Category Archives: First Person Singular
Many thanks to Emma for joining me on my blog and allowing me to share this fabulous post with you. If you like Men in Kilts and novels about Scotland (good or bad), read on . . .
One of the advantages of a Kindle is that the moment you’ve finished a good book, you can download the sequel, or more by the same author, right away. E-books can also be dirt-cheap, or even free, which gives me the impetus to explore genres and authors I wouldn’t previously have tried.
One of the downsides of the Kindle is the amount of (often self-published) weirdness out there…
I’ve been addicted to Diana Gabaldon’s fabulous ‘Outlander’ series since a friend recommended them last year. They hit every button for me – amazing settings, suspenseful plots, masses of fascinating historical detail, a strong-minded heroine and a frankly swoonworthy hero. The first book has just been made into a TV series (available on Amazon Prime) and though at first I had doubts about the casting of the book’s iconic Jamie Fraser, I’ve loved every minute. I’ve been saving the last (8th) book in the series to read later, because I’m pretty sure that either Jamie or the heroine Claire is going to die, and I’m not ready to lose them just yet… so I recently decided to browse on my Kindle for something similar.
Well, I have to say, I didn’t realise ‘Men in Kilts’ were such a big thing, if you’ll excuse the innuendo… I’ve always had a sneaking fondness for a man in plaid, ever since the Highlander film in the 1980s (my husband does a pretty good Christopher Lambert impersonation), but I had no idea that Gabaldon’s books had sparked such a surge of hormone-fuelled fantasy.
There are novels in every genre – from ‘Outlander’ time-travel copycats (though I haven’t found any as good as the original) to bodice-ripping drama and contemporary romance. As you’d expect, the quality varies hugely – I soon abandoned the ‘historical’ romances, which were often unreadably awful, with hideous ‘Forsooth, ma brae lassie’ dialogue and paper-thin characters. Authors, please note: a hero with a kilt, an accent and an improbably large sword does not make up for lousy writing.
Speaking of large swords, there is a frankly incredible amount of ‘Scottish erotica’ out there (don’t tell the Scottish National Party about this – they’ll only get ideas). It seems the Highlands are positively awash with passionate Celts who will tear off their tartan at the sight of a heaving bosom.
It’s not just ladies who like the idea of a laird – kilted gay erotica is particularly popular, though queerly enough, much of it is still written by women – for women?
There’s even a sub-genre of ‘Scottish Historical BDSM Fertile Erotica’, which is a very niche interest. Dearie me.
The contemporary women’s fiction scene is generally more wholesome (and rather better-written). Lizzie Lamb’s “Tall, Dark and Kilted” is a good, fun read with likeable characters, making great use of the romantic Scottish setting. I’ve also read a couple of entertaining supernatural stories where the kilted Highlander appears in ghostly form, to break a curse or charm the repressed English heroine.
If you’re more interested in the ‘real’ history of Scotland, you’ll find literary fiction re-imagining every era from the Picts to the 1960s, or you could venture into the murky realms of crime with Scottish Noir (though, to be fair, there’s not a lot of hot kilt-action in those).
There’s so much kilted-ness to explore – I’m quite intrigued by the sound of the ‘Kilts and Quilts’ cosy mystery series, and more so by the probably dreadfully-chafed Cowboys in Kilts (c’mon guys – even Jamie Fraser wears trousers on horseback).
I’ve found Vampire Scots (do they bleed Irn-Bru?), Scottish Fairies (harking back to the magic of the standing stones in Outlander), Scottish Dragon-Shifters (Oi! Bob! Help me shift this bloody great dragon!) and even Footballers in Kilts (now that would REALLY liven up Match of the Day).
Still, I think the prize for ‘freakiest kilt-related fantasy’ and possibly the oddest book title ever, must go to “Men in Kilts with Tentacles – and the women who love them”.
I am NOT going to download that one, BTW – some things are definitely best left unexplored…
Emma Seaman lives in Devon with her young family, and is a freelance Marketing & Social Media professional. She has been writing fiction for ten years, winning awards including the Jeremy Mogford Food & Drink writing prize and the Wells International Literary Festival Award.
Her short stories have featured in eight anthologies published by Legend Press, Exeter University, The Yeovil Prize and The Harrow Press (USA), with another due this October from the Bath Short Story Award.
She finds inspiration in long walks on Dartmoor, lazy days at the beach, from the people she meets and the fascinating minutiae of everyday life.
While we’re on the subject of Men in Kilts, dear reader, let me lead you gently by the hand towards my latest Scottish themed novel – Scotch on the Rocks which is available over on Amazon as a kindle download and as a paperback.
Welcome to Brea Brown, author and fellow Chick Lit Goddess. Hi, Brea – thank you for crossing the pond to be on my blog. I hope you didn’t get too wet on the journey over. Come in, pull up a chair and tell us all about you and your writing while I make the coffee and get the biscuits.
