Redundancy is not the end …

The problem with that title is that it is so cliched, it makes my jaws ache. Seriously. That, and the conviction from my former employers that I must be angry, upset or something else with negative connotations.

Hate to break it to you guys, but I was not surprised. I was not angry and I was definitely not upset.

Let’s deal with that cliched title: redundancy is not the end. From that book I was given in Pharmacia “Who Ate My Cheese” or some crap like that, to the hint that it being made redundant, your skills were not up to scratch, there will be someone who tells you in an overly cheerful voice that redundancy is about new beginnings. And, there will be some images (1)who will say “Yeah, right!” or who might believe that it is an end, or if they don’t, they will come to feel that way. When I left GSK, there was a definite air of ‘poor Jo wasn’t up to scratch’ because I couldn’t secure redeployment somewhere in the company. My most recent employer also used the words ‘angry’ and ‘upset’ to describe img_0434how I ‘must’ be feeling. Well, big surprise, guys and gals …

That person is not me and will not be me.

I am a big one for believing that things happen at a specific time for a reason. Lessons need to be learnt, and the time for that lesson just happens to be now. I also maintain that my Goddess (yes, I am a devout pagan) only sends those lessons at the right time, when I am ready and when I am strong enough.

What do I mean by that? This time last year, the black dog of depression and anxiety had me tightly in its grip. Yes, I contemplated killing myself before realising that the recruitment notice would be placed about the same time as my ‘caring’ employers let the rest of the company know of my demise. In other words, my now former employer would not give a rat’s arse if I did kill myself.  That was where it all started. It became clear that, both during my time signed off sick by my GP, that the company viewed me and potentially anyone with mental health issues as a burden, and one to be cast off with the minimum delay.

When we were told earlier this year that one of four salespeople with eastern territories would be made redundant, I knew it would be me. A previous attempt to … encourage me to leave had not worked. This was the latest attempt, as I saw it. I am sure that the ‘evaluation’ paperwork will show all the reasons why I would be the one chosen. After all, that would be the first thing to be examined if any questions were asked. But it was irrelevant.

Of greater importance, bearing in mind my conviction that ‘it’ would be me, I needed to start planning alternatives. I needed to ensure that I was offered the most beneficial severance package possible. Yes, such plans might not earn me as much as that job, but it would serve two purposes: It would bring in some money, even if that was less than £100 a month, and more importantly, I would keep my brain active.

29250099_10156385398927269_7787948147820462080_o

Yes, I have allowed myself a couple of days ‘downtime’, but then I have other things in mind.

images

Want to know what they are? Read the next blog post to find out …

 

 

 


RELEVANT LINKS FOR JO PILSWORTH
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JKPilsworth

Paranormal may not be your thing. Urban fantasy may not either. But who knows? I may be one of your friends new favourite author.
Inspired by #Legends an #UrbanFantasy series. #RBBC

Alpha: https://t.co/IRZLR92AFu
Beta: https://t.co/DGDDI03VB9
Merysekhmet (US link): https://t.co/fFOUm5MHUs
Toho: https://t.co/oKtbDgrqiHhttps://t.co/mGMuJWd6Xd
Medved: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C19QKPH

Pretty, pretty things …

There is an unmet need out there, people. Seriously. In February, I took part in International Correspondence Writing Month (InCoWriMo). It involved sending out an average of a letter a day, generally to random strangers who Incowrimowere doing the same and had volunteered their addresses for the purpose. But then it became something much more.

Do you know how hard it is to find pretty writing paper, without buying online and paying relatively silly amounts?

In live near Cambridge in the UK. You know, as in Cambridge University, that internationally acknowledged seat of learning. There are four stationery shops in Cambridge. Yet, could I find ‘fun’ writing paper? Could I, heck! The best I could find was coloured paper in Ryman’s. That was it. No picture papers that I remember from childhood.

Okay, I thought, what about writing sets. I used to call them notelet sets when I was younger. A bit more luck there, but the price! For something that was mass produced and not particularly ‘fun’. Then there was the fact that my average letter was proving to be around four sides of A5 airmail paper because most of my pen-friends were outside of the UK.

