‘From the Shadows I Review’ Char, shows us some Indie love!

947010_4229721879863_122281819_nToday we’re back to the book blogger feature.  For the rest of this week I’ll have another round of guest posts from my lovely reviewer friends.  Today is the turn of Char Sharp.  Like most of the book reviewers I’ve met since I started publishing, I first came across Charmaine (I’m not sure if I sound like I’m scolding her when I call her Charmaine but we’ll go with it!) on Twitter.   She is very entertaining and refreshingly honest online so I warmed to her immediately.

The thing I love about Char’s reviews is that she always able to pinpoint specifics. Each review is thorough and she breaks it down into very specific aspects, which is great and shows that even if she hasn’t particularly liked a book, she’s still given it a great deal of thought.  I like the way she includes thoughts on the cover, blurb and pricing. If she doesn’t like something, she says so, but that honesty gives her reviews integrity.  Here’s what she had to say in response to my questions about reviewing:

What peeves you when authors request reviews?

So something I’ve realised while blogging is that authors expect certain things from bloggers. It’s like an unspoken blogging etiquette thing that all reviewers pick up along the way. For example some of them are negotiable like some of us (me!) will post negative reviews while others choose not to. Either way is cool in my opinion. However sometimes the reaction from authors is… rude, childish and downright inconsiderate. So what I thought I’d do, is explain a few things authors can do to make friends not enemies with the blogging community.

  • Don’t just send your book to random blogs – Do your homework. Read a blog properly. If you look over the post titles you’ll find out what type of books the blogger reads. Read a few reviews, you’ll see the blogger’s style. We all have different individual styles. Mine tend to be in depth yet focused. If you only want positive reviews, you have 2 choices: 1. Go to a blog that doesn’t post reviews with ratings under 3 stars (I personally don’t trust those blogs but whatever floats your boat.). or 2. Make sure that the blogger you’re approaching is a fan of your genre. Otherwise you’re risking a negative review.
  • Sell your book to the blogger – Tell me about your book! Don’t just say “Will you review my book?” I used to chase up authors that did that. I’d ask them to send me the blurb, now it’s a straight up refusal. I don’t want to be rude, but you’re asking for my time, the least you can do is add your synopsis to your email. I don’t want your GR link, I don’t want your Amazon page. I want to know what I’m being asked to read. So yes, we’re giving you our time, please appreciate that.
  • Deal with a negative review with grace [Part 1] – Someone didn’t like your book, it’s not the end of the world. If you can’t take the criticism, you’re not ready to be a published author. If you feel you must read the review, read it properly. Take the time to find out what the blogger didn’t like.
  • Deal with a negative review with grace [Part 2] – For the love of all that is nice in this world don’t take to your blog/Facebook/Twitter/Goodreads and insult the reviewer! All that happens is the reviewer talks to another reviewer, who talks to another reviewer and your reputation is dead. We’re a community, we don’t like authors who don’t respect us. I would never insult an author in a review. Your book is what I’m reviewing not your lifestyle choices, your imagination, you as a person in general. I don’t like your book, I’m sorry. I will apologise for this in my review, I’ll also tell you why as best I can. Don’t resort to insulting me and slagging me off as a person. It’s hurtful. You don’t know anything about me, bullying is not acceptable on any level.

How can authors help you to help them?

  • Don’t be afraid to specify where you’d like your review posted – So, you’ve asked for a review, the blogger has said yes (oh happy days!) and they’ve reviewed it and showed it to you. Now by default I’ll post my reviews to GR and my blog. If you want Amazon ask me! I don’t bite! Seriously though, if you ask I’ll use my mum’s account and post the review on Amazon (I don’t have an Amazon account, I don’t want one, we have a family one.) because you’ve taken the time to ask me.
  • Take the time to promote – Essentially, wonderful indie authors, I’m showcasing my thoughts on your book, I’m giving you airtime on my blog, so how about you return the favour? It’s not obligatory but it always makes me happy when an author RTs a tweet about my review or promotes on their blog or Facebook page. It’s a sign of appreciation and it makes me want to hunt you down to hug you. I review because I love books, I review indie because I love the relationship between indie authors and reviewers. It breaks down a barrier between readers and traditionally published authors, take advantage of that!! (Although, some traditionally published authors are fantastic on Twitter. Rachel Caine, Sophie McKenzie & Michelle Zink have all RT’d me and Michelle tweeted me. I heart her!)

