Most Indies shouldn’t ever publish. Well, most women shouldn’t have babies. #amwriting

That’s not a kneejerk yeah well you’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny response.  Ask any writer, traditionally published or indie, our books are the children of our brains, and we’re protective of them.

A traditionally-published writer puts that baby into the hands of professionals who whisk it away, do cosmetic adjustments, dress it, raise it, choose its schools, and, sometimes, hand it back after a while saying hey, we’re as sorry as you are, but the kid ain’t gonna cut it. Of course quite often (not always) the kid does good and the publishers are yammering at the door – make more babies. Fast. One a year. Go go GO.

Traditionally-published book-parents are proud to the point of arrogant about their progeny being Chosen, and they are enraged when an indie book baby does better than their own Improved By Professionals offering because it just isn’t fair. The indie parent had all the fun of producing exactly what they wanted, AND success?

What generally happens is they write scathing blogs, as Laurie Gough did with ‘Self-publishing is an insult to the written word’.  No idea who peed in her cornflakes, but she’s cross.  She thinks indies bash out a book in 24 hours, read it through once and think ‘good enough’ and publish.

I’ll not lie to you, I sometimes wonder myself. Book parents do range from the over-processed squeeze-it-into-a-fashionable-mode through to those who pop out a book in a week and stick it out into the world in a dirty nappy, snot running down its virtual face.

But not all, Laurie Gough. Not all. Some work on their books as hard as you do. They write them, rest them, edit them, polish them, send them to beta readers,  edit and polish again, send them for professional editing, they find the money and they pour it in willingly and only then do they publish.  For an indie, that’s just the end of the beginning. There’s no handing over. There’s placing the book in the right places, trying to find the right readers.

There’s no easy publisher-provided dollop of paid reviews, no publisher-provided salesperson working the shops, nothing on tap.  Just a writer and a book, trying to make it in a largely indifferent world.

So when an indie does make it, when their readers loyally buy every book they put out, when they make a tiny niche for themselves in a giant market – suck it up, Laurie Gough. Don’t be ugly, because it makes you look ugly.

If no-one could ever sing unless they had a record contract, there’d be no live entertainment in pubs, no bands entertaining parties, no wedding singers.  Buskers, eek. You’d shoot them on sight.

If no-one ever offered their art without a professional contract with, random example, an advertising agency,  this would be a poorer world. The professional artists do a slick, pleasing, and efficient job, but the life and vitality poured straight from the artist’s eye into your brain, that’s the real deal. Love it or hate it, from piece to piece, you deserve the choice. Van Gogh wasn’t to public taste in his whole lifetime. Laurie Gough would completely approve of that. If he couldn’t find a dealer to handle his stuff, he was obviously useless. QED.

What if no-one ever had a baby unless it had been commissioned with high expectations and a mapped-out future?  Well, there’d not be 7 billion people on this planet, for sure. Yes indeed, we tend to be ruled by the elite who were propelled expertly through the system into the top jobs. And yes, some babies are a complete waste of space – for the most part, they live and die and their lives make very little impact. Sometimes, though, the elite fail horribly, and sometimes the great unwashed change our lives. Actually, very few inventions, very few of the things that change our world, ever came from the stuffed shirts taught how to think and behave from the start.

To be validated by a money-machine that sees potential for profit in you is wonderful, well done Laurie Gough.

To be validated by loyal readers is better. Had a look at your book sales. Hope they pick up soon, and soothe that anger of yours.

Lol has officially become a word – it is in the Oxford dictionary

LOL

(also lol)

Pronunciation: /ɛləʊˈɛl//lɒl/

EXCLAMATION

informal

  • Used to draw attention to a joke or amusing statement, or to express amusement:

    ‘I love how you said ‘coffee is not my cup of tea’. LOL!’

Okay that’s probably not exactly breaking news, I’m usually behind the trend on that sort of thing, lol.

Yes I know it is an infuriating little word!  Those of us who date back to the 80s get quite het up about it. There was confusion anyway back then between Lots Of Love and Laugh Out Loud.  Love fell by the wayside, as it always does (sigh) and we watched with jaundiced eyes as lol bounced into social media. Laugh out loud? At that comment? Please. It wasn’t funny enough to rate more than a smile, tops.

