Thursday, 30 April 2015

IAF15: Crime Writing – The Poor Man’s Literary Fiction?

By Gillian Hamer

Quote: "There are still people who look down on the crime novel. No crime writer has won the Man Booker Prize. For many, despite the example of PD James and Ruth Rendell, crime fiction is still seen as genre fiction, and therefore inferior to the straight novel."

I read the above quote recently, which as a lifelong devotee of crime fiction – reader as well as writer – sent me off into a red-misted tail spin.

Really? I mean, really?

In this day and age of political correctness, where even your average politician is scared to address his own shadow incorrectly … are there readers out there who think no matter how popular, how best-selling, how brilliant a novel may be … if it’s classed as genre then it’s deemed inferior?

Personally, I don’t think so. I’m not sure your average reader really cares. BUT there are, I believe, a whole generation of ‘experts’ and ‘reviewers’ who do hold those values.

I’ve never understood the whole genre -v-literary debate (but then I am a bit dim) so I have asked other writers’ opinions also. And it appears very few of them understand it either. So, I am going to take on the baton and defend the wonderful genre that is crime.

Crime writers have a distinct advantage over authors of straight or literary novels. Simply, we are not restricted by barriers. We can write about any level of society, any class, religion or creed without fear, whereas the modern literary novelist has tighter confines, tending to deal with only a single layer of society in order to maintain realism. But crime permeates society, from top to bottom, and winds a spiders’ web of connections between those layers. From MPs and Bishops, to illegal immigrants and prostitutes, crime novels introduce the writer (and reader) to a cross-section of lifestyles and experiences. It offers the opportunity to delve into dark pasts of even the grandest, most saintly of characters and discover the secrets and shadows of the present day.

Crime writing offers such freedom it’s no wonder authors from Dickens (because surely Oliver Twist can be classified as a crime novel) to JK Rowling (who swapped wizards for Private Investigators in her Robert Galbraith novels) turn to crime – in the literary sense!

And if you want to take a deeper look at crime fiction, take a look at writers like Ian Rankin and Val McDermid whose novels are both addictive and disturbing, but also pose difficult questions about law and order. ‘Who will guard the guards?’ they ask. Police, guardians of our society, are only human, susceptible to temptations presented to them, and who may have closer allegiances to the criminals then to those whose duty it is to protect.

So, if you are a reader who agrees with any part of my opening quotation, think again. Because crime is the new black … and it’s coming to get you!

Born in the industrial Midlands, Gillian's heart has always yearned for the wilds of North Wales and the pull of the ocean. The Charter, Closure, Complicit and Crimson Shore are all set around the dramatic coastline of Anglesey and North Wales.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

IAF15: ALLi around the World - Indies in India

By Rasana Atreya

In 2012 the manuscript of my novel, Tell A Thousand Lies, was shortlisted for the Tibor-Jones South Asia prize. Subsequently, I declined a traditional publishing contract and self-published.

In February of 2014, when Amazon started operations in India, they flew me to New Delhi to be part of the launch. I’ve also been interviewed extensively by the mainstream media on self-publishing. But this same mainstream media will not review self-published novels.

I’m visible, but my books aren’t. Not in the mainstream media, anyway.

India has largely stayed away from dedicated e-readers. Affordability isn’t the issue here because iPhones and iPads very popular with the English-speaking middleclass.

All is not lost, however. We might not be buying e-readers, but we are buying e-books. On smartphones and tablets. Keep in mind that India is the second largest market in the world for smartphones. There are 250 million English speakers by some estimates, so the potential for e-books is huge.

Despite the popularity of iPads etc., Apple doesn’t have an iBook store for India. But, until six months ago, self-published authors could not get on Flipkart – India’s largest e-retailer – either. Then Smashwords came along and inked a distribution deal with Flipkart.

There still are problems, of course. There is no territorial pricing on smashwords, unlike on Amazon.
On Tell A Thousand Lies is priced a comfortable Rs. 99. But on Flipkart, the price is a ridiculous Rs. 313 ($4.99). Ridiculous, because homegrown best-selling authors are selling their paperbacks for as low as Rs. 149. Their books are priced to move, and they make their money on volume.

My biggest problem, as an Indie, has been access to brick-and-mortar bookstores. I do a lot of sessions on self-publishing but have never had paper books available for sale at the venue because my CreateSpace books (priced in dollars) are too expensive for the Indian market.

