Archive for category Books

Reading: Solitary or Social?

Reading is a solitary pastime. We sit alone, in silence, our mind in another world and ‘do not disturb’ exuding from our concentrated expression. Reading is a hobby not easily shared with others.

Wrong!

Reading is becoming an increasingly sociable activity. Books connect people, both online, in the virtual world and in real, face-to-face society. Don’t miss out by reading in a bubble, try some of the following:

  • Join a traditional book group. Most groups read one book a month and meet to discuss their opinions (depending on the group there may be coffee, wine or cake …) I’ve mentioned before that I run a book group at my local library and the library or bookshop is a good place to start if you’re looking for a group. Alternatively, start your own. A friend of mine formed a group with her neighbours and they take it in turns to host the meeting.
  • Join a Shared Reading group. I’ve written before about these groups connected to The Reader charity. There is no ‘homework’ reading. It is all aloud during the (usually weekly) meeting.

    Book Fest Sutton Coldfield Library

    Bookfest Sutton Coldfield Library

  • A couple of weeks ago I was a volunteer at Bookfest in my local library. It was a festival of children’s books with lots of author events and activities. I was one of three people on the front desk answering questions and directing people to events. It was fun to be with like-minded book lovers making an event happen that would be too expensive to stage without volunteers.
  • Search out a Facebook group that discusses books. A few to get you going:
    Imogen Clark’s Book Café – Imogen is a best-selling author
    The Book Club – a large and busy group with occasional ‘real-life’ meet ups
    Romantic Fiction Book Club – run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association
    If you can recommend any others, please add them in the comments at the bottom of this post.
  • Review your favourite books online. This could be on Amazon, Good Reads or NetGalley (where you can request advance e-book copies of new novels to review). Or start your own book blog and get social in the virtual world, interacting with readers and writers.
  • Start a book exchange at work, church or wherever groups of people meet. See if you can encourage non-readers to try a novel. What greater gift can you give someone than the love of books?

Reading and the love of books can be as solitary or as social as you choose. Whichever way you do it – happy reading!

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Writing a Novella: My Experience by Cath Barton

It’s a privilege to introduce you to Cath Barton, a prize-winning writer of novellas. Cath has agreed to share her experience of novella writing and I hope it will encourage anyone looking for a publisher for a novella length work. Over to Cath:

Cath Barton

Credit: Toril Brancher

I never wanted to write a novel. As a writer I found pleasure – and some small success – in writing short stories and flash fiction. I would have happily carried on along this path, but at the first meeting of a local writing group in 2015 one of my fellow writers unexpectedly threw down this challenge – Who’s going to write a novella this year? I saw my hand going up! The truth is I relish a challenge, and a target too, so I looked for a novella competition and aimed for that.

My starting point for my novella The Plankton Collector was a flash I had written as an exercise about a boy whose brother had died. The boy was at his bedroom window, watching his mother visiting the brother’s grave in the churchyard just below their garden. That gave me the centre of my story – a family’s grief – and a location – a house in the middle of England. To that I added the mysterious character of the Plankton Collector, who visits each member of the family in different guises and helps them. I saw a clip on TV about the Victorians collecting plankton, those tiny shells which have housed the creatures who are the base of all life. Quite how my story evolved I can’t tell you –  not because I don’t want to but because it’s as mysterious to me as the Plankton Collector himself!

When I’d completed the story I sent it off to the competition – and got nowhere. I looked around for other opportunities and found very few. Disheartened, I put the story aside. Nearly two years later I heard about another novella prize. It was in Wales, where I live, so, without any great optimism, I decided to give it a try. To my great surprise and delight I won! The prize was an advance on publication, which was wonderful. But the best thing about that win was the affirmation and the impetus it gave me to continue writing.The Plankton Collector

I had experimented before I won that competition with writing a novella-in-flash – a collection of short pieces which can all stand alone but together form a whole. I didn’t really know how to do that and, unsurprisingly, my effort didn’t get anywhere. But when I saw another publisher looking for novellas last year I sent her the first few thousand words. She was keen to see more and that has led to me completing and signing a contract for publication of my novella In the Sweep of the Bay.

