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Thursday, 11 December 2014

And here's a novelist making his mark in the Brave New World


It seems to me that we Indies should help each other. Here's a lovely Goodreads review which Donald Platt received for his fascinating new novel.

I am glad to puff it off for him here and hope other readers who like serious historical novels which are well told and tell a good story might read it.

REVIEW of Bodo the Apostate by Donald M. Platt

Donald is a fabulous technical and historical writer overall, but Bodo the Apostate (his newest novel) is nothing short of his best work all the way around. Not only is his writing immaculate and his history engaging, but in this book his dialogue and character's thoughts, personalities, and actions are so real and dimensional that I found myself enamored and smiling from the start.

The Bodo that Donald presents in this book (as of course, little was known of him and one-sided) is highly intelligent and advanced ("gifted") from a very young age. He's curious, inquisitive, thoughtful, analytic (I have some kids like that so I truly understand it), but in the Carolingian period, which is pre-Medieval age circa 8-9th century, religion was serious (yes, even more serious than by today's standards). Bodo is taken to be enrolled at the Academy located at the winter palace of Emperor Louis the Pious (the son of Charlamagne) for his smarts, and as well, his great-aunt just happens to be the mother of Emperor Louis.

So, when on the cover it states, " In a time of intolerance following your conscience is a dangerous choice...." I can totally understand this comment in relation to this book. When one is forced to become a priest and religion gets political and divisions are formed, loyalties demanded and abused, an educated person with a high intellect (these types of people generally think for themselves and don't follow the crowd, but make logical and educated decisions) is likely to not follow the demanded path. Bodo made a decision to change religions and flee to exile (this is historical record so I don't feel it is a spoiler), but the book mostly takes place prior to that. It was so very interesting reading of the path that led to his decision and his thoughts behind it. Donald takes what little historical detail was accounted for and intertwines the best scenarios he could deduce in order to bring us Bodo's story, while simultaneously showing us what led to the demise of the Carolingian Empire. In fact, most of the book really dealt with the political and religious issues of the times, using Bodo as the propelling plot to showcase it. However, he does give us probably one of the only, or at least, best accounts of what his life might have been like afterwards when he lived in Andalusia (al-andalus), Hispania.

I love Carolingian historical fiction. There is something about it that lies between truth and fantasy, so even the facts seem surreal. I've grown up loving this era and Donald's book is another wonderful novel on a list of highly regarded and entertaining books of this time period. Though the book is totally a historical fiction meant to be as authentic and plausible as possible, utilizing best guess based on research, in some way it just so reminded me at the start of something like Lord of the Rings. That's probably crazy, but the book reads as if someone is telling us a legend (like the Legends of King Arthur, but rather, the legend of Bodo the Apostate, not Bodo Proudfoot, Hobbit!!). I totally admire this story and was enthralled by each chapter. I definitely never wanted to have to stop reading it, but would rather have had a day to do nothing but be entrenched in this book.

Donald's writing is detailed, visual, entertaining, informative, interesting, and he creates characters that readers can relate or connect to, creating understanding among all various types of people and their relations with others. He writes with a courageous pen in order to honor little-known men in history that made giant decisions. I believe Donald likes to research, critically think, and put together and forth other accounts of those lost to history that could become their lasting legacy as much as he likes to write entertaining material.

Helping historians, as well as readers, to understand other sides of history and make sense of religious intolerance, strife, and its lasting ramifications does a great service way past adorning bookshelves. Donald writes historical fiction of true meaning in a fashion that is so very captivating.

Highly recommended for the true pre-Medieval or Carolingian reader who are made happy by this time period fantasy feel, as well as those who are interested in historical reference about the angst between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

I was given this book in exchange for a honest review. Opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

BRAVE NEW NOVELIST'S WORLD.

If you are an Indie writer struggling to make sense of the Brave New World of the novelist then you soon find that some people help and others don't!

As I wade through the swamps of 'Buy this package we guarantee will sell your novel.' and into the thorny thickets of self-help I have found that there is a lot of sensible common-sense provide by www.indiesunlimited. Definitely a place Indies should spend time at reading all those helpful articles.

Another useful site, although they do sell you things if they can, is Book Marketing Tools - find them at www.bookmarketingtools.com. They have a newsletter which drops valuable advice into your inbox. I have much to learn and am discovering how much more I have to learn every time there is a new email from them.

Here's a sample of their advice on building e-mail lists.

