Elspeth Cooper

Purveyor of fine fantasy adventures

Tag: a writer’s life (Page 1 of 3)

Yellow maple leaf over blue sky

Writing weather

I’ve always been the kind of person whose mood is influenced by the weather. Not in some New Age in-touch-with-nature sort of a way, I just notice things. Rainy days make me melancholy. Strong winds give me the fidgets. And sometimes I notice the seasons change.

Ever since I was small, too young to feel the relentless march of the calendar pages turning the way an adult would, I’ve associated autumn with crows. I say crows, but really I mean all the corvids we got where I grew up: rooks, jackdaws and carrion crows (no ravens or hoodies in the north east of England). In early September, they got restless, swirling across the sky in great raucous flocks before settling back into the tall trees next to my parents’ house. It always meant summer was ending for another year.

I went into the garden this morning and the first thing I heard was the rooks. The sky was still blue and patterned with housemartins, the air still warm, but that dolorous cawing made me feel change was afoot.

Now the clouds are blowing in. A fretful wind is tossing the jackdaws around, and the trees are hissing like surf over shingle beaches. It feels like autumn. That means it’s writing weather.

Featured image © Illreality | Dreamstime Stock Photos

(Mis)direct marketing

Picture of mailboxYou’re probably going to think I’m making something out of nothing, but this bugged me enough to write a post, so . . .

I get quite a few emails from strangers – readers asking when the next book’s out (I’m working on it, I promise!), moms who want to know if my stories are an age-appropriate gift for their 12-year-old’s birthday, and even a few from schoolkids who have to write to an author for their class project.

So far, so unremarkable.

The one that inspired this post was different. It was a message was from a new author, independently published by a digital-only small press, wanting me to do her a favour and tweet some links to her first book. Perfectly pleasant, with a short, well-polished pitch for her work.

BUT.

This author is a complete stranger to me, someone I’ve never interacted with, who doesn’t follow me on social media (as far as I have been able to determine) and doesn’t appear to know anything about me or my books.

Our audiences don’t overlap much, if at all. She writes contemporary romance; I write epic fantasy.

She is asking me to asking me to take time away from my own work and write a tweet just for her. The effort is minor, but it’s still an interruption, an imposition on my day.

She gave me no reason why I might be moved to help her out, and no incentive to do so. Twitter works best when users network and interact, not when they just scream into the void “BUY MY BOOK!”. Yes, I know Sam Sykes likes to do just that, but he makes it amusing; others, with less imagination, become just noise.

So why pick me? It’s not like I’m John Scalzi or Neil Gaiman who command an audience of tens of thousands – or, in Gaiman’s case, 2.26 million – for their every utterance. And this isn’t even a one-click RT request for a worthy cause, which those authors field with grace on a daily basis. I’ve got less than 1,800 followers, and as already noted, write in a totally different genre, so she’s not only expecting effort on her behalf from a stranger, it’s likely to be a waste of time in any case.

“But it’s just a quick tweet; what harm could it do?”

Am I supposed to be flattered by the attention? That I’ve been noticed? I’d like to think she’s seen me on the Twitters and thinks I’m approachable. What I actually think is that I’m just one more entry on a list of people who got a scattergun form email from an author who thinks they’re entitled to someone else’s time and effort.

Which does not make me inclined to want to help them out.

Now I’m sure there’s people saying “But it’s just a quick tweet; what harm could it do?” and the answer is “None”. But that’s the thing with these types of requests. Once you’ve agreed to do it for one random stranger, it becomes very hard to say no to the next one who asks. And the one after that. And . . . you get the picture.

I’m also sure there’s going to be people saying “Typical trad-pub snob, thinks she’s too good to help out a fellow author!” To which I say, “Clearly you don’t know me any better than Ms Contemporary Romance does”. Yes, I’m traditionally published. No, I’m not a snob; I’m probably going to go hybrid at some point in the future, when I try my hand at some not-quite-so-long-form fiction, so I’m hardly likely to sneer at authors who’ve chosen to go the self/indie route from the start.

But here’s the other thing that I am.

I am so far behind on my fourth book it’s not even funny. I’m so far behind that I jealously guard every single minute I have that could possibly be spent finishing it. In fact, I’m so far behind that this blog post has actually taken me a couple of months to put together because I felt so guilty about taking any time away from my WIP. So the chances of me sparing a couple of minutes to Tweet – and by so doing, tacitly endorse – some unknown-to-me author’s unknown-to-me book, are nil.

I’m sorry, Ms Contemporary Romance. I wish you well; you’ve got a nice pitch and your book sounds like it might be a fun summer read, but I am not your market, nor your marketing department.

 

Image courtesy of bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

I aten’t dead

Picture of alarm clockSo. I’m still here.

In case any of you had been wondering, like. I’ve just been a bit busy. And ill. And busying being ill – or being busy whilst ill, or ill whilst busy, or . . . You get the picture.

Chronic illness sucks. Who knew?

Anyway, it’s been a hard road so far, but I have ground out some words on THE DRAGON HOUSE and most of them I think I will actually keep. It’s not finished yet, but at 145k (give or take) I think I can see the end up ahead. Sort of. If I squint a bit.

I’m sorry it’s taking so long to get there. I’m not here to make excuses, but I genuinely am going as fast as I can. I want this book to be a fitting finale to the series, one that takes everything that has gone before and wraps it up into a conclusion that is satisfying for both me as the writer and you as the reader. I hope you’ll bear with me until we get there.

