Happy New Year

I can’t believe how fast 2014 went by. I always thought it was an old person’s thing to comment on how fast the time is going, but now I’m doing it myself. Maybe that means that I’m now old instead of just middle aged. I don’t feel like an old person despite being 53 in a couple of weeks, I still feel 25 inside my head. I often look back and think, “where the hell has the last week gone?” It’s not just me experiencing this either, many people I speak to say it too.

2014 saw some changes for me, most of them welcome. My beloved car finally broke down and had to be sold as I could not afford to get it repaired. The head gasket had gone and I don’t have that kind of money. Having no transport meant I could no longer keep doing my job, which entailed me driving to different peoples’ homes to clean their house. This meant I’ve had to start claiming benefits, which is a laborious process designed to make you feel like a scrounger. It is taking forever, but I hope it will be all sorted soon.

My health problems have caught up with me more than ever before, and I spend a lot of time in pain. I have what is called a Pars Defect in my lumbar spine, which is now affecting my life far more than ever before. It seems to me that being forced to give up my job, which was very physical and left me in agony most days, was timely. It is nice having more time at home. Being able to lie in is a treat I haven’t experienced for years. It is a blow to my ego to  have to use a walking stick, but it does help a little so I try not to complain. I never realised how difficult it is to go shopping with a handbag, several bags of shopping, and still be able to effectively use a walking stick. It’s impossible, so I often find myself unable to use my stick. Luckily I can do the greater part of the grocery shopping online, which saves me having to haul too many bags on the bus.  That’s another thing, the bus fares around here are criminal!

2014 also saw my mother sell her house in Cornwall and move up here near me. I’ve been trying to persuade her for ages and am delighted that my persistence has finally paid off. She now has a lovely ground floor flat a couple of miles away, in a nice area near to all the amenities she did not have in Cornwall. It will also be nice to have someone to pop in for a coffee and natter a couple of times a week or go for a meal on a weekend. When she first announced she was moving away down to Cornwall, I felt very abandoned for a long time. It was weird and not something I expected to feel. It was not pleasant and although I got used to being so alone, I was always aware of how alone I was. She has been away visiting relatives for Christmas and New Year, so we will be out buying her some new furniture the moment she gets back.

My other excitement is that I am now a proud cat mommy. I named him Samelan, after the main character in my Sinclair V-Logs science fiction novels. He’s a beautiful stripey tabby and has the most hilarious nature. He has a foot fetish and will bite my feet and toes whenever I go barefoot, he likes playing football with his toys (and is a very skilled dribbler too), and is toilet training with the Litter Kwitter system. He doesn’t meow very often, but ‘trills’ all the time, and will reply when I talk to him sometimes. Every morning at 7am he wakes me up by trilling and batting me with a paw, after which he sits by my alarm clock as he knows I always reach for it to check the time before getting up. I’m fully expecting one day for him to learn to press the button on the top which lights up the clock face. I cannot express how much of a difference it has made to my mood, having someone pleased to see me, seeking my company, and eager for me to get home just to spend time with me. I’m sure he’s saved my life.

So what of 2015? I did make a New Year’s resolution to give up chocolate, and I am determined to stick to it. Rather than go on a typical diet as such, I have tried to introduce permanent healthy food habits, one at a time. Years ago I gave up sugar in tea and coffee. A couple of years ago I gave up milk in tea and coffee. Last March I gave up smoking, and this year I intend to stop eating chocolate in any form. It is an education trying to find desserts and sweet things that don’t contain chocolate. This substance seems to have infiltrated into every area of our diet. It’s even in breakfast cereals now, crazy. At the same time as I shall be learning to do without chocolate, I shall be eating more fruit and veg, which I already love so no problems there other than the cost of them. Once I have eliminated the worst stuff from my diet, I can turn my attention to reducing portion size. I hope to end this year with a far more healthy relationship with food, even if I have not lost a significant amount of weight (which would be nice too).

