The greater writing community

On the sofa with – Horrified Press

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Today I’m on the sofa with Nathan Rowark of Horrified Press, who recently took 1st and 2nd place in this year’s P&E Reader’s Poll.  Read about it on Horrified Press’s website here

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What exactly is Horrified Press, and what do you do

That’s a good question, Merita. What is Horrified Press and what do I do…

Horrified Press is a small press, lovely fun – all warm and cuddly – but what’s this? Arggghhhh… there’s monsters and zombies and undead harlots and gooey, sticky, gory stuff. That’s right, we’re a small horror press that release scary stories – anthologies mostly – to keep you up at night.

What do I do? I’m just like the ringleader. I make sure the monsters don’t eat the readers and the authors keep their ghastly creations on literal leashes.

When did Horrified Press come into being, and how did that happen? Was it a definite choice or did it just happen?

I’ve always loved horror – from movies, literature to video games. It’s in our culture – from the front page of the newspaper that you read over breakfast to the haunted mansion in your kids’ Atari game. Well, maybe we’ve moved on from Atari games now. I started Horrified Press as a label to release my own work to begin with. It went really well and I realised I could be doing this for others. There are many authors out there who would like free editing and advice going forward. After 4 years of proving my own metal I took it upon myself to help more authors do the same. Plus, we publish some great work from semi-pro and established writers too.

From where you are now, where would you like to take Horrified Press into the future? What are your dreams for it?

We’ve taken on some great guest editors and started a new imprint. My hope is that we can take it all the way.

What advice would you give to authors wishing to write horror? What makes a good horror story?

A good story – period. Grammar, style and substance can be learnt/discovered over time. If your stories suck then you could be the best writer in the world and still fail to impress an audience.

Who are your favourite authors, and why?

I enjoy Barker for his poetic verse and King for his sound writing style.

If you could oversee the making of a horror movie, with total control over the process, what would the storyline be?

I’d take a short story I wrote around 3 years ago and expand on its premise.

Do you think there are any areas that are taboo in horror writing, or are you an ‘anything goes’ person?

Anything goes. If you’re trying to scare people but worry about frightening them… it’s never going to work out.

I’ve heard people say that those who like horror must be strange or weird in some way. Do you agree with this?

Totally disagree. It’s the people that seemingly appear normal on the outside that are cutting up their neighbors behind closed doors.

Have you ever had an horrific experience, like any of the stories you’ve published? 

Yeah actually. I had an experience with a ghost (or something). There was a witness present and I had a convo with ‘the thing’. Never did find out why it was there. It will forever bug me to its actual identity and/or purpose.

You often take submissions for anthologies and ezines, how would you advise authors who may wish to submit, to proceed?

Lead with your heart and soul. A piece that I feel will speak to our audience is good enough for me. I’m very liberal in my personal tastes and ask that an author merely respects their public by honing their skills before submitting to the markets.

Do you act as publishers for those who write horror novels, or do you only work with short stories/anthologies?

We publish anthology collections, solo collections and novels.

How can people get in touch with you? Are you on facebook and twitter? Do you have a website? 

We do – have a facebook. You can submit to us by visiting our site: horrifiedpress.wordpress.com

Details of all the works published by Horrified Press, and submission guidelines for up coming works can be found at their website.

Why I feel like I’m split in two

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I’ve recently released my seventh novel, Bygora Vandos ~ Sinclair V-Log LB734/A which you can investigate here, and as is the norm on such occasions, I’ve been trying to promote it.  I’ve done all the things a destitute author does at such times; constant updates on my facebook author page, regular tweeting, blogging here etc and, as usual, the ripples I’ve managed to create have been underwhelmingly, laughingly small.

This time however, I decided to try something I’ve never done before and see if it makes a difference.  Over the past few months, I’ve welcomed authors here on my blog to spotlight their new releases, but I’ve never done a blog tour myself.  So I thought I’d have a go this time, after all, it doesn’t cost me any money, right?

I decided to try a modest run with this, so I opted for a fourteen day tour, starting on October 29th.  I’ve been advertising for hosts several times a day on facebook and twitter and I blogged about it here, even asking people to reblog my post here if they couldn’t be bothered to actually host me properly.

