Wednesday 22 June 2016

Audible Secret

Back when the snow was falling (or rather, when it should have been falling. It was February, and the image is so much prettier with flakes of the white stuff tipping silently past the window pane, than the truth of the grey warmth fostering daffodils which, in a world without global warming, would have had at least another month's hibernation) I received an email. It was a secret. Glass Houses was the first of Urbane Publications titles to be chosen to be produced as an Audible book.
It was very exciting because Amazon would whisk away the novel, place it in the hands of the perfect voice for narration, return it to its sales stands and advertise it royally, whilst holding my hand as I tiptoed into this new venture, automatically part of Audible's Author Care initiative. I whooped and danced and drank bubbly and wondered about the chosen voice. I'd told only the hubbie, my mum and my sisters, and then I put the secret away.
I'm very good at keeping secrets. Always have been. It isn't because I'm some superior being. It's simply that if someone tells me a secret it is immediately shelved in the official secrets compartment in my brain and then I forget about it. It's buried, isn't there knocking at the door, begging to come out, crawling along to the end of my tongue, pushing against my teeth to find a way out. No, it disappears and I get on with whatever I was doing before the secret was given.

Roll forward three months when I'd almost forgotten about the Audible version and I happened upon a tweet alongside the cover of Glass Houses. My wonderful publisher was announcing that Glass Houses now had its voice: Lisa Coleman. 
Lisa Coleman!
Now, I've listened to a few Audible books and I'll be honest, the tone of voice is intrinsic to my enjoyment. I once listened to the first few hours of an incredibly successful American author's novel until I could listen no more; the scratchy, squeaky narration irritating me just too much. I picked up the book instead which I really enjoyed. But I've listened to other Audible books where the reverse is true and the voice of the actor has been every bit as captivating as the words themselves. So, fizzing with excitement, but also a little trepidation, I took a wander around the net to find a sample of Lisa Coleman's voice. It would seem that Lisa isn't very active on social media but she is certainly prolific in her work. I listened to a sample and breathed out. Her voice was sumptuous, silky, soft but educated, enthusiastic and sassy and I thought that would suit Glass Houses just fine.
Assuming the Audible book would 'go live' along with the official publication of Glass Houses the paperback, I settled back to wait for the 7th July. The second the link was available, I'd sit with my face behind my hands, praying the narration was as wonderful as I'd dared to hope.
Time for an admission. I spend more time than is healthy flitting around Amazon between the Glass Houses and Tea & Chemo pages - paperback, eBook and latterly, the Audible version - seeing if I can catch their Amazon rating at its daily high point. I like to play guess-how-many-copies-have-sold that day when the ranking goes up and console myself that it simply means that lots of new books have been released when the ranking goes down. The ranking is linked to pre-orders and so I can play the game equally well with Glass Houses these days. It reached the dizzy heights of 4,000 a few days ago. Granted, it's not vying for the top spot just yet (!) but when it started life with six noughts after it, you can imagine I was pretty happy to see that figure.
Too much flitting, and the stats whisper that I should get a life, but I can always move to the reviews. There are few things in life more satisfying than clicking on your book's page to find another review. We all love great reviews of course, but in the case of Tea & Chemo, just reading that the book has been useful is enough to make me well-up and the idea alone that somebody would take time out of their busy day to post a review about any words I've written, well, that is very humbling.
So, imagine my surprise in a stats scrolling moment last week when I see a link telling me to, 'Go to my Audible Library.' Yep, it's there, Glass Houses, the whole Audible book, not just the sample. It was the first I knew of it. It seems Audible is good at keeping secrets, too.
I braced myself, then listened to it all.
I wish I knew Lisa personally so I could give her a hug. Not only is her voice easy to listen to, her pacing perfect and the tone as I'd intended but very best of all, she has absolutely 'got' my characters – showing exuberance for some and measured calmness for others. She's even given Doug his soft Geordie accent and Gerald his brash Wiltshire speak. 
The secret is officially dribbling out. The Audible version is ready and waiting. If you're someone who likes to listen to a book as they drive, clean, decorate, garden, or even run (it doesn't jump) you can find it here. If you'd prefer the paperback, Glass Houses will be published on, or before, 7 July and can be pre-ordered here.
I think it's fair to say that my writing life is pretty exciting at the moment. Thank you for all the massive enthusiasm and support and for joining me on the ride, I really do appreciate it. Details of my launch party coming up next…

