Bookish reflections

Hello!

Some of you may recall my previous blog post where I mentioned I was due to attend the Althorp Literary Festival this year, as a panellist on independent publishing as well as crime fiction writing. I am always very happy to participate in events like these because it is an opportunity to share my experience and hopefully inspire others to grasp at the opportunities now available in the world of publishing, following what we might call the ‘Digital Revolution.’ Althorp is a lovely place, very serene and beautiful, and I was blessed with some very fine company in the form of the Amazon KDP team in the UK and some other authors who have published independently through their platform (including Mark Dawson, Mel Sherratt and Dave Leadbeater), as well as catching up with Louise Jensen, who was a fellow panellist in a discussion about crime fiction writing and the road to becoming a bestselling author. It was lovely to be invited to an author’s dinner and an overnight stay at Althorp as a guest of the Spencer family, and it was kind of them to open their home and extend their hospitality.

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L – R: Mel Sherratt, Dave Leadbeater and LJ Ross 

There were plenty of interesting questions during the festival and it was great to meet some readers who had travelled to meet us, which was very kind! It’s lovely to hear from people who have enjoyed my books and it spurs me to complete my current ‘Work in Progress’ – thanks to all of you! It was also really helpful to share our different writing journeys to convey the fact that there is no ‘one size fits all’ and everybody has a chance to make their mark.

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With lovely Louise Jensen, chatting about crime

That’s what makes it such an exciting time to be an author nowadays. There are so many different options about how to publish your work and have your stories discovered by readers. Similarly, from the reader’s perspective, there has never been more breadth of choice available or mediums through which to read. For example, my mother suffers from glaucoma and, though she enjoys thumbing through her favourite copies of Daphne du Maurier, she also enjoys the convenience and accessibility of an e-reader. Whether an author chooses to go independent or to rely on a publisher to help them, the fundamentals are the same: we share a love of reading and of books. It is really that simple.

One of the themes that often comes up when I am giving a talk or participating in a panel discussion is what advice I would offer to aspiring authors. What have I learned in my (almost) three years in the business?

Well, here are a few general thoughts…

  1. Have a bit of self-belief

Working in creative industries can entail no small degree of self-consciousness. The very act of creating something brand new and then releasing it into the wider world for people to read and dissect is very nerve-wracking. I am a jibbering stress-ball of worry whenever I release a new book and it makes no difference that I’ve released six best-sellers previously. In fact, it creates an even greater sense of responsibility not to disappoint my readers and the fear of letting people down can be crippling.

That said, I try to remember that we can only be ourselves and that is the best any of us can be. As an author, I’ve been very fortunate to have a kind readership and thousands of lovely reviews, e-mails and positive feedback. However, it is impossible to please everyone and therefore it’s essential to adopt a realistic approach and try not to take it personally when people do not enjoy your work or, worse still, when they cross the street to send an unkind message informing you of the fact. Not everyone was taught rudimentary good manners, after all.

  1. Be your own boss

The publishing world is vast and sometimes a bit opaque to the layperson who is considering dipping their toe into its murky depths. My advice to counteract this would be not to find yourself being put off by the hoards of opinionated people who enjoy telling you what is best for you to do with YOUR career – be your own boss and do your own research. There are countless blogs, websites, books and people who offer their tuppence on how to write, when to write, how to publish, how to market…the list goes on. It is up to you to cut the wheat from the chaff, as it were. If you’re thinking of self-publishing, like me, then the Amazon Author Insights website is a good starting point, as is Hugh Howey’s blog, both of which provide ample insight and should save you a lot of time and effort.

  1. Be brave

There will come a time when you have to decide on the best course of action, whether that be pressing the ‘publish’ button on Amazon KDP, choosing the right editor for your work, deciding on a pricing strategy or marketing campaign or on the title of your book. Any of these decisions requires a degree of bravery and you might make mistakes. It is equally brave to accept when something isn’t working and make changes but the ultimate bravery comes in showing your work to others and accepting helpful critique to make your work stronger. Pride gets you nowhere in the long-run.

