‘Tell it like it is’ Tuesday – Is there anybody there?

So…turns out, I’m not dead. Phew!

I’m more glad about that than you might think. I’ll tell you why a bit later. But enough with the pleasantries, how’ve you been? Sheesh, it’s been ages. I mean, like, forever.

2980051095_27c491a67d

Well, it also turns out, that forever is a long time. Who knew?

Precisely, it’s about three hundred and thirty four days.

Hello, my name is Saffi and it’s been some time since my last confession…I mean, blog.

Yeah, yeah. Shoot me now. I know.

Good, so that’s that out of the way then. We wouldn’t want a huge grey thing in the corner, would we?

Soooooo, you look different. Have you changed your hair or something? New dress? Just can’t quite put my finger on it, but you’ve definitely done something…wait, I know! Yep, you’ve turned into something completely unrecognisable! How did I not spot it before?

Need a little help?

We’re on about the game face of the publishing industry of course.

Talk about trying to trap a firefly at noon with your granddad’s favourite pants! Just can’t make that critter say still long enough to see what you’re up against. And even if you do get lucky, the darn thing is bound to wriggle its way out some hole or another. My advice? Don’t bother.

Dead-tree route? Indie? Go it alone or pay someone else to upload your books to the internet of things? Get an editor/don’t get an editor? Use KDP’s new button and make your own cover. After all, no-one judges your work by that, right? It’s all just a big boat-load of reasons not to get on with your day-job.

Writing.

writing2

There are a gazillion ways to allow a reader to feast their eyes on those little letters you’ve stained a blank canvas with – and let’s face it – they’re better off there than in your muddled brain. So do it. Hell, dare I even say it, do NanoWrimo if you feel you must! Whatever it takes to shut those whining protags’ up. Do it, and do it now.

It’s what November was made for.

Ooh, speaking of November, let’s not forget about its poor relation.

Halloween

Two more days.

Two more days to Halloween, Halloween. Dontcha just frickin’ love it? It’s the night when the lost souls wander the earth and it’s your job to stop them stealing your breath and slithering under your bed. Baseball bats are NOT gonna cover it. So choose your side carefully… are you with me, or against? Come on, it’s Tuesday, got to tell it as it is.

Have a fabulous Autumn and never forget: it’s not the dead that’ll hurt you, it’s the living.

Happy almost Halloween.

Saffi

 

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Thanksgiving ‘Tell it like it is’ ~ Why you should be thankful you didn’t call your cat Azzie

Right, let me just get this out there before my inbox explodes, okay? No one, but no one likes a big grey problem lurking in the corner…

Are you SURE you can see me at the back?

Are you SURE you can see me at the back?

Yes, I know: my last blog was July 2013… (Oh and yet again, it isn’t Tuesday, but what the hell. For today’s purposes, we’re telling it like it is on a Thursday)

There, I said it. But hey, guess what? Go and read it (here), it’s quite amusing and a LOT has changed since then. Not least, that my beloved country finally has a new Wimbledon champion! Yay! Great news for us Brits and what a deserved victory it was…

*insert picture of Andy Murray kissing said trophy here*

…however, the blob on the field scene, is that the twisted and futile battle between writers (also mentioned in the blog post) of all persuasions still has legs and is currently running around the ‘net like a jam-covered Twinkie at a wasp reunion. There’s a few interesting posts here and here if you can stomach any more of it. Personally – as I have said before – I would rather write, but it does make you feel better about said writing when you read them. *big smiley face*

Soooos, anyho’, let’s not allow that to scar this latest post. It’s Thursday not Tuesday, it’s Thanksgiving. You’re here, I’m here and we’re telling it like it is, right?

Right.

Let’s do this thing!

What is all this ranting in aid of today?

Well, it’s about a cat.

And little lockable mind- boxes where we store our deepest, darkest fears.

And bad people who want to steal your very life-essence.

It’s about good triumphing over evil.

Oh and some bloke who fancies himself as a horror writer.

Meet Azzie, the real star of the show…

Of course, I am referring to the sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep. But beware – this is NOT a review. Okay, I will mention the book and what I thought of it (and possibly give some bits away, so go do something else if you haven’t read it yet and intend to) but that is not the purpose of this post, so don’t start bitchin’ if that’s why you came.

Here’s the actual cover (well, the Amazon UK version of it anyway. There are many more, but this is my fave):

Okay, so for me, as a die-hard SK fan, this book coming out was a BIG deal. My love for the master of horror has seen more ups and downs in recent years than a roller-coaster ride built by a drunken Tourette’s sufferer (no offence intended here btw before you start, I have been known to unleash the occasional uncontrollable barrage of profanities myself and share the odd bottle of wine or three) so I was skeptical – if not a little wary – to say the least. Would he really be able to follow up The Shining after all this time? Would readers be comparing it to the film? Are SK’s stories even scary anymore or does he just churn out books that he knows fans will buy because they have his name on them,  regardless of the quality of the plot or the writing?

Well, let me tell you, the answer is a resounding: I DON’T KNOW.

