Good News

First, this will be the last blog for at least two or three weeks. I’m afraid I missed last week owing to ill health and the days ahead are busier than usual…for an excellent reason. When I return it will be from a new address.

Yes, I’m moving…again! Seems to be all I do in recent years, but after several stressful weeks/months/years even, I’m able to say we’re making a significant move, a life-changing relocation. Providing all goes well, I can even look forward to finally having a study. There’s much to arrange and so I’ll be taking a hoped-for ‘only short’ break, though I’m still trying to finish the Work in Progress, and edits for another release in the ‘Snow Angel’ planned trilogy.

In the meantime, I’m happy to announce I’ve been notified that I have a novel accepted for the Lethbridge-Stewart series. No specifics as yet regarding title or release, though it will be later this year. And meanwhile I’ve a short story out in a few weeks–the ‘sleepless nights’ the write-up for Night to Dawn Issue 31 refers to. More news when I have it…and when I’m able to post.

Snow Angel’s first new review!

“Both Jay and Dean are very well-written and they lived off of the printed page.”

This week I’m focusing on the kind of review writers like. Not just because it praises one of my works, but because it’s well-wrought. Good or bad, writers search for those reviews that have something constructive to say. I loved it (or hated it) is all well and good, especially if it’s a show of approval, but reviewers who can look at the depths of a story provide a writer with the kind of insight from which we learn. I’ll address how I think writers should handle reviews another time but there are opportunities to learn from both good and bad. Gabbi gives Snow Angel ‘5 kisses’ and a multi-layered review from which I chose to share a few lines:

“He has a way of brushing off and not dealing with important topics like feelings and sexuality, but as I continued to read the story, I began to see the many layers of Dean begin to peel away.

It’s true that Dean struggles with verbalizing his feelings for Jay, but he shows Jay in so many way how much he truly cares for him, their friendship and the love that simmers between them.

Snow Angel is a complex and wonderfully written romance that has earned a spot on my keeper shelf.”

That so many wanted this book out in print, and wanted to read it twice tells me much.  Gabbi and others ‘get Dean’. They see the multi-layering I wanted to construct in my characters and in their relationship. Gabbi is right. Dean has always been my most controversial character. Adored by many, abhorred by others. The original publisher loved this story for the same reasons as the readers who love him. The message I received from that publisher was ‘well done, subtly nuanced’.  And that’s the whole point.

Dean arrogant? Yes, in many ways he is, but he’s the creation I wanted him to be. I wanted to show an imperfect hero for I believe they are the best kind. I wanted a flawed human being who is a good person to have on your side. I wanted a ‘London lad’, someone rough around the edges, who would stand up and fight for what he believes in, who has a steadfast set of principles. In Dean’s own words, “I may be a dick, but I don’t dick around.”

You can read the whole of Gabbi’s review at Top 2 Bottom Reviews.

Why ARe’s Closure Matters to All

Some stopping by may have heard the shocking news of the closure of All Romance Ebooks, otherwise known as ARe. Others may not and that’s why I’m rehashing some of the details before moving on to explaining why situations like this and the outcome is important to all. The shock comes because of the way the owner, Lori James, chose to deal with the closure and treat the people who have supported this book distributor and publisher for so long.

Let’s be clear, this isn’t simply another case of a publisher letting down its writers — a situation that is always a blow resonating through and carrying consequences for the industry. This closure affected publishers, writers AND readers. The publishers and writers were incensed and disgusted to be ‘offered’ a fraction of all monies owed, but they were as much if not more concerned for the readers who had extensive libraries stored on ARe, libraries that short notice would never give them the chance to download.

Let’s deal with the closure first. Lawsuit documents reveal Lori James (and I quote from sources) ‘screwed’ her business partner Barbara Perfetti who sued James in early 2015, stating claims to which James never responded. In addition, there are only vague references to a decline in business and ‘poor financial forecasts’ to explain the closure, unsupported ‘mutterings’ from a company who reported sales running into the millions in recent years, worked with both publishers and writers, began to publish its own titles, and who claimed more than a million books listed.

But what raises the level of suspicion is the abruptness, the indifference and the blackmailing tactic of the company’s closing ‘offer’, and the fact that, mere days before the closure, James distributed ARe’s advertising rates for 2017. Publishers and writers took out and paid for advertising for 2017, and James ‘accepted’ those payments knowing full well the announcement to close was to follow. I know because I received the same offer and was one of the fortunate few who did not take out advertising…but my publishers did. To my knowledge, there has been no offer to repay any of those advertising spots. That screams of nothing less than fraud.

