What to give your favourite author for Christmas #reviews #book #amreading

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Christmas is a time for giving.

As anyone who follows me knows, I’ve made my short story ‘STRANDED‘ perma-free, and it’s available to download from all good e-reader stores. It will remain free for the rest of its e-book life. I have no intention of ever charging for it. It’s a short story, for anyone who loves hot and erotic romance and reads eBooks. That’s my gift to you, the reader.

I support other authors by offering blog space to help promote their books. I share it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. I retweet and share posts. I review books that I’ve read on Goodreads & Amazon. I buy books. That’s my gift to you, the author.

And, I’d like to invite other authors and readers to join me on the “giving” spree. It doesn’t have to cost you anything. There are plenty of free ways to give back to the literary community.

Your Words

As an author, I regularly reach out to readers to say thank you – either directly if they’ve contacted me, or through the power of social media if it’s an anonymous sale. (I can’t see who’s buying my books!) As a reader, I regularly reach out to authors to do the same, because I know how hard it can be. Writing is a lonely job, and there are so many times when we feel like giving up. Reaching out and sending a single email / tweet with words of encouragement could make a huge difference to your favourite author.


Reviews are worth their weight in gold. They don’t have to be lengthy or particularly well-written. A single sentence is appreciated. The important part is that it gets put on sites like Amazon US / UK. Reviews are a way for readers to communicate with authors – I know that I read every single one that I receive. We use them to better ourselves and work on the bits you didn’t like. But more than that, they help that title get seen by other readers.

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I have a love-hate relationship with money. I wish it didn’t exist, but unfortunately, we all need it to pay the bills. Writing is a career. For many, it is a full-time job. It’s not a hobby. Yes, we’re lucky enough to be self-employed in a job we love, but only if it pays the bills. I’ve known so many excellent writers to give up because they don’t have the time to concentrate on writing. It sounds mercenary and perhaps selfish, but it’s necessary. To continue to write, we need the sales. Buy an eBook for yourself, buy a print book as a present for someone else. Even the smallest of sales help.

Authors aren’t rich. For every $2.99 book I sell, I receive maybe $1, depending on my contract. Even self-published authors don’t get 100% of sales – they get a 35%-70% royalty, again depending on the contract they have with their sellers, and whether it’s an eBook or paperback. Point of fact – eBooks provide you with a higher revenue as there is less cost into creating it. It’s not uncommon for a traditional publisher to offer 10%-20% royalties on a $9.99 paperback, but 40% on a $2.99 eBook.

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Can you afford to buy a new book? Fabulous – treat your favourite author to a new sale. Are you as skint as the rest of us? Leave a review, or send a message to your favourite author, letting them know that you appreciate them.

Fantasies, spankings and the BBC

Studying a Creative Writing module for the Open University is a lot harder than I anticipated. I thought, yeah it will be fine. It will be fun! I’ve got plenty of material to use. Nah. I’ve really struggled this year. Possibly because I decided to go full-time and do a Worlds of English module at the same time. (Turns out I’m not as much of a grammar Nazi as Hubby thinks I am.) But anyhoo, the last assignment, the EMA, is to write the opening of a novel. I have plenty of unpublished works to choose from, but none of them seem appropriate. I’m pretty sure the OU are looking for something more literary than a sex scene. It’s okay though, because there is always that fantasy series I’ve been working on for about three years now, right? Wrong.

Unless you have sat down and actually tried to write a fantasy novel, there is no way I can describe how much of a ball-ache it really is. Fantasy – you can make shit up, yeah? I thought so too. But wow, so much has been done, it’s difficult to find an original story idea for a start. At least with romance, nobody cares that a particular trope has been done to death. With romance I’ve always been a pantster writer, with fantasy it takes so much more planning. Timelines, family trees… My desk is just one giant notebook.


So the OU may just have to deal with someone having their ass spanked, because I’m not sure I can come up with 2,500 words of something more intelligent.

Speaking of spanking… Today I found out that the most commonly used term to bring up my website and blog is “BDSM romance” which is interesting when you consider that the only two BDSM books I’ve written are Taking Care of Leah and A Different Kind of Therapy. All the others are technically classed as erotic romance, but have vanilla sex as opposed to anything remotely kinky. And even then, it has been commented that both TCoL and ADKoT aren’t really erotica, and barely scratch the BDSM world’s surface, as can be seen in reviews on Cara Sutra’s Pleasure Panel reviews, here and here. But maybe it’s a sign? Maybe I am supposed to write more in-depth books with regards to the kinkiness that is BDSM. It’s always been a fascination – remember that time I tried my hand at online domination? I still have foot fans and random people sending my alter-ego shoes. Maybe I need to research more. Of course this may be a problem consider the BBC are going to be following me around for a couple of days soon.

