Author Archives: Jenny Roman

About Jenny Roman

Short story writer: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B01EPBTO92/ref=cm_cr_arp_mb_bdcrb_top?ie=UTF8#

When Jill’s Gymkhana was over: Life after pony books

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Regular readers of this blog will know that, other than writing and books, my other great joy in life is horses, so it will come as no surprise that I was an avid collector of pony books as a child. I ended up with hundreds – which (being perpetually broke) I picked up mainly from our local second hand book shops. (There seemed to be several in our small town when I was a child – not charity shops, but genuine second hand book shops. Lovely places which had that glorious smell of old paper, and that dream-like, sepia quality you just can’t get anywhere else.) They were a joy for me as even my limited pocket money would stretch to pretty much as many books as I wanted. OK, I couldn’t have a pony, and though that gnawed away at me every day, but at least I could live vicariously through the pony ownership of other, imaginary kids.

And all that reading was eventually what got me into writing. So Ruby Ferguson, and Patricia Leitch, and Walter Farley, and the Pullein-Thompson sisters – I owe you guys.

A number of years ago, I decided I needed to simplify my life and slim down my stuff. The pony books I had carted from house to house had to go (well, other than a few special favourites). I got in touch with a lady called Jane Badger who had a website devoted to pony books and was building a database of info about them all. She also bought and sold books – and she bought an awful lot of mine.

I pop back to her site from time to time to look up various aspects of the pony book world, and on a recent visit, I discovered that Jane is re-publishing some of the old pony books, and she herself has penned an imagined sequel to the original Ruby Ferguson Jill books – you can download “Jill and the Lost Ponies” from her website. I have to say, she’s done a great job in keeping faithful to the tone and style of the original books. She’s now writing “Jill and the Pony Club”, so keep an eye on her Facebook page or website for more details.

She has also written a non-fiction book, “Heroines on Horseback: the Pony Book in Children’s Fiction” which I’ve bought ready to read while we’re on holiday – I’m very much looking forward to a trip down memory lane!

5 Reasons to be an Indie Author

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It’s been an interesting week. The first few reviews on my new collection ‘And Not Forgetting Love’ are starting to appear on Amazon and Goodreads. For those of us who were once English Lit students, it’s a particularly strange and humbling experience having other people comment on your work – and I’m not sure I’ll ever really get used to it. Suffice to say, I’m delighted that so far the book has made a good impression. That’s all that I can ask. Even more pleasing is that the previous collection, ‘Beyond Words’ has started to pick up a few more reviews. This book has been out a few years, but has been swept up in the recent momentum of the ANFL launch. It’s rather like the awkward older brother has finally found his friends and is blossoming!

While storms Ciara, Dennis et al have been raging, I’ve started work on my next project, but I’m also making time to get back into the habit of reading. I’ve recently read a good book (“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce). I’ve also read a not-so-good book (which shall remain nameless). The latter was a traditionally published paperback, which presumably had the benefit of an editor, or some form of editorial process. The author was not a first-timer. And yet the quality (both in terms of plotting and the writing itself) was poor. It read like an enthusiastic first draft – perhaps the sort which might have been written in a rush, say for NANOWRINO where word-count was the thing.

I have no doubt that the author is pleased to see the book in print. They may be proud of their work, and if it sells reasonably, they can count it a successful venture. At one time, I would have been envious. At one time, I would have done anything to have a book traditionally published. I wouldn’t have cared if it was sub-standard as long as the publisher had deemed it worth a punt. The fact of it being in print would have been all I cared about. But now, I find I wouldn’t want to trade places with the author of the not-so-good book. I’ve got plenty of bad books hidden in a drawer. I haven’t done anything with them because they are bad. Writing them wasn’t a waste of time, because they all taught me a little more about the craft, but I’m very happy if they don’t see the light of day. And I realise I’m very happy being an indie author – and here are some reasons why:

  1. Indies retain their own rights – their intellectual property is their own. Many indie authors have eBook, print, large print, and audio editions of their work. If they want to publish in other countries, or decide to translate into other languages, that’s their prerogative.
  2. Indies control their own pricing strategy and keep control of discounts and free offers, and earnings from indie books go straight to indie authors (minus the cut from the publishing platform). OK, I won’t be able to retire on the money from my books (hot tip: if it’s money you’re after, short stories aren’t the best way of going about it!), but what they earn is mine, and their earnings don’t have an impact on what I might be able to publish in the future. Which leads me onto…
  3. Indies can choose what they publish, and when – they can update text, or bring out another edition when they choose, or even remove a publication from sale altogether. There are no “gatekeepers” throwing up barriers to new work. A book does not have to make money to exist in the indie world (though clearly it’s better if it does!). Traditional publishing takes a long time – indies can respond quickly to new ideas and publish fast.
  4. Indies have full control over their cover designs – they can update or change the cover if they want to. Traditionally published authors tend not to have a say over this aspect.
  5. Indie publishing is ‘SlightlyTurquoise’ i.e. it fits with the desire to minimize waste and live a sustainable lifestyle. eBooks and print-on-demand means a reduction in unwanted hard copy books being produced.

