My First Year with a Publisher

It’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed since I signed my publishing contract with Aria Fiction at Head of Zeus. A lot has happened in that time and the year seems to have flown by. So, I thought it was a good time to reflect on the past year and look ahead to what is in store in the future.

Progress so Far

At the time of writing Born Bad is currently ranked 82 on Amazon UK out of over 5 million books, and for the last couple of weeks it has hovered around the 100 mark. The highest rank it has achieved so far was 58 on two occasions. It has also received some excellent reviews. Needless to say, I am absolutely thrilled as it has exceeded all my expectations.  

I am gaining a growing fan base which is wonderful to see. People are going on to read my other books as well as signing up to my mailing list and following me on social media.

At the moment I am polishing up book two so that I can send it to my publishers in a few weeks’ time, and it will soon be available for pre-order on Amazon.

What I’ve Learned

Working with a publisher means that there are lots of tight deadlines to meet. However, this is good for me as I am usually a massive procrastinator and it has made me become more self-disciplined with my writing routine.

It is wonderful to have the knowledge and support of a professional publisher which has been brilliant in terms of editing, marketing and promotion. Marketing encompasses a whole spectrum of activity from cover design to the book blurb and everything after that. At every stage it is specifically tailored to reach the target readership.

In terms of promotion, I have found that ads on large reader websites do work provided they are targeted, and this is one aspect in which my publishers have a wealth of knowledge and experience. A good publisher can also reach areas that I couldn’t have reached as an independent author e.g. the Amazon Summer Sale, which features only a few hundred books out of the millions available on Amazon UK.

Support

No matter what questions I have, my publishers are always on hand with help and advice. I am also connecting with other Aria authors who are a friendly, supportive bunch and I am discovering some great books that have been written by them. I still also keep in touch with some of my Indie author friends who have been very supportive over the years. 

Future Plans

The second book in the trilogy will be published at the end of this year/beginning of next although it will be available for pre-order on Amazon long before that. The third and final book in the trilogy will be published next summer.

After that, I would love to work with Aria again provided we can agree terms. I have a lot of ideas for other crime novels which I am looking forward to writing in the future.

———————– 

 

Advertisements

The Best Writing Advice Ever

There is one piece of writing advice that I have come across many times. The first time was during my writing course and I have since read a lot of blog posts and Internet articles giving that same advice, which is to ‘Show Don’t Tell’. I have found that piece of advice invaluable although I also find sometimes that I forget to heed it. When I do forget, I can often see that it makes a big difference to the standard of my work.  So, what exactly does it mean and how do you achieve it?

I think the best way to explain is by example. A simple example is to look at the way in which young children write stories. If a young child was writing a story about a girl going to the park, he might say:

‘The girl went into the park which had some grass where boys were playing football. There were lots of trees and a playground with swings, a roundabout and a slide. The girl enjoyed herself on the playground.’

Placing the Reader at the Scene

If you wanted to show instead of telling you would in effect be placing the reader at the park. The best way to do this is to try to get inside the girl’s head. Think about what it felt like being in the park. Was it a warm day or a cold day? Were the other children friendly? Did she feel nervous about playing among them or excited at the prospect of making new friends? What could she hear? Were the birds singing in the trees, was there laughter from the other children or perhaps squeals of excitement?

A good way to get inside your character’s head is to use the five senses i.e. think about what she could see, hear, touch, feel and taste. I have written about this topic before at: Writing Using the Five Senses.

It is also good to give the girl a name so that the reader can identify with her more easily. A name in itself can help to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. For example, the name Mabel would paint a different picture than the name Karen, which would also paint a different picture than the name Jessica. For Mabel I would imagine an elderly lady, for Karen a middle-aged woman and for Jessica a young woman or girl.  Try an Internet search for popular baby names in the year in which your fictitious character was born.

Exposition

Exposition is used to give background information and it does have its use. However, if you overuse it you can find that you are telling the tale instead of showing what is happening. Many writers do this without realising it, myself included, and a good editor can be helpful in spotting the overuse of exposition.

