Saturday, 7 December 2013

Well I did it again! Missed blogging. It's summer! The nights are short it's light until 10 p.m. The farm work is never ending, and that Kiwiread website and its PR is eating up time. The new novel is wanting more writing time and the characters are getting insistent. Blogging falls off the list again!

One of the things which is now cropping up and concerns my colleagues at Writer's Choice and my colleagues working for Kiwireads is this quality control of Indie books so that readers don't pay money for writing which needs a lot of copy editing and and a good rewrite.

We all agree that quality control is necessary, but how do we do it? Readers want a good read, but how do you define that?

My romance writing friends will wave romance novels at me telling me the prizes they won and what good reads they are. I personally find the plots/characters unrealistic and can't stand the endings. So as a reader I wouldn't want to call them quality reads, but other readers love them.

I can't stand horror or serial killer mysteries. Does that mean there aren't quality reads out there for those who like 'em?

It's fairly easy to pick out a badly presented and edited book and say that isn't quality. How do you judge the content though as quality?

And with the Kiwireads site which is for quality indie fiction how does one tell authors that their book is grammatically and presentation wise perfect, but the content is boring, unoriginal and not worth reading? ANd who are we to judge?

Many of us are Indie authors because we didn't like the gatekeepers to traditional publishing and their 'money is the only thing which matters' attitude. We like the fact that our not easy to label work can be published. We like the control we have. So what do we do about these groups of writers springing up and insisting that they can tell quality from rubbish in content?

It's readers who want quality reads. Perhaps readers should be sorting them out and passing on the good word. I don't know, but it seems to me that groups of writers setting up a quality mark for quality fiction, and asking for money to do it are in danger of becoming as bad as the trad publishing sharks who preyed on new writers.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

One year on.

It's October. And this time last year we were just launching Writer's Choice. I'm now organising a birthday party to celebrate a successful first year.

We had no idea, last year, that we could beat the gloom and doom sayers, that we could take on the role of publisher of our own books and make it work. For me in New Zealand, where literary snobbism is rife and indie publishers like us are regarded as degrading the standard of New Zealand literature overseas - that's a quote from the NZSA person heard on National Radio - it was a real risk. I do quite a bit of tutoring of writers and it is hard to get that tutoring work when you are branded as a failure because you don't have a 'proper publisher.'

But I aim to stand tall in our library at the birthday celebration and skite - boast - about our successes. We published three novels in our first year and G.J. Berger's 'South of Burnt Rocks West of the Moon' has sold steadily. It also won the San Diego Book Awards first prize for historical novels. Superb success and a real boost to our moral. Then Sharon Robard's 'A Woman Transported' began a sales climb on Amazon which put it way up in the top fifty (and eventually higher) historical novels landing a delighted Sharon in the midst of well known historical novelists. My 'Jacob's Ladder', because of a publishing problem which only saw the print version released in September, has just begun to collect positive reviews and is about to be entered in a couple of competitions. I hope I can join in with my colleagues' successes.

Whether I do or not, their successes do reinforce our Quality Fiction claim, and my next novel, 'Tizzie', will be launched on February 13th 2014. I've a better idea of how to and where to do PR this time round and hope the book reaches a lot of readers. It's quite different from the 17thC 'Jacob's Ladder', as it's set in 1887 in the Yorkshire Dales.

I am still involved with the indies group under Tui Allen. we are hoping to work with the Book Council who have gone on line with their newsletter and are trying to be less elitist. It will take some work. For all my short story publications in respected journals and magazine around the world I was not allowed to be registered on their author's list because my novels were 'self published.' Never mind the fact that Writer's Choice was a writers' publishing co-operative and our books were selected or rejected, edited properly and well designed. Nope, I didn't have a 'proper publisher'. Tui and our group has a long way to go.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Ah me! This blogging lark never gets the priority I am told it should. Life throws up more important things, like trying to get New Zealand Indie authors somewhere to showcase their books and sell them.

The Kiwi Readers group from GoodReads have a large contingent of writers who are independently published and want sales. Tui came up with a very nice idea for linking Kiwi Indies up with the various writerly groups and trad publishing groups in New Zealand. We are busy discussing this at LinkedIn but it seems that one good suggestion after another is objected to by one set of opinions or another.

I've tried to suggest to the disparate parties that we look at the most simple version of what we need, which is a website where Indie authors can showcase their books and sell them. The problem is that a large number of us want quality control. But other writers don't want some form of assessment. Goodreads and AwesomeIndies, the Brag medallion, these sites all read and select. Amazon is just the great slush pile. So how do we showcase those Indie writers whose books have been edited, well designed, proof read and are as good as a trad publisher's books?

