Assumption of Crazy

Legally, you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty but on the internet, the assumption is that you are a wack job until you can prove that you’re not. This last week, I’ve had two instances where I’ve been left reeling, realising that people have made that assumption about me. Being someone who believes they have an okay grip on reality and social norms, I found it quite shocking. Not that I don’t have my moments, where I look back and face-palm, but no more than most people.

I blame the whole author/book marketing attempt thing. I don’t enjoy trying to strike up online conversations with people I don’t know, and I don’t think I’m very good at it. But you have to try. I was reading one of those “helpful” articles on how to broaden your reach by attending book festivals. Unfortunately, the only ones I’ve been invited to be a signing author at are overseas and in the middle of nowhere. So, given none of the ones that don’t require a passport and a fortune in global roaming have asked me, I took the article’s advice and approached one of the regional festivals, which are more likely to appreciate your advances.

I carefully worded my introduction, polite and to the point. The response came back, equally politely that they we already set for authors. My “thanks anyway” return then bounced. They had blocked my email. Already – on that innocuous exchange. What exactly did they think I was going to do? I’m hardly going to hunt them down and start stalking them because they are a good six hour drive into the interior of Australia. Attack them in a flood of furious emails? Who knows, but any of the options would take far more energy than I currently possess. I struggle to maintain the rage with the teenagers next door playing music at  3am. Even with the kids home for school holidays, I’ve come to reluctantly admire their mess generation skills. They have raised it almost to an art form, particularly in the field of crumb distribution. I’ve reached the point where I just stand back and marvel.

The second one was a book blogger, usually one of the friendliest of the species. I wrote a quick intro, a personal one, not trying to market anything. I genuinely thought their blog was good. Again I got a four word plus emoticon response and nothing else. It was a clear discouragement to future correspondence and they usually want to talk to everyone.

Now, I’m just waiting for the third slapdown, which will possibly send me into online hibernation for good. I’m not particularly thin skinned, but there comes a point when you have to accept that you have no idea what you’re doing and clearly whatever you are doing is wrong because people are assuming you’re deranged. People like me are why PR companies are such a good idea. If I take myself out of the equation things might go better. I’ll think of myself like a guilty defendant – the best possible course is to get a good lawyer to speak for me and  then just shut the hell up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cover Reveal – is there any point?

It’s been a looong time between posts, mostly because I didn’t really have anything to say. To be honest, I’m not sure if I do now. But what I do have is a book cover. I really like it too. I’ve had it since last year because I had it done to try to inspire myself to write more quickly. Needless to say, it didn’t work. My writing just seems to come at the speed that it comes. I could no more write a book in three months than I could flap my arms really hard and fly.

It seems to be a part of the marketing process that you do a cover reveal. I’ve done it twice already, mostly because my publisher told me it was a thing, but I have to say it did seem rather pointless. So what if lots people can see the cover – even if they cared, they still can’t buy the book! Maybe it’s just me, but as a reader, when I see the cover of a book that’s not going to be out for over a month, I dismiss it instantly from my memory banks. I’m not particularly interested in a book if I can’t actually read it. I won’t store that information for weeks, because like the name of the neighbour down the road who I have no interaction with, if I need to know later, someone will tell me. Clearly, the plotlines of “Nashville” are far more important and take up the space otherwise allocated to such unnecessary things like books I can’t read and names.

So new book, new attempt at marketing. I’m not going to bother with a cover reveal, I’m just going to put it on my website. I hope you like it! “The Ragged People” should be out around April.

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Expectations – oh no!

I just finished reading a book that annoyed the hell out of me. Even a week after finishing it, I’m still bitter and twisted. The writing was great and the story was gripping right up until the last bit. By then the story was wrapping up in the usual way. I knew what was coming so starting skimming a bit, switching my brain off because I didn’t really need to concentrate. After all, once you know what’s coming, there’s no real need to focus. Except then the author threw in a curly one.

