Posted in Personal life, Self-publishing, Writing

The End of an Era and the Beginning of a New One

A post about my new life as a full-time novelist

Debbie with ALLi friends in selfie shot
Celebrating the launch of “Opening Up To Indie Authors”, a book I co-wrote with Dan Holloway (right), at the London Book Fair – with fellow authors Jessica Bell, Hugh Howey and Orna Ross and Kobo’s UK Director Diego Marano

In just two weeks’ time, it’ll be all change for me as I leave the closest thing I have to a day-job to devote all my time to writing and marketing my books.

In some respects there’ll be no change, in that my commute will be exactly the same: from bedroom to study, just six paces. But instead of  working for the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi, as in “ally”), I’ll be working entirely for myself.

All about ALLi

ALLi logoIn case you’re not familiar with ALLi, let me explain a little about what it is, what it does, and what I did there. ALLi is a global, non-profit organisation for independent authors to share best practice and support, founded by Irish author and poet Orna Ross in 2012.

Debbie on the terrace of the House of Commons with an ALLi flyer
Raising awareness of ALLi at the House of Commons, July 2015, at the All Party Writers’ Group Summer Drinks Party

In 2013, Orna invited me to be Commissioning Editor of its daily blog (www.selfpublishingadvice.org), and that role soon expanded. I moderated its members’-only advice forum, co-wrote self-help books for authors in ALLi’s series of guidebooks, wrote ALLi-related guest posts on other blogs, helped man its stand at the London Book Fair, and spoke on ALLi’s behalf at various festivals and writing events around the country. As an offshoot, I also started two writers’ groups, one in Cheltenham and one in Bristol, whose membership I had to restrict to ALLi members only to keep the numbers manageable.

With a new blog post required every day, and to a specific deadline, my ALLi work had to take priority – and for a long time I hugely enjoyed it, not least because I was networking online daily with all manner of authors all over the world, and learning an enormous amount along the way, particularly from Orna herself, who had become a real mentor to me in my writing as well as in my role at ALLi.

And Plenty More Besides

Orna Ross (left) has been part of the Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest from the beginning – pictured here with Katie Fforde at the first ever HULF (Photo by http://www.pixelprphotography.co.uk)

I also managed to fit in a reasonable amount of writing (I’ve published five novels in the last two years), public speaking on my own account, and running the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, of which the fifth is about to take place (Saturday 27th April). However, around Christmas time, with my work-in-progress novel beset by a series of delays, I realised that if I was to achieve my long-term writng goals, something would have to give. I was operating on as little sleep and as little housework as I could get away with, and there were still never enough hours in the day. A series of minor illnesses (all now thankfully resolved) underscored the message that I was simply trying to do too much.

For years people had been saying to me “I don’t know how you do it all” – it just took me a while to agree with them.

Onward and Upward

Coming soon – honest! The first in my new series of novels.

Orna and the team at ALLi have been gracious and generous as we’ve worked on a handover, and I’ve been vastly amused to discover I’m being replaced by not one but three people! (Ok, so they’re all working part-time on what I used to do, but the thought still made Orna and me laugh.) I will continue to be ALLi’s UK Ambassador, and to write and speak on the organisations behalf now and again, but apart from that I will be my own person. If I don’t get as many books written as I plan, I will have no excuse, and no-one to blame but myself! So watch this space – and if you’d like me to alert you as I release new books, please click here to join my Readers’ Club, and I’ll keep you posted of progress.

I’ll close now with Orna’s version of this news, over on the ALLi blog. She is very kind!

New Horizons for Our Blog Editor and Self-Publishing Advice Center Manager Debbie Young

Posted in Events, Reading, Writing

I Swear I Didn’t Mean It… (with a Free New Short Story!)

A quick post to share the article I’ve just written for the ALLi Author Advice Centre on the use of bad language in fiction

Photo of Debbie reading in the Quaker Meeting House
Already committed… (Thanks to fellow author Jacci Gooding for the photo)

Do you give a damn whether there is swearing in the stories you read?

Personally, I’m not keen on hearing the same bad language over and over again supposedly for the sake of realism, whether on television, in films or in books, and I don’t use it much either.

In fact, I’d always thought the language in my own fiction was pretty blameless. That is, until I started reading a new story, as yet unpublished, in the Quaker Meeting House as part of the Evesham Festival of Words last month. Eager to give a brand new, unpublished story, Drunk in Charge, an airing and get some feedback, I hadn’t really thought through the implications of the setting before I got there.

Today I’ve shared the experience over on the ALLi Authors Advice Centre blog, where every Monday is our “Opinion” day, on the basis that it’s good to start the week with a rousing debate. If you’d like to read my piece in full, you can hop over to the blog here.

Cover of Repent at Leisure
One of my works-in-progress, which will include the short story “Drunk in Charge”

Or if you prefer to cut to the chase, you can read Drunk in Charge hereA more polished version will appear in my next collection of short stories, Repent at Leisure, to be published, er, at my leisure… Join my mailing list here if you’d like me to let you know when it’s available, and you’ll also get a free download of Quick Change to read while you’re waiting.

