Halloween reprint news, pantsers v plotters, and why you can’t be a writer if you don’t bloody love it

Hello everyone and Happy Gothtober!

It’s only 17 more sleeps (I’m not counting, honest) until me and the better half make our biannual trek up to Whitby for the goth weekend, and I’m ever so a little bit excited, not least because my all-time-favourite band Fields of the Nephilim are playing, and also because I get to stay in a cottage with THIS view:

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If you follow me at all on Twitter or Facebook, you might have noticed THIS post:

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Yes, I have finally done it. After slogging away at the never-ending WIP and finally deciding that the industry just doesn’t want vampire novels at the moment, I returned to a previous project, finished it, redrafted it, edited it, proofread it, polished it to within an inch of its life, and now it is sitting in the inboxes of five agents / publishers awaiting their verdict.

I cannot describe to you how amazing it feels to finally be working on a new project. Not one I’ve rewritten umpteen times, not one I started to write years ago and put to one side, but a BRAND NEW NOVEL!

I’m taking a risk, since it’s the second in the series to the first, and if I can’t find an agent / publisher for that one then I don’t really know where that leaves me. On the other hand, I believe in my characters and the world I’ve built for them and I want to keep on telling their stories, so I’m just going to carry on regardless and hope that somebody out there believes in them too.

Novelists tend to be pantsers or plotters, and some of us occupy the space inbetween. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants: they don’t have a structured plot before they start, just a vague idea of characters and possibly a germ of an idea and they run with it and see where it takes them. Plotters are their opposites: they carry out meticulous planning beforehand, make up character sheets, map out story arcs, major and minor plotlines, and know before they even write a word of the MS what will happen in every chapter, and possibly every scene.

I used to be a pantser (hence the many manuscripts filling up my hard drive). Chasing Shadows, the aforementioned submitted novel, was written as part of a writing course, so there was some element of planning involved and that’s probably how I made it to the end with all (I hope) of the necessary ingredients in place.

I don’t consider the time I’ve spent pantsing through novels as wasted. Aside from courses and how-to books, and reading both widely and incessantly, I sincerely believe that the best way to learn how to write well is to just sit down and do it. Write badly. Write angry. Write tired. Write rubbish. Write stuff that the world will never see. But eventually, through practice and a lot of trial and error and thousands upon thousands upon thousands of words, your writer’s voice WILL start to emerge. You’ll learn what works for you and what doesn’t, the things that you’re good at and those that you need to pay a little more attention to. You might, like me, discover plotting doesn’t stifle creativity (like I thought it might) but actually makes the writing process a helluva a lot easier.

My Scrivener project for this second novel currently has character sketches for all major and minor characters, separate location descriptions for all the main places in the novel, a list of major and minor plotlines with notes on how they develop and are resolved, and I’ve broken down the novel into chapters and the chapters into scenes. If this all sounds terribly tedious and boring, let me assure you that I’m having the time of my life with it. Seriously! I’ve never been able to keep all the strands of a novel in my head, but doing it this way gives me a visual map to work to, and knowing I have all the necessary nuts, bolts and pulleys in place means I can just get on and do the best bit, which is write it.

The opening scenes for the third novel are already in place (and a Scrivener project is going for that too), along with several plots for short stories and novellas to compliment the series. Now I just need to win the lottery so I can give up the day job and get it all written.

In others news, the latest anthology from Smoking Pen Press A Kiss and a Promise, is available now from Amazon. Featuring my story ‘Made to be Broken’, a paranormal romance about a vampire hunter’s quest to fulfil a family legacy, it’s available both in paperback format and as an ebook download, and you can find them both here. (Don’t forget to leave a review! They’re an author’s bread and butter!)

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I also received some great news from Sirens Call Publications last week. My short story ‘A Dish Best Served Cold’, originally published in 2011 by Spikethecat Ltd, will be included in the Halloween edition of the Siren’s Call ezine. Purveyors of horror and dark fiction, their bi-monthly zines contain short fiction, flash fiction and poetry and are completely free to download and enjoy. The link will be added to my Short Fiction page as soon as it’s available.

So that’s all for now folks. I’m off to check my emails for the 104th time today.

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Bridge House book launch, a runaway wheelchair and why I don’t dance to Red Lorry Yellow Lorry

Phew!

What a weekend.

