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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Two humble pieces of advice for aspiring authors.

Advice from a Rebel-Maker
Debra Chapoton

I have two humble bits of advice for aspiring authors. First, give your characters free rein. Let them change the story on you. Life is an adventure; we don’t know what tomorrow will bring and a novel should be just as surprising for the author as for the reader.

I started EDGE OF ESCAPE with a particular ending in mind. In fact, I wrote the penultimate scenes immediately after writing the beginning scenes. Rebecca, the victim, would be rescued, I thought. I wrote a scene of her recovering in the hospital with a young male character standing vigil. I didn’t name him so I could keep the reader guessing. Kidnapper , boyfriend, brother? I thought I knew who it was when I wrote the scene, but it turned out that I was wrong. I can control the circumstances and events as they unfold, but by giving the characters free will, I give the book its own world.

I don’t write a lengthy outline like some authors, but I do have a plan, just like in life. But, just like in life, things don’t go the way I plan; there are twists, turns, surprises and problems. I guess you could say that my characters rebel against me, their creator, just like we humans have been rebelling against our Creator since Adam and Eve.

When I first started writing many years ago I got into the habit of following a writing routine. First I like to proofread the previous day’s pages then go for a walk. With the last scenes fresh in my mind I create new action, dialogue and dilemmas as I get my exercise. Forty-five minutes later I sit back down to type. The characters obediently follow my plot ideas for a few paragraphs and then . . . bam! They rebel. I don’t mind because what they decide to say and do keeps me interested and entertained.

My second piece of advice is to love your characters, even the evil ones. Care for them. Give them hopes, dreams, habits, idiosyncrasies, goals, fears and flaws. Make sure your protagonist has some defect and your antagonist has some merit; nobody is all good or all bad.

Everybody has a book inside. If a colleague hadn’t challenged me with that statement I never would have written my first book, let alone several. You have a book inside – go write it!
Debra Chapoton

EDGE OF ESCAPE reveals the fractured heart of Eddie, an emotionally impaired 18-year-old who has spent most of his school years in special education classes. Placed there by an over protective mother who also blames her son for his unintentional part in his father's death, Eddie is kept separated from normal student interactions.

Eddie's guilt and his place among the unaccepted serve to keep him invisible to the rest of the students, especially the popular ones. His uncontainable obsession for the popular Rebecca compels him to devise a plan to pull her into his world and win her over.

What should have been appropriate advances become, for Rebecca, the terror of stalking and abduction. She wakes up trapped, she escapes, and then she makes a wrong choice and is trapped again. Throughout her ordeal as she escapes again and again, there are flashbacks into both Rebecca's and Eddie's lives and how those lives have been intersecting all through their school years. If she falls for the fragile spirit who stalks her, does love erase evil intent? If she fails to see the innocent infatuation for what it is, will she be responsible for the inevitable tragedy that foreshadows their tangled fate? 

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Read the journey of Forgotten April; of how author Robyn Bradley took a simple idea and joined the NaNoWriMo challenge in writing a novel in a month.

For April Sullivan-LaMonica, the last ten years have been hell: her husband and young son were killed in a car accident, and soon after, her mom descended into the darkness of Alzheimer’s. So when broadcast journalist Maggie Prescott shows up claiming to be April’s halfsister and tries to capture their reunion on film, April outwardly regards Maggie with much suspicion. In reality, she’s simply afraid to grow close to someone again, only to have that person leave — or worse.
Maggie, meanwhile, is battling her own demons: figuring out why her biological mother gave her up, facing a secret she’s kept from the one man she’s loved all her life, and giving herself permission to follow the dream she’s had since she was a child.
Separated by nearly two decades and radically different life paths, April and Maggie must decide if pursuing their sisterhood is worth it…or even possible.
A story of loss, love, survival, and redemption, Forgotten April will speak to anyone who’s experienced the pains — and riches — of an unexpected friendship that emerges from family ties.

Read the journey of Forgotten April; of how author Robyn Bradley took a simple idea  and joined the NaNoWriMo challenge in writing a novel in a month.

Well, a few years later...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Thanks to Jacqueline Howett...

for interviewing me on her blog. Crikey, I shall be having "luncheon" next instead of spam sarnies and swapping cider for Champagne!

Yeah, right!

Q. Where do you come from? I come from Northampton in England, the same place where the late Princess Diana lived.

Q. What made you write this book? I love reading chick lit. Funny things naturally happen in life, and I wanted to enforce that. Life is funny, and I enjoy writing about people rather than the actual romance.
Q. Which authors have had a significant influence on your writing? Melissa NathanShe was the first chick lit author I read and I absolutely fell in love with the style. I have read all of her books, sadly she died in 2006 with cancer (she was only 36!!). Through her writing she has shown me that life is funny and delightful as well as scary and heart-breaking.
Please click here to read the rest of the interview, and while there why not have a look at the rest of Jacqueline Howett's amazing blog - so much to see and read!

