Saturday 25 April 2015

Cheap as chips!

Just a quickie to let you know that, for anyone who hasn't got it but would like to give it a go, Kings and Queens is now on a Kindle Countdown offer for only 99p/99c, lasting from Tuesday 28th April to Monday 4th May.

It's a contemporary drama about the life and loves of property developer Harry Lanchester, told through the eyes of the women in his life, and is a 20th/21st century retelling of the story of Henry VIII

It's got stacks of really excellent reviews (and no, I haven't got that many friends!).  A while back I wrote a blog post with a few excerpts from some of them; it's HERE

You don't need to know anything about history to enjoy it; it can be read just as a contemporary drama.  For my test readers, I chose one who knew absolutely nothing about the period, not even the names of all Henry's wives, to make sure it stood up convincingly. 

The sequel, Last Child, is also now available. 

Thank you for your interest!

Monday 20 April 2015

Excuse me while I slip into something more comfortable....

Imagine this scenario.  Hunky guy is invited back to gorgeous woman's flat after hot date.

Gorgeous Woman: Help yourself to a drink, and do excuse me while I slip into something more comfortable...

Hunky Guy: But of course!  Opens brandy bottle, smiling, thoughts of black silk and lace running through his mind.

Two minutes later, enter stage left: 
Gorgeous Woman: That's better!  Flops onto sofa.  You can pour me one of those, t0o.

Hunky Guy's mouth drops open.  Gorgeous woman wears not the black lingerie of his fantasies, but a faded AC/DC 1998 tour t-shirt with toothpaste stains down the front, and a pair of man's pyjama trousers with a hole in the knee.

I'm talking about Leezurewear

Yes, yes, I know it's spelt leisurewear.  It's just how my sister and I (and, thus, many of our friends) spell it, because we pronounce it in the American way, ie 'lee-surewear' rather than 'leh-surewear'.  Works best if you say it with an American accent, too (at least until you're comfortable with it....).  It's probably not even a real word; should it be two words?  I'll leave my proofreading sister to decide, and no doubt tell me in the comments!

I have not been guilty of the ruining a hot date scenario, but must say that one of the joys of working from home, or just not going out to work, period, is being able to wear leezurewear more often.  In fact, most of the time. 

Socially acceptable leezurewear

I have a selection of leezure trousers.  At the moment I am wearing my rather (un)fetching miscellaneous animal print ones that are too big in the arse and too long.  Until I actually got properly dressed today (at around lunch time) I was wearing them with a pink and white striped vest that I'd worn in bed the night before.  I also own some striking half-mast black velvet trews (£3.99 from Store 21 in Jarrow), and another pair of two-summers-ago blue and white flowery ones, with holes in.  These items will not necessarily be worn with anything matches them.  Because they are leezurewear, and this you wear only for comfort, not for style.  Comfort is all.

Leezurewear: see that casual fit, the ease with which the wearer stands, hand placed comfortably in pocket?

When I worked in an office, the first thing I did when I got home was to get into my old faithfuls, waiting for me upstairs.  The office in which I worked was not one of those that required me to wear anything too smart, but I still had to look respectable.  I went to work dressed in flattering trousers and some sort of smart top, a conscious choice based on aesthetics, unlike the clothes I put on when I got home, which would be ill-fitting, ill matched, and with coffee stains down the front within an hour or so of putting them on (whether I'd drunk coffee or not, it seemed).  

There are different grades of leezurewear.  My sister and I have a name for the one in between at-home-only disgusting garments, and work clothes:  this is socially acceptable leezurewear.  It might be smart leggings and a huge but presentable t-shirt.  Or a natty hat, as worn by actor Josh Holloway, below.  In SAL, you can go shopping, receive visitors, even go to the pub if there is not likely to be anyone in there who you want to impress.   

Actor Josh Holloway models socially acceptable leezurewear

True leezurewear, though, is so unfetching that you can only wear it at home and in the company of friends.  The garments that have become as much part of you as your skin, that you can only wear in front of very close friends, and definitely not in front of someone you might want to have sex with in the future, unless they already love you very much (and even then it might be best not to).  

I'm talking the truly appalling trousers with the holes in the crotch, the once bright yellow band t-shirt that you found you know not where, sporting curious stains that will never quite come out.  
My best ever leezure item was a velour jumper bought from a charity shop in Cromer for £1.99.  On a cost-per-wear basis, I probably got 3287 wears per penny out of my black velour jumper.  I had it for around 8 years.  By the time Julia told me I really ought to throw it away (I needed telling), it was so worn out you could actually see through the front of it.

