A ‘How To’ Guide on Author Events and Book Launches for Independent Authors

My last book launch party was in December 2021 for My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister. I want to share the author events I have hosted for anyone looking to arrange their own live book promotion.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

YOU HAVE

Lived, breathed and dreamt your wonderful book for however long it has taken you to write it. If you’re anything like me, the planning, thinking and inspiration part of your novel lasted longer than actually putting it together.

You have an amazing cover – the type that readers throw the old adage away and judge ‘yes, I do want to read this’.

If you’re lucky, an audiobook narrator has agreed to produce the listen-to version of your words.

All you need now is actual readers (like the reader in the photo above).

Your publication day may have felt like an anti-climax. That’s only natural; all that work, all that pulling words from your soul and no doubt money you have thrown at your wonderful book. If no one has read it or agreed to publish it for you, publication day can play with your mind. You may find yourself seeking validation, asking your friends and family to read and review if only to prove that you haven’t wasted your time, tears and energy.

Actual footage of me writing about three years ago.

Author events are your chance to show everyone in a live setting the amazing book you have published.

LOCATE A VENUE

Your first step will be to choose a venue willing to host your event. Libraries are a good way to start, I only know how library services work in the UK so bear this in mind when reading this post. Libraries are run by the local authority, so start with your local library. Make contact with a librarian and ask if they host author events for local writers. Most UK libraries have a contact page (in my case, Bury Library is found on the council’s website). I have found that the best way to make contact is by actually visiting the library. I used to attend a creative writing group and got to know some of the librarians. Find out how your local library engages with its customers, granted there aren’t as many events listed on my local library’s page post lockdown but things can only get better. Start attending other authors’ events if available at your library.

My very first book launch party was held at one of Bury Library’s satellite venues. Castle Library in Bury had room for twenty guests, two librarians, me and my books when I launched ‘Quirky Tales to Make Your Day‘ my first short story collection. Bury Library charged a nominal entrance fee and took care of the advertising – although when I announced the event on Facebook I had messages and filled all twenty places with people I knew (more on this later).

A good friend I have known since nurse training in the 90s came to support me at my first book launch.

My second author event was at another library in the Bury area.

This author event was hosted by Tottington Library – now a charity owned community library. This event was four years ago and the Curmudgeon Avenue Series has different covers.

I would say the most successful book launch party was hosted at a pub in the town centre, Broad Street Social. This bar is independently owned and willing to host events and ‘pop ups’ for local food and art businesses. After attending a poetry night last Halloween at Broad Street, I asked if I could launch my next novel at their venue. The owner suggested a Sunday evening, they got more punters through the door and I got to talk about my book – win/win.

As you can see, I was joined by the super talented Lindsay McKinnon. Lindsay is the voice-over actor who produces my books.

Also, keep your eye out for local events. Book sales and appearances at library open days, brewery open days and a charity music festival in my hometown (they have a poetry stage so why not a novelist and narrator friend?)

INVITES

You’ve written a book and have a box of author copy paperbacks on order, you have secured a venue, date and time for your book launch party. Now you need some guests to attend your event. Ideally, a good mix of your loved ones and strangers is the preferred guest list. Your friends and family will cheer you on, laugh at the right moments and make you look like a superstar. Strangers are potential new readers and fans of your work. I have thrown several author events and am still not at the stage where potential new readers attend. I am not disheartened though, I will keep going with author events. I believe that if you do them regularly enough then those people who considered attending last time will turn up this time. It’s hard work but eventually, I am hoping for a local following.

Your friends and family are a tricky subject. Some authors feel their inner circle is too close to read their books. I agree, I have mixed feelings about my husband reading my books, my daughter says ‘she can just hear me – not a character’ and two of my closest and longest time served friends are on strict orders to wait for the DVD to come out. I do have a friend who can laugh loudly at just the right moment. This is one of the reasons that you should be most grateful for any support your friends and family can offer especially if it means that you won’t be alone at your book launch.

Friends and family may well bring a plus one – someone who your guest knows loves books.

Let’s talk about strangers, why would they attend your book launch if they’ve never heard of you?

I always hope that a local book enthusiast who is a big supporter of local business will attend (this goes back to the ‘I’ll attend the next one’ crowd).

ADVERTISING

An indie author’s nemesis, I know but if you don’t advertise your book launch, no one will come. It is time to think of everything. Social media – use the hashtag #sharingiscaring and some of your friends and contacts might just take the hint and share your event on their profile with friends and contacts you don’t know. With Facebook, you can create an event and send out invites (don’t be disheartened if people don’t respond – I have found that those who respond don’t show and random folk that never like or comment on anything have turned up in the audience).

Local press. In Bury, we have a local newspaper The Bury Times; they have never responded to any of my press releases about publications or book launches. I bet if I paid for an advert, they would be alright with this. The reason I haven’t paid for an advert in the local newspaper is that a local advertising magazine let me do it for free – and because they were really helpful and answered my emails I did pay for a colour advert in their magazine.