The same genre can encompass many different types of story – for example, fantasy ranges from Terry Pratchett to Twilight and everything in between. How hard is it to remain objective in your review if a feature of a book doesn’t float your boat? Say you get a fantasy about unicorns and unicorns are just not your bag!

I read the synopsis before I accept a book for review. However sometimes even that doesn’t save you from falling victim to a book you wouldn’t normally read. If a story isn’t what the blurb says it’s gonna be I do point it out but I try to review it for what it is not what I thought it was. For the most part I try not to let emotions get in the way but I fail sometimes. Rarely though.

What are your feelings on the growing army of indie authors?

I love them. There are some really lovely authors that I adore and talk to a lot on Twitter. I love how accessible they are and how willing they are to get involve with bloggers and that. (“and that” is obviously a technical term. I just don’t know what for.)

How does the quality of their work hold up against traditionally published? Do you accept reviews from both and what would it take to change your mind on your current policy?

The quality varies. Some indies are obviously self publishing for a reason (sorry guys!)  and it shows. There are also some that are badly edited and just (nearly) impossible to read. However, there are some stunning indie authors and I always want to praise the God of reading (who I shall call Frank for no reason whatsoever) when I discover their books. I accept both indie and trad books. I have been known to change my review policy because of authors. I had to add that if they didn’t send me book info they’d get a flat out refusal. I think my current policy is solid though.

Describe your reviewing schedule. How many hours do you put in a week/ day? How does this impact on other aspects of your life?

I have a rough schedule but I rarely manage to keep it up. I think it’s going to even out at 4-5 posts a week. I read a lot and a review can take hours to write. Especially if I handwrite it first (I’ve been known to do this. In pencil. I’m a leftie. Pen’s a pain.). I don’t think it overly impacts anything. I have agoraphobia so I have to do something inside might as well be something productive. (Would like to point out I’m getting better!

What started you book blogging?

I wanted somewhere to give my honest opinions on books. I know I could do that on Goodreads or Amazon but I wanted a place to call my own and I really wanted a blog called ‘From the Shadows I Review’ yes… I had the name before the blog… GO ME!!!

What makes you continue to do it?

I love what I do. I have an audience that likes what I do.  While I have get hits on the blog and people telling me I’m good at what I do I’ll keep doing it. (It also gives me something to focus on).

I think that’s the main points. I’m not saying you have to do these things but it’d be so awesome if you did! I love YA, I love indie! Indie YA is two of my favourite things in one! So this is my great excuse for giving you a few tips on making your author life a happy one! I can’t guarantee all bloggers do it like me but I’m a one off *insert cheesy wink*!! So I hope you like my author etiquette pointers and I hope that encourages you to stop by From the Shadows I Review sometime!! (Sorry! Had to get the self promotion in there!) Hey… maybe you’ll ask me to review your book!! Wouldn’t that be the best? Okay, getting excited and ahead of myself. I’m stopping while I’m ahead.

I love you indie authors and especially the hostess with the mostest, the delightful Sharon, for allowing me to come and be Char the Indie Author Agony Aunt on her blog!

Be sure to check out Char on her website, as she has very kindly linked for old lazy bones me above.  You can also follow her on Twitter and be entertained almost hourly!  Tomorrow we’ll be hearing from Jack Croxall, who not only writes fantastic novels himself, but reviews others on his website , for an insight into how being an author influences the way you review.

Dreams can come true…

You can add Runners to your bookshelf on Goodreads

You can add Runners to your bookshelf on Goodreads

Six years ago I had a very strange dream in which a group of teenagers trekked across a barren landscape on a quest. I woke in the middle of the night and wrote it all down, each kid somehow a real, fully formed person that just squeezed out of my head and onto the notepad. I didn’t know what the quest was; all I knew was that they were on a great journey. A bit like the one Runners began the very next day.

I’m sure in lots of guest posts over the coming months, I’ll be talking about the characters of the book, what influenced the plot and setting, what I think about who is the strongest/ most reliable/ my favourite. So this post is going to be about the journey that the book has taken from my head that night to publication, for that has been a quest in itself.

