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Piracy – or not?

140 piracy

I should start by saying I know a lot of you are going to disagree with this post. But please, read it and think about it.

I really really don’t understand the way piracy, theft and sharing are conflated and confused both by the ‘big’ publishers and the authors who feel shock/horror every time someone reads one of their books without buying it.

Yes, piracy is wrong, very wrong, if we mean the taking of content and reselling without giving the profits to the original writer/artist/publisher. Yes, anyone downloading from pirate sites is committing theft because they are depriving the original producers of profit. They are also aiding and abetting the crime of piracy. No arguments from me, there.

However, I do think that some of the mega media moguls must share a little of the blame; they have been so arrogant about release dates, pricing, etc. that people have, in a world where news spreads instantly, felt tempted to obtain the offered goods in whatever way seemed most convenient. For example, sometimes my fellow writers recommend a book that turns out not to be available on UK sites. I’m not condoning the illegal downloads, just pointing out that it’s sometimes understandable, more often in the case of films than of books or music, but people do tend to repeat behaviour that works for them.

Then there’s sharing.

Publishers would have us think (and have convinced some authors) that sharing is piracy/theft. Their argument seems to centre on the fact that whilst if you lend a paperback book you don’t have access to it while your friend reads it, if you send them a digital version you retain your own copy. (Although with the paperback you still retain ownership. The only occasion when theft enters the picture is when the reader does not return the printed book to the owner. )

Nobody mentions the fact that sharing is probably the very best advertising an author or any artist can get. When people were asked by Neil Gaiman, at a lecture in London, how they found their favourite authors, the vast majority said that they found them through loans from friends, second hand book shops, charity shops, and libraries. Nobody mentioned browsing either in shops or online. Nor, perhaps more surprisingly, did they mention recommendations from friends. Once found, a favourite author is one the reader will buy again and again and will recommend to their entire social circle.

None of the above ways of finding books gives any immediate profit to the author or publisher. Neither does it prevent a sale because the new reader would probably never have found the book in the first place. What it does do is to ensure that at least some of the new readers will become customers for further books by that author, and maybe for their own copy of the one they ‘borrowed’.

Traditionally, the fame of books has spread by recommendation, either by critics or by friends. I know I’m more likely to read something a friend lends me, if only because they’re going to ask me what I thought of it. Reading is a social activity as well as a solitary one. We share opinions on books, we buy them as gifts, we leave them in guest rooms, we compile lists of favourites and lists of things to avoid. We read bits out to each other, sometimes to the annoyance of all concerned. We listen to books read on the radio together. We form book clubs. When we read reviews we ask around to see if anyone we know has read the book concerned.

I have two Kindles. (This was almost accidental but there you are.) So if I buy an e-book I can read it and pass it across to my daughter or my husband or someone else in my family who might be interested and they read it too. I haven’t lost it. It’s still in my library ‘cloud’. And they haven’t gained it. They’re using my Kindle, after all. But this constrains me artificially. I used to share books with two or three friends. Now that most of my books are e-books I no longer do this. (Even with two Kindles I’m unlikely to let one out of the house.) But I am so tempted to share my favourites with them. And who knows? I might gain a new customer for that author.

Recently I subscribed to a book via Unbound. As well as the hardback version they sent me a download link. I don’t need two copies (although it’s a good book) and I am very tempted to give the download link to a friend. After all, I paid (quite highly) for it and I need a Christmas present for her.

I also have a ‘wishlist’ that includes a lot of books. My nearest and dearest can’t buy them for me because they know I would prefer the e-book versions (otherwise the wish list would have more bookcases at the top). I gather that things like Amazon tokens are not considered to be quite the same. And yes, some of the indie sites allow gifting, but not all of them do, and Amazon certainly doesn’t.

Television companies have dealt with the problem. They ‘lend’ us their programmes for a number of days or weeks, accessed via catch-up sites. Although Amazon has some kind of lending feature, many e-books don’t fall into its net, and I’m sure we don’t particularly want to force everyone in the world to have an Amazon account in order to borrow books. I would have thought it should be possible to provide lending copies, time limited, with books. Since that hasn’t happened, is anyone truly surprised that people share their books? I should perhaps add that it has happened, for libraries, but not for individuals unless you have close family members who share your account details.

