Independence Day

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day
In our continuing series looking at some of the best writers from a selection of countries, today I turn our attention to the other side of the Atlantic.
The USA has produced more great writers than I could cover in 10 blog posts, therefore, this is a short list of some of my personal favourites.
Mark Twain
Born Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain is regarded by many as the ‘father of American Literature’. Like Charles Dickens on this side of the Atlantic, Twain was popular across the social divide. His stories were rooted in the ordinary life of 19th Century America and his adventures on paper were almost exciting as his own real-life travels. As a young man, he sought his fortune as a gold prospector but it was his gift as a storyteller and wit that he became famous. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are among the most beloved books ever to be written by an America, with the latter regarded as the Great American Novel.
Edgar Allan Poe
Poet, novelist, editor and acerbic critic, Edgar Allan Poe’s life was rooted in the world of literature. He was born in Boston in 1809 but he is mostly connected with Baltimore. He is regarded as the first great exponent of the short story that America produced, peppering his work with the macabre and the mysterious. He is also regarded as the man who created the detective novel. Even his death was a mystery. At just 40 years of age, he was found delirious, wandering the streets of Baltimore wearing someone else’s clothes. He was incapable of telling anyone what had happened and the cause of his demise remains an intriguing end to a prolific and brilliant life.
Raymond Chandler
Those of you who know me well will know that there was no way that Raymond Chandler was not going to appear in this list. Born in Chicago, Chandler was educated at Dulwich College private school in England. He was a naturalised British citizen and worked briefly in the civil service. He borrowed money to return to the States where he worked as a bookkeeper and auditor until 1931 when he was dismissed for a series of disciplinary problems. Flat broke in the middle of depression riddled America, he decided to try writing. He taught himself how to write ‘pulp fiction’ and his first story was published in ‘Black Mask’ magazine in 1933. Six years later The Big Sleep was published and the legend of Philip Marlowe was born.
Without Chandler and Marlowe I may never have written a single book, so thank you, Raymond, from the bottom of my heart.
Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway was one of the most influential writers of the early twentieth century. Like Chandler, Hemingway was born in Illinois. He was both a journalist and a fiction writer. His time as a journalist took him to Spain to cover the civil war, he spent time in Paris, Toronto, and Florida, each destination would have an influence on his fiction. His iconic fiction includes For Whom the Bell Tolls. The Old Man and the Sea and A Farewell to Arms. He won the Pulitzer in 1952 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. A genetic condition that causes mental and physical deterioration led to his suicide in 1961.
Stephen King
Stephen King is one of the most successful writers of all time. He has sold more than 350 million books worldwide. He is a master of the horror genre but he is also an excellent writer of science fiction and fantasy. There are some within the literary world who look down on King’s work – probably partly motivated by his success – but his popularity can’t rely on storytelling alone. Anyone reading Stephen King’s work should acknowledge his ability to create vibrant dialogue and incredibly complex three-dimensional characters. I’m sure that you will have your favourite King novel. Let me know in the comments.
This is only touching the edge of the vast array of talented writers who call America home. I would love to hear from you who are your favourites that I’ve missed. I would particularly like to hear from our friends in the U.S. of some of the hidden gems of American literature.

To all our friends in the USA, have a very Happy Independence Day.


online profile

Indie Authors Café Review

Thanks to our great author speakers Seoras Wallace, Terry H Watson and Gordon Cassells – Business Consultant our Indie Author Café was an entertaining, educational and fun day in Waterstones, Sauchiehall St Glasgow on Sunday 26thMay 2019.

The session was filled with Scottish history lessons on Wallace the Legend Of Braveheart; crime fiction from Terry; and help for writers with their online profile. If you missed it, you can watch the video on our events page.

It was also a day of synchronicity. One family group of writers stumbled upon our event “by accident” and now see the possibilities for publishing.

Two young fantasy writers got introduced to author Claire Hastie who has published her first book in same genre. One of the young writers has now applied to Calum’s Legacy opportunity for 16-25 year olds.

How is this for synchronicity though – two ladies had been trying to meet each other for months discovered they were sitting next to each other! One is writing a book about bras (yes you read that right) and the other is the most qualified bra fitter in Scotland as well as an editor and writer.  Sometimes the universe conspires to bring people together and Indie Author Café seems to have fabulous energy that draws creatives in to start the seed of ideas growing into books. We love it.

Come and check us out next month Sunday 30thJune 2019 from 1pm.