I’d never actually finished writing a book before, though I had attempted many over the previous years. I was just coming to the end of the first year of my English and creative writing degree. I started the book straight away and worked on it during the summer holidays in between reading texts for the new term that would follow in September. I had an old cranky desktop computer which promptly died at around chapter four, so I resorted to carting the book file around on a memory stick between different computers at the university library and at my brothers’ houses. I worked whenever and wherever I could. At that time my daughters were still young so their care had to be factored in somewhere too, which often led me to work late into the night after they had gone to bed. It seemed that, for the first time, a book was just not going to leave me alone until it was out. By the time the new term had begun I had a first draft, which I nervously printed out and took to show my friend, Louise (an extremely talented writer herself) who was in the same creative writing class as me. I expected her to make up some sort of excuse, or give me a vague ‘it was good’, but she brought the manuscript back a matter of days later and told me she loved it. Still, I thought, she’s being nice to me because she’s my friend.

But I got the bug, I wrote another book straight away (which became Sky Song) and I was just addicted to writing more and more stories for a while so Runners sat on my memory stick (you’ll be relieved to hear that I got a new computer from my student loan too!). Then I saw a competition run by Chicken House for new novels. I entered Runners. My friend was convinced that I was going to win. I didn’t, but it did go past the first stages and that, considering the sheer number of entrants and that, really, looking back, the draft was far from complete, was an encouraging sign. So I worked on it some more and sent it to another competition. This time it made the long list. I knew it wasn’t finished. I rewrote it again. I tried a few agents but got the inevitable rejections. I gave it a new title (it wasn’t called Runners at first) I tried a brand new publisher who was calling for full manuscripts and they wrote a fantastic email saying that they had read it and that it was a ‘well written and heart-warming tale’ but, unfortunately, it wasn’t for their list.

Then university got more demanding and I had other creative writing projects to do for my degree and Runners got forgotten. I’m ashamed to say that I lost faith in it – perhaps I was mistaken, perhaps it really wasn’t all that good. Every so often my friend would remind me of how much she loved it and she’d tell me I ought to be submitting it again but I worked on other things. Just before my university course ended in 2009 I began to help out at Immanion Press as an editor; soon I was taken on with pay and it began to take up lots of my time. Shortly after that, I graduated and I had to get a day job too and so writing took a back seat for a couple of years.

Fast forward to 2012. Two things happened at the same time and my life took a surprising but wonderful path. Firstly, I met another local writer, Mel Sherratt, who had been self-publishing, very successfully, on Amazon KDP and gave me so much advice and support about it that I had the idea to self-publish Runners. Then, just as I was preparing to do that, Immanion Press, who had never published Young Adult before, decided they were going to create a Young Adult list and offered me a contract for Runners. With the ego boost, I started to write again, lots and lots. The Sky Song trilogy became my first foray into self-publishing instead and I’ve loved every minute of the ride so far.

Some things are undoubtedly meant to be. I’m convinced (as I’m an incurable romantic at heart) that my silly little dream might just be the start of something wonderful. It certainly changed my life.

Amy Bookworm reveals what she loves about book blogging and surefire ways to hack her off!

As with many of the bloggers I’ve got to know this year, I met Amy through Twitter.  She’s still at school herself (one of the actual young adults that read young adult!).  She’s enthusiastic and passionate about literature and throws herself into any event wholeheartedly.  Not only that, but she’s a Whovian, so that makes her pretty cool in my eyes!  This is what Amy had to say in response to my questions about her reviewing habits:

