Weekly Ramble #95

Things are better than yesterday. As an author and creator that’s all I can hope for. Better results than yesterday fuelled by the desire to carry on. The whole ‘keep going’ thing is ingrained on my philosophy and hasn’t ever let me down. I said last week that this is going to be a brutal year and it is, but there is hope to found even in dark times.

When someone asks me how it’s going. The sales, the blog views the whole authoring and blogging social media deal – I simply tell them it’s better than it was, better than yesterday and it is. From selling a couple of books a month to selling one every ten days to now selling more than one every four days. I’ve trialled and errored my way into figuring out book marketing, social media marketing and knowing when to swoop in and convince a person to buy into me. Timing and time is the above all attribute that I hold responsible for all of my success, that is with the sheer will to keep going put to one side.

All of those successful moments and trials and errors I have meticulously laid out in a self help guide book that I am going to be looking to publish this side of the year. While I edit and continually add to it, my uncertainty rears it’s ugly head every now and then. Will anyone benefit from this rather broad explanation of how I got to here? Does anything in this project matter? That imposter syndrome – something I refuse to believe in is perhaps creeping in. I have always cared what people think of my stuff. I’m going to begin searching for some much needed second opinions soon. BETA readers need apply here. I’m gonna need your level headed thoughts to get through this..

Hall of Information Interviews: Blair Leftly – Feed the Crime

The venture of discovering unique voices extends into the important world of book blogging for this Hall of Information Interview. Blair Leftly from Feed the Crime is a prolific blogger who has contributed so much to the writing community through her passion for reading and reviewing. Her efforts have guided many readers and helped many authors including myself. It’s incredibly important that bloggers who work so hard get the coverage they deserve. 

Feed the crime

Feed the crime

Feed the Crime Instagram

Q1. Let us jump right in and talk about reading. You dedicate an impressive amount of time to books. Have you always been an avid reader? And how many books do you read on average a month?

“For as long as I can remember I’ve always read, in school we used to have silent reading time which now looking back I seemed to be the only one who looked forward to it. My reading has taken a nose dive these last few months, I used to read at least 10 books a month where as I’m struggling to even read 1 book a week at the minute. I think I put too much pressure on myself to read a large amount each month and it’s taken it’s toll. I need to remember that it doesn’t matter how much I read each month just as long as I’m enjoying what I do read.”

1 book a week is still an incredible feat!

Q2. Of course you review these reads via your Feed the Crime blog. Please tell us more about your blogging efforts?

“I’m not afraid to admit that sometimes I find it hard to pull inspiration for enough blog posts to post each week so that is why I do take part in book memes such as Top 5 Saturday and Down The TBR Hole, they are the posts I love reading each week so it makes sense for me to take part in them. I’ve not been blogging as much the last few weeks, there’s so much going on in the world right now, I work my ass off in the lab and I’m moving house on the 25th. I love my blog and I never want it to feel like a chore, so if I don’t have enough time for everything right now then I’m ok with that, after all we’re only human.”

Top 5 saturday

Q3. In recent times, you’ve branched out to read other genres as opposed to crime fiction. What other genres do you enjoy?

“Until last year I had only ever read crime fiction hence the name, however the blogging world showed me all these amazing books that have never even been on my radar before and it was so exciting! I found out that I love fantasy, sci-fi and I’d never read a vampire novel until your book Darke Blood which completely took me by surprise. My two favourite books of the year so far are actually fantasy which I never would have expected!” 

Thank you for mentioning ‘DB’, of course the unexpected can bring wonderful things especially when it comes to reading.

Q4. Feed the Crime is very close to an incredible 1000 followers. What does it take to achieve such an impressive following?

“I didn’t actually get involved with the blogging community that much for the first year as I was too nervous and felt that I would never be able to fit in. I finished the first year with less than 50 followers. I think I started gaining followers more consistently from the beginning of 2019 as that’s when I was posting 3/4 times a week, as well as participating in weekly book memes and blog tours, I was starting to put my blog out there.
I still can’t believe the number of followers, I used to go on all the blogs with 1000+ followers and just think there’s no way I will ever get there and now it’s so close to happening.”

