Sunday, 5 November 2017

When Jesters wear the Crowns

When it comes to being an author, I fall into two much stigmatised categories, that of being a self published author and, heaven forbid, an author of erotica. Five years on and five books published, I’ve learned to ignore those knowing smiles the moment you say ‘self published’ or ‘erotic’ knowing they’ve judged me as a writer and my work without ever having read it.
My heart often went out to E. L. James who was subjected to thousands of nasty comments about her Fifty Shades trilogy and her writing, which I myself rather enjoyed. I was a little aggrieved that much of the criticism came from other authors, having believed we’re in this together and should be supporting one another, our fellow writer, our creative peer. I’m sure as she watched her bank account grow, and sold over 120 million books worldwide, she didn’t take too many of these critiques to heart.
Thankfully, I also have a wonderful following of readers who don’t seem to mind if I publish my own books or write some steamy, explicit sex scenes into my suspenseful plots, full of twists and turns, and filled with multi-layered characters. In fact, other than having a rather narcissistic love of my own work, the only other opinions that matter to me, are those of the many readers who have told me how much my stories mean to them. I cherish their support and encouragement, as well as their very kind words. To everyone else, I have a poem I’ve written that fairly sums up my own thoughts. It’s called:
When Jesters wear the crowns
Dismount your literary high horse and rest your overused behind.
It’s time for sober intercourse and not the enjoyable kind.
You scoffed at a fellow writer who wrote a story of romance.
A bit different from its rivals, but the Tango is still a dance.
And Fifty Shades of Grey, no matter how much plot it lacks,
“Terrible writing,” you might say, but let’s look at actual facts.
While your book may be esteemed among your peers of classic tomes,
Is it wilting in a library instead of worldwide readers’ homes?
Will your name be merely a footnote in some critique of writing history?
“Didn’t they write such and such?” But your work remains a mystery.
At Heaven’s table of great writers such as Dickens, Poe and Shelley,
E L James might be down the end but at least she fills her belly.
Especially with the sales she’s made, while your book still gathers dust.
O Author, your dictum should always be “In the reader we hope and trust.”
All that praise from the elites and their educated views,
Mean little to the readers and the stories which they choose.
If you’re writing to please the critics with your metaphors so grand,
And your eloquently written phrases and words no one understands,
You’ve forgotten what a story is, that first children’s book you read,
Which inspired your love of stories as you snuggled in your bed.
No deeper meaning or hyperbole, no societal commentary.
Just simply told narrations, making characters legendary.
“I’ve matured,” you might argue, “And my writing must be deep.”
But where does its value lie if it’s putting me to sleep?
Forgive me, literary writer, I mean no harm or disrespect,
I wish simply to remind you that pride oft makes us forget,
That we writers bare our souls when our thoughts are put to page,
Be it literary or whimsical, our stories are still upon a stage.
Readers have enough critique without authors being cruel,
Or lauding their credentials from some famous writing school.
One man’s trash might be a treasure, and those condescending frowns
Are just silly in a world, where jesters often wear the crowns.
There’s a need for every genre and the tales they impart
And the value of a story lies within the reader’s heart.
So stop looking down your noses and applaud your fellow scribe,
And we’ll all feel that much better without some bullshit diatribe.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Oh no. Nanny is attempting a World Record

There can't be any purer form of storytelling than relating one's own adventures to the grandchildren. As a grandmother, or Nanny as I'm called by my grandchildren, I love sharing a tale with them, embellishing a little on the details, and giving them something to remember about me, long after I'm gone. When a story is completely real, it's even better, and right now, I'm involved in one of the best adventures of my life. 

It all began when I read an article about some guy in South Africa who wanted to attempt an official writing record for the Guinness Book of Records. It made interesting reading, and so I posted it to my Facebook page A Literary Liaison. A few days later, I attended my writing group and a fellow author Mouse Diver-Dudfield said that she had entered her story after seeing my post. She thought it would be a great idea for New Zealand to be represented.

I had to agree, and went home to browse the several short stories I had written for writing exercises. The requirements for these World Record stories was to be between 3000 and 8000 words and in any genre. I still wonder if they would have accepted one of my erotic short stories, but I also recognised my chance to write in one of my all time favourite genres, crime fiction.

Our wonderful writing group has often challenged me to extend myself and one of the exercises we had done during the year was to write a film noir type story, much like Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe or the film The Maltese Falcon. I really enjoyed writing the basic story I had contributed, and so I opened it up again and decided to do a full re-edit and build it into something bigger and better. Once I was happy with it, I sent it off to the organiser of this world record attempt, Shaun Jooste of Celenic Earth Publications.

It was only a few days later that I saw my name on the list of authors whose stories had been accepted. That really got the excitement going, especially as Mouse had already had her story accepted and we were the only authors from New Zealand. Later the great Kiwi poet and storyteller John Irvine would also join our ranks.

Over the last month, I've watched more authors take interest in this amazing project and as of today we are at 100 authors, in record breaking territory and in for a real shot at this record. You can read more about it here but even better, you can support us by pre-ordering the book. To achieve the record, we need to print and sell 1000 copies. 