1
Use a Paid Method – Using Facebook, Google, Linkedin, Twitter, etc to push targeted traffic to your offer. I have used FB Influence to help me learn all about Facebook marketing.
2
Organic – This is all about writing content on your website or blog that is based on the wants of searchers online. Does someone in your target reader group search for “Free Mystery eBooks”, then why not write a post about your free mystery eBook giveaway when you run your next promotion? Use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool to get more ideas.
3
Social – Not only have we been active on Google Plus, but we have had amazing results on Twitter as well, so make sure, when you are trying to drive traffic, you pick the one or two places that will help you the most. Not sure which to pick? Pick one and try it, then analyze a month or two later to see if you should continue or not.
4
New Media Collaboration – You might have noticed I said, New Media Collaboration. What I mean by this is, why not partner up with one or two other writers in the same genre and start your own YouTube, Itunes or Google HOA show? Instead of having to learn all this technology solo, work together and not only will you learn it, it will be with others that you can brainstorm on making something worth engaging on. Don’t be afraid to collaborate in 2015!

The offer you create is the gateway for someone moving into your sales funnel. Without something to offer them, you are banking on the idea that just because you built a platform and have a subscribe button, people will want to give you their email address. That’s a wrong and faulty assumption. It doesn’t work that way.

A good offer will have the following principle and components present:
1
The offer is exclusive – I didn't say the offer was unique, because let’s face it, everything has been created before… but the offer must be exclusively given to people via your mailing list. Therefore, the books you sell on amazon should not be the offer. The free list you have on a blog post is not the offer. Anything that is available publicly is not the offer. You make it exclusive, by making it exclusive.
2
The offer is interesting – You need to make the offer something that isn't just interesting to you, but interesting to the consumer, the readers you are trying to connect with. You should have a clear idea of the biggest pain that your readers have and the real need that they want. Fiction readers might not have a pain you can observe, so you have to ask. Why do people read my fiction book? Escape… freedom… getting lost. Create an offer that helps them to escape!
3
As a fiction author, maybe you can share a secret chapter in your book that you write just for your mailing list. Maybe you provide the private details about the creation of your story that your readers are dying to know. You can also create a short novella as a prequel or with the back story for your main books. It must be what they want, not what you think they want.
4
For non-fiction authors, giving someone a checklist, a resource guide or collating information for your readers is always valuable. If you don’t know what the offer should be, then ask your readers and if you don’t have readers, go back to last week’s social media post and find some.
5
The offer is simple – Rather than making a 50-page guide on something that your readers will never get through, why not give them something that is easy to digest that still hold value in their minds, that they can read in 1 hour. Give them a clear story about your story, so they connect with you.
6
The offer must be real – When marketing your offer, you want to be sure that you are not making promises about the offer that are hyped up just as a marketing gimmick. The Ultimate Author Checklist that we create is pretty, well, ultimate and it gives you what you need to know to market your book. If we billed it any other way and it didn't deliver, people would not stick around.

Interesting stuff. Is this really what a novelist must do to sell books? Don't writers write?
AND
How on earth do you find the time to do all this?

I do not know, nor do I have the answers. But for some people this has worked. I am trying to find out what will work for me and my Writer's Choice colleagues. It seems to me this might well be part of the new world for novelists.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

THE EXTINCTION OF THE NOVELIST


Who would be a writer? Everyone it seems to me. I never liked statistics. The ones from Amazon I really hate. And try this one! Bowker’s Books in Print, 2012, listed 32 million active titles in the English language. Then look at Amazon’s statistics. Amazon alone has (mid 2014 figures) 3.4 million books in Kindle. What is truly scary is the fact that over one year Kindle releases 2,800 books every day. Yes, that was day, not week or month. That’s a million Kindle books a year.

How can you, a writer of novels, make a living? The answer is you can’t. And it’s not just the professional writer suffering from the new technology. Speak to a professional photographer who used to work for newspapers and magazines. With a digital camera and the tricks worked using Photoshop anyone can turn out a good picture. And they do. And sell them. Or listen to the professional musicians who used to earn their daily bread as backing players. Now there’s enough electronic gadgetry for even the tone deaf to create music. And they do and go viral on You Tube.

Jobs come and go. Governesses became teachers, apothecaries became chemists, barber-surgeons became doctors, and gas lamp lighters became obsolete as did ditch diggers and road menders. So many occupations all superseded by machines or changes in the way we live. So has the professional writer been superseded or rendered obsolete? The annoying answer is Yes and No. A full time writer as a novelist is impossible. There is no way a novelist can earn enough money to live on. And please don’t preach about the point nought one percent who are best sellers and do earn a lot. They will soon be gone too. Anyone interested can consult the author earnings reports at http://authorearnings.com and see how the Indies (Independent self-published authors) have and are taking over from the best sellers, or read this article at http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sara-sheridan/writers-earnings-cultural-myth_b_3136859.html/

A writer producing articles and copy for websites will probably scrape by as freelancers have always done, but the full time professional writer of fiction is doomed. And I believe that books as we now know them are going to change too.