  1. Stay motivated

Sometimes, we all suffer from information overload and the prospect of continuing to reach for your dream can seem insurmountable or littered with obstacles. At times like these, my advice would be simple: reach for your favourite book, the one you read again and again, to remind yourself of why you want to be a writer in the first place. Then, cut out all the unnecessary bumf and negativity that is causing you to feel dejected and start afresh. If all that fails, whip out the Rocky IV soundtrack and think like Stallone!

  1. Be kind

Remember, however unmotivated or scared you feel, there is somebody feeling even worse than you. Therefore, be kind. Try to forgive when people express themselves badly or when other writers put you down to bolster their own ego. It will happen, as it happens in any walk of life, and the trick is to take it on the chin and run your own race. None of us knows what difficulties may lurk behind another person’s eyes and it costs nothing to take the higher road.

This is a distilled version of the message I try to convey when people ask me what attitude I take towards my career as an author. I focus on my stories and try to listen to the voice of my reader, whose opinion matters the most. Creativity comes first, business comes second, and courtesy above all else.

That’s all for now, folks! A big ‘thank you’ again for the invitation to Althorp, I had a lovely time.

LJ x

Author Introductions #4: Joseph Alexander

Happy Monday!

Once again, the start of another working week beckons, with reams of research to be done on the local history surrounding Kielder Forest in Northumberland, which will form the setting for my next book: Dark Skies. Mind you, to offset the computer glare I’m going to be celebrating my sister’s birthday in Florence, so life ain’t all bad!

Another reason to be cheerful comes in the form of our next weekly Author Introduction. As you know, every Monday I am featuring a different author (all kinds of genres and backgrounds) and, after a string of fiction writers, I thought it would be interesting to mix it up and hear from a mega-successful non-fiction writer and entrepreneur.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to Joseph Alexander, who has been a guitarist and expert music tutor for over twenty years. He is a prolific author of over thirty guitar guides which have been published in four languages and have sold more than 200,000 copies to critical acclaim.

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Joseph Alexander, who is both an author and publisher

 

As well as being an author, Joseph is also a publisher of up-and-coming music writers through his label, Fundamental Changes. I had the pleasure of sharing a panel with Joseph at this year’s London Books Fair alongside fellow authors Mark Dawson, Rachel Abbott and Keith Houghton and it was really interesting to hear about his experiences publishing non-fiction.

Now, to give us a bit more insight into what motivates Joseph to write, I set him a list of ten short questions which he kindly agreed to answer…

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

Hi! I’m Joseph and I play the guitar… well I used to. I don’t seem to have much time to devote to it these days. I was always more gifted as a teacher than a performer, which is lucky because I love teaching and passing on music to a new generation of players.

I get bored easily, especially as musicians tend to work evenings! In past incarnations, I’ve built (with my own bare hands-ish) a successful bar which I then sold immediately to fund my wanderlust. That led me to becoming a SCUBA instructor in Thailand and then I worked on Cruise ships sailing from New York to The Caribbean.

When I got home, I started teaching guitar again and started writing down the stuff that I was showing my students, pretty much to save me writing things out for every new pupil. That became my first book and, well… I went down the rabbit hole.

When I had written 30 books on playing the guitar, sold a few hundred thousand copies, I realised there was some music that I wasn’t very good at playing. I put an ad out for people who could play guitar and write about it, and the wonderful Simon Pratt applied. We put his first book together and suddenly I was a publishing company.

Musicians tend to get a hard deal in terms of royalties and so do authors. I don’t want to be a part of that so I offered Simon a 50/50 share of all profits on his book. He’d supply the content and audio, I’d do the editing, graphics, production, publishing, promotion… everything else.

Now Simon has written 7 titles and is selling a lot of books. We split everything 50/50 and I have used this model to work with some incredible musicians, including jaw dropping Levi Clay and one of the most famous jazz guitarists on the planet, Martin Taylor. That book will be coming out this year. It’s surreal to sit at one of your childhood hero’s dinner tables and put a book together!

