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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

It's not real, but it's definitely true - Mari Biella

Last month, Authors Electric’s Bill Kirton wrote this very interesting post. He was talking specifically about the fantasy genre, but he made a point that I think is relevant to all fiction:

"We carry all these race memories, dreams, imaginings; we can release people and things from their restricted functions. Maybe fantasy is simply a means of relaxing our grip on experience, a way to deny chronology and inevitability. Maybe it’s just a less uptight reality."

It seems to me that whenever we write fiction – whether it’s fantasy or not – we are, in effect, doing much the same. Fiction is a lie, but it’s not untrue; and that seeming paradox may be at the heart of what we do.

“Reality is not the same as the truth” is the tagline to my novella Loving Imogen, and reflects the protagonist’s following thoughts:

"These are the things that he remembers from that summer, the things that have always stood out. There are things, no doubt, that he has forgotten about, and other things that he seems to remember but could just as easily have invented. And life, he supposes, is like that – not simply a catalogue of events, but an internal narrative that imposes shape and order on those events, and adds and subtracts, and lends meaning where there is none. And if one makes no attempt to separate invention from reality, or to impose some discipline on that inner storyteller, one might wonder whether one has in fact lived dozens of lives, countless lives. Reality, he thinks, is not the same as the truth."

Reality and the truth are, in my opinion, often quite different things. The chair you’re sitting on, the air you’re breathing, the screen you’re reading this on, are generally judged to be “real”. They have a solid, physical existence. They do not depend upon the human observer for their reality; they are objective, definite.

(Or are they? There’s a case for doubting these things, of course, but this is neither the time nor the place for a metaphysical debate. Get back to the question at hand, Biella...)

As opposed to these things, there are the subjective things, dependent upon the observer. A dream is not “real”, and nor are feelings of love, fear, or exhilaration. The various reveries dredged up by our churning imaginations are not real, either. So what are they? The things that make us human? The evidence that we are more than machines? Or, if you’re of a strictly Darwinian bent, are they the by-products of a normally functioning physical organism – the brain’s effluent, if you like?


It's not real, obviously. But it might just be true...

That’s an interesting question, and probably unanswerable. But what interests me most is not what these things owe their existence to. What interests me is that these things, while they are not “real” in the accepted sense of the word, are nevertheless true. Take a sensation, either physical or emotional or a combination of the two. While the sensation may indeed have some physical cause, it nevertheless does not exist objectively: it is what is felt, subjectively, by the person who is experiencing it. Without the subject, the feeling doesn’t exist, and therefore lacks independent reality. Yet what you’re feeling at a given moment is, for you at least, the absolute, undeniable truth. It is immediate and evident in a way that, perhaps, nothing else can be.

And fiction is much like this. Nothing that we’re writing is real; we are, in effect, telling lies, albeit the kinds of lies that nobody’s expected to actually believe. But all fiction contains, at its heart, the truth. Fiction that doesn’t, oddly enough, quickly begins to seem highly un-realistic. Fairy tales, fantasy and indeed all fiction affects us because, although stories may be set in different worlds and times, they contain elements of what we know, instinctively, to be the truth.

Monday, 1 September 2014

SWEET TWEETS & BARGAIN EBOOKS! THE GREAT TWITTER EXPERIMENT REPORT by Valerie Laws

Tweeting is not just for birds, though this little guy does it so beautifully in my garden just now
A few months back I began The Great Twitter Experiment to see if I could increase my Kindle sales by using Twitter more intensively. I began to tweet daily promotions for three out of my four Kindle book incorporating a glowing review quote, 5* rating, title in caps, price, link, and hashtags: Kindle, and thriller/mystery for my second crime novel THE OPERATOR.
Surgically tweeted, my second thriller 
 I put these in a Word doc for easy copy/paste in a sort of random rotation, and I tweeted each book twice, Amazon US and UK. I’ve also been tweeting my #JaneAusten comedy LYDIA BENNET’S BLOG, and my latest poetry collection ALL THAT LIVES. But, crucially, I denied my first thriller THE ROTTING SPOT the oxygen of the twittersphere as a kind of ‘control’. My methods and results follow. Trust me, I’m a scientist.
We scientists are not like other folk
It’s twitterquette to respond to retweets (RTs) with thanks, a return RT, or both. Now I was tweeting more, I got more RTs, and the whole thing is still snowballing like a 1970s cocktail. My increased profile (twitfile? Perhaps a portmanteau word too far. Or should that be tweetmanteau? Stop it!) led to more followers, who I followed back, and so on until now I have well over 2k followers, daily increasing by anything from 3 to 8. New contacts who RT me sometimes have huge numbers of followers, and a tweet might be RTd tens of times and therefore potentially reach hundreds of thousands of tweeps. YAY! Success, of a strictly tweety kind.
Snowball - only drink ironically