That is quite incredible and goes to show that consistent content and participation work in building a following!

Q5. Where did blogging begin for Blair?

“I first started my blog in September 2017 not long after I started having seizures, I had to leave my job as I worked in a children’s play centre and I had 2 fits in front of children. When it was diagnosed as epilepsy I had to surrender my driving license and sell my car, so I was in a really low place with too much time in my head. My friend suggested that I find somewhere to review all the books that I’d been reading and after some research that’s how Feed The Crime happened.”

Q6. Moving away from books and blogging, do you have any interests outside of being an awesome blogger? You’ve mentioned WWE once or twice; something I used to follow religiously and more casually these days. Do you have a favourite WWE performer?

“I don’t have very many interests outside of books and blogging to be honest. Me and my partner have been to see WWE live here in Liverpool twice and it was an amazing experience, we were stood at the ramp so we were able to see each performer up close, it’s something I will never forget. In terms of favourite performer, that’s like asking me to pick my favourite book I can’t just have one haha!”

Becky Lynch - WWE 2K19 - Roster

“Female I would say Becky Lynch, I loved her old steampunk style and lass kicker attitude. Male I have two, Roman Reigns and Goldberg they are just legends no doubt about it.”

WATCH: When Roman Reigns had the Most Awkward Contract Signing ...

Excellent choices. I will have to agree with you on Becky Lynch, she is the lass kicker!

Q7. Tea, coffee, beer or wine?

“Hmmm this is a tough one it definitely depends where I am, at home I drink gallons of tea, if I’m catching up with friends or writing blogs in coffee shops then I normally drink a Caramel Macchiato. Of course after a stressful day or week at work then a cold beer is just what the doctor ordered!”

tea

Q8. Back to books. Do you have a short list of must read books that everyone should experience?

“The books that I think are must reads won’t be to everyone’s taste, so I’ve picked 4 different genres.”

– “The Joona Linna series by Lars Kepler (This my favourite translated series that I would love to see more people read)”

Lars Kepler

– “You Let Me In by Lucy Clarke (This had me hooked and I was stood up shouting by the end)”

You let me in

– “The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (He is my favourite non-fiction author, If you love Louis Theroux documentaries then you need to read his books)”

the psychopath test

– “The Teleporter by Lee Hall (Of course I had to include this book as I had so much fun reading it, it’s hard for a book to make me laugh but this did it!)”

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Its an honor to be a part of this list. thank you.

Q9. What are you currently reading/plan to read next?

“I’m currently listening to the audiobook of Written in Blood by Chris Carter which is number 11 in the Robert Hunter series. The series as a whole is addictive but extremely gruesome and not for the faint-hearted!”

written in blood

Q10.  And finally, in one sentence, what advice would you give to someone just starting their blogging journey?

“Don’t ever feel alone, embrace the book community, find blogs that interest you and comment on them, you can make so many friendships that way, also don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

 

Wonderful advice and a unique insight into reading and book blogging from Blair of Feed the Crime. Thank for sharing and for the continual support of the writing and blogging community.

I highly recommend you follow the awesome Feed the Crime Blog. 

You can also catch Blair on the Tweet machine  and Instagram

Readers old and new, I appreciate you taking the time to read this Hall of Information Interview, hopefully see you in the next one!

Erase history, erase the lesson…

France – June 10th 1944 

On a sunny Saturday in a rural farm village known as Oradour-sur-Glane 642 innocent people were massacred by the German 2nd Waffen SS Panzer division. They just turned up out of the blue that morning. Women and children were herded to the local church and then grenades were thrown through the windows. The men were split up and put in the many barns that surrounded the area. Those barns were set alight and any one trying to escape were immediately shot. The small peaceful village was then practically levelled by German grenades and fires. A harrowing tale of unnecessary violence toward fellow man. War has always been the same and the survivors were less than 10.