I dislike my desire to share being compared with theft. It diminishes my relationship with books (and fellow readers) and is an aspect of e-books I thoroughly object to. When we can’t share, because of the nature of e-books, we lose something very important about reading and about our culture. And I am totally convinced that we, as writers, lose customers.

I also dislike, intensely, the criminalisation of an activity that has been the ‘norm’ in literate societies, one of the things that help culture to grow and solidify, and the way it has been compared, unfairly in my opinion, with the very real crimes of theft and piracy.

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Posted by on November 29, 2017 in copyright reform, protest, publishing

 

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Snippets: to read/post or not to read/post?

snippets

I rarely read snippets. If I’m glancing at an unknown author’s work in a bookshop or online I might look at a few random paragraphs to see whether the grammar and style are to my taste. (For example, I personally don’t enjoy long books written in the present tense.) But snippets that appear in my inbox or on social media are something I avoid. I only see them if I already know the author and am following their work, so presumably these are writers whose style already appeals to me. So that reason for reading an extract vanishes. I also like books that have some kind of mystery, preferably though not necessarily crime, and some sort of developing relationship and that means I really really don’t want spoilers. Nor do I want to recognise a passage when I read a book for the first time. I like my first reading to be ‘fresh’!

So if I see a snippet or extract I move rapidly past, averting my eyes!!

But so many authors do put snippets out there and I’m wondering whether it’s a good marketing ploy or not. Just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean other readers won’t. Recently I actually chose an extract to put on a review blog a friend publishes. It took us ages to choose the sections she used. I don’t think the post garnered any sales at all but it might have made my name known. Here it is!

GROWING UP FAE – Extract from the novel by Jay Mountney

What do you think? Worth the effort or not?

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2017 in publishing

 

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Calibre and Kindle

I get a lot of the books I read via author newsletters. I sign up to these via freebie offers and then try a free book. If the author’s style appeals then I’m likely to buy more and I let the newsletters keep coming. Some of my favourite authors, particularly in the romance, fantasy and crime genres, reach me that way.

So far, so good.

The only strange thing is the way their publishers or distributors don’t seem to have caught up with the way a lot of people actually handle e-books – downloading, transfer to e-reader, etc.

They go into long, convoluted explanations of what they consider is the best way to get the book. This often seems to rely on my willingness to order the book by typing on the keyboard on my Kindle Fire.

I would only do that if there was absolutely no chance of getting the book any other way!!

Then they warn me that the mobi version they are sending me might not download straight to my Kindle. Duh!! Then there’s another long and equally convoluted explanation of what to do.

What I actually do is to get the mobi version downloaded to my hard drive. Or an epub version. Or almost anything, really. Then I load it to my Calibre. Calibre is free (though they do ask for donations and I have occasionally donated because they do such a superb job). I then make sure Calibre either has the mobi version or has converted whatever it was to mobi. This takes about three seconds and the information shows nicely in the sidebar. I connect my Kindle to the computer and tell Calibre to upload to the Kindle main drive. Hey presto!

There are lots of plus factors here. I have a copy on my hard drive and can even save it to disc. I am not totally tied to Amazon. I have the glory of my Calibre library which shows me the covers and metadata and is much more easily organised than the Kindle for PC library (though I use that for books I have bought directly from Amazon). I can then add notes, reviews, star ratings and even cover pictures for the books that start without one.

I also use Calibre to check that my own books look right in various versions. There are dire warnings (again) on all kinds of helpful sites and blogs, about how they might not look exactly right. Well, I check against the way they look on friends’ computers once they’re actually published, and there has never been a problem of any kind. I don’t use embedded graphics or even many odds and ends like italics or accents so maybe I just don’t need to worry? And whilst Smashwords and Amazon are at daggers drawn over the best way to insert an active table of contents, it isn’t really a big deal for a fiction book that starts at the beginning and moves smoothly through the middle to the end. For me, Calibre does a superb job.

I first found Calibre when I got my first Kindle. You might have gathered that as well as published books I read a lot of fanfiction. Nowadays, I get most of it ready converted to mobi by AO3 and then just upload it the same way I upload mobi versions of published books. But I used to access a lot of it via social media and had to rely on Calibre to convert it for me so that I could take it anywhere on my Kindle.

About the only glitch I have found with Calibre is that when you switch to a new laptop and transfer your information you must never ever ever alter the path to the file/folder by renaming things or putting them in umbrella folders or it all disappears. I have no idea where it goes but go it does. Fortunately, I have never been in the position of having a crashed laptop and no means of retrieving it. And I do have some IT experts in the family.

