Tuesday 31 December 2013

Happy New Year to you all :)

Over 2013, it's been very interesting developing this blog and interacting with some of you!

So, I'm just dropping you a quick note to wish you a very happy and healthy New Year. I often say we are nothing without great health...money, other people, jobs, mean a lot less when you are unwell.

So do your best to have a fit and healthy new year, as well and a happy and prosperous one!

Thank you to all of you who have interacted with me...either through comments, messages, friend adds, blog comments, ratings, reviews and so on.

I hope you continue to enjoy reading many different new books in 2014, maybe revisit some old ones, and just enjoy the rather unequalled pleasure of enjoying the world writers create.

Happy New Year !!

Monday 23 December 2013

Currently Reading: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen


One of my several 'current reads' is this delightful story by Sarah Addison Allen, an author I'm hearing great things about on Good Reads. I feel a bit of a fraud because I am only three chapters in, but as it is a relatively short book I think it is okay to talk a little about it now.

The story, from what I am reading so far, focusses on the lives of a few 30-somethings living in Nice Town USA. This doesn't mean it is all cherries and apple pie (or indeed, peaches) but I think I was drawn to this (weirdly) by recalling a television drama in the late 1990s called Savannah, about the lives of three young women growing up in Savannah, Georgia. I was so taken by the show (plus Thelma and Louise which came out in 1991) that I resolved that the first proper holiday I would have would be in the southern United States.

I went in 1999 for this dream holiday, but admit I had been in the USA only two years earlier. I lived in Manhattan for ten months, working in a bar / restaurant / club / eaterie! That wasn't a holiday, but was a great experience. 

But I had a great fondness for the simple town setting of programmes like Little House on the Prairie...shows like that made me appreciate even more today, how innocent things seemed to me back then.

Anyway, the book. I'm liking it so far even though I'm not for sure where it is going. It seems to be a case of 'what are these thirty-somethings going to do in order to hang onto their youth, yet still be viewed as grown-ups'?

Going on my own thirties, I think I approached the big 3-Oh with fear. I didn't want to be thirty at all. You hear words like 'all grown-up', 'mature', 'ready to settle down'. Oh dear. Is life that short? Do we give into domesticity too soon? Perhaps we do. But our protoganists Willa and Paxton don't seem to be doing that.

Paxton seems a great character by the way. Right now, she doesn't seem like the main one. Do you ever read a book and think, 'well I know s / he is supposed to be the main one...but I prefer this character instead..'

I'm told that Sarah Addison Allen sprinkles magic into her stories. I love stories that do that. The first book I ever read, Rebecca's World, was sprinkled with magic from the start. I think we need stories that fire our imagination, and remove us from the real world, just a little bit, for a little while.

Whilst reading The Peach Keeper, I can feel able to do just that.

Again, I think I succumbed to a bit of cover adoration here, but it's one of the best looking book covers I have seen. Full review to come.

Happy reading and writing!

Sunday 22 December 2013

Torrents of Abuse - How Should Writers Feel About their Books appearing on Torrent sites?

In 2011, I became aware of a site called www.scribd.com which basically allows users to upload books, so that other users can download them, in part, or in full.

Now, whilst most of us dream about making untold millions from our writing, it is more that we write because we simply want to, and getting our work out there in the market has to be a good thing, right?

I was not happy about this website though. I had written the non-fiction book over a two year period. I had been made redundant in the same year I started penning the book. The book was intended to help my students but also to the wider audience who were genuinely interested in my book.

Yes...it was being sold at a cost. Yes, we have had a world-wide recession, and yes, it happens to other authors too. My first reaction (anger!), apart from '&*@#~~#@!!!!!' was confusion - 'who the hell would upload my book to a website?' along with a revolutionary standpoint - 'I want this site taken down, stat!'

I had to settle for reporting the book as 'stolen' to scribd.com and they did take it down.

I considered pulling the book from being sold as an e-book and just running the printed hardback and paperback copies. However, the trend is clearly towards e-books and I cannot discount that market, and I suppose, as writers, we should embrace any format that gets our work out there.

However, I discovered that things are much worse, two years on, in the closing days of 2013!

My newest title is now on two torrent sites. I am not listing the title here due to ease of finding things (you never really know how things are located on-line) but merely discussing why this is happening.

The torrent sites in question - well it is not easy to ask to have the files withdrawn, because you have to set up an account to contact them, and I don't wish to do that.

Unfortunately, I have heard that even if you use watermarking software, your books can still be scanned and uploaded onto such sites.

I checked on Google to find out if the url was safe to go to. Often such sites run viruses in the background and anyway, they have content which I find greatly distasteful. I'm not a prude, but really...I don't want my books listed on a site that promotes all sorts of unsavoury things.

Where does this leave me?

For my next release...I'm considering doing the print version first, and e-book later. I have no idea if this is a good idea, but it is all trial and error at the moment. I am sceptical about offering my book for review for fear again of it ending up in the wrong hands, or on dodgy sites.