Newsletters. Ask guests to your author event to join your newsletter. They will get to know when you are next appearing live.

WHAT TO SAY

Prepare and rehearse your favourite excerpts. Print them out – in my case, I like to use large print or sometimes I transfer them to an E-reader.

I start by thanking my guests for attending the event. I usually give a very short speech about how and why I started writing, aiming to give hope to the audience that they could write a book too.

I am lucky. Lindsay McKinnon narrates my books and has performed readings from my novels. I have found that novels don’t really lend themselves to live readings, so having an actor read using accents has been really impressive.

If you are hosting the event solo, you could start by reading your book’s blurb and a sample of a few reviews. You have to put yourself into it, read as you imagine what your character sounds like. I have read poetry at an open mic night recently (just to keep my nerve up) and this has been helpful.

Some authors throw the floor open to questions at the end. In all honesty, I have only seen this work with famous authors. It has been great if people are asking questions about how they can start writing, but at one of my events I had a question telling, rather than asking me how I should go about my indie author career. For those interested, I already have been published in women’s magazines.

FORM A WORKING PARTNERSHIP WITH SOMEONE

This is a long shot, but I was very lucky. In 2019, I was approached via ACX by Lindsay McKinnon auditioning to produce the audiobook version of Curmudgeon Avenue. If you like audiobooks narrated by a professional, funny, talented voice actor who can act in any accent and has perfect comic timing, I can recommend any audiobook that Lindsay has produced (link behind her name).

Is there any difference between a book launch and an author event?

Not really.

Prizes

You could give away a signed copy of your latest novel. Last time I did this I volunteered my husband to give out raffle tickets at the venue of my book launch. He returned with a little book of raffle tickets telling me that everyone looked at him as though he was crazy – I think because raffle tickets are usually paid for. Note to self; put FREE RAFFLE on the advert.

My mother-in-law won this paperback of My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister and the fancy tote bag I had printed up via Vistaprint. People shouted ‘fix’ – it wasn’t a fix and they only had themselves to blame for not accepting the free raffle ticket from my wonderful husband. I might do things differently next time!

Gifts

BOOKMARKS. Only give away something that people will remember you by. Bookmarks and business cards may get thrown away but some of them will end up at the bottom of a handbag, or the inside of a wallet to be found at a later date. These are your future fans, your future readers – you’ve written a book, you know how difficult it is to get people to read it. Many of the print companies allow you to add a QR code which I think is awesome.

Photo by Giang Cao on Pexels.com

Food

This is a tricky one.

At my last book launch, I wasn’t going to feed my guests but my husband paced up and down ‘Have you even ever been to a launch?’ He was talking about traditionally published or signed recording artists whereas I (his wife) am a penniless author. I’ve hosted them without a buffet in the past and this went down fine. Check with your venue. Last time I held a book launch at a library, they changed things and asked me not to bring cake (mainly because cakes make crumbs). At my last book launch, I paid for a grazing platter from my friend’s local business Sambhavis Bites and Pretty Platters. Unfortunately, they didn’t have business cards so my good intentions of promoting my friend’s business didn’t really happen. Plus it meant I made no money out of the books I sold. Next time, I think I will do this differently and ask the venue if they would allow a ‘pop up’ for a food business to come in and guests can buy food if they want.

In all honesty, having food at your book launch didn’t bring in the crowds and was more of a distraction than anything.

Nerves

I am painfully shy. Just to give you an example, I have recently joined a book club hosted by Liverpool Community Radio. This was only possible because they telephoned me to participate in the programme. However, towards the end, they played an interview with another author and I sat in silence for a full fifteen minutes because I was too shy to ask if they wanted me to stay on the line. I couldn’t get my words out. THAT IS HOW SHY I AM.

However, when I have stood up in front of other people to tell them about my books, I have had no problem. I have surprised myself at how many people listen.

And you will too because you have put everything into the books you have written.

I would say go for it. Below are a few photos from my book events.

Lindsay McKinnon (reading) and me at GlastonBury charity festival in Bury.
The crowd at the book launch for Curmudgeon Avenue #1 with Lindsay McKinnon
My first book launch in 2017
The advert in Your Local Bury magazine
The food! @Sambhavisbites Whitefield (search on Facebook).
Lindsay McKinnon and me reading at the book launch for My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister at Broad Street Social, Bury.
Me actually meeting my editor in person https://www.alisonproofreader.com/

Thank you for reading today’s blog post everyone. Good luck with all your book launches and author events, Samantha ūüôā

PS if you are reading this post before April 13th 2022 I have a free sample for you HERE

How I Write Novels

How I write novels.

I see, hear or remember something that plants a seed (using your observation skills is what they mean by ‘writing what you know’).

‘Seeds’ rarely come from something a friend says, but when they do, they are usually asking for it.

The seed idea makes me think of something else.

I write it down.

Then I have other ideas and if I’m still thinking of that original seed, I put them together in handwritten notes.

Next comes the setting. Locations appear like collages in my mind and turn into something grander. Occasionally, imaginings are slotted into real places – it’s still fiction. The setting is not just about location, time frame and dramatic action call for writing decisions. – this takes time, skill and energy.