Name your top 5 peeves from author review requests

Well, I’ve not had issues with review requests before but it’d annoy me if:
1) I know it sounds silly but if I was led into thinking I was reading a rough length of say 200 pages & it was much out I’d be annoyed. I like to know the length of the novel, I can research but they should know I care about length 😛
2) Their request was too wordy & had no pictures. They may not have a cover yet but if they have no images related to the request they shouldn’t write it as a block of text which makes no sense to me (maybe they could just make it short, sweet & not peeve me off- who cares about professionalism… much!?). If I have to use a dictionary to understand the email how will I understand their novel?
3) For some reason they haven’t told me their book title. Just requesting a review of ‘a book’ is silly… I’d probably be tempted to reply something like ‘I am interested, can I please review [insert book on TBR I don’t own]?’
4) They had too high expectations. If they told me something like, “X has 95% 5* reviews, I have spent X hours on this novel & I expect you to read it in [short space of time] & enjoy it!’ then I’d delete it. They didn’t say I had to 5* it but I’d infer it if I’m honest & the time you spent on it? Crikey. I don’t need to feel bad if I don’t like it because X amount of time was spent on it. Therefore I must read it in X amount of time? Ooh, and if I don’t enjoy it you’re the last person I want to tell.
5) They had no social networking at all (or didn’t let me know they have). No twitter, no goodreads, no nothing… So, I have to email them about their book? There’s nothing quick about that! I love to let authors know what I think as I’m reading basically… If I can’t do that my experience doesn’t always feel “wholesome”. Depends on other things too…
The same genre can encompass many different types of story – for example, fantasy ranges from Terry Pratchett to Twilight and everything in between. How hard is it to remain objective in your review if a feature of a book doesn’t float your boat? Say you get a fantasy about unicorns and unicorns are just not your bag, how does that influence your opinion?
I think this would definitely influence my opinion but to what extent… That I’m not sure of. I think it’s important to note I am a very selective reader. I tend to do my research & hopefully it would avoid issues like this. Believe me- I’d rather say ‘No’ to a review request! Sometimes there’s not a lot of info out there but taking chances are fine. I would personally mention in my review that it was more of taking a chance than usual. The rule of thumb is honesty. No exceptions, at least not in the book blogger type I come under 😉 Gosh… that sounded weird. Going back to the point, I will mention those features & how they affected me, what I thought of them & explain them so others can make up their own mind. The reasons I, hypothetically & using your example, didn’t like unicorns might be the reasons someone else loves them! Every opinion is influenced by something- be it the horns of the animal or something much bigger which you just want to hint at. I’ve seen this & seen reviewers being attacked for it; there’s definitely good reasons to not leave negative reviews but as I’ve said I’m honest & that means sharing a mix of negative, and positive (mostly, I hope), opinions. On genres, on features, on book covers… Whatever!
What are your feelings on the growing army of indie authors? How does the quality of their work hold up against traditionally published? Do you accept reviews from both and what would it take to change your mind on your current policy?
…This is an absolutely great topic. Why? I don’t think anyone is yet to fully understand it. I don’t mean why there’s a growing army of indie authors. That’s obvious. Firstly, we all have our own opinions on indie’s & mine is that they’re great. There are indie books which may not have been published otherwise but would’ve deserved readers… and they got them! It’s not hypothetical anymore. It’s not an author’s dream anymore. Don’t you love the feeling that this can be a reality? Authors can do whatever they like with their stories, they don’t have to sell their rights (nor their royalties like they are nothing- which they’re not *cough* publishers *cough*). Hence why indie’s exist. They want to have their book in their own hands… And hopefully have fingerprints of readers, not of the publishing “let’s make money out of this!” variety, in said book.
I don’t think my review policy will ever change because of the aforementioned. I know there’s likely to be low quality indie books and they give the community it’s bad name. But who’s to say everything traditionally published I’ve read is high quality? It’s not. Negative reviews don’t just exist for indie’s. Unfortunately they often have more effect on Indie’s; people are more like to believe thoughtless negative reviews, not of the more helpful negative type, for indie’s because a publisher didn’t buy said book. Do they read the reviews that accompany 1*, 2* or maybe even 3* ratings or do they decide not to read it because it’s indie? I will never entirely know, as I said! I’d like to think nobody assumes that because publishers didn’t take it on & put hard work into it that the author didn’t either. But is that the nastier side of the reality I described?… It’s not all a bed of roses which is why I respect indie’s and will happily review their books in addition to the fair number of traditionally published books I read.
Describe your reviewing schedule. How many hours do you put in a week/ day? How does this impact on other aspects of your life?
It’s hard to stick a numerical figure on to that. I could put a figure that says something like:

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That’s proper descriptive, alright? 😛 I don’t have a reviewing schedule or a schedule for any part of my blogging, really. I never blog on a Sunday, that includes writing posts, posting my posts then & much more of my online activity. It’s my cut down day. You’d think, and so would my parents, that my cut down day would be during the week. And in a way, I have one then. But only from recently- rehearsals in the choir I’m in have been more frequent & that’s every Wednesday now, at least! So, I love that. I love blogging too but I cut down when I want to do something else I love- like my Art (which is mainly homework to be fair, so time-consuming), singing or spending time with family (that’s on Sunday, and it’s not just with my parents… it’s the wider family). That means I don’t blog as much as some but I never expected to be a 24/7 blogger. I never expected to blog as much as I do, even, though! And I didn’t expect to say ‘Huh?’ to this question until you asked it. Sure, it takes up quite a bit of time. I post 1 or 2 reviews a week; not just reviews though! Each review takes me on average 1-2 hours. Closer to 2 often :L It doesn’t sound a lot but I have to make time for other posts, other contact with authors (though reading their books? That’s one of the best!) & of course the reading! It sounds obvious, or maybe odd… To me they are the elements of blogging that I can think of from the top of my head.