So far, I’ve had five people offer to host me.  Yes, just five (5).  Out of the thousands of authors I am connected to via facebook, twitter, google+, linkedIn and everywhere else on the internet, only five people could be bothered to offer to host me?  Seriously?  Are indie authors so up their own asses that they think they can afford to be so arrogant and selfish?

Yes, they are.

The more I connect with indie authors, the less proud I am to be one.  In fact, the others make me ashamed to be one of them.  When I think of all the flack we have to put up with from trad published authors, the stigma of self publishing, attacks from those who think their opinions matter, I am saddened to find out that my greatest enemy comes from within the indie community,  not without.

Not content with producing badly written trash and openly plagiarised content/titles/characters, they then feel justified in using any and every tactic they can think of, to bring down the competition and prevent other indie authors reaching an audience desperate for something readable at last.  The lack of quality of their work stands for itself.  Today I saw one author on facebook proudly displaying the new cover for their latest release (which they laughingly call a ‘book’ but which is really only 20k words long.  More of a pamphlet my dear!)  I don’t think I’ve seen a book cover so amateurish.  It’s almost embarrassing to look at it and I pray that person never asks me what I think of it, because I hate to lie, I really do.

I’m at the stage now where I don’t lack confidence in the quality of my writing, but I’ve also come to the conclusion that I am ashamed to be an indie author, simply because it means I’m lumped in with ‘them.’  I now wish I was trad published, and I’ve even considered forming my own publishing company, just to produce my own books.  This will enable me to take a step away from ‘them’ and their culture of sabotage, lies and fraud.  From purchasing reviews, offering ‘prizes’ in return for sales/reviews, deliberately refusing to help other authors get the word out, posting bad reviews of other authors’ books, and all the other dubious practices they indulge in, I want no part of it.

I may only have five souls with vision and discernment enough to host me, but those five are worth ten thousand of the rest of ‘them.’  They know there is room on the shelf for everyone’s book, that this business is about producing work of quality that can not only entertain people, but can change lives.  My work will be doing that long after I’m dead and gone, it will be doing that long after the rest of the trash has fallen to the bottom of the charity shop bargain bin, and long after the flames that consume its pages warms the hands of street bums down under the freeway.

That’s the thing ‘they’ never quite get.  It’s not about making money or being famous, it’s about creating something magnificent and life changing, that is worthy of its place in the universal consciousness forever. I’m doing that, with or without a blog tour.

WH Smith removing all self published ebooks

I just found out that WH Smith has taken down their website while they remove all self published ebooks from their site.  Apparently, they get some of their ebooks from Kobo, one of their partners, and some self published authors have been ignoring the ‘decency’ rules by using these platforms to publish content containing rape, incest and bestiality.

You can read a BBC report about it here.

On one hand, I can see their point.  Does incest, rape and bestiality really make a good work of fiction?  Why in the world anyone would want to write a book about bestiality, is totally beyond me but, it takes all sorts to make a world I guess.  I wouldn’t want to read such stuff, especially as I was a child victim of incest myself, but does that mean no one should be allowed to?

On the other hand, is this just another example of the nanny state gone mad?  Rape and incest happen, every day, all over the world and stopping people from including it in works of fiction, might be construed as censorship on steroids.  There are ways to infer rape and incest in a storyline, without giving readers a gut-wrenching blow by blow account, and in so doing, keep the story within bounds without taking the realism out of it.

WH Smith is a Newsagent, and they sell newspapers and magazines, including ‘top shelf’ men’s smut rags.  Surely, if they want to remove all ‘dirty stuff’ they should stop selling these too?  And, furthermore, I’ll bet fifty quid of anyone’s money that there are numerous traditionally published titles that also feature rape and incest.  Possibly not bestiality though, do people really write about that?  Seriously?  Anyway, are they going to remove the trad pubbed smut too?  They damn well better, or there will be a riot.

Internet marketing – I need a plan that works

I’m the first to admit that when it comes to internet promotion/marketing, I suck cock.  I’m a good writer but I’m terrible at selling my stuff.  I wish I was better at it, and I’ve tried but got almost nowhere.  This has to change, it’s the only aspect of being an author that I not only hate, but I’m very bad at.