I find out what my characters’ wants and needs are and this drives the plot. They are all and always will be fictional because what I write is between me and my mind – I don’t base characters on real people (you cannot answer the question ‘what would they do in this situation?’).

Language, dialogue, imagery, themes, patience, editing, countless other factors and time to myself to think and actually write it.

Staying well enough to write is a massive factor – this all takes time.

Then I have to publish it. Proofreaders/editors/cover design (even if I do it myself on Canva pro) and adverts, especially adverts all cost me way more than I receive in royalties.

Charlotte Bronte said ‘I’m just going to write because I cannot help it.’

Happy writing, Samantha Henthorn Author.

PS get a free sample of My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister HERE

Are Blog Tours ‘Worth it’ for Indie Authors? (yes)

If you’re an independent author like me, you will know that the struggle is real.

Photo by Bruno Thethe on Pexels.com

The above doesn’t work; people (friends) don’t leave reviews for your book/service/product/restaurant because you asked them to. The best reviews are from those who connected with the book they just read. They were willing to part with brass (and time) to read your creation and they felt compelled to tell all their friends that they should read your book.

Book reviewers are as rare as rocking horse s*** though.

A while ago, a blogger told me about a Facebook group called ‘Book Connectors’. I learned about blog tours for books published by indie authors. My books were first shown in 2019 when Edna and Genevieve Escape From Curmudgeon Avenue was hosted by Random Things Tours three years later my latest novel My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister has just completed a blog tour (blogs, Instagram, Twitter).

In a world where advice for indie authors changes weekly, blog tours have consistently helped me to market my books.

There are some precious journalistic skills going on out there in the world of publishing. Blog tours are how to make the connection between your books and those in the know (speaking as an indie author).

We have come a long way since Dickens’s to and fro about Bleak House with George Henry Lewes, and you may be wondering ‘Why don’t I approach bloggers myself?’ You could, but aren’t you too close to your book? You just lived breathed and dreamt it for the past I don’t know how long – you will be tempted to think that everyone will want to read/review/market it. They won’t unfortunately, that’s why you need a blog tour organiser to match your book with the right blogger.

Reviews are not the only fruit.

Photo by julie aagaard on Pexels.com

Blog tours are not only about book reviews. Yes, some bloggers do go to the trouble of reviewing (thank you) and sometimes this is posted only on their own blog post. These words are worth their weight in gold because book bloggers are well practised in the art of critique and if you have permission (I think a sentence or two is covered under Copyright in the UK) then you can use these ‘soundbites’ as quotes in your blurbs and adverts, like this:

My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister

Or this:

My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister

Blog tours also give authors exposure to new audiences. It doesn’t matter how many years I’ve been on Twitter, or that ‘#’ is my most used key on all my devices, I am not as good at social media as I’d like. Blog sites are like the mayor of social media, this filters down to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook in the ‘chatter about new books’ world. If you’re an indie author, I would give some thought to paying for a blog tour. Traditional publishers use them and so could you.

I have had excerpts of my books printed in blog posts during blog tours. Put your ‘reader’ head on. How many times have you gone on to buy a book or at least add it to your reading list because you read an excerpt somewhere on the internet?

Graphics; again, bloggers are well equipped with the know-how when it comes to attractive looking blog posts. Is your book Instaworthy? Find out with a blog tour.

Cost and making your money back.

There is another issue here about goals; for the purpose of this post, let’s just say that regardless of making money – we would all like our books to be read. You shouldn’t expect automatic sales in return for the money you spend on blog tours. Like most of your advertising, consider them as an investment. I am not a blog tour organiser so it would be unfair of me to tell you how much I have spent. But let’s just say I am not a rich person; I lost my job in 2014 because of ill health, however, I could afford to pay for a blog tour. This is my way of saying it’s not expensive and for what the blog tour organiser does, I don’t think they charge enough. Emailing between blogger and author, and if content is involved then there are even more emails. I once had a blogger interview me for their blog post – so many emails!

Photo by EYu00dcP BELEN on Pexels.com

Aside from all of the above, it was great to get my book read. Honestly, my last book, My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister gave me a huge emotional rollercoaster. I was excited about it for a long time before beginning writing it. The research involving witches blew my mind and revisiting memories of working as a psychiatric nurse brought emotional turmoil. The publication day was an unexplainable anti-climax. I submitted it to two review agencies but no one picked it up. I was starting to feel horrendously invisible and heartbroken; My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister felt like the best thing I’ve ever written.

I think you can understand now just how important this blog tour has been to me – I just hope the posts about it were read (I think they were).

Here are some highlights:


BEYOND THE BOOKS

This is a clever, humorous, and sometimes dark story. I personally thought it was a compelling read and hope Samantha Henthorn writes more books like this.

