I am cursed with a B. R. F.

That stands for Bitchy Resting Face, since you asked.

This morning, someone asked how I was, and I said, “Fine. The usual.”

“And what’s the usual? Miserable?”

Now isn’t that just the correct thing to say to someone to “cheer them up”, assuming that they are, in fact, miserable. Ask how they are, accuse them of looking glum, then tell them “You should smile more!”

I told this person I’d rather smile when it was genuine, and I didn’t believe in going around with a daft grin on my face just to make her feel better.

“You’re accusing me of having a daft grin?!”

“No, I was just saying that I’d rather my smiles were-“

“You are! You just accused me of having a daft grin!”

So, as well as being miserable, I’m also accusing other people of looking stupid. Way to misread the situation entirely and put the blame for whatever went wrong on me.

The fact is, I am cursed with a Bitchy Resting Face. Not that I look upon it as a curse. That’s just the way my facial muscles go when I’m at rest. It takes muscle effort to smile. Yes, to frown, too, but I’m not referring to occasions when I’m actually upset or angry. I’m talking about the absence of an inane, groundless smile, being taken for misery.

And quite frankly, I’m amazed that people are stupid enough to think that accusing me of looking miserable is a good cure for that very (imagined) misery. Cure? No – it actually causes anger and upset.

“You should smile more – you have a lovely smile!”

All the more lovely because when it happens, you know it’s genuine. I refuse to go around with a forced smile on my face just to fit in with someone else’s preconceived idea that if you are not smiling, you’re miserable.

And let’s face it – if I were unhappy about something, would telling me to plaster on a smile do anything to remedy that situation? No. It would take effort that would be better spent on solving the actual problem.

But still, people today seem to be content with things looking a certain way, never mind what’s going on under the surface.

It’s enough to bring on my B. A. F.

That’s Bitchy Angry Fists, to you.

Posted in bitchy resting face, random rant | 3 Comments

A load of balls

This post is going to mention the World Cup, so let’s get something out of the way first, shall we? I know there are many people on Twitter who are bored with talk of football, and is it over yet (yes) and I’m bored and wah wah wah. Etcetera.

Here’s the thing. That’s exactly how I feel about constant conference talk and look who I met, and I got an autograph off someone and I’m now going to write a book with that author over there who I privately bitched about and called talentless.

Oh, mute that sort of talk, you say?

Likewise.

So. On with the main body of this blog post, which will be a very short one. (By my standards.)

I know some women writers have been told that a) they can’t write M/M because genitals, or b) they shouldn’t write because hormones, or c) women’s books are boring because love and romance and yuck.

And yet…last night, I watched grown men on my television cry over a game of football. (Admittedly I nearly did too, given that I was all up for an Argie bhaji. HO HO DO YOU SEE WHUT AH DID THUR.)

All I can gather from the above is that women’s stuff is yuck, but men are allowed to cry if they want. Because football is more important than love is.

Romance has come in for a lot of stick because the majority of writers are women writing about so-called “women’s stuff”. You know. Love and other feelings. It would be wrong to express emotions over love, because that’s soft and makes you a bit of a wuss. Womanish.

But it’s okay to cry over a game of football, because that’s not proper softie emotion, is it? It’s angst and loss and devastation and the end of the world. Plus, men rule in the game of football, so whatever happens in the World Cup Final is of Earth-shattering importance.

All of the above might strike you as either a load of old toss, or blindingly obvious. But it only struck me so blatantly last night when I saw men expressing emotion, at the same time as another “women in SF/F” discussion was happening on Twitter.

So expressing emotion isn’t wrong. It’s only wrong when women do it; got that?

Posted in erotic romance, World Cup final | Leave a comment

Stop the world; this is some important shit, yo!

The more observant of you may have noticed two shining examples of literary genius disappearing from the font of all smut that is the interwebs this week. Yes, those two luminous diamonds of erotic wordfuckery in the festering slop-bucket that is ebook wank-fodder, Burn and Bring Me to Life, are heretofore, nevertheless and notwithstanding, out of print and unavailable for comment.

I have parted company with the literary fluffer responsible for aiding me in the quest to ejaculate these tomes of monumental genital shenanigans* into your eye-sockets via the medium of ereader.

