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I want to ask a question. 

You’ve written a book. What direction should you take? Should you concentrate all your energy into querying literary agents and wait for months with bated breath in the hope one asks for a nibble? Or should you take the plunge and go it alone down the e-book road?

I am a book lover. I love holding a book in my hands, to feel the paper rough between my fingers. I love my book case. I love dust jackets….oh God, I love books full stop. Doesn’t everyone?

Up until now, I’d never considered owning a Kindle or Nook and, as an author, I couldn’t imagine my books being in any other format other than paper. I never thought the Kindle would ever take off. After all, how do you ask an author to sign a computer screen?

But, am I behind the times?

A couple of days ago I read a story in the Evening Standard newspaper which kind of got me thinking. I reiterate ‘kind of’. I’m not totally convinced, yet.

Most of you have probably already heard of Louise Voss. She was a struggling UK writer who couldn’t find an agent, took matters into her own hands, and published her novel on Amazon’s Kindle. She is now selling 50,000 books per month and has been offered a six-figure, four-book deal by publishers HarperFiction.

This also seems the case with writing duo Sarah Griffiths and Mark Williams, who write under the pen name Saffina Desforges. Their success on Kindle has led to discussions with a top New York agent.

We, as writers, already enter our stories into competitions and dedicate hours a week to social media so we can proudly boast our conquests to agents. Being able to brag at e-book sales is just another plus point, isn’t it? As author Linda Regan told me last year, “Agents have to sell you as well as the book. You have to be interesting.”

This all sounds super cool and easy, but is it? Going it alone sounds a mighty bit scary if you ask me. But, as I am the curious sort – and probably the only writer on planet earth that hasn’t looked at e-book (or indie) publishing – I had a nose around the Amazon web site.

So, let’s look at what I found.

Marketing.

If I was considering the e-book route, and let’s just use Amazon for this example as it’s the only site I looked at, I’d have to market the book myself. Okay, this I don’t find scary. It’s 2011 and I have Twitter and Facebook. Oh, and my good friend Kristen Lamb’s social media book ‘We Are Not Alone’ to guide me through – it should be a doddle. Plus, I have Kristen’s phone number and I know where she lives. She also taught me how to shoot a gun. There is nowhere she can hide :)

A big fat tick can go next to marketing.

What’s next?

Formatting.

Huh? I saw something about an rtf file and as I save all my work that way, I think I can tick that one too. Moving on swiftly.

Cost.

Books sell for as little as 96p on Amazon. How can anyone make any money from that?

Well, from what I can see, Amazon’s cut is 30%. I’ll round my book off at a £1 to make things easy, and because it’s late and I can’t be bothered to go fetch my calculator. I’ll earn 70p from each sale. Hmmm, that’s about the price of a chocolate Snicker bar these days, isn’t it?

Right, so unless I sell a hundred thousand copies, I’ll never be rich. Then again, writers don’t write for money. They write for the love of it, so that doesn’t matter.

(N.B. There is another plus point to this 96p Kindle e-book downloading, which is – I’d have saved a fortune on the rubbish Vampire Diary books).

Another tick.

Other bits worthy of a mention.

I retain the rights to my novel and, as the author, I’ll have full control of the book cover, pricing, and well, absolutely everything.

Tick, tick, tick.

I’ve tried to find some horror stories on the web regarding e-publishing on Kindle, but there really aren’t any out there.

So, that is why I am turning to my trusty followers. Have I missed something?

What do you think of e-publishing? Do you know anyone who has published on Kindle? Would you consider publishing your novel on Kindle? Have you already published on Kindle? What are your experiences? Do you know of any successes or, more importantly, have you heard any horror stories? Let me know.

You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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I’ve just been for a bike ride. Wow, you’re so jealous, aren’t you? Go on admit it. I really know how to live, don’t I?

But, what’s so exciting about this particular ride that I had to grab my laptop and blog as soon as I ran through the front door?

Well, I have a numb bum for a start. And believe me when I tell you I could write a thousand words minimum on that, and the need for a more spongy saddle alone. Don’t worry, though. I’ll spare you the image (if it’s not too late). It’s not my bum I’m writing about today.

So, what could I have possibly seen which would prompt me to write this post?

As writers, we know ideas can pop up from anywhere. We look for them in newspaper headlines, photographs, idle chatter listened in on while standing in the cinema queue. Ideas are everywhere. We just need to keep an eye (or ear) out for them.

And I found a massive one right on my own doorstep? I’m not talking about autobiographies either. I’m talking about good old fashioned fiction, with good old fashioned settings.

I live in a little village. It’s a good village, if you’re into weird crap or, er, happen to be a writer. The village is situated on the historically creepy lay-lines, has ghost sightings in nearly every house, has a disused Abbey where the last burning of a witch was supposed to have taken place, and my son was christened in a gatehouse turned cattle shed turned chapel which was once owned by Henry VIII. I mean, I have my fare share of history and story ideas.

