How famous a writer would you really want to be?

Yup, I know, international best-seller and household name. That’s the kneejerk reaction, right?

When I first starting publishing books I was convinced I was putting myself under a spotlight for the whole world to see. I’m pretty sure other writers can identify with that, because of course we are. Some are cautious and call themselves totally different names. Some do use their real names, or switch to using their nom de plume all the time, bring it on.

However, the world has quite a lot of calls on its attention. Several million writers, for starters, and unless they are phenomenally successful, writers come pretty far down on the list. From being terrified of the spotlight, we move to diffident attempts to attract it (er, hello?) to actively trying to get noticed, to shrugging and accepting that there may be a handful of people glancing our way occasionally. On a good day.

I genuinely hadn’t realised how far my own attitude has shifted until a member of the singles website which enjoys my patronage did a blog about one of my books – the guide to using a singles website, Looking For Mr Will-Do-Nicely.  It was a decidedly barbed blog, wondering aloud how many people from the website would find themselves in the book, and the first few comments were definitely a little paranoid. A website friend sent me a hurried whatsapp, you have to get that blog deleted! Contact the moderators, they are very helpful, they can take it down.

Are you crazy?

I wasn’t thrilled – the blog was barbed – but as Barnum said, no such thing as bad publicity. The book doesn’t point any fingers at individuals, only at types. It gives really good advice. It’s even listed on my profile on the website, and more to the point, it’s not private. It is for sale anywhere in the world. Anyone can buy it. I wish more people would. Everyone on a singles website, for starters.

grin

My website buddy was slightly horrified. But she’s being negative. Whatever you do, don’t comment on the blog! It will stir up all sorts of trouble.

Umm – like people talking about the book? I did appreciate her concern, but it came from her personal horror of being targeted by the malicious. Individuals crave privacy, writers crave publicity.

I commented on the blog, mainly to defuse the paranoia, and there was laughter and a little discussion before the singles turned their attention to another blog and the whole tiny storm in a tiny teacup faded into yesterday’s news.

Makes me wonder, though, having embraced the spotlight, how bright would I want it to get? It would certainly be nice to sell more books, and all the marketing in the world can’t replace being discussed. All advertising, PR and marketing is aimed at starting discussion!  He who shouts the loudest gets the most attention, and I’m rubbish at shouting.

Can you imagine achieving fame, though?  Shifted from behind the parapet, and hoisted into full view  … after those early anxieties I hadn’t thought about it at all, but these days, ouch. To be even mildly or briefly in the spotlight is to be sniped at by any mean-spirited numpty giddy with the power of being able to fire their assault rifle from cover. To be so famous that every fretful tweet you ever wrote in a bad mood was hauled up out of context and shredded, every unguarded word you ever added to a public Facebook debate was given the rubber-hose treatment, and every decision you made was criticised by the following trolls? It happens to politicians, it happens to celebrities, and it happens to household name writers, good or bad.

So, not too famous.  Selling a few thousand books a month would more than cover it. Ta.

(That singles one, you should tell any mature single you know to get it. No, seriously. Good advice. It’s not in the margin with the others because it isn’t fiction. Click here for an Amazon near you, ebook or paperback)

http://mybook.to/MrWillDoNicely

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Goodreads and giveaways, grrrr.

Seriously, how hard should it be to set up a Goodreads giveaway?

Here’s how it should work. Click on your book. Look for the ‘would you like to set up a giveaway?’ option. Select yes, the start / end dates, and how many paperbacks you are actually throwing into the pot. Click save.

As a bonus, a little note will pop up on your profile for the duration so anyone actually looking at your profile, you know, interested in your writing, will see a helpful note saying ‘this author currently has a book on giveaway, click here to see details’.

HAH.

One particular little refinement of torture would have got me if I hadn’t already learned Goodreads’ little ways in earlier times. Before you can save / complete the giveaway (which includes some fiddly info supplied when you listed the book in the first place which should come up automatically and doesn’t, and a wheedling coaxing intro) you have to click a little box confirming you have read the T&C. Hmm, I thought, better read them. And because I learned the hard way once before, I copied my wheedling coaxing intro, which had taken some little while to tweak into shape, to a safe place. Then I went to the T&C.

When you finish reading them, you have to press a button marked BACK. Back, indeed, you go. To your profile. Giveaway details deleted.

Feel the love.

And is GR not owned by Amazon? I write under three names. On Amazon, they are linked. On GR, I cannot link the books under my other names to my main profile, because they have already been created under the other names. Uh uh uhhhh.
scold

Feel the love.

So hi. There’s a giveaway of The Money Honey coming up on GR. Or not. Who knows?  dunno

Ever researching on your behalf,

Elegsabiff.

