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Safe and Sound: Philippa East and the psychology of suspense

Philippa East is a fiction writer with HQ/HarperCollins and she also works as a clinical psychologist, which I guess can come in pretty handy for writing thrillers.

Author Philippa East

Author Philippa East

Philippa grew up in Scotland before moving to Oxford and then London to complete her clinical training. A few years ago, she left the NHS to set up her own part-time practice and dedicate more hours to writing. The result was her debut novel LITTLE WHITE LIES, which was long-listed for The Guardian’s Not-The-Booker Prize and shortlisted for the CWA “New Blood” Award 2020.

Little White Lies by Philippa East

Little White Lies by Philippa East

Philippa’s next book SAFE AND SOUND is another twisty and compelling tale. For a fun preview, check out the video trailer on Philippa’s Amazon Author page (best with sound on!).

Philippa now lives in the beautiful Lincolnshire countryside with her husband and cat. She loves reading (of course!) and long country walks, and she also performs in a local folk duo called The Miracle Cure. Alongside her writing, Philippa continues to work as a psychologist and therapist.

I’m excited to have Philippa as my guest today, as she tells us about what inspires her. Philippa also shares an extract from SAFE AND SOUND, which you’ll find below.

 

Inspirations

Phillippa: It’s a funny question, isn’t it? ‘Where do your ideas come from?’

For me, a book often comes alive when two (or even better, three) different ideas come together in my head. That’s generally how I know I might have enough material for a whole 90,000-word novel!

I write in the psychological suspense genre, and actually get a lot of my ideas – full disclosure! – from watching true-crime documentaries on TV. At heart, I’m fascinated by what people are capable of and why they do the things they do. This also overlaps with my day job as a clinical psychologist.

More specifically, individual plot ideas, character motivations or story twists can get sparked for me in various ways: reading other books in the genre can help get my brain in ‘thriller’ mode; I also often go for long walks around the Lincolnshire countryside to get the brain wheels turning, plus sometimes I just have to pin down a friend and brainstorm relentlessly with (at!) them until the pieces finally fall into place.

The inspiration for my latest book, SAFE AND SOUND, was actually the true-life story of Joyce Vincent, a woman in her thirties who died at home in North London in late 2003. Her body was only discovered in 2006. Around 2013, I found myself watching ‘Dreams of a Life’, the incredibly moving docu-drama produced by filmmaker Carol Morley about Joyce’s life and death. The film stayed with me for years, itching away at my brain, until I was compelled to write my own version of this heart-breaking story.

***

Thank you so much Philippa for sharing that with us, and especially for the (rather scary) extract. All the best for your work and your writing.

***

Extract from SAFE AND SOUND

Chapter One

Before I started in this job, I used to picture bailiffs bashing in people’s doors and dragging furniture out into the street.

Of course, it isn’t like that really. We’ve sent this tenant a letter to let her know we’re coming, all correct protocol with the London Housing Association that I work for. I have two bailiffs with me but, really, all we want to do today is to ensure that this tenant, Ms Jones, knows about her debts, and hopefully sort out a means for her to pay them. That’s why I’m here: as her Housing Manager. Hopefully, I can agree a payment plan with her, something to help her out of this mess.

The bailiff with the kind face takes a deep breath and knocks hard on the door. ‘Ms Jones? Ms Jones, we are here about your unpaid rent.’

Safe and Sound by Philippa East

Safe and Sound by Philippa East

I think I can make out voices coming from inside the flat, but as I lean closer I hear someone saying Capital FM!, and I realise it’s just the radio playing. If the radio is on though, I can be pretty sure she’s in there.

The bailiff knocks again, thump thump.

A song comes on a moment later: ‘Everywhere’ by Fleetwood Mac. We’ll keep knocking and hope that eventually she will come to the door, even if she doesn’t open it. She has a right not to open it to us, but I really hope we can speak to her today. That way I have a chance to help. We can let things go for a while – the longest I can remember was four months – but we can’t just let it go on forever. Ms Jones is already three months behind. We’ve sent half a dozen letters already, but she didn’t reply to any of them, so now it’s come to this. If we can’t arrange some kind of payment schedule today, the next step is an eviction notice and I would really hate for it to come to that.

‘Ms Jones?’ the bailiff calls again.

