“Dream” Book Buyers at Festival of Crafts, Coombe Abbey

Thank you to the “dream buyers” who bought my books on Saturday at the Coombe Abbey Festival of Crafts. 20160910_094309-1 They needed no promotional chat of any kind from me, (which I’ve discovered is counter-productive), studied my banner, reviews and blurbs closely, and recognised that the stories were just their type of thing.20160910_094239-1

Abigail, Jamie and I enjoyed our time at the local author stall in the Craft Marquee at the festival despite the rain and damp – though I feared my books might be starting to curl!

 

Thank you too to another stallholder, Holly Webster, who came over to me to look at my books and to chat about her own urban dark fantasy novels. I’ve looked her up on Amazon and  though the horror element in her novel Blood Borne is much  darker than my usual taste, curiosity may lead me to download on my Kindle!

Thank you also to the lady who came over and bought a copy of “Mystical Circles” and said, “I shall read this today and review it tomorrow.”

Now all I need is for buyers like this to be increased a hundredfold!20160910_09395420160910_094001-120160910_094112-1-120160910_094239-1

Writing, Reading and Reviewing Books For Love

Compassion, respect and kindness are human qualities common to all regardless of any faith position. In this post, I’m making a plea for these three things in the online world of books.

APS on bookshelf at Kenilworth Books 13 Feb 2016 cropped image
Even when readers buy physical books in bricks-and-mortar bookstores they often like to post a review online.

 

Recently I learned from my fellow authors of  something very sad which is happening on Goodreads – which I had previously been totally unaware of. See this article by Anne Rice here.

I have been aware that the dark side of human nature does indeed find outlets for expression on the internet but I had up to now been unconscious of the fact that this affects the world of reviewing books.

In today’s publishing scene, Amazon reviews are of great importance to a writer – though I sometimes wish they weren’t.  The fact remains a new review can lift an author’s spirits, and a lack of reviews can (however mistakenly) feel like rejection.  But it came as a great surprise to me to learn that some people are using their membership of book review sites as an opportunity to express spite, envy and malevolence to others.

I love writing books, reading books and reviewing books.

Every book review  I post online is authentic. It has never occurred to me  to ever post a spurious review or a one star rating simply to hurt someone else.

My own personal rules of book reviewing are as follows:

  1.  I never post one star reviews. If a book genuinely warrants such a rating, I would be most unlikely to even read it all the way through, and I would simply choose not to post a review at all.
  2. I generally give 4 or 5 star reviews and sometimes 3 star. Perhaps I’m over-generous with my star-ratings. Or perhaps it’s down to the fact that I have an instinct to choose books I know I’ll enjoy reading.
  3. I write reviews because I enjoy it; never to criticise, condemn or discourage.

As authors, we write for love –

  1. for love of expressing oneself through the written word, because we have something to say and because we feel compelled to write – regardless of worldly success
  2. for love of creating characters, allowing our imaginations free rein with our created world writing dialogues, entering new worlds.

So I hope that book reviewers would also write for love.

“Love”, by the way, means respect for others, authenticity and honesty: and it includes constructive criticism. It also means reading a book all the way through before writing your opinion of it on a permanent online platform like Goodreads or Amazon.

If you’re an author to whom online reviews are important, I’d love to have your comments on this subject.

Successful Signing at Kenilworth Books

Thank you very much to Judy, the owner of Kenilworth Books, for the success of my author event on Saturday 13 February 2016 in her bookshop in Talisman Square, Kenilworth.

Not only did Judy do a tremendous amount to publicise the event on social media but she created a wonderful eye-catching display in the shop, and placed my book prominently on the bookshelves.  I was pleased to see many familiar faces in the shop that day, as well as several new faces, and I hope the healthy sales will result in some happy readers… and maybe even some more  Amazon reviews!

 

 

From the Launch of A Passionate Spirit to the Writing of the Next Novel

Only four days now until publication day for “A Passionate Spirit“.