 

 

 

 

Happy endings (no, not that sort. Although mentioned.)

“If you want a happy ending you have to decide where to stop your story – Orson Welles”

I am slightly addicted to twists whether I’m writing a whodunit, a microstory, or any of the other ways in which I kowtow before my muse. The one on the drawing board has several twists. There’s one, though, which turns the whole story from a slightly OTT love story (the alert reader is already saying hang on just a minute) to a slightly creepy stalker story, to abrupt terror. In two paragraphs it goes from mildly steamy (and wildly romantic) to chilling, and I didn’t even plan it that way. I love it, though.

Hence the Orson Welles quote. I could literally stop the story at its happy point and leave most of its readers contented.

Not going to, though. The book in question (and I only say this because I am personally annoyed by dangling hints and coy half-references) is still in process,  The Money Honey, and it’s odd in many ways.

Only once before have I had a young protagonist*, because I find mature characters much more intricate and interesting, but Miranda’s story starts when she’s around twenty, in 1996, and the reader follows her for the next twenty years.

She only came into existence because she’s a large part of the backstory for Seventeen Eighteen Past Lies Waiting, which is being published soon. I wrote her story separately, to get it clear in my head, and then I got engrossed in the challenges it presented. I hadn’t a clue who my target reader was, but sometimes books take on a life of their own and this is one.

There was tons of rewriting for Seventeen Eighteen, as it happened, but the beta readers who have now read both books were pretty positive in their feedback. However, the beta readers who only read Money Honey weren’t. They found the ending, with its sudden introduction of a bunch of amateur sleuths from the Lawns, thoroughly confusing.

By the time that feedback was trickling in, I quite liked my Money Honey but I could see their point, as a stand-alone book she would need an ending of her own. So I borrowed from a few other authors faced with similar situations, and Money Honey has three endings.

Miranda’s whole story is about the unorthodox choices she makes (the working title was Step By Step) so it felt right to let those readers who have engaged with her make the final choice for her.  They will choose whether she calls an old friend for help, which is where Seventeen Eighteen came into the picture – or whether she tackles the situation herself, the way she’s always done – or whether the original storyline from Seventeen Eighteen holds true, but this time she and her son take on the challenge together.

No confusion there, then.  grin

It really has been a very challenging book, I’ve put it aside at least five times and every time it has come yammering after me demanding attention. She’s so unlike any of my other characters, and so very in need of a happy ending.

And yes I know the other meaning of that phrase. In fact that’s why Money Honey is going out under the Clarissa name, not EJ Lamprey. Lots of happy endings, and never, it seems, one for her.

Seventeen Eighteen has finished its rewrites, gone off for editing, started its countdown, and will be out shortly. Oh, and one other oddity – they share the same cover photograph. Slightly different cropping, a lighting difference, but the same photograph. I’m not being cheap, I’m not even being Scottish and practical, I simply couldn’t decide which cover to use it on. It feels right to have it on both.

 

 

*Lucy, in Time Before Time, by Joanna Lamprey

 

Question to writers – when your guest character’s iceberg is getting invasive, how do you solve it? #amwriting

I’m assuming it’s the same for every writer, that each character is an iceberg, only 10% of them showing in the story but the writer has to know the other 90%, see it clearly, to give that 10% credibility –  not only what they look like, you have to know the main events shaping their lives, how those brought them to the point of your story and made them into the person they are.

Oh, I know in some books that is the story but in whodunits, murder and the solving of the murder is the priority. There simply isn’t the time, and the reader certainly doesn’t have the patience, to delve off into hugely detailed backstory for every character. That’s the huge advantage of a series, of course, but although my main characters can drift amiably through the shipping lanes of the series, each book is stand-alone and has one-off characters.

Those destined to die are easy. Pick out the traits which made them ideal cannon fodder. grin

Those who are to live, but will not become series characters, not so easy. I’ve got an iceberg of note on my hands now, because I’m throwing words at the first draft of Seventeen Eighteen (Past Lies Waiting). My guest character accidentally killed a man when she was in her early twenties, which is the direct cause of her deliberately killing a man in her early forties, and she’s on the run. Her eighteen-year-old son is in direct danger and she ropes in his biological father, who is Donald. So that’s where 17 18 starts (and gets its title) but I’ve never before wrestled with a twenty-years-and-counting backstory.  Tell you what, I never will again.

laugh

To keep her history straight in my head, I kept jotting separate notes, and writing out little scenarios, and populating the twenty years with the people who shaped her into a woman I could identify with,  yet who would kill a man. Eventually I had written nearly more about Miranda’s backstory than I had put into 17 18 itself, and all I needed of it was enough to explain her to the 17 18 reader.