This effect is massively increased by learning to use hashtags. Apart from obvious ones like thriller, janeausten, kindle, beachreads, there are more cryptic ones I’ve learned to crack. I’ve met some very kind, delightful tweeps, often fellow authors, and I was invited to join a couple of cliques which has more than made up for the mental scars of being picked last for netball, hockey, athletics and pottery at school. The lovely AP Dahlke (whose ‘Dead Red’ thriller series features Ag pilot Lalla Bains) has her own hashtag and if I use it, she’ll automatically RT my tweet to her 11.5k followers. There are several other similar or bigger RT groups I’ve joined. Indie Author Retweet Group has 34.5k followers and RTs any book tweet when you follow and use their hashtag #IARTG.  There is the ASMSG group which supports its members on Twitter.

 This does all take time, however. Tweeting each book twice, once a night, from my list of tweets, takes only a few minutes. But each day, I have to go through my ‘Notifications’ on Twitter and RT each and every one who’s RTd me, which means clicking their icon, clicking the last tweet in their shortened profile to open it, click retweet, click retweet again on the button, and then click Notifications to find the next. This takes time when there are lots of them. Now the burning question is, has this worked in terms of promoting my books and increasing sales? Twitter has one big limitation – your tweet or someone’s RT of your tweet goes onto the Twitterfeed of all their followers, but it drops fast down the list as tweets arrive incessantly in millions, so they’d have to be looking at their phone/screen at the actual few seconds it’s visible. The sheer number of authors tweeting about their books is overwhelming, so the competition to be heard is pretty damn fierce unless you were one of the earliest Twitter users and have millions of followers and a Twitter readership.
'LISTEN TO MEEEE!!!!!!!'

Now, KDP has given authors a useful tool on our Bookshelf page, namely ‘Reports’ which gives various options for checking your sales (and loans). ‘Sales Dashboard’ gives you figures for up to three months back across all platforms and titles. ‘Prior months royalties’ gives you downloadable PDFs for any month for the last new years. Shamefully for a scientist, I didn’t record the date I began tweeting thus regularly, but I started including ALL THAT LIVES on 18th June. So I looked at sales figures over the last three months, for all four Kindle titles, three tweeted, one tweetless. And the result is clear. THE ROTTING SPOT,
Tweetless, yet selling best!
my oldest book on Kindle and first thriller, has consistently sold almost double its sequel THE OPERATOR! And LYDIA BENNET’S BLOG,
Marmite in ebook form
 always a marmite book, with avid fans and haters alike, is selling at about a quarter of TRS. The previous three months, Feb/Mar/April, the ratios are about the same though sales have if anything, dropped rather than improved. The poetry collection ALL THAT LIVES has sold ONE ebook in that time. This book has been successful in paperback,
Successful award winner in paperback, on Kindle, not selling - don't people LIKE dissected brains?
 gaining awards, prizes, good sales, reviews in eg Spectator, The Lancet, and from eminent scientists and poets to say nothing of powerful reactions from live audiences. I only put it on Kindle for completeness, and because some of my installations go abroad, so overseas contacts can see it. I didn’t expect much in the way of sales on Kindle for a book of poetry about dissected human bodies and how dementia acts on the brain, and malformed foetuses in a pathology lab, and my post divorce sex life. But clearly tweeting has made no positive difference. Twice as many bought THE ROTTING SPOT without benefit of Twitter, as THE OPERATOR, steadily tweeted and RTd. So how are people finding out about the existence of TRS? I’ve no idea. Yes, it has good reviews but so have many gazillions of others on Amazon, and with a lot more clout behind them.

