Adios, au revoir, aufwiedersehen, ta ta

This will be my last entry for a while. I am going off-line to concentrate on a story I want to write, without distraction so ‘Adios’ for a while, and enjoy your summer. Before I go, I want to tell you something. I read today another article on the sorry state of affairs relating to authors’ incomes and it got me thinking – again – about the notion of being a writer and what that means.

The article here states that authors’ earnings are falling dramatically and that publishers are not taking chances with new voices. This message is nothing new. Then on the other side of the coin is the other story, that self-published authors can potentially make six figure incomes if they just follow simple (read complicated) marketing strategies that will launch their beloved series into the stratosphere.

Again, there is nothing new about this story. I’ve heard it so often it just makes me yawn; not out of cynicism really but out of boredom with the whole message; self-publish, get rich, traditionally publish, and stay poor.

But what does being a writer really mean? Does being a writer mean that you make a living out of your writing? Yes and no.

Writing is an art-form, it requires intense practice and experience. So making a living out of being a writer might just mean you’re a whizz kid internet marketeer and that your novels/stories suck. So, in essence you’re not a writer, you’re just good and absorbing and applying the billions of pieces of information on internet marketing out there in the cyber-world, maybe you’ve got more money than you know what to do with and you can afford to enter the psychedelic world that is self-publishing.

Maybe you think your murder mystery or your detective series will be the next big thing and that your writing will keep people turning the page and buying.

If any things apply to you, I say all the best to you. You have my admiration. 

But for me, writing is about something else. Writing for me is about telling a story YOU SIMPLY HAVE TO TELL. It’s not about churning out formulaic genre-pieces quickly, then jumping on the marketing wheel like some sort of mental patient, foaming at the mouth.

For me, writing is about the passion to tell a story, to go down to the subterranean depths of a story and take your readers there, living in that world. It’s about knowing that it doesn’t matter who reads your story or if anyone gives a shit, that story must come out, must be told, because the world needs that story, and you’re the one to write it.

I’ve said this many times; that writing a story is 70 per cent thinking and note-taking, 20 per cent writing, and 10 per cent editing, redrafting, many times over. If you have the time to do your internet marketing successfully, how do you have the time to create the best story you can write, the story that must be told? Perhaps this is the difference between mass market fiction and literary fiction, I don’t know. 

That might sound arrogant, but it isn’t really. Writing the story that simply must be told is nothing to do with wanting to make money from writing, it’s simply about writing a story that must be told, a story of humanity.

I don’t make any money from my writing at the moment, so does that mean I am not a writer? Probably. So what am I? How I make my money is not so glamorous, it’s a pain actually, but there you have it. In writing, I just want to take a story that the world must hear and tell it in the written form.

The marketing and the brain-screw of internet marketing is actually not for the writer to do. Now, we have been told, we have to market our work – fair enough – a little bit – but not spend our lives doing it. It’s for someone else, someone who’s skilled in the methods.

People have told me they make money from their writing, enough money to live on. I am doubtful but no one out there is prepared to be honest and bust the lie that I feel exists when it comes to self-publishing. I am always happy to be wrong. I don’t care either way, but I want to start a conversation about quality stories and who writes them, and why artists, creatives, and writers are always the ones who get dumped on. We know who is getting rich out of our content, and it’s not us. I hate to mention names but I will; I once read a Lee Child novel, and I was shocked at how bad the writing was.

His style, sentences with two words, a lame plot, unbelievable characters, this I found incredibly depressing. Lee Child is considered a top writer, successful beyond belief, but can he write? In my opinion, he writes genre fiction, badly. But then that’s just my opinion and my opinion does not matter. I suppose it’s about taste. Writing well takes talent and experience, and it’s not something that can be conjured up overnight or even over a few weeks with the help of that god-awful piece of software Grammerly to help you with your sentence structure.

Were writers ever supposed to make money and be rich? Probably not, and if it came to them, it often did so very late in their lives. Perhaps that is OK, or perhaps that’s the way it has always been. Look at history, George Orwell (Eric Blair), Virginia Woolf, D.H Lawrence, Anais Nin, to name a few and you’ll find the truth of the above.

Take care. Sending love. Jo x


Rebel Yell, a word to my younger self

I’ve always been ‘weird’; that’s what my parents and siblings called me growing up. My father told my mother I would ‘calm down’, that the love of good man would quieten me and calm me and make me OK (meaning more feminine), but none of that has happened. 

