Monday, 17 October 2016

Promoting your books via social media?

We all do it – myself included. I do try for every promotional post to make four others that are just friendly. I actually rarely buy books that I’ve seen promoted via social media. That’s in part because I have so many books to read at the moment. I have forty hard copies waiting in the bedroom, about 256 on my Kindle and I go to the library as well. Occasionally, though, I am tempted to buy one I come across via social media. Below I’ve listed what makes this happen:


Really interesting blog / Twitter / Facebook  post elsewhere

I guess here I’m buying the book because I’m interested in the person. Sure, the theme or topic of the book has to be interesting too - I’m not sure I’d ever go for a western but even here there’s an exception.  Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries were so good that I’m tempted a little by her Western series. Sometimes it’s just curiosity. This person is saying a lot that is interesting here.  Her books probably are too.


Right up my street

Maybe the book is very similar to something I’m writing, have written or am thinking about, or might be really useful as a research tool. However, if I’m proactively looking for something like that, I’m more likely to go directly to Amazon or a review site.

Twitter remains my favourite – just.

I love the power of this platform. Retweets can be awesome. You can soon get through the six handshakes if your post is retweeted and retweeted. I retweet often – especially when I come across gorgeous photos, links to interesting articles, amusing and inspiring quotes, the latest news and opportunities for writers.  All too often though there is book promotion after book promotion and it gets a little boring. I tend to skip those and even when I do buy one of these books because I’ve found the writer interesting, I’ll tend to do that via another platform. I suppose it happens partly because I follow so many other writers.
The trick, I guess, is to make yourself interesting and also ensure that there is a way for your followers to find your books if they want to.  

Other platforms

I occasionally like to read the meatier comments on Facebook though I initially found the whole platform counterintuitive. I like the business-like attitude of Linked-in and intend in future to keep my CV there. I’m using Pinterest for research and will try Instagram soon.


Some things do seem to come from nowhere. “How did you find me?” I ask a teacher who has booked me for a school visit. “I used Google and found a comment on Twitter relating to you blog post about school visits.” There you have it.
The point is, we have to keep up our presence on social media but never become boring. Now, there’s a challenge.     

Monday, 3 October 2016

Be your own best advisor

I really do believe in critique groups. They have helped me a lot. I’m also quite convinced that Creative Writing in Higher Education works mainly because students are taught to reflect critically about their work.
However, none of this is without problems and we must be discerning about how we respond to critiques.


Creative writers say that because they can

Someone in my critique group said that to us. I don’t think he realised what my day job used to be. We’d pointed out a slipped point of view. We are so keen now on first person and close third that we might forget that some of the greats – e.g. Charles Dickens – frequently used a roving point of view. It worked for him and his readers. Why shouldn’t it for us?    

Casualty rules

I’ve recently had an almighty rejection from an online publication that has accepted pretty well everything else I’ve sent them. I’m a little puzzled by how much information they provided considering they didn’t want to accept the script. Were they trying to train me up for something else?
Some of it made sense. Some of it didn’t, and in particular, a distinction I made between pads and paddles on a defibrillator. I had to try the text out on several people and then watched several episodes of Casualty and Holby City. Ah. Sorry Mr Editor sir. I had made this distinction correctly and all of my readers got it.

Sore breasts in early pregnancy? Surely not?  

Okay so it’s a long time ago now but I remember it distinctly. In fact, one of the first clues the first time was that a dress wouldn’t fit over my boobs and it actually hurt if you touched them. The person querying this was much younger than me. I just had to conclude that different women have slightly different experiences but that what I was describing here was valid for some.

Tagging speech

Yes I’m a great believer in  avoiding tags altogether if you can and if you can’t use “said” most of the time, with the occasional “whispered”, “shouted” or “asked”. But just occasionally, it is okay to use something else. It’s an art to know when. It never is an exact science. 

Write with the senses

Yes, definitely. But every sense, every time? Isn’t there a danger of it all becoming like a list? Anyway, if you can hear the bacon sizzling in the pan, can’t you smell it as well? 
We tend to stick to the visual. Perhaps we could use one of the other senses more often and let it carry some other detail?    

Conflicting advice

A says one thing, B another and the two contradict each other. What to do? Look at what’s being discussed anyway. This is probably happening because there is something out of kilter in what you’ve written. You may have to find a third way.
Put the script away. Rest it for a week or two. The come to it with fresh eyes.

The best sort of feedback – a personal opinion

I just like to find out what my readers have understood. Have I succeeded in getting the film from my head into theirs? Isn’t that ultimately what we’re trying to achieve?
In the end, we have to listen to advice, weigh it up, return to our writing den, be our own best counsel and edit as we see fit.
Happy writing and editing.     

