About Writers, Literary Agents, publishing, Stories, writing technique

Juvenilia

mansfield

I’ve recently read a few short stories by Katherine Mansfield: Germans at Meat, The Baron, The Luft Bad and other equally unknown titles which don’t figure in any ‘best of’ collection of her work. This is because they come from her very first collection, In a German Pension, published in 1911, when she was just 22. They were written during her stay in the Pension Müller, Bavaria, where her mother, suspecting she may have had a lesbian relationship, took her for ‘a course of cold baths and wholesome exercise.’

In a German Pension went through three editions, but then the publisher went bankrupt. Mansfield wasn’t disappointed by this; on the contrary, she no longer liked the stories, and when, after being recognised as one of the leading authors of her day, she was begged by another publisher to let him reprint them, she wrote, ‘I cannot have it reprinted under any circumstances. It is far too immature, and I don’t even acknowledge it today. I can’t go foisting that kind of stuff on the public. It’s not good enough.’ This was despite the fact that she was sorely in need of the money it would have brought her.

Was she right? Yes, I dare say, by the high standards she set herself. The stories lack the depth and intensity of her later work – although, rereading that, I sometimes find it a little febrile, a little too intense. But it would have been a great shame if John Middleton Murry, her second husband, hadn’t included In a German Pension in the complete collection of her stories he edited after her death. They are superbly written, with a deliciously mischievous, biting wit that renders in writing what comes across in the best cartoon caricatures.

Reading it, I thought, ‘Wow! To be writing that so young!’ Writers often repudiate juvenilia, and with good reason, but I would have given my eye teeth to be able to write like that at 21. I thought back to my own beginning: I finished my first novel at 26, about a group of friends in the mid-1970s, driving round France and Spain in a restless search for meaningfulness and adventure. I’d repudiate it now, I guess, but it wasn’t entirely cringeworthy. It earned me an appointment with an agent, who said if she’d read it ten years earlier, she’d have snapped it up. But by then, there were lots of similar explorations of the prevailing counterculture, and it didn’t break new ground. She had her finger firmly on the zeitgeist, and advised me to write a family saga instead, but I never did. Perhaps I should have.

Is there an age at which writers peak? Must good writing be apparent already when young? Mansfield is far from the only one whose talent was obvious so early. This New Yorker article sets the question in perspective, while for those who fear they may be past it already, there’s also ample evidence that it’s never too late to write a book.

Any thoughts on the matter? When you recall your first attempts, do you cringe, puff with pride, or sit somewhere in between?

 

 

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publishing, Stories, Writers Co-op Anthology

A weird problem

genres

Not long ago, I did a Freebooksy promotion for Mystery Manor, fourth in the Magali Rousseau series. To do it, I enrolled the book in KDP Select, then ran a five-day promotion during which it was free. For the second day, I booked a slot with Freebooksy, who promoted the promotion to their email list.

Now, the question of whether a book should ever be offered free arouses a lot of debate, and it’s not my intention to go into that here (I will in a forthcoming post). Suffice to say that although I didn’t recoup what it cost for a slot on Freebooksy, the result in terms of purchases of the other books in the series was encouraging enough for me to think that it might be a good idea to do the same with The Rabbit Hole (RH).

There’s one problem. Freebooksy doesn’t have a ‘weird’ genre, nor even one for anthologies. They stick to highly mainstream genres like ‘mystery’, ‘fantasy’ or ‘romance.’ Similarly, there’s no ‘weird’ category on Amazon, where RH1 is in Fiction: anthologies and Fiction: fantasy: collections and anthologies, and RH2 is in Fiction: anthologies and Fiction: short stories.