We could all curse POD and e-books and the ease with which anyone can and does produce a book, or we could start rethinking the role of a writer and the state of a book. Already you can find online sites which have works which consist of words, pictures, sounds, videos, music, art work – almost any artistic discipline you can imagine. Multidiscipline creations may be the way writers become something new. Holograms, computer games, the smart ‘phones and pocket sized tablet computers all offer opportunities for writers to become something more than the old pen and paper person. We could all dig in and grumble and moan about lack of quality and how rubbishy so many e-books are, but the truth is that we are writers. Readers just want a story, entertainment and a bit of excitement. They are not always fussed about grammar or the finer points of writing, indeed many are do not care as long as the story keeps them interested. If we want to survive as writers it is up to us to experiment and find a way to still be writer-creators in this increasingly non-physical, electronic world. Those born writers who have to write will do it. But I bet we will never see the full time writers ever again.


Friday, 3 October 2014

Seems to me that no one knows the basics of presentation any more. It's about time it was taught to all business people and those people who put themselves on public display.

Recently I have been receiving phone calls from businesses looking for customers, and from the bank. Each time I answer the phone with a polite Good morning/afternoon or Good day.

Without fail the response is "I want to speak to Patricia." Well, my name is not Patricia, it was, until I changed it legally, a bloomin' pain of a name which looked a bit like Patricia. If I point out that they should check the name again as it is not Patricia I get, not apologies, but grumbles and complaints!

What's happened to the old system of "Good morning, my name is Fred Smith, and I am calling in behalf of XYZ business. May I speak to....

That way the recipient could tune into the voice, and hear what the call is about. And it's a hell of a lot politer that "I want to speak to..."

The phone calls are mildly irritating. It's when writers can't present themselves at a public book launch that I start smoking from my ears. Why aren't these people, funded by my tax money, taught how to present themselves?

Last night was the opening of one of those Book Council/ Arts Council funded writers on tour trips given in my local library. Four writers doing a reading and chat. Only one acted like a professional. The others were terrible.

Nerves are natural. A few deep breaths do help before you stand and speak. No one had told these young writers that. Or about looking over the audience heads with a smile so you look as if you are looking at them but you do not give yourself stage fright.

We heard too rapid speech. The female doing the intros gabbled and did not give us the salient points. The three youngsters did not even introduce their books properly. They did not have an elevator pitch to give us a quick idea of the book. They did not introduce the characters they were reading about, and they read badly, mumbling, and not distinguishing between characters through use of their voice. The pro writer did all these things correctly and inspired us to want to read her book.

Seems to me I ought to start a writer's course in presentation and teach these basics. And didn't the three notice how much more the audience listened and applauded the old pro? Presentation matters, especially for writers who want to sell their books.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Some friendly advice for a writer's pals.

One of the magazines I enjoy is 'Seizure'. Australian, stroppy and funny the editors send out a great newsletter.
Their novella competition is now open http://seizureonline.com/projects/

In a recent Agony Aunt column Auntie dealt with a subject dear to all writers' hearts, advice for the friendly fan. It's great stuff and well worth a read. As one whose near family live thousands of miles away and whose blood relatives are bloody awful I lack that circle of rellies who might support my novels.

I do have friends, however, who have asked what they could do. Seems to me that Aunty's column is most timely. Do read it, all my friends, and put into practice her advice.

Find Agony Aunt's column here: http://seizureonline.com/agony-aunt-friendly-fan/ And do yourself a favour, read the rest of the magazine. It's a darned good read.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

And another thing...!

And whilst I'm on the rampage because I am fed up of people moaning that they don't know what to do to help, or that they can't help because they have no money/time/don't live near enough etc. here's another website where you can help just by playing educational games at home on your computer.
http://freerice.com.

Free rice supplies rice to the UN World Food programme. This is something you can do for five minutes a day and you can play with your children, your English language students or elderly people who have to do brain exercises. Every right answer gives 10 grains of rice to the programme.

Seems to me there is a lot out there that people can do to help if only they’d stop moaning and start looking!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The People's Climate March

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/100_clean_final_rbs/?buhKUdb&v=45428
Climate change and worth signing up for this petition and the World Day of protest.

