I CAN’T WRITE PROPER

I am feeling quite depressed at the moment. Why? Once upon a time, I thought I could write. Not as well as Tolstoy, or Shakespeare, but the average, everyday stuff. This is a good thing, I thought I’m not particularly good at anything else. Don’t ask me to draw a smiley face, or cook gourmet meals, I plant, nurture and watch the green leafy things die, I’m best in the back row of the chorus (or off stage altogether) and … I could go on and on about my lack of accomplishments, but I’ll spare you.

At least I can write, pop words onto paper in reasonable order, tell stories and the extra bonus is I can do that as long as I have wiggly fingers and the mental capacity – unlike those super sporty people whose career is on the downward slope by the time they’re 25.

My belief in my one and only ability- I won’t go so far as to call it a talent – was reinforced by all the people who paid me to write: important people who ran banks, government departments, magazines and newspapers, radio and television, corporations and educational institutions. And I mean pay, yes real money not the pennies Amazon dribble into my bank account at the end of each month. This big money paid the rent, bought food, clothed us and put petrol in the tank. It even paid for the odd cruise and trips abroad. It continued for almost 40 years until I retired and began to write books.

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Now, I know that was all an illusion because ‘I can’t write ‘proper.’ How do I know this? I only have to look at my editor’s red pen marks on my drafts of Amie book 4. Frankly, that is all I can see, a sea of red, it’s almost impossible to make out the underlying black print under all the corrections. For example, I’m a victim of ‘tautology’ – yes I had to look that up too – Horrors, I use five words when I should be using only two! I sprinkle commas all over the place where they shouldn’t be and leave them out where they are an absolute must.

Now what I want to know is, who are these faceless little, grey men who sit somewhere declaring that this sentence is correct, while that sentence is not? I know that the French literary people meet once a year and discuss the purity of their language and decide to ban such abominations as ‘le sandwich‘ and ‘le weekend‘ so I must assume there is a similar gathering of English speaking experts who do the same?

The rules seem to multiply and change daily.  Nowadays you must never, ever start a sentence with an -ly word eg. ‘Suddenly the silence of the night was shattered by the roar of …”  NO! NO.! NO! Adverbs are out this season, you must find a different word. No longer can we put she walked slowly – even if that is what she is doing – it must be shuffled, or ambled or sauntered or another simile. But what if she is approaching the gallows  – her last few steps on this earth – would she really amble or saunter towards the hangman’s noose? She might shuffle of course, but we want to convey that she approached with dignity and courage. Heaven forbid we put She walked slowly and courageously to her death

Ans when did it become necessary to hyphenate every thing in sight? I don’t remember reading nine-year-old in books when I was younger? Why is nine year old wrong? Grammarly has just put a huge, fat red line under it for me.

English is such a precise language. I read somewhere that it has more words than any other and each one is precise and conveys a slightly different meaning to any other word.

And as writers, we all know there is an army of grammar nazis out there just waiting to pounce on our books and complain. Some writing is obviously wrong – we was sat – is a great example (who sat them if they weren’t inanimate objects?)  But real people in the real world do say that. Looking at this paragraph, I remember being told in English class you never, ever, ever start a sentence with AND or BUT – they are conjunctions or joining words – now you see it all the time.

Punctuation has also undergone a shake up. Colons and semi colons are rare, the looooong dash is now popping up all over the place. It has even got a name to differentiate it from the short dash.

I despair, I really do.  I know my editor is right, she’s got dozens of English and editing degrees and stuff to prove it, and I know once Amie 4 is out there no grammar nazi will dare criticise it. But I’m not sure it’s quite the (incorrect) way I write anymore and I quite liked my ‘chatty, who the hell cares if I use too many words, I write as I talk’ sort of way.

I love my editor I really do, despite my moans, I couldn’t do without her, she’s really the best.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Do we blaze a new trail of English as what she is wrote and spoken in the 21st century?  Or do we blindly follow the rules?

What do you do? Right now, I’m off to get my dark glasses so I can continue editing.

We have still to finalise the cover, which do you prefer?

Have a great week and take care.

CABLE CARS AND COVERS

THE BIG TRIP ALMOST OVER

On our first full day in Singapore we did our usual hop-on-hop-off bus tour to see as much as we could and pinpoint what we’d visit later. Apparently according to the diary I was on painkillers to keep me going, but such is my mind these days I can’t remember which part of me hurt, or why.

On our walkabout, we noticed this building – not used as a church these days for sure!

I love stained glass windows. This gives you some history.

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And a couple of pictures of the cable car ride but more about that next week.

