writing tips

Is there a new style book launch in town?

The idea of a book launch has always been very straightforward.

1- You find your favourite book shop.

2 – You ply people with cheap wine in the hopes that they’ll buy your books.

3 – You sign books and feel like a superstar.

4 – You read from your book and feel like you wanna vomit.

5 – You console yourself that you sold books and people love you, even though you have a sneaking suspicion a lot of them were there for the free wine.

Traditional book launches have the advantage of being very simple to organise, lots of fun, and they make the author feel important and supported. It’s almost a rite of passage as an author. That is what a launch looks like to most people.

But I wonder how many books get sold at these events, really? I know when I’ve had to stand in front of people I love and people I don’t know, reading from my novel and trying to convince them that I deserve to have such a fuss made, I don’t feel like I’m doing my work justice. Also, did I mention about the wanting to vomit?

So the answer? A modern twist on the book launch. After all, many of us are ebook authors, what is achieved by sitting in a bookshop when there aren’t physical copies? A lot of authors run online launches, which can be fun and I’ve seen them done really well, with prizes and giveaways, and they certainly make you pay attention. But getting twenty notifications every hour from other people who have ‘popped by’ the launch can be a bit frustrating, and  might drive away your readership.

Enter Sara Veal, from Huhbub Ltd, a creative company that believe books can be ‘the jumping off point’ for creative campaigns that promote your book, but also benefit the community.

Thing is, I love an event, and I was excited to see what Sara could do with my book, Goodbye Ruby Tuesday, a novel focused around the healing power of arts, noughties era nostalgia and some girl power. I wanted an event that placed my story in the centre, without making me the centre of attention: And that was exactly what I got.

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In the basement of one of my favourite spots in London, Drink Shop Do (a place actually used as a setting in one of my other novels!) Huhbub managed to create a night of comedy, music and burlesque, with cocktails, nostalgic noughties music and the chance to raise money for Core Arts, a charity that focuses on using creativity for mental health.

An event that does good for the community, promotes my story, allows me to have fun without having to talk about my work, and gets people talking about the themes in the novel.

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In my opinion, getting called out by a fabulous drag queen MC, dancing to Craig David and drinking sparkly Ruby-themed cocktails whilst people look at the postcards featuring a free copy of my book beats the tepid wine of yesteryear any day.

Ebook authors need to find a new way to celebrate and promote their new releases, a modern way to engage with readers and writers without making it about ego or the money. Here is your answer: build a huhbub around your book.

I think it was a roaring success and if I could do it for every book I write, I would!

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Big thanks to Sara at Huhbub for such a wonderful event, and thanks to all those who came on the night! Share your photos and favourite moments!

 

 

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writing tips

On Staying Silent: Review Etiquette

So…I had a little hissy fit last week. It was not my finest moment. Normally, I get a bad review and I react in one of the following ways:

  • ‘Damn, that’s a good point. Why didn’t I realise that before I submitted?!’
  • ‘Damn! THAT’S SO TRUE! WHY AM I AN IDIOT? CRAP!’
  • ‘Huh, that’s funny. I never noticed that. Better not do that in the next book.’
  • ‘Oh well, I wasn’t sure if that would work. That’s a shame.’
  • ‘Dude, I didn’t choose the title! That’s not my fault!’
  • ‘Dude, I didn’t choose the cover! That’s not my fault!’
  • ‘Dude, I didn’t tell you to read this book when you read one with a similar storyline last week!’
  • ‘Oh well, ya win some, you lose some.’
  • ‘Well…you really didn’t get what I was going for there…I’m not gonna question who’s fault that is, because a bunch of other people got it.’
  • ‘Oh…I wonder if you’re a writer who’s trolling…’
  • ‘Wow, I really feel like you know me and have purposefully tried to carve out my heart with a spoon- how can you possibly hate me this much?’

Last week, however, I was overwhelmed with the fact that I could answer a lot of the points this reviewer had made. That I could tell them I’d done the research, that in fact, yes this could happen. I wanted to tell them not to judge me on the title. I wanted to tell them that patting me on the head because 2 stars is actually pretty good due to their terribly high standards made me want to chow down on the living flesh of fools wandering in the woods at a full moon.

But I couldn’t. Because professionals don’t do that shit.

So what did I do?