While it will be amazing to achieve this record, the greatest part of this whole adventure has been seeing authors supporting authors, coming together from all around the world to help one another get this thing done. Friendships have been forged, and Shaun Jooste has worked incredibly hard to give us this opportunity and I'd love to see his dream come true. To Shaun and all of the authors involved, thanks for the fun and for an incredible adventure to tell my grandkids, of that time Nanny attempted a World Record. #storytelling #amwriting 

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Menopause, Anxiety, Sleep Apnoea, a Writing Career and a bloody amazing husband.

For as along as I've been married, nearly 33 years, I've snored. While others have heard it, from time to time, it is my husband who has silently suffered mostly through the sawmill in our bedroom. He's only complaint, he says, is having to get up to drag the inhaled curtains from my throat. He's a funny man.

Approaching fifty years of age, I happened upon that delightful time in a woman's life called menopause. If the snoring wasn't bad enough, my husband then had to endure the endless tossing of bedclothes as I continuously went from hot to cold and hot again with night sweats. The universe finally took pity on him and gave me a good dose of insomnia. Suddenly I could only sleep two to three hours a night. Everyone had a remedy and I tried them all and still found myself lying wide awake with the stars.

I've always tried to approach a problem creatively, and decided to get up and put these silent, wakeful hours to good use. Never had I had a better opportunity to write a book, and that's just what I did. In fact, my first book, a 95,000 word novel, only took me two and a half months to write. You can read my other posts to find out how all that went, but in short, I was now a self published author and my book was going off like hotcakes. Within a few months I had published my second and six months later, my third. I was making a nice income from sales.

Menopause finally had a silver lining. Between August 2012 and November 2015, I published five books, the last one being a hefty tome of 249,000 words, taking nineteen months of writing, editing and research. It was no wonder that I felt I needed a break from writing after that one, and told myself I would be back at it within a few months. A year later, I still couldn't find the energy to undertake another novel. On top of that, my anxiety disorder of some 25 years had taken a new turn. I became agoraphobic, unable to venture out of my house alone, even down to the washing line. Once again, my uncomplaining husband took the reins and took care of me. My four adult children also stepped in and between the lot of us, life went on, except for a deep sense of being redundant. Yes, I sought medical help, but the mental health system of New Zealand seems to want to frame us all in one box and use strong anti-depressants as a cure. My time on antidepressants is another story I won't go into, and I'm not against them and see the right ones can be life saving. I'm just against a one size fits all philosophy.

Mostly everyone was supportive, though I feel I lost a few friends who couldn't understand that I felt unable to attend social functions or return a visit. I foolishly took on a radio project, only to find myself stressing constantly about it, until I finally had to give it up. One other saving grace were the beautiful people in my writing group  who I could rely upon to keep me enthusiastic about writing. With their encouragement, I was able to write a few short stories and finally get back some sense of achievement, but as each day passed, I felt an exhaustion I had never known before. Again, my husband took up the slack and took over housework and cooking, as well as working every day.

Just after Christmas 2016, I started experiencing vivid, wild dreams. My husband informed me that his nightly concerto had taken on a whole new symphony. I was ranting and raving in my slumber and sleepwalking, not getting out of bed, but actually walking in the bed. Every morning I got up exhausted, as if I'd run a marathon during the night. During the day, I had moments where I just had to lie down, only to pass out and lose an hour and still wake up exhausted. It was at this time I really listened to something he'd been telling me for years. "You stop breathing," he said. "That's the only thing that wakes me up. I lie there and wait for that gasp before I am able to sleep again." He was frightened by it. The last straw for me was when I attacked him one night in my sleep and put four bleeding claw marks down his back. It woke me up and I was devastated by what I had done. He never said a word, except to roll over so he could cuddle me.

I made a visit to my GP who requested an urgent appointment with the diagnostics department at the hospital. The first appointment was to gauge my sleep and measure these breathless moments. I was sent home with a machine with a nose mask and finger clip, and told I had to breathe entirely through my nose. Do you know how difficult that is? The next time I returned the machine and was told it would probably be a few weeks before the next appointment. Those few weeks became three days when I received a letter with an urgent appointment for me.

My obstructive sleep apnoea was among the worst they had ever seen. The results told them that I stopped breathing on an average of 99 times per hour for an average of 22 seconds. The specialist informed me it was as if I had been living at the top of Mt. Cook and probably only getting ten minutes sleep per night. No wonder I was exhausted.

So now I have a machine of my very own, but putting that nose mask on every night does little for my self esteem. I asked my husband if there was anyway we could turn it into a sexual fetish, perhaps ask for one with leather straps and a ball gag. The thing is, through it all, neither of us have lost our sense of humour and I've spent more time counting my blessings.

The machine works. In the last three weeks I've had more energy than in the last several years. And I'm writing again, working on my next novel. I've even entered the local short story comp with a piece I'm really proud of. My husband is finally getting the good sleep he's always deserved, though he whinges that the nights are too quiet now.

