#IWSG Writers as Readers @TheIWSG #amreading #amwriting

This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

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Every month there’s an optional question to discuss.

February 1 Question: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

I prefer reading to writing. I’ve said this before. I spend more hours reading than writing most of the time, except when I’m in the final stages of drafting, rereading and editing my latest novel, and I become almost exclusively obsessed with finishing it and doing nothing else.

I was/am a reader first.

I loved being just a reader, but that didn’t last very long. I soon started writing poems, short stories, anything to let my imagination fly and invent people, places and plots.

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However, at first, I didn’t take my writer’s life very seriously. It was just an enjoyable, almost secret, hobby, until I owned up to it and decided I was going to pursue my life long dream.

That was four years ago, in June 2013, when I decided I was going to write the sequel to Jane Eyre, by July, I realised I needed to write more than one novel, because the characters had so much to say and do, and the plot kept growing in several directions, so The Eyre Hall Trilogy was born and written over the next four years.

I didn’t feel like a ‘real’ writer immediately, but four years and three novels later, I shamelessly admit I’m an author. Not everybody likes what I write, and that’s fine, I don’t like everything I read either, but I’m an author. I can write, I enjoy writing, and many readers are reading my books, so I feel part of this wonderful profession. I also have many insecurities, which is why I’m part of this blog hop!

Going back to the original question, I still read a lot. I read and reviewed 19 novels in January, but I definitely do not read in the same way I read before.

I read more critically for two reasons, firstly to improve as a writer, and secondly to help other readers find books they might like.

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I never used to review books on social media before I started writing. I had the idea that reviews were written by experts only. Since I started writing, I review almost all of the books I read, because I’ve realised that anyone who reads a book can and should give an opinion to help other readers decide if it’s a book for them, and of course as an act of solidarity and support to other authors like myself.

I don’t review books I dislike. I don’t like to think I’m discouraging writers or pointing out negative aspects of their work publicly, which may be partial and subjective in any case. I carry this philosophy to the rest of my life. I’m a parent, a grandparent and a teacher, and I make an effort to point out people’s strong points, while I also encourage them to improve. I’ve never seen the point in being negative, and it generally builds an even more negative response.

Every single book I read teaches me something about writing, and it’s not always a positive lesson. It often shows me what I shouldn’t be doing and it helps me understand why.

For example, I’ve learned how important secondary characters are for the reader. I feel dissatisfied as a reader with books where the main characters are engaging and the rest of the characters are wooden. It’s like watching a film with only two good actors, the rest are extras reading their lines.

I’ve also learned that less is more. Trusting readers and enticing them to reach their own conclusions is more effective than spelling it all out constantly.

When I read a book I wish I’d written, that’s the greatest moment of all. I have a role model, someone to aspire to follow, and I don’t mean copy. Great books are an inspiration for readers and writers.

The books I wish I’d written are well-crafted, with tight and twisting plots, believable, engaging and varied characters, a moving story, and a pleasure to read, because the language flows easily, and it all comes together perfectly.

This is what happens in Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy, which I started reading last year, I’m in the middle of the final book in the trilogy, The Edge of Eternity right now, and loving every minute.

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I’m learning so much by reading these books and reading Ken Follett’s Masterclass on his webpage.

These are some other great books I read last year. Some extraordinary books I read in 2016 are reviewed here. 

So, do I read in the same way now as I did before I started writing professionally?

The answer is no, I don’t read in the same way since I’ve become a writer. I read more critically, and I enjoy it much more, because I try to squeeze out, every ounce of knowledge and craft the author I’m reading has learned.

What about you?

 

January Reviews: 19 Fabulous Novels #amreading #amreviewing

  • What Have I been reading and reviewing in January?

19 Books! I’ve had a wonderful January. I’m sure I have broken some kind of record; I’ve never read so many books in one month in my life, and I’ve enjoyed them all thoroughly. This may have been due to the fact that I’ve been in bed a good few days with the flu, and enjoyed many cosy evenings reading by the fireplace, whatever the reason, I feel very inspired!

I’ve experienced passion, adventure, crime, love, fear, terror, madness, heartbreak, loss, forgiveness, distress, happiness, and laughter. I’ve travelled to the Scottish Highlands, an idyllic Irish island, The English countryside and London, Maine, New York, Boston, US small towns, an enigmatic lake in US, the wilds of Alaska.

So, I’ve had plenty of fun!

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  • The books I didn’t review.