Rivenhall Airfield

Today, though, I stumbled upon a World War Two airfield not a mile from my house.

How the hell could I have missed that! I mean, I’ve lived here for over eight years and an airfield, complete with runway, control tower and satellite dish isn’t exactly small and camouflaged with overgrown grass. And even if the grass could grow fifty feet tall, nothing could disguise hanger No.6 from view. It’s gigantic. My son shouted ‘hello’ inside, and it’ll probably still be echoing the vibrations until midnight tonight.

Hanger No.6

Needless to say, my mind went into overdrive. Little out houses buried in among overgrown trees and bushes looked like somewhere Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th would hide out. I was in imagination heaven.
If I’d were still a kid, I would have spent every hour there with my friends, building camps and living in a world where the Bogeyman and his friends were hunting us down and we had to fight for survival. Now, as an adult, I can just sit back and write about it. :)


So, where do you live? What’s on your doorstep? Have you discovered something you never knew was there? Is your home town steeped in history?

You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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Some people read the book first, others saw the movie first. I belong to the latter club.

Some people are Team Edward, some are Team Jacob. I am Team Bella’s Dad.

The phenomenon surrounding this story is almost as big as Harry Potter….almost.

So, why is this? The movie adaptation clearly helped Meyer buy herself an extra house or two. But, is the story really strong enough to warrant my mate getting herself an Edward Cullen lunch box?

I have already admitted to watching the movie first. And for the first half (and majority of the second), I wondered when the story was going to get a much needed shot of adrenaline. Where was the excitement? This was a vampire film after all. But, even after saying all this, I still sort of enjoyed it. Once I knew it wasn’t an ‘action’ type film, I watched it a second time for what it was….Basically, a bad romance.

Still, is it romantic enough to be one of the biggest hits of 2005 and then again in 2008? It’s not exactly Pride and Prejudice or Brief Encounter.

Is it that women (I wish I could say teenagers, but seeing as most my friends are lusting after these characters, I really can’t), are obsessed with the idea that loving a vampire is sexy? Or, is it just an unhealthy obsession with Taylor Lautner’s six pack and Robert Pattison’s…..er, what does he have?

So, armed with all this information, and while waiting for my flight at LAX, I took the plunge and purchased the paperback version. I’m ashamed to admit, I’d read half of it by the time I touched down at Heathrow, and finished it the following day.

Now, I am not a reader of young adult. I am 40 years old and prefer characters my own age – or a least a little closer to it. That’s not to say I don’t like young adult stories. I just sometimes think writers forget the kids are supposed to be teens, and as such let them run around like adults (not mentioning any names **cough cough** Vampire Diaries).

So, what’s this book about?

if you didn’t already know. Even my mum knows what this story is about. But, for the one person who’s been stranded inEureka for the past eight years, let me explain.

Twilight is a romance about a ‘human’ girl called Bella, who falls in love with a, more white than sparkly, vampire called Edward. And, wouldn’t you just know it? Her life becomes endangered; although it takes until the end of the film to get to this issue.

So, what kept me interested?

Honestly? I am still trying to figure that out. This story has been done a thousand times before, and much, much better. Let’s see, for one there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Angel sent hearts fluttering across the nation. Mine, though, belonged to Spike, and, umm, Giles :)

And, I don’t believe for one minute Stephanie Meyer’s inspirational story of I dreamt of two people one night and when I woke up I just had to start writing to see who they were. If there is any truth to that statement, you can paint me blue and call me Smurfette.

And……., even though I am NOT a fan of the Vampire Diary books, I do feel sorry for their author L J Smith. Twilight is a complete rip off!

And……., Stephanie is so repetitive; I kept thinking she’d started the novel again.

And……., Bella is horrid! What kind of protagonist is she? There is nothing endearing about her at all. She is the biggest wimp ever! I mean, how many times can a girl faint for crying out loud? No wonder Hollywood toughened her up a little for the movie….albeit into the nastiest bitch going. Still, anything has to be an improvement, right?

Would I read another Stephanie Meyer book?

After much deliberation, which took all of a split second, I would have to say ‘no’. After I finished the Twilight novel it was ‘yes’, as I read the whole series. However, now it is ‘no’. In fact it is ‘HELL NO!’ I’ve only read the book once and have no desire to read it again. I’d rather watch the film for a couple of hours and then get on with life again. And, I’d only watch the film again if I’d already finished polishing the coal in my fireplace.

I don’t actually think Meyer is a particularly strong writer. When I reflect on Twilight, I don’t see the characters as very strong. The Twilight franchise went on two books too long, three if you count the Edward version. There was an Edward version, wasn’t there? I didn’t dream that. Or did I? And, I’m certain that if you cut all the repetition, you’d have a novel three quarters the size.

