Wednesday, 29 May 2019

The Faux Pas or How To make Yourself Unpopular In A Few Easy Steps By Helen Hollick

Today, I have Helen Hollick, one of the kindest authors on the planet, sitting round my pool talking about, the faux pas or how to make yourself unpopular in a few easy steps or, in other words, how an author should not do things… So please help yourself to a glass of bubbly and make yourself comfortable and enjoy meeting my lovely guest.

I’ve been writing professionally for over twenty-six years, so there’s a lot of mileage behind my novels (and three non-fiction books). I started out in 1993 with the first part of my Arthurian Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy (The Kingmaking). Back then, the Internet was still barely used, emails were rare and Social Media had yet to be invented. There was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., the first mass-used site was MySpace (anyone remember that?)
Add to that, there was no Amazon! (I know, incredible isn’t it?)

So when The Kingmaking was launched I had to rely on the publisher’s marketing department. Alas, for book two (Pendragon’s Banner) and book three (Shadow of the King) the efforts by this department was abysmal. The trilogy didn’t sell well. Bookshops were not interested because there was no interest in books that no one knew about. My fourth novel, Harold the King did better – because I had a few weeks of good marketing by an enthusiastic young lady. The next book flopped: it received no marketing at all. Soon after, I was dropped.

Determined not to be beaten I republished as an ‘indie’ writer. I also produced my nautical pirate adventures, the Sea Witch Voyages. (Which have now been picked up by a US traditional publisher.)

The one big lesson I learnt is for your books to do well you have to do your own marketing. That means tactfully shoving yourself to the fore so that avid readers know you – and your books – are ‘out there’. Make full and effective use of Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Blogs… You don’t like these things? Fine, you do not have to use them - but don’t expect to sell many books. You’ll not do very well, either, if you become an overkill bore. Constant Tweets or mentions here, there and everywhere of ‘Read my book’, ‘buy my book’, ‘ look at this wonderful review about my book’ etc will lose you followers and potentially interested readers faster than Alan Sugar can sack someone from The Apprentice.

Instead, make yourself interesting: write articles about things (other books, events, history… steer clear of politics and religion, though.)  Comment as much as you can (nicely) on other author’s blog articles  Take an interest in others, and others will take an interest in you.

Reviews: good reviews (and this includes 4 star comments on Amazon, Goodreads and such) are useful, particularly if your book collects one of the prestigious ‘stamps of approval’ from sites like Pauline’s Chill With A Book, Indie BRAG and my own Discovering Diamonds. But don’t twist the arms of your friends and family to leave glowing 5 star reviews on Amazon: they can be easily spotted as ‘put up jobs’. Genuine 4 stars mean much more than slightly dodgy 5s. (Of course, genuine 5 stars mean even more!)

What if a review is less than glowing? The old saying ‘if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen’ is the answer to that one. Smile, if appropriate say a polite thank you and move on. Sh*t happens.

Ah, but what if the reviewer has made some errors? Spelt the lead character’s name wrong, for instance, or put the book as romance when it is actually a thriller? Simple: politely email whoever posted the review, say thank you and ask politely (yes, I used the word twice, deliberately) ‘is it possible to correct a couple of errors that have slipped in? I would be so grateful.’ As far as my own Discovering Diamonds is concerned, yes, I and my team do get things wrong, but I am more than happy to correct inadvertent mix-ups – providing the author is courteous and polite. A rude rant directed at me will, I guarantee, get a result… the review will be deleted from #DDRevs, ditto the comment posted on Amazon UK and .com, and Goodreads. The link to the book deleted from Facebook and Twitter. If that was the only comment you had received on Amazon – too bad, it’s gone.

Blog tours, which are virtual on-line tours hosted by a variety of bloggers, and usually spanning a few days, a week, or even longer, are a fabulous way to get noticed. You can organise these yourself (it’s hard work, mind) or pay one of the many companies to find suitable hosts. But again, there are buts. Big Buts.

You have a list of interested bloggers who will be delighted to post something for you about your book on their blog; maybe they will simply post a review, or just give details, but quite often they will want a guest article. Something about you, your book, how, why you wrote it. Who the characters are, what genre is it, blah blah. This means writing articles. A different article for each host.

And this also means getting said article delivered in plenty of time (at least two weeks before a scheduled date, although four would be preferable). It means following up when the post ‘goes live’ by thanking the host, keeping an eye on whether anyone has left a comment for you, linking the day’s article to your Facebook/Twitter/Whatever page. In a nutshell: a lot of work that is your responsibility to undertake.