It's all about the bottom line
The why question does have an obvious answer. TRS was priced at 99p/$1.55, while The Operator was £2.97/$3.99. So my royalties are much the same for both, as I get 70% for The Op and 35% for TRS, but twice as many people were buying/reading TRS on kindle and getting my work to people matters to me too. Some authors have found they sell more at higher prices: it could be though, that crime is a genre so saturated with free/very cheap kindle books, readers are used to cheap thrills unless the author is a high profile bestseller. LBB was $2.99/£2.03.

So what to do? I’ve decided to REDUCE THE PRICES OF MY BOOKS to match, approach or even undercut THE ROTTING SPOT. Another experiment, if you will. Not sure if I'll stop tweeting my books, after I’ve tweeted about the new prices, and this blog post of course. It’s nice to feel connected to other authors worldwide. And I still like tweeting fun bits of news and about my gigs. But perhaps my experiment shows that Twitter for authors is like birds on a wire. We tweet and share our and others’ songbursts but do enough people listen or have ear-room for more than a few tweets a day?

Feeling bitter? Complain on Twitter!
Twitter however, IS great for consumer complaining. I’ve used it a few times and recommended it to Facebook friends, and provided you use the Twitter handle of the offending company (this is vital) in your tweet expressing your disappointment and sorrow, you will usually get a response in minutes instead of being fobbed off through numerous phone calls. Tweety birds do get the worms occasionally!

Look out for my new prices on Amazon Kindle Store:
THE OPERATOR (Bruce and Bennett Crime Thriller 2) US UK
THE ROTTING SPOT (A Bruce and Bennett Mystery) US UK
LYDIA BENNET'S BLOG (the real story of Pride and Prejudice) US UK
ALL THAT LIVES (CSI: Poetry of sex, death and pathology) US UK

STOP PRESS: Tweeted the new prices last night, many RTs from kind Tweeps - checked today, and LYDIA BENNET'S BLOG has had an overnight sales spike like never before, almost all on Amazon UK! Was this my new use of the #99p hashtag? if Twitter's not getting the word out, what is?!

Visit my website www.valerielaws.com 
Follow me on Twitter @ValerieLaws
Find me on Facebook

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Covering Spellfall – Katherine Roberts

One of the first things you learn when you self-publish a book is that writing a story and designing a cover for that story are completely different skills. Since republishing my backlist as ebooks, I have certainly felt much more sympathy for my publishers! Because the truth is, getting the right cover on a book is HARD, and yet it's one of the most important elements in selling that book to its readership. So I thought it might be interesting to chart the cover history of my book SPELLFALL, for which I am trying to find a new cover for the ebook edition… at the end of this post I’ll show you some of the premade covers I'm thinking might work, and since the author is not always the right person to judge I hope you’ll help me decide!

Spellfall is an interesting book to cover, since it contains a lot of different elements. It’s urban fantasy and takes place at Halloween with covens of Casters (i.e. witches and wizards) living among us. But there’s also a parallel world called Earthaven, accessed through a hole in a standing stone, where mythical creatures such as unicorns live and where spells grow on trees. The Casters use these spells, but the supply is strictly controlled by the Spell Lords of Earthhaven, as the only way of harvesting new spells is by killing the soultrees they grow on. Naturally, the Spell Lords have set up a spell recycling system to avoid destroying the magic of Earthaven - although the Casters do not care about the trees because they don't live there.

The heroine is Natalie, daughter of a Spell Lady - she has a telepathic white magehound/wolf familiar called K’tanaqui to guide her. She’s the main viewpoint, so the story has definite girl appeal. But there are also two boy viewpoints – Natalie’s sulky stepbrother Tim, and a Caster lad called Merlin, who becomes Natalie's friend when she is kidnapped by his father. Merlin's father, Lord Hawk, is the leader of a plot to destroy the soultrees and take control of the resulting spells. The readership is middle grade/teen, and the book's biggest fans in print were 12-14 year old girls.

So already we’ve got:
Fantasy – unicorns, magical trees, a parallel world.
Witches – Halloween, spells, ravens.
Science fiction – organazoomers, soultree root system, spell recycling
Girl and wolf – the magehound is Natalie’s familiar.
Boys – action/thriller plot based around the portal between worlds.

So what did my publishers make of it?