I am totally on the proverbial fence with this one. There’s always markers for me regarding whether I thought a book was good or not, first one being, did I finish it? In this case, yes, I most certainly did. And did I rush home to read it every day? Yet again: Yes. Did it hold my attention? Yup. Did the characters resonate with me? Aye and did I care about what happened to them? Most definitely. I thought the concept was unique and typically strange, and the members of the True Knot were not the type of retirees that you would enjoy sharing a natter and a coffee with at a rest stop. It was great to see what had happened to Dan Torrance and how his life had panned out (although no great surprise that after his experience at The Overlook Hotel he would become a messed-up, single alcoholic) and the supporting characters were as believable as they were lovable. All in all, it was a great story. It had everything you would expect. Suspense, weirdness, plausible fantasy that treads the fine line between real-life and what we all hope actually exists –  and a cat. You just gotta have a cat, right? According to numerous articles on the web (this one being my fave), the story about a real-life cat named Oscar, who reportedly knew when people were going to die, prompted SK to start work on the sequel in the first place, so why didn’t I love it, instead of just liking it?

I gotta be brutally honest – it didn’t scare me.

There were no shivers, no heart-stopping moments where I held my breath and stared in disbelief at my Kindle, nor did I switch the light off with reluctance when I had finished reading. It was good. That’s as kind as I can be.

I get the feeling, that A) Mr King was physically compelled to write the sequel as Dan Torrance was tapping him on the shoulder, begging that his story be continued and B) that this will undoubtedly make a great film and was written as such a book.

I found the parts where the MC and Abra (token tween who also had shineability but to a greater extent than Dan’s because hers hadn’t been dulled by booze) communicated telepathically,  jarring. They were written in italics and strangely, without punctuation, so were very difficult to follow and I found myself going back over what had been written frequently and also, I kept getting the peripheral characters mixed up. There was a doctor and family friend, and some other bit-part groupies who went to AA meetings, as well as Abra’s family, and this I found rather disjointed.

I loved the True Knot characters and the names he gave them and the fact that they disguised their true purpose as innocent oldies, wearing crap t-shirts and trundling around in sparkly SUVs, but aside from the odd arched eyebrow when Rose (one-fanged leader of the True Knot) got inside Abra’s head, I wasn’t too disturbed. Which is a little disappointing as a fan.

But here’s the sucker-punch. The big ‘but’. The golden ticket as far as a writer (or indeed, a reader) is concerned.

SOMETHING FROM THE STORY STUCK.

Some line/scene/character/throwaway comment nestled itself into someone’s psyche and settled down for the Winter, if not forever. Burrowing deep, laying its hat and calling that new, warm, cosy place home.

As a writer, that is all you could ever wish for.

Sure, I have no doubt that my fellow scribes would also have a NY Times bestseller chart position and a yacht on their wish-list, but when you sit back in your chair and type THE END (which is usually about ten years before the book is actually properly finished), all you can hope for is that someone reads the story and one little, tiny, miniscule mote of story-magic, is inhaled and sparkles for eternity.

How do I know that this happened with Doctor Sleep, I hear you ask?

A friend of mine is going through a pretty crap time of it just recently. I won’t name them, nor will I divulge the circumstances around said crapola period of their lives, but what I WILL do, is show you this.  This is a reply to a text I sent the other day, insinuating that even the super-humans among us have to admit that life and emotions can get in the way of being the incredible hulk sometimes. This was their reply to a comment I made suggesting that worry over a relative had possibly affected how they had behaved in the last few weeks:

IM

If only eh? If only we could compartmentalize our feelings, anger and sadness and stick them in a little drawer in our heads, turn the key and leave them there until we were strong enough to deal with them or just set them on fire – blow the box up – whichever came first. How cool would it be and what would life be like? Much different methinks.

The truth of the matter is, we can’t.

So the point of the this post is two-fold (phew, Saffi, I can hear you say. We wondered when you would get to that bit):

Stephen King is still a great writer and is the undisputed master of mote-leaving magic in the Universe, even though he has probably made peace with his demons and that shows in his writing these days and…

No-one has the key to the aforementioned box.

Sure, you can put things away for a while and sit on the lid whilst they bounce around like a kangaroo trying to get out of a suitcase, but you can never really silence your fears. Not forever.

Things sting. Life is shit sometimes. Crap things happen to okay people. It’s the way of the world.

What you can do, is smile the next time you pass someone who looks like they could use a bit of extra help shutting that lid. Even if it’s just for a while. Just long enough to store that box in a filing cabinet, then blow the dust off and have a look inside at a later date.

Maybe Stephen King’s story has a deeper meaning. Maybe it’s just a good book that turns out okay in the end. Who knows? Not me.

All I do know is – whilst we’ve still got steam, we’re still alive and no amount of scary monsters can keep us down forever.

Saffi

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‘Tell it like it is’ Tuesday – Anyone for tennis?

Ahoy there!

Well, it’s Wimbledon time again. The supermarket aisles are stocked with Pimms and there isn’t an uncultivated strawberry in sight. Oh and it’s raining!

But wait, it was also Glastonbury a few days ago. What did you expect? British Summer Time? Hell, this is British summer!

wimbledon-rain

The clever boffins at the All England Lawn Tennis Club have finally (after some 136 years) decided to stick a roof on center court (and soon #1 court too) so that we can actually get through a match without the covers having to be brought on OR endure a Cliff Richard rendition whilst we wait as rain stops play. Yay! Thank *insert appropriate deity here* for that!

