2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats team prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 18,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Tina Rhodes – Author Profile

I’d like to welcome author Tina Rhodes to my blog today. It’s fair to say Tina has had a tough life – and her life experience has certainly been very different from mine. But her writing seems to have been a constant for her throughout all she’s been through and I’m delighted she’s come along to talk to me today. Tina has self-published texts dealing with everything from her life story to children’s tales and horror stories. Welcome Tina and its lovely to have you visit my blog.

IMG_23935458033878How could I not visit such a lovely blog, Chris. One of the best blogs I’ve read so far…I love it! Feels so cozy as if God lives here. (smile) Hello, everybody. Hope all is well and in good health…God is great! Authors, writers, bloggers and readers should have a meet and greet. That would be lovely. Take care everyone and enjoy your day.

Could you tell us a bit about your life – from growing up to where you are in your life now?

I had both my parents…even after separating. I was born and raised in Brooklyn NYC….with four brothers. I felt my mom and dad favorite the boys, because of my beating, punishments and lack of protection growing up. They never listened to me telling them how people were hurting me.

I was always the teachers’ favorite, person. My teachers saw a smart, bright, intelligent, hard-working student. I did the drawings, poems, writing for the school walls and was the talk of every school I went to. Junior High school and High School I start hanging with family, friends and boys. I fought teachers…even threw chairs at principals. I hated when children bothered me, but I got suspended…my reasons for the attitude and chair throwing.

I dropped out of High school and started selling big drugs. I was pregnant with my first son whom turned twenty-five this month. I was 18 going on 19 when I had my first son, but my very first pregnancy I was fifteen.

I gave up selling drugs, because I had more children and that was not the life I wanted to live around my children. I stop selling drugs when I had my fourth child. I have nine children…six girls and three boys.

Now I am a full-time mom, working from home. I’m into Avon and promoting my books. I have changed so much. My children are my world, my joy, my friend and strengths. We’ve been through so much together. I have never seen such strong children, but I know they’re out there.

Becoming homeless, surviving the streets and shelters for nine years after landlord tried to rape me in front of my children. I lost my Section 8 behind that. Couldn’t afford NYC rent for me and children, but God is great, we here.
I am stable in a four bedroom house, lots of love and blessings.

Tell me a little bit about yourself as a person, what makes you tick?

I am a single mom by choice of nine children. I am a published book author of fifteen titles and more to come. I have a passion for HORROR…anything horror I love it. Aiming to see my work in movies.

I am a Gemini woman whom takes life, children and the people in the world serious. I don’t trust easy, sometime I don’t trust at all…my way of protecting me and my children. Every time I open up to some one …not men, but people period…I find myself and children getting hurt.

What makes me tick is my love, drive and motivation for my children. Don’t mess with my babies.

Tell me about your journey as a writer – why you first wanted to be a writer, when and how you started and how you have developed?

I’ve been writing for years, but personal family problems stood in the way. Growing up I always wrote God. I knew he couldn’t receive my letters by hand, but I knew he knew every thing I wrote him. As long as he knew …I was Happy!

IMG_23681698462960 (1)I started off writing God, than I started off turning my life stories into books. I love horror, so I started writing horror books. I love children…I have nine of my own, so I wrote children books. I had ups and downs with men, so I started doing adult books about love and relationships. The book is called “Serious”
I wrote a book call REAL LIFE STORIES, because I wanted to get all the painful stories out, so readers can hear and see how strong I am. I also was seeking help.

I published with Publish America in 2007. Three checks for only a dollar and some cents. Till this day it hurts, because I don’t promote the book or talk about it. I rewrote it and published it under a different title.

I will be a motivational inspirational speaker and focus on helping people. I want God to use me and what I’ve been through.

How would you describe your writing – it‘s themes and the important things about it?

I have been knocked down, hurt in every way possible…Yet I keep on for the sake of my children. I will continue to be a loving person. No matter what. No hardship can take this love I hold in my heart away from me. That’s my theme.

Tell me about your current book – what is it about and what makes it a great read?

My current book is about helping children learn sentences, solve math problems, learn new words, circling the right answer and more. This book is like a second part to the first one. I make my children books special, because children are very special to me. All children.

Where can I buy a copy of your book?

My first book Real Life Stories is on Amazon, Barnes N Nobles, Target, Borders and more, but I don’t get paid, because of the company, so I don’t bother with it. I deal with the others.
Amazon.com Tina Rhodes books here

Where can we find out more about you?

You can visit these sites to read and see more about me. Robert Womack L A Business Book Review Examiner interviewed me on 3/16/2012. Here

You can follow me on Twitter @Wowbodythicknes

Facebook Tina Wowbodythickness. Rhodes

And my YouTube account

And blog here

Q and A – Marketing strategy for authors

Here’s the first in an occasional series where I answer questions on my blog about anything from my book, to writing, to book promotion – anything people want to ask me.

This first question comes from lovely Carol Hedges a very experienced author with a great blog you can see here. Her new book Diamonds and Dust is just out. Thank you for your question Carol!