Which is why I am particularly excited that Read Out Loud (, the audiobook producer for my novella, The Temple Is Not My Father, is offering now pan-India distribution to bookstores (including train stations and airports) in return for paperback distribution rights. The author will continue to own all other rights. They are also setting me up with a good quality, reasonably priced printer. I am considering signing up Tell A Thousand Lies.

In an effort to boost visibility for self-published books, I’m hosting the India Readathon ( from April 15 to June 15. Readers and bloggers (from any part of the world) are invited to connect with authors of self-published books. I hope to make this an annual event. Feel free to signup if your book is set in the Indian subcontinent (which includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma and the Maldives). Your nationality will not be held against you!

Rasana Atreya is the author of the Amazon bestseller Tell A Thousand Lies and The Temple Is Not My Father (also available as an audiobook) and 28 Years A Bachelor. She’s mother to a girl and a boy who were respectively six and eleven years-old when they wrote and illustrated The Mosquito and the Teapot. She lives with her husband and children in Hyderabad, India, where a lot of her stories are set. She blogs at

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

IAF15 - Indie Picks #2

(life:) razorblades included by Dan Holloway (Recommended by Rohan Quine)

When writing transgresses in order to find truth in its vision and expression, this is a high aim and a serious endeavour, and its success fulfils valuable functions. This collection contains rich transgressions, which take their place amid a fertile mix of elements including desperation, humour, longing, urgency, obsession, tenderness, alienation, despair and a deep curiosity in living, brought together with a combination of economy yet refusal-to-be-tidy-or-slick. I shall re-read this disparate and lovely box of dark-stained delights/howls/love-bites, whenever the moment’s right for a grand, messy, dark, clean, questing “F you” to this world that does these things to us.


The Light never Lies by Francis Guenette (Recommended by Mari Howard)

Guenette uses her counselling training and experience to weave a compelling story of complex characters into a great entertaining read. Her obvious interest in exploring the various different groupings which can make up a 'family' works through the novel, as does her concern to include a number of Native American/Canadians and to demonstrate that they are not 'all the same'. We readers feel these lives go on into a future like our own, full of unknowns and possibles, for she neither supplies a rosy romantic ending for everyone nor ties up all the ends … leaving space for more follow-ups.
There were a few passages where I felt we were possibly hovering a little close to case history detail style but the strength of character portraits and intriguing nature of the relationships overcomes this.

In all, highly recommended to any reader who enjoys the vast canvas or multitude of facets of the human story, an in-depth story of being and relating, of how forgiveness of ourselves and others usually works to the positive, but not necessarily to dreamland. Realistic, educational, and entertaining.

No More Mulberries, by Mary Smith (Recommended by Catriona Troth)

On the eve of Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 1995, a Scottish midwife is running a clinic in a remote village in Hazara Zat with her Afghan husband. But a web of past relationships, conflicting expectations, and the all-encompassing Afghan concept of honour is placing an unbearable strain on their marriage.

Smith spent ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan and her novel is filled with the sort of detail that can only come from deep personal experience. Whether spreading out mulberries to dry in the sun on a roof weatherproofed with layers of mud, the bone-jarring impact of driving over rutted mountain roads, or the grim realities of working in a clinic with children hovering on the edge of life – Smith draws us into the lives of her characters. But it’s impossible to read this and not be aware that, tough as the life described here is, the shadow of the Taliban, war and occupation lies ahead.

Blue Mercy, by Orna Ross (Recommended by Dr Carol Cooper)

This story had me in its clutches right from the start. It has the same lyrical quality I associate with Orna’s poetry, and it’s a potent mix of mystery and psychology too. Mercy Mulcahy is accused of killing her father, but there’s much more here than the tale of the damaged daughter of a tyrant. That’s all I’ll say, apart from adding that it’s a damn good yarn that begs to be read through the night no matter how tired you are.

Cold Pressed, by JJ Marsh (Recommended by Alison Morton)

JJ Marsh’s mystery unfolds amongst police rivalries, personal tensions and the closed, festering community of a luxury cruise ship. Don’t let the luscious Mediterranean skies or the tastes and smells of Greece fool you - here be murder.

Good intentions, social inhibitions, thwarted wishes are all in Cold Pressed. DI Beatrice Stubbs is neatly paired with newbie Inspector Nikos Stephanakis in a fresh version of the police ‘buddy’ relationship.

