Well, I’m taking part in a book blog tour for the first time. The book in question is Stay Tuned by Lauren Clark. Here’s my review of it:

It’s not often I can’t put a book down, but Stay Tuned came into that category. I read it one go. The turkeys were waiting mournfully for me to put them to bed, the llamas were left thirsty – I got lost in the story and remained glued to my Kindle till I finished.

Why? The story really caught me. It was fascinating to get an insight into life at a TV station, delightful to meet characters like Melissa, Chris and Candace, and there was plenty of excitement in the plot. The relationships between the people in the story were gripping. There were attractions and hatreds, tensions, frustrations, misunderstandings and real affection. Several punches got thrown, there were clumsy passes, lots of tears but just as much laughter. And the ending is bittersweet without being mawkish or implausible.

Reality is very much the key of this book. We could all so easily find ourselves in Melissa’s shoes – juggling career and family life, trying to keep the communication channels open with a workaholic husband, striving to be fully committed in every sphere of your life.

Every single character is rounded and interesting. There aren’t any cameo roles or stereotypes. This story is peopled by a truly human set of people.

It’s a very readable book. The author has a flowing, natural style that sweeps you along and you can’t wait to find out what happens next. Definitely worth reading.

 

How to win

Now, as part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Stay Tuned eBook edition has dropped to just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes, including lots of Amazon gift cards (up to $100 in amount) and 5 autographed copies of the book. Be sure to enter before the end of the day on Friday, December 2nd, so you don’t miss out.

To win the prizes you need to:
1. Purchase your copy of Stay Tuned for just 99 cents on Amazon or Barnes & Noble (You’ll need it for the big contest on Friday)
2. Fill-out the form on Novel Publicity to enter for the prizes
3. Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book or a $50 gift card!

…And I can win too! Over 100 bloggers are participating in this gigantic event, and there are plenty of prizes for us too. The blogger who receives the most votes in the traffic-breaker poll will win a $100 gift card as well. So when you visit Novel Publicity’s site to fill-out the contest entry form, don’t forget to say that I referred you, so I can get a point in the poll.

 

The events

Monday, Radio Interview with Novel Publicity! We’re kicking-off on the Novel Publicity Free Advice blog. We interviewed Lauren on our radio show Sunday night and have embedded the full podcast and blogged about its highlights. Give it a listen and then leave a comment on the blog post. This is a great chance to get to know more about this fun and bubbly author. One commenter will win an autographed copy of Stay Tuned. Don’t forget to enter for the other contest prizes while you’re over there!

Tuesday, Twitter sharing contest! A tweet is tiny, only 140 characters. But on Tuesday, it could win you $50. Send the following tweet across the twittersphere, and you just may win a $50 Amazon gift card. An autographed copy of Stay Tuned is also up for grabs. The winners will be announced Wednesday morning. Here’s the tweet:  Take a break from the holiday frenzy, and read Stay Tuned. It’s fast, fun, and reduced to just 99 cents! http://ow.ly/7zA1e #whirlwind

Wednesday, Google+ sharing contest! Yup, there’s yet another awesome opportunity to win a $50 Amazon gift card, and this time it just takes a single click! Visit Google+ and share Emlyn Chand’s most recent post (you’ll see the Stay Tuned book cover included with it). On Thursday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. An autographed copy of Stay Tuned is also up for grabs. Two chances to win with just one click! How about that?

Thursday, Facebook sharing contest! Stop by Novel Publicity’s Facebook page and share their latest post (you’ll see the Stay Tuned book cover included with it). It’s ridiculously easy to win! On Friday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. An autographed copy of Stay Tuned is also up for grabs.

Friday, special contest on the author’s site! Are you ready for some more fun? Take a picture of yourself with your copy of Stay Tuned either in paperback or on an eReading device, tag Lauren Clark’s Facebook page, and you can enter to win one of three Amazon gift cards! A $100 prize will go to the most creative photo, $50 to the best BFF photo, and $50 to the photo with the most people in it. An autographed copy of Stay Tuned is also up for grabs. If you need help learning how to tag a photo, you can visit Lauren’s Facebook page for detailed instructions.

