“Grit Lit” ~ Ah-ha!

On an Arte Umbria writing course in Italy I heard the term “Grit Lit” for the first time and had an ah-ha moment.

Deciding what genre a book belongs in can be quite hard and reminds me of the 60’s song Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds. There was a lot of squeezing involved to get them to “all look just the same”. Once Removed never seemed an easy fit with any of the usual categories but grit lit sounds glove-like. It makes me think of ‘gritty northern’ dramas, stories of real people surviving tough situations in no-nonsense OR cover 3ways and coming out the other side stronger.

Once Removed’s new cover is a much better fit, too. Of course self-harm is a dark subject but this book is so much more than that. There’s colour and caring, risk and romance, daring and disaster.

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Contemporary Freedom

ccnancyjardineToday my friend and fellow Crooked Cat author Nancy Jardine talks about genre in relation to her writing. I’m not entirely sure I agree with everything she’s said so look forward to your comments.

Hello Kim, thank you for inviting me to return to your blog. It’s lovely to pop back to see you.

Some authors quickly find their writing niche and stick with it. It may be that they feel more comfortable with writing political thrillers and that’s the only genre they keep writing in. Or, they only write gritty police procedural novels. Or, maybe they only write historical romances. Many of them are highly successful and their readers are content because they know what to expect from those authors—readers who only want the predictable.

It’s a sad fact of life that other authors who want to challenge readers, or who want to encourage them to appreciate something different in genre or across genres, find their work doesn’t sell well.

The truly mercenary author, I think, finds what genre or ‘fad’ is selling and rides along the crest of that wave—whether or not they enjoy what they’re creating.

I’m still a bit ambivalent regarding my genre comfort zone and I can’t bring myself to be one of those ‘one eye on the profits only’ mercenary type of author.

I love writing my historically based adventures but I’ve also found that writing my contemporary mysteries has given me a sense of freedom. The freedom is directly related to the fact that I don’t need to do so much research since I’m more familiar with the contemporary life my characters might have, or if their lifestyle is quite fanciful, I can find examples of sufficient similar celebrity lifestyles on the internet to make the scenario believable.

When I started to write Take Me Now, my latest Crooked Cat published contemporary mystery novel, I decided to make my TMNx1000main male character Nairn Malcolm an unusual Scottish highland hero. My Nairn was going to be just as charismatic and sword wielding as many of the current highland heroes that can be found in romance novels set in Scotland, but instead of making him a Jacobite, or a medieval hero, I chose to create a contemporary Nairn. I also purposely chose not to create a time shift character, there being plenty of that type of novel available on the market.

Since the story is a romance mystery, I made Nairn a bit more larger than life, yet not the typical hero image at the outset. Though he’s normally the quintessential alpha male, my main female character Aela Cameron finds he’s not at his best when she first meets him. The swooning over my gorgeous highland hero is temporarily delayed since poor Nairn has been the subject of a rather nasty and mysterious motorbike accident. And so begins the fun of the book but also the mystery begins because although I wanted to write an almost ‘tongue in cheek’ version of a highland hero, I also wanted and needed to create a sound mystery plot.

The contemporary freedom for me was also creating amusing dialogue between those main protagonists. Some of the best fun during the writing was during scenes when my strong secondary character Ruaridh Malcolm, Nairn’s father, stirred up some mischief.

If I were asked if Take Me Now is similar to my other writing, I’d have to say no it isn’t because as an author I really tried something different.

Take Me Now is available in ebook formats from Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1QbhUwn ; US http://amzn.to/1MdeuCU ; Smashwords; B&N; and other ebook stores.

Nancy Jardine writes: historical romantic adventures (Celtic Fervour Series); contemporary mystery thrillers (Take Me Now, Monogamy Twist, Topaz Eyes-finalist for THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE 2014); & time-travel historical adventures for Teen/ YA readers (Rubidium Time -Travel Series –Book 1 The Taexali Game).

Find Nancy at the following places-

Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.com Website: http://nancyjardineauthor.com Facebook LinkedIN   About Me   Goodreads Twitter @nansjar  Google+ (Nancy Jardine)   YouTube book trailer videos   Amazon UK author page   Rubidium Time Travel Series on Facebook http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG

You Learn Something New Every Day…

Today, I learned what an “infographic” is ~ ta-da ->

writing_skills_matter

I’m not surprised by the information it contains, however. What I do find curious is the number of times I’ve been asked to read a manuscript for someone who hasn’t bothered to correct spelling, grammar or punctuation. I can only hope they don’t try to submit their precious work to a publisher or agent in that state.

We authors know that it’s the creativity that really counts. A piece of writing that is technically perfect but dull won’t be published either.

