26 Days to go

I get asked a lot of the time where and when I write and how often so I thought I'd share a few ideas of my own. To start with not everybody is the same and what works for me might not for others. So here is how it works for me. Let's deal with the when first. I think it's important to write every day, it's a discipline and routine that  helps to make it a normal practice rather than an odd event. I like to write first thing in the morning as a rule, but if I'm in a school then I write in the evenings but what really that matters is that I write every day. How much depends on what I'm writing about. If it's a fast pace action scene then I write these quickly and notch up a good word count in an hour whereas at other times, if i'm writing something less pacey then it can take longer to get the words down. So why is it so important to write every day? Simply put it keeps you on top of your game, constant practising of your skills, exercising your imagination and creative writing all done regularly helps you continually improve.

Where I write depends on what I'm doing. If I have been touring a school far away from home and camping overnight then I will often write in McDonalds which ensures I get a chance to recharge my laptop and phone. If I am home in Kent then I really enjoy writing in libraries. Cheriton Library in Folkestone is a favourite of mine. Sometimes I can sit on the beach and write and sometimes up in the hills or a woods or in open fields. The truth is it doesn't really matter to me, I can pick a spot and write there comfortably. I have written on a bus and a train on several occasions but I cant write in cars, I get a little car sick if I do that. I came across an abandoned building in a woods once which had a flat roof and I climbed up and sat there and wrote.

If for any reason I can't write, perhaps my lap top has used up all it's charge, then I play games with things I see on my travels. Maybe an old piece of ruined building or something. I always ask myself what is the story here? Why is it ruined, who ruined it , when and why and just make something up. I select a few words I might use while I'm answering this and look to manipulate the sentences and improve my description. Then I might ask what sort of people lived there and why did they leave? The mind and imagination needs stimulus regularly if it's to be kept sharp and working imaginatively. Playing games like this really helps exercise it and it's amazing how it improves. 

The rule is, if you want to be good at anything, practice, practice and practice some more. It doesn't matter if you're a writer or a footballer the need to practice is greta if you want to be at the top of your game. 

Happy Reading

Steve

27 Days to go

Most of you know that I love walking the Romney Marsh but it's staggering how many public footpaths there are running in all directions across it. It's good fun to follow one you've just discovered across fields and dykes without knowing where you are going to end up. I tried a new one the other week which started on the military canal and ended up on the Saxon Shore way. Parts were marked well and others no so. I found one path blocked with a gate and barbed wire but it was clearly a walkway. I wasn't deterred and bypassed it. I can understand that farmers are protective towards the young animals in the fields at the moment. I followed the canal walk for some way before the path intersected the Saxon one and on impulse I followed that. It turned out to be a pleasurable walk and led to two churches, Kenardington and Warehorne, both churches are typical of those on the marsh, the doors were opened and I could just walk in and absorb the atmosphere.

One of the things I like about the Marsh churches is that they smell different from their big brothers in the towns and cities. They are full of stories and events that have unfolded over the years. Those who gave their lives in the two great wars are honoured in the villages they came from, their ages a constant reminder of how the very young sought to do their duty for their country even when not really old enough. It's the same story in the graveyards. Generations of families buried together and their engravings still readable on their stones. I am constantly surprised by how many lived into their seventies or even eighties despite the lack of treatment for ailments in those days. 

There's other things too, like the links to schools in the community. I like the way that the churches celebrate the achievements of the young and display their work there. There was also work from local women's groups too, beautifully made cushions in the pews depicting some sort of fauna. It seems that every time i take a different path there is something new to discover and see and yet the landscape of the marsh doesn't ever seem to change. Different crops in field perhaps, but otherwise when you get away from the roads and lanes the sounds of our busy lives become a distant memory for a while as they are replaced with herons, marsh frogs, ducks, swans and of course the Romney Marsh Sheep. Heaven is viewed in many guises but on a lovely day the Romney Marsh is its own piece of heaven.

Happy Reading

Steve

29 Days to go to launch

The publishing industry is a mess in this country and probably globally too. Every where you go to promote your book it seems that the piece of the pie they want to take from you is huge. Few publishers take on authors directly now as they cash in on the rise of celebrity authors who are already household names and will sell books on the strength of that alone. You can't blame the publishers really, they are fighting for survival along with every other business. When it comes to agents, these too vary in approach. With their hands full already few are interested in taking on more new authors and yet this is probably the best approach at the moment as they do have access to the publishing houses. 

Perhaps the way forward is self-publishing but be warned that the quality of work out there is not always good. Don't sell yourself short when it comes to editing or choosing a cover design. It does matter, especially when you are trying to get shops to stock your books. Most shops will take between 35% and 40% of your retail price and will only take on a sell or return basis. It's the norm so don't fight it try and embrace it. Cut costs by buying bigger print runs, promote the hec out of your book, advertise it wherever you can, do it yourself and do it where it's free. There are plenty of unscrupulous advertisers out there that will charge the earth for their services. Social Media is still free so exploit that. Make appearances, signings wherever you get an opportunity promote, locally or further afield. Every book sold represents an opportunity for many other people to see it and the word of mouth can be your best friend.