 

Extract

To whet your appetites further, here’s an extract from Chapter One.

 

Alyssa Andrews was missing.

Gone, vanished, MIA with just minutes to airtime.

“Melissa, where is she?” Our news director, Joe, shot a harried look in my direction. After dealing with a broken studio camera, spotty satellite reception, and last-minute script changes, his nerves were fried to a crisp.

“She’ll be here,” I promised, knowing my confidence was a front. Alyssa, one of WSGA-TV’s main news anchors, was a constant source of angst in my already-stressful job.

She was young, talented, gorgeous…and chronically late.

This lack of punctuality was a problem, especially when WSGA ran a show at exactly six and ten o’clock every night. Not a moment later.

WSGA was Macon, Georgia’s number one news station and had been for two years running. If we wanted to keep it that way, timing was everything. Every second mattered.

I produced both evening shows, which meant—among a dozen other tasks—organizing the day’s stories, writing copy, and checking video. Each segment had to run seamlessly between three-minute commercial breaks.

Deep breath, Melissa. Send up a little prayer. She’ll show up.

The red numbers on the clock continued to march forward.

Another deep breath. Everything’s in place. Alyssa just needs to walk in and get on set…

“Tighten up on camera one.” Joe peppered the room with demands. “Mic check, now, not yesterday.”

Tim Donaldson, Alyssa’s co-anchor, obliged, counting backwards from the number five.

Joe’s thick fingers punched buttons on the massive keyboard in front of him. “Bring up the live shot.”

Still, no Alyssa.

Joe raked a huge hand through his long gray hair. “Five minutes!” he growled, with a glare into his empty coffee cup.

At this point, it was Joe’s show to run. He was in charge. I shuffled my scripts. “How about I call her?”

“She’s an adult,” he grumbled. “You shouldn’t have to.”

Joe expected nothing less than perfection. He was experienced, hard working, and a stickler for detail. Alyssa’s nonchalance made him crazy.

Which, at 9:55:36 on a Friday night, gave him the patience of a gnat. On crack.

This was particularly dangerous for an unsuspecting new employee, all of twenty years old and pimple-faced, who crept up behind us.

Joe ignored him at first, barking an order to me instead. “Fine, fine. Melissa, tell Princess A. she’s needed in the studio.”

On autopilot, I punched her extension, eyes focused on the row of monitors above my head in case she decided to appear.

While the phone rang, the new kid rocked on his heels nervously. I flashed a smile and shook my head gently in his direction, hoping he’d get the hint.

Not now.

Nope. The kid stood there, coughed lightly, and waited for one of us to turn around.

“What?” </em>Joe finally snapped.

The force of the word made the kid’s body jerk back. Jaw open, unable to speak, his face turned crimson.

Joe waited about a second for the kid to talk, and then leaned back over the control panel. He pressed at switches, clearly annoyed. The kid looked sick. Joe rolled his eyes. My anxiety level cranked up ten notches.

9:58:09. Less than two minutes.

Wait…a flash of an ivory suit and blond hair.

“There she is,” I interrupted the tension with a cool nod toward the monitors.

Front and center, Alyssa sauntered into the studio, lips puckered, blowing her shell-pink nail polish dry. She slid into her seat next to Tim, and gave him a playful pat on the shoulder.

Joe muttered something I couldn’t repeat.

I stifled a loud sigh of relief and glanced around the room. The new guy was the only one in the building unimpressed with Alyssa’s arrival. With a shaking hand, he reached out and tapped Joe’s burly shoulder.

“Mr. Joe, there’s a problem with one of the machines—”

Joe’s back stiffened. He turned a millimeter in the kid’s direction and exploded. “Get your butt back there. Get one of the engineers. Fix it. Call someone.”

