Co-Operative Marketing and What Defines a Good Book

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post shares an update from Richard Hardie with regard to his Authors Reach group. More writers than ever are banding up together to hold events they would not go to alone or to assist in marketing.

A great example of this is last year’s Book Fair where a number of local writers got together to sell our books in the area. (We succeeded too!). A good group will cross-pollinate each others’ works. Sometimes it can be easier to promote others’s works than your own. But in this day of print on demand, smartphone, and other technologies, offering to assist can be crucial. It is appreciated by readers too. Having an event with a wider range of authors taking part gives readers more choice (and makes it more likely they’ll turn up to the event!).

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I’m glad to share the first part of a series for Chandler’s Ford Today on which I am series editor. Graham MacLean on Art will run for the next three weeks. Tonight’s article features Graham discussing the purpose of art.

Next week Graham will talk about the different media used in painting and share some of his fantastic artworks using the different forms. He’ll finish the series with a look at his favourite artists.

It was a real pleasure to help Graham put this series together. His paintings are wonderful. Hope you enjoy.  The images below are just three of Graham’s wonderful pictures.  Many thanks, Graham, for these.  There are more in all three articles.  The other two parts to this will appear on 14th and 21st June respectively.

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One great thing about writing is that each writer brings their own perspective to a story. So even if several writers had the same theme, word count etc, our stories would be different. (Yes, there would be bound to be some writers coming out with similar ideas as to how to treat the topic but even there, the way characters are portrayed, the use of language, style etc all show the individual author’s voice).

This is why reading work by other writers is such a pleasure as I love seeing how others treat a theme etc, especially when it is a world away from the way I’d treat it. I like the contrast. I like other writers surprising me with what they come up (and hope sometimes at least I can return the compliment with my writing!).

Got plenty of reading to catch up on when I’m on holiday before long. Very much looking forward to it!

(Am glad to say the books in the slideshow below are some of those I’ve read as a result of interviewing the authors! Am more than happy to recommend them all – and naturally I’m starting with mine!!).

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Good luck to all of the authors taking part in the Waterloo Arts Festival next week. A special hello goes to my fellow Bridge House and Cafelit authors, Paula Readman, Christopher Bowles, Gail Aldwin, and Dawn Knox, who, like me, have work included in the anthology that ties in with the Festival.

I’m only sorry I can’t be there but hope the readings go well and that the ebook sells really well! (Not that I’m biased or anything… much!).

The stories in this anthology are all flash ones so if you are looking to add to your flash fiction collection, do look out for the release of this ebook from 14th June. I will share more details towards the end of next week.

It is heartening to see flash fiction in such fine form!

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – What Defines a Good Book?

A good book, as far as I’m concerned, has to:-

1. Have characters I care about (though I don’t mind if some are “slow burn” characters so I grow to care about them. I am prepared to give them time but I feel cheated if by the end of the book, I haven’t been made to care about the characters.).

2. Have characters I can get behind and either “root” for their success or, usually if a villain, hope they get their comeuppance. (I do love finding out how they do!).

3. Give you a sense that the author has said all that has needed to be said but oh how you wish there was more of the story because you enjoyed it so much.

4. Give you a sense of a wonderfully created world, leaving the way for prequels or sequels, whether or not the writer actually does write these.

5. Have a gripping plot, obviously.

6. Have an easy to remember blurb. It makes it easier to recommend the book to others because it gives you the main point, which drew you to reading the book in the first place.

7. Have a title that intrigues or you can see a few different directions in which the title could take you. That opens up all sorts of possibilities for the story itself and makes me want to crack on and read it!

8. If within a really popular genre, such as crime or fantasy, being able to offer something different to the “mix” so the book stands out.

9. You could see a decent film being made out of the plot as long as the movie people stick to the plot of the book, given it is so good.

10. You want to re-read it at least once a year. Always a good sign that.

Fairytales With Bite – Time to Wonder, Time to Reflect

Do your characters ever wonder or take some time out to reflect? Wonder can be at the physical beauty of the world they’re on, of course, (or if in a really bad place at just how ugly it is!), or they are aware of just how small they are in comparison to their surroundings.

Characters, like us, need periods of reflection, especially if they are on any kind of quest. So how do they find the time to reflect or is it forced upon them? (They’ve got to hide out for a while, so have got plenty of time to do some thinking etc).

What do your characters make of the world you’ve put them in? Are they observant? Do they treat their natural world with contempt or are they conservationists? Do they ever reflect on their own behaviour and attitudes?

Are your characters thoughtful or thoughtless ones? If you have characters where one is a reflective type and the other would far rather watch paint dry, (a) you can see the potential for clashes here (though they could be humorous ones) and (b) how do you resolve matters if the two absolutely have to work together? (Again potential for comedy or tragedy here).

