7 October 2017

FantasyCon 2017: Thoughts On The Peterborough Gig

The "Women in Horror" panel
Last weekend I was missing from the blog because I was in Peterborough attending the three-day extravaganza that is FantasyCon - a writer's and reader's delight of panels, readings and book launches. And the odd bit of imbibing at the bar. It's not a place to see a Star Trek outfit being paraded, though there were an awful lot of black t-shirts. It is a place where the written and spoken word is ALL.

Fantasy is one of those huge umbrella terms which covers everything from pre-teen cuddly yomps, through Historical and Epic Fantasy, to Slipstream and Myths, to Dystopia, Grimdark, and Horror, and it includes poetry.

The choice was amazing: 38 panels and 12 reading 'hours' on the Saturday alone. Finding time to eat became a tad problematic. The Women in Horror panel was a bit of an eye-opener and I may well stretch my limbs a bit more in that direction now the Torc of Moonlight trilogy is completed. Likewise, Small Press Publishing and Writing for Audio brought a pause for thought and a few websites to investigate.
[Women in Horror photo, LtoR: Laura Mauro, ??, Nancy KilPatrick (Canadian Guest of Honour), Tracy Fahey, and Theresa Derwin holding "friend"]

My own reading, on the Saturday at noon with three others under the banner of Contemporary Fantasy, went well enough, if to a small audience. But at least we had one. There was such a choice not every reading did. But that's the luck of the draw. I would have loved to have attended the Horror reading at 10pm Friday, but alas the alarm going off at 4.45am for the train south took its toll. I should drink stronger coffee.

The Book Haul
Many thanks to everyone who attended and offered their time and expertise. Especially to all the red-jacket volunteers who gave up much of their own time to keep everyone heading in the right direction, and to Peter Flannery, author of Battle Mage, who sponsored the goody bags. I certainly over-filled mine with purchases, freebies and swops, enough reading material to keep me going for months.

Now there's just the teeny problem of lack of bookcase space.

FantasyCon 2018 will be held in Chester.

24 September 2017

Writing Fiction: Seeing Ideas

So this person comes up and says, I have an idea for you which will make a wonderful book...

I doubt it. Or maybe it could, but not via my hand. Why? Because I haven’t seen it. 

I don’t mean as in photographically seen. I mean in the sense of the imaginary lines that join the dots of stars in the sky to create named constellations: Cassiopeia, Pegasus, Andromeda, Ursa Major.

The lines don’t exist; the stars aren’t close together, they just look that way from where we’re standing. That’s if you’re standing with me in the northern hemisphere. And some fella who may have been Greek, or an Arab, or... decided to see them that way, and everyone after him shrugged and went along with his vision. Call him a fiction writer, then. Of sorts.

So what’s this got to do with an image of a British parish church? I was in Louth a couple of days ago visiting friends and we explored Saint James’ Church with the help of a volunteer. Not only is it a bit grand for a parish church, it is has the tallest steeple of any parish church  in the country.


It also has this – one of two remaining medieval wooden angels which stood high in the roof and now adorn a wall in an old chantry chapel once funded by one of the town’s medieval guilds.

                                                       It also has this blue plaque.


Do you see the lines?

If you do, great. But I bet they aren’t the same lines I see.

Food for thought. In fact there's enough meals for a starry night of what-ifs for a writer of fiction.

17 September 2017

Thoughts on Book Reviews

When I next (next?) launch a novel it will not be during the summer months. Sales are slow, and reviews even slower. Authors shouldn't care about reader reviews -  in fact I know authors who refuse to check theirs - but there is no denying that it is often the only feedback we authors receive. There is also no denying that reviews offer a peg from which to hang a bit of promotion.

And then amid the drought a little rain does gently fall. Into my Inbox came the following. Why not on a retailer site? This reader doesn't do reviews but use what you like. So I am. It is so cheering when a reader not only "gets it" but gets it enough to say so.

"...I couldn’t put it down! The plots that parallel Nick’s are sharply focused, and like all such “sub” plots the potential for stand free novels is obvious. What is also obvious is your deft, consistent (across the whole trilogy) ability to use “slight” material which generates a powerful presence for your reader: from a long list I’ll just choose material associated with medieval Ernald—Eco’s Name of the Rose Brother William of Baskerville meets Chaucer’s Friar!— it’s not just those blisters… the pairing him with the more world-weary reeve brings out the subtle difference in the character; we believe in him; he believes in the potential for good in his fellow human beings: his integrity is sustained. A glance, a phrase, a touch, all go towards his presence as a character, building by increments gradually. Understatement can often be more compellingly authentic than pages of description.
      I could never see Nick returning to the south… his home was always with Alice. I liked how you made the echo from The Bull At The Gate: the desecration of the Temple of Luna by the Christ men is paralleled by the desecration of the Pool by the opportunistic stealing of the water, and the fracking operation. And how fitting that in its new status the Pool will have a symbolic Keeper.
      The trilogy works powerfully at so many levels, all bound up with history’s continuity. So, thank you for the trilogy; I enjoyed it very much, and, of course, look forward to the next..."