It was a sad day indeed.  Julia used to have a garment we called her David Lee Roth trousers (I can't remember why); they lived with her for about 20 years.  I think at one time they had patches on the back and crotch, and the knees were more hole than trouser.  I don't think she ever got over losing them; not even the size 18-20 jogging bottoms she bought from Cromer Indoor Market (she is a size 10-12) could replace them.

Years ago, on MySpace, I had a photo album on my profile entitled 'My friends in their leezurewear'.  My online and real life chums used to send me pictures of themselves in their favourite items, fully annotated to point out particularly alluring features like baggy knees and embarrassing holes.  It was a good album!  I wish I still had all the pictures; I could have shown you the black velour jumper in all its grisly glory.  

What are your most beloved (and possibly disgusting) items?  The best leezurewear is often appropriated rather than bought.  Back in the early 1990s Julia had a fab t-shirt that an ex-boyfriend of her flatmate had left behind.  It was one of those that was good quality originally, probably why it was such a pleasure to wear.  I then nicked it off her and wore it for many years; I loved it.  It disappeared along with another boyfriend.  I wonder if it's been passed on to anyone else?  There was nothing particularly noticeable about it, it was just great leezurewear.

Me wearing the t-shirt owned by many, in 1996, sporting it in the socially acceptable way, ie, tucked in to still comfortable denim shorts.  It was subsequently stolen by the soon to become ex who took this picture.  Perhaps he only wanted me for the t-shirt in the first place.

.... and now we come to the downside of wearing comfortable clothes because you are at home all the time.  After a while, it becomes really hard to wear anything else.  I do put reasonable clothes on, and make-up and earrings, just to nip to the shops, because if I didn't I would end up looking like a bag lady all the time instead of just 80% of it.  But even then, my respectable clothes are things with stretchy waistbands, no heels, nothing that might be any effort to wear.  This is partly because being at home all the time, sitting down at a laptop, means that wearing shorts like the ones in the picture above is now but a faded, distant memory.  Yes, another downside: when you don't have to make yourself look good for work every day you don't notice when your clothes are getting, shall we say, a little more snug, until you have to actually go somewhere looking proper smart.  That's when you look in the mirror and gasp "where the hell did all that come from???" 

Never mind, though.  You only have to endure looking smart for a few hours, with that held in stomach, being careful not to slosh red wine down your top, etc, and then you can come home, tear all those once-every-six-months clothes off and .... get back into your leezurewear...

...just like actor Josh Holloway... now there's a man who looks like he knows how to stay comfortable....!!

Saturday 11 April 2015

Be visible, be discovered....

Let's get visible!  Yes, but how?

The thing I find the most frustrating about this whole self-publishing business is how so many truly excellent books don't get read simply because people don't know they're there.  No, I don't just mean mine!!!, but those I read and know so many others would love, too, if only they were aware of their existence.

Obviously, the biggest key to getting seen is Amazon visibility, which is hard to achieve unless you regularly hit top spots in genre charts, have an agent or publisher behind you, or however else the big names get their wares in the shop window. 

When I posted My Top 20 books of 2014 a couple of people asked me how I'd discovered the books in the first place, because the only 'indie' ones they'd tried had been rubbish (actually, not all the books in that list are 'indie', though most of them are) and they didn't know where to look for those that really are good.  So, I had this idea.  To give readers an idea of how to find self-published books worth reading, and to give writers examples of how to make their books something other than invisible, I thought it would be fun to take the ten books on my book review blog's quarterly round-up, ie, my pick of January, February and March this year, and tell you how I discovered each one.  At the end, we can draw conclusions!

Here goes:

My top ten picks of the books I read in the first quarter of this year, in no particular order.  To see my full review of each book, click the title.

1.  Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals by Mark Barry. 
I got to know Mark when he asked me if he could interview me on his blog.  I bought one of his books just out of curiosity, and loved it so much I've now read four of his; this was the third.  Mark is self-published.

2.  Literastein by Phil Conquest
I met Phil on MySpace in 2007, because we both wrote stuff, and we've kept in touch ever since; I used to read his blog posts, thought he was a terrific writer and was one of those who persuaded him to get his work off his laptop and out into the world.  You know, I nagged him a lot.  It was worth it.  Phil is self-published.