I’ve read and reviewed 19 books. I’ve also started many others, but didn’t get past the ‘look inside’ pages, because I didn’t enjoy reading, so I didn’t finish, and therefore didn’t review.

I don’t review the books I dislike, for two reasons:

1) I didn’t finish them, so it seems unfair, who knows if the book improved?  Perhaps I wasn’t in the mood for that type of book on that particular day?

2) I don’t like sending negative messages into the world. What’s the point?

You may say ‘to warn readers’. Readers can read blurbs and 10% of the book for free, so in less than five or ten minutes, they’ll know if they want to buy it or not.

I’m not on a crusade to save readers, they are perfectly capable of saving themselves!

My aim is to point out the positive aspects of the books I enjoy, hoping that others will enjoy them, too, and I’m also supporting other authors.

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  • Why do I read?

1- To Unwind. A cup of tea or glass of wine depending on the day, and a book I enjoy is a wonderful end to a busy or boring day.

2- To Learn. I read to observe how other writers write. I check out everything! From formal aspects such as the blurb, the acknowledgements, whether the chapters have names or numbers, or both, to linguistic and literary aspects such as the use of dialogue tags, adverbs, prologue or epilogue, characterisation, plot development. I usually highlight along the way, so I go back and have a look later. It’s easy to do with the kindle app.

3- To Research. I read to try to understand why I (and other readers) enjoy reading the books I/they read. What makes a book compelling? It’s like an assignment. The best way to learn to write is not necessarily to read books on writing, it’s to read books critically and with an observant and open mind. I’m not only reading, I’m also learning to write, which is an ongoing process. And believe me, every single page I read teaches me something about my own writing process.

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Going back to my reviews. There are far too many reviews to include in one post, so I’m going to be posting them over various days and weeks.

This is a peek of the reviews I’ll be posting:

The retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in the Scottish Highlands, two erotic romances, a disturbing tale of horror and madness, two romantic comedies, a sweet Christmas themed love story, a courtroom thriller, an Intense romantic trilogy set in Manhattan, an action packed romance set in Alaska, A disturbing psychological drama set in the UK, a contemporary family drama set in an American small town, A heartwarming love story of two families who have suffered loss through cancer, a romantic family drama set in Ireland, Crime fiction set in Maine, A historical romance set in Edwardian England, a sweet and humorous office romance, two thriller suspense novels.

Here are two of my favourite this month:

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I’m penning mostly shorter, more concise and quicker reviews, because I need more time for reading and my own writing, and I believe they’re more helpful to readers and authors.

In some cases, I’ll be including short author spotlights or interviews, with my review.

If you’re very impatient and want to read my reviews straight away, my reviews are all here on amazon 

They’re also posted to my Facebook page Lucy Shares Lovely Books, where I let readers know what I’m reading, what I’m reviewing, and news about book promotions.

What have you been reading in January?

My #Gapp_Week 11th July @Gapp_Week

G is for Gratitude.

This week I’m grateful for friendship. I’ve been so busy with life, work and publishing my third novel in the past few months that I had forgotten about the joys of spending a whole evening with one of my best friends, Marta, who is also a neighbor and colleague (she’s also an English teacher, but works in another school).

We walked the dog, chatted about life in general and how we felt, exchanged news about family, discussed work-related matters, had a beer and a salad, laughed, and generally had a smashing time!

When I got home, well after midnight, I felt exhilarated and grateful that I had a friend to cheer me up and make me feel valued, even though we hadn’t seen each other for months.

I also made a mental note not to do that again, and to call up other friends I never seem to have time to call.

Sorry we didn’t take any pictures, but I’m sure she’ll crop up again in my Gapp_Weeks, and I’ll make sure you all see what she looks like and how much we laugh when we’re together.

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A is for Achievements.

I’ve achieved order in my life. I’ve moved, tidied and organized my study. It was a daunting task, because for the last few months I’ve been piling papers and notes and stuff in general haphazardly, and it wasn’t doing me any good. I had my reasons, end of term, book release and promotion… But it had to stop and fortunately, it has.

According to Feng shui, clutter creates an obstruction and stops the flow of positive energy, so they say. I’m no expert, but I can tell you I feel amazingly pleased and satisfied with my tidiness, and I’m sure clearing the clutter (and there was literally bags of it) makes me feel at peace.

I’ve also been uncluttering other rooms in my house and the front garden, and I’m feeling much lighter, as in unburdened and with a clearer mind, so it’s obviously a good idea!

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        My new study’s looking neater than ever!

P: What I’m proud of doing for others.

