I’ve been keeping busy over at Crime Fiction Lover over the past few weeks. My most recent reviews have been The Watcher by Ross Armstrong, Sirens by Joseph Knox, Corpus by Rory Clements, and Frailty by Betsy Reavley. All of them very accomplished in their own right. None of them are indie published in the sense of it being just the individual – though Bloodhound Books is a smaller and agile independent publisher.
The Watcher was a debut and very enjoyable too. One thing that did surprise me was that my ARC of The Watcher was cluttered with typos and strewn with other errors. I’ve no doubt they will get picked up in the proof reading process but I noticed that, unusually, one of the reviewers on Goodreads did mention it. I wouldn’t feel comfortable about commenting on it in a review – after all, it’s not likely to be the experience the reader will get. However, they were severe enough that it was starting to seriously hamper reading it in places. My one thought is that an indie publisher would get crucified for sending out an ARC in that state.
Corpus was a notable demonstration of the skills of an experienced historical writer. Clements pulled together an enormous cast of characters into something resembling order by the end of the novel. As this is the first in a series that may calm down as the full company is assembled. Readers of his John Shakespeare novels may be able to comment on this. I was slightly awed by just how well he handled it.
Frailty wasn’t an easy read. Not because it is badly written or unengaging. It’s just that it is very difficult to read through your fingers. I would have hidden behind the sofa if I could. It was a touch on the harrowing side for my taste – the scenes with the 8-year-old Hope were hard. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but kudos to Reavley for writing such an affecting book.
Sirens by Joseph Knox might be my favourite of these four books. I liked the setting and while Knox was clearly drawing on Chandler, Hammett et al for his inspiration he steered clear of the pastiche. Perhaps there was just a little too much crammed in and some of the female characters felt a little one-dimensional. Nonetheless, it is excellent and another debut author to watch out for in the future.
I’ve just reviewed Dead Lemons by Finn Bell – click on the image to read the full review at crimefictionlovers.com.
It is indie published by Finn and is a great example of some of the fantastic work out there. A strong cover and, most importantly, good writing as well. He has also got strong reviews on Amazon.com – currently 70 reviews with an average of 4.8. Great job, that is really ace and reflective of the high standard here.
As an academic exercise as someone who is watching this niche, it is interesting to look at how this book is faring in terms of sales. I’ve no idea how many it is doing but I wonder, given the quality, if the sales rank doesn’t quite follow – #39,983 in Kindle Store at the time of writing. Finn has picked some really tough categories as well. My understanding of Amazon category wisdom is that you want to try and sit high in a category – you’ll get more visibility and Amazon’s algorithms will help you out. This is where it currently lies:
Phew. Tough categories. I’d be very tempted to suggest this book could do even better in a niche category. These are high competition categories where the big boys play.
When I read the book I was also a little surprised not to get invited to Finn Bell’s email list but he hasn’t got one at the moment. It seems just about every person recommends an email list in the indie world.
Finn has another book out – Pancake Money. He deserves to do well – great writing and I wish him the very best. He also illustrates how competitive the market is out there for indies. He should be smashing it with books this good and I’d like to think that it will happen in the near future.
My first review is up on Crime Fiction Lover. Mari Hannah’s book Gallows Drop and another tricky case for DCI Kate Daniels. Head over there for the full review.
There is an interesting dynamic to writing book reviews and checking out other reviewers. I did take a look at Amazon while I was writing the review and I noticed that Gallows Drop had several reviews already. Presumably these must be from beta readers or ARCs as the reviews were posted before the publication date.
The tone of some of them is, well, a little gushing. That isn’t enormously surprising given that Hannah has a wee army of loyal fans. She’s got a successful series with a popular detective and the authenticity inherent in her police procedurals is brilliant. Perhaps I’m just naturally more reserved and, as a result, I tend to blush when anyone gets too super-enthusiastic.
I’m just finishing the review for Dead Lemons by Finn Bell. I will save it for Crime Fiction Lover and while I’m not sure I’ll ever do ‘gushing’, I can at this stage suggest it is well worth your time.
As planned it has been a gentle start to ROW80 but, nonetheless, a start has been made.
I am still not 100% decided on my POV for this one. I’ve started off with third person but I’m suspecting first person might be the way to go. However, I’m wary that it might be difficult to raise the necessary suspense with that POV. The book I’m reading just now (American Outlaw by John Stonehouse) starts with a first person perspective and is flicking into third person for the sections with US Marshall Whicher. And, do you know, I’m fine with it and it doesn’t jar with me. So, why sweat it now?
The most important thing with any writing is that I’m determined that I won’t undermine myself – it’s easy to see how the anxiety around this could quickly lead to a rise in doubts and become an act of self-sabotage. I’ve learned this with non-fiction writing; how I need to suspend my anxiety with the utter dross of my first draft and how it often doesn’t come good until several drafts down the line. I still need to learn to do that with fiction, to hold the line and to keep going until it feels better.
Nowt to report yet but I knew that would be the case and it does highlight the benefits of a flexible challenge like ROW80. I knew I had a busy week at work ahead when I signed up and it would have been all to easy for me to simply not bother with it and chalk it up as as being just too hard. Another opportunity would be going by and, instead, I’m looking forward to the next few days when I can get started.
I have to admire the fine grained goals and targets of other participants of ROW80. I know it’s the best way to go about setting goals (SMART and all that) so I’m slightly envious when I look at my rather sprawling, bloated and indistinct goal of 60,000 words in 80 days.
My Pacemaker plan did allow for a few days without words and it starts with a gentle ramp up of effort. I’ll spend some time this evening pulling together my characters and plot before launching into some initial scenes tomorrow. I think I would benefit from having a detailed outline, a road map if you will, so I may need to accommodate that in my schedule, but I’ve also found that some initial writing helps me ‘find’ (if not too pretentious) the characters at the start.
I’m late to the party so I’ve hastily set up a blog today (much needed) and scribbled a few words for ROW80.
The major goal is to write 60,000 words of the novel that has been brewing and bubbling up for the past couple of years. Life is busy but it can no longer wait. My plan has been drawn up in the excellent Pacemaker (widget at the side).
More reflections to follow in the future. And, now, to the writing…