I caught the now-completely mortified kid’s eye, and motioned for him to come toward me. Grabbing the nearest piece of paper, I jotted down the engineer’s extension and held it at arm’s length with a kind smile. Poor guy. Lots to learn.

With a grateful look, the new kid plucked the scrap from my fingers and darted away.

Time to get started.

I settled in, gripped my pen hard, and looked up.

Okay. Alyssa’s collar was turned under. Minor detail, but sure to garner at least five viewer complaints. You wouldn’t believe what people called in about.

I leaned toward the microphone to let Alyssa know.

“Dare you not to tell her,” Joe muttered. It wasn’t a secret that the guys would willingly let Alyssa go on air with underwear on her head. She hadn’t made friends. Or tried to.

Tim, her co-anchor and current boyfriend, didn’t count.

“Just part of those darn producer duties, Joe. You know that.” I flashed him a smile and pressed the button to talk. “Alyssa, fix your collar.”

Her mouth parted into an O. Alyssa frowned, glanced down, and straightened the pale edge. Just in time.

Like a well-directed movie, the WSGA-TV opening video flashed across monitor one. Macon, Georgia’s skyline filled the screen.

My body tingled with a familiar rush of excitement. It happened every time we went on air. The cameras and lights, the beat of the music, the thrill of live television.

Here we go.

Seconds later, Alyssa and Tim appeared under the lights, their bright anchor smiles pasted on.

“Good evening, I’m Alyssa Andrews.

“And I’m Tim Donaldson.”

And on it went, without a blip, for the first ten minutes. I started breathing again after the third break.

Stanley and Sunshine, the weather cat, were ready for the five-day forecast, check.

Commercial break, check.

Sports, check. I didn’t worry about that three-minute slot. Plenty to talk about, visual stories; the anchors could get away with jokes and ad-libbing. Viewers loved it.

We rounded out the show with an inspirational kicker about a local scholarship winner, a kid first in his family to go to college. He’d won forty thousand dollars and was going to Georgia Tech to study astrophysics.

The show wrapped with a standard goodnight, credits, and a wide shot of the WSGA set.

The second the master control operator switched to break, Alyssa flounced off the set in silicone fashion. She barked into her jewel-encrusted cell phone about her min-pin puppy’s cancelled spa appointment and stomped out of the studio, teetering precariously in four-inch heels.

Yikes!

I climbed the flight of stairs back to the newsroom, relieved the night was almost over.

The phones started to ring five seconds later.

I’m always interested when I come across novel approaches by authors to, well, novel writing! I’ve been very impressed by Stu Noss and Misty Provencher and their blovels (novels presented chapter by chapter on blogs), and by Aden Moss’s Twitter fiction. A Tweet alerted me to another interesting project underway. It read: “Pledge as little as $1 to help an awesome indie horror author publish his next book & get an advance e-copy! http://kck.st/vCp5Ed #RT”

I had to check this out. The website link takes you here.

Gabriel Beyers is planning to self-publish a collection of short stories entitled Contemplations of Dinner and a paranormal thriller novel Predatory Animals. He reckons he’ll need $3,500 to fund this, and needs to get this amount by 17 December. Gabriel has put a lot of thought into this. There is a list of what benefits you’ll get according to how much you pledge. For example, if you pledge $5 then you get an advance digital copy of Predatory Animals and Gabriel’s very sincere thanks. Pledge $100 and you’ll receive a hard cover copy of the book, as well the advance digital copy, a digital copy of another of Gabriel’s books, a signed poster featuring the book’s cover art, a signed printout of the first draft of the book and a mention in the book’s dedications. If you pledge $250 then you also get the chance to name a character in the story! All very innovative and plucky. I offered to contribute to the project by doing the editing for Gabriel, since I’m so impressed with this venture and I’m keen to get ebook-ed.it properly up and running, but he has someone already lined up. Maybe next time.