There are footsteps on the stairs above. I step back and look up to see who’s coming. A neighbour from upstairs, nobody that I recognise, a black woman, smartly dressed, probably on her way out to work. There are dozens of people living in this block but now I wonder how many of them speak to each other or even know their neighbours’ names. But she must pass this way at least, most days. ‘Excuse me,’ I call out to her. ‘Do you know the tenant in this flat? Is she usually home at this time?’

The woman comes down the last few stairs.

‘She’s got the radio on,’ I say. ‘We’re assuming she’s in.’

The woman pauses next to us and shrugs. ‘Her radio is always on,’ she says. ‘I hear it every time I go by.’

She loiters for another moment between the staircase and the doors to the outside, sizing us up. But she is busy, she has her own life to be getting on with, and no doubt she’s learnt that it’s best in a big city like this not to get involved. ‘Sorry,’ she offers as she hitches her handbag more securely onto her shoulder and makes her way through the heavy door to the lobby.

We turn back to the flat and the other bailiff knocks this time, his fist bigger, his knock that bit louder. I look down at the file of papers I am still holding against my chest. I’ve been in this flat before; I checked the last tenant out. I can still picture it: the tiny apartment is only a bedsit really, tucked away on the ground floor, hidden under the stairs so you could quite easily miss it. The living room and bedroom are one and the same, the sofa tucked behind the front door doubling as a bed, and there is a kitchen, but only an archway divides the two, so you could hardly even call them separate rooms. There’s a tiny toilet, with a shower attachment that hangs, a little bit crooked, above a plastic bath. And that’s it.

The last tenant, I remember, only stayed a few months. They complained about the commercial waste bins that always somehow ended up against the rear wall of this block, even though they belonged to the restaurant twenty yards away. Then the flat was empty for a good while, until this tenant moved in a year ago. Into this flat, now allocated to me.

The song has flipped over and it’s another tune that’s playing now. I recognise this one too: ‘Beautiful Day’ by U2. Out of nowhere I get a sort of roiling feeling in my stomach and a prickling up the base of my spine. I hand my file of papers to the bailiff with the plain, kind face and walk right up to the door. I bend my knees so that my eyes are level with the letterbox and lift up the flap. With my cheek against the flaky wood of the door I look through the slat of a gap that has opened up.

I see all the post, a slithering pile of it silting up the floor on the other side of the door. No doubt the letters we sent are among it. The strangest smell reaches me in thin wisps from inside, and suddenly I find myself thinking back to last year and the annual inspection I was supposed to carry out. I let the flap of the letterbox fall and straighten back up. My chest has gone tight. I can’t seem to speak.

Now both bailiffs are looking at me, but I can’t find a way to tell them what’s wrong. The older one leans down, copying what I have just done and sees for himself what’s through that narrow space.

He puts a palm on the door, as though to steady himself.

He manages to say something and he says: ‘Holy shit.

***

Oh my goodness! What a great beginning. Thank you Philippa for sharing.

Philippa’s Links

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Philippa-East/e/B07S3JQDGK
Safe and Sound book link (via Bookshop.org who support independent bookshops): https://uk.bookshop.org/books/safe-and-sound-9780008344047/9780008344047
Twitter profile: https://twitter.com/philippa_east

How to be Happy with a Book Part 3 – Reflection: a guide for readers and reviewers

You might remember my previous posts about being happy with a book. In Part One, I covered how to choose a book that’s likely to give you joy. Then in Part Two I posed some questions about whether the book’s writing quality met your expectations.

Today I’m going to dig a bit deeper into the final response to the book. Was this book successful? Did it deliver what I wanted?

Child laughing with book

Books can make you happy

First let’s recap this how to be happy project:

Clare’s three questions for being happy with a book:

  1. Do I want to read this book? … cover, genre, look & feel, reputation
  2. Is the book well written and appropriate to its genre? … writing quality, genre stylistics, expression, editing, production values
  3. Was this book a success? … thoughts about plotline, characterisation, suspension of disbelief, resolution, afterglow

This post is about how to reflect on the success of the book you just finished. You might be considering recommending this book to a friend. You might want to write a review, or perhaps you have a task to review it. Time to think about what was good.

Or not.

My reviewing rules

I read in excess of eighty books every year, and a lot of other material too. My reading is for pleasure, for learning, to support fellow writers, and to write reviews. My reviews appear on Goodreads, here on my website, in Aurealis magazine and on the Historical Novel Society website.

Finished a book? What was it like?

Finished a book? What was it like?

