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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 😀

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. 😀

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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A log line is one short, sweet, grab you by the seat of your pants, sentence that explains your whole story. Simple 😀

“What?” I hear you gasp. “I can’t do that! It’s taken me over 70 thousand words to tell my story.”

Well, suck it up. You now have to tell it in less than 30. :p

“But why?”

Oh, stop whining :p  One very good reason is this: Agents and editors are extremely busy people. If you’re lucky enough to get ten seconds of their time to ‘pitch’ your idea, trust me when I say you’ll wish you had a log line. The last thing agents want to hear are ‘..and then this happened’ or ‘..oh, I forgot to tell you about so-in-so at the beginning’. You need to hook them and quick. A good log line will do that.

Don’t’ worry, though. Like every professional, and I’m going to use a chef as an example because I’m very hungry and cannot stop thinking about food – crumpets topped with cheese and tomato to be precise… DONNA! Back away from the crumpets! *cough, cough* where was I? Ah yes, log lines….your finished product will only be as good as the ingredients you use.

Here is what you’ll need (courtesy of author and social media expert, Kristen Lamb).

1 drop of protagonist
1 cup full of antagonist
1 spoonful of active goal

Mix well and leave to settle.

See, simple.

But, beware. If you fail to use the ingredients as instructed, your log line just won’t rise to the occasion. Oh, alright, I’ll tell you my first log line. No laughing.

An American socialite witnesses a murder and goes on the run from the MOB and FBI, but an attempt on her life leaves her with selected memory loss and it is up to a London police officer to uncover her past before they’re both assassinated.

And breathe. No choking. Excellent, lungs refilled? Then let’s continue.

There are so many things wrong with this log line, it would be easier to tell you what’s right with it….absolutely nothing. It’s too long, has too way too much back story, and blah, blah, blah.

So what went wrong? I followed the recipe. Well, yes that’s true, but then I just plonked everything on the plate and hoped no one would notice. Let me explain – Writing the words is only part of the processes. The order in which we place them is a whole different ball game.

The format for a log line should be something close to this:

An ADJECTIVE NOUN (protagonist) must ACTIVE VERB the ANTAGONIST before  SOME REALLY HORRIBLE THING HAPPENS (stopping the protagonist from reaching her goal).

Now, if I’d presented my log line correctly the finished product may have looked something like this instead:

‘A quiet museum curator suffering from amnesia must uncover her secret past to unlock the real reason the mob has put out a contract for her life.

Ok, I’ve embarrassed myself enough (something I seem to do a lot on this site), and now it is your turn. Be brave and mirror in the comment box your first/final log lines. Alternatively, if you have a log line you need help with, add that too. Everyone will be kind, I promise 😀

Now, I’m off to make some crumpets….

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Does our success as writers have more to do with luck than talent? Or do you think talent prevails over luck every time?

Well, speaking on behalf of my own experiences, I know it has a little to do with both; talent cannot function without luck and vice versa.

Recently, I co-wrote a Supernatural TV pilot, called ‘The Legend’. I had never written a script before, knew nothing about layout and formatting, but dug in, worked hard, and voila, a pilot was born.

At the end of February, my co-writer friend and I were attending the DFW Writer’s Conference in Texas. Now, I class myself as a thrill seeker, but my co-writer went a step further and thought it would be an excellent opportunity to stop by L.A. and ‘pitch’ the TV idea to some Hollywood bodies. Laughingly, and if not just to humour her, I agreed.

We queried everyone we could think of and arranged some meetings. One meeting in particular surprised me. It was with an entertainment lawyer. I asked my friend why she had contacted an entertainment lawyer, to which she simply replied, “why not?”

That entertainment lawyer read our script and loved it. At around the same time a manager contacted this lawyer, and at the end of their telephone conversation asked if he knew of any ‘new’ writers. He looked at our script and emailed it over to her. She read it, loved it, and promptly contacted us.

Two new script-writers left her office a week later with several projects and ideas to write; she wanted to see anything and everything we wrote.

In essence – we had a manager.

All that came from querying a lawyer. Now I’m not telling you email every lawyer you can think of; we also met with an actor and a producer – both of which have attached to the project. But with each person we met, we were recommended to someone else, and each contact is now a person we have met with personally and can email ideas and projects without the need of a query letter. Hence we have a VIP backdoor where only solicited work is allowed to enter.

So yes, I believe your career is made with a mixture of luck and talent:

Luck – Maybe we didn’t go about querying in the correct manner, but we did it politely and professionally…..and we got the face to face meetings we wanted.

Luck – We happened to be liked, and first impressions seem to be everything in this business.

Talent – That all important synopsis were our hook, and led our readers into wanting the script.

Talent – The script is why wanted people to meet us.

Without these key ingredients, I would not be sitting here now, blogging about my experiences. I walked away from L.A. a very busy girl, but having my writing described as very well written and with strong voice was a boost to an area of writing I am very new at, and being praised as audacious was fun – I mean, me, audacious? Honestly 😀

So, tell me if a mixture of luck and talent has led to any of your successes.