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

I’ve just put together a new book on Jazz Chords for beginners. It’s a minefield and there is a lot of terrible information out there. I wanted to create an easy way for guitarists to gain access to all those lovely musical colours.

I’m also working on a “100 Blues licks in the style of…” book. – I’ve taken the 20 most influential blues guitarists and written in-the-style-of licks and phrases for each of them. I’ll show the reader how to combine them into solos and actually use them as a launch pad for their own creativity.

  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

Frank Zappa. He died before I really got into his music (I think I was about 13 at the time). He was just so articulate and satirical and fought Tipper Gore against those Caution, Explicit Lyrics stickers they used to censor music.

In fiction… Granny Weatherwax, maybe Nigel Tufnell!

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

Well, I won’t name anyone we both know because we always bump into each other at those Amazon thingies and it just gets awkward…

Iain (M) Banks. What a mind. Both as a novelist and a science fiction writer… I’ve never read anything that good. Period. I don’t think I could put into words how much his works mean to me. They were always there to escape to during darker times.

Terry Pratchett. Again, such a creative force. I read every Discworld book I could growing up and just fell in love with his whimsical genius.

Haruki Murakami. Even after translation his writing is chillingly perfect. “There’s no such thing as perfect writing, just like there’s no such thing as perfect despair.”

  1. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

I’m always writing, or publishing. It sure feels like it. But I’m getting a lot of joy from having the freedom to travel and work overseas now. Me and my girlfriend decided to stick the dogs in the car and drive down to The South of France for a month. I’m writing this interview by the pool (with a beer) after having spent the day in St Tropez. (I’m just saying this to bug L.J., as she keeps informing me of how jealous she is!).

[Blogger’s Note: I can confirm I was very jealous to see pictures of the pair of them sunning themselves on the Cote d’Azur while we were stuck in rainy Somerset listening to back-to-back episodes of Blaze and the Monster Machines, which is my son’s new favourite thing].

I love freediving… It’s like Scuba without the air tanks. When I was training regularly I could do a 4:15 breath-hold and dive to nearly 30m on a single breath. I’m at my happiest when I’m in (or more accurately under) water.

I’m learning to box too. This means spending an hour in the gym every day getting punched in the face by a 6’6” ex British Army infantry trainer. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds.

Dogs! Yes… my dogs. Walking my dogs in Cheshire countryside. That too!

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

I don’t really know how to answer this. People who know what I do/have done with publishing tell me it’s amazing, but to me it’s just a job that I enjoy. Apparently, I have totally disrupted the music tuition book industry, but I promise, it was by accident!

I think the fact that I’ve been able to pass on music to 250,000+ people. That means a lot.

I’m very proud that I offer a great deal to musicians and writers. Publishing and music are generally pretty shitty industries for artists. If I’m helping to change that then that’d be a lovely legacy.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

I think it was either The BFG or The Witches. Roald Dahl featured heavily, but after my mum read me The Witches, I always made sure she had closed to window before I fell asleep.

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

I’m actually reading something about a murder that happened somewhere called Holy Island right now, that’s pretty good so far! 😉 but I think The Quarry, by Iain Banks was quite chilling. It was his last book and seemed extremely cathartic in a way that I don’t think we’ll ever find out why.

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

Something that could actually get it through their thick head that there is massive disparity in society. Due to the fact that MPs (and PMs) never see that part of society, they can never truly understand it or give empathy and understanding to the people that they believe they’re helping (with tax cuts for the rich, massive underfunding in schools, and destroying the NHS from the inside out).

Either that or the year 2000 autobiography “Britney Spears’ Heart To Heart”: A weighty and thought-provoking tome charting the dramatic rise to fame and influence of the plucky eponymous heroine… although I wouldn’t trust the PM to give it back. She’d probably sell it to a private healthcare company. You know, because it isn’t hers to sell?