Tips for working with bloggers

This ‘Tips for Working with Bloggers’ post was written by Sharon Bairden, our guest at Waterstones in April.

  1. We are people too! Most of us work and juggle life around blogging, it is our hobby and while it might feel like we are online 24/7 – we cannot always immediately respond to requests.
  2. Check out our blogs – don’t just send mass emails out with a generic “Dear Blogger…” heading, what does our review policy say? Make the email personal
  3. Check what genre we accept for review, if we don’t review dinosaur sci-fi then an email from an author telling us we will change our mind after seeing their book isn’t going to sway us!
  4. It’s ok to maybe follow up an email a couple of weeks later but don’t hound the blogger
  5. If you are arranging a blog tour – what’s your motivation? If it is to increase sales to the JK Rowling level then you are likely to be disappointed. It is impossible to tell how many sales are a result of a tour; but what a tour does for you is raise the profile of you and your work. The review is always there and bloggers have followers who dip in and out of their blog, so they might click on buy at a later stage.
  6. You can arrange blog tours yourself, but they are a lot of work, use a tour organiser who has access to bloggers who are likely to enjoy your genre; they take all of the work out of it for you.
  7. Social media – it might be your idea of hell but it needs to be done! Engage with your readers and reviewers – if they tweet you, tweet back; if they write on your Facebook page respond – you have no idea the buzz that readers get when a real live author responds to them!
  8. Don’t take “negative” reviews personally. Most of the bloggers I know don’t post reviews about books they didn’t enjoy, they want to talk about books they love. However, some bloggers do post about all the books they read. The majority of them are highly professional in their approach and give a fair critique and will point out what worked for them. We all know that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. They are being fair, remember that. If you are unlucky enough to come across a blogger who makes a personal attack on your book then ignore them, step away from them – they are not worth your time! Most bloggers despise this type of behaviour too, it says more about them than about your book.
  9. NEVER pay for a review from a blogger – if someone contacts you and gives you a price list for reviews – walk away – this is a huge NO for the book blogging community (this is not the same as BT organisers – you are paying for their organisation and admin)
  10. If you want a blogger to review their book and they have agreed it is courtesy to send them a review copy
  11. Never send out copies of your book in an initial email, there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there and plenty of pirate sites just waiting for this!
  12. Always check the blog – is it a good fit for you? What are the quality of reviews like, do you like the style of review?

 

My three top blog tour organisers to work with:

Anne Cater http://randomthingsthroughmyletterbox.blogspot.com/p/services-to-publishers-authors-blog.html

Sarah Hardy https://bytheletterbookreviews.com/botbspublicity-promo-services/

Rachel Gibley  https://www.rachelsrandomresources.com/


our fundraising journey

From Darkness to Light

Our fundraising journey and the evolution of Calum’s Legacy

This week I (Kim) got to help my good friend Alisoun Mackenzie with her fabulous Business for Good conference. The event was amazing – so many great stories being shared of how businesses can do good in the world through connections to causes and supporting charities. Alisoun had asked me to speak on the 2nd day and share the evolution of Calum’s Legacy and I realised that I hadn’t really spoken about this journey before. So I thought I’d share it with you.

Our son Calum died suddenly in 2007 from meningitis, he was 12 years old only a few weeks from becoming a teenager. It was the blackest and bleakest time of our lives. Our worst nightmare come true. But it wasn’t the end of our story it was the beginning of a new chapter.

Calum was always surrounded by friends and they were just as devastated and lost as we were by his death. I’m not sure who suggested it but as his friends gathered in our home in the days after his funeral, we decided to do something to celebrate Calum’s 13th birthday. The outcome was the biggest birthday party ever with over 1,000 people coming to the school to take part in lots of fundraising activities which raised almost £10,000 for Meningitis charities. It was huge – the outpouring of love, kindness and support was overwhelming and started to shine some light into the darkness of our lives. It gave us all a focus – something to do, a sense of purpose that was so missing. This was the start of our fundraising journey in Calum’s memory.

In the following years, we organised many different events, music nights, raffles, walked over hot coals, family and friends climbed mountains, ran marathons and collectively generated a lot of money for Calum’s Forever fund at Meningitis Now. But our business was growing and this created a challenge.