I’ve written three overdue reviews for three very different books. We all know how wonderful it is to read a novel and how hard it is to write a ‘proper’ review, which says more than ‘I loved it’. There’s nothing wrong with a few words, but I always try to make my reviews longer and more informative which takes time and thought, but as we also know it’s invaluable for authors and very helpful for potential readers.

Here they are: There’s a link to my review on the covers.

A contemporary family drama:

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An erotic romance set in London.

A touching memoir.

I’ll be posting more about these books and the authors soon.

I just thought I’d remind you about another post I wrote about why writers should read all sorts of novels including those and out of their comfort zone.

I’ve done lots of ‘little’ favours such as helping colleagues with an exam, another with a CV, posting a promotional post for a fellow writer, supporting other authors on Lucy Shares Lovely Books, (A Facebook page I manage and use to promote other authors), and retweeting motivational tweets and other authors’ work. But as always, I’ve recieved much more back from so many nice people I interact with in the real and virtual world 🙂

P: My Plans for next week:

Only one, and it’s the same as last week’s: I need to finish proof-reading the print copy of my third novel… Here I am with the proof copy.

Lucy and Midsummer

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Do you want to join in?

RULES (short version, longer explanation above):

Few rules. Life has enough of them!

1- Tell us about your GAPP_Week.

  • What are you GRATEFUL for? Beautiful yet simple things which make life wonderful.
  • What have you ACHIEVED? Things that you’ve done for yourself .
  • What are you PROUD of? Things you’ve done for others.
  • What are your PLANS for next week? Doable and simple, realistic steps towards your goals.

2- Pingback to Lucy’s GAPP_Week weekly post on my blog.

3- Add #GAPP_Week to your post title.

If you like, you can:

  • Write four sentences, 400 words, or 4,000 words!
  • Add pictures.
  • Join in every week, or whenever you like.
  • Write your post on Monday, or any other day of the week.
  • Check out other posts.
  • Add the logo to your post or to your page (when it’s available. I’m working on that!)
  • Retweet as much as you like!

Are you joining in?

Any suggestions?

One-Star Reviews, Again… #IWSG

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This post was written as part of the IWSG monthly, first Wednesday of the month, posts.

All authors need reviews, preferably positive ones, but independent authors, like me, need them more than traditionally published authors.

I need reviews for reassurance and recognition.

I’m insecure, because no ‘big name’ agent or publisher has accepted my work, and I need ‘other’ readers and writers to believe in me, because I don’t write for myself, I write for others, so what others say means a lot to me.

I’ve already written a post about getting negative reviews here, so I won’t repeat myself, but what I will say is that readers are entitled to dislike my book. Some may not enjoy the plot, others may hate my characters, and some more may cringe at my writing style. I have to live with that. I can live with that.

I have 2 one-star reviews for book 1, All Hallows at Eyre Hall. I’m not happy with either of them, but I understand that once an artist’s work is released to the world, it belongs to the audience, readers, or viewers, etc., and they can say what they like.

I do find consolation in my 34 4 and 5 star reviews, and the knowledge that bad reviews happen to everyone, including classic authors such as Henry Miller, Margaret Atwood, Ernest Hemingway, Vonnegut, Margaret Mitchel, and a few more, read on… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/23/bad-reviews-classics_n_6527638.html

But what happens when you get a one star review because the reader wanted a paperback and discovers she’s bought an ebook? And instead of returning it to amazon, she asks you, the author to return it?

I know authors aren’t supposed to reply, but I did. I told her how to get a refund from Amazon. If she does get the refund, which I’ll never know, what happens to the review? Will anyone (the reader /amazon) bother to remove it? Can you ask Amazon to remove it? Will they remove it?

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Probably not. The chances are a bad review will stick with you forever.

The only way to counteract one-star reviews is by getting honest positive reviews.

Sometimes people read your novel, enjoy it, they even tell you they liked it, but there’s no review. Readers are reading hundreds of my pages on KDP (I know because Amazon informs authors every day of the pages readers are reading, and we get paid accordingly), and I’m selling a few copies almost every day. So, why don’t readers write reviews?

I often ask ‘readers’ about this, and they’re usually either unused to writing reviews, or worried about writing an ‘unprofessional’ review. If they knew how much it meant to the author, just to write a few words of praise, I’m sure they’d all write reviews.

I tell everyone I know to write reviews of everything they read, but many of them, who are avid readers, have never written a public review.