Here’s the thing, though. There’s ten thousand words in my jotted outline and I’ve barely scratched the surface. She fascinates me, she’s taken on a life of her own and that twenty years just keeps growing in my head. Hence the title of this blog.  How do you solve a problem like Miranda, stop her sinking your crisp and tidy whodunit with the massive iceberg she has become?

TV has long since given us solutions – a spin-off – and I’m trying it. As if it isn’t hard enough to write one book, I’m now writing two. At the same time.  Bouncing from one to the other as details need to be clarified and tidied, and trying not to think ahead to the time when they come out of their resting period and need editing . . .  EJ Lamprey only writes whodunits, so Step By Step (working title) will be a Clarissa book, and Clarissa books are a little more, er, worldly. They do have a strong storyline, that’s important to me, so right now the focus is on Miranda’s story, I’ll flesh in the sexier bits on the second draft.

I’ve spent my whole life reading voraciously but I’ve not knowingly come across this solution to the character iceberg before, and I’m wondering how common it is? Anyone?

Public relations – the holistic process. One topical example, Donald Trump

I’ve worked for a PR company in my long and chequered career  and they had a great definition  posted up on the wall, wish I could remember exactly how it went, maybe someone can remind me? It was based on a first date

He tells her ‘I’m the best dancer / cook / lover / (pick one) you’ll ever meet’ – that’s advertising

He tells her ‘ask that woman over there, she’ll tell you I’m the best dancer / cook / lover you’ll ever meet’ – that’s marketing

She says to him ‘I hear you’re a wonderful dancer / cook / lover ‘ – that’s public relations.

We of course insisted PR was the best way to package anything.

It can go either way, once the word is out there it takes on a life of its own. Donald Trump, then and now, is a wonderfully topical example. Three years ago if anyone had said ‘Donald Trump’ you’d picture that bizarre hair, the hectoring thuggish image, oh yeah I heard of him, Ivana Trump’s ex? Today, whether you’re a supporter or bug-eyed that he has supporters, you know the guy better than you know your neighbours.  Power of publicity.

Right now I’ve got three areas of my life that need work. Dating, looking for a new job as redundancy is happening early next year, and selling books.

Dating, the advertising part is setting up your website profile, sure, but marketing?  It’s an area where you don’t really want to promote the fact you date a lot, that doesn’t imply permanence and that hand-in-hand walk into the sunset!  And frankly, double standard is still double standard, is it really good PR if a man says hey, I hear you’re hot in the sack? So the trick would be to find a website with a public forum, set up a good profile without over-selling, make engaging comments on the public forum, and build up exactly the right image so that others find you fascinating and queue up to date you. What could possibly be easier?

roll eyes

Job-hunting isn’t something I do very often and I suspect I am both very good and very bad at it. My ad, the old faithful CV, is good. My record is good, and my verbal references are great – I rarely go for an interview without being offered the job but, here’s the crunch, I never get offered top salary. Ever.  That needs salesmanship or amazing PR and I am rubbish at selling.

doh

Take selling books, oh, I know the process. Putting link after link on social media and trying to word them exactly right to hit that elusive demographic, the reader who clicks and buys, is the learning curve.

Marketing, that even more elusive demographic, the reader who reviews, who is prepared to put on record that they (a) bought the book (b) enjoyed it and (c) will buy more  – oh how we love them. That gets abused, too, especially by the professional publishers, within minutes of a book going on sale several hundred, or thousand, readers (numbers depending on budget) rush to record it is the Very Best Book they ever read ever EVER.

PR is the reader who tells friends about the book they enjoyed. The priceless word-of-mouth  recommendation. Dream world, that friend tells friends, conversation starts and spreads like wildfire.

daydream

I did write a how-to book about dating as a mature single. Perfect world, it could sort out the employment and increase sales of my other books as a by-product. Any PR gurus out there – call me? And oh yes I do realize putting Donald Trump in the headline was an odd attempt at a demographic. Politics aside, though, he’s a type of older man us autumn roses would come across and seriously, picture him without the billions, would you date him? Should you?

help

mr-will-do-nicely

Don’t accept the first offer, haggle. Apparently. Does that cover first dates as well?

I have been offered job relocation to a much more expensive part of the UK, but it wasn’t a very good salary offer, so I said no. The offer was instantly pushed up to around 25%  more than my existing salary.

Hang on – if you want me, why make a mediocre offer to start?  I said I would think about it but all I can think is hmm, should I refuse again and see if it goes higher? Push my luck?

As it happens, my car insurance just came due. 9 years no-claim bonus, 16 years with the same insurer, £400. In the same post I got a letter from Saga offering car insurance starting from £109 a year. So of course I got an on-line quote. Like for like, plus lower excess than my current insurer, plus a couple of handy extras, the quote came in at £258.