JJ Marsh draws her characters deftly in three dimensions; we have all met people like these in our daily lives. And this, of course, is what makes the story so shocking…

The Glass Girl by Sandy Hogarth (Recommended by Amanda Hatter)

I love this beautiful book. The Glass Girl by Sandy Hogarth really captures the soul of sixteen year old Ruth. The story follows her as she flees to Australia, before returning home some seven years later. The writing is gorgeous and the descriptive scenes are breath taking. I was very impressed by the author's skill in weaving together all the secrets, betrayals and life-changing decisions our young protagonist faces and doing it in such a compelling way.

A wonderful debut that deserves to be on the bestseller list - I am delighted to be able to recommend it.

Monday, 27 April 2015

IAF15 - 7 Sword-Swirling Suggestions for Historical Fiction


Fiction First, Historical Fiction Second

Very few historical fiction authors hold university degrees in history. Writers of historical fiction are, first and foremost, novelists who must master the craft of fiction, as any other novelist. Learning how to write a good story that hooks readers, then keeps them turning the pages is as vital as getting the historical details right. Yet if they are not spot on, the HF author risks drowning in his own moat.


Old diaries, letters and public archives abound with authentic information, but these days, with its treasure chest of maps, images, videos, and historical documents, the internet is the researcher’s best buddy. Our friendly worldwide web, however, is also rife with errors.

Beware Flawed Information

Check “facts”, where possible, against other sources, but just because you’ve done your homework, don’t give your reader a history lesson, or put him to sleep with these interesting titbits.

Integrate Historical Facts

Action and dialogue can evoke historical facts, as can characters eating from bread trenchers, wrinkling their nose at a tallow candle, or waltzing off to the privy with a wad of moss for toilet paper. (Never believed that one!) Despite quadruple-checking your facts, hiring endless copy editors and critiquers, some mistakes are still bound to slip through. And Ms Diligent HF reader will spot them.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Readers might tell you the coin you mentioned in February was not actually minted till July of that year. They will point out that the word “miscarriage” was not used in 1348. Thank them kindly, and move on.

Build a Setting

I find nothing more inspiring than spending time in the place where my story is set, trying to imagine how it looked, felt and smelled, in the past. Even if your story takes place centuries ago, evoking the spirit of a place––the trees and flowers, the seasonal light, the scents –– pulls readers in.

A walk around my rural French village gave me the idea and setting for my novel, Spirit of Lost Angels. On the banks of the Garon River I came upon a stone cross engraved with a heart shape. Dated 1717, it commemorates two children who drowned in the river. Who were they? How did they drown? I had to write their story –– to give them an identity, and a village.

Historical monuments and buildings also evoke the past and I like to study them and take lots of photos (preferably minus tourists). For my novel, Wolfsangel, I visited the haunting memorial of Oradour-sur-Glane, on which the story is based.

The Rise of Historical Fiction

Historical fiction has become a hot genre in recent years, with many historical novels featuring on bestseller lists, and winning major literary awards. Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin and Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang, won the 2000 and 2001 Booker Prize, respectively. The success of adaptations illustrates this rising interest – films such as Gladiator, Titanic and Braveheart, and TV series like The Tudors and Wolf Hall.

Liza Perrat grew up in Australia, working as a general nurse and midwife. She has now been living in France for twenty years, where she works as a part-time medical translator and a novelist. She is a co-founder and member of the author collective, Triskele Books and a book reviewer for Bookmuse. Liza is the author of the historical Spirit of Lost Angels set in 18th century revolutionary France, and Wolfsangel set during the WW2 Nazi Occupation of France. She is currently working on her third novel –– Midwife Héloïse – Blood Rose Angel –– set during the 14th century Black Plague years. Find out more:

Saturday, 25 April 2015

IAF 15 - Self-Publishing and Marketing Children's Books

One self-published children’s author shares seven key tips for success. By Karen Inglis

“Know your audience – and be ready to go and meet them.”

Know what age group you’re targeting

Be clear what age group your book is aimed at. This affects not just the storyline and age of the main characters (kids prefer them to be at least their own age and ideally a bit older) but also the length and format – right down to font style and size! Visit your local bookshop or library to see what the latest books for your target age group look and feel like. Read as many as you can.

Use children’s editors and beta readers

Try to find a couple of bookworm children to give you feedback on your draft – ideally children you don’t know. Kids are notoriously honest! Once you’ve honed your manuscript, hire an experienced children’s editor. This is crucial if you want to produce a professional and marketable book. In the UK I would recommend the Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books ( – otherwise ask other children’s authors, check ALLi’s database, or try SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).