I don’t review every book I read. You might see that my Goodreads average rating is quite high, because I concentrate on rating and reviewing only those books that I really enjoyed. Plus the ones that deliver what they set out to do.

What if it’s awful?

If I really don’t like a book, then I try to think: Who would like this? For example, I don’t like gratuitous or graphic violence, but some readers love that kind of story. I might say that it’s ‘a book for lovers of action who don’t mind graphic violence’.

Not the best read

Not the best read?

Or perhaps I’ll choose not to review at all. I don’t like giving low ratings or over-critical reviews, because I know how much work goes in to writing a book. Most books find their audience. We don’t all have to love all of them.

Some questions to ask

Now you’ve finished the book. Hooray! What are your thoughts?

Some readers are quite intuitive about how much they enjoyed a book (or not) and happily land on a star rating. Others could use some structure to sort out their reactions, especially if the book is complex.

If you would like a tick list of questions, I happen to have one right here LOL!

  1. Does the plot makes sense, with all loose ends tied up?
  2. Are the characters believable and engaging? Did I care what happened to them?
  3. Did the story pull me in? Can I accept its world building? EG its magic system, its police procedure, its logical structure, its historical recreation, its planetary set up and so on.
  4. Was the end satisfactory? Perhaps not all is resolved, but the story is complete.
  5. How did that book make me feel? Your expectation of feeling relies on what you’ve been promised: a chilling thriller, a sweet Regency romance, an exciting adventure in deep space? Your lasting emotional response to the book says a lot.
Finishing a book

Who would like this book?

You could do worse than give each of these criteria a number from 1 (weak) to 5 (excellent) before deciding your final star rating for the book as a whole. [HINT: authors love star ratings]

These criteria also provide beginnings for a text review. [HUGE HINT: authors love text reviews!]

Finally

Before you reach for the next delight from your TBR pile, a final thought could be: who would I recommend this book for?

The reading community is very diverse. Even the book you really don’t like will be just right for someone else. And that’s OK!

What’s even better is for you to give them the heads up that you’ve found a book just right for them. The ‘if you like X, then you’ll like this’ statement can be very helpful not only to other readers but also to authors.

[LAST HINT: authors love you to recommended their books to readers who will like them!] 

I’d love to know if you have any techniques for rating and reviewing books that you could share with me. And of course I’d love to know how you make yourself happy with a book.

Until next time, happy reading!

 

Harry Fletcher steps out of the Stars

Harry Fletcher is an energetic young man with many plans for the future. In this exclusive post on the eve of Anzac Day, I’m asking him about his upcoming tour of Egypt, Gallipoli and the Western Front.

First, though, we have to take ourselves back to January 1915 and behind the pages of The Stars in the Night.

Stars Amz cover

Clare: Hi, Harry, pleased to meet you. I’ve been hearing so much about you over the past few years that I feel like I already know you.

Harry: Never met you before, Miss, but how do you do all the same.

I hear you’re leaving the bakery to become a soldier.

That’s right. Me and my brother Eddie. Off to save the Empire, we are. Unless the war finishes before we get there.

I don’t think that will happen.

Really, Miss? They said it would be over by Christmas. Maybe next Christmas then.

Perhaps. Now, I have a couple of notes here that I’d like to check with you if that’s all right.

Go ahead.

You and Eddie have the same birthday. How did that happen? I thought he was your foster brother. Your enlistment papers make you look like twins.

Nah, we’re not twins. Have you met him, our Eddie? High as a house and twice as broad. Anyway, we have different surnames, so we can’t be twins.

And both your birthdays fall on the same day as mine, June 28th.

True, Miss? That’s strange. Eddie shares mine because we never found out when his real birthday is.

Indeed. Now, what about that Nora girl?

Miss MacTierney, you should say. What about her?

Nothing to be concerned about, Harry. I just wondered whether the two of you…

None of your business, I’m pretty sure, Miss. Where did you say you were from, anyway?

Ah, I’m from The Future. It’s a, um, a new paper. Interviews, life stories, history, travel, that sort of thing. Fiction and poetry.

Never heard of it. I like reading, though. History and geography. Not poetry so much. Mind you, I won’t get much time for reading from now on.

You’re heading off to training camp this month, I know. Tell me this, Harry: why did you enlist? The war is half a world away.

It’s the right thing to do, isn’t it? Everyone knows that. I couldn’t stay home when other blokes are fighting for what’s right. Britain is at war and they need us. Australia has to do the decent thing.

You really believe that war is a decent thing?

