Tag Archives: Authors

Can’t help yourself when it comes to self-help?

Well-being and self-help in general is something that has enjoyed a much higher profile in recent years. Whether that’s Insta feeds offering all manner of wise words and inspirational photos, or famous faces speaking out in public about their mental health struggles, awareness is continuing to grow. That’s a good thing.

But to be honest, nobody likes enforced wellness, much in the same way as they don’t like enforced fun (think back to that company away-day when Dean went full-on SAS Who Dares Wins). We should be encouraged to think about our mental health in our own way. That’s not to say wellness books don’t have their place, but it’s all about finding the ones that work for you.

Thinking outside the box when it comes to wellness is important. You don’t have to restrict your reading to books labelled as ‘wellness’. Lifestyle, cookery and fiction are all linked to down-time and the act of reading itself, whatever the subject matter, is good escapism. It encourages conversation, much in the manner of book clubs. Though I’ve discussed those in an earlier post, they can be a great opportunity to meet new people who you have something in common with.

Writing is another form of wellness. Personal journals are everywhere these days, and some people get a lot out of writing down their thoughts, plans and observations. Or you could write a blog like I’m doing now, or even a story or two. Getting my creative juices flowing and writing something is a great form of self-care for me, because it makes me feel like I have created something, and contributed to something somewhere. That gives me a small amount of satisfaction. It may sound a bit simplistic, but it works for me!

Ultimately, self-care is about more than having a bath with candles, an audiobook and a herbal tea (though that does sound nice, come to think of it), so find your own wellness, your own way.

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Want a new perspective? Go to an old place

Thinking that I may as well go old school to try and generate some sales, I recently had some fliers printed up for my book, which I dropped off at my local bookshop and library. As any self-published author will tell you, it’s so hard to get noticed these days and marketing yourself is like a full-time job in itself, so I thought I’d try to cover at least one extra base.

The print shop was about a mile away from my house, so what better idea than to walk over there in the stifling heat of the hottest day on record here in the UK to pick them up? Anyway, shade-hugging as I went, I found myself walking through my old neighbourhood on the way. It’s not somewhere I usually have to pass through, even though I walk into town regularly. The first thing to hit me was the presence of a nice-looking coffee shop that I would’ve been very grateful of back in the day. The second thing I noticed was how different that and other recent builds had made my old street look.

Once these cosmetic changes had settled in though, I was left with a strange feeling, part nostalgic, part melancholic. It was as if for a moment, I was transported back in time, and my mind of that time was inside my head of now (I realise how weird that sounds). It reminded me of all the goals and ambitions I had back then, the things I’d just done and the things I would go on to do. I don’t know why such an inconsequential thing as walking over to a shop to pick something up got my imagination going, but it did.

So if you find yourself in search of ideas, a fresh perspective or just a change of scenery, take a stroll around somewhere familiar from your past. You never know where it might lead.

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Test the Waters

OK, OK, I’ve made the obvious analogy of the literary ocean and throwing your work in it before, but sometimes it really can feel like that. Writing is hard. Marketing it is harder.

Sure, you can throw your hard-earned at any number of social media-savvy agencies who will promote your book and it may even work, but the hard truth is that with the freedom of self-publishing comes the reality that everybody is doing it. And that’s great. Let’s just make that clear SELF PUBLISHING IS GREAT.

So what does it mean? It means that even with a serious advertising budget, you’ll be up against some serious competition to get noticed. That’s why it’s a good idea to test the waters with your first foray in to self-publishing. OK, so you’ve been slaving away at your 100,000-word fantasy epic for months – years and it’s finally ready. Now, the world will know the true power of destiny and the irrepressible lure of the Tanthis Stone…but wait. Rush headlong into marketing it with no experience and it’ll probably just end up being read by your eccentric Auntie and Jeff your old college friend. And maybe Alison from work.

When I say experience, I don’t mean time served as a social media executive, either. I’m just talking about the experience of self-publishing and marketing and everything that brings. It’s tough, and a relentless grind. Doing it first with a shorter novella, like I did, is a sensible idea. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my novella Whisper Wood and worked hard at it, but I’m glad I used it to get some experience. I’m always learning and that’s the best way to look at self-publishing. Don’t expect readers to come to your book, take it to the readers, tell them why they should read it.