I’d be interested in your marketing strategies?

Carol Hedges

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that these days when two or more authors get together they will talk not of plot devices or great works of fiction but of marketing strategies.

My simple answer to Carol’s question ‘what’s your marketing strategy?’ is ‘not as good as yours!’ but I suppose I have picked up a few notions since my book came out which, while they may be well-known to Carol, might help first time authors.

BookspileBefore I was published I assumed my publisher would do all the marketing for my book and I suppose in an ideal world those who knew about writing would write and those who knew about marketing would market. Sadly, publishers have a zillion books to plug and no time to do it so it’s up to the author to get stuck in, if they don’t want their baby do disappear without trace.

My strategy, such as it is, has been simple – become visible.

When you start out you are invisible – you have no identity or brand, you probably have no social media presence to speak of, you have no blog. So a basic ‘author platform’ consisting of a blog like this one supported by Twitter and Facebook feeds is a good way to start letting people know you exist.

My strategy has been to build up my social media following as much as I am able as this provides a way of talking to the outside world. I now have more than 15,000 followers on Twitter @ChilledCH for example. I have also made a point of blogging regularly (once a week) on issues concerned with writing, reading and books, in the hope of attracting and engaging potential readers.

I would say I am good at interacting with people, but not so good at selling. There are some authors, particularly among the massed ranks of the self-published, who are brilliant at marketing. If it’s not too mean to say this I suspect that some (not all!) are better at selling than they are at writing.

I’m no salesman unfortunately. I don’t like, for example, to say to an individual person ‘buy my book’. I wouldn’t do it in person and I don’t do it online. Instead I try to engage people and include mentions of my book as a footnote to allow anyone who is interested to sample the book and buy it if they wish. This approach may seem unduly reticent but it also makes sense – nobody likes a hard sell.

It’s not good practice to constantly spam on Twitter every hour with the Amazon link to your book as some authors do. What I try to do instead is engage people. This can be through discussions on my blog, simply by retweeting any of my followers on Twitter who want me to do that for them or by asking light-hearted questions on Facebook and Twitter and having fun with the answers.

Does this sell me any books? I don’t know. It’s fun and it draws people in so I think the answer is yes – maybe not directly or straight away, but eventually yes.

Another part of being visible is appearing on other people’s websites and blogs. I have done quite a lot of that and I am always happy to do more. I’m also happy to promote other writers on my blog. Sometimes you find people have reviewed your book on their blog too – and I pick those up and let people know about them through social media.

644586_10151128774778167_2119918862_nOffline I’ve appeared in various newspapers, magazines and on radio talking about my book and about writing. These are mostly local to where I live or where I grew up. I do them whenever they are offered though I don’t necessarily think they put you in touch with potential readers as well as a targeted approach through social media does. I also do readings, when I am invited to, at literature festivals and the like.

But for me the big thing has been the world of social media – which has suddenly made it possible for an unknown first-time author like me, with a literary novel published by a small press, to reach people all over the world. That’s an amazing thing, and something which simply would not have been possible just a few short years ago.

Thanks very much to Carol for that question. If you would like to comment on the issues raised in this post of have a question for me please let me know in the comments below!

Song of the Sea God visualDon’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.

You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.

Tone of Voice

It’s not just what you say – it’s how you say it. Sometimes you can find your tone of voice in a single line I think, other times you can write for a thousand lines without ever finding it.

428px-Old_violinIt’s a crucial thing to have in a story or a book that distinctive tone of voice, a vital thing, but it’s also a slippery customer to pin down – hard to define. It’s how the story should sound – just the right words, said in the right way, to summon up a person or a mood or a feeling, something. A voice which gives the reader a way into the narrative and makes it ring uniquely for them. Like finding the right notes on a Stradivarius.

Thinking about tone of voice reminded me of a line from an old movie I once saw where a young intern at a big city newspaper was asked to define irony.

“I don’t know,” she said, “But I know it when I hear it.”

Though the formal definition of irony is a figure of speech where the actual meaning is the opposite of the meaning implied, I like her version. “I know it when I hear it.”

And that’s true of tone of voice – you know you have it right when it rings true for you. Stumbling across it can be something which happens when you find a phrase or a line which strikes you in just the right way.

I’ve rewritten whole stories once I’ve found that line – sure now that I know the way they ought to be written, sure of the voice which has to speak them.

Often I think it helps if I have someone in mind speaking as I write – a single person or an amalgamation of them, the memory of not just how they spoke, but how they rubbed up against the world.

The reason it’s so important to get this right is it’s one of the things which makes your book uniquely, distinctly itself – the thing which sets it apart from any other. In this sense, pretty much any famous book has great tone of voice, that certain quantity of specialness in the writing which picks it out from the crowd.