ARe wanted to pay 10 cents on the dollar to publishers, a real blow to those owed thousands (yes, thousands) of dollars. Those publishers need to pay their own salaries, pay their writers, pay their editors, pay their cover artists and more. It’s been documented and I can personally confirm, some publishers have contemplated trying to withstand the loss themselves in an effort to pay those they owe, but such decisions could put their own companies at risk. James proposed a payment in order to avoid filing for bankruptcy. Sorry to sound flippant, but boohoo. Even if the company is in as large a financial mess as it claims (though it really hasn’t stated specifics) the situation did not arise overnight. And as part of accepting the 10 cent payoff, James stipulated that those who accepted must waver their legal rights to take further action. In short, James was stating that the payment may be the only one anyone would see, take it or risk receiving nothing, and in so doing no one would be able to chase her no matter what happens to the rest of the takings.

Lori James also hurt the readers. Even after the announcement, books were still up for sale spurring publishers to remove their books from the sites as swiftly as possible. Some succeeded; some did not. James then blocked access so readers could download their libraries and finally stopped selling more books (as far as I know only after complaints). Readers lost books removed by publishers, but it mattered not as they had insufficient time to download their libraries in just ‘four days’, and may not have even received their notice to do so in time, being that this took place over the Christmas period with the site shutting down on 31st December.

Four days. Everyone got ‘four days’ to download libraries, or to make informed and difficult decisions regarding payment, and this does not even address the issue of worthless gift vouchers unlikely to ever receive a refund. Readers, you should be angry, too.

To those who have contacted some authors saying it’s not a blow to the industry (yes, unbelievably, some have written to authors directly, which is my reason for writing this post as I feel incensed on behalf of others), how many times do writers have to say that what they do is work and it comes with a cost? What part of cover artists want paying does not compute? What part of editors want paying does not sink in? Why are writers not entitled to receive payment for every word they put on the page? The writer only gets a fraction of the cover cost and a fraction of a fraction is nothing. Why is a writer’s time worth nothing to so many?

Publishing at any level is an ‘industry’. It is BUSINESS. The same way the public purchases a cinema ticket, those who wish to read a story need to lay down money at the door. And where do those blockbusters we love to sit in darkened cinemas spring from? It’s born from the imagination and talent of a writer and many people helping that spark along the way. There are many behind the scenes whose name and craft the viewer or reader will never know of. They all want, and NEED, their cut. So do not come out in defence of people like Lori James who treat those they owe with such disregard. Do not claim it doesn’t matter. It very much does. It’s why writers go it alone. It’s why the good works are entangled with the bad and why Indie publishing is a growing threat to traditional publishing. Writers often ‘go it alone’ simply because they feel safer doing so, believe they have more control. In the case of ARe even Indie writers got stung.

Lori James writes under a pen name and no doubt in future will write under more. I’ll have to be on the lookout in the hope I never put another dime into this woman’s hands. I can’t tell anyone who to read, but I hope their conscience will.

The Texture of Winter disappearance

Some of you will notice the cover disappearing on my short story The Texture of Winter details (and indeed the story itself from numerous outlets). This is because I withdrew it from the publisher. Hoping to use it as part of another project at some point but as ever that’s in the works along with many other things.

Reads of 2016

I usually finish off the year with a blog looking back over the books I’ve read during the last twelve months. Unfortunately, I didn’t blog last week because I was away without Internet access and so this particular blog is a few days late and, owing to a tight schedule during 2016, liable to be even more pitiful in number of books read than the last couple of years. Still, I can’t let the year pass completely without mentioning a few titles.

I read a few light novels at the start of 2016 that aren’t worth listing. In May I opened up Sunfail, by Steven Saville, an espionage tale that’s decidedly plot-driven but which I enjoyed. I’ve seen one review calling it slick, and I agree. I also discovered Nigel Williams, my first read of his being R.I.P. I knew I was going to enjoy this the moment I read the opening line of the blurb: ‘Retired bank manager George Pearmain is, apparently, dead.’ This is a nicely humorous, sardonic read.

Joyland and a few of the Gunslinger Graphic novels was a visit by me to a longstanding and constant writer, Stephen King, followed by a Heart-Shaped Box by his son, Joe Hill. The title caught my attention and for the most part, I enjoyed the book, but not as much as my 2014 read of Horns. To me, a Heart-Shaped Box started out well but didn’t go dark enough. What started out as a promising scare didn’t quite hold its momentum or its thrills but it still earns a place on my bookshelves.

