In The Chair 59

janruthblog

Merry Christmas, Susanne O’ Leary!

SantaToymakerChair

How would you describe your Christmas in only three words? 

Susanne: Rowdy, noisy, fun.

If you could have a relationship with a literary festive character who would it be and why? Susanne: I can only think of one literary festive character and that is Scrooge. I would definitively not want a relationship with him! But put Colin Farrel in my Christmas stocking and you’re talking! I don’t think I have to explain why…

If you had to exist for a week in a Christmas story … which one would it be? Susanne: “A Country Christmas” by Louisa M Alcott. Christmas in Vermont in the nineteenth century would probably be amazing.

5582089Dead or alive literary Christmas lunch: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

Susanne: I’d have Hemingway, George Bernard Shaw, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. I’d serve them an old fashioned, traditional Christmas lunch, but…

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The Diary of an Eccentric. (day one)

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I have decided to become and eccentric. Okay, I know that requires a lot of work, but I’m only at the beginning. I had a vague idea that an eccentric was someone whose socks never match, has more than 13 cats and has weird things in the fridge. That doesn’t sound that challenging I thought (except for the cats, as I’m allergic), so I googled it to see if there were more things to live up to . I came up with this definition: “a person of unconventional and slightly strange views or behaviour”.  So me!

I can’t do the cat thing, but I love birds. The first thing I do every morning is put food on the bird table and then I watch them arrive and stand in the kitchen and watch them feed. I know all the species in our garden,and I make up things they say to each other- like “hey this is my bird table, get outta here,”and so on. I also talk to my plants and urge them to grow. I even say “sorry” when I nip off a dead leaf. I’m a writer,so that makes me eccentric right there. I sometimes feel that the characters in my stories are more real than real people, and I talk to them.

Eccentricity is possibly in my genes. My grandmother, who lived to  be 104, was a great eccentric. Very unconventional and had very strange views. And her behaviour? More than slightly eccentric. She used to put dried fish skin in her coffee to ‘clarify’ it. Something to do with the poor quality of coffee in WWI. When she finally, at the age of 102, ended up in a nursing home, she  told everyone that the doctor was in love with her. “He keeps coming into my room to take my blood pressure,” she said.

So I have a lot to live up to. I’m going to work hard to be the most eccentric person ever. It won’t be easy. I have to shed all my hang ups and that polite upbringing first. But I just took the first step. I wrote this blog post. But it’s going to take a long time to reach full eccentricity.

I’d love to hear from more seasoned eccentrics. Any tips most appreciated.

 

Villa Caramel-the love-it or-hate-it book I wrote for fun

VILLA CARAMEL - font2 - FINAL

As I sit on a terrace in Antibes on the French Riviera in mid-October and watch the evening sky turn turquoise with orange and pink streaks from the setting sun, sipping rosé  and-okay-flicking through reviews of my books on my phone, I reflect on this  book that I wrote about twelve years ago.

I remember how, at the time, I had this idea to write a spoof, or romantic comedy, if you like, poking a little fun at both the romance genre and the European Union and the ins and outs of this huge organisation. I saw it up close and personal during my eleven years of being a EU wife, and felt I needed to demystify and perhaps even reveal some of the corruption and the sometimes ridiculous events I witnessed. It became Villa Caramel .

Feeling that Brussels was not quite the romantic setting,or even that interesting, I moved the whole cast to St Tropez, where the characters in my story would continue networking, flirt, wine and dine while falling in and out of love under the hot sun of the south of France.

I piled it all in: glamour, fashion, food and wine, sun, sand and sex,laced with my own brand of humour. Eva, the straight-laced but boring (according to some reviews) career woman with her two slutty (again,according to reviews) step-daughters mingle with the jet-set and the hot men they meet.

I had a lot of fun writing it. I never for an instant meant it to be serious or meaningful.

Reviews have been- mixed. But that’s life- and writing. You can’t please all the people all the time.

I’m only happy if I pleased some of my readers… from time to time.