Friday, 12 September 2014

I keep hearing people moan about not being able to do anything. Or it's 'What can they do?' when some horrific disaster or event hits the news again.

I've tried to live my life following the precepts I believe in. ‘Put your money where your mouth is’ was the old challenge. It isn't easy but those international horrors, those rapes in India, or the Syrian government, or religious intolerance, sometimes you can join in a world wide protest because someone in the know cares enough to run a petition. Some years ago I found Avaaz, and have been supporting many of their petitions ever since. http://www.avaaz.org/en/contact/?footer

If you want to do something about an international event they probably have a petition going. Is it worth it? Do they work? Well, I think 3 million or more signatures from people around the world might make a nasty govt/person know that the world is watching. That tends to make people more careful!

At least it is a simple doable way of doing something, of standing up and being counted for something all people should care about. I can’t fly out to the Middle East and bang heads together until these stupid men stop killing their women and children, but I can remind them that I, and a few million others, want a peaceful settlement, not more fighting, for the sake of their children.


Friday, 5 September 2014

Down with Air New Zealand.

What a joke! Air New Zealand ran a inflight safety film which was all bikini and boobs on some Pacific island. Naturally the guys drooled but we women protested. I didn't see half naked men in the ad, it was just women. Either they do an ad like that for both men and women to drool if they must or it's rank male chauvinist piggery.

There was a Twitter campaign a friend told me about. I joined in and we did get the safety film off the air. But Air New Zealand had a squad of Tweeters to protest us and I received a lot of silly tweets. They did make me laugh! Honestly it seems to me no one knows how to insult any more. My tweets were so boring - 'You're jealous 'cos you're ugly or old or fat' was popular as was 'You jealous lessie'. I tweeted back and told them they made me laugh. The idiots from Montana who emailed my private email - wouldn't it be Montana? - got a polite email from me saying I was so impressed with their standard of education I was sending copies of their emails to their State representatives with the comment that I really admired the level and standard of the Montana education system and hoped the representatives were impressed. Haven't heard back yet.

Invective has to be inventive to be of use. And Air New Zealand have merely lost a customer, but not just one as this customer is one who books flights for other people and won’t be using Air New Zealand again. Now that’s a lot more powerful and useful than a load of silly Tweets.
September.
That will teach me!

The Indie Book Fair was great, not for books sales but because of the people I met and stayed with. I haven't had so much fun, sitting chatting round the dining table, for years.

There's a tremendous amount of work to do now it's Spring. I am planting the seeds ready for the fine weather outside. The bottom paddock is still very wet and have I have lost most of my hazel trees down there because their roots drowned. Bang goes my income.

Seems to me the whole farming lark is one long battle which one inevitably loses.

Jim Azevedo's visit from Smaswords was a great success and he left a whole group of people fully informed as to what ebooks are and how writers should be making them and why. He was a good speaker and he and his wife were fun to have as visitors.

Now with at least half the world raging mad it seems to me we need a universal peace movement to bring a little sanity back to ordinary people's lives.

The general election looms. As our current conservative government has ruined the country lining the pockets of their friends
I despair of ever seeing good government in New Zealand.


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Monday, 16 June 2014

It's June, and half way through already. May disappeared in snow storms, frosts and floods! This is unheard of as May is the last month of autumn and therefore usually grey, louring and foretelling of winter. It does not act like winter and dump on us with cold snow and heavy rain.

Seems to me the climate is crazy. Could it be that thing the Americans don't admit is happening? We know all about climate change in the Pacific. All those tiny atoll islands now losing their drinking water as the sea rises or suffering violent waves washing over their homes. Some islanders have already had to leave and come to New Zealand.

Last winter we even had icebergs off the South island coast. Antarctica is melting fast and the glaciers are slipping. I think we should move all climate change nay-sayers to Antarctica and let them measure the effects.

The floods have made my land a revolting mess of squelch and mud. So much so that I nearly lost my gumboots this morning. I cannot open my road gate without wearing gumboots and have to travel to town with boot on board. Our local council is useless. We need a new larger culvert at my gateway to replace the inadequate one already there. No response from the council officials, of course. They spend their whole time saying NO and dodging what is legally council responsibility.

No change at Amazon and Goodreads either as they dodge their responsibility to prevent cyber bullying. Having watched, with horror, the bullies at work and then have Goodreads tell me that their so-called reviews, without having read the book, were allowed. Ah me! I'm trying to get Goodreads to allow readers a private review system where they can be as nasty as like but their one star nastiness is not counted against the poor writer's rating. I will keep trying. I have stopped giving star ratings to any book I read and can't give 4 or 5 stars to. It seems to me to be grossly unfair to affect a writer's rating for the simple reason of personal preference which has nothing to do with whether a book is badly written or not.