Nor is there any BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications) for ‘weird’. Draft2Digital, which incidentally does a great job if you’re going ‘wide’ (i.e. not giving Amazon exclusivity), uses the BISAC categories; RH there is in Fiction, anthologies (multiple authors) and I recently added it to Fiction: Absurdist. Whether that’s accurate is debatable, but authors as diverse as Sartre, Vonnegut, Murakami and Kafka have been classified as absurdist, so it could be said that it’s a very broad church. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to be in company like that. I could also add dark fantasy, humorous or alien contact, as each of those pertains to at least a couple of stories in the two volumes so far published. But with multiple authors, there are multiple themes and topics, and no single category covers them all.

For RH2 we defined different themes: weather, science and entertainment. But although these produced some excellent contributions, they don’t fit into a genre. Of course, it’s not because you do fit into one that you make your life any easier, because it’s then that the competition gets fierce. But for RH3, I’m thinking it’s worth a try.

So here’s the idea. When the call for submissions for RH3 goes out in January, it will be for a specific genre, one of three I’ve selected from the Freebooksy list: thriller, romance or horror. Many thanks, then, if you could fill in the poll below. To test this isea out, which of those genres would you like to see adopted in RH3?

Note that whatever genre is chosen, ‘weird’ remains the defining feature of The Rabbit Hole. So if, say, horror is the genre, a story about a psycho hacking people to pieces won’t make it. Because weird as that may be by the standards of normal behaviour, it doesn’t include the surreal, wondrous or out-of-this-world element that makes a story qualify as weird. Similarly, there are many ways for romance to be weird, but a kinky sex story might not be the best way to set about it. Not that we’re averse to sex, kinky or otherwise, but if that’s the only weirdness in the story, it’s not enough. Weird romance, of course, wouldn’t be the same as mainstream romance, so that would need to be made clear in the blurb, but at least it would fit somewhere into the genre. As for thriller, plenty of scope there, though I must admit that handling a thriller, weird or not, in a short story is quite a challenge. But hey, all writing is.

Over to you, then. And feel free to chip in with your own thoughts.

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About Writers, blogging, book promotion, book sales, humor, Magic and Science, publishing, Satire, Uncategorized

More trite tales for little people.

11) More trite tales for little people.

As you doubtless remember, I left the city because I was being blamed, (I feel unfairly) for the publication of a book of children’s tales. These tales were claimed by some to cast a harsh light on the antics of the rich and powerful, amongst them, Radsel Oeltang, chair of the Council of Sinecurists. The claim was that his latest manoeuvrings were described in forensic detail in the stories. To be fair, had this been true I can see why he might be legitimately angry. But the intrigues he was accused of actually happened after the book had been published, and between two and three decades after the stories had been written.

Now normally I am somewhat cavalier when contemplating what upsets those in high places. I tend to adopt a robust attitude to their problems, feeling that if they have both considerable wealth and great influence, they can cope with a little disappointment. On the other hand, when they make their unhappiness felt by hiring thugs to hand out beatings, I take their transient unhappiness rather more to heart. My difficulty was that I couldn’t keep sneaking around the city, attending upon my patrons and simultaneously trying not to be seen. After all some of my patrons are friends of Master Oeltang. He could well turn up at an event where I had been asked to perform. I felt I had to do something to spare him embarrassment and me bruises.

I decided to call upon Desli and Misli and discuss the stories with them. Perhaps they could throw some light upon their mother’s apparent political prescience. When I arrived, Desli was out selling pies and Misli was cooking, assisted by a rather shy young man who was taking cooked pies out of the oven. I vaguely recognised him, he was one of the wherry fishermen who take boats out on the falling tide and bring them back in as it rises.

Misli introduced him to me as Villen, and explained he was the crew-member sent to buy the pies they would take with them when the boat sailed. I merely said, “How wise.”
At the same time I was thinking to myself; when a young man walks an extra half a mile there and half a mile back, every day, to buy his pies from one sister, rather than purchase them from the other sister who is far more conveniently located; he is thinking of more than pastry. But still, I estimate at least three-quarters of all courtship happens before the couple realise that they’re courting. I made no comment.

So when Villen had paid for the pies, I explained my problem to Misli. In short, it was that people saw in antics of the imp Pugglewood the devious deeds of Radsel Oeltang.