Well, it’s the only thing, isn’t it? The only way to beat a bully is to fight him. Besides, it pays well. Six shillings a day, imagine that, and a free trip to Europe. Not bad. And when we get there, we’ll show the English army that we’re just as good as they are.

I believe you will. I hope you stay safe, I really do. You and Eddie.

That’s kind, Miss ah, sorry, didn’t catch your name. Miss Future, let’s say. Maybe we can talk more when I get back.

I hope that too. Promise to look me up when you get home.

*laughs* You’ll have to wait in line, Miss. There’s somebody I’ll be looking up first.

Oh, of course, Nora! I’m sure she’ll be waiting for you.

I’m depending on it, Miss. Thanks for dropping by.

Thanks for talking to me, Harry. Good luck!

 

The Stars in the Night by Clare Rhoden -cover detail

The Stars in the Night by Clare Rhoden -cover detail. Cover design by Simon Critchell

You’ve probably guessed that this is one of many entirely impossible conversations that I regularly hold with my character Harry Fletcher, picking his brains about why he’s doing what he’s doing, and what life is like for him. He can be a prickly chap but he always tells me the truth.

For the latest review of The Stars in the Night, see Baffled Bear Books.

 

Where to find Stars in the Night: You can buy Stars from my publisher Odyssey Books, from BookDepository (with free shipping worldwide) and from Amazon in Kindle and paperback, and as an ebook for KOBO.

It’s also at Barnes and Noble in paperback, and at Chapters Indigo, Booktopia, and Waterstones.

You can also ask your friendly local bookstore to order it in for you. During the pandemic shutdown, many bookstores are delivering for free. Bonus!

If you are in Australia, you can buy a signed copy from my website, with free postage included.

 

 

 

Books Go On: cover reveal for One Step Behind by Lauren North

Writers are still writing, and new books are somewhere in the production line.

Stories are definitely still being read.

In the context of a global pandemic, we can see that so much of what we took for granted is actually built on shaky ground. Our health, our economy, our daily routines: all of these are based on a stable and predictable culture and environment.

But reality is much more haphazard than we like to think.

The stability and predictability of life are illusions to a greater or lesser extent. Humans in general don’t like randomness and change. We prefer to imagine that we can order our lives and plan what will happen. Now Covid-19 has torn down much of what we formerly took for granted, as other world events have done for generations before us.

This is a hard time to be living through, and it undermines many of our assumptions. So much is going to fall by the wayside for many different groups, but today I’m thinking in particular about writers. Publication schedules, book promotion, sales, and even bookshops are shut down or under threat. Many publishing houses have simply closed their submission portals and stopped making any new commitments to authors. Yet the #writingcommunity, like every other community, is striving to find a way forward.

In this spirit, today I’m pleased to share a cover reveal with you. This is for a new psychological thriller, being released later this year.

ONE STEP BEHIND by Lauren North

ONE STEP BEHIND by Lauren North

ONE STEP BEHIND:

Jenna is a wife, a mother, a doctor. She’s also the victim of a stalker.

Every time she leaves her house, she sees him. Disturbing gifts are left at her door. Cruel emails are sent to her colleagues. She has no idea who this man is but she feels powerless against him.

Until the day he is brought into her hospital after a serious accident, and Jenna is given the chance to find out once and for all why this man is tormenting her. Now, the power is all hers.

But how many lines is she willing to cross to take back control of her life?

 

ONE STEP BEHIND by Lauren North will be published by Transworld, Penguin on the 17th July 2020 (as an ebook) and in paperback on 03rd September 2020.

I hope to share a review and an author interview with UK author Lauren North later in the year. In the meantime, admire this scroll-stopping cover and pop this book on your ‘want to read’ list. I have!

See you tomorrow with a new Last Word of the Week interview.

Bats, Balloons and Bare-faced Lies – Fake News of the Victorian Era

Today I am thrilled to offer you this vastly entertaining and TRUE article about fake news during Victoria’s reign. This gem has been written by BG Hilton, author of Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys (Odyssey Books, Feb 2020). Reading this piece makes me go all over steam-punky.

Steampunk Lady who is not me

Steampunk Lady who is not me

I’m sure Bill has an old suit vest somewhere that I to which can attach lace, watch chains and goggles … Enjoy!

A guest post by BG Hilton

In the 1920s, as radio was just beginning to come into its own, the BBC had a regular news broadcast. On most days. But on one especially slow news day in 1930, an announcer declared that there simply wasn’t enough news to make up a bulletin. There followed 15 minutes of piano music.