So – Calibre makes life easy and Kindle makes carting my ‘library’ around even easier. But publishers and distributors don’t seem to have understood yet!

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in publishing

 

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Growing Up Fae is published

My new book has gone ‘live’ on Amazon, Smashwords, and the Smashwords distribution service. I am really excited – and for the first time there were absolutely no formatting glitches!!

The narrator of the story, Harlequin, is a bisexual fairy in his early twenties who lives on Alderley Edge in Cheshire, UK. He tells the story of his childhood, his teens, and how he reached the Edge. He goes on to describe in detail his loves (and lusts) and the other people in his life. So to some extent the story turns into a family saga. The sex is explicit when it occurs so although this is a ‘fairy story’ it is not suitable for young readers. Also, the fae are not twee Victorian miniatures. They can, and do, pass as human and interact with the humans they meet.

There are at least two more volumes of material, all in need of organisation and editing. Now that we have this first volume as a kind of template the work should go faster. The further volumes are not exactly sequential.

One volume is Tales from Tara which tells what happens when first one and then another of the Edge fae go to Tara in Ireland, including not only their own experiences but those of the fae they meet there.

Another is Life on the Edge which follows Growing Up Fae but does not include the Irish stories.

There are numerous characters, locations, and magical elements and I have created a glossary to help the reader sort them out. Harlequin doesn’t always explain things exactly when you want him to, so in case of confusion, consult the page Living Fae which you can access at the top of my WordPress site. (jaymountney@wordpress.com). Once the other volumes are organised I will add a timeline.

This is the book I’ve been talking about for ages: the fae saga told in diary form that has been incredibly difficult to format. It has taken, literally, years.

I’ve had enormous amounts of help from friends along the way – people I met in an online writing group, who were generous with their time and advice. I’ve dedicated the book to them.

Meanwhile, I’ve had Harlequin living in my head for a long time. He feels quite real to me, and I hope he will to you, too. If fantasy plus sex is your scene, enjoy!

If anyone leaves a review and links me to it, I can make sure they get a free copy of the next volume. Or, if anyone wants a review copy, let me know, but a year or so ago I gave a freebie to someone who either never reviewed or never told me, so it would have to be someone with a genuine review site I’m familiar with. Reviews don’t have to be brilliant – all publicity is good, and what one reviewer doesn’t like might really appeal to other readers.

Buy Growing Up Fae at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/720139

or

(Beware on Amazon. When I asked the site to find Growing Up Fae by Jay Mountney it found it but asked: Did you mean: “growing up face by day mountney” so clearly Amazon can’t read!!)

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in publishing, writing

 

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New book due out soon

 

I have a new book coming out soon. Growing Up Fae is the first volume of a series, Living Fae, which follows the life and loves (and lusts) of a bisexual male fairy who can pass as human if he hides his wings. He and his extended family live on Alderley Edge in Cheshire, England. It’s a fantasy, a personal journey for the narrator, an m/m romance, and a family saga, told in journal form.

I started the story over ten years ago but it always seemed too complicated to sort it out for publication. Diary style. Cross-genre. Very (very) British. I certainly didn’t want to let unknown editors mangle either the format or the language. Nor, for that matter, did I want to give them the chance to reject it. Since then, I’ve started self publishing and have yielded to persuasion (and help) from friends. The first volume is finished. It’s back from the editor and proof reader, and the cover is done but needs resizing for the different platforms. (Some of my friends here beta read parts of it to death.) All it needs now is the front matter and a sensible table of contents. I wanted to get it out for Easter but life intervened.

I seem to be insanely busy: I am in the middle of volume 4 of my Skilled Investigators series; I have committed myself to a fandom big bang story (co-authored); I am posting chapters of a fandom work in progress on AO3; I have been writing non-fiction including stuff about autism, writing, a new AO3 collection, and about politics (national, international, and social media). And then there’s real life and a part time (unpaid) job. Yes, I know all this is totally my own fault. No complaints! I’m just explaining.

Also, every time I think about Living Fae I remember there are at least two more volumes to whip into shape (written but totally disorganised) so then I very deliberately stop thinking, which is horribly counterproductive. Posting about it might force me to get on with what will be at most a day’s work!

I really am on the very last lap and hope the book will go live later this month. Cross your fingers for me!