Understand your print options

Most of your sales will be face to face at school events or bookshop signings. I recommend combining CreateSpace (CS) with Ingram Spark (IS). CS will fulfill your Amazon orders and IS will fulfill all other online and bricks and mortar store orders, and your own orders for school events or local shops. Buy your own ISBN and use the same for CS and IS, but don’t opt for for CS’s Expanded Distribution Channel – this is covered by Ingram Spark. Bookshops don’t like to see CS as main distributor.

Create an author website

This will be your calling card – a place to refer bookshops, schools, journalists and children. It’s easy to set up a free Wordpress site. Build your brand over time eg adding posters, puzzles, lesson plans, blog posts and links to social media or YouTube readings. Be yourself!

Contact local bookshops

Call to identify the children’s buyer. Email with links to your website then take in a copy of your book. Offer to supply sale or return or through their usual systems (you will appear there if you’re with Ingram Spark). Offer to do a signing and/or a reading. Offer bookmarks if you can.

Promote your book locally

Create book cover flyers to post in newsagents, coffee shops or playgroups frequented by families. Say where your signed book is available locally.

Contact local press and email a follow-up press release. Highlight any local angle, such as the book’s inspiration, and/or any events planned locally and say where the book’s available to buy. Include your website URL.

Contact local schools and libraries

Offer to go in to do a reading and talk about your book and being a writer. For schools, offer to visit for free in return for them sending slips home – which you will draft for them – giving children the chance to buy personalised signed copies of your book.

Karen Inglis is ALLis Children’s Advisor. Her time travel adventure The Secret Lake has sold over 6,500 copies – around half in print, while her graphic novel Eeek! The Runaway Alien has sold over 1,200 copies and won praise as a great book for reluctant readers. Karen has also successfully self-published a colour picture book and interactive book app. (for readers and book buyers) and (for writers)

Friday, 24 April 2015

IAF 15 - Self-Publishing in Canada

By Patricia Sands

Self-publishing in Canada ~ A voice is needed!

Writing this turned out to be a most interesting experience.

When I began to research articles or websites or associations in Canada that might offer support and/or information to indie authors, I hit the proverbial brick wall. It was quite a shock.

The wall continued to block my efforts to find statistics on sales, trends, and anything else that might be related to author-publishers in Canada. It’s almost as if it does not exist in our vast country. Fortunately, I know that to be completely erroneous. But apparently there is a dearth of assistance for interested Canadian indie authors to find good information unless they go to Amazon or Kobo.

Having self-published three women’s fiction novels in the last five years, I was fortunate early on to become involved with serious writing groups who share information and links to all the important self-publishing websites, resource books and associations. I discovered The Creative Penn, an invaluable resource for all writers and particularly for those just getting started.

I know there is a wealth of information out there. However, a Canadian writer looking for information at the beginning of his or her journey may struggle before discovering these same resources. I knew, from emails I receive from authors just starting out, that they often did not know where to begin. When, for this article, I searched as if I knew nothing about self-publishing, I discovered why these writers were having difficulties.

It’s a situation that needs to be rectified. It shouldn’t be hard to do.

In spite of extensive efforts to search words in every possible combination, I came up empty. The only sites that appeared were vanity publishers, offering to “help you self-publish,” along with their price list. Also, came up consistently, leading to one author who has published a book on the subject that is woefully lacking in updated information.

A major writers’ group in Canada recently changed their membership rules and now accept self-published authors. This national organization of professional writers of books was founded 40 years ago to work with governments, publishers, booksellers, and readers to improve the conditions of Canadian writers.

It was encouraging to see they were recognizing the self-publishing dynamic. One would assume there would be good information on their website. Here’s what I discovered:

If you self-publish you add—to the difficult job of writing a book—all the additional work of a publisher. It is extremely difficult to get self-published books placed in bookstores, which makes it even more difficult to make money. There are a few success stories but the majority of self-published books may never see a bookstore. Self-publishing may be appropriate if you want to give copies of your book to your friends and family but if you want to make it a commercial success you have a lot of work ahead of you.”

Hello and welcome to 2015. May we introduce the subject of ebooks to you? Bookstores are not where most authors derive their living today. It is time to hear from the many indie authors in Canada who are making a decent income (and often more than most who are with traditional publishers) from selling ebooks as well as print copies.