"A Passionate Spirit" by SC Skillman
“A Passionate Spirit” by SC Skillman

Instead of a bookshop party I shall be “launching” this novel with visits to  three local Christmas fairs in Warwickshire this year, and then starting in February, I plan to do a series of signings, one in Kenilworth Books, one in Waterstone’s Leamington Spa, and a possible “ghostly” book event with other local authors organised by  Warwick Books in the atmospheric Great Hall in Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick.

My first event will be the Christmas Fair at Princethorpe College, Rugby, on the day after publication day – Sunday 29th November 2015, from 2.00-4.30pm.  If any of you are local to that area, and have some free time then, do drop in to the fair where I’m sure there will be many wonderful Christmas gift ideas. I’ll have signed copies of the new novel for sale, alongside copies of my debut novel “Mystical Circles. I’d be delighted to see you there!

Meanwhile in the next few days Matador will send me their mailing list for me to check, listing all those who’ll receive my Press Release, and I hope that there will soon be some exciting media coverage to report here, on my website and on my Matador page.

The ebook will also be available for purchase from all online stores from 28th November, and for six weeks it will be possible to download a copy free from Net Galley for review.

And then… back to the next novel. Several chapters have already been written, and in the last few days I’ve been noting down some fresh inspiration!

 

 

 

Exciting Plans as Publication Day Draws Closer for “A Passionate Spirit”

Publication date draws ever closer – 28th November!

A Passionate Spirit full Cover
A Passionate Spirit full Cover

My new novel “A Passionate Spirit” has now been sent to print and will be ready in the next couple of weeks.  Meanwhile Matador’s ebook department are converting the manuscript to an ebook.  When the ebook has been uploaded to online retailers, it will also be on Net Galley for 6 weeks. There, keen readers and reviewers can download the new releases free of charge for review.

If you do a lot of fiction reading, and enjoy writing online reviews, and you’re not already a member of Net Galley I’ll be including a Net Galley widget in a blog post closer to publication date, and you can then sign up! Or of course you can head on over to Net Galley now and join straight away.

Remember, word-of-mouth recommendation is critical to an author’s success, and online, that means reviews, and plenty of them!

You’ll be able to post a review on my webpage at Matador as well as on Amazon, Goodreads and my Facebook Page.

Meanwhile I’ve booked a stall at three Christmas fairs in Warwickshire, to sell copies both of my first novel “Mystical Circles” and my newly released book “A Passionate Spirit.” I always enjoy doing local fairs and events; it’s fun to chat to the visitors and to find out what sort of books they like reading, and when they do their reading. I’ve learned some interesting information about different reading habits that way!

In addition, I’ll be doing some book signing events at local bookshops. More about those closer to the time!

Progress on Marketing of A Passionate Spirit

I’ve just heard from Matador that my front cover for my new novel A Passionate Spirit is now approved, and I’ve just seen the final drafts of my marketing material for the novel.

A Passionate Spirit, the new paranormal thriller from SC Skillman, due to be published by Matador on 28 November 2015
A Passionate Spirit, the new paranormal thriller from SC Skillman, due to be published by Matador on 28 November 2015
My “Advance Information” sheet will shortly be mailed out to retailers, library suppliers and local bookshops.   My Press Release marketing will begin once copies of the printed book are available, when the marketing controller at Matador will contact me with the PR list that they’ll draw up for my book. All very exciting!
In addition I’ve just received back a report on my copy-edited ms from one of my 4 beta readers, with some useful insights and observations which will help me tweak the novel and sharpen it up, even now, at the last moment before it goes for typesetting!
I’ll soon have some promotional A Passionate Spirit Bookmarks ready too which I’m looking forward to being able to hand out to any of my target readers – those who love reading paranormal thrillers!