What do you think of this idea? Will it work? Will it catch on? It’s ingenious so I really hope it proves to be a winner for Gabriel.

I like websites and blogs with clever names. One of my favourites is a knitter’s blog and it’s entitled Dances With Wools. And Le Franco Phoney, a blog by an Australian expat in France, is pretty cool too.

So when I happened across a site called multi-story then I had to have a look.

Multi-story.co.uk is for authors of short stories of all genres. It’s intention is to support them by helping break into the short story market in both traditional and ebook publishing. The links page here  is a veritable goldmine of info on where to find writing groups, books, competitions to enter, markets, associations etc.

The site features interviews and articles. So far a copy-editor and a magazine story literary agent have contributed. The copy-editor’s article is particularly good in bringing attention to the many but often overlooked tasks this crucial cog in the publishing machine performs – but then, as a copy-editor too, I’m obviously biassed!

The ‘Have Your Say’ section is for readers to voice their opinions, stand on their soapboxes etc, and there are some very interesting veiwpoints there already. Add a competition page, an entry page plus one results, and this new site is a very impressive creation. Most definitely worth a look if you’re a short story writer.

Oncewritten.com is another witty name. However, this site doesn’t appear to have been updated for several years, which is rather a shame as it clearly had a lot going for it. There are some useful articles to check out in the ‘For Authors’ section still, but elsewhere links aren’t always working.

And finally the very aptly named Procrastinating Writers blog, which describes a rather large percentage of us, caught my eye. This is a very good site created by Jennifer Blanchard, for non-procrastinators too. Lots of useful blog posts that will get you off your butt and into writing mode. Thanks, Jennifer!

I’ve done it. Best of Blog in France is up for free on Smashwords here. It took a lot of time and effort, but I’m pleased with the results and I hope it will prove to be good advertising for my upcoming Heads Above Water, the account of our first couple of years on France.

So, what gave me the idea to do a blog book? And what can I call it? We have blovels as a term for novels presented on blogs and ficlogs for fictional blogs. I’m going to call my non-fiction blog-based book a nofiblok. I expect to see it all the dictionaries soon!

Right, well, Blog in France is proving to be a very popular blog, with its mixture of expat experiences, practical advice, small delves into local and national history, occasional rants but mostly a light hearted look at all things French. I’ve written 318 posts now. Taking up the WordPress ‘blog post a day’ challenge last February really was a turning point. Viewership soared as a result of having fresh content every day, so I’d advise anyone to go that route.

So I had plenty of material to choose from, and I was keen to get a non-fiction book out there. Up to now I’ve only had children’s fiction published, both traditionally and independently in ebook form. It’s a good way to test the waters. People enjoy reading about the experience of folk like us who have taken the plunge to ‘live the dream’, however nightmarish it turns out to be occasionally! There’s an audience out there. Let’s give them something to read.

I’ve taken my pick of entries from the first couple of years of my blog. There weren’t very many to choose from at first. I was a very slack blogger in those early days! Actually, it was more like too exhausted to write since we were up to our necks in renovations at the time. I’ve included photos, generally one per two blogs. I use a lot of photos in Blog in France so I had a lovely selection to choose from. They really add that human interest element.

But how to organise the entries. Consecutively by date would have been too bitty in my opinion. By subject? I began doing that but there was a danger that I’d have two many different categories as my posts are very wide ranging. In the end I plumped for January to December, incorporating the two years together. I don’t think that’s confusing, and it gives a very good sense of the seasons. Life in rural France is governed totally by the weather. We have our summer way of life, and our winter one. We spend so much time outside round and about on our 75 acres that we’re totally in touch with the elements and weather. A calendar year layout for the blog brings this into focus. You live the year with us, from the bleak frozenness of January, to the blossoming of life in April, to the heavy heat of July and August, the colours and freshness of October, and back to the deep depths of winter.

