Help Needed!

ash.jpg

 

I have long suspected that some, if not all of the work we produce could be better, for despite polishing each book until our arms drop off, and employing beta readers along the way, sales are not improving.

Another reason that prompted this post is that I am struggling with a memoir/travelogue of a holiday we took over 40 years ago.

It is called Lazy Days, a light-hearted and often funny account of our first family holiday on the Norfolk Broads. We were two adults, four kids and two dogs, a young family who had never done anything like this before. We didn’t get to do it again, which was a shame, but none of us will ever forget that exciting time.

Lazy Days is very like the very popular ‘Narrow’ books by Marie Browne of life on a narrow boat.

We all remember this holiday as one very special time, so I have finally transcribed the skipper’s logbook that we kept back then. Having never written a memoir before, I need some help to make sure it is good enough to publish.

What we need, I have discovered, is to be part of a critique group or Team. Sacha Black calls it a ‘street team’, a small army of readers dedicated to making a book the best it can be.  This group once formed would benefit everyone in the group, sharing the editing, beta reading or whatever is needed.

If anyone would be interested in being a part of such a team or has any better suggestions, please get in touch, either in the comments or via the contact page.

 

Lazy Days…

This travelogue is the true story of our family’s first proper holiday back in the Seventies. Looking back, I wonder what made us think it was a good idea, but despite all the things that could have gone wrong, we had a fantastic time. I was the Skipper most of the time, and for some reason decided to record our adventures in a small notebook. We were young and without husbands, Anita was a widow, and I was glad to be rid of mine. (and that is another story) Money was precious and scarce back then, but all the saving and sacrifice turned out to be worth every single memory we all cherish.

 This notebook has been kept safe, despite numerous house moves and family disasters, as a symbol of our courage and determination. It could so easily have been one of the stupidest things we had ever done, but even after 40 years, we have such good memories of that time.

Over the years, I often thought of making it into a proper book, but along with everything else in our often-complicated family life, it was something I never got around to. Until just recently, when I was looking for some old photographs, found the now fragile notebook and knew it was time.

It wasn’t as easy as I imagined it would be either, for my logbook writing skills leave a lot to be desired, but there was just enough information entered on those pages to get me started.

 

 

Has anyone seen my enthusiasm?

DCaE_PsWsAEcmPY.jpg

 

I started the week full of good intentions. It was a new week – new mood – new energy.
There was none of that – ‘It’s a beautiful day, watch someone ruin it.’

But someone did.

BT did. Someone had tried to hack into my e-mail account over the weekend and had promptly been frozen out, me included!  To make matters worse, I had temporarily forgotten the answer to my security question, so couldn’t change the blessed password either.

Thoroughly frustrated, I finally managed to speak to someone in an Indian call centre who said she would e-mail me a new password.  Words cannot sufficiently explain what happened to my temper after trying several times to get her to see why this would not work, and I was passed on to someone else. This young woman was so helpful and immediately understood my problem, that my temper had no choice but to high-tail it out of the back door!

So, not a good start, you might say. But this was only Monday, surely the week could only get better?

I should be thinking about what I want to do next. Anita has a book almost ready for proofing, and I have begun a new crime mystery, but something doesn’t feel right. I ought to be re-editing some of our earlier work, as some of the covers need replacing and the descriptions are just not good enough. The trouble is, I’m a bit short of enthusiasm at the moment, my ‘get up and go’ has done a runner!

What I cannot understand is why some days are good and optimistic, and then you get that other kind. The ‘what the hell do you think you are doing’ days. Closely followed by (give it up, you know you are too old to bother with it) ones.

I am basing my understanding of this writing business on what I have observed with my sister Anita. She has six good books to her credit and just seems to get on with it (and enjoys the process!) She does have bad days of course, but they never seem to be writing related.
I know we are all different, and that is how it should be, it’s just not very helpful.

I think it is my age that seems to be the problem. I forget far more than I remember and find myself wondering where all the time has gone and know that I have wasted most of it. Why didn’t I want to do this when my brain was younger?
Don’t get me wrong, on a good day I quite like my brain and how it works. It’s just that my good days are getting pretty thin on the ground these days. Today, for example, I’m not even sure I have a brain!