Stigma for Breakfast-How Indie Authors are Winning

As a self published author since 2010, I, like many of my colleagues, have had to struggle with the the general consensus that self publishing is only for those writers whose work isn’t good enough to attract an agent or publisher. It was the so-called ‘stigma’, which I, as a romance author, was used to. To quote Hugh Howey: ‘romance authors eat stigma for breakfast’.

This attitude is slowly disappearing. In fact, readers generally don’t actually notice who published a book they want to read. If the cover and blurb, and the sample chapters are good, they’ll buy and read, and often find a new author they like. This is not fiction, it’s a solid fact. The proof of this particular pudding is now staring publishers in the face- and they don’t like it.

My friend and colleague Dean Crawford just posted a very interesting thread on the forum I run for Indie writers. He writes in the sci fi and thriller genres and is what is know as a ‘hybrid’ author, which means that he is both traditionally (by Simon & Schuster).  and self-published author. (I’ve read and loved his new thriller,Stone Cold).

Deans insight into publishing is second to none, and he says it better than anyone. Here is some of what he predicts:

A big traditional publisher (one of the big 5) have recently shut down their sci-fi and fantasy imprint, with many redundancies. And another, nearly as big publisher has likewise done the same with their own s/f & fantasy genre imprint, the market currently 18% down in that genre according to figures within the industry. This is despite ( or perhaps because of ) the same genre being currently wildly popular within the independent community. The effects of the publisher’s shift in income, as huge numbers of sales move to independent authors ( despite the protestations of the Big Five that “it’s not happening” ) is obvious. Hugh and Data Guy’s conclusions from the Author Earnings Report is being affirmed by real-world events now in publishing.

Interesting, don’t you think? What this says to me is that self-published authors in this genre are galloping ahead like thoroughbreds on speed, while the heavier horses are still looking at the fences and wondering if it’s safe to jump.

And more: what publishers have to do but are reluctant to admit:

Predictions for the major publishers now seem to show economies of scale producing further mergers ( and shut downs ) of imprints into the bigger houses, which themselves are reliant now upon major names for a vastly disproportionate volume of their income. That said, nobody believes that the market will disappear entirely – only that it will have to rebuild itself from the ground up as it did once before in the 1980s and again after the loss of the Net Book Agreement. Bottom line – editors in New York and London, in glossy offices, can keep pretending it’s not happening, but it is and it’s not slowing down, it’s speeding up. Indies are doing it cheaper, better and more quickly and as for hybrid authors, it’s getting harder for publishers to make advance deals that live up to potential earnings for authors who have the option of going independent with any given title. It’s not just about the size of the advance anymore: an established independent author can reasonably estimate sales in the long term, and judge that against the 65% they might net off a publisher’s advance. Royalty rates and non-compete clauses in contracts further muddy the traditional route’s waters and represent a mark against any savvy author selling out for a deal.

Still want to wait for that publishing deal?

Or.. to quote Dean:

I’ve been at several major writing conventions recently, and over the last few months been talking to other authors, some of whom sell millions traditionally, and others millions independently. The trend I keep seeing again and again is that even the authors who are happily full-time employed by major publishing houses are considering moving into independent publishing: most have unsold manuscripts on their hard drives that, until now, had no place to go. Furthermore, authors like myself who publish both independently and through publishers are leaning heavily toward the Indie route ( I write one book a year for my agent, and four to five for myself! )

Deans advice (which I’m following to the letter):

In summary to all of this, it might be worth everybody who publishes independently to really knuckle down and get going with their marketing, their writing and their market research, because I think it’s quite likely that over the next two years more and more traditional authors, well versed in how to sell books, experienced in editing and marketing, keen to further their careers and perhaps able to independently recover their backlist and go Indie with it ( as per Konrath et all ) will start doing so in droves. At the most recent international festival I attended, more authors than ever were asking me about independent publishing, all of them currently published by traditional houses. More and more of them were concerned about their future income. At the same time, I met more and more indie authors attending than ever before, all of them happily full-time and actually extremely excited about their futures, few of them with any interest in approaching agents or publishing houses for deals.