However, checking with authors who attend many of the excellent writers’ conferences across the country, they confirmed that the focus is still very much on pitching with agents and publishers.

In an article in the Toronto Star in 2013 (the most recent I could find) praising self-publishing in Canada, negativity remained.
Still, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the trend to self-publishing. Carolyn Wood, executive director of the Association of Canadian Publishers, doesn’t think traditional publishers see it as an opportunity, despite forays into the field by Simon & Schuster and Penguin. “Our members — most traditional independent publishers — object to self-publishers co-opting that term,” she says. “They need to call it author publishing. They are not independent publishers.”
I guess Ms. Wood has unique definitions for these terms. To the rest of the now well-established community of indie authors, the terms self-publisher or author-publisher are interchangeable.

My entire publishing experience has revolved around self-publishing, and I learn something every day. I’ve heard from, and work with, many author-publishers who have access to every excellent resource out there.

Much of this comes from networking within online groups such as ALLi. Every essential topic is covered including the craft of writing, the most effective marketing and promotion opportunities, designers, editors, formatters, critique groups, tax info … all based on the experience of other members and experts called in to share their knowledge.

All of this information needs a voice in Canada. How we go about achieving that is the challenge.

Addendum: As a follow-up to this, I was so pleased to hear from a number of Canadian indie authors who wrote me after this article was published during IndieReCon. They shared stories of their own experiences and how many had gotten together to set up their own groups to share information and experiences for precisely the reason expressed here.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

IAF 15 - Indie Picks #1

The Indie Author Fair is all about discovering great new books and writers. So we asked all participating authors to recommend up to three 'indie' reads. The results were exciting, eclectic and far too good not to share. Top tips from some of the most demanding readers there are.


 A Shadow in Yucatan by Philippa Rees (recommended by Mari Howard)

This is an ambitious project, a story told in verse. It’s full of amazing language, wordplay, and the writer exploits words and meanings and sounds as much as ever a poet would. And, she tells a story …
The story is an interesting evocation of the 'hippy culture' of the 1960s, the style reminiscent of T.S. Eliot. I found it slightly difficult to follow as the poetry is quite intensely packed, and I felt story-telling made a slow start. Then the pace picked up, and it got better and better as it unfolded. The contrast between what society wanted, and what the girl Stephanie wanted and decided (or drifted into) was stark. Was it better, or the same as, the emotional impact if she'd followed society? I wonder if that slow pace was, actually, part of the evocation? That would make a lot of sense: the slow, poetic setting fitting exactly the era of the ‘summer of love’.

Maggie's Child by Glynis Smy (recommended by Dr Carol Cooper)

Glynis Smy really knows how to tell a story. I defy anyone not to become totally involved in the trials and tribulations of Maggie, the feisty heroine of this book, especially if they have children. Historical novels usually put me off, mostly because of the laboured descriptions and mannered speech, but there’s none of that here. The action takes place in Victorian times, though the core of the dilemma could well apply to the present day. I can’t wait for the follow-up title Maggie’s Men. A well-deserved Amazon bestseller.

A Day of Fire by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn & Vicky Alvear Shecter (recommended by Derek Birks)

The advantage of six authors is demonstrated by the breadth of themes explored in the novel. The human condition with all its frailties exposed is given a thorough going over in this work. Yet the individual stories with all their scope for gloom nevertheless manage also to demonstrate the best of human qualities alongside the worst. The real triumph of this work is that all of this is accomplished whilst the story builds in tension and excitement. I kept thinking as I finished each story: how is the next writer going to top this? But they did!

Overall, I can’t praise this book highly enough. It’s a rattling good tale of disaster, death, resolution and rebirth. It has a diverse range of characters that are well-drawn and woven convincingly into the story.

Stocking Fillers by Debbie Young (recommended by Philippa Rees)

This delightful tray of wrapped Christmas bon-bons. You may bite into each and any and be slightly surprised at their flavours, sardonic, satirical, compassionate, humorous, and in the collection there lies an almost a Victorian antiquity, the moral admonition that too much of anything is unwise, indeed a little reprehensible. Yet it is laughingly said, fun to share and pass around. But like the wrappings in the bin they paint a subtle message that spoilt children, lonely widows, competitive exhibitionism, and dreary duty is also part of the season of goodwill. Debbie knows just how to juggle the flavours.