So to sum up with some dos and don’ts:

·       Review sites are just that – review sites. Most will post an honest review of your book for the benefit of potential readers. Review sites are not there as an author’s ego-stroking service!
·       Being rude to a reviewer or blog host is the quickest way to get deleted and probably blocked.
·       Mistakes happen. Don’t whinge.
·       Overegging the pudding about you and your book puts potential readers off
·       Not submitting a promised article in plenty of time doesn’t go down well
·       Not submitting it at all means you won’t get a second chance
·       No marketing may mean no sales

·       Be polite at ALL times, even if you’re spitting feathers! 
·       Add nice comments to blog posts, or at least click ‘like’ – if you bother to respond to bloggers or other authors they will (should!) respond to you.
·       If you are invited to submit an article, submit it in good time and always follow up.
·       If taking part in a book tour alongside other authors – promote them in addition to, in fact more than, yourself. Just turning up for your part in the tour will probably result in not being asked back a second time.
·       Retweet. Share. Promote others more than you promote yourself. Honest, it works!
·       Did I mention? Be polite at all times. No one, especially potential hosts who may participate in helping you promote your book, will tolerate  a rude or ranting email .
·       Rudeness results in being rubbed out.

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Amazon Author Page (Universal Link)
Twitter: @HelenHollick
Discovering Diamonds Historical Fiction Review Blog (submissions welcome)

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Make Over for my Web Site

This last week my web site has had a make over and now looks fresh and interesting, but what do you think? 

Until next time, take care and I hope the sun is shining on your face and in your heart.

Pauline x 

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Art Crimes as Inspiration for a Thriller - Marked for Revenge by Jennifer S. Alderson

Today, I have the lovely Jennifer Alderson sitting round my pool talking about her latest book, Marked for Revenge. If you have not read Jennifer’s art crime series, then do take a look at them. Jennifer weaves a wonderful story that threads through the dark side of art collection and the ruthlessness of acquiring valuable artifacts by theft at best and evilness at worst. So please help yourself to a glass of bubbly, settle on a comfortable recliner and meet my lovely guest. 

When you think about art crimes, I bet the image that pops into your head is of a suave, refined thief in a tuxedo slipping in and out of a well-guarded museum without being detected.

In many ways, art crimes are glorified in films and television shows. Classics such as The Thomas Crown Affair, the Ocean Eleven series, and Entrapment, as well as new shows on subscriber channels such as NetFlix and Videoland, portray art thieves as sophisticated gentleman robbers who are more interested in outsmarting the police and museum security than keeping the artwork for themselves.

These representations are worlds away from the real-life criminal masterminds behind most art thefts. These aren’t art lovers or smooth criminals, but members of underworld organizations who couldn’t care less about the artist’s skills, painting technique, or importance to art history.

Clervaux Castle in Luxembourg.
According to Interpol, the majority of paintings and sculptures stolen from private homes and museums in Western Europe make their way to Eastern Europe, where they are further handled. These pieces are resold to louche dealers who sell it on to unsuspecting clients, are sometimes forged and resold as two originals, or used as a down payment for a drugs or arms deal.

Ironically, the skyrocketing value of modern art in the 1990s is to blame. When record-breaking auction sales of Picassos, Van Goghs, Monets, Warhols, and the like began making international news, criminal organizations took note. Quite soon the same kinds of paintings earning millions at auction were being stolen from European and American museums.

Marmaris Castle in Turkey.
As a mystery author passionate about art history, using this connection between the Eastern European criminal underworld and Western art museums as the basis for my latest novel, Marked for Revenge, was an obvious choice.

While writing this thriller about forgeries, museum thefts, and organized crime, I didn’t have trouble finding real world examples from which to draw inspiration for my characters. When searching for underworld organizations specializing in art crimes, I discovered several known gangs existed. Scary gangs with silly names such as Group Amerika and Arkan’s Tigers topped my newspaper and internet searches.

Canal in Venice, Italy.
One stood out among the rest – a gang Interpol has dubbed the ‘Balkan Bandits’ and ‘Pink Panthers’. Why two names? The first is because Interpol suspects most of the criminals in this network are based out of Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Hertzegotava. The group earned the second name after they successfully executed a robbery they copied from a Pink Panther film.
Interpol suspects this ring of jewel, art and antiquities thieves of committing more than two-hundred audacious crimes during which they stole around four-hundred million euros worth of jewels, antiques, and artwork from private homes, museums, galleries, and monuments spread across Europe. And when I say audacious, I mean it. Think speed boats, hang gliders, helicopters, rappelling, and the like.

Interpol believes Pink Panther’s network consists of twenty to thirty experienced thieves, with facilitators in various cities providing logistical assistance. Other sources estimate there are up to two-hundred and fifty members active in this criminal organization. Who exactly these criminals work for – and whether the Balkan Bandits is really one or several of the crime families based in the Balkans – is still a mystery.

This group provided the perfect example of how Robber Hood, my fictional gang of art thieves, would operate.

As long as artwork fetches millions, art crimes will be big business. As an art lover, I am saddened by this situation. As a mystery author, these kinds of thefts provide endless inspiration for future, art-related mysteries.

Marked for Revenge: An Art Heist Thriller

An adrenaline-fueled adventure set in the Netherlands, Croatia, Italy, and Turkey about stolen art, the mafia, and a father’s vengeance.

When researcher Zelda Richardson begins working at a local museum, she doesn’t expect to get entangled with an art theft, knocked unconscious by a forger, threatened by the mob, or stalked by drug dealers.

