A Charming Bequest

This is my debut novel and for me a huge learning curve, especially now it’s Out There and available (in print or ebook). Now I have to learn marketing and promotion.

And that is so hard for a shy introvert like me, who dreamed of writing books for readers to enjoy originally thinking I could beaver away in anonymity. It never occurred to me I’d have to work up the confidence to do the Buy My Book thing, which is so against my nature. (Is there a marketing fairy who could help me?)

I read about creating a Sales Sheet, which I’ve done but haven’t learned how to use yet. Putting it on my website (it’s there). Creating an Amazon Author Page (I have.) I’ve put it on Kobo, Goodreads and BookBub… and there are more I could try. I’ve blogged a few times and linked my blog to Twitter and my Facebook page. But all these have limited exposure for me.

How do I promote it beyond my friends and people I know? Many of whom have bought it, for which I’m grateful and have given me kind, positive feedback.

Here’s my sales pitch: It’s my debut novel about a young woman, Sophie, who is building her career as a freelance writer. She’s a good researcher, so her Great Uncle asks her to find out about his sister Sally’s life story.

She begins with internet searches, and on a forum she meets Philippe who is looking for information for his grandmother.

Sophie visits Philippe and his grandmother in France, where she meets interesting people, and gleans unexpected information. She receives far more than she imagined.

She returns home to uncover the rest of Sally’s story, her true family history, and a surprise.

I hope you enjoy it and would ask, please can you leave a review and spread the word.

Paperback Link: https://amzn.to/3JlvR8J Kindle: https://amzn.to/3u4Nvr3

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Writer’s Voice

I’m confused with conflicting ‘advice’ I read from writers who teach other writers (or at least other writers read their advice articles.) This is my thinking:

The first thing I often read is to cut unnecessary words from sentences and make them as brief as possible. I agree with unnecessary wordiness, but I think the way people talk is personal, and cutting it down too much takes the writers Voice away from telling their story.

These days many writers choose to write from the first person perspective. In other words the main character is telling the story and using I. The story is mostly personal from inside their head—what they’re thinking, or the interactions the character has with others. I quite like this, probably because I’m a person who lives in my head a lot, so I relate to it. The reader learns about whatever the central theme of the story is from the perspective of the protagonist. It might well be skewed and not present events from different perspectives, but at least you understand the way the protagonist sees them and their thinking.

Regional dialects may also require non-standard English and probably extra words, to be authentic.

I like stories that don’t give too much fine detail, for example, great long descriptions of the characters—such as the way they look, their background history and so forth. In my head I create an image of a character and tweak it as bits of information are dropped into the story as it progresses. I don’t want to know it up front. Nor great long descriptions of the context, unless it is relevant to the scene. This explains why I’m often disappointed when I see a film of a story I read, because the actors cast don’t look anything like what my brain generated while I read the book.

What do you think?

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‘Perfect never gets published’

‘Perfect never gets published’ was the most motivating advice I read, in the last couple of years. And the more I think about it—it’s definitely true.

I procrastinated, for about a decade, about publishing my completed manuscript (A Charming Bequest) for my debut novel. How to do it – traditional or self publishing. Is it good enough? Etc. Periodically I’d read it and tweak it, and various kind beta readers read it and gave me feedback and I’d tweak it again. Then I’d follow the advice of putting it away, to distance myself from it, and some time later I’d dig it out again and look at it with ‘new eyes’ but I couldn’t work up the courage to send it Out There. When I read ‘perfect never gets published’, I decided to give it a go.

What is Perfect?

I’ve come to the conclusion, ‘Perfect’ is about liking something or not, and it’s subjective. I’ve read some published books by people who give the advice of ‘perfect writing’ who don’t seem to follow their own rules.

I think what is most important is ‘The Best it can Be’. Sometimes I can’t help thinking if everything was Perfect, it might be lacking uniqueness. Its personality. I want to hear the writer’s voice telling me the story, even if they use language that might grate with me – it’s their voice. As long as the story holds my interest, and it should if it fits the ‘Rules’ of structure, then that’s good. If it hooks me, I will read it to the end. (And yes, when I’m reading a Kindle book I do report errors/typos, ‘to help’.) If it’s a print book, once I turn the page I move on and dismiss it.

