Tag Archives: self-publishing

A writer’s motivation

I am pleased to say my re-write of No Justice, the fifth in my Scarborough Mysteries series, is going well. I am finding some inventive ways to tell the story and I am also pulling apart the time-line, giving the narrative more space to breathe. It all appears a bit messy at the moment, but I like messy and I am confident it will all come together in the end.

Last week I met with a friend of mine and we got into a discussion about the pros and cons of indie publishing against the pros and cons of having a literary agent. For those of you who are regular readers of my posts, you will know that I don’t exactly choose the indie route, it is more thrust upon me. I don’t feel it suits me as I am not good at marketing. I am very grateful for the readers I have, but it is fair to say, I appeal to a niche market. I am not terribly commercial. On the other hand during our discussion, I did come to appreciate the freedom of being an indie. The freedom to try out. The freedom to experiment.

We tend to think that because the publishing industry is as it is today – with large conglomerate publishers and literary agents as gate-keepers (at least for fiction) – thus it has always been. Not so. We only have to go back a hundred years to find a much more mixed picture. Authors who are now household names basically ‘self-publishing’ or publishing by subscription (the original crowd-funding). Sometime between then and now publishers and literary agents ascended to the power they currently have to decide what we shall and shall not read.

New technology should have brought some democracy. However, it seems to me, that the reading public has not embraced the possibilities as much as the listening public has for music. Reviews, TV/radio slots, bookshops, awards, festivals, long & short listing still dominate how readers decide on their next purchase. These are almost entirely closed to indie published novels.

I am as guilty as the next reader. If you want to sample indie, you really have to go looking forward it and do your own research. Having said all that, there are stories all over social media (and figures from Amazon) showing indie published authors who have readers in their millions and who make more money than traditionally published authors, so there are other experiences than mine.

My friend ended our discussion by asking the age-old question: why do we do it? If readers, exposure and money are not guaranteed, why do we keep slogging away? Plus, though the books we write are all-important to us, containing as they do our toil, our imagination, little particles of us, it must be realised that for most readers they are ephemeral. They are in a reader’s hands for only a short while before they land on the pile for the charity shop.

The only answer I could give my friend is that I do it for the love, because I enjoy the process. I find enormous pleasure in the splurge of ideas at the beginning of the writing journey and then in the crafting, crafting until I have something I feel I might want to share. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it.

Why do you do it? What motivates you?

 

Author Interview: Maggie James

This week I am delighted to invite fellow writer, Maggie James to my blog. Living in Bristol, she writes psychological suspense novels. Her first book, His Kidnapper’s Shoes, was completed in 2011 and self-published in 2013. It has now been republished under a contract with Lake Union. Maggie’s next three books, Sister, Psychopath, Guilty Innocence and The Second Captive followed, along with a free novella, Blackwater Lake. She has also written a non-fiction book aimed at would-be authors, called Write Your Novel! From Getting Started to First Draft. She recently signed a two-book deal with Bloodhound Books for Guilty Innocence and The Second Captive. They will be republished later in 2017. 

Her latest novel is After She’s Gone, published by Lake Union on March 16, 2017 (http://smarturl.it/aftershesgone).

Before turning her hand to writing, Maggie worked mainly as an accountant, with a diversion into practising as a nutritional therapist. Diet and health remain high on her list of interests, along with travel. Accountancy does not, but then it never did. The urge to pack a bag and go off travelling is always lurking in the background. When not writing, going to the gym, practising yoga or travelling, Maggie can be found seeking new four-legged friends to pet; animals are a lifelong love.

What are you currently working on?
I have two writing projects on the go at present. One is plotting my sixth novel, title as yet unknown, which will examine the theme of betrayal. I got the idea from a TV documentary centred on con artists and the suffering they wreak on their victims. The concept is still in the early stages, but I’m keen to start writing. The other book I’m working on is a revised version of my second novel, Sister Psychopath.

What has inspired your most recent novel/writing?
My latest novel is After She’s Gone, released on March 16, 2017. I’d been drawn to the theme of arson for a while, as well as examining how a family copes with murder. Somehow the two ideas became interwoven and ended up as After She’s Gone. In the book, the dead body of a teenage girl is found in a burning building, and as her grief-stricken relatives struggle with the fallout, the fires move ever closer to their home. Who is setting them, and why are they targeting the Goldens?

