Thursday, 20 August 2015

Would you BUY or PASS (13) ?

My weekly contribution to Rosie Amber's Friday Five Challenge ~ if you know what it's all about, please go down to the line of red stars to see my choice for this week.  If not, please read on!

The Friday Five Challenge is an interesting exercise for writers ~ it shows the little things that can put potential readers off that click-buy.  We click on a book because the cover appeals to us, but can be put off a purchase by the blurb, the price, or the reviews.

Anyone with a blog can join in ~ here's what you do:

IN ONLY FIVE MINUTES….

1) Go to any online book supplier
2) Randomly choose a category
3) Speed through the book covers, choose one which instantly appeals
4) Read the book bio/description, and any other details
5) If there are reviews, check out a couple
6) Make an instant decision: would you BUY or PASS?

 
You can check out others' contributions on the #FridayFiveChallenge hashtag on Twitter, or see links at the end of this page.

********* 
My sister is soon to appear on a TV quiz show, and I was thinking of this when I went to Amazon for this week's selection.  I tried putting 'television star' into the search but just came up with page after page of Star Trek books, so I tried again with 'TV Talent Show', partly because one of my own books, Dream On, features one of these, and I wanted to see how early it would appear!  A few books before it, I came across the delightful cover of CURTAINS by Drew Thomas

 
Analysis

Cover
Caught my eye immediately, I think it's lovely.  I like the title, too

Price
99p for 272 pages!  99p often makes me wonder - does the author not rate himself much, or has he marked it down in price to make it sell, perhaps as a lure for the rest of his books?  The latter is highly understandable, in these days of a flooded market and the constant problem of visibility; I do it myself.

Blurb
For some reason the author has not provided a blurb, but has put a long and laboured review in the 'product description'.  Here is about a quarter of it:

Danny is a performer on London’s cabaret circuit, but his hard work isn’t doing much for his status. When he meets Veronica, who promises to make him a star, he never guesses that this might be too good to be true. Rapidly falling in love with her – or so he thinks – soon his life revolves around doing her bidding. But Veronica is a more complex individual than Danny could ever have imagined - and her forcefulness will lead them both down an unimaginable path.
Drew Thomas is to be commended, not just for imagining this path but for showcasing it with a superb exposition. The tale is told from Danny’s perspective after he has achieved fame and even notoriety. It’s clear from the start that Danny is deeply disturbed, not just fundamentally with his alter ego 'Stella' making regular appearances to question his every move, but also with something sinister that has occurred in the recent past. 


Seems fairly interesting but I couldn't be bothered to do much more than skim the long chunks of description.

Reviews
A 1* from someone who hadn't read it, to be ignored, and 8 x 5*.   I looked at 6 of them, and 3 of them were obviously from friends (ie, they had only reviewed this book, or this book and one other item).  I read in one that the proceeds were going to a charity.  Reading the author bio he's obviously got his fingers in quite a few pies, and quite successfully, too; I suspect he just hasn't bothered to promote this.

Would I BUY or PASS?
BUY ~ oddly enough!  I'll give it a go sometime, and have downloaded on Kindle Unlimited. I suspect it might be rather good; it was the author bio that made me give it the thumbs up, though, rather than the reviews or non-blurb.  He's obviously an accomplished writer, so I'll hopefully get round to this during my next big reading session, which will take place next month, I hope :)

Friday Five Challenge posts by others (click the blog name):
Irish-American New York chick lit for Rosie Amber
A undercover wizard on Between The Lines
Shelley Wilson is sorting out her money!  
Time travel I definitely want to read on Lost In A Book
A fabulous book of insults from Barb Taub

Ten questions I need to ask about UNDER THE DOME!

I've been watching this ludicrous how-far-can-you-really-suspend-your-disbelief,  entertaining Stephen King TV fantasy romp on Amazon Instant Video, and I'm pretty hooked, in an 'okay, it's total garbage but I love it' kind of way!  


I'm up to Episode 2 of Series 3, and have some questions to ask (some of which may be answered when I carry on watching....)



1.  How come when Norrie slipped back into her real life from her alternative reality, she got to keep the alternative reality hair extensions?



2.  How come Dean Norris, who plays Big Jim Rennie, has lost all his acting skills since playing Hank in Breaking Bad?  (or is he hamming it up on purpose because he knows it's a load of rubbish..?)



3.  Why, in Series 3, has Big Jim suddenly started to call Julia 'Red'?  He never did before (Scriptwriter 1:  "Hey, don't baddies always refer to women with red hair as 'Red'?  Like that psycho bloke did with Gillian Darmody in Boardwalk Empire?"  Scriptwriter 2:  "Shit, yeah, we overlooked that one.  Stick it in now, no-one will notice").