There are many published books I’ve read with spelling errors, lacking continuity, inconsistencies in the story and timeline, don’t follow the ‘Rules’ of creative writing and some stories never get started. But despite this, they might also be quite enjoyable complete reads (even if they turn out to be one of a series) and isn’t this the aim of reading a story? Enjoyable. It’s escaping from your own world into someone else’s for a while?

I read books for the story. As I read, I have an imaginary vision of the characters in my mind, which runs along like watching a film, which is why I’ve always read the book before I see the movie – I’m often disappointed with the movie. But I might now deliberately experiment reading the book after watching an enjoyable movie to make a comparison.

Nor do I judge a book by its cover. If I’m reading Kindle versions covers don’t really apply and the sample alone needs to hook me. Talking of covers, I remember when I was a child my mother had a book collection from a club of some sort. They all had the same bland checked dust jackets and the only difference was the title and the colour, which probably indicated the genre? (I was too young to know.) These versions of books wipe out the concept of judging the content by the covers.

And now I’m playing with ideas of writing and illustrating stories for children. I’m not the greatest artist on the planet, it’s only a hobby, and I’m reading about ‘Perfect’ again. But I’ve seen books when I’ve been reading with my grandchildren that I don’t particularly like, but the children enjoy them and it provokes a conversation as we’re reading. Isn’t that a sign of a good book? It holds the child’s attention and provokes a conversation either about what’s in the illustrations, or the story content.

Now I’m reading that it’s important to build a readership (for sales) and it probably means writing 2-3 books a year over 10 years to start making even a passive income from it, which to me equates to the theory of 10,000 hours to become an ‘expert’. It does not equate to turning out Perfect.

I aspire to writing acceptable, good enough and prolific, instead of chasing the mythical Perfect and hope I can build a readership looking for enjoyable escapism.

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English is a language that evolves, but…

This post’s content is slightly tongue in cheek, but it will resonate with some people.

Perhaps it’s my age, and that’s why I’m less tolerant of poor English usage (and I’m no saint), but there are several dreadful commonly used errors I hear every day that really grate with a lot of people—not just me. I’ve read one quote that people should be fined for using one of them!🤣🤣🤣

And yes, as a child I was constantly told off for dropping Hs and other stupid corrections one of which I looked up, when I was older, and I discovered I was grammatically right. 😇 It was, for example, ‘he gave ice creams to Fred and me’. I was always corrected to say ‘I’ instead of ‘me’. Wrong! Because if you split the sentence up, he gave an ice cream to Fred and he gave an ice cream to me, it’s obvious. Me is correct, not I, because you’d never say ‘Fred gave an ice cream to I’. 🤣🤣🤣

Let’s start with ‘So’ to begin a sentence (the ‘should be fined’ example). I know ‘so’ can be used as a pause for thought to say something, more often than not used in the middle of a sentence and just very occasionally at the beginning, when the new topic follows on. But now it’s used so often at the beginning that I switch off, and I also think it’s sometimes used to be patronising, let alone plain irritating. Just listen to someone introducing him/herself on a quiz show – ‘So, I’m a student (or whatever) and …’ Or the news on TV, where you’ll hear it all the time, often sounding patronising – ‘So, I’m an Expert and that’s why you’re asking me…’ (No! I’m fuming so much with your opening ‘So’ I’m not even listening to you…) 😱

When people say ‘should of’ when they really mean should’ve (have). Ditto, ‘would of’, ‘could of’ etc 😱

When people say invite, when they mean invitation. E.g. ‘thanks for the invite.’ 🤷🏼‍♀️ No, ‘Thanks for the invitation.’ Or, ‘thank you for inviting me.’

And that flipping annoying ‘glottal T stop’/‘glottalisation’ (I looked up the names for it), sounds really ignorant! If you can pronounce a T at the beginning or end of a word, why can’t you say it in the middle? There are ads running on the TV (UK) using it, which contain the word mortar pronounced wrongly as mor’ar, and another is motor not mo’or. 😱😱😱 I won’t be using your services then!

