Monday, 11 September 2017

Common Mistakes Writers Make

I am an indie author. I think you know that.
You have probably also noticed I read and review a lot of other indie authors.
What you do not see is all the books I read, and merely send a polite email to the author as they need to remedy some mistakes.

So, today I am sharing some of my "wisdom" with you.
There are two main errors that authors make.
I do not claim to be an expert. This is just my opinion btw.

1) Mixing up past/present/future tense - this has actually become my pet peeve as I see it so often
2) Not punctuating dialogue correctly

Let's start with tenses:
Simply put; keep your past in your past. 

I'm going to keep to the 'simple' tense, as this is most commonly used in novels. 

Past: Rachel bought a book
Present: Rachel is buying a book
Future: Rachel is will buy a book

What I often see is:
Rachel went to the shop and is buying a book. She paid at the till and left with her treasure in her grasp. 

Did you spot it? Rachel isn't looking, as the sentence is in the past tense. It should read:
Rachel went to the shop and bought a book...

You can write dialogue in the present tense, and keep the narrative in the past tense. 
But keep that narrative in the past. 

Of course, you may choose to write your book in the present tense. Absolutely your choice. Just stick to it when you choose one. At least in the same sentence and/or paragraph. 

There is the possibility of mixing tenses, but these need to be carefully done, and split with a scene change and paragraph. 

I know this advice is really basic. I've not really started delving underneath the surface at all.
There's perfect tense (basically using 'has'), progressive, subjunctive, verb forms, passive voice, all sort of things you can bring in. 

But for now, I'm sticking to the basics. You'd be surprised how many people get confused with this. 
It's easily done. But at least now it's hopefully in your mind for you to consider when writing.

Writing Dialogue:
This is something I often see authors getting into a mess with. 
And even I (yes, I'm human and make mistakes) had inadvertently made errors with something which should be very simple. 

Basically, use a comma if you are introducing a "s/he said" type statement (a dialogue tag).
The dialogue tag can be at the start or the end. 

Lowering his voice to a whisper, he told her, "I'm ready to tell you now."
"I'm ready to tell you now," he whispered. 

There is nothing wrong with using "said". It's simple and unobtrusive. Just don't overuse it. Everything in moderation.

Please do not overuse dialogue tags, full stop. Just once in a while to illustrate who is talking, or to emphasise a point. 

"I hate you," he yelled.
This does not require an exclamation mark. You are saying the character is yelling. 
Generally, you should avoid exclamation marks in novels. Your writing should speak for itself. 

You can link two sentences together with a tag, by the way. You use commas for this:
"I feel so stupid," she said with a sigh,"I fell for his charm." 

You can even give them new paragraphs. Do use this sparingly, as dialogue should generally be short and snappy to increase readability. But when the same character is speaking, do not close the quotation marks at the end of the first paragraph. Just open them at the start of the new one.

"Character 1 is saying something, but is going on a  bit. This paragraph comes to a close, but they need to say more.

"A new paragraph has started here, and closes as normal." 

This looks odd, but I'm assured this is the correct way of laying it out.

Remember, dialogue is conversation.
People do not stick to rigid formality when they speak. 

"Hello. It is very nice to meet you. How are you today?"
Do you hear this when you speak to your friends, or when you're people watching? I suspect not. 
Is it more like..?
"Hi, what's up?"
"Hey, how's you?" 

You can use slang and incorrect grammar in dialogue, just as long as it fits the character.
"I dunno."
This should technically read I do not know. But come on, who says this?

Dialect - don't forget to give your characters their own speech patterns and quirks. 
We don't all sound the same. We all have our little nuances when we talk. So your characters should too. 
How do they sound? Which time period do they live in? Do they have any key phrases they use repeatedly? Do they swear? 

There have been great books written entirely in regional dialect.
  • Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles uses a lot of West Country dialect, which can be tricky to follow. This hasn't stopped it being an incredibly popular book though.
  • Irvine Welsh uses Scottish phrases and phonetic spelling of them in Trainspotting. Specifically, the Edinburgh dialect. But again, this has been an incredible success. There's not really much I can politely quote on my blog from that ;-) 

If you choose to do this, just be aware your readers may struggle a bit. 

Be wary of putting in too many hesitations.
"I...umm...I'm not really...err, like, you know, not really happy."
Some hesitations can be useful and paint personality, but when overused they make it difficult to read.