But hey, let’s hope they actually close it in time – unlike our friends in Donetsk at the Euro’s last year *sigh* when they delayed the decision to close the embarrassingly expensive roof until they were under three feet of water and then realised that it takes over an hour to shut, by which time, the referees were wearing waders and Roy Hodgson had defected to the England synchronised swimming team!

So, for all of our non-British visitors, I thought I’d give you a little sneeky-peek into one of our most visited events of the year and show you why it is so adored here in Blighty…

During the Wimbledon fortnight the following are consumed:

  • 300,000 cups of tea and coffee
  • 250,000 bottles of water
  • 207,000 meals served
  • 200,000 glasses of Pimm’s
  • 190,000 sandwiches
  • 150,000 bath buns, scones, pasties and doughnuts
  • 135,000 ice creams
  • 130,000 lunches are served
  • 100,000 pints of draught beer and lager
  • 60,000 Dutchees
  • 40,000 char-grilled meals served
  • 32,000 portions of fish and chips
  • 30,000 litres of milk
  • 28,000 kg (112,000 punnets) of English strawberries
  • 25,000 bottles of champagne
  • 23,000 bananas
  • 20,000 portions of frozen yoghurt
  • 12,000 kg of poached salmon and smoked salmon
  • 7,000 litres of dairy cream
  • 6,000 stone baked pizzas

In the fourteen days of the tournament, some 378.8 million people will watch it on their televisions.

Almost half a million spectators will pass through the gates during the tournament.

At least one player will smash a serve in of more than 137 mph at their opponent and no-one will die. (hopefully)

660 matches will be played.

Over 40 miles of string will be used to re-string rackets.

6,000 members of staff will work for the duration.

25,000 households will be adorned with a new green and purple championship towel.

10,000 umbrellas will be bought and most likely, used.

And one man and one woman will be crowned Champions and have their name etched on that famous wall and trophy.

This usually leads to almost 63 million disappointed Brits – again.

But what about this year?

Federer – out.

Nadal – out.

Murray – still in (at the time of writing this)

…and possibly just one man stands between him and that elusive win. Will we be celebrating this coming Sunday in the sunshine, or will we be snarling a smile as someone else plants a smacker on the trophy once again? Who knows? But to us, it is summer, it is Wimbledon…

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????112898481_am_335114b imagesBut it’s just a game right?

Wrong. Very wrong. There can only be one winner.

So, you are forgiven for wondering what any of this has to do with writing and publishing (a-ha, you knew there was a reason you came!). Well, I’ll tell you.

I am soooooooo bored of reading posts/rants/tirades of abuse relating to the tennis that is the ‘traditional’ versus ‘indie’ grudge match.

I mean, get over yourselves already. ALL of you.

I staggered across one highly amusing post here the other day. I won’t offer my opinion on the poster, he does a cracking job of removing all doubt for you in his replies and his other vitriolic (and highly unsubstantiated) blatherations against ‘indies’. It seems reading his other posts that the guy is highly knowledgeable and offers some great news and insight into e-reading and publishing. but like the perennial loser at Wimbledon, no matter how well he plays up until the final match-winning point, everything else that comes before it is irrelevant if you’re not kissing the cup.

Then there was, of course, the equally-sidesplitting post by Melissa Foster some time ago. Add that to your handmade, obviously second-rate pipes and smoke your not-quite-as-good-as-Golden Virginia-tobacco you wannabe writer plebs!

At the other end of the manicured court, just in sight above the perfectly aligned net are the ‘indie is the only way’ ‘traditional publishing is dead’ naysayers. I detest them with equal venom.

Let’s just get one thing straight here, guys: whether you label yourself with the latest cool author tag (anyone else hate ‘hybrid’? I’m a writer, not a car) or you stand with both feet rooted in one happy camp and your one and only song on your iPod blasting out on a repeatable 24 hour loop, you are in this crazy sport for one reason and one reason only. To write the best story/book/poem/screenplay that you can.

There should only ever be ONE winner.

The reader.

Game, set AND match.

Saffi

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‘Tell it like it is’ Tuesday ~ ‘Imagine me & you.’ Characters and why you have to shoot them in the head.

Okay, I know it’s not Tuesday and that is the whole point of this post. Please forgive me (or send your strongly-worded letter to the White Star Line slash Points of View)

They say if you have to get up in the dead of the night and write something down, you never forget it.

It’s a bit like that when someone you’ve never met before saunters into your head, grinds a fag out with a worn winklepicker and says: “There’s a hole where my heart used to be. My name’s Nate, by the way. ” (Or howdy, or hi, or greetings or whatever salutation suits). *watchthisspaceforanewsaffinadesforgeseries*

Can you imagine how J.K. felt when she made the decision to kill off Harry?

It's all downhill from here...

It’s all downhill from here…

Actually, she probably felt quite relieved… if you’re not a writer, you won’t get this. Sorry, don’t mean to exclude you from this conversation, but it’s true. Might as well leave now… ;-)

Still here? Good. That means that you’ve earned your rite of passage (or you’re a bit wrong in the head).