It was a romance so he was carrying around his grandmother’s ring to give to the love of his life, which of course was the other main character, because for 80,000 words we’ve been hearing that she was and it was just unfortunate circumstances that kept them apart. Except then… she wasn’t. Someone else was and he gave her the ring. Cue my WTF face:

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Now I get that there is a trend at the moment where we’re trying to show women and young girls in particular that the love of a man isn’t everything. That you can be happy and fulfilled with the love and support of your friends and family. The problem for me is that I think that’s great and support it wholeheartedly. I watched “Frozen” and loved the ending where true love is about sisterly love, rather than romantic love. Similarly, “Maleficent” was about the love of a mother figure, rather than Prince Charming. So you can imagine my horror when I found myself feeling deeply annoyed that the main character in the end behaved horribly to the original “love of his life” and decided that it was in fact his daughter who deserved his wholehearted devotion.

I should like that, right? The stressing of the importance of other types of love in our lives. But I didn’t. I actually hated it. But why? Was it because it was a man making the decision, rather than a woman, that her child was the most important thing in their life that I didn’t like? If the sexes were reversed, would I have been okay with it? As much as I hate to say it, maybe.

Quick disclaimer: I feel the need to stress that what I’m talking about is fictional works, not reality. What I want to read is completely different from what I want to happen in my actual life. I love books about stuff that I would never want to happen to me personally.

A big part of the problem is expectation: I want to be surprised, but clearly not too much. For me, there wasn’t enough of a set up for the resolution. My reaction was not the one the author was looking for.

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But then I put on my writer hat and I want to do all sorts of crazy things. There is a total disconnect between what I want to read and what I want to write. I want to write the twisty ending because that’s far more fun than just going with the obvious and I always think in my head that it’s great to surprise the reader and of course they’ll love it! This has been a great lesson for me. Readers don’t want to be surprised in the last chapter but something completely different. If you’ve stuck to a theme and known storyline, you can’t back out at the end. If you write a whole book about star-crossed lovers, then they have to be happily together at the end or there is no point to all the angst. And if you mess with that, you’ll just end up with cranky readers.

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Book Marketing – I love it!

thXEPP0EADYes, that was sarcastic. I’m in my yearly period of hell, otherwise know as “book marketing time”. It the time of year when I question why and dive into a vat of wine while eating my body weight in cake or chocolate and sometimes cake and chocolate . Given the rapid expansion of my waistline, it feels like I’m about to reach terminal velocity and literally explode, Monty Python style, from a mere wafer. My trainer just laughs at me now and makes me come for an extra session.

I’m feeling a distinct lack of sympathy for my angst.

I starting off this post writing a whinge on how I find marketing terrifying, but I’ve bored even myself. Instead, I’m going to put in two links: the first to win the amazing black pearl earrings from Stylerocks and secondly to the Goodreads giveaway of signed copies of “Superstition”. Enjoy!

Bed Porn and Failure

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Bed porn is the name I’m giving  for the bed equivalent of food porn. I’m not sure if it’s been named as such before because if I do a google search, I just get regular porn in beds (as opposed to the other, frankly less likely scenarios, that you see a lot of. Stairways? Seriously, they weren’t even carpeted. I can tell you that in reality, the person on the bottom is moving that one on fairly snappily for more hospitable surfaces). But I digress – what I was talking about was those lovely bedding pictures in homeware stores (I’m looking at you Pottery Barn) that lure you in with unrealistic bedroom outfits. I have tried, but even if I buy everything in the damn picture, my bed still doesn’t look like that. It gets close, I’ll give them that, but after one wash it is never the same. Like the haircut that looks completely different when you try to do it yourself, there is something the professionals do that is just different. A tilt of a cushion? The way the doona is just so fluffy it’s like cotton marshmallow? And no wrinkles, even on 100% cotton! In a fit of fury, I once even got out the garment steamer to go over the doona cover while it was on the bed, but still couldn’t get the crinkles out. Here’s some more pictures of what my bed does not look like just for fun:

