Writing as a Business

In my previous post I wrote about following your dreams. What a lot of writers are faced with when deciding that they want to become an author of published work is that following this dream means accepting that writing is actually a business.

In order to have work published there has to be involvement with the publishing industry – and they don’t call it an industry by accident. It’s hard work, whichever route you take. And no matter what you write, somewhere along the line you have to consider that ‘dirty’ word: profit. To follow that dream and be that successful author, you need to earn money from your efforts. Although, if you believe the analysis the average author earns less then £11k a year from their writing. But, note this sentence from the Bookseller article here:

“...many professional authors felt it necessary to supplement their incomes by lecturing, self-publishing and teaching, as well as through income streams such as the Public Lending Right payments, grants and bursaries, income from ALCS, prizes and fellowships.”

So being an author isn’t all about writing. If writing is what you want to do, and all you want to do…then maybe be a writer, not an author; because being an author is all about the business of being a writer, not just the writing itself.

I know it’s going to be hard work to be an author, but that’s my dream. For a long time I was simply a writer, churning out words and stories and ideas and I enjoyed the process. But I’m now in a position in my life where I want to share my words and be recompensed in some way for all the time, energy and imagination I put into it. I love my regular job – a Learning Coordinator at a museum – but I also love writing; and I want to be able to do both. That means earning some money from my writing, so that I can invest in myself and develop my skills.

I’ve already invested in myself over the years by attending an Arvon course, going to York’s Festival of Writing, completing a Comma Press short story course, to name a few. They were excellent ways to scrutinise my writing and see where I could improve; but they aren’t free. If I wanted to take my writing from a hobby to a more professional sphere I had to divert some energy into trying to find resources to support my development.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I think that’s when I realised that writing is a business. It’s about the ladder of investment – I had to improve (through paid means) my abilities to write stories so I could put my work out there into the world and readers could invest in me. Then, I can take the trust these readers have had in me, to continue developing great stories for them to read and enjoy. The more this happens, the easier it becomes to justify time spent on writing, and therefore offers more opportunity for my dream to become reality.

Of course, I used to think that ‘being a writer’ meant writing stories in isolation, sat up in that tower with an ink stain on my fingertips and some lovely person presenting me with the odd cup of tea. In this scenario I would send work out and it would be accepted first time, with adulation and praise, and then I’d go back to writing with my bank balance topped up, with the option to take holidays to exotic places that would end up in my next novel.

This is not how it is.

In my post on How to be Creatively Productive I confessed to writing my own ‘Author Job Description‘ in order to fuel my commitment to the dream of being a published author. That description says more than just ‘Write everyday’. It’s filled with identifying submission windows, reading other fiction, promoting my existing work, submitting to competitions and agents, writing blog posts and, yes, writing too. The main lesson learned here is that I have a strategy for my career as an author, and in order to make it happen I need to branch out from just being a ‘writer’ to being a proactive and professional author.

Essentially, my strategy is based on the steps I need to take to get me where I want to be as an author: a traditionally published author with a decent sales record and a book-deal that will help sustain my not-particularly-lavish lifestyle. It doesn’t quite match the romantic vision I once had, but I believe it in more because it’s underpinned by hard-work and dedication; and that’s the author I want to be known as.

So my writing life doesn’t just have me sit down at my desk and routinely tap out sentences, paragraphs, and short stories. It’s so much more than that. And with a strategy in place that guides what I ought to be doing as the author I want to become, the goal itself feels more tangible; it’s achievable, whereas the isolated writer’s tower is simply a fanciful ideal within my imagination. Suddenly, being a writer isn’t the dream…instead I’m actually an author, building my empire.

 


 

If you want to know more about how writing is a business, I’d definitely recommend Jane Friedman’s book: “The Business of Being a Writer“, which has opened my eyes up tremendously about the fundamental cogs and mechanisms that the writing profession relies upon. 