So, where was I? Oh yeah, what to do when people that don’t exist take over your life.

Crazy? Yup.

It doesn’t matter how good you are at writing/explaining stuff/drawing with words, you cannot tell a muddle (that’s writer-talk for people who don’t write) what it’s like to live with voices in your head. You have no idea how it feels to close your eyes and know that when you sleep, all you will do, is borrow another persons’ life for eight hours (insert numbers here) and wake up and put it down on paper. FACT.

I tried explaining it the other day. #epicfail.

You see, as much as you muddles pretend to get it – you don’t.

I wouldn’t want to live with a writer. I wouldn’t want to live with a serial killer either, but sometimes, I think it’d be easier.

I’m sat here, at my desk (my favourite place in the world. Bar none) pondering an analogy. There isn’t one. But if there WAS it’d probably be something like that advert for colds.

Now I know how Damocles felt.

This week has been tumultuous for me.

This blog post is my therapy… some take drugs; Some pinch cars and drive them at breakneck speed.

Some assault a leather bag hanging from the rafters.

Some go out and do unspeakable things.

Me? I hammer my keyboard.

Go on. Give it your best shot.

Go on. Hit me with your best shot.

The greatest football manager that ever lived retires tomorrow. I am bereft.

#thankyousiralex

I guess this post is in honour of him. It’s my tribute.

He got his trophy back

He got his trophy back

I’m also putting my dollars on the fact that he’ll never read it. Do you know what? It doesn’t matter.

The fact that I wrote it is enough. The fact that one person churned my gut enough to make me want to mention them, is testament to the legacy that he has created. And as much as you don’t know how it feels to be a writer, you also don’t know how he will feel on Monday when he opens his eyes…

It’s a bit like shutting the voices up. It’s a bit like confining someone you don’t know to the annals of time. Put them in the well and let them scream and shout and claw their way out, but they will never really be quiet.

THAT is how SAF will feel when he walks into Old Trafford and he isn’t in the red Recaro seat. They say he isn’t leaving – but he is. If he isn’t in charge, he might as well not be there.

THAT is also what it feels like to be a writer. Me and Sir Alex, we’re not that different…

I hate those books that tell you how to write a best-seller in 3 easy steps. (Please, Mand, stop me from ever writing one if I mention it).

The APS will be spinning in their tortured seats

The APS will be spinning in their tortured seats

I read a blog post the other day from a guy who was ‘jacking it all in’ because no-one paid for what he’d written.

You don’t do it for that. You do it because if you didn’t, you’d be dead.

Needless to say, I didn’t comment on his cyberic tirade. I think I have learned my lesson when it comes to not being able to undo what you have indelibly stamped on the twittersphere… I’ve also learned my lesson when it comes to characters.

The reason for this post?

Not SAF.

Not because I have a point (I have ideas crashing around my head like blind-folded dodgem cars in the dark, 24-7), OR because I wanted you to buy a book that would make you rich in a nano-second, no.

The reason I write this: is because I fell back in love with writing. (again)

Why?

Karin Slaughter – Criminal.

See here:

THIS is how you do it....

THIS is how you do it….

Will Trent reminded me of how to write. Will Trent is a CHARACTER. If I manage to make someone (anyone) feel like that – ONCE, I will have achieved my goal: I’ve shot you in the head. And that’s one you won’t get over. :-)

Saffi

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‘Tell it like it is’ Tuesday ~ April: Writers’ Room 101

*grumblegrumblemoanmitherwhingegrrrrrr*

No, Victor Meldrew is not guest posting on my blog today. I’m just not in a very good mood, can you tell?

Why? ‘cos I’m 40!!

Booooo! BUT, here’s the good news: I am now officially allowed to moan…

Here on TiliiT, the idea was to give it to you straight.

No sugar-coating, no going round the houses, just deliver whatever it was I (or you shabby lot) wanted to say with as much subtlety as a right hook to the jaw in the final round or a Glasgow kiss (look it up my American friends) on a wet weekend at kicking out time.

So guess what?

You asked for it!

You asked for it!

WRITERS’ ROOM 101

We all have them right?

Pet hates, worst nightmares, absolute #fails? Everyone does.

It might be your partner leaving the toilet seat up and the loo roll empty. It could be the woman who sits next to you on the tube who talks into her phone really loudly, convinced that the whole world wants to hear what she told the girl in her office to do when battling over who was next to use the photocopier; it is most definitely the call you get late at night wanting to ask you if you are happy with your current electricity supplier or mobile phone provider. It’s human nature to be annoyed about things or fear situations and want them throwing down a bottomless well with a cast-iron lid, wearing concrete wellies.

Personally, my list is waaaaaay too long for this blog, so I will desist from putting you through it, however, as a writer I have a pretty consistent top ten!

We’ve all been there as fledgling scribes and virgin KDP’ers. We’ve made mistakes, we’ve committed the ultimate in social networking sin and hijacked another writer’s thread or dared to post something in the wrong place in a facebook group.  And hey, we should all be lined up and have virtual rotten cabbages pelted at us against a digital wall for tweeting too many times about our new books. Hell, we still do it.

We have to learn and when you are first starting out on the crazy journey that is becoming a writer, you will get things wrong. FACT.