We are incredibly lucky to live in an age where indie publishing is possible – there are so many opportunities available to us now which previous generations simply didn’t have. I’m proud of all my collections, and don’t feel any the less about them because I have chosen to take the non-traditional publishing route. I’m just grateful that I can be an indie.

New eBook Release: And Not Forgetting Love

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This is one of those days which has been such a long time coming, but now all of a sudden it’s here and I can’t believe it! I was expecting to do all this last year, but I’ve previously posted about last year being a “write off” (ha ha) and so at last I can announce (cue trumpet fanfare)…..ta da:

And Not Forgetting Love – my latest short story collection.

This is a compilation of 12 short stories looking at love from various angles. They are love stories in a sense, but they aren’t all straightforward romances, and they don’t necessarily end happily ever after.  Some of these stories are about the first tentative steps towards love. In others, the characters are clinging to the memory of past loves, or dealing with a relationship where things have gone wrong. Some are hoping for a second chance; some are happy to be free!

But whether it makes you smile or sigh, each story will invite you to care about the characters for the brief time you are with them, and perhaps to acknowledge that you too have been there.

And Not Forgetting Love is available for Kindle on Amazon – just click here!

Read Me For Free!

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Another free offer from me this weekend – Beyond Words (12 stories about Love, Death & Deception) is available for free download for your Kindle – so grab it quick while you can.

All these stories have been successful in short story competitions, and there’s a note in the back which explains more about each one.

If you enjoy the stories, please leave a short Amazon review – just a couple of sentences would be very much appreciated. Thanks folks!

Marketing and the Introverted Writer!

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I’m not bad at sitting quietly in my “writing office”, on my lonesome, transferring the content of the world-in-my-head onto my laptop. When I’m in the right mood, I’m not bad at typesetting what I’ve written into a format that will successfully upload to Amazon KDP. I’ve even been enough of a grown up to find a professional to do my cover designs so my short story collections have a fighting chance of looking the part when they’re shoulder to shoulder with all the other eBooks out there. But I’m willing to concede that I’m pretty rubbish at the marketing and promotion side.

From articles I’ve read, and podcasts I listen to, I know I’m not alone. The kind of person who likes spending lots of time alone creating stuff quietly in their own space is not predisposed to then shout about it from the rooftops. Plus I’m British. We don’t like to blow our own trumpets. It’s hard to tell the world about something you’ve created without sounding like you’re bragging. To be honest, I’ve probably got friends and colleagues who don’t even know I write, so Blackadder was onto something when he said, “You might at least have told us you had a trumpet!”

So, consider this a polite cough to get your attention. I’ve got a new short story collection coming out soon. If you’d like to know when it’s available, and if you’d like a sneak preview of the cover, please sign up for my mailing list (and I promise you won’t be inundated with emails – I’ll only contact you when I want to let you know about something, or if I’d like to ask your opinion – and I won’t share your data with anyone else). And if you’re not sure if my stories are for you, then please download my mini collection The Camel in the Garden which is FREE this weekend.

Thank you.

*carefully puts trumpet away* 😉

Using the Kindle app to help you with your 2020 Reading Challenge

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Whether or not you’re a fan of Goodreads, you might have decided that 2020 is the year you’ll set yourself a reading challenge. Maybe (much like me) you’re usually an avid reader but recently you’ve found other demands on your time. If you chart your reading progress on Goodreads (or simply via a reading diary or journal), perhaps you’ve discovered that in 2019 you only managed to read a handful of books, and that discovery has shocked you. (It certainly shocked me!) So you’ve set yourself a challenge to read X number of books in 2020.

Lifestyle gurus who insist on “SMART” objectives will be happy with this because it’s a measurable outcome. Of course, you’ve not said what kind of books, so it might mean you steer clear of weighty tomes in favour of some nice short, easy to read novels. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter. In any case, you need to get hold of some books and relatively quickly.