Comment on other authors’ stuff and write too. I’m genuinely grateful to fellow bloggers who follow and share my updates on here – each of them on their own creative journey. The same goes for Twitter’s supportive and fun #WritingCommunity. There’s enough space for us all, so let’s get writing!

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Filed under Authors, Books, Fantasy, Novel, self-publishing, Writing

What Harper meant to me

harper-lee-tease-today-160219International Women’s Day 2022 reminded me of this blog, which I originally wrote shortly after Harper Lee’s death. I thought it was an appropriate time to share it again.

Every time I hear Harper Lee’s name I’m transported back to the English classroom at high school, which was the place where I was introduced to this remarkable story of courage, prejudice and human nature. Of course, the race message will always be the novel’s strongest voice but we should not forget that it speaks with many.

The sense of mystery when I first heard the children talk about Boo Radley was one that I identified with only too well. I think many of us will have memories of ‘that weird bloke who skulked around the town’ when we were kids, or the neighbourhood recluse next-door-but-three.

I already knew that prejudice was bad when I read the book, but it brought home to me the hypocrisy of people who, on the surface, appear honest and upstanding yet project their paranoia and insecurities so they manifest themselves in disrupting and harmful ways. Of course, this is a theme that is resonating very clearly around the world at the moment.

There’s a lot of Lee’s own formative years in the book too. She grew up in a small town and her father was a lawyer. Also, her mother lived with mental illness that resulted in her rarely leaving her own home. Like so many literary souls, Harper fell in love with English at high school, which put her on the path to creating her own timeless slice of writing.

To Kill a Mockingbird was of course a lesson within an English lesson. A lesson of human nature and the inexorable presence that it is. Above all though, it was and will always be a damned good story, which in the end is the most important thing.

So, thanks again Harper Lee for opening all our eyes.

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To Club or Not to Club?

No, I’m not talking about hitting the dance floor. This isn’t that kind of blog. Though that said, throwing some shapes like nobody’s watching is a guaranteed wellness tip I can certainly get behind!

I’m talking about the book club, reading club, reading circle or whatever you want to call it. Whether it’s a classic library meet-up in person (something which I guess will have become a bit of a novelty again after the last couple of years) or as part of an online community like Goodreads, book clubs are certainly alive and well. The thing is, I just don’t get them.

If you’re still reading, either you don’t either, or you’re a tensed-up ball of book club-loving anger, only sticking this out to the end so you can take me to task in the comments. Well, please feel free! I’m not here to pour scorn on the idea of like-minded peeps getting together to discuss a book, just sharing my general ignorance of the whole thing.

If I like a book, I’ll recommend it and most often lend it to a friend. I’ll also occasionally offer my opinions of one retrospectively in an online discussions page. However, even though I’m a very sociable person, paradoxically, I’m also a bit of a loner in some ways too. I go for a run alone, I’m not interested in team sports and I like to read something in my own time and on my own terms. I guess if there’s a book that ‘everyone is reading’ or is the ‘big hit of the summer’ I’ll automatically avoid it and come back to it when all the fuss has died down. I think it’s just wanting to do my own thing, and pick up a book at random, whether it’s an old Iain Banks paperback I’ve found in the charity shop, some Sherlock Holmes on my tablet, a Michael Moorcock I picked up years ago and never got round to reading (I know, sorry!) or Dave Grohl’s excellent The Storyteller that I got for Christmas. I mix them up, don’t have a plan and just go for it.

For me, reading is a very personal experience. Certainly as far as fiction goes, it’s pure therapeutic escapism, and I want the characters to be preserved in my mind exactly how I imagined them. It’s my little world and I want it to stay that way. I say to people who don’t read fiction that really for me, it’s like a film or a box set in my mind. I love movies, I love video games and I love books. I’ve no time for the snobbery that I’ve sometimes seen on social media regarding all these. Why can’t I enjoy a bit of everything? It’s all escapism and it’s all fun. As long as there’s a story, I’m in.