You will also continue to get things wrong. It’s life. BUT, what usually happens, is that you learn from your mistakes…sometimes.

Welcome to my very own WRITERS’ ROOM 101

Straight in at 10…

#10 – RESPONDING TO NEGATIVE REVIEWS

Now look, I know as well as anyone how it feels when someone publically trashes your work. Hell, they might as well stand at ten paces with a flaming, hook-tipped arrow aimed at your heart whilst wearing a neon ‘We ♥ Mo Hayder’ t-shirt and grinding a copy of your latest manuscript into the dirt with one foot. It’s painful. AND it makes you angry.

If they only the reader knew the time and effort, not to mention that huge part of your soul, that you put into writing your book. Surely they would re-think and at least give you two stars and maybe remove some of the expletives from their slating, right? WRONG. And, equally wrong of us to expect them to.

When we first started out, we received some nerve-jangling one star reviews. Some were justified (it is UBER-IMPORTANT to ensure that your book is correctly formatted and has been spell-checked and proof-read before publishing), some were clearly anonymous trolls with an agenda and others were just from readers who didn’t like the book.

1star2

1star

And hey, guess what? They’re allowed this opinion.

Do yourself a massive favour and try not to let it bother you. Sure, take heed if a reader tells you that there are errors or glaring plot-holes because with the best will in the world (and an army of beta readers) there will still be things you miss. Make changes; that’s the beauty of digital publishing (no trees were harmed in the correction of mistakes) but do not, I repeat, do NOT, under any circumstances, reply publicly to negative reviews. NOT EVERYONE WILL LIKE YOUR BOOK.

Some writers are of the opinion that you should never reply at all, even to positive reviews. Heck, Karin Slaughter told me that she doesn’t even read them, but that is your choice. Personally, I have made some great contacts and even friends via postings on the net and emails about my books, so I’ll leave that one to you, but please, take this one seriously. As I infamously once said (see, we all do it) in a raging on-line debate under a newspaper article, a reader cannot unbuy a book (and yes, before you start, I realise that theoretically, they can return one). Similarly, they cannot unread something that you have written, even if you remove it. The cyber-imprint remains in the ether like a fading negative. It will be remembered.

A non-mover at 9 is…

#9 – THE LONE STAR WRITER REVIEW

See above for this one.

OK, I admit, all writers are also readers and that means that they are also entitled to an opinion on a book. You paid for it, right? So you’re allowed to leave a review as long as Mo Farrah’s legs about how awful it was and how the writer should be ashamed of themselves for publishing it? NO. YOU’RE NOT.

Why? Because even if it is true and even if you did feel that you’ve just wasted four hours of your life that you’ll never get back and a fiver that you needed for the kids’ lunch money, you’ll look bitter and unprofessional.

You could even be accused of deliberate sabotage and let’s face it, it’s hard enough being a writer as it is, without an army of enemies amongst your peers and readership eh?

So ZIP IT (and smoulder quietly away on the inside). Honest, you’ll thank me for this one.

It’s a new entry at 8…

#8 – KINDLEBOARDS (more specifically the Writers’ Cafe)

Okay, I admit, I am skating on ice thinner than Luis Suarez’ excuses for biting Ivanovich at the weekend are wearing, with this one (and risking adding to the troops in the army mentioned in #9) but I feel compelled to warn you about this.

Firstly, let me start by saying that KINDLEBOARDS is a pretty good site in general. (now called Kboards).  If you own a Kindle, want to talk about Kindles, want links to books, wanna learn the ropes for Kindle publishing and generally wanna get all kindled-up, it’s cool and it is very well run. I spent many an hour on these boards back in the day and found some brilliant advice and links. I am STILL a member and every other week, will pop in and see what is afoot. Herein lies the problem.

If you are offended by what you might have read at #10 and are appalled at the thought of the accusations you might have unleashed against you if you commit the lone star review sin of #9, then the Writers’ Cafe is not for you.

There’s some pretty gnarly characters to be found on that there board and if you’re just starting out in the writing wilderness, it certainly isn’t the best or kindest place to cut your teeth. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

kb

80% of the folk that post there are genuinely nice and helpful, but as always, whenever you hang out with peeps in the same business as yourself, there’s bound to be back-biting, sniping and down-right jealousy.

My advice? Become a sometime-lurker. Hang around, read the posts that grab your attention and follow the links that you think might be useful. DO NOT tout your books, dare to argue with a seasoned member or post a topic that has been posted before. Oh and beware, Kboards is a major time-suck. Before you know it, you will be receiving personal hate messages and fretting about it on the way to the post office to draw your pension; and the book you were once writing…?

Holding steady at number 7…

#7 – Social media slaying/bashing/stoning of fellow writers or readers (aka facebook f*ck-ups)

Right, we all know that there are three things that should never be discussed at a dinner party and that they say never to work with animals or children on television, so why, oh why, would you publicly disagree with someone on your social media platform?

socialmediasuicide-200x200

I’ll keep this one brief and very, very simple. JUST DON’T.

Back up from eight to number 6…

#6 – ‘How I made five billion Martianese sabretooth Drachma in just three weeks’ books

Since the advent of KDP and digital publishing, everyone and their dog have jumped on the bandwagon with a veritable plethora of ‘How to’ books. Sheesh, I even bought a couple and back then, they were value for money (for us) and there still are some out there now, that as a newbie writer, you would do well to spend a couple of quid on.