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The reality in my house is that any more than two pillows and my husband looks confused. Once I put on European square ones and a couple of throws, it descends to looks of ridicule. I’ve accepted that he doesn’t share my love of linens, and living in a house of boys, I’m Robinson Crusoe. I only have to make the bed before it’s quickly unmade by a Pokémon battle waged by small writhing bodies. Small pillows are weapons of choice and quickly disbursed to the far corners of the house to be smeared with the nearest condiment in two seconds flat. Their enjoyment of projectile pillows is followed closely by an adoration of scissors and unfortunately in the past they’ve been combined. I, of course, get very cranky but the mulish expressions on their faces tell me that they don’t appreciate the aesthetic appeal of a well-made bed and don’t understand why I’m making such a fuss.

So why am I focussing on the ridiculous topic of bedding? Because I can tell myself that it’s not my fault that my bed is not picture perfect and it distracts me from the rejection emails currently pouring into my inbox. I’m assuming from the current trend that the latest novel probably will not find a traditional publisher so I’m busy scouring stock images for cover art. I think I’ve found the perfect image, which is a beautiful thing and puts the whole rejection process into perspective. If it doesn’t find a home, at least it will have the perfect cover, fitting the novel according to my imagining of it with no compromises for anyone else’s vision. It’s hard because I love this book, in a way I haven’t felt for any of my others. But every rejection gives a kernel of advice, some indication of the area where it is lacking. I’ve been forced to take a harsh look at my writing – too many similes, for example – and make it better.  Who knows, maybe in my future there’s a perfect bed and a perfect book. Until then, I’ll keep trying for both.

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When Authors Struggle – A Call to Arms

Even doing what you love, there are times when you have to question the sanity of it all. So few writers make it big, but like the majority of the actors, chefs, film makers and all gamblers out there, you mostly try not to think about it and keep going, hoping the next one will be the big one. Everyone faces rejection and disappointment, its part of being human, but there’s never a time when its easy.

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Giving away books for free doesn’t bother me much. I just hope people like it and are potentially interested in purchasing more from me. I see it in a similar way to the pirating sites that I appear on. At least they care enough to rip off one of my novels (but not the other one – what’s with that?) What doesn’t feel good is when you do a KDP promotion and while sometimes you get huge amounts of downloads, other times you only get a few. There is nothing worse that the feeling you can’t even give away work that took years of your life.

Publishers you expect to be quite impersonal in their rejections. We all know about it and have for years. The new development is that they now don’t even respond with a rejection. If you don’t hear anything, then the answer is no. This is the equivalent of calling someone to arrange a date and having them block your calls before you’ve even been for coffee.  You have not the first idea what you did wrong.

I’m not alone in wondering sometimes whether anyone wants to read my work and if I should still write. I struggled with this, on and off, until I read something written by the head of a large international literary agency. It got me so irate that I wanted to write just to spite them, if nothing else. The quote is “In all of this, only one thing is guaranteed: there are more and more people writing. I’d like to hope that this trend will be reversed sometime soon, and that only the very best and most talented people write, and the rest of us read, read and read some more!” I get that this was to publishers at a conference and that the speech was tailored to the audience, but what I took from this was basically that any writer who was self-published was rubbish and all those authors should go back to their day jobs and leave it to the agents and publishers to decide what we can read. Oh and that they should just buy lots of books in future to keep profits going, instead of making pitiful attempts at writing their own. It’s a few years on and now that same agency is all about assisting the self-publishing authors, for a fee of course.

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What this tells me is that neither publishers nor agents are in the business about caring for authors. But then again, neither is Amazon. Because they are businesses and their aim is to make money. So where does this leave the author, without whom none of this would happen? Do we give up and stop writing because all the social media requirements are driving us nuts? Or do we persevere, hoping that either we make it big or the situation improves? I think everyone walks the line, hoping that the difficulty of the publishing side is never so bad that it outweighs the joy you get from writing. No matter if you’re successful or …not so successful. And there’s usually someone out there who thinks you’re a genius, even if it’s just your Gran.