Hello – and thanks, Lizzie for inviting me to First Person Singular! I’m Brea Brown, an indie author-publisher from the U.S. (more specifically, Springfield, Missouri, which is smack-dab in the center of the country)
If I’m being honest, I feel a bit awkward here, because one of my favorite quotes of all time is this one, by Lillian Hellman: “If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don’t listen to writers talking about writing.”
Oh, gosh. I’m about to be one of THOSE authors talking about myself. Nooooooo!!!! Lillian’s right, of course. The young writer has to find her own voice. He has to figure out his own system. She has to find what works for her, not for Stephen King, Jennifer Weiner, or that new phenom everyone’s talking about. That being said, readers tend to want to know this stuff. Sarah Houldcroft, a Goodreads Librarian and Virtual Assistant for authors, said so right here on this very blog. According to her, the most sought-out information by readers from authors is:
What inspired you to write your novel?
How, why and where do you write?
Have you experienced first-hand any of the aspects in your books?
If so, was [one of those people] you?
Since I recently released my eleventh novel, Let’s Be Real, the answers would vary for that first question, but I can fairly easily generalize about my writing process for the other four. How, why, and where do I write? This is my current “office” setup, against a wall in my bedroom.
It’s not the grand office-library I always imagined I’d have, but it actually works okay for me right now. I don’t need anything fancy, just relative quiet, my laptop, my reference books, and the Internet (for impromptu research and fact-checking… because everything on the Internet is true, right?). I write every morning, from 4:30 to 6:30, before getting the kiddos up for school and getting ready for my day job as an administrative assistant for an environmental consulting firm. On the weekends, I sometimes escape to a nearby coffee shop, but that requires wearing a bra and shoes, which is usually not worth the trouble. (Don’t underestimate my laziness.) I don’t set daily word count goals for myself, but I try to publish at least two books a year, which means I can’t mess around. A good, solid weekday writing session is about 1,500 to 2,000 words. When I have longer than a couple of hours at my disposal, I like to double that. But again, not all writing is word production, so if I really nail a certain description or a section of dialogue, or I spend most of that time gathering some excellent data through research, that also makes me happy. As for why I write… it’s just what I do. Like breathing. I love it. And I love sharing stories with people.
Have I experienced first-hand any of the things I put my characters through? Oh, yes. I regularly take things that have happened to me and inflict them on my imaginary friends. I recently contracted strep throat for the first time in my life. It was hell. You better believe I gave one of my characters in my current work in progress that nasty little illness while the trauma was still fresh in my mind. After all, you have to make those things worthwhile.
Do I base my characters on real people, including myself? Of course, I do. Are there any characters in my books based strictly on one person or myself? No. My characters are amalgamations of different personalities I’ve encountered over the years. I don’t write people I dislike into my books only to kill them off (although it’s fun to threaten that).
Most of the time, though, especially with protagonists, I start with a trait I can identify with, one that I can write convincingly (being Type A, for example), and I then add others that may be a bit more foreign to me (like being germophobic), to make things interesting. I’m generally more interested in getting inspiration for characters from watching strangers and wondering what their life is like, then running with my own version of their story. I try to avoid basing any character solely on someone I know, because if it winds up being a less-than-flattering portrayal, and that person recognizes himself or herself, things can get awkward. Plus, it’s a lot more fun to pick and choose traits and make original characters.
If you’d like to explore the products of my process (a.k.a., my books), check out my website. You can also connect with me on social media at the links below. Please say hi if you stop by!
Brea Brown lives in Springfield, Missouri, with her husband and three sons, but her international support network stretches as far as Australia. She’s an administrative assistant at an environmental consulting firm for forty hours a week and a writer all the other waking hours of the week not taken up by motherhood, wifedom, reading, and watching cheesy TV shows like Sleepy Hollow. (That leaves a surprisingly large number of hours, believe it or not.) Her published novels are Daydreamer, The Secret Keeper, The Secret Keeper Confined, The Secret Keeper Up All Night, The Secret Keeper Holds On, The Secret Keeper Lets Go, The Secret Keeper Fulfilled, Plain Jayne,Quiet, Please! Let’s Be Frank, Let’s Be Real. Her twelfth book, Out of My League, is set for a Fall 2015 release.
Having had 50 Shades of Beige and 50 Shades of Greece, today we welcome Sarah Houldcroft to our blog with 50 Shades of Reader!
Are there really 50 shades of reader or do we all basically want the same thing from the books we read? The vast majority reading this blog will know of the hype surrounding 50 Shades of Grey and possibly a large number of those will have read the book, but is an almost equally large number criticising the way it was written? It would appear so. There were, apparently, a large number of readers who were dissatisfied with the book, but it was still a runaway bestseller.
This would suggest that the style of writing does not necessarily dictate how popular a book will become. The ‘action’ and characters, in this instance, caught the imagination! But is that always the case? What makes a Bestseller?
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Firstly, I’d like to thank Lizzie for asking me to appear on her blog, and her suggestion that I give my ‘five top tips for tweeting’. As Twitter is a huge galaxy containing many, many sub-communities, I’m going to relate my tips mainly to the world of writers and readers, as this is the one in which I am most often found.