These two, should belong in every writers’ virtual locker:

Kristen Lamb’s ‘WE ARE NOT ALONE

The fabulous WANAMama tells you all you need to know about social media

The fabulous WANAMama tells you all you need to know about social media

Anne R Allen & Cathryn Ryan Hyde’s ‘HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE

These two experienced writers certainly 'Pay it forward' with what they've learned

These two experienced writers certainly ‘Pay it forward’ with what they’ve learned

There are some other really useful ‘How to’ books out there, but please make sure that you research them properly before buying. All too often, they have an enticing title that promises you’ll get rich from your book in less time than it takes Ussain Bolt to run for an ice-cream and with as little effort. Do you notice how none of these so-called “experts” don’t actually have any bestsellers in the charts??

Mostly, it is the same information (most of which you probably already know) re-hashed and put inside a new, snazzy cover. If there really was a secret to success with digitally publishing a book, do you think they’d be sharing it?

Down three places at number five…

#5 – ‘Candy Crush-like’ capers on fb & twitter

Any writer who has a twitter or fb account will tell you the same thing: the majority of their followers/likers/scary cyber-stalkers are other writers.

Now that’s all well and good and it is great to share experiences, moan about sales slumps and find out useful marketing tools and sites hosting book giveaways etc. What isn’t so great is the endless barrage of likemyauthorpageorcutecatwithsunglassesonpicture-joinmyfanclub-cometomybooklauncheventhoughitsnotreal-sharemydeal-buymybookandillbuyyours requests that litter your timeline or clog up your newsfeed, nor do they sell you many books.

Social media and self-promotion is a necessary evil when you’re a writer, but try not to get sucked into the writers’ whirl that exists on these platforms and TRUST NO ONE.

JUST BECAUSE THEY ADDED YOU ON FB DOES NOT MEAN THAT THEY ARE REALLY YOUR FRIEND!

Anyone can put a photo of a cheery-looking, semi-retired grandma of three who writes historical chick-lit and tell you how wonderful it would be if you just featured them on your blog and helped them sell the 25th copy of their latest book so that they could afford to send their poorly aunty on a trip to the local whist-drive one last time before she succumbs to a tropical disease that she picked up whilst nursing in the Crimean war – it doesn’t mean that they’re not really a fat, balding, bitter sci-fi fan who has had their latest manuscript rejected for the gazillionth time and you’ve just agreed to co-write a short story with them.

You remember that your mother told you to never take sweets from strangers, yeah?

cc

Right, so why on earth would you spend all day getting a lard-arse in your faux-leather chair with your nose pressed to the screen of your pc, accepting invites for virtual events and tweeting links to books that you’ve never read? LIMIT THE TIME YOU SPEND ON FB & TWITTER AND USE IT TO INTERACT WITH READERS.

A surprise inclusion in the chart at number four…

#4 – The two-headed monster that is the PUBLISHAGENTASAURUSREX

No, they haven’t been wiped off the planet leaving a smouldering pile of iPad entrails and singed Armani and yes, you can still play nicely in the playground with them.

What is this shit about book stores becoming extinct, everyone reading on the walls of their living room by 2015 and the agenticide rates going through the glass ceiling when they realise that they are gonna have to retrain as lifecoaches?

NEWSFLASH! PEOPLE STILL READ BOOKS!

Yes, digital is here to stay and taking a larger chunk of the market year-on-year and no, having a literary agent does not mean that your masterpiece will never see the light of day, but get real folks. We can all share the sandpit together and lend our spades, even if we now have more choice on what colour that spade might be, how big a hole we let them dig with it and when we ask for it back.

Publishing is evolving, not dying and roles are changing. That doesn’t mean they are no longer required or useful to you as a writer.

We have had this term hybrid author thrust in our faces recently and I guess it’s as good a way as any to describe the new scribe who takes both a traditional publishing deal and retains digital rights –  for now. I am sure that new deals and machinations will evolve as the publishing landscape changes again, as it is certain to do. Personally, I don’t like being labelled. I prefer the term writer

Down 2 places from last week, number 3…

#3 – When is a bestseller really a bestseller?

So come on, what’s the magic number? What was it back in the day? Did a debut author have to sell 1,000 copies? 5, 000 copies? 10,000? to be considered a success…

How many record sales did it take to get to number one in 1980 compared to today?

Here’s one for you: Our debut novel has sold more digital copies than JLS sold of their last album, Evolution. Does that make us bestsellers? I like to think so.

What I DON’T like, is authors who sell 50 books and end up in some obscure category at number 99 for an hour that has nothing to do with their genre and then hail themselves as bestsellers because they appeared on a list.

Example here:

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 09.24.00

That’s just a lie.

The bestseller tag is hard to disprove for a reader and it’s true, there isn’t a number, but come on people, play fair and be truthful about what that status really means…

Last week’s number one is this week’s number two…

#2 – Rumble in the literary jungle: Indie vs Trad

When is a writer not a writer?

When they’re a painter.

I am sooooooooooo tired of listening to both camps harp on about the other.