Did I not mention that? Yes, because I’m a student with the OU and a full-time writer and a full-time Mum, and walking dogs and volunteering at school, a member of the local PTA and a girl-guiding leader, they have decided to use me in one of their online learning videos. Eek! For 2 days at some point, I will have a camera and a director following me around and interviewing me. I don’t suppose they will want to watch me taking pictures of my feet and being social on websites like FetLife. So that will be fun.

But back to the grindstone. Books don’t write themselves, and neither do EMA’s. When my last assignment (a short story) comes back, I might post it online for you all to read, for free.

Writing: The easiest job in the world


I hear it all the time: “Oh I would write a book, if I didn’t have a real job taking up my time,” and “Writer’s block doesn’t exist. All you’re doing is putting words on page. It can’t be that hard. I don’t know why you’re moaning.” My favourite: “I don’t know why books are so expensive. Writing is the easiest job in the world.” Uh-huh. Okay. If you say so.

The truth is that yeah, writing is easy. Most people can put pen to paper and create a coherent sentence. The trick is stringing 60,000+ words together that not only make sense, but draw people in and keep their attention. Not only that, but coming up with the storyline in the first place – that is where writer’s block comes in. I can have an idea (I usually have three or four), but figuring out where to start the story, whose POV to write it from etc. can take some time!

It’s not just writing that comes under fire though. Hubby is a photographer, and he hears it just as much as me: “Oh I have a digital camera. I’d love to have the time to make it a career,” and “All you do is point and shoot, it can’t be that tricky.” PAH! Photography, like writing, takes a lot more work than people realise. Yeah, he can point the camera and snap away, but he’s got to consider the lighting, positioning, shadows, and a lot of stuff I know nothing about. And then there’s the editing – what you see / read, is not the first draft!!


I can use the internet, but I couldn’t create a webpage from scratch!

I’ve got 2 new books and re-release coming out in the summer. That’s 2 books that I’ve written over the past year. Here’s a few things I think would have been easier:

  • Scaling Mount Everest – Hell, it’s just a large hill isn’t it?
  • Flying a jumbo jet – I can drive a car, it can’t be that difficult. Mechanics is mechanics after all.
  • Performing brain surgery – Break out the scalpel and dig out the bit you don’t need, yeah?
  • Taming a wild lion – If you’ve met my cat, Nibbler, you’ll know that this would be a walk in park for me!
  • Writing a thesis on quantum physics – I can put pen to paper and make words into a sentence, I have access to the internet, what else do you need?

That book you have by your bed? Took a lot longer to write than it will take for you to read it. Just like that meal you ate last night took a lot longer to cook than it did to shovel it into your mouth.

If you think writing a novel is easy, I’m glad – because it means I did a good job. Please, leave a review, and damn well pay for the next book you read.

Naming your character

I’ve recently started writing a new short story and questioned whether it would be okay to not name my main character until the second chapter. I got a lot of responses, mainly saying yes, because it adds to the mystery. In truth, I hadn’t decided to leave his name out of it because I wanted to give him a mysterious air, but because I just couldn’t think of a good name!


I’ve gone through my baby names book – one I’ve owned since 2004, and is well and truly torn, dog-eared, and tea-stained. And even though it contains over 100,000 names, I still can’t find one. Granted this book goes a bit overboard, with suggestions including: ‘Aesculapius’, ‘Seabert’ and ‘Yull’. (I’m sure these are lovely names, but they are still a bit odd…) Yet still, I cannot find one I like.

The problem is that (as I’ve said before), I like short names for my characters – or names that can be shortened easily. And while I’m happy to use interesting or unusual names (although possibly not ‘Atwater’ for a first name) and I do want them to be memorable, I don’t want people writing a reviews that include the lines: “WTH was Charlotte Howard thinking when she named her hero ‘Spurgeon Sutcliffe’?!”

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Probably the most well-read book in my house!

I also want a name that is suitable for the setting. My current WIP is based in Aberdeen, with characters that grew up in or near the Granite City. The names don’t have to be particularly Scottish, but they still have to be names that would have been given to children born in the late 70s, early 80s, in Scotland. It has to be realistic.