I started The Enchantment Emporium, by Tanya Huff while on holiday and was immediately captivated and added this writer to my list, purchasing the following two books to add to my to-be-read mountain. The stories are definitely aimed at women but contain enough various elements to hold my interest — a blend of family issues, romance, and magic. The series had me at ‘Dragons’, of course.

Winter Tales is an anthology I had to check out because it features several writers including me. I found I was more taken with the stories in the beginning of the book and, therefore, exceedingly happy where mine was placed, but like with every anthology, each reader will have their own preferences. I still like a short story and a selection is always a good way to check out new talent.

The Unquiet  was my latest read by John Connolly. Unfortunately, I am behind on his books simply because of that mountain awaiting my attention. I readily admit that. I’ve the next two in said pile.

The Wine of Angels was my first foray into the world of Phil Rickman and his character of Merrily Watkins. I liked the concept of a female priest thrown into small village intrigue and investigation and thoroughly enjoyed this book, the characters in the village and the writing. Alas, I didn’t take to Merrily. I’m sure to read more of these titles but it’s a bit like watching an episode of a favourite show where the supporting cast are stronger and more interesting than the lead. I hope this improves as the series continues.

Bleu/Blaque by Belinda McBride is worth mentioning for anyone looking for a m/m romance title. I’m ashamed to say I’ve had this one lingering for far too long but going on the better late than never concept it’s one I’m happy to recommend. Bleu and Blaque prove to be interesting contrasts and not solely owing to their being vampire and werewolf. They are two characters I would happily revisit.

An American friend has been reading Notes from a Small Island, and The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson. Again, the first has been sitting in ‘the pile’ for far too long so I’ve read one and have just purchased and started the second. My American friend’s take is that it was that, though enjoyable, it was difficult at times to decipher between the humour and straightforward complaining and there were a few moments when I took this point on board. I was surprised by how far Bill Bryson walked, and have to admit his way of touring wouldn’t be my preference having read even a portion of these books. I’m sure I’d want to spend longer in some areas, less in others, and some I wouldn’t want to visit at all, and while ‘wandering at will’ seems enticing I’d do more research into my intended stops. The books, though, remain a delightful look into the British way of life particularly for those who don’t know the UK so well…with one word of warning. The politeness and attitudes Bryson encountered in the first book have flagged somewhat. I’ve only just begun the second book and it will be interesting to see if Bryson has also noted any such changes since he first perambulated the UK.

Overall, the year has been pretty disappointing reading-wise so I’m happy to finish with two highlights both picked up for intended Christmas reading. My first is The Martian, by Andy Weir. Having seen the film three times, I was interested in reading the book and would recommend anyone who liked the film to do the same. I’ve seen both have had their usual share of mixed reviews, but I’m amazed how anyone can fail to appreciate the research and science-made-interesting portions of the book, the added details of which exceed those in the film, is beyond me. Sure, the ending in both the book but especially the film is far-fetched. It’s FICTION. I’m one of many who does not understand this current inclination to dismiss fiction that is implausible. Many occurrences in life are implausible and fiction by its very nature can achieve the impossible. I’m quite happy to suspend belief and to be entertained and maybe even learn a little in the process, or, if not, that’s good, too. There is nothing wrong with sheer entertainment. For the writer that I am, it’s interesting to note that I read Andy Weir first published the book as snippets on the web. To get the whole story without waiting, people had to buy the book…and then a publisher took it up, there’s been a film and one hell of a success story about a man stranded on Mars — the very definition of good fiction. The film…it’s a good adaptation of a book given a Hollywood treatment that’s not at all painful. Mild spoiler: It does have a more exciting and implausible ending, but this is only to be expected when a book is taken to film, as is the trimmed-down science behind the writing.

But my recommendation this year also happens to be my final read. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman breaks the rule of ‘show don’t tell’ yet is an easy read that is thoroughly entertaining, truthful, poignant, funny, moving, uplifting, and sad. It’s painful and beautiful, which is the best type of storytelling.

A little freebie for Christmas

A new series set after the 1968 Doctor Who serial The Web of Fear follows the adventures of Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart spanning the four years from when he was a colonel in the Scots Guards to his promotion to brigadier and head of the UK branch of UNIT. Candy Jar Books brings additional life to Lethbridge-Stewart, fully licensed by the executor of the Haisman Literary Estate, Hannah Haisman, and endorsed by Henry Lincoln. Whilst the series is not Young Adult fiction its intention is to maintain that family-friendly feel balancing the classic with a sense of modernity.