I don't believe people should 'steal' things, it is something I get very angry about. I will always buy a DVD (have not used Netflix or LoveFilm to watch movies yet) and don't believe 'streaming' films on these torrent sites can ever be a good thing.

I am just surprised that a fledgling writer like myself would be targeted in this way. I know I am not alone, and if I see books by writers on scribd.com or other sites, I would let the authors know if they can be found on GoodReads.

My kindle book prices are hardly extortionate and I would think when I do freebies, giveaways and countdown deals that the need to steal somebody else's work would not happen. I see established, very rich authors have their kindle books listed for 60 or 70% of the cost of the paper book. Guess which I choose!

Well, what to do? I'm not down about it. I am just going to work on my next release. Annoyed, but not down. I will choose to let it go.

But if there are ways to get these sort of sites / torrent sites taken down, I think we should do all we can to achieve that. Now that is one revolution I would sign up for!

Wednesday 18 December 2013

What's happening?! My Writing Progress and Release Schedule

I thought I would give you an update on where I am currently with my writing. With Christmas coming I have been less busy with my work, but that doesn't mean I have been less busy! There's been Christmas visits to friends and family that will continue over the holiday period.

Writing can be more difficult than ever to schedule in over the Christmas period. But I'll admit I am hacking away at my writing, and it is going well.

So, what's happening?

December 2013: The Essence of Martial Arts: Special Edition (Non-Fiction)

The original EOMA did okay....4,683 copies sold to date. Not bad for a niche book! But I knew I could write one a LOT better. So the Special Edition is not so much a re-hash but an entirely new version that I think will satisfy martial arts fans. A few interesting reviews on Barnes and Noble, no less :)

January 2014: Dark Winter #1 (Fiction)

Well, I am prepping Dark Winter for a printed release in January. I am still checking the proof at the moment which looks great but still needs a tidy here and there.

It's already had some reviews on Amazon UK and .com as well as a few ratings on GoodReads so I am happy with the differing ratings and reviews so far. I can't stress enough how much authors value reviews, so please leave me one if you get around to reading the book. I know many of you are Kindle or other e-reader users, but some like a print version too, so make your choice...personally I would go for the print edition :)

April 2014: *t**m**** (Fiction)

I know! "*t**m****" is such a catchy title, but before you start blogging it everywhere, tweeting it and wearing the tee shirt, I must tell you what I know all you very intelligent people know already  - that it is not the full title or some attempt by me to be *funny / clever / intellectual. 

In fact, there are only two people on Earth who know the title right now, and what can I tell you about it....
well, not much, except to say that I am in the 'polishing' phase of the book and debating cover ideas with Claudia @ http://phatpuppyart.com/ who did the amazing cover art for Dark Winter and I can't wait to work with her again on this and future projects!

The book is much lighter in tone than Dark Winter, but no less thrilling (I hope) and yet is much more epic in scope. I originally penned four huge story arcs for this, so expect an announcement - title, cover, synopsis, and so on, soon. Going to be pretty magical though....that's all I'm saying.

October (Halloween) 2014: Dark Winter #2 (Fiction)

It won't be a sequel, it's a definite follow-up, continuation, whatever you would like to call it. I have a three story arc for this,  so if you liked Book One, you may love Book Two. I have been working very hard to get the words in my head onto screen. But it takes time, even typing at my sluggish pace (oh, right - THAT'S why...!)

So that's me, for now. What are your projects, and how are you progressing with them?

Remember that they will only happen if you give it your all. Not your friends, not your family - YOU. I'm wishing for you that you will get your work out there. People need new stories, new things to enjoy. As writers, we have the potential to fill that need. So let's go and do it :)

Happy reading, writing, enjoying life :)


Sunday 15 December 2013

Book Review: The Lady Always Wins by Courtney Milan


I think this is number three on my December Reading Challenge, and after a slow-ish start, it soon picks up a pace. 

This is my first Courtney Milan read and unlikely to be my last. I hear a lot of great things about this author, and she clearly knows how to entertain her readers with great characters, and heroines you can and will root for. 

Does the title give the plot away? Not really. Nothing is for certain, except to say that you get really engrossed and I found myself sweeping through this novella really quickly. 

Our heroine is naturally likeable, but I found the typical alpha male missing here - and that's a good thing, because it made our hero feel more vulnerable, more likely to have faults than other male characters that usually get drawn a certain way in this genre.

So what's the pull? Well, I like the fact that these two knew each other before, and yet, as the story grabs you, you wonder how the different paths - and predictably, their futures seem so different apart, but together, might not be a good thing after all.

So if the Lady Always Wins, is ending up with the hero, if she does at all - a good thing? You will have to try it to find out. I bought this on sale on Kindle and was not disappointed.

Four strong stars out of five. I expect Courtney's full length novels might yet sway a five out of me.