[Blogger’s Note: *drops mic*]

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

Iron Man. Obviously.

…Thanks, Joseph! Great answers and I am beginning to wonder whether I could set my next series of mystery novels in a more far-flung, exotic setting which would obviously require extensive family research trips… one can dream! 🙂

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

LJ x

Author Introductions #3: Mark L. Fowler

Morning!

I hope you’ve all had a great weekend – mine was spent celebrating our son’s fourth birthday with a pirate-themed / magic party. Where the heck did all that time go? We had a wonderful day and, thanks to the efforts of our magician (‘Magic Marie’), the children’s party stress levels were kept to a minimum! All hail Magic Marie!

Now that Monday has come around once again, that means it’s time for our next Author Introduction. This week, I’m pleased to introduce Mark Fowler. Mark writes crime/mystery fiction as well as psychological thrillers and gothic/horror. He is the author of four novels (Coffin Maker, The Man Upstairs, Silver, and Red is the Colour) and more than a hundred short stories.

Mark L. Fowler

Mark L. Fowler, who writes crime/mystery fiction, psychological thrillers and gothic/horror fiction.

Let’s find out a little more about this talented author…

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

I was born and raised in the Domesday village of Penkhull, in the heart of The Potteries, otherwise known as Stoke-on-Trent. This area forms the setting for my latest book, Red is the Colour. After graduating in Philosophy at Leicester University, I met my wife, Fiona, and we have a son who recently graduated – Philosophy again, it must run in the family, though unlike me he managed a First!

I have been writing for most of my life, including poetry, songs, sitcoms and over a hundred short stories. These days I am primarily a novelist. Coffin Maker, my first published novel, is a book that may be tricky to classify. It has been described as just about everything from gothic fantasy to postmodern fable. I don’t know of anything else quite like it. I am still very proud of that book. I followed it with The Man Upstairs, my take on the ’40s/’50s hardboiled detective story, with a twist. My third book, Silver, blends a dark psychological thriller with a hint of the supernatural. It is also a satire on the publishing industry and centres on a family’s reluctance to allow publication of the unfinished and uncharacteristically dark novel that bestselling author Joy Haversham was completing when she was mysteriously killed. Her unfinished manuscript, Silver, has become the Holy Grail of the publishing industry.

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

My latest book, Red is the Colour, was published July 25th, 2017. Though I have incorporated strong crime fiction themes in a lot of my writing, my new book is the first that remains entirely within the crime fiction genre. I wanted to create a series of crime mystery novels set in the city, and indeed the village, where I live. With this opening book in the series I decided to use the discovery of the corpse of a school boy, missing since 1972, to explore the theme of bullying. It is a subject that I feel very strongly about.

RED is the Colour FINAL

The book features DCI Jim Tyler, haunted and enigmatic, a man with demons in his past, who leaves his post in London under a cloud, relocating to Stoke on Trent. He teams up with DS Danny Mills, a local detective who is almost the antithesis of Jim Tyler. It is fair to say that the two detectives don’t exactly hit it off, at least to begin with. Yet they have more in common than they realise and have their own personal reasons for wanting to face The Bully, and to find justice for the victims.

  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

My real life hero was my father. Leslie (Les) Fowler was a quiet, unassuming man, who had a somewhat difficult life. His own father died as a result of inhaling mustard gas in the First World War, dying when my dad was only five years old. As a young man my dad was whisked off to fight in Burma in the Second World War, contracting endless doses of malaria. He appeared content with what he had in life, which wasn’t always that much in material terms, and he loved his family. He worked, in his final years, as a watch maker. He loved taking things apart to see how they worked, before putting them back together so that they worked even better. He could be a moody soul at times, same as me, but his generosity and compassion were second to none.

My hero in fiction might just be Philip Marlowe, so, having tipped my hat in the direction of Raymond Chandler, I must now choose others for the next question.