Witty Insight into the London Art World

For all those who’ve wondered how one starts to get noticed as an artist in London, and is in the mood for a light-hearted approach to the subject I can recommend a book which might have escaped my notice if I hadn’t recently met the author at a conference.

witty look at the London art world by Emily Benet
witty look at the London art world by Emily Benet

Emily Benet first posted her book chapter by chapter on Wattpad and had such a good response from readers that she came to the attention of Harper Impulse, who published the book as “The Temp”.

I bought the book after listening to Emily talking about social media for authors at the recent conference at the University of Leicester. Emily certainly incorporates her knowledge of social media into this novel.

I learned from her that the book was originally called “Spray Painted Bananas”, and I believe that was a much more original title. Purely from the cover design and title that Harper Impulse have given this novel I would have identified it as generic chick-lit and probably not have picked it out in a book shop.

And yet, reading the novel, I find it much more than chick-lit. It gives a delightful and witty insight into the London art world, and I found myself thinking of the main protagonist, Amber, as a budding Tracy Emin.

It’s so easy to look at installations in the Tate Modern and think, Oh I could do that. But the reality of getting yourself known as an artist is far more complex and challenging. Emily Benet has great fun, not only with the motivations and behaviour of those who visit art galleries for private views, but also with the ways in which an artist may start to become known, particularly in London.

I loved this story, found the characters engaging and entertaining, especially Amber’s flatmate Egg, and enjoyed the rom com element as well. Highly recommended for a fun read.

For some of my previous posts on the contemporary art world, see https://scskillman.com/2013/10/09/what-do-we-do-about-art-theres-always-a-little-shop-at-the-end/ and http://ezinearticles.com/?Inspiration-for-Creative-Writers-From-Artists&id=6783241

Book Review: Born Survivors by Wendy Holden

This is the story of how three young women – Anka, Rachel and Priska – hid their pregnancies from Dr Josef Mengele on the ramp at Auschwitz, and went on to suffer in the concentration camps and give birth to their babies just before Liberation in April 1945. All three of those babies then met for the first time at the age of 65 and became very close because of the astonishing similarity of circumstances in which they had been born.

Born Survivors by Wendy Holden
Born Survivors by Wendy Holden

I’ve read several books about and by Holocaust survivors, and yet each time I read the detailed account of an individual’s experiences I feel the horror afresh. This account, brilliantly told by Wendy Holden, spares none of the terrible details; the one thing that keeps you going, as the reader, through the grotesque inhumanity of the Nazis, is the knowledge that “this story is only being told because the three women and their babies survived.”

As survivor Esther Bauer put it: “The first twenty years we couldn’t talk about it. For the next twenty years no-one wanted to hear about it. Only in the next twenty years did people start asking questions.”

When reading these books I have two immediate responses. One is to try to imagine how I would have coped with those kind of circumstances, and how I would have behaved. The second response is always to ask what this tells us about the nature of human beings,  of good and evil, hope and despair.

This time, I had the following thought:

The essential requirement for “hope” seems to be “macro” thinking. For many of us, when life’s “normal” we live our little lives with our small goals. But when Force Majeure intervenes, throwing us into a survival situation – be that earthquake, tsunami, terrorist atrocity, or Nazi Holocaust – our goals shift from “micro” thinking to “macro” thinking, at the point where lives and hopes and dreams are torn apart – a shift takes place. A new goal replaces the old: to survive; or to know that your story might be known in the future. And these three women would have hoped that their as yet unborn babies would be the living embodiment of that.

Book Review (English Social History): “Through the Keyhole” by Susan C Law

It seems part of the psychological make-up of the English people to bestow power upon the wealthy and privileged; whilst at the same time depriving them of the right to privacy.

And as we’ve all recently seen in the General Election, you have to be tough to play for high stakes; winner takes all, and  unsuccessful opponents lose everything.

Through the Keyhole by Susan C Law
Through the Keyhole by Susan C Law

Today’s obsession with the private lives of celebrities and those “in high places” finds its parallel in Georgian and Regency England, where the public was hungry for moral lapses among the aristocracy. This fascinating and scrupulously researched book shines a spotlight onto a universal aspect of human behaviour – but the scholarly focus is upon how eighteenth century society reacted to it, thus enriching our knowledge of the social history of the time.

