Choose Your Sitcom

Serialization is a thing, and it’s changing what we’re demanding of our fiction.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been picking up free and 99c books at Amazon. At Amazon because I read on a kindle and because all of my self-published books are exclusive to Amazon (the requirement to enrol them in Amazon’s lending library, Kindle Unlimited). So as both a reader and an author, I’m Amazon-focussed. Also, Amazon is currently the biggest player in book retailing, so it’s commonsense to be aware of what they’re doing.

The books I picked up were light-hearted and mostly romance or cozy mystery. They also, on the whole, were severely deficient in PLOT. When they weren’t, when the story actually had tension, drama and a satisfying resolution, it was a hallelujah moment. And yet, even with the plot perhaps only fifty percent developed, I often went on to pick up a second and even third book in the series.


The characters hooked me. Yes, even though most characters were walking, posing cliches, I loved them. I wallowed in banter. Not high class banter, just give-and-take snark and good humour. In short, I realised I was reading the ebook equivalent of a sitcom. In describing this to an author friend, I described it as “Friends” TV. Who could hate “Friends“? Turns out my friend could! 😉

Then, today, in wandering around the internet, I came across Jane Friedman’s coverage of the NINC15 conference for established authors and publishing industry professionals, and what was Jane talking about — serialization. She used the metaphor of stand-alone novels as movies, and linked books as television shows. So maybe, my “Friends” TV show insight is true?

Jane poses an intriguing question.

Maybe it’s more convenient or comforting to go back to stories and characters we know—and to reimagine them ourselves (think: fan fiction). Do we have less time and headspace to consider stories without an immediate or reassuring connection?

I think she’s identified an important factor in the demand for sitcom fiction, and in how authors are positioning to meet it. In the books I read in the last few weeks, plotting, proof-reading, and a whole range of traditionally vital elements were only minimally addressed and it didn’t matter! What mattered to me, as a reader, was sinking into a world that was reassuringly familiar.

This is a different world. In the pecking order of authorship, literary authors tended to look down on genre authors, but now I suspect genre authors of stand alone books will look down on serial authors. And guess what? As always, snobbery will blind people to the blinkin’ obvious: if you’re satisfying your audience, congratulations!


learning I’ve been self-publishing for a year now. Time for a short period of reflection and a reboot. [Side note: I never thought I’d ever refer to myself in computer terms, but there ya go!]

I have learned a lot of things, mostly contradictory. Sometimes the contradiction is because there are always exceptions to a rule. But a lot of times it’s because life is contradictory.

One of the most important contradictions is the importance of searching out and using good advice. I really don’t need to make more mistakes, so if someone else is generously sharing their writing and publishing lessons, that’s a shortcut to success. Except — and here’s the contradiction — listening to good advice ends up freezing me in place because it’s not humanly possible to do and beware of everything. So, the idea is that I need to be an informed and active member of the author community, but I also need to let go of searching for “the rules” and trust my instincts. No one knows my business as well as me.

And that is who I am. I’m a small business owner. I produce and sell my own product, my books. This is THE lesson for me at the moment. I have to embrace the new reality — one which has existed for ages, but which I’ve been shoving under the carpet — I am an entrepreneur.

Not simply a small business owner, but one who produces an innovative product: an entrepreneur. I need to produce books for which there is no substitute. I want people to enter a bookstore, bricks and mortar or online, and not ask for “a romance novel”, but for “Jenny Schwartz’s latest”.

If you’re an author, you’ve probably already identified this goal. But for me, hauling it out kicking and resisting into the daylight, is important.

Do I want to write great books that people love and re-read? Absolutely.

But for my next twelve months, just to re-focus my attention, my motto will be to SELL lots of books. Writing great books is a pre-requisite, but I need this explicitly capitalist goal to keep me on the straight and narrow, and not wandering off into interesting byways and social media gossiping.

I’ll be asking myself, “would an entrepreneur invest their time in _______ activity?” And if the answer is no, then what the heck am I doing?



Soul searching can become navel-gazing. Have you decided to write a book, become a best-selling author, learn to tap dance? Whatever your goal, second guessing it, and how you plan to achieve it, just wastes energy.

I’m trying to change my tendency to think-churn. I know what I’m doing, now, in terms of my writing goals. I’m (finally) writing “Djinn Justice”, the sequel to “Demon Hunter”. I don’t need to waste energy thinking of what I could be doing if I wasn’t writing it. Endless mental debates on options are exhausting.

My new strategy is yet more lists! I have a black book in which I write my broad writing goals, then break them down to weekly targets. It’s both scary and thrilling to see how ambitious my goals are. What’s more, they’re achievable if I stop thinking about them and just do them!

Motivation: the decision to just do it!

Spring House Cleaning

I’m discontinuing Flower Fortunes. It’s hayfever season AND I’m super-busy, so taking flower photos just isn’t happening.

I’ll keep the blog up to date with my writing and publishing news, and some random posts, I expect. I’m still reviewing books, although, again, this is suffering from my lack of time. Those reviews are on my BookLikes blog.

Spring cleaning is the less ominous title that I’m giving to my current audit of writing-related activities. “Promotion” has become a catch-all label under which I suspect a few unnecessary (but fun) activities have been hiding. I shall be ruthless and bin them because I really need to gain some time for the main game: writing.

Do you ever audit how you spend your time?

Vegetable Casserole

I’ve never been able to work out what to do with polenta, and so, I’ve pretty much avoided cooking with it, especially because it’s such a pain to make — stir, stir, stir. I’m an impatient cook. However, I had a few spare minutes the other afternoon, so I made up a pot of polenta, then popped the cooked polenta in the fridge for the next day.

The next day was yesterday, so I got out a jar of yummy tomato pasta sauce, heated it and popped into it a sliced carrot, celery stick, zucchini (do you call it summer squash?), mushrooms, a can of butter beans, and frozen peas. Once they were simmering I poured the mix into a buttered casserole dish and topped it with polenta. Because the polenta was cold, I sliced it and sandwiched in between with grated cheese, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. On the top I dotted butter.

About forty five minutes in a hot oven. It was delicious! Consider me a polenta convert.

Gerbera Week


A Gerbera Week isn’t actually about daring colours and bold choices. Gerberas have a hidden message.

Look closely at the photo and you’ll see the gerbera flower’s thick stem rising up from the ground. It’s strong and enables the flower to flaunt itself in the garden. However, if you pick the flower to enjoy it inside, then it soon droops, turning its face to the ground. The florists’ trick is to spiral wire around the stem to hold it up.

The takeaway message for Gerbera Week is two. One will apply to you, the other may not.

First, the toughest people can sag if carelessly handled or forced into situations beyond their control. We should be kind to ourselves and others, because we never know what lurks behind a showing of confident beauty or how fragile it may be.

Second, accepting support is vital, especially when we’re taken out of our comfort zones.

This is a good week in which to pay attention to situations in which you flourish, or where you droop.