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

That is a difficult one. I tend to think more in terms of favourite books. But my shelves do contain a number of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and Jim Thompson books, which must mean something. All three are wonderful storytellers and I generally feel in good hands when I pick up one of their books. They create memorable characters and breathe life into them, and don’t deal in mechanical plots. Humour is an important ingredient for me in any genre, and with King, Bradbury and Thompson it is there in spades. It is often very dark, too – real graveyard humour. I believe that there is a real art to this, pushing the boundaries sometimes but walking that fine line of taste. These three rarely fail in that respect, employing gallows humour to great effect, providing a necessary balance as none of these writers flinches from entering the darkest places and casting a light for the rest of us. These wonderful writers appear to follow their own stars. They have a clear style that is all their own, and don’t follow the crowd. Good advice for all of us, perhaps.

5. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

When I’m not writing I spend as much time as I can with family and friends. I love reading, of course, and watch a fair bit of film and TV, with crime and comedy (and a bit of horror) tending to top the bill. I play piano and guitar, though not in any bands these days, sadly. I also love taking an idea for a story out for a long walk – whatever the weather!

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

My greatest writing achievement? I am proud of all four of my published novels. Naturally, I’m particularly excited about my latest book, which fulfils a long-held wish to write about the place where I live and the city and village that is in my blood. It is probably my most honest book so far.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

A favourite book of mine as a child was The Treasure Hunters, by Enid Blyton. It was set on a farm, and a lot of my best childhood holidays were spent on a farm owned by an aunt and uncle. In some ways it is a crime novel, the heroes of the story finding a map indicating lost family treasure that could help save the farm, and then uncovering sinister goings-on as other, less scrupulous individuals, also have designs on finding the treasure. Though not with the intention of using it to save the farm! For the two child heroes of the story, what begins as holiday fun turns into a matter of life and death. Finding the treasure could save the farm, and I wished as a child that I could have done the same.

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

Many books recently have captured my imagination, but to single one out I would go for A Judgement in Stone, by Ruth Rendell, which I recently came across, though it was originally published in 1977. It is such a clever book by a master of crime writing.

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

If the Prime Minister knocked at my door, I think I would hand over a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury. I would prescribe at least one to be taken nightly, just before sleeping, to encourage the imagination, compassion, humanity and the right kind of nostalgia. Those stories break down barriers, facades, puncture pride and ego and enable us to laugh at ourselves and at the same time recognise how precious we all are. And how fragile.

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

If I could be a character from a movie I would be Gandalf. Wisdom, warmth, empathy, compassion – what a hero!

…thanks, Mark! Some really interesting and thoughtful answers there. I love the concepts behind your novels and, as I’m also a big Raymond Chandler fan, it looks like I’ve just found some more reading material! But first, back to the work-in-progress…

Have a great week!

LJ x

 

 

Breaking new ground…

Hello!

First of all, let me say that I can’t believe it’s nearly March. Where the heck have the past two months gone? I suppose there has been quite a lot going on, starting with the release of my fifth book, High Force. It was available to pre-order for about six weeks prior to its general release on 31st January 2017 and reached #2 in the UK charts more than once, settling around the top five for quite a few weeks. I’m so grateful to everyone who gave it a go!

When that sort of wonderful thing happens, one or two people ask me whether the release of a new book has become second nature, or something that leaves me unmoved. To which I respond…

Hell, no!

I feel nervous and excited every time I write and release a new book. My stomach churns at the prospect of readers not enjoying the new offering, even though the logical part of my brain tells me it would be impossible to please everyone and I should concentrate on writing for myself. I certainly become engrossed by the story when I am in the thick of it but, once that process ends, I’m left wondering whether it’s really any good after all. I agonise about almost every part of the story. It is picked apart and polished through the editing process but even then self-doubt gnaws away at my innards.

It is always a fabulous, flabbergasting surprise to find so many readers enjoying the books and to say I’m grateful would be an understatement. Their enjoyment in the novels I’ve written gives me the courage to continue to write and to weave together the stories swirling around my head. I’ve been very fortunate over the past two years but, believe me, I never take that for granted. The act of creating something brand new and putting it out into the world takes courage and it is something all of us share, in one way or another!