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2017 in personal, publishing, writing

 

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Debunking myths about writing

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Debunking ten common myths about writers and writing.

#1. Writing can be done any old time and happens in the gaps between other more important commitments.

This is a myth most usually believed by family and close friends. Sometimes the belief spills over and affects the writer themselves. It is by no means true. Writing, and particularly editing or drafting a second version, requires concentration. It’s perfectly possible to write short sections in ten minute bursts, and then string them together. But the mere act of stringing them together satisfactorily takes a lot more than ten minutes, and ten minute writing sessions are not very satisfying to the average writer. I know I need aat least an hour to get into a story or chapter. This is at odds with the other demands on my tattention. I’m responsible for various household needs such as shopping and cooking; these not only take time but are at the mercy of other people’s agendas such as when the shops are open and when the family want or need to eat. The same constraints would apply to any other household necessities that members of any family commit to supplying. Even a solitary writer has to eat, sleep and supply the needs of themselves and perhaps their pets.

Besides the actual act of typing or writing the words, there is thinking time. This is essential. Some writers plot in advance and other simply see where the characters want to take them, but whichever kind of writer you are there is a necessity to think either of the way your story is going, or the way it has gone, if only to check mentally for inconsistencies and plotholes. Some people produce a story in a linear fashion, going from A to Z via the other letters in the right order; others write sections as they occur to them then fit them together and write linking material to fill the gaps. Both methods are valid and both require time and thought.

Thinking can take place alongside other activities – for example, in the shower, in bed before falling asleep, or whilst doing some mind-numbing task such as ironing. It doesn’t go well with anything that needs concentration like stirring a risotto or supervising a child’s homework. So writing and its handmaid, thinking, need time, quality time, and it’s all to easy to let this be squeezed out. I suppose if you’re JKR or James Patterson, you can plead that you’re working, but most writers don’t earn so much that they feel able to make this plea. However, they should not allow other people to encroach on their writing time, even if the writing is mainly for their own pleasure. Nor should they go along with the myth and allow their writing time to be elbowed out of the day.

#2. Writing is not work, just a hobby that sometimes results in payment.

Whether it’s for private enjoyment or close friends or a wide audience, and whether or not it’s to be published for payment, writing is hard work. (So are some hobbies but that does not invalidate the general argument.)

Some writers find that plots come easily. Others have characters spring up fully formed in their heads. Yet others find that language flows, provided they have more than ten minutes (see #1 above) to devote to it. But all of them will need to edit what they write, to check it for style, for whether it says what they intended, to make sure the characters have the correct names (especially minor ones who appear chapters apart) and are wearing consistent clothing. It’s no good having character A in a shirt that matches his eyes and then throwing his soiled white shirt in the laundry basket at the end of the day. Similarly, it’s not helpful to have characters go upstairs if you’ve located them in a bungalow in Chapter 1. Reading through what you’ve written is important to help avoid repetitive vocabulary. Readers get irritated if A looks soulfully at B more than once. (Actually I get irritated the first time but that’s just personal preference.) And even if all these things are sorted, the writer still has to physically get the words down on screen or paper. Fingers can get tired, too, and backs can suffer. So can eyes. Nobody suggests that a secretary doesn’t work, so a writer works at least as hard just getting their words down.

Once the initial draft is written there’s editing. Yes, you can employ an editor, or your publishers might wish one on you. Whichever, they’d really prefer it if you’d done a bit of editing yourself before offering up your draft. Before seeking another pair of eyes it’s as well to make sure your story flows, and that there aren’t too many typos. If you’re self publishing you need to know something about formatting, whether you do it yourself or pay someone else. You need to know about copyright, about marketing (at a minimum, how to tag your work, write a blurb, etc), about taxation (if you ever get royalties), about the royalty system, about the way publishing in general works, whichever route you take. If you were talking about any other craft, the same kinds of things would apply. The person who knits for a hobby only needs to buy wool, needles and patterns; the person who hopes to sell their knitted garments needs to know all about wool and its attributes, current prices, sizing, labelling, etc. and has to know how to package, present and market their work. Children who kick a ball around are hobby footballers, and remain so even when they grow up and just join in a friendly neighbourhood game; professional players have a whole host of other things to learn and worry about. It’s the same with writing so for anyone who wants to publish, writing is not a hobby even if it started that way.

#3. Writing could be done by anyone who wanted to give the time to it.

