Thursday, 28 January 2010

Curse of Farmville

As an aspiring author, I joined Facebook for the purpose of networking with other authors to exchange ideas, progress, succcess and even moan about our failures. A harmless occupation?

No! Because one of my author friends introduced me to Farmville, an online game where participants buy animals, grow crops and populate their acres with trees, barns, workshops and cottages. Simple enough little game you might think, but what someone didn't warn me about was how addictive it is!

My first task in the morning was to check my e-mails and critiques, now I log onto my farm to see if my crops are ready for harvesting and how many gifts I have been sent by my farming 'neighbours.' Then there are the eggs that need collecting, the milking, calves to pet, kittens to brush, the fruit harvest, the plowing, seeding and plotting the fences to keep all these adorable animals in.

It's compelling, fun and thoroughly time wasting and I should never have started because now I can't stop! I realised I was a serious addict last night, when, having planted some pumpkins, I stayed up until 2.00 am to harvest them, as if I had waited until morning the crop would have withered.

Someone stop me before I accept the invitations that keep appearing in my inbox for Mafia Wars, Yoville, Petville, Cafe World, Fishville and all the other conspiracies to keep me online for the rest of my life.

Does anyone have a cure for this? Because I have a book to write!!!!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Have Waterstones Smelled The Coffee?

The Times yesterday quoted from The Independent, who said of Waterstones, "the book chain's likely future looks as slim as one of those volumes of poetry that you won't find in its celebrity-heavy outlets". The decline in book sales and the coincidental closure of Borders UK is being partly blamed on the availability of cheaper items from Amazon and the growing popularity of electronic books.

I am sure I am not alone in being irritated by the fact that if you appear on TV these days, any book you care to write, or have ghostwritten, will unquestionably appear in Waterstones' window before the preface is written.

Michael Holroyd, president of the Royal Society of literature, wrote in The Guardian that the long-term problem with Waterstone's was that it "had no real interest in books and was not looking to the future". He added: "Its policy of looking backwards and following what sold well last year or the year before has now hit the buffers."

Pricewaterhouse Cooper's own research claims: 'bookstore browsing isn't dead; nor are independent booksellers such as the fabulous Lutyens & Rubinstein, which select books themselves and don't discount. Waterstone's has a strong brand and, with about 25 per cent of the market, just needs to convince the literati to return."

I have this suggestion for Waterstones - Tell the publishers to print books people want to read - not the life stories and make-up tips of twenty-two-year old reality TV show participants and footballers.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Cringe Gland

There is a UK TV ad in which that superb Iranian comedian Omid Djalili pokes brilliant fun at the reticence of the British to haggle, with what he calls our 'Over-Active Cringe Gland'. That is so me when it comes to promoting myself in the arena of wannabee authors.

My Victorian Romance has so far failed miserably to elicit that much-coveted publishing deal. I have another completed manuscript that I assume will attract an equal number of rejections, so it sits on my laptop, untouched and unloved. A friend asked me about it recently, as she missed critiquing it on my group, so I sent it to her. She read it and wrote back saying, 'You must submit this, it's a lovely story and I normally am not a romance fan'.

I thanked her, but here the 'cringe gland' kicked in and I didn't want to 'bother' all those publishers whom I am convinced will give long drawn out groans when they see my name on another manuscript.

I feel the same way about doing hundreds of blog interviews about my published books, my instinct being 'that was last year, no one is interested in them now', or that readers will recognise my name and the bored sighs will be heard all over reader land, along with the words 'not THAT book again'.

So I have moved on and begun a new 17th Century wip which puts me right back in my comfort zone of the solitary author slaving over a keyboard. The problem is, when it comes to pushing forward to the front of the 'Read me, read me' queue, I shall be the one at the back tapping someone on the shoulder and saying politely, 'I don't want to bore you, but would you give my book a teeny weeny little look?'

Monday, 11 January 2010

Creativity Gap or New Year Blues

To quote my fellow Hoyden, Sandra Gulland, 'It's amazing how quickly writing gears rust.'

This has happened before, of course it has, but not for more than a few days. Firstly, I blamed the stressful run up to Christmas, then the holiday itself with the family distracting me, then the New Year deflation and everyone is depressed when all the tinsel and angels have been consigned to their boxes again.

January is always a cold and depressing month, and this one is arctic, with minus 12 degree temperatures at night and relentless snow since mid-December which freezes and re-freezes the roads so venturing out for a pint of milk is fraught with bone-breaking dangers.

I have caught up on critiques for both my groups and even written three book reviews for the HNR Blog. I am also about to compose my next Hoydens Blog - but I have only written 2,000 words of my wip in the last two weeks - and I have no idea why. I have a beautifully constructed spreadsheet with accompanying historical notes, with every scene and timeline all plotted out, the dates they occur and the characters involved.

I know exactly what happens to whom, when and what my protagonist's attitude to each event is - so why do I sit here staring into my coffee, totally unable to write the darned chapters?

Perhaps the snow-filled sky is muffling my creativity and I need thawing out like the English countryside. Whatever it is, I wish it would stop. I have to get this book written.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

A Living Will

My dear friend and critque partner, Vicki Smith, sent this to me and I laughed out loud because it struck such a chord. I enclose it here with thanks to her, although I reserve the right to exchange the wine for a pot of coffee!!


Last night, my kids and I were sitting in the living room and I said to them, 'I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug.'

They got up, unplugged the Computer, and threw out my wine.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Thoughts For The New Year

Working on the premise that if I didn't learn anything about being a writer last year, my work is unlikely to improve next year. With this in mind, I worked out a few rules to follow.

* If I want to call myself a writer, whether the publishers are clamouring for my work or not, I must refrain from tweaking existing manuscripts and produce new, and better ones.

* I must not panic if I come up against a brick wall story-wise. Don't stare at a blank screen, go and do something else. Scenarios and ideas will come to me -they always do!

* Blogging and network sites are a great way to connect with other authors who give and take necessary encouragement and criticism. But it's not a career - stop wasting hours and calling it work! Farmville is not writing!

* I don't need spurs to make me write, I need them to make me stop. Remember I have a husband and a family and they are deserving of my time. [I should have twigged this when my husband recently mentioned he sees more of my laptop lid than my face!]

* Remember that my readers [speculative] may be interested in the 17th century, but they don't necessarily know the politics and intricate family relationships of historical characters - they haven't been researching them for months - Explain!

* Simply because other writers on my groups are having continued, and repeated success, doesn't mean I never will. Perhaps they simply work harder than me and are able to adapt and move on. Don't gripe about it, learn.

* Write with attention to writing rules and the reasons for them. Explore writing techniques and ways to make the pace fast and furious-but not slavishly. No one writes like me and I shouldn't try to write like anyone else.

* The above applies to my critique groups, whose work is also unique and in their own author voice. My advice to them should bear this in mind and not be the, 'this is a gerund so delete it', type.

* The alternative to my being a writer is my not being a writer. As that is not an option, I must stick with it.

A Happy New Year to all my author friends, readers of this blog and anyone else who happens by, and with special thanks to Julianne Douglas who inspired the post.