Now back to writing the rest of the stories…

 

 

Posted in Personal life, Writing

Tiptoeing into the New Year (2015)

Welcome to my first blog post of the New Year!

Debbie writing with a pen on paper
Sometimes the pen is mightier than the keyboard

Well, did you miss me? Did you notice I’ve been offline for a bit? Probably not – if you’ve got any sense, you’ll have spent a lot of time offline over Christmas too.

But I have to say I’m greeting the first working week of the New Year with renewed energy and enthusiasm, after spending as much time as possible away from my computer during my daughter’s two-week break from school.

When I furtively dipped back into the internet now and again during the holiday fortnight, it was effectively under cover – I’d set up an out-of-office message to cover my two email accounts: the online equivalent of dark glasses.

In fact, if I hadn’t been part of Helen Hollick’s fabulous Christmas Party Blog Hop, I’d have spend even less time online. Reading the other participants’ fascinating posts was the main reason that I sneaked back to my computer at all.

Why Christmas Isn’t Over Yet…

Blog hop logo
Catch it before it’s too late!

What do you mean, you didn’t read the 25 fabulous articles on the blog hop, on different aspects of Christmas traditions and with plenty of festive fiction samples to enjoy?

Fear not, there’s still time to catch them with a clear conscience, because, as I’ve just discovered, Christmas isn’t actually over just yet. I’m not talking about waiting for Twelfth Night (today, 5th January, according to some people, or tomorrow, 6th, for others, including me). The vicar’s letter in the new Hawkesbury Parish News states that the festive season doesn’t officially conclude until Candlemas on 2nd February. Now there’s the excuse Laura was looking for to keep the Christmas tree up for a little longer.

ALLi logoIn the meantime, I’m back in the room – and I’ve just been blogging about the benefits of going offline on the advice blog of Alliance of Independent Authors. You can read that post here, if you’re interested: Don’t Let the Internet (Tail) Wag the Author (Dog)

  • What’s the longest you can bear to stay offline – or indeed online?
  • Do you have a top tip to share on avoiding internet burnout?
  • Feel free to join the conversation via the comment box below!
Posted in Reading, Writing

Sharing My Stories About Public Libraries

Indie Author Fair banner ad

 

Yesterday I was pleased to give a public reading of two of my short stories at the Chorleywood Literary Festival. Both stories were written in celebration of public libraries.

I attended the Festival to represent the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) at an event called the Indie Author Fair. This was a pop-up bookshop organised by the author collective Triskele Books in association with ALLi. Around 40 indie authors were involved, so I was very lucky to be chosen as one of a dozen readers.

Originally I’d planned to read a story from my summer collection, Quick Change, but at the last minute I thought it more appropriate to select a story that celebrated books and reading.

I’ve had two stories about libraries published this year, one in Eating My Words, the official anthology of National Flash Fiction Day, and the other in Change The Ending, which used flash fiction to foster positive outcomes for local government – an unusual and inventive use of fiction!  When I asked the IAF’s compère, Perry Iles, which of the two I should read, he answered “Both!” So I did, and they went down very well with the audience. Good call, Perry!

I’d like to share those stories with those of you who weren’t at the Festival, so today I’m posting on my blog the story from Eating My Words – the one that had to be written on the theme of The Senses. This story was inspired by my husband’s Open University science degree course. By an extraordinary coincidence, he happened to be studying a module on The Senses, and kept sharing with me fascinating facts from his textbook. The narrator of the resulting story is an elderly gentleman, who is emphatically not based on my husband!

I’ll share the other story with you later this month, so if you don’t already receive my new posts by email,  pop your address in the “follow the blog” box form on the right of this page to make sure you don’t miss it.

Please Remain Silent for the Benefit of Other Library Users (In Hushed Tones)

Why, Miss Blossom, how lovely to see you back in the Reading Room, it’s been a while, has it not? I hope you’ve been keeping well. The Times? Yes, I’ve finished with The Times. Please be my guest. No, no, I’ve definitely finished.

I was just going to toddle along to the Science section until I saw you. Yes, Neuroscience, actually, it’s a new interest of mine. I’ve been spending a lot of time in that department lately. Fascinating stuff, absolutely fascinating.

Just yesterday I came across a fact I’d never known before. Tell me, have you ever noticed that although the smell of polish hits you the minute you enter the library, you cease to notice it after a while? Apparently, that’s nature’s way. We’re all programmed to stop noticing a smell, good or bad, within moments of first sensing it. Yes, unpleasant smells too. Yes, I suppose it is a blessing. That must be why that air freshener company has been advertising a device that alternates between two different perfume reservoirs – so that the user is constantly reminded that it’s working.

No, no, I don’t watch much commercial television either. I just happened to switch over by mistake.