However, a brilliant masterpiece full of glaring errors is unprofessional and shows a lack of consideration for the people ploughing through thousands of manuscripts looking for the next bestseller. They simply won’t read it, if you don’t make it as accurate as possible.

It won’t be enough to rely on computer spell checkers either, sadly. I asked 8 people to read and give feedback on my memoir, A Life Less Lost. They were all well educated, teachers, published authors and a doctor, but I still sent it off to a professional proofreader. It came back with an A4 list of corrections to be made.

If you’re planning to self-publish, this is almost even more important because you won’t have a publisher’s editor going through your final draft. You risk your book looking like some of those cringe-worthy folk who appear totally unprepared on XFactor.

When you’ve spent all that time and  energy on your creation, you owe it to yourself to send it out into the world looking its best.

This is not an endorsement of Grammarly. A chap called Nikolas Baron emailed and asked if I’d post this. For more information, their link is grammarly.com/grammarcheck

The break is over!

Writers’ block, too busy, need a holiday… all those excuses are behind me now. It’s back to work big style. Today, I must finish a short story involving some of the characters from Once Removed banner2.jpgfor an anthology Crooked Cat are putting together.

Tomorrow, I’m running a workshop for a group in Howarth on setting up a writers’ group.

cover LLLOn Sunday, I’ll be driving to Coulsdon for my niece’s baptism but good friends from the Holmfirth Writers’ Group will be reading a short clip from A Life Less Lost for me on Two Valleys Radio. Phew!!!!TWO VALLEYS RADIO LOGO ROUNDEL

Writing from the other side

Bitten CoverA Writing Perspective from the Other Side of the Fence

A Guest Post by Dan O’Brien

Life as a writer can be hard sometimes. Success is elusive; fans shift as often as a summer wind. Yet, we persevere, writing into the late hours of the night and waking in the early hours of the morning to log the hours and enter, for a time, the worlds we create. When I first started writing, more than a decade ago, it was because I loved the idea of immersing myself in a place where I could construct the narrative; walk through dense forests and to the tops of mountains. Over time the process became more about writing as a tool to move through emotions and languishing memories that required catharsis.

Writing takes on many forms, for many different writers, over the course of our lives. For me, the process is the reward. I love to write.HOBBES

When I ask myself that silly question of what I would do if I had all the money in the world, the answer is always quite simple: write. Now more than a decade later, I have a renewed sense of purpose and have become quite adept at balancing the spinning plates of responsibility.

Cerulean Dreams CoverRecently, between being a full-time graduate student and writer, I joined Empirical magazine as an editor – among other responsibilities. A national magazine similar in spirit to Harper’s or The Atlantic, the magazine is firmly rooted in a West Coast sensibility. There is a little something for everyone, and honestly, the hope is that everyone will take a look. Contributors to the magazine come from around the globe and cover everything from politics to fiction.

Working at a magazine, especially at this point in its maturation, is a wonderful experience. There are so many moving parts that enliven your day. Sometimes I spend the day sorting through fiction and poetry submissions, searching for that piece of prose, or perhaps a stanza, that ensnares my imagination. Other days I am editing, constantly referring to the Chicago Manual of Style to ascertain the correct usage of an archaic sentence structure. As a writer, the prospect of editing and rummaging through the work of others might not sound exciting, but there are some wonderful consequences:

  1. You learn to become a better editor of your own work
  2. You begin to recognize redundant sentence structures and overused phrases
  3. Your grasp of language grows exponentially

However, the most important component for me is:

  1. You get to help others bring their work into a public forumLost Sock Army

For many writers, and certainly for me early in my writing career, the notion of being picked up by a magazine or a small press was foremost in my mind. It was that distant promise of publication and everything that goes with it that pushed me forward. When I got rejection letters, most of which lacked a personal touch, I would get down on my writing, denigrate my ability.

The years passed, during which thousands of rejection letters amassed, and I realized that the pursuit of writing for a purely extrinsic reward was dooming myself to Vegas-style odds. It became clear to me that I needed to write because I loved it, and then find a way to share it with others – even if it was not through traditional routes. I found that I was more comfortable with my writing when I did it for the pure joy of it.

MWM_RhysNow that I am on the other side of the fence, so to speak, I have noticed a few myths about submitting to paying publications that otherwise mystified and frustrated me prior to becoming an editor and being responsible for interacting with first-time and established authors.