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So you’ve written your book. You’ve gone through a million and one edits and now it’s finished. What do you do next?

Answer: Jump up and down with relief? Phone everyone I know and brag that I’m now a writer? Ah, I know. I find an agent or publisher, of course.

Question. What another one? Okay, what is it? ………..How do I find the right agent or publisher?

I was recently asked this very question and, if I am honest, it shocked me. I just assumed people, especially writers, would know. I mean the information is absolutely everywhere.

It’s like when you watch a quiz show on television. You assume that, because you know the answer to some questions, everyone will, too. They are the easy questions, right? Well it was the same with this question.

I had to sit and think back to the days when I first wanted to submit to a publisher. I was very young and stupid, and all the memories of bad mistakes came flooding back. No wonder I’d blocked them from my mind, along with the images of that awful, back-combed hair do I insisted on during the ’80’s. So, today’s post is going back to basics – just for you new writers out there.

Okay, your book is written, the grammar has been checked, and you’re so happy with the rewrites and edits, you fill like bursting with excitement. What do you do, now? That’s easy, I hear you say. I send it to lots and lots of people who…… Whoa, hang on there, Speedy Gonzales. It’s a little more involved than that.

Mills and Boon have reportedly claimed that, from the massive tens of thousands submissions they receive each year, if they find 10 or 12 new authors, they have had a bumper year.

The days of writing a great novel just isn’t enough to cut it these days. As with everything, the more choice available, the more picky people get – and in our case, it’s publishers and agents.

Would you believe me if I told you there is a high probability your novel will never be read? No? Most publishers and agents have what’s called a ‘slush’ pile, and your novel, yes, the one you’ve slaved over day and night for the past year, can end up sitting on it, like a cherry on top of an ice-cream sundae. Well it can, and most probably will if you don’t adhere to the following rules:

Rule One: Get yourself a copy of the ‘Writers and Artists Yearbook’, and make sure it is an up to date copy. They are printed every year, and also have a website so there is no excuse to use information that is three years old.

Rule Two: The all important research. I cannot stress enough that, just because you’ve typed ‘THE END’ on your novel, it is the end of you research too. Research never ends. It must be reapplied to the next job in hand – in this case, finding the correct agent/publisher. Sending to every contact listed in the W&AY (Writers & Artists Yearbook) is nothing more than a waste of time and money. This book tells you who is best to contact and lists everything you will need to start: The agents/publishers contact details, their required genres, submission details, etc. Everything is in this book.

Rule Three: Over to the internet. Just because the W&AY lists the details, doesn’t mean they are completely up to date. An agent or editor may have left or be closed to submissions. It happens. Think how many times you have changed your email address. Can you honestly say, with hand on heart, you’ve remembered to update every social network site you joined in the past year? So, log on to the contacts company website. Check the editor is still the editor. Check their email address remains the same, check they are still accepting submissions. Check, check, check. These are the things that make sure your novel will reach the right person.

Rule Four: Presentation. Most manuscripts are required in a certain format: Typed, double-spaced, 12pt Times New Roman, inch wide margins and un-justified. Please stick to this. Don’t use fonts so fancy they are hard to read, or make your writing so small the agent will need a magnify glass, otherwise the only thing seeing it will be the ‘slush pile’.

Rule Five: Following the Rules. Just because agent Joanne wants the first three chapters of your book submitted, doesn’t mean agent Tim will too. Tim may just want a synopsis first, and agent Barry may be so busy, he only has time to scan a query letter. It is imperative you only send what the agent/publisher requires. Anything more or less and you will end up on that mountain of slush, and we do not want to end up there, do we?

Rule Six: The small print. The small print is a bunch of extra submission rules. Some are, hopefully, obvious and the main one that springs to mind is not to staple work – always bind it with an elastic band. But some are not so obvious. I read in one set of submission rules that sending your work in the wrong envelope will mean instant ‘slush’ pile. It’s true. The company’s post room were under strict orders not to deliver those fibre padded envelopes to one agent, as she hated the mess it made to her clothes when opening them. Bubble wrap padded envelopes, however, were acceptable. Fair enough. I don’t like opening one of those fibre envelopes either, let alone opening 25+.

Rule Seven:­ Respect. This is so important. The person you are sending your beloved story to is a professional. They are busy, under pressure and can be the gatekeeper to your new career. For God’s sake, respect them. Do not bombard them with gimmicks, such a fancy coloured envelopes, glitter, perfumed pages, photos of yourself or your pets, cakes or sweets….oh I could go on and on and on. Remember, you are trying to sell your story, not your soul. All they want is an easy opening envelope, to remove clean pages and read.

Rule Eight: Last but not least, pestering. If an agent says it will take 3-4 months to reply, don’t start contacting them after two. If you require confirmation of receipt, add a self addressed envelope with the correct return postage. If, after the four months is up, you have not heard back, then it is acceptable to follow up with a polite enquiry as to the status of your work. But, beware. Bother them too much and the slush pile will just get that little bit taller.

I hope this helps, and I would love to hear any mistakes you’ve made in the past, no matter how bad (come on, spill the beans :D), and if there is any advice you can add, please do.

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