Book trailers…

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Do you have an amazing book trailer that you’d like to showcase here?

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In the process of having one created, I’ve been watching quite a few over the past few days and have been staggered at how creative and fab many are!

Mini movies about books.  Thirty seconds or a minute is a small window to encompass the entire premise of a story, it does offer a tempting teaser though.

Has your book trailer boosted sales?  Has it generated a book-buzz?  I’d love to hear from you so please do comment.

Janey x

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Parental controls and social media or, Old people know nothing!

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Do you stalk your teenage child’s social media accounts?

I’m the only one?

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It’s not that we don’t trust our kids, it’s that we are old enough and wise enough as parents to know that there are creeps out there lurking and preying on vulnerable minors.

I raise this issue because I sent a private message this morning to my teenage daughter’s social media account.  I’d noticed that her privacy settings were non-existent and that, already, she had a lurker in her follower list.

I like meet you. You send message, we meet.

I calmly asked my dear daughter to amend her settings, that I would show her how to do this and what I thought was acceptable personal information and what was not.

Her reply was this:

Oh gosh, this is hilarious.  I’m posting this on Instagram!  This (her mother sending her a private message and looking at her account) is creepier than the creepy guy!

What my daughter forgets is that her father sat for six hours at Magcon at O2 on Saturday, resulting in permanent hearing loss through fifteen thousand girls screaming at boys who are multi-millionair social media starlets.  No, we are just creepy old people who’s mission in life is to ruin theirs. 😉

What are your views on parental controls with social media?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Janey x

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Do you worry about criticism?

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Oh, you didn’t like my book?

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You’re so mean!

Have you published a book?

Did you slave over that book for all of your best years, and now you can never get those years back?

And, after you gave so much of yourself, someone left a bad review? (in bold to emphasise the anger and hurt you feel––I could EVEN CAPITALISE AND ADD BOLD AND ITALICS, BECAUSE THE PAIN IS REAL!)

It’s like someone calling your baby ugly, right?

If you show someone something you’ve written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, ‘When you’re ready.’––David Mitchell, Black Swan Green.

Stop.  Smile.  If the fool who left a damning review took the time to do so, then guess what?

You are a winner!  You gave that reader something to think about, to connect to, to have an opinion on, to take time to write about those feelings and to share them with you.

How often have you simply discarded a written piece, a book, an article, a blog post, and not cared less about it?  More often than not, we don’t take the time or feel strongly or passionately enough to bother leaving any feedback.  They lost us.

We’re out of there faster than Donald Trump in a barber shop!

A review–both rave and terrible–means that you have held that reader’s attention, that your writing was worthy of their feedback, even if disclosing this wasn’t their intention in submitting the review.

There is a saying, ‘No publicity is bad publicity,’ and the same is true of book reviews.  While people are talking about your work, your novel, word is getting out there about your book.  There can be elements within the review that, while the reviewer nearly passed out over, another potential reader might like.

“It was smut, smut, smut and more smut.  Filthy rubbish!”

“Ooh, I like the sound of that!  I think I’ll download that to read by the pool in Malaga.”

You see?  One person’s idea of hell is another’s heaven.  If you take a look on Amazon or B&N, you’ll see mixed reviews for even the literary greats and I guarantee that the literary Gods who wrote them did not have their writing careers ended overnight by any one of those negative reviews.

But it still hurts!  And isn’t it tempting to retort?  To let them know that they clearly didn’t get the entire premise of your story?  To hurt them back?

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Do not do it!  Scream, cry, make a Voodoo doll of them and stick pins in the eyes, but do not respond to negative reviews!  Know that there will be a positive review right around the corner.  It will boot the bad review down the list and restore your faith in your skill.

When I self-published my first book and it went live it felt the same as if I’d stripped naked and run through the supermarket.  Exposed.  Vulnerable.  Then I received some 5* reviews.  This was unbelievable.  Until the first negative review landed on my book’s Amazon page and my heart broke in two.  They hadn’t even read past the first few pages!  I wanted to scream at them, ‘You didn’t even get to the good part!’  I knew I couldn’t respond, I did–fleetingly–consider creating a fake reader account and leaving myself a good review or begging my grandma’s neighbour’s first-cousin-once-removed to do it.