HISTORY

Now I think I mentioned that Bertie (Edward VII) was a bit of a lad as they used to say, and even though he settled down it didn’t stop him from having his lady friends and his last great mistress was Mrs Keppel.

Mrs kepple

He would visit her in the late afternoon, usually after opening a supermarket or cutting the ribbon on a new nuclear power plant and she played such an important part in his life that when he was dying the Queen asked Mrs. Keppel to visit him on his deathbed, and hold his hand. Now wouldn’t most men like an understanding wife like that?

 

COVER REVEAL

One thing I like about my blog is the interaction with readers. The newsletter goes out and that’s pretty much the last I hear of it (oh, I mustn’t forget the sign up link or I’ll never get up there with the others who have thousands on their lists – I’m still at the very bottom – sigh – http://eepurl.com/cBu4Sf ) . Here on my blog I love reading and answering your comments and I do want your advice. What do you think of the cover below? Would it entice you to buy the book and what would expect the story to be about? I’d love and value your feedback as I’m hopeless at this bit of the book manufacturing process.

Amie 4 full cover v2

Till next week, take care.

OLD AND USELESS BOOKS

I was reading a book the other day – yes really, I do read, I’m a voracious reader, in bed, the smallest room, during meals if I can get away with it, while not watching the television, you get the picture. But I gave DH (Dear husband) quite a fright when I shrieked with joy the other day. I’d not only found a typo but noticed a plot hole in a book by a very, very famous household-name writer. Yes!! Even the best of us and their top five publishing companies are not perfect.

I still cringe when I think of the mistakes I made with my first book, I probably shot myself in the foot at the beginning of a possible career as an author (who am I kidding I’m long past career time, I’m supposed to be retired). You know the kind of mistakes. The CreateSpace cover taken from a bad photograph, my own personal editing, heck I’d been paid in the past to edit a national magazine so of course I could find mistakes in my own work couldn’t I? No. The print was too small, the paper the wrong colour and it was riddled with typos.

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However in my rose-coloured cloud I didn’t notice any of these things and I promptly ordered 50 paperback copies. What I was going to do with them all I had no idea, but it felt good and I sat for days gazing fondly at the boxes jammed full of my masterpiece.

Then the axe fell. A kind writer friend pointed out a typo, another mentioned a split infinitive, a third casually dropped that adverbs were last year’s flavour and a total no no in modern literature. I raced to my laptop. Called up the manuscript, made the changes and uploaded again in both kindle and paperback. Panic over. Until, I noticed the 45 copies (by now I’d bullied a couple of friends in buying a few) and wondered what to do with them.

Should I give them away? Sell them cheaply? Shred them?

From being a delight to behold, they sat accusingly in their boxes in the spare room.

“We are defective,” they screamed at me every time I walked past. “We cost you a lot of money!” They whined as I tried to ignore them.

“What are you going to do with us?” They wanted to know.

Eventually, as the tally of errors piled up, the corrections made and a new cover, then another new cover and then another one graced the book I bit the bullet and destroyed the lot. Now I finally have this.

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But that was not the end. Just as I breathed a sigh of relief, I noticed that every other author had matching covers on their series. I looked at Amie books one and two and no they had completely different covers, nothing to tell you they belonged together. I adored the covers, they were brilliant, but they didn’t tell the story inside.

Another, bitter, learning curve.

So back to the drawing board and now they make a set –

but yes, you’ve guessed it, I have several copies of the old versions on the shelves.  Should I give them away? Sell them cheaply? Shred them?

You see if I inflict them on people as Christmas or birthday presents they may be less than impressed and not look for my other books. Most times I’ve grabbed the new version out of the back of the car when someone has asked if I have any handy to sell. (You don’t carry your books around with you all the time? No? What about the bookmarks and the business cards and the inscribed pens?) Personally people are probably horrified when I squeak “Yes, I have all of them. Which one would you like?” The someone was probably expecting the conversation to go –

“Sorry, I have a few at home though.”

“Oh, what a shame, maybe next time?”

“Yes of course.” It was Christmas 2014 when we last bumped into each other wasn’t it?

But oh no, I’m prepared, and I whip open the boot/trunk of the car. But then my hand hovers over the old covers, do I, do I not?

“I must order more Amie 1 paperbacks I mention casually to DH over breakfast.”

“Whatever for? You have a shelf full of them.”

“But those are the old covers, and could you just redo the ones that have awards now?”

He gives me that ‘look’.

So what do you do with early editions?

THE ADVERTISING BIT

I am thrilled to announce that the first book in the Amie series is now available in audio – so now there is no excuse for busy people not to read all about her adventures as you travel to work, go running, cook the evening meal and do the laundry etc. I believe it’s free if you sign up for audio books.