Zen of eBook Formatting by Guido Henkel (recommended by Chele Cooke)

I loved reading this book.
Formatting can be a pain for a lot of authors and Guido Henkel completely changes that. He walks readers through a detailed way of creating beautiful and working eBooks whilst also taking the time to explain each aspect so that, not only does formatting become interesting, but is also logical enough to progress on your own.
 If you want to get your geek on about formatting, this is the book for it.

Silver Rain by Jan Ruth (recommended by Gillian Hamer)

I don’t read much contemporary women’s fiction, I’ll be honest, and wasn’t sure what to expect. Silver Rain is in many ways a clichéd love story … but without any of the clichés. Instead there are lots of secrets, intrigues, twists and turns along the way – guided by what feels a very competent author’s hand. Also, set in North Wales, one of my favourite places in the world, location is another huge winner here for me. This author is one that I know I will return to time and again.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


CJ Lyons
As a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-eight novels who has worked with major traditional publishers as well as indie publishing fourteen bestselling novels and selling over two million copies of my work, I’m frequently asked two questions:
What is my best advice for authors and what do I think the future holds for authors and publishers?

First, advice for writers seeking to create a career and make a living in this crazy business. No matter which publishing route you take for any individual project, you need to understand why that’s the best choice for you, for that title, and for your audience. Which is why I hate labels like “Traditionally published” v. “self-published” or the odious, lab-experiment gone awry, “Hybrid author.”

It’s not important HOW you publish any given work… what’s important it HOW WELL you publish. My best advice to any author, whether looking for a traditional contract or interested in indie publishing is to have one guiding principle to keep you focused. If you do this, every decision becomes easier. Simon Sinek calls this starting with your “why.”

My personal guiding principle is: How can I delight and excite readers so they’ll tell their friends about my books? It’s been quite successful for me and is based on advice Jeffery Deaver gave me after my first novel was published. He told me, “Never forget, the reader is god.” I’ve found that if I keep my readers happy, they keep my bottom line happy.

As for what the future holds for publishing, I believe this truly is a Renaissance for readers and writers. Thanks to ebooks revitalizing backlists, readers will be able to find any book they want.

Authors will take control of their careers and form selective publishing partnerships as they create their own, individual Global Media Empires, and they will have a wealth of opportunities to choose from for print, audio, translation, and ebook licensing.

I’m more worried about the future of corporate publishers in the next several years. Publishers who treat books and authors as if they were easily exchanged widgets on an assembly line and who have no concern or appreciation of readers will fail.

I think the ones who survive and thrive will be those who truly understand and love their readership.

Readers deserve great books—from all of us. Remember, there are ONLY two things that every successful book has in common: an author who created it and an audience who fall in love with that creation.

Everything else is just business and subject to change, whimsy, and the winds of fate. Take charge of your own destiny and career, know your why, know your story, know your readers and you’ll survive (and hopefully thrive!) on this rollercoaster ride known as publishing.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-seven novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.

Winner of the International Thriller Writers’ coveted Thriller Award, CJ has been called a "master within the genre" (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as "breathtakingly fast-paced" and "riveting" (Publishers Weekly) with "characters with beating hearts and three dimensions" (Newsday).

Learn more about CJ's Thrillers with Heart at

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Indie Author Fair Showcase Magazine - Foreword

Foreword by Philip Jones, Editor of The Bookseller 


Philip Jones
Publishing pundits spend a lot of time pontificating about what will come next in the book business. Roll back five years and it is difficult to imagine that any of them predicted the rise (and rise) in self-publishing. The London Book Fair Indie Author Fair shows how quickly things have changed, and I am delighted to have the opportunity of writing this foreword for the accompanying Indie Author Fair Catalogue.

There is no accurate measure of how big this market is now. Estimates suggest that in the UK in volume terms indie-published e-books now make up as much as 20% of the digital book market, and by value between 10 and 15%. That’s a market now worth perhaps £50m—equivalent in number to a small bookshop chain. In the US it is much bigger, where the Author Earnings reports suggest that 20% of all consumer dollars spent on e-books on are being spent on indie self-published e-books. But even these numbers underestimate the amount of publishing taking place independently, with the number of new self-published titles having accelerated as opportunities have developed.