Will there be a third novella? Possibly. And now I have given myself a new challenge, yes, you’ve guessed it – to write a novel!

 

Cath Barton is an English writer who lives in Wales. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella 2017 for The Plankton Collector, which is published by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint.

Her second novella, In the Sweep of the Bay, will be published by Louise Walters Books in September 2020.

Read more about Cath’s writing on her website here and follow her on Twitter @CathBarton1

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Diary of a Lollipop Lady by Hazel Wheeler

I rarely read memoir or autobiography but the title ‘Diary of a Lollipop Lady‘ jumped out from the library shelf. The subtitle is, ‘Memories of a Crossing Patrol in the 1960s’ and it is exactly what it says on the tin.Diary of a Lollipop Lady by Hazel Wheeler

Hazel Wheeler spent 1966 as a lollipop lady in Yorkshire. She has two young daughters, her husband is working all hours and the debt collectors are after them. Back then it was unusual for mothers to do paid work but being a lollipop lady fits with school hours and the family needs the money. Hazel kept a diary during her twelve months in the job, noting down stories about her regular ‘customers’, the extremes of weather and the interesting things she witnesses.

What I liked most about this book were the odd comments Hazel dropped in about her ambitions to write for a living. Like many of us, she was an avid writer of letters to magazines. She records how she went into Smiths to leaf through the latest issues and see if anything of hers had been published. When it was, she celebrated the one guinea payment or the tea caddy from Peoples’ Friend (I think that prize is still going!). Her children are encouraged to enter writing competitions – with success. The book ends on a positive note, with an acceptance for Hazel from the BBC in January 1967 for a feature to be used on the ‘Home this Afternoon’ programme. Her fee is 10 guineas – more than three times what she earns in a week on the crossing.

After finishing the book I Googled ‘Hazel Wheeler’ and was sad to discover she’d died in 2009, not long after the book came out. Her obituary charts her diary-keeping and her publication history. Other volumes of her diaries provided material for ‘Living on Tick‘ and ‘Huddersfield at War‘.

I’m sure Hazel would be pleased to know that her books are still being read after her death – something for us all to aim for.

 

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The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

When I was young one of my ambitions was to own a secondhand bookshop. It was an ambition that was never fulfilled but I do still love to wander around shelves full of pre-loved books.

Shaun Bythell owns Scotland’s biggest secondhand bookshop and for a year he kept a diary of life in that shop. The diary was published in book form, The Diary of a Bookseller, a couple of years ago and it makes interesting reading for anyone who’s ever wondered what goes on behind the mountains of paperbacks and collectables.The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

There are comments on the customers (especially those who spend hours reading by the bookshop fire and then don’t buy anything), the staff (who have a tendency to the eccentric), the people who are selling their lifelong book collections and the way online ordering works in the secondhand industry. Sunny summer days are busy but in winter the takings are meagre.

Two particularly interesting points from the book are worth highlighting. Why not join the shop’s Random Book Club? For £59 a year you will be sent a surprise book every month. Might make a great present for someone who loves to try different genres?

And, if like me, you’ve ever wanted to run your own secondhand bookshop, here is the holiday for you:

Stay in the apartment above another secondhand bookshop, The Open Book, and you get to manage the bookshop (with help from volunteers) during your stay. But you need to plan ahead – the holiday is very popular and booked a couple of years into the future. Get on the waiting list via the Open Book Facebook page or book the apartment via AirBnb.