What started you book blogging? What makes you continue to do it?

I say the same thing for starting it every time (sorry). I was inspired by Vlogging. I don’t mean I vlogged but I used to watch just vloggers until I stopped off at booktubers (yes, vloggers but bookish ones who basically video what I blog now). Lots had goodreads & I’d been a referral from google many a time. I always googled bookish things and it’d direct me there even for quotes! I didn’t realize much about it until I signed up, followed these vloggers, started reviewing, doing other stuff & ended up finding out about the non-video equivalent. I liked those reviews too and the blogs were a good idea so… hey, presto! I wish I could say a certain blogger did but really it was a journey which took months & eventually I blogged myself, not understanding quite the size of the community just knowing that I’d seen some pop up here & there. Now I know the truth 😉 Now I know the truth I can’t go completely. I can cut down, even if it’s not for long at all. I have to be here at least some of the time having these great experiences. The great experiences making connections with authors, bloggers & helping others to make them where I can. I’m quite a small (not just height-wise) blogger but that’s not what matters. It’s not stats alone that drive me, it’s you guys! The fabulous community which I am going to give a… WAIT FOR IT! *Big Hug* web-counters.org

Yup, it’s all about the hugs *giggles* Oh, don’t forget the cookies… We make, and eat, some great cookies in my blogging group, Blogger Lift. Yay for us! Thanks for having me here today (: I’ve really enjoyed answering these epic, ramble-provoking questions Sharon!

You can find Amy on her wonderfully vibrant and enthusiastic blog here… Or follow her on Twitter

Tomorrow is Friday *cue wild cheers* so there will be a break from the blogging feature to find out what’s in my earholes.  Who knows what musical treasure you we’ll dig up?  But worry not, there will be more book blogger musings on Saturday 🙂

Liz of Liz Loves Books shares her thoughts on being a new blogger

Guess where I met Liz?  When I first got to know this delightful tweet-addict she read avidly and reviewed pretty much everything she read on Amazon and Goodreads. This is brilliant, but what’s even better is that last month she launched her own book blog, Liz Loves Books.  Liz is incredibly vocal and passionate about the authors she loves and all things literary, so it seemed only natural that I would seek her thoughts on book blogging and reviewing.  Here’s what she had to say:

imagesSo I finally got my website up and running. With a lot of blood sweat and tears, I can now finally blog about the books I love, point people towards things I think they will enjoy and generally try and get my love of reading over to the world. With the help of Twitter and Facebook the world really is my oyster.

So how have I been finding it? Well its interesting I have to say. I’ve always had my favourite genres but I have also always been willing to read ANYTHING if someone tells me its GOOD. Now of course, I’m in a position to be able to be the person saying whether its good or not, and perhaps encourage others to try something they may not dip their toes into normally. I’ve seen other bloggers get some crap thrown their way when asked for an honest review and actually GIVING one. I’ve watched some bloggers struggle with whether to give a review or not because they have not liked a book. So its all been a learning curve for me. A HUGE peeve that is in my mind, even before I started down this road proper was those authors who seem to expect you to love their book just because. Its been around a bit – on Facebook and Twitter – really quite nasty comments aimed at a reviewer who has honestly said they think the book is, well, rubbish. Some books ARE rubbish. Some books will be loved my many and hated by a few and vice versa. Readers are funny creatures you know. They love what they love and they get annoyed if a book is badly written or just plain bad…me I’ve been known to send a book sailing out of the window in disgust at the pure drivel inside it. One particularly popular novel ended up soaked and covered in bird droppings in my garden until one of my friends finally disposed of it into the bin. So, its all in the eye of the reader.