 

And, in the essence of building that empire, here’s how you could invest in my career right now.
Purchase my short story collection: The Memorial Treecover art edit amazon mod
By purchasing this short story collection you’ll:
  • Help boost my Amazon ratings so others can discover my work (especially if you leave a review and/or recommend to a friend)
  • Bring me a small profit that makes my giving up the Literature Festival work justifiable
  • Receive a selection of 5* short stories that I hope you truly enjoy
  • Get to be a rung on my ladder of investment
All it takes is a click and a download.
Thank you. 

 

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How to follow your dream

We all imagine our lives are different sometimes. Mostly, we project forward and see ourselves living the life we always wanted, whatever that may be. For me, I’m a traditionally published author with a multi-book deal, my best-selling novel is in a prominent position at all bookstores, and I’m at a book signing during my annual leave from the part-time Museum job that I love just as much as writing. (And, yes, my pup Hugo the Destroyer is sat patiently at my feet being adored by my fans.)

But how many of us actually make that dream happen? What have you done lately to take a step forward toward that ideal life you dream about? Me? I’ve just completed my August goal of submitting the complete novel to a selection of agents. In September, the focus is on writing and I’m setting a word count goal to aim for. Small steps, perhaps, but it means that I’m closer to my dream than I was this time last year.

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Make it real
The first thing to do if you want to live that life you dream about, is to admit it: know that you want it and make the decision to actively follow it. It can be scary to stand up and claim your dream life but once you do, and you tap into the desire you have, you’ll find that it’s a great motivating force. The way to do this is to write it down – as this increases the likelihood of it coming true! And if you write down your dream as if you’ve already achieved it – in the present tense – you’re already ahead of the pack, because your subconscious will process as it as though it is happening, no matter how far away it may be. [Note how I described my dream life in the present tense above?]

Break it down
Now is the time to figure out what you need to do to make your dream a reality. Do a bit of daydreaming, focus on what it is that got you to where you are in your imagination. What are the landmarks you have to pass to arrive there? To be a published author, I first have to write something worth publishing; I have to edit and polish that work to make it the best I can; I need to research agents; and I need to send out a professional submission. All of these things are in my control. What the agents decide is not.

Work backwards and make a note of all of these milestones. These are the goals you need to aim for. Now break them down too, one by one: what is it that you can do to accomplish these things? Then, the hardest part is to DO THEM: a lot of people fall down here, me included for a little while. Keep referring back to that  description of your dream life; remind yourself why you’re doing it, and take it one step at a time.

Believe it can happen
The key thing in motivating yourself to keep going in the journey to achieving your dream is to believe it can happen. If you honestly don’t think it can come true, odds are it won’t. And while I might be dreaming of becoming a published author, what I’m focused on are two of the ‘lesser’ goals associated with this: building up a profile (by submitting to competitions etc.) and submitting to those agents. These are the pit stops on the way to my dream life; I might as well enjoy them while I can! For me, that means I’m rewarding myself whenever I accomplish any step toward my dream life. This reminds me I’m consistently putting in the effort into trying to make my dream come true, and spurs me on to make it happen.

What does your dream life look like? And what are you doing to make it happen?


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This was one of my steps on my way to becoming a published author: I published something myself! Click above to view.

 

 

Fearing the Blank Page

I’m going to admit that, recently, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to write. Not only that, but I’ve noticed a distinct aversion to the task. The thought of writing at the moment fills my being with emotions akin to disgust: whatever words I may write, they are despicable and unworthy. Somewhere along the line I’ve lost the magic of writing – the freedom and joy that creating something from scratch can allow.

Not only this, but I can’t figure out why it is that I’m struggling. It seems that for unknowable reasons, right now, I do not want to write.

Except, of course, that I do.

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I’m a writer. It’s in my soul. I love finding stories in words, imagining characters and bringing them to life on the page, putting them in challenging situations and seeing what happens. The very idea that I am capable of doing this tugs on the corner of my lips and convinces me to smile. I adore storytelling. Yet, at the moment, the act of putting words on the page in any type of meaningful order seems to repel me.