But… here is my take: maybe trad published authors do have good back lists (if the manage to wrangle the rights out of the greedy hands of their publishers)  BUT Indie (as in self-published) authors have a huge advantage because we are way ahead. We have learned the skills of self-publishing the hard way. We know how to format for the e-book market, whether by hiring a formatter or doing it ourselves. We know where to find good cover artists, we have teams of great beta readers and we know where to find good editors. We also know how to market by promoting our books through the best channels and social media. This all takes time and practice. Trad published authors will have to push themselves far out of their comfort zone and learn how to do it themselves. That takes time and hard work. Good luck to them. In the meantime, we will work even harder to produce good books at a pace the traditional publishing industry never could.

I was once a traditionally published author. When I decided to go out on my own, I was lucky enough to get the rights of my books back so I could put up a small but solid backlist. Now, I’m a proud Indie and earning an income I never thought possible.

The final word from Dean:

Sharpen your pencils, folks, and get to work! The avalanche of new material that’s likely to appear in the near future will possibly change the marketplace forever. It’ll only get harder to stand out but maybe that’s a good thing, because one other thing I noticed was that a lot of traditionally published authors remained tight-lipped when it came to sharing information. The Indies were not, and the sole independent-author panel at the last convention, despite being buried in the graveyard slot on a Sunday morning, was once again one of the busiest of the entire weekend..

So that’s what I’m doing. My pencil is sharpened and I’m ready for the scary but exciting future of publishing.

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If you want to find out more about dean Crawford here are few links:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Dean-Crawford-Books/227989043878445

Twitter: twitter.com/DCrawfordBooks

US Author Page: www.amazon.com/Dean-Crawford/e/B004UO651U/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Beating the Billionaires

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When I wrote Hot Property over two years ago, I decided to create a new kind of hero- the antithesis to what was trending at the time- the lonely billionaire. I know this is-or was- the man every romance reader dreamed of: rich, handsome with a lonely heart, looking for true love. Sorry but…yawn.

I wanted to present a challenge to the reader, a hero who didn’t have the means to offer the heroine a life of glamour and leisure, who couldn’t take her to the hot spots of the world, fly her to Paris for lunch, or give her diamonds and pearls. My hero would be, okay, sexy, but a man who worked hard to keep bread on the table and the wolf from the door. Someone who had other values and ideals, preferring the great outdoors to fast cars, yachts and fine dining.

So I conjured up Paudie, a Kerry sheep farmer, good looking, poor but honest, hot tempered, strong, stubborn and very, very Irish. He loves animals, the great outdoors, Irish music and a well-pulled pint. He has bright blue eyes and a smile to melt a thousand hearts. I fell in love with him myself as I wrote the story, and now tens of thousands of readers have done the same.

I didn’t really expect it or plan it. I thought I was taking a huge risk. But I never write to a formula or try to find the zeitgeist of the moment- which is impossible.

Hot Property is now available for free in all e-book stores worldwide. It has seen over 20000 downloads on Amazon to date, and received rave reviews. Many readers have sent me messages swooning over Paudie. Must be that Irish charm- or perhaps that readers now want the simple life in a beautiful landscape, rather than champagne and caviar.

Is this a new trend? In that case, I’m proud to have been one of the first to kick it off.

Fun Fan Group for Readers of Romance

11367258_s Just a quick note to let you know that I have started a Facebook group for those who want to chat about my books, my writing and other totally frivolous subjects, like fashion, books, movies, shoes, jokes, celebrities, gossip and anything that will provide a break from the miseries of the world. I’ll even post recipes and fitness tips and ask readers for feedback on my current work in progress. Who knows, we might even write a book together? If you want to join in the fun, go HERE I promise you won’t be bored! See you there!