So here are a few examples of books I think have an amazing and distinctive tone of voice. I’ve included just the first few lines from each because I think that’s enough for us to hear how unique, how distinctive the voice is in each :

sfiveSlaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut Jr

Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time. Billy has gone to sleep a senile widower and awakened on his wedding day. He has walked through a door in 1955 and come out another one in 1941. He has gone back through that door to find himself in 1963. He has seen his birth and death many times, he says, and pays random visits to all the events in between.

vernonVernon God Little, DBC Pierre

It’s hot as hell in Martirio, but the papers on the porch are icy with the  news. Don’t even try to guess who stood all Tuesday night in the road, Clue: snotty ole Mrs Lechuga. Hard to tell if she quivered, or if moths and porchlight through the willows ruffled her skin like funeral satin in a gale. Either way, dawn showed a puddle between her feet. It tells you normal times just ran howling from town. Probably forever. God knows I tried my best to learn the ways of this world, even had inklings we could be glorious; but after all that’s happened, the inkles ain’t easy anymore.

nights circusNights at the Circus, Angela Carter

‘Lor’ love you sir!’ Fevvers sang out in a voice that clanged like dustbin lids. ‘As to my place of birth, why I first saw light of day right here in smoky old London, didn’t I! Not billed the ‘Cockney Venus’, for nothing sir, though they could just as well ‘ave called me ‘Helen of the High Wire’, due to the unusual circumstances in which I came ashore – for I never docked via what you might call the normal channels, sir, oh, dear me, no. but, just like Helen of Troy, was hatched.

Share your favourite books with a strong tone of voice in the comments!

Song of the Sea God visualDon’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.

You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.

What’s my motivation?

800px-Quill_penWhat motivates an author to write? What is it that glues our behind to the chair for countless hours when we have other things to do – the kids want to play football, there’s something good on TV?

During my recent debate with participants from the write a book in a month competition NaNoWriMo, one of the good reasons given by lots of writers for taking part in the event was that it gave them motivation to get the work done.

All writers are different and I’m not going to say someone is wrong if they are doing what works to motivate them but it struck me as surprising that some require a deadline to make them write.

I know the power of deadlines, I was a newspaper journalist for 20 years – I understand the way they concentrate your mind – miss too many as a journalist and you get canned.

But for me writing fiction has always been something where motivation has been the least of my problems. The urge to do it has always been there inside me and that urge doesn’t come in a short burst over a few brief weeks. It’s always there in the background – a call which needs to be answered.

400px-StreichholzThe fire is inside, it might be low at certain times or burning brightly at others. It’s the reason people write. Probably the reason they paint, make music, and so on. It’s the need to do it and that need doesn’t go away. It hasn’t done for me anyway.

There are periods when I don’t write anything at all – and others when I do so only slowly. But once I get my teeth into a project then I feel the need to focus and sit down at my desk for a period each evening to start producing words. It’s at this point that I find I start counting the words and the growing number in the computer file becomes an aim of its own. That’s a strange thing really because, of course, the number of words isn’t what’s important, what matters is their meaning. But I don’t think that word counting is a terrible habit during the writing of a first draft – it gives you a goal to aim towards, a line to cross. And you know you are going to be rewriting eventually so the polish and finesse comes then.

I’ve said before that it takes me around 12 months to produce a first draft. That’s a lot compared to the novel in a month brigade, but not an incredible amount of time given that I’m including the thinking period and pre-planning in there.

Once I have the concept for a book formed in my mind the urge to get it down on paper is fairly strong and constant. I also find it helps to break the task down – so many pages a day, so many until the end of the next chapter, just finish writing this scene for today. These are all ways I find to control and sustain my motivation to get to grips with the task.

If I sat down at the start of the process and thought about the huge amount of work involved in writing a novel good enough to be published I probably wouldn’t do it. So I don’t think about it. Instead I get on with it and take a little bit at a time – brick on brick until finally there’s a house.

At the end, when I’m done, I allow myself to think about the task, the effort involved. I allow myself that indulgence. ‘Look at what you’ve done’ I think to myself ‘give yourself a pat on the back.’

Perhaps in the end it’s that sense of achievement which is the greatest motivation at all.

Song of the Sea God visualDon’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.

You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.

Review: Song of the Sea God by Chris Hill (£8.99, Skylight Press, 2012)

An interesting discussion about some of the themes in Song of the Sea God, particularly the way water is important in the story and its handling of religion. I thought some visitors to my blog might be interested in it.

Poems Underwater

‘Since childhood I have loved to be out in the rain,’ confides our narrator at the beginning of this island novel, which is interrupted by the occasional flotsam or a chorus or two, but for the most part is told through the eyes of our marine hermit.

It begins, for no reason connected to the subsequent plot, with a drowning. Not in water, mind, but in pancreatitis:

I remember the moment I died.

The end came subdued, like a doctor on call. There was no sensation. Feelings belonged to a different world—one which had finished with me.

The disconnection, weightlessness and sheer passivity of being engulfed by that region of space known in this project as ‘underwater’ echoes in the language and serves as a metaphor for the passing from life into death. Even the words on the page descend as if through water. For a drowning man, the dark…

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