To make matters worse, a Croatian gangster is convinced Zelda knows where a cache of recently pilfered paintings is. She must track down an international gang of art thieves and recover the stolen artwork in order to save those she loves most.

The trouble is, Zelda doesn’t know where to look. Teaming up with art detective Vincent de Graaf may be her only hope at salvation.

The trail of clues leads Zelda and Vincent on a pulse-pounding race across Europe to a dramatic showdown in Turkey that may cost them their lives.

Available for purchase as eBook and paperback on Amazon:

About the Author

Zelda’s home in Amsterdam, a monumental building named Het Sieraad.

Jennifer S. Alderson was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle, and currently lives in Amsterdam. After traveling extensively around Asia, Oceania, and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands. Jennifer’s love of travel, art, and culture inspires her award-winning, internationally oriented mystery series—the Zelda Richardson Mystery Series—and standalone stories. Her background in journalism, multimedia development, and art history enriches her novels. When not writing, she can be found in a museum, biking around Amsterdam, or enjoying a coffee along the canal while planning her next research trip.

Social media link:

Monday, 13 May 2019

A True Story - Running Kind by Christine Stovell

Am I the running kind? I'm not sure, but I would like to think I am. I started running around five years ago at the tender age of sixty. I’m not, yet, into marathons or even half marathons, though I would like to think, one day, I could run the London Marathon. So far I have ran in several 10km races. My PB in a race was 1 hour 13 seconds. I think this will remain my PB for a very long time…! Today I am honoured to have the lovely Christine Stovell sitting round my pool talking about how slipping on a pair of trainers changed her life. Her latest book, Running Kind, is a true story, and at times, an emotional one, but more importantly it is an inspirational story for everyone and demonstrates no matter what life throws at you, you can find a way back. So please make yourself comfortable, help yourself to a glass of bubbly and meet my wonderful guest, Christine

I know I’ve said it before and I’ll definitely say it again, but the biggest favour I ever did myself was to become a runner. That’s the reason why I try to encourage other people to become the running kind.

I was at my absolute rock bottom when I attempted my first run… I’d like to say everything changed at that point, but, sadly, that first run was a complete disaster! I never lost the feeling though that I could become the running kind and when a friend inspired me to join a women’s running club, The Epsom Allsorts Ladies Running Club, I gradually grew in confidence and rediscovered my self-esteem. The club brought me laughter, friendship, joy and instilled a love of running which, over twenty years, has taken me from running scared to running half marathons. Running has carried me through some of the most difficult moments of my life and enhanced the happiest times.

It’s not just me though; when a parkrun was set up in my part of West Wales, I joined in and became part of the growing parkrun movement. These free, weekly 5k timed runs are open to everyone. People of all abilities are encouraged to take part; you can walk, run at whatever pace suits you or help out by volunteering for any of the tasks which make a parkrun event possible. It’s an absolute joy to watch people who certainly don’t think of themselves as runners, blossoming, growing and becoming more confident every week - their smiles say it all.

That’s all very well, you might say, but what if I don’t have a parkrun or can’t get to it? There were no parkruns when I started running, I gradually found my own feet, and that’s part of the reason I decided to write, Running Kind. By sharing my very personal story of my enduring love affair with running, I’m hoping to encourage others to lace up their trainers and give it go. My message is that running really doesn’t have to hurt; listen to your body, run when you can and when you want to and discover what works for you - all you have to do is take one step, and then a second.

Christine Stovell didn’t think she was the running kind. Running, she believed, was for elite athletes and hardcore fitness freaks. Then, after causing a local scandal, she found herself hiding in her parents’ loft with her two young daughters and decided to try running as a means of escape. That attempt ended so painfully it was four years before she felt brave enough to try another run.

Christine's story takes her from running scared to running half marathons. In twenty years, she’s run through sad, bad and good times and dealt with everything from territorial pheasants to scary loos. 
Above all, she’s discovered not only that running doesn’t have to hurt, but that it has a great capacity to heal

If you’ve ever been tempted to try running but think it isn’t for you, Christine’s experience might just convince you that you too can become the running kind.

About the author: Christine Stovell
Setting sail, with her husband, from a sleepy seaside resort in a vintage wooden boat provided Christine Stovell with the inspiration for her ‘Little Spitmarsh’ series of novels, but never cured her seasickness although she continues to sail.

Christine lives on the beautiful west Wales coast where long-distance running helps her plan her plots and inspired her to write her running guide, 'Running Kind'. Half marathons, she thinks, especially when the going gets tough, are like the writing process; both begin with small steps.

Here is the link to buy your Kindle copy...

As well as writing long and short contemporary fiction and poetry, Christine has written features for various magazines and is a regular contributor to The English Home magazine.
Twitter: @chrisstovell

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Saturday Poster

Whilst I'm working on the edits of my latest book, The Birthday Card, I thought it would be great to share some of the posters I've created for my other six books. 

This week I'm showing off a video which I hope will bring out the sunshine... shades on!

Until next time, take care and I hope the sun is shining on your face and in your heart.

Pauline x