 

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Book Giveaway – Retriever of Souls by Lorraine Mace

Today I have the fabulous Lorraine Mace in conversation and she is offering you the chance to win an audio or e-book version of Retriever of Souls, the first in her dark and gritty DI Sterling series. But first, let’s learn a bit more about Lorraine and her work.Lorraine Mace

Lorraine, you have many strings to your writer’s bow. Please can you tell us what they all are?
How much time do you have? It might take me a while to list them.
• I am the humour columnist for Writing Magazine, penning the Notes from the Margin page, a compilation of which has since been published as a book.
• I am the head judge for Writers’ Forum monthly fiction competitions and also write two columns for the magazine – the Competition Round-up and the Writers’ Workshop.
• I provide the critiques for entrants to the Writers’ Forum short story competition.
• I am a tutor for Writers Bureau – fiction, non-fiction and writing for children.
• I run my own private critique and author mentoring service with clients around the world.
• I run the Flash 500 website featuring competitions for flash fiction, short stories and novels.
• I am a children’s novelist and also write non-fiction books.
• Last, but by no means least, I am the author of the D.I. Sterling crime series: Retriever of Souls, Children in Chains and Injections of Insanity.

How do you fit all of this into your daily life?
With great difficulty! Serious answer is I have to be disciplined and organised. I schedule my time out into morning and afternoon slots at the beginning of each month to make sure I cover all the things I have to do. As with most authors, my novel writing has to fit in around my many day jobs.Retriever of Souls

Which is your favourite out of all these writing activities?
Writing the crime series. I get to inhabit the heads of some really evil people and so work off all the frustrations life might throw at me. I think I’m probably only sane because my antagonists are psychopaths!

How did you earn a living before becoming a full-time writer? When did you become a full-time writer?
This is another of those how much time do you have questions. I have owned my own businesses, sold cosmetics, worked in the insurance industry, part owned a restaurant, part owned a corner shop, did the books for a stud farm, waitressed, worked as a telephonist, worked in a pharmacy, spent a year as a barmaid, was the sole sales force for a lock company, and, finally, became a writer. I started writing as a hobby and then discovered I had a knack for it. I’ve been writing as a professional since 2002.

Tell us a little about D.I. Paolo Sterling, the lead character in your detective series?
Paolo is a troubled man (aren’t they all?) in that he is dealing with some horrendous crimes by seriously disturbed people. He has an on again off again relationship with his ex-wife and a fabulous relationship with his daughter, Katy. His eldest daughter was killed in a hit and run that was meant for him and he is still living with the guilt of that. He has a good sense of humour, integrity, tenacity, and a burning sense of wanting to do what is right.

What are your writing plans for the future?
I am busy writing the sixth in my series. Book four, Rage and Retribution, will be out in February 2020 and number five, Petals of Pain, has been accepted for publication, so I need to get book six finished so that I can move on to the standalone psychological thriller that is playing on a constant loop demanding to be written.

Spare time must be rare. How do you fill it?
Sleeping! No, that’s not really true. I read as much as I can and run 5 km five times a week. Also, my partner and I try to spend a long weekend in one of Spain’s many gorgeous towns and villages as often as we can. I leave the laptop behind and try to ignore the guilty voice in my head telling me I should be working.

Do you have an all-time favourite book or author?
I have many, but Harlan Coben, Terry Pratchett and Georgette Heyer are three that I will read over and over for the sheer pleasure of entering the worlds they have created.

About Lorraine
Born and raised in South East London, Lorraine lived and worked in South Africa, on the Island of Gozo and in France before settling on the Costa del Sol in Spain. She lives with her partner in a traditional Spanish village inland from the coast and enjoys sampling the regional dishes and ever-changing tapas in the local bars. Her knowledge of Spanish is expanding. To stop her waistline from doing the same, she runs five times a week.

Find her at:
Website: www.lorrainemace.com
Blog: http://thewritersabcchecklist.blogspot.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lomace
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lorraine.mace.52

THE COMPETITION!

To be in with a chance of winning your choice of either an audio or e-book version of Retriever of Souls, simply send an email to lorraine@lorrainemace.com with the subject header: Retriever of Souls. The competition will close at midnight BST on Wednesday 9th October. Lorraine will pull a name out of the hat, contact the winner directly and also leave a comment on this post announcing the winner’s name.
Good Luck!

 

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Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners

I’ve been beavering away on a couple of projects recently and am pleased to announce that one is now complete. Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners is now available on Amazon Kindle and paperback. It brings together everything I’ve learnt about addressing an audience over the last five years. Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners

Who should buy this book?