So yes, it gladdens my heart that the 'craft' has been noticed and appreciated for what it offered to the story. Most readers who do make the effort to leave a review concentrate on summarising the blurb and saying whether or not they enjoyed the read. To an extent, I've been guilty of this myself, though I do try to offer more. Writing a review for a novel, or a non-fiction book, is akin to viewing a piece of embroidery from a distance and giving a yea or nay opinion. Perhaps we should all step a little closer to appreciate the stitching and the subtlety of the colour combinations.

Now then, about that next....

9 September 2017

Interview and SciFi+Fantasy Giveaway Thoughts

The Torc of Moonlight trilogy is complete, Hull's FantastiCon is over, and I'm gearing up for the British Fantasy Society's annual FantasyCon in Peterborough at the end of the month. As part of my RandR in between I'm slowly turfing out the house and hacking back the garden, but the digital promotion continues, nonethless.

I'm interviewed on the Fantasy & Magic website with the questions focusing on why I chose to write the trilogy, and Fantasy in particular, and the evergreens of who my influencers were. It's never that simple, of course. I consider all Fiction to the Fantasy; to me, some elements of storytelling are just more fantastic than others.

Also on-going is the promotional side of things. InstaFreebie has recently offered direct hosting facilities for self-gathered groups. One finishes tomorrow [see HERE]...

Link: https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/shUSLwOigkJnTxPjqUbc

...and the other carries on until the end of the month [see HERE]

Authors tend to work in the dark with most giveaways, or at least the dark shadow, regarding the number of ebooks claimed. But with the new InstaFreebie group giveaways authors have access to a dashboard making it easy to see how many ebooks are claimed, both of their own and of the other authors in the giveaway. As I key in this post late Friday afternoon, 25 titles have been claimed more than 50 times; only two have had less than 10 claimed, and my 25% partial of Torc of Moonlight is one of them. Mmm... perhaps I need to rethink my 'partial' strategy. As far as I can see, mine is the only partial in the group.

In this context, it will be interesting to see how my Beneath The Shining Mountains 10% KU sample does in the Romance Samples To Whet your Appetite! giveaway lined up from 10-30th September. Though I'm not entirely sure what the organiser's somewhat chilly snow scene brings to the group's landing page. Especially with no text.

At the moment, though, all this promotion via giveaways is a toe-in-the-water testing for me. We shall see what we shall see.

4 September 2017

Exoskeletons and High-Wire Acts

Exoskeletons and high-wire acts?? It must be Hull's FantastiCon! And it was, 2-3rd September. It was also Hull's Freedom Festival. This year Hull is UK City of Culture and the city is making the most of it in the biggest way possible.

Even the weather came out to play, making a good show of the floral displays in Queen's Gardens (originally a water-filled dock; those are the original dock offices behind, now the Maritime Museum), and keeping the thousands of visitors in comfort while the Amazing Bullzini Family awed everyone with their gravity-defying comedy drama eight metres in the air. My photo shows one of their lesser (!) worrying escapades. I couldn't concentrate on taking photos when the two characters balanced on a chair; I was watching through squinted eyes.

FantastiCon was held in the Guildhall just round the corner, and was no less awe-inspiring. I now understand what a NERF war is, thanks to the ubiquitous ten-year old who explained how it worked while reloading the magazine of a plastic automatic weapon. Put on safety glasses. Really? And then I discovered why. But it was great fun. Note Hubby, well-armoured behind netting, attempting to claim on my life insurance. Yes, he enjoyed it, too. And yes, that is "ammunition" all over the floor, not all ours, I hasten to add.

FantastiCon is a doing Con, and lots of people had brought rigs, including Vesaro (above). How many buttons and switches and...?? Considering spectators come from miles around to watch me reverse-park my car, needless to say I just stood and watched. I did, though, have a go on the virtual reality rigs - my first time - and I can now understand the excitement over those. However, the magnets weren't all digital.

Yes, big blokes hunched intensely over role-playing games with dice and pencil. And it wasn't the only table. There was a lot of interest in the various offerings.

We also had a long chat with Chris Atkin, drone operator, sorry pilot, from Icarus Aerial Film & Photography, whose miniscule craft was producing high-definition images as it zipped in and around the various rooms - all good research material for an author.

As was fascinating Dr Matt Dickinson and his Comic Book Science mini-lectures, hence the "exoskeletons" mentioned at the top of this post. So... you want to know if Iron Man's feats are feasible? Er... yes, and Dr Matt explained why.