This was the original cover for Spellfall, back in 2000 when the book was first published by Chicken House. It picks up on the unicorns that live in Earthaven, and also gives an urban feel with the girl and the boy riding the unicorn dressed in modern clothes (for 2000). I’d say this cover was a success. I know I loved it on sight. It was picked up by WH Smith, and went on to sell almost 25,000 copies in the UK alone.

The Germans picked up on the unicorn ridden by modern children too - I believe the translated title reads "Natalie and the Spell Lords".
The Americans went down the enchanted world route as well, though they made the unicorn much smaller (he's hiding behind the tree) and focused on the soultree and my heroine Natalie, who they dressed in a romantic white gown - she does wear a nightdress at one point in the book. This cover is much more girlie and romantic, but it worked beautifully for the American market. Sales in the US were good, I understand, and the book was picked up by the American Independent Booksellers for their “Children’s 76” as the book most likely to replace Harry Potter that year (the year JK Rowling had a publishing break in her series).



Fast forward to 2007, when Chicken House decided to bring the book back into print and gave it this new more abstract cover that followed the fashion that year for sparkles on children's books. (You can’t see them here, but this was a paperback and the starry bits glittered.) Originally, this cover was pink… we compromised and ended up with purple. It sold an extra 4,500 copies. Not as good, obviously, but then the book was backlist and therefore not trendy any more. The unicorn is still there, and the spiral suggests a portal between worlds.

Spellfall went out of print in 2010, and rights reverted to me. Fortunately, that was also the year Amazon opened their kdp (then the dtp) to UK authors, so I decided my first ebook project would be Spellfall and begged Chicken House for use of their swirly 2007 cover, because I could see it would work well at thumbnail size. They kindly allowed this, and I published the Spellfall ebook edition in 2011 selling another 150 copies... tiny numbers compared to the thousands it had sold in print, of course, but still worth doing since financially one ebook sale is worth ten print sales to its author, making this the equivalent of selling 1,500 copies via my publisher.

It was by now 2013. I'd been working on my four-book Pendragon Legacy series (published by Templar) and rather neglecting my backlist, but I knew I couldn’t carry on using Chicken House’s cover forever. Struggling to find a suitable unicorn on zero budget, I decided to go the DIY route and paint my own. Using pastels, I came up with this cover (left). It turned out rather younger than I intended, but still has the unicorn and the sparkly bits. I wasn’t very happy with my amateurish painted title, though, so after discovering www.fontsquirrel.com I tweaked this cover and came up with the version on the right. Since early 2013, with this cover, it's sold another 100 copies (the financial equivalent of 1,000).

But it's clear Spellfall is underselling. On reflection, I don't think my homemade cover is selling the book to the readership - it’s too young for the book and turned out rather too girly. I also suspect it doesn't work very well for the American market... any Americans out there comment?

It's now 2014, and ebook covers have moved on. The time has come to invest in a more professional look. At my level of sales, custom design is out of my budget, and anyway I don't have a fixed idea of what might excite Spellfall's e-readership today. But recently I've discovered the world of premades, and PREMADES ARE COOL! In fact, I love some of the premade covers out there so much, I almost feel inspired to write a book to match the beautiful covers... but back to Spellfall.

Now it's your turn. Here's my current shortlist (obviously after I've purchased a cover, my title and author name will be inserted instead of the placeholders):


1. Unicorn Magic www.litteradesigns.com
A lovely old fashioned one keeping the enchanted unicorn feel. It looks like a boy with the unicorn who could be Merlin, suggests fallen spells, and has just the right sort of magical feel for a young readership. It doesn’t show the contemporary/thriller side of the book, though - does this matter? 

2. Wolf Girl www.sherimcgathy.com
This one struck me right between the eyes! Even though Natalie is not a werewolf, she is blonde and her magehound is silver. I think it would work because magehound is her familiar and they have a telepathic link.

This one is good for the parallel world feel, and the woods are suitably magical. But the girl’s hair is too dark for Natalie and the dog is not really a magehound... however, there is a dog on a leash in the book, which belongs to Natalie’s best friend Jo, so this could be Jo entering the portal. I think this cover might work for boys too, since the girl is facing away from us?

4. Psychic Energy www.ebookindiecovers.com
A spooky feel suggestive of the Halloween setting for the book, and has a girl the right age for Natalie. Those are possibly spells falling in the background. I really like the drama of this one.