  • Anyone who has to speak in meetings (work or otherwise), on a committee or any other group scenario such as a book club or writing group.
  • Anyone who’s been asked to speak at a wedding, funeral, family party or similar occasion.
  • Anyone with something to promote. That something could be a business, a favourite charity, a political or community campaign, a sports team in need of a sponsor, a club appealing for new members or anything that needs someone to pitch for publicity.
  • Anyone who’d like to be paid for talking about their passion. (I receive a small fee when talking about writing to community groups).
  • Anyone not included in the above. Remember those times you’ve felt awkward introducing yourself at a writers’ workshop, ‘selling’ yourself at an interview or making a complaint in a shop? There are times when we all lack confidence but being able to organise our thoughts and speak calmly makes these situations much easier.

As the title suggests, Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners is aimed at those with no or very little experience of addressing an audience – that was the starting point for my journey in public speaking when I joined Sutton Coldfield Speakers Club in September 2013. The club is part of the Association of Speakers Clubs (ASC) and in 2018 I represented the Midlands in the national final of the ASC Speech Competition. Back in 2013 I had no desire at all to enter a speech competition and never expected to find myself, a few years later, speaking in a competitive situation on a stage in a packed hall at the ASC Annual Conference. It’s amazing what we can achieve with a bit of encouragement, self-belief and hard work!

But far more important than the competition, several people have commented on how much more confident I’ve become in everyday life since learning to speak in public – and I think that is the real benefit to me from the last few years. I wrote Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners to minimise the fear that we all feel when asked ‘to say a few words’.

I hope it will help you grow in confidence too.

Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners is available on Kindle and in paperback.

 

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Why Book Tokens Make Great Presents

Which would you prefer to unwrap on Christmas Day, an Amazon gift card or a Book Token?

I’d go for the Book Token every time, for several reasons:

  • A Book Token means that I have to indulge and buy a book. On Amazon there’s a danger of being ‘good’ and buying something boring that you need, like an iron or a set of saucepans.
  • A Book Token promises me an outing to a real bookshop where I can enjoy the smell of new books. I can pick them up and read the blurb. I can sit in an armchair and try out the first few pages. And if I’m in one of the bigger stores, I can enjoy a coffee before deciding on my final book selection. ‘Looking inside’ just isn’t the same.
  • Buying online means clicking straight through to the bestseller everyone is talking about or automatically buying the new release of an author I know I enjoy. A Book Token offers the luxury of browsing. Other authors, new to me, will be sitting alongside the familiar – and maybe I might be tempted to step out of my comfort zone and try something new.
  • Book Tokens create business for bookshops. Do we really want a future where all our book buying has to be done online?

National Book Tokens began in 1932 when publisher Harold Raymond noticed that very few books were given as Christmas gifts because people were afraid of buying the wrong book. In 1982 the Queen attended National Book Tokens’ 50th birthday party and in 2010 National Book Tokens changed to a gift card format.

National Book tokens are not dinosaurs. They do have an online presence and they can be spent (on books not irons!) online in selected book chains. Have a look at Caboodle from National Book Tokens for offers, events, competitions and to buy tokens online (you can even design your own).

Which would you prefer to unwrap on Christmas Day, an Amazon gift card or a Book Token? Which will you be giving to family and friends?

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Why Write Historical Fiction?

Christine Hancock is my publishing ‘twin’. Her book, Bright Sword, was published by The Book Guild on the same day as The Promise: January 28th 2018. We write in different genres and have followed each other’s journey over the past six and half months. Christine has kindly agreed to guest on my blog today and explain something about historical fiction and why it’s got something for all writers and readers.

