Show not Tell

If you read a manual on writing fiction or an online writing guide you will be advised to show your characters emotions and behaviour through dialogue and action. The idea is that you write dialogue which allows your characters to discuss events and to use language to progress the story. Telling the reader what the character is thinking or feeling is presented in guides as being “a really bad idea.”

This being so, I am really confused by the writing style of a book called a “Family Affair”, which I acquired from Amazon some time ago but have only just got round to reading. The main plot of the book is a “family man” dies in a car crash and it is revealed that he had a secret family. The conflict is between members of the first family (mother and brother-in-law) and daughter of first family and son of second famliy. We are not shown much of this conflict but are told about, sometimes for pages on end. After reading around 70% of the novel, much of which has been descriptive, I am beginning to tire of the telling and would like better dialogue to show me how the characters really relate to each other. The novel is beginning to lose me so I hope I find out the end before I get too bored.

Showing is harder than telling, for sure, but does engage this reader a lot more in the story and makes the story more interesting.

What I Learned at London Book Fair 2014

London Book Fair Earls Court

London Book Fair Earls Court


Talk given by top indie authors / self-publishers

I was lucky to catch up with a session given by Bella Andre, Stephanie Bond, Liliana Hart, Barbara Freethy, Candice Hern and Jasmina Wilder at the book fair.

The six ladies are very successful writer and self-publishers so it was clear than there was a lot to be gained from listening to them talk about writing and publisher. I was not disappointed, and from what I saw, nor were the other people listening to them either.

So, in bullet form this is the essence of the section I managed to hear:

  • Write as often as you can and find time for writing. If you want to be a writer, then you have to write. These ladies are prolific writers and each one seemed to have a set time of the day when they did their writing. One of them made the point that if readers like what you write then they are going to be hungry for the next book. You need to feed that hunger.
  • Not only do you need to write but you need to publish. This means you need to finish your books and stories then get them out there.  One trick to get people interested is to have a special on one book a year which encourages people to try your books. Make the first one a cheapie, again in order to get readers.
  • Branding is of prime importance. Establish a good brand, a good cover style and good titles. People are drawn to the covers and the blurb.
  • Allow readers to download a proportion of your book. Once they have started reading they may want to read the rest.
  • Have a snippet of the next book or a trailer for the next book at the end. Get the reader loyal.
  • Have a website so you can update readers on your books and writing. This builds a connection with the reader.
  • Have a pre-order agreement. This builds up readership.
  • Have a blog and write about your books, your characters and your writing. It keeps readers with you.
  • Have a mailing list and a newsletter. These keep the readers interested and up to date with your writing.
  • Proofread everything and get other people to proofread your work. Try not to publish work with errors.
  • You need to have a least two or three books up for sale at anyone time, but it would be better to have 3 or 4.  This reinforces the point that you need to keep writing and putting your stuff out there.
  • Advertise – I picked up Barbara Freethy’s business card which has snapshots of a couple of book covers plus all the ways readers can contact her or read about her books.

This was good advice and the authors who gave are surely successful at what they do.



London Book Fair: Book Discovery for Authors

The London Book Fair opened to visitors at 9 am today at Earls Court in London and was an immediate success. Who knew there were so many print publishing companies, ditigal publishers, indie publishers, publishing platforms and digital developments out there? The adjective “amazing” doesn’t even cover it.

I got to talk to so many interesting and helpful people today. I need to mention the guy I talked to at CreateSpace who gave me lots of interesting ideas on publishing and marketing my Photoshop Manual; the guy I talked to at Kobo also told me about their author site, which was something I did not know about and now I can’t wait to explore (I bought a Kobo a few months ago to sit alongside my Kindle) and a couple from a Korean company explained their new online platform for creating ebooks (more about that in a later post). I got my photo taken by a professional photographer and will be using the finished result on my website

On to the topic of what I really learned today. I actually only listened in to one whole panel discussion/seminar and that was Book Discovery for Authors which featured Andrew Rhomberg of Jellybooks, Joanna Penn a Blogger & Author and the fantastic Mark Coker of Smashwords. A couple of years ago I put the first draft of my second novel up on Smashwords and 450 people downloaded it in a weekend. Thank you people.

So, back to what I really learned today.

  • As an  author you need to have more than one book available. If somone likes a book you have written then they are going to want to read more than one.
  • If you have written more than one book, then you need to make one book permanently free to attract readers. If they like the free book then the readers will be prepared to pay for the next one. If one book is free, then readers are more likely to pay a premium for another book in the same series.
  • No one can keep up with their readers as they will finish reading one of your books faster than you can write the next one. Since you need to keep your readers interested and on your side, hook up with other writers in the same genre and promote each others books. When your reader has finished your books then they can go to theirs and stay happy until you have a new book out.
  • Have an email list, a website link, a twitter account and a facebook account and have links to all of them at the end of your book. Your readers want to stay in touch with you and you need to keep them interested in you and your writing. If you can connect with your readers then they will stay with you. Apparently, most book  recommendations are via email. This is a seriously important point.
  • Keeping in touch with your readership is vital. Send them snippets of your new novel as you are writing it to keep them interested in the book and in you.
  • Invest in really good cover design and develop a brand line. A good cover can sell a thousand copies.
  • Give your reader a reason for reading and make your book “outstanding”. If you take your reader to a higher emotional level then the reader will rate you more stars. The more stars you get on Amazon or wherever, the more people are likely to buy your books.
  • Have a good title.
  • Use pre-orders. Pre-orders are counted as sales on day one of publication and send your book high up the best seller chart.
  • Promote, promote, promote.
  • Keep writing.