Well, no. You only have to glance at the stuff school students produce to know that some people are creative and others just aren’t. I’m not talking about ability with words, grammar, etc, but the ability to bring characters alive, to make locations seem real, to get readers to suspend disbelief at the inevitable artificiality of plot or the way an event is recounted (because real life just doesn’t behave like story but we forget that both when we’re reading, and when we’re living). Writers have a gift of being able to share their worlds, fictional or non-fictional, with their readers. Not everyone can do this, and for those who can, there’s a long apprenticeship that starts in early childhood. Most writers, in almost any genre you care to name, including non-fiction, will have spent most of their lives reading and researching – not always formally but in some depth. They will be fired by enthusiasm for their chosen subject matter to the extent that they actually feel a need to write, to impart the stuff in their heads to other people. Never mind merely wanting to give time to it – they will feel impelled. Some writing courses (and online sites) purport to help wannabe writers generate plots. Most writers I know have so many plot bunnies the problem is finding time to feed them all. Of course, there’s always the age-old maxim that there only so many basic plots (usually presented as seven, nine or eleven – magic numbers) and everything else is just variation on a theme. You can deconstruct any story to prove this theory, but it’s the variation that counts in the end, and the ability to think up that variation and build it into a satisfying novel, poem, thesis, etc. that matters. I don’t think ‘anyone’ could do this any more than I think ‘anyone’ could be a chef or a violinist, a nurse or a teacher. We all have special skills, talents and passions. Those of a writer include an ability with narrative that is outside the grasp of just ‘anyone’. This applies to the writing of anything from a recipe to a novel.

#4. Writers are always in the market for materials or, “I’ve got an interesting story for you. You’ll like this one. You could write it.”

No thank you. Sometimes we write starting from prompts, which are not usually detailed. They could be the outline suggested by a magazine competition, the idea put forward within a writing group, or perhaps a headline seen in the news. All these can send the mind off in unforeseen directions. This is just writers grabbing materials from the environment, much as they might grab their observations of a place to help them describe a fictional location.

Most writers do not want to write someone else’s story. They don’t feel the same passion for it, you see, because it isn’t theirs. Obviously some journalists and documentary writers will develop their work from stories they have been told by others, but they will have given them their own spin and unique viewpoint. There are a few writers who ‘ghost write’ for the famous, either by producing so-called autobiographies or by putting e.g. well known recipes into print or even writing sequels that come under an umbrella series by a well known author. Often, their contribution is not acknowledged. They may be paid well, but fame escapes them. They’re probably the only writers who might respond favourably to the offer that headed this section, and even then, they’d want to know what the rate of pay was going to be.

#5. Writers should write what they know, and many readers believe writers know, from personal experience, what they write.

The idea of only writing what you know is so silly it doesn’t really deserve any rebuttal. If people only wrote from their own experience we would have no historical novels, no sci fi, no fantasy, nothing from an animal’s pov, no crime stories except those written by police or criminals, no women in books by men or men in books by women. However, the advice works if it is interpreted as ‘do your research’. All reasonably good writers do indeed do their research and this takes time, hard work and a basic knowledge of where to find the needed information.

Sometimes writers choose to present things in first person, using the voice of the character to get an idea across. In any case, characters are going to articulate their beliefs at some point or they will remain unreal and two-dimensional. You know those warnings you get on some TV programmes or DVDs where the channel or film company disclaims responsibility for the opinions expressed? This should, perhaps, be stated at the front of every book, as clearly as the copyright claim. Then readers could be shown how ridiculous it is to accuse writers of the very things their characters are intended to get across as undesirable. If I want, for example, to write a novel that discusses racism, I am going to have to have characters who make racist comments. It should be obvious that I don’t agree with them. But some readers ignore the obvious.

#6. Since word processors you don’t even have to know grammar to get published – just look at all those badly edited self published books.