Instead of bulldozing the wreckage, it was decided that a new town be built very nearby and the current remains left as a reminder, as a monument of the harrowing destruction and loss of life war brings upon this world. And trust me, I know this because I have been there twice, and it’s poignant, quiet and sombre. You can feel the atmosphere among the silence. The still charred stone of buildings along the high street. A doctors car still left with it’s door open, rusted and sunken into the ground. The church, now without a roof or stained glass in the window frames. Bullet holes in the walls and many more plastered over a WW1 monument. The museum that straddles the monument puts everything into context, without it, maybe the place would be wrongly conceived as just a ruin, because new generations forget, but within those crumbled bricks and a growth covered tram line is the truth of what history really serves, a reminder and lesson of where humanity went once, and a hope that we can learn from it.

Oradour-sur-Glane, France: Remember. – Rick Steves' Travel Blog

Statues fall and so does the lesson…

Every now and then a moment in history moves many people toward a desire for change. As humans we should always be trying to better ourselves. Regimes fall and over time they are forgotten mostly, or at least their context is. Those people who died on that sunny Saturday are forever immortalised by the wreckage of their home which serves as a monument. If the French authorities were to tear down this monument, or if a mob of protesters looking for change suddenly invaded it, then there would be public outcry.

I see the news and what is going on right now. I can only think the same thing when I see these mobs tearing down statues, some of people who serve important moments in our history. There is no thought, just spray paint and tear it down. Of course some of these statues represent people and a time far gone. Slavery or even genocide, people who probably shouldn’t be paraded in public places, but removing that statue and that name entirely is erasing history. Erase the history and you erase the lesson and again we lose our humanity. 

Not for one moment should you think I agree with these statues and what they stand for morally once upon a time, I agree that they should stand as a reminder of where we were and where we are now. Like Oradour-sur-Glane in 1999 they opened that museum and gave everything some context, because people of that age were rapidly passing away, time takes away good people and memories of a certain time.

Put these statues in museums with some context beside them. People have lost reasoning because there is no context and they are desperate to see something done. Why is there a statue of this person? And more importantly why was it re homed to this particular exhibit.

You keep the history, you keep the lesson and eventually you reinstate humanity. I know what happened recently is terrible. And Black Lives Matter very much so, even more now than ever because racism needs to be stamped out and we can only do that via education and history. I’m 100% with everyone who’s feeds have become activist feeds recently, keep flying that flag, keep being proud to call bullshit on racism, but remember the history that got us here and view it in the context of modern day. This year alone has been the true test of humanity and we need it more than ever!

Weekly Ramble #69

From every shit-uation there are positives and good eventual outcomes. People have a lot more time now. The hustle and bustle of life’s busyness has slowed down and even I can feel people are taking their time to do things they didn’t before.

slales

These are the best sales I’ve ever had outside of Book promo

Book reviews are up. Book sales are up. And social media engagement is up. I’m even writing new stuff. I’ve always tried to justify my place in the arena with both books and a presence and it’s times of struggle like this that people look for reads and people who are carrying on in the face of adversity.

Writers and artists are needed even more so and while the social media socialite types who produce nothing are being starved out of attention, people are looking to genuine content creators and it gets no more genuine than a book or a blog.

We’ll look back on this time as one of invisible pressure and hardship. But take those away and you’ll find it was a period where we all had time to read that book, watch that show or paint that wall. 

All of a sudden this will be over and we’ll be back in the arms of friends, family and even co workers. We’ll forget what it truly means to be isolated and away from groups. We’re a herd species, until recently anyway.  The rat race will resume and it will all be forgotten. Humans have a fickle way of carrying on. Whether it comes from a vaccine or even medication, we’ll beat it, we’re too resilient not to I salute all of those carrying on in the face of this adversity – by carrying on I mean, writing a few words a day, speaking to friends over skype, cooking that meal, staying busy; we’ll get through, we always do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Ramble #68

Many of us crave structure to be productive. We are worker bees after all and to be busy is to live and then this whole lock down thing happened…

I find solace in the two shifts I have to work every week. Even though the 5/6 days off is nice, work has always given everything else in my life a structure. While I left my home over the weekend for the first time in nearly a week I sighed in relief to just be out driving – where I get many of my writing ideas.