I’ve been listening to other authors on facebook, talking about this very subject.  I’ve come to realise that using social media for promotion is a skill; one has to learn how to do it artistically and creatively, rather than being a bull in a china shop.  The authors I’ve connected with, all seem to agree that the best social media for promotion, are twitter, facebook and pinterest, with stumbleupon coming up at the rear.  Now I know this, I have a starting point.

I’ve been fine tuning my use of twitter for a while now and it’s running quite well, to a point.  I use Feed 140 to drip feed tweets throughout the day, and I’ve compiled a playlist of almost 300 ‘content’ tweets that drip through to my twitter at 3 per hour.  I sort this playlist into groups of 5, like this –

1 – a quote

2 – a link to an interesting article

3 – a promo for one of my books

4 – another quote

5 – a link to one of my blogs

By doing it this way, my followers don’t get snowed under by my promos, and they get to know that I offer stuff that interests them away from writing.  By interesting them in other ways, they might then take a moment to check out my books or my blog.  They might not, but there’s a better chance than just throwing “buy my books” tweets at them incessantly.  I add to this playlist from time to time, so there’s fresh content coming through and I have found that since I’ve been using twitter in this way, I get a lot of followers, and a lot of my tweets are favourited and retweeted, although those are never my book promo tweets.  I don’t know if this is ever going to help me sell books, but at least I’m trying.

I’ve decided to try to use pinterest in a similar way.  Up until now, I’ve kept pinterest to my books and blogs and I’ve never had any traffic to my blog from there and comments from other authors have convinced me to try something similar to my twitter use.  I am in the process of building ‘content boards’ that have nothing to do with my books or blog.  Recipes, gardening, decorating, craft ideas etc will form the bulk of this content, and hopefully I will get more traffic there which may migrate to my blog and books.

I already have a facebook author page, separate from my personal page and I use that for my blog posts and all book related stuff.  I also make posts that are not just book related, so people can see I’m a person with ideas and imagination, a sense of humour and not just someone trying to sell their shit.  I post funny photos and humorous quotes as well as book stuff, and I get a few ‘likes’ to such posts from time to time.  The problem with facebook fan pages, is that facebook don’t let your posts be seen by everyone who subscribes, unless you pay, so you know that your post isn’t going to be seen by everyone.  I’m trying to engage people more, with my fan page, but it’s a slow and thankless task.  There are so many author pages, all vying for everyone’s attention, and this oversaturation makes readers eyes glass over.

I have this blog linked automatically to my facebook fan page, my twitter feed, my linkedIn page, my google+ page and my goodreads blog, so I am trying to keep up a presence in as many places as possible.  Beyond paying for promotion space, which is out of the question because I’m broke, I don’t know what else I can do.  I take every opportunity to be interviewed, and I accept guest posts on this blog from others.

I’d be interested to hear about any other ideas or opportunities, especially those that cost nothing.

 

Negative Reviews – the worst way to handle them

I normally pay no more than a moment’s attention to most of the posts by other authors on facebook.  Ninety nine percent of the time they’re just trying to sell me their shit, which I have no intention of buying anyway, so I glance and jog on to the pics of half naked men with washboard abs and funny animal videos.  Now and again though, I see something that so enrages me, that I have to respond, even though I know my response will not only fall on deaf ears, but will probably lose me my kneecaps.  No matter, I prefer to speak up with universal wisdom and risk losing them, than keep silent and condone such behaviour.

In one of the writer’s groups I belong too (although maybe not for much longer) I saw this post.

“Hey all ***(name)*** just got this stupid one star review can we get some vote downs.”  A link to an Amazon review was attached.

The review is this.

“The story was a good one, kept you reading. However, to me it was poorly written. It was hard to keep up with the characters at times because of the way the story jumped from one scene to another before you realize it. I especially disliked the way the little boy, Joel, was written as to his baby talk.

I have never read a book that described a dog’s bark as “Bufgr”. This was just comical to me. Not a major problem with the book.”

Now, this review is not disrespectful in any way, it does not include name calling or swear words and never encourages other potential readers not to buy the book.  It is honest, well written and candid.  This person obviously spent money buying the book (the ebook version of which is nearly $4) and has exercised his/her right to give their honest opinion on it.  After all, we do live in a society that claims to encourage freedom of speech.  Indeed, the reviewer even compliments the book as being a good story.