AMIE 1 AUDIO COVER

www.amazon.com/dp/B0725CYNYG

Till next week, take care.

IT’S MY EXPLANATION (AND I’M STICKING TO IT)

As one or two of you might know I used to work in the media, and I’ll never forget the awful day when the editor turned to me and asked what the next shot was. Now very few programmes are shot in order, you might even capture the final shot first. I looked down at the script and told him it was the guys climbing the pylon.

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“And the in and out points?” His fingers were poised over the controls. I checked the shot list, and then checked it again and again and again, panic rising, heart beat racing, I could even feel my blood pressure shooting skywards. But no, the shot wasn’t there. We had forgotten to film anyone even near the pylon, much less climbing it.

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I still shudder when I remember that moment, and from that day I meticulously made sure that every scene we ever needed was safely in the can.  Over the years I became more and more efficient and we were able to work faster and faster.  –  Patience, I’m coming to the point just now!

Then of course I retired (joke) and I began the book writing thing. My first book languished away on Amazon, picking up less than 2 dozen sales in the first year, until I discovered marketing, or rather the need to market. (Sad to remember I thought that people just ‘found’ books on Amazon and shot you to the heights of the best sellers). I ventured onto Facebook and a kind writer put up my web page and then I dipped my toe in the blog world.

So, blogs were a good way to chat to people. They give you more freedom than a short post on FB and trying to get much of a message out there about anything in less than 140 characters on Twitter was going to need a lot of practice.

So what could I write on my blog? I had no advice for anyone, I had used up most of my experiences in two more memoirs so I began to expand on my silly history of kings and queens of England based on a humorous lecture I’d given locally – entitled All the monarchs in 59 minutes and 3 seconds. It had taken me some time to write and it seemed daft not to use it as it would never see the light of day again.

1066-kings-and-queens

Then came the Big Trip and I really wanted to share this with the world, I was just blown away by the sights and sounds of the Far East. But, there was a problem, I was still fumbling my way through history, I’d only got as far as the Tudors. OK, I thought, I’ll combine them and do half of each.

I was still thinking how clever I was until a couple of writer friends pointed out at lunch yesterday that my blog is totally confusing. “You’re jumping around all over the place” they told me kindly. Readers don’t know what to expect!

Now, I’m getting to the point. It’s all in the planning. If only I could have my time over again for the last few years. For example, I would have realized that I needed to co-ordinate the covers on my Amie series – yes all series have matching covers I know that now – and it’s taking time and money to replace them all.

Amie covers right now – see not matching!

Even the cover of my first book was really amateurism, even though I was so proud of it at the time – and that’s now been changed 3 times.

I’ve learned that you need to build a platform of friends months before you even write Chapter One on the screen, and if you are even thinking of writing a book, practice Twitter, a basic graphics programme, familiarize yourself with analytics and how to format for the sales channels. It’s also helpful to find out how to convert your documents from one format to another, pdf, epub, mobi etc  and how to decide which blog host to choose and set up your page. You also need to suss out the promo sites and which ones give value for money and then there are the key words and the rankings and the … the list is endless. Dozens of people have written books about how to do all this, or whole books on only one topic of all the knowledge which will help you on your way to the top of the charts.

Of course I didn’t even know you had to plan, and let’s face it, often we are not sure what works if anything and to what extent.

The postscript to this is I’m afraid you will have to live with my lack of planning and suffer both the Big Trip and, currently, Queen Victoria a little longer. They will be back next week. We’re coming to the end of both topics and then I’ll be stuck!!

Now I’m sure you’ve noticed that I rarely push my books on here but I would like to mention my new monthly newsletter which will have news about my books and those of other people. Plus a downloadable back story to the Amie series, plus information about the pending court case (that is not serious). I hope I can find the sign up form here again, but if not, please leave a comment and I will happily add your name. Happy to cross promote with other authors, but to start with I am focusing on new releases and books with an African connection.

Oh, one final thing – my Goodreads giveaway is ending in 2 days – for 2 signed paperback copies posted worldwide. Here is the link. https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/217970-amie-an-african-adventure

Till next week.

NEW BOOK DUE OUT

This is the extra blog I threatened you with – it’s the cover reveal for my new book out soon.

It’s the third in the Amie series, remember her? She left – no she was dragged out of – England by her husband Jonathon to go and live in Africa. In Amie an African Adventure.