As such, the world of downloadable filth is a lot sadder tonight. Pray silence while we mourn the passing of such heartbreaking scenes as “violent anal sex in a hotel room”. A black armband, if you will, for “chatting up a complete stranger in a chip shop”. Weep and throw handfuls of ashes on your heads while grieving for that figging joke I’m still childishly proud of.

Or, you know…just get the fuck over it and buy my other books.

*The shenanigans were monumental, not the genitals. Although, come to think of it…

Posted in rights reversions | Leave a comment

Marketing myths, promofail and some WTF

Hello world! Did you think I was dead? Sadly for you, I wasn’t. And I’m still not. I was taking a break from Twitter because of all the conference talk which drives me bonkers, and as for blogging…well, I had nothing (or very little) to blog about. Never stopped me before, but oh well, I’m back now.

So. Recently my chum Luke Walker blogged something classy:

Publishing, Marketing and Complete and Utter Bollocks, Part 2.

All joking aside, he refers here to a conversation to which I was also privy. (No longer, as I deleted myself from the Yahoo loop concerned because it was getting quite painful banging my head against a brick wall.)

There are folks who think that it’s an author’s duty to do all of the promotion. No, I didn’t say ‘some’. I said ‘all’. Apparently, we have no right to expect a publisher to expend themselves in this regard because times are tough, funds are limited and reasons. Or something.

Let me tackle this allegation that we shouldn’t expect epublishers to promote because money. As well as the fact it’s utterly ridiculous, there’s also a massive failure of logic here. If a publishing house – a business, remember, or at least it should be – doesn’t have enough money, or even time, to promote my book, then how the heck can anyone expect me to?

Putting the money issue aside, let’s look at the logistics of it. There are more people working for a publishing house than there are versions of you writing your book, right? That’s X-number of staff against one. Logic dictates that a publisher would have more contacts in the business than you. More ‘reach’, as it were. More opportunities to reach the people who matter – readers. This is especially true of startup authors who know virtually no-one in the industry.

And I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – an author’s best chance of promoting their backlist is to maintain their frontlist. They should be spending the majority of their writing time writing the next book, not carrying the last one.

If a publisher (or its cheerleaders) think I should spend money I haven’t earned yet on promo which won’t reach all that many people because I’m only one person, there’s something seriously wrong here. If I have more money and contacts than a damned publisher, I’d be as well setting up myself, wouldn’t I? (And self-publishing is becoming more and more attractive, lately.) Let’s face it, there are only so many hours in the day. If I spend what little free time I have promoting Book 1, I’ll never have any time or energy to come up with Book 2! A publisher on the other hand? That’s kinda their bag, man. Or should be.

Too, this conversation about promo also threw up some interesting (as in, shit of the bull) ideas about street teams. It boggles my mind that there could be anyone who uses a street team to spot typos in their manuscripts. It is also another matter of bogglination that, if I were to ask “What are editors for?” someone could make a sly remark designed to tell me (though not directly) that my ideas are wrong. Silly me, eh? Expecting editors to edit. CLUE IS IN THE JOB TITLE, PEOPLE.

Street teams can, I’m told, also be used when you “need” someone to nominate you for an award online on sites that ban you from nominating yourself. (There’s a reason for that, dudes and dudettes – to avoid corruption and skewing the results!!!)

In short, newbie and naive authors are startlingly ready to absolve their publisher of all responsibility for promo. And they are worryingly ready to make use of so-called street teams to take care of jobs that publishers and editors should be doing.

Am I saying authors shouldn’t promo at all? No. I’m saying it should not be left up to them entirely. It’s a matter of logistics. I can’t reach as many people as a business made up of multiple people can. And if a publisher takes a percentage of the profits as per the contract but leaves me to do the donkey work, why sign the contract in the first place? If I only sell 10 copies of a book, I’d rather have 100% of that, than 35% or 40% or whatever a publisher’s royalty rate is. If promo is minimal anyway, I won’t be losing out on anything by going it alone, especially if I’m established in the genre with a slowly-growing list of readers.