My personal opinion. When an author or publicist is looking for a reviewer/blogger to advance read a copy of an upcoming novel they should pick carefully. Most bloggers, including myself, put information on their sites about the books they tend to enjoy. If a blogger says they only really like Crime Fiction what is the POINT of sending them a self help book or a romance novel. But it happens. I’ve had some strange requests and I’ve only just started. Because of the fact that I’ve been watching what happens I have been more prepared to turn people away – so I am ONLY reading the books I’m fairly convinced I will like and be able to give a good review to. Of course there will still be those I receive that DON’T speak to me, but hey, thats life. I’m doing MY best to ensure that everyone is happy with the result, hence why on my website there is so far only one bad review. Some of the books reviewed – The Humans for example by the incredible Matt Haig – are NOT in my immediate comfort zone but they sounded interesting so I read them anyway. But thats me. SOME bloggers really DO only want to read a certain type of novel and most of them say so quite clearly in their reviewing policy. So authors. READ their reviewing policy. And don’t get on your high horse if after a reviewer says they didnt like your book you suddenly feel hard done by. The next reviewer may love it. I may love it – I love lots of things!

So, how many books can I handle? Well I’m a fast reader. Anyone who has already been following me on Twitter and Goodreads prior to my site going live know that I read an awful lot of books in a very short time. Thats just me. So before I started promoting my site I thought long and hard about how many books I would accept, should the requests come, within any given period. I can, when life allows, read a book a day – sometimes more. But if I allow for the fact that I’m also a full time single mother with two little boys, I know that in reality that number is less. So I will only accept 5 requests at a time – because I WANT to read other stuff as well, not just ones that I am doing by request – and I am REALLY on board with the idea that if you are going to accept a reading request you should be able to give it full concentration and do your very best for the author concerned. Because we SHOULD be promoting the great reads. We SHOULD be promoting those authors who have real talent whether they be mainstream or Indie.

I have had a lot of requests, many more than I was actually expecting. And I’ve turned most of them down. So if I have agreed to read your book – be reassured. Its because I WANT to read it. Because I’m reasonably convinced I will like it enough to actually give you a great review and some decent promotion. Whether its in my immediate comfort zone as stated on my site or not. I THINK about it. Because much as it is the responsibility of the author/publicist to try and get the advance copies out to the right people it is JUST AS MUCH my responsibility to only accept what I can handle realistically and what I think I will enjoy.

Happy reading folks!

Follow Liz on Twitter for witty and insightful comments or check out her website for all the latest book reviews. Tomorrow will be the turn of Amy Bookworm to tell us what she loves and hates about book blogging.

Please Love Me!

untitledLately I’ve been pondering the relationship between book reviewers and authors, particularly reviewers with book blogs. It’s a strange and delicate balance. On the one hand, it can be mutually beneficial and highly productive (I don’t mind admitting that I’ve met many book bloggers this year that I’d like to call friends and that have certainly spurred me on to produce more work). Quite frankly, authors (particularly indie authors) need book bloggers like Wallace needs Gromit and there’s no getting around that. And bloggers need their books just as much to feed their passion for reading. The flip-side of that perfect union is when the relationship breaks down.

Authors are a needy bunch. We live to tell stories, to evoke emotions in others, and we crave approval for what we do more than anything. It hurts to hear someone say that they don’t like the thing that you poured your heart and soul into, the thing that you very likely spent a great many months – even years – creating. Not to mention the amount of money indie authors can spend on producing a book. I don’t mind saying that it hurts just as much to hear someone say they didn’t care either way about your book. To hear ‘nice’ is about as painful as ripping an author’s still-beating heart from their chest and eating it in front of them (melodramatic… me? Humour me, I’m a writer). Despite all this, we still don’t have the right to criticise someone else’s opinion about it. What makes one person’s view count more than another’s? A reviewer is no less passionate about literature than an author is – that passion just manifests in a different way.

So, because I’m a curious type, I thought I’d ask some of the writers and reviewers I’ve got to know over the six months I’ve been publishing what their take on the relationship was. I compiled a list of questions; some chose to answer them straight, some found that the questions took them on a journey of musings all of their own, which they very kindly wrote down for me. During the next week or so, I’ll be publishing these ramblings on my site (in no particular order, I hasten to add). Tomorrow will see the series kick off with the gorgeous Sharon Goodwin of Jera’s Jamboree. Enjoy!