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(I would like to add here that Amie book 1 is out in Spanish and very soon will be available in Italian). Amie settles into her new life but then comes to the unwelcome attention of a Colonel in the army who forces her to do something that she really doesn’t want to do (I’m trying not to give too much away here). Then civil war breaks out, and soon she is fighting for her life. She changes from being a naive, indecisive drip to being a brave, indecisive woman.

I am really thrilled she has an Honourable Award in Fiction – Action in the Reader’s Favorite Awards 2016. She was also the winner of the Adventure category in the Pinnacle Awards 2016 and got a bronze in Popular Fiction –Adventure genre in the Global eBook Awards 2016.

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In book 2 Amie goes off in search of the foster child she lost during the civil war. She doesn’t realize that this will bring her up against an fanatical terrorist organization with international connections. She needs all the skills she’s learned to survive – but she ignores the witch doctor’s advice and suffers the consequences in Amie and the Child of Africa.

 

Book 3  Amie, Stolen Future sees Amie and her husband returning to Africa, but the terrorists have neither forgiven nor forgotten and they are determined to take their revenge. Amie is left powerless and forced into a life she never expected. She has a new employer, forced to do what they ask of her. She has become a mature, still a little indecisive, woman but danger follows her everywhere. Her future has been stolen and once again she struggles to survive not knowing who she can trust.

My editor tells me this is the best Amie book yet, in fact she’s very, very enthusiastic about it – I hope readers will like it as much.

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Release date, hopefully early November in both paperback and ebook.coming-soon-amie-3

If I can threaten  blackmail persuade you to sign up to my newsletter list, I am planning to release the first chapter to those on the list.  You can contact me on lucindaeclarke@gmail.com and I’ll gladly add your address.

ONLY ONE NARCISSISTIC POST – PROMISE

Once upon a time I was a millionairess, yes I was really. Of course there is always the downside – there always is – we were in Benghazi, Libya at the time and frankly there wasn’t much to spend it on. Once we had a ‘his’ and hers’ yacht and 3 cars in the driveway, (yes, I know quite gross) and no time off for travelling, it languished in the bank – and there it stayed as we were PI’d and ignominiously escorted out of the country. The money never went with us, long story, sad ending.

It was time to start over. Back on our feet once more history repeated itself, and many adventures later, there I was in 1994 penniless, in debt and working 24/7 to begin building all over again. Since then in our retirement we live a very modest life on a very, very modest income.

Now, the reason I mention the above is because I wanted to share that we are off to Miami in November (DH will carry the bags).

OK, I can hear the hysterical laughter from here. The Big Trip at the beginning of the year, then the magic trip to Amsterdam for my birthday only a couple of weeks ago and now a trip from Spain to the United States. Who are they kidding?

My knees were knocking when I timidly announced to DH that I was desperate to fly across the Atlantic – this was two hours before we boarded the flight to Holland.

“I’d never have booked this holiday if I’d known!” he was horrified.

“I never thought I’d have any reason to,” I protested in reply.

It’s been a busy ten days, searching pockets, raiding the piggy bank, emptying the glass jar of the spare cents and digging between the sofa cushions.

We’ll get there. Most likely be the only chance I’ll ever have to go and collect a silver medal for Walking over Eggshells in the Readers Favorite Awards. I am knocked sideways and just so thrilled.

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I entered a couple of competitions when I was feeling down one day and decided that I’d had enough of writing. I wasn’t selling millions and millions of books, and made a decision that if the judges thought my books were as bad as I believed they were, I would retire gracefully, go polish DH’s slippers and take up macramé. I might even clean the house and use the GPS to locate the washing machine.  I would have a very happy husband.

I went berserk and entered for four different awards then forgot all about them.

Now I’ve backed myself into a corner. Amie got an honorary mention in the Readers Favorite with a pretty green sticker, a gold for Adventure in the Pinnacle Awards and a bronze in the eGlobal Book awards.

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So now I’m sitting with rolls of foil stickers, certificates I’ve no space for on the walls – so they will go under the bed – and an empty bank account, but we all have to suffer for our art right? So, I’ve climbed back onto the perpetual marketing roundabout, FB’ing, tweeting, promoting and blogging as I scribble on into my twilight years.

I want to give a huge thank you for the helpful feedback I’ve had on the cover for Amie 3. Stringing a couple of words together is one thing, finding that right cover is quite another. We’re working on it, but the following got the thumbs down

amie-3-sample-front-cover-v1

 

and now I’m puzzling on how to show it’s an adventure book without plastering the brat all over the cover, she gets quite enough attention as it is. I know I’m in a bad way when I go to lay a place at the table for her.

Back to the Far East next week and an extra few days won’t make any difference to George IV.