There's a phrase which gets used a lot: "Show don't tell"
You can show points in narrative or speech, by the way. But please don't do both. It can be really tiresome to have a point explained by the narrator and then again by the character.

Phew! I've gone on a bit here. But hopefully this helps with some of the basics. 
I don't claim to be an expert. These are just things I've picked up along the way.
And I accept there's actually a few ways of laying out dialogue, but I just wanted to cover the basics here. 

All of the above is just something for you to bear in mind next time you sit down to create.

Always in love & light,

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Importance of Book Reviews

I have always left reviews of books I've enjoyed.
I was gobsmacked to learn this was not the norm.
I started self-publishing my books over 4 years ago. It was only after my first book went live that I discovered the average is 1 review per 1,000 books read!!

Why should you bother?
~ Well, for a start other readers after you may like to hear your experience of the book. And this may influence their decision to buy it.
~ The quantity of reviews will help boost the book's visibility online. Rumour has it, that after around 20 reviews, Amazon includes the book in the 'you might also like' section.
~ It boosts the writer's confidence. More on this below...

This is my image but not my own words

Authors are funny creatures. We tend to lean towards being introverted, often with a caffeine addiction. We spend many many hours sitting alone, creating our books for you.
We can have what is known as an 'artistic temperament'.

Writing can be an absolute joy, and I myself love it.
However, it's not all sunshine and roses.

  • There are many stages of editing to go through. This can be really quite traumatic, as we may have to axe our beloved words, sections or (*shocked gasp*) characters! Our wonderful characters who are like friends. 
  • We await feedback from beta readers, proof readers and editors on tenterhooks.
  • Then there's the blurb, oh the dreaded blurb! Where one tries to summarise our whole book into a few short sentences; giving enough information to entice readers whilst not giving away spoilers (*groan*). 
  • And then there's that big scary publish button. Oh it's a giant red button in my head, which brings self doubt as I approach and depress it. Eek! Am I really ready for this? Will people buy my book baby? Will they like it?

Through these stages of writing, or perhaps writer's block, and all the many moments of self doubt...
it is absolutely lovely for us to have some positive reviews on our previous books.
It is not a mere ego trip. It fortifies our fragile nerves. It gives us strength to carry on.

I even like the not so good reviews. I acknowledge that I am forever learning. We all are. Nobody can claim to know everything. If there's constructive criticism in a review I will look and listen. It may even help me improve the next time.

Reviews are like hugs for authors.
So please, review our books. Even if it's a quick 'this was good'.
And it would be super wonderful if you then told your friends about the treasure of a book you found.

Always in love & light,

If you have read or want to read my books, and leave a review, you can find them here:
TL Clark on Amazon

Friday, 28 July 2017

My own book news (and hear what I sound like)

I have so much news; it's all so exciting!

Firstly, my Darkness & Light Duology is now available on Amazon.
Love Bites is the first book. 
Even better, if you're in Kindle Unlimited you get this one for free

To celebrate, I'm going to be having a party.
Come and join in my fb launch event on Sat 26th August 2017.

My cover images were drawn by the very talented Mark Manley
and then the marvellous Robin Ludwig put it together with words 

Also, by popular demand, you can finally hear what I sound like! 
I've recorded me reading some of Love Bites.
Watch said video on YouTube

And just in case that wasn't enough, I'll be running a competition too.
I’ve had some book candles made especially, by the good folks at Blues Designs

For your chance to win one of 5 pairs of candles and a free copy of Love Bites Harder (book 2), post a picture of you reading Love Bites on Instagram 
(please use #booklovebites and tag @tlclarkauthor, just to ensure I see it) 

I will select winners at the end of September. Don't worry; I'll post anywhere.

Book synopsis (Love Bites; book 1): 

In spite of her so-called normal life, Shakira doesn't fit in. 

She moves to Wales in search of a home, the sense of belonging which has always eluded her. 

She gets more than she ever dreamed possible when a handsome young man unwittingly transforms her. 

Suddenly her world is full of magick and mystery, which she struggles to come to terms with. 

Witches and vampires exist, and Shakira’s very existence is against the vampire clan’s law.

NB: Mature content; adult romance. And may not be suitable for vegetarians ;-) 

My many thanks go out to all my helpers, from all the people mentioned/linked to here, to my beta reader, proof readers, and of course, to my long suffering hubby.