Which of these would you click on for your child/teenager/yourself? (And, having clicked, would you be expecting a book like Spellfall?)

***
Katherine Roberts won the Branford Boase Award in 2000 for her debut novel Song Quest. She writes fantasy and historical fiction for middle-grade/teen readers. Her latest series is the Pendragon Legacy quartet about King Arthur's daughter (Templar Books). Find out more at www.katherineroberts.co.uk

Saturday, 30 August 2014

How to find and approach journalists - guest post by Alice Furse

What the hell do I know?

I’m very new to the literary world and only mid-way through publicising my first book so it’s a valid question. I’ve been the press officer for a national media company for the last four years, and I’ve sent out my fair share of press releases and also seen quite a few come in from other companies who are trying to get on one of our stations/magazines. I’ve witnessed plenty of PR slip ups from other people and, sadly, my own – so hopefully I can give you the benefit of some of that experience here!

Generally speaking, I’d say PR is about people. Journalists and editors aren’t just mindless robots that turn press releases into articles; they’re real people, and usually very sharp. This article is about how to find them and build a relationship that works for you both. 

I believe that PR is an art and not a science. You might disagree with things that I say here and that’s cool – it’s not gospel. It’s just like, my opinion, man. 

A few notes on etiquette

Start your PR campaign six months before the publication date to make sure you have time to focus on who gets a copy of your book and that they have plenty of time to read it before publication day.

If you’re just starting out, no blog is too small for you to consider approaching for a book review or a feature pitch. You might be the best thing since Dorothy Parker, but nobody knows your ass from a hole in the ground.

Don’t hassle. One polite follow up email is fine – more than that is probably pushing it. If they haven’t replied, they’re either not interested or bogged down in something else. Move on.

Never write tweets for a journo to pump out. As they write for a living, my guess is that they don’t like people telling them what to say and the same goes for hilarious ‘creative’ headlines on press releases (more on that in a sec)

Never lie.

Press release me

A punchy press release is essential. Yes, you’re a writer – but resist the temptation to embellish it with lots of unnecessarily flowery language, or wanky waffle. That doesn’t mean it has to read like an instruction manual, but it needs to stick to the facts. 

It should include: the facts (the publisher (if any), date of publication, book title, author), a paragraph of enticing blurb (I think most writers agree that this is harder to write than the novel you just slogged through), and your contact details.

The whole release shouldn’t be longer than a page of A4. Journalists will probably spend about one hot minute reading it, so use your minute as best you can by encapsulating exactly what the book is about and why someone would want to read it. The two first sentences are essential in getting across what you want to say, so focus most attention on them and make sure they’re working for you.

Proofread it. Proofread it again. Get someone with an excellent grasp of English to proofread it. 

Proofread it again.

This blog is written by a tech journalist in US, but gives a great insight into pitches and their various ills. It’s a good laugh to read and gives you a good idea of what mistakes to avoid.

Copy cat

Find a recently self-published book that’s similar to yours in the main themes, where it is available (i.e. UK/US), and the target market.

Read the book.

Then find out about the author and their journey to self-publishing. Preferably, they are now where you would like to be in about six months or a year’s time. 

Check out their website – does it have a press section? If so, you’ve hit gold because you now have access to a whole bunch of people and publications that are writing about a book that’s just like yours. 

See where they have focused their PR efforts. Are they doing radio slots, festival gigs, magazine features? What do they tweet about, and who else do they regularly talk to on Twitter? Do they have a blog? A really active Facebook page? Do they do lots of stuff on Goodreads?

Spread ’em

Start a spreadsheet. If that sounds daunting, it really isn’t. Mine is nothing more than a few columns keeping track of names, contact details and the dates I approached them. Make sections for different areas of the media you want to hit: monthly magazines, newspapers, review sites, radio shows, etc.

Man bites dog

Journalists tend to like things that are topical – things that get people talking, or something they’re already talking about. Is there a news angle in your book? Suppose your book is about the adventures of a superhero who happens to be a woman. Great! So who’s writing about feminism?

Read up

When you come across someone who you think would be a good fit for writing or talking about your book or the themes in it, read as many of their articles/reviews as you can lay your paws on. 