I shouted at Twitter. In a series of 150 characters snippets, I shouted into the void. Not necessarily because I wanted to be heard, but because I wanted to justify myself. Reviewers have the power to determine sales of a book. They can create a buzz, share excitement and help authors become better writers. They can offer critcism because they read so much, but they can also be responsible for boosting a career when they’re a fan.

They also have the power and safety to destroy someone from behind a screen. To ensure a book never sells and never gets heard of again. To be snarky and sarcastic and even vindictive (and that is their right) because they have people who trust their opinions.

Do I think I wrote a perfect book? Hell no. Do I feel the really harsh reviews that tear things apart like scratchings against my soul? Not always, but yeah…sometimes. Especially if the reviewer forgets that writers are human. It’s harder to put something out there than it is to tear it down. There’s a lot more vulnerability in creation than there is in destruction.

Now I know what’s coming here- ‘Man the fuck up! You’re an author! It’s just part of the job!’ I’d like you to name another job where the people who pay your wages tell you on a regular basis that what you’re doing is perfect but is also shit and worthless and they hate you. In an ordinary job, you work to please your boss. In my job, if you do that, you’ll end up writing song-lyric-influenced-epic-wartime-love-story-between-a-werewolf- and-a-dinosaur-that-goes-back-in-time-to-save-earth-from-cowboys. Because every reader is my boss.

We have to write for ourselves. It is only in being marginally pleased with the result that we can put it out into the world less afraid, and with less excuses when the critics come to call.

Is the moral of this story to man the hell up and not care about reviews? No, I’ve met some lovely people through Twitter and the reviewing process. And their views do help make me a better writer. They also help me feel better when things feel a bit crap. So I didn’t shout out into the void when I justified myself to Twitter. I shouted out, and readers responded. And THAT is the moral of the story. Be upset by your reviews if you want, trust your own process, try to write for yourself. But know that somewhere out there is someone who loves what you do, and wants you to keep going.

therapeutic writing

Is All Writing Therapeutic Writing?

Is all writing therapeutic? I’m pretty sure it isn’t. When talking to writer friends hacking away at their novel, or stressing over edits, or rewriting that same conversation four times because it just doesn’t flow correctly…well, no, that doesn’t sound therapeutic.

But maybe it is.

These last few days I worked at Larmertree Festival in Wiltshire, running creative writing workshops. This is something I have been lucky enough to do for the last five years now, and I love it. Last year, I introduced ‘Writing for Wellbeing’ workshops for the first time, and this year I ran two, which were quite popular. I also ran a few standard ‘Creative Writing Workshops’ and a Kid’s workshop. And what did I realise? All of them, in a way, are focused on wellbeing. They all include the principles of a Writing for Wellbeing workshop.

These included, group dynamics, feeling safe enough to share or not, using our own history and stories as ideas, being supportive of the other group members, being playful with your writing.

What else did I learn? Any prompt can be a trigger. You don’t know what people are going through. As I’ve been running wellbeing groups, I’ve been very careful to be a facilitator- I’m in the ‘therapeutic’ state of mind. But standard creative writing groups don’t deserve anything else- their prompts can also hurt or upset people. Just because we have made the distinction in our mind doesn’t mean that the effects aren’t the same. I chose an incorrect prompt, simply because I thought ‘standard creative writing’ workshops weren’t capable of the same power as wellbeing ones. And that’s not true.

There is something about responding in words that makes us feel certain things- lists make us feel certain, or determined, or sometimes more confused. Recipes make us feel guided, or perhaps a little rebellious, eager to make them our own. Reviews, rants, letters, complaining emails, twitter posts…all these little ways of expressing ourselves in words have an emotional reaction. If they didn’t, why would we do them?

So as a facilitator, my lesson here was to pick things that can be engaging without overwhelming- my context is not everyone else’s. Think carefully about what you bring into the room. But also, even when I’m slogging through writing a bit of a novel that seems rubbish, or writing a rambling blog post…I feel better. I feel expressed. And maybe that’s the point. Any writing can be powerful, as long as we let ourselves connect.

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Prince Charming- is perfect just a little boring?

After seeing the latest reincarnation of Cinderella last week (very pretty, not so much with any interesting backstory added, which was what I was hoping for) it’s made me wonder: Why must we beautify our princes?