NICKI’S LIFE OF CRIME

As a reader, every so often, you encounter a book that you really enjoy reading but you can’t honestly say why and for me this was one of those books. It’s an extremely well written,cleverly and intelligently plotted blend of genre’s that kept me guessing and wanting to know how the author intended to conclude her heroine’s realistic and relatable journey. Mental health is a complex issue which is still a grey area for the experts in its many fields of study and the author has written about her subject matter with care,understanding and sensitivity.

BOOKWORM 1346

I absolutely fell in LOVE with Pippa. She is one of the best literary characters that I have come across in a long time and I wish so much that she was a real person.

This book was incredible! It is sad, but humorous, a real piece of fiction, that is so believable.

I could not stop pressing next page on the kindle and found myself reading this in one sitting.

I cannot recommend this book enough and it is up there with one of my favourites!

STACEYWH_17

Wow, this was so good! It started off really slow for me & just when I didn’t think we were going anywhere, everything went full speed & snowballed into something totally different to what I was expecting.

Very realistic & well researched, with some very flawed, but well executed characters. And so, so cleverly written.

HANDWRITTEN GIRL
A poignant and humorous story about family dynamics and secrecy, ‚ÄėMy Half Sister‚Äôs Half Sister‚Äô is a fascinating piece of twisty writing.

CHAPMAN’S CHAPTERS AND PAGES

Safe to say I did not see the plot of this book coming. This is a slow burner, richly interwoven family history and family eccentrics have you thinking it’s one thing. And then it becomes another. And the plot then becomes something that is written so empathetically and subtle that you find yourself completely dumbfounded at having not seen it coming. This is a brilliant contemporary look into how family history shapes us, and how mental health is a sneaky little thing that has us in its grip before we realise. Bravo to Samantha! What a book!

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

As AC/DC said, It’s a Long Way to the Top if You Wanna Rock n Roll. Book bloggers post for free because like you, they love reading. Blog tours improves your networking, some book bloggers are editors, newspaper columnists all are dedicated to the cause that all indie authors want ‘if you liked reading my book tell everyone you know. If you didn’t like it, tell no one!’

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. In 2019, I published Edna and Genevieve Escape From Curmudgeon Avenue. This is a romantic comedy I want to advertise on social media and will go back to the blog tour of three years ago to help me do this. This is what I meant by an investment.

Another roaring good read.’ Against The Flow Press¬†‘All in all, a lively, breathless and definitely unique story.’ Books Are Cool.com¬†

Are blog tours worth it for indie authors? Yes, I think they are.

Happy reading, writing and blogging, Samantha ūüôā

Merry Christmas Everyone

Merry Christmas from me and everyone at Curmudgeon Avenue, I hope you have a fun and festive time.

Books make great presents, don’t they?

Here is my present to you, TWELVE FREE BOOKS!

Click HERE to download a free E-copy of any (or all of these Christmassy winter tales).

Photo by George Dolgikh @ Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

I will keep this post short and sweet (I’m sure you have mince pies and Christmas TV to be getting on with). I’ve been feeling tired probably because of MS, the time of year, and I’m still getting over the publication of MY HALF-SISTER’S HALF-SISTER!

My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister is available HERE

Best wishes, and Merry Christmas,

Samantha ūüôā

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Join My Mailing List – Innit!

Join my mailing list https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/d0q2h7

Hello Everyone!

I have recently started a mailing list which is something all the indie author advice people advise us to do.

https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/d0q2h7

I am a voracious reader, always adding adding and adding to my reading list, and two years ago, I joined BookFunnel which lead to me joining a lot of author mailing lists. Now HERE is mine!

But enough about me, here’s why I think fans of my series, Curmudgeon Avenue need to join my mailing list.

The residents are idiots, the city is in lockdown. Will they cope with the global pandemic?

Available free to mailing list subscribers is Curmudgeon Avenue #5.5 ‘Curmudgeon Avenue’s Manchester Lockdown’ . Get it by clicking HERE

The reason this volume is free to my mailing list, is because I had hesitated writing about the big global mess, but eventually I gave in (mainly when the phrase ‘new normal’ started popping up). Personally, I would not make light of Covid-19 but, folks need a bit of lighthearted escapism.

And when I say folks, I mean fans of Curmudgeon Avenue.

Curmudgeon Avenue is a social satire about a house that dislikes its owners.

So come on down, join my mailing list and grab yourself a free book, innit! (As Tanya Rose of Curmudgeon Avenue would say).

Happy reading, Samantha xx

Reviewing the Reviewers.

Hello Everyone!

Yesterday, I had fun reading the 19th century reviews of Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Blimey, they didn’t review in Victorian times – they berated!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I read that George Henry Lewes told off Dickens for killing off Mr Krook by spontaneous combustion. I won’t quote the actual review but basically, Mr Lewes argued that spontaneous combustion ‘Could not possibly be’ (Quote taken from the Penguin Classics version of Bleak House edited by Nicola Bradbury in 2003). Well, it turns out that Charles Dickens wrote back to George Henry Lewes (who was married to George Elliot) and so the critique letters continued.

Just for fun, I also enjoyed Charlotte Bronte’s critique on of Dickens’s Esther Summerson ‘Twaddling’ that is the word that Charlotte Bronte made up, let’s have it again ‘TWADDLING’..