Newsletter 3 October 2016

So, here it is then. The first official day of my retirement. I’m on a new writing regime and I as I write am 2.45 hours into my new daily total of four hours. I’m doing a lot of bits and bobs – a book review, an account of the recent SCBWI retreat at Gladstone’s library – look out for that appearing in Words and Pictures on Thursday. I’ve also completed my post of Wednesday on We Are European. And of course, this newsletter.  
At Gladstone’s I managed to complete a couple of chapters on my WIP.
Plenty of folk have reminded me that once I’m retired I’ll wonder how I ever got the time to work. Well, it’s a bit like that already. This week is hectic. As well as my new writing routine and a few regular activities, I’m at the Salford Museum and Art Gallery for Tea with Oscar Wilde. I’m meeting a former colleague on Friday afternoon for a look at Bury museum and gallery. Both occasions merit afternoon tea…. And Friday evening I’m at the Octagon to see To Kill a Mocking Bird.
On Saturday we have another SCBWI meeting.  
All go, then and that’s just the first week.            

Bridge House

All the edits are now in for Baubles. Debz Hobbs Wyatt   is of course my partner in this. We’ve also had a look at the cover and have some great ideas bubbling along. We’re even starting to think what next year’s collection might be. Over the next few days I’ll be putting the book togther. This is always an exciting point.  
We’re also looking at doing some single author collections. These are for authors we’ve already published. You may recycle stories we’ve already included in another anthology, and you may reedit these if you wish. You may also add in new stories. We’re aiming at a total word count of between 30,000 and 80,000 words. 
If you’re interested in this, contact me here.    


Remember, we’re always open to submissions. Find out how here.  I’ve been encouraging my students to submit. I’m beginning to see some of their work appearing.
The Best of CaféLit 5 is now available. There are some lovely stories in this. I’m very pleased that I have a story in this collection. Order your copy here.      



We’re currently looking for collections of Flash Fiction. See our submissions page here.


Creative Café

We’re always looking for new cafés.  If you visit one of the cafés in the project and would like to write a review of between 250 and 350 words – nice, too, to have a couple of pictures – send it to me here. Do the same if you find a new café.
I’m now going to send out a welcome letter to each new café that’s added. This will also offer them the opportunity to join the mailing list.  
I’m also now proactively encouraging cafes to stick. The best of CafeLit. Do you know anyone who might like to stock it? We can offer 35% discount to  retailers.   


School Visits

I’m proactively promoting my school visits associated with The House on Schellberg Street project. I’m still offering visits on this for a donation towards the project. I’ve devised a whole interactive workshop. It would be a real asset for any school teaching the Holocaust at Key Stage 3. Even if a school can’t afford a donation, I’d be happy to run the project.
Here’s some further news about the Schellberg project. I’ve added in a page referring to “deleted scenes”. You know, just like you get on some DVDs. There are also article about Fact and Fiction in the cycle and about how it was written. I’m adding in more and more materials for schools.  
There is also now a page of links to some articles about the process of writing the novels.    
Query for a school visit here.


The Red Telephone

We are currently open for submissions. Hoorah! We’re looking for the next great YA novel. Check out the details here.
I’d like to remind you of our new enterprise - something between a mentoring system and an online course. Though publication is not guaranteed, we will at least look at your full book if you’ve attended one of the courses. We’re offering it for free to a few people at first. We’ll refine as we go along based on feedback from our clients. We’ll then continue to offer it at a discount for a while before going to full price when we’re completely happy with it. We’re not sure what the full price will be. Again, we’ll be guided by our current clients. Find out more here.  Three people have now signed up. We’re running out of space so if you’re hesitating, now is the time to make your mind up.  We look forward t hearing from you.       


Books and short stories

I continue to make good progress on Shooting Hitler.
Clara’s Story is being serialised. The cover makes this theme quite clear. The novel is can now be found on Channillo. You may read it here.    
Clara’s Story is the second in the Schellberg circle. All five stories cove roughly the same period and are very much happening in and associated with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. They can be read in any order. The stories overlap to some extent but where they repeat we see the happening form another point of view. For instance The House on Schellberg Street is mainly about a young girl, Renate, who comes to England on the Kindertranpsort. Clara’s Story is about her grandmother. Girl in a Smart Uniform explains how at least one German girl associated with the story became a Nazi – and then gave it all up. Shooting Hitler is Renate’s mother’s version of events. In The Round Robin we learn about what happens to Renate’s friends.  
I’m now having to flesh out my proposal for an academic book about children’s lit for one publisher. This has meant deciding exactly which books to discuss. So, I’ve had to buy and read a few more. One super one I’ve read recently is Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders. It’s a sequel to E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It, though it is considerably darker. I really recommend this.

Upcoming events

3 December is the Bridge House / CafeLit celebration. It was open just to people in the two anthologies. Now we’re opening it to other guests. We’ve found a pub that will let us use their private space for free. They must have heard that our writers always spend generously in the bar. Book your places here:  



This month I’m giving away a copy of Shata Everington’s XY. The first person to message me via Twitter that they’d like the book  -  @gilljames – gets it.  

Happy reading and writing.