Words of Wisdom

First Impressions… By Helen Hollick

Covers. It never ceases to amaze me how bad some indie-published covers can be. As Managing Editor of the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews I see a lot of indie historical fiction – all UK published books initially come through my postbox (and some US ones as well) before being sent out to my UK review team. That first look at a book as it comes out of its packaging can have such an enormous influence on that vitally important first impression – and can even influence the difference between accepting a novel for review or rejecting it. A good cover – usually professionally designed and produced, can create immediate interest; “Oh, this looks good!”  Alternatively, some are ­– I hate to say this, because most authors put a lot of time, trouble and effort into self-publishing their books, but it has to be said – some covers are absolutely awful. Yes, your family member may be good at art, but this person is not a graphics designer. The result will look amateurish, and if the cover gives the impression of not being top-quality professional, then it will be assumed that the text inside is not up to par either.…

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LIVING IN SUMMER, WRITING ABOUT WINTER by Gill-Marie Stewart

My current YA novel, No More Lies, was inspired by a trip to the Cairngorm National Park in the Scottish Highlands in winter 2015. I began writing it in winter 2016, when we had actually moved to this area. Perfect, I thought, I have my setting at my fingertips. And then we happened to see a house we fell in love with, miles away on the west coast. So instead of being able to concentrate on the writing I had to think about moving (second time in 12 months!) and suddenly it was spring and I still hadn’t finished No More Lies. And now it’s nearly summer, and I’m loving the sunshine and the heat (yes even here in Scotland – first barbecue last week) but am still putting the final touches to that novel set in the depths of a very snowy winter. So - how do I do it? How do I take myself out of the lush green of the present and back into the stark black and white of my story? Obviously as writers we are constantly creating a world which is not the one we are currently living in, but I do feel that with…

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So, you want to write a novel?

By Helen Hollick B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Don’t we all? Well, I assume most visitors glancing through this article are keen to write, hence reading this in the first place. (Although, of course, I might be jumping to conclusions – some of you are also readers.) There’s a saying ‘write what you know about’. It is, sort of, useful guide but if you want to write historical fiction – well I don’t know many people who were actually there in Roman, Medieval, Tudor or the American Civil War eras. Not in person, so it isn’t easy to know how people lived, loved, fought and died in these centuries. Which is where research comes in. From academic books, from history magazines, from quality documentaries on T, and from the Internet. (Good old Wikipedia and Google Search!)  All are useful sources for information, but beware. Not all internet sources are accurate. I once queried some ‘facts’ used in a historical novel, tactfully implying that they were not correct. The author emailed me back, most indignant, claiming she had looked at several sources on the ‘Net. It was a fairly obscure subject so I took a look. Indeed, there were several articles, but on…

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Reading: The Gift that Keeps on Giving!

  The year was 1955.  I was ten years old, and it was the most important year of my life.  My family and I were in the first full year of living in the small suburban town of Oradell, New Jersey.  The house we lived in was a rental, built somewhere in the late 19th century. It was so old that there were still remnants of the coal furnace formerly used to heat it, before the new oil-fired one was installed.  We were privileged to have not only a porch, but a yard, as well—actually, three: front, side, and back.  In the side yard were several trees, and among them was a pear tree, which would play an important part in my young life. By age ten, I was already a habitual reader, having been introduced to literature by my mother when I was two. Back then, we lived in a federal housing project in Brooklyn.  Mom would read to me as I sat on her lap in front of the picture window in the living room.  I loved seeing the word pictures she painted as she read to me. Before long, I was reading for myself.  My love affair with words has continued to the present. Imagine my…

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10 Things I’ve Learned About Writing

By Seeley James B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree   When I started writing Sabel Security Thrillers four years ago, I thought I knew what I was doing. I hired editors, proof readers, cover artists, etc, and worked on my first book, The Geneva Decision, until it was ready for prime time. I put it out there and waited for the acclaim. Crickets. So, I examined my career and deconstructed successful indie careers looking for the best path to fit my skills and personality. My goal was, and still is, to write the most compelling political thrillers on book shelves today. My first book, post-launch assessment was: long way to go. I envied writers like Russell Blake, Melissa Foster, Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson and so many others who wrote lots of focused books (a small number of characters, few locations, and a single-goal plot). My books sprawl across continents with a cast as big--but not as prone to death and dismemberment--as Game of Thrones. My books are complex and take longer to write because I often get lost halfway through my first draft. In the early days, I spent more time patching plot holes and combining surplus characters than writing the first draft.…

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Blogging Advice from Stephanie

Have a catchy name for your blog -mine is Layered Pages Blog 3 times a week or more. Variety is key. Have guests appear on your blog often. Hold book giveaways. Be sure to provide images with your posts. Be sure to add tags and categories to each posts. Those help draw more attention to your blog through search engines. Have a bio about yourself people can read and picture of yourself helps too. Share your posts often on different platforms. Such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google + and so on. Enjoy the experience!