Why Write Historical Fiction?
When I started to write it seemed like the obvious thing to do. All my life I have read historical fiction. I don’t know why. To escape? To learn about the past? Perhaps I just thought the stories were better. I have enjoyed other genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Romance (when I was young.) Horses (when I was very young), but I always returned to Historical Fiction.Bright Sword by Christine Hancock
So, what actually is Historical Fiction? The Historical Novel Society defines it as:
To be deemed historical (in our sense), a novel must have been written at least fifty years after the events described, or have been written by someone who was not alive at the time of those events (who therefore approaches them only by research).
For example, if you want to write a book set in the 1960s, it is historical if you were born after that period, or if you were alive at the time, living in rural England but are writing about life in the USA. If you want to write what happened to you, if you remember it, it is something else.
After that, anything is allowed, any period and any place. It can be of any genre: romance, detective, adventure, biographical. Psychological thriller? It also includes sub genres such as time slip, alternate history and fantasy.
Some people aren’t interested in the past. They say only the future is important. But if we recognise that what happens today has happened before – in one form or another, we can learn how to deal with it, or live through it. I suppose that applies more to straight history books, but why not learn and enjoy the experience at the same time?
There is so much in the news to worry us nowadays, people want to escape. This is where historical fiction comes in.
Why concern yourself with the details of Brexit, when you can stand beside King Harold and his warriors at Hastings, defending your country against the Normans? Probably not the best example!
Worried about Trump? Imagine trying to survive in the court of Henry VIII or in Rome under Emperor Nero.
Weather too hot? Acclimatise yourself beside the Nile in Ancient Egypt or cool down at a 17th century Frost Fair.
Fed up with queues to see a doctor? Discover the problems of avoiding the Black Death, or any illness or accident, at almost any time before our own.
If you just want good read, why chose historical fiction?
The basic plot of a romance is boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl. How interesting it can be when the clothing are tight breeches and a beautiful silk gown and when the hero must fight for his lady’s honour with a sword. There is so much space for misunderstanding when your character has to wait for the post instead of texting from his iphone.
People say to me “But don’t you have to do a lot of research?” Yes, but it depends on what you are writing. If it is a novel about the life of someone famous, Ann Boleyn, to take an overused example, you need to know every single fact – get it wrong and someone will notice and tell you!
Christine HancockI’m sure writers of modern fiction have to do a lot of research: What car does my character drive? What clothes does she wear? What is the “in” drink to order? Then in a few years it is all out of date.
I write about the Anglo-Saxons in the mid tenth century. No need to work out which make of car they drove (a horse or they walked) what clothes they wore (tunic, long for women, shorter for men and cloak in cold weather) or which brand of ale or mead they drank. So long as I have the right king on the throne and avoid killing off a real-life character before their time, it’s fine.
Oh, and don’t have them eating roast potatoes with their dinner!
Never tried historical fiction? What do you enjoy reading? There’s sure to be something similar set in the past. You may never return to the present day.

Thank you, Christine. You’ve tempted me to give history a chance!
Christine Hancock lives in Rugby, Warwickshire and is a long term family historian and leader of her local history group. Byrhtnoth, the main protagonist in Bright Sword, is based on a real warrior who died in the 991 Battle of Maldon, made famous by the Anglo-Saxon poem of that name.
Bright Sword is available in bookshops and from all the main online retailers, including Amazon.
Read Christine’s blog or follow her on Twitter.

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Titles and Trademarks

There is no copyright in titles. A quick search on Amazon has shown me that there are at least ten novels with the same title as mine; The Promise.

However, difficulties can arise if the words in your title have been trademarked by someone else. I came across two incidents of this recently.

Firstly, I met someone to whom this had happened. The author’s publisher was contacted by the lawyer of a company who had trademarked a phrase very similar to, but not exactly the same as, the title of this writer’s book. The company used this trademark to identify a series of books rather than a single book. The company’s lawyer threatened legal action if the title of my acquaintance’s book wasn’t changed. This meant my author acquaintance and their publisher had to decide whether to get into a legal battle, which could be costly, or whether to change the title of the book, stand the cost of destroying the existing copies and reprinting.

