Month: February 2021

Happy Lupercalia! #valentinesday

Here’s my annual anti-Valentine’s Day post 🙂 Have a good one!

Alison Williams Writing

Lupercalia heart

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here is my annual Valentine’s Day post about the real ideas behind the celebration.

Yes, I know it’s Valentine’s Day and lots of you will be receiving bouquets of roses and planning romantic dinners (not me- my husband knows I have no time for the gross commercialism that is Valentine’s Day and is under pain of divorce not to buy me flowers – and I mean it), however, it would seem that Valentine’s Day has always had a lot more to it than hearts and flowers. In fact, it originates from an ancient pagan ritual that was celebrated for years before anyone had heard of Valentine.

In Rome, many centuries ago, the festival of Lupercalia was celebrated from the 13th to the 15th of February. On the 14th of February, a day devoted to Juno, queen of the gods and patron of marriage, young women would place…

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Signing with a small publisher? Here’s what to look for. #WritingCommunity #WritingTips

Re-posting some previous posts that followers have told me they found most helpful. Today’s post was written after I had to re-edit, proofread and generally sort out a manuscript that had been published by a vanity press purporting to be a legitimate small press, who had charged the client in question thousands of pounds. In my subsequent ‘nosing about’, I discovered some authors that had been badly let done by small presses. That said, I do appreciate that there are lots of fabulous small presses out there that work incredibly hard for their authors.

I recently wrote a bit of a rant about the quality control of some small presses whose books I had read.

If you are thinking of signing with a small publisher, then do bear a few things in mind.

Do your homework – start off by Googling the publisher. You might find threads on writing sites that go into a great deal of detail about your chosen publisher. Read them – they can be incredibly enlightening.

Ask questions – if your publisher is honest and genuinely wants the best for you, they should accept that you have a right to want to know about them. After all, you are placing your book and all the blood, sweat and tears that went into writing it in their hands.

Ask:

Who are they?

How long have they been publishing?

What exactly is their background and experience? You want specifics about this. Who have they worked for? Where did they get their experience? How many years?

Who will your editor be? What experience do they have? Again, specifics here not vague assertions and statements.

Who else have they worked with? Once you know this you can see for yourself how well their books are doing.

What can they offer you? Editing? Book cover? Promotion? What sort of promotion? 

What do they expect from you?

If you get through all this and still want to go ahead, then make sure you read the contract really closely. Look for things like cover design, for example – who has the final say? And how many editors will be involved? How does the editing process work? What about copyright? What happens if you aren’t happy further down the line?

Always get a lawyer to look at your contract. Always.

Some warning signs:

Companies with very few authors on their list. OK, they might just be starting out, but wouldn’t you be better off waiting and seeing how they go?

Companies that state they don’t deal with agents or lawyers. Why don’t they? What are they afraid of? Surely it’s up to you if you want to have an agent.

Companies that insist it’s like a family. Why do they think that’s a good thing? This is a business relationship and it should be treated as such.

Staff that are vague about their experience.

Companies that approach you. If they’re any good, they will be fending off submissions.

Dreadful covers on current books.

Glowing five star reviews on current books by other authors also published by the company.

An insistence that you read and review their other authors’ books.

Reviews of other authors’ books that mention typos, grammatical errors, poor editing and poor formatting.

Any one of these things should give you pause for thought. At the end of the day it is your choice, but do ask yourself what it is exactly these publishers are doing that you can’t do yourself. OK, so they might offer editing. You can hire a freelance editor. OK, so they format and do covers. Again, you can source that yourself. You can even learn how to format and do that bit for nothing. They promote? How much? And how much will you have to do?

Now be truly honest with yourself. If you can do, or can learn to do, what they are offering, if their books aren’t really selling that well, if they’re vague about their experience, then why are you even considering it? Is it because you’re flattered? Is it because someone is actually interested in your book? I do understand, after all, we all want to be told that someone loves our work, that they value it, but unfortunately that’s what some of these companies are relying on. Don’t waste your time. And do do your research!