Indie Authors World is our accidental business, the seed began with Sinclair’s crime fiction books that he wrote to help him cope with Calum’s death and grew as we helped other writers to publish their books. This meant less time for fundraising until Alisoun suggested that I could bring the fundraising into our business. I had a bit of resistance to the idea at first but realised that we could create a publishing prize in Calum’s memory so some writer would also benefit. The Calum Macleod memorial publishing competition started, we organised a ball on what would have been Calum’s 21st birthday and invited our shortlisted authors to come along. This was a wonderful evening, money was raised for the Meningitis Charity, Calum was remembered, and Karin Finegan won the prize so her awesome book The Thirteen Stones was published.

This was the point that we began to develop the dream we could create a bigger impact. The fundraising we had done for Meningitis Now made a huge difference to us and helped other families that had been affected by this horrible disease but it felt connected to Calum’s death. I wanted to do something that recognised who Calum was in life. Sinclair and I started to talk about helping young people, bringing people together to build confidence, create opportunities to learn new skills and have fun. It’s taken a couple of years but we have now opened our creative youth enterprise project – Calum’s Legacy.

I am super excited about the possibilities of this. Twelve young people will get our support to find their voice, create stories and learn everything we do to create, market and sell a book. Their stories are going to be turned into a book. So yes there will be a physical product but I hope the young folks will gain much more – confidence, work skills, friendships, fun, life skills and maybe even light the entrepreneurial spark of possibility.

Calum’s Legacy is being funded by our business – we will donate money from the publishing packages we sell and are donating our time. We need to gather resources, laptops and some funds to pay for travel costs, food, admin support and other publishing costs along the way. We are recruiting author mentors to encourage young writers. We are open to offers of help and support too.

Standing on the stage in Edinburgh this week – I looked at the audience, many in tears who were clearly touched by our story. It was such a joy to talk about Calum and recognise the road we had travelled and the impact that fundraising had on our lives. The joy of having Calum at the heart of our business is immense. The hope that we can help other young people while making writers dreams come true makes me emotional. Our daughter Kirsten spoke at the launch of Calum’s Legacy on Mother’s Day – she talked about her memories of her brother with the kindness and love he showed to people. That love and kindness are enshrined in our business.

As Alisoun Mackenzie says “Business is a wonderful opportunity to be kind” it adds an extra dimension and now our light shines bright. I’d encourage you to add more kindness to your business.

You can help us by sharing Calum’s Legacy with any young person in Greater Glasgow/ East Dunbartonshire area. Applications are open until the end of June 2019.


St. George's Day flag.

Happy St. George's Day

On St. George’s Day we celebrate some of England’s finest and most renowned writers.

William Shakespeare

No list of English writers would be complete without one of the greatest playwrights and poets of all time. It would be insulting your intelligence to list the best of his works, everyone knows his genius. His writing has found its way into our everyday speech, his characters unforgettable templates for many writers who have followed and his works still provide inspiration for modern day adaptations and interpretations.
To quote the great man himself, “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” For Shakespeare, all three apply equally.

The Brontë Sisters

I know this is a bit of a cheat but to pick one of these remarkable women would be very difficult. Anne, Emily and Charlotte were the daughters of an Anglican vicar who lived in the village of Haworth in Yorkshire. In Victorian England being a writer was regarded as an unworthy pursuit for young women. The three sisters published their works under the pseudonyms Acton, Ellis and Currer respectively. Anne’s ‘Agnes Grey’; Charlotte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ and Emily’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ were hugely successful and showed the incredible writing skills of each woman.
I was introduced to ‘Wuthering Heights’ in school but the forensic analysis of every chapter spoiled the experience. It wasn’t until I left school that I read the book again and realised what a fantastic novel it is.

Charles Dickens

Like Shakespeare, Dickens has taken on a deserved legendary status in the literary world. His novels are regarded by many as the best of the Victorian era and they have stood the test of time well into the 21st Century. From my perspective, his greatest strength was the ability to create incredible characters. Fagin, Miss Haversham, Ebeneezer Scrooge, Mr Micawber, and many more are some of the most memorable fictional people ever to be committed to paper. ‘Great Expectations’ is my personal favourite and I’m sure that many of you will have your own.

Agatha Christie

As a crime writer, I had to add Agatha Christie to this list. Although as a young man I didn’t appreciate just how brilliant she was, I discovered that in terms of plotting a crime novel she has never been beaten and there are very few who can match her. Her ability to create layers of motives with shoals of red herrings meant that trying to guess the murderer before the final reveal is virtually impossible. In Poirot and Miss Marple, she created detectives who are instantly recognisable and perfect for film and TV producers to adapt. I think as long as people love crime novels they will be reading Agatha Christie.