Since I have to promote my own novel tomorrow, I am off to work on my synopsis.


Travelling Light in Estonia

I am not known for travelling light but I am enjoying the challenge of finding lightweight items to pack into my super small and lightweight suitcase.

I have ditched the usual small bottles of liquid toiletries for soap leaves, shampoo leaves and laundry leaves. I have tried them out and they seem to work well enough. I am replacing my deodorant spray with a deodorant stick; the same for the sun blocker. Both are lighter and don’t have to be shown at the security gate. The hairbrush has been replaced by a comb which is smaller and lighter. I still have to take a tube of dry skin cream and some hair gel, since I haven’t found any solid replacements. I am thinking of making toothpaste using bicarbonate of soda and some mint flavouring.

Other lightweight options have been to buy two throwaway ponchos to replace the waterproof jacket, two microlight beach towels to replace the hand and beach towels (I am going hostelling), a roll up water bottle to replace a metal one, travel slippers to replace my indoor shoes, very lightweight trainers instead of heavier sports shoes, coffee bags instead of a jar of coffee and a water heating element instead of a kettle. I have got a good melamine cup and some quality cutlery.

Buying a pack of plain white ankle socks, with white briefs and lightweight tshirts has helped reduced the clothing weight. I have three pairs of lightweight cotton casual trousers and a light cotton and cashmere sweater to complete the outfits.

I have acquired a lighter and smaller roller suitcase and a nylon-type daypack which folds into itself to reduce the luggage weight. RyanAir allow passengers to also take a very small bag on board, so I can put my iPad in my tiny Rock bag along with the travel documents.

On the technology front I now have a Griffin cover for my iPad, which is both protective and doubles as a stand (this saves me taking the Belkin stand and the second sleeve). The mini wireless keyboard is an essential as is the SLR digital camera. I have ditched the heavy multi adapter for a smaller one and am looking at how I can reduce cables.

This year I am taking no books or magazines but am downloading them to my Kindle, Kobo and iPad. This should save several kilos. Also, I am not taking paper copies of maps and itineraries – for once, I shall try to remember to put everything on at least one eReader rather than leave them on the home PC.

Packing light is still a work in progress and I have 13 weeks to see if I can reduce the weight and contents even more. I am sure to find more weight saving ideas by then.

Former KGB HQ in Riga to reopen in 2014

In July 2014 I am making a research trip to Estonia and Latvia as part of my preparation for writing a series of crime novels based in the region. I am currently editing a novel I have written based on the riots in Tallinn by Russian emigres during April 2007 and the subsequent cyber attacks on the country.

As part of  the trip I will be visiting Riga. As I wrote in the previous post, Riga is one of the Capitals of Culture for 2014, so this should be an exciting time to make a return visit.

As I have an interest in the KGB, resulting from research into a previous novel, I shall be visiting the exhibitions at the former KGB headquarters in Riga.

The building is situated on the corner of Brivības Street and Stabu Street. After the occupation of Latvia on June 17, 1940, the building became the headquarters of the State Security Committee of the Latvian SSR, commonly known as the “čeka”. It did not take long for part of the basement and the ground floor to be reconstructed as prison cells and a place of torture and execution. The building used to hold a total of 44 prison cells with about 175 places (beds). Later, when the number of prisoners grew rapidly, the cells were packed and up to 36 people were confined in cells with six beds. The State Security Committee remained in the building until 1991, when Latvia regained its independence and the State Police moved in. Since 2008, the building has stood empty. (Source: accessed 06/04/14).

The building is now being reopened as part of the celebrations for Riga 2014, when the city becomes one of the European Capitals of Culture.

There will be exhibitions held here related to the theme of Freedom Street, which will tell the story of the Latvian move towards freedom in 1991.

World War 1 saw the destruction, not only of buildings and people, but the destruction of whole ways of life and culture. Latvia, like the other Baltic States, lost their prestige, their identity and their freedom in the aftermath of the war. Many Latvians were exiled, expelled, killed and impoverished after WW1. Many Latvians left to start a new life elsewhere and, many, never returned.

The exhibition, Latvian Suitcase, aims to demonstrate what was to be found in the luggage of those Latvians who, for different reasons, had to leave their country for ever. It is a multimedia exhibition focusing on memories and asking the individual what they would take in a suitcase if they had to leave their home country for an indeterminate time. The other exhibitions deal with the relationship between people and power, which will be very powerful considering the uses the Corner House were put to for over 50 years.

The exhibitions are free and run from 1st of May to the 19th of October. The opening hours are: Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is closed on Tuesdays.