This isn’t a post about masculinity or any of that crap, it’s literally the fact that a very handsome, and very (usually) talented actor Richard Madden (The One True King of the North) was stripped of any rough edges or…dare I say it…personality. We often have a whinge about the feminist issues surrounding princesses and fairytales, and when I work with kids I think it’s my responsibility to make sure the main character is something more than just beautiful. She’s kind, or she’s clever, or she’s determined. But why aren’t we doing this for our princes?

Teeth whitened, eyes brightened...personality dulled.
Teeth whitened, eyes brightened…personality dulled.
Here, rugged and not perfect but certainly more interesting.
Here, rugged and not perfect but certainly more interesting.

Charming (Or Kit, as he’s actually given a name) exists as the answer to Cinders’ problems. Sure, he’s got a little drama going on with his dad wanting him to marry a princess instead of a commoner, but really, we all know the old dude’s gonna cave in, in the face of True Wuv.

I know it’s a fairytale, and that the love story is really just the icing on the cake, and I know I was probably not the main audience for this (considering the alarming number of Disney store toys that this movie has created) BUT where is the drama? Even in Enchanted, a delightful cinderella-esque story, the Prince started out as a little bit of a smug ass who had no idea what his kingdom was really like. And we liked him for that because he GREW and CHANGED as a person by the end.

Maybe it’s because Prince Charming doesn’t interest me. Don’t get me wrong, Richard Madden interests me A LOT. But where was he in this? They shaved and shined, and whitened and brightened so much that it was like a living doll version of a human. No flaws, no details, no strangeness.

My current leading lady in my WIP is someone who studied English Literature and then fairytales. She knows they’re false, that they’re stories to teach and amuse, but it’s changed the way she looks at love. No, she doesn’t want the fairytale necessarily, but everything else in the real world looks a lot less dramatic. A lot more plodding. But flaws make us who we are!

This is a lesson I’ve got to take into my own writing, as often my female leads are in a time of transition, and their male counterparts have already had their issues and now (mostly) have their shit together. Is that fair? No, but you try writing two neurosis-filled characters into a love story. You’d spend most of the time with them being awkward and apologising at each other. So I hereby declare, I’m going to allow my leading men to be dicks sometimes. Because that’s real life. And we still love people when they’re idiots.

Let’s try appreciating some flaws, Hollywood. Because that’s where all the interesting stuff is.

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GUEST POST: TERRI NIXON- The Tale of the Happy Hybrid

Today I’ve got another Carina Writer doing a guest post for my blog!

 

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Hi, and thanks for welcoming me to your blog, Andi  

 

I’m here to talk a little bit about the publishing route I’ve been lucky enough to be able to choose; that of the Hybrid Author. I write both for myself and for publishers – as long as they’ll have me! – and the sense of achievement is already phenomenal, after less than a year. Not in terms of sales, I hasten to add, because it’s a long, slow process getting the word ‘out there,’ and I’m working full-time as well, so probably don’t spend as much time promoting as I should; writing time is precious enough! But I’m learning as I go, and picking up tips all the time. 

So, having been already signed by a publisher, why did I then choose to put my own work out? Impatient? Control-Freak? Cocky? 

 

I can promise you, it was none of the above. The simple thing is, I wrote a book in 2010 that won a contest in 2012, and was utterly unlike anything I’ve ever written before. It won me a publishing contract with Piatkus, people liked it, and in 2013 it was nominated for an award. I was thrilled. Still am. And very, very proud. That was Maid of Oaklands Manor (formerly Saturday’s Child.)

 

However, the work I’d done up to that point remains my true love; I’d been writing and re-writing The Dust of Ancients since the early noughties, created a whole new interpretation of the history of the Cornish moors, placed my characters within it and watched them grow.

How could I let all that go, and simply follow that rather shady path that had suddenly opened up in front of me? I say ‘shady,’ not because of any hint of wrong-doing, but because I had no notion of where it would lead or what I might stumble over. There was the niggling fear I would be suddenly dropped mid-series (which I was!) and the question of whether I really wanted to be *that* kind of a writer for evermore.

 

My agent has expressed cautious approval of The Dust of Ancients, but says it’s too niche and  prefers to represent me for my historical/romance/drama work, which is absolutely fine by me, because she has just secured me a 2-book deal with Carina (pause to run around the room squealing, yet again!) I am happy to continue writing that kind of book, and have written a second in that series and begun the third … but in the meantime my poor first love had been wilting for want of light. 