So I have to invent ways to enjoy writing again. I need to take the pressure off; to go back to basics and rediscover what it means to write for myself. This might means competition deadlines must be put aside and their themes forgotten. Right now, I need the freedom to explore words in whatever form they come and not feel the need to shoehorn them into something they are not. To help me do this, I’ve decided on a few ‘easy’ exercises I hope will stimulate some creativity.

1. Go back to a simple expectation that I really only have to ‘write one sentence a day. Just one sentence a day. Everyday. How easy is that?’
2. Attempt an activity Rosie Garland reveals as one of her creative rituals:
“ I…write six images. What a snail looks like climbing up a leaf, what it felt like to stub your toe. I do it every morning without fail, if miss one I do a catch up session later.”
3. Remember that I write because I want to, not because I should.
4. Keep this in mind [Thanks goes to Rosie for putting things into perspective]:

blank page quote

Hopefully, by next week I will be able to report that my fondness for writing has returned, or at least that my skills are developing once more and I will no longer be afraid of that blank page. It’s been such a long time since I faced the dreaded blinking cursor that I’d forgotten how intimidating it can be and how fear of having no ideas can often prevent us from developing any new ideas.

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What do you do when you don’t feel like writing? “Feel the fear and do it anyway?” Or admit you might need more time and calmly wait it out?
Let me know in comments, or Tweet Me


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How to be Creatively Productive

The holiday is over and now it’s time to get back to work. At the start of the month I stepped down from my role as Secretary to Huddersfield Literature Festival. It wasn’t an easy choice, but I recognised that it had become the ‘reason’ I wasn’t writing; I was prioritising the work for the Festival over my own desire for a writing career. As such, it was time to let go of the excuses and commit to making this dream I have into a reality. The start of which was to self-publish my short story collection – The Memorial Tree. Now I need to figure out what’s next, and to do that I need organisation, good habits and some accountability.

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Time to take this writer-business seriously: one of my recent buys…

From today onward I will have at least ONE dedicated writing day every week, during which I will concentrate on the business of writing – because one of things I’ve realised recently is that writing is a business, and you have to treat it like such if you want to succeed in it. So much so that I wrote myself my own ‘job description’ for being the author I want to be: read it here if you’re interested.

So, here’s my plan for being a productive writer and fulfilling that job description. Much of this is adapted from the fabulous Jo Bendle, Productivity Coach extraordinaire, whose Wildly Successful Society I am a part of (and as a result of this amazing community I committed to publishing The Memorial Tree and other short stories).

Set Realistic Targets
I will get more specific when I’m deciding what it is I’m aiming for. Rather than just ‘enter that competition’, I will break down the tasks involved and work back from the deadline to ensure that I know exactly what is involved in accomplishing it.
I will commit to one or two things per month – not three or five, or some other insurmountable figure. It’s time to allow myself some easy wins and set some goals that I know I can achieve. Success breeds success, so why not let myself have some?
These things will be what will move me forward in my dream, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do other tasks – like blog writing, or tweeting, or reading. But it shall be these key monthly goals that will be the focus of my efforts, though I allow myself permission to change them if they’re not working for me.

Schedule my Writing Time
Every Sunday I will sit down and identify when I am going to achieve these goals. Based on the tasks that I’ve already broken them down into, I should be able to identify the best places to slot them into my week. Probably, most will happen on my dedicated writing day – but there’s enough wiggle room in my week to build in some extra time here and there.
I will prioritise the key goals I’ve set for the month. No distracting myself with blog posts or reading material. I’ll schedule in these tasks and commit to them, making sure that I allow time for other things later.

Do The Work
Seriously. I will sit down and do the work. I’ve had plenty of excuses ready over the past few months and it’s time to ditch these and simply put my bum in the seat and get stuff done.

Review the Process
It’s all well and good doing all of this, but I will also spend some time each Saturday reviewing how the week went and where I could have done better and when I smashed my goals.
I will also reflect on why certain things worked and others did not. This will provide me with the knowledge I need to improve my productivity and continue moving forward with my goals.

Finally…
I will let you know how it goes. In a month’s time I’ll report back; submission figures, reading stats, words written, and lessons learned.
Wish me luck.