How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
Very much so in some cases, as I’ve found out. After I finished the first draft of His Kidnapper’s Shoes, a case came to light in America of a young child who was snatched as a baby and brought up by her abductor. A similar situation, also in the USA, emerged recently. My book wasn’t inspired by such events – I got the idea after a casual conversation – but the similarity was spooky. Sister, Psychopath was also inspired by a real-life murder. As for Blackwater Lake, I suspect that somewhere buried deep in someone’s compulsive hoarding may indeed be the solution to a crime, as happens in my novella.

Many novels have intertwined fiction with real life, of course. Take Robert Bloch’s novel, Psycho, based on the killer Ed Gein. Or Lionel Shiver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin, inspired by the 1999 Colombine shootings. Real life can provide fertile materials for novelists, and that won’t stop anytime soon.

Could you give five tips on how to tackle either characterisation or plotting or dialogue or descriptive passages?
I think I’ll go with dialogue on this one. Here are my five tips:

  1. This one gets mentioned a lot by authors and editors, but it’s important: don’t overuse speech tags. For the most part it should be clear who’s speaking, so you don’t need to add ‘he said/she said’ to every sentence. It’s unnecessary and clogs the flow of the discourse. Less is more.
  2. For dialogue that does require a speech tag, keep it simple. ‘Said’ is often the most effective one. You don’t need verbs like ‘averred’, ‘theorised’, ‘opined’, etc. The brain tends to skip over short, familiar words like ‘said’, whereas ‘expostulated’ will cause it to do a double take. You don’t want to write something that will jar the reader’s attention away from your story.
  3. Make it sound natural, but without all the ‘ums’, ‘ers’, ‘likes’ and ‘you-knows’ that clog most people’s speech. Contractions such as don’t, shouldn’t, won’t are good, though, because we all use them.
  4. Dialect is a difficult one to get right. Don’t attempt to convey regional speech by changing the spelling of words, as it irritates many readers. It’s best to use speech patterns and colloquialisms instead.
  5. Read your dialogue aloud. What better way to discover if your written conversations sound authentic? Or try text to speech software.

 How would you describe your writing process?
I’m a planner by nature; I couldn’t write a novel without a road map to get my story to where it needs to go. I use the Snowflake method of plotting, whereby I take an idea, and expand it until it’s a fully-fledged outline, complete with character notes, timeline, etc.  For writing software, I use Scrivener, and I love it; it’s excellent and worth every penny of the paltry purchase price. It’s customisable, flexible, and enables me to keep everything I need – research, notes, etc. – all in one place. Then it compiles my document into a formatted e-book in a couple of clicks. Magic!

After I’ve done the basic plotting, it takes me about two months to write the first draft. The next part, editing and revising, takes me much longer. I can spend forever tweaking my narrative, so when I can’t stand the sight of it any longer, I know it’s time to release it to the world.

What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
As I’ve mentioned, I couldn’t write without a structured outline. I could just about make do without Scrivener – after all, my first novel was written using Microsoft Word – but I wouldn’t want to. I need silence to write as well, although white noise such as traffic is fine. Definitely no music, though. As for what gets in the way, sometimes my motivation isn’t as high as I’d like, and I procrastinate. If I’ve had a great writing session one day, completing lots of words, I often need to take it easy the day after. It’s all about balance, I guess.

What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
It depends on what the novel requires. I’m not keen on doing lots of research, as I’d rather be writing, but at the same time I don’t want inaccuracies in my books. For police procedural matters, I use Michael O’Byrne’s The Crime Writer’s Guide to Police Practice and Procedure, along with picking the brains of a couple of friends who are retired police officers.

Google is my friend when it comes to research. Like many novelists, I often joke that the police would have a field day should they ever inspect my browsing history. I’ve used Google to check out topics such as identity theft, computer hacking, body decomposition rates, etc.

I also often visit the locations involved in my books. They’re all based in my home city of Bristol, so I can easily check whatever I need. For example, The Second Captive involved a very pleasant afternoon wandering round Siston, taking notes and photographs.

If you are indie published, why did you choose this route? What are your five tips for would-be indie authors? What are the pros & cons to indie publishing?
I’m a hybrid author, meaning that some of my books are with publishing houses and others are self-published. I’d recommend anyone to try self-publishing, even if they hanker after a traditional contract. More and more publishers are keeping an eye on who’s doing well in the self-published world and signing them up. It’s happened to me, as well as to other author friends.