I wondered if we could simply allow all Indie Kiwi writers to post their covers and blurbs but have two sections. One section called Premier or Selected or some such title where all the books which have been edited, assessed and published like a trad published book can be displayed. Those Indie books which have not been through an editing assessment process by people other than the author go in the second section.

Still I can hear screams of rage from the newbie writers and the lunatic fringe who have yet to learn that their cherished novel's breathless prose is not creative genius but a book in need of editing.

Ah well. I support Tui in what she is doing and hope to goodness that all those differing opinions can get together so we can do something and have a place for Indie Kiwi writers which Kiwi readers can access happy in the knowledge that they will find their own culture's literature and a good read.

Friday, 9 August 2013

It seems to me that I had better accept that once a month is my blogging time!

I must also blog an apology to all those keen readers who won a copy of or who ordered a copy of my novel, 'Jacob's Ladder'. As a POD book it has to be ordered and then we wait for the copies to arrive. I have had the most unbelievable problems getting copies. First the cover was printed incorrectly. Couldn't send those copies out. Next I had to download a new cover as the POD people said it was the cover's fault it was bad. My cover artist fumed, we checked the specs and the cover was fine. We downloaded again and again and again as the company kept saying the cover was not correct. We had now reached July. Finally I get the big boss to sort out the muddle. Seems someone wasn't pressing the right buttons! Then I was told the print download wasn't good enough! Sigh. Back to my formatting expert who looked at the so-called new specs and said "But that's what we have!" She checked everything and downloaded for me with a stern message to the big boss. Finally I have copies being printed. Next time I do a giveaway offer and pre-publishing orders I will make sure I have the books in my hot little hand.

We Writer's Choice authors are still floating on a cloud of 'Wow! We did it' euphoria. Gj's 1st prize, historical novels, at the San Diego Book Awards came in June. Sharon's zoom up the Amazon sales list came in July but they both gave us a shot of confidence. We claimed to have quality fiction and now readers are endorsing that. And we've only been going for less than one year.

Trouble is though, that I feel I will have to pull another success out of the hat with my novel and I can't see how to do that right now. I have a couple of competitions lined up to enter, getting on a short list would be good! Sigh!
Selling millions would be better.

My second novel is due for a launch in October and GJ's 2nd will be coming close after that. Writer's Choice is demanding of our time and commitment but is definitely working out for us. Now all we have to do is get people to understand that Writer's Choice is not a poor relation to Harper Collins or Penguin but a better choice for writers.

Friday, 12 July 2013


Yes, well, it's July! Didn't make the weekly blog again did I? I will make the effort. But right now I am trying to get my arthritic joints working so I can jump for joy.

Writer's Choice started in October 2012 and we have published three novels. In June G.J. Berger's novel 'South of Burnt Rocks, West of the Moon' won the historical fiction award at the San Diego Book Awards. We Writer's Choice members shared virtual champagne and enjoyed a virtual party. Then Sharon Robard's novel, 'A Woman Transported', started a sales run at Amazon which placed her in the top 100 of historical novels, somewhere around 50th I believe. Virtual Champagne flowed again as we cheered and whooped. Not yet a year old but already our promise of Quality Fiction is being reinforced by the readers' and judges' reactions.

Now I'm quaking because mine is the third novel and I have to do something to give my colleagues another virtual party. Must hunt up a couple of competitions and hope the readers in the UK start buying. I don't hold out much hope of American readers understanding the language or the history. The only American readers I've had so far have all been bored by the complexities of the history and puzzled by the language. Very rude a couple of them were, poor souls, because they found the novel a hard read. My UK Beta readers have all raved, and the novel was short listed in three unpublished novel competitions, so obviously my market is not the USA.

And on the subject of my novel, both I and those people who won a free copy in the Goodreads giveaway are yelling, 'Where is my copy?' The darned POD publisher, CreateSpace, suddenly said they couldn't print off copies because the cover wasn't right. As I already had proof copies with that cover I was confused. The end of May and all of June I was downloading altered covers and being told they weren't right. Argh! Fury and frustration. Finally I got hold of the manager, who sorted it out and now I have my copies ordered. But what a wait and how stupid when there was nothing wrong with the cover at all!

It seems to me that whether it's trad publishing or indie publishing there will always be problems.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Not Again...

Did it again! It's the 15th of May, that's one month since last I blogged. Sigh! I do try to get a weekly blog going but it's not top of the To Do list. It's more important to get proof copies read and the new novel edited with my colleagues' comments in mind.

It's been a sad week. A close friend is dying of colon cancer. One of the choir has ovarian cancer. A long established member of the congregation suddenly developed cancer, faded out in a few weeks and his funeral is tomorrow. As I've faced cancer and won I do understand some of what they are going through. It's scary facing the unknown. But death is not the end, just a change of state!