How do you make sure your writing goals are accomplished?
Tweet Me and send me your top tips!


 

The Fear of No Voice

I’ve heard a lot of publishers and agents talk about this mysterious thing called a ‘writer’s voice’ – even a fair few writers have mentioned it. On a basic level it’s the unique magic that appears in a writer’s narrative – something that identifies those words, strung together in such a way with a certain tempo and beat that means you can say who’s written in within a page or two (sometimes even just a sentence or two!). 

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Often, I am convinced that I don’t have this ‘magical quality’ in my writing. As a writer can you even tell if you have a ‘voice’? Or is it something that other people have to point out for you? If I can’t even identify what it is about my writing that tethers it to me, does that mean I haven’t yet developed a ‘voice’? Can you be a good writer without a ‘voice’?

All these questions and more rattle around my head, forcing out many of the ideas and, sapping my drive, leaving me hollow with the fear of having nothing to offer. I’m sure every writer has felt this way before; early on in their writing journey; in those moments where we doubt our skills; later, when we convince ourselves we can’t write as well as we once did. Fortunately, I’m aware now that such a feeling shall pass; that I will sit down to write one day,  and the doubts will be swept away with a shrug, and I’ll get on with writing regardless.

But we do need to share this fear of having no voice with others. The terror that I lack any distinguishing talent markers in my writing is something I can’t ignore, hoping it will go away. I need to believe that other writers go through this too. Because, after all, if anything could make me feel better – that could jolt me out of this particular valley of doom – it would be to discover that another writer empathises when I own up to my fear that I have no voice. 

‘Voice’ seems like an element in the writing world that you can’t actively search for – an ephemeral being that can’t be seen by looking directly at it. If you do catch a glimpse, perhaps it is then that it turns into fear – because if you’ve found it, you’re always going to be afraid of losing it again. 


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This new collection of short stories features one of my stories – Behind Closed Doors – alongside seven other pieces from brilliant writers whom I met during a Comma Press Writing Course.

It’s a bargain at 99p on Amazon. I promise you won’t regret investing in the stories here; you’re bound to to find something you like.


 

Watching you; Watching me

As writers we often make observations of other people to help inform our craft. I like to people-watch whenever I get the opportunity – standing in a queue, waiting for a train (which is happening more and more frequently of late), or even sat at my window peering over my neighbourhood. These snippets of time allow me a great deal of insight into how people behave. The way they stand, if they fidget, and their quickening facial expressions. I don’t know if it’s the writer in me, but I can’t help putting thoughts in their minds when I observe people like this; I have no idea what their true situation may be, yet I can easily make one up.

Still, despite this habit of mine, I very rarely consider what others may observe of me if they were to turn their gaze my way. Would they see a woman in a rush, because of my long, confident strides; or a day-dreamer, lost in the thoughts beyond the furrowed brow? Even now, as I type, I wish I could see what someone else would see if they were looking this way: my pursed lips, slightly narrowed eyes and square-set shoulders, the distant sound of tapping keys as I write the new bestseller*…A pause, then a slight smile, perhaps a bittersweet sigh. Would my observer perhaps consider me a romantic, sat here at my desk writing romance novels*?

We so often look out at the world that we forget it is looking right back at us. Certainly as a writer, using my skills to scrutinise others, I have rarely considered how another author might describe me during their own people-watching time. I’d like to think they’d make me into a strong character, someone who has struggled but fought to get out of the other side; not a weak woman, whose indecisiveness has led her to live a life she isn’t quite sure she really wants.

Perhaps these are the characters we really write – the ones we do and do not want to be. The observations we make of others allow us to hide them beneath facades and behaviours uncommon to ourselves, yet ultimately the inner workings are surely all our own. They are, after all, imaginations from our own mind. Imagine writing a novel where you made all those decisions you never really considered before – the ones you were too afraid or ashamed to make – what kind of novel would that be? What kind of character might you turn out to be in the end?

So the next time I’m out and I have a momentary interlude in my day, rather than watch the people around me, perhaps I’ll reflect on what it is I am currently portraying to the world; am I the me that I want to be? Or could someone write me differently?