If anything I have gotten more rebellious as I have gotten older. I have always loved rebellious people, those who jump outside society’s ‘normality’ boxes, those hard lines that define our lives every minute of every day. 

I meet rebels (whether they be quiet grandfathers, old ladies at bus-stops, secret rebels who clothe themselves in the conventional outfit of ‘normal’ life) and they become instant and life-long friends. 

To my younger self I say, life is a bloody roller-coaster but the rebel is still in you, and you’ve gotta live that type of rebel life until the end. 

That rebel life is saying: no, I am not going to accept this or that, I am not going to stop challenging this or that, I am not going to stop being curious and young at heart and determined to make a difference. 

My nine-year-old self wanted to run away and be a gypsy. Decades on, I still want to run away and be a gypsy, and a laptop and social media is my megaphone to the world, so I’ve gotta get this social media thing down, and quit the overwhelm of it all. 


Dumb, dumb, smart, smart, dumb…….

This is the dance of life, the message given in this brave new world of author-entrepreneurship. Now you have to be an authorpreneur – that hideous buzzword that implies that because the Internet (capital ‘I’) has destroyed the creative world, authors, creatives have to – and I mean HAVE TO promote themselves and be at it TWENTY-FOUR SEVEN.

In my view nothing destroys creativity more than systems and rules and ‘have-to-be’ scenarios. NOTHING is more important to me as a writer than having serious alone-time, thinking-time, where ideas and plots emerge out of the fog of this shout-and-stare world, WITH NO DISTRACTION.

The pressure to be on all the time is making me physically sick. Writers are not supposed to be ‘on’ all the time, and by ‘on’ I mean be ‘social’ and out there promoting themselves.

I am an obsessed reader. I read from the minute I open my eyes in the morning and then throughout the day. I never want to know the author personally or look at their life online or connect with them in any way.

The fact that they have written a book is enough for me. It’s enough of their world. I respect it and them. I read their book and I move on.

I wrote yesterday that I don’t get/understand social media, but the more I dig down into the subject (reluctantly) the more I know that I actually do understand social media; I have just never been able to make it work for me because I am completely overwhelmed by it. And that makes me cry. And the sad thing is I don’t see this pressure to promote yourself going away any time soon.

I am doing an experiment at the moment. I am running an advertising campaign on Amazon – paid for by me – just to see if this quiet method of getting noticed works. I will report back on my findings when my ad campaign is finished.

I have a mailing list but only a few subscribers; I have a Facebook page and hundreds of likes there – but no sales. I try giving away my novels but I can’t give them away, no one downloads them. I have an Instafreebie account and a Bookfunnel account and no downloads. I have asked people to review my books but no one is willing.

I don’t like to Tweet and sell – that’s not my style.

I don’t like the begging bowl that is Patreon, I feel too weird about that platform.

So what is the answer? I have no clue. This is not a whinge, it’s a fact, it’s the truth. Last month I made £4 in royalties from all of my books. Yes, that’s four UK pounds.

I know my books are fine pieces of work because I have been writing for money – journalism – for many, many years. I won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in the Thriller/Mystery category in 2013, out of 10,000 and got an advance and made a lot of money because Amazon know how to market and sell to their mailing list of squillions.

I am on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Mailchimp, Instafreebie, Bookfunnel, Smashwords, Kobo, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Lulu but no – nothing.

Someone tell me. What am I doing wrong?





The New Dictators: Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft et al

There is no purity in expression anymore. Everything is watched and moderated. Facebook recently blocked me from posting because I had put up a very tasteful, arty photograph of a bare breast, blurred to such an extent that the nipple was almost invisible.

They threatened to delete my account which I use extensively to connect with other authors and readers. It’s not an account where I use my own name. I use it invisibly, so you will never be able to find me on Facebook. That’s not because I want you not to find me but, rather it’s for writing I do in another genre that I prefer to distance myself from my life as a writer of fiction.

Facebook is an arch hypocrite and a thief. We all know about the thievery bit, but have you ever stopped to consider the extent of its hypocrisy? Facebook allows murderers and haters to live-stream its hateful actions on its Facebook Live media, but it deems ‘obscene’ an arty picture – half blurred of a female breast. I could go on, but I won’t. I am too enraged.