Rant over!

Now, I know I’m going to be hung, drawn, and quartered, but I have to ask….

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Have you read any other Stephanie Meyer novels? Have you seen the movie version? Let me know.

You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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I had never heard of the author, Ken Bruen. Perhaps not the best of starts, but I honestly don’t know where to begin with reviewing this book.

I picked ‘Blitz’ from the book shelf purely because it had Jason Statham on the cover. Okay, so I’m shallow, but Statham’s rugged stance was too persuasive and I buckled in a moment of weakness. It would appear this 2002 book was picked up by Hollywood and hit our screens in June of this year. I confess I totally slept though this period, but the promo on YouTube looks pretty good.

So, what’s this book about?

Basically, a tough cop has to find and stop a psychpath from killing police officers. It’s neat and it’s simple.

Then, I turned to Chapter One. The first paragraph reads:

THE PSYCHIATRIST STARED at Brant. All round the office were signs that thanked you for not smoking.

      The psychiatrist wore a tweed jacket with patches on the sleeves. He had limp, fair hair that fell into his eyes, thus causing him to flick it back every few seconds. This doctor was convinced he had Brant’s measure.

So, nothing wrong with that. Then it continued –

    He was wrong.
    Said:
    ‘Now, Sergeant, I’d like you to tell me again about your violent urges.’

‘Huh?’ I had to back up and re-read. I’d never seen a layout like this before and it threw me. In fact, for the first thirty pages it kept throwing me. Eventually, I came around to Bruen’s way but it wasn’t without a fight.

So, what kept me interested?

The story. There are three stories going on here. Well, actually there are four if you count the killer. And each story lets its character have its own point of view. There is Brant, who I thought would be the main character given the picture on the cover and the blurb on the back. How wrong was I! It’s a bit like Tarantion’s Pulp Fiction and, fortunately, I like this format. Plus the stories drew me in.

What I didn’t like was the ending. I won’t reveal what happens, but I felt very let down.

Would I read another Ken Bruen book? I would have to say ‘yes’. The strange layout aside, I found the story engaging, fast paced and the characters very real. I just hope the next Bruen novel I choose finishes with more of a bang.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Have you read any other Ken Bruen novels? Have you seen the movie version? Let me know.

You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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When I walk into a bookstore, the first place I go is to the crime aisle. I love crime. I love the pace of it, I love the urgency of it, and I love the mystery of it.

So, as an avid crime reader, I thought I’d review ‘Behind You!’ by Linda Regan.

Behind You! was Linda’s 2006 debut novel. She has since written three more novels; her fourth book, Brotherhood of Blades, has just been released by Severn House.

So, what’s this book about?

Well, it revolves around a murder at a local theatre and D.I. Paul Banham is called in to solve it. Simple. What? You want more? No way! If I tell you anymore, I may as well tell you who done it.

I read this book with great interest. Not only was it a good story with an engaging plot but, because the author herself is an established actress, I got an insightful ‘behind the scenes’ look at what goes on in the world of acting.

I am a slow reader and, combine this with the fact that I only manage to read an hour or so a day (if I’m lucky), there are not many books I can confess to finishing in under two weeks. However, because Linda’s writing is so neat and effortless, Behind You! kept me hooked from the start and I finished it within six days. Not a record for me, but well below my average reading time.

So, what kept me interested?

Well , for one, it’s a good little story. It’s completely set inside a theatre and I found the further in I read, the more I began to know my own way around the back stage corridors and dressing rooms. Secondly, I loved the characters. D.I. Banham is a great protagonist with lots of baggage. And, fellow officer, Alison Grainger makes for the perfect love interest.

This book is sharp, sassy and humorous. A very good read from a very talented writer.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Would you like to read it?

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There is no way to sugar coat this so I’ll give it to you straight. I like to talk. Anyone who knows me will agree. Sometimes, I just don’t shut up.

But, to us novelists and scriptwriters, dialogue is an extremely important factor of our work. Dialogue is good. Dialogue is a major player in forming our personality and creating our character. Just ask my husband. He will tell you that my dialogue sums me up as a nag :)

So, writing dialogue should be a walk in the park, right? After all, we all talk on a daily basis, some of us even in our sleep. We are knowledgeable experts in the field of speech. We’ve been using words to argue and laugh our way through life for twenty, thirty (or us old ones) forty plus years. We know what we’re doing. We don’t need help in this area. Right?

Wrong.

Elmore Leonard and Quentin Tarrantino are arguably two of the best dialogue writers around. If you’ve read any of Leonard’s novel’s (and I do advise you to, if only for the dialogue), or watched any of Tarrantino’s movies, you will understand what I mean. They give their characters a ‘voice’.