My five tips for indie authors? Here they are:

  1. Don’t skimp on editing. Hire the best you can afford, and listen carefully to his/her suggestions. My editor, Gillian Holmes, has been invaluable in helping me polish my books. Please don’t be like some authors who think correct spelling, punctuation and grammar don’t matter. Self-publishing equates to low standards in the minds of many readers, and it’s a perception with some basis in truth, given a few of the books I’ve read.
  2. Get the best cover you can afford. I often see real howlers on Amazon that look as though I’ve created them; they’re that bad! (There are websites devoted to poking fun at these gems, but I digress.) People do judge books by their covers, and a sloppy one with amateurish fonts might well sink your novel.
  3. Build your author platform as you write your book, so that it’s ready for when you launch. I didn’t, and regretted it later. Set up a website and start cultivating readers, book bloggers and other writers on social media as soon as possible.
  4. Develop a thick skin if you intend to read your reviews. Many authors choose not to; the Internet can be a brutal place and some readers can be unnecessarily vicious.
  5. Learn as much as you can about book marketing. Check out successful authors on social media and find out how they operate. A good start is Joanna Penn’s blog The Creative Penn. It’s packed with advice for indie authors, and Joanna’s written several useful books about marketing.

Pros of self-publishing? In my view this option holds most of the cards. You can set the pace for your writing career, writing as little or as much as you want, and pocketing 70% royalties from Amazon. You’ll need to work hard on your marketing, and put in a lot of hours, but big rewards are possible. A con of self-publishing can be the lack of support and the feeling that you’re going it alone, although that can be mitigated by forming strong support networks with other writers.

If you are traditionally published, could you say something of your journey and your experience?
Until last year, I was entirely self-published, and happy to be so. Having been offered a traditional contract a while back, and rejecting it, I was clear I wanted to remain self-published. My reasons? Higher royalties along with total control over every step of the publication process. That was until I got a phone call one afternoon.

I found myself talking with an acquisitions editor from Lake Union, one of Amazon’s publishing imprints. She enthused over His Kidnapper’s Shoes, and we chatted, with her saying she’d like to explore ways to work with me. More phone calls and emails followed, the end result being the offer of a publishing contract for His Kidnapper’s Shoes and my latest novel, After She’s Gone. Lake Union, being a digital publisher, can offer a far more attractive deal than the traditional publishing firms, and after a lot of thought I accepted, thus becoming a hybrid author.

Since then, I’ve signed a two-book deal with Bloodhound Books, who will re-release my novels Guilty Innocence and The Second Captive later this year. At this stage I’m unsure what will happen with future books, but I suspect I may retain my hybrid status. It seems to offer the best of both worlds.

The question you wished I’d asked you.
I think I’ll go with, ‘Have you always wanted to be a novelist?’ I chose that question thanks to my delight at being able to write fulltime, as it’s the culmination of a lifelong ambition. As a child, I devoured books (nothing has changed!) and never doubted I’d become a novelist when I grew up. Instead, when I reached adulthood, I went into accountancy, where I stayed for the next twenty-eight years. The urge to write never left me, even though I did nothing about it. In my forties, I started penning some short pieces, which were well received online, but I found the idea of a novel daunting. Then I ran into issues at work, which I used as a wake-up call. I booked flights to Asia, Australia and South America and travelled for a year, with the aim of writing the first draft of a novel while away. And that’s what happened, with me finishing His Kidnapper’s Shoes while enjoying the splendours of Bolivia.

How can readers find you and learn more about your writing?
My website and blog can be found at http://www.maggiejamesfiction.com. You can find links to all my books, including my non-fiction offering, Write Your Novel! From Getting Started to First Draft. You can also download my free novella, Blackwater Lake. I blog weekly on all matters book-related, including reviews, discussion topics and author interviews. You can also sign up for my newsletter and receive free books.

Here are my social media links:
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/MJamesFiction/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mjamesfiction

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/maggie-james/64/381/727

Google+ : https://plus.google.com/101511690389687930651

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/828751.Maggie_James

Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/maggiejamesfict/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Maggie-James/e/B00BS9LVMI

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/maggie-james

 

 

Author interview: Margarita Morris

margarita-m-in-green-400Today I am thrilled to welcome Margarita Morris to my blog, not least because she sets novels in my home town, Scarborough, and (from her writing) appears to be entranced by the place as much as I am.

Margarita Morris is an indie author. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and two sons. When she’s not writing, she enjoys swimming, yoga and singing with a local chamber choir. To date she has published four novels. Oranges for Christmas is a Cold War historical thriller about a family separated by the Berlin Wall. Set in 1961, it tells the story of Sabine in East Berlin and her brother, Dieter, in West Berlin and Sabine’s attempts to escape the East German secret police. The Sleeping Angel is a Young Adult mystery/thriller set in 1870, 1970 and the present day. Set in and around Highgate Cemetery it intertwines a Victorian mystery, a vampire hunt and a murder. Scarborough Fair and its sequel, Scarborough Ball, are mystery/thrillers set in the seaside town of Scarborough, England. Scarborough Fair combines a Victorian mystery with a modern day crime story. Scarborough Ball continues the modern day story but moves the historical story on a generation to the 1920s, the age of cinema, flappers and wild parties.