There’s one author’s books I find enjoyable, until I see this one: Over-using ‘really’ in a follow-up sentence. It’s usually totally unnecessary reinforcement. (Eg. He can write a book. He really can.) 🤷🏼‍♀️ Used once I could forgive it, but used several times in a book – no. 🥱

I know we’ll all be guilty of regional dialects/pronunciations and ways of speaking, and as I studied Teaching English as a Foreign Language I learned there are global ‘Englishes’. But the grating examples I’ve mentioned above are used many, many times, every time I switch on the TV, every day, in England (the home of English!) 🤷🏼‍♀️

End of rant! 🤣🤣🤣

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Procrastination, lacks confidence, or what?

Sharing my experiences with my fellow writers:

About a decade ago, I settled down in November and bashed out 2500-3,500 words a day, having read about NaNoWriMo, before going on a booked holiday, which provided a deadline. I had a complete basic manuscript, ready for the next step. The advice is to put it away for about 6 weeks and come back to it, with fresh eyes, to begin re-writing, editing, honing and improving.

The trouble is, over the years I kept doing that intermittently with increasingly long gaps, and it didn’t progress any further. My beta readers had given me good feedback, and most of all they liked the story and encouraged me, which is good and I am grateful. But lacking confidence, it still lingered on my hard drive with a couple of printed versions in folders under the desk. Just sitting there.

Next I embarked on learning and research about creative writing theory and was thrilled when my manuscript fitted ‘models’ for successful writing. I’d reached a stage where I had to consider how to send it out into the world, if I want a career as a writer.

That put me on an even greater learning journey—publishing. I knew I wanted to go down the self-publishing route, because I know it’s exceedingly difficult to go down the traditional publishing path and its infamous Slush Pile. The advice seemed to be that ‘with self-publishing you retain control’. Sounded good to me!

What I didn’t want to do was to pay just to get a print run done, which means a box of books sits under my desk just to sign and give away. I’ve witnessed that and there’s no point. This is often disparagingly dismissed as ‘vanity publishing’ and, to me, it’s a bit of an ego trip. Not me at all.

I wanted a physical book and an ebook. Where to begin? I started researching and eventually I chose to ask a publishing service to help with the paperback, and I’d deal with the ebook myself.

With hindsight, although the company did a good job (and I was really chuffed to hold a physical copy of My Book) it was for a huge fee and literally just formatting my manuscript for printing, and it’s a myth that I would ‘retain control’. In truth, modern day vanity publishing. I would still have to pay them an annual fee to collect my (so far) barely non-existent royalties. I don’t suppose, unless I’m very lucky, that I will ever replace what I’ve outlaid, for one thing or another, so far. And I am still responsible for marketing.

I dealt with the ebook versions myself, hoping it might help and broaden my options. Last month, I re-published the paperback version myself, which is what I should have done in the first place (I chickened out when I first looked, and I really wish I hadn’t.)

And I still have to learn marketing – it’s by far the hardest thing.

A Charming Bequest
For more info: http://www.carolinescottcollins.co.uk/novel

So, fellow authors, from my experience my advice is to have faith in your abilities, you can do it yourself, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune and it’s a huge satisfying learning process, and worth it.

Good luck!

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A Charming Bequest

Last year I paid a publishing service to publish my book. (I’d researched Self-Publishing and chickened out.) It was expensive, but they did it and I learned a little bit about publishing.

With hindsight it was a modern day version of Vanity Publishing, I suppose. They did what I needed, to get the book Out There and distributed. But when it came round, this year, to pay an annual fee for them to collect any royalties on my behalf, I saw the error of my ways!

I decided to withdraw from them and go back to Plan A and do it myself. Which I have now done, and I wished I’d persisted last year. Hey ho, poor decisions and mistakes are lessons.

My debut novel

It’s now available directly from Amazon as paperback or Kindle, and if retailers are interested, it’s available from Ingram Spark. You’ll also find ebooks/links on Kobo, Bookbub and Goodreads.

What a learning curve! But worth it and useful for the next one.

Short blurb: Sophie is set a challenge to uncover the story of a family member which leads her on an interesting research journey. She meets and falls in love with Philippe and they begin a passionate romance.

(A contemporary romance, with slightly raunchy content.)

If you choose to read it and enjoy it, please leave a review.

