taken from all that 2012 threw at me?  I could say in summation that you’re better off working alone and avoiding being reliant on anyone else at all when it comes to writing because at least then all the mistakes are your own, but I think that a more positive spin on it is that as self-publishing authors, these days we have the facilities available to write and produce our own work entirely on our own. And there’s no greater satisfaction than taking a project from conception to finished book having completed every detail to your own personal specification.
          My 2013 New Year’s Resolutions

          * Do not get side-tracked by ‘legitimate’ anthology calls - your self-published work is every bit as legitimate as small press releases (and in some cases probably more thoroughly edited!)
           * Finally get that novel edited, formatted and published!

           *Write a piece of flash fiction every day. It’ll be a challenge, but also great writing exercise.

           *Enjoy what you’re writing. Because if you don’t, then you can’t expect your readers to.
            *Read the Authors Electric blog every day for insights, tips and musings.
          Best wishes to all readers of Authors Electric for a happy, peaceful and successful 2013!


          You can visit Die Booth here: diebooth.wordpress.com



          And buy Re-Vamp online at:

Ebook:
           Smashwords: (ePub, PDF, mobi, pdb, lrf and more) 

          Amazon Kindle

Paperback:

          Lulu:







Sunday, 30 December 2012

Guest Post: Laura Solomon - The Long Walk Home


Do authors dream of electric books? Yes, they most certainly do. At least in this day and age, where the e-book has the potential to revolutionise the literary industry. For me the e-book signifies power to the people. A small-timer like me can write their e-book and make it available for all the world to download – either by using a publisher or by doing it themselves. 

The problem then becomes, not how do I get an agent or publisher, but how do I attract readers? How do I compete with the other five million books on Amazon and Kobo? I don’t claim to have the answer to this question. Social media can help with promotion. Online reviews as well as reviews in traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television all contribute as do word of mouth and literary prizes. 

When I view the statistics for my website, I see that the vast majority of the people who have come to the site have found me via Facebook. I’m not into Twitter and I don’t use Facebook to convey details of my every action, as glamorous and exciting as that would be (Woke up, ate breakfast, sat at laptop. Walked to beach. Walked home from beach. Ate lunch. Sat at laptop. Ate dinner. Slept. Repeat ad infinitum.) I do, however, use Facebook to create online book launches, complete with virtual canap├ęs and champers. For me, Facebook and e-books are a way to cut through some of the snobbery that has traditionally been prevalent in the industry. It also speeds things up a lot. No longer do I have to submit a manuscript and wait and wait and wait for an acceptance. Via Facebook I have managed to befriend over two thousand people, most of them writers. Chances are there’s an inverse relationship between Facebook friends and real ones. But, even better, at least four of those writers have been invaluably helpful to me, and I, in turn, have tried to be helpful to them. Ola Rhodes and I swap stories via Facebook and provide comments and advice on each other’s work. Murray Alfredson, in Australia, is currently reading my novel, An Imitation of Life, about an insect-eating giantess and providing valuable editorial tips in time for the release of the second edition. Jan Needle, in the UK, has a new imprint Skinback Books, to which I intend to submit a novella I am currently working on. These new relationships would never have occurred if it were not for the advent of Facebook. And, via good old Facebook, I have re-met Catherine Chidgey, whom I originally met at a writer’s conference in 1998 and she has agreed to work with me on the second edition of my novel, Hilary and David. Some authors love the limelight, but for a Janet Frame-style troglodyte like me who loathes being lured out of her bat-cave, the e-book/Facebook combo suits me down to the ground.

It’s shark on shark action as writers compete for readers. I’m not sure what the success of Fifty Shades of Grey tells us about today’s society. That there are a lot of sexually unsatisfied women who are turning to Mummy porn to fulfill their needs? Maybe today’s women are so busy juggling career, family and all the other demands made of them that all they want at the end of a hard day is to come home from work, sink into a hot lavender-scented bath and lose themselves in a good porno. Maybe it’s women’s revenge. Porn has traditionally been made for and consumed by men. Maybe the tide, the tables, are turning. Women, too, are claiming their right to be titillated.

Myself, I would squirm if I had to write soft porn. I’m a nice middle-class girl, with two and a half degrees who writes what I suppose you would call ‘literary fiction’, although I am against such classifications myself. For me the rise of the e-book is extremely liberating. If I fall out with a publisher, it’s not so disastrous. I can always upload the book to Amazon and Kobo myself, or partner with somebody running an e-book imprint. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t make any money doing all of this. My last royalties cheque came in at the grand sum of twenty quid. I put it towards my new Ferrari. The one I’ll buy when my next royalties cheque (for forty quid) comes through the post. So, why do I continue? I don’t have the answer to that question either. I’ve been writing fiction since my teens. Like most writers, I’ve also worked either full or part-time for a lot of my life to support myself. I’m so full of ideas, you could wire me up like one of P.K.Dick’s precogs and make movies out of my thought-dreams. In fact, I’m sure somebody would have done so by now, if they thought they could make money out of it. And if they thought they could get away with it, without having Amnesty International beating down the door. In fact, I make so little money, that I might as well give the damned books away for free.