On the topic of unleashing myself on the wider world, I had an unexpected birthday treat this year. On 10th February, The Times decided to put my old mug on the front cover of their ‘Arts’ supplement, as well as a miniature version on the front cover of the main newspaper to accompany a two-page spread about bestselling authors who decided to publish independently (through Amazon). In case you didn’t catch it, the article is here.

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I nearly had a minor heart attack when I saw this

Being quite a private person, the world of public relations and press is like an alien planet to me. However, I try to visit every so often in the interests of promoting the value of indie authors who are not only good storytellers, but who work hard and produce books to such a quality standard they are indistinguishable from those put out by mainstream publishers.

Speaking of storytellers, Amazon is running a Storyteller Competition at the moment with a great cash prize and, more importantly, the prospect of helpful marketing and the launch of a new writing career if there are any budding authors tuning in. The details are here and it’s well worth considering!

Bye for now!

LJ x

About time…

Hello!

It’s been busy in the life of LJ Ross (as always) what with completing Angel (Book 4 of the DCI Ryan Mysteries) and preparing for its general release, alongside all the usual travel and life events! Most notably, my son turned three recently and I was struck forcibly by the passage of time – as I am whenever I need to buy him a bigger pair of shoes. How quickly life storms ahead, twisting and changing before our very eyes.

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I wonder how different the world will be by the time he is grown; I remember things like ‘floppy discs’ and ‘cassette players’ whereas these will probably sound like weird and wonderful oddities to his technologically-advanced mind. I have always thought of life as a continuous cycle, never something that stands still. Moments cannot be captured like butterflies or created into a frieze, immortalised so that we can relive them time and again. But they can be remembered and that’s what I try to focus on.

The knowledge that life is so short, combined with a personal philosophy that does not include any religious deity or notion of an afterlife, has led me to adopt what I hope is a very proactive approach rooted in the here and now. My friends and family have remarked that I ‘never sit still’ or that I am ‘always on the go’ and it’s true: I find it hard to relax and do nothing. It feels like such a waste. But that’s where reading has been such a wonderful gift. It is one of the few times when I can feel my mind and body switching off, so thank you to all of the wonderful authors who have provided me with so many hours of enjoyment.

The nagging feeling that life is passing swiftly was what actively propelled me to change career. I enjoyed my life as a lawyer but I was acutely conscious that something was missing, something unfulfilled. Idealistic notions of ‘making a difference’ didn’t prepare me for the simple fact that life isn’t fair; people aren’t equal; democracy doesn’t always work and human nature is sometimes depressingly predictable. Don’t get me wrong – I have infinite faith in the resilience of the human condition, but I wasn’t prepared to waste the rest of my life trying to prove the point.

I firmly believe that people are capable of being many things over the course of a lifetime. There is no Orwellian dictator who hands out professions at birth and expects us to stick to them, so it falls upon us to reach out and grasp the life we want to lead. There may be challenges: personal, professional, financial, health-wise… but success will taste all the sweeter once these have been overcome.

It’s all about taking the first step. Blink and you’ll find that three years have passed!

Have a great weekend 🙂

LJ x

Happy 2016!

Happy New Year, folks!

How the time has flown. This time, last year, I was just clicking the ‘upload’ button on Holy Island. Little did I know what fate had in store for that bit of fiction, because by May 2015 it was number 1 in the Amazon UK bestsellers chart and at the time of writing this blog post, it is back up there at number 6. Absolutely mind-boggling. I have said it many times before, but I will keep on saying it: thank you to all of you who read it and took a chance on LJ Ross.

Back in September, its sequel Sycamore Gap was published as an e-book and that made the top 20 not long afterwards (and currently it’s back in the top 20 – woo hoo!). Now, Holy Island is out as an audiobook and Sycamore Gap will be following very shortly (it’s on pre-order at the moment, for those who are interested).