Amazon is another dictator. When I won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award I was gob-smacked. I couldn’t believe it. I said to my family it was a fluke. Deep down I knew it was. I am part of a massive PR experiment I said to myself as I flew to Seattle to accept the award. It all sounds very cynical and it was/is but think of this. Amazon told me I would be number one, even before they had published my book. They told me: you wait, you’ll be number one and expect some seriously big royalties. Now this could be a vote of confidence – lovely – but it could also have been an intimate knowledge of how their algorithms – manipulated by them – push the authors they like (and by that, I mean the authors they want to make money out of) – up the charts. They pushed me up the charts. My sales paid back their advance and a whole lot more. They got back their ‘investment’ in me, then they dropped me. Standard business practice, you might say.

Apple refused to allow me to move my iTunes account to another device because it said I’d used it on too many devices. (I deleted iTunes and haven’t used it for five years). Skype (Microsoft) recently requested I fill out a massively detailed ID document to prove that I owned the Skype account I was trying to log into. It had recently upgraded its system. I had credit on my Skype account, but it refused to allow me entry into my account until I had provided them with intimate information, like the last five people I had emailed, the subject titles and the email addresses of those people. I refused, gave up and moved to Viber.

I recently bought Microsoft Word from an authorised reseller, but now – on Windows 10, every time I use Word it asks me to put in my 12-digit ID code even though I have put it in many times. It doesn’t recognise the authorised resellers version, even though it’s legit.

Google tracks my every move, asks me many times a day to allow them to lock down my location. I have disabled this function on my phone. It’s seriously creepy.

Amazon – the world’s greatest hypermarket – bombards me with SPAM every minute of every single day. I knew when they were trying to get into publishing with their Amazon Publishing imprints that they would never succeed, would give up and that they would move into other areas. They are all over every industry in the world. Do you know that? You name an industry, Amazon is trying to crowd out the market and take it over.

Look I am grateful for the hand of Amazon on my writing back in 2013, but Amazon can make or break an author. They can make or break any of us. Ditto the others on the list in my title.

Shouldn’t be all be rebelling against this? Where is the law, where is the legalisation? And people complain about the European Union. Isn’t this what the EU is doing with its new data laws and privacy laws.

At some stage in the future I will leave all this behind and go and grow tomatoes and olives to live off and live in a finca or a shack on some Spanish mountain.

Dictators rule the world, and these companies are the dictators of the world. Where is the Resistance? Where are the French?

If you think I don’t understand the ins-and-outs of all this hideous tech stuff, you’re wrong. I do. I am just writing about it in a vague way because that’s the way I want to approach a subject like this. For my sanity.

Over to you. Go grow tomatoes on a Spanish hillside.

Try MeWe and Viber. I am not going to be a pawn anymore. I am a pawn, but I don’t have to always be a pawn. Facebook’s publishes erotic images all the time. Do a search and you’ll find erotic, nude images in two seconds flat. You’ll not only find erotic images, you’ll find pornographic drawings and photography, yet it blocked me for an arty photograph of one female breast.

Facebook = Hypocrisy Central.

Why do we allow these dictators so much control over our lives? Because it’s all FREE. There’s nothing FREE in this world, except nature and death. And that’s still not free. You always pay for free in some way.

I am still shocked and disgusted the way people post private family photos to Facebook or any social media. It’s an abuse of the rights of the person in the photograph. Particularly tragic are baby and child photographs. Any pervert can drag them off Facebook. People are giving away their souls with these companies, Apple, Amazon, Facebook et al. None of the above is original. It’s our experience NOW. No one seems to be looking though. And nobody seems to care. Do you care?

Add to this list in the title headline: Uber, Airbnb, Trip Advisor, Deliveroo et al.

These billion dollars companies are being made rich by us. Why? Is it because we are too lazy to stop them? Too overworked? Too lobotomised? Too passified? Do we all hate ourselves so much that we’re prepared to live like this, to have our future shaped like this?

I am not a Luddite. I love technology, love control. I am not a communist. I am for technology shaping change in medicine, science, health, architecture, life in general, but not this. Dictators need to be topped. Monopolies need to be cut down. It’s incredible these examples of ultra-nuclear-Capitalism have now rendered our lives almost comparable to life in the U.S.S.R under Stalin.

Facebook censoring me while I am looking right now at pictures on Facebook on a friend’s computer of highly erotic images from some woman in America – her huge butt stuck in the air, legs open, ready to be penetrated from behind, smacks of ultra-control.

We have got find a way to slam down these dictators, and soon. I want them all to fail. Seriously. If we all walk away, stop buying from them, stop using them, they will vanish. It might take a couple of decades but they will disappear as quickly as they arrived in our lives.

Go grow tomatoes on a Spanish hillside.

Jo x