Well, I like it anyway…

Some wise writer once said something about if you cannot find the story you want to read you must write it yourself. I wish I could remember who that was and the exact quote (answers on a postcard, but, remember, it’s just for fun…), but never was a truer thing spoken… unless, of course, you just find a bigger bookstore…

But surely self-indulgence is the province and privilege of the writer. After all, much as we protest to cater for our readers, first we must like what we’re writing ourselves. I love fantasy, I love sci-fi and magical realism, and I love young adult. So this is what I write. I could never do justice to a gripping crime thriller or police procedural because I rarely read them (never say never!). I love jeopardy, so I write it. I love to see my protagonist compromised or vulnerable in some way, but to come out the other side a stronger character, so I write it. I love happy endings, so I write them too. There is a long-standing joke amongst my friends that I can’t write a story without snogging. So guess what?

But is it right to simply sit at a keyboard and please yourself? What about the author-reader contract? What about fashions and editorial requirements and moral responsibilities? I have read many disgruntled reviews over the years that complain of the writer of some book or TV series not paying the slightest regard to the wishes of their audience. Lost is a case in point – viewers hated the ending because they felt they had in some way been cheated. Yet some self indulgent writer sat at a keyboard and ended it just the way they wanted to. The same can be said for BBC’s Merlin – for 4 years the writers steadfastly refused to give the magical reveal that they knew their fans were clamouring for and, seemingly, only budged in the end to avoid the death threats that would undoubtedly come their way if they didn’t, not to mention the fact that the climax created a distraught army of fans just in time for Christmas day.

Aren't you proud of me that I resisted the urge to post a Merlin photo here?

Aren’t you proud of me that I resisted the urge to post a Merlin photo here?

The other side of this is the dreaded market.  I don’t say this because I have no regard for the people who may read my books, but because I never seem to be able to fit into the industry categories, nor, indeed, stay in one when I do.  I tend to flit from style to style, depending on my mood, and through genres and sub-genres.  It’s early days, but I suspect it might prove difficult to sustain a loyal audience this way.  Recently, I’ve begun final edits on a YA romcom, a bleak YA paranormal story and an NA thriller/urban fantasy.  If life is like a box of chocolates then I’m afraid that my brain must be a bag of Haribo.

For now, I have to write what I love, self-indulgently and regardless.  Only that way can I produce a story I love and hope that others will too.

With a little help from my friends…

old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879I’ve made a lot of friends through writing. Many of these are in real life: through my university course and local writing networks. Many more have been via social media. It’s been a strange experience in many ways, particularly ‘meeting’ people virtually.  Some of my online friends I’ve since met in real life and they’ve been every bit as delightful as they are in the ether. Some, I know I will never meet, and that makes me sad, because they are people I feel I have a strong friendship with, even a deep affection for, despite never having met them face to face.

In today’s writing world, I think there is no stronger tool than collaboration with other writers. In the days of ink and quill, writing was considered a rather solitary affair, but not anymore. In our rapidly shrinking world, we have so many ways to link up. We’re in constant contact every day, updating each other from across the globe about how many words we’ve done, when we’re taking a break, how our editing is driving us nuts.  We participate in blog hops and Nanowrimo and virtual launch parties. Some of us take these relationships, cherish them and build on them, because we understand that you can’t make it alone. People just like you are the people who will root for you, will retweet you, will send readers to your blog, will beta read for you and critique with the best of intentions, will give you heads-up on news, will egg you on when you flag. And you will do the same for them. In my opinion, that’s how it should be – a community based on mutual respect and collaboration.

But I have also encountered the flip-side of this.  Take this example:  A friend on twitter chats to a friend of theirs who has exactly the same interests as me, has other mutual friends, even writes the same genre.  I follow that person, attempt to chat to them, and I’m ignored.  I don’t understand why.  Not for a minute am I suggesting that everyone has to follow me because I follow them, or reply to me when I mention them, but I fail to see the logic in not doing these things when we quite clearly have so much in common.  We have all the necessary ingredients to make another strong link in the chain; why would you throw that opportunity away? Why would you actively set yourself apart from other writers like you? What does this achieve?

Sometimes, I admit, I feel envious of others I consider vastly more talented/ successful/ popular than me; I’m a human being, after all.  But I fight those feelings because I think that life as an indie author is hard enough without negativity taking hold and without alienating yourself from the people who could support you on your journey, just as you can support them.  I’d rather try my best to be happy for others, even when I have a down day and I don’t feel like it, than sit stewing in my juices.  The writing journey is a much more fulfilling one when you can share it with people who understand each step.