He'd also brought along a short tentacle, a la Dr Otto Octavius, which he moved from across the room by wearing that very small headset and his own alpha/beta brainwaves. No, I do not kid you. He had us all entranced. And then he put on a more sophisticated cuff and made Iron Man's hand clench and unclench. 

Want to know something really amazing? Neither items, nor the headset, cost more than £20 each. The headset came from Amazon - where else would you go for an alpha/beta brainwave headset?? - and all the components for both the hand and the tentacle were 3-D printed, and such printers can be picked up from... you're ahead of me.

Best of all? Despite it being Comic Book Science at entry level for schools - if you're a teacher get on his website for the free code - ultimately it is all research for super-prosthetics to help the disabled. Awesome, yes? Well, that's FantastiCon for you in a nutshell.

Oh, I also sold some books. But who cares about that?

26 August 2017

Moving #Historicals to #KindleUnlimited:

Now the paperback of Pilgrims Of The Pool has been out a week, and before I make decisions on my next writing project, I'm turning my attention to housekeeping, both of the physical type in the space I refer to as my office and my digital backlist.

While I've been concentrating on Contemporary Fantasy, and to some extent my shorter Chillers, I've allowed my two Historicals to moulder somewhat unloved. Both Hostage of the Heart and Beneath The Shining Mountains were originally listed by mainstream publishers and became my digital test pieces when their rights reverted. They have served me well, but they could do being highlighted to a fresh audience. I like the covers, and there's nothing wrong with the content. They just need a bit of a push.

So, for the first time with any title, I've removed both from multiple distributors and given exclusivity to Amazon for 90 days minimum. They have entered the realm of page reads within Kindle Unlimited.

To leave them there without food or water will be to see them fade into more obscurity. So I've started a regime of promotion. I'm using small steps, starting with Twitter and FBook postings, followed by author cross promotions, before considering paid adverts probably with AMS initially. The trick is to discover what works to raise their visibility. As happens with these things, doubtless it will prove to be a mix of all three.

I'll keep you posted.

19 August 2017

Paperback Launch: Pilgrims Of The Pool

The paperback has launched - all 335 pages of it! Yesss!!

I'm not one for having big, or even small, Facebook launch parties. A relaxed toast-the-book with family, friends, and fellow writers is more my style - usually because I am so shattered I'm meeting myself coming back. But I do have news:

The Book Depository, despite not having the novel's cover up on its site yet, it is not only price-matching Amazon but is offering FREE DELIVERY WORLDWIDE. Cripes! Get it while you can. And it is doing the same with all my titles. See HERE for my authorpage, and HERE for Pilgrims Of The Pool.

In the UK perhaps the quickest will be via Amazon.co.uk.
North America is well-served for distribution, with both Amazon.com  and Amazon.ca, and also Barnes and Noble. Some or all may offer free shipping to its country base, so please check before ordering.

The only person missing a copy is me! I am left clutching the proof while my order arrives, some time this coming week. Then I shall be cracking a bottle of something sparkling. Do join me if you can - LOL!

12 August 2017

Targeted Marketing

Free Multi-Genre Choices: https://melanietomlin.com/tpr-freebies/

As mentioned in previous posts, I’m experimenting with cross-promotion marketing which targets a specific readership: those who particularly enjoy Speculative Fiction. Does it work? Or perhaps the better question is, Does it work for me and the Torc of Moonlight trilogy?

It is certainly working better than my lone voice in the void, but I’m finding that even SpecFic readers are picky. They may be voracious consumers, but they like what they like. As a reader, perhaps I’m odd; I read all sorts of genres and sub-genres.

Freebies for August: http://abam.info/instafreebie/

So after four months, in which I’ve drawn well over 1k new subscribers to my Newsletter, I’m changing my focus slightly and revving up the romance angle. That’s the beauty – or the problem – with writing cross-genre. However, I know from past experience that Romance readers, specifically readers of Paranormal Romance (PNR) are even more picky than SpecFic readers. It will be interesting to compare results.

August New Releases on Kindle: http://sffbookbonanza.com/newreleases/

See you on the other side, if not exactly in another four months!

5 August 2017

Podcasts and Paperbacks

A few days ago I had a friend enthuse about how I... can relax now the book is out. I nearly laughed myself silly. Only yesterday I had an exchange with an author about the merits of her setting up a pinned Tweet and asking interested readers to go and re-Tweet it. Jump HERE if you want to do the same for mine.

Promotion & Marketing is an ever-evolving enterprise for authors, but without it the most well-written novel is liable to sink without trace.  I belong to Facebook groups and am active in author cross-promotions. I have a YouTube channel for my book trailers, but am I using it to its full potential? 