So far I have 2 novels to publish in the coming year. One is finished to first draft and the other will be finished to first draft within the next couple of days.  I shall probably participate in the July Camp Nanowrimo, as I have done in the past 2 years, which will take me to 3 books this year. I like to do 3 a year, it’s a comfortable workload for me.

I want to pay a little more attention to marketing this year. I am in the process of building a list of tweets that I can use with the new drip feed app I’ve found. Due to Feed 140 breaking down, I had to find another drip feeder, and Dropial is the only one I’ve found that allows you to build a list that will drip in a continuous loop. The only downside to Dropial is that it insists on the list containing a minimum number of tweets, so I’m busy building it at the moment. Once that is done, I want to blog more, and use all the other social media I am part of, a bit more often. I cannot afford to pay for advertising, so free social media is my shop window at the moment. I would like to do interviews, but no one is asking  – unless you’d like to interview me or do a spotlight for me?

One other thing I want to pledge to this coming year, is to begin re-editing and re-releasing my backlist. As time has gone on I have learned more, and I can clean up the early books and make them slicker and more error free. There is also one I want to do a new cover for. I want to do at least 2 of my older books this coming year.

As for other 2015 bucket list items, there’s always the following:

Meet Dwayne Johnson

Meet Vin Diesel

Meet Misha Collins

Have Peter Jackson talk me into allowing him to turn one of my books into a movie

Win more than a million on the lottery

Become a best seller for at least one of my books on Amazon

If anyone would like to help me achieve any of those items, let me know. In the meantime, I wish you all a prosperous, educational, and happy 2015.

U2, ‘That’ album, and the problem every indie author faces

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Anyone with an iTunes account will have received a free album courtesy of Bono and U2 in the recent past. This act of generosity has been dogged by outrage ever since and has resulted in Bono issuing a public apology.

He said it was, “a drop of megalomania, a touch of generosity, a dash of self-promotion and deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into over the last few years mightn’t be heard. There’s a lot of noise out there. I guess we got a little noisy ourselves to get through it.”

Bono’s comment touches upon a very pertinent point for us self published authors – how to get our voice heard above the din.

The sheer weight of stuff out there from which the customer can choose is so immense that the chances of your book being chosen are extremely thin unless you are already famous.  As Bono’s comment illustrates, even that doesn’t guarantee what you have to sell will be chosen above anything else that is out there, nor even that it will be noticed at all.

If someone as world class as Bono and U2 are worried about it, then the rest of us should start wringing our hands immediately. This ultra famous supergroup couldn’t even give their album away, so what chance do the rest of us nobodies have?

What is the answer?  I haven’t the faintest idea, and neither has anyone else.  Oh people will of course spew forth with their own opinion based upon nothing more than the delusion of their own superior knowledge, but no one has a definitive answer because there isn’t one to be had. The only thing we do know is why it’s happening, and that is the advent of self publishing. It is so easy to publish your own book now that everyone and their neighbour is doing it, most of whom really shouldn’t be bothering. The problem is that they are bothering, and all are convinced that their work is the best the literary world has ever seen. Before self publishing, 99% would be turned down by the few traditional publishing houses and would spend their lives dreaming of being an author. Back then, the number of books out there was much lower and the reader with money to spend was not so spoiled for choice.

So what can we do?  I don’t know. You can of course throw money at the problem, but most of us don’t have access to enough funds to finance a big international marketing campaign. Advertising space is a premium product now and the cost of those precious column inches, website pixels, or mailing list placings, is prohibitively high. If you want a day on someone’s mailing list,  not only do you have to pay a very high fee, but most demand your book has a certain number of reviews at a certain star rating. Failing that, you could pay for a billboard or a TV ad but that is mega dollars. No, that kind of ad campaign is way beyond the means of most hard working self published authors who don’t make enough sales to be able to live off their writing.

Me? Well I’m taking the zen approach.  I’m sitting back and waiting for the bubble to burst. It will do of course sometime and when it does, the books I’m writing in the meantime will give me an impressive back list. I’ve backed off from trying to market my books and am concentrating on writing. One day this monster we’ve created will die, and when it does, I’ll be there.