3.  The Turning of the World by John Privilege
This is a funny one - John made a sarcastic remark to me on Twitter about my over-tweeting of a free promotion, and I must have been in a good mood because instead of making a smart remark back I agreed that yes, I probably had overdone it a bit but it was only for a couple of days while the book was free.  We chatted a bit.  I said, okay, then, I get that you're totally anti promotion, but let's have a look at your book.  It just happened to be my current favourite genre (post apocalyptic drama), so I bought it.  Started to read it and it blew me away.  John is self-published.

4.  Mantle of Malice by April Taylor
We got chatting on Twitter because of our mutual interest in the Tudors.  I read the first of her trilogy and liked it so much I bought and read the others too; this is the third.  April is published by Carina UK, a popular ebook imprint of a traditional publisher.

5. The Great Law of Peace by Zoe Saadia
Saw Zoe's blog and books on Twitter, impressed by her extensive knowledge of a fascinating subject.  I'm currently reading my 4th of her Native American history novels.  Zoe is self-published.

6. The Goddard Affair by Scott Marlowe.  
Scott submitted this book to Rosie Amber's book blog review team, for which I write reviews on a regular basis.  Scott is self-published.

7. Living By Ear by Mary J Rowen
I read a guest post by Mary on another book blog, A Woman's Wisdom.  It was a very good interview and Mary seemed like my sort of person, so I glanced down at the blurb for her book.  The subject matter appealed, I bought it, loved it.   It's worth mentioning that Mary's post was nothing to do with her book, but about something entirely different that made me want to click on the link in the first place.  Mary is published by indie publisher Booktrope.

8. Mad World by Kate L Mary
I saw the first one in the Broken World trilogy (this is the third) on an Amazon 'customers also bought' list, when looking at another book of a similar genre.  The title and cover caught my eye, so I bought it.  Liked it enough to keep reading, and the trilogy got better with each book; I'm looking forward to the fourth, which is out this month!  Kate is self-published.

9. Six Months To Get A Life by Ben Adams
Another book I chose from those submitted to Rosie's book review team.  Ben is indie published by Clink Street publishing.

10. A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift.
I came across Deborah Swift when wandering around Twitter, had a quick look at her blog because she writes about stuff that's totally up my street, and chose another of her books, The Gilded Lily, because the blurb made me think, yes, that's the one for me.  I'm now a fan!   Deborah is traditionally published, by Pan.


What does this all say to you?  To me it says that readers who want to look further than their old favourites can discover new ones by reading book blogs, and not just letting all those book promotion tweets float past them, unclicked, on Twitter!  I know all this #mustread! 5*!  Read it NOW or die!  The best book ever! stuff can get a bit tedious, but if a book has got 40 genuine 5* reviews it might actually be pretty good.  Or the subject matter might appeal; that's what I look at.  

In Cromer in Norfolk where I used to live, the library had a section for little known books with labels like "if you like Maeve Binchy, you'll like..." etc.  Book bloggers often serve a similar function, I think. 

My conclusions for writers are thus: 
  • write really good books, and make them as good as you can, even if it means doing yet another re-draft when you think you can no longer stand the sight of it.  Make people want to read them to the end, review them, tell their friends and buy another!  This is the most important one, of course, without which all the rest mean little.
  • Network with other writers and bloggers (in a sincere way, not just in the hope that they will help promote you).
  • Submit your books to book blogs, take an interest in and support the blog.
  • Talk to people on social networking sites, don't just post book promo tweets and RT fifty others.
  • Put your books in the right categories on Amazon.  Choose snappy titles and eye-catching covers.  Write blurbs that will make people want to read the book, not long summaries of the plot.  Some ideas about that HERE
In other words, all the stuff you already know, really!  The key thing is not to just know it, but to actually do it, though.
It all takes time, and it's a long game.  One pretty successful self-published writer said recently that your readership comes in ones and twos, not very often  even in fives and tens.  I think this is so right, especially these days; back before self-pub there were a limited amount of books and authors to choose from, but now there are thousands and thousands and thousands more, whose work was not available before.  People can only read so many books, but if you do the best you can to make yours be seen you at least have some chance of getting them chosen out of the millions available!

If everyone reading this went to one book blog and bought one of the books they saw recommended....   


Sunday 5 April 2015

Easter Joke

Best Easter Joke

(I've put it on a blog post so I can share it on Twitter #hashtag days too!!)

....and thank you to the queen of witty one-liners, Carol Hedges, from whom I nicked it in the first place!!!