(*fiction comes so naturally, I can barely see a world where my writing is considered ‘romance’)

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How do you want a reader to feel?

Whenever I open a book to read for the first time I have a great sense of anticipation. Will this be my new favourite read? Will I be able to close it half way through, or will it keep me gripped until the end? Very rarely do I ever consider, ‘how will this book make me feel?’, and yet by the time I close the covers this is thing that stays with me – the feeling, the emotions that I’ve just experienced, the journey that the author has taken me on.

So, how do they do it? Speaking from my own experience of writing, it wasn’t until I understood what my values were as a writer that I began to even consider this question. Usually I just wrote my stories as they poured from my head onto the paper/screen. At that time the words were mostly for me, I hadn’t even considered a reader. But, as I began to share my work, and saw the response it would get from family, friends and those in my writing groups, I realised that as a writer my aim was to get people to stop and reflect.

I am, by nature, a fairly reflective individual myself. I like to analyse the ‘why’ of things, but while I enjoy doing this I don’t really want it to appear in my writing. Early on, it was identified by my critique partners that I tended to repeat myself in my writing. I didn’t trust the reader to determine what I was trying to communicate; mainly because I wasn’t truly clear on what it was I wanted to say.

It was then that I started to pay attention to what other authors were saying, not through the words themselves but through the emotions their writing provoked in me. Crime, in which I felt concern for the characters, or confusion at the murderers; Romance, even when I knew characters would end up together I would despair at the idiocy two people could demonstrate; Psychological Thrillers,  where I wouldn’t be able to stop reading because I needed to know what happened next – all of them, inciting curiosity but not all the same type.  It was then that I realised the reason we read isn’t because we want new stories but because we are seeking out new experiences.

Once I realised this, I started looking at my own stories and discovered that while I had themes of death, memory, loss, and regret the emotions that I was attempting to evoke were nostalgia, sentiment and reflection. I want my readers to take a moment of pause, to release a breath and recognise that invaluable space between the life of the character and their own. Sometimes I want them to feel surprise – because who doesn’t enjoy a little twist in the tale? – but still, I typically try and include an undercurrent of tranquillity in the majority of my writing.

Of course, now I understand what it is I want readers to feel I can play with it a little. I can manipulate my writing more fluently to explore how I might be able to shift my readers’ emotions. If nothing else, my own comprehension of how I want a reader to feel has expanded my writing repertoire and that’s only a good thing.



Interested in being one of my readers?
You can find my collection of short stories on Amazon.

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Challenges of a disability (or two)

It’s no secret that I live with two debilitating conditions, both of which are currently without a cure and have very little medical understanding for cause. M.E. and Fibromyalgia are difficult to manage because they are so fluctuating. I consider myself lucky enough to be able to work part-time and still enjoy many activities that others with the same diseases cannot. Yet, there are still limitations I have to consider; some of which impact both my motivation and ability to write.

What are they?
M.E is also known as ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, although fatigue is not the only symptom it is usually the most persistent. If you’re healthy, the best way to empathise is to recall a particularly busy couple of days – when you’ve barely had chance to sit, eat or think properly; you go home, exhausted, and then to bed. The next day you wake up feeling refreshed and go about your day as usual. But, imagine waking up as exhausted as you went to bed. Not, just the next day, but the one after that and again after that. That’s pretty much how M.E can feel: relentless.
Fibromyalgia is just as bad, if not worse, as it is a chronic pain condition. That deep, uncomfortable ache you get when you have flu – the real flu, not just a terrible cold – that’s as close as I can get to describing it. Everything hurts, all of the time. If I stay in one position for too long, I get stiff and find it difficult to get going again yet if I move too much the pain worsens. It’s a careful balancing act as to managing the symptoms.
Of course, there are many more symptoms of both conditions – headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, mind fog…the list can be endless, and so each day is potentially a mine-field of side-stepping the symptoms to try and live as much life as is possible without waking the ‘beasts’.