Simply untrue, or rather, untrue if you want to write and sell more than one book. Spelling and grammar checkers don’t always know what they’re doing. It’s a bit like calculators. Unless you’ve been taught basic arithmetic, you won’t be able to tell when the machine is not working properly or when you’ve failed to ask it the right questions. So, as with calculations, to write you do need a basic grasp of grammar and a reasonably wide vocabulary (and the ability to use a dictionary and a thesaurus). It’s no good relying on an editor. They might disagree with you, especially if you are writing in e.g. Brit English and they are American (or vice versa). They might fail to spot less obvious errors. (You’ll almost certainly fail, because you read what you think you wrote.) Your editor might well read what they expected you to have written and even professional proof readers can fall foul of the cultural differences I just mentioned. The computer spelling and grammar checker is less likely to make these mistakes (though it won’t always spot things like the misuse of homonyms) but it will sometimes misunderstand your intended meaning and you need to have the confidence to ignore it. It will sometimes give you choices and you need to know which to accept. There are definitely self-published books with poor grammar. There are also mainstream published books with typos, plotholes and inconsistencies in e.g. names. One thing is common to both – with the advent of the word processor, all editing has been left more and more in the hands of the writer, who has an absolute need and duty to know something about grammar.

#7. If you’re a writer, why aren’t you rich and famous?

Unless you are J.K.Rowling or James Patterson, you probably won’t get rich from writing. Tolkien didn’t. Some people make a good living, usually by writing dozens of books every year and having virtually no life other than writing and its associated activities. Even then, a lot of their profit gets ploughed back into writing, by attending conferences, book signings, etc. and doing research. Even the most prestigious mainstream publishers no longer give writers expenses for that kind of thing – it has to come out of royalties. Royalties are low with mainstream publishers but there again, they do all the things like paying cover artists, formatters, etc. Self publishing royalties are higher and if you do some of the ‘other’ work yourself, you get to keep more of the profit, but sales are by no means guaranteed. Then, either way, there’s tax… I suspect readers think writers for the big mainstream publishing houses live in a lost world of long lazy expense account luncheons, and paid-for holidays in the sun to research their next title. Not nowadays, and for very few even in some glorious past.

They also seem to think anyone claiming to be a writer should be able to achieve this golden state of affairs simply by being good enough. Unfortunately, leaving aside the matter of royalties and and the lack of other financial support, it is not enough to be a good writer. You have to be a lucky writer, too. Someone who worked for one of the big publishers once told me that yes, there has to be a modicum of talent but after that, the manuscript (and note that I’m now talking about the days before emailed submissions, when there were in fact fewer books written altogether) has to land in the right intray when the submissions editor is in the right mood, has an opening for a work of that particular genre, length, etc. and has time to read it. We all know the stories about how books like Watership Down were rejected time and time again – nothing whatsoever to do with their quality.

#8. Everyone has a book in them

I seriously doubt it. There are people whose lives are so dull that we wouldn’t want to read about anything they wrote; people whose only ‘hobby’ is watching sport on TV, who have no family dramas, who are comfortable in their jobs, their finances and their relationships. Some of them might have rich imaginations and then, certainly, they might write a book, but if they haven’t, then they will have nothing to write about. There are other people whose lives are so chaotic that they can barely make sense of them themselves, let alone tell others about their experiences. They might be able to express some of what they know or believe to a writer who can incorporate it into a story, an article or an academic thesis, but that’s not the same thing as having a book in them. Then there are people who are passionate about something, driven and organised. But their way of dealing with their subject matter is in action, political, business, local community, personal, charity, etc. Or in music or art. They do not have ‘a book’ in them; they may have a painting, a sculpture or a symphony or they may have a parliamentary maiden speech.

#9. Genre fiction and non-fiction is not as important or as high quality as literary fiction or academic non-fiction.

This opinion seems to have been firmly embedded in our culture, no doubt given a helping hand by reviewers in the weightier papers and magazines, and by sundry academics. It is pandered to by booksellers, on and offline, who want to put things on tidy shelves and label them often with profit in mind. They want to target the right demographic. This trend entirely loses sight of the fact that many of our classics started as genre fiction.

Dickens, for example, wrote romance and mystery for the serial magazine market. Yes, his, and many other ‘classic’ books are well written with many-layered plots and delightful characters. So are some of today’s ‘genre’ novels which are dismissed out of hand but have so much to offer. Tolkien made it out of the fantasy ghetto, perhaps because of his academic background, but although I adore Lord of the Rings there are other equally good fantasy writers who are still behind the barriers – Tad Williams, to name only one. Alan Hollinghurst’s books escape the m/m romance genre probably because the author is a respected reviewer (and maybe because he doesn’t always have happy endings). Forster escaped, too, possibly by being dead, but Maurice is hardly ever mentioned in discussions of Forster’s work. There are other m/m romance writers who deserve similar attention. It is fashionable to praise Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels whilst still putting them firmly in the crime genre whereas Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone is considered to be the first English detective story but at the same time is regarded as ‘literature’. H.G.Wells and George Orwell crashed through the sci-fi barrier but only, perhaps, by dying. There are too many other examples to list here.