And, I have to make things difficult for myself, because I wanted to use a fountain pen.dip pen

To cap it, I had two male pen-friends. Now with the best will in the world, I didn’t feel like I could send them letters on flowery paper. After all, both were in relationships, and I didn’t want to cause any problems by having obviously female correspondence being delivered to them. Rumour mills can be vicious. That was where the personalised stationery comes into force. Plain white paper with just my name and address on them.

So, what did I learn from this experience:

  1. There are suppliers out there, but most of them are online.
  2. I can obtain plain paper with my address quite easily.
  3. If I want ‘fun’ paper, I have to make it myself, using stickers and washi tape.
  4. Hobbycraft is a very dangerous store (see point 4).
  5. Good excuse for networking (a friend’s husband is bringing me some Tomoe River paper from the USA)
  6. ‘Reasonable’ paper can be found on Amazon, but they are mostly oriented towards female writers and recipients.

xWriting-with-a-fountain-pen-in-a-journal-1-846x565.jpg.pagespeed.ic.83RFHXq3y1The market in journals has expanded exponentially. Everywhere is selling hardback books for journals, along with accessories such as matching sticky notes and reminder stickers. A new store in Cambridge seems to specialise in journal-suitable books. Yet, none of them had paper which was guaranteed to work with a fountain pen.

Fountain pens need paper of at least 85gsm, if not more. But heavier paper is more expensive and therefore, the end product will be more expensive. After all, no one uses fountain pens anymore. Not true, as there has been a resurgence in using fountain pens, according to a recent article in The Times. Perhaps it is an alternative to our rushed technology driven lives. Either way, there is an unmet need out there, a need unmet by most stationery resellers.

washitapeCome on world, wake up. Writing, by hand, with a fountain pen is remarkably therapeutic. It calms the mind and enables oneself to be composed for sleep. We want to buy this stuff, so someone must be willing to produce it. Surely?

Then again, I might have to increase my holding of suitable journals for sale if the big guys are not interested.


RELEVANT LINKS FOR JO PILSWORTH
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JKPilsworth

Paranormal may not be your thing. Urban fantasy may not either. But who knows? I may be one of your friends new favourite author.
Inspired by #Legends an #UrbanFantasy series. #RBBC

Alpha: https://t.co/IRZLR92AFu
Beta: https://t.co/DGDDI03VB9
Merysekhmet (US link): https://t.co/fFOUm5MHUs
Toho: released 16 April (US link): https://t.co/oKtbDgrqiHhttps://t.co/mGMuJWd6Xd
Medved: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C19QKPH

 

Yes, I Am Still Writing … Romance’

Why shouldn’t I write romance? After all, it is one of the top-selling genres. Then again, it could be compared to Hollywood, and the number of would-be actors who are working low-skilled jobs whilst ‘resting’.

It is my own belief that the worse the world seems around us, the greater the need for us to believe that there is something better. That’s where romance comes into the picture. Then again, there are things like this:

Go on, click on the rose and see where it takes you. This is something that pops up on a regular basis. As a self-published author, one might think I would run a mile from initiatives such as this. However the fact is that even M&B have to find new talent. This is how they do it, for their specific sub-genres.

Okay, so there are rules. They are looking for clean romance. No swearing and no sex. The books are 50,000 words long, which is only just above a novella. They want strong successful women and men who match them. Sweet romance. In return, even if you are not what they are looking for, you will receive editorial feedback.

That’s guaranteed editorial feedback.

What is not to like about that? So, before you diss romance, take a look at what you might gain from some of the initiatives out there.


LINKS FOR THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN AND THE HELLFIRE PACK SERIES

 BETA

img_0731Amazon. com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KB20OL6

Amazon. co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01KB20OL6

 

 

 

MERYSEKHMET

img_0048Amazon. com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XJPK5S7

Amazon. co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XJPK5S7

Time to Reboot

After discovering that something had gone horribly wrong with the publication of one of my books, I had taken the ‘drastic’ step of unpublishing them until I could upload copies onto the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) system. Drastic? According to the Amazon system, it meant losing any and all reviews. Since reviews are the lifeblood of any aspiring author, this would be another one of those indie author suicide moves, right?

Err, no.

Let’s face it, I was nowhere near the top 10,000 let alone the top 10. So, I had nothing to lose. Unpublish my books is what I duly did.