I have decided to provide a humorous, but serious, collection of things you should do and things you shouldn’t do when submitting and entering into a discourse with a publication – sprinkled, of course, with some anecdotes. And without further ado (or perhaps slight ado if you count this sentence here):

Things You Should Do

  1. Read the publication you are submitting to before sending an email. This one sounds obvious, I know. However, it happens so often that it warrants mentioning. If you have written a brilliant piece of prose that is about zombies, it is quite likely that Popular Mechanics will not be that interested in it. Pick up an issue of the magazine you are interested in submitting to and familiarize yourself with the kinds of stories they publish. The next part is the hardest part: be honest. Does your piece fit with what they publish?
  2. Read and follow the submission instructions. Again, a no-brainer. If you are thinking that you don’t know where to find the submission instructions and you just have an email address, be prepared for disappointment. Your email might go to submission purgatory with a one-liner response about having received your correspondence – if you’re lucky.
  3. Address your submission to the appropriate person. If you are thinking that I am giving you the obvious pointers, then you are quite right. With that in mind, imagine that I still receive hundreds of emails a month that manage to ignore these simple suggestions. If you are writing a stunning expose on corporate greed, the poetry editor is probably not the best destination for your work.
  4. Edit your work. I tell this to students a lot, so I will mention it here as well: spell check in Microsoft Word is not sufficient. I am not saying that you need to be a copyeditor to submit to a magazine, but do yourself a favor and read it out loud. If something sounds funny when you read it, you can only imagine how it will sound to an editor who is choosing among thousands of articles and stories to determine what goes to print.
  5. Be cognizant of turnarounds. By this I mean, the amount of time between when you sent in the work until you hear back from an editor about the status of your submission. Nothing will send your work to the bottom of a slush pile than to send a follow-up email the day after you submitted, wondering whether or not you are going to be in the magazine. Most publications will post how long it takes to hear back from them about the status of a submission, and an amount of time after which you should contact them if you haven’t heard from them.

Things You Shouldn’t Do

  1. Send an email telling an editor that they would be stupid not to publish your work. It always surprises me when I get an email telling me that I need to publish a story, poem, or piece of nonfiction because it is the next best thing. Top this off with letting me know that I would be a fool not to accept it, almost guarantees a trip to the trash can.
  2. Send a photocopy of your story by registered mail.  If you want to have your story in a magazine, start by giving it to editors in a format that they can actually use. By sending a faded and blurry photocopy of your forty-word poem and declaring that it is a soul-searching masterpiece does not inspire as much confidence as you would think.
  3. Contact an editor on a frequent basis about the status of your submission. I have to sort through hundreds of emails a day, edit for the current issue, and work on editing an anthology; not to mention a thousand other intangibles. We posted a time table about getting back to you for a reason: read it.
  4. Be discouraged by a form rejection letter. This is a bitter pill to swallow for many writers. They think the form rejection letter means that the editor didn’t read their work, or simply had things already planned and was stringing writers along. The reality is on any given month I send out hundreds upon hundreds of rejection letters. There is simply not enough time in the day to offer feedback to every single person. This not to say that I do not offer feedback, or that editors do not offer feedback in general, but instead the process is streamlined so writers can be responded to in a reasonable amount of time.
  5. Call the magazine to find out about your submission. This is subsumed by not contacting an editor about the status of your submission before enough time has passed, but I thought it warranted a special mention considering it is really going the extra mile in terms of being an irritation. If we haven’t gotten back to you yet, calling us is not going to suddenly make us more accessible.
  6. Send another email with corrections. Read twice, send once. If you don’t think what you sent is ready for publication, then please don’t send it. You get one chance at a first impression, and nothing speaks to being underprepared and unprofessional than sending a draft and immediately following up with another draft. If your piece needs work, note that in your submission, but don’t send a series of emails chronicling the different stages of the edits for that story. The exception, of course, is if you have already been accepted and you have been asked to make edits.
  7. Contact the magazine to air your frustrations about not being selected. I say this with all seriousness. It is very likely that you got rejected because the piece was not a good fit and not that the magazine has decided to order a hit on your writing career. Please don’t treat it that way. Lashing out at a publication for sending a form rejection letter, or passing on a piece you have written, reeks of a lack of professionalism and could impact your ability to publish elsewhere. Many editors are friends, especially in the digital age, and word spreads fast.
  8. Contact the magazine to ask if you think a story you are working on would be a good fit elsewhere. I can appreciate the sentiment. A lot of editors are writers themselves, and they love talking about the process and the product. I find myself building friendships with writers, those we publish and those we do not, and often I will give them suggestions about their work. However, if you don’t know me personally and have never been published or solicited in any way to use me as a sounding board, then do not contact me and ask if a poem or story would be a good fit at another magazine. If you think it is ready for publication, then submit it here. An obvious exception would be if the writer knew the story would not be a good fit and asked because they were uncertain in venturing into new territory.

I could probably keep listing things you shouldn’t do, but I will wrap it up there. I The End of the World Playlist Coverencourage you to keep trying and keep writing. Things only get better with time, and time is all we really have. I love to hear from other writers and potential readers, so please stop by and say hello. 