John Le Carré

Like Ms Christie in her genre, John Le Carré stands head and shoulders above anyone else writing in his. Since ‘The Spy Who Came in From the Cold’ in 1963 he has produced a series of spy thrillers that not only tell authentic stories but capture beautifully the human frailties of ordinary people doing a job that requires lies and deception. If you haven’t read the George Smiley novels you should. They are the finest example of Cold War spy novels that have ever been written.

Of course there are many more writers that we could mention. Let me know in the comments who are your favourite writers from England.

To all our English friends, have a happy St. George’s Day.


Think of the poor editor

Here is a short selection of tips to help your writing and save your editor some strokes of the virtual red pen. They are some of the more common things that writers misunderstand.

Ellipsis

An ellipsis is a series of three full stops separated by spaces. It is used when there is a break in the narrative. For example, when a character is talking and is interrupted, or when they lose the thread of what they are saying, or when they are hesitant.
It is not used for any other reason.

Capitalisation (Names)

If a character is known by a descriptive nickname, it should always be capitalised. For example, in Robin Hood, despite it not being his given name, the little in Little John is always capitalised because that’s what the merry men call him.

Capitalisation (Job title)

When referring to someone by their job title, that title should always be capitalised. For example in my books when Tom Russell introduces himself it is written as “Detective Superintendent Tom Russell”. If a witness is speaking to him it is written as “Detective Superintendent.” However, if someone is talking about him without using his name it is written without capitals. For example, “The detective superintendent is the briefing room.”

It’s

A combination of three letters and a punctuation mark that causes every writer heartache from time to time. The rule is really simple, ‘it’s’ is a contraction of ‘it is’. Any other time those three letters stand alone without their punctuation pal.

The Oxford comma

This is one of the most debated rules of punctuation.
“What the blazes is an Oxford comma?” you might be wondering. It is the comma that comes before ‘and’ at the end of a list. (For example, Jeff filled the windscreen wiper bottle, checked the oil, and replaced the headlight bulb.)
The debate is that many people believe that the final comma isn’t necessary. The style guide for most newspapers will say that it should not be used. It is more commonly used in non-fiction writing. If you do decide to use it, make sure you do so consistently and you’ll make the life of your editor so much easier.

Consistency

This can be very difficult as we try to track what we’ve written but it is important. If you have referred to a character as James for three-quarters of the book, don’t start calling him Jimmy for the last quarter. Try to be consistent in the language your character uses, it helps the reader to better understand who that character is and makes those characters more believable.

That’s it for this blog, I hope these tips help your writing. If you have any questions or observations please leave a comment below.


Happy St. Patrick's Day

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!
(Happy St. Patrick’s Day)

For a relatively small country Ireland has produced more than its fair share of renowned writers. To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day I thought I would highlight a few of them.

Oscar Wilde

Outside of Shakespeare there can’t be too many writers who are quoted (and misquoted) as often as Oscar Wilde. He was born in Dublin, but it was in London that he would achieve fame. As an author, poet and playwright he was regarded as one of the Victorian literary giants. The Importance of Being Earnest and A Picture of Dorian Gray are among his most famous works. He fell afoul of the laws of the time when he was convicted of gross indecency and as a result spent time in Reading jail. On his release he moved to France where he died in poverty aged just 46.

James Joyce

Joyce was another Dubliner and was born in 1882. In the 1920s and 30s he became one of the most prominent novelists in the modernist avant-garde movement with titles such as Finnegan’s WakeA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Manand Ulysses. They were books that pushed the boundaries of what a novel was, and he inspired people like Samuel Beckett (a fellow Irishman) and Salman Rushdie to continue pushing those boundaries.

George Bernard Shaw

The author of more than sixty plays, Shaw stands as one of the greatest playwrights of all time. His plays were part of a wave of realism that was sweeping through theatre in the wake of the work of Henrik Ibsen. He used works such as Pygmalion, Arms and Men and Man and Superman as social and political commentary on Edwardian society. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925.

CS Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast in 1898. He was an academic who worked in the English faculty of Oxford University. Like his fellow Oxford English don and friend JRR Tolkien he served in the first World War where he was injured in 1918. His most famous works are The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of fantasy novels aimed at children and young adults. They were allegories of his Christian faith, something that was extremely important to him. Those books have delighted generations of children and influenced everyone from Tolkien right through to Philip Pullman and JK Rowling.