If you want to give some background information but don’t want to use too much exposition, you could try conveying it in another way, for example, through speech. If you are going to use this technique though, it’s best to ensure that the speech still flows naturally and doesn’t sound contrived.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have found this blog post useful.

Free Promotion of Danger by Association

‘Danger by Association’ is the third and final book in the Riverhill trilogy and, according to many readers, it’s the best of the three. It is therefore ironic that sales of this book are much lower than for the first two at around 3000 compared to over 9000 for ‘Slur’ and over 8,000 for ‘A Gangster’s Grip’.

Danger

I hold responsibility for that to an extent – I should have put the book up for pre-order a lot sooner than I did. Then perhaps readers of the first two books would have downloaded the third straightaway, especially since there is evidence that readers of ‘Slur’ went on to read ‘A Gangster’s Grip’.

So, I’ve decided to do a free promotion of book 3. ‘Danger by Association’ will be free to download to the Kindle for three days only on the 20th, 21st and 22nd of January so if you haven’t already downloaded a copy, now’s your chance. Here’s the link: http://viewBook.at/DangerbyAssn.

Here’s the book blurb so you can see what the book is about:

Rita has been avoiding Manchester; it brings back too many bad memories. She still has harrowing flashbacks of ruthless gangster, Leroy, and the death of a loved one. It takes the wedding of her brother, John, to persuade her to return. She agrees on the condition that she steers clear of the Riverhill estate and Leroy’s family.

When her son, Daniel, is placed in danger, Rita is lured back to the Riverhill where she confronts those she believes responsible. She receives support from an unlikely source who promises information subject to terms. Realising that she needs help to act on that information, Rita turns to her brother, John.

But John works for the law. And he will have to go against everything he believes in if he agrees to embark on a maverick mission to help save his sister’s son.

I hope you enjoy it.

—————-

Free Promotion – A Gangster’s Grip

‘A Gangster’s Grip’ will be FREE to download to the Kindle from Friday 28th October until Sunday 30th October so, if you haven’t already got a copy, here’s a chance to grab one. Just follow the link: http://viewbook.at/GangstersGrip.

‘A Gangster’s Grip’ is the second book in the Riverhill Trilogy but it can be read as a standalone novel so you don’t need to have already read ‘Slur’. I must confess that this is my own personal favourite of the trilogy, and readers seem to enjoy it too. To date, it has gained 44 reviews on Amazon UK, averaging 4.5 stars.

Gangster's Grip V4

Here’s the book blurb for ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ to give you a little taster of what it’s about:

When Rita returns to Manchester after a few years away, she doesn’t expect to find a spliff smoking, beer swilling thug called Leroy firmly ensconced on her parents’ sofa. Rita is horrified to discover he is her sister Jenny’s new boyfriend, and she senses trouble.

The more Rita finds out about Leroy, the more she mistrusts him. As she uncovers the truth about his shady dealings, she becomes anxious about Jenny’s safety and is desperate to lure her away from him. Rita’s mettle is tested as she tries to protect her sister while battling with personal health concerns.

But it’s worse than Rita could ever have suspected. Through her association with Leroy, Jenny is about to become embroiled in the most dangerous phase in Manchester’s recent history.

———————

I hope you enjoy it and, if you’ve already read and enjoyed the book, please let your friends know about the promotion.

———————

Playing with Words

As a writer I love playing with words and I love words themselves. I know – weird aren’t I? Some words I love more than others. With certain words it’s because they have a lovely sound to them. With others it’s because they suit their meaning so well that no other word would quite suffice. There are many words that are so powerful and descriptive that they can transform a whole paragraph. In fact, ‘transform’ is one of the words on my list. Here are some of my favourite words:

Words 1

–         Expertise – It’s like experience, knowledge and skills all rolled into one.

–         Transform – it’s more powerful than ‘change’, don’t you think?

–         Incongruous – I love this one, it’s says exactly what it means.