Thursday 16 June 2016

This Is Not A Thriller

Many moons ago, when Glass Houses was still a large Word document, the object of editorial battering, red pen exclamation marks showing my displeasure at the over-use of one of my over-used words, and loopy arrows to denote sentences still in the wrong place, my attention flipped over to Amazon. I caressed the blurb for Glass Houses, marvelling at the brilliance of my publisher to be able to capture the essence of the novel in one tiny paragraph. Scroll to the end and it suggests readers of the wonderful Liane Moriarty (she of The Husband's Secret fame, and many other wry but meaty page-turners), not to mention the great Marian Keyes and Kathryn Croft, might enjoy Glass Houses. I had a little chat with the screen - pretending here that this is uncommon - Oh, yes please, it would make my day, year, goddamnit, my lifetime if readers of those three authors enjoyed my novel just as much. I scrolled a little further, paused to smile at the book which-could-not-yet-be-bought languishing at about 3 billionth in the Amazon Bestsellers Rank (not so now it can be pre-ordered, my friends) to see the Product Details. And there was Glass Houses, squarely in the 'Thriller' category.
Glass Houses is a thriller? you ask, incredulously. 
Me, too!  
Yes, I hope it might induce a bit of a chill in the, 'Oh, but for the grace of God,' kind of way, but there's no staring in a mirror and seeing your name written in blood. I love a great thriller, but I'm far too much of a scaredy cat to ever sit alone at my desk writing something like that. I jump even if a member of my family walks into the room. No, Glass Houses is contemporary fiction or general fiction,more designed to disturb perhaps, to make you smile, gulp and even cry real tears, but not to scream.
The thriller category is waking me up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat for all the wrong reasons. I seem much more worried about this than my wonderful publisher so I cross everything that my fears are little more than the workings of an over-active imagination. But I do have an unsettling image of a rack of 1* reviews appearing with the title, 'This is not a thriller' and going on to say that they've been more scared watching Rugrats. My publisher is on it, has been on it for a while, but the wheels of big companies turn slowly, it seems.
Meanwhile, I'm off to re-write Mansfield Park as a thriller, Atonement as chic lit, Bridget Jones as Bradley Johnson… now, there's an idea.

Thursday 9 June 2016

How do You Feel about Mistakes?

This isn't a loaded question, or even a thinly veiled excuse for a rant, I promise. I genuinely want, nay, need your views on this.

I'm currently reading a range of titles with a view to recommendation in the Summer Reads pages of the July issue of Chase Magazine. Even though I was hooked by the blurb, barely a few chapters into one novel, I discounted it. It was sprinkled with grammatical errors. At first I'd hoped they were typos which the publisher might pick up in the next print run. But the mistakes were too consistent; the author didn't understand the correct usage of apostrophes and capital letters, to name but a few examples.

This isn't me being a pedant or feeling superior (I'm constantly reaching for The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation and toss and turn at night in fear of typos in my own writing) it's just that mistakes of this kind ruin the reader experience for me. You see, I start to picture the writer sitting at their desk which takes me away from the world of the characters in which I want to be immersed. In the case of apostrophes used to denote a plural noun, I'm looking for what the noun is 'possessing' and not what the noun is 'doing', and it's confusing. It spoils my read.

However, regarding this particular novel, there is much to commend the plot. The section I read made me smile and choke in equal measure which is a good barometer of potential enjoyment. And so, after closing the book early and stomping downstairs to the kettle, it occurred to me that I might enjoy this story if I could get beyond the mistakes. Moreover, it may be that other readers are perfectly able to do this, losing themselves in the story - mistakes included.  Maybe by not featuring these books on my review pages, I am depriving the readers of a novel which they might love?

My question is this: do you, as readers, manage to gloss over a writer's errors and still stay engrossed in the story? If the answer is yes, then I feel I need to re-address my book reviewing criteria. I'm not saying I will say a book is wonderful if I don’t feel it is - I only review books I enjoy, preferring to spread the love, rather than ruin the day for a fellow writer whose work may simply not be to my taste – but I might try to push further on into the novel before discounting it on account of sloppy presentation. If the answer is no, then I shall continue in much the same vein as I do now.

I'd love to know your thoughts!

Saturday 4 June 2016

My Life in Books

I was very honoured to be invited onto the lovely Ruby Speechley's blog this week, to talk about My Life in Books. It meant I got to spend an indulgent few hours choosing my favourite, most meaningful ten great reads. I can only compare it to finding a box of photos in the attic and thinking you'd spend half an hour sorting through them, only to find yourself still there, two days later, having totally forgotten to eat, drink or work as you ambled through a range of emotions, losing yourself in times gone by. 
Eventually, totally forgetting Atonement by Ian McEwan and reluctantly leaving out the writing god, Maggie O'Farrell's, After You'd Gone, this was the list I came up with. 

Read more about the titles here on Ruby's blog.

1. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
2. The Devil’s Music by Jane Rusbridge
3. Defending Jacob by William Landay
4. Flying Under Bridges by Sandi Toksvig
5. Perfect by Rachel Joyce
6. The Humans by Matt Haig
7. Alphabet by Kathy Page
8. Crossing the Line by Christian Plowman
9. The Tell-Tale Heart by Jill Dawson
10. Glasshopper by Isabel Ashdown

I wonder how many you've read and what you thought of them. And I'd love to know what your Top Ten would be. Please share!