Hello, I’m a writer . . .

So, I went to a hen party over the weekend, and it was a total blast. Between eating far too much, wandering around in picturesque Cambridge, England, and punting (and not falling in!) I had the traditional problem that almost all of us writers have: how do we introduce ourselves?

Now, I know that sounds a little bit strange. After all, we were all taught from the time that we were very small exactly how to say our name, and a little bit about ourselves. But for people who are creative and move within fields such as writing, the lines are a little more blurred.

I used to introduce myself with the title ‘writer’. That was what I did, after all, and it was a nice sort of cover all for all the multitude of things that I wrote. But then my first novel was published.

Then I started calling myself an ‘author’. I was. I was an author. But that seemed a little too vague for me, which is why I then chose ‘novelist’.

Which worked perfectly until I published a novella. And I have a screenplay complete. I’m not a scriptwriter. But was I?

Poet, novelist, author, writer . . . does it really matter? Each of them have their own indiosyncracies, their own methods, and their own status. A writer is too vague, but a novelist can sound pretentious – but never more pretentious than a poet.

That weekend, I had to introduce myself to around ten people, none of whom I had ever met before, and inevitably the question came up: “What do you do?”

I still haven’t worked out the answer to that.

If you are a writer/author/poet, then check out my popular series on royalties, and discover some secrets of the industry about why no one is buying your book. You can also read three of my most popular blog posts: whether an author should disappoint their readers, writing hated characters, and the inconvenient facts that often crop up for historical fiction authors.

Inconvenient Truths

Hey guys! As many of you know, I am currently working on my next big novel, hurrah! It’s been great to see the success of my previous series of books, but I want to keep things fresh, and keep challenging myself.

So I’ve been working on the first novel of a series of four. It is twice as long as any other book that I have ever written, covers twice the amount of geography, and has at least four times the number of characters. I have complicated diagrams to follow how everyone interacts with each other, and I’m still getting confused with how long a particular character needs to stick around before I kill them off (sorry).

However, today disaster struck. I accidentally discovered that I had misplaced the entirety of the action of the first seventeen chapters…by almost two hundred miles.

It may not sound like a problem, but at the time of the year that I am writing it will change the weather, the holy days, the ways that people interact with people – and worse, I have now discovered that there was a whole religious dispute going on in the place where my characters ACTUALLY were during this time. So now I’ve got to weave that in.

This is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult things about writing historical fiction when you include characters that really existed. It doesn’t matter how marvellous you think it would be that your hero was in this particular location at this time; if he wasn’t you can’t put him there. You can’t also move people’s ages by a couple of years to make characters peers, and you can’t change a person’s appearance to fit with a joke you have half way through.

I have always considered this one of the exciting challenges of writing historical fiction, but right now, I am totally gutted. I’m going to have to re-write the last 56,000+ words of my draft, just because I read one year wrong in my initial research.

Don’t worry, I’m not giving up heart, but it will certainly push back my finish date by at least a fortnight. Longer for you guys to wait, I’m afraid! If you are too impatient for my work, check out Conquests my first book. Let me know what you think!

A Website Every Author Needs!

So, I’m not usually one to brag about discovering something fantastic (especially when I’m usually told about them), but I really want to dedicate this blog post to a website that I’ve started using which has been INCREDIBLE for me as an author.

Intrigued? Carry on.

I always find it irritating that I never know how many ebooks I have sold until my 6 monthly report comes from my publishers. I know that they are super busy, and that it is simply not possible for them to let me know how many ebooks are sold every month, but it bugs me. Probably more so because, as I self-published the paperbacks, I get a daily report on how many of those I have sold.

At the end of April, when my publishers were probably sick and tired of receiving another email from me asking how a particular promotion went with one of my ebooks, they suggested that I take a look at Novel Rank. And so it did.

And it has changed the way that I see my ebook sales forever!

It is quite a simple system. Firstly, you input the URL of your ebook into the website. It will pick up the same ebook on different versions of Amazon, such as Amazon.fr, Amazon.com, Amazon.ca . . . you get the general idea.