1280px-COCK_FIGHT

I am sick of indie writers being vilified and told that they are the poor relation of unheard of mid-list writers whose sales they could probably count on one hand and their decrepit budgie’s foot and that because indie books haven’t been through the revered slush-pile that they are bottom feeders in the ‘tsunami of crap’. GET OVER YOURSELVES - ALL OF YOU.

A writer is a writer is a writer. THE END. (There, that has a beginning, a middle and an ending. Will that pass the Publishagentasaurusrex’s slush pile test d’ya think?)

Also see #4…

And so, to this week’s number one. A Writers’ Room 101 Chart-topper. My biggest fear/phobia/gut-wrenching, intestine-twister. The one thing that should scare the beejesus out of all of us…

#1 – BLANKPAGEitis

*scratches head* "Shouldn't there be something here?"

*scratches head* “Shouldn’t there be something here?”

You’ve spent so much of your precious and valuable time worrying about/taking part in/reading up on and arguing with everything mentioned in 10-2, that you haven’t written a goddamn single word – even if it was gonna be shite and no-one would ever want to publish it.

I don’t know much, but one thing’s for sure: if you’ve been doing any of the things in 10 through 2, you sure as hell haven’t been writing…

Saffi

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Posted in books, writing

‘Tell it like it is Tuesday’ ~ March 2013

Okay, okay. Before you start. I know it’s not the first Tuesday of the month. I’m late. There, I said it before you did.

I can hear all the sheeshing justified moaning now.

rollseyes

Sooorrrreeeee. ‘K? ;-) I’ve been uber-silly busy and then, to top it all off, went and slipped on some ice and put my back out, so I HAVE an excuse. Shoot me now. (not literally, you understand).

Right, that’s enough apologising from me, let’s crack on.

Time to ‘Tell it like it is’!

I uhmed and ahed about doing this blog today for various reasons. One, because of the subject matter and two, because of the age of the two girls involved, but then I thought, nah, go for it. This blog, afterall is primarily about writing and creativity and I thought that this was just too good not to show to the world.

You may be aware that recently, we (as in, Mark and I, my partner-in-literary-right-and-wrong-doings’) published a Young Adult novel, co-written with two teenage authors. In true no-crap style, I won’t go into detail here, head on over to my other blog for that HERE.

Anyway, the relevance to today’s blog is two-fold: One: we are hopefully spawning a generation of new writers and personally, I don’t think they get taken seriously enough. And two: retribution.

We are very good at dismissing the scribblings of those not old enough to drive or vote yet and other than them posting their work on sites like Wattpad and fanfic sites, they don’t always get the billing that they deserve.

wanted-poster-template

So, when I asked around for some sassy youngster to contribute to this blog, I didn’t hold out much hope. That was, until a friend of mine contacted me and asked if I would like to see a poem that her daughter and her friend had written.

Of course, I jumped at the chance.

I must admit, I was a tad fearful of having to offend her and politely dismiss it as unsuitable. Until I read it.

Like any good piece of writing, it needs no explanation or introduction. All I will tell you is, is that the two young scribes concerned are still only 12 and 13 years old respectively and were probably MUCH younger when they wrote this. They were also pretty perceptive. See what you think:

On the 11th of September 2001,
Osama Bin laden had a job to be done.
A job to destroy and hurt a nation,
To cause chaos, despair and devastation.
Four planes were hijacked, made to be crashed,
Flying into the target they smashed.
One plane landed in the middle of nowhere,
The next three hit buildings without a care.
Smoke filled the air and dust clouds grew
The sky forevermore grey, no longer blue.
The workers inside were screaming,
The queues to the fire escape were heaving,
The fire spread and spread and spread,
Leaving many people unfortunately dead.
Bin laden’s job was almost done,
But the biggest disaster was still to come.
One by one the floors broke down,
Their burnt souls now left to be found.
As people jumped and hit the ground,
The screams and shouts were really loud.

Jumping to die quick and pain free,
Scenes got too sad for people to see.
Cameras then flashed with the pictures they took,
As the ground trembled and shook.
The dust grew bigger, witnesses had to abort
And do all they could, to help find support.
Firemen were quickly on the site,
With people hoping with all their might.

Down came the second tower,
With such strength and such power,
Floors by floors they slowly broke down,
Now this heart-breaking disaster is the talk of the town.
Now Bin laden’s job is done,
His cold dark days are soon to come,
All the people he killed that day,
Are no longer here to have their say.
A nasty idea it was indeed,
He now has no-one to follow his lead.
This happened at such an unexpected time,
Now he must pay for this terrible crime.

By Megan Shelton & Lauren McGahan

This is Megan and Lauren:

Megan

Megan

Lauren

Lauren

I think maybe we have two budding, talented writers on our hands. I also think that they might have finally got their wish.

Saffi

 

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Posted in books, writing

‘Tell it Like it is’ Tuesday ~ February 2013

Ahoy there!

Did someone say it was Tuesday? The first Tuesday of the month by any chance? Hmm, well, in that case – it’s time for a bit of TiLiiT!