What I’m saying is, if a publisher can’t help me reach more people than I already can myself, and if they can’t do anything else for me that I cannot do myself, one has to ask…of what benefit are they?

Why not just self-publish? Especially if, when you ask questions to clarify all of the above, you’re shouted down by cheerleaders who seem to believe that asking simple business-related questions makes you a Nasty McNasterson?

Here’s a brief summary of what I’m saying in this blog post for the benefit of anyone with reading comprehension problems:

  • It is not entirely up to the author to promo their book(s). The publisher must play their part too. If their promo is ineffective or non-existent, there has been a breakdown somewhere and whatever the causes of that breakdown, the author would be as well taking their work elsewhere, and/or self-publishing.
  • Street teams are not the go-to guys for editing. An author has a duty to polish their manuscript until its pips squeak before submission, but beyond that, a book should be edited by…brace yourselves…an editor! I know; astounding, huh? Expecting a fucking professional to do the job instead of a bunch of amateurs who can be bought off with a pat on the head and a cheap keyring in exchange for a quick ego-wank.
  • If you speak to members of your street team to get them to nominate you for some Mickey Mouse online award, you’re gaming the system. Put some energy into writing a better book then your readers won’t have to be prompted. I mean, doesn’t it tell you something when you have to press someone into publicly praising your book? Oh, they’d do it anyway? Good. Let them. Keep out of it, Mr Systemgaming Systemson.

Whew. That’s one hell of a rant to whack you all with on  my return to blogging and Twitter, but, you know…if I were nice and polite you’d wonder “Where’s Scarlett and what have you done with her,” wouldn’t you? :)

Posted in promofail | 8 Comments

Cover art for PLUS ONE

Received this earlier today and it confirms my deep and abiding love for Totally Bound’s cover artist, Emmy Ellis. What do you think?

plusone_800

Something doesn’t add up…

Lydia’s looking for a job not a lover, but after her interview at Saint Joseph’s University, she ends up with both. There’s a need for discretion despite her bright pink hair and Doctor Spencer Flynn’s candy apple red Mustang; after all, she’s an admin assistant now, he’s a lecturer in applied mathematics and they work together. So they conduct their liaisons behind closed doors which is all right with Lydia; she’s never experienced chemistry like it.

‘Discreet’ soon begins to look a lot like ‘secretive’ and a last-minute cancellation of a date prompts Lydia to rethink her role in the relationship. Braced for a break-up, she’s amazed when Spencer confesses the secret he’s been keeping all along. His loyalties are divided and when Lydia’s attempts to hold on to his attention backfire publicly, she wonders if playing house with a mathematician is a zero-sum game.

* * * * *

Coming soon from Totally Bound.

  • Pre-order 13th June
  • Early download 27th June
  • General release 18th July
Posted in cover art, Plus One, Totally Bound | 1 Comment

Don’t talk to me about street teams

Instead, let me rant about them to you.

Anyone heard that phrase recently? I’d be surprised if you hadn’t. Many authors have or want a ‘street team’. What do they do?

Unpaid publicity.

Okay, financially unpaid. But usually these contracted fangirls are paid in ‘swag'; i.e. books, bookmarks, keyrings and so on. For this, they’re encouraged by authors to review their books on Amazon and Goodreads and similar sites, to spread the word about ‘their’ author’s latest releases.

In ye olden days, we had fan clubs, where authors earned admirers. They wrote books which inspired people to tell others “You have to read this great book I just read!” Using talent and well-written books to entertain people, thereby causing them to spread the word about your books, is the exact opposite of giving people stuff in return for them telling folks about your work. One is natural word of mouth, the other is bribery.

I’ve often ranted about people who insist on only reviewing books to which they can give 4 or 5 stars. “How can I be expected to believe their reviews are genuine?” That sort of thing. Now, if someone is a member of a street team (and many authors name members on their blogs) and they review a book by their sponsor/patron/whatever, how are we supposed to believe it’s genuine?

I’d be wondering, “Are you writing this review because you love the book, or because the author sent you some bookmarks and a keyring?”

Street teams smack of authors expecting readers to do stuff for them. That is, expecting readers to do their promo for them. They prompt readers to write reviews, to whore their books on social media and yes, even in some cases front-face their books in bricks and mortar book shops.