Embarrassment – the writer’s last frontier

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When you write a book, it’s pretty clear you write about the stuff that interests you. Why otherwise would you bother? It takes a long time, for no definite reward at the end. Most writers, unless you’re a Clive Cussler or James Patterson, aren’t doing it for the money. Even then it’s apparent that Mr Patterson isn’t doing the writing himself anymore. Why bother when whatever you put your name to will be a bestseller? That might sound bitter, and you’d be right. A fine example of this is the man publishing under the name Stephen King, but what most people don’t realise, because they don’t read the reviews first, is that it isn’t the Stephen King.

So I write about stuff that interests me. Unfortunately, I’m not really the sunshine and cups of tea sort of writer, such as Alexander McCall Smith, whose genius lies in making the everyday interesting. The things I write about can get a little embarrassing, particularly when close older relatives want to talk about your book that has some pretty full on sex scenes in it. My standard response is to stick my fingers in my ears and sing the theme song to The Muppets until they give up.  The downside to that is the song gets stuck in your head for days afterwards. I bet its in your head right now, going round and round because, like me, you can’t remember all the words.

I tried something new with my last book. It was clean – no sex or swearing, though still pretty dark, because that’s just the way I roll. I wanted at least one book in my career that I’d be okay with relatives and my kids reading at some stage. I am quite happy with it, and am now waiting, hoping that my agent agrees. So, whatever happens with this one, there is no font for embarrassment, on subject matter at least. The writing may be crap and the storyline line complete rubbish, but there’s no hanky panky or bad words. Because nobody knows about those. Right…

I’m going to admit something embarrassing here, because why else does one write a blog except to expose yourself: I get a ridiculous amount of enjoyment out of some pretty questionable reading material. I’ll read almost anything from space opera to historical bodice rippers, crime fiction to teen fiction. It doesn’t even have to be the best of its genre, sometimes its better when its not. And though I sometimes laugh at the ridiculous premises, I love a good hot alien capturing a human woman whose been done wrong by men all her life. Entertaining shenanigans ensue, because she’s feisty and he secretly loves it. Even though I know from the first page that they’re going to live happily ever after, I can skim the fluffy pages at the end, because that’s not what I read that sort of book for. I just like to know its there.

But what about the not so pleasant stuff? I just finished Tight by Alessandra Torre and though I’ve loved her other books, particularly Black Lies, the imprisoned and torture topic just doesn’t work for me. I realise it was a side line to the main part of the book, but interestingly she referenced the genre that’s out there and quite a lot of women like to read it. It’s one thing to like something in the privacy of your kindle, but the authors who write the stuff are the ones who are really deserve the bravery award. Some of them are hiding behind some pretty obvious nom de plumes, but some aren’t. Are they also having these awkward conversations with relatives? It makes my level of discomfort kindergarten stuff. So even though I don’t want to read about women being tied up and whipped or having sex with Big Foot, I applaud the writers like E. L. James who take their most secret thoughts and fantasies and put it out there.  It can’t be easy when there is a wild and windy plane of mortification to cross, knowing you may never reach the other side.

To self-publish or not to self-publish? That is the question…

It’s that time again, the early months of the year when I have a finished manuscript. This one took a bit longer for a number of reasons, the main one being the first time I thought I’d finished it and proudly handed it off to beta readers to peruse, the feedback was… underwhelming. In the brutally honest words of my husband, who has the dangerous and potentially life threatening dual roles of staunchest supporter and harshest critic, “it needs work”. Cue the arrow straight to the heart. After a year of harsh labour, someone called my baby ugly. Sobbing on the inside, drowning my pain with coffee and a surprisingly good Irish whiskey aptly called “Writer’s Tears”, I muscled up some internal fortitude and completely rewrote it.