Well, that turned into a bit of a rant didn’t it? I guess if you’re as passionate as I am, they why shouldn’t you meet with other like-minded people to talk about what you’re reading and share the magic? I might even join you. Just not yet.

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When writing’s a chore, get in the game!

I’ve blogged in the past about keeping irons in the fire when it comes to your writing, and it is indeed good to have a few projects on the go. These don’t all have to be novels though! When building a believable world seems like it’s the world away, the last thing you’ll be wanting to do is try to dream up another!

That’s why I have a mental list (but you can physically write one, if your a list type) of projects to work on. When I was finishing off my novella I was also Dungeon Master with a group of friends who love the escape is of a good old RPG! I started off by running a pre-written adventure, and loved it so much that I wrote a sequel to it myself. I got great satisfaction from seeing the party negotiate the dungeons and forests I’d mapped out, fight monsters I’d thrown in their path and bring some of my NPCs (non-player characters) to life as they met the part in any number of situations. If you’re a gamer yourself, writing your own adventure is a great way to keep those creative juices flowing and try out some of your imagination’s creations on a captive audience!

Another thing on my list was lyrics, though you could easily create some poetry or just catalogue your free-form thoughts. Being in bands, I’ve found it’s always useful to have some spare lyrics lying around, even if you’re not the singer!

Short stories are great too! If a crazy idea fleetingly pops into your head while sat in front of your computer – don’t let it pass and just run with it and follow where it goes. The short story format is great because you don’t have to worry about creating lots of characters or excessive world-building. It’s just about capturing that burst of imagination you had in an effective way.

And lastly, you could do what I’m doing now – just blog! There’s sure to be something that’s on your mind, and it’s always rewarding to get it out there and get some opinions. It’s a great way to share your knowledge too.

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Always have another iron in the fire

Aside from the (very) rare flash of inspiration which has produced a short story or a lyric, I’ve always been a methodical plodder, a workhorse doggedly sticking to one project through fear of distraction. The problem was, ‘sticking to it’ for me meant hammering away intensely for a bit, then leaving it for a few months because life got in the way. Hardly living life at the literary coalface.

Sound familiar? Maybe you know who all your characters are, what they’re going to do and how everything turns out, but you’re procrastinating over that first edit or beta read submission, fearing it might come back tattered, bloody and full of holes.

After finishing the first draft of my novella, this was me. I felt like I’d done all the creative stuff, but still needed something to keep me occupied when the editing stage got a little bit much. So I started a ‘no pressure, just for fun’ project; something I could chip away at in between bouts of editing and worrying. I found this really useful, because it kept my creative juices flowing while I was wearing my editing hat. Because my mind was still in a creative mode, I think it helped me resolve a few things with my main manuscript, and I also managed to create something new along the way. (In my case, a novelisation of a Dungeons and Dragons adventure I’d written for my players.)

If you haven’t tried this, why not give it a go? Who knows, your ‘just for fun’ project may end up growing some serious legs and scurry off to enjoy a life of its own. But if dragging out the toolbox for another bout of world-building sounds like too daunting a prospect, no pressure. Just write a bit of your own fan fiction and take some of your favourite characters on a whole new journey. The world’s already there, so just have some fun exploring it.

Another approach is just to write. It doesn’t matter what it is, just stream-of-consciousness musings, some poetry or maybe even a blog like this one.

So go on, add a few more irons to the fire and see what you can forge.

Photo by C D-X on Unsplash

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Filed under Authors, Books, Editing

Shameless self-promotion

Self-publishing is as much about promotion as it is writing, which is why I’m not ashamed to admit that this blog is a bit of promotion for my new novella. “Wow” you may be thinking, “he got the link in early on just then”. Well, yes, guilty as charged. But why not? Any aspiring writer who has a Twitter account will no doubt be familiar with the #ShamelessPromo hashtag, and everything that comes with it. Making self-promotion shameless is important because, lets face it, who is going to help us if we don’t help each other?