Writers – Respect Your Readers #WritingCommunity #WritingTips

I’ve seen a few tweets recently about the need for writers to hire professionals, be it editors, proofreaders, formatters or book cover designers. The reactions to these tweets seem to be split 50/50.

As an editor, obviously I believe that authors benefit from having their work professionally edited. I appreciate that the cost of this can be prohibitive. I’m not suggesting that authors shouldn’t write because they can’t afford to hire professionals. But that doesn’t mean you should publish.

I know this is going to be controversial, but I’m going to say it anyway. Unless you are 100% capable of editing, proofreading, formatting or design, then you should hire someone to do those things for you, because if you are expecting someone to pay for your books, then your books should be worth paying for.

Authors – the people who buy your books are not your critique group. They are not your beta readers. They are not your editors or proofreaders. They do not owe you anything. Your readers work to earn the money that they spend on your books. They deserve for those books to be worth what they’ve paid. I hear of far too many authors who say they can’t afford to pay professionals but they’ll publish anyway. I hear of far too many authors who think they don’t need advice. They think they can turn out a perfectly-formed book, without any feedback, any advice, any help. 

You don’t have some god-given right to publish a book and expect people to pay for it. And anyone in the creative fields has to expect to spend a little money. Artist have to buy their paints and canvasses. They may have to hire a venue if they want to exhibit. Musicians have to buy recording equipment, instruments, maybe hire a recording studio. They all have to work at their craft. Confectioners and bakers and dressmakers and potters and wood carvers and sculptors, they all have to invest and practise and learn. Why do some authors think they don’t?

Just because you can type a manuscript, put together a basic cover and download it onto Amazon doesn’t mean you should or that you should expect other people to pay for the privilege of reading it.

Now this might come across as if I have something against self-publishing. I absolutely don’t. I’ve self-published. I work every day with authors that self-publish. Some of them are brilliant. Most of them write gripping, entertaining, fabulous books that I would choose to spend money on – but none of them would publish a first draft. And they’re always the ones who take advice, are willing to learn, who respect their readers. 

I am heartily fed up of authors on Twitter saying that they can write what they want, how they want, and if people don’t like it, so what? Okay, that’s fine, until you expect people to pay for it. 

Getting a traditional publishing deal is hard, and often not the best way for a writer to publish anyway. There is absolutely nothing wrong with self-publishing. There are thousands of hard-working, talented, wonderful independent authors out there. They deserve to be successful, to have thousands of readers. They work at their craft. And they’re being let down by those other self-publishers who throw out sub-standard work. 

One indie author told me that she can’t afford to hire an editor, or a proof reader. So she’s publishing as many books as she can, and using the reviews as free feedback. I find such disregard for your reader and their hard-earned cash hard to fathom. 

Bad indie authors tarnish the reputation of all indie authors. Have some pride in your work, some pride in your industry. And above all, have some respect for your readers.

‘Lock Every Door’ by Riley Sager #FridayReads #BookReview

You’ve been offered a luxury apartment, rent free. The catch: you may not live long enough to enjoy it…

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents. 
These are the only rules for Jules Larson’s new job as apartment sitter for an elusive resident of the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile private buildings and home to the super rich and famous.

Recently heartbroken and practically homeless, Jules accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

Out of place among the extremely wealthy, Jules finds herself pulled toward other apartment sitter Ingrid. But Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her. Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story – but the next day, her new friend has vanished.

And then Jules discovers that Ingrid is not the first temporary resident to go missing…

Welcome to the Bartholomew…You may never leave.

I loved ‘Final Girls’, and ‘Lock Every Door’ is every bit as good. 

Jules is offered an opportunity that few of us would turn down, but this novel proves that old adage that if something looks too good to be true it probably is. And the real cost of staying at the Bartholomew is one that is far too high.

Creepy, sinister, possibly verging more on horror rather than thriller, this was an absolute page-turner. The build-up keeps you guessing, tension growing, and little clues left here and there, but I could not have guessed the at all what was really going on, or who was behind it.

Jules has a lot more depth that protagonists in horror/thrillers usually do, and her back story added an extra dimension to the novel. 