Slow news days are something that has always affected the news media. Simply put, more newsworthy things happen on some days than others. Unlike the BBC in 1930, most news organisations don’t have the luxury of saying so. They simply have to churn out as many pages, as many minutes of content on a slow news day as on a day where everything is going berserk.

Nowadays, news outlets have ways of dealing with this. Celebrity stories, human interest pieces, extended sports coverage can all do the work of a dozen strands of hair plastered across a bald man’s head.

In Victorian times, it was a little different. Slow news days weren’t just bad for media outlets, they were bad for journalists. Very few reporters were on a salary. Almost all were freelance writers paid for how much newspaper space they could fill – often as little as a penny a line. A slow news day didn’t mean a drop in advertising revenue, it meant starvation.

And this is where fake news comes in.

People use the term ‘fake news’ to mean a lot of things – exaggerations, distortions and of course the Trumpian meaning of the term, ‘things I don’t like to hear.’ But let’s talk about fake news in the strictest sense – news stories that are completely fabricated. This could be as simple as a story that the Pope had died when in fact he had not. Otherwise, a popular news story might find itself repeated. Famous murders might be recycled with a few cosmetic changes. A favourite was story of the brutal and much-hated Austrian Marshall von Haynau who, on a visit to London, was set upon and beaten by workingmen. This was a true story – the first time it was published. According to some sections of the London press, the incident recurred more times than seems probable.

But this is the shallow end of the pool. The end that interests me is the truly bizarre stories that were passed off as fact.

Some of these fake news stories arose organically. The story of Spring-heeled Jack began as an urban myth before becoming a fake news story. Jack was a sort of ghost – or man pretending to be a ghost – or something – who threatened and even attacked people. Sometimes he breathed out a blue flame, always he evaded capture by running so fast, he seemed to have springs in his boot-heels.

Others fake news was simply created out of whole cloth. One of the most famous here is the ‘Great Moon Hoax’ of 1835, in which the New York newspaper The Sun ran a series of articles claiming that the (real) astronomer Sir John Herschel using a (fictional) super-telescope had discovered animal life on the moon. These included giant bats and beavers the size of small bears. The stories ran for several days before ending with the claim that one of Herschel’s assistants had left the lens-cap off the great telescope, which had focused the rays of the rising sun so greatly that the observatory had burnt down!

Full moon

Full moon

This story had an unexpected knock-on effect of irritating Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was not upset about the fake news in principle, but felt that the Sun had plagiarised some elements of its story from his works. In retaliation, he planted a news story falsely claiming that a man had crossed the Atlantic in a balloon. For once, the fake news blew up on the newspaper, and when it became clear that the balloon was non-existent, they were forced to retract.

To what extent were these and other bizarre stories believed? That, unfortunately, is a question that’s difficult to answer. Probably some people thought these stories were fact, others thought of it as entertainment. Our modern idea that the news media ideally ought to be a reasonably accurate reflection of reality did not yet exist, so publishing outlandish tales wasn’t necessarily seen as being at odds with journalistic ethics.

And perhaps there’s another angle. In the 1840s, a British journalist named Henry Mayhew interviewed a running patterer – an itinerant seller of news stories. Patterers were notorious for selling exaggerated or fraudulent stories; or even passing off old magazines as up-to-date news. But this patterer noted that his victims seldom grumbled. “It’s astonishing, how few people ever complain of having been took in. It hurts their feelings to lose a halfpenny, but it hurts their pride too much, when they’re had, to grumble in public about it.”

************************

Gosh, I really wanted those bats to be real! They look divine. And how beautiful is the cover of BG Hilton’s steampunk novel!

Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys by BG Hilton

Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys by BG Hilton

BG Hilton is the author of Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys, a Steampunk novel inspired by the Great Moon Hoax. You can read his blogs at bghilton.com

Thank you so much for this great post!

When no one is watching … words arrive

Linathi Makanda is a young South African poet and author whose first book of brilliantly-realised love poetry was published last month. I reviewed When No One is Watching recently, full of enthusiasm for a new voice that so perfectly captures the heart of feeling, from first delight through to lonely despair. I consider that poetry is the perfect vehicle for emotion, and I haven’t felt so close to heartache-in-words since I first read Sappho’s fragments as a teenager.