By the way, what do you think of the new blog header? I liked it yesterday, but now I’m not sure… please tell me what you think…

 

The Perfect Review

writing-first-blog-paragraph.jpg

Although I have only recently joined Rosie Amber’s review team, I have been reviewing the books I have enjoyed reading for a while now.

Reviewing is easy enough to do and it makes sense to tell the world (and the author) what you thought of it. Something we wish more readers would do, but that’s another post!

Most of our reviews have been well received, which was one of the reasons I applied to be an official reviewer for Rosie Amber to help other authors by spreading the word.

I had read all the guidelines for successful reviewing, but this week I slipped up, and badly. In my enthusiastic response after reading Suzanne Rogerson’s The Lost Sentinel, I included not one but two spoilers in my review! In my defense, when a book is as brilliant as Suzanne’s, you want to share the good stuff with everyone, just not key moments and I will admit, I got carried away…  Luckily, this was not one of Rosie’s recomendations,  or I would be out of a job…

Spoilers, you see, tell any prospective reader what happens at key moments in the book, and can ruin any desire to read the book. So what I did was bad…

After much red-faced embarrassment and a lot of humble apologies, I have amended the review and pray that I don’t do it again.

Not the first time my enthusiasm has landed me in trouble, but hopefully it will be the last!

Rosie Amber supplies these helpful guidelines, and I must remember them!

Book Title and Author Name

Genre

Book Setting – time and place

Introduce the main characters

Describe the storyline in general terms (avoid spoilers that give too much away)

How was the book set out? (If this was obvious) For instance alternating chapters from different characters, or chapters from different time periods.

What did you like about the book?

What would have made it better?

What didn’t you enjoy in the book?

Would you read another book by this author?

Your star rating.

And finally, add links (I’m always forgetting to do this!)

 

 

 

The Importance of emails…

10686983_10152763871460850_2180742875426023230_n

 

Many posts are written about the importance of building your platform and having an interactive blog or website. And of course, you do need one of these, but that’s not all you need.

Managing your emails (and your mailing list) is one of the best ways of opening up channels of communication with so many like-minded people and keeping them open. I like to think of them as letters and look forward to seeing what is in my mailbox!

Clearing my emails every day has become something of an obsession with me, as I have mentioned before… but is the one thing I must do every single morning (and again in the evening if I have time)

I am constantly amazed by what I discover when I go through my emails. Today for instance, I learned a few tricks to cope with Windows 10. I joined a critique group and was invited to join another. I arranged a guest post; upgraded my broadband; and confirmed the last people on my forthcoming blog tour. Not to mention all the letters that are simply a joy to read! My email list is such a vast source of so many valuable instances.

I enjoy going through them all, reading and commenting, saving information and learning. Sometimes the day’s list is not so good, starting the day with so much frustration, but what can you do?

I find my emails far more valuable to me than Twitter or Facebook, although they do have their place in my working schedule. There are many different branches on this networking tree we build, but it helps to know the most important ones.

Even if my eyes are crossed after several hours of studying the list!

Updating the Dream…

C-QfIwiXUAASN_C

I had a major epiphany yesterday. I had just posted yet another book promotion post on our blog and found myself disliking it intensely.

I have never liked the ‘hard sell’ and conveniently  usually forget to do any, but if you want people to read (and buy) your books, you are supposed to do it well and often. But it always seems to leave a sour taste in my mouth, and I realised just how much I hate doing it.

It seems ok to do it on Twitter, probably because it’s quick and you don’t have to pretty it up. But here on our blog, it just doesn’t look right, so we have decided to stop doing it.

Our new books will get a mention, of course, plus any good news, but the constant blanket promotion will stop and be replaced with more interesting posts, something you would rather read, I’m sure.

Personally, I don’t think you need to plug away at your books anyway. The covers and links are all there in the sidebar, all you have to do if you’re interested, is click on the image and you go straight through to Amazon.

The pressures and stress of promotion have been gradually eating away at our writing time, and I am never sure if I’m doing it right, or in the right places.  Which was another reason for my decision.

Gone are the days when I could spend hours playing games or surfing the web, I just can’t do it anymore. After four or five hours my eyesight goes for a walk, and the brain starts to seize up, and I have to walk away. So my time is limited, and I have to find ways to fit everything in. If there is a way, you can bet I will find it!

Anita is now an official reviewer with Rosie Amber, something we both love doing, and we have been doing some beta reading for some of our fellow bloggers/writers, which is reviewing really, just more in depth. We will be asking for help in this direction for ourselves soon!