Misli burst out, “But I loved Pugglewood when I was a child. He was the one who saved everybody.”

This came as a surprise to me. “But he’s always playing devious tricks on people.”

“Well he does that a bit, but when you get to the end of the story, you’ll see how those tricks make people better able to cope with the callousness of the world.”

“They do?” I obviously sounded bemused, because Misli added,

“When the bladdersnitch arrives, it’s only Pugglewood and his tricks that help them survive.”
It was at this point I realised I had better go home and re-read the stories. The problem was that when I first put the book together for Desli and Misli there was far more material than I needed. So I started reading through from the beginning, intending to discard that which was unsuitable, hoping I would have enough material for the book. As it was I got half way down the heap of stories, had discarded nothing and had enough. So being busy, I hadn’t read the rest.
Once home, I had read the rest, I could see what Misli meant. To be honest, in the first half of the material, Pugglewood is one of those somewhat vexing characters. One instinctively feels that they would be better for a swift kick. He intensely irritated me. But when I read the second half of the material it slowly dawned on me that Pugglewood was a far more complex and farsighted character than I had suspected. In the first half of the material Pugglewood is a childish and irritating nuisance who makes life difficult for a lot of ordinary folk who’re just trying to make the best of things. In the second half of the material you realise that Pugglewood has thought his actions through, lifted his fellow citizens out of their rut and has set them along the path to self-reliance. Hence when the bladdersnitch arrives, he leads them to defeat it. At the end of the book you realise that Pugglewood is the one truly sympathetic character and his neighbours are a bit lumpen and unenterprising and really do need shaking up.

It struck me that somebody had erred, and that somebody was probably me. The obvious thing to do would be to publish the second half of the material. I bundled it up and took it to Glicken’s Printers. They were perfectly happy to print it. Given the first volume was still selling well, they welcomed a sequel. I waited for a proof copy fresh from the press and, greatly daring, I called upon Radsel Oeltang in his office at the Council of Sinecurist’s building.

Now it has to be admitted that I have, on occasion, had dealings with him before. But as far as I knew, the Pugglewood business was the only occasion when I’d seriously offended him. I knew I had done things which would upset him but I was moderately confident he didn’t realise it was me who had done them. So armed with my copy of ‘More trite tales for little people,’ I attended upon him in his office.
It has to be admitted that when I entered his office the atmosphere was distinctly cool. He was formally polite in a way that tends to make a person nervous. It was the way he called me, ‘friend’ Steelyard, that told me I was not forgiven. So I confessed all. I explained what had happened and passed him the second volume to peruse.

He started reading it. After ten minutes he rang for coffee. The fact that he specified a cup for me as well struck me as a good sign. After an hour he closed the book.

“So Tallis, what do you intend to do now?”

I’d given a lot of consideration to that. “The two young women cannot afford a large print run. But if you were to invest, say, twenty alars, I’m sure that the printers would be delighted to print a few hundred extra copies.”

He looked at me over half-moon glasses. “Hmm. I will, but in return you can reprise your explanation to the entire council. That way we can put this matter to bed, once and for all.”

It struck me as a not unreasonable suggestion. “And I will sell copies in the foyer afterwards. This will ensure that people read the full story.”

I have addressed the Council of Sinecurists before. It’s not something I do lightly. After all I firstly have to convince them of whatever it is I’m addressing them on. But also, and this is of almost equal importance, I want to use the chance to prove that I’m the person whose work they love and who they want to hire. In this case it was even tougher, because I had to point out to them that they were in error. Not merely that but that it was I who had inadvertently deceived them. So most of my address was by way of apology. To be fair, when dealing with the pompous and the powerful, one can rarely apologise too often.

When I had finished my discourse, I made my way to the foyer and there I sat behind a table with the books on it. It had occurred to me that there might be some who hadn’t read either of the two volumes, so I’d fetched a stock of both. In the course of the afternoon I sold perhaps a hundred copies, which considerably exceeded my expectations. Still I felt that with a little bit of luck, I’d not merely turned away the wrath of the powerful, but I’d managed to help boost the earnings of the two sisters. I made my way back to the barge a happier and less nervous individual.