It seems to me that despite new knowledge people are still terrified of cancer. When I was diagnosed I couldn't believe how many 'friends' literally crossed the road to avoid me. So many people dropped out of my life I was without anyone to talk to. It was dreadful. Just at the time when I needed lots of cheery people to chat with only strangers, with weird cures rang the door bell. At least they cared enough to offer - for free - their cures, ideas, healing vibes whatever.

And let's not talk of home visits. If people wouldn't visit me I could visit them. Or could I? Some people kept me on the door step. Others wouldn't let me use their lavatory, never mind those who wouldn't open the door. I've never forgotten the feeling, swore, if I survived, I'd make a point of visiting people with cancer, treat them as normal not lepers. Well, I was more than fortunate for I did survive. And I do treat people with cancer as normal. Do they appreciate it? They say they do. And are they finding friends don't visit? Yes!

Perhaps if those people with cancer wore T shirts printed with 'Cancer isn't catching! It isn't a cold!' We might get the message through to everyone. Wouldn't it be good. Perhaps if people had more knowledge, understood that cancer doesn't always equal death, that many cancers are treatable and curable, maybe they'd remember to be friends.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Three down and One to go.

The Novel launch was fun. Only ten people (and 4 apologies) but they listened and laughed, asked lovely intelligent questions and bought the books. I had my colleagues' books to sell as well and did so with panache! Copies of my novel hadn't arrived -publisher's hitch at their end! - so that caused much laughter and gave the newspapers scope for an unusual story. Good PR actually!

Now all I have to do is get any new found or reader notified corrections into 'Jacob's Ladder' and order more books. Then I can get on with submitting 'Tizzie'. Once those past years writings are off my plate, out being read, then I can write novels again.

Writer's Choice has been a boon. The seal of approval, the comradeship of my Writer's Choice colleagues, the work we do together keeps me on my writer's toes and keeps me from despairing over the state of publishing and the appalling books which traditional publishers publish solely for money. I have been rereading, editing and tightening 'Tizzie' - to the novel's benefit - knowing that if I don't my Writer's Choice colleagues might well reject the novel. I want that Quality fiction seal. It is beginning to mean something to readers seeking ebooks or self published books worth buying.

What did I do without WWOOFers? They are wonderful. I get so much farm work done with them and all those little two people jobs I have had problems with myself are now accomplished. So satisfying to see my tidy shed with all the bird netting and frost cloth, and frost covers and garden netting neatly folded away instead of bundled. Takes up less space and looks good.

My life improves with writers booking retreats to finish their novel/thesis/biography/memoir. They pay and I can pay bills. This life of poverty is atrocious and five years of being jobless since I returned home have worn me down. The prospect of a small income from selling books and having writers visit is enticing. Here's hoping!

It seems to me that no matter how carefully one plans - and believe me we did plan - life throws the nastiest spanners it can find into the works. They are usually in human form, like District Council petty officials, or bosses, or cheating greedy workers. Thank God for all the little kindnesses which those rare but genuinely good people can offer to us. It's what keeps me sane!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Once again the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It's been a month since I blogged! Tut! There are always good excuses.

I tell my writing students that when they haven't written. I have a sneaking suspicion that those would-be writers who don't write won't ever write seriously. They don't care enough to write. That's me and blogging. I'd rather write a story or add another chapter to the novel than blog when any writing time is so precious.

The court case brought by the police against my bad neighbour is this week and I'm nervous and not very happy about it. It's going to be a case of his word against mine and he has paid expensively for a young and cocky solicitor who has the reputation of winning his cases by fair means or foul. The police prosecutor says it will be a matter of who the judge chooses to believe. This being all men versus me I am not hopeful of any sympathy from the judge. I can 'see' the defence doing his best to portray me as a neurotic old lady and his bloke as a bit of a character. We shall see.

The WWOOFers keep writing for a week's work and stay. They all want to come at the same time. March is fully booked. I will have a full house almost every day. My friends from Australia came and went too quickly. It is always fun having Julie and Michael visit. Now my house is full of Father Paul and his writer friend. Then it will be French and German WWOOFers until April. At least I will get the driveway trees trimmed back. They had formed a perfect tunnel. Also I hope all the hazels weeded and mulched.

'Jacob's Ladder' is, at last, being set for POD printing and should be printing off 12 copies for the Goodreads giveaway and 10 copies to come to me in New Zealand for the launch in our local library. There's a lovely group of Kiwi readers at Goodreads who do read our books. My books are on their list to read. I am so pleased to have the novels out to readers and the encouragement from my Writer's Choice colleagues keeps me going through the PR hoops. I've now published my favourite and prize winning stories, my prize winning novel and the next novel,'Aunt Tizzie's Jubilee' is being edited to go. 'Tizzie' was too cross genre for the trad publishers. After all that time wasted with agents and publishers it feels good to get them out to be read. Once that's done, by June 1st I think, and I think I'm running to schedule, I can concentrate on the next novel and some more short stories. And more PR! I do find it hard to brag and skite about myself and my writing but it must be done.