–         Onomatopoeia – This relates to the use of a word that sounds like its meaning. What I love about ‘onomatopoeia’ is the sound of the word, the use of four vowels together and the fact that very few people can spell it. I can’t think of any other word that uses four vowels together – no doubt someone will put me straight on that point. I believe it stems from either Latin or Greek so there could be other four-vowel words that have been adopted by the English language.

–         Detract – I feel that no one word captures the meaning of this word in the same way. Although you’ll find alternatives such as ‘lessen’, Words 2‘diminish’ etc. in a Thesaurus, ‘detract’ means more than that. For me ‘detract’ makes me think of moving away from something or taking away from something, especially when used as ‘detract from’.

–         Encapsulate – I just love the sound of it. Again, no other single word does it justice. ‘Summarise’ is used as a synonym, but ‘encapsulate’ is more than that; it’s the act of taking all the components and bringing them neatly together as though in a capsule.

–         Retrospect – To me this word means more than just ‘reflection’, it’s looking back but also learning from past mistakes. Again, no other word conjures up the precise meaning.

–         Basically – It’s an excellent opener for a sentence and leaves the reader full of expectation of what’s coming next. It can open up an explanation, a conclusion or a summary. ‘Basically’, it’s a really useful word, but unfortunately I realise that I do tend to overuse it.

–         Divisive – Another powerful word, which was overused on the death of Margaret Thatcher – it was definitely the media word of the week. Now, whenever I hear that word my brain automatically connects it with Margaret Thatcher.

–         Replicate – Sounds more sophisticated than duplicate or copy.

Words 3

–         Proclivities – Means tendencies or inclinations but it’s often used in a negative way so it’s usually the word of choice if someone has perverse sexual tendencies. This word always makes me smile because of my mucky mind. It reminds me of Les Dawson (one of my all time favourite comedians) who said that some words are just funny because of all the connotations associated with that particular word.

Do you have any favourite words? What are your favourites and why? I bet you can think of some that I love but I’ve forgotten about – alas, the middle-aged memory isn’t what it used to be!

———————

Fancy Getting Married in a Library?

It’s a book lover’s dream, but hopefully one that is shared by your other half. Even if you’re not both book lovers, Manchester Central Library is still a stunning venue in which to hold a wedding. An extreme enthusiasm for books and libraries will help though when it comes to footing the bill.

 Library left

The package costs £15,000 for 50 daytime guests and 50 evening guests, with an additional cost of £125 per daytime guest and £30 per evening guest. The maximum number of guests that can be accommodated is 80 in the daytime and 120 in the evening.

You do get a lot for your money though including exclusive use of the library on a Sunday, five course wedding breakfast, evening reception and a champagne toast. You also get access to the Wolfson Reading Room and other heritage spaces. Judging by the photographs in the brochure I think some of these areas are private rooms that aren’t usually available to the public. There are also lots of other touches, but rather than sounding like an advertising brochure, I’ll just give you the link so you can download the very impressive pdf: Central Library Wedding Brochure.

 

Manchester Central Library

As the name suggests, it is the headquarters of Manchester libraries. Although it doesn’t have the same historic significance of some of Manchester’s older libraries, nevertheless it is a grade II listed building, which was constructed between 1930 and 1934. The design itself is eye-catching and was loosely based on the Pantheon in Rome.

The library was closed from 2000 until March 2014 while extensive renovations took place at a cost of £40 million. As part of the renovations the Library Theatre Company moved out of the library basement and into its new premises at HOME, a centre for international contemporary art, theatre and film at First Street, Manchester. This was following a merger with the Cornerhouse, a centre for cinema and the contemporary visual arts.

 

Manchester Central Library is the second largest public lending library in Britain. It has a host of facilities as well as dramatic design features. Personally, I prefer the original architecture and am not so keen on the glass paneling that has been added following the recent renovation, but I guess I’m an old fashioned (old) girl at heart.

Just some of the facilities include:

  • Free use of computers for up to one hour.
  • Free Wi-Fi connection.
  • A media lounge with creative software and gaming stations.
  • Services for the visually impaired including assisted technology and software.
  • A business centre giving advice to help you start or run your own business.
  • Rare books and special collections.
  • The Henry Watson Music Library where you can play or record your own music.
  • The Ahmad Iqbal Ullah Race Relations library, which specialises in the study of race, ethnicity and migration.
  • A café.

