Friday 28 October 2016

Men are From Mars

BH went off on his annual jaunt around Italy recently, leaving the cat and I in charge. Just before he left, we were invited to a lunch party at a couple's house we'd only been to once. Normally something to look forward to, and we do once we've surmounted the Actually Getting There scenario, which we go through so often in our 42 years together that it has now evolved into a script with its own rituals, worthy of a John Osborne play. It goes something like this:

Setting: We have been driving around for some time

Me (eventually): You're lost, aren't you?

BH (edgily): No, I know exactly where we are.

Me: Well, so how come we aren't there by now then?

BH (testily): We're going in the right direction.

Me (because I've started): Why don't you LOOK at the map?

BH (pointedly): I HAVE looked at the map.

Me: Then why is this the second time we've driven down this road?

BH (thru' gritted teeth): Maybe YOU'D like to map read? Maybe YOU'D like to drive?

Me (crossly): Just check the map, okay? Because I don't think this is the right way.

Eventually we stop, the map is checked, the car is turned round, and we arrive at our destination. I think that this is another of those 'Men are from Mars women are from Visa' things. If I need to go anywhere new, I have to do at least one pre-visit recce to make sure I know exactly where I'm going. And I still get anxious on the day of travel.

Checking the diary, I see it is just over four years since @carolJhedges joined Twitter. I did so mainly because having uploaded my YA novel Jigsaw Pieces to Amazon Kindle, and nearly died in the attempt, I needed to disseminate its presence and sell a few copies to make the whole ghastly experience worthwhile. Twitter has been getting a bad press recently due to the misogyny, anti-semitism and racism that its anonymity seems to bring out in certain warped individuals post Brexit.

My experience of Twitter has been reasonably positive, despite having some very unusual followers: dogs, hotels, cats, radio stations, pubs, lizards and two years ago, Lechlade Music Festival where one of BH's socks was apparently performing with The White Stripes. Don't ask. What makes Twitter such fun for me is encountering individuals with a sharp, razor-like wits, or just thoroughly nice supportive individuals who care about others and the world. There are a lot of them about.

Through Twitter I have learned how to grow veg, how to download images from the internet, and how to self-publish. There seems to be an expert out there for every occasion or eventuality. I've been recommended books I'd never have read before, and enjoyed some wonderful poetry. I've had access to brilliant blogs, I've come across recipes for luscious mouth-watering cakes and listened to some amazing bands. As for #thearchers tweetalong: you just have to be there to 'get' it.

And I'm absolutely sure that, in the extremely unlikely event that my 2CV were ever to break down on a lonely country road in the depths of Winter, while I was in the middle of a heart attack, there would be people on Twitter only too willing and able to help. Wouldn't you?

Saturday 22 October 2016

Lost in Translation

So, it's farewell to the latest TV Beck episodes, which were a bit confusing as one of the main characters, Gunwald, was shot fairly soon into the series to be replaced by a very tall man with a beard you could use as a rug and a Norwegian accent.

The Nord-crime fest has been with us for so long that I now seriously believe I can actually speak Scandic ('tak ..praecis...alibi..') and I've almost stopped getting snagged up by the sub-titles, except where they are just plain daft. There was a bit in the last series of The Bridge where Martin, the gloomy can't-keep-it-in-his-cargoes 'tec met up with his son.

Martin: Hi.
Son: Hi.
Subtitles: Hi....Hi.

Someone in the sub-title department was clearly having a laugh.

I don't know how you react, but I also find heartening to realise that there are countries where people exist in a sort of 24 hour low-level gloomy twilight, speak languages in which the consonants vastly outnumber the vowels, and spend all their lives killing each other or plotting political coups behind the scenes. And only have 8 professional TV actors between them. Maybe that is why Annie, the heroine of my YA ebook Jigsaw Pieces, originates from one of the Scandi countries. I'm a closet gloomster with hidden psychotic tendencies.

