So, how is your book selling?

I get asked this question often nowadays. After all the excitement of publication and launch, that period when I learnt to bring up the subject of “My Book” at the slightest provocation, however tenuous, things have got back to normal.

This means that everyone knows I have a book out, so they ask me how it’s doing – I DON’T KNOW! I have access to a graph that tells me my Amazon Bestseller Rank, which is not worth talking about, although last Thursday the Kindle edition leapt 1,045,242 places to 56,989th. Did it mean someone had bought a copy, several people had bought copies, or a million people hadn’t bought anything else? Who knows?

The next question is: “How are you getting on with the next book?” I can answer that question, bore the questioner to tears with the ups and downs of book two and three. But a recent question got me thinking. “Do you get your current book muddled up with the first one?” The simple answer is: “Of course not”. I suspect that any writer, or even a reader would say the same. My questioner was neither, one of those “I sometimes read a book on holiday.” people.

I am no expert, with just one book under my belt, but I have found that when a book is finished, it is in the past. Yes, I may look back to check someone’s name, or the colour of someone’s hair, but confuse the plot? I don’t think so.

I have said, many times, I am not a planner, but I know the basic outline of what I want to write. It starts with one scene, what happens after that, what has to happen to reach that scene. I imagine each scene. Where is it? When is it? Which characters are there? I make adjustments, look at it again. Nothing is written down, all this happens in my brain, like watching a favourite film, over and over, until I know every word, every gesture. Eventually it becomes so big, so important, that it is impossible to think of anything else. It has to be released, like a balloon inflated to the point of explosion, a river backed up behind a dam.

So I write it down. The floodgate is opened. The pressure is released, the balloon empties. And my brain stands ready for the next “big scene”.

Not all writing is like this. Most of it is the hard slog from one scene to the next, but still I have to work out what is coming next, even if that is just a journey from  here to there, how far, what’s the weather like. It usually crystallizes overnight, so I am ready for the next session. I have discovered that it is good to have these decisions already made I stop writing. Sometimes it goes wrong.

Last week it happened. It was a good week for writing, not much else on. On Friday I wrote over 2,000 words. I had reached my weekly 7k target (bar 5 words) with a day to go. I had nothing else to do on Saturday, I was on a winning streak! Saturday came, I sat down at the computer. Nothing. What came next? I knew where I was heading, but not how to get there. In my mammoth session of Friday, I had passed the point of what I had planned. I was lost. I eventually worked out that I was bored, and if I was bored my reader would be bored as well. I needed to cut the scene at that point and jump ahead, but where to? I couldn’t decide – my brain was empty – I needed to work it out!

Then I remembered, the book has two threads. It was time to switch to the other story – a different character, a different point of view. I hadn’t thought through this scene, but I knew roughly what was to happen. Two people started to talk, another joined the conversation. I reached 600 words, I knew what would happen next, so I stopped to watch the Boat Race – Cambridge won, easily. It had been a good day.

Sunday, of course was a beautiful spring day, spent in the garden, removing dead foliage and clearing brambles. Gradually my brain started filling again and on Monday I sat down and wrote 1300 words.

And the plot line I abandoned? I know where I will pick it up again – when it’s ready.

Spring Garden – Distraction or Inspiration?

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More about covers

Another book launch! Nothing for years, then two come along at (nearly) the same time.

For those few who have read Bright Sword and said they want to read the next in the series, I’m afraid this book isn’t it. But please, if you liked it, could I ask you to post a review? Here.

By coincidence, this book also has an orange cover and has a long thin pointy object on the front. It is the latest in a series of booklets on the history of Rugby, published by the Rugby Local History Research Group. In fact this is the tenth in the series – the first was published in 1975. They are all regularly reprinted and all are available locally. They are not on-line (Actually a couple are listed, but not available.)

The books are about 70 pages and contain articles written by members of the Group. It is a very small group, which is why it tales so long to produce the books. We have done books on Rugby in the Victorian period, during ww1 and ww2 and the 2oth century. But mostly they contain a variety of subjects – whatever the member finds interesting. Memories of childhood, a local industry or some incident that has caught the eye in the local newspaper.

The articles are passed around for comment/editing and collected together,  they are proof read, a few pictures are added to fill any awkward gaps and sent to a local printer, together with the cover design.

How do we design the cover?