What’s the point?  What would it achieve?

I realised that, actually, the fact that the reader had bought the book and taken the time to leave a review was not entirely a bad thing.  It dawned on me that I can’t please all of the people all of the time.  I like Marmite and cheese sandwiches, others don’t (their loss).  I had to accept the following:

Book reviews do not define you, your book or your writing talent.

They are individual preferences and tastes.

As always, I’d love to hear from you!  As a writer, how has a negative book review made you feel?  As a reader, are you influenced by reviews when making reading choices?  Please comment.

Janey x

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Dear writer, do your readers like me? Love, your antagonist…

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(Insert evil cackle)

We all love to hate the bad guy in a movie, in a book, in life!

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I’m looking right through the screen at you!

Let’s take Mr. Norman Bates as an example.  Creepy guy without a doubt.  I’m sure that you have seen the film Psycho, 1960, brought to us by the portly terror-peddling genius, Alfred Hitchcock.  Am I alone in actually feeling empathy for Norman by the end of the film? (If so, then that makes me weird so let’s pretend you felt for him too).

I cared about him!  He loved his poor, rocking, dead mother so very much that he used to cross-dress in her frocks––that’s love!

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I love you Mommy, mwahaha

His backstory was heartbreaking.  Misguided as he was in slashing doe-eyed ladies in full makeup in the shower (I mean, do not try this at home!), I could sort of understand how he was as psychotic as he was.  If I hadn’t known about his mother’s love then I would have pegged him as a nasty piece of work who slaughtered without motive.  I wouldn’t care what happened to him!  He could have had his eyeballs chewed out by mice and I’d have applauded, or worse still I wouldn’t have cared.

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Who turned off the hot water?

A wise owl, the wonderful Ms. Paula Munier,  told me recently that readers need to be invested in our antagonist as well as the protagonist.  This made sense to me.  I don’t necessarily have to like the baddies in the books I read, but I need to understand their motivations.

Antagonists need to have something to lose and something to gain also!

What does Norman Bates have to lose?  He never got over the death of his sweet mother who butchered her lover then killed herself.  Desperately trying to continue his abstract life where his mother lived on, he hid her body in the fruit cellar (as you do) and created her inside his own mind (he could be a writer!).  With his altered personality he became two people and it was the real Norman towards whom viewers empathised.  We became invested in him and that emotional investment meant that we cared about him, even if we didn’t like him.

And, as Norman Bates finally got his comeuppance, sitting in a police cell, his dead mother’s voice could be heard protesting that the murders were her son’s doing.  That she wouldn’t even ‘harm a fly!’  Poor Norman.  His devotion to his mother was impressive and yet, when the s*** hit the fan, she turned on him like a rat.

We want our protagonists to rise up gloriously at the end of our stories but, in order for their achievements to be monumental, we need to see them overcome our antagonists and for the battle between them to be real, to be emotional, for all to be at stake on both sides.

What have you thrown at your antagonists?  I’ve wept for my baddy when I threw her off a high building, have you cried tears over yours?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Janey x

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Tips for Writers: Frustrate Your Hero — Mitch Teemley

Originally posted on Mitch Teemley: I know, you’re thinking, “Well, of course. I always seek Mick Jagger’s advice when creating characters.” Or not. But Mick has a point: Instead of building a conventional dramatic arc by having your main character ultimately get what he or she wants (after overcoming the bad guys), have your hero…

via Tips for Writers: Frustrate Your Hero — Mitch Teemley

Patchy tables and burning the midnight oil…

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When I first started writing I was determined to create a ‘me’ space, a place where I could be shut away from the noise and needs of the kids, of my husband.  Not in a selfish way, but it seemed to be the only way that I could clear the clutter from my mind in order to enter the worlds of my story people and hear what they had to say.

Writing is not a matter of time, but a matter of space.  If you don’t keep space in your head for writing, you won’t write even if you have the time. –– Katerina Stoykova Klemer

I went to Ikea, bought a swanky white table, set it up in the spare bedroom.  I chose a chair.  Everything was all set, I had my own private place to write.  I sat and stared at the keyboard, feeling very smug that the world could continue to spin outside the bedroom door and I wouldn’t care or be pulled by its magnetism back into reality.