Without the marketing weight of a successful publishing house behind us, we self-published authors need as much help as we can get. Sometimes, that means shamelessly helping ourselves too, which is just what I’m doing here. There are loads of useful resources out there on promoting yourself, so you really don’t need any advice from me, but I’m going to give it to you anyway!

  • Set up a blog
    Yes this is blatantly obvious but it bears repeating. It’s easy these days to set up a basic blog using for example, WordPress to get it looking exactly like you want it. If you enjoy delving in to the graphs and stats of SEO, even better, because there’s plenty of ways to keep track of how your site is performing. Remember, your blog is your personal platform to waffle on about anything you want and yes, promote your stuff.
  • Test the water
    If you’re not ready to take the plunge into the near-bottomless ocean of online publishing, why not self-publish some short stories, or older work that never saw the light of day? You can host it on your own site, or on any site for authors and readers that lets you upload your own stuff. This is a golden opportunity not only to get valuable feedback from people who love to read, but it can give you a little experience in promoting your writing.
  • Network
    Spend any length of time on Twitter, and you’d be forgiven for feeling discouraged by just how many people are doing exactly what you’re doing. It may seem like everyone is a budding author these days, with their own tale to tell and story to sell. Don’t let that put you off. Really, it’s no different than walking into your favourite book store and seeing all the latest releases lined up side-by-side. Some people like one thing, others like something else. It’s the way it goes and helping to promote the work of others, and them returning the favour is all part of networking. The more people you follow, the more you’ll learn.

So, there you go! I’ll end this #ShamlessPromo blog with a shameless call to buy my book!

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You don’t always have to box off

Believe me, that was a hard heading to write. I’m the kind of person who likes to box things off and get one thing done before starting another. It makes me feel good because I’ve achieved something and not left any loose ends. It doesn’t always work that way with writing though.

Sure, you want to get that novel finished above all else. You want to commit dedicated time to it and not procrastinate. I get it. But I’m guessing that if you like writing, you’re an imaginative person and you’re always getting random ideas. These could be a scenario, a sentence, or even just a bit of dialogue – it doesn’t matter. Write them down. Make sure you keep a notebook for all your random ideas and don’t worry about keeping them spinning away while slaving over your main story.

This is great for two reasons. Firstly, you’ll have a few ideas floating around, which is always rich food for the imagination. Secondly, it’s a brilliant solution if you’ve set aside time to write but you’re hitting a literary brick wall with your main project. That time will never be wasted, because you can pick up on one of your other ideas and see where it goes. You may develop a storyline for a sequel, or a whole new series. You may even dream up something so amazing that it becomes your new main project. Lots of fantastic things have grown from the germ of an idea, and your next idea could be one of them.

So, don’t be afraid to start something new and keep all those plates spinning. Great things could happen.

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What is a book?

No wait, hear me out. Still there? Good.

If you’re reading this you’re probably looking for a little more than a literal answer, so here goes.

These days, books can take many forms. As well as a good old-fashioned charity shop find or a crisp new release hastily picked up from the airport newsagent before your flight, there is of course everyone’s favourite space-saver, the Kindle. Or indeed, the Kindle app if (like me) you’re slumming it just a little.

Delve into the world of online publication and you’ll have so much choice, you won’t know where to start. I’m guilty of perhaps not reading as much as I’d like to, but having dipped my toe into Amazonian waters, I discovered a few things pretty quickly.

Firstly, self-publishing makes it easier than ever before to get what’s inside your head out there for the public to enjoy. And if they don’t, well that’s their problem. At least you did it. This doesn’t have to be the 10000+ word fantasy epic you’ve been slaving away at for half your life though. These days, books take many forms. Your story may be great but you just find yourself wanting to get it over a little more quickly – that’s fine. In the world of self-publishing nobody looks down their nose at a novella.

It doesn’t even have to have a narrative either. From stream-of-consciousness ramblings and specialist cookbooks, to collected essays and structured how-to guides, pretty much anything can be a book these days.

So, get that idea out of your head and onto your screen and before long, it’ll be on everybody else’s screen as well.

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