Thursday, 24 May 2018

What Does it Mean to be British?


What springs to your mind when I tell you I'm British?
Do you automatically think of London, with its red buses, black cabs, and Queen Elizabeth Tower (which houses the bell Big Ben)?

Watching the royal wedding at the weekend, I felt something I've not done for a while; pride in my country.
We're going through tough times.
Don't worry, I'm going to try to keep this non-political. I may be quite mouthy about my views in my personal sphere of friends, but author me tries very hard not to be. Mainly because I want us all to get along, and politics can be divisive. And it has nothing to do with my work.

So, back to the topic...
Great Britain is a landmass, containing the countries of England, Scotland and Wales (the mainland/island).

The sovereign state is actually named the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
This is a bit of a mouthful, so it's usually called the UK.

Clockwise from top left: flags of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales

The countries England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales form the UK (at the time of writing, at least).

It was the Romans who named us Britannia, by the way.

We then add something called the British Isles, which include all of Ireland, Great Britain, The Isle of Man, The Isles of Scilly, The Channel Islands (which are made up of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark), and 6,000 smaller islands.
Phew! Still with me?

No wonder we're all a bit confused, eh?

By the way, the flag of the UK is the union flag. It only becomes the Union Jack when it's on board a Royal Navy ship (flown from the jackstaff).

Our nation has been invaded many times, by all sorts of folk.
We're a wonderful hotchpotch of influences and cultures. This has crept into our language and our cuisine. Hoorah!

Each of these countries has a diverse landscape and their own language.
Travel around, and you will hear a plethora of dialects and accents, and see a great variety of towns, villages, cities and countryside.
Some parts of the nation are very flat, some have rolling hills. There's lakes and coasts, caves and castles, valleys and cliffs.

My own photos of my trips around Britain

Very few of us now wear bowler hats, or carry umbrellas.
Most of our houses are really quite small. The great estates and mansions are slowly crumbling into disrepair (although organisations such as the National Trust and private families do a wonderful job of preservation).

But this is a writer's blog, I hear you cry.
Well, yes. Yes it is.
So...all this wonderful stuff that is Britain soaks into the pages of my books.
I am British and write about British people, so yes, I use British spelling.
My British, wry, dry, witty sense of humour leaks out through my characters.
The settings are often in the UK (but not always). You get a variety.
Even our beloved NHS is evidenced in my WIP, Self Love. As is curry, our national dish.


What makes me British?
Well, I am by birth and ancestry. My father would call me English, but I'm not so nitpicky.
But what does it mean?
I think it means I'm a bit of a crazy mongrel ;-)

Where are you from? And what epitomises your country?


Always in love & light,
TL

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Thursday, 17 May 2018

Kindle Unlimited vs Wide


Do I go KDP Select (Kindle Unlimited) or go wide?
This is a question you see debated lots.

So, you can tick the little box on KDP which says 'Select'.
This will make your book available to Kindle Unlimited subscribers for free. They pay a monthly subscription and get as many books as they like in KU for no extra cost. Yay!
And you get paid by Amazon for pages read, something like 1p per 2 pages.

But, this means you're tied into Amazon exclusively.
Your book mustn't be available anywhere else.
And there's the rub.

You're losing out on all the Kobo, Nook, iBooks etc. sales.

And, BookBub (huge promotional site) seems to prefer a wide distribution (meaning your book should be available across all platforms).

So, is it worth it?
Well, you potentially get a lot more readers, as y'know, free book...
And we know my thoughts on those! (see earlier post)

And there are many authors out there who declare thousands of page reads per day, and swear by their KDP Select success.

If it's a first book in a series, and your next one/s are full price, sure, maybe it's worth it.

But the mighty Amazon seem to be clamping down harder and harder on authors.
They routinely remove reviews, a lot of which were actually genuine, but not according to their algorithm. :-/

Many authors have had books removed from sale and/or been threatened as Amazon have decreed reading bots have been used. These authors often have no knowledge of this btw.

Some books have been removed as there was a sudden spike in sales. Well yeah, the author ran a promotion, and got sales; it worked. But Amazon don't seem to like this either.

And then you add in the erotic genre who recently had all their rankings stripped out.

Oh, and don't forget Cockygate! I'm not going into details. If you don't know what that was, Google it.

Every day I see authors having problems with the market leader who were originally book sellers.


So, is it time to 'go wide'?
For this author, I think it may just be.

Why put all your eggs in one basket?
Especially when that basket is a little bit shabby and there's a hole forming?

Up to you. This is just my humble opinion. You can make up your own mind.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Comment below.