I can see the light at the end of the long tunnel of menopause and I've found myself venturing out a little more each day. Who knows, maybe I'll get another book out this year. So what's this post all about? I couldn't make up my mind what I wanted write about, so hence the really long title. Maybe I should have entitled it Ode to my husband and kids, who have stood by me through it all, but it's also a celebration of writing again, pouring words onto the page, bringing characters to life, plotting evil conflicts to keep them busy and providing a little entertainment to my readers. I'm doing what I love again and my world is just that little bit brighter.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

What do you call a group of authors? A look at collective nouns

It’s usually at a pub quiz that we find ourselves delving deep into our minds for the various strange terms used for a group of something. Many we may recall quickly, such as a murder of crows or an unkindness of ravens, but I imagine most people would be unaware of the many unusual, descriptive and humorous words associated with these gatherings of animals. Even less would have any idea of their origins.

It was in the 15th century that gentlemen were in the pursuit of leisurely pleasures, namely hunting and fishing. The book to turn to at the time was the Book of St. Albans printed in 1486, with its sections on hawking, hunting and heraldry. It is believed that the book was written by a nun, Dame Juliana Berners, who was also referred to as the First Lady of fly fishing. The book was popular and the colourful collective nouns she assigned to animals are still in use today, such as a pride of lions and a gaggle of geese. Others such as a shrewdness of apes has not enjoyed the same popularity. In all, 164 collective nouns were listed in the book under “The Compaynys of Beestys and Fowlys” which also included people: A gaggle of women, an abominable sight of monks.

With popularity being the key to a collective noun’s survival, there have been many attempts to create them for our modern world. In 1991 James Lipton wrote “An exaltation of larks,” a compendium of these nouns that had long been established in our language, even for inanimate objects. (A flight of stairs, A quiver of arrows)

Last year, I posed a question on Twitter asking what the collective noun for authors was. The response was amazing with many brilliant suggestions, and where I was introduced to the hashtag #moderncollectivenouns. Well worth a look, but in the meantime here are my favourite picks for authors:

A publication of authors
A block of authors
A ream of authors
An epigram of authors.

And my own contribution: A solitude of authors. Please feel free to list your own suggestions. 

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Taking time to talk Twitter.

As an Indie author, much of what I've learned has come by trial and error, by following advice and experience, and by giving it a go. Four years later, I'm still learning, but I feel confident enough to share bits and pieces of what has worked for me. One of the topics that comes up frequently in forums is in how to use Twitter for marketing books.

This is one of those areas in which I've found a formula that works for me. No, I don't have thousands of followers, but the ones I have are greatly appreciated and I do my best to give them some entertaining and informative posts. According to my Twitter stats, I average about 9000 impressions a week. I don't use any programs to attract followers, and maybe I should, but I like it this way. So these are a few rules I've made for myself:

I don't always follow back. Those I do follow back are usually other authors, indie filmmakers, writers, writing bloggers or anyone who has a Twitter feed that interests me. I take time to check out anyone who follows me and I will decide then if I want to follow. If I do follow back, I try to greet with a retweet.  

I will retweet for mostly anyone who retweets my posts, whether I follow them or not. There are several wonderful authors who don't follow me, but from time to time tweet my books. When they do, I retweet their books or blog post or pinned tweet. That is my thank you for their kindness. If you tweet my posts, you have a 95% chance of me tweeting for you. Can't stand a twitter feed where the only posts are authors advertising their own work and no-one else's. 

I support New Zealand authors and writers in all genres. Not all of them follow me back, but as a New Zealander, I want to support the craft I love so much and expose the talent we have in this country, along with some breath-taking scenery. 

I don't expect everyone to follow me back or tweet my books. I often tweet erotic, sexual and other topics and images that may not be everyone's cup of tea. I certainly don't expect a children's author to tweet my books, but maybe I've posted an article about a classic author or a writing tip. There's always something G rated on my Twitter feed and I'm happy for a retweet of that.

I will advertise my books. While I endeavour to keep my posts interesting, while supporting my fellow tweeter, I'm here for business as well as pleasure and I love showing off my books. 

I mostly avoid politics, religion and any other topic that seeks an opinion. Occasionally there will be a cause near and dear to my heart, and I will have my say, but I'm not on Twitter to engage in arguments or unkindness to any individual.

I will try to keep hashtags to a maximum of three, but no promises. Hashtags get your posts noticed and like I said, I'm in this for the business as well. Also I like playing hashtag games on Twitter. 

Have a pinned retweet that will display your best work. Change it up every couple of months. 

Always make sure your links and URLS work before you post a tweet.

So often I see an interesting post on Twitter, go to the link provided to read further, only to end up on a blank page or 'this page doesn't exist.' Check your links to make sure they're working

If you never retweet for others and only tweet your own stuff, why would you expect any one to engage with you, unless you're a celebrity whose fans hang on every word. I tweet more for others than I do my own promos. 

My Twitter profile has a link to my Amazon author page. 

So here you have the few basic rules I follow and a couple of tips. When it comes to marketing books, Twitter has proven to be the most successful in all my social media platforms. If you aren't finding it effective, take time to see if you are supporting your fellow tweeter. Support me and I will support you. #selfpub #indieauthor #bookmarketing