Well, that’s the point. It doesn’t mean laugh out loud and hasn’t for ages. It really is a quick smile, the half-shrug, sometimes wry, “I thought he meant it, lol” or a quick defuse of a comment that might otherwise sound a bit critical, “I hope you’re not going to wear that blue jacket again, lol” and although I resisted it fiercely for a long time and will FOREVER resist lolololol (or at least until it finds its way into the Oxford dictionary) I am finally not only using it but finding it quite handy. At times. In more ways than included in the dictionary definition.

Which just proves that you can teach an old dog new tricks. (Rueful half-shrug and wry smile)

It hasn’t crept into my books yet, and I don’t think it will.  My editor probably wouldn’t allow it anyway. And it will never become punctuation, I’m simply not that much of a smiler and that’s all there is to it.  My hackles still go up lol when I see it used more than once lol in a sentence or paragraph lol because that is simply infuriating. Lol. See? See how silly that looked?

mumbling

(Oh, and by the by – look at those helpful hints on pronunciation. Are they kidding?)

One Two Buckle My Shoe- E.J. Lamprey

richardbunning

4101sSNuGiL._SS300_

I could have sworn that Miss Maple was back, in Scottish guise. Is it ever fair to compare, possibly not, but this is very Agatha Christie-esk for the modern century. ‘One Two’ is a great first in series, introducing some wonderful characters of senior years. Lamprey has a very easy read style and an ironic, subtle humour that says most by what it leaves out.
The plot is complex enough with a couple of classic murders, lots of possible clues and badly attached leads, some more doggy than others. All the bits simply can’t be quite put together until Edge gets a grip on the case. The older generation will enjoy this, if they can find their glasses, and the aging youths and middle readers should enjoy noting that at least at the Grasshopper Lawns, 20 miles north of Edinburgh, old age doesn’t necessarily mean the end of joie de…

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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?

Can this marriage be amended, sorted out? Is Brexit really the only option? WHY?

So many people voicing their opinions, such absolute chaos, I know I’m not the only one frustrated to the point of helpless inarticulate rage because the powers that be aren’t listening.

tower-of-babel-by-pieter-bruegel(The Tower of Babel, by Pieter Breugel)

 

Long time ago, I was married, and it wasn’t going well. scoldThis has to change, I said. Family comes first, not last.  That has to change, I said, working until midnight (it genuinely was work) is a no-no. If you don’t, I said, I will have no choice but to leave.

I wish you would, he said.

Oops. Er. Um. Okayyyyy – so I did.

Turns out he didn’t mean it, he was calling my bluff but that’s all water under the bridge and a marriage that could have been okay, even good, if we had talked and compromised and made some changes, was in the crapper.  Should have gone for counselling but hey, who expected the break?

So, Brexit was  about a long-term marriage – not ideal, and ouch paying a lot into the joint bank account but sharing the benefits of being married. Okay, the other partner is overbearing, opinionated, deaf to input, very controlling, kept moving the goalposts and taking on more and more commitments with dodgy partners you would personally sooner avoid but marriage, we all know, is for richer for poorer, for better for worse.

Divorce on the other hand, is isolation, reduced income, the ritual sharing out of friends, drop in lifestyle, having to get out there and make new alliances – eek.

There isn’t a marriage councillor in the WORLD who wouldn’t have said put your foot down, talk about your issues, make your partner listen, don’t just give up.

Brexit didn’t offer that option. Brexit said

  • stay in, exactly the way things are
  • or pack your bags and go.

So Britain went to the polls and I am ready to bet a lot wanted to say we don’t really want to go, but we do want them to finally realize we aren’t happy, and there has to be change. 

A lot? Oh yes. Over half.  Oops.  Many of them older, there’s been a lot of whinging about that but older people have had time to learn that situations which are heading into trouble don’t magically fix themselves. Whether you like it or not, they head deeper into trouble. Always.

Thing is, those bloody politicians still aren’t listening. They are fighting over when the bags should be packed, and they are fighting over whether we should go at all, or just pretend the whole quarrel never happened. None of them are saying hey, how about we work something out that will appeal to the Leavers wanting some compromise, that will make them happy. In the process we keep most of the Remainers happy? Wow. Happy population!

That working something out – how about, just like any marriage, we want things back the way they were during the honeymoon period?  Working together, common goals, supporting each other for the good of both, not bullying, not controlling, not losing every argument because our partner is just ignoring us and forging on?

What we need is a marriage councillor to take charge. Please. SOON.

I wish, I really wish, I had a voice, a real voice, loud enough to make the idiots listen and wasn’t just another voice vanishing into the background clamour.

sigh

 

 

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