Finally, the cover. I spent an hour or so with a glass of wine and a croissant and a camera. There was some cheese too but that didn’t look right with the others. I’m pleased with the end result. It says France, I think, without resorting to the Eiffel Tower, as happens so often with French related books.

Anyway, you know what they say about the proof of the pudding … so please have a read and see what you think! Please let me know. And remember, Heads Above Water is coming soon!

 

I mentioned blovels in a previous post. These are novels that are being serialised on people’s blogs. Stu Noss’s was the first I came across, and I’ve since discovered another great one here. Misty Provencher is presenting her blovel Cornerstone on her website a chapter at a time.

I love Misty’s attitude. She explains she decided to become a blovellist after losing her literary agent, failing to find another one who had the same vision as she did, and generally becoming frustrated at not being read. She says:  “But I have a million books in me and I’m tired of having so many barriers between us. I’m just looking for those folks who are my people and who will get into the book and find some joy in it. I hope it brings you that. If it does, please let me know. Tell others I’m here.”

It’s all about the writing for Misty and I totally agree with her point of view. I’ve hit my head against brick walls enough times during my authoring career and I just want my books to be read too. That’s partly why I’m putting so many up for free on Smashwords at the moment. And Misty, my house is never clean either!

A third blovel, very new, is here. I shall be following this one too. And am I tempted to do a blovel? Yes, I am, so watch this space.

Almost blovels are ficlogs, or fictional blogs. I’ve heard about these but haven’t found a good example of one. Whenever I do a search on the Net, the search engine is convinced I want clogs and isn’t terribly helpful!

Now, as well as novels on blogs, there are novels on Twitter. Seriously. Here’s a nice article about it. Writing such a story is really a lesson in learning what to leave out. It would certainly be a very valuable exercise in writing concisely to produce such a novel – Twovel, perhaps? A Twovelist writing in this way is Aden Moss. And there’s a book out there called The History of Rock and Roll in 99 tweets  Ebook By Andy Szpuk  but isn’t in Kindle format at the moment. I’m ignoring epub for a while since Barnes and Noble wouldn’t sell me a Nook Book the other day because I don’t live in the US. Crazy.

Books are serialised on Kindle too. The most famous example is Sean Platt and David Wright’s Yesterday’s Gone. As Platt says, “serialized fiction has been around since Dickens. It just means taking a single storyline and breaking it into several parts to fuel anticipation between episodes.” Other authors are doing this too, notably Roz Morris. But there are pros and cons. We’re the instant gratification generation and don’t want to be kept waiting. A lot of readers want all the content at the same time and don’t want to have to wait a week or a month till the next episode. However, there are plenty of fans of serialised works out there too.

So, the modern inventions of blogs and Twitter might be leading to a return of serialisation in fiction. It will be interesting to see how this all develops.

 

 

A new month – time for a new challenge. I want to make it a tough one, so my aim this month is to get 10 books up on Kindle and to have worked on 10 books in my new ebook editing business (nearly-finished website is here).

Here’s a glimpse of what the next Kindle book will be in the form of the brilliant cover. Roger Fereday is the illustrator and Caitlin Dagg is the typographer. What a team!

What’s your September challenge?

 

I’m busily extending my author platform on a daily basis, signing up to forums and groups here, posting about my books there.

I came across a free listing opportunity on Author Outbreak, a promising looking indie author website. However, the offer ends on 31st August so you need to get motoring, if it appeals. You’ll find the details here:

I’ve sent my details in so we’ll wait and see what happens.

I’m also currently considering joining the Independent Author Network http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/join-ian.html. There’s a fee for this, so I may wait until Heads Above Water is ready to launch. I think I’ll stick with free promotions for my rereleased children’s books.

Is anyone else having problems with logging onto yourbookauthors.com? I’m having a terrible time.