One writer who is determined to do so is Paula M Hunter, a writer of speculative fiction who recently started The Bookshelf - a home for a series of 15 minute podcasts covering all the subgenres of her interest. The current episode is devoted to Contemporary Fantasy, and an excerpt from Book 1 of my trilogy, Torc of Moonlight, was lucky enough to be the Featured Read. It can be listened to via the The Bookshelf website and is also available on its YouTube channel. Go give it a 7 minute listen. The second part is devoted to a writer from the USA, Kimberly Koz.

I'm the person who doesn't own an iPod. Am I missing out here? Perhaps I should investigate further and make the most of my own YouTube channel. 

Paperback Update: Pilgrims of the Pool is now formatted for paperback, and I eagerly await a paper proof copy. Here's its wraparound cover:


29 July 2017

#Editing 13: Print After Ebook?

Paperback - soon to be available
Pilgrims of the Pool is finished - except for the paperback.

The ebook edition has been out about ten days, and many thanks to all my readers who have re-Tweeted, shared my Facebook announcement, and even bought a copy. I do appreciate the help to get it noticed. As expected, one of the responses has been Where's the print version?

Mainstream publishers tend to launch print versions first, hardback, then paperback. Sometimes the ebook comes last, sometimes along with one of the print versions. The publishers' main intention is to maximise profit. Prior to the hardback release the publisher will have sent out ARCs (advance reading copies) aimed to maximise sales by having reviews ready to hit publications and retail sites on launch day.

Well-organised indie authors also send out ARCs to their 'street team' volunteers for exactly the same reason, gathering responses to quote on book covers. This takes some forward thinking, and when have I been so organised as to work that many months in advance?

Therefore I launch the ebook, promote it heavily for around a fortnight, and then start to check and format for print. By the time I've completed this I hope to have the first reviews in to be able to quote snippets, with permission, on the backblurb and the inside cover. As I key in this blog I already have two 5-star reviews up on Amazon, for which I am very grateful.

A note on formatting for print. Most publishers simply use a single formatted copy for both, but ebook and print are two different sized reading experiences. Print can comfortably carry longer paragraphing, whereas an ebook is usually read on a smaller screen. And who wants solid text margin-to-margin? The added benefit is that the novel gets yet another proofread en route.

So that's the state of play at the moment. When Pilgrims of the Pool is available as a print copy, I'll let you know.

See also: 
Editing-1: What Does Editing Actually Mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update 
Editing-6: Beta Readers 
Editing-7: Metadata 
Editing-8: Beyond Beta Readers
Editing-9: Writing in a Circle
Editing-10: Polishing the Novel
Editing-10A: Scheduling Hiccup
Editing-11: Scales Falling From My Eyes
Editing-12: Ebook Launch!

19 July 2017

#Editing 12: Pilgrims of the Pool - eBook Launch!

Pilgrims of the Pool is finished. And it is launch day! Yay!

Yes, finally, after much editing tribulation, Book 3 in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy has winged its way into the ether and is now available for download as an ebook at a launch discount. Get it while you can.

History lies mere inches beneath our feet.

Nick Blaketon leaves Durham to free Alice from the Celtic deity holding her prisoner at the Pool, echoing pilgrims who tread the route 900 years before seeking a fabled spring where an angel-woman cures all ills.

Alice is overjoyed to be reunited with Nick, but she is not the Alice he remembers. As is the land, she is transforming, and he feels caught between betrayals.

When her presence at the Pool is jeopardised by a hydraulic fracturing operation and the conservationists opposing it, Nick cannot walk away. But do the pilgrims pose a greater threat? What knowledge, handed down the generations, are the current landowners hiding?

As Time intersects, has Nick faith enough to change events in a mediaeval past of hallowed saints and conjured demons, or has Alice’s power to heal initiated her own demise? 

Book 1, Torc of Moonlight, is currently on offer at 99p.

Print will follow in due course. Why? That's for another blog post. 

8 July 2017

Book Promotion: Newsletter Subscribers

Pilgrims of the Pool is ready for formatting, except…it's not the only job in hand.

I tip my hat to those who can look at a calendar and mark the week research will end, writing will begin and end, first round editing will take place, and beta copies will be emailed. And all the rest that happens in between. I only wish I worked to that precision. It would make life so much less stressful. For me, bringing a novel to fruition and launching it to the reading world is akin to monitoring a hall full of spinning plates. Writing the novel is merely one of many. 

Promotion and marketing is equally important, and so much of that falls on stony ground I decided that with this novel I would especially target those who enjoy my type of writing and the sub-genre I'm currently writing in.

Cross-promotions, authors helping authors spread the word, I am finding most useful. So is Instafreebie, which I've spoken about in previous blogs. On the eve of launching Pilgrims of the Pool I have two titles in five promos this month, two priced and three using Instafreebie where the reader subscribes to the author's newsletter in exchange for a title to 'test'.