Secondly, I came across an article about a romantic novelist who has trademarked the word ‘cocky’ for use in book titles. Faleena Hopkins has self-published a series of romance novels featuring the Cocker brothers and each has the word ‘cocky’ in the title. Following her trademarking, Faleena has asked several other romantic novelists to remove the word ‘cocky’ from their book titles. This hasn’t gone down well and a petition has been started to ask the US Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the ‘cocky’ trademark. See the full Guardian article for more details.

I am not a lawyer and if you have any specific questions or concerns in this area you should seek professional advice from a qualified person or a reputable organisation such as the Society of Authors. However, from some internet research, it seems to that:

  • Individual book titles cannot be trademarked but the name relating to a whole series of books can e.g. Chicken Soup for the Soul
  • Trademarks are generally registered at a national level but there are mechanisms to register them in multiple countries.
  • Trademarks are generally registered to apply only to a certain range of products or services such as chemicals, vehicles, printed matter etc.

More information can be found at:

The UK Copyright Service

Secure Your Trademark

Trademarks (gov.uk)

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Everybody Works In Sales

When I was offered an ARC of Everybody Works in Sales by Niraj Kapur I immediately said, “Yes, please!” How to Sell
The reason? As writers, I feel we are each increasingly having to be our own salesman. We might be marketing our self-published books, pitching an article to an editor, writing an agent covering letter or polishing up our website. So, I hoped Everybody Works in Sales might reveal to me the secret formula of selling books, short stories and articles.

Of course it didn’t because deep down we all know there is no secret formula to sales. But the book did teach me what the mindset of a salesman should be – and it isn’t SELL! SELL! SELL!
The three main points I took away from Everybody Works in Sales were:

  • Don’t try to constantly sell ‘at’ people willy-nilly (e.g. frequent ‘buy my books’ tweeting). Instead take the time to build relationships – with magazine editors, book shops, social media followers etc.
  • Nothing succeeds like hard work.
  • Treat your customers/readers/editors/followers as you would like to be treated.

Two quotations from the book which are worth pondering:

  • Care for people and ask for nothing immediately in return.
  • You can always go further in a group than by yourself – maybe that’s why we writers like to collect together and share experiences?

But this book has more to offer than these simple lessons. There are many  inspirational quotations and advice on making progress in a corporate career. The book follows the career of its author, Niraj Kapur, the bad bits as well as the good bits. He’s had some tough times in his working life and his experiences might help you if you’re trying to climb the greasy pole in sales or management.

In places the book’s language is unpolished and reflects the way I imagine Niraj would speak. It is conversational rather than textbook and allows the author’s background and personality to come through. It’s as though Niraj is in the room with you.

Everybody Works in Sales is an easy read that shares inspirational thoughts for leading a better life in the workplace, building relationships with potential customers and networking.

Niraj Kapur

About Everybody Works in Sales
We all work in sales. If you work for somebody, you earn a living by selling their product or service. If you are self-employed, you earn a living by selling your product or service.
When you buy from Amazon, they always recommended other products similar to the ones you are purchasing or have already purchased – that’s selling. When you download a song, movie or TV show from iTunes, they always recommend more similar products. That’s selling.
When you register for most websites, they sell their products or services to you through a regular email.
When you attend an exhibition at the NEC, London ExCel, Olympia, Manchester or even a local market, everyone is trying to sell you their product.
We all work in sales, yet few people know how to sell. Until now.
Containing 27 valuable lessons, plus 17 interviews with experts, Everybody Works in Sales combines unique storytelling and personal development to ensure you have the tools you need to do better in your career.
Available on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.

 

 

About Niraj Kapur

Award-winning executive, Niraj Kapur, has worked in corporate London for 23 years. From small businesses to a national newspaper to FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, he’s experienced it all and shares his insight, knowledge, big wins and horrible failures.
Niraj has also had several screenplays optioned, sitcoms commissioned, kids’ shows on Channel 5’s Milkshake and CBBC. His movie, Naachle London, was released in select cinemas across the UK.
He’s working on his next book while advising companies and coaching individuals on how to improve their sales.
Follow Niraj on Twitter: @Nirajwriter or find him on LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/nkapur.

 

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