I’ll leave you to wonder how to write that! Good luck!

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This World and Others – Purposes

I’ve recently been the series editor for a series on art by Graham MacLean on Chandler’s Ford Today.  (The other two parts of this series will be going live on 14th and 21st June.  I’d highly recommend having a look – Graham is a superb artist).  Part 1 of this series talks about the purpose of art.  (We could have gone on at length about that rather than just write and edit one post about it!).  Part 2 will see Graham discussing the different media used in painting and he shares some fantastic examples of his own work in most of the forms discussed.  Part 3 will be his thoughts on his favourite artists.

So this led me to think about what purposes your characters (a) have, (b) consider worthy, (c) would not go a million miles near no matter how much you paid them, or (d) intend to carry out, no matter how or of who tries to get in their way.  How did they discover these purposes?  What is behind their attitude towards them?  Are societal/tribal pressures influencing them on how they should react/which purposes they should carry out or avoid?

A purpose will have a clearly stated aim so will automatically give your character something to either strive for or get away from, as the case may be.  It will be the conflicts caused by that striving or avoiding which give you your story.  The purpose has to be strong enough and definite.  So a purpose of, say, killing the dragon terrifying the village is fine.  A purpose of sitting down to think about what should be done about the dragon is not – far too wishy washy!

And talking of dragons, I’m glad to share a recently published flash fiction piece, Time for a Change, which has recently appeared on Cafelit.  Hope you enjoy.

And now I’m off for a few days break.  I will be back on here during the week beginning Monday 18th June.  Hope you all have wonderful holidays this summer.  I have, meantime, scheduled short Facebook posts on my author page and also on my From Light to Dark and Back Again page for the next few days.  I will be back here with a big round-up of those on my return.  Happy summer, everyone!

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Never give up, work hard, be disciplined... all valuable traits for success, whether you're a tennis player, a writer or a character in a story! Image via Pixabay.

FAVOURITE STORIES, FLASH FICTION AND FURRY FRIENDS

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are either from Pixabay or taken by me.

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My favourite kind of story usually involves a villain getting their comeuppance. This covers everything from episodes of Columbo (great series!) to fairy tales to most fiction genres. I suppose this is because we all know so often justice is NOT done in life so perhaps we look to fiction to “compensate”.

I’m not into gruesome revenge tales (I think the danger with those is if you overdo it, you end up feeling some sympathy for the villain), but I do love poetic justice stories (and have written a few in From Light to Dark and Back Again),

The other reason is when the villain hasn’t got away with whatever evil scheme he/she devised, the story comes to what feels like a natural conclusion. Generally, there is no need to go beyond that point. And I like stories which are complete in themselves – an intriguing opening, an engrossing middle and a satisfying ending. I don’t want “beyond that”.

So what is your favourite kind of story and why?  (Image Credit:  Most below are by Pixabay.  The one of my books is by me).

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My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be a look back at last weekend’s Book Fair. While I can’t name all the authors taking part (there were LOADS!), I can share several pictures to give a good idea of how things were. I very much hope this will be the start of many such events.

Sadly we lost our independent bookshop some time ago so the Book Fair and other events like it can help plug the gap a little. We are lucky enough to have a fantastic library and one of their staff, the great Jane, came out to support the event too with their information stand. More details tomorrow. But we definitely need more of this kind of event!

At the weekend something special will happen. My family and I have made it our role in life to rescue lady collies down on their luck and regardless of age. Well on Saturday we will be bringing Lady home. Our third rescue dog, our third dog with a name we like so we won’t be changing it, so we still haven’t named any dogs we own!

And up in our front room? Two photo portraits of our Gracie and Mabel, much missed and always loved. We used the images below (on the first picture) and are really pleased with how the portraits turned out. The odd thing is it was about a month between Gracie and Mabel and it will be the same again with Mabel and Lady. Not planned on our part. Just a question of the right dog, the right time, the right place.

(Oh yes and with our innate sense of timing, of course we’re bringing Lady home on Bonfire Weekend. Still, this is the family that had their central heating installed in the middle of a very cold November so we have formhere!).. Pics of Lady to follow, I hope, at the weekend.

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Gracie, my first dog, is on the left.  Mabel is on the right.  Both lovely dogs.  Image taken by me.

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What can you do with flash fiction that it would be difficult to do with longer forms of longer writing?

1. Use flash to convey a strong but short idea that genuinely wouldn’t run to a short story or beyond.

2. Use flash to hone your editing skills. Every word counts here and you know your finished piece has to be at least under 1000 words. With short story competitions, while a lot ask for 1500 to 2000 words, there are many who welcome longer short stories. With flash, you have a definite fixed overall limit.