Here's a couple to check out the list of sub-genres. Enjoy!

80+ titles http://www.fantasyandmagicbooks.com/instafreebie/

100+ titles http://sffbookbonanza.com/free-books-jul-2017/

25 June 2017

#Editing-11 – Scales Falling From My Eyes

Pilgrims of the Pool is finished. Except… it nearly is finished!

Last week’s post centred on my concern over a holiday interrupting the editing. I take it all back. I might even plan one to coincide with the final round of edits of the next novel. Yes, distance really does help to remove the scales from our eyes. For me it has proved better than letting the typescript rest in a drawer; in a drawer I still think about it. Away on holiday I didn’t.

I’ve been engaged on the final final edit this week, and the last series of Comments I made in the margins – those I stared at and tussled over, seemingly for weeks – have been resolved in double-quick time, by additions, deletions or rewriting scenes.

I am currently on my last read through to ensure I’ve left no loose threads. And guess what? I’ll be away three days this week, too [rolls eyes].

However, upload is imminent. You’ll be the first to know. Or at least immediately behind my Newsletter readers - LOL!

See also: 
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update 
Editing-6: Beta Readers 
Editing-7: Metadata 
Editing-8: Beyond Beta Readers
Editing-9: Writing in a Circle
Editing-10: Polishing the Novel
Editing-10A: Scheduling Hiccup

17 June 2017

#Editing-10A: Er… Scheduling Hiccup

Pilgrims of the Pool is finished. Except it’s not… because I’ve been on holiday.

Was this a good plan? Obviously not, though it seemed to be when the holiday was booked back at the beginning of the year. A few members of Hornsea Writers, the support group I belong to, had marked their respective cards to “have summer off” and mine was supposed to start at the beginning of June. Best laid plans…

Yet burn-out is as rife among authors as the rest of the creative industries, and the marketing & publicity side of authorship carries on regardless.

This weekend I’m taking part in a freebie promo – Best of British – with a 25% extract of Torc of Moonlight. At least my Welcome sequence of newsletters is now fully automated, complete with their discounts and freebies. 

For those interested, my mailing list now tops 1,000 recipients. Check out my new Newsletter landing page by clicking the blue button, top right. You don’t have to follow it through.

Back to the editing.

See also: 
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update 
Editing-6: Beta Readers 
Editing-7: Metadata 
Editing-8: Beyond Beta Readers
Editing-9: Writing in a Circle
Editing-10: Polishing the Novel
Editing-10A: Scheduling Hiccup
Editing-11: - Scales Falling from my Eyes

3 June 2017

Editing-10: Polishing the Novel

Pilgrims of the Pool is finished. Except it’s not.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of page reads this series of posts has gathered. Readers who have been with me from the first will realise I am now into dancing mode. It feels like it – two steps forward, one step back.

As part of the editing process, last week I needed to Write in a Circle. Well, the opening chapters have been re-structured, the flow eased, the echoes between characters and between time periods re-established on a slightly different footing, character motivations and fears ramped up and/or pulled back. Short stories, even novellas, may fall from brain to page in a single torrent, but novels need coaxing, marshalling into form, and drilling until the disparate elements are… dancing to the same beat. It can take time and numerous reruns.

However, there comes a point when the writing is not improved, merely made different. I am now at the stage of enough! It is time for an unemotional, mechanical, walk-through. I use Pro-Writing Aid – other software is available – which will highlight everything from passive verbs to convoluted sentence structure.  I don’t expect it to find much that I haven’t intended, in fact I’ll be miffed if it does, but it makes a good final check.

See you on the other side.

See also: 
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update 
Editing-6: Beta Readers 
Editing-7: Metadata 
Editing-8: Beyond Beta Readers
Editing-9: Writing in a Circle
Editing-10: Polishing the Novel

27 May 2017

#Editing 9: Writing a novel in a Circle

Pilgrims of the Pool is finished. Except it's not.

How many editing run-throughs does a novel need? It depends on how much of a perfectionist the author is. And I'm definitely a tweak & fiddle writer. Should I be? Or should I be to the extent I am?

Probably not to the extent I am as inevitably it becomes time-counterproductive. However, whenever I read a novel - mainstream or indie - and come across phrasing which makes me wince, or characterisation so shallow I yawn, or authorial viewpoint that makes my eyes roll, there's a little voice in my head saying yours could be like this. And I don't want it to be.

Take the beginning. One of my beta readers brought up a point about it, and the more I've edited the whole the more valid the comment has become. In truth, this is no surprise. When I was teaching I maintained that a novel should be written in a circle. No matter how much prep work is undertaken, during the writing of the opening chapters an author is flexing muscles, marshalling characters, juggling motivations, laying down the atmosphere, honing the tone... By the midpoint, all the facets are jumping to the same beat, and by the ending it should be flowing like silk, or giving the impression it is. 