Two days later a note was delivered to the barge by a footman in the Oeltang livery. It merely read, “And now they’re calling me the bladdersnitch.”

Still he included a bottle of a perfectly drinkable wine with the note. I felt this gesture indicated I wasn’t being blamed. So we opened the bottle to go with our evening meal and Shena and I drank a toast to his continued good health and prosperity.

♥♥♥♥

 

And now we’d better hear from Jim Webster.

So here I am again with another blog tour. Not one book but three.

The first is another of the Port Naain Intelligencer collection. These stories are a bit like the Sherlock Holmes stories. You can read them in any order.

 

On the Mud. The Port Naain Intelligencer

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mud-Port-Naain-Intelligencer-ebook/dp/B07ZKYD7TR

When mages and their suppliers fall out, people tend to die. This becomes a problem when somebody dies before they manage to pass on the important artefact they had stolen. Now a lot of dangerous, violent or merely amoral people are searching, and Benor has got caught up in it all. There are times when you discover that being forced to rely upon a poet for back-up isn’t as reassuring as you might hope.

 

Then we have a Tallis Steelyard novella.

Tallis Steelyard and the Rustic Idyll

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07ZKYMG1G/

When he is asked to oversee the performance of the celebrated ‘Ten Speeches’, Tallis Steelyard realises that his unique gifts as a poet have finally been recognised. He may now truly call himself the leading poet of his generation.

Then the past comes back to haunt him, and his immediate future involves too much time in the saddle, being asked to die in a blue silk dress, blackmail and the abuse of unregulated intoxicants. All this is set in delightful countryside as he is invited to be poet in residence at a lichen festival.

 

And finally, for the first time in print we proudly present

Maljie, the episodic memoirs of a lady.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07ZKVXP24/

 

In his own well-chosen words, Tallis Steelyard reveals to us the life of Maljie, a lady of his acquaintance. In no particular order we hear about her bathing with clog dancers, her time as a usurer, pirate, and the difficulties encountered when one tries to sell on a kidnapped orchestra. We enter a world of fish, pet pigs, steam launches, theological disputation, and the use of water under pressure to dispose of foul smelling birds. Oh yes, and we learn how the donkey ended up on the roof.

 

All a mere 99p each

 

 

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About Writers, blogging, book promotion, book sales, Formatting manuscripts, Google Ads, Publisher's Advice, publishing, Research, self-publishing, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing technique

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of the useful blogs to have appeared on the Writers Co-op site over the past two or three years.

Practical advice from a full-time (i.e., successful) writer.

Where do your story ideas come from?

How to Format a Manuscript: Andrea Dawn, publisher.

Do Google Ads sell books?

POV explained.

What is the reading level of your work?

Writing meaningful nonsense.

Publishing Through A Start-Up Independent Publisher

Deep historical research

How a talisman can help you write

And, just for fun…
Spiteful but funny quotes from writers about other writers

We hope you’eve enjoyed the last two or three years as much as we have!

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About Writers, book promotion, book reviews, book sales, Publisher's Advice, publishing, Uncategorized

Advice for Authors and Writers

Hi everyone. I’m Andrea Dawn, owner of Tell-Tale Press. We publish short stories on our website that are free to read in the genres of fantasy, horror, mystery/crime and science fiction. We also publish anthologies and novels. Right now we have our anthologies available on Kindle, but we’ll be producing print books soon. And we always, always pay our authors! If you want to learn more about Tell-Tale Press, our website is www.telltalepress.net. Submissions are currently open for short stories, so be sure to check out the submissions page! You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram: www.facebook.com/telltalepress and #TellTalePress.

I posted this list on my personal Facebook page and was asked to send it on so more folks can read it. So here you go! I’m still learning about the publishing world, but in the past few months I have learned some extremely valuable information that I think can help everyone. So, these are some tips for getting your work out into the public and how to get published. I’m not scolding you or trying to name and blame. These are simply tips I think really can help.