I rang my current insurers to say I wouldn’t be renewing and they instantly dropped my £400 renewal cost down to just over £300. Pass.  But I did ask why, with 16 years loyalty, I didn’t get the best possible offer to start with?

Like why, with my existing proven track record with my current employers, who do want me to relocate, I didn’t get the best possible offer to start with?

How far does this haggling thing go, anyway? Has it spilled over into all sides of our lives?

I’m a mature single on a dating website (write books about it and all) but have I missed a trick here? When someone suggests a first meet over a pub lunch somewhere, should I be responding ‘not unless you send a taxi and make it a proper lunch at the Ritz Grill with you picking up the tab’ just to start the negotiations?

I looked on Amazon – with over ten million titles available, I reckoned there’d be at least one book on the subject. There was one on how to haggle to save money on everything. It was quite expensive – I emailed the author a counter-offer.

But there was no book I could see on haggling for the BIG things.

  • Income.
  • Politics afloat on a sea of money but offering us crappy choices.
  • Lots on religion but nothing comparative, you know, to compete for our patronage and donations.
  • The start of love has millions of books, but none on haggling up front. Once love is launched, there’s some financial advice but most books covering finance are reserved for the end of love, the really expensive bit. May the best haggler win.

It seems that for the really big things  we either have no choices at all, or need iron nerve and bluff.

That’s seriously worrying because my how-to book on successfully meeting mature single men is already on pre-order and if I missed an entire haggle culture, it’s not going to be as seriously useful as I thought it was.

sigh


mr-will-do-nicely

Are you a glowing autumn rose? How-To meet a Mr Will-Do-Nicely … coming soon.

A couple of the reviews on Rainbow, while friendly enough, remarked they had bought the book thinking it was a guide to flourishing as a mature single. Well, in a way it was, the men (and women) Dorothy came across were exaggerated for fictional purposes, but they are distinctive types to be found on every website for mature singles.  A small cross-section in a very large field, you could say.

I’ve written blogs about the types, and I certainly had plenty of material. Write another novella, pulling in more types, and more advice? Or do a how-to book?

I went with the how-to. Well, I went with two. There’s one coming out On Meeting Mr Will-Do-Nicely, and there are times you’d think I was trying to keep all the single mature men to myself, it is so crammed with cautionary tales. I’m not, honestly! The fact remains that most of them pass from hand to hand like hot potatoes (leaving burned fingers in their wake) because eligible men in their fifties and sixties, especially the ones who have been single for a while, are a whole new ballgame.

So why even bother, risk being hurt, heartbroken, scammed, poorer but wiser?  Because we are gorgeous, and still fizzing with life and adventure, and forewarned is forearmed. Go have fun. Do no harm.

As I wrote Mr Will-Do-Nicely I kept adding bits of advice I’d been given, or discovered for myself, which have nothing to do with dating and everything to do with making the best of the totally unexpected surge of energy and sunshine suddenly lighting up life and turning us into autumn roses.  It’s an odd reality that women in their late forties, even early fifties, menopausal and irritable and mourning the loss of fertility, are the most resentful of our Indian summer. You’re how old? You cannot be feeling healthier, fitter, more interested in sex and life generally, than we are, we feel old, you are old!

Ooooh, ffssssssssst.  Whether they like or not (well, they don’t) you can feel better than them. You do. They’ll find out, if they can shake that attitude. Sometime after the menopause the rush of life comes roaring back, for at least a while, and it is wonderful. It is so easy to waste it, with the wrong mind-set. Eventually I’d added so many notes about that it was diluting the singles book. So I moved them to another, On Perfecting The Indian Summer.

Am I an expert? No. Qualified to give advice? Only by experience. These aren’t books that order you about, lay down the law, they are How-To books based on reality.  I’m in my late fifties, I didn’t expect the Indian summer myself, and I did waste the start of it. I briefly joined a mature singles website to research one of my whodunits (Five Six Pick Up Sticks) and later I joined another for Nine Ten Begin Again so I could ask some fairly direct questions, and eventually I wrote A Second Rainbow. I’ve had a lot of fun, in the name of research, along the way. As for the Indian summer itself, I’ve met many women enjoying the sunshine, including my own half-sisters over a decade ahead of me in age, and they’ve all been generous with sharing advice. I played with the subject, in Eleven Twelve, where I called it the gloaming, and that put me in touch with more autumn roses. There are a lot of us quietly out there.

It will be interesting to see how the books do but if a single reader, just one, enjoys herself more as a result of reading either, they did their job.

Out sooooooooooooooon