Monday, 11 February 2013

The weekly chores and WWOOFers

Why is it such a chore to write a weekly blog? Honestly, I ring the calendar, seek out intelligent ideas to write about but I never get to sit down and write. There is always something more important to write or do.

Right now I am recovering from one lot of delightful WWOOFers and planing on a visit from another group. WWOOFers are Willing Workers On Organic Farms. Usually they are young tourists who want to see more of New Zealand than from a backpackers' hostel. The host feeds and entertains them. They do around four hours work per day.

I am always leery of having strange people staying because I am on my own. Melissa and Mike couldn't have been more considerate and so I am less apprehensive of this group of three arriving on Wednesday. It's the feeding of them that is a struggle. I am still lost to the world of employment. It's very hard feeding myself let alone a group of hungry youngsters. But the work they do is so helpful. There are plenty of small tasks around a smallholding which need two pairs of hands. However, how do I get through to visitors that food is limited and they cannot empty the muesli container all in one go? How do I convince them that my home made bread is very filling as it is made with eggs, butter and milk to be the staff of life in one slice?

The difference between my home grown and home made food and shop bought food is tremendous. It's hard to get WWOOFers, or any visitor, to understand this. Well, we will see. This group don't eat lamb. My home grown meat is all lamb! I have been busy trading lamb for pork, beef and fish. Hopefully that will be enough. I have visions of three enormous hungry young men eating everything I need to store for winter! Ah well. We shall see.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Monday evening and after a long hot day of the worst sort, overcast but darned hot and sticky, I can now relax. This means a quick gallop through the social websites and then on to writing.

There has been an interesting anti-agent thread on one writers' website which had been full of sensible comments and suggestions. Suddenly comments became stroppy. Rude comments about spelling and lack of commas from someone sparked a whole range of prickly comments. I am keeping to my time limit so did not explain about the difference between my British/Commonwealth spelling and punctuation and the American. More comments flew. Mainly males this time with their hackles up. Sweeping generalisations were made about posters' abilities. So sad.

It is amazing that people will do this to themselves on public boards.

There are two rules to remember when leaving comments on websites.

1. Once it's out there it will stay out there.

2. People remember the nasty and avoid it.
In other words if you want to win friends and attract readers always project yourself as someone who listens, cares and shares.

I have a lot of PR to do for Writer's Choice next month and have to work out, with my colleagues in the co-operative, what to say and what they want me to say. I am so glad we stated right at the beginning, when we were forming the group, that we behave in a polite and professional manner at all times to each other. I am grateful that my colleagues don't pack paddies, don't only skite about their writing and not all of our writing, and don't allow ego or writer's arrogance to spoil the democratic process of decision making.

I think, when we expand membership, we will write details of what we call professional behaviour in blood and threaten instant expulsion for any breaches. I really couldn't work with colleagues who constantly hurl rude remarks or take affront.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

January 2013 and a resolution.

Heavens, I keep saying I must blog weekly but then I slip up. Life is too busy to waste time woffling a load of words with little meaning. if I can't blog with sense why blog at all?

So pick a topic and go for it. That's the advice my blogging friend are giving. A new one found for each week, scan the newspapers or keep on blogging about your favourite things, they say. There isn't the time. However the PR work for Writer's Choice has led me to This is mainly a place for readers to brag about how many books they've read, discuss what they are currently reading and review and chat.

I've not spent time at Amazon - I have ethical problems dealing with a company which is trying to set itself up without competition - but I have heard the complaints about reviews. Not just about the 'sock puppets' giving themselves lovely reviews and booing and jeering other writers' novels, but about shoddy reviews which are hurtful to sales. Those reviews where either it is all important for the reviewer to be seen airing opinions or the reader shows little or no grasp of what s/he's read.

Many of the reviewers are readers only and not writers. They have no idea what has gone into getting that story onto paper and into book form. I'm still very new to Goodreads so I don't know if they have a suggested format for reviews and comments. But a little polite consideration would go a long way to stopping some of the vapid, mouthy or just plain rude reviews. Some reviewers seem to have found books in genres they hate and then written bad reviews. I dislike intensely the trend for vampire/werewolf novels so I don't read and review them. My dislike is my personal opinion and it should not be shouted across the internet in a review which I have not been asked to do or paid to do it. There is nothing wrong with a review in which the reviewer explains why they didn't like a book, but it had better be good honest criticism backed up with examples from the book and not just someone shouting disparaging comments because they can.