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So now it’s done again and off to the beta readers. Feedback has been better, but I’m a bit scarred now. What if it’s really crap, even now? I think every writer has this fear, which makes attempting to market yourself and your work excruciating. We all know those people who are in complete denial about the level of their skills, whether it’s work, sport or ability to pick up in a bar. You don’t want to be that person, ever. That fear can be paralysing though, stopping you from doing anything in case someone, somewhere is laughing at you. Traditional publishing is great in that you can constantly reassure yourself that your book must be okay otherwise these people who don’t know you and aren’t your friends wouldn’t also like it and invest a whole lot of money in it.

 

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 Having been equally unsuccessful with both traditionally and self-published books, I think I have a sound working knowledge of the good and bad points of each. If you have success one way or the other, your perception would naturally be skewed in favour of the way that worked for you and accordingly less objective. Like the purchaser of a thermomix, you tell everyone how great it is, despite the fact there are not that many people willing and able to spend $2000 on a kitchen gadget. If it works for you, it will work for everyone, right?

So what to do with this one? I no longer have expectations of immediate critical and commercial success, which helps. One of the good things about self-publishing is the control, which people talk about a lot. It is probably the best thing about it and comes with good data about how much you’re selling and where, which helps with book promotion and knowing when you’re doing something right. The information is available quickly, so you can be responsive. The downside is that you don’t have professionals get your book polished and out there without major financial outlay and to reassure you when the doubts creep in. You pay for this though, by handing over control and the majority of sales revenue. Whether it’s worth it or not depends on the writer and the book and can only be decided in hindsight. There is no right or wrong answer, but the best thing you can have is options. If publishers are likely to be interested, it’s worth finding out even if you don’t end up taking that path. If it isn’t the sort of book they are looking for, then at least the decision on what to do becomes easier. Just strap on the chainmail before the sharpened arrows start heading in the direction of your heart. And put some make up on your book baby.

 

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Midnight shame

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I know I wrote in an earlier post about how responsible I am now with caffeine consumption, but lately I’ve fallen off the wagon. This year, I asked for a sexy Italian for Christmas. In all honesty, I’m not sure what I would do with a sexy Italian, one husband being more than enough, so luckily it was a domestic electrical item that turned up under the tree. I received a coffee machine people, get your minds out of the gutter. So I now am the proud owner of a gleaming, spaceship-like contraption that makes the most excellent of coffees. It sits there winking at me all through the day and I’ve been falling under its spell, willpower helpless to its hard, angular good looks.

Any hoo, in the way of these things, there’s always a price to pay. Unusually, it hasn’t been a pounding heart in the early hours of the morning, but a pounding conscience instead. I’ve been waking up in the early hours remembering odd events from my late teens and early twenties in excruciating detail. Like many people, I was pretty much an asshole until around twenty-five when I finally grew up, so there’s a fair bit of material there. Shame is a horrible feeling, particularly when there’s no way to fix or apologise. I’m reliving it with the benefit of hindsight and experience and wondering what the hell my younger self was thinking. If I was a character in a book, in many instances I would have been the villain, the awful ex-girlfriend or generally the foil that makes the heroine look better.  I’m not saying I was irredeemably bad and I had some good moments, but those aren’t the ones playing in the quiet hours around midnight.

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Just as it seems no one wants to read about the perfect person leading the perfect life, my conscience likes to linger on the times I got it wrong. But why is my mind fixated on this period of my life? I think its mostly because I’ve decided to tear apart my latest book and completely rewrite it and that’s the age of the people in it. Some of the events in the book actually happened, so I’ve been thinking about those years a lot and how it felt to be that young and the excruciating awkwardness that is most teenagers. With no clear idea of self, you don’t know how to act, so try on different personas to see what fits. Sometimes I got it right, but most often I didn’t, after all I was just pretending I knew what to do.

As I lie awake, staring at the dark ceiling, I try to forgive my younger self, mostly so I can go back to sleep. Caffeine makes my conscience into an overtired toddler. I’ve just got to take away all the stimulatory material and hope it crashes out. That or drink less coffee.