After that, you simply sign up (I used my Facebook account), and then choose which ebooks you wish to follow. As you’ve already put your books in the system, they should be pretty easy to find. And there you go. Each and every time one of your ebooks gets sold, it shows. It even tells you exactly what Amazon ranking all of your ebooks are currently on, and what the highest they have ever been was.

I love it. I’m in love.

Guest Post: Valerie Day-Sanchez

SO: I have a proper treat for you guys today! Did you know that the third and final novel in the Harlow Whittaker Trilogy is now published? Fans of Valerie Day-Sanchez’s work have been desperately waiting to finish Harlow’s story, and now the wait is over.

After the identity of her opponent is revealed Harlow also discovers that she has been the victim of a conspiracy that was orchestrated by the Soothsayers Council. Feelings of betrayal run rampant as Hendrix learns that she was the only one of Harlow’s three appointed protectors that was unaware of the council’s rouse. As this all comes to a head Harlow is transported back to her father. Leaving the last remaining Archers, where for the first time find themselves divided. The worlds are continuing to deteriorate and their only hope has now joined the very person that is determined to annihilate the worlds. The Soothsayer’s Council now destroyed leaves the Archers free to choose their own fate. What will that fate be?

I personally love the way that Valerie writes, and I’m a little bit gutted that this the end of Harlow’s journey! Hopefully Valerie will be back to the writing desk soon, and until then, I’ll have to console myself with Harlow Whittaker & The End of Days.

Christmas is coming!

And that means that you should definitely treat yourself to a Christmas romance! Why not try my popular A Christmas Surprise (also available in German) which has some fantastic reviews! Travel to snowy Scotland in the Regency era, and find out why Lady Audrey is so determined not to marry!

a-christmas-surprise

Learn more here

Why NaNoWriMo Matters

Many of you will know that NaNoWriMo (easier to spell than say) is National Novel Writing Month. The idea is simple; in November, you try to write a certain number of words per day of a new novel, so that by the end of it you have an entirely new and shiny novel written in just one month!

Now, there are quite a few authors out there who are already published like myself, and they have a really disparaging attitude towards NaNoWriMo. They consider it only something that wannabe writers do, people who can’t actually write. They think that if someone forces themselves to write every day, the quality may not always be that high. They reckon that publishers are going to be sick and tired of receiving badly edited and poorly thought through manuscripts in December!

And in a way, they are right. We have to be honest with ourselves here, and say that although NaNoWriMo is a fantastic way to encourage people to be more scheduled and targeted with their writing, no novel in its first draft format is ready to be seen by anyone except maybe your editor (and your mother!). Any piece of writing needs time to breathe, editing, proofreading, and my favourite test of all: would my friends actually want to read this if it was written by someone else?

But that does not mean that NaNoWriMo does not have an incredible value, and in some ways, it does especially for authors like me. Sometimes I can get so swept up in all of the chaos of normal researching, editing, thinking, and planning that I realise that I haven’t actually written anything new in days – or sometimes weeks. NaNoWriMo is a great reminder that as writers we should be practising our craft, and that means daily practising to keep our pens sharp.

So yes: I am a published author that is doing NaNoWriMo this year. It’s my first time, and I am definitely enjoying it. If you are doing NaNoWriMo this year, let me know what you are working on! I love to hear from you – and if you fancy reading one of my books, you can see them all here.

Changed My Mind . . . Again!

So, once again, I’ve changed my mind.

(Don’t forget to buy my books on amazon.co.uk and amazon.com!)

This will not come as any sort of surprise to those who know me. I am the one, after all, that really can’t decide what she wants for supper and so has a bit of everything; who struggles to make even the simplest decision about which film to watch; and has once completely opted out of a survey because she couldn’t decide whether she wanted to be Ms or Mrs.

But anyway. I digress.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook will have seen recently that I’ve been working on a new novella series, and I got pretty close to finishing the first one…and then I stopped working on it. I changed my mind about what my writing priorities were.

So now I’m working on  the first novel in a four novel series. Becuase of course.