3, You can come up with any character in any setting or genre because the tight word count means you have no room for description (much) or narrative that doesn’t advance the story. I find it much easier to have my stories character led and it is huge fun finding out where THEY take me!

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When I interview writers for Chandler’s Ford Today, I always ask for their three top tips. Naturally, there is some crossover on ideas here. What’s really interesting is the priority the authors give to those ideas. So what would be MY three top tips for writing flash fiction?

1. Focus on the character. It really is their story. There’s no room for much in the way of description so you need to show what THEY are like by what they say, their attitude to others etc.

2. Only have a couple of characters at most in in a piece. The limited word count almost dictates this, You can have them refer to other characters “off stage” though.

3. Have fun. Set your characters in any era, any world, any genre.

Bonus tip: There are many sub-divisions within flash fiction. I like the 100-word tales but I do write the 250, the 500, the 750 variety of flash tale as well. It is a question of ensuring your story is the correct flash length for the story. Not all will suit the very short (100 or less) forms. Sometimes you do need 500 words! (Besides it is fun to mix it all up a bit!).

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I believe all writers, regardless of their usual genre, would benefit from writing flash fiction from time to time. Why?

Firstly, writing flash fiction really hones up your editing skills. You can kiss goodbye to weak word choices.

In a form where every word has to earn its place in your story, you do learn to select the strongest words possible. No more of the “He made his way quickly up the hill”. It will be “He raced up the hill”.

The image is so much stronger in the second version (yes, you could use “ran”, but I think “raced” is superior. To me it shows more effort being expended).

Secondly, if you can summarise your story or non-fiction work as a flash fiction piece, well you’ve just written a good basis for your synopsis and/or blurb, which I know most writers dread writing.

Thirdly, you have to have strong, memorable characters. As flash fiction is so short with no room for much narrative, I find the tales must be character led.

Therefore, those characters must stick in a reader’s mind. Developing strong characters like this can help you in writing them for longer fiction works too.

Fourthly, you can set your character in any genre or time with flash fiction. You never know but in doing this, you might find a genre you didn’t know you liked to write in becomes a favourite. That’s exactly what happened to me with flash fiction. I gave it a go and quickly became hooked!

Good luck if you do try writing flash fiction and have fun. It is a great form for experimenting with and that is one of the joys of writing overall: to discover new ways of story or genre you want to explore further.

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Never give up, work hard, be disciplined... all valuable traits for success, whether you're a tennis player, a writer or a character in a story! Image via Pixabay.

HAPPENINGS, FLASHING AND DRABBLING

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Pleased to say I’ve been accepted onto the Goodreads Author Programme. I need to update my profile on there and download book cover images etc but hope to do this in the next day or so. There is scope for having an author Q&A on this (I LOVE author Q&As!) and I hope to have one in the not too distant future.

Am also looking forward to a local Book Fair at the end of October and will post more details nearer the time. Am also looking forward to joining the lovely people at the Southampton Writers’ Circle very soon as I will be judging their Scroll Award competition. (It was also good to catch up with a couple of said lovely people at Swanwick in August!).

Also looking forward to going to the Association of Christian Writers’ Day in London on 7th October. Always learn a lot from these. Incidentally, I think this is one reason why writing is good for your mental health. You are always trying to improve what you do and learning as a result. Great way of keeping the brain active.

Didn’t get anywhere in the recent flash fiction competition I entered but it means I have another story written for my second book. Nothing is wasted!

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

Shakespeare had his quill, modern writers have their laptops. Image via Pixabay.

Such a familiar look. Image via Pixabay.

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I’ve recently found out that my tendency to write 100-word tales means I’m a drabbler, a writer of drabbles. That’s fine. The only problem with writing flash fiction is it does mean you are known as a flasher. On the whole, I think being a drabbler is better! There is a little more dignity to it!

Some of my flash stories are inspired by movies. The Haunting is inspired by The Ladykillers where the heroine is forever leaving her brolley behind and it is not until the end of the film we discover she has always hated it. Learning the Trade is inspired by Fantasia/The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (which is one of those Disney films I’ve only ever seen clips from and not the whole thing. Not deliberately on my part and I would love to see the whole film especially as the music that goes with it is fantastic).

Sometimes a film or a radio play can spark off ideas where your characters react differently to the ones you watched/heard originally. Interesting story ideas can come from that.

Books make wonderful gifts. Image via Pixabay.

Books are wonderful – whether in print or electronic, whether as audio stories or told by a storyteller. Image via Pixabay.

I could spend many a happy hour here - the library at Prague. Image via Pixabay.

I could spend many a happy hour here – the library at Prague. Image via Pixabay.