Here’s the long description, which may just tempt you…

Sophie’s only living relative on her mother’s side is her Great Uncle, Charlie, and he believes she’s a good researcher, so he asks her to discover his sister Sally’s life story.

Charlie gives Sophie a charm bracelet, which had belonged to Sally, telling her that the charms each had a special meaning. Sophie is puzzled—how can she possibly learn what event or memory each charm represented? Memories and meanings are personal. However, she has the feeling that some guiding spirits are urging her on.

She begins, as many of us do, with internet searches to try to find out about Sally as she has so little to go on initially. She doesn’t know much about her family history—there have been a spate of early deaths, perhaps there’s a jinx? There are just a few resources, tucked away to look at one day, and she’d been avoiding them because she knows It will make her sad. But she receives encouragement to follow her intuition.

On an internet forum she meets Philippe, who is looking for the whereabouts of an old friend of his grandmother. From their initial exchanges there seems to be a tenuous link—they might possibly be looking for the same person. All very mysterious!

Sophie and Philippe build up a rapport online, and eventually he invites her to visit him, and his grandmother, in the Bordeaux region of France. Sophie secures some commissions to do while she’s there and is excited to be travelling.

It’s confirmed that they do seem to be researching the same person, though how? Through Philippe, Sophie meets some interesting people and gleans unexpected information from them. They’ve remained tight-lipped over many decades, never repeating stories, and so Sophie receives far more information than she ever imagined.

Sophie and Philippe soon realise they have fallen in love and begin a romance. Although they enjoy getting to know each other, resisting moving too hastily at first, they soon share a fun, erotic and physical passion, as many of their forebears did.

Philippe takes Sophie to Paris, to the streets of Montmartre, where more stories are surprisingly revealed helping Sophie to decipher yet more of the charms.

Eventually, she returns home to Devon, taking Philippe with her, where the rest of Sally’s story is uncovered when they meet Jonathan in London. Jonathan had been expecting to meet Sophie, and he’s able to fill in the details of Sally’s story.

Charlie is very happy with the results of her research.

Sophie’s true family history is complete and she receives some wonderful surprises—tucked away in a remote cove in Cornwall.

Sophie and Philippe are destined to live a happy future together.

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Why write?

I have to. It’s an innate compulsion.

When I was a small child I used to go to Woolworth’s with my pocket money to buy pens and exercise books. If I didn’t use them to write my own thoughts, I’d spend hours copying poems from a book practising my handwriting (which initiated my enjoyment of calligraphy.)

In those days, I had handwriting lessons at school. We were taught to write in italics – ‘kick up the tails’, my teacher would say. Despite that it wasn’t strictly learning ‘joined-up’ handwriting, it was a reasonable forerunner. Now when I watch small children trying to join handwriting, I’ve noticed they aren’t taught how to form the letters to be able to join them. Anyway, I digress…

I’ve always just had to write: Nicely presented schoolwork, notebooks, and poetry. I found out at age 9, when I broke my right wrist, that I’m ambidextrous and that’s often come in handy. Anyway, I’m still a compulsive list maker and a notebook-writing Brain Dumper.

So, why do I write?

I dreamed about writing books. In my vision, I am a recluse beavering away productively, which suits my innately highly sensitive, introverted personality. Years ago, the dream was knocked out of me – ‘Don’t be daft, get a “proper” job and earn money’. Any chance of pursuing my dream was utterly belittled and quashed and I became too busy living life; working, motherhood, etc. Always though, I’m far more lucid writing than speaking.

I went to university, as a mature student, part time whilst working full time. I was there for about a decade (taking three qualifications) and, of course, writing was mandatory (Yay!) and it revived my dream. (Plus I read some pretty unreadable books and thought I could maybe do better – one day.)

Eventually, I achieved a second dream – to work self-employed from home. I met and did some admin work for an elderly author, who persuaded me to take on the secretary role of his writing group. My time had come! I mixed with writers, which rekindled my original dream and I wrote creatively – including a manuscript for a novel.

Then my life changed dramatically, and despite that I’ve tried to write again, it just won’t flow. Partly, I think, because I knew I’d got a manuscript, but had no confidence to do anything with it – apart from tweaking and editing, so my inner Muse thought, ‘What’s the point of generating ideas if it’s not being read and enjoyed?’