Oh, and did I mention that you can borrow books, DVDs and audio too?

 

In terms of the architecture, the interior is as striking as the exterior. It was difficult to capture the internal dome by camera but each of these marble pillars is about 1.5 to two feet in diameter. The inscription around the inside of the dome is from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament and reads:

‘Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to honour when thou dost embrace her, she shall give of thine head an ornament of grace, a crown of glory she shall deliver to thee.’ Proverbs 4:7

Shakespeare Hall has stained glass windows including one of Shakespeare and scenes from his plays. The ceiling shows the arms and crests of the Duchy of Lancaster, the See of York, the See of Manchester, the City of Manchester, and Lancashire County Council. As you move out of Shakespeare Hall and up the stairs to the first floor you pass a lovely statue made from white marble, which was presented to the library by the family of the late industrialist and promoter of the Manchester Ship Canal, Daniel Adamson. It is called ‘The Reading Girl’ and is by the Italian sculptor Giovanni Ciniselli.

Manchester Central Library is not the only library that can be hired as a wedding venue. It seems that it has now become a popular trend, and a quick search of Google shows that the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Manchester’s historic Portico Library, The Signet Library in Edinburgh and various other libraries in the UK can be hired. In fact, hitched.co.uk published an article about library wedding venues, which you can read here. It strikes me as a good idea if you’ve got the cash to spare because some of these buildings provide a stunning setting.

—————-

Chetham’s – The Oldest Public Library in the English-Speaking World

In my quest to blog about some of Manchester’s wonderful historic libraries, I thought I would start with Chetham’s in view of its claim to be the oldest public library in the English-speaking world. It’s a fascinating place to look at and I am amazed that I have only recently visited it for the first time considering how long I have lived in Manchester. With my joint loves of books and poking about in old buildings, I was in my element.

Chethams Entrance

Chetham’s entrance

Although visitors are advised to book in advance, I arrived on spec because I was going into Manchester city centre anyway. After a 10 minute wait due to a service taking place in the adjoining school, I was allowed access to the library and entered a beautiful medieval courtyard.

20151111_112250

Visitors have to be accompanied by a guide (I presume it’s because of the value of some of the old books and other relics). I think my guide soon realised that progress around the building would be slow as I continuously stopped to take photographs and admire the paintings, ornate windows, beamed ceilings etc. etc. I suppose there are only so many ‘wows’ you can contend with so she eventually left me to cover the top floor unaccompanied – yippee!

20151111_112245

History

Here’s a little of the history:

The library was established in 1653 under the will of Humphrey Chetham, a wealthy Manchester textile merchant, banker and landowner. It began as a school for the poor, although the building that houses the library dates back to 1421 and was built as a college for priests. Chetham’s is now a music school with the library attached.

20151111_113023

Humphrey Chetham’s portrait above the fireplace in the reading room

The history of the building is very much in evidence as you walk around Chetham’s. The walls are built from sandstone quarried locally in Collyhurst, and I marvelled at the thickness of the doors, and the beautiful oak furniture in the reading room.

20151111_112521

Original doors

20151111_113116

The oak table and leather backed chairs (also oak) in the Reading Room were purchased in the 1650s. Two students were working at the other end of the table during my visit so I wasn’t able to take a picture of the whole table. The chairs are of Cromwellian type, characterised by the square backs, turned legs and scroll work on the leg connectors.

The collection of books in the library dates back to the library’s inception in 1653, and continues to expand. Nowadays the collection focuses on the history and topography of Greater Manchester and Lancashire as well as other topics of local interest. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to examine the books as they’re kept in gated alcoves.

20151111_112856

The gated alcoves and beamed ceilings with a view through to the Reading Room

20151111_112934

Some of the wonderful old book collection under lock and key

Lastly, I’ll finish by adding a few images of the Baronial Hall although it was difficult to capture in all its glory.

In future blog posts I’ll be visiting some of Manchester’s other historic libraries.

—————————