All of this has made for a really remarkable year and I hardly know what to expect for the year to come. What will 2016 hold? There are few certainties in life, but I know one thing for sure: I love my job and will continue to write until my hands are too arthritic to type. Even then, I’ll learn to dictate before I stop having fun telling stories.

A few years ago, if somebody had asked me whether I enjoyed what I was doing, I would probably have waffled to avoid giving a true answer: of course, I did not really enjoy my job. I tolerated it, I gave it my full attention and expertise because I believe that a fair wage deserves fair work and vice versa, but I could not say that being a lawyer filled my heart with the joys of spring. It was a really disappointing conclusion to draw, after years spent training and working in the field. Had I wasted my time and my twenties? Now, after pondering that very question and regardless of the success of DCI Ryan, I would say that no time is really wasted. I learned much from my years in the City, I have some wonderful friends and, perhaps most of all, there may be something in the old idea that writers should have a few years under their belts before coming to the profession. It gives a certain realism to proceedings, if you can describe characters and settings from past experience (I’m naming no names). The world of self-publishing is really booming and when budding writers have been kind enough to send me an e-mail or a message, many of them ask whether I felt nervous leaving my old life (and old salary) for something new and uncertain. To them, I say:

There is no right answer which fits all.  Life is an endless cycle of ups and downs and you have to assess what is right for you and any dependants at a given time. You have to be honest about yourself and what you would like to achieve; you have to work hard and put everything you have into it. But, most of all, you must be unafraid of change. This seems a simple thing, but it really isn’t. Many people are terrified of change and frankly there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s nice to feel settled and content. It’s a question of what you are prepared to settle for in life and if you are happy enough, then crack on!

All of that said, if you do decide to ‘give it a go’, platforms like Amazon KDP are perfect. There, you can dabble in publishing your own work without necessarily giving up the day job. If you really want to push your work, you might need to devote a lot of free time to marketing and editing, not to mention the writing, but so long as you don’t mind doing both at the same time then it’s a fail-safe option with very little personal risk. Like me, you might be flabbergasted to find that people enjoy your writing and would love to see more of it. Before you know it, you’ve got a website, a blog, various social media accounts and a full-time profession!

Whichever way life takes you, I hope that all of you reading this have a wonderful 2016 and that it brings you everything you hope for.

Catch you later!

LJ x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing vs. Motherhood

The struggle between honing one’s craft and being a parent is not exactly the Battle of Waterloo, but it ain’t far off. Any mother will tell you that trying to juggle a career alongside trying to be a good parent is a tough balance to find. When push comes to shove, your little bundle will always win and what’s more, you won’t mind. Here’s why:

  1. The “Cute” Face.

Just when you think of the perfect piece of prose, or of that idea which ties together the loose ends of your story, helping you to break through the horrific writer’s block which has plagued you for weeks, your little one will give you the Cute Face. No writing, note-taking or, in fact, anything not involving snuggles or huggles can be achieved once this has happened.

Kid 1 – Writing 0.

  1. The Accidental Spillages.

The MacBook Air or whatever piece of shiny machinery you use to jot down your whimsies becomes like a member of the family. Like a pet, if you will, and, much like a pet, it dislikes having its screen yanked, or having milk strewn across its keyboard.

Kid 2 – Writing 0.

  1. The Sleep Deprivation.

You know that film, Insomnia, with Al Pacino? The one where he goes slowly off the rails owing to lack of sleep? Yes, that one. Well, parenthood can be remarkably similar. After weeks and weeks of broken sleep, followed by mornings singing along to Peppa Pig and/or Winnie the Pooh and/or any Disney films, you find yourself wishing for a quiet, darkened corner. Except, of course, when you see your little one jiggling their hips to the theme tunes and shouting “BEE!” and “HONEY!” intermittently at the screen. Aww.

Kid 3- Writing 0.

The battle continues to wage, dear friends, and I fear that this face will always win…

Just look at that Cute Face.

Just look at that Cute Face.

CAPTION COMPETITION!