I’m sure everyone who reads this post writes reviews, but how can we convince everyone who reads to write a review? Any ideas?

Check out what other insecure writers are saying here.

Letter E The April A to Z Blogging Challenge #AtoZChallenge

 April Author Spotlight 2015

Letter ‘E’ is for Frances Evesham author of An Independent Woman

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Why do I recommend An Independent Woman?

An Independent Woman is an entertaining, moving, and exciting, historical romance. The novel is beautifully written with prose that flows smoothly, enticing the reader to turn the pages. There are just enough descriptive elements to submerge the reader comfortably in Victorian England, moving effortlessly from foggy, filthy London to the tranquil countryside. I loved the first chapters, when the heroine was disguised as a young boy in order to escape from London. We are also introduced to other mysterious, demanding, frivolous, and villainous characters, in a gothic mansion with a life of its own, Thatcham Hall. You will enjoy this novel if you are interested in Victorian England, wrapped up in an enjoyable parcel of mystery, action, and romance.

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What’s your novel about, Frances?

An Independent Woman is the tale of Philomena; a determined orphan from the slums of Victorian London, with a habit of tumbling from one disastrous plan to another, haunted by terrifying dreams of a man with cold green eyes. Impatient with the social conventions she encounters in the great English country house, Thatcham Hall, she meets and crosses swords with the handsome, widowed Lord Thatcham, complicating life still further by falling for a man with secrets of his own.

When I write, I imagine I’m sitting beside a roaring fire with a glass of wine, swapping stories with someone who, like me, loves the intrigue of Agatha Christie or Ngaio Marsh, the period feel of Georgette Heyer and the tension of Victoria Holt. We enjoy Midsomer Murders and never miss a moment of Downton Abbey.

What are you working on now?

The second book in the Thatcham Hall series is Danger at Thatcham Hall, a murder mystery, due for publication later this year.

Set three years after An Independent Woman, the story introduces Nelson, an embittered ex-soldier and lawyer and Olivia, a poor relation of Lord Thatcham, who dreads life as a Victorian governess and longs to make an unconventional living as a pianist and composer.

Together, they stumble on a body. Is the farmhand’s death a simple accident, or something more sinister? Who attacked the livestock at the Hall and why are the villagers so reluctant to talk? Can Nelson and Olivia overcome their differences and join forces to unravel the web of evil that imperils the Hall?

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 What would you like readers to know about you?

I write 19th Century historical mystery romances set in Victorian England, enjoy my growing collection of grandsons (number four due soon) and wish I’d kept on with those piano lessons.

I collect Victorian ancestors and historical trivia, love to smell roses, lavender and rosemary, and cook, with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other.

I’ve been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend, a road sweeper and an intermediary in the criminal courts. Now, when I can tear myself away from the Victorian world of Thatcham Hall, I like to walk in the countryside and breathe sea air in Somerset.

How can we find out more or contact you?

My Website/blog

Twitter

Facebook:

Amazon Author page:

An Independent Woman: Amazon UK  and Amazon US

The Wild Rose Press:

 

I first read and reviewed this wonderful novel some months ago as part of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team. Check out Rosie’s wonderful blog to find reviews, readers, writers, and much more!

Rosie is also taking part in the A-Z Challenge with great posts on main characters of the books she’s read.

Please take some time to check out some of the other blogs on the A-Z Challenge. There are plenty of interesting and varied topics.

 

 

A-Z April Blogging Challenge: Theme Reveal!

This year, for the first time, I’ll be taking part in the A-Z April Blogging Challenge.

My theme is going to be: Author Spotlight April 2015.

I’ll be including one author per day, whose name or surname starts with (or exceptionally includes), the corresponding letter for the April Challenge.

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Authors will all have a few things in common:

  • They will all be authors whose books I’ve read and enjoyed.
  • They publish independently or with small publishing houses.
  • They’ve started publishing on kindle in the last few years.
  • Many (not all) are debut novels.
  • Their books are on kindle.
  • They agree to being featured.

I want to keep the posts to as close to 600 words as possible, firstly because we’re all busy, and we all want to read as many blogs as possible, so the shorter they are, the more we can read. Secondly because as a result of taking part in Flash Fiction Challenges, I’ve learned (and try hard to apply!) that less is more (Please read my post about what I’ve learned from Flash Fiction) .

Each post will feature a short (150 word) review of their book by me, telling you why I loved it, and the answers to three questions I’ve asked the authors in (under 150 words each).