If you want to understand how this impacts on my daily life read ‘The Spoon Theory’; this is a simple analogy based on a physical number of spoons that someone is given (let’s say you have 12), and then you talk through your day, and each time a unit of energy is used (to brush your teeth, make breakfast etc.) a spoon is taken away. Most people never get to the part where they leave the house for work – which is why so many sufferers of M.E. and Fibromyalgia are either house-bound, or even bed-bound. We get a set amount of energy per day, and once it’s gone our choices are limited to borrowing from the next day (but leaving us with less choice tomorrow) or to stop and rest. Sometimes, not the easiest decision to make when people around you have expectations.

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The Consequences of Daily Life
I feel lucky – because I’ve managed to get to a point in both illnesses where I am pretty good at listening to my body and balancing my life with my conditions. It’s not luck, really, it’s been mostly trial and error; sometimes it still is. I have a job where I work Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays so that I can have rest days in between. Sometimes I push myself when perhaps I have to go in on a different day – and end up working Wednesday and Thursday. I pay for it, though. Usually by being forced to stay in bed, or on the sofa, with the option to do very little, if anything. It’s not relaxing, it is being sick – though they seem to look the same to most people when you have to do it every other day. Rest is pretty much the only thing that I can do on these days; and sometimes it takes longer than I anticipate to recover. There is no normal. One day I could push myself and the payment could be an extra day resting, but there is an equal risk that the payment could be a week’s worth of rest. It’s like living with a vicious debt-collector who is never satisfied with what you have.

Being a Writer
So, how does this impact on my writing? Well, for a start it’s difficult to feel motivated when your body is screaming out in pain and in desperate need of sleep – even when it is unrefreshing. I have problems concentrating, especially for long periods of time – so gone are the days when I could sit at my computer and write for hours on end. The most I can manage now is about an hour before the words on the screen start to jump about, my hands get unbearably sore and the headache sets in.

One of the other challenges is that I can’t really write to a set routine. It all depends on how I feel on any given day. Sometimes I can manage a couple of 45m-1hr stints, other times I can barely use a keyboard or hold a pen. I tend to know I’m struggling when I start to lose the thread of what I’m trying to write. I start sentences, and don’t know how I was going to end them.

Possibly the worst symptom, from a writer’s point of view, is the mind fog. This means I often lose words; I have to stop writing and google the word I want. I know that I know the word, but my brain just won’t access it. (I had to do it with debt-collector in the previous section). Sometimes I get the wrong word, so I have to remember to edit particularly carefully. And, the one that drives me insane, is that I’ve lost my ability to be a grammar-Nazi. I am one of those people who hates seeing ‘there’, when someone should have written ‘their’, or ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’. But now I do this regularly, and it drives me up the wall to find such mistakes in my writing when I know the difference and never used to make these mistakes.

It’s not easy to be a writer. It’s also not easy to have one, never mind two, chronic conditions that fluctuate on a daily, weekly and seasonal basis. Trying to be a writer AND live with these conditions is particularly difficult. I tend not to remember this. This is my life and I go about living it the best way I can given that circumstances that I’m in. Yet, sometimes, it’s worth it to stop and take stock of the individual challenges we all have to face, because we are following our dreams in spite of these circumstances, and we should be applauded for this.


Want to help me achieve my dream? Consider supporting me by buying my short story collection, The Memorial Tree, only £1.99 for seven short stories.


Deconstructing the Book Lover

Well, since I’ve been trying to promote my own book [if you missed the launch of my short story collection, The Memorial Tree, last week where were you?!], I’ve been considering what it is that makes us love the books we rave about. Isn’t it every authors dream to hear readers say that they enjoyed their story, believed in their characters, and admired their effortless writing style? As much as I like sitting at my desk and making things up there’s something magical about discovering that someone has been moved by the words that I’ve put together. I’ve already been lucky enough to receive a 5* review for The Memorial Tree, and I’m so grateful that this reader took the time to mention how she felt the stories were well written and had her hooked!