Monday, 18 July 2011

It's always nice when you get a good review...

... slight understatement! I was overwhelmed!

A Proper Charlie
Review by Rea Book Review

Rea Book Review of A Proper Charlie:

This is another one of those books where I read the synopsis and think is this really going to be a piece of me? I will always give a book which is submitted to me to review a chance but if by the end of the first chapter it really doesn’t interest me I do not carry on. I am glad this is not what happened with this novel. The story gets off to a comfortable start introducing us to our main character Charlie who seems to lack confidence in herself and her life just seems to be heading in the wrong direction. I instantly take a liking to Charlie from the moment we met her.

At the beginning of the book we have to different storylines running alongside each other which eventually merge together. We have the insight into our main character Charlie and her troubles on one hand and then on the other hand we meet Ben Middleton who has just lost his mother but that is where his problems only just begin. I feel the structure of this book worked well by bringing to separate stories together as it gave us, the reader, a chance to see the insight of both Charlie and Ben’s lives.

I loved Ben, we warm to him just as quickly as we do Charlie and I would say he is one of my favourite male characters I have ever read. If you like the character Luke Brandon in the Shopaholic series you will love Ben.

For the rest of the review please head over to Rea Book Reviews

Sunday, 10 July 2011

So You Want to Self-Publish?

Guest Post by 

Tamara Rose Blodgett

Hi, my name's Tamara and I decided to publish my d√©but novel, Death Whispers on March 31. I did the query-merry-go-round, but not extensively. When an agent finally liked my sample well enough to ask for the full manuscript after revisions...I went ahead and revised it. On the teetering chasm of re-submitting it, my husband read an article about the incredible Indie success of Amanda Hocking. Her success was so inspiring to me that I changed direction entirely and took the metaphoric leap into the “middle of the lake”, to see if I could swim.

As it turns out, I could...and so can you!

There is nothing I would like more than to save other Indie authors whatever time I can by offering a few suggestions that were helpful to me.

Formatting(!): Wow, in a word: Learning curve! ( I know, I know...that's more than one word!) Ha!

This was the single, greatest challenge for self-pubbing that I faced. Now that I've done it, I would offer just a few steps to get other authors in the right direction. First, the following link provided me with the skills I needed to bring my manuscript to print via CreateSpace, then ultimately e-format with Kindle/NOOK and Smashwords: http://tinyurl.com/3z3lcej

The above link will direct you to part one, of a two-part tutorial created by the WONDERFUL, Bryce Beattie (http://www.storyhack.com/), who shared his knowledge of formatting in an easy-to-learn method. Don't worry about this being a print tutorial. With very little “tweaking,” you can have format for both types; print and e-format. Another super-important point, and just “trust” me on this: download openoffice.org for FREE and use that for your manuscript. It transfers cleaner “code” than word (and I heard that from another author; it's true). In lay terms, your book won't look “whacked” in different formats.  Secondly, when you go to finally publish to Amazon.com (and for the sake of space constraints, let's use them as an example), save a copy of your org.doc in HTML format. Once that uploads, you can look at the entire manuscript on their sample. Now, that's not a perfect representation but it's darn close. Of course, every author downloads their own book to peruse it closely once it's “live,” to catch anything screwy. I used this method on my latest YA PNR, The Pearl Savage, and was extremely pleased with the clean transfer from org to HTML...to my Kindle.

Formatting isn't editing! Formatting is just the book looking good; clean paragraph and line breaks and spacings. Editing is totally important and super-difficult! I won't lie: next to formatting it's a big challenge too! If an author has a few, key people to read their work (called Betas) that is very helpful. Unfortunately, as self-pubbed authors, we generally do not have the “fleet” of editors at our collective backs; helping with flow, typos, spelling and grammatical structure. A person's Betas are usually just there to say, “...yeah that works...”, or, my personal favorite, “what were you thinking?!” I cut ten thousand words (about forty pages) from Death Whispers. I have edited it ten times if I have once. And still...there will be a mistake! There are mistakes in traditionally published works as well. I had one Beta on DW and will have a different one on the sequel, Death Speaks. I am extremely grateful for the help on book #2 because this Beta is only looking for typos/spelling errors and the like. I am a self-professed Run-on Queen and Homophone Princess. The first is acceptable insomuch as it is often times used by me as style as opposed to lack of understanding structure. My book scenes play out like “a movie in my head”, and I write them with that sense of fluidity, breaking only when absolutely necessary. It's purposeful. The homophone thing...well, reference editing above! Spell-check won't help fix the difference between say, whole and hole. You have to see it and correct it. That is what I'm working on. This is what my Beta will help me with (for some inexplicable reason, [some] mistakes are very difficult for the author to see...wonderful phenomena, that). Every author has their Achilles heel. Identify yours and look for the mistakes you may repetitively make. We're all just storytellers in the end. Everything after that is perfecting what we already told; it's work.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Writing: A State of Mind