Non-fiction suffers similarly. A really good cookery book is as useful, and as research-based, as a lot of academic papers, but is dismissed as mere ‘lifestyle’ or ‘hobby’ fodder. There are brilliant popular books that analyse history or finance or art, but unless they emanate from university research they are too often ignored.

Obviously many readers find these books for themselves, enjoy them, recommend them, etc. And some of the authors may as a result find some fame and fortune. But not, apparently, the accolade of the serious critic. And that’s something that has trickled down to the general public who in turn regard anything other than the ‘classics’ or the latest prize list litfic as ‘mere’ light entertainment.

#10. Writers are either unsociable or full of themselves (sometimes both)

The prevailing images are: the standard stereotype of the starving artist in a garret; the shy writer tucked away in their converted garden shed; the eccentric and absent minded cat owner with a creaking typewriter and few friends.

The reality is people with families of one kind or another, large friendship groups, and a well-developed social life. How else would they observe human nature so closely and find material for characters, locations and plots? And although some might initially scribble their thoughts down in notebooks, transfer to a state of the art computer screen is an inevitable part of the process requiring an electricity supply, internet and a familiarity with technology.

So writers are not unsociable. But are they arrogant or boastful? They do have to ‘blow their own trumpets’ if they are to make any sales at all. Even the big publishing houses offer very little in the way of marketing and advertising. But selling the product of a lot of hard work is no different from the florist’s sign outside the shop or the bakery buying ad time on TV. After all, if they didn’t tell you about their books, how would you know? You’d be left with nothing to read but the classics, and good as they are, these don’t meet our need for new and exciting ways of looking at the world.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in publishing, writing

 

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The Crown. My New Book Is Out!

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The latest volume in my fantasy detective saga, The Skilled Investigators, is live on both Amazon and Smashwords! I proudly present to you: Book 3, The Crown.

For once I had no formatting problems whatsoever, though I did initially forget to organise an ISBN with Smashwords. This only means I had no problems once I uploaded to the sites – my editors and others know all about the angst I underwent whilst perfecting the document prior to uploading!

In Book 1, The Scroll, Genef fought to achieve her dream of training to be an Investigator with the Guild. A serial killer came literally to her door and she was instrumental in solving the case. In the course of the story Genef was gifted with the Skill of Knowing Touch. When she started her training the Guild gifted her with Teaching Taste. The king was so pleased with her work that he assigned her to trace some stolen royal jewellery so Book 2, The Market, saw her sailing to The Spice Islands with her brother, Fel. They had to deal with murder and enslavement but Genef found most of the jewels. A crown, however, had been sold on to traders from The Ice Country. After she received the next Skill, Inner Hearing, Genef was instructed to follow the trail of the crown and retrieve it.

The Crown sees Genef and her mentor Rath travelling to The Ice Country, where the land is always frozen. Scratch accompanies her, hoping to find other dragons in the snow-covered north; he has no contact with his family or indeed his species. Genef is settling into her role as an Investigator and now has Rath at her side, as well. Together they face more slavery problems, some unpleasant deaths, kidnapping and deceptions, bitter cold and Scratch’s growing independence. Can they find the crown and return it to Lonis? Will Scratch stay with Genef ’till the stars fade’ as he promised, or will he join northern dragons in the snowy wilderness? And will Rath find a way to court Fel on their return? Genef hopes so – she loves her brother and thinks Rath would make an excellent partner for him. This is chilly (and occasionally chilling) adventure for a perfect midwinter read.

The story will continue later in 2017, in The Lantern, which is currently being written.

Here are the links to the book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N4MBOG3

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/695351

The book is also available on amazon.com with a very long URL so presumably the non-UK site links back to the UK one. Other self-publishers will no doubt know!

The first person to comment on each of my sites – i.e. WordPress, Facebook and my Dreamwidth and LiveJournal blogs can claim a free copy of The Crown in the form of a coupon for free download of the Smashwords edition (which includes a mobi version so is suitable for Kindles as well as other e-readers). I should perhaps point out to WordPress and Facebook friends that my blogs (I’m moth2fic on both sites) are friends-locked but I welcome new friends.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2017 in publishing, writing

 

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