So having said all this, you might be wondering why I've shared all of this. You can see that new authors are up against it. Well once in a blue moon, somebody offers an opportunity to promote and sell for nothing. There are still people who are prepared to help locals as they start to develop their business and I was pleasantly surprised twice this weekend.

Firstly an author friend of mine was given a chance to give a talk and sell a few books for free in a tea rooms in Dymchurch. The shop is run by a lovely lady called Mary who opened her doors one evening to whoever was interested in coming and even supplied tea for free. I don't have any reservation in promoting Mary's Tea Rooms in my blog, her cakes are amazing. Thanks for helping and wanting to support Mary, it means a lot. 

The second generous offer came from Sarah and Clive at Dymchurch Chocolate shop. They too offered their support, of me this time, by allowing me to put a few books on their shelves alongside all thee amazing chocolates they have their. Again, it was a free offer and again it means a lot. Two offers of help from one village can only mean that there are some really good people in Dymchurch and is probably the reason I like the place so much.

happy Reading Steve

28 Days to go

Had a lovely welcome at a school in Salisbury today. It's always a pleasure going to small schools and this one only had 63 children across the year groups. The welcome you always get is warm and friendly and the close knit community is evident in abundance. Teachers too, although rushed off their feet have smiles on their faces and clearly enjoy the bond with all the children they have. It's the third smallest school I've been to so far and they didn't disappoint with their enthusiasm for the writing activities i give them. I also had a special treat of story time with reception class as well. I can't believe that they got me to sing the song version of the ugly duckling. All in good fun though. A big thanks to all at West Tytherley.

For a change the drive home didn't have speed restrictions on the motorways but still took two and a half hours to get back to Kent. The amount of time I spend driving now is huge and sometimes I spend longer on the road in a day that I do in class during the school day. I could take some time to moan about some of the stupidity I see with drivers on the motorways, virtually every day, but I don't want too spoil what was a good day, so i'll leave it. One of the things that motorways have developed over the years is a whole new environment for plants and animals alike and you never quite know what you might see. It's a way to pass the time when you're stuck in traffic jams for hours at a time.

So I have just 28 days left to decide where I am going to launch my new book and I have been thinking about doing it in America through the social media in Arizona. It's a challenge but very appropriate. Can I do it successfully, I'm not yet sure but I'll give it my best shot. Otherwise I'll have to book a few secondary schools since they are young adult books. perhaps the only other way would be to target certain groups in this country that would find the material interesting. If the story had been set in this country it wouldn't present a problem but since its not I'll use it as a learning strategy and see what I can achieve. I'm looking forward to this one, the story is strong, sensitive and has some very emotional scenes amongst the action and adventure.

Anyway until then, Happy Reading

Steve

30 Days to go

Today marks the start of a new countdown to the launch of my new book Navajo Spirit Part 3 Detour. To date I have been receiving excellent reviews from those who have read part 1 and 2 and have already got pre-orders for the new book. I'm particularly pleased with reaction to these as parts 1 and 2 were the first books I ever wrote back in 2012. In part 3 I can tell the fans of these books that the two brothers separate for the first time. One stays in the town of Mason and one leaves for home. The book itself focuses on the journey home and the sequential events that change the way one of my main characters think and act. The brother who stays behind has his own issues to deal with and that features in part 4, which i'm pleased to say is now in the editing stage.

I have just completed an Amazon Kindle promotion, due to start on the 17th of June, in America, in order to get feedback and see the response in the American market. To be honest I'm not really sure how long to keep the promotion going for so I have started tentatively and will extend if needed. It's difficult to know where to promote a book that is set abroad to create the maximum effect so experimentation is the order of the day. I have recently joined a group of authors who set books on the Romney Marsh so I will be contacting them for advice on this. The group is called Romney Marsh Fiction and includes myself, James Collins, Emma Batten, Oliver Tidy, Chris O'Donoghue with more to come and we cordially invite members of the public to join our site and follow our writing journeys and interact with us.

There is nothing more important than promoting the work we do as authors, getting our books and names out there. Building a fan base can only happen through exposure and I will continue to tour the schools in Hampshire, West Sussex and Berkshire right up to the summer holidays. I have to say though I am really looking forward to the break. I hate to think about the mileage I've clocked up this year. 

In the meantime it's editing all the way for me, sticking to the plans I have already made in an effort to meet the scheduled deadlines I set myself. 

Happy Reading

Steve

C.S. Clifford

Author writing for all ages
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