Asking your author buddies to immediately go and vote down a review, simply because you don’t like it is not only unprofessional, but it also says a lot about your moral standards as both a person and an author.  That worries me and makes me determined never to buy any of your books.  I not only have to enjoy the book I’m reading, but I also have to respect you as a person.  I’m funny like that, I have standards.

The world of book reviews has become so sullied in recent times, with sock puppets, paid reviews and now this type of ‘vote rigging’ by authors and it makes me less desirous of getting reviews for my own work, or at least makes me care a little less about whether I get them or not.

When people pay money for our product, they have  a right to voice their opinion of said product, and whether we like what they have to say or not, is beside the point and of no consequence.  That is the joy of living in a society where freedom of speech is encouraged.  I applaud this reviewer for voicing their opinion in such an honest but unemotional way, and for avoiding name calling and other such undignified behaviour so often seen these days.

The more I associate with other authors, the less I respect them.

When you get a low star review, as we all do from time to time, simply ignore it.  Do not respond and certainly do not resort to this kind of ‘vote rigging’ as it only makes the paying public all too well aware of the depths to which you will happily sink, in order to fool them into thinking your product is worth their money.  What makes it worse is that the person who made the request, claims to be a religious man.

You, Sir, are an ass..!

The new ad-free me

I’ve come to a momentous decision today.  Thanks to the general public’s total lack of interest in my work, I shall no longer be doing any advertising of my books.

I’m not the world’s greatest saleswoman, I’m the first to admit that, and I don’t have a rich husband/parents/boyfriend/wife;/girlfriend/son/daughter etc to pay for one of the many over priced ‘advertise your book here’ websites or a publicist to do the work for me.  All I have is me.

I’ve said many times that authors are a selfish and competitive breed of creature.  They don’t give real help without a fight and they happily use bribery and outright fraud to jemmy their book’s way up the ladder of apparent success.  From getting other writer chums to write glowing reviews, to giving away kindles and amazon gift cards in return for reviews, anything and everything is fair in the book game.

You can’t just do a giveaway anymore, that doesn’t work.  Without the promise of a brand new kindle or $50 in amazon money, no one is interested in actually reading a good book these days.  It doesn’t matter how badly written the book is, how atrocious the spelling or how lackluster the grammar, so long as that kindle or gift card is in the post, they’ll give a glowing 5 star review.

I’ve just run a giveaway event for my latest novel and I’m not offering kindles or money.  I don’t need to bribe anyone, the book is good enough on its own to more than compensate for the time involved in reading.  The trouble is that people don’t actually read books anymore, even their buddies’ ones that they review.  They just skim without taking anything in.

I set an easy and fun competition and was offering ten free e-copies of my latest novel as the prize.  All I was asking was that people write a little story of 300 words about a celebrity and I would read and pick ten winners.  Guess how many signed up for the event.  Go on, guess.  Thirty eight.  Now guess how many actually did a story.  Two.

Officially the event runs until Friday but I’m confident no one else will bother to enter and, as per the rules set by me, if less than twenty enter, the whole shebang will be cancelled.

One thing that people really should try to get into their brains is that all those who are offering kindles and money as bribes to you for reading and reviewing their books, are doing it because they need to.  Think about it for a second; why would someone who has written a brilliant book need to give expensive gifts away to people to tempt them to read it?  Answer – because they probably wouldn’t go within a mile of it if they didn’t.

I recently watched a hilarious conversation on facebook where an female author was moaning loudly to her chums about someone who had given her latest tome a bad review.  Her little buddies jumped in and commiserated with her, called the reviewer all sorts of a obscene names and some even threatened violence if they ever met the person.  I went to Amazon and read the free preview and was appalled at the spelling and grammar, the punctuation mistakes and continuity errors I saw in the just the few pages the preview offered.

The standard of writing has fallen through the floor since the advent of self publishing and most people now have so little real knowledge of how to use their own language correctly, that their work often isn’t fit to read.

I’m not going to start offering kindles and amazon gift cards to bribe folks to read my books.  In fact I’m not going to actively advertise them at all anymore.  I shall do my usual post when I publish a new novel and continue with my weekly tweet/excerpt group as that helps out others, a couple of whom are very nice people.  I write because my soul aches to write.  I write because the universe demands I write.  I write because it’s the only thing I can do well.  I shall continue to write books of quality and publish them.  Whether you read them is up to you, but I won’t be offering you anything for doing it.