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Click to order: Scarborough Ball

What are you currently working on?
This year, 2016, has seen the publication of Scarborough Fair and the completion of Scarborough Ball which is up for pre-order and will be released on 16 December 2016. It’s taken me around 20 months to write and publish both books. I’m not entirely sure what my next project will be. I have a few ideas lined up which is a good position to be in. I intend to take a little time to play around with those ideas and see what takes root.

What has inspired your most recent novel/writing?
I like books that have a strong sense of place, for example Berlin, Highgate Cemetery and Scarborough. Scarborough is the quintessential Victorian, British seaside town and as a family we’ve had many wonderful holidays there. You can stand on the beach in Scarborough and see the medieval castle on the headland, the Victorian hotels and spa buildings, the old 1920’s Art Deco cinema and the modern amusement arcades all at once. It was this sense of layers of history in one place that inspired me to set a dual-time story in Scarborough.

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Click to order: Scarborough Fair

How would you describe your writing process?
I do a lot of rewriting. It takes me a few months to hit 60,000 words, at which point the story is essentially in place. I take quite a few wrong turns along the way and quickly build up an outtakes file. Once the plot is sorted, I then add in more layers and bring the scenes to life which substantially increases the word count. My husband is my first reader and he always provides constructive feedback. After he’s read it, I do a major rewrite and another edit and polish. Then it goes to the proof readers for final checking.

What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
So far all my books have been set in places that I’ve visited. I went to Berlin (including East Berlin) in 1987 before the Berlin Wall came down so I have first-hand experience of Communist East Germany, although fortunately I wasn’t interrogated by the Stasi. I took my family to Berlin in 2013 and we visited the Berlin Wall Memorial site at Bernauer Strasse, the former Stasi headquarters and the former remand prison.

For The Sleeping Angel I booked myself on a tour of Highgate Cemetery and also spent time just wandering around the streets of Highgate and Hampstead Heath, soaking up the atmosphere. As for Scarborough, we’ve had lots of holidays there.

But most of my research comes from reading books. For Oranges for Christmas I did a lot of research into the building of the wall, life in communist countries and the methods people used to try and escape from East Berlin. Whilst writing The Sleeping Angel I learned about spiritualism, Victorian burial practices, the work of Christina Rossetti at Highgate Penitentiary and the events surrounding the so-called Highgate Vampire in 1970. Scarborough Fair saw me exploring the world of Victorian lunatic asylums and for Scarborough Ball I learned about early cinema and popular dance tunes of the period.

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Click to order: Oranges for Christmas

Maps often play an important part in my research. For Oranges for Christmas I invested in a huge fold-out map of Berlin and marked the outline of the wall in highlighter pen. Otherwise Google Maps works just fine.

If you are indie published, why did you choose this route? What are your five tips for would-be indie authors? What are the pros & cons to indie publishing?
I chose indie publishing because I was frustrated with the slow process of submitting to agents and then not hearing from them for ages. I actually wrote The Sleeping Angel before Oranges for Christmas and a couple of agents were interested in it, but it got no further. So I put it in a drawer and moved on to Oranges for Christmas. It was whilst writing Oranges for Christmas that I started to hear about indie publishing and by the time I had finished the novel, I decided I wouldn’t bother submitting it to agents. I’d lost faith in them and was keen to try this new route.

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to indie publishing, but that’s something I enjoy.

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Click to order: The Sleeping Angel

The pros and cons of indie publishing are two sides of the same coin. Yes, you have to do a lot of work yourself, but on the other hand it puts you firmly in control of your own creative process. Here are five key tips:

  • Make the effort to learn about the industry. There are some excellent resources out there. One of the best is The Creative Penn website and podcast by Joanna Penn. Another excellent podcast is The Self Publishing Formula with Mark Dawson and James Blatch. I listen to podcasts whilst I’m doing the ironing or cooking.
  • Make sure your work is edited and proof read. You don’t want to look like an amateur.
  • Get a professional cover. I tried designing my own first covers for Oranges for Christmas and The Sleeping Angel. They weren’t terrible (I hope) but they certainly weren’t brilliant. Since then I’ve had all my covers professionally designed and I love them.
  • Connect with other indie authors through your website (WordPress is recommended) and social media.
  • Be prepared to pay for marketing and advertising. You can get a big sales boost if you advertise a sale on a site like Bookbub or EReaderNewsToday. Unfortunately Bookbub is very difficult to get on, but I keep trying.