Always in love & light,
TL



Thursday, 10 May 2018

Social Media and Marketing for Introverts (as a lot of indie authors are)

It's Thursday, so it's TL blog day.
I've got a list of topics yet to be covered. Feel free to offer up suggestions btw.

But today I feel like just having fun. It's all got a bit serious on here lately, and I'm starting to sound like a writing manual.

But this post could get really random and ecclectic if I don't try to focus a little.
That's just my way.

Over the years, those lovely 'Investor in People' employers I've worked for send their staff on courses so they get to keep their shiny award. And the staff are forced to stay awake with free coffee and biscuits. Thanks to many redundancies, I've sat a fair few of those, and I'm fairly sure I'm the 'green' personality. The one that is easily distracted and introverted. The "ooh butterfly" one.

Have you ever done one of these?

I'm also a trained counsellor, and have sat many 'navel gazing' exercises (looking deep within yourself). 
Plus, my holistic training has helped me look at people differently too. 

It may be surprising to some, to hear I'm an introvert. In social situations I tend to overcompensate. I get overly chatty, and loud if alcohol's involved. It's difficult to shut me up. I'm sure there's some people who think I'm full of myself. Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact. You just need to see past my facade. 

I have a point! I'm getting there. Honest. 

Anyway, so whilst mingling with many authors online (love ya), I've noticed some commonalities. Now, I'm not saying EVERYONE. Don't start moaning. But generally, authors seem to be:
  • introverts
  • pet owners (usually cats)
No harm in that. And as we spend prolonged periods hiding in our writing dens, creating wonderful tomes, perhaps our work intrinsically attracts introverts. 

We love introverts; quiet, studious types. 
Gotta feel the love for extroverts too btw. They help drag us out into the 'outside' and befriend us.

Social situations tend to drain introverts. Doesn't mean we can't go out and have fun. But we need time to recover after. 

Add to this, the fact that I'm an empath. I feel the emotions of others around me deeply. 

Hmm...why did working in an office of 85 intensely intellectual mostly men make me really ill?? 

Back to the point...nothing wrong with introverts. We don't need to be 'fixed'. We are what we are. 

But...it is a bit of a nuisance when it comes to promotion, huh? 
As an author (whether indie or trad, as previously discussed) we need to publicise our work, so lovely readers get to know about it. 
Huh! 



Mercifully, the majority of this can be done online these days.
Your computer becomes your shield.
There's so many things.
Social media is huge. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.
But eek, these mean you have to write stuff. Put information out there! :O
It's OK. You don't have to divulge your best kept secrets.
But readers do like to know a bit about authors. What are you interests? What do you do?
This is perhaps why we have cats; shove them in front of the camera, and not ourselves ;-)

There's some great groups around, who are friendly and supportive, offering quiet corners.
This very blog has a 'hug depository' for when times get tough.
And my own Indie Coffee Lounge fb group is super lovely.
And more is out there.

But there's other ways too.
Blogging is really quite personal a lot of the time, but it doesn't have to be. I'm used to including gumph about me now. I've got used to it over the years. I even enjoy my online interactions.
And to an extent, you should share. But you can focus on your writing/tips as opposed to you.

Giveaways are faceless. Amazon and Goodreads are possibly the biggest ones for this. But don't expect many reviews in return.
There's also services such as, but not restricted to, BookFunnel and InstaFreebie.

Have we all discovered how to set up an Author Page on Amazon btw?
Under your book title, your author name appears, and it takes readers to your profile.
This, really annoyingly isn't done in KDP.
You will need to set it up seaparately for each site.
So the US has authorcentral.amazon.com
And the UK has authorcentral.amazon.co.uk
This will also show you handy charts on 'Author Rank' and 'Sales Rank', as well as eventually showing you reviews (takes days for it to catch up with latest ones).

There's promotion sites such as Bookbub, ENT (Ereader News Today), Red Feather Romance, Bargain Booksy who will send out messages including details on your book sale, in exchange for a fee.

At the end of the day, you need to find what you're comfortable with. Just try stuff out.

I'm not writing to be famous. I write because I love it.
Yes, I really want many readers to buy my books and love them.
But them, not me. I am not my books.

btw there's a reason you never have to go too long on my Instagram before finding Pusskin. ;-)

Pusskin overseeing my work


For examples of my own social media, feel free to visit:


OK, that's your lot for today. Sorry, it ended up a bit serious after all. Hey ho.

Feel free to offer gentle opinions/thoughts below.


Always in love & light,
TL

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

REVIEW - First Dai and Julia Omnibus - Ancients are Modern

Date read: 9th May 2018

My rating: 5*

Genre I reckon: Crime solving in an ancient modern setting

Buy link: Aamzon





I'm so pleased I got the opportunity to read this book. It's fantastic.