At the same time I don’t want to be boring. Looking over my previous works, I have gone for very traditional names: Mark, Matthew, Paige, Danny, April, Max, Ethan, Chloe, Imogen, Connor… I pushed the boat out with Bianca, Vance, Cal and AJ. The names need to stay in line with my writing style.

Of course, the other problem is that I have to be careful that I don’t name characters after people I know. Fortunately my cousin has either not read Seven Dirty Words, or has decided to gloss over the fact that I, inadvertently, used his name. (Sorry about that! But at least he’s a lovely character!)  Unfortunately, hubby did notice that I also used the name of a man I used to have a major crush on, in the same story… But it’s okay, because it’s been 13 years…

Despite there being thousands and thousands of usable names out there, I keep coming back to the same ones. Ethan, for example, is one of my favourite male names. It’s strong and cute, but I can’t call every single male hero Ethan! I’ve found that I have to go through my previous books and make a list of names to avoid.

So I’m stuck. I need names – ones that would have been used in Scotland between 1978 and 1983, that are easy to pronounce and read (does anyone else skim over names they don’t know how to pronounce, and in their head read ‘blah blah’ instead of the name?!), fairly short or easy to shorten for  nickname, and memorable. I’ll let you know when I get one… Or perhaps, like Colin Bateman in Mystery Man, I just won’t name him at all…

Rules, and why I like to break them

How many blogs / posts / books have you read entitled “How to be a successful writer”? How many times have you read the same words, over and over again? There are several “rules” to being a writer, or more how to market and publicise your books. And I can’t abide them.

Have an active social media presence on pretty much every single social media site that exists and keep it professional

I have an account on FB (in fact I have two – one personal, one author). I am on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. But I don’t have time to update every single one on an hourly basis with links to my books and promos, adverts etc. Contrary to common belief, I do not spend all day on my laptop. I have a family, and a life outside of work – like most of you do I should think, and that is exactly what writing is. Work.

With regards to keeping it professional, I don’t believe that readers and fans want to be bombarded with my books over and over again. Twitter is generally book related. Facebook is a mix of both, but Pinterest and Instagram are there for my readers and followers to have a small look into my life. Yes, I post pictures of food and cats. Because I’m human, I’m a woman, and I like food and cats.

Sign-up, join, and contribute to as many web forums as you possibly can, especially Goodreads and Amazon

For the same reason I don’t post to Facebook and Twitter every single day, I do not contribute to forums. I get fed up of trolls – I’ve been the victim of one on Goodreads, where I was accused of being a “badly behaving author”, despite not actually having said a word. I was banned from groups for spamming, after being asked by the creator to put up a post for one of my books. And I did – just the one, but then she reported me for spamming the group. Go figure. These incidents left a bad taste in my mouth, so I avoid forums whenever I can.

Write on your blog every single day and keep it book-related, genre-related, and different

Again. I don’t have time to write on my blog every day, or even every week! I try to keep it book / genre related, but sometimes I like to put up something personal, so that my readers and followers can see that I am human and not some typing machine.

Build a website and keep it up-to-date, make sure you hit all the SEO values! Hire someone if you have to

I have a website, it’s up-to-date, but it probably doesn’t hit the SEO values, and I did it for free through Wix.com. It’s not great, but I can’t afford to hire someone to make it fantastic and noticeable.

Talk about your book to absolutely everyone who will listen. Go into bookshops and leave your bookmarks / postcards / business cards in someone else’s book. Create a street team

I have a low boredom threshold. When someone bleats on and on about their book, I get bored and move on, and will probably not buy their book because it is probably as boring as they are. So I won’t push my books on to other people either. If you want to read it, fab! If you don’t, well you can’t please everyone. And as for putting bookmarks etc into other people’s books in a bookshop… Well I spoke to a friend who works in a bookshop about this practice, and was told that in no uncertain terms is this acceptable. Yes, managers are often pleased to take bookmarks and postcards or business cards to hand out or put in carrier bags, but if you put them in other people’s works, and without the permission of either them or the manager of the shop, you are being just rude and are going to end up with a bad reputation.

And finally… Pay for marketing, reviews, and publicity

Again, I can’t afford it. I’ve written 6 books now, 5 published, one being edited. 5 books are selling, not badly but not well either – probably because I break all the rules – but it means that I do not have any spare cash to pay for marketing and publicity. I do occasionally pay for blog tours, release blitzes and alike, but I don’t like paying for reviews, and if someone offers me a guaranteed 5-star review, then I turn them down flat.