With the world seemingly closed, the roads are deserted apart from the army of truckers who are hauling everything to keep this world turning, shout out to them. Even with them on the roads, it’s quiet. Spring is in full force here in the UK and green has exploded everywhere. A part of me wants to see trees take back their rightful place along with many of the critters who are crossing streets more than people.

Quarantine and self isolation is hard and it’s weighing big on us all. I must stress to you all even while it is distracting, you have to stay busy. Immerse your mind in something, my Mrs is taken up crochet while on furlough. Learn a new craft, try something new or I dare say it, read a book. My sales have near enough tripled over these past few weeks. We’re all indoors, hopefully away from harm and so use this time.

Self care is a big deal right now. Stay away from the constant droning of news which is just churning out numbers right now. Put the news away for a while and realize apart from staying in there isn’t much else you can do in this fight, but staying distant is enough for now. We’ll get through it. The storm will pass and the story will continue. Anything and everything is what it will take, do that.

Hope you are all staying safe. Have you tried anything new?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Ramble #67

Even in these times of pandemic weighing on my shoulders I’m still writing and reading. Carrying on in the face of adversity is a survival instinct and I’m holding in there, I hope you are too!

Like me you probably can’t help but look at the news for the twelfth time in a day but that’s how we are wired in this age of information. Watching the news all the time will have a bad effect eventually, stay away for a while. Find your escape through means of what you would normally do – in a safe way. Its Easter so theres chocolate and food. Check in with family and friends, use the social media channels, they are still plugged in and aren’t going anywhere.

We as a species have an incredible way of facing the odds with a smile and I’m trying. Truth is I’m doing okay and this covid thing has had a unique effect of my literary stance. Books, my books are selling. Paperbacks are actually selling. These really are unprecedented times and now I am feeling the satisfaction for having a form of art to offer. Others are taking on my work which is there for anyone. Writing will last longer than any who scribes it no matter the times. That gives me hope even in ‘normal’ times my writing will have a place for somebody.

Editing and drafting new stuff takes up some of my time, even with this new pressure of what is happening showing no signs of letting up. I’m not spending hours working but I’m slowly and surely making gradual progress. A page a day, one step at a time and things might be okay…

 

My debut novel Open Evening is free this coming Wednesday!

Weekly Ramble #54

I need an agent. That is my conclusion if I want to achieve what I want to achieve. With every book my following goes from strength to strength and without disparaging any of my supporters, it’s not enough. My reach or lack of it belittles what I have achieved in writing. Without sounding high and mighty, my efforts as a story teller are falling on deaf ears. 

As a person who started this at absolute zero I cannot help but look back and be damn proud of where I am. But if this dream of mine was a house I built from the foundations, I’m still siting in the footings of the basement. For the stories I have written and the efforts I have put in, the return if I were to look at this as a business person is lacklustre. The board of directors would have shut me down after book 2’s release.

It’s conflicting because ‘business’ is not what this journey is about. I’ve written 5 books. Every single one them became a huge learning experience in both publishing and the written word. Some incredible folks have helped me get them out there; editors, cover artists and the like. Reviewers have kept my belief alive. For all these efforts in vain I am a story teller and I know what a story is. You can only learn to write stories by finding it within yourself. Anyone can be taught grammar, punctuation, spelling and all of the functions of language, but to be able to pen a story from beginning, middle to end with everything in between, that is what I learned while putting together 5 books.

And now after everything I set out to do, even in creating this blog, I am back where I started – looking for a literary agent. But this time I am armed with experience and the know how of story telling. The times have changed and everything I thought I knew about getting an agent, the last time I queried circa 2013, has changed. Apparently science fiction isn’t looked down on anymore. It just so happens to be the genre I am going to use to find an agent. But I need a book and I’ve got one. This year I drafted ‘Jack Thorn’ a story, the story that got me into writing. It’s funny how things go full circle. And as I said, I need an agent…

Have you queried to agents recently? Any good responses? Let me know via the comments, this is our journey, not just mine… 

Weekly Ramble #52

Anxiety, depression and loneliness are all things we should talk about way more. Even in this modern age where we appear to be more connected than ever before, we still face these issues on a pandemic scale. You would think the concept of social media would help to battle such issues but from my experiences it can foster depression and possibly make it worse. Perhaps the original intention of social media – if it ever was good, has been overlooked and overshadowed.