If they have a Twitter account that might help you to get a sense of the type of person they are. Do they live in your area? Are there events that they go to or host that you can gatecrash? What can you tell them about your work that might pique their interest, and that of their readers/listeners? 

The more research you do, the better you’ll gauge their level of interest your book, the best time to approach them, and also the more personal your contact with them can be.

Charlie Big Potatoes

To take the woman superhero example above, The Guardian is great on writing about feminism as it’s a topic that interests their readership. However, they’re a national newspaper and all of their writers will receive an avalanche of mail and pitches and ideas every day. No harm in still approaching them – I’m a massive fan of aiming high – but are there any smaller publications you can target as well? How about local press or events that you might be able to get involved with? Once you start being open to ideas on who you can approach you’ll be amazed at how many opportunities you can spot. 

Being and Time

If all this sounds a bit time-consuming, that’s because it is. It’s your new full-time job. But hey, no one said it was going to be easy. And so you’re going to do it anyway. Good luck!

My first novel, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, is out in October – you can pre-order it from Amazon. I also have a blog on literary events in London and learning how to stand up and spit. I tweet at @alicefurse

Friday, 29 August 2014

An Interrogation of – Lynne Garner



1: What’s the daftest thing you’ve ever done? – Come on, admit it.
Lynne Garner and Tasha
Travelling to Uist and spending five nights searching for hedgehogs on the cliff tops armed with just a torch and a couple of pillow cases. It was damn good fun though.

2: Is global warming preferable to global cooling?
Oh don’t get me started. People who know me know I’m seriously into my wildlife and the environment (studied Environmental Geography at University – education speak for conservation).

3: What do you know about your great-grandparents?
Nan worked in the local ammunitions factory during the war and the boss allowed the women to have the large double doors open so they could keep an eye on the kids playing in the street. Granddad served in the navy and when he returned home he would sometimes bring home the ships old ropes and give them to my mum and her sisters. They then had the best skipping rope in the street.

4 If you could live in a book, which book would it be? – And who would you be?
Any of the Terry Pratchett Discworld books – his universe sounds so much fun. Perhaps the landlady of the pub Nanny Og frequented – you’d be sure of a good night.

5 Werewolves or vampires?
Vampires as long as my body became like those in the TV series and films. Who’d want to be a vampire with a bad back?

6 Is it immoral to spend £10,000 on a handbag?
Yes – spend £100 on the bag then give the other £9,900 to a small local
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Anansi-Trickster-Spider-Lynne-Garner-ebook/dp/B00629VR7S/
Anansi
charity. That much money to a small charity would make a huge, huge difference and you’d be less worried about losing your bag.

7 Would your 16 year old self like you?
I think she’d like me but I’m pretty sure I’d not like her.

8 What’s the worst birthday/Christmas present you ever received? (If you’re prepared to tell.)
I’m not sure if this counts but when I was a kid almost every Christmas I’d get the same present from my mum and my two aunts (we used to say they’d used their witchy powers). They never spoke to one another about what they were going to buy, so my sister and I would end up with 3 pair of the same gloves or 3 similar purses or 3 scarves etc. Most infuriating.

9 If you could change one historical event, in any period, what would it be?
The discovery of oil and what it could be used for (conservation head on again).

10 “I don't care if anyone reads my books; I write for myself.” Is there anything wrong with this as a theory of art?
It’s a good theory if you’re in a position to cover your bills or don’t have bills to pay. Sadly I have bills so if you want to support a ‘struggling’ author then follow this link, or this link or even this link and download one of my books. (Oh no a blatant plug – oh well you’ll get over it).
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brer-Rabbit-Traditional-Tales-Retold-ebook/dp/B00N265JUK/
Brer Rabbit

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Anansi-The-Trickster-Spider-Volume-ebook/dp/B007WSV1W4/
Trickier than ever
 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Archived work, Aristotle and Adult novels by Enid Richemont



I'm juggling between two books at present. I found Jostein Gaarder's 'SOPHIE'S WORLD' in a charity shop. Originally written (in Norwegian), as a Young Adult book in 1991, and hugely successful in translation, I didn't read it at the time because my kids were grown up. It's a potted history of philosophy framed by an intriguing mystery - fifteen year old Sophie begins receiving  lectures delivered by a dog, from an anonymous philosopher. It's fascinating, and not in the least bit dated (unless you feel that Aristotle's no longer in your area of cool).