The post will also include:

  • One of their book covers and one author picture.
  • Links to their Amazon and social network pages.
  • The three questions they’ll be answering are:

Question 1. Pitch your novel. Why should a reader download your book, bearing in mind all those on offer? How is your book different? Engaging? What kind of readers will enjoy it?

Question 2. What are you working on now or what would you like to write about next? Have you started another book? Are you writing anything now? What type of novel is it? Is it different to your previous one, or is it a continuation or part of a series?

Question 3. What would you like readers to know about you?

As most of you know, although I’m a writer, I much prefer reading to writing, as I’ve explained in a previous post, so I’m really excited about being able to tell you about the books I’ve enjoyed this last year, and introducing you to all the wonderful authors 🙂

I love reading, so I love authors: the people who take the time and make the effort to write books for us to read.

On the other hand, it’s not easy connecting with readers, and there are literally millions of books available to be read, so any exposure which allows readers to connect with authors and books they might enjoy is a welcome thing.

I know it’s a very ambitious, but I already have my list of authors, and I’m in the process of contacting them. Many have replied already, so I’m all set, and you?

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My eldest grandson, Alejandro.

 

I enjoy all sorts of books, but there will be mainly historical and contemporary romance, drama, and comedy, as well as thrillers, mystery, and crime fiction, and some literary fiction, too.

Hope you have time to drop by and have a look at the amazing authors who’ll be joining me!

I’ll also be having a look at as many other blogs taking part in the challenge as possible.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other blogs taking part or sign up and join in yourself, there’s still time!

How to write a useful #book #review

Anyone who reads a book can and should write a review, no guidelines are necessary. However, the following suggestions are meant for readers and writers who wish to review more professionally by offering a more reflective and critical response to their reading to other potential readers.

The suggestions in this post should be read alongside a previous article posted last week: What do readers need to know? 10-Point Guidelines for Reviewers’

  • Choose a book.

Sounds simple, but it isn’t. Although we should all read outside our comfort zone and explore all types of books, if you are planning to write a thorough review, it’s advisable to choose a book you’re comfortable with carrying out an in-depth reading. Don’t torture yourself!

Three simple things will help you decide:

  1. Check the blurb.
  2. Read the first pages.
  3. Read other reviews.
  • Read the book.

Sounds simple, too, but again it isn’t. Remember you’re reading in order to write a review, not only for pleasure. You will need to concentrate more, and look out for salient and specific features.

Read the guidelines I posted last week first.

If you make notes as you go (highlight the text, or write brief notes) it will save you time later. Include superficial aspects such as names and events, and more complex aspects such as your feelings and reactions to what you are reading.

It’s advisable to finish reading as soon as possible, preferably within days, although you may need to read the whole book, or parts, again.

  • Write the review.

This is the most complex part of the process, but if you have taken enough notes as you read, and write it soon after reading, it will not take too long.

Use your notes to write up your review.

Check the guidelines to make sure you have all the aspects covered.

You may now realize that there is important information you have not checked, go back and do so.

You may discover that there are other aspects not mentioned in the guidelines which you’d like to incorporate, do so.

Be honest, respectful and constructive. There may be aspects you did not like, or considered inappropriate, by all means say so, and even offer suggestions, but there is no need to be offensive.

Write the review as soon as possible after reading, and let it rest at least a few hours, if possible a day or two.

Go back and edit, rethink, recheck notes, and prepare the final version.

All reviews are useful, but if they are too short, their usefulness is limited, on the other hand, if they are too long, many potential readers will only read the first lines, or skip them altogether. Between about 50 and 250 words would be sufficient information for a potential reader.

Reviews should be as clear and concise as possible to help the reader make their choice as to whether it’s a book they will enjoy, or not.

  • Publish the review.

Publish your review in as many places as possible including the online platform where it is sold, such as Amazon, other social networks for readers and reviewers, such as Goodreads, on your blog, inform other bloggers, link or post your review to Twitter, Facebook, and any other social media you use.

The more places it is published the more useful it will be to a greater number of readers.

Inform the author.

Never before have readers been able to contact writers directly. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to tell them what you think about their work. Most authors love to know what my readers think.

I hope this post. together with last weeks’ Guidelines, help you plan and carry out your own reviews. It has helped me sort out my own thoughts on this matter, but I’d love to read your opinions on the subject.

I’ll be sharing this tomorrow on #MondayBlogs, on Twitter. Post from your blog and retweet others!

PS. There’s a brand new hashtag all about books and book reviews: #TuesdayBookBlog join in and share your reviews and views on reviewing!