2010 – you’ve got to get a Facebook profile picture..

2019 – you’ve got to get off Facebook…

It’s strange how time can turn things around, or in this sense nearly a decade .The same generation (folks like me) who knew a life before being internet reliant and then embracing it is now choosing to come away. Perhaps the old saying too much of anything is bad for you turned out to be pretty accurate.

The reason I link mental health and social media together is because last year these two subjects culminated in what I recall as a particularly dark time for me personally. I know many people who have been on their own mental health journeys; many of them blog or post about it (the good guys!), and well I’ve been quite vague until now because it is still fresh and context along with timing has urged me to share it only now – plus compared to last year right now I am probably in one of the best places I’ve been for a long while, as I said it’s funny how time can turn things around.

Off the heels of my 4th book release and the 2nd one of last year which didn’t go particularly smoothly and subsequently didn’t turn out how I envisioned. I’ve only learned all of my ‘book stuff’ by doing/ trial and error and well the release of Cemetery House was indeed just another day at the learning factory – sequels are a specialist thing in indie publishing, and while I did put the whole thing on a pedestal with a long running social media campaign and a whole bunch of expectation, let’s just say in my head I didn’t exactly get a hole in one. By this time I had already drafted the Darke Blood sequel and immediately I pulled the plug on releasing that this year – it wasn’t ready and neither was I.

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There was also a bunch of other stuff going on at the time; that whole year had been building up towards me moving into my own place with my more than better half. Moving places is naturally stressful even if it went quite well – there is more paperwork than any book I’ve ever written… So by the end of November and with my mind trying to crawl towards a better place I took the huge dive into deleting the Facebook app off my phone – for those who know I was always on Facebook; that’s my secret captain… I even decided to go dark across all platforms probably apart from this place. This may have been the best health decision I have ever made in my entire life –  arguably probably better than no carb Thursday or no meat Monday… Immediately my mind and focus turned towards other things, of course the move was coming but very quickly and after being burned by book 4’s ‘debacle’ I wanted to write again!

For those who have read my books will know they are about more than genre and even the main plot. In everything I have created there is an underlying message within. I took on a new writing project and with my crusade against staying off social media I went a further step creatively and decided to hand write my next project. My vision was to take away page counts, word counts, windows updates and the temptation of logging on to Life Invader as well as finding my writing routes. This was just Lee, his pen, some paper and words. At this time I was still healing and so I got writing and subconsciously put together a story that reflected how I was feeling in a sense.

That recollection of feelings reflected via a story ended up becoming a book called ‘The Ghost Beside Me’ which is due for release this December. Because it was handwritten and had a sole focus on just telling a story it turned out to be quite short but it could arguably be my most powerful and important project. And so we go back to the start of this entry… Anxiety, depression and loneliness are all things we should talk about way more, you’ll find these subjects in my next book and they are talked about. That is something we need to do so much more. There are some creators I know that also talk about self care – this is just as important, finding away to get through stuff is a vital part of talking about it!

Now I’m not just using this as an opportunity to sell some books, this has never been about that, it’s an opportunity to use my writing for something more than just telling stories. 

By the end of December last year I had mostly recovered and dove into Indie Book Reviews which has probably been a lifeline for me. Connecting with other authors and bloggers who face what I face gives me a great sense of not being alone in the huge overpopulated world of social media. Even now I am weary of Facebook, it’s #4 or #5 on my platforms for author stuff, this place  is numero uno followed closely by the tweet machine.

For what is my 52nd ramble post – a year of rambles, although I started this series little over a year ago – I would like to take this opportunity to everyone who reads this and say thank you! This blog and your support has given my writing a new lease of life and very soon ‘The Ghost Beside Me’ will be my redemption, whether or not it is a success actually doesn’t matter, it’s the journey of creation that truly matters. 

ghost beside me fb