Book reviews are both the holy grail and the thorn in the side of all indie authors.

My books have had some great reviews, some invisible reviews (I think that free books should generate compulsory reviews – but what do I know?) and some rude and awful reviews – I won’t go into it.

Remember, reviews are for your fellow readers, you are not writing a complaint to the author.

The other problem I have encountered is reviewers copying and pasting another person’s review and adding it to their own. You can’t all say exactly the same thing? Surely? Again, it’s not fair on your reading friends if you do this.

For what it’s worth, this is what I think:

It is not Dickensian times anymore, please don’t ‘tell off’ authors.

Reviews should be written to recommend a book to your fellow readers.

Reviews are not a complaint letter to the author.

(If in doubt, check the Amazon guidelines).

Happy reading, Samantha xx

PS

I wrote these:

Herding Behaviour (why are we obsessed with reviews?)

Why are we so obsessed with book reviews?

Reviews, reviews, reviews. 

That is all you’ll ever hear an indie author talk about.

Have we got enough reviews for our book?

How many reviews are enough reviews?

Do people actually read reviews when choosing a new book?

THE MIND BOGGLES

This post is not about answering how we get reviews – if I knew that, I wouldn’t be writing this would I?*

*(You could try engaging with Goodreads advice groups or maybe employ a blog tour organiser).

person holding white and brown newspaper
Photo by Ekrulila on Pexels.com

A Good Friend of mine is a top marketing executive. She doesn’t have time to read because of her (very cute) toddler son. We have been friends for years and years, even before I started writing. She lives in the south of England now so when we actually see one another we have loads to talk about. Not usually work.

ANYWAY last year, before all this lockdown business, when we met up, I asked her for some tips on marketing my books.

She didn’t even blink, ‘GET REVIEWS.’ My friend said.

Although she added the caveat that she doesn’t work in book publishing I do value her opinion. I think she is right.

I have been thinking about nothing but reviews since I became an independent author in 2016. Slight exaggeration, I do think about other things but you get the picture.

However…

Reading is a very individual thing.

What I like to read is not the same as what someone else would like to read. We have all read books and raved about them to our friends and been shot down with an ‘Oh I didn’t like it.’

Do not get me started on book clubs…

So why are reviews so important?

Human behaviour has a lot to do with this. Herding behaviour… (now you are all imagining livestock being rounded up aren’t you?)

two cows
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

“Moooo… I heard Samantha Henthorn has a new book coming out later this year. Moo.”

“I heard she’s pants, her last release has only got five ratings. Moooooo.”

HERDING BEHAVIOUR IS A THING – GOOGLE IT

If my friends, the cows start moving in one direction then, as a rule of thumb all the other animals will follow. They will follow without direction. This is the same thing that happens to humans. This is why fashions and fads take hold. Rightly or wrongly, if a few people are doing something then us humans will follow.

Without direction, humans will all read the same book. Because everyone else has read it. And how do they know that? Because the book has got lots of reviews. Good or bad, if lots of people have left a review, then the book must be worth reading. Right?

A few years ago, I decided I didn’t want to be a cow anymore. I felt I was being tricked. I had been tricked, at one time, I only read what everyone else was reading. So I started reading a lot of books by independent authors. But before this…

One of the first books I read when my daughter reached the age I was allowed to properly start reading again was The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audre Niffenegger. A really famous book, I read it in 2004 before the film and everything. I was still working at the time and lent it to one of my work colleagues. This person¬†never¬†returned books that others had lent her, so imagine my surprise (and tetchiness) when she presented me with MY copy of The Time Traveler’s Wife and told me that I HAD¬†to read it. (Even though I was the one who recommended it to her in the first place!)

Front cover of book showing young girl from the waist down in knee socks and Mary Janes and empty brown Oxfords next to her on a picnic blanket.

THAT IS WHAT I MEAN BY HERDING BEHAVIOUR

When I think back, two incidents involving shops convinced me of herding behaviour. When I was a teenager I had a Saturday job in Manchester Arndale. The shop I worked in sold costume jewellery and hair scrunchies (it was the 90s). One day, a big box arrived with ‘sale items’. It was a massive box of hairbands. These hairbands were dropped into another big box complete with price sticker and positioned right at the front of the shop. A couple of hours later, none of the hairbands had sold. The shop manager had a great idea. (!)

She instructed me to put my coat on (cleverly hiding my uniform) and pretend to be a customer, rooting through the box of hairbands. ‘Try a few on’ she had said. I was very embarrassed but it worked! I didn’t even have to try any of the things on my head, customers started coming over to see what I was looking at. Soon a crowd gathered and for half an afternoon in early nineties Manchester, a trend was set on the wearing of headbands.

two pink rose flower accent headbands on white surface
Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

The second shop related herding incident was another embarrassing incident for me. Even before I was diagnosed with MS, I had trouble with blurred vision – triggered by bright neon lights in my case. Not long after I had been diagnosed (and suffered a few relapses of optic neuritis) I went to Sri Lanka for a friend’s wedding. (A different friend to the one mentioned earlier). This was in 2008. One day during the holiday, my friend (who had visited Sri Lanka many times) suggested we all visit a department store. I really wish I could remember the name of this massive store that sold everything, but I can’t. We were tourists and had money to spend.