What was more important was ensuring that my potential readers (and reviewers) saw the best work I could offer. So far, I have two books back up: Beta and Merysekhmet.

Both are the ‘second’ books in their respective series. This means I can focus on the respective series ‘Volume 1’, Alpha and Cysgodion

Beta introduced two key characters from the Cwn Annwn side of the story, Bran Cadwgan and Owain Cadwaladr, a name which sends my computer’s autocorrect feature in paroxysms of confusion. That’ll be the Welsh language for you then. It also introduced the apparent ‘baddie’ in the brother of the one of the female main characters, Casimir Gosselin, the brother of Detective Alix Gosselin. Since Cysgodion is the story of Casimir, it was best his reputation was established sooner rather than later. Alpha explained my interpretation of the Welsh legend of the Cwn Annwn.

In comparison, Merysekhmet introduced a ‘new’ character, from the perspective of the overall series arc: Ramses Tariq-Omari. Undoubtedly, there are references to events occurring elsewhere, much of which will become clearer in subsequent books. Whilst both books may be read as standalone novels, it is inevitable when writing about a group of individuals, that there will be references to the stories of other characters. One can but try to balance those references. Both books are out for review. img_0048To the best of my ability, I have corrected the errors in formatting etc, but until a purchased copy is reviewed, I won’t know for certain.

Whether the relaunch will be worthwhile remains to be seen. However, it gives me an opportunity to learn from mistakes:

* Are peer to peer groups worthwhile?
* Is advertising on social media worth the variable cost?
* Which forms of social media are better?
* How do I convert followers to buyers and active readers?

What my experience has shown me is that it is better to concentrate on a selected few social media outlets. Many of these companies are now cracking down on perceived Spam, so advertising on every platform could compromise a Facebook account, for example. I have seen this happening with other authors. It could also result in the loss of Amazon reviews, rather than gain. If that happens, the behemoth that is Amazon does not seem to have a right of appeal. They decide. You, the author either wins or loses. Which forms of social media are better? That depends on your demographic. The last point of converting followers to buyers in a bit more difficult. One thing that is important is back-catalogue. So, rather than ignore those short stories, you may find that it encourages readers to buy the actual book.


LINKS FOR THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN AND THE HELLFIRE PACK SERIES

Beta
Amazon. com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KB20OL6
Amazon. co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01KB20OL6

Merysekhmet
Amazon. com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XJPK5S7
Amazon. co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XJPK5S7

 

Let’s start at the top, people!

Begin at the beginning, said the Queen of Hearts to Alice. A wise suggestion, but what defines the beginning. The internet is chock full of tales of warning and woe about self-publishing authors who make mistakes, I am not going to regurgitate some generalisations. This is MY story. If you can find something relevant and useful, then well and good.

So where was my beginning in my wild ride through being a self-published author? One evening, I was sitting in the restaurant of this hotel:

Yes, this very hotel. The Holiday Inn at Scotch Corner, on the junction of the A1 and A66. As you might have guessed by the style of the building, a hotel has been here for a good few decades. It has become my home from home in the seven years with my present employer, in a job involving a lot of business travel. So there I was, trying not to laugh out loud at a three way online role play I was writing with one writer from Sweden and one from America who was in Afghanistan at the time. I didn’t feel lonely in the hotel, because of people like that, people with whom I might write and forget my day.

But life is full of bumps in the road, and the online roleplay world is full of drama queens. I broke away from that original group, after I trusted the wrong person. For years, I had had my own ideas for my own stories, stemming from dreams I used to have as a child. Having realised that writing was an excellent way to de-stress, I decided the time had come to put those ideas into written stories. That was the start of Fane Anghelescu, a Hellhound, and of Gavril Negrescu, the Alpha of the Cwn Annwn.

Legends had always fascinated me. Legends and people watching. Humans are not all the same, so I asked myself why should Hellhounds all be the same. I was accused of copying the ideas of the roleplay group from which I had split. However, that individual had a penchant for sex and violence, preferably together. Hardly deep and meaningful. My Fane was much more that that. A Hellhound, so in theory a creature of Hell. Yet, like humans, he was different from the stereotype of his breed. As I was writing paranormal romance, there was bound to be some … okay, a lot … of sex, but, like the violence, I did not wish to make it gratuitous. As for Gavril and his Cwn Annwn, no one else has written a story like mine. That is not boasting, but the simple fact. The Cwn Annwn are the spectral hounds in service to Mallt-y-Nos. My twist was that they were charged with hunting down evil souls for her to judge, but also protecting the innocent. They were also not immortal, thus ensuring that the stories could run the gamut of emotions.