PR work for Writer's Choice goes on. I am learning daily of new sites and newsletters where I can get our books mentioned. It is time consuming but I hope the work will pay off and in future I will know which sites work for us and how to do it so that I save time.

The technology is killing me though. I never think the way the website designers do and consequently I spend ages on each website searching for pages hidden behind weird buttons or incorrect labels. It takes me ages. I'm wrestling with shelfari right now. I've seen its icon on several authors' websites and thought I ought to have one too. Looks neat. Joining up was easy, moving the darned icon has proved impossible.

It's going to be a cold snowy week so thank god for the huge log burner and the 20cubic metres of firewood. I can write and stay warm.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

It seems to me that technology takes up too much time and I'm wasting more and more precious time trying to get out of the mess technology creates. With malign and thoroughly evil intent I might add.

I'm trying to get my blog smartened up a little and of more use with an opt in email address place.

Can I do it? No way. I follow the careful instructions and yet there is always a major problem. Either step one or step two are not possible because the place I need to find isn't there.

Take this 'add the email' business to my blog. Go to your dashboard say my instructions. Now how the hell do I do that? There is nowhere on my blogger page that I can find a way to a dashboard. I can find my personal profile. That isn't it.

Now I'm attached to Google + and life is even more chaotic. Google seems to have taken over my blog. I get cheery and revolting messages and stuff from Google but nothing about how I can attach the email thingie.

I have wasted most of the day trying to do this and various other tech things. In despair I hit the close button for the websites and somehow manage to close the inbox. Thus losing an unsent email of vital importance.

I hate computers!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

It's April and I missed again. It seems to me I need to give up on this blogging lark.

It's a horribly grey, overcast, coastal mists type of day and I am so depressed. 12 acres is too much on my own. The WWOOFers are great but they are kids - mainly - and not experienced workers so need supervion. The lack of a job and no money means that all those jobs that need doing are simply put away on the list to wait year after year. I've always been a 'get up and do it' person and this hanging about doing nothing really hacks me off. I have this reoccurring nightmare - and I mean a terrifying dream - of the house slowly rotting and sliding into decay all round me and I cannot do anything to stop it.

March was a good month. The indies do went off well. 'Tizzie' launched with a cheerful party, good book sales, and more people knowing a bit about what Independence writers do and why.

My WWOOFers were cheery young students and quite a few of those little tasks were finished. NOw all I need is a lottery win and then I can write more and pay a manager to do the orchard work.

The new novel is trotting steadily along, page by page, day by day. It's a tough story and I find it a bit harrowing as I write it at the moment.

The good thing is that Writer's Choice is linked to three other co-operative groups like ours and we can learn a great deal from them as they have been working as INsdies much longer than we have. It is nice to be able to give their writers and books PR and we will keep mentioning them on our website.

Meanwhile I think I need to go and run round th e21 acres several times to induce a more cheerful state of mind.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

New Zealand Indie Writers' Month

March, all stops are out for March. March 27th for me actually but the whole month has been taken over by the Indies writers. It used to be New Zealand Book Month but the organisers suddenly changed it to August, leaving quite a few writers' groups and libraries with plans already underway for March. I'm launching my novel, 'Tizzie', promoting my Writer's Choice colleagues' newest novels and selling our already published books at a launch in the library. It will be fun as I'm being supported by the friends of the library to help with food and service and we will enjoy a party atmosphere. I hope! Roll on March 27th.

It seems to me that sales only come if you put in the work, not on social media, but with people. I hate getting tweets about buying someone's books. I'd rather chat. I hate my LinkedIn messages to buy a book. I hate blog tours and bloggers where it's all about 'My Wonderful Book'! I've been talking about Writer's Choice a lot and people are interested in the group and why we are doing what we do as Indie publishers. It's easier to do that than push my novels. This way people don't feel pressured and I also have my colleagues' books with mine and am delighted to chat about them too as a reader, so it's gains all round. I've sold quite a few for them.

And the KiwiReads group grows. We are behind the NZ Indie Writers' Month and are pushing our books into public notice in a good way. So far the website is our main weapon. Tui Allen is working hard to get a perfect site for readers to finds New Zealand books.
We are still stuck on the quality bit. How do you choose without becoming like the agents and traditional publishers? It seem unsolvable.

Too many writers, too many readers and not enough ways to link the two in a sympathetic way. Or is it that there are enough readers for all the writers but we have yet to learn how to connect to the readers who will like our particular books?
I'm working on it!