It's always worth setting the beginning against the ending to see if they balance. I'm not talking about pacing - the ending should be streaking away - I'm talking about the building blocks: sentence, paragraph, and scene structure. Is the beginning too flighty or turgid? Are the characters as introduced human enough or do they need a bit more work?

In my case I'm writing the final novel in a trilogy, yet all three must be able to be read as standalones or even out of sequence. And this was my problem. I've walked with the main character, Nick Blaketon, through six years of his life. I know him like a brother. It's his book, it's his trilogy, yet the new characters and time period stood brighter than he did because I was seeding them within their individual realms while allowing my mate Nick to wander in like an old hand.

It didn't need much: a shake-up of the initial chapter sequence, a couple of new scenes, but the difference is vivid. Nick now steps into his book with emphasis and stakes his claim to main character

If you're close to finishing your own novel, take time to set the ending against the beginning and weigh the two for balance. It could make all the difference, especially if you're sending the work to an agent.

See also: 
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update 
Editing-6: Beta Readers 
Editing-7: Metadata 
Editing-8: Beyond Beta Readers
Editing-9: Writing in a Circle
Editing-10: Polishing the Novel

20 May 2017

3 #InstaFreebie Promos and Automated Newsletters

At the beginning of April [see HERE] I mentioned I’d joined Instafreebie in an attempt to increase my Newsletter subscribers prior to the launch of Pilgrims of the Pool, the final book in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy.

So how has it gone? Better than expected. I joined various group promotions – I am involved with three this month (see below for links) - and they’ve given the best results. To date I’ve accrued 796 new subscribers and had only 74 unsubscribe or give a blocked e-address. That’s just less than 10%, which is far fewer than I anticipated.

Keeping new subscribers engaged is the key, and it soon became apparent that a set of chatty Welcome emails was needed to introduce my work, especially as I write in such disparate genres. Up to this week I did these manually, with multiple segments receiving a different newsletter every few days. Needless to say, the work involved was taking over my editing time.

However, those manual emails proved a worthwhile drafting system: what did I actually want to say?; how did I truly want to interact with my new subscribers? Various versions were tried while I came to accept that I needed an automated system. Automated? Yes, it goes against the interaction grain, but as I’ve found, it needn’t.

Thankfully my Newsletter provider, Mailchimp, recently opened its automated system to free accounts. Mailchimp allows people like me to run a list for up to 2,000 subscribers for free, so I’ve spent a couple of days this week learning the ropes and setting up two sets of automated Welcome emails. Two sets? One of the group promotions, A Taste Of Darkness, would only consider novel extracts. So as well as the original short story collection I extracted 25% of Torc of Moonlight – Book 1, and this is what is offered free in all three promotions below.

I’ll update this post again in a few weeks after Pilgrims of the Pool has launched. In the meantime, click on the links below the group promo images to see the sort of sub-genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy available. You might be pleasantly surprised.


13 May 2017

#Editing 8: Beyond Beta Readers

Pilgrims of the Pool is finished. Except it's not.

Beta Reader reports are in. Now is the time for a sustaining breath (or a strong coffee, or a stiff  drink) and a study of the comments in as detached a manner as possible. 

There's a glitch in the structure? [Check other readers' comments to see if the same has been mentioned.] A character has been given point-of-view prominence close to the start whereas he's a mere walk-on through the rest of the book? [Slapped wrist for not noticing; mark text for alteration.] Various words mis-used / over-complicated phrasing / suspect grammar? [Go through relevant passages to agree/disagree/mark for change.] And so on.

All in all the typescript weighs in not as bad as I feared - no full re-writes needed - and this is usually the case. As writers we are far too close to our own creations, juggling nuance alongside pacing, characterisation, theme, and the other 101 elements that make up a novel. It is our place to fret in case our skills have not matched the scope of our vision. It is the place of beta readers to tell it straight. And mine do. I am from Yorkshire, after all. It comes with the territory.

Now to rewrite what needs rewriting, tweak what needs tweaking. When completed the text will be given a full and slow read to ensure both the pacing and balance have been maintained, and nothing else catches my eye. Then section by section it will be run through Pro-Writing Aid [other software is available] for a mechanical check. Just as with a spell-checker, this is used to flag possible problems which may have been missed by the human eye; its results are ignored or acted upon as I see fit. 

Catch me next week for an update.

See also: 
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update 
Editing-6: Beta Readers 
Editing-7: Metadata 
Editing-8: Beyond Beta Readers
Editing-9: Writing in a Circle
Editing-10: Polishing the Novel

6 May 2017

#Editing 7: Metadata

Pilgrims of the Pool is finished. Except it's not.