4.  How has Junior Rennie suddenly gone from being a bit of a twat with rubber lips, to totally hot?



5.  Why is it that apart from the 10-15 lead characters, scarcely any of the townsfolk have any opinion to offer about anything, and just follow Barbie/Julia/Jim like mute, brainless sheep?



6.  Why has Barbie, who seemed like a pretty sincere and deep-thinking sort of guy, suddenly rejected his great love, Julia, for a dream about Ava, prettier face and bigger tits though the latter unquestionably has?



7.  How come the mega-irritating Rebecca Pine was able to pronounce that Pauline was bleeding internally at just a glance, even though she was but a high school science teacher and had no medical training?



8.  How many more times do we really need to see that cow being sliced in half?




 
9.  Was Big Jim shagging Rose from the Sweet Briar Cafe?



10.  And the biggest one of the lot - WHY doesn't anyone in the town ask the gruesome 40-year-old-Botox-face-with-70-year-old-neck Christine Price, these three things:  Who the hell are you?  Why do you think you're in charge around here, huh?  And more importantly, why are we all doing exactly what you say?




All will be revealed - or probably not!!!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

My new book ~ The House of York

Coming soon! 
(October, with luck)

My latest novel, The House of York.  It's a complete stand alone, with no connection to any previous book; no, it's NOT the follow up to Kings and Queens and Last Child!


Here's the first draft of the blurb, so you can see what it's about.  Although a family saga (contemporary drama/romantic suspense) based on a historical period (like the books mentioned above), this is only loosely based on, rather than a re-telling, and it's somewhat darker than the other two.

The House of York is a contemporary family drama, spanning twenty years. 

Widowed single mum, Lisa Grey, and wealthy businessman, Elias York, are young and madly in love.  A recipe for happiness?  But Lisa is marrying into a complicated family.  Her new sister-in-law doesn't want to know her.  Middle brother Gabriel's marriage suffers under a cloud of infidelity and gambling debts, while the youngest, Richard, keeps his dark secrets well hidden - and his wife suffers in silence.

Lisa and her mother are bonded by their powerful intuition, but dare not voice their fears about York Towers - or certain members of the family....

Love and loss, abduction, incestuous desires and murderous intent form the basis of this compelling family saga in which horrors float just beneath the surface and provide a shocking outcome.

History lovers will be interested to know that The House of York is loosely based on events during the time of the Wars of the Roses.


Friday, 14 August 2015

Would you BUY or PASS (12)?

My weekly contribution to Rosie Amber's Friday Five Challenge ~ if you know what it's all about, please go down to the line of blue stars to see my choice for this week.  If not, please read on!

The Friday Five Challenge is an interesting exercise for writers ~ it shows the little things that can put potential readers off that click-buy.  We click on a book because the cover appeals to us, but can be put off a purchase by the blurb, the price, or the reviews.

Anyone with a blog can join in ~ here's what you do:

IN ONLY FIVE MINUTES….

1) Go to any online book supplier
2) Randomly choose a category
3) Speed through the book covers, choose one which instantly appeals
4) Read the book bio/description, and any other details
5) If there are reviews, check out a couple
6) Make an instant decision: would you BUY or PASS?

 
You can check out others' contributions on the #FridayFiveChallenge hashtag on Twitter, or see links at the end of this page.


********* 
This week the weather has been gorgeous and I've been thinking alot about when I lived in Norfolk, where I long to be in the summer!  So I put Norfolk into the search.  I could have picked any of the lovely covers, but decided to skip past all the non-fiction books about the county and choose what I assumed to be a novel set there.  The first cover that appealed to me was that of THE DUNE by Bruce Beckham

Analysis

Cover
Well, I liked the title and the picture on the cover!  I think it was the title that appealed most.
Price
£2.39 for 258 pages ~ both reasonable and average.
Blurb
A shy, academic teenager, Luke spent the long, hot summer of 1976 working on an isolated bird reserve in Norfolk, England. Like most young men of his age, he found his thoughts preoccupied with the opposite sex and, gradually, peculiar events unfolded around him that seemed designed to take advantage of this Achilles heel.
36 years later, the discovery of human remains at a coastal archaeological site sheds shocking new light upon his experiences of 1976, compelling him to reappraise his memories and, finally, to return to East Anglia in an attempt to unravel the truth of a tale of witchcraft, intrigue, murder and love.

The Dune is a smouldering coming-of-age novel that slowly burns to an explosive, violent and unexpected climax.


The whole 'coming of age' thing doesn't appeal that much to me, but so far I'm still interested, because of the setting, the 1970s and a bit of historical intrigue.

