Books, fiction

Good guys v. bad guys

I’m really enjoying being back in harness with the new novel and have clocked up 48,000 words to date. If I stick to one hour each morning and 1,000 words a day, I should complete my first draft of c.80,000 words by the first week of June.

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But what I’m finding fascinating is how much easier it is to write about the bad guys than it is about the good guys.I seem to be able to think up all sorts of interesting tangles and scrapes for the bad guys but when it’s the good guys’ turn I grind to a halt. So they’re good. OK. I remember I used to read books by an author who always showed one of her characters being kind to children and animals. You instantly knew this was the good girl. I suppose I could do this but you can only do it once!

Even in the gospels they slide over the growing-up years of Jesus with the statement ‘ He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men’ (Luke chapter 2 verse 52). Is good boring to read about?

Our characters need to be fully rounded people so, like us, they will have vices as well as virtues. But I’m at first draft stage when the plot is thundering along like a steam train and there’s no time or energy for finesse. Hopefully I’ll return to my good guys with more ideas on the second go-round.

Meanwhile I’m having great fun with my chief bad guy who is being forced to toe the line for a while. Fully intending to subvert the innocent young heroine’s duenna (1900 Buenos Aires) he is appalled to discover that Donna Maria Conseula is incorruptible.

He finds himself having to behave as the perfect gentleman to win the hand of the fair lady. It’s enormous fun to write – and I hope will be good to read!


fiction, Novel

How to do a successful book signing

A few days on from the book signing at Waterstone’s in Lowestoft and what have I learnt? England’s most easterly town may be publicised as the Sunrise Coast, but it can be freezing cold – and at the same time extremely warm in its welcome and support for local authors! What do I reckon are the important lessons?

  • Allow enough time time beforehand to do lots of publicity. You have to let people know you’ll be there signing books. And not just any people – the right people. Sorting out who your audience is and where to reach them to tell them takes time and effort. Do it. It’s worth it.
  • Overdo the prep: posters, bookmarks, postcards, business cards, goodies including sweets. People like presents. And a present with your name on and a bit about the book (especially title and price) will reinforce their encounter with you and maybe sell another copy.
  • No matter how scared you are or how totally reclusive and introverted you are, you gotta smile and reach out to the people who turn up on the day – even if they didn’t come to see you. Smile and say hello. Offer a freebie. Hand them a copy of the book. Talk about it… Force yourself.
  • Talk to the staff in the bookshop. People who work with books are, by definition, lovely people so they’ll be a joy to chat with. But these are the people who know what’s currently selling, what doesn’t work. If you’re self-publishing, they know what kind of covers work. They know how other local authors are selling their books. They’re a goldmine of priceless information and they are amazingly happy to share it! Use the quiet times to chat to them. And who knows? They might like you enough to invite you back!
  • Refuse to be disappointed! Here’s where the British stiff upper lip really helps! On Saturday, most of our customers turned up in the first hour – then the skies turned black, the wind howled down the street, the rain sluiced down – and the streets – and the bookshop – emptied! The shop staff apologised – but it wasn’t their fault! And at the end of the day, I reckon the sales were perfectly respectable (better even!).
  • Bring provisions – food that won’t create sticky fingers, and drinks. Just in case. Our lovely shop provided coffee and chocolate biscuits! Thank you!
  • Decide if you really can do it alone or need a stalwart friend to come with you. I’m grateful to my friend Val who accompanied me and tactfully left me to get on with it, returning to my side during the lulls.
  • People – amazingly – really want their books signed by you, the author. Bring – or as in my case – borrow – a nice pen. It just looks so much better!
  • Say thank you – to the people who buy books, who come to talk to you, who turn up,the people who helped on the day in the bookshop, who did publicity for you. ‘Thank you’ costs nothing – and builds goodwill. Who knows?One day you may write and publish another book and have to do this whole thing all over again!

How to do a book signing

There I sat at the table in the bookshop, a pile of books at my right hand, waiting. My friend Jane prowled. And chatted to the bookshop staff. And brought me coffee. And encouraged me. And gave me a lift home a couple of hours later when no one had turned up to buy a copy of the book.

I put my best signing pen away and thought “Never again!”  But tomorrow I shall be out there – at a different bookshop: Waterstone’s in Lowestoft – from 11 a.m. till 1 p.m. There will be another table, another pile of books, and me sitting there pen in hand, waiting.

But this time, hopefully, I’m older and wiser. This time I’ve put some effort into advance publicity and so has the bookshop. The results, I hope, will be different – and much more pleasing for the shop and me.

Between us we’ve contacted:

  • the local print media (local newspapers)
  • local radio (BBC, community and independent)
  • local churches (my book is a Christian novel)
  • all the folk I know within reasonable reach of the shop

I’ve already done a number of radio and press interviews and an author talk. I’ve produced flyers and they’ve been distributed in relevant places. And the word is beginning to spread about the book. It may be a drip drip approach but the impact is building.

I’m nervous, of course! What if nobody comes? Well, egg on face. But anyone who does come will be greatly valued! Just turning up really matters. Just as just trying really matters.

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When the Boats Come Home cover

I’m proud of the book. The cover is beautiful, and the feedback I’m getting on the content, the story and the characters is really encouraging. In fact I’m feeling the pressure as folk demand to know when the next one will be out! That’s the next task… but first…. think of me at 11 a.m. tomorrow morning. I’ll be there. It would be lovely if you could be too!