Finally, I need guinea pigs. Human ones. My ebook editing service is very nearly ready to roll. The website is in its final stages of being tidied up. You can take a quick peek here  (please remember, it’s still a WIP!). To help me firm up my pricing structure, I need to work on a few projects to get a feel for the level of work that is generally required and roughly how long it will take me to tidy up 1,000 words of electronic manuscript. No charge of course. So, if you’d like some free editing on your ebook, then please contact me via the comments below and we’ll talk!

OK, so which groups of Tweeps are the most egocentric? First of all, for those of you not hooked on Twitter yet, Tweeps are people on Twitter.

Following John Locke’s advice, I’ve set up a Twitter account solely to promote my upcoming book, Something Fishy. It’s a fishing mystery story – honestly, it’s far more exciting than it sounds! Anyway, I’m writing it under the pseudonym of Rorie Stevens as it’s a bit racy in places, and I’m known so far as a children’s author. I need an image change. So, I’ve brought Rorie S to life. Like me, he/she (I’m being vague on purpose) is a fishery owner in France, and, less like me, a keen carp and trout angler.

So, I had to find followers for Rorie. To get followers, you have to follow. Over the course of a few nights, I tracked down prime targets to follow, and I duly added them to my ‘following’ list. I put up a good few fishing related tweets to show willing. But certainly to begin with, I got less than a 10% rate of follows back. That’s improved slightly now – 11 followers to 70 following – but it’s not great. However, it’s typical of the fishing fraternity. They aren’t keen on following other anglers. They want to be followed. I was rather surprised by this egotism, but it’s definitely out there. It’s also odd, since surely Tweets are about information sharing. It’s hard to share if you insist on one-way communication. You see, only people following you get your Tweets. Unless you follow them, you don’t get their Tweets. Anglers, it seems, are happy to preach to others but not to listen in return. Shame.

This is in stark contrast to writers. Almost everyone in the authoring field follows a lot more people than are following them. They’re open to advice, hints, encouragement, tips from others. They’re friendly people who are delighted to make new Twitter friends. In a lot of cases, they’re working to build a platform for themselves and their books, but then everyone who Tweets is looking for attention. Picking three people that I follow from my @Booksarecool23 Twitter account and we have one author following 1340 with 998 followers, sample 2 following 1,998 and followed by 1,663 and sample 3 following 75 and followed by 49. (One of them is me, but I shan’t say which one!)

Let’s take scientists as well. They put even anglers to shame. Prof Brian Cox, for example, has nearly 400,000 followers, but only follows 94. Now that’s pathetic! An American scientist, Sean Carroll, has 8,000 followers but follows only 100.  Ed Yong has a slightly better 10,000 to 700 ratio, so Jonathan Eisen with his 6,400 to 1,500 is a quite a breath of fresh air.

So it would appear at a quick glance that the more creative you are, the more generous you are in the Twittersphere. And the more you get out of Twitter.

 

 

I’m learning a lot these days as I prepare to become an ebook author. My latest discover is #samplesunday on Twitter. It’s an indie author thing. Enter #samplesunday as a search term and you’ll find links to samples of writing by people intending to self-publish. I shall be joining in from next week.

Two great websites I’ve recently discovered are Kindle Obsessed and Writinghood. These are packed full of info and tips. Check them out.

 

Bite Size Edits

I happened across Bite-Size Edits today. It’s addictive! You get points for editing little chunks of text which you’re served up randomly, although you can request to get more text from the same author. You can make changes, leave the sentence as it is, and/or attach a note with suggestions. For example, I got a sentence with a word in it that clearly should have had accented letters but instead had question marks, so I wrote a note to that effect. Obviously I didn’t know what the missing letters were meant to be so I couldn’t make the correct change myself.

The site says it’s a way to discover new writers, and that’s true. You can also upload your own texts for other people to polish. I’ve added 1000 or so words of Something Fishy to see what reaction I get. At least I think it went up OK. I got an error message first time round saying ‘we broke the Internet’ but the text seemed to be there. We’ll see!

So if you like tinkering with other people’s texts, give it a try!