Tillit

Like the new logo? ;-)

Don’t worry, it won’t be that large every month! I just fancied showing off a bit in February…

So, er, brrrrrrrrrr, it’s been a bit cold, right? The weather here in the UK, as always, has been very peculiar. We went from two foot of snow and -12 to 13 degrees, sunshine and howling winds – all within ten days!

As you lot are busy reading this, I will be sunning myself in the Italian mountains and indulging in rather a lot of apres and probably-not-so-much ski! ;-)

No, I jest. I love my snowboarding and hopefully, by the time you read this, I will have mastered some of the more scary runs and honed my technique a little…

THIS is my baby:

Meet Bertha!

Meet Bertha!

And THIS is me trying my gear on again after two seasons of it languishing in a suitcase!

Yes, I know. GEEK!

Yes, I know. GEEK!

Note to self: make sure you don’t actually snowboard in your pj’s, Saffi! ;-)

Anyho’, must crack on, lots to do before I head off to the slopes…

So, what’s on the agenda for this month then?

Well, I wanted to talk about something specific today. Something that affects readers and writers alike.

I happened to be perusing the charts the other day (as you do) on Amazon and I came across a book that caught my eye. Here it is:

TheHunterSplash

OK, now personally, I have never heard of this guy and consequently, haven’t read any of his books, so take note: this post is NOT about him or his books. Right? We got that? Good.

No, the reason behind my post isn’t about any of the above, it is about what I found on the reviews for the book on Amazon and what your opinions are as readers and writers.

Take a look (you may have to click on each pic to read them properly or go here to see them online)

rev2

rev

Don’t pull any punches do they? And hey, why should they?

If you part with your hard-earned cash and buy something, anything and you don’t end up getting what you bargained for, you’re gonna moan right? It’s human nature.

I am a paying reader as well as a writer, so I can see things from both perspectives.

In this particular instance it is clear that this ‘book’ certainly isn’t a book and there are questions as to whether it even qualifies as a short story. It seems that it is basically a very short (and from one or two reviews, not even a very good one) story, followed by page after page of excerpts for other Chris Carter books, that most readers have already read.

No. That is just not cricket.

I can’t condone this from any angle.

#epicfail

Now, I have no doubt that Chris himself had very little, if no, contol over this; I am presuming his publisher made the decision to put it out there in a bid to generate a buzz for a forthcoming release, but the paying public are not happy that they did.

This book has a 2.9/5 star rating now. NOTHING to do with the content or writing it seems. Just a bunch of angry readers who were excited at reading a little snippet from an obviously-rated fictional character and instead, were well and truly ripped off.

There are a gazillion blog posts and articles around the web that cover ebook pricing and how fair it is to fill the percentage/page count of an ebook with promotional stuff, I read tons of them a week, but what I want to know from you guys, is what YOU think is fair as the buying public. How happy are you to see other books advertised at the end of one you have just read? What price difference do you think is reasonable between a full-length novel and a novella/short story?

I don’t want to get into the indie vs traditionally published debate, I don’t care and nor do I think it should make any difference. What I want to know is, if you buy a book and it consists of only 60% story and 40% hey-buy-my-next-book! marketing, are you gonna be enraged?

Don’t get me wrong, I know as well as anyone how important marketing and social network sharing are for books on e-readers etc but here at the SD camp, we limit ours to a link or two at the end of the book and keep the boring stuff at the beginning to a bare minimum.

When I am sat, relaxed on Saffi Island (as Mark calls my imaginary sanctuary) in my beach chair, being fanned with hand-picked palms and shadowed by a dazzlingly white-suited servant, holding aloft a tray of chilled champers and I power up my Kindle (other e-reading devices are available from many other high street and on-line retailers. Saffina Desforges neither represents or receives any monies from…nah, only kidding) to start a new book, the last thing I want is page after page of crap. NOR do I want a rushed, half-assed effort at a story, brought to a bitter and untimely end just to make way for twenty other pages of books that I have already bought. Sure, tell me that if I enjoyed what I have just read, then I can go wherever to look at some more, and even put the cover and first couple of pages of a forthcoming release in as a teaser, but don’t and I mean DO NOT waste 35 pence of the 99 I have just spent, showing me your previous three offerings.

‘Cos guess what? If you do, I will probably not buy any more of them. I might also head straight over to the product review page and leave a scathing one star tirade, even though I kinda enjoyed what I have just read.

And whilst I am on the subject: £16.99 for an ebook????!!!!! Really? Nah.

We always try to price our books reasonably and in relation to the word count, content and length of time it has been published. You will see that our main novels are mostly under £2.00.

One of the Rose Red Rhymes is 99p and the other 77p. That is because one is slightly longer than the other. Oh and note to Simon & Schuster (Chris Carter’s publisher), out of the 63 pages in the higher priced book, 60 of them are actual book, not advertising. *sigh*

We promise to always keep our book prices reasonable. They may vary slightly from time to time and on different platforms or genres, but we will never knowingly or willingly over-price a book. We want to provide our readers with the best quality covers and content and as much value for money as they deserve. That comes from being readers first and foremost.

So what do you lot think? What say you on this much-discussed subject? Go on, the floor’s yours…

Saffi

UPDATED ~ FEB 2013. Check this out! Even worse than the above! A short story, already released under a different name and then regurgitated and sold for £7.99 on Kindle as a novel! SHOCKING!

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