How can readers find you and learn more about your writing?

My author website is margaritamorris.com. Here you can find out about all my books and read my blog.

I also run the good writer where I blog about grammar tips, self publishing and creative writing.

You can find me on social media:

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Goodreads

Instagram

 

Book links:

Oranges for Christmas

The Sleeping Angel

Scarborough Fair

Scarborough Ball

 

 

7 things you need to know about proofreading

Today I welcome fellow author, David Powning, who is also an experienced copy-editor & proofreader, to guide us through what we need to know as writers about proofreading. Learn more at: www.inkwrapped.com and find out more about his novel The Ground Will Catch You go to: https://goo.gl/wtkdod (10% of the proceeds goes towards the struggle against breast cancer).

David1. Copy-editing and proofreading are not the same thing.
This foxes a lot of people, and understandably so, mainly because there is a certain overlap between the two disciplines. The aim of a copy-edit is to not only find errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation, but also to address issues around style, usage, consistency and repetition, among other things. In other words, it involves editing the text. 

A proofread, on the other hand, is the final read-through before publication. Its purpose is to look for errors and inconsistencies in spelling, grammar and punctuation that were missed by the copy-editor or have subsequently crept in when the author made amendments to the text. Your proofreader will also check layout, page numbering, chapter headings etc.  

The important thing to remember is that a proofread is the last read of the text to make sure everything is as ‘clean’ as possible. It is not an edit. 

2. It isn’t particularly cheap. And if it is, you should be hearing alarm bells.
The bad news is you will have to shell out a bit for a copy-edit, and for good reason: when done properly, it’s time-consuming. The copy-editor has to get inside your text, hunting out mistakes and discrepancies, and that includes keeping tabs on people’s details (the colour of their hair or eyes, for example) or what car they drive (if it’s a green Ford Fiesta on page 24, it can’t be a grey Ford Fiesta on page 238), as well as the timeline to make sure events are happening in the logical order. There’s a lot involved, and, as with everything in life, you get what you pay for. 
 

The good news, however, is that a proofread is cheaper. 

3. You can’t proofread your own work.
I know, it would be lovely if we were all able to proofread what we’ve written – and of course I’m not suggesting that you don’t continuously check your work – but it’s a fact that even the best writers have to hand over their efforts to a professional. The problem with proofing your own work is that you know what you’ve written, so, like it or not, there will be times when your brain fills in the words simply because it ‘knows’ what’s coming. And that’s where mistakes occur. You need a neutral person to look at it, because they don’t know what’s around the corner so to them everything will be fresh.

Also, logic dictates that if there are some words you always mis-spell or grammatical constructions you get wrong, how would you know the difference? You can’t spot what you don’t know. 

4. A good copy-editor/proofreader will respect the author’s wishes.
Sometimes as a copy-editor you come across stylistic curiosities that aren’t what you would call, erm, ‘traditional’. Grammatically wrong, even. If it’s a one-off, nine times out of ten you would automatically just correct it. However, if it’s something that crops up repeatedly, then you have to bring it to the author’s attention. And if they say it’s deliberate, then you have to respect that, even if it makes your red pen quiver every time you see it happen. It’s a delicate balancing act. Readers may well go, ‘Ah-ha, I’ve spotted a mistake there, and there, and there…’ but if your client is happy and views it merely as their own stylistic quirk, you must take that on board. It may go against a copy-editor’s natural instinct, but as with a magazine’s house style, sometimes there will be things you disagree with.

5. Proofreading is important.
I’ve often heard it said that readers are not fussy these days about coming across typos when reading a novel, but, you’ll be shocked to hear, I don’t think it’s acceptable. Of course, even with the best will in the world, the occasional error may slip through the net – and that’s true of all books – but to me anything more than that is the thin end of the wedge. If you start to think, ‘Oh, I’m not too bothered about a few spelling mistakes in my novel’, then what’s to stop you being bothered about half a dozen in the next one, and ten in the one cover-jan2016-dpowningafter that? 

Self-publishing has really taken off in the past few years, and I think indie authors have a duty to keep their standards as high as possible so that the public can buy with confidence, as when purchasing a novel from an established publisher/author. Is it okay for a CD to jump half a dozen times? Wouldn’t you return it if it did? Well, the same goes for books. Typos and grammatical errors stop the flow of words and momentarily take the reader out of the imagined world you have created, thereby undermining all your hard work. What’s okay about that?