My usual Saturday goes pretty much like this:

Crawl out of bed > Watch a lot of sport > Do the grocery shopping > Pub > Bed

Saturday 2nd December was more like:

Crawl out of bed > Drive from Leicester to High Barnet station > Take train to Chalk Farm > Bridge House book launch > Journey in reverse back to Leicester > Wash and change > Nan’s 90th birthday party > Pub > Watch the Ashes > Bed

It began around 7am. Not the time I had intended to wake considering I’d only gone to bed a few hours before, but anxiety stuck two fingers up to that.

I was out of bed at 10am and ready to leave just before 11. Our plan (mine and the hubby’s, my designated driver / carer for the day), was to drive down the M1 and head to High Barnet, park at the station and then take the Northern Line to Chalk Farm.

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It all went remarkably smoothly. There were no delays on either the motorway or on the tube. We did have a small delay outside Chalk Farm station when I couldn’t figure out which direction to go in, so we just walked up and down the same bit of pavement like the out-and-proud weirdos that we are until we found Bridge Approach, a lovely old pedestrianised railway bridge that I would’ve liked to take a closer look at had we had the spare time.

Bridge App

A short walk later through a very nice neighbourhood reminiscent of Cherry Tree Lane in Mary Poppins (and if you didn’t just read ‘Mary Poppins’ in Dick Van Dyke’s shit accent then go back again and do it properly), we found ourselves outside the Princess of Wales where the Bridge House book launch / celebration was held.

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The event began at 2pm, and we walked through the doors at 1.57pm, which I thought wasn’t bad after a three hour journey by road and rail and foot. The pub was very nice, very busy, very expensive. £5.50 for a pint of lager and freshly-squeezed lime that was tart enough to strip the upper layers of skin from the inside of my mouth. Whilst waiting to be served said drink, I got chatting to a lovely American lady. I have no idea what we talked about since I couldn’t hear her voice above the din, and I think she was a tiny bit drunk. I smiled a lot and nodded, and then I said goodbye and we headed up the stairs.

I had, by this point, reached the zenith of my anxiety. I was about to walk into a room full of strangers, take part in some kind of speed-dating thing where I’d actually have to talk about myself to other people, hence my mind wasn’t on the job of climbing stairs, hence I walked straight into a giant ornate mirror and almost tore my arm off at the shoulder.

Ouch.

I still have the bruise and I cannot lie in bed on my left without crying. This was not to be my only injury of the day, but I’ll get to that later.

As for the Bridge House event, it was brilliant. Everyone was lovely and welcoming, the speed-dating task, whilst nerve-wracking at first, was a great opportunity to meet some very nice, very talented people and to talk about something we all shared a love of. After the speed-dating, Gill (James) and Debz (Hobbs-Wyatt) of Bridge House Publishing both did a speech and a little promotion of some of their books and authors (you can read my story ‘A Very Unseelie Act’ in Glit-er-ary by Bridge House here, out now in paperback and ebook!), and then many of the authors in attendance (bravely) did a reading of their work.

Sadly, we had to make a very swift exit. It was 4.35pm and my Nan’s 90th birthday party (back in Leicestershire) was due to start at 7pm. My Nan is the most important woman in the world to me and there was no way I was missing that party. She’s also what we colloquially call a ‘whittler’ (probably where I get it from), and whilst she never said anything to me, I knew that she’d be worrying that we’d get stuck in London and wouldn’t make the party.

So off we headed back through the Cherry Tree Lane-esque neighbourhood, back across the lovely old bridge to the tube station, back to High Barnet and then up the M1. It was all going smoothly. We met no hold-ups on the tube or the motorway. We even ended up following Dara O’Briain through Northamptonshire:

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And then I got an email.

It was 6.17pm and the DJ was outside the venue of the party, which was locked and in darkness and apparently empty.

I emailed straight back and said I’d find out what was happening, then I sent a text to the lady who’d booked the room to see if she knew what time they opened. I didn’t get a reply so I tried to call the DJ, who didn’t answer his phone. Then I tried the venue, who didn’t answer their phone.

I tried the DJ again, who answered on my second try, but then I couldn’t hear him so I hung up and tried again and still couldn’t hear him. Third time lucky and it was crisis over: someone was there now, along with the guest of honour, who was demanding to know where I was, which told me she was most definitely whittling that I wouldn’t make the party.