So, I opened up the folder, looked over the MS again to see if any of it was salvageable, and decided to let the rest of the world be the judge. So far the light I have given it is like the lowest setting of a three-touch lamp, but that’s got to be better than the total dark of a Word folder, don’tcha think? The bonus, using that analogy, is that the fourth touch can never plunge it back into darkness; the book is on sale, it’s undoubtedly mine, from first word to last, and no-one is going to come along and beat me to it.

 

The biggest plus, of course, is that I can put it out in paperback. I doubt any of my historical dramas will be physical books, sad as it is to acknowledge that. I love the way my self-pubbed book looks, love the way it feels, love the way I can physically pass it over to people who ask about it, instead of giving them a link they’ll probably lose before they get home. The cover is stunning, and the cover for book 2 even more so and I can’t wait to share it! (The Lightning and the Blade is due out in June.)

Running parallel with all that excitement is the knowledge that my WW1 drama (currently titled: Lady of No Man’s Land) will be released by Carina, hopefully in July. So it’s a double-whammy of publication this summer … better get that promotion muscle flexing, eh?

 

 

 

 

Author Website: www.terri-nixon.co.uk 

Follow me on Twitter: @TerriNixon

Author Facebook: www.facebook.com/terri.authorpage 

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00DI8R8K6 

 

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Blog Hop…’My Writing Process’

 

Thanks to Aurelia B Rowl for nominating me to take part in the My Writing Process blog tour! I’m following up from Aurelia’s brilliant post from last week, which you can see here.

Okay, here goes:

 

What Am I Working On?

I’m currently working on my next novel for Carina UK. It’s a snarky romantic comedy, focused around a woman named Tigerlily James (I love my strange names!) and how she deals with how static her life is. She and her friends have The Misery Dinner once a month where they moan about their lives, but she’s tired of being miserable. Cue love interest, the return of strange friends, terrible exes and lots of shenanigans and navel gazing. At the moment the working title is The Young and Bitter Club, but it might be changing to Unstuck.

 

 

How Does My Work Differ from Others of its Genre?

 

Well, I’m trying to make sure it’s not just a romance story. I like there to be a journey of discovery, something positive in the female characters that comes from them and not their love interest. It has to be about the timing, and realisations, and love, all coming together to move them forward. I find that really inspiring in the work of Sarra Manning and Mhairi Mcfarlane, where it’s not just chick lit, it’s an emotional realisation in the mind of the character.

 

 

Why Do I Write What I Do?

 

Well, the first book I wrote was a coming of age drama, and the novel I was working on before I got the call from the publisher was literary fiction. So I’m not going to limit myself to one genre. I’ve also got a few YA novels and a kids book up my sleeve. But at the moment, I love writing chick lit. It’s fun, less taxing, and you get to design the dream love interest and make other people fall in love with them. It’s pretty much like day-dreaming, at least until the hard work of actually writing the thing comes into action. I’d never really visualised myself writing romance, if anything, my first novel was described as ‘a romance trying to be an anti-romance’. I don’t like fluff, I like attraction, and sarcastic comments, attraction and wit. Some handsome guy turning up with roses is not a romantic hero for me. So getting to play with that is pretty cool.

 

 

How Does My Writing Process Work?

 

Well, I start with the idea, which changes over and over again. Last week, over the course of two days I changed the names of three characters, the visuals of the love interest, the back story, and a whole bunch of other stuff! And once that happens, it starts to click. I write fragments in my notebook, and I’m now onto typing up fragments on my laptop. Nothing in order, nothing necessarily structured or even important, I’m just exploring. When I’ve got enough, I’ll print them out, arrange them, look for what I’m missing, and start typing it all up in order, adding in as I go. 

When I first start, I’m writing to discover, which is why things change. I’m allowing for adaptations, realisations, character development.  Then comes the typing up, changing, and about five rounds of editing! 

All of that seems so far off right now! But I’m chugging away at it so it’s ready for deadline on the 1st May. Terrifying.