Book Review #11: Letters From A Murderer by John Matthews


I watch a lot of crime programmes. On Saturdays here in the UK, there are a batch of them on television, FBI Files, Solved, Murder Shift, Couples Who Kill, Born to Kill and so on.

Being a peaceful person, I don't have a healthy interest in killers in themselves, but I am interested in why they do what they do, and the detectives who resolve to capture them.

This book, like Chene's review said, required me to shift focus as I haven't read a book like this in a while. It was gory on a level of the horror 'Screamscapes' which I am also reading, and enjoying.

The book has gripping characters which has already been commented on. As a thriller, it works brilliantly and shows the powers of recommendations from friends of books. You can decide if it is for you or not, but the style (literally 'letters' which explain much of the plot) is engaging, different, and enjoyable.

It was a hard read at times, simply because of the gore factor. Things were happening so brutally and explosively I had to take a break sometimes to take it all in.

But any story about a 'Ripper' style killer has to be gory. It kind of reminded me - loosely - of the film 'From Hell' starring a marvellous Bilbo-free Ian Holm.

Thoroughly recommended. It's also possible if I had my 'horror' hat on, I would give it five stars instead of a strong four out of five. I just didn't adjust to the gore too well. If you can get past that, and it is worth the effort, you will love this book.

Friday 6 December 2013

Good Reads Give Away: The Essence of Martial Arts

Enter the giveaway when it is approved!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Essence of Martial Arts by John    Hennessy

The Essence of Martial Arts

by John Hennessy

Giveaway ends December 09, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Thursday 5 December 2013

Writing Goals and How I Do It

What is the most difficult thing for you as a writer? Is it formulating ideas that flesh out a coherent plot? Maybe it is characters...after all everyone wants to read engaging characters they can love, hate, root for...maybe all three.

Is it knowing 'will this be all done and dusted in one book, or do I do a series'?

Certainly, that last point seems to be 'hot' these days, but we should not do a trilogy for trilogy's sake.

Is the most difficult thing, actually getting that first draft done? I would suggest that it is.

For me, with fiction, I went all out for a full length novel.

I created a first draft within seven months of the start. I re-drafted the first three chapters several times, and sent them to many agents. I re-drafted that first draft a further six times, totalling seven drafts in all.

I was born at 7am on the 7th July, 1973. So I take seven as a lucky number, but if the book needed an eighth draft, be sure I would have done it.

The completion of the first draft is hard won. You feel victorious, even though you know that the first draft is in no way good enough for the wider world.

But I need to tell you how I reached this goal in the first place. What writing goals did I set myself, and how did I achieve them?

Well. The starting point was....to start! Nothing revolutionary in itself, but I had the basic idea for the story down. I had a start, a middle, an end. I knew what the characters would do in the story, what their motivations were, and the world in which they operated.

However, over the course of 90,000 words, a lot happens. It needs to, in order to hold the reader's attention.

The story was a paranormal horror / fantasy, so atmosphere was key, and so a fast start wasn't necessary. But I built it in nonetheless.

I wrote the story in first person. I wanted people to feel what that character felt, when she felt it.

This doesn't work for everyone, or every book. It's a hard decision. But for this story, it was the right one.

Working for myself, I need discipline. But I would be lying if I said I got onto the computer at 7am each day and wrote for ten hours. It doesn't work like that for me.

I simply wrote when I could. Sometimes, the noise from neighbours with their constant house improvement projects threatened to derail the whole project.

Through all the annoyance, I stayed true to one thing - that this book simply had to happen.

I had a Word document in which I kept chapter notes, character details, and crucially for goal busting, a list of how many words I had written, on what date, how many achieved, and so on.

I also had an Excel document called book projects. For this story, I set the target at 80,000 words, and had all the cells formulated to show how many I had left to type. Imagine how I felt to blow the 80,000 word min away!

So you have to start, so you can begin hacking it down. Sometimes, I did a few hundred words. On other days, several thousand. When you get your groove, you can fly and you don't want to do anything else.

This can cause issues with your family life, but make it clear that you love them, want to be with them - and you will - but that this is important to you. Only another writer, indeed another reader, will know what you mean.

In short, I would:-

  • Decide what length your book is (novella or  full length)
  • Clearly map out the start, middle and end
  • Have detailed notes on each character - ask yourself what YOU would want to know about them as a reader
  • Give each character a voice (have you read books where all the characters sound alike? Make each one stand out!)
  • Build the world the characters live in, and don't skimp on the small details
  • Not force a trilogy if there is not enough story. If one book will do, make it so
  • Set a deadline for the finish of the first draft
  • Re-draft the story for at least the amount of time the first draft took you to write
  • Send out feelers to agents
  • Seek editorial advice - professional
  • Seek (but do not take to heart) - advice from friends and family
  • Always believe in yourself. You can and you will do this. For you. Not for glory! Just for you.
  • Enjoy the experience. Writing should be fun, regardless of the story content. Make it fun for you.

Happy writing!