Each book is a different colour, depending on what card the printer has available. This time the only colours we haven’t already used were orange and a bright pink. Everyone preferred orange, the next will have to be pink! Sometimes we have a big argument on what picture to use – everyone wants a picture from their own article. Only a few are suitable as it has to make a distinctive silhouette. Why not have a “proper” picture? Because it’s always been done this way! For this book, there was an article about the R.C. Church of St Maries, in Rugby. Someone had a decent photograph, no problems with copyright and no one objected. It was turned into a silhouette, and the title was added. Job done.

It was all free – unless you count the time taken by the poor person who has to do all this – me!

Compare it with the cover for Bright Sword. I employed a proper designer. I made a few suggestions, she produced samples. We discussed them and I made a final decision. Minor changes were later made by the publisher, but that was it. No other “authors” to fight it out with. Price – a lot more, but you get what you pay for.

In the end, the Aspects of Rugby book was all done in a rush, because I was giving a talk in the library and we wanted to use it to launch the book. The talk was “Rugby: Development of a Town”. It was part of the BBC Civilisations Festival – we might have got a few more people if the Library had thought to put that on the posters, or put said posters somewhere people could see them! No Anglo-Saxon Warriors this time. Just me and a projector, although Anglo-Saxons were mentioned (was it founded by them or was it earlier?). I didn’t have the courage to mention “my” book. But we did sell a few copies of “our” book. In fact I think we sold more copies on the day, than I did, probably because it was cheaper.

If you are interested in the book, there are details on the website. Or there would be, but it doesn’t seem to be working at the moment. And guess who has to fix that?

Not surprising I find it difficult to find time to write. Around 6,500 words written. sounds good, but that’s over two weeks. I managed over 2,000 on one day, so I can do it when I try – and don’t have anything else to do!

Let’s talk about the Weather!

There’s been a lot of weather to talk about recently and since I couldn’t think of anything else to write this week – it has to be the weather.

Garden under snow – view from back window.

We’ve had some snow, did anyone notice? Even better, did anyone not notice? You couldn’t get away from it – not just the variable white layer outside the door – it was everywhere; Twitter, Facebook, Television, Radio. All the usual stories of cars stuck on the motorway and reporters standing beside artistic drifts, describing how deep, cold, long it was compared with the last time it happened. Then there were the films of dogs doing funny things in it and cats staring out windows at it – I’m not a fan of cats, but they seem quite sensible about that sort of thing.

I have memories of earlier bad winters. I have been told about my mother’s chilblains in ’47. I remember having a bike for Christmas in ’63 and not being able to ride it until nearly Easter. I even remember a white Christmas – was it ’81?

This disaster/Beast from the East lasted three days, or was it four? Then it thawed and the water pressure went down slightly – we knew it did because Seven-Trent kept ringing us up to tell us so. They started handing out bottled water in Tesco Car Park. It was on the News!

How did I survive? To be fair, we didn’t have it that bad. All the main roads had been gritted and, once we ventured out, they were clear. We live on a hill – not a big hill, but it faces north and isn’t important enough to be gritted. If it snows we can usually get out, but coming back up is sometimes difficult.

Everyone was screaming, “Don’t go out unless your journey is necessary”. What is necessary? A Local History Group Meeting? I’m leader – what would they do without me? Writing Class? I wanted to go, but was it still running? I risked the hill and it was, although only half the usual people were there. The car slid a bit coming up the hill, so I decided I didn’t really need to go to Sainsburys (I sent the husband out to the local Coop, with a team of huskies, to fetch bread and milk.)

How did people survive before we all became so civilised? Did they open the door one winter morning, encounter a snow drift and task, “Will the horse make it up the hill to that meeting I don’t really need to go to?” No they slammed the door and broke out the mead (hoping, of course that there was enough wood to keep the fire going!). Yes, some people probably did die of cold, but at least it was expected. Winter tends to be cold and sometimes it snows. Good, lets sit around and tell stories; make beautiful poems about winter. Read some here.

I think that nowadays we are insulated (well insulated?) from the changing seasons. We expect to do whatever we want, whenever we want to. Eat anything, whether it is in season or not; strawberries in mid-winter, apples in spring (did you know there are still plenty of British apples in the shops at the moment?), Ice-cream in summer. Would we appreciate them more if, just occasionally, we couldn’t have them whenever we want? No, there’d be a riot, someone would set up a petition!

At least the weather gave me an excuse to stay indoors and write.

I managed 5,205 words last week. It was hard work, and it’s absolute rubbish – most of it was about the weather.