Reviews
12 on Amazon, an average of 4.3, ranging from 2* to 5*.  Only one of the 5* looks like a definite friend's review.  It's got flashbacks, which I love, and some say that there's too much detail about the birds, but I think I might like that. 

Would I BUY or PASS?
Hurrah, it's a BUY ~ I've downloaded it on Kindle Unlimited, anyway!

Update from a previous Friday Five Challenge post ~ on July 3rd I chose to download THE OUTLAWS by Jason Vail (click for link); I started to read it and it was quite good but I felt the dialogue was too modern for a historical novel, and it didn't grab me enough to make me not be able to stop reading it.  I might go back to it, though.

Friday Five Challenge posts by others:

The 49p catch-a-drug-baron thriller chosen by Rosie Amber looked so good I bought it myself!!
Expensive witches on Between The Lines 
Oh!  Look at those vegetables on Shelley Wilson's blog!
Lost In A Book considers time management... 

 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

NOT another 'how to write' article - but it may help new writers...

I've read or started to read many, many self- or indie press published books over the past three years, more since I began to review for Rosie Amber's Book Review Team (my review blog is HERE).

I don't like articles that tell you how to write, generally, because writing isn't a 'by numbers' skill, at which you can succeed if you follow the 'rules'.  However, I have noticed some areas which let down so many debut novels, and I am sure I was guilty of some of them, too, so I thought I'd write this in the hope that it will help a few new writers.

 
Head Hopping
This is when you're reading a scene from Howard's point of view, talking about his thoughts and feelings as he walked into the room, etc, and then the narrative suddenly changes to how Jemima is feeling, instead.  

Part of the skill of structuring your story is in choosing whose POV (point of view) to write from.  Once you've made your decision, hopping into another head half way through a scene, because you want the reader to know that Jemima was no more happy about the situation than Howard, doesn't work; sorry, it's not that easy!  It's confusing for the reader.  A solution would be to write how Jemima appears to feel, from Howard's POV, or, better still, make her mood apparent by her actions and dialogue.  If you want to change POV, it's best to at least leave a gap between paragraphs.

The Difference in 'Voice'
All my books except my novella, Round and Round, are written from multiple POVs.  This was not a popular structure when I first started to write, but now it's becoming fashionable, I notice, in traditionally published books, with the result that more debut authors are giving it a go.  Alas, I've found that some writers don't understand the necessity to make a change in each character's 'voice', with Rosemary's section using the same language, rhythm and mood as Jemima's.  I've read male characters to whom the female writer has attributed typically feminine thought processes, women written by male writers who are men in all but name, and books in which all characters share the same opinions and attitudes.

Thus, the writer is actually writing as him/herself, not the character(s). 

When you begin to write as Jemima after being Rosemary for the last chapter, you have to become her, so you know what she would say, what she would think. In my WIP, for instance, Gabriel is derogatory about others and makes jokes; Phoebe is unhappy and finds communication difficult; she 'talks' in short, flat sentences.  Lisa is a working class girl who became a wife and mother at seventeen, Megan comes from an affluent background and is well read; they do not assess situations in the same way and use different descriptive words, etc, etc, etc.   Think character, character, all the time; if it doesn't come naturally to you, you might be better writing from all one POV; it's not always an easy structure to pull off.  


Historical Research
I can't emphasise this enough: do your research before you start writing historical fiction, and that doesn't mean reading a few internet articles.  I love histfic but there are few things more likely to make me abandon a book than a character wearing an item of clothing that wasn't in fashion until 100 years later, drinking a cup of coffee before it was introduced into the country, or using a figure of speech that a person of that particular era and social class wouldn't have used.  Obviously you get a bit of leeway when writing from, for instance, the 12th century, because we wouldn't be able to understand a word if the dialogue was written as they really spoke, but it still needs to be believable.  Writing historical fiction is a minefield (and one I shall be attempting soon - argh!), but it has to be right.

Checking facts
The spelling of an actor's name, the location of a hotel, the date a film came out - it's what Google is for!  If you're having your characters relax at home with a DVD in 1993, make sure DVD players were available in 1993.  Check your own facts, don't rely on an editor to do it or hope that nobody will notice.  If you don't, you can guarantee that someone will point out your error in a review, and the same goes for historical research, above.

There's always some smart-arse who will let you know that Sophie couldn't have been watching Sex and the City in 1998, because it wasn't on British television until 1999.  Yes, I corrected that error just in time!

Contemporary should really mean contemporary
....today's twenty year olds might not live their lives in the way you did thirty years ago.  Even if you don't use the internet much, know nothing about modern music, or hate all this stupid 'Lol' and 'OMG' stuff, your 2015 eighteen year old character