We made it home at half past seven. A quick shower and change and we made it to the party at half past eight, by which time I was just as stressed as ever and had developed a raging headache, possibly from the travelling, possibly from an irrational but deep-seated belief that I have to be where everybody wants me to be when they tell me they want me to be there, regardless of whether that suits me or not.

So we walk into the dimly-lit function room. Tables to the left. Bar to the right. Dancefloor front and centre, where my Dad was taking full advantage of the karaoke and belting out one of his go-to songs, the name of which escapes me.

I look around the room for my Nan but can’t see her. Then several things happen all at once.

Hubby, who has made it to the bar, asks what I’d like to drink. At the same time I hear a familiar voice to my left, and turn to see Mum asking how it went in London. Before I can answer either one of them, I then hear another voice and here’s the guest of honour in her wheelchair, who promptly grabs my arm and pulls me down and towards her for a hug, except she nuts me instead and then smears my black lipstick across her face and mine, and then she promptly bursts into tears because she thought I wasn’t coming.

So now I’m just bent there awkward and lippy-smeared and smarting from the headbutt, and then I see my Dad walking over now he’s finished with Amarillo or whatever he was singing, and he’s got a bloody hole in his head!

I extract myself from the lot of them and go to the bathroom to mop up the damage. I’m accosted on my way back and told to tell the DJ the buffet is ready, so I go and do that, and then I find my way back to hubby and a much-needed beer. I’m lifting said beer to my lips when I’m accosted again to be told that the buffet isn’t ready and the cling film’s still on. My Dad is still there with the hole in his head but I go and take care of the cling film crisis because suddenly I’m in charge of catering as well as public service announcements, despite the fact I only just got there.

So I wrestle off the cling film to make sure my extended family don’t starve, which is not a simple task when you’re wearing this blouse and it’s dangling in the creamed-cheese sandwiches:

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Catering rescued, I go and find my beer and then finally get to find out why Dad has a hole in his head.

“Tripped up the stairs,” he says. “Banged it on the skirting board. Wouldn’t stop bleeding!”

This doesn’t surprise me, seeing as he’s on Warfarin. “Are you feeling all right?” I ask. “It looks pretty nasty.”

But he tells me he’s okay and then gets swept up in the Great Dash for the Buffet, so I finally get to tell Mum how it went in London, and then me and the hubby find a quiet spot to hide whilst my blood pressure settles.

It isn’t very long before I’m summoned once more, because now I am needed for the cake-cutting ceremony.

The lights go up. We all sing Happy Birthday. My Nan sits ready with the knife in her hand, wielding it just like a hoodie on the rob. I help her cut the cake. It is large and rectangular and far too big. We’ll be eating it for months.

And then I take the cake into the buffet room, which apparently signals I am now in charge of cutting it and serving it.

I’ve had enough by this point, and maybe it shows because someone suggests that I just cut the cake up and then tell folk to help themselves. Not party etiquette, apparently, so someone who I won’t see for years whinges later.

By this time I’m hungry. My total sum of food for the day has been a protein bar and one slice of pizza. I pick over the remains of the buffet to see if there’s anything veggie, and return with a slimy wedge of cheese and onion quiche and a wilting stick of celery. I’ve just finished eating when I’m told that Nan is tired and going home. Her niece, Susan, is the designated driver, but can I follow in my car and bring her back to the party so she can have a drink?

We get to the car park outside Nan’s bungalow. Susan gets Nan into the wheelchair then asks if I can help her take the cards and the flowers and the presents from the back of the car.

So Susan is leaning in one side of the car, and I’m leaning in from the other side, and then Nan’s neighbour who caught a lift back with us shrieks and shouts, “Margaret’s off!”

We both look around to see the neighbour running after my Nan, who is sitting quite serenely in her wheelchair as it rolls down the car park, oblivious to the fact that there is no one at the helm.

Thankfully, the neighbour catches up with her, and then we all fall around laughing, and my Nan, who is still utterly oblivious to what’s happened, doesn’t know what the joke is, which makes it even funnier.

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So we settle Nan in home and then we head back to the party. Hubby’s looking bored and Dad’s got the mike again. Family parties aren’t our favourite pastime, but we bear it past eleven PM and then it’s time to go.

Parents unloaded at home, we head to our local, the Vic Bikers Pub, to finish off the night (the same Vic Bikers Pub featured on Channel 4’s Four in a Bed last week – click the link and head to episode 37 to see all the fun).