There are thousands, and probably millions, of self-published books out there, as many blogs, many of which are tweeted on a daily basis. So how do you make yours stand out and, thus, make people want to click on the link to your book/blog? It’s hard – very hard. As I always say when giving advice, I am no expert, but I have found the majority of my regular readers via Twitter and my blog gets lots of views, so I hope I can help a bit.
1. Your tweet is an advertisement for your book. If it contains punctuation or spelling errors, incorrect spacing in order to get all the words in, text style abbreviations or bad grammar, how can you expect someone to want to read anything else you write? It’s quite a challenge to fit the right wording into those a hundred and forty characters whilst leaving room for the link, but you can play around with it until you get it right. I see the tweet almost as an art form! You can also save your best ones in your ‘favourites’, to use again, but please vary them; even the most perfect tweet loses its impact if you see it every other day for three months.
2. Always, always, think about what would make you click on that link. Just tweeting “Check out my book ‘Another Vampire Novel’” isn’t going to stir up much interest. Try to summarise what the book is actually about, in as punchy a way as possible. Alternatively, you can quote from a particularly original review – emphasis on the ‘original’; please, please, not “I couldn’t put it down” or “it really drew me in/kept me turning the pages”. If someone’s likened your writing style to a well-known author, you can use that; but don’t forget to put quotation marks around any quotes, or it looks as though you’re saying it about yourself. If you have a large number of five star reviews, or the book has been shortlisted for or won an award, that’s a good thing to mention. I don’t think referring to your book as a ‘five star read’ is a very good idea, because virtually all books have at least one five star review. If you’re tweeting about a blog post, it’s much easier to get people to want to look at it – think newspaper headlines! As an example, which one of these two tweets for the same post and would make YOU want to read it?
New blog post: the results of my KDP free promotion (link)
How I got 5 thousand copies of my book downloaded in 3 days! (link)
3. This next tip is about generosity. If all you do is schedule churned out tweets about your own book by one of the various apps available, hardly ever actually appearing ‘live’ on the site, it is likely you will find yourself, within a few months, thinking, so much for that. Didn’t work for me. Twitter is not a free advertising tool, it’s a social networking site. Talk to other people. Take an interest in what they’re writing about. Read their blog posts. Help other people promote whatever they’re doing, too. As with any other community, the more you give out, the more you will enjoy what you’re doing, and make interesting and helpful online friendships – and, with luck, people will want to read what you’re writing about, too.
4. Retweeting is one of the keys to making Twitter ‘work’ for you, but don’t go over the top. I did; I used to do two or three sessions of a hundred retweets per day. No wonder I got unfollowed a lot! Think about it – imagine you’re just using Twitter to be social and read the odd interesting article, and you only choose to follow about two hundred people. If one of those people starts bombarding your feed with endless retweets from people you haven’t chosen to follow, you won’t be pleased, will you? Yes, yes, I know you can still follow someone while choosing not to see all their retweets, but most people don’t know this, alas! Some of those people who unfollowed me might have been potential readers, but I would imagine I put a fair few of them off.
5. My last ‘Twitter Tip’ is a quick list of other things NOT to do!
- Send auto DMs. You know the ones: “Hey, great to meet you! Please like my Facebook page, follow my blog, buy my book, attend my garage sale and come round for tea on Saturday.” Awful.
- Directly flog your wares via tweet, to complete strangers: “Thanks for following! I’ve just published my debut novel – please check it out! (link)” Ditto directly asking strangers for RTs: “Please retweet this video of my precocious kid singing some crap song on youtube”. Both equally awful.
- Retweet people’s random bits of conversation because you can’t be bothered to look for something they might want to be retweeted.
- Expect amazing results by tweeting about something once a week. The average life of a tweet is about 15 minutes, I believe. After that, your message will be lost forever. Of course we all know that we mustn’t keep shoving things in people’s faces, but there is a happy medium to be found.
- Forget to consider your fellow retweeters. If your timeline consists of fifty retweets of others, thirty “Thank you for followings”, etc, a twenty tweet long conversation you could have had with your friend via email or text, all before anyone can some original content to retweet, they’ll probably give up. We’re all busy – before you log off, leave something you’d like retweeting at the top.
- Fail to un-tag people from conversations in which they are not involved. On Fridays my interactions page is jammed up with people I’ve never heard of thanking other people for #FF mentions, because they couldn’t be bothered to erase everyone else’s name from the group.
- Hassle people to follow you back. People can choose to follow, or not, who they want.
- Fail to look at what you’re retweeting. The other day I got about 20 RTs for a promotion that had occurred two weeks before, even though I’d put the date on it. Pointless and irritating!
- Include the phrase ‘buy it at’ in your bio. Yes, of course you must put your links to your books, but the bio should be about YOU, not an invitation to purchase your wares.
Okay, I hope that’s been a help! There are many other posts about self-publishing, Twitter, etc, on my blog on the UK Arts Directory and I also have a personal blog, on which I write about many different topics – relationships, nostalgia, the odd rant, funny bits….
Many thanks to Lizzie, once again!