6. Track Changes is a wonderful thing.
For those not in the know, Track Changes is a function in Microsoft Word that records each amendment a person (i.e. your copy-editor/proofreader) makes in the document. This means that when your novel is returned to you, you simply go through each change and either ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ it. I mention this only because chances are you’ll be sending your work to a copy-editor as a Word file, and I’d be very surprised if they didn’t use Track Changes. It’s simple to use and gives you complete control over the final product. Brilliant.

7. Proofreading is very satisfying.
I love copy-editing and proofreading, whether that’s for magazines or books. To me it’s a challenge to find things that aren’t quite right, and not because I want to feel clever. Every writer makes errors (my novel went through the wringer quite a few times until I was happy), so when you discover something amiss you know you are doing your bit to improve the work, and that’s a good feeling.  

Ultimately, when you’re working for an author, it’s a partnership. You’re both striving towards the same thing – high standards – and to help someone achieve that, after all the hours they’ve put in creating a story, really is very gratifying.

‘Made-up truth’ by Jane Davis

JD compressedThe main protagonist in Jane Davis’s latest release is Lucy Forrester, a political poet and activist. Anti-establishment all her life, she is horrified to find herself nominated for a New Year’s Honours. Her inclination is to turn it down. But what if it’s an opportunity…

Jane’s author biography says that her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’. In fact, she has admitted to me that she makes up very little. When she writes a character, she wants you to believe that they existed, and that means parachuting them in a particular landscape at a particular point in time, often with real-life characters. “If it doesn’t feel authentic, then I’ve failed.” Research, then, is the key. And while Jane’s fiction may not fall under strict definitions of historical fiction, she has made the recent past her speciality.

One of the key decisions she needed to make when writing about her poet-activist was the cause she would claim as her own. In fact, the answer became obvious. Born in the 1940s, Lucy Forrester’s only early memories were of war. Fear of the Nuclear Bomb was a hangover from childhood. Talk of a third world war – the war to end all wars – permeated her adolescence. Bring her governess Pamela into the equation, a young woman who was prepared to take a stand, and, of course, Lucy was interested. Watching footage of Rod Stewart taking part in the first of the CND rallies and marches from Trafalgar Square to Aldermaston brought it all together. She had no trouble imagining Lucy Forrester there, at the centre of it all.

“It is 1958,” Jane explains. “Six years after American scientists finished gathering data on radiation sickness at the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in Hiroshima. It is supposedly a time of peace, but thoughts have once again turned to war. Imagine being eighteen years old, shipped to Christmas Island on National Service. It is the furthest you have ever strayed from home. Your job? To stand on a white sandy beach and observe as scientists detonate nuclear bombs over the Central Pacific. No protective clothing is issued. At the signal, you must turn away and cover your eyes with your hands. When the flash goes off, you see your veins, your skin tissue, your bones, and through it all, diamond white, a second sun.

Around 22,000 servicemen performed similar roles. Some suffered radiation sickness immediately, and some died. For others, symptoms followed patterns seen in Hiroshima. TheyJDV-MCS2016-Clays-02 lost their appetites and ran high fevers. Their hair fell out in clumps. Others still appeared to be well for decades before developing cancers and other rare diseases. It was only over time that dots were joined, convincing some veterans that their illnesses and disabilities were caused by nuclear radiation. Up until 1999, the veterans had repeatedly run into brick walls in the bid to have their claims recognised. Largely ignored, dwindling in numbers, the veterans referred to themselves as ‘ghosts’.

Then researcher Sue Rabbitt Roff of the University of Dundee tracked down 2,500 veterans and their families, finding unusually high rates of infertility and birth defects. This was the trigger. The columnist Richard Stott (1943 – 2007) of the Sunday Mirror launched his Justice for Nuke Vets campaign. I was 32 in 1999, not a distracted teenager. But if I saw the reports, I’m ashamed to admit I have no recollection of them. And I wasn’t the only one. Others with far more direct links to Christmas Island had also missed the reports. Of the relatively small group of beta readers I use for initial feedback on my early drafts, three confided that fathers or grandfathers had been on Christmas Island. None of the men liked to speak about the experience. It was over and done with. It seems unlikely, then, that they would have mentioned it to doctors. All died prematurely, all of cancer. Up until the time my beta readers had read my book, no one had made any connections. Now the explanation seemed obvious. In 2014, researching my novel, it became clear that the Atomic Veteran’s cause was one Lucy Forrester would have thrown herself behind.