Not only that, but I’ve just been informed on Twitter that there are now authors mobilising street teams to attack reviewers who say nasty, mean things about ‘their’ authors’ books.

Okay, such instances are a rarity, although I suspect they’ll become more common in the future. But the bottom line is, readers are there to read books. The clue is in the name, people. You buy one of my books, I get the royalties. Fair’s fair, even Stevens, everyone’s happy. If I start asking you to post a review of one of my books, I’m skewing the transaction in my favour. You shell out for a book, and I get two things – royalties and a review you probably feel obligated to make positive.

As I’ve said before, it is the publisher’s job to publicise books they…wait for it…publish. Writing is an art, publishing is a business, and one would bloody well hope your publisher wants to make money too, right? Right. Your job is to write the next book. Do some promo if you want. But not so much that you a) take so much time away from writing that your next book is delayed and/or b) antagonise potential readers by making them feel talked at rather than engaged with and/or c) treat people as a means to an end by using folks as free promo and calling them your street team.

If word of mouth happens naturally? Great. But cobbling together a list of people who’ve read your books and slapping the label of ‘street team’ on them smacks of asking your readers to do a publicist’s job.

I’m going to quote someone here who shall remain nameless:

The truth about street teams…

It’s another way authors think they are making a difference. If they get a Twitter account. If they get a Facebook account. If they get a street team. They can affect sales, become a best-seller, have some control over their careers, their destiny.

It’s all a big lie. Sometimes, you write a piece of shit and become a bestseller. And sometimes you write a gem and no one ever reads it. It’s tough to accept the lack of control here. So, we cling to concepts like “street teams” thinking we can change the outcome of this game.

Look at it this way – if you’re big enough to gather enough followers to call a ‘street team’…at this point, obviously your books and/or your online persona have earned you a following, yes? So why not continue in that vein? Crazy idea, but I have more respect for writers who let their writing earn them followers- actually, readers. The whole ‘street team’ thing feels forced. Artificial. I’d rather someone mention my books because they liked them. Anything else is just bribery.

Oh, and if you think I’m being too harsh, and readers are allowed to be enthusiastic about books they like? Yes. Yes, they are. As long as liking is what makes them talk about books. Not cheap tat like keyrings, bookmarks and pens, and having their name mentioned on the website of some author most of us have never heard of.

Posted in promofail, street teams | 12 Comments

First post of 2014

As sure as night follows day, three things follow Hogmanay: slimming club ads on telly and as junk mail clogging up your letterbox, new “collectible” magazines are launched, and I write a boring blog post about new year’s resolutions. Kinda similar to my previous one from the 26th of December, but expanding on a couple of things mentioned there, so here goes.

I read 138 books in 2013, finishing another three after my last blog post. My final read of the year was Cassandra Clare’s Harry Potter and the City of Bones and that total came without trying, so it shouldn’t take much more effort to bump my reading total for 2014 up to 150.

As for writing? I have a nearly-finished novel right hyuh on my hard drive; I aim to have that submitted around about the middle of this month, or the end. The end of January is my absolute limit.

After that, I have plans to write four novellas by the end of March. I know, I know. You’re thinking “Four novellas? Are you crazy?” But I’m aiming to keep them short. Given how my characters tend to take over once I get into a manuscript, perhaps it would be better to stick to a word count. Four novellas at 25k words each gives a total of 100k words, so I’ll say I’m going to write 100k words towards these projects by the end of March. A year’s total of 250k words would, as a consequence, definitely be doable if I can pull that off. And I’m not giving away any titles because yes, there are people out there who are happy to let me provide titles for their books without crediting me. So, you’ll just have to wait and see.

I also need to decide what I’m going to do with Long Time Coming and Plus One (now out of print on most sites) once the rights revert to me at the end of this month. I’m going over the manuscripts to see what needs cleaning up. Both were edited pre-publication of course, but the progress of one’s career naturally gives you ways of looking at prose that you didn’t have before. And let’s face it, if I was still happy with something I wrote at the end of 2008, that would be proof I hadn’t moved on in my writing.