 

Next Week: The Blog Hop moves on to two brilliant writers and creatives:

 

Louise Davidson 

 

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Louise Davidson is a writer, free-lance script-reader, dramaturg and PR executive. She graduated from the University of East Anglia and has worked in theatre for the last four years, doing everything from directing to ushering. She has acted as Assistant to the Director on shows such as Uncle Vanya at the Lyric Theatre and Land of Giants as part of the Cultural Olympiad and is a script-reader for Tinderbox Theatre Co. and Accidental Theatre Co. For the last year, Louise has worked in PR, specialising in Arts Marketing and PR. She has written two plays, various flash fiction, and is currently working on a novel.

 Check out her entry here 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annie Harris

 

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Annie is a 23-year-old actress, theatre producer and blogger living in North London.
 
After graduating from the London College of Music in 2011 with a degree in Musical Theatre, Annie networked her way through the scary, bustling city that is London with a tummy full of caffeine and a backpack full of business cards.
 
Recently, she’s written articles for [Miro Magazine](www.miromagazine.co.uk) and [Youth Arts Online](www.youthartsonline.org), been featured as an incredibly dumpy and spoilt young woman in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the classic Walt Disney film, Cinderella, and has recently dipped her toe into the world of vlogging by becoming a [Youtube Partner](www.youtube.com/missannieharris). 
 
When she’s not busy poking her nose into other people’s lives, you can find Annie tending to her fast-wilting coriander plant, fantasising about taking up pole dance classes, or singing 80’s power ballads in the shower.
 
You can find Annie on Twitter [here](www.twitter.com/ubermagee).
 

 

 

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A Word on Valentines Day from Eternal Cynic Tabby Riley

Hi, I’m Tabby Riley, and I’ll be taking over A.L.Michael’s blog today. Because we like breaking the fourth wall. As Valentines Day is coming up, Andi invited me to write something for you guys, to get to know me a little better.

Well, I’m pretty simple. I write pointless articles for magazines. Which, as a result, means I’ve becoming a ranting lunatic behind a computer screen, but I do know the best way to pluck my eyebrows and get some pretty cool freebies when I review things. But it’s not really the career I want. I write this blog, Miss Twisted Thinks, and my readers seem to think I’m funny. But they’re really tired of me harping on about whether a jaffa cake is a biscuit (Chocolate to base ratio people, come on!). 

Thing is, I used to be a proper journalist. At a proper paper, with a desk, and an editor and… well, it fell apart a few years ago. And here I am, still typing away at a computer screen at two in the afternoon in my pyjamas, wondering if it’s too early to start on the wine, and why did I eat that entire chelsea bun. Life’s…well, it’s alright.

Valentines Day has always seemed like a massive waste of time to me. It’s corporate and commercial, and any other valid point that I’m not allowed to make because I’m single and people think I’m just bitter. Yeah, I got screwed over. My main relationship was with my boss, after he’d supposedly separated from his wife. I was young, and reckless and in love with the idea of this powerful man who could teach me so much. For him, thinking back, it was probably just convenient to have someone to fuck who could then carry on doing the paperwork. But I’m older now, wiser. 

I’ve had a job offer from this guy Harry. And sleeping with my editor was a problem last time, so no worries on that front, because Harry is detestable. He’s all about the perfect pout, and thirty quid bottles of wine, designer suits. The guy drives a bloody porsche, for god’s sake. And he seems to have this way of looking at me like I’m a trained monkey without the training. Like I might surprise him, but he doubts it. 

So what am I going to do this Valentines Day? The same thing I do every year, have a ‘Nothing Day’ with my two best friends, Rhi and Chandra. We sit around, watching Buffy episodes on VHS, getting quietly stoned and sozzled. This year I have banned The Breakfast Club from v-day watching. Or anything from the 80s. We just get too melancholic about the state of romance in a digital world. 

So, Valentines advice from your very own Miss Twisted: Only buy uncomfortable lingerie if it makes you feel good, look for a man who’ll buy you an unconventional flower (roses are on sale), valentines day is a lot like New Years, with all the expectation, so avoid that by having fun with your friends…or give in to the capitalistic creation that is the exploitation of the only true and pure thing we have left in this world, and have a nice day!

 

 

 

If you like what Tabby has to say, maybe you should read about her life in The Last Word, released April 2014 by Carina UK. In the meantime, why not browse other Carina authors by searching the hashtag #weloveromance ?