At some point, I was separated from my friends but some embroidered cushion covers had caught my eye. I thought¬†oh I had better pay for these before I go to the next floor to look for my friends.¬†WELL, a combination of jet-lag tiredness, panic and neon light-induced eyesight problems landed me in front of what I thought was a service point. The shop assistant will probably come back when she sees me standing here at the till.¬†I thought…

It was probably only a few moments but by the time I realised that I was not waiting in a queue to pay… an actual queue had formed around me.

I am so embarrassed and I didn’t even know how to say sorry. I had accidentally lured a crowd of people to look at a pile of pillowcases.

Shame I can’t do that with books…

Even when I thought I was being tricked and decided not to read the ‘BOOKS THAT EVERYONE IS READING’ I still don’t know what influenced me to read the books I have over the past few years. Do any of us really choose anything for ourselves? Do we follow each other? I just know that there are more books out there than the popular ones. Although… it is good to have read a book and be able to have a conversation about it with someone else…

‘Famous’ books I have read recently are¬†The Testaments¬†by Margaret Atwood The Testaments: WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE 2019 (The Handmaid‚Äôs Tale)

And My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.

My Sister, the Serial Killer: The Sunday Times Bestseller

These books have nearly TEN THOUSAND  reviews between them on Amazon (at the time I wrote this post). If you would like to see books I have read recently, check out my Goodreads widget at the bottom of my blog page or click HERE

 

Thank you for joining me on my post about why I think book reviews work. If you have enjoyed reading a book recently, don’t forget to review it.

Happy reading, and stay safe,

Samantha xx

I wrote these books !

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Scan_20170731What we did during lockdown (1)

On How Modern Classic 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith Provided Inspiration for #CurmudgeonAvenue (After I started writing it) @McCallSmith #IART @LittleBrownUK

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It all started at Whitefield Library in 2014 when my nursing career ended (I accepted ill-health retirement due to MS).

My hometown of Bury provides an adult learning service. Despite my initial ambivalence, I signed up to a two hour per week creative writing class delivered by a beautifully inspiring teacher, whose name begins with Jill. One of our first tasks in the course was to write a short story titled ‘Winter’. What was I going to write? How would I approach this? As I drove home from Whitefield that autumn day, the sun shone lower in the sky and the rust coloured leaves drifted on to my car windscreen. I knew then that ‘Winter’ should be set in Whitefield. This same road reminded me of queuing in traffic, halfway home from my job in Salford. I remembered glancing at the houses on either side of my car. Commuters already home from work inside their houses lit up by the TV. I wondered what these Whitefield folk did with their lives.

Later that same week, Mr Henthorn and moi encountered an incident in a supermarket carpark involving a disgruntled driver and a disabled parking badge. A curmudgeon! I thought to myself (admittedly, I used a different word under my breath). Following this, the characters Harold, Edith and Edna were born, and I delivered my short story ‘Winter’ to a circle of keen creative writing students, nodding and praising one another without fail. ‘Winter’ was awesome – even if I say so myself – and it eventually made its way into the pages of Edna and Genevieve Escape From Curmudgeon Avenue

This is where 44 Scotland Street finally gets a mention. The beautifully inspiring teacher I mentioned was subjected to further creative writing pieces including Harold, Edna and Edith.

‘You should read 44 Scotland Street’¬†I was encouraged ‘It’s like your Curmudgeon Avenue, about a street and all the characters that live there.’

I had heard of Alexander McCall Smith – of course, I had (someone who attended the same physio recommended I read The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency which I knew from The BBC). But I did not know about 44 Scotland Street.¬†However, I immediately started to read the series (currently on volume 13, 2019) and thought this is right up my street! Book number one opens with Pat viewing a flat in 44 Scotland Street, the notable narcissist Bruce shows her round – I was drawn to this. Who doesn’t have a story about a narcissist? They’re everywhere! Later, Bruce has a conversation about Chardonnay, recounting a story about the ABC clubs of New York ‘Anything But Chardonnay’. His counterpart was tempted to tell him that Champagne is made from the Chardonnay grape.¬† When I read this I was over the moon, having recently had a similar ‘Anything But Chardonnay’¬†irritation at a book club in the village of Greenmount.*

I have read and loved all thirteen of the¬†44 Scotland Street¬†books. I have doted on Bertie, never getting past age seven. Gaining freedom from his overbearing mother Irene who invents a schedule for him including yoga and psychotherapy; only to be bossed by the domineering Olive in his same class. (Fear not for Bertie, he has a friend Ranald Braveheart McPherson – love that name). I have enjoyed Angus’ and Domenica’s courtship and eventual marriage – but not before Domenica’s anthropological adventures. Big Lou’s cafe (and some of her romances) has been the hub of society. Matthew and Pat work in an art gallery (typical of what I now imagine Edinburgh to be). Matthew marries Elspeth who used to teach at Bertie’s school and they have triplets. You kind of have to be there – and I would recommend you read them all.