To get a feel for the series, visit Candy Jar Books offers and drop down to the bottom of the page for this year’s Christmas free download. Enjoy!

The Art of Compassion

We’ve forgotten the art of compassion.

When considering what to write for this week’s blog the subject of compassion seemed appropriate for this time of year. To begin, I want to transport you to an incident that to me remains vibrant.

This took place in 2008. We were off on holiday and making our way to East Anglia. It was a beautiful day in May. The sky was blue, the breeze was blowing into the car’s open windows, the birds were singing. We were relaxed and happy. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say I felt blessed and even the traffic crawling to a stop wasn’t enough to upset my good mood. The hold-up was short lived…as was my happy feeling.

A small black shape landed on the road in front, exhibiting every indication of happiness, hopping about excitedly and fluttering its wings. Before I could even gasp the car ahead rolled forward over the bird’s wing, squashing the bones, feathers and flesh into the tarmac leaving the bird both damaged and trapped.

Put yourself in this bird’s place. You’re going about your day-to-day business and something mashes a limb into the road so that you’re pinned, in pain, and cannot break free. The best you can hope for is another car to roll over you bringing about a quick death.

I flinched and was left feeling helpless and sick at heart. I could do nothing to help this creature. The only way to release it from the tarmac would have been to amputate its wing, something I was not capable of doing, and even then the poor thing was likely a short time from dying of shock.

All this because it landed in the wrong place at the wrong time. That could happen to anyone and any thing.

The husband patted my arm as though I was six years old, and while I didn’t need the comfort, he wasn’t going to hear any complaints.

My reaction, my feelings for another creature even though its pain and demise had no impact on me or my life is the very definition of compassion.

The dictionary definition is sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Why are we not taught this in schools? Is it something parents no longer discuss? One of my favourite books as a child was The Water Babies because I loved the concepts of Mrsdoasyouwouldbedoneby and Mrsbedonebyasyoudid. Why is all this so absent from the world?

The driver of the car that ran over that bird could not have known the creature was on the road. The driver was not at fault. It was a mere accident. No one was to blame. These facts made what happened no less painful to witness, but here’s the thing. I can’t quote statistics but it would be eye-opening to know how many drivers would have run over the bird had they known it was under their wheels. I’ve also been witness to other instances where I’ve been directly involved; beeped because we’ve stopped for a rabbit in the road; seen a woman who had to turn her car to stop cars driving over a dog who had run out and been injured (in that particular incident we and one other driver ended up taking the dog to a vet even though we were no part of the accident). We see road-kill all the time, but when did we decide it’s okay to run over things even if they can be avoided? Indeed, why are there people in this world who would gladly aim the car and shout ‘score’ for a hit? Who is raising these despicable souls?

Of course, I’m not just talking about animals here or creatures on the road. We treat each other the same way. What kind of being does it take to knowingly run over a living creature when they don’t have to? To abuse a dog, a cat, a horse, or anything that breathes? When did society start to think it doesn’t matter and so many to believe we can all do what we like without considering the impact on our friends, our families, our neighbours, society itself? Or to think it’s acceptable to walk by a woman on the road when she’s pleading for help having been hit by a car because ‘someone else will call the ambulance’ so there’s no reason to get involved (an actual story a temp apparently once confessed to a colleague in an office I worked in many years ago).

When I was growing up I was taught not to cause harm, to do unto others only as I wanted them to do unto me. That’s not to say be a pushover and accept abuse, but why be the cause? Why are so many so oblivious to the pain of others, and why do so many behave as if it’s perfectly acceptable for behaviour to be so reprehensible that we even have a modern reference to it, that of ‘Troll’?

Compassion: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

Take it on board.

Wishes Do Come True

My latest news speaks for itself. Excuse the unseemly author squeal but HOW COOL IS THIS!!!!!

Sharon x

wishing_bazaar_cover_smallPRESS RELEASE 25/11/2016

LETHBRIDGE-STEWART

PRE-ORDER FREE STORY

Candy Jar Books is pleased to announce its latest brand new free story!

The Wishing Bazaar by Sharon Bidwell will be sent out to all subscription customers, and those who pre-order the forthcoming novel, Blood of Atlantis by Simon A Forward.