I have always been fascinated by Ancient Rome, but the authors bring it into modern day Britannia. 
Welcome to a Britain which Romans never left.

Dai is a true Brit, and has been confined by the harsh two tier system imposed by the Roman rulers. He's an investigator, fighting crime whilst standing up for his fellow countrymen. Tall, Welsh and noble.

Whilst Julia is a Patrician of Rome. Fighting crime for the little people of Roman descent who have also suffered. Clever and feisty. 

Mix in some Druids, underworld scallywags and opium smugglers, and you have some exciting stories.

There's so many wonderful details. A lot of research has clearly gone into this book, which has been interwoven with intriguing tales, which all link together wonderfully.

I love all the short stories contained here. The characters come to life. I particularly like Edbert, a mountain of a man.

No qualms recommending this to a friend.
It's a crime solcing extravaganza, with a modern yet ancient setting, containing great characters.



Always in love & light,
TL

Thursday, 3 May 2018

How to Avoid Passive Voice in Your Writing

So, you got your tenses sorted. Your past is now kept in your past. 
You've got a proof reader, and there's barely any spelling errors. 
Congratulations; your writing is improving. 

However, some bright spark tells you your book is boring. This could well be because of THE PASSIVE VOICE (*insert dramatic music*)
Some reviewers will actually use that term. Readers are increasingly savvy. 

But wtf is passive voice? 
Well, it's kinda what it says. 
I've looked up the technical definition for you
"A form or set of forms of a verb in which the subject undergoes the action of the verb (e.g. they were killed as opposed to the active form he killed them )."

It has its place in writing (e.g. if you don't want to reveal which character is performing the action). But as a rule of thumb, you want to be dynamic, and use 'active voice'. 
You want your characters to do something, and not just have stuff done to them.

Think of avoiding any form of 'to be' or 'have'. Be careful; this isn't always the case. Just keep it in mind.

Here's a humorous example of passive voice:
Why was the road crossed by the chicken?

Trying to think of all this may feel overwhelming. Your school lessons creak and groan their way back up to the top of your memory. 



Here's what I find handy:
He/she/it/feeling - often lead to passive voice

I usually write in the 3rd person. So, for me, a repeating occurrence of 'she' is a good indicator of passive voice. Aim to keep the usage down, maybe one per paragraph? 

She ran through the forest, not knowing where she was going, but she needed to get away from whatever was chasing her. 
becomes
Her feet pounded against the ground as she sprinted away from her predator, without any real thought of direction. 

Does the second example sound more dramatic? A sense of urgency has been added. The character is moving. 

Your character shouldn't "feel sad", but should "her shoulders slumped and her head bent as tears escaped her eyes". 
But this really falls under "show don't tell" which I'll explore fully another time. 
It just wanted to pop up here, so I let it. 

OK, that's all I'm going to say. 
I want to keep this article short and simple, so it's a bit easier to digest. 

As usual, feel free to add your opinion in the comments. Just keep it polite. 


Always in love & light,
TL







Thursday, 26 April 2018

Indie author vs Traditional Publishing - which to choose?

It is a question asked many times, by many people, many times a day.

Independent author publishing vs traditional publishing; which is best?

I'm tempted to go 'Harry Hill' on you right now, and say,
"There's only one way to find out. Fiiiight!"
But that would not be terribly helpful, no matter how amusing.

So? How do you decide which is better?
There is no right or wrong here. Both have their merits and their pitfalls. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference.

I'm an indie author, as you probably know by now.
I'm loud & proud to be so. It was a choice for me. My own reason is truthfully because I'm a control freak. I didn't want someone tearing my book apart, and applying their own formula to it, and taking most of the proceeds.
If/when I achieve best seller status, I want to be able to say, "I made that."

But what are the pros and cons?

Indie Authors

This is probably the hardest path, judging solely on the fact it's the one I chose, and I always seem to choose the path of most resistance ;-) 

You are in charge of your own destiny, but this is very much restricted.
You dictate the content of your own book.
You say when, where, how much. 
This in itself can be overwhelming. 
Let's take ebooks only (paperbacks become even more complex): 

Do you publish via Amazon KDP? Well, they hold the market share, so that seems sensible.
Ah, but then there's the KDP Select option, which gets your book in Kindle Unlimited (susbscribers then get your book for free, as they pay one monthly fee). 
Ah, but that means your ebook has to be EXCLUSIVE to Amazon. And there's many other platforms out there. 
Do you remain out of that and 'go wide'? 
I'll probably do a whole blog post on this alone at some point. 