By a voice, I mean your characters need their OWN voice. New writers often make the mistake of giving their characters THEIR voice, meaning all their characters sound the same as their author.

But how do I know when you’ve done this? What are the tell tale signs?

In his book ‘Save the Cat’, Blake Snyder talks about a simple test you can do to check whether you have bad and flat dialogue. Take a page of your script and cover your character names. Then, by reading the dialogue, see if you can tell which of you characters are speaking. It’s simple, but extremely effective.

So, just how do we go about distinguishing Bob the Postman from Betty the Accountant? Doesn’t all the dialogue look same, and it’s the movie actors who breathe life into them?

Hell, no! Novelists don’t have the luxury of actors. The dialogue we give our characters to speak can be the difference between novelists and screenwriters getting published or ending up on the slush pile.

Take these examples:

“If Mr Johnson catches you with that, you’re certain to be suspended, maybe even expelled.”

“Yo, dude. If Jonno sees ya, you’ll be outta here. No messing.”

See how both lines are saying the same thing, only in different ways?

Dialogue is conversation. Make it real. However, don’t forget the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule. You don’t need three pages of a husband and wife discussing their marriage problems, when a husband eyeing up the sexy waitress is enough.

Now, I thought I’d have some fun and set you a little quiz. Below, I have listed fifteen lines of dialogue from various films. All you have to do is guess the movie and the character saying it. It’s so easy, I don’t really know why I’m bothering :)

I’ll post the answers in the comment box on Monday.

OH, and no cheating on Google.

  1. “You can’t handle the truth!”
  2. “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
  3. “You had me at ‘hello’.”
  4. “What do they think I am? Dumb or something? Why, I make more money than – than, than Calvin Coolidge! Put together!”
  5. “I know what you’re thinkin’. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?”
  6. “They’re not gonna catch us. We’re on a mission from God.”
  7. “Get away from her, you BITCH!”
  8. “Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
  9. “I am not an animal! I am a human being.”
  10. “…I’m NOT gonna be ignored.”
  11. “Wendy…darling. Light of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya… I’m just gonna bash your brains in. I’m gonna bash ‘em right the f–k in.”
  12. “The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms – greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind.”
  13. “They’re here!”
  14. “Fellas, last year I made three million dollars. But your fifty thousand was the most fun. Are you ready? Then, let’s go get ‘em.”
  15. “I was a better man with you, as a woman, than I ever was with a woman, as a man. Know what I mean? I just gotta learn to do it without the dress.”

You can find me on Facebook or twitter

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Like most of you, I like to read. Unfortunately, and probably unlike most of you, I am a very slow reader. With this in mind, I thought reviewing books would fit nicely into my two blog’s a month schedule :D

My debut book has to be Kristen Lamb’s ‘We Are Not Alone’: The Writers Guide to Social Media. Why this book? Well, for one, I know Kristen and if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be blogging now. As for the other reasons? Take your pick. Kristen is fast becoming the Queen of Social Media. She has been an invaluable mentor to me, and heck, she’s just an awesome gal. And if that isn’t reason enough, ‘We Are Not Alone’ is a best seller.

A year ago, if anyone other than Kristen had told me to read a social media book, I would have told them to get on their bike and keep pedalling until they reached the Sahara Dessert. I was a Facebooker. I Facebooked with friends. What did I need social media for? I’d tried Twitter and, although I’d met a few great tweeps, I didn’t really ‘get’ it. Then I read Kristen’s book and it transformed the way I look a social media.

So, what is this book about?

Well, for starters, it will teach you the importance of branding yourself. I’m not talking about taking a branding iron and burning your initials into your butt. I’m talking about the ‘YOU’ brand. Your name, as a writer, is your greatest weapon. I didn’t understand that at first. I can’t even remember what my first twitter name was. Something stupid for sure, unlike the DonnaNewtonUK I have now.

Secondly, Kristen goes on to explain what Social Media is, and how we can use it to our advantage. Take Twitter and Facebook. I have transformed both of these so they are working for me now. I still have my personal Facebook page. But now, I also have a writer’s page (www.facebook.com/donnanewtonuk). Who would have thought a year ago I would have built platforms?

And, further still, you will become a blogger like me. I know, how clever do I feel. :D

Kristen will walk you, step by step, through the WordPress set up. She’ll show you the importance of Bio’s, what a # (hashtag) is, the advantages and disadvantages of having a pen name. Everything you never thought you’d ever need to know is in this book.

Kristen injects such a style and sense of humour that you’ll read it totally unaware you are actually learning something. What’s more important, you can read it without the aid of a dictionary.

Kristen also has a fantastic blog in which she further strives to help people like me understand the world of social medial.

My advice? Whether you are published or unpublished, you should definitely read this book.

Have you read this book? Let me know what you thought of it? Did it, like me, help you tackle the world of social media?

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