That was the start. A year or so later, I was in the process of trying to publish a fourth book, which was something of a spin off, using the same characters and a few others, but also introducing new characters.

Sekhmet: inspiration for Merysekhmet

As a result of my interest in the Egyptian pantheon, I decided to create a new character, a lion shifter in service to the goddess Sekhmet, who was both a warrior and a healer. Originally, I planned to make him an Anaesthetist, but I found it a bit difficult to work an anaesthetist in the battle scenes, so I made him a surgeon, at least in this century. As he had been around for a couple of thousand years, being a healer covered a lot of different descriptions over time.

That was when some very annoying problems occurred. When copies of “Merysekhmet” were purchased, it became clear that the wrong version had been pushed out to the buyers. In order to upload a pre-sale, one has to load a document of a similar length to have the same page-count. Unfortunately, it was this draft document which my readers were being sent, rather than the final version. Several attempts later, and it became clear that the easiest solution was to unpublish the book and start from scratch.

Begin at the beginning. In the end, I decided to unpublish all my books from all outlets and go through a laborious process of reformatting. The first book, “Bound”, had been written in role-play format, with alternating character points-of-view. It did not match the other books, written as they were in third person, and I wanted to change that. There were other historical events which I wished to include in “Alpha”. The third book, “Beta” originally included the trial of those responsible for the smuggling ring and was a way of introducing Casimir Gosselin. Things went a bit pear-shaped as we say in the UK, when a co-author decided t9 mess with the storyline. She didn’t appreciate that these were pre-planned (more or less) novels.

This was key, because Casimir was one of the most complex characters I had conceived, and certainly one to rival Fane. Then again, it did transpire that they were related. But if I explain that, then you lose a reason to buy the book. So, nope, you have to wait. If I didn’t include the trial, then how would I introduce Casimir? And he did need to be introduced because events involving both Casimir and Fane were key for “Merysekhmet”, “Toho”, “Medved” and “Ma’iitsoh”.

The upshot was, the continuity of the series was out of sync, and that was bugging me. Ultimately, it came down to the series didn’t feel right anymore. Some might say but if you unpublish, you lose reviews? Well, I never expected to make my fortune from writing. I have sold a few, but not huge numbers, and the only ‘reliable’ reviewer was my pet troll. Time to hit unpublish.

But, I had learnt loads in the past year which I intend to use. So, I will be back. The stories will be the way that I had envisaged them in the first place. And, I shall also make use of some of those lessons I learnt along the way.

In the meantime, you can find snippets and other details on either my Author page or my Hunter’s Arrow page

Racism in Novels

Two months since I wrote a piece for my blog, so I thought, let’s go for a nice, lightweight subject. Racism? That’s my idea of a light subject? Nope. Anything but. “To Kill A Mockingbird” has been removed from schools in Biloxi, MS because it made people uncomfortable. Well, that is what it is supposed to do. [Note to self: send a copy to my cousin, so her kids can still read it].

Those of you who have seen my profile picture (A Year of Selfies) will notice that I am not Caucasian. Born in London of parents of Indian origin, I have a relatively light skin, but trust me, growing up in what was an Irish neighbourhood (Wembley), I was fairly obvious. I had all the racist teasing which included not being allowed to join the girls’ games in primary school. So what? Boys were much more fun. Who needed dolls when you could play wargames.

As an adult, I can react accordingly to racisim. There was that group of Indian doctors, who called me ‘BBC’: British-Born and Confused. I told them I wasn’t confused. It hurt though when a child in my son’s Cambridgeshire primary school called him a ‘Paki’. My son had the perfect retort, which was that of the twelve nationalities in his family tree, Pakistani was not one of them.

But on to the subject of this blog: Racism in Novels. I am a member of several author promotion groups on Facebook. I write in what is admittedly a crowded genre of paranormal romances, but when you look at this link, using the keywords paranormal shifter romance, what do you notice about the book covers? All the characters are Caucasian. Yet, in terms of race, what could be more different that being of different species, let alone different skin colour? Even when the shifter animal comes from a species on a continent with darker skins such as African or Indian, their faces are still pale.