If you have a local bookshop, this is your opportunity to support them, or alternatively your local library (the latter is excellent if you want to move out of your reading comfort zone but would like to try before you buy). If you have to resort to Amazon (and many of us do), then you often have the choice of print, audio or Kindle editions. (I’m not going to get into the debate about whether or not listening to the audio version of a book counts as having read it!)

I love a print edition book – the feel of it, and the way you can more obviously tell when you are on the last few pages (the percentage figure on the Kindle often includes umpteen pages of backmatter or the first chapter of the next book which skews the measurement), and I love to keep my favourite books on my bookshelves. But I only have a finite amount of storage space, and since we are trying to operate a ‘less is more approach’ in our household, I love my Kindle because I can keep so many books in one small place. And, since the Kindle edition of a book is usually cheaper than the print copy, I’m much more inclined to take a chance on a book/author I’m not sure about. There are also some books which are only available as an e-book so arguably you have more choice with an e-reader.

If you fancy test driving the Kindle experience, without actually having a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app for either android or iPhone, or indeed for your PC or tablet. If you already have an Amazon account, it takes seconds. And if you’re the sort of person who usually has their phone with them at all times, now you have access to a whole library of books too.

No excuse to fail your 2020 reading challenge now! 😉

 

What’s in a name? Keeping Track of Your Characters!

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I’ve already posted about places to find inspiration for character names here but once you move away from individual stories and start to compile a collection, you may find you have a new problem.

We all have our own personal preferences about names – and we are all the product of our own era – so for any writer there will be a number of names which tend to come to mind relatively easily. These are likely to be the more common names for people around your age range (or possibly the age ranges of your parents or significant others) – eras in which, possibility without realising it, you’ve taken a special interest. The chances are, certain names will feel right to you for a particular kind of character. This might be unconscious – for instance, you might not choose the name of the person who bullied you at school to be your hero/heroine. There are also names – particularly of celebrities – which either become unusable or only possible to use for a very specific type of character because the name comes with connotations shared by society as whole. And then there are the names that are too close to you – those of family and friends whose names it might be odd to use and are therefore out of bounds.

My point is, unless you try really hard, you might end up using quite a small pool of names for your characters. And this doesn’t really matter for individual stories which will be published either singly or in a magazine full of other people’s stories. But it does matter once you start putting those stories together in a collection. All of a sudden you realise that you love the name “Dave” and you now have seven Daves in one collection. Worse, Dave in story No. 2 is a manipulative boyfriend, while Dave in story No. 7 is the guy at work who could become a love interest. The first Dave will certainly taint the second one in the mind of the reader! Argh!

Obviously, when creating a collection of stories, you can get around this by making a list of all the names you have used in each story in the collection. When doing this, you need to remember to include every name (and surnames where applicable), not just the important ones – you may be surprised how many characters you’ve actually had to name! Often it’ll be the minor characters that will catch you out – particularly if your collection includes some stories you wrote eons ago.

To make things very slightly easier you can stick your list into an Excel document. Then:

  • select the name column
  • click Home > Conditional Formatting > Highlight Cell Rules > Duplicate Values, and then click OK.

The column will then highlight in your chosen colour where a name appears more than once. This could be useful in a large collection – or indeed a novel, or series.

 

 

 

 

Writing Motivation: Blowing the Dust off an Old Project

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If you want an idea of how much writing I’ve done over the last two years, you just need to take a look at my blog posts (or the absence thereof). If it hadn’t been for my local writers’ group ensuring I kept my hand in, I’d be in danger of considering myself an ex-writer. But having made the decision not to beat myself up about lack of creative productivity (see 2019’s new year post here), I’m putting all that aside now and looking forward.

There’s a danger when you’ve not touched a writing project for a long time that it assumes the persona of a monster. You’re afraid to go near it because you’re frightened that a) you’ll re-read it and find it’s all rubbish, or worse b) you’ll re-read it and think it’s brilliant, but convince yourself you can no-longer write that well. Either way, you’re aware that c) it’s going to take a massive amount of work to finish it – and presumably that’s what made you abandon it in the first place.

There’s a saying I love, which seems to be attributed to various famous people, that there’s only one way to eat an elephant, and that’s one bite at a time. The first bite is just having the courage to take a look at the project – and if even this simple step strikes fear into your heart, I’d suggest saying to yourself that you’ll just glance through it for five minutes. It may take five minutes to locate the file on your PC, or find the notebook or printed version you’ve had stuffed in a drawer for eons. And that’s absolutely fine. Now you know where it is, you can come back to it tomorrow.