Sharon Bidwell was born in London on New Year’s Eve. She has been writing professionally for many years, with her first short story receiving praise for being “strong on characterisation, and quite literary, in terms of style”.Her work has appeared steadily in both print and electronic publications, such as Midnight StreetAoife’s KissNight To Dawn, and Radgepacket. She has written several romance novels under the name Sharon Maria Bidwell, including Snow Angel and A Not So Hollow Heart, as well as dark fiction under the name Sharon Kernow. She was propelled into the universe of Steampunk as one of the writers for Space: 1899 & Beyond, winning the approval of series creator and award-winning game designer, Frank Chadwick. She wrote three books in the series, one of which was co-authored with editor (and writer) Andy Frankham-Allen.The Wishing Bazaar is her first piece of Doctor Who related fiction.

Range Editor Andy Frankham-Allen says: “I first met Sharon via the wonderful world of social media back in, I think, 2009. I was very impressed with her work, and soon enlisted her for my Space: 1889 & Beyond series. Her work ethic was proven to me when a novella fell through at the last minute and she agreed to co-author a replacement with me – which we did, in only two weeks! Sharon’s first drafts are often better than a lot of published works out there, and from the off I told her that I would get her writing for the Lethbridge-Stewart series. She resisted for all of five minutes.”

Sharon says: “I’ve written for and with Andy before with great success, so I was not entirely surprised when he got in contact about his latest project. For one thing, he’d been ‘hinting’ for some time that he wanted to rope me in and Andy isn’t someone who understands no as an answer.Whenever I hear from Andy, I never know whether to cheer or groan. All those who write novels for well-known television shows now have my utmost respect. Some find it easy; for others the experience feels difficult and involves a lot of angst. I’m one of those worriers. Despite the responsibility, Andy has dragged me into incredible worlds and stories that are part of history and there’s no way not to be grateful for that.Invariably the experience of writing for Lethbridge-Stewart was, for me, daunting, exciting, fun, and adventurous…a bit like the character himself.”

Shaun Russell, head of publishing at Candy Jar, says: “Sharon was an unknown quantity for me, but I knew that Andy had worked with her before, so I was more than happy to see what she’d come up with. Having read her short story, and looked up her other work, I now believe she’s going to be a wonderful addition to our stable of authors on this series.”

This story is set between Times Squared and Blood of Atlantis.

Blurb: Back from New York, Lethbridge-Stewart is investigating one of the strangest cases that has come across his desk yet. Wishes are coming true, and if there’s one thing Lethbridge-Stewart still doesn’t believe in it’s magic. But what if he’s wrong?

The cover of The Wishing Bazaar is by regular cover artist, Richard Young. Richard says:“I adore working with Candy Jar, and their cover briefs are always so specific, but this one was rather ambiguous as there were several elements that I could have used on the cover. I decided to concentrate on the alien of the piece.One passage of the story mentioned its burning eyes. Using a combination of traditional drawing and then colourisation in Photoshop (to really get the blazing eyes right), this is what I came up with.And I’m pleased to say everyone loved it.”

The Wishing Bazaar will be sent out to every person who pre-orders Blood of Atlantis (as a single book, or as part of our bundle/subscription offers).

Blood of Atlantis can be pre-ordered individually, or as part of the Series 3 Bundle (both UK and overseas), which includes the previous novel, Times Squared by Rick Cross, and the forthcoming novel,Mind of Stone by Iain McLaughlin, or the subscription deal for those wishing to get six books for the price of five.

Candy Jar is pleased to announce that the subscription offer is now being extended to international customers. Please see http://www.candy-jar.co.uk/books/subscriptions.html for more details.

Candy Jar is also offering a special promotion for its online customers. Buy Blood of Atlantis for £8.99 and get Times Squared for £5. This promotion also applies to six other Candy Jar titles. Please see http://www.candy-jar.co.uk/books/offers.html for more details.

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www.candyjarbooks.co.uk

For more information, or to arrange an interview with the editor, authors, cover artist and/or license holder, please contact Shaun Russell at shaun@candyjarbooks.co.uk or 02921 15720

Lethbridge-Stewart series 1:

The Forgotten Son by Andy Frankham-Allen

The Schizoid Earth by David A McIntee

Beast of Fang Rock by Andy Frankham-Allen

Mutually Assured Domination by Nick Walters

Lethbridge-Stewart series 2:

Moon Blink by Sadie Miller

The Showstoppers by Jonathan Cooper

The Grandfather Infestation by John Peel

Lethbridge-Stewart series 3:

Times Squared by Rick Cross

Blood of Atlantis by Simon A Forward

Mind of Stone by Iain McLaughlin