The Ministry of Defence continued to insist on more proof. It wasn’t until 2007 that two scientific studies demonstrated clear links. What’s more, they also estimated that genetic birth defects would last for 20 generations – in other words, 500 years.

The remaining 700 New Zealand and UK veterans launched a class action against the British government claiming damages of NZ $36 million. But the MoD countered with a statute of limitations defence. It had happened 50 years ago. Following a parliamentary inquiry in early 2008, the government agreed to fund new studies into veterans’ health, and to pay interim compensation of £4,000 each.

By the time I completed my research, £25million (£5million a year over five years) had been set aside for an Aged Veterans’ Fund. But this wasn’t just for the Atomic Veterans. There are approximately two million qualifying veterans. In addition to applications from individuals, the British Nuclear Veterans’ Association (BNTVA), the premier charity representing those who have worked alongside radioactive material for the benefit of the nation, can apply for funding for projects such as respite care or counselling. Whilst such services may benefit the families of the Atomic Veterans, once the remaining veterans die, funding will cease. Without an admission of negligence from the MoD, there will be no help for the next 20 generations.

Many Atomic Veterans are proud to have served their country. However, given that the risks of exposure to radiation were either known or reasonably foreseeable, they had every right to expect to be taken care of if things went wrong. They couldn’t have imagined that the British government would introduce a higher burden of proof than other governments, so that their American counterparts received compensation while they were denied. It shouldn’t be left to the Prime Minister of Fiji to step in and award each surviving veteran three thousand pounds, saying, ‘Fiji is not prepared to wait for Britain to do the right thing.’ With Trident back in the headlines, I hope this issue will surface once more.”

You can find out more about the Atomic Veterans or make a donation here.

Jane Davis s the author of seven novels. Her debut, Half-truths and White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award, and The Bookseller featured her in their ‘One to Watch’ section. Six further novels have earned her a loyal fan base and wide-spread praise. Her 2016 novel, An Unknown Woman, won Writing Magazine’s Self-Published Book of the Year Award. Compulsion Reads describe her as ‘a phenomenal writer whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless.’ Her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’.

JD Red compressedWhen Jane is not writing, you may spot her disappearing up the side of a mountain with a camera in hand.

You can also find Jane Davis on Facebook, on Twitter, on Google Plus, on Pinterest, and on Goodreads, as well as on her Amazon author page.

Anyone who signs up to Jane’s newsletter receives a free copy of her novel, I Stopped Time. Jane promises not to bombard subscribers with junk. She only issues a newsletter when she has something genuinely newsworthy to report.

 My Counterfeit Self was published October 1, 2016, and available in paperback and eBook formats.

 

 

And the adventure continues

pccloudThis Autumn I will be indie publishing my third novel, The Art of Breathing, as well as re-launching The Art of the Imperfect and The Art of Survival with new covers. The three form the beginning of a crime series set in Scarborough which (among other things) explores themes around mental wellbeing and surviving childhood trauma.

To be honest, this is not my favourite part of the process. The manuscript being sent off to the proofreader, I am in the middle of: formatting for createspace, kindle and a local print run; liaising with cover designer and printer; ‘organising’ (begging for) reviews, guest blog posts and events; and re-vamping my website. I’m not saying none of it is fun or enthralling, but a lot of it is a bit of a grind, especially the marketing side. Having now indie published two novels, I know effort does not equal outcome when it comes to promotion. There is a whole lot of luck and who you know involved. I am trying to be more targeted and canny about it this time around, even so it is tough to remain motivated.

I read recently an article about mental resilience. This suggested that people with a good balance of optimism and realism are more likely to be mentally resilient. It also said that mentally resilient people do not feel an entitlement. On the other hand, it seems to me that there is a strong societal script out there which goes something like: ‘If you try hard enough, you can achieve anything.’ It appears to me, this narrative is undermining of what are apparently factors in building mental resilience. In reality, the vast majority of us will be ‘also ran’s and, even if we work hard and throw our whole heart into a project, this does not entitle us to any particular result.

I have begun to volunteer a couple of hours a week at my local library and I was also asked by a friend to vote for her book on The Guardian’s ‘not the booker list’. Well done to Anna Chilvers Tainted Love for getting on there and look out for an interview with her on this blog on the 22nd of August. What I have come to realise (even more than I did before) is that there are an awful lot of books out there, a lot published by traditional publishers and a lot I haven’t heard of, despite being an avid reader. It is, perhaps, hardly surprising that my books have hardly made an impression.