You will have to find your own way through that suits you, but as Bono found out, sometimes you can’t even give it away.

 

Cover reveal – Psychomanteum

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My brand new horror is now available in both paperback and ebook formats for you to enjoy.

Psychomanteum – by Merita King

From Wikipedia – A Psychomanteum – often called “mirror gazing,” is a mirrored room, specially set up to communicate with the spiritual realm. Reflective objects or surfaces, such as blood or water, were considered a  conduit to the spiritual world in ancient times.

A story of one man’s interest in genealogy, and the dreadful horror that his attempts to connect with his one famous ancestor brings forth.

Everyone is interested in finding out about their history these days, and it seems as if everyone is researching their family tree.  There is also a great deal of interest in the paranormal and communication with the deceased.  Ghost tours and ghost hunts are are common events nowadays, and it is no longer thought of as weird to have an active interest in communicating with the spirit world.  We cannot know of course, whether our attempts at such communication will bring forth the results we desire, or something far more terrible..!

Click here for all details

How not to get fat

Merita King:

I read this article by Duncan Swallow, which reflects the way I’ve thought for years. Everyone is so quick to blame everything other than their own lack of will power. It’s time to take off the rose tinted glasses and see the truth, however ugly and scary it may be.

Originally posted on nobodysreadingme:

An interesting piece of information from the University of Edinburgh. Dr John Menzies from the university’s Centre for Integrative Physiology announced this week that the whole idea of fats and sugars being addictive is nonsense. He said, and I quote, ‘It’s easy to blame food. Certain individuals do have an addiction-like relationship with particular foods. But…(we could make more progress) if we think of this as a behavioural addiction rather than as a substance-based addiction.’ In other words, it’s not foods that are addictive, but the very act of eating. The only foodstuff that is truly addictive is caffeine. Sugars, fats? No. Absolutely not. Nobody exhibits withdrawal symptoms if deprived of sugar or fat. They may get grumpy because they like them, but they are not truly addictive.

This is not good news for those seeking an excuse, is it? Suddenly, the old ‘I’m addicted to food’ get-out-of-jail-free card has…

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Negotiating the maze that is the stock photo site

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If, like me, you’re not blessed with an A-list income, then you will be familiar with the anguish that comes with the search for cover art stock photos.

These sites are huge, but their search criteria are nonsensical, and the results you get often bear no resemblance to the words you type into the input box.  You type in ‘spooky corridor’ and you get pictures of grinning kids playing on a beach, and you think, “what the fuck has this to do with a spooky corridor?”  Much sighing and scratchings of the head later, you give up in disgust or settle for something you know is not what you wanted.

The problem is caused by those who upload the photos.  When they upload their photos, the site asks for keywords.  These keywords are the words you and I use as search criteria and should reflect the subject of the photo to make sure we get what we search for.   They want you to pay to download their photo above anyone else’s.  To try to make sure this happens, they will type in keywords that bear no resemblance to the subject of the photo, so that as many searches as possible will bring their photo up on our screens.  It’s a bit like authors putting their horror novel into the ‘historical romance’ or ‘chick lit’ categories to make sure more people see it when they search Amazon.  It’s bad practice and it should be illegal.  The stock photo sites should punish these people buy banning them from using the site.

There are many stock photo sites out there, and a lot of the same photos will appear in them all.  Finding the right stock shots can be a lengthy procedure, so don’t leave it until the last minute.  Make a list of every single word and phrase you can think of that describes the image you want, even vague abstract terms such as ‘spooky, gloomy, sad, otherworldly’ etc.  As soon as you find something that is near what you’re after, click on the shot to get to its download page.  Lower down that same page, there will be a ‘see similar images’ option.  Click this and you will get a new search of images similar to that one.  By this method of searching similar images, you can often find your way eventually to the shot you want.  Download comp images before paying for the final shot, and play around with your photo manipulation software.  Only when you are happy that the images give you the final result you’re happy with, pay to download the full size version.