I hold my hands up at this point and confess that of all the countries featured in the Nordic Noir dramas, I have a particular fondness for the Danes, because they translated one of my books into Danish.  Rodt Flojl (the o's have little lines through them, can't work out how to do it, sorry) which is the Danish version of Red Velvet, has been available in Danish bookshops since 2001.

Interestingly, Rodt Flojl, the translated version, is at least a third longer than its English counterpart Red Velvet. Don't know why. Complete mystery. Maybe I have more to say in Danish. Sadly, I also don't know what it is, but every now and then I receive a small royalty cheque.

Saturday 15 October 2016

Ready, Steady > Review!

If you  follow me on Twitter, you will be familiar with the above poster. Ot  tweets like this:

❤ Read it?
❤ Loved it?
❤ REVIEW it!

#Writers make the world go round

I tweet it quite regularly to encourage readers to think about putting their thoughts (hopefully positive) onto a review site. One of my writer acquaintances @TerryTyler4 started #AugustReviews over the summer with the idea of encouraging readers to write reviews of books they have enjoyed on Amazon, and then tweet the link so that we can all share it. You can read her post here:  

So what are reviews for? I think they fulfill various functions. Firstly, they help other readers decide whether a book is for them. A slew of interesting and varied reviews (by this I mean at least a cogent paragraph not just: 'Ooh, I sooo love this book'/'I didn't get further than page 5') help one to decide whether to download/buy. Or conversely, whether not to waste your time. We are all time-poor. Reviews are therefore an aid to connecting the reader to the right book.

As a writer, I find reviews of my own books useful as a gauge to measure whether or not I am hitting the reader satisfaction button. Are they enjoying the story? Do they get it? Can they follow the plot? If not, how can I improve the reading experience for them in the next book. Reviews are also a personal encouragement - the writer's lot is an isolated lot most of the time. It is good to receive a little praise for one's efforts, especially when the serendipitous happens: a reader finds a whole new layer of meaning that had never occurred to me. Reviews can be a writer's best learning tool, if you let them.

Reviews are also very important in boosting sales.That is why I welcome the way sites like Amazon and Goodreads allow ''ordinary'' people to post reviews, and I get annoyed when some writers are sniffy about ''non-professional'' people expressing their thoughts and ideas,because believe me, the chances of most of us small/self published authors getting our work reviewed in mainstream papers or magazines, which is what we'd all like, are pretty remote.

For me, a special and unexpected reviewing source has also come from all those followers on Twitter who tweet a few lines saying how much they have enjoyed one of my books. Or, as someone did recently, treat me (and all my and their followers) to an excellently succinct chunk by chunk commentary on Diamonds & Dust as they read it on a long train journey. Interactive reviewing 2016 style. I never experienced this when I wrote teenage fiction and it has been a revelation.

So with Christmas tiptoeing over the far horizon, may I encourage you to buy our books, read them, and then knock out a quick review for us ~ it needs only be a paragraph or two. Long essays not required. But it will make a HUGE difference.

Thank you.

Friday 7 October 2016

The PINK SOFA meets: ME!

As you all know, the PINK SOFA is incredibly friendly and sofiable and loves nothing better than a good chat with a lovely guest. Sadly, it is currently guestless, so to stop it weeping all over its upholstery, I have offered myself. Yes, utter madness, but there you are.

When did you start writing? 

I probably started writing as soon as I could write ~ I remember making tiny books for my toys, age about 6 (yep,very Brontes). I won the Writing Cup at primary school, for a review of Alice in Wonderland. As with most of my stuff, I still don't know why it was 'so good'.

What 3 things (not including paper, computer, pens) would you like to facilitate a good day's writing? 

Coffee. More coffee, ooh and a piece of cake would be nice.

Do you write to a schedule, eg every day or three times a week, set times, etc or do you write as and when the mood strikes? 

If I wrote only when the mood struck, I'd never get anything written. I have learned after 17 published novels that the only way to write is: you sit down at the computer (usually an hour or so in the morning and then a few more hours in the afternoon) and YOU WRITE. Bum on seat, fingers on keyboard. Only way to do it. The inspiration comes as you start.