Creativity in Tandem: How I Became a Co-author

How this co-writing partnership started and keeps going…

The Woolf

By Pete Morin

Image courtesy Pete Morin Image courtesy: Pete Morin

I discovered the peculiar art of novel writing in 2007, when I wrote Diary of a Small Fish as a means of grieving my father’s death. It was an exhilarating period of about two-and-a-half years until I finally typed “the end.”

This didn’t daunt me, since I had been schooled that first novels are usually kind of rough sledding. Surely, after I got that under my belt, the next one would go faster! Yes, yes, it would. I set a goal of one year for #2. Twenty eight months later, I finished. I started a third, and took six months to get about 30K in.

By this point, the indie revolution was in full thrust, and hundreds of novelists, both Big Name and small, were cranking out novels every 3-4 months. What did they have that I didn’t?

It was obvious to me…

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US-UK, What a Difference!

US-UK the contrast   I have noticed through the years of publishing my e-books worldwide, that there is a great difference in the settings- or should I say countries- to which US and UK readers want to escape. As I have had quite a globe-trotting life, I set my novels in the countries where I have lived- and they are quite a few. The places in which I have lived and loved the most are France and Ireland. (Also my home country- Sweden, of course, which was featured in Swedish for Beginners).

I have often been told that my sense of place is one of the best features of my books, and that the readers feel they are ‘there’ as they read. I think this is because I think very visually and feel myself I’m right in the middle of the setting I describe as I write. I ‘see’ the beautiful vistas of France and Ireland, I feel the heat, and smell the herbs and garlic of a French coq au vin, or an Irish stew with fresh soda bread. I swim in the warm waters of the Mediterranean, or walk up the grassy hills of Ireland with the wind in my hair. My greatest wish was to take my readers along with me on these trips, and if I have achieved that, I’m very happy.

My e-books sell mainly in America and Britain. But these readers have very different tastes. American readers love to ‘travel’ to Ireland, especially the wild west coast, as described in my Kerry Romance Series, the first of which,Hot Property, is free right now. UK readers, on the other hand, love going to France in their imagination, which is why my brand new Riviera romance, Selling Dreams, along with my comedy/satire, Villa Caramel, have seen amazing sales in the UK all winter.

I have my own theory about this. I think Americans love Ireland, and thus like reading about it. Many American have roots in Ireland and there is a great infinity between the two countries. People in Britain, on the other hand, have a great love of France and all things French. It’s more exotic and the weather is better, not to mention the food and wine. I can’t argue with that.

This chilly winter, I have myself, escaped to the French Riviera, and continue to do so while I write the second book in what is to become The Riviera Series.

After that, I might return to Ireland… Who knows? In any case, I’m not complaining. Vive la difference!

Vive la France!

French flag

Today’s events in Paris have prompted me to write this post.

As the Irish writer, John de Courcy Ireland famously said: “every cultured person has two countries; France and their own”.

This rings so true to me, especially as my early childhood and youth are closely linked to France.

At the tender age of five, I started my education at the French lycée in Stockholm, run by French nuns. Thirteen years later, I graduated, having passed the baccalaureate with good results. Those years with the nuns taught me to speak flawless French with an accent that is as close to a native one as a foreigner can get. But it also taught me French history and literature and a love of everything French. I spent many a happy summer as the guest of a French family, who took me to their bosom and treated me as a daughter. I have heard that French people are generally considered to be unfriendly. I don’t have that experience at all. Quite the opposite, in fact.

My first love affair was with a Frenchman (although I later married and Irishman). In France, I had my first taste of champagne, the first introduction to gourmet food, cheese and wine. Not to mention fashion and style. Later on, my husband was posted to the Irish embassy in Paris, where we spent the happiest years of our married life. My youngest child was born there during that time and I will never forget the experience.

Ever since, we have managed at least one holiday a year in France and every time we go there, I have a feeling of coming home.

Many of my books are set in France. But I will not post links to them here, as this is not about me.

It’s with great sadness that I read about what’s happening in Paris and my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.

France gave me so much.

charlie

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 42 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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