I love a good, scary book and this was so well-written, and lots of fun (if you like classic horror films like I do). A great read. 

For $%£@*’s sake – is there any need for swearing? Warning, (obviously) contains swearing #WritingCommunity

I’ve had a bit of a shaky start with the blog this year as we’ve been having a tricky time with one of our dogs, Charlie the rescue Galgo from Spain, who is very ill at the moment. So the blog has sort of gone out the window. 

Charlie in his lovely winter jumper!

I have caught up with quite a lot of my book reviews but am aware that I haven’t really been posting anything about editing. So over the next few weeks, I’m going to post some of the posts that clients and blog followers have said have been most helpful to them.

Today’s post is about that thorny issue of swearing (something I must admit I have been doing a great deal of lately. IMHO nothing beats a really good swear!).

I never, ever once swore in front of my mum. Not once, even as an adult. She would have been horrified, even though she swore. My children (well, they’re 24 and 22) swear in front of me all the time. I swear in front of them. I’m sure some people reading this think I’m a terrible mother.

I saw a tweet the other day (bloody Twitter, causes me so much stress) asserting that using swearing in your writing meant you were too ignorant to think of another word. This lady was implying that those who swear, or whose characters swear, are stupid.

This made me f#$king furious. 

Firstly – swearing doesn’t make you stupid. This is not a brag, but I have a master’s degree. One of my foul-mouthed children has just received a distinction in his masters at King’s College, London. The other is studying veterinary medicine at the Royal Veterinary College. They are kind, compassionate, thoughtful, caring, wonderful people. And they are certainly not stupid.

Secondly – as a writer, you need to use the right word, for your character and for the situation. Not the most fancy word. Or the longest word. If your character is about to be murdered for example, are they going to say, ‘Goodness me’? If they have just found out a deadly secret, or had their inheritance stolen, been shot in the knee, or are being burned at the stake, they’re not going to say, ‘Oh dear, what a calamity.’ They’re going to swear.

And that goes for historical fiction too. Street urchins, prostitutes, shopkeepers, manservants and working class women swore. So did the gentry. And the clergy. And everyone. Apparently the first recorded use of the word ‘fart’ is from 1250! ‘Fuck’ was used in English in the fifteenth century. ‘Shit’ is one of the oldest words in existence.

Swearing has its place. Sometimes, the most filthy word is definitely the right word. If you’d been at my house on election night in 2019, the air was blue. And it made me feel much better! And as writers, we need to make sure that the words we use are the right words. Adding a ‘shit’ or a ‘fuck’ to your manuscript doesn’t make you stupid. If it’s the right word, then it’s the right word.

So put down that fucking thesaurus!

‘Then She Vanishes’ by Claire Douglas #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Jess and Heather were once best friends – until the night Heather’s sister Flora vanished. The night that lies tore their friendship apart. 

But years later, when a brutal double murder shakes their childhood town, Jess returns home. 

Because the suspect is Heather. 

What happened to the girl you used to know? 

Jess is a reporter on a local paper who has moved from London to Bristol following her involvement in a scandal at the paper where she worked. Her new job isn’t far from her old home town, and when her childhood best friend, Heather, is accused of a double murder, her connection with the family gives her a chance to redeem herself and her career.

The murders seem random; why would Heather, a loving mother, kill two strangers and then attempt to take her own life?

But contact with the family that Jess once adored brings up all sorts of uncomfortable memories, especially around the disappearance of Heather’s sister, Flora. And Jess is torn between loyalty to her friend and her need for an exclusive for her editor.

A fascinating premise, and a well-told and compelling story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Jess is so likeable and warm, and feels very authentic as a character.

The past and present are blended effortlessly, and I really identified with Flora and her love for ‘All About Eve’ and those long, tasselled skirts! These little details make the characters and settings so real.

There are plenty of twists and turns and plenty of drama and excitement to keep you turning the page. 

I wasn’t entirely convinced by a couple of the plot points, but the book is such a gripping read that this didn’t spoil my enjoyment.

Recommended and I’ll definitely read more by this author.