Waking to the news from Boston, and my heart goes out to you all in America. There are no words. I was just thinking about Maya Angelou's great poem 'Still I Rise':
'Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise ...'
The rest of the poem is here. Its defiance seems like the right response this morning. Terrorism - the clue's in the name - wants to spread fear. I hope we all meet this latest atrocity with the opposite: strength and anger. My seven year old son went off happily to school this morning, but in Boston there is an empty space at a school desk where a little guy only a year older should have been this morning. Senseless, heartbreaking - I don't know where you even begin. But one thing I know for sure is that you rise up, and stand up for what you believe - and anyone with a shred of morality is standing side by side with the family of that little boy, and all those injured last night.
So, before checking the news streams this morning, I was out watering the garden at daybreak with the pug and the cat lolling around in the early morning sun. The gardenia is in flower, and the desert rose, and the scent is heavenly. I was thinking about work, and the updates coming in from the London Book Fair. I'd retweeted a couple of the most interesting points made by Neil Gaiman:
'We don't find the authors we love in a bookshop, we discover them, encounter them for free first'.
'Dandelions don't care who spreads their seeds. What matters is that the seeds are distributed'.
In the digital age, this makes perfect sense to me. The distribution of books is becoming more like music. For example, I listen to the local (only) English station every morning on the way to school - mainly because we like Bernard the Irish presenter, who sings along with the songs, the newsreader is a school Mum, and the city is so small you normally recognise a couple of the people who have phoned in requests. Yesterday they played Josh Groban - (see today's video). I'd never heard of him (sorry, any fans), but what a voice. I heard that first song for free - but have I paid to download several? Yes.
Free 'tasters' or samples are the way forward - it makes sense to me, and I'm going to start figuring out how to do this. Another interesting point picked up from LBF was: there are no gatekeepers any more, there are signallers. This is 'word of mouth' taken up to the next level. It is tweets, and likes, and blog reviews, and readers' Amazon/Goodreads rankings. Maybe some of you have seen this image posted on several authors' pages and streams:
This jpg came from here, but as Mr Baxter says, pass it on. These things matter - a lot. If you're not reviewed, and liked, you don't get picked up by review sites' algorithms - you don't 'rise' out of the millions of books online.
WKDN was set up five years ago as a virtual writer's circle, and in that time it has created a tribe spanning the globe, with hundreds of thousands of hits, and I hope it's doing what it set out to achieve - to inspire and help you with your writing. Each tribe, each circle overlaps - the internet at its best is a collective consciousness, and in an ideal world that's what we can do - support and help one another to rise up.
'The Perfume Garden' is newly published, and I'm trying to think of ways to help spread the word - any ideas, you know where the comment box is. If any of you have work coming out over the next few months, get in touch - guest posts and interviews are always welcome here. Today, I'm delighted to be over at the Historical Novel Society, being interviewed about family, secrets and Spain.
Today, in the spirit of sharing work for free, I'm going to try an experiment. 'The Perfume Garden' is a new book - it has a handful of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. If any of you have read it, or your friends have read it, and you would like to place an honest review or rank it on either site, I would be grateful. If you tell me the name you've posted under, or post the link to your review, tweet, Facebook comment or blog post, in the comment box below, at the end of the month I will put all the names of new reviewers in a hat, and send one copy of the audio book to the winner, anywhere in the world, dedicated to you as a thank you. You can hear a free sample, here. Or, if you don't do audio, I can send you a signed author copy of the paperback - let me know which you'd prefer.
Thanks. And in light of yesterday's events, it only seems fitting to end with the words Dad used to call after me every morning as he dropped me off for the school bus:
'Don't Forget to Smell the Flowers'