And how much do you charge? 

You employ your own editor, proof reader, cover designer etc. But this is costly. You have to pay upfront, and it all mounts up. 
And yes, ideally, you do need all these. At the very least, a proof reader, as it's virtually impossible to spot all your own errors. You know what you know, and your brain knows what you meant to write. 

You are responsible for all your own marketing. This is both good and bad, really. I enjoy it. 
Having an 'online presence' is vital. This means creating, maintaining, and regularly interacting on many social media platforms. 
You have your own blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Amazon author page...the list goes on. 
This really eats into your precious writing time. 

You will also find many doors are closed to you. The major newspapers/magazines/blogs don't review indie authors.
Brick & mortar book shops are virtually impossible to get into. If you use print-on-demand for your paperback, the costs are high, and the stores like a 55% wholesale discount, which prices you out. 
Waterstones have a process. And when I can face looking at it again, I'll write a blog post on that. There's many many hoops to jump through. And you're unlikely to succeed, but there is a teeny weeny glimmer of hope. 

At the end of the day, it's your book your way.


Traditional Publishers

OK, maybe traditional publishing is the solution. All of the above sounds like very hard work. 

If you get into one of the 'top five' success seems guaranteed.
Well no, of course it's not. But maybe you have a marginally better chance. 

The top publishers now require you to have an agent to even approach them.
They are another layer of gatekeepers, another round of applications, with possibly many rejections. This can be really tough to take. 
Bear in mind, even JK Rowling was turned down by multiple publishers though. 

There are many authors applying for their perceived golden ticket, but only a very few places are available. Even if you want to get in, you may not be able to gain access.

But if you do get through the double gateway, you then have a lovely contract, with hopefully an advance. 
NB NEVER ever pay someone else to publish your book. They are vanity publishers, and won't make your dreams come true.

They have their own editing teams etc. They can take care of a lot of this for you. (*sigh of relief*)
However, it's still up to you to make the changes. And you may not agree with what they have to say. 

And you still have to do a lot of your own marketing. They don't have the resources to do all this for every author on their books. They may be able to assist, and maybe you'll get the opportunity to be reviewed by the big hitters. But not necessarily. 



The choice is yours, at least, which to go for.
Obviously, the choice of acceptance by trads is in their hands.

Just know this;
WRITING IS HARD
Whichever door you go through, and path you walk down, it is not easy. But it just may be worth it.
Success is never guaranteed, but a lot of hard work is.

As I have said before: write because you love it.


Always in love & light,
TL








Thursday, 19 April 2018

How to Beat Writer's Block


Writer's block - it's a common complaint.
I see many asking how to overcome it, their pitiful pleas are plastered across pages and forums.

So, you want to know how to overcome it?
Shh (*puts finger to lips, and eyes the room suspiciously*)
Come closer.
It's a secret.

.
.
.
IT DOESN'T EXIST!

"What?" I hear you cry indignantly. 

OK, OK, calm down. 
Here's the thing...

By naming it "Writer's Block" you are in fact putting a block on yourself. 
That very word brings images of brick walls slamming down in my brain, imprisoning me. 
(*pulls on collar*) So claustrophobic!


Help! I'm blocked. Trapped in. No escape.

NO! STOP IT!

It is not a block at all. Take a deep breath with me.
In...phwwwww....
and out...pheeewwwww

OK, so it's just a "ponder point".

Maybe you've written yourself into a corner? My dark elf made me do that, and I've still not forgiven the little git.
Perhaps you've been writing happily, and all of a sudden the thoughts stopped.
Did your friends stop talking to you? You know, those little character voices in your head?
Whatever the symptom, do you remember the words on the front of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"?

DON'T PANIC!

It is but a moment in time. This too shall pass.
Take yourself away from your laptop/typewriter/writing pad.
Go make a cup of tea (or other beverage).
Take a walk outside. I hear your shocked gasp. Yes, the outside is still a place, and you ARE able to venture out into it.
Go horse riding, swimming, play a musical instrument, sing, dance, draw, have a bath, read. Whatever.
"And now for something completely different" (as the Monty Python boys said).
Distract your mind. Do something fun. Something for YOU. Set yourself free.



If you continue to sit still, running your fingers over your face and/or through your hair, you'll drive yourself crazy.
When you're in a hole, stop digging.

Honestly, it is NOT a block.
You can and will get through this.
The words will flow once more.


This has been a TL service for all the suffering writers out there.
Thank you for listening.

I'd love to hear some of your distraction techniques.


Always with love & light,
TL