Roddy Doyle

Not all Ireland’s great writers are long gone. Another citizen of Dublin’s fair city, Roddy Doyle’s novels of contemporary Irish life are some of the best of the last thirty years. Novels like The Commitments, The Snapper and The Van are filled with both humour and the truth of life for working class Irish people. The films made from those books were hugely successful and helped to re-establish Dublin as a relevant cultural city once more.

There are many more Irish writers who could have appeared on this blog. If you have a particular favourite writer or work by an Irish writer please let us know in the comments.

I hope there are some Irish writers out there who would like to join us at IAW.

To all our Irish friends wherever you may be in the world, Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Scríbhneoireacht sona
(Happy writing)


Image of hot metal block

Think of the poor typesetter

This is an appeal to make life easier for the poor typesetter. Just think of me slaving away twenty hours a day (Kim is such a hard task master). Sweat dripping over the hot metal (computer keyboard really but I’m laying on it thick). Just think of the frustrations and pain that poor formatting causes for this weary body.

How I’m a doing, are you feeling sympathetic?

Here are a few wee tips for those of you who use Microsoft Word to produce your manuscripts that will make my life easier and help me to produce a better book for you (without pulling what’s left of my hair out).

  1. Please, no double spacing. I know there are many of you who were taught to leave a double space at the end of a sentence but in the age of computers that is no longer necessary. I realizethat it may be breaking a habit of a lifetime but if possible, please try.
  2. Don’t use double carriage returns between paragraphs. I have to remove carriage returns using an automated process. If I don’t it would take me a long time to process, and as a result the automated process may remove carriage returns that are required to format a specific passage. This is particularly true for tables that have been laid out as just text.
  3. Make a section break obvious. One problem I frequently come across as a result of removing carriage returns is that a section break in the text is removed. If you use either a star or a line to indicate a break, then it will be clear to me and will not be removed by the automated process.
  4. Use page breaks. At the end of a chapter instead of filling the space with multiple carriage returns use the insert page break function in Word. Again, this will speed things up and also ensure that I don’t miss the change to a new chapter.
  5. Use Styles. The best way to ensure a simple and accurate transfer from Word to a finished book is to use the Styles function in Word. By identifying Chapter Headings, First paragraphs, Body text, italics etc. I will always know exactly what you intended for the text.

I know that this post is slightly selfish but these simple tips will help to ensure that I produce the book you want more efficiently with less back and forth between us.

Think of my poor fingers.

If you would like to ask me about any of these suggestions leave a question in the comments below.


Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus (Happy St. David’s Day)

Today the people of Wales celebrate their patron saint. We thought we would send greetings to all the authors of Wales by looking at five of their greatest writers.

Dylan Thomas

Born in Swansea, Dylan Thomas was a renowned poet and playwright. He had worldwide recognition during his lifetime. Works such as ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ and ‘And death shall have no dominion’ had a such a profound effect on a young Robert Zimmerman that when he came time for him to step on to the world stage, he changed his name to Bob Dylan. Thomas struggled with mental health issues and alcohol, and died aged just 39.

Ken Follett

Ken Follett’s early writing career was as a spy novelist in a similar vein to Len Deighton but lately has become a celebrated author of historical fiction. ‘Pillars of the Earth’ – the story of the building of a cathedral in the middle ages – is one of the best novels of its type that I have ever read.

Alastair Reynolds

Alastair Reynold was born in Barry, south Wales. He is a respected writer of epic science fiction. He has had numerous science fiction awards nominations for works such as ‘Revelation Space’ and Absolution Gap.

Russell T Davies

Born Stephen Russell Davies, he is one of the top television writers in the world. Series such as ‘Queer as Folk’; ‘Bob & Rose’ and Casanova led to him being given the weighty responsibility of rebooting Doctor Who. As a fan of the original show it was with a little trepidation that I tuned into watch the first episode of the new show. My worries were extended a little as a power cut meant that we didn’t see that episode until the following day, but I my concerns were unfounded. Davies’s love of the character and brilliance as a writer shone through.

Roald Dahl

I wonder how many children were turned into readers as a result of the work of Roald Dahl. Born in Wales of Norwegian descent, Dahl is regarded as one of, if not the greatest, children’s authors of all time. Everyone will have a favourite of his many novels such a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ James and the Giant Peach’ and George’s Marvellous Medicine (a big hit with Calum and Kirsten). His array of fantastic characters and fabulous stories have been a friend to parents all over the world.

 

To all the writers of Wales I hope these great names inspire you.

 

Ysgrifennu hapus

(Happy writing)