Linathi Makanda

Author Linathi Makanda

I’m thrilled that Linathi has joined Odyssey Books, the wonderful publishing house that has done so much for me, and I’m very grateful that she has agreed to be first up in 2020’s Last Word of the Week series.

Welcome, Linathi! Can you tell me about the time you decided you are a writer?
Linathi: I started feeling like I was a writer when I started producing work that I felt like was authentically me, when it came naturally to me. I’ve always known that I wanted to write but struggled a lot when it came to finding my voice. So I internally identified as a “writer” when I was ultimately happy with the work I was producing.

When you writing spoke as you, that’s a good measure. What would readers never guess about you?
The fact that I’m very fearful of a lot of things. As an expressive, people often view you as bold. People would be really shocked to know how often I get anxious or nervous, especially when it comes to my writing.

You’re right, your nervousness doesn’t show. Your poetry has a beautiful, confident, authentic voice. Why is writing important to you?
Expression, in general, is important to me. I think it’s important for each generation to show how their forms of expression have evolved from the last. Books, writing and art in general have so much continuity and apart from us wanting to indulge in these crafts and enjoying them, it’s also equally important to make sure that we leave traces of ourselves for the next generations and I guess writing is my contribution to that bigger picture.

What five words would best describe your style?
Relatable – Emotive – Simple – Raw – Captivating / Gripping

I like the way you snuck in an extra word! What do you think about creative writing courses? Are they valuable?
They definitely are, especially for readers and writers of younger ages. As a young writer myself, it has become important to me that young children and writers are given the opportunity to explore themselves in creative spaces. Too often, reading and writing is boxed in in academia. It’s therefore important to show people that writing and reading can and does exist for purposes other than just for academics.

Well said. Is there anyone in your past who’d be surprised at your writing?
Funny thing is, I think everyone I’ve encountered would and is probably surprised about my writing. I’ve never really let people in on the fact that I write. It’s been a strange transition going from people not knowing that I write, to being a published author.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

Did you have a big break in writing? What happened?
My big break in writing has definitely been my book deal with Odyssey Books. As a writer, you dream of such things happening but they still seem very out of reach. Being the first South African author at an international publishing house means a lot to me as a writer and as an individual and I’m eternally grateful to my publisher, Michelle Lovi, for that opportunity.

Michelle is very special, and I find her very enabling. Congratulations on being published! What kind of reader would like your book?
I’d like to think my work is quite relatable and accessible to a range of people but more specifically, people who are highly in tune with their emotions, the lovers, the dreamers, the expressive and the people who aren’t scared to face their demons head on.

The lovers and the dreamers – I think I know a few! What would be a dream come true for you?
I’ve had a lot of my dreams come true at the end of 2019. My pictures were published on Vogue Italia and that really meant a lot for me as a self-taught photographer, I also got the book deal etc. But another one of my dreams would definitely be to see my poetry collection, When No One Is Watching, reach greater heights and to possibly venture into writing another book. Every writer definitely would like their bodies of work to gain traction and even though I didn’t necessarily write for recognition, the book itself doing well is something that I would really love to see happen.

Is it easy for readers to find your book/s?
Yes, definitely. When No One Is Watching is currently available on a wide range of platforms, namely Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Odyssey Books website as well as on Goodreads.

And it comes highly recommended by me! If you could write a note to someone about to read your book, what would you say?
Well, I’ve already snuck a little note in there for my readers (wink), but more than anything, I’d want to say “breathe in and be ready to fully experience all forms of yourself.”

That’s perfect! Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Linathi, and I look forward to seeing more of your work in words and pictures.

The 2 by 4 of Book Launches: the last word

Last month I launched The Ruined Land, the third book in my Chronicles of the Pale series. In next week’s post, I’m going to share what I said as well as an extract, but first, here is my Last Word of the Week on The Two x Four of Book Launches.

Here you will find four ideas about running a launch,  plus four ideas for attending a launch. I’m thinking about small to mid-list authors like myself, who are probably expecting tens rather than hundreds of devotees to attend.

I’m restricting myself to only four items for each list, because let’s face it, give me any topic and I could probably write a thesis…Bwahaha!