SONY DSCBio: A psychologist, author, editor, philosopher, martial artist, and skeptic, Dan has published several novels and currently has many in print, including: The End of the World Playlist, Bitten, The Journey, The Ocean and the Hourglass, The Path of the Fallen, The Portent, and Cerulean Dreams. Follow him on Twitter (@AuthorDanOBrien) or visit his blog http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com. He recently started a consultation business. You can find more information about it here: http://www.amalgamconsulting.com/.

The Journey CoverThe Path of the Fallen CoverTwins

Covers to be judged by

Creating, choosing or sourcing covers can be a bit of a nightmare but worth the effort, if you hope to attract readers. Maria Savva shares the story behind the cover for her latest book.

SONY DSC

It’s always difficult deciding on a cover for a book. I like my book covers to say a bit about the book contents and admit to being a bit of a control freak about them.

I have a Facebook friend, who is also a photographer, Martin David Porter, of Mart’s Arts Photography. In the past when I’ve commented on his photographs he’s often said that if I want a photo for a book cover I should ask. So I approached Martin when looking for a photo for Delusion and Dreams. He sent me a couple of suggestions, but I had by then decided that I wanted a picture of a daisy.

I thought a daisy might be nice because it links in well with both delusion and dreams. Daisies are often used for the game, ‘he loves me, he loves me not’, where someone picks off the petals of a flower to get an answer to this burning question. To believe the answer could be seen as delusion.

I found a photograph of a daisy on morguefile.com, so was going to use that. Then Martin sent me a picture of a daisy that he had taken, and that was nice, so I was confused.

Then I had the idea of sketching the daisy photo that I had found on morguefile. I like drawing, and thought that it would be nice to have original art on the cover. I used my own art for the cover of The Dream, Pieces of a Rainbow, and Haunted. I did start drawing the daisy, but then realised it was going to take a long time to get it exactly right. While all this was going on, Martin posted a new photo to his Facebook page one day, and as soon as I saw it I knew it would be perfect for Delusion and Dreams. For me, the image of the birds flying represents a wonderful sense of freedom and escape (like a dream). The dark side of the photo is great because there is a dark side to many of the stories in the book. I like the ‘God’s light’ also, which adds an extra dimension.

For the paperback version, I also have another photo on the back cover that Martin sent me, which I think is beautiful. The original daisy photo that I was going to use for the cover, appears in my book trailer.

SONY DSC

I hope my readers love the cover as much as I do.

Please visit Mart’s Arts Photography on Facebook. Martin mainly takes band/gig photos, but also has lots

of great nature photos on his page:

https://www.facebook.com/MartsArtsPhotography

Blurb:

File created with CoreGraphics

Twelve stories of betrayal, greed, revenge, deception, dreams, and courage. We all struggle to find our

way. What you see isn’t necessarily all there is. This collection takes you into the grey area, because the world is never just black and white. Life is all about perspective. One person’s delusion is another person’s dream. Includes five bonus stories.

MariaAuthor Bio:

Maria Savva lives and works in London. She studied Law at Middlesex University and The College of Law. She is a lawyer, although not currently practising law. She writes novels and short stories in different genres, including drama, psychological thriller, and family saga. Many of her books and stories are inspired by her years working as a lawyer, although she has not written a courtroom drama to date. Her most recent novel is Haunted, a crime fiction/psychological thriller.

 Author links:

Website:  HYPERLINK “http://www.mariasavva.comhttp://www.mariasavva.com

blog:  HYPERLINK “http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1418272.Maria_Savva/bloghttp://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1418272.Maria_Savva/blog

Facebook Page:  HYPERLINK “https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Maria-Savva/171466979781https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Maria-Savva/171466979781

Twitter:  HYPERLINK “http://Twitter.com/Maria_Savvahttp://Twitter.com/Maria_Savva

Buy links for Delusion and Dreams:

Amazon.com:  HYPERLINK “http://www.amazon.com/Delusion-and-Dreams-ebook/dp/B00D0EHJHA/http://www.amazon.com/Delusion-and-Dreams-ebook/dp/B00D0EHJHA/

Amazon UK:  HYPERLINK “http://www.amazon.co.uk/Delusion-and-Dreams-ebook/dp/B00D0EHJHA/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1369585340&sr=8-6&keywords=delusion+and+dreamshttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Delusion-and-Dreams-ebook/dp/B00D0EHJHA/

 

Did you know you can post reviews on Smashwords?

cover LLLI’ve had my first review on Smashwords, for A Life Less Lost. It’s a doozy, as they say in the States and I’m thrilled. To read it, just click on the link http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/19453

With Amazon apparently set to increase its greediness quotient, perhaps readers and writers should support this alternative. As you’ll see from the range of related articles, Smashwords has launched “Read and Ebook Week” with lots of discounts so now would be a good time to go have a look.

Image representing Smashwords as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

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