2 Day Booklover’s Bash

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It’s that time of the week again; time for the 2 Day Virtual Ebook Fair and Booklover’s Bash.

This facebook event is great for readers and lovers of all book genres.

Read excerpts, chat with authors and have fun.

I’ll be there with my space opera, Floxham Island and would love some support and chat with you all.

Here’s the link to the event.

The Point of Giving Up

Today I realised something painful and distressing, something I don’t want to admit to but something I have to face sooner or later.  People don’t like my writing and they just aren’t interested in even taking a look.

This hurts me in many ways, which I won’t go into to save you thinking (as you naturally would) that this is a sob story.  Suffice to say that I feel deflated and disheartened to the point that I’m thinking of giving up writing altogether.

People just refuse to buy my books and they won’t even come here to the blog and read the free excerpts and free short stories I have here.  I check the stats and can see how many visit and click so I know what I’m saying is true.

What I don’t know is whether this is because the market is so over saturated with indie published books that there’s too much choice, or whether it just because my work is shit.  And, it’s no use asking you because you never read my stuff so how would you know if it’s shit or not?

The only thing I can say is that deep in my heart I didn’t start writing to make money.  I started writing in June 2011 because one night, as I sat at the computer, something overwhelmed me and I began to write.  8 hours later, at 4am I dragged myself away from the computer to bed and knew I had the beginnings of a whole book at last.  Having wanted to write a book since I was a kid, here I was approaching 50 and finally I was writing a book.  I write because my soul demands that I write.  I write because there is something or someone standing beside me, telling me their story and telling me that I’m the one they’ve chosen to tell it to the world.  I write because it’s the only way to get my voice heard and yes, I do have a voice that has been screaming to get out for fifty years.

So should I give up or continue?  I don’t know.  Maybe I should just write and save everything to a disc or a memory stick and ask for it to be buried with me when I die, or kill myself, whichever is sooner.  Maybe I should stop.  One thing is for sure, I’m not giving everything away for free.  If I’m not worthy of a few pennies of your money, you’re not worthy of weeks of my time and energy.  If I write and no one sees what I write, the universal consciousness will know I’ve written and my words will be a part of the flow of the universe, whether heard or unheard by these creatures who were, so recently, grunting apes.

I read someone the other week who was also contemplating giving up, for similar reasons, and one thing they said stuck in my mind.  They said “you disappoint me greatly, all of you.  You stand with hands open when in need but turn your backs when in plenty.  You are so consumed by greed that you cannot even open your mouth and offer genuine encouragement to someone who is doing something that you cannot.”  I don’t know whether I’d go quite that far, but he’s got a point..!

The book market is over saturated with books, thanks to the indie publishing revolution, and much of it is tripe.  Those works that are good get lost amongst the trash, not because they are not worthy but because they are buried in rubbish and people are tired of wading through the excrement of uneducated minds to find those words that inspire and set their imaginations aflame.

I’m hoping the market crashes, and soon.  Maybe then a few brave souls will find my work and read it.

Virtual E-Book Fair

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Have you attended the Virtual Ebook Fair? If not, what are you waiting for? This event is taking the Internet by storm. In just a few months it’s become a favorite hang out for readers and authors alike as they mingle and chat.  Started as part of bestselling author, Tammie Clarke Gibbs’ launch for her latest release, SWORN TO SECRECY, a time-travel  romance, the Virtual Ebook Fair quickly became an event everyone is looking forward to.

Traditional book fairs have always been a favorite for booklovers, now you can attend one and meet new and new to you authors as well as some of your favorites without spending for admission fees and gas to get to the event and while there’s nothing that can take the place of meeting authors in person there are many benefits to attending in your pjs from the comfort of your own home.

Originally, a one-day Saturday event, the Virtual Ebook Fair is now held over two days beginning each week on Friday and running through Saturday at 10 pm est.

Each author has their own booth, and some have more than one where they share a short excerpt from their ebooks/books and then give you a link where you can read more or buy the book and visit their website/blogs. In addition to the excerpts, many share funny accounts of the writing process and interact with visitors in a fun way.