Furthermore, focusing on the figures does not tell the full story. We are in the midst of a market shift, with the centre of ground within publishing moving towards authors. Last year in this slot Richard Mollet, chief executive of The Publishers Association, wrote that he saw the two approaches to publishing as “being complementary”. He is right, up to a point. The growth in self-publishing—its evolution from uncommercial vanity books into financially viable independent publishing—has also been a wake-up call for the traditional industry. When publishing chief executives talk of none of their big authors having “jumped ship” to self-publishing, one can almost see the bead of sweat as the word “yet” forms in their minds. The incontestable truth is that in the digital space, publishers are now not only in competition with other book publishers, but also with other authors.

Authors are now in charge of their destinies in ways that were impossible when the routes to market were marshalled by businesses operating only under the old rules. Some authors will continue to publish traditionally, others will mix-and-match, while there are those for whom traditional publishing no longer matches up to the opportunities of being independent. All of this now makes up the modern book business. At The Bookseller we have launched a monthly spotlight on independently-published titles: recognition of how much the market has moved, but also an opportunity for indie-authors to get their titles in front of publishers, agents, and (crucially) booksellers.
What comes next will be equally as interesting as what I have just described. Amazon has led this democratisation and should be applauded for spotting the need among authors, and the demand among readers. But it is now a movement that can flourish outside of Amazon, as other platforms such as Kobo and Nook establish themselves as viable alternative marketplaces, and opportunities around enhanced e-books and print-on-demand broaden what kind of books can be successfully self-produced. We will see more authors self-publish, but also more publishers adapt their businesses to the lessons learnt from successful indie authors. There is no greater compliment.

Good luck to all those featured in this catalogue and part of this year’s Independent Author Fair!

Philip Jones, editor, The Bookseller, March 2015

Friday, 10 April 2015

Quirk - CJ Cherryh
The Pride of Chanur by CJ Cherryh

Reviewer: JW Hicks, author of Rats

The Pride of Chanur is the first book in the Chanur series. Its quirk? It tells the story of a human stranded amongst aliens from the alien point of view.

I came across this particular book in the reduced books basket in my now, sadly closed-down, local bookshop. Once bitten I was infected and just had to search out more from this exhilarating, mind-expanding author.

I own the five books that comprise the Chanur series. They stand in pride of place on my keep-forever bookshelf. I even named a new kitten Tully, after the human member of Captain Pyanfar’s swaggering, tough-talking hani crew of feline females.

Cherryh writes top-of-the-range science-fiction and fantasy. A best selling author, her compelling stories have won more awards, plaudits and fan worship than there’s room to write about here.

Pride was the book that started me on the Cherryh path. It led me to the Faded Sun, an epic trilogy, and then to the Alliance-Union series which deals with independent merchant spacers seceding from the totalitarian grip of their home world, Earth. All unputdownable reads.

In Pride, Meetpoint Station is the neutral ground where the disparate species of the Compact co-exist in uneasy peace; until the Outsider appears – the human, Tully. Smooth-skinned, blunt toothed and clawless, Tully is a member of a hitherto unknown species. This escapee from the treacherous kif, holds the key to the future of the Compact.

We first see Tully as a ‘something’ skulking on the Meetpoint dock, a thing ignored and unreported to the station authorities. From here on the story gathers pace, and with no pauses for explanations, readers have to go with the flow, but as with learning a language immersion brings clarity.

Tully throws himself on the mercy of The Pride’s crew. ‘Because they laughed as they worked.’ This puts Captain Pyanfar in a direful quandary. Allowing this alien sanctuary could lead the hani to future glory or disastrous ruin. Pyanfar is aware that the information possessed by him could very well imperil the peace of the Compact.

As Tully learns the hani language, he discovers the nature of these fierce cat/lion creatures and also their complicated ‘fellowship’ with the other species of the Compact.

Tully must decide if he can trust the hani with his route to Earth. There is also the distinct possibility that, re-captured by the kif, that information will be forcibly removed from him.

The rewards of discovering a new space-going species? Incalculable.

Cherryh, unlike far too many sci-fi writers, focuses heavily on female ‘heroes’. The Pride’s crew are female, except for their adopted human, Tully. It’s Tully, the space-going male that shakes their ingrained belief that males, being hair-triggered to the point of irrationality, are safer left on-planet. Working with Tully, they come to believe that hani males are worthy of much more than the on-planet role allotted to them.

Pride is a standalone novel, but I defy anyone to read it and not go searching for the rest of the series.

Questions and Answers

As before, I sought CJ Cherryh’s website, and once found I decided to email her, not expecting an answer. To my surprise she replied and was willing to answer these questions.