It’s a fairly busy evening in the main room, but the bar is quiet so we sit ourselves down with a couple of friends and do our best to unwind after what has been a hectic day.

All is going well, until a gentleman approaches the table. He tells us we look like an interesting bunch and can he sit with us and talk to us. We’ve never seen the guy before but he seems very pleasant and we’re a friendly lot anyway so we say yes, of course.

We learn that he’s from Northumberland and is down here visiting friends, who are in the other room. Eventually one of these friends comes through to ask our guest if he’s okay. He seems quite surprised by the question and says yes, he is. She then leans towards him and I hear her say, “I know what you’re up to.”

Up to? As far as we’re concerned he’s just a friendly bloke looking for a sit down and a chat. Anyway, she wanders off, and soon our guest does to.

It’s getting quite late now and I’m ready to suggest we leave when our guest reappears with his friends – three of them – who sit down at our table, and when I say sit down I mean surround us, because that’s what it soon came to feel like.

Northumberland is sitting to my left. His friend, a forty-five year old bespectacled bloke in a waistcoat and skinny jeans – he looks like a cross between a hipster and steampunk – sits opposite. My husband is on my right, and to his right is the woman of the ‘I know what you’re up to’ comment. Next to her is someone else, a guy I think, but can’t be sure. There are two others in the group but they come and go and don’t have much to do with us.

At this point the bloke sitting opposite me – we’ll call him ‘Mr Pretentious’ – asks a very odd question. Odd because I didn’t know who he was and had to figure out what he was talking about. Then I remembered.

The Vic Bikers Pub is a rock bar. The disco plays rock music, mainly – AC/DC, Metallica, Motorhead, that kind of thing – so to hear any goth, unless you request it, is a rarity.

About six months ago, hubby and I were chatting in the bar when we heard a Sisters of Mercy track and happily went to dance. There were two other people on the dance floor at the time, and this was the couple who had requested the Sisters. They also asked for Killing Joke, Fields of the Nephilim and others I can’t remember.

This, as I was about to find out, had been Mr Pretentious and his partner.

“You like the Sisters of Mercy, right?” he asks.

“Of course we do,” I say.

He nods. “Right. So why did you sit down when (insert song name I can’t remember) by Red Lorry Yellow Lorry came on?”

“I beg your pardon?” (Or words to that effect).

“When you were dancing last time. (Random song I don’t remember) came on and you went and sat down. Why?” His tone is more interrogatory than enquiring and I’m not sure I like it.

“Because I don’t like Red Lorry Yellow Lorry,” I tell him.

“What? You’re kidding? But I thought you two were goths!”

“We are.”

“Then what bands do you listen to? Nephilim, Sisters?”

“Yes, amongst others.” I mention The Cult, Siouxsie, The Mission…

“I love The Mission! What about Bauhaus?”

“I don’t like Bauhaus either,” I tell him.

“What?!” Indignant now. “How can you be goth and not like Bauhaus?”

Because I don’t like every goth band ever and their entire back catalogue, I think but don’t say. Pretending I do in an effort to make out I’m more goth than you would be pretentious, I think but don’t say. Prick. I probably should’ve said that.

I have never met a fellow goth who’s tried to play the ‘I’m more goth than you’ game. That’s because we’re generally pleasant, inclusive people who recognize and embrace the fact that ‘goth’ means different things to different people. Take this helpful diagram for instance:

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As a rule, I’m usually a mixture of romantic, fetish and victorian. However, I was once told by a non-goth friend that I wasn’t ‘a proper goth’ because I didn’t look like Black Friday (a well-known goth blogger who takes hours over her hair, make-up and clothes everyday and is more of a trad goth – more power to her elbow, but I don’t have the patience or the time to maintain that kind of look, and I don’t think I’d suit it if I tried).

Anyway, I very quickly tuned the guy out and settled into resting bitch face mode in the hope that someone would notice and swiftly take me home. Nobody did, and then Northumberland got chatty again. I don’t remember much of the conversation, only the parts where he kept telling me he was a weirdo, delivered in a way that suggested there was some hidden meaning in his words that I couldn’t quite grasp.

At which point I figured it was definitely time to leave!

So that was my Saturday. May I never have another one like it!