I am guilty of this. Only on one of my current books do the characters show racial differences, namely Merysekhmet (Amazon link here). Ramses, as his name suggests is Egyptian, and Elizabeth is a dark-haired American.

The question is why does this happen? Is is ‘market constraint’? Does it bother a potential reader that the cover might show a mixed race romance? I would like to think not, but if that were the case, why don’t we see more covers with mixed race characters? Does it mean that a cover with a mixed race couple sells less? Or, are our readers not so narrow-minded.

I am not sure I know the answer. However, in these days of the #takeaknee protests, not just in the USA, but also in Germany, understanding race and how non-Caucasians can be disadvantaged, is absolutely key.

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How can the status quo be changed if we are surrounded by the ‘ideal’ being a Caucasian couple, regardless if it is a M/F, M/M or whatever else.

The next time you buy yourself a book, just consider that.


LINKS TO THE BOOKS IN THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN and HELLFIRE PACK SERIES

“Bound”, Volume 1 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $0.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B016TQFBNY
Amazon.co.uk £0.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016TQFBNY

“Alpha”, Volume 2 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $3.00 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ENZ972O
Amazon.co.uk £2.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01ENZ972O

“Beta”, Volume 3 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.co.uk: £1.66 or free on KU https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01KB20OL6
Amazon.com: $2.58 or free on KU https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KB20OL6#nav-subnav

“Merysekhmet”: A love story with bite
http://www.facebook.com/Merysekhmet
A
mazon.com: $2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XJPK5S7
Amazon UK: £1.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XJPK5S7

The Arrows of Retribution

Thoroughly enjoyed archery tonight, with 30m and 50yd targets used. For those that don’t know me personally, I have three longbows. The draw weights are all at 28″ draw length: “My Lady” (in the picture), 33lb, “Bronwen” (Neolithic Holmgaard replica bow), 33lb and “The Beast”, 40lb. Yesterday, I was using My Lady.

I don’t shoot a modern bow after discovering my eyes can’t ‘work’ with sights. Plus I like the feel of my yew bows. Most archers will shoot rounds of six arrows per end with a view of scoring sufficiently for a classification e.g. third, second, first, bowman and master bowman.

I was taken to task yesterday, albeit quietly, for loosing nine arrows per end instead of six. However, as I don’t shoot recognised rounds to aim for a classification, it doesn’t matter if I loose ten arrows in an end to everyone else’s six arrows. I will have finished my end before all the recurves have shot. I loose my six, and check if I have time for the remaining arrows in my quiver. I am not holding up collecting the arrows, since I will have left the shooting line before the last recurve.

Why does this matter? Just because you don’t fit the mould (of most archers), does not mean you lack validity.

I use this illustration often. A competitive archer might look at these and assume two groupings, and a reasonable score. Another of my friends saw it as three threat and three heart shots, with my target experiencing a good dose of dead.

Another thought was that the other individual using that target, in her own, was shooting a round. Whether my shooting none arrows to her six meant it might endanger the round she was doing, I don’t know. Benefit of the doubt. So, near in. Mind that you might only have half the picture.

But it still comes down to one thing. Live for yourself and those dear to you. All manner of negative emotions might hiding in the backbiting and bitching. Protect yourself, but consider what drives such hatred. Don’t let the narrow-mindedness of others prevent you from helping.


LINKS TO THE BOOKS IN THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN and HELLFIRE PACK SERIES

“Bound”, Volume 1 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $0.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B016TQFBNY
Amazon.co.uk £0.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016TQFBNY

“Alpha”, Volume 2 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $3.00 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ENZ972O
Amazon.co.uk £2.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01ENZ972O

“Beta”, Volume 3 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.co.uk: £1.66 or free on KU https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01KB20OL6
Amazon.com: $2.58 or free on KU https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KB20OL6#nav-subnav

“Merysekhmet”: A love story with bite
http://www.facebook.com/Merysekhmet
Amazon.com: $2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XJPK5S7
Amazon UK: £2.30 or free on Kindle Unlimited https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XJPK5S7