On the note of ‘being there’ here is my review of the most recent volume ‘The Peppermint Tea Chronicles’¬†

Samantha Henthorn Author

24 November 2019

I have read and enjoyed every book in this series, I admit to having formed romantic ideals about Edinburgh. As a result – if I ever was to visit the real Scotland Street (minus the fictional 44), then I would be gutted not to bump into my friends – Big Lou and young Bertie. Because they are my friends., the characters have been created and continued so consistently I feel like I know them. In this book, I was delighted to read Angus and Dominica’s everyday situations, such as losing the right to carry a large bag about in private because they are married. My heart melted to find out about Bertie and Ranald’s wish for a pet puppy – and laughed out loud at young Bertie’s observation that ‘no matter what you did, girls would get you’. All rounded together nicely by a happy ending for Pat, Lou and Elspeth, and a satirist’s view of local authority call centres and shoe choices in social situations and saying ‘dinner rather than tea’. A book – a series that restores faith in human nature.
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Thank you again to the beautifully inspiring teacher that encouraged me to read 44 Scotland Street, and to Alexander McCall Smith for writing it.
Now you must allow me to talk a little about my Curmudgeon Avenue series.
*Greenmount, I mentioned earlier is a village just up the road from where I live and grew up the same house in Greenmount will cost you 100,000 more than anywhere else in the Bury area. It is inhabited by wealthy incomers – no one – it seems is originally from there, apart from my husband who I often tease would have been ‘Able to look down on me from Greenmount.’ I dislike snobbery fiercely, and this is reflected in the satirical style that¬†Curmudgeon Avenue¬†is delivered. (See – there is a curmudgeon in everyone).
After a few drafts and publishing other books in between,¬†Curmudgeon Avenue¬†took on a life of its own. Where¬†44 Scotland Street¬†is omnisciently narrated, Curmudgeon¬†Avenue¬†is dangerously and unreliably witness narrated. Not intentionally – I wanted the house to speak for itself. This became the series where the house tells the story (often in brackets). Four books on, The Ghosts of Curmudgeon Avenue¬†was published in October. I have just started writing book number five¬†The World Does Not Revolve Around Curmudgeon Avenue; where sisters Toonan and Wantha have fallen out, there is half a wedding and enemy Georgina Foote moves in at Number Thirteen. Reviews are coming in ‘Witty, dry and weirdly funny’ – ‘made me wonder what my house would say about me!’ and even ‘Move over Fawlty Towers!’ And the audiobook – narrated by established voice-over actor Lindsay McKinnon is due to be released early next year (2020).
Genre is everything to the independent author. I would say that Curmudgeon Avenue is a comedy-drama and it ticks the satire box (as I have when listing the series with KDP). It has been difficult to find other authors who write in the same genre. This is why I wanted to share this in a blog post; Curmudgeon Avenue Рa bit like 44 Scotland Street. (Dare I say it!)
My series does not have the refined Edinburgh gentleness*, but it does have the Manchester sense of humour and northern warmth – it is a satirical window into first world problems – some of the scenarios are recipes for disaster but I love that house and all who live in her!¬† It is very different from 44 Scotland Street.¬†Not exactly the same reading experience but essentially a book about the intertwined lives of people who live in and around the same street.¬†‘On the day this all started the sky was filled with August Apologies for a summer undelivered.¬†
*And I am not Alexander McCall Smith – he’s a genius¬†obvs.¬†
Do you have any book inspirations or comparisons? I’d love to know.
Thank you for reading, Samantha xx

What’s in a (Character) Name? Ahava Trivedi @Ahava_Tee #GuestPost #IARTG #Preorder

Ahava Trivedi tells Samantha Henthorn how she chose the name for her latest character.

Hello and thank you for joining me in my now bi-monthly writerly post. Now, earlier this year I met Ahava Trivedi on a BookFunnel comedy promotion. Since then we have become great friends, there is no end to her writing talent – and she has now even switched genres! Please welcome the newly appointed YA Fantasy Novelist Ahava Trivedi talking about her new character’s name (which after seeing today I am totally thinking of changing my own name to!):

 

Katrina Snow Quartz

Katrina Snow Quartz is a Crystal Witch. While she was growing up, she was shuffled from foster homes in Europe, all the way to those in Canada where her adoptive parents, Lorna and Babette Quartz adopted her from. Lorna and Babette weren’t just any other couple. They were powerful High Priestesses of their coven. They were Crystal Witches that possessed a rare and potent form of magic and they adopted Katrina because they felt the same magical line in her. The only two things that were known at the time about Katrina’s heritage, was her first name and birthday. Neither of the witches had the heart to change Katrina’s first name as it was one of the only symbols of her largely unknown heritage.