I’m going to get my Great Big Divorced, Beheaded, Died Watchalong posts going again. Will keep you posted as and when, but I like the idea of having one every Tuesday, because Tudors Tuesday or Tudorsday makes me laugh.

Around the house? Well, there’s a distinct possibility I’ll be getting work done at home later in the year, which means there’s no point in redecorating now, because it’d end up spoiled. But there’s nothing to stop me swapping curtains for blinds as I want to do, or scouting around for a new bed and a new armchair. Window coverings and furniture are both okay, but decor will have to wait.

Incidentally, yesterday I went around the house taking multiple photos of every room so that on New Year’s Day 2015, I can look back and see in photographic form the progress I’ve made on getting my home looking the way I want it.

And personal stuff? The main aim I  have in that regard is to recognise depression when it happens, and to stop it descending into despair, which all but immobilises me. There’s no shame in asking for help. And feeling down shouldn’t stop me carrying on with things, as normally as I can. Too, I believe this shows the importance of routine. I don’t have to think “What do I feel like doing today?” if I have set routines. I get up and think, “It’s Monday [or whatever day] so I know I usually do X, Y and Z today.” What I feel like doing is largely irrelevant, especially when it comes to writing. I might feel like staying in bed and eating Oreos, but that won’t get a manuscript finished or the chores done.

So here’s hoping 2014 is a success, and everything we all hope for. :)

Posted in new year's resolutions | 4 Comments

Now That’s What I Call 2013

Everyone else is doing their “2013 – The Very Best of,” compilation album blog posts, so I thought I’d join in. The one thing the world needs right now (besides a good hard kick up the arse) is to know what my favourite reads were and why I had bugger all releases this year. Apart from the time I gritted my teeth and squeezed that pimple that popped up in a very interesting place.

Kevin T Craig (I suspect the T stands for ‘the'; link takes you to his Twitter page) introduced me to The Great Gatsby. Well, I’d known for a while that it was his talisman novel, and the one by which he measures all other writings, especially his own. But I’d never gotten around to reading it before. Years back I took months to get through Tender is the Night, which was, quite frankly, tortuous. It had the potential to put me off F. Scott Fitzgerald for life and were it not for the release of the Leonardo Di Caprio movie, and Kevin the Craig’s recommendations, I probably would have spent the rest of my life studiously avoiding Gatsby.

But I’m glad I didn’t. I spent 77p on the Kindle version, and loved the book so much I went out and bought it in print, and read it again within a week. How much did I love that book? Enough to buy the movie cover print edition, that’s how much! (And of course, the DVD the very day it came out.)

I can definitely see me reading The Great Gatsby again in 2014, at least once, probably more.

Tender is the Night is still shite, though.

What other books did I read and enjoy enough to recommend? Tiffany Reisz’s The Prince and The Mistress. Such recommendations are appearing all over the intertubes at this time of year and no wonder as the books are great. Probably no chance of my voice rising above all the others, but if anyone reads Tiffany’s books on my recommendation, then good.

Quite a few of my favourite reads this year were re-reads. A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington (now back in print, which I haven’t had to wait for as I still have the 1992 edition I bought when I was 16), Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (and yes, I refuse to see the film because eww, Keira Knightley), and Renegades by Shaun Hutson which I must have first read around 20 years ago and huzzah, it’s now been re-issued in Kindle format.

This is why I’m such an ebook whore – the rights to so many books I loved years ago are now returning to their authors and being re-issued in ebook format.

I discovered Laini Taylor in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Also Ken Follett in World Without End, inspired by the TV mini-series starring the delectable Blake Ritson, om nom nom. I normally avoid reading sequels before the prequels and watching the TV series or film before reading the book. In this instance, I broke both those rules.

I enjoyed Susan Cain’s Quiet so much I blogged about it here.

So far I’ve read 135 books this year; my original target was 150 so I’m not doing too badly. Same target for 2014.