  1. OTHER AUTHORS ARE NOT YOUR AUDIENCE. If you want to make friends with authors and collaborate, maybe beta read for each other, or just whine about the writing world in general, that’s great. No problem there. But they are writing too and are also trying to get their work out there, and most likely they won’t have time to read your book as they’re too busy writing. Your audience is instead readers. Find online book clubs, groups that talk about books. Look for reviewers who do honest reviews for free or a small fee (but be sure they are legitimate sources). Start a blog and post it in those reader groups. And in the real world, you can do things like donate your book to a library and include lots of information on how to follow you. You can also contact local bookstores and ask to do a reading and book signings. Be proactive to find readers, not other authors.
  2. DON’T USE MESSENGER OR EMAILS AS AN ADVERTISING TOOL. I am not joking: I literally will unfriend and/or block someone when they send me a link to their book immediately after I’ve approved their friendship. Using Messenger to solicit is like the Jehovah’s Witnesses of social media: no one wants you knocking on their door to tell you things you haven’t asked about. And don’t do it with emails, either, unless someone has signed up for a newsletter from you. I don’t mind if people send me an Invite to like their page, though.
  3. LEAVE EDITORS AND PUBLISHERS ALONE. Don’t message a publisher or editor saying someday you’re going to write a great novel, and they’re going to publish or edit it! First, you’re assuming that the publisher or editor would even want to work with you or like your work. Second, it’s nothing but buzzing in our ears. “I’m gonna” means nothing to us. We need product, not promises. If you want to set goals for yourself, do so by creating a calendar or Vision Board. Don’t use our inboxes to do it.
  4. ONLY SEND IN SUBS WHEN PUBLISHERS ARE OPEN TO SUBS. And most importantly…
  5. FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES EXACTLY. I don’t know if I can get any clearer on those two facts.
  6. YOU GOTTA SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY. Ads on Facebook have really worked for me. I haven’t tried ads on other social media platforms yet, but I will. I find that free advertising–such as those giant book websites that will post your ad for free–garner no sales. And figure out where your money is going to be most effective for your genre. Do most horror lovers find their book recs online? If so, where? And a great place to advertise: local cons. Readers truly do love meeting authors. You will find that you can gain more followers and support when you are face to face with a potential reader. And to that end…
  7. KNOW WHAT VENUES WORK FOR YOUR GENRE. If you are selling extreme horror, then the sidewalk fair that happens each month in the church parking lot is probably not the place for you. Or if your genre is fantasy romance, the Halloween con won’t be a good idea either.
  8. GIVING YOUR BOOK AWAY DOES NOT SELL MORE BOOKS. I know one publishing company that constantly gives away books. So why should I ever buy a book from them when I can just watch their page and sign up for a giveaway? Especially since their page isn’t closely followed by their fans and it’s very easy to be the only person who answers their trivia questions or shares their post. And this company is also screwing over their authors; they’re not getting any money for the books they give away, and therefore the author doesn’t get his/her cut. So side tip: watch out for those kinds of publishers as well. They won’t be doing you any favors as an author.
  9. GIVEAWAYS FOR A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF BUYS DOES WORK. Let’s say you have a trilogy, and the final book is coming out. Tell folks if they pre-order your book, you will give them the previous two books for a single discounted price. Or perhaps you’ll give away book 1 for free on Kindle. Now THAT is incentive to buy!
  10. LEARN TO ORGANIZE. Learn how to budget your time and money. There are lots of online tips for how to do both of these things. Even DIY shows can help with this–of course, we all know Marie Kondo is wrong about only having thirty books, but she still has great tips that really can help organize our lives. We don’t have to be the stereotypical “starving artist”. It just means that we must train ourselves to be better at where our money and time goes.
  11. ENGAGE. I have learned from watching authors over the past few years that trying to be secretive and private does not work. It doesn’t get your work out there, and no one is going to advertise for you for free. Or if they do, they won’t do it for long. Then I see those people try to randomly engage here and there, and they get no response. No one wants to know who you are if you’re not engaging with your audience–there is no longer that mystery of “who is that author?” going around like there used to be in the 90s. Or I see people try to create a new persona online that is separate from their real self. But then you get tangled up in what you told who and where and on what page… it can get very frustrating for you. I’ve learned that in social media, you must make connections. And the best way to do that is to be truthful. Be friendly. Be yourself. Talk about movies you like, other books you like, ask questions of people, like what’s your favorite dinosaur! You don’t have to tell your deepest, darkest secrets, but you can share cat pics and tell funny stories about your dog or spouse. If you touch on politics, remember that not everyone’s going to like you, and it’s okay for them to not like you and not want to buy your books. The key is that you will find your own audience by being yourself, and it WILL be worth it.
  12. STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA. Okay, after talking about how to engage and interact, I tell you to stay off social media? What I mean is don’t waste time just scrolling along and randomly liking and commenting. Maybe set a timer for yourself on how long you’re on social media. Do advertising as you need, and engage as you need, and then move on. You can also set yourself a schedule: Every day from X to Y I will engage on social media, and that’s it. We all fall into the rabbit hole that is clicking away at everything, so learn how to step away so you can get to work on writing and advertising.
  13. HAVE FUN. Writing should be enjoyable. If you’re not having a good time, then reevaluate why you’re doing this. Be sure to make time for yourself as well–keep your health up and go outside here and there. You will find that it will only make your time on the computer even better!