Aristocratic rakes are the stuff of novels set in Regency England. One of the most striking things about the book is how intensely the opinion-makers of the time wanted to hold on to the idea of “rank co-existing with honour”, despite all evidence to the contrary. Another outstanding aspect of Susan Law’s account is the hypocrisy of the society as the popular press indulged itself in moralising and judgementalism, along with minimal respect for confidentiality, slander and libel, thus feeding a voracious appetite by the public. But I was also surprised by the disregard that the adulterous aristocrats themselves paid to covering up their tracks, and their failure to have due regard to the ominipresence of their servants. Tumbled bedclothes, two dents in the bed, and hair powder on the pillowcases seem obvious tracks to cover up!

Susan Law examines the craze of the 1790’s for printed court reports of adultery trials, which continued through to the late 1830’s with the popularity of the “Crim Con Gazette”. She examines the changes that took place up until the 1832 Great Reform Act which altered the way the nation saw itself in terms of social hierarchies – opening up “previously unthinkable possibilities for the middle class”. Certainly in the early part of the period it is very noticeable that often “cuckolded” husbands (themselves equally guilty of adultery) might be awarded huge damages and then go on to an honourable career in high office, while adulterous women were far more likely to be “sent away” in shame and have their lives ruined.

Chief among the adulterers later on of course was the Prince Regent, and I was amused to read the opinion of Theresa, sister of the Earl of Morley, who wrote in a letter “’tis dreadful to think of the open profligacy of that Monster…. we must all go to the dogs should he ever unfortunately come to the throne.”

To the non-academic reader, the most interesting parts of this book are when the author gives accounts of specific cases, such as that of Lord Ellenborough and his young wife Jane. There are among these stories accounts that will draw a variety of different responses from the reader; for as the blurb points out, the different stories are passionate, scandalous, poignant and tragic.

A fascinating insight into eighteenth century social history, with plenty of material which will give us cause to reflect upon the preoccupations of today’s Britain as well.

Book Review: “Miracles” by Eric Metaxas

This book was recently recommended to me: Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life.  I’ve now reading it and found it a fascinating book ideal for discussion in a group.

Miracles by Eric Metaxas
Miracles by Eric Metaxas

Metaxas is renowned as the author of a much-admired book on Dietrich Boenhoffer (published in 2011). In this new book, he turns his attention to a vitally important subject: our worldview and how it affects our perception of reality.

In the first half of the book Metaxas examines the rules by which we may determine that an event is “a miracle”.

One of his most compelling early chapters is about the miracle of life on earth. As a counterpoint to Stephen Hawking’s observation that We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star Metaxas gives us a taster of the vast number of  fine-tuned characteristics which are necessary to support life. As I read this chapter it put me in mind of one of my own favourite quotes, which comes from Joseph Conrad’s novel Lord Jim:

This is Nature – the balance of colossal forces… the mighty Cosmos in perfect equilibrium produces – this.

Beyond this, Metaxas goes on to consider the picture of God breaking through into the natural world with miracles, like a great tree bursting through concrete. He examines the questions of God’s apparent “selectivity” – why do some people’s lives benefit from miraculous intervention, and others not?

In the second half of the book Metaxas gives accounts of miracles which happened to himself and to people he knows personally. These stories of miracles are robust and compelling. Some are disturbing, creepy and challenging. Near the end of the book he relates a 9/11 story which holds you transfixed. And he ends with a challenge both intellectual and spiritual.

I found this book thrilling, uplifting and enormously encouraging. Throughout my life there have been times when I’ve instinctively felt something to be true, without having the necessary resources of intellectual argument to lay it on the table before others. In this book, Metaxas encourages us to fully engage our minds on a subject which is far too easy to talk or think about in a “loose” or “woolly” way.

If you possibly can, find time to read this book and to consider what Metaxas says.