But what of my own books? No releases, only one sale and that for a re-issue. 2013 was a bust when it comes to productivity. Writing-related productivity that is. There have been changes, though. Three of my books are no longer available – A Little Death, which is being re-released by Totally Bound next year and Long Time Coming and Plus One, which were my first two  published books. I recently got the rights to these two novels back, and they’ll revert to me fully at the end of January. I’ve still to decide what to do with them, but I have a couple of online buddies trying to persuade me to self-publish. However, if I sent them to another epublisher, given their lengths, they’d eventually be eligible for print, so…I’m unsure. Self-publishing would mean I get to keep a larger chunk of the profits, but sending them to a publisher would mean holding the print editions in my hands.

And getting swanky new cover art provided for me, which would be a relief in Plus One‘s case. Lydia has bright pink hair and Spencer has an unusual tattoo in an easily-visible place, so ‘specialist’ cover art may be required. There are a lot of ready-made covers available online, but none which I’ve seen that quite suit, and I’m not that great with Photoshop, so…

Yeah. Still to be decided.

I also have a writing schedule written up for the first quarter of 2014. By the end of March, all being well, I should have a finished novel and four finished novellas. That sounds like a metric fuckton of wordage and I guess it is; just over 100k words. But I only have roughly 12k to go on the novel according to my MS Excel outline, and I’m aiming for 25k words each on the novellas. Broken down like that it sounds more doable.

What will I be getting up to in 2014 blogwise? Well…I’ll be resuming my Tudors blog posts as I’ve had requests to get back into them. I say requests. I mean one or two people briefly commenting “They were fun, you should get back to them.” But ‘requests’ makes it sound like people are clamouring for my opinion on Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ acting ability and the historical accuracy of the aforementioned historical drama.

This year I’ve donated 100s of books and several items of furniture to charity. Hoping to continue getting my personal library down to a level where it’s no longer taking over my home, and scouting shops for various bits and pieces I’d like to use to make said home more comfortable and more ‘me’, if that doesn’t sound too pretentious and wanky.

But all in all, the priority is to write more. And to continue watching comedy DVDs in my downtime, because laughter is the best medicine, and Bottom and Father Ted fucking rock.

So there!

Posted in reading list, Uncategorized, writing goals, yearly review | 2 Comments

With friends like these…

On the 5th December I woke up to this email, headed “Please be careful”:

Hi
You’re about to be contacted by [real name], aka [username] on [website].
Please be aware that she’s intensely manipulative, and not closely joined to reality.
She’s fixated on one of the mods, has a crush on [fellow member of this website], and is asserting that [site owner] is a rape apologist.
She’s also a raving racist and homophobe, though she’ll tell you are black maids, and she likes “lezzies.”
Do what you will, but please protect yourself.
[sender's name]

I’ve swithered about saying anything publicly about this, just as I swithered about forwarding the email to the person concerned, but as it contained some nasty allegations about her, I felt duty-bound to do so. If someone were saying such things about me, I’d want to know.

Why mention it on my blog? Because this message came from the admin of a site which banned me around two years ago, and with whom I’ve had little to no contact since. (Long story short, mod told lies about me for which I never received an apology, I made a fuss about it, my days there were numbered. Naturally, everyone involved has their own version of this tale.)

I think it’s very strange that anyone would email me after two years or so of radio silence to badmouth someone with whom I was already in contact.

Let me make it clear: I do not want to be dragged into someone else’s petty little dramas; nor will I be “advised” to cut off contact with anyone. Only one person chooses my friends for me either in real life or online, and that person is me. Only one person decides whether or not I may reply to emails and that person is me.

The only reasons I mention this here are to make it clear that I did nothing to warrant this email, and I do not believe the pretence of friendly concern. (In fact, I’d say they were approximately two years too late to convince me of their concern for my well-being.) Speculation multiplies at a rate of knots online, and this blog post is presented as my way of attempting to avert a drama-llama stampede.

As for the manner in which the allegations were presented, well…I believe poison-pen emails speak for themselves, and say a lot more about the senders than their targets.

These will be my last words on the subject, as I left school over twenty years ago and have no intention of returning to the playground. And no comments, either. It makes a change for me to be able to lock a thread and stop the conversation continuing. :P

Posted in with friends like these who needs enemas

RIP Nelson Mandela

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.

~Nelson Mandela 1918-2013, Long Walk to Freedom

Posted in Nelson Mandela | 1 Comment