But the same applies to all the other senses, according to the book I’ve been reading over in the Science section. If you hear a sound repeatedly, it fades into the background.  Yes, trains passing your flat at night, that’s an excellent example. You only notice them when they stop – when there’s a strike and they don’t run. I’ve noticed that too. You’re so right. Next time I’m kept awake by the cessation of striking trains, I shall – there, I shall say it! – I shall think of you.

And have you noticed how the same food or drink, day after day, ceases to be pleasurable? Yes, that first cup of proper English tea after a trip abroad is always the best, you’re quite right.

And as to touch, well, I never notice the cat curled up against my arm on the bed at night, once she and I have settled down. Your cat sleeps on your bed too? Sooty sleeps on your bed, curled up into the small of your back? Oh, Miss Blossom, I say! I wonder whether our cats would be friends if they met?

The other sense? The fifth one? Does it work for the sense of sight? Well, do you know, I am at odds with the book on that one. Because, Miss Blossom, because – and I don’t care if the librarian is looking daggers at me since you ask – no matter how often I spot you in this Reading Room, and no matter how long I gaze at you before you look up and notice me, I will never tire of the sight of you . Oh Miss Blossom, dare I ask? Would you care to join me for the afternoon in the Science Section?

To read more stories on the theme of the senses, and wonder at the amazing inventiveness of other writers featured in the anthology, you’ll find Eating My Words available as ebook and paperback available to buy on Amazon.

Quick Change is currently available as an ebook for Kindle, and a paperback will be available from all good bookshops from the end of November.

Posted in Reading, Writing

Which Do You Prefer for Reading and Writing – Past or Present Tense?

(Drawing attention to my latest post on the Alliance of Independent Authors’ self-publishing advice blog)

Cover of Quck Change flash fiction collection
My butterfly sits on the fence, with 10 stories written in the past tense, 10 in the present

While writing a novel during NaNoWriMo, as mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been considering an important question for authors and readers alike: which tense works best in fiction?

Modern authors often choose the present tense to add edginess and immediacy to a story, but the more traditional use of past tense is generally better loved by big publishing companies, who are increasingly risk averse for financial reasons.Tales abound of authors instructed by commercial publishers to rewrite an entire book to change the tense from present to past, before thy’ll consider publishing it.

The Influence of Self-Publishing

Self-publishing liberates authors from unwanted intervention from conservative publishing companies, making readers the ultimate arbiters of whether a book works in the present tense. Unfortunately some readers reject books written in the present tense, considering this style pretentious, irritating or exhausting to read. Their attitude irritates authors who have usually selected the tense that they feel works best for their story.

Sometimes this might not even be a conscious decision on the part of the author – it’s just how the story wants and needs to be told. When I wrote Quick Change, my collection of 20 very short stories (aka flash fiction), I happened to produce 10 stories in the present tense, 10 in the past. Although that seems suspiciously neat, hinting at the author’s indecision, I just wrote what felt right for each story.

To be honest, I hadn’t even noticed the 50:50 split until I flicked through Quick Change while researching an article for the Alliance of Independent Authors’ self-publishing advice blog, in which I address the issue in more detail from the author’s viewpoint. Here’s the link if you’d like to read that article: Writing: Past or Present Tense?

I should make it clear that I’m not being snobbish about readers who reject the present tense. I have my own equally irrational foibles as a reader: While I’m open-minded about tense, I am childishly averse to books that feature characters with peculiar names. No surprises that I’m not a big reader (or author) of the fantasy genre, no matter how much others rave about it.

Sorry, Gollum. It’s not you, it’s me.

Useful Information

  • Quick Change is currently available as an ebook for Kindle for just £1.99. I hope its average rating on Amazon UK of 4.6* out of 5* will encourage you to give it a try! If you don’t read ebooks, bear with me – I’ll be self-publishing a paperback later this month.
  • The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) is a fabulous not-for-profit organisation uniting the best self-publishing authors around the world to share best practice, advice and moral support. I’ve been a member for two years, have edited its blog for a year and a half, and strongly recommend membership to anyone interested in self-publishing. You don’t haveto be already self-published to join – aspiring self-publishers will also be welcomed to the fold. 
    Cover of "Opening Up To Indie Authors"
    This invaluable reference book is now available in paperback
  • ALLi membership offers many benefits, including free digital copies of its excellent guidebooks, one of them co-authored by me. ( I’m currently working on another.) Opening Up To Indie Authors, which helps self-published authors gain greater recognition and respect from bookshops, libraries, festival organisers and other influential parties, is also now available as a paperback, and is an excellent investment in your writing career, whether or not you choose to join ALLi.
  • If you are interested in joining ALLi, I’d be very grateful if you do so via my affiliate link, which earns me a small reward every time I recruit a new member – a further benefit of membership. If you’re smart, you can cover the entire cost of annual membership simply by persuading four author friends to join. You’ll be given your own affiliate link when on joining.