Guest post by
Violet Yates

Sometimes when I’m writing, the words flow neatly onto the screen, or paper, timed at an even pace. Other times, it’s like squeezing apples to get the juice flowing. I tend to write in spurts. I don’t write every day like some do. I cannot write on demand. I used to be able to do so, but I spent many years imbibing in alcoholic beverages and somehow my brain has suffered (I am now in recovery, 2.5 years).

I cannot seem to hold words or thoughts in my head for very long. If a thought comes to my mind and I don’t write it down, it is lost in the ether. I am sure many great ideas have slipped by me this way. I have taken to keeping a small notepad in my purse for those moments in which I need to scrawl away. I can then later transcribe my words into digital form. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. If I’m driving, I pull over. If I’m watching a movie, I press pause. If I’m working on something else, I stop and write it down. I must keep track, as well; otherwise, I have a gazillion thoughts scribbled down or written into MS word and no cohesion.

Not everything I write is kept, although when I’m seriously revising a manuscript, I’ll keep a second file open to copy and paste the cuts to. I do hate to throw anything I write out, with the exception of typos. But as most writers know, this is part of the creative process. Just like painting over a mistake, we must omit our mistakes, even beautiful ones. Part of revising, I learned as an English major, is cutting or considerably changing parts of your written works. It is painful, but necessary.

What can be even more painful is those few seconds when someone announces they are reading your work. As anyone who has gotten a less than favorable review can attest to, it is terrifying not knowing what that particular person will say about your hard work. It can be crushing to receive a bad review or a critical review. We often rely on others to bolster our opinion of our own writing, and when that fails, it can be devastating.

Rejection letters work in the same way. My first manuscript was rejected numerous times both by publishers and agents. It actually gave me writers’ block for a long time; it took me years to gather the courage to send anything out again. I am still hesitant. One must consider, however, that an editor or agent is a person with different tastes and ideas, so one must never allow a rejection to stop them from writing, like I did.

But good reviews are awesome!

I soar when I receive a good review, or when someone says they loved my writing. When they strike up a conversation about my characters, I look like a Cheshire cat. I adore those people and will remember them always. I have made quite a few friends as a result of my writing.

Writing, to me, is cathartic. I love to write, to see how well the words flow onto the page. If I lost the ability to write, I would be very depressed indeed. Even while I was suffering writers’ block and didn’t write a wink of fiction, I was still writing poetry and blogging. My motto these days is “never stop writing.”

Violet Yates was born and raised in Hawaii on the Kona Coast of the Big Island. You can find her at various places on the net:

Goodreads: violetyates2

Leaves of the FallThis story details the life of Rose, a 26 year old copywriter from Hudson, NY who is married to Trevor Dunn. He has been unfaithful in the past and the world drops in on Rose when she realizes he's doing it again. She has a dear friend, Ethan, who may or may not have died in an accident. As Rose pieces the puzzle together, she embarks upon a journey of self-discovery, learning about herself and what she wants for her life. This is a literary women's fiction piece. A novella 
about 120 pages.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Mole Hunt - a Book's Journey

Paul Collins

Once upon a time authors just wrote and the publishers published. But times have changed, of course. It seems that marketing/promoting a book is now as time-consuming as it is to write.

Mole Hunt – Book #1 in The Maximus Black Files, started off as a very rough draft. Rather than polishing it, I wrote books two and three in rough draft, too. I did this because I knew important material in book one might need to be changed to accommodate the other two books as they evolved. I see no point in slogging over a manuscript that might need severe editing or changing due to new ideas materialising further down the track.

Once I had all three books at first draft stage, I started in on polishing Mole Hunt. A year down the track I had the final product – well, as final as the author can get it before an editor wants massive changes!

Mole Hunt’s road to publication was long and arduous. But I’m used to that. Just about every Australian publisher also knocked Dragonlinks and The Glasshouse back before they finally found a home. Both books are my best-sellers. Either publishers “get it wrong”, or maybe they’re full to capacity and can’t fit more titles into their schedule. Regardless, I find persistence is the best piece of advice I can ever give to writers starting out.

So about four years after its first submission, Mole Hunt came out on June 1. Time to resume the publicity trail. I say resume because review copies go out to magazines and newspapers two months before the release date. Some magazines require a longer lead-time. Bookseller + Publisher, for example, works about three months ahead. If you leave sending them a review book with less time than that, you’re likely to end up in the also rans.