The name ‚ÄėSnow‚Äô came about because Lorna thought she was funny and chose it given that Katrina was a white witch coming to live with them down south in Louisiana from the Great White North. She thought it was genius while Katrina has always found it lame.

Katrina belongs to the coven named ‚ÄėCircle of Quartz‚Äô and that‚Äôs where she gets her surname. Each witch carries the surname that the coven is defined by. Once initiated, every witch in the coven carries the name of the coven as her surname in the supernatural world and would only ever change it if she started a coven of her own.

Magic Within: A Young Adult Urban Fantasy Novel (Bloodline Academy Book 1) by [Trivedi, Ahava]

Releasing January 2020 PRE-ORDER HERE (Samantha Henthorn has)

Ahava Trivedi

Ahava Trivedi grew up in the south of England and almost on a whim one day, decided to up and move to Toronto, Canada with her sister. She is mostly a fiction author who, similar to her hasty move across the pond, likes to explore different genres that interest her by diving headlong into them first and figuring out her story as she goes along.

Ahava is currently writing some humorous reads that have taken shape as The Hopeless Husband Series. The first book in the series, ‘The Anniversary’, is out now and the next ones will be available very soon!

If you’d like to get an email whenever Ahava releases a new title or decides to give books away for free (she does this from time to time!), sign up for exclusive updates at http://www.ahavatrivedi.com

If you’d like to contact Ahava, she’d love to hear from you! Here are some ways to get in touch:

The Twitter-verse: @Ahava_Tee

The Facebook Page: Ahava Trivedi Author

Telepathy: Hey, why not? Give it a try – you can do it if you believe you can!

 

Thank you so much, Ahava! I have really been looking forward to hearing what this new name was! And it was well worth the wait. I would recommend signing up to Ahava’s page and reading her books!

Happy reading! Samantha xx

PS join me next month when we hear from a poet from the very same town as me!

On My BBC Radio Lancashire Appearance, With VO Actor Lindsay McKinnon @LindzMcKinnon @GillyLancs

#BBC Radio Lancashire #IARTG

I had an awesome day last Friday (15th November). I was interviewed on the John Gillmore show on BBC Radio Lancashire with voice-over actor Lindsay McKinnon. We were interviewed about my book Curmudgeon Avenue #1: The Terraced House Diaries. Lindsay is currently turning this into an audiobook which will be released early next year – and generally bringing an entirely new dimension to the book, bringing it to life with her fantastic author voice. Lindsay can swap from narrative to dialogue in a variety of voices and accents. She’s extremely talented, I cannot wait to share this audiobook with everyone.

The Curmudgeon Avenue series really lends itself to spoken word. 

This is the BBC Radio Lancashire studio in Blackburn town centre – it’s a lovely building :

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I have never appeared on the radio before, I was a bag of nerves but I had a word with myself ‘YOU ARE MEANT TO BE DOING THIS!’ Lindsay knew what to say and gave a top performance of reading from the first chapter. John Gillmore (local hero) and lovely co-host Nishma Hindocha had prepared some questions, which guided me through. There are a lot of ‘erms’ on my end, but at least I didn’t collapse into nervous giggling!

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Lindsay and me moments before we had to speak into these massive green and yellow microphones.

This whole experience happened because of Lindsay – she contacted John Gillmore and made the interview happen. I’ve been very lucky that she chose my book to narrate.

I had help – I cannot drive on motorways because of MS, Lindsay offered to drive but this would mean coming back on herself and although she didn’t mind, I would’ve felt guilty. So I made Mr Henthorn drive – LoL!¬† He looked like super proud husband when we came out of the studio – and then made fun of me for saying too many ‘erms’ ! Actually, this audiobook adventure is all down to Mark’s encouragement – I had been shy about putting my book forward for audiobooks, I eventually gave in and it’s all happened at the right time.

During the interview, I was asked about the good reviews Curmudgeon Avenue has been getting. I waffled on, of course, and missed my chance. I should have thanked the reviewers … and asked for more! Yes, I am not too shy to ask¬†Curmudgeon Avenue needs reviews.¬†

20191115_152901Local hero – John Gillmore.

20191115_152905¬†Beautiful co-host – Nishma Hindocha hiding behind her computer screen. She wasn’t really hiding, this was so weird for me having a conversation with radio folk – you don’t get to look at them! You just have to chat like everything’s normal! Sigh… that’s showbiz I suppose…

75472861_10162738946995714_88804977195089920_n A lovely snap of us all after the interview.

I left paperback copies of the Curmudgeon Avenue series with John and Nishma – I forgot/didn’t remember to ask if they wanted them signing – this is still weird for me I was brought up not to write in books!

THE AUDIOBOOK VERSION OF CURMUDGEON AVENUE WILL BE RELEASED EARLY 2020.¬†If you can’t wait, here is the link for the interview on BBC listen again – it will be available until the start of December. (We are 2 hours 20 minutes in).

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07s1dp9

And if you really can’t wait, Curmudgeon Avenue: The Terraced House Diaries is available in E-book and Paperback¬†Here UK¬†Here US

Happy reading/listening everyone! Samantha x