So what prompted me to change my mind? A myriad of reasons actually, and I’ll share them with you:

1. Too much plot!
I was in the enviable position of actually having too much plot to fit into the novella. I had given myself 25,000 words per novella, and I reached the 20,000 word mark without really delving deeply into the narrative, let alone explore the characters and their developing relationships. I got frustrated, and I wanted to go back to novels again.

2. Too much dissertation!
This probably needs a bit more explanation: I actually started writing this novel two years ago, but I was forced to put it on hold because I had my Medieval Studies MA dissertation to finish, and I was finding myself getting distracted – who wouldn’t! I really hated the fact that I never finished it, and it was going to be my next novel anyway.

3. Too much encouragement!
You may be laughing at this one, but it’s true! My husband is super encouraging, but he always wants me to keep challenging myself – and a four novel series that spans hundreds of years? That’s pretty challenging, and that’s what I had put aside that MA year. In his mind, novellas were small fry, and he is right (at the moment).

So: that’s what I’m doing now! I can’t pretend that it’s not hard work, because it is, and I can’t pretend that I don’t doubt sometimes whether I’m a good enough writer to attempt this, because I do . . . and yet I’m loving it. Chapter 8 was finished this evening, and my editor has a few amends for Chapters 1-3. This novel is happening!

I’ll keep you posted 🙂

What have you changed your mind about before – in your writing, or in general? Let me know in the comments, tell me on Facebook, or tweet me!

Hello to my International Readers!

Hey guys – wherever you are hailing from, it is great to have you!

As part of my recent blog tour, I recently ran a competition for five people to win one of my books. I was absolutely blown away by the sheer numbers of people who entered; not only because there was a huge number, but because they were based in countries from all over the world.

You’d think that I’d be used to this. After all, I have people reading my blog from countries as far away as Romania, Brazil, and even Ghana. As a writer from the UK, that is pretty mind blowing. I guess I am one of that strange generation that is young enough (just about!) to remember growing up in a home without a computer. The internet made a funny little tune whenever we logged on, and you couldn’t talk on the phone at the same time.

If you had told me then that I would soon have my historical novels read by people from across the globe, I definitely would not have believed you! I still have to remind myself that this is really happening sometimes. Living by my pen gets a lot easier when I receive feedback and hellos from readers across the world that love what I write. Which is just of mental.

So: where are you from? I’d love to find out a little bit more about the people that are reading this blog and reading my books, so why not say hello in the comments? You can also like my page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Let’s see what the furthest place from me you hail from today!

Should an Author Disappoint their Readers?

Hello team!

After the success of my royalties series, I took a little break to get going on some of my work. I had a great time doing it, but I don’t want to completely ignore you guys, so I thought I would write a little bit about some of my reading experiences in the meantime. Please be aware that there are MASSIVE spoilers in this blog post!

Since I last wrote, I have read the Divergent series. I have also watched the first Divergent film. In fact, I watched the film first, and absolutely loved it. For those of you who have not read or watched it, the love story between the two main characters, Tris and Four, is really beautiful and quite unique. The way that Veronica Roth, the author, slowly introduces them to us the readers and to each other is really wonderful, and I really invested a huge amount of myself in their relationship.

Once I had finished the first book, I couldn’t help myself. I read the second book. And it was just as good. The love story became more complicated, as real life, lies, and divided loyalties threatened to tear them apart. I loved the way that this reflected the problems that many real life relationships go through, and I watched as Tris and Four lost their parents, and many of their friends. But their passion for life and their love for each other kept them safe, and kept them going. I was totally hooked.

Hooked, that is, until the last book. BEWARE: SPOILERS! As you’ll know if you have read the books, after gambling everything to ensure that their families, friends, and society can become truly free, Tris tragically dies, leaving Four alone. Forever.

I’m not ashamed to admit it. I cried.

And then I got angry. Angry in particular at Veronica Roth. How could she let one of the main characters, a beloved character, die so needlessly? Why did she drag Tris and Four apart, and leave him to grieve for the rest of his life? It just did not seem fair.