This series has been 18 months in the making.
It's been a long time, and I have been sidetracked by illness at times.
But it's all been worth it to reach this point.
I have had so many people helping me throughout. I thank you all.

Phew! Enough excitement for one post?
I'm a very busy bee, so will run off and do many author things now.

Love & light,
(don't forget to buy the books!)

Friday, 14 July 2017

The Writing Process

People often ask me what my writing process is. How do I write? What inspires me? Do I carefully plan out my plots?

Well, I thought I'd enlighten you.
This is only the way I do it. Each author has their own way. And as it's British little me, this is sprinkled with my own brand of snark.

First, I have a dream!
My stories sort of just 'come to me'.
This can literally be through a dream, or even just a vague thought which pops into my head.

Generally, it starts as the hint of a theme.
Maybe I know the end; what I envision the characters' purpose is.
Or sometimes it's the very first paragraph.

My current work in progress started with the idea of a scene in a caf; my vampire sitting down for coffee, pretending to be normal. But this didn't even get featured in the end.

Then I have to start fleshing it out. Putting meat on the bones.
There's two great British slang phrases for you! ;-)

I honestly just sit down at my laptop, and start typing.
It's often a surprise to me what drips from my fingers.
It feels a bit like when I channel Reiki, only it's the story I'm channelling.

When I was writing True's Love  I thought I was going to go crazy.
It filled my head every waking moment, and even when I slept. From the first thing in the morning until the last thing at night it was knocking on my skull, demanding my attention.
I just had to sit at my computer as much as possible and get it out of my head and onto 'paper' just to get some peace.

I get inspiration from all around me.
I have lived a somewhat turbulent life, and some of my own experiences have fuelled my writing. Never directly though.

I was a counsellor to young people in the past. I drew on the stories told to me in that context to create the fictional story of Broken & Damaged Love - a romance story which offers hope to child sex abuse survivors. It's the book I'm most proud of as it can do so much good in the world.

My pagan vampire, witch romance
(soon to be released), had a very different inspiration!

It was really exciting to delve into a fantasy world filled with magick.

My familiar has been my muse.

As I continue to write a picture starts to emerge.
I pick threads and start weaving them.

Some bits stand out and I start to explore them further.

Often, my own characters start telling me where they should go next! Yes, this sounds bonkers, but many authors go through this. It's fine.

I've totally had to change my intention for characters before at their demand!

So, the exciting bit of writing has been done; draft 1 is complete (*insert feeling of achievement and euphoria*)

But that means the dreaded editing must now take place.
At least one more draft is created as I sift through, trying to ensure the best flow has been created. Is there anything superfluous? Do I need to elaborate on anything?

Once I'm reasonably happy my marvellous proof readers will get their mits on my book baby. Maybe a beta reader before this, depending on my confidence levels.

This is the stage I begin to worry.
What if they don't like it? Am I good enough? How do I compare to...? Will readers enjoy my work?
Oh, the wonderful paranoia which inevitably creeps in!? :-/

I rely on my proof readers' scrutiny. Happily they've not told me I'm crap yet!

A bit more editing happens, along with a lot more worrying.

I then speak with my wonderful cover designer Robin Ludwig who works her magick, and somehow puts a picture to my book. This picture has to reflect what the story is about within approx. 2 seconds of a potential reader looking at it.
Much head scratching happens here.

Finally, after much soul searching, tears, tantrums, sleepless nights...
My book baby is uploaded into Amazon! :-O
Dern dern deeerrrrn!!! (*scary music*)

A little bit of poo comes out at I depress the 'publish' button.
I screw my eyes up tightly, and press it, sending many wishes for its success as it travels through the ether.

Nothing can describe the sheer horror of this moment.
People will soon be able to see my book. People!
They will judge it (if they ever manage to discover it).

And then the real work begins...
(but that will be a future post)

btw all images on this post are from Pixabay

So, that's all for this post.
Keep your eyes out across all my social media for news of when my duology will be released unto to the world:

You have no idea how much I hope you enjoy my books. 💖

Always with love & light,

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Dear Jane - an author's tribute

I just visited the Jane Austen exhibition in Winchester. As most of you will know this year marks the 200th anniversary of her death (18th July 1817). 