But it is coming along. As expected, the digital file is still with its beta readers, and this respite gives me an opportunity to fine-tune its metadata so it will be ready for upload. What, exactly, is metadata?

Metadata is all the background information attached to an ebook, but not a physical part the text. An e-retailer uses it to store the ebook, and a reader uses it to find the ebook, on the e-retailer's site. But it starts before that. It starts with the digital document.

I use an old version of MSWord. Under File>Properties a dialogue box appears describing the contents of the file: when it was created and how many pages, paragraphs, etc, it contains. Under the Summary tab I complete Title, Author, Category (Fiction), and enter a few keywords (Fantasy, Paranormal, Thriller, Romance). In effect I am digitally stamping the file as mine. Does this matter? It depends which conversion sites are used, but I’m a great believer in a belt & braces approach to my work simply because it is my work.

Metadata is more usually associated with the upload process, most notably Product Description, Categories, and Keywords. What I have to play with depends on the e-retailer. For the purpose of this post, I’ll concentrate on the biggest, Amazon.

Product Description can be equated to the backblurb on a paperback, except that it is both more and less.

Here’s the product description for my novella The Paintings:
When Kristin Jeffries steps into the wrecked apartment of a missing artist to assess a group of paintings, she steps into a surreal environment of deceit and obsession where artworks are hidden and signatures missing. Should she trust the client who admits he's not the owner?

Concentrating on the minutiae of a single brushstroke beneath her camera’s lens, can she recognise the truth stored in its memory before it overtakes them both?

“...the whole subtle sense of something sinister is very well done...”

It’s short, and I attach one review snippet. It’s an example, not a blueprint. Yet without clicking through to its Amazon page to view its cover, what category is it entered under? Is it, for instance, Romance? Historical? Cozy Crime? Scrutinise the choice of words used and have a guess.

The description is 72 words long, yet only 46 of them – the initial paragraph – appears at first sight on the page. The rest, including the review snippet, is hidden “below the fold” – and who clicks the Read more link? Very few casual perusers. For a product description to work it must be concise, introduce the main story elements in language matching the tone of the work and the category, and leave the reader wanting to read more – a tease – hence my use of a question.

Check this against the product description of my earliest ebook Hostage of the Heart. Above the fold reads okay, but click the Read more and wince. Yes, it needs serious attention. We learn as we go.

Categories can be a minefield, especially if, like mine, the novel sits between categories, but help is at hand via Amazon’s Selecting Browse Categories. Only two are available, so don’t waste one by repeating yourself.

Keywords – up to seven are available - can prove as difficult, but the above Categories link can again prove useful.

Write your Product Description, make decisions on Categories and Keywords, and then check the pages of your favourite authors in the same genre for inspiration. Yours need to be at least as good, and if you manage that without several drafts you are doing well.

See also: 
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update 
Editing-6: Beta Readers 
Editing-7: Metadata

29 April 2017

#Editing 6: Beta Readers

Pilgrims of the Pool is finished. Except it's not. 

But it is coming along. The initial editing sequences have been completed and the novel is now with its beta readers. Hurray! But what are beta readers?

Beta readers test-drive the novel, yet they aren't your normal fiction readers. They are readers with attitude. Often they'll be writers themselves, sometimes they are would-be or ex- editors. The skills brought will include sharp eyes, a firm grasp of grammar, pacing, and all the other elements mentioned in previous posts. If they understand the requirements of the chosen genre/sub-genre, so much the better. Their job is not to edit per se, but to mark potential problems.

My being a member of Hornsea Writers means my novel has a two-stage beta-read. During weekly meetings chapters are read aloud for constructive criticism while still a work-in-progress, an ideal opportunity for me to raise queries and for niggles to be flagged by listeners, meaning there is less chance of a character or the storyline taking an unnecessary detour. The second stage is for the novel to be read as a whole work. Anything catching the beta reader's eye is annotated on the digital page via Comments.

My beta readers are given an idea of what I'd like from them, plus the proviso that they are to stop at any time if they don't feel empathy for the text or the slant I've given the genre. A beta reader who isn't at least interested - they don't have to be enthusiastic - is going to start scan-reading as the story progresses - a waste of their time and effort, and mine. The final page will include a short list of my own concerns which the beta readers may or may not address.

Multiple beta readers? One is better than none; three are better than two. Every reader brings individual skills, and what one notices another may not. However, their comments are advisory. I am, after all, the writer, but if all beta readers draw attention to the same element, I'd be a fool not to pay attention.

Are beta readers necessary? In my opinion, yes. Hot off the printer, a writer is too emotionally invested to view the work with the necessary objectivity. Hence the need for beta readers with both the necessary insight and the lack of fear in pointing out what could turn out to be a few unpleasant truths. Better the beta reader than a gaggle of caustic reviews on Amazon.