Over the course of a few years, beta readers gave me positive feedback. Then I met an experienced proofreader and a few more avid readers who all gave more positive vibes – ‘Go for it!’ It still took me some time to work up enough confidence to send it out into the world.

Now Muse has no excuse – it’s Out There, with positive reviews. So now I will write more than just brain dumping in countless notebooks.

I rationalise my need to write – Escapism. I write to escape from my world and create a character’s world, where anything can happen. It’s all within my control. And because I hope that when it’s Out There I give my readers enjoyment and escapism too.

I can’t think of a better reason. Can you?

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My 2021 review and new year goals

I should have written this before the year end, but not surprisingly I didn’t think of it until this week when the topic of new year resolutions has been prevalent.

2021 wasn’t a great year again with Covid lockdowns/restrictions, was it? I think many of us are struggling with self confidence, mental health issues, getting back ‘out there’ and changed ways of living, so I’m trying to get into a positive frame of mind.

My main achievement, last year, was to finally work up the courage to achieve my lifelong goal, after about a decade of dithering, to publish my debut novel, A Charming Bequest.

If anyone thinks writing and editing is onerous, the publishing process in itself has been a steep learning curve. But for an introvert, like me, the hardest thing of all is marketing and promotion, and offering it on multiple online retail outlets in order to hopefully secure sales.

As Amazon indicate on their website, my novel is amongst 8 million other titles they have available, so realistically, as I am a complete unknown, it stands no real chance of being spotted without me learning to do something differently.

I appreciate every single sale, and I really hope readers enjoy it. I also hope that a reader leaves positive feedback, because it might just influence more interest. Good old word-of-mouth advertising and personal recommendations!

Nevertheless, despite this realistic take on my experience, I have the satisfaction of achieving my goal, and I have opened the door to build on the experience in 2022 – hopefully 🤞🏻

What have I learned?

As I keep reading, this last week when many people are considering new year resolutions, instead of setting one big goal to strive for it’s much better to set a series of small goals, because going along a series of stepping stones is motivational. I think, based on my experience of taking decades to achieve my lifetime goal, and waiting until the time was right, I very much agree.

Have confidence and go for smaller, attainable targets. Good luck. 😉

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Happy 2022

Another new year, in the shadow of Covid, but with the development and distribution of vaccines and medications, hopefully 2022 will have much brighter prospects for us all.

What are your plans?

I’m still trying to learn marketing for my debut novel I launched last March – A Charming Bequest, as well as working on a new project – a series of picture books for children. A series might be a challenge – however, I can work on one or two initially and see how they are received! I have a focus group of little people in my family, aged from 1-8 (as I write), who are willing critics giving me honest feedback for my initial prototype.

The concept behind the children’s stories is to provoke discussions between the adult readers and the children and prompt them to put forward their own ideas and try them out – take action.

I also hope to get writing another novel this year. I keep jotting down ideas for it and I’m sure I can get working on it soon. At least I’ll try very, very hard! Once I start writing, and getting into flow, a story will emerge. My intention is to create believable escapism for my readers – we can always do with escaping sometimes, can’t we? Focussing on a character’s life for a while maybe stops some of us overthinking our own issues, don’t you think?

Whatever your goals and intentions are for the new year, I wish you a very happy, prosperous and productive 2022.

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Reentry 2

A few weeks ago, I read a fear of going back out in the world is called Reentry. This article (link below) demonstrates this fear is now quite commonplace (well it’s now got a meme!) and explains it quite well.

If you’re an introvert, like me, pubs, parties and crowds have always been difficult, and now it’s greatly magnified after isolation and lockdowns.

Reentry explained a reluctance to going back to have to face the constant fear. For instance, I got very stressed when I had to work in a noisy office and I always yearned to work from home in peace and quiet where I’d be far more productive. When I finally did work from home, I loved it. Is it’s becoming more commonplace now and I’m really envious.

It’s not agoraphobia, because there is nothing I would enjoy more than a walk along a quiet beach in a big empty space, after my going out has largely been limited to a quick flit around a supermarket and back to the safety of my cave.

It’s a real fear of having to go back to busy, noisy places and around lots of people instead of just one or two in a peaceful environment and a good in-depth civilised discussion.


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