Having watched the Lucy Worsley documentary on the great lady, and having lived in the south of England my whole life I felt I should pay my respects. 

The picture (above) was on display, and was painted by her sister Cassandra. 
Many don't think of Jane like this, but I do. She's pretty, but not overly so. She's serious and yet mischievous and wistful, just as any good writer should be. 

There is so much more to Jane than meets the eye. 
She basically self published at one point, much like my good self. 
She also loved the countryside, and tried to inject love and positivity into dark times, also like myself.
Of course, I can't even hope to truly compare. She had a far greater talent than I shall ever have.

But it is thanks to people like Jane Austen that I am a writer. 
I read Evelina by Fanny Burney last year, which is one of the very first romance novels. 
And again Lucy Worsley prompted me to read this thanks to her documentary on the history of romance novels. 
I learned that one Miss J Austen effectively crowd funded that book before she'd written hers. 
I absolutely loved Evelina. If you've not read it yet please do. 

It must have taken so much courage and determination to have written as they did. 
Publishing and indeed writing were an awful lot harder then.
Me? I just write my drivel on a laptop and send it through the internet and unleash it into the world. 

They had to write by hand and send large packets of paper to publishers and hope that they would send their work out through bookshops. And there were fewer readers. 
Romance books were virtually unheard of and quite scandalous. 
The very subject matter was extremely daring.
But can you imagine a world without romance books now? How dull would it be?
Or (*shock, gasp*) a world without Mr Darcy?

I shudder to think what her readers would think of my books. 
If they thought holding hands and flirtations were bad? Well, if you've read any of my work you'll know I don't exactly hold back in the bedroom scenes. 

Jane didn't ever make much money from her books in her lifetime. 
Like most great artists of her time, it wasn't until after her death she found notoriety. 
This makes me feel sad. She deserved so much more than the hard life she led. 

She is thought to have had arthritis, possibly due to the amount of writing she had undertaken.
And this may have led to her untimely demise. She was only 41 when she passed into spirit.
One thought is that she saw a doctor in London who prescribed something for her pain, but this contained arsenic. 
In one letter she complains of skin discolouration "black and white and every wrong colour". One crime novelist (Lindsay Ashford) has attributed this to arsenic poisoning.
She truly may have suffered for her art!

Although she was by no means rich, as soon as she came into an inheritance she gave money away. She could little afford to do this, but one of her accounts still in existence shows tips for servants, monies to charity and presents. 
I must conclude she was a kind hearted soul. 

So, I just wanted to share my utmost respect and love for these brave women.
The founders of our wonderful romantic worlds. 
The pioneers of writing from the heart.
I thank you Jane, and all those brave women. Thank you. 

Without them I would most certainly not be able to write as I do now. 

Om mani padme hum 

(I purchased the notebook at the exhibition; it echoes the oak leaf design on Jane's silk pelisse on display. 
I hope writing my future book notes in this brings me good luck). 

Psst...please don't let me be like Jane. Please buy and review my books. 😉

Friday, 2 June 2017

News - read all about it (my author news, that is)

Did you know you can sign up to my newsletter?

I promise it's very rare for me to send you a message. I know how annoying it can be to have your inbox clogged up by spam.

But I would like to let you know about important things, such as special offers and my new book releases.
You wouldn't want to miss that now, would you?
I know how you sit on the edge of your seat with baited breath, just waiting for my next book.
OK, so maybe not, but it might still be nice to hear about it, right?

Anyway, if you want to hear from me once in a while, please click on the right of my page where it says 'Subscribe to my mailing list'; it's a very cunning heading, isn't it? ;-)

What it should look like (may display differently on diffeent devices):

If you just subscribed; thank you muchly. You're awesome.

Love & light,

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Happy Birthday To Me

Wow; four years ago today I published my first ever romance novel:

I feel like celebrating today. Someone send me cake and Prosecco, pronto! 

My first book was a lovely romance (well, I would say that, wouldn't I?), but it really is.
Samantha was in a really bad marriage with an overly controlling man.
She struggles to set herself free and regain her self-confidence and independence.
There's some dating disasters along the way, as well as a trip to Tuscany along with some gelato.
Mmmm...birthday ice cream may also be on my menu today. 

Please feel free to check the link (from the book title at the start of this post). 
Buy, enjoy and review my book; a wonderful author's birthday present ;-)