But don’t leave it longer than that. The following day, go back to it. If it’s an hard copy and it’s all dog-eared and depressing, you might find it helps to print it all out again. There might be a few hand-written amendments or additions which you’ve yet to type into the manuscript – if so, add these in now. If it’s an electronic file, try something silly like changing the font just to allow you to see it with fresh eyes. Whatever trick you use, you need to do just enough so that you begin to feel mentally engaged with the project. Then you can stop for the day.

The magical thing is, if you keep going back to your project for a few minutes every day, your brain will start to work on it in the background while you’re doing other stuff. And if you can’t get yourself motivated to do any fresh writing, start by proofreading. Tell yourself you’re just looking at the nuts and bolts of the project – checking the punctuation or the formatting. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself wanting to tinker with a sentence. And then maybe a paragraph.

The most important thing is to build the habit of returning to the project. Try to do something with it each day – even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Some days, that 10 minutes will seem painful and unproductive, but on other days, you may find that 40 minutes later you’re still working, absorbed in the moment.

I’ve just returned to a project I started working on last year, creating a new short story collection. Having a break from it has meant that I’m now able to include a story originally published by Woman’s Weekly (on the old style contract which required 18 months to elapse from original publication), and has enabled me to see a couple of stories with fresh eyes and make a few changes for the better. I’m pretty pleased with the finished collection now. The cover has been commissioned, and I’m now working through the final formatting stages. I’ll keep you updated on my progress in the coming weeks. 🙂

 

5 Ways to a SlightlyTurquoise Christmas!

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I know, I know – you haven’t heard from me for a whole year! You’ve probably given up following this blog altogether, and who could blame you? But I’m back now, and hoping 2020 will be more productive!

This post isn’t even going to be writing-related! It’s about trying to be, if not entirely green, SlightlyTurquoise in your approach to Christmas. Many moons ago, I had a blog called SlightlyTurquoise which was all about my attempts to live a near-to-green lifestyle, including keeping hens, growing my own (comedy-shaped) veg etc. The idea was that it’s almost impossible to live a truly green lifestyle, but you can do your best to at least move in the right direction. To that end, before we forget all about Christmas for another 11 months, I thought it would be helpful to mention a few ideas for a “slightly turquoise” approach to the festivities.

  1. Reusable advent calendars Instead of buying a new advent calendar each year (difficult to recycle given the mixture of card, plastic and foil), try for a more sustainable alternative. A wooden one with drawers, perhaps? Years ago, I made an advent calendar out of oddments of fabric, and I found it in the loft this year, so we had it on display once again. OK, there’s no chocolate (it’s one of those old fashioned ones where the prize is the picture – remember those?!), but it amuses the family (especially the one which was meant to be a Christmas cracker, but actually turned out more like a wrapped sweet – which is fine, just not what I intended!).
  2. Alternatives to Christmas cards Lots of people don’t bother with cards anymore – and in the Facebook age, you can see why. Most people understand if you let it be known that you are not sending cards but will instead donate to charity. Nonetheless, for those of us who rather like cards, please think about where you buy them and what they’re made of (will they be recyclable afterwards?). Lots of charities sell cards direct – so check out your favourites. Alternatively, why not reduce your paper use by swapping to Christmas postcards (my youngest step-daughter sent us this lovely one) – a simply but effective way to more than halve your paper consumption.
  3. Real v artificial Christmas Trees Whilst I agree that a locally-sourced real tree is better that an artificial tree, if you’ve already got an artificial one, there’s no point in ditching it. (Apparently an artificial tree needs to be used at least 20 times in order to be a greener purchase.) We have two artificial trees – one given to us by a friend. Neither is huge, and both are quite well-worn now, but once they are decorated, they still look perfectly fine. (Speaking of which – many of our tree decorations are old favourites, or given to us by family and friends, and therefore special and meaningful – which is way more important than being new or “on trend”!)
  4. Alternative gift wrap I bought normal Christmas wrapping paper this year – but it might be the last year I do so (though there’s some left for next year anyway). I like the idea of buying traditional brown paper, and using proper ribbon, so I might go that way in the future. Alternatively, this year one of my friends gave us our presents in beautiful fabric bags she’d sewn herself – they look fab, and they’re re-useable (assuming you can find similar sized presents!). I might have a go at making some of my own next year.
  5. Giving up some traditions We didn’t have Christmas crackers this year – shock horror! My husband suggested we do without and, to be honest, on the day I never even gave them a thought. So this year, the kitchen is not littered with tiny notebooks it’s almost impossible to use, or miniature packs of playing cards, or the obligatory fake moustaches! And if I need to hear any crap jokes, well, I can rely on my husband to supply those anyway! 😉