Is writing your main source of income? Lots of articles say writers make no money. Can you survive on writing alone?

I could never survive on writing alone. As a self-published writer, I make a couple of thousand pounds a year, and that's apparently pretty good. In the past, I taught at secondary school. Currently as I am retired, I tutor A and GCSE English. I don't know of ANY writers who do not have several day jobs to make ends meet. And with the ruthless discounting of books and ebooks by retailers, it is becoming even harder to survive.

What is your favourite cake? 

As I write Victorian crime fiction, it has to be Victoria sponge ~ of course!

Where do you do most of your writing? 

I have colonised the third bedroom. I have my desk, my iMac and all my bits and pieces. The window overlooks the pond, so I can stare at the fish for inspiration. I do a lot of inspired staring.

What book are you reading at the moment? 

I'm reading An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris. Love his books ~ consistently good. I read Archangel every 2 years.

What's the latest word on  your Victorian books?

I'm glad you asked. All four novels are 'off' Amazon at the moment for a tidy-up. They are also having NEW COVERS designed by RoseWolf Design (very exciting: I love them, hope you will). The fifth one Wonders & Wickedness is being edited. All the books should be back on Amazon soon.

Do you use social media (facebook, twitter) to engage with your audience? Does it helps sales? 

I LOVE social media. I have met so many great people on there. I tweet at @CarolJhedges and am there every day chatting, posting pics, getting into discussions and trouble, and generally having fun. I have a very active Facebook page as well and I belong to several Book Groups on Facebook. It's the only way to get yourself noticed ~ though not if all you do is promote your own stuff. Most of my sales come from people who've enjoyed what I post and decide to read the books on that basis.

What do you prefer? Kindle or printed book?

I'm a book girl. Partly my age (66) and partly my arthritic hands. I just find as I write on a screen, I prefer to relax with an actual book. And one reads books more slowly and thoroughly. And they look good on your bookshelf. I appreciate that ebooks are cheaper and you can store more on an ereader, but I just like turning pages, and underlining things, and going back to read something that I enjoyed.

If reading and writing were banned, what would you do instead? 

Die. End.

The PINK SOFA and I are now going to stuff ourselves with cake. Please feel free to join us  and share your writing/reading experiences.

Saturday 1 October 2016

The Oldest Juvenile Delinquent

Next Tuesday BH is off on his annual Italian jaunt. This time he will be accompanied for the first week by You must be mad and the two grandchildren. They have rented a villa near the beach at Bari. No, don't ask why I'm not going. It's complicated and involves sleeping in my own bed and sundry other small things that are insignificant to people like you but are big things to people like me.

As a rule of thumb, whenever BH leaves, various mechanical devices in the house see it as their opportunity to break down or fall apart, so I have mixed feelings and a roll of gaffer tape ready for his departure. I have also alerted a few responsible friends on Twitter to stop me getting into cyber-trouble. Good luck with that, responsible friends.

Last week marked a milestone in the life of Little G Books with the first publication of Murder & Mayhem, the 4th book in the Stride & Cully series. It has been a bit of a personal triumph as we managed to write/edit, and then produce both book and ebook entirely on our own. For Death & Dominion, we had a lot of help and advice. The time before that, books came out via a small independent publisher.

If you are now expecting a blog on the merits of mainstream/indie/self publishing, look away. Been there, written those. Suffice it to say, it is very satisfying to have the reins of control firmly in my cold little Reynauds fists. Am currently working on the 5th book.  Hopefully the lessons learned will enable us to publish it with even less hassle next year.

Not that I am to be trusted with anything, it appears. Popped into local supermarket to buy some sparklers for upcoming Bonfire Night celebrations. Approaching the fireworks counter, I was informed by the assistant that I had to complete my shopping before I could buy them. Asked why ~ and was told that it was a safety precaution to prevent youngsters from setting them off in the store. I pointed out that I was in possession of a bus pass but it made no difference, which only goes to prove that I am potentially the oldest juvenile delinquent on the block.

But you already knew that, didn't you?