Do you use beta readers? Are you a beta reader? Share your experiences below.

See also:  
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update 
Editing-6: Beta Readers

22 April 2017

#Editing 5: *How long* to do a Line Edit??

Pilgrims of the Pool is finished. Except it's not.

I wrote that opener, partly in jest, back on 10 March. Such things have a habit of returning to haunt us. This was part of my original plan:

•    Structural edit
•    Content edit
•    Line edit
•    Continuity edit beyond books 1 & 2
•    Combined structural/content/line edit
•    Transfer to e-reader for eagle-eyed read-through
•    Beta readers... and the rest

I have just completed the Line Edit. Notes made during the Structural and Content edits have been addressed and decisions taken. I now know I need to shuffle the Structure - again. Three different storylines move forwards, the two contemporaries within the same time zones, except that one is slightly adrift. Correcting the time sequence will mean the main storyline is pushed out of the spotlight for too many chapters. I believe the response I’m looking for is argh!!

Plan A: write a supplementary chapter for the main storyline - 1,000+ words should do it – except this smacks of padding. If it doesn’t need to be there what else can it be called? For it not to be padding I need to invent a further complication, or even a further thread, go back along the chapters to seed it throughout the novel so that it doesn’t burst onto the page unannounced, have the main character resolve the complication further along the run of chapters – there will be no ...with one mighty bound – and allow the ripples to touch further chapters, probably unbalancing the pacing, especially as it's so close to the end.

Plan B: colour-code all chapters in and either side of the run according to viewpoint character and play jigsaw with the offenders.

No gold stars for guessing which I’m trying first.

See also:  
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update

16 April 2017

HumberSFF Readings in Hull

Yesterday was Easter Saturday. The sun was out in Kingston-upon-Hull, and much to my surprise there were more attendees than expected at the city's Central Library for the third HumberSFF readings gig. And all comers received a chocolate egg to celebrate the weekend. Organiser Shellie Horst certainly knows how to put on a show. Which is more than I can claim for my own photographs, but there we go.

Left to right: Suzanne Jackson (The Beguiler) Jo Thomas (25 Ways to Kill a Werewolf) and me (Torc of Moonlight), having a laugh about goodness knows what.

We each read from our chosen titles and answered questions, which turned out to be more involved than ususual so no second reading.  And of course we needed time for the free raffle of books donated by publishers and authors. No one leaves empty-handed from HumberSFF events!

It wasn't until we retired to the pub - oh dear... writers - that I learned quietly-spoken Jo is a dab-hand with an entire series of swords. There's nothing like finding a good contact for research purposes.

Titles bought and added to my seriously toppling reading pile. Or at least it would be toppling if both weren't digital.  

Hull is UK City of Culture this year. The Blade artwork had gone from Queen Victoria Square, to be replaced by The Weeping Poppies (part of the original Tower of London display), and a little further up the road Lego Daffodils, which looked surprisingly good. Perhaps we should ask if a Lego Star Wars display could erected later in the year?

13 April 2017

#Free & Discounted Easter Ebook Reading Bonanza

Ever since the religious celebration of Easter became a four-day break in the UK, the long weekend has been earmarked for DIY, gardening, decorating, or just getting away from it all. In the last few years it has become a time for filling an e-reader with discounted goodies to be read during the lazy hours of nibbling at chocolate eggs. To add to the temptation I have news of two group promotions, both running until 16 April.

First is the 99c/99p SFF Book Bonanza joint author promotion for Kindle (only): Click the following link to be taken to its landing page: http://sffbookbonanza.com/99c-books/

My title in the promo is Torc of Moonlight, book 1 in a trilogy of British Mythic Fantasies set close to where I live. Only the characters are fictional; the historical research is accurate; every place is real and can be visited. 

Not that Nick Blaketon appreciates this, at least at the beginning. A student at Hull University, he’s more interested in playing rugby than studying... until the inexplicable brings obsession, alarm and murder to his door in the guise of Alice Linwood. And she's no idea she's funnelling it towards him.

Click HERE for further background info on the trilogy, and for links to all formats at 99c / 99p.

Second is a free SFF Mega Book promotion via Instafreebie running at the same time: http://sffbookbonanza.com/freebooks/  A chance to try out some new authors for free by signing up to receive their newsletters.


And yes, I have one in this promotion, too: Contribution to Mankind and other stories of the Dark – see HERE for further information on this collection of short stories. Or you can hit the blue Newsletter button, top right of this page, to jump to it direct. 

What better way to get out of DIY than to sit in the sunshine and read. Can’t be bettered. Okay, it can... by sipping a glass of something interesting alongside.

Enjoy your Easter break. And your reading.