  
To celebrate the imminent release of Holy Island in paperback, I’ll be giving away ten signed copies to those who can come up with the funniest / most inspired ending to the following caption:

“Ryan followed the muffled sounds at the end of the darkened corridor. With slow movements, he edged closer, until only a wooden door separated him from what lay beyond. Fingers splayed against the wood, he pushed the door open and his jaw fell in astonishment, for he saw…[BLANK]”

Post your entries as a comment here or on my Facebook L J Ross Author page here and the winners will be chosen on Friday 17th July.

Good luck! 

X

Five reasons to love London…

Written on the door to the loo at the Espresso Bar in Covent Garden. Clearly, they know me too well.

Written on the door to the loo at the Espresso Bar in Covent Garden. Wise words. 

1. There are independent coffee shops which play Turkish dance music. You can therefore drink excellent coffee, while typing, WHILE SHAKING YOUR KABOOSE!

2. There are tourists who come to you asking directions to Covent Garden, while they are standing in the middle of Covent Garden. Moral dilemmas abound.

3. London isn’t the middle of no-where. I say this, having recently returned from the wilderness of a forgotten town in Kent. Now, call me biased, but there are some parts of the country where wilderness is positively a good thing (read: Northumberland). The place I have just visited (which shall remain nameless in order to protect myself from any angry attacks from the village council, or similar) was not one of those good types of wilderness. It was one of those, “Oh dear God, let me back on the train so I can smell the sweet smell of civilisation” types of wilderness.

4. You can dress like a slob and call it ‘kitsch 90s throwback’. How else can we explain the recent regression to the jelly sandal?

5. The air may be smoggy, but you can console yourself with the fact that it isn’t as smoggy as Middlesborough, or Shanghai.

The list goes on, but that’ll do for now!

Happy Tuesday!

x

Peeking into Narnia…

Greetings, one and all!

Let me begin by moaning, in a very British way, about how hot it is in London today. Thirty-six degrees and I am sweating like a pig on market day. (I know, I know, these sentiments only add to the writer’s mystique…). I have soldiered on and I am presently sitting in a shaded area with a gigantic iced coffee and a laptop. Even I, with my undeniable caffeine addiction, couldn’t stomach a hot coffee today.

Back to the point of this blog posting!

Yesterday, I was invited along to one of Amazon’s major distribution centres in glamorous Milton Keynes to take a look at the goings-on there. Not only did this offer a tantalising glimpse behind the corporate veil, but it allowed me to take a tour around their Made on Demand printing operation which is what I’ve decided to use to bring out ‘Holy Island’ in paperback. It’s a fantastic option if, like me, you mostly sell e-books but would like to offer people the option of a paperback without sacrificing all your creative rights to an outside publisher. It’s a whole new way of looking at the world of publishing and I’m loving it so far!

So, I took a teeny tiny train to Ridgmont, the closest train station to the distribution centre, and I have to say that I felt a bit like Harry Potter on his way to Hogwarts. It’s not quite that exciting, but it was definitely an interesting day out. Firstly, I was seriously impressed by their print works. Those guys love their jobs, judging by the attention to detail that I saw while I was there. Every single book printed goes through several layers of quality control before it is sent out to a customer. As an author, it’s very reassuring to know that, so long as I take care of quality in my storytelling, they will take care of quality in distribution. Quite apart from that, it is always encouraging to see people who appear genuinely enthused by their work and many of the employees there have been around for years.

In a wider sense, my overall impression was of a company run like a well-oiled machine. The (huge) warehouse was humming with smooth activity, the walkways were free of debris, the staff looked cheerful rather than done in. I was slightly disappointed not to have seen somebody freestyling with one of the trolleys (this would have been me, if I worked there) or swinging between the crates in true Indiana Jones style (if I didn’t have vertigo, this would also have been me).

It’s back to reality, today, with my head well and truly bent over the laptop. Just need to kill off a few more people and this book will be done…

Have a great day, wherever you are! x