So, what is it about certain books that pull us into the story and keep us reading? To try and work this out, I’ve looked at five books I absolutely love – all chosen for their very different styles – and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

  1. Little Women, Louise May Alcott
    Typically, I am not a fan of the ‘British classics’, but this American one totally has my heart – as many of you who may have followed me for some time already know. Her characters are so well sketched and go through such mesmerising changes, that I almost believe I grew up with Meg, Jo, Amy, Beth, and Laurie myself! I must have re-read this more than twenty times, and each time I sob, laugh, and smile with wistful joy at their lives. I find Alcott’s writing plain and honest, and as such believable, so I immediately cherish their family and the ways they try and do good.
  2. The Gideon Smith Series, David Barnett51qwuh6qsbl-_sx325_bo1204203200_Steam Punk. I thought it was a flash in the pan and didn’t pay it much notice until David attended one of our events for Huddersfield Literature Festival (he was actually seconded in when another guest became ill, so a bit serendipitous considering I’ve become a massive fan of his work!). I think I bought the first one because David was so warm and friendly during that event and I wanted to support him as an author. Thankfully I dived straight into his book and barely looked up until I’d finished. Then it was a painstaking wait for the second and third titles each to be released. These stories aren’t just Steam Punk mixed with a bit of historical fantasy, they’re purposefully reminiscent of the old ‘penny dreadful’s and provide a raucous adventure of alternative British Empire in the 19th Century. Fun, fast-paced, and with surprisingly sympathetic characters it’s difficult not to be impressed by how well the author deftly plots his way through so many action-packed scenes. I loved the series so much, I recommended it to my Dad – and he’s now just finished his second read of all of them!
  3. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
    I was ‘forced’ to read this for my A-Levels, but was eventually pleased to realise that I had judged it far too quickly. I didn’t appreciate the narrative drive utilised by the Captain’s letters to his sister, then Frankenstein’s account, and then the creature’s story, followed again by Frankenstein and then the Captain’s final letter. But, after reading it again, I now see it as an ingenious way to lull the reader into accepting the horrors that follow with a suspension of disbelief, allow Shelley to practically have us believe that these things really, truly happened – or at least could happen! If at any point you’ve tried reading Frankenstein and didn’t finish, give it another go – I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
  4. The Princess Bride, William Goldman [*spoiler alert about the book!]172955164How many people knew this was a book before the movie in 1987? I hadn’t heard of it until my OH – when we first met – said how much he loved the movie. Of course, I discovered it was based on a book and immediately chose to read this before watching it, and I’m so glad I did! The thing I love the most about it is not the adventure story (which my OH is drawn to), but rather how much William Goldman completely swindles his readers – not just about the fiction of his grandfather reading him only ‘the good bits’ – remember Colombo aka Peter Falk as the grandfather? – but of the sequel: Buttercup’s Baby. The final section in The Princess Bride book is the first tantalising chapter of this ‘novel’ where Fezzick jumps off a cliff with the aforementioned baby. My OH was devastated when he discovered that no such book exists, or will ever exist, and that even Goldman’s foreword is all part of the fiction he built up around this story. I suppose I didn’t help matters when I laughed at his disappointment and called Goldman a genius, but to be able to carry off such a convincing fiction – that has to be great writing.
  5. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough
    I remember discovering this in a bookshop whilst I was at university and devouring it in a single weekend. I called up my Mum – also a book lover – and raved about it thinking she’d be delighted I’d found such a gem. How foolish did I feel when she admitted she had read the book years earlier when it first came out in the late 1970’s?! Not only that, but there had been a popular miniseries all about it! Granted, I was disappointed by the TV miniseries but I still adore the book. I’m not usually a family saga type of person (Little Women excluded) but, again, I was drawn into the narrative, and started to almost admire the characterful ways of Meggie, and then the fate of her children. Such a sweeping melodrama can only be successful if you create realistic and likeable characters, I think – because you have to be able to root for them across the length of their entire lives – or, rather, an entire book. I think McCullough did this really well, alongside the beautiful description of the Drogheda outback farm where Meggie grows up and meets Father Ralph. Such complex characters can only be built up through time, and in The Thorn Birds I never felt the story dragged. If anything, I never wanted it to end.