The second book I rescued in a rainsoaked condition from a neighbour's front garden wall. It's Eimear McBride's 'A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing', and very 'now'. I had to wrap it in kitchen roll and then straighten it beneath a heavy RHS encyclopaedia of plants. It's a debut novel which seems to be doing very well, so that's a treat in store.

Mentioning debut novels made me go back to one of mine. Most people know me as a children's author, but I have written two adult novels, so I thought I'd paste in a small extract from 'COUNTERPOINT' - its opening paragraphs. A woman in a medically inexplicable coma has been brought into hospital...  

In the ward, the fondant smell of spring flowers is spiked with antiseptic. Daffodils of course predominate, their green stems stiff as sticks of angelica in the heavy, funnel-shaped vases, but there are anenomes, too, and freesias, delicate as dancers inside their ribbonned cellophane shrouds.

At the window a young nurse looks down at the black slush the cars have made of the snow; the trees are still lacy, though, and the car park is rimmed with white. She has been up since half-past five, her feet are aching and she is longing for a cup of tea. She wonders how cold it is out there; inside the hospital the temperature is always the same. Across the face of her watch the seconds flicker restlessly: one twenty-six and twenty-three seconds, flick-flick, twenty-four, but time itself is interminable. Behind the glass doors she sees staff nurse, bent over a pile of papers, sucking the end of her pen. If it's a report on that emergency, she thinks, it doesn't surprise me that she's having problems.

Mentioning archived work, I'd be interested to learn how other writers deal with theirs. I have things dating from the days of typewriters right up to the print outs I do from the computer, because I always need to see my work in hard copy, but cataloguing this stuff is a nightmare. I need a totally dedicated secretary. Recently I produced half a dozen little stories each, in response to two briefs I received from Franklin Watts. One story for each brief flew, so what happens to the other ten? Oh for more publishers' briefs....

I finally made it to the Matisse exhibition at Tate Modern, but my visit was such a catalogue of disasters that you might be amused by it. I set off on the Northern Line to King's Cross, meaning to take the Overground to Blackfriars, but got on the Tube instead, so came out on the wrong side of the bridge in the middle of a massive thunderstorm, walked across the bridge (I had brought an umbrella), and promptly got lost. When I found my way again, and into the gallery, dripping and exhausted, I had to queue for a ticket. Then - at last! - the Matisse, which was amazing, except that, when I was about a third of the way through, a fire alarm sounded, so everyone had to be herded out via the TM's bowels which, I assure you, are neither a pretty sight nor easy to negotiate.

No relevant images to post this time, but  a stunningly irrelevant one - a medieval woodcarving from Poland, from where my family has just returned. Those faces are real faces - they were neighbours, family, friends and lovers, so it's a journey back in time. Amazing.









Wednesday, 27 August 2014

An Interesting Month - Andrew Crofts

Well, that was an interesting month.

A wise old agent once said to me, “some projects, Andrew, just seem to travel on oiled wheels”, and that seems a perfect description for the birth of my memoir, “Confessions of a Ghostwriter”, this month.

The project began to show promise when the editors at Friday Project suggested almost no changes to the first draft of the manuscript. It picked up speed when their excellent public relations company, The Light Brigade, told me that Robert McCrum at the Observer had read the proofs and wanted to come to see me, followed shortly afterwards with the news that Nick Higham wanted to interview me on BBC News’s “Meet the Author” spot.

Within days of publication the Observer article was up on the Guardian website, had been picked up by another Guardian journalist, Hadley Freeman, and was being widely tweeted and commented on.

Even before “Meet the Author” had hit the screens favourable reviews had appeared close to home in the Telegraph, the Times and  the New Statesman, and as far afield as the South China Morning Post, not to mention a host of blogs and websites. Requests for radio interviews followed, plus a couple of speaking engagements and an interview for Italy’s La Repubblica. The Sunday Express followed up on one of the stories in the book.

So, the billion dollar questions are;

(a) Will all this exposure make people actually buy the book?
(b) Why did this launch go so smoothly?
(c) How can I replicate the experience with every book I write in the future?


The answer in all cases; not a clue.