Then, nothing happened.

The kids were too quiet and the house on the other side of the white door became a whole new world of which I was no longer a part.  What were they up to?  Was I being selfish as a mum in removing myself for an hour or two?  Guilt crept in and wagged its finger in my face.  I couldn’t concentrate because the shut door was always there: a barrier between them and me.

Gathering up the plethora of writing essentials (chocolate, drink, phone in case of emergencies that never came, laptop, notebook and pen),  I plonked them unceremoniously down on the dining table.  Our dining room is actually just an open space that nestles between the kitchen and hallway.  It is the arterial route through which our family pulses in constant quests for snacks and drinks and homework.  I found that I relaxed in spite of, or perhaps because of, the constant throughput of children.  I was visible if not entirely approachable.

That was a few years ago, and the reason that I write this now is that today my table is going.  The worn stain where my constant cuppa has sat beside me.  The hours and hours and hours spent sat at it, tapping away.  The seedlings of stories that were nurtured right there.

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Going.  My table is going and it could be loved or chopped up as firewood.  I realise though, that it doesn’t matter.  It never mattered.  Space isn’t found in furniture, in a room, in our environment.  Space is inside our minds and we have the ability to withdraw into it if we allow ourselves to.

Where do you find space to write or simply to be ‘you?’  Let me know in the comments.

Using your friends and family’s dirty little secrets for your own gain…

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Use the dirty little secrets of those you love and care about.  Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?  Who would do that? Are you kidding me Janey?

I kid you not.  The skeletons in the closets of those around you are sat there, in the dark, gathering dust, and you owe it to them to take them out, air them, use them in your next story!

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. –– Roald Dahl

Secrets and scandal are all around us.  Secrets are buried and rarely talked about because, to the bearer, they are of such monumental importance as to be quite shocking and scandalous if ever they are known.  By their very nature then, they are nuggets of information that are outside what may be classified as socially acceptable or morally right. Honestly, you probably couldn’t make up that stuff!  Use it then in your novel writing.  Change the names, the circumstances, move abroad, whatever you have to do.  Don’t divulge the source but do utilise that little snippet of wrongness or perhaps something really wonderful, and hand that secret to your protagonist or antagonist.  Do it to them, whatever it is, or put the secret inside their mind and then let them deal with the consequences.

The secret is out.  How will they ever pick up the pieces?  You see?  It’s okay to use this information if it doesn’t disclose the writer’s source.  After all, you’re not breaking a trust or telling a secret that isn’t yours to tell; it was the story people what did it M’Lord.

Like me, have you ever used real secrets or experiences in your novel writing?  Did you feel guilty afterwards?  Did it add to the tension for your story people?  Comment below and free the skeletons of this world.

Janey x

Britishisms in writing…

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I’m proud to be British.  Mine is the house with a St. George’s Day flag or with bunting strung carelessly, proudly, for every conceivable Royal celebration.  I even made every guest wear Kate and Will paper masks for the Royal Wedding party I threw.

I’m British–greater still, I’m ENGLISH–and although I love America, they do and say things all wrong and are weird in so many ways.  I could happily live in America, but I would never be American.  That is, until I began writing my current work in progress.

Sean is an American living in Vermont.  Cue dialogue challenges; everything I know about the British language suddenly had to be unlearned.  Britishisms are rife throughout my first draft, from suspenders that hold up trousers (pants) rather than stockings, to sweaters and vests and purses and…dear Lord, it’s an entirely different language to learn!

If the English language made any sense, CATASTROPHE would be an apostrophe with fur. ––Doug Larson

I’m so tempted to turn Sean (spits his name) into a Brit abroad, except I’d need to also have his wife, his colleagues, the nasty antagonist, his entire story world do the same.  In Vermont.  No!  I shall rise to the challenge and practice Americanisms and all the other isms that will eventually see this book finished.

Are you a Brit living in America?  Have you retained your Britishisms?  Comment below and share your stories with me.

Janey x