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Is it worth the effort to actually get your book on these shelves?

  Doesn’t it seem like a dream come true to get your book into a book store such as Barnes and Noble?  Ah, to see your book flying off the shelves in a “real” book store….. a store with thousands of books; hundreds in your genre; many traditionally published by the big guys; all languishing, sad and unnoticed. How do you feel about this?  Is it worth the effort to actually get you book on these shelves?  I wonder.  It is a fact that the big publishers are making a great deal of money- reportedly more than ever and even less to the authors than previously.  The world hasn’t turned exclusively to the online retailers yet.  There are still those readers who want to hold a book –even if the price between a print books and ebook can be extreme.  The usual cry is “what is better selling 2 books at $30 each or 20 at $3.  I would say the 20 books because the more readers you have the better chance you have of establishing the much desired word-of-mouth needed to make your book a best seller (not necessarily a big money maker).  I believe the success of a…

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Minimise your Weaknesses, Maximise your Strength

By Elisabeth Marrion  Finished your book? Ready to publish? Or published already?  Now what? You searched the internet for ways to promote your book without having to spend a lot of money. Maybe you are already subscribing to a writer’s magazine, which is full of really useful information for new and published writers. You check other authors websites, because you are about to create one yourself or have one up and running. You are joining, or are about to join, Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, Google+ and even are starting a blog. You might consider becoming a member of a writer’s society. You name it, you do it. You devour all the information you can find on how to get your name out there. You might even have a publisher who provides you with an information sheet, what you should do. You contact your local papers, your local shops, libraries. They all have been waiting, just for you, Right? And you appeal to your family and friends for their support.  By now you have joined Goodreads, of course, because you were being told to do so. Although, maybe like me, you are totally mystified, but you offer giveaways, hoping the recipient will…

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How Stories and Characters Choose Me!

                  I often get asked how I choose my stories and characters. The truth is, I don’t—they choose me. One night several years ago, I awoke from a vivid dream of a robed priestess walking amid the ruins of a mountain castle. As this spectral woman came toward me, I heard the word “crusade” being chanted. Around her feet sprouted dozens of crosses that shifted between possessing two and three horizontal beams. They seemed to mark the location of forgotten graves. Bathed in a lucent radiance, the woman beckoned me with outstretched arms and pleaded, “Peace, child, let the Light.” Then, the dream ended. The next morning, I hurried to the library to research these strange crosses. Months later, I was climbing the heights of Montsegur, the Cathar Masada in the Ariege region of southwestern France. That desolate mount and its haunting castle ruins looked strikingly similar to the jagged landscape in my dream. All across Cathar country I found the double cross on graffiti. Known as the Cross of Lorraine, it had been adopted as the rallying symbol for the French Resistance during World War II. I also learned that the…

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First Year as a Newborn and Newbie Published Author by M. Louisa Locke

Below is a reprint of a post I did January 1, 2011, just about a year after I self-published my first novel, Maids of Misfortune. I think it captures some of the wonder of that first year. It is now slightly over a year later, a have a second grandson who just turned one, who is already running, climbing, and giving his two year-old brother a run for his money, and I have become more successful than I could have ever imagined. I have a second book out, Uneasy Spirits, the sequel to Maids of Misfortune, and over 37,000 people have bought copies of my two books, and another 50,000 people have downloaded them in a series of free promotions I did on Kindle. But I will never forget the joy of that first year of firsts. I hope you enjoy reading about them as well. --M. Louisa Locke Last year I rang in the New Year with my daughter, who had just had her first baby. I was exhausted (she had had a difficult delivery) and elated at being a grandmother. This New Year’s day, as I look back at the wonderful year of watching that sweet grandson grow…

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