Through these five – quite different – books I’ve realised what I love most are character-driven stories that teach me something about the human condition. I want to put down a book and feel that I’ve learned something about the characters, whilst also recognising something in myself that the story has touched upon. What I need to see for a book to interest me enough to recommend it is a character journey – those characters I start the story with should have changed by the end. I like my novels to be meaningful in some way – even if only to me – and to convince me that they could be real, even if they’re fantastical.

Perhaps that’s why I write the fiction I do: this is probably the way I want my readers to feel too. They do say, write the book you’d love to read, after all.


Want to know if my fiction IS like this? Why not download my short story collection from Amazon? You don’t need to own a Kindle – most phones and tables have a kindle app that you can sign in with using your Amazon account. If you do decide to purchase, once you’ve read it – please leave a review if you can.

Publishing my Ebook

So, this week will see me publish my first ever collection of short stories as an Ebook! How exciting is that? It’s taken me a long time to get to this point and I’ve amassed such a collection of writing that it seemed only right to share some of them with the world. So, on Sunday 1 July The Memorial Tree and other short stories will be available from Amazon at the very reasonable price of £1.99. It’s taken some preparing, so here’s how I’ve planned the first Ebook in my publication journey…

Stories
Obviously one of the first things I had to do was choose which stories would work in a collection together. Initially I was looking at three sections with varying lengths of story – flash (under 1,000 words), short form (1,000-3,000 words) and long form (3,000+). I had at least 2/3 of each, but it began to seem quite unwieldy and there was no real central theme tying them all together.
In the end, I looked at a selection of my favourite stories – the ones that I felt were really worthy and close enough to ‘publishable’ as they would ever get – and found that they had a lot in common; they all explored loss, remembrance and nostalgia. It shouldn’t have surprised me, given my preference to kill off my characters (see this post here if you didn’t already know this about my writing!), but it was nice to see that link thread its way through all of the stories.
There’s only one new addition to the collection, and that is the sequel to the title story – The Memorial Tree. As I shared recently there was always a line in this particular story that niggled at me, suggesting there was another narrative that was waiting to be told. So, to end the collection I decided to write it. If you want to know how it goes, you’ll have to buy the book. 😉

Cover
© Luke GleadallI had no idea how to tackle this, but I’m fortunate that I have a very tech-savvy fiance who is quite creative when it comes to images and photography. He was already familiar with a couple of the stories and their imagery, so I gave him a brief, explained the theme of the book and left him to it, wondering if his vision matched my own.
Then, on his day off from work he put together this beautiful cover for me. I think it perfectly demonstrates the themes and has the added bonus of visually representing three out of the seven stories. I’m really pleased with its simplicity and colour palette, but I hope you like it too! After all, the cover has to convince an audience that they want to read these stories over the wealth of other material out there!

Launch
Now, this was the one thing I neglected to consider when I set out to publish an Ebook. Writing the stories is within my comfort zone; convincing people that they want to pay money to read them is definitely way out of it!
I’d promised myself that publishing the Ebook would be my ‘Quarter Two’ goal for the year, so it was originally on my radar to publish in mid-June. But, as usual, life got in the way and things got pushed back a little. Still, I don’t want to start the second half of the year attempting to catch up with a goal I’d set at the start of it. So, I’m making do with a condensed launch that will see the release happen on 1 July.
As such, here’s all the important information you need to know about the release of my first collection of short stories…

  • Subscribe to my Enewsletter list before 30 June  and you can enter to win a FREE copy of The Memorial Tree and other short stories
  • Pre-orders will be available on Wednesday 27 June – to coincide with National Writing Day (when else should you celebrate writing a collection of short stories?)
  • Official release date is Sunday 1 July and the initial price will be £1.99

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I’d love it if you could support me by purchasing a copy of the Ebook – and hopefully you’ll enjoy it enough to leave a lovely little review on Amazon to help other buyers make their choice.

Here’s hoping that my first collection won’t be my last!