Why should I want sales? It’s not about the selling/money as such, it is about reaching readers. And I love to talk about my writing with those who have read it… so if you have, please feel free to get in touch. The stories told in my three novels are very important to me, yes I want them ‘heard’ but I also hope they may help others have a greater understanding and/or feel more signposts‘normal’.

I have written three books I am proud of and by the October they will all have gorgeous covers. Celebrate that with me, but please don’t ever ask my about my sales.

How do you keep motivated? What is it about writing which makes it important for you to keep going?

Author interview: Zach Chopchinski

On the second day of our 2K international indie book blog tour 2016 (hosted by Kate M Colby http://katemcolby.com & me, Kate Evans). I am delighted to welcome our first indie author for interview, Zach Chopchinski.

LLP_5958Zachary is 27 and lives in Florida with his lovely wife, Layla. The two of them share a home with their four fur-children. Zachary has degrees in Criminal Justice and Criminology. He had two short stories and a poem published by Ohio State University. Zachary has always had two passions in his life, criminal justice and writing. After spending nearly 5 years working in security, Zachary decided it was time to give his other passion a chance. Zachary is very much a family man and when he is not deep in writing, he can be found spending time with his family, playing video games or contemplating his next story idea.

He introduces his novel, The Curious Tale of Gabrielle, a novel for young adults:

A young Gabrielle is driven by her will to explore and see new things. She cannot stop or rest until all within her reach has been experienced and explored. Driven by an astounding will and lack of common fear, she finds herself able to face things most adults might fall before. Yet has there been a journey that has been meant specifically for her all along? Is there a path that has been created just for her to travel?
Follow Gabrielle as she ventures through the lives of many with the experience of only her own. What will happen as she discovers the lives—and tragedies—of the souls who choose her to see their story? It’s a journey through history, life, and love unlike anything that could be imagined—except perhaps by a young girl.

Prequels/Sequels: This is the re-launch of the The Curious Tale of Gabrielle. The second book (yet to be named) is scheduled to come out this summer. In this second edition, I not only added several new scenes, but I also added a new supporting character, Morrigan. When Gabrielle first sees Morrigan, she feels an instant connection to him, like he can see who she really is. Could this guy really be going through the same adventure she is?

What was the inspiration behind your book?
One day, I was checking out an old antique shop near where I worked in Portland, Maine, when I came across a really cool silver bracelet. The shop owner told me that the bracelet was 500 years old and I remember thinking to myself WOW, imagine if this was a human, what stories it would tell!

Who is your favorite character?
I would have to say that my favorite character is Morrigan. Without giving too much away and avoiding spoilers, this is going to be one of the most complex characters that I have ever written, because of this I appreciate this character as a personal accomplishment. Morrigan is really avante-guarde, not really scared of anything and has a very strong internal conflict that makes decisions that much more difficult. I admire his strength, physically and mentally to overcome all that is in store for him in the series.

What is one thing you want readers to know or “get” about your book?
One thing I want people to understand is that there are a lot of hidden “easter eggs” throughout the novel—and the series. Pay attention to many of the items that Gabrielle sees while in the antique shop as well as names and characteristics of people that she meets while in English ruled Scotland.

Who is your ideal reader? Or, who will enjoy your book?
I have always wanted to create a book that anyone can pick up and enjoy. I think that the concepts are young enough for teens to enjoy but also I feel that any age, as long as you enjoyGabrielle_Final_525x8_BW_290_Front_PROOF young adult fiction, will enjoy the story that Gabrielle has to tell.

What three writing tips do you have for aspiring authors?

  1. Always write, even when you don’t want to.
  2. Never just write something because someone else thought it was a good idea. Write what YOU want, not what others want you to write.
  3. Be proud of what you have written. Even if you get a lot of negativity, be proud that you created something and always stand by your work.

Where can readers buy your book? Please provide links to all sales pages and Goodreads, if applicable.
The first edition of the book can be found on the following sites. However, the second (expanded) edition will be available on March 25.
Amazon: http://goo.gl/0ZslRC
From Me (cheaper rates): http://zachchop.com/mywork/
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/524345

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Zachary_Paul_Chopchinski_The_Curious_Tale_of_Gabri?id=k4XjBgAAQBAJ&hl=en

Where can readers learn more about you? Please provide links to your website and social media profiles.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Zachary-Paul-Chopchinski-772308849490741/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Website: http://zachchop.com

Tumblr: http://an-author-and-his-books.tumblr.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZachChop

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9853623.Zachary_Paul_Chopchinski