Then we have the rise of the blog. I myself am the December guest blogger, so I will try and impart some useful advice to all you wanna-be writers out there. Don’t bother. Do you really want to be a thirty-eight year old loser like me, stuck at home all day, churning out crap that nobody wants to read, let alone pay for? Exactly. Enjoy your life, keep your day job, find a girl (or boy), settle down, have kids, raise a family, mow the lawn, go see a film, go jogging, do anything except write fiction. Because it seems to me that in this day and age, unless you can break into the Mummy porn market, you’re doomed.


Saturday, 29 December 2012

That Was the Year that was - by Hywela Lyn


I hope you all had a lovely Christmas. I am an unashamed romantic and make no apologies for loving this time of year, the decorating, even the baking and other preparations - but as always it was over in a flash. Where does the time go?  It seems like only a couple of months since I was in this same position last year - the great thing about posting at the end of the month is that in December it gives me the chance to reflect on the year that's gone, and wish  everyone a Happy New Year. OK, I know there are a few days left in the old year still but it'll be nearer Valentine's Day than New Year the next time my blogging post rolls round!
It's been something of a roller coaster year, with ups and a few downs. My dear on-line author friend Sharon Donovan, who was blind and suffered with diabetes was admitted for a second heart surgery. Sadly. there were complications and she passed away in April, a month before I was due  to fly to Pennsylvania to meet her and another American writer friend. I made the trip anyway. Despite the sadness of  her loss, I had a wonderful time.





It was my visit to America.  Mary and I visited Sharon's lovely family and were shown her pretty little room where she wrote her stories. No one had been able to access her laptop, but her sister let me have a go and after several attempts it seemed like the password was whispered in my head and I got right in.  On the hard drive we found the MS Sharon had been working on.  A romantic suspense entitled 'Kiss Of Death.' With the help of her editor, this was published as an eBook on the 5th December  and I'm thrilled to have had a hand in the revisions before its release. That was really the highlight of my year, to see the last book of my friend for sale on her publisher's website.

For the UK in general there were the Golden Jubilee Celebrations and the wonderful Olympic Games that proved Britain can still put on a spectacle.  I'm not a great sports fan apart from Equestrianism, but even I felt a thrill of pride every time one of Team GB won a medal, and of course I was glued to the cross country, dressage and show jumping events and delighted they did so well.

Another 'high' was the Festival Of Romance in Bedford, where it was good to catch up with some more writer friends whom  I hadn't seen  since last year's event.

On the whole, more ups than downs, despite the summer being so wet I wasn't able to do as much with my beloved horses as I'd hoped. I did manage to do some writing, too, and hopefully I should have two books ready for publication by the end of 2013. Oh, and we managed to survive the predicted (by some though not the Mayans) 'end of the world' so there is much to be thankful for.

Happy New Year and may 2013 bring you all that you wish yourselves,
happy writing to my author friends and happy reading to our faithful readers.
Happy New Year



You can find out more about Lyn and her books on her  WEBSITE
She also blogs at her own BLOG, and THE AUTHOR ROAST AND TOAST



Friday, 28 December 2012

Post Christmas, mini-strokes, and a brief contemplation on Death and Christmas, by Enid Richemont

Perfect December weather - I love it - freezing temperatures, spectacular sunsets, strangely wonderful skies, and darkness at four, twinkled by all the Christmas lights in my north London suburb.

But the other, symbolic aspect of winter can also be old age and dying. My husband, David, had a mini-stroke four weeks ago, and was (happily) whipped into hospital and operated on within a few days. During his convalescence, the partner of a very close friend died, so my attention, this month, has been somewhat focussed on a combination of death and dying, along with the irrelevance of constructing some kind of Christmas.

The tree is our first ever fake one. It came from Tesco, and contained IKEA-like instructions for setting it up, which were, unexpectedly, a perfect distraction from what was going on in our lives. We built it. We covered it with our decades-old baubles. Forget the plastic tree - the baubles look fantastic. All that was missing were the dropped needles and that wonderful piney smell (can we get that from a spray bottle? Go totally fake? Shame, shame...)

Tonight, because we haven't been able to go out, I picked up a DVD of the recent Snow White and the Huntsman film from our library, thinking escapism. This must be among the worst films I've ever attempted to watch - the dialogue and plot appalling. In the past few years, I've been involved in script writing, and as a writer, I do care about plot. How did this stuff ever make it? I prefer the original story which also lends itself to endless subtle psychological interpretations... ageing mother and sexy young daughter - a tinderbox of emotions. David enjoyed it, though, so maybe it was just me.