In order to make it worth your while, I have a little treat for you later this week: a sneak peek at what I’ve been working on. The usual disclaimers apply: raw as steak tartare, prod it and it’ll moo etc. I hope you’ll like it. Stay tuned!

 

Image courtesy of Graeme Weatherston at freedigitalphotos.net

 

Natural history

 

FADE IN:

 

INT. WRITER’S CAVE – DAY

 

The curtains are drawn, cloaking the litter and countless half-drunk cups of tea in shadow. A dishevelled figure crouches over a laptop, face unhealthily pale in the glow from the screen.

 

VOICEOVER

Observe the WRITER in its den. Here it makes a nest of crumpled
paper and pencils, in which it will incubate its precious egg for a
period of up to a year. So attentive is its parenting – some would say
obsessive – that the writer rarely emerges from its cave. When it
does, it is easily confused by bright lights and sudden sounds.

 

The doorbell sounds. The writer’s head jerks up, its ears twitching. After a moment the bell rings again, followed by knocking on the door.

 

WRITER

Yes? Hello?

 

The knocking continues. The writer gets to its feet as if it hasn’t moved in days, and shambles to the door. On the way it scratches its unkempt fur, dislodging biscuit crumbs and the occasional pencil. At the end of the hall it hesitates, squinting in the uncomfortably bright light.

 

WRITER

Who’s there?

 

An indistinct figure in a bright red coat can be seen through the front door glass.

 

POSTMAN

Got a parcel here you need to sign for.

 

WRITER
(twisting hands together nervously)

Oh. Okay.

 

VOICEOVER

Writers are shy, introspective creatures at the best of times. During the
prolonged incubation period they often seem to lose the social skills
required to successfully interact with other creatures. Their attention is
so focused on their offspring that they frequently neglect their own
grooming and their diet deteriorates to subsistence level, scavenging
junk and whatever uneaten food they find lying about the den.

 

WRITER

Um . . .

 

POSTMAN
(muffled sigh)

Miss?

 

The writer scuttles to the door, avoiding the patch of sunlight on the carpet as if afraid it will burn. After fumbling with the key, it manages to unlock the door and open it just wide enough to peer out.

 

WRITER
(suspiciously)

Yes?

 

POSTMAN

Parcel? To sign for? You’ll have to open the door a bit wider, love.
It’s quite large.

 

A brown cardboard box appears in shot, just visible through the gap in the door. The writer looks around nervously, cringing at the passing cars. Instead of the large box, the postman proffers a smaller one with a screen set into the top, and a dangling stylus attached.

 

POSTMAN

Just sign on the line, love.

 

The writer fumbles for the stylus and scrawls a crude symbol on the screen.

 

POSTMAN
(pushing the larger box towards the door with his foot)

There you go then. Early Christmas present, eh?

 

WRITER
(mumbles incoherently)

 

POSTMAN
(adjusts cap, looks uncertain)

Er, right then. I’ll be off, shall I?

 

The postman holds out his hand for the data terminal. The writer stares at it, nonplussed.

 

POSTMAN

Er . . . ?

 

A particularly large furniture delivery van drives past, belching diesel fumes. Panicked by the noise, the writer flings the data terminal at the postman, and claws the parcel inside. The door slams in the postman’s face.

 

WRITER
(making a keening noise)

My precious . . .

 

The writer falls to its knees, pawing at the cardboard.

 

WRITER

My bookses. Mine. My own.

 

VOICEOVER

Singing happily to itself, the writer retreats to its nest with its treasure.
The precious author copies will be placed in the shrine at the back of
the den, and the box and packing materials added to the the creature’s
bedding to keep it snug through the long weeks to come until eventually,
a new book is born.

 

FADE OUT

 

More than just vanilla

I had a review a little while back from a lady who hadn’t enjoyed my second book, Trinity Rising. She’d had a bit of a problem with the sexual aspects of Songs, but soldiered on because she liked my prose. The opening chapters of Trinity, however, had defeated her: there’s a couple of aggressive, non-consensual encounters that occur early on, and she hadn’t been able to finish the book.

Kitten

“Raaar!”

I said I was sorry it hadn’t been her cup of tea, but thanked her for trying and taking the time to write her review. She seemed impressed that I’d bothered to comment on the opinions of a self-confessed prude, and that got me thinking.

As a writer, I expect negative reviews. I have to: they come with the territory. And guess what, they’re exactly as valid as good ones. No two storytellers will make the same tale from the same ingredients, and so no two readers will form the same impression of the results. And frankly, it’d be daft to expect them to.

Yes, I’ve lavished months or years of work on my books, made them the best I could, and I’m so proud of them I’ll take any excuse to talk about them or show pictures of the covers to random strangers in the queue at the supermarket (they’re my kids, after all) but I’m not entitled to a damn thing in return.

Sure, undiluted praise would be nice, and send me back into my office with a smile on my face, but it’s a vastly unrealistic expectation. People are individuals and that means we don’t all like the same things. This is why ice-cream comes in more flavours than just vanilla. Believe it or not, some people can’t abide chocolate. Others are freaked out by ickle fwuffy kittens, in which case they’d probably best not be reading this post. And so it goes with books, too – as the recent SF Signal Mind Meld: The Books We Didn’t Love reminded me.

I am not entitled to be adulated by all and sundry – nor is any writer. I’m not entitled to anything. I choose to put my work out there; I don’t get to choose how it will be received. About the best I can hope for from a reviewer is their honest opinion, and if that means they didn’t like my book, then that’s fine. People being what they are, somebody else is gonna love it.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

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