I am going to be self publishing a horror novel in time for Halloween this year, and the search for stock images for the cover was causing me much despair.  I searched and re-searched both stock sites I usually use, to no avail, and in the end I searched a site I usually avoid due to its high costs.  Within minutes I found the perfect shots and was so relieved I actually did dance around my living room with glee.  Never rule out a site because it’s too expensive, keep it for last resort searches.  It’s better to pay a little more for the right shot, than less for one that doesn’t really fit.  A few hours with Gimp and I have a cover I’m happy with, and one that is near to what I originally imagined for the book.

Stock photo sites are a nightmare to negotiate, but with time, planning, and strategy, you will find what you need.

The Book Ad Scam

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Ever tried to buy an ad at one of those book advertising websites?  You pay the fee and they advertise your book on their website/facebook/twitter for a day. Some are cheap-ish whereas others are hugely expensive and trade on nothing more than their name. The hook is simple – you pay them to put your book ad in front of thousands of potential readers/buyers via their website or email list. Seems great doesn’t it? The only problem is that all of them that I’ve come across so far – and that is a lot – demand you have a certain number of reviews at a certain level before they will then CONSIDER – yes, just consider – taking your book for an ad. Most often they still turn you down even if you can qualify.

I’ve seen a huge number of authors who, like me, moan constantly at how impossible it is to find genuine reviews. Yes, you can do the sock puppet thing by writing your own under fake names. You can buy them, and you can ‘trade’ reviews with another author (the unspoken rule here is that it has to be 5*). Getting genuine ones is impossible, completely and totally impossible. Not only do readers want you to give them your hard work for free, but they then won’t even bother to write a short 1 sentence review by way of recompense. I am quickly getting to hate so called readers.

This whole book ad thing is a total scam. The most well known of these advertising sites charges hundreds of dollars for a book ad, which you then have to ‘qualify’ for by having dozens of 5* reviews. Listen assholes, if I had that many 5* reviews I wouldn’t need your poxy website would I.

My advice to anyone and everyone is simple – don’t use these sites. They just want to take your hard earned money and even if you buy enough reviews to qualify, they then invent some other reason to turn you down – your book isn’t their genre, the cover isn’t professional enough, there is a single typo on page 427, or whatever.

I am sick of all the scams being peddled out there aimed at hard working authors like me. I am also sick of ‘readers’ who actually don’t read and certainly never review. This ridiculously out of control self publishing thing has to blow up soon, it has to. Then maybe, hopefully, all the peddlers of the dross will realise that they really should go back to doing manual labour, and those with real creativity can get their quality work out there. Then it will just be a case of educating the brainless masses on how to actually read quality work.

 

Liar Lindly Brandt

by Aften Brook Szymanski

Only one thing can save Lindly Brandt from her downward spiral of lies to avoid total fourth grade humiliation and there is no way she is going to tell the truth unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Check out Aften’s book here.

4 hours of epic writing music to fuel your muse

 

by Krista Wayment

The legends are true, dragons speak.

Renick, the fifth son of a dragon breeder, crashes into an unexpected adventure that challenges everything he thought he knew about dragons, history, and himself. Stranded in the massive Helath forest, Renick meets two other passengers: Thane, a noble training to be a dragon knight, and Lainey, the orphaned niece of a healer. Together they survive an attack by vicious wolves, rescue a baby dragon with a broken wing, and escape from a band of dragon hunters as they make a perilous climb into the mountains. What they discover there will change everything.

Check out Krista Wayment’s books here.

Escaping Safety

Escaping Safety, by Bonnie Gwyn

Safety is just another word for captivity.

Christina has grown up literally ‘sheltered’ in a sanctuary run by mysterious Officials who offer safety in exchange for captivity. She’s already suspicious of the Officials when she meets Tyler Andrus, commander of the T-Squad: a group of rebels on a quest to destroy the sanctuaries and bring light back into the world. Having yearned for freedom all her life, she joins them in a journey of hope, terror, and self-discovery.

Check out Escaping Safety here.