Don’t forget to check out Glit-er-ary, £9.00 via Amazon in paperback which is a perfect size for a stocking (hint hint!) and is chock-full of stories with sparkle and glitter. Ebook is £2.28, or free with Kindle Unlimited.  

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Antisocial media

I saw an advert / call for submissions from a traditional publisher recently, requiring the author to submit a detailed marketing plan with their manuscript.

Really???

Now I get that authors are expected to take a more active role in promoting their work than in previous decades, but unless you hail from a background in sales or marketing and have any knowledge of the publishing industry then where do you start? They might as well have printed ‘Beg, little author, beg!’ right? Well, quite frankly, f*** you Mr Publisher! Without us you’d be out of business. No wonder that more and more authors are turning to self-publishing, even the ones who’ve been traditionally published historically. If we have to do all the work ourselves then where’s the sense in wasting time seeking representation?

OK, so I know there are numerous advantages to having a publisher and many probably don’t require the aforementioned marketing plan – I don’t mean to tar them all with the same grouchy brush.

But.

We authors are, on the whole, inherently solitary creatures. We’re never more content than when we’re locked away, engrossed in our imaginary worlds and conversing with characters that live in our heads. Creating is the fun part of writing. None of us set out to write a novel with the thought of ‘Oh gee, I just can’t wait to market this’ in mind.

As I said in previous posts, it was always my intention to self-publish The Riley Pope Case Files, so promoting them myself was part of the package. I didn’t (and still don’t) expect to make a fortune from the venture. Aside from telling family and friends, my promotional work has solely taken place via social media – my dedicated author page on Facebook, my Twitter account, my Pinterest feed where oodles of gothic loveliness abounds, and Goodreads.

As I made the (sadly wrong) decision to subscribe to KDP Select, I am tied in to selling the first three books via Amazon exclusively, for a period of 3 months. It offers higher royalties in Japan, Brazil and Mexico, (none of which I’ve sold a single book to) and India (total sales: one), and allows you to earn via the Select Global Fund which calculates royalties based on the number of pages read via Kindle Unlimited (these take 3 months to show, so I don’t know what I’ve earned yet – probably a pittance). You also get access to promotions, either Kindle Countdown deals or a Free Book promotion which allows you to offer your book for free for up to 5 days.

I went with the Free Book promotion for all three books. The Case of Walutahanga sold well in this period, reaching No.16 in the Urban Fantasy Top 100 Free chart. As soon as the promotion was over, sales didn’t so much dwindle as dry up completely. The Case of Ahuizotl and The Case of the Brollachan had more modest sales during the Free Book period, and likewise went down to zilch post-promotion. As I write this, my Kindle Unlimited page reads are showing at 659.

I can attribute most of the sales to promotion via social media. On the days that I advertised, sales went up, so it definitely helps. On the flipside, I’m now pretty bored with repeating myself via updates and tweets and creative little JPEGs of book quotes, so I’m damned sure the rest of my audience is. As part of my sales drive I joined up to groups on Facebook and followed other folk on Twitter who either wrote or read urban fantasy, or had a keen interest in cryptozoology. A couple even followed me back, which was nice, but now both my Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of other people promoting their ebooks! Good for them! But am I paying them any attention?

Well… no.

The thing is, I don’t respond well to adverts, TV, online or otherwise. I know what I like and if I want it then I’ll actively seek it out. I don’t like being bombarded with commercials and little flashing GIFs, advising that I NEED to get this or that I MUST own that, hence I find myself cringing every time I post an ad, imagining all of those people going ‘God, not HER again! Sod off!’

It doesn’t help that I’m not very happy with the price that I’ve had to set the books at: Amazon won’t let me sell below 99p, which some might find pretty steep for a 9,000 word short story. The answer is to find other platforms to sell on for a lower price BUT – I’m now tied in to bloody Amazon until mid-March!

Gah!

The most consistent feedback I’ve had concerns print books and whether The Riley Pope Case Files are available in print. Sadly, they’re not long enough to print via CreateSpace. The plan is to release an anthology of Books 1 to 10 (when they’re written) in print, which won’t be for a year or two. I have seen a lot of other authors admitting their print sales are much, much higher than their ebooks, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. I personally own two Kindles and can’t remember the last time I used either. It’s not that I have anything against ebooks, but I just love print books more. I like to line them up on my bookshelves, I like the feel of a book in my hand and the smell when they’re new.

That’s right. I sniff books. Don’t you?

Liar. 😉

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