Book Launches in 2 x 4 easy steps

The 2×4 of Book Launches Part 1: Launching

If you are the writer launching your book, here are four guidelines to consider:

  1. Whether you are running your own launch, or your publisher has asked you for a list of personal invitees, the first rule is the most important. Invite people who make you feel happy, people who love you. This is not a time to show off to anyone who has previously scoffed at your writing ambitions. Let them read the rave reviews and simmer, somewhere away from you. Your book launch is for you to enjoy!
  2. Your launch is about celebrating. It’s a party. The launch is not, first and foremost, a money-making exercise. You are inviting your friends to join you in the celebration, not to subsidise your writing. Selling books is a bonus – and signing them is excellent fun. But the launch is mostly about connecting with your folk, and about the excitement, achievement and relief of having a book published. Best done over a glass of wine or a piece of cake, depending on time and venue, and even better if you can have a word with every person there.
  3. Keep it short and stick to the schedule. No matter how much everyone loves you, there is a limit to how long they can listen to speeches and readings, especially if they are friends and family rather than the literati accustomed to going to poetry slams, or politicians inured to long sessions pretending to listen. In my case, most of my demographic isn’t particularly young, so standing for lengthy periods can be annoying. It’s better to leave your listeners wanting more instead of checking their watches wondering when you’re going to stop! Also, keep in mind that while they love you, your book may not be their preferred reading matter. That’s cool. They’re here to show their support, not as book critics.
  4. Appreciate the efforts of everyone who gets there, and of those supporters who can’t be there – a follow up email thanks or a social media post is good. If there are likely to be more folk than you can number off on your fingers and toes, ask one of your bestest to jot down names so you don’t forget who was there. Some authors have sign-in books, but that might make people uncomfortable. You know your crowd. Follow your instincts on this.

The 2×4 of Book Launches Part 2: Attending a Launch

  1. Be happy. This is a time to celebrate, to enjoy the achievement of your friend, colleague or family member. Take time out of your busy, hectic life and enjoy.
  2. Be friendly. There are probably folk there who don’t know anyone else, but you are all gathered for a specific purpose. Take it on yourself to reach out and speak to anyone who looks lonely. Your writer friend is bound to have invited some people that s/he knows and you don’t, and it’s important that everyone feels included. Believe me, your writer friend really can’t spend as much time speaking to each individual as they would like to.
  3. Be supportive. Arrive early if you can, and see if there’s anything your writer friend needs doing. Maybe you can arrange to ask a Dorothy Dixer, or be the one to zip around the room getting everyone together when the time arrives, or lead the applause – or the laughter – at the right moment.
  4. You don’t have to buy the book. True! Buying hard copy books is not always an option, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed or feel the need to explain. (In the same way, your writer friend shouldn’t have to explain why they cannot simply hand out free copies.) However, you can still show your support in other ways. You could offer to take photos and post the celebration on social media; you can share information and posts about the launch; you could offer physical help on the day such as carrying books or getting chairs for people. You could simply bring your friend a bunch of flowers from your garden, or a special congratulations card you have made. You were asked because the writer wants you there.

There’s so much more that can be said about launches, but that’s enough from me. I’d love to hear from you! Any suggestions about launching books the best way? I still feel there’s so much more I need to learn, and fingers crossed, I will have further opportunities to launch books in the future.

See you next week 🙂 Merry and Happy in the meantime!

The Ruined Land Launch Event!

Please come along to the launch of  The Chronicles of the Pale 3: The Ruined Land

Join us as Natalie Dowling from Words on a Page launches The Ruined Land.

In this gripping conclusion to the Chronicles of the Pale, humachines, tribesfolk, settlers and canini face their greatest challenge yet: where do you run when your world collapses?

It’s SOOOOOO exciting!

Wednesday November 6th

6.30pm

Readings Bookstore Lygon St Carlton (Melbourne Australia!)

Free, no need to book. There will be wine. And happy folks.

Chronicles of the Pale by Clare Rhoden @rararesources @ClareER #bookreview #booktour — Double Stacked Shelves

It is my pleasure to be on the blog tour today for Clare Rhoden’s trilogy, ‘Chronicles of the Pale’. Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for including me. I have read all three books, and I am most grateful for my copies of these, which I have reviewed honestly, impartially and individually. […]

via Chronicles of the Pale by Clare Rhoden @rararesources @ClareER #bookreview #booktour — Double Stacked Shelves

#BLOGTOUR | The Chronicles of the Pale by Clare Rhoden @ClareER @rararesources @gilbster1000 #amreading #bookblogger #bookreview #giveaway

via #BLOGTOUR | The Chronicles of the Pale by Clare Rhoden @ClareER @rararesources @gilbster1000 #amreading #bookblogger #bookreview #giveaway