Revision is finally finished on our non-fiction book Lazy Days, the long awaited transcription of the logbook of a 40-year-old family holiday on the Norfolk Broads. We might have a blog tour for this one after it gets beta read.

Work has begun in earnest on our joint WIP. This is another thriller, and it will eventually be terrific once I complete the outline for the story AND all the characters.

The weather was kind for a few days, so I managed to repot some of my smaller bonsai, and it was actually brilliant to get out of my office for a while…

 

 

Cover Trouble…

help

We were looking at our website the other day, as you do… and it was decided that the small sliding show of all our book covers looked a bit puny. We decided to remove the offending article and reinstate our book covers down the sidebar, complete with clickable links to Amazon.
Should be easy, I thought. I had done it before and remembered how to do it. A little fiddly, but not too difficult. We have eleven books between us so it would take me a while.
I managed to upload four of the covers before the trouble started. The fifth cover uploaded okay, but somehow it removed cover number four. How was this even possible, I thought?
I tried again, and the same thing happened. I kept on trying, because I’m stubborn, but couldn’t get it to work. I swear something happens whenever I try to do the simplest of jobs but thought I would retreat and see what happens tomorrow, before I lost it completely.
The following day, it seemed worse, so I decided to have a word with WP ‘happiness engineers’, and it makes interesting reading!

Me: “I am trying to add some images to my sidebar, but they just don’t appear…is there a limit to how many images you can have?”

WP: “Hi there, let me take a look…”

WP: “Is this the site you’re referring to? https://jenanita01.com/”

Me: “Yes.” (we only have the one…)

WP: “And you are trying to customise it here, is that correct?” https://wordpress.com/customise/jenanita01.com

Me: “I get an image from media and then go to widgets and images, I fill in the boxes and save, but then they just vanish…”

WP: “I see that one of the images is not displaying. The URL appears to be incorrect.”

Me: “but I get the URL from the media screen…”

WP: “Is this the image?” https://jenanita01.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/nl-kindle-x1.jpg

Me: “That one was successful, so was the Simple cover, and Bad Moon. I would like to add more.”

WP: “I don’t think ‘The Ninth Life’ is added correctly. I don’t see it on your page. Do you see it at https://jenanita01.com/ ?”

Me: “Yes.”

WP: “I see a broken image, like this: https://cloudup.com/cLWUMnMMqRV

Me: “I don’t understand, it looks all right to me. Why am I having a problem adding new images? I just clicked on the previous link and the image is not there. This happened a lot yesterday too.”

WP: “You should be able to add more images. I’m unaware of a limit. I’m testing right now and don’t see any problems. Can you tell me the steps you’re going through when you have problems?”

Me: “Something is wrong. Images that do appear suddenly vanish and others won’t upload at all. I choose an image from media (haven’t I said this already?) then I go to widgets and image, add the URL from the media page, fill in the boxes and save. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes it works but removes an image already there in the sidebar.”

WP: “Are you using the media browser at https://wordpress.com/media/jenanita01.com ?”

Me: “Yes.” (Slowly losing the will to live round about now…)

WP: “It’s important that you open the image and by selecting the image and clicking ‘Edit’. From the image editor, you can copy the URL (gosh I would never have thought of that…) Is this the process you follow?”

Me: (trying very hard to keep my patience and my sense of humour) “I don’t usually have to click on ‘edit’ as the URL is in the box already, so I just copy and paste. Is this wrong?”

WP: “The image for ‘The Last Life’ didn’t have the correct URL. You may need to change how you get the URL. This is how I get the correct URL: https://cloudup.com/clX8WY03S8V

Me: “That one didn’t upload at all. I will try this, and thank you for your help. Going now…”

WP: “Ok. If you have any more difficulty, we’re here to help. Have a great day!”

I love using these new ‘live chat’ thingies, so much better than an email, especially for a thick head like me. You see, not only do I hate technology (because I swear it hated me first) I have trouble understanding it too, even when someone tries to explain it to me. So having someone on the end of the line is usually better. I can keep asking the same question until something clicks into place.

I have to add, that WP is normally very helpful, often hitting the nail on the head when I have made a stupid mistake, so not exactly sure why it was different this time. But if anyone knows what I am doing wrong, or has a better way of explaining it, I am all ears!