And so I hit the internet, looking for my answers. And I found this from an interview with Veronica Roth:

“At the end of the first book, she almost experiences death. She’s in that water tank. She gets saved at the last second by her mother. At the end of the book, she kind of plays with the idea of self-sacrifice by letting Tobias almost kill her. Like, ‘I’m going to sacrifice myself for him or whatever,’ and that’s not quite right, so she lives. In the second book, the same things happens. She goes to her execution in this act of bravado and self-sacrifice, and it’s not quite right, so she survives. In the third book, she learns what it actually means to sacrifice herself,” Roth continued. “It has to be necessary. It has to be about love. She says all those things. And to me, it felt like it was her finally understanding what her parents were trying to teach her in Abnegation and finally understanding what it means to be an adult and make a grown-up decision because you have to, not because you particularly want to. So, to me, I was proud of her. I was so proud. It was like she finally became a grown-up.”

In fact, even the actress that plays Tris in the film loved it:

“I was stoked. I thought that it was such a badass decision of Veronica Roth, and so incredibly powerful. I love that she didn’t sort of buy into the breakdown of what most young adult books, like, the outline of what’s happened in previous young adult books. Men die all the time in films – heroes do. But a lot of sweet heroines don’t. And so I thought it was a very powerful, profound decision on her part. And I really love that she had the courage and the bravery to do that.”

But me? I am still heartbroken. Which made me wonder: should an author disappoint their readers? After all, Veronica Roth is not the first author in the world to kill off a beloved character. J R R Tolkein kills people off; George R R Martin looks like he will end up killing everyone; even J K Rowling had to lose a couple of beloved characters on the way.

The way I see it, unless the reader really believes that the characters that they are falling in love with are in real danger, then they really can’t care about them. If they is no danger, then there is no hope. Without putting characters within the potential of death, you will not keep turning the pages, hoping that they will stay alive for another chapter.

So, should an author disappoint their readers? Maybe. I’m certainly killing off a character or two in my next new series, and I think it will make the other characters even dearer to my readers. Have I forgiven Veronica Roth for killing off Tris? Not on your life.

A Good Writing Day

Now, I hope that this blog post makes sense. I generally don’t plan these things – I just log in, and start writing whatever is on top of my mind at that moment. And right now, I’m thinking about the 6000 words that I wrote of my next novel the other day.

Six thousand words is certainly a lot. It amazed me, actually, when I realised just how much I had managed to write. In fact, it only took my around six hours to get those six thousand words out there on the page. Something inside me just clicked, and before I knew it, it was lunch time, and I had written several chapters. It was certainly a good writing day, and I had been looking forward for one for a long time.

Of course, 99% of the time my writing does not work like that. I can go for days without writing down a single thing of my own, just concentrating on trying to get all of my freelance stuff done. However, that morning I had decided that I needed to sort out my priorities a little better. Instead of working on my freelance stuff first, when I was most fresh, I would start on my own sequel. And goodness, did it work!

But it got me thinking. Six thousand words a day is impressive – how amazing would it be if I could write that every single day? Writing a novel would take about two weeks! If only it were that simple.

Since writing those six thousand words, I haven’t written a thing of my own. And that was five days ago. Why does inspiration suddenly appear, and then suddenly disappear? My muse is always welcome, but she rarely decides to stop over for more than a couple of hours.

Is your muse so fickle? Let me know what a good writing day is for you.

Should we Pay for Guest Posts?

Now, I’m aware that this is probably quite an interesting subject for many of you out there, and I really welcome your comments and thoughts! Paying for guest blogs is something that has been on my mind a lot recently, and so I thought I would share them with you.

I have had many different – although all talented – authors guest blogging here on my blog, and it has been a truly wonderful experience. They have brought their experience and their views on writing, which has often really challenged my own. Guest blogs are a perfect chance to get a snapshot of another writing style, and an indication of whether or not I would love their books (hint: yes). They have often hosted me on their blog in a similar way, and it has been a great way for both of us to connect with different authors.

But on websites such as Fiverr it is possible to pay someone to host your guest blog. Now, don’t get me wrong: I myself write on Fiverr, and find it a brilliant place to network and connect with great clients. But for some reason, guest blogging has caught my eye several times over the last week.