Are you a planner? Do you mark every pathway of the novel, and know every twist and turn of the plot? Or do you have the start and ending fixed and let the rest run as it will?

I don’t even have the ending.

How do the story ideas come? What sparks them?

Studying the universe.

What books do you read?

Science, archaeology, craft, sf and fantasy.

Which books can’t you forget?

Ancient works like Virgil.

Has any of your work been filmed, televised or broadcast?

One was put on, I understand, as a playlet, at a festival. Numerous have been optioned. Never produced.

My personal faves are the Chanur series, The Faded Sun trilogy and the Alliance-Union series, in that order. Which are yours?

Whatever I’m working on. Has to be. But a sentimental favorite is the Morgaine series, because that was my mum’s favorite.

Look her up, take a stroll through her list of publications. If you happen on The Pride of Chanur, give it a go.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Getting the balance right - tips for writing Short Stories

By Gillian Hamer

Short stories are where my love of writing began. I’d sneak my gran’s Woman’s Weekly or People’s Friend into my bedroom, and lose myself in tales of romance, dark secrets or intrigue. Shorts were my first introduction to worlds and emotions I could barely imagine as an inquisitive, yet introverted child.

One day I thought … you know what, I reckon I can do that. And so began the tale of a beagle named Goliath and his adventures on an island called Geronimo. Goliath became a companion for many years. I used to draw his droopy ears and sad eyes, endlessly practising his signature. And so, several years later when I won my first writing accolade, age eleven (– a Blue Peter Badge for writing an episode of Grange Hill, I don’t think ever got screened.) … it was Goliath and his adventures I thanked.

Short stories are wonderful. If they’re done right. And that’s a BIG if. Getting the content balance right is crucial. Getting the POV to gel is difficult. And introducing characters your readers connect with in the space of a few thousand (or hundred) words is nigh on impossible.

I’ve read many books over the years bursting with practical advice. I've studied many How-To guides. And I’ve written many, many rubbish shorts. But it's a craft I have worked hard to succeed in. For me, balance is key. In almost every aspect of a strong, gripping short story it must be spot on. Here are some of my suggestions for achieving that perfect balance.

1. Read widely. As with novel writing, read lots of different short story styles by lots of different authors, from classic to contemporary. Study winning entries of important short story competitions (Bridport, for example) See what constitutes a prize-winning story and how you can make your own idea equally as compelling.

2. Simple plots and complex characters. Remember the famous tip from V.S Pritchett : 'A short story should capture a character at bursting point." Character is everything in a short story, you don't have time or space for complex, meandering plots so you must rely on killer characters to drive the narrative.

3. Content. Because of word constraints you need to compress content to the basics. This is easier if you plan before you start. Know where you want your story to end, and work at achieving the story arc in as succinct, yet fulfilling, way as possible.

4. Conflict and Change. These are the drivers of your storyline, Make sure you contain equal levels of both. Without conflict you have no story. If you have no story your characters fail to grow or change, and the story stagnates and dies. Getting this balance right is crucial.

5. What, when, where, who. Tick as many boxes as you can in your planning before you start to write. Who is telling your story? What is your theme? When and where are you setting it?

6. Pace. With fewer words to play with, you need to perfect your pace. Too fast and the story will lack depth; too slow and you'll bore the reader and lose drive. Learn to be succinct. Learn the power of suggestion. Allow your reader to use their own imagination and never, ever, over write.

7. Dialogue. Let your characters have their own voice, keep authorial input to a minimum. Allow dialogue to establish character, progress the story. Believable dialogue is vital and can turn an average short into a prize winner.

8. POV. Getting your choice of POV right is one of the most important decisions when planning. I tend to write most short stories in first person, present tense. Not usually a conscious decision, maybe that it feels more direct and immediate. Instinctively, POV often chooses itself, and it's no bad advice to go with your gut instinct.

9. Strong opening, stronger close. It is vital you hit the ground running and grab the reader's attention from line one. You do not have the luxury of easing the reader into a short story. It has to be instant. And a good closing punch line should stay with the reader. The closing line of a short story should be the BEST line.

10. Try something different. Break the mould. Drop the clichés. Experiment with your short story. A unique, unexpected voice can be compelling, so try something new. Write crime novels? Then try erotic shorts. Always write historical? Give sci-fi a chance. Short story writing offers a whole new world of experiences to a writer.