You can enter to win giveaway e-books by subscribing to the brand-new  Reader’s Rock emagazine that will launch in June. The subscription is currently free and gives you one entry for each week’s giveaways. You only have to register once.  In addition, authors often give out coupons for free e-books or run one or two-day  sales on their e-books.

If you really love to read, you’ll love this event, and it just gets better and better. Growing by leaps and bounds, it promises to continue to be one of the hottest destinations for booklovers around. What are you waiting for JOIN the event today?!

Blog – http://www.virtualebookfair.com

Blog – http://www.readersrockmagazine.com

Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/VirtualEbookFair

Event Page Link for this weekend: May 31- June 1: https://www.facebook.com/events/381254251993089/

The Big Editing Services Scam

This morning I decided to do a little fun research about the cost of hiring an editor.  Now this is in no way a scientifically based study, I googled and picked one at random, to check out her rates and qualifications.

She charges £17 – £22 per 1000 words.  Multiply that by the number of words in your novel and you’ll get a final cost.  Multiply this final cost by how many books you write per year and you’ll get a yearly cost.

She has some qualifications (allegedly).  A PhD in English Lit, BA in English and an MPhil in medieval studies.  All good qualifications, although I fail to see how a degree in medieval studies makes her qualified to comment on my space operas..!

The job of editor is multi layered.  They have to find your structural errors – spelling, punctuation, grammar, tense, continuity errors, passive voice and all the other structural mistakes we all make when we write.  On top of that, they give their opinions on the other, more abstract areas of your writing, which generally consists of comments about your characters, the environments, situations and the action within the story; whether they like it or not is basically what this part of the job means.  Okay that is simplifying it somewhat, but in essence that what it is.

The structural errors are things we can all learn to correct ourselves.  We don’t need an editor to find our spelling mistakes, wrong tenses, bad punctuation (or none at all), and faulty grammar.  You can google and learn how to punctuate your dialogue correctly, you can learn about the correct use of tenses and you can easily brush up on your grammar.  There are millions upon millions of articles about passive voice versus active voice and it doesn’t take long to find out what a dangling modifier is nor how many adverbs are too many adverbs.

You don’t need to pay someone to do this for you.  You can do it yourself easily, by researching and buying a few books on writing basics. If you pay someone to do this stuff for you, you are either too lazy to do it yourself or you have far more money than sense.  Good for you, whatever blows your skirt up.  Most of us don’t have that kind of money and we’re made to feel unworthy as writers for not shelling out hundreds and thousands of pounds to have someone do it for us.  I once had a gal on facebook tell me she charged “up to 1500” for editing.  Although she didn’t say whether that was pounds or dollars, it’s still a lot.  When I told her I couldn’t afford it, she then posted on her page, naming me by name, that I obviously didn’t value my own work highly enough and that if I did, I would pay.  Those who know me well enough won’t need me to explain how I reacted to that..!

As for the more abstract areas of writing, this is where I have the biggest problem with editors.  No matter what qualifications you have, your opinion as to my characters’ depth (or lack thereof), my story arc, the realism of my narrative or the enjoyment to be gained from reading my work is of no more value than anyone else’s.  This is not something that a degree in English can teach, it is felt by each individual reader.  Some will like it, others will not.

All authors out there feeling bad because they can’t afford an editor, stop feeling bad.  Buy books on punctuation and grammar.  Research the internet about these basic building blocks of writing, all the info is there by the truck load for you to read.  Once you’ve corrected the spellings, punctuation and so on, get family and friends to read it and ask them intelligent questions.  Are the characters believable? Are any characters superfluous to the story? Does the story flow? Are the environments realistic enough?  Is the action right for the story?  Their answers to theses type of questions, rather than just “did you like it?”  will tell you what (if anything) needs to be tweaked, added or taken away.

This gal may be very good at her job, she may be a total fraud.  The thing is, you could be paying her thousands of pounds for a job you can do yourself, with a little time devoted to learning the basics.  People think that because someone calls themselves an editor, that what they say about your book is gospel and you’ll be bound to fail if you don’t apply their recommendations.  This is bollocks.  All they do is give their opinion, which is no more valid than anyone else’s.

Don’t shell out your life savings or remortgage your condo to hire someone to do something you can do yourself.