I have never charged anyone to appear on this blog. I don’t even think that the idea of asking for money even entered my mind when I began offering the chance to other writers.

However, it is certainly a brilliant marketing trick to get the word out, especially of a new book. After all, what better than to find a blog that is read by thousands of people? There are even niche blogs that are specifically about new releases. Surely putting a guest post on there, even if it cost you $5, would be totally worth it if you could reach an entirely different audience?

Well, I’ll certainly never be asking anyone for any pennies if they want to contribute to my blog. But I do not think that I would necessarily turn down the chance to have my guest blog on a different blog, a really popular one – even if I had to pay for it. After all, the initial investment could certainly gain me a huge following. It may be something that I do when I am promoting the sequel to my first book Conquests – that is, if I ever finish it!

What do you think? Have you ever paid for a guest blog to be featured on a blog – or would you never consider it worth paying for?

Writing Hated Characters: A Study in Snape

Thank you so much to everyone that gave me such positive feedback on my last blog post – it has certainly been too long! I thought that I would look this week at writing hated characters. How do you go about writing someone who you want your readers to hate, but make them just as engaging as your other characters?

Baddies are fun. They are fun to write, fun to read, and fun to watch. But what readers and viewers rarely ever see is the work that goes into creating such a character. An author will need to make a million choices about their antagonist, and the first is whether or not they are a true villain. Are they pure evil, only wanting death and defeat for the hero of your tale – or do you want them confused, misunderstood, and able to be redeemed? This will completely alter the way that you approach describing your character to your audience.

Your description of your hated character will in some cases be more physical than emotional. This is because you will need your anti-hero to stand out from the crowd, and because your reader should be able to tell the intimate character of your villain through his or her actions. For example, it is much more effective to have your baddie kill an innocent messenger without provocation, than simply to write: “He was not very fair.”

Other decisions that you will have to make with regards to your baddie include how they are to be introduced, and how much of a back story with your hero you want to give them. Some heroes just happen upon their antagonists, whereas others have a long past together that has brought them to the beginning of your tale. The length of that tale is up to you, and it is also up to you when you reveal it.

And lastly, you as the author needs to decide the fate of your hated character. Will they die, defeated by your hero? Will they be turned over to ‘the Good Side’? Or will their ending be slightly more mysterious – will you leave it open for a potential return?

Let’s take all of the information that I’ve just written, and apply it to one of the hated – and strangely most loved – literary characters of modern times: Severes Snape. If you haven’t read the Harry Potter books by now (and where have you been?) then go and read them before you finish this post! Serious spoilers coming up…

So firstly, is Snape a true villain? Up until the very last, the fans of Harry Potter would argue that he is. He has absolutely no cause to hate Harry, and he kills Dumbledore, obeying his master Lord Voldemort. But Rowling allows her readers to follow this path of thinking before revealing at (almost) the very end: Snape falls into the confused, misunderstood, able to be redeemed category of villain. If anything, he has already redeemed himself through the actions that looked so sinister throughout the books. We make the same mistake that Harry does in the second book.

Secondly, the description of Snape. Again, Rowling follows formula here, and gives primarily a physical description of Snape for her readers – stooping, tall, long black greasy hair, everyone can picture him. But we know almost nothing about him until the sixth book, because Rowling let’s his actions speak for themselves.

The back story between Harry and Snape is never fully explored, until it is revealed (again, spoilers!) at the end of the series that the true back story was between Snape and Harry’s mother. It was the loss of her affection that pushed him towards the Death Eaters, and Rowling is genius in the way that she reveals it.

And lastly, the fate of Snape. Seen by many as incredibly sad, Snape dies, almost completely alone, at the hand of the most evil wizard of all time, unsure whether his sacrifice for the son of the woman he loved has worked. But in a way, his fate is completely different from his actual death scene. His memory is kept alive by Harry, through his knowledge of Snape’s true colours, and through the naming of his youngest son.

What do you think? Do you enjoy writing hated characters, or do you find them difficult? Who is your favourite hated character?