Links:
http://www.telltalepress.net
Submissions are now open: http://www.telltalepress.net/submissions
http://www.facebook.com/telltalepress
Instagram: #TellTalePress

Andrea Dawn
Tell-Tale Press Owner & Editor
http://www.telltalepress.net

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About Writers, blogging, book promotion, book reviews, book sales, editing, Flash Fiction, Google Ads, humor, inspiration, Legal, Literary Agents, Literary critique, Magic and Science, mythology, publishing, reading, Research, Satire, scams, self-publishing, Stories, Uncategorized, Welcome, world-building, Writers Co-op, Writers Co-op Anthology, writing technique

An Invitation to Blog

The Writers Co-op is looking for a few good bloggers. Anyone in the writing life is welcome to submit a blog. If you have something to say about writing, editing, publishing, marketing or just want to share news of your latest effort, we’re interested. Submit a new blog, or, a link to your current blog page.

Members should post their blog in the draft section. Others should submit their their blog or link to GD <at> Deckard <dot> com. Blogs are posted every Monday or Thursday morning on a first-come basis.

Remember that readers are likely to be people in the writing life interested in learning from one another. Sharing our successes, failures, insights, knowledge and humor is a big part of the life we lead.

I look forward to hearing from you.

– GD Deckard, Founding Member

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Amazon, publishing, self-publishing, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Self-Publishing Help Links

Ready to publish but never have? It can be easier than you think and here are some links to help you do it well.
Why bother? Because you are in control. There is no longer any need for an author to wait months for an acceptable response from an agent and more months while a publisher works your work into their work schedule. Do it yourself now.

Start with the obvious: Amazon began as an online book seller and understands that the easier they make e-publishing for you, the more free inventory they get to sell. They’re happy to tell you how easy it is and to walk you through the process step-by-step:
https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200635650

Want help? An industry has sprouted to provide professional services to authors. You can pay to have some steps done for you, like editing, formatting and cover design. Here is an example of a comprehensive, low-cost service:
https://word-2-kindle.com/how-to-publish-an-ebook-on-amazon/

Editing? You want the best you can afford. Ask for recommendations on social media or use this source:
https://www.freelancer.com/find/editing

The gate keepers are gone. Anyone can publish their book. So, unless someone is offering to market your book for you, they are not offering you anything you can’t do. Why pay them royalties?

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