Back to real-life drama, and so to death, the end, that only-too- imaginable loss. Earlier in the year, I read Diana Athill's book, 'Somewhere Towards the End'. It's the story of her life, much of it her sex life, and I loved it, but recently I began to wonder... at present, Diana lives in sheltered accomodation. Her private space now consists of a bedroom, living room, mini-kitchen and bathroom (I know because I saw the place advertised). We currently live in a house filled with books, pictures and 'stuff' - the usual much-loved clutter. Hers must have been like that too. How do you compress a whole lifetime of living into such a small physical space, and survive psychologically? An e-reader with its immense book storing capacity could be a solution to one problem - a whole library packed into something the size of a flat paperback... I wonder if she has one?

Next year I will officially become a Two Mouse Woman, because my first two picture books, each one based on a mouse (but not the same mouse) will be coming out via two very different publishers. One mouse will go to the Bologna Book Fair - I hope he'll thrive on Italian cheese. The second mouse may or may not make it there - at present I don't know. Talking of picture books (I'm an aficionado), I picked up a copy of Debi Gliori's 'No Matter What' in our GP surgery. This is one of those very special books which touches the deepest feelings of both adults and the child being read to. The animal infant, having just had a tantrum, is told by his mum that she'll love him no matter what. So if he/she turns into an unloveable creature - a crocodile, perhaps - he/she will still get a cuddle. Then the infant pushes it to the extreme - so what if he/she is dead? Mum's reply to that one is incredibly moving. 

Right  now, we are about to re-publish my Young Adult novel, THE GAME as an ebook. THE GAME was first published by Walker Books in the Nineties, and, as in 'Snow White and the Huntsman', it features an evil queen - not just one, but hundreds, maybe thousands of them. The original plot grew out of an odd cocktail of Thatcherism, Musak and the Greek Furies. Do take a look - the print version is still available, and the ebook should appear on Amazon's listing soon.

Talking Amazon, I'd like to mention Amazon's ratings system. Five star ratings apparently move us up the sales ladder, and these depend on reviews. Reviews, I was recently horrified to discover, can be bought online by the metre/yard, which means many of them are meaningless. What can serious professional authors who are abandoning traditional publishing do about this trend?

And finally - BORN TO GIGGLE, Ian Billings's anthology of rude and funny verse, the profits of which will go to Save the Children. I am very proud to have my poetic set of insults included in this anthology (but please don't show my poem to your grannie).





 




Thursday, 27 December 2012

We Are The Wordsmiths to The World - Andrew Crofts


Monocle Magazine hit the headlines a few months ago by putting Britain number one in its “soft power” league, claiming we were the “most powerful nation in the world in terms of cultural influence”.
Admittedly that was in the wake of the Olympic/Jubilee euphoria, but even if you discount the hyperbole, British writers should still be feeling pretty cheerful about the future. If we cast our minds back to Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony, a huge part of the show referenced characters who originated in the minds of British writers – Messrs Potter and Bond obviously, Mary Poppins, Captain Hook, Cruella de Vil – all now cliched images certainly, but our cliches none the less.
Looking back over my ghostwriting client list of the last few years I am struck by how many of them are international – India, Nigeria, China, America, Uganda, Switzerland, Greece, Cyprus, Monaco, Bermuda, Brazil, the Netherlands, Australia, the United Arab Emirates ….
This seems to have come about firstly because the internet makes hiring a ghost in a different country a relatively simple process, and secondly because British writers and publishers have a global reputation as steeped in heritage and folklore as our pop musicians, fashion designers and royal folk. When the world thinks of British writing a number of mighty figures spring readily to mind; from Austen, Shakespeare, Byron and Dickens, through Fleming, Orwell and Greene to Rowling and the rest.
Fortunately for us there is also the fact that English is now the second language of the majority of literate people on the planet, while it is our “first” language, giving us a definite advantage when it comes to spinning tales.
So we can now proudly set up our stalls as "wordsmiths to the world", just like the educated scribes who plied their trade in the marketplaces of the ancient world, and exercise our newfound “soft power” to the advantage of all.    

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

'Four Girls and a Test' - a 'remarkable' early Rosalie Warren, circa 1966 (by Rosalie Warren)

 I hope you realise that I am opening myself up to severe embarrassment by posting this blog. And all for the sake of a few laughs (I hope). But there we go. Would the eleven-year-old Rosalie (or Sheila, as she called herself in those days and still does, among friends) have apppreciated this somewhat belated publicity? Who knows - maybe she would. She was clearly something of an entrepreneur, even back then...

Four Girls and a Test made it to Chapter 4 and then fizzled out, as Sheila's books were inclined to do. But not before she had invested serious effort and lashings of Winsor & Newton watercolours in a cover depicting the said four girls, be-ribboned, ankle-socked, and with the tiniest of tiny feet that would have appealed to a Chinese emperor. The eldest girl looks somewhat haggard (as well she might) and boasts a superb Cathy McGowan fringe (shame on you if you're too young to remember Cathy). 

The writing style (a sample is given below, if you're feeling brave enough to look) is clearly inspired by Enid Blyton and Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, with touches of Ruby Ferguson and Christine Pullein-Thompson (ponies, if you've never encountered the latter two). The characters speak in an endearing mix of Sheila's hometown Yorkshire dialect, the ringing 'jolly good ideas' of Blyton and the rest, and an almost biblical 'Father is gone now...'

But the story is not bad. It opens with an anguished (actually, an 'anquished') cry from one of the sisters. Father is gone, the manor is sold and the four girls are on their own. There's immediate characterisation. 'What, [ask] that stuck-up thing? I asked her last night and she burst into tears.' Within a few sentences we're immersed in a family crisis... the absent Daddy (where's Mummy, I'd like to know) has just one living relative, Aunt Charlotte, who lives a hundred miles away in the oddly hyphenated Crest-thorpe, and that's where the four girls must go, without further ado (this was 1966 and social workers had not yet been invented, or not in children's fiction, anyway).


After a heady opening chapter, the second is more contemplative. Sylvia wakes early, surveys her sleeping sisters and is inspired by the Dawn Chorus. Jeanette joins her and together they rename themselves and their sisters, giving each other cute abbreviations (oh, how the eleven-year-old Sheila longed for a name that could be abbreviated!) and making plans for their forthcoming expotition (sorry, expedition) to Crest-thorpe in deepest North Yorkshire.

I really shouldn't mock (but perhaps I may, seeing as the author was me). I think Sheila showed promise as a writer (what happened to it, I'd like to know). There's a rather fetching illustration of Sylvia, as yet unabbreviated, gazing at an inspirational tree in the early morning light... her plaits resplendent with a brave attempt at shading in pen and ink. Her tiny feet are in a ballet pose. I should have mentioned Lorna Hill and her 'dancing' books as another influence.


I hope you like the 'About the Author' on the back flyleaf, reproduced below. I loved that red dress (and the matching hairband). I have the fringe to this day.


I don't really remember writing the book, to be honest, but I do remember my mother commenting that to use the words 'this remarkable book' was, er... just a little boastful. I pointed out that 'remarkable' does not have to mean good, so it wasn't really boasting at all. (What happened to that robust reaction to criticism? I could do to rediscover it now.) Sheila, we are told, 'Began writing stories at a very early age' (long before eleven, in other words), 'but she used to write about one page of a story and then get fed up of it and start another!'

Surely not. Young Sheila, I'm ashamed of you. You should look to your 50-something-year-old future self for help and guidance. Or maybe not...

Happy Boxing Day, everyone. And lashings of luck to all those youngsters (and oldsters) currently writing one page of a book and then getting fed up with it and starting another. We're all in this together and we never really, thank heaven, grow up.
 
'Four Girls and a Test' by Sheila Warren. First (and only) Edition, incomplete, c. 1966, illustrated by the author. Discovered while clearing out my parents' loft in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, September 2012. My mother may have disapproved of that 'remarkable', but she kept it, anyway...


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Tuesday, 25 December 2012

A Wintery Tale...by Susan Price



         

    A Merry Christmas

 and a Prosperous New Year

 to all our readers!

          But it's Christmas Day and you want something a little different from the usual blog.

          So I offer you this wintery tale...Or, at least, its first chapter. 

********************************************************
*******************************************


Ghost Dance


Or, The Czar's Black Angel

'Are you cold, my children? Are you cold?'

Chapter 1


      In a place far distant from where you are now grows an oak tree by a lake.
 
      Round the oak's trunk is a chain of golden links.
 
      Tethered to the chain is a learned cat, and this most learned of all cats walks round and round the tree continually.

     As it walks one way, it sings songs.
 
     As it walks the other, it tells stories.
 
     This is one of the stories the cat tells.

-*-

     I tell (says the cat) of the Northlands, where, in the long, dark winter, the white snow falls out of the black, black sky. Soft, silent, it falls through the branches of the pines and birch, and mounts, thin flake on thin flake, until the snow lies ten cold feet deep, and the silence is frozen to the darkness.

      This (says the cat) is the land where that white, sharp-backed horse, North Wind, carries Granddad Frost swiftly through the trees. The old man breathes to the left and right, and what his breath touches is blasted and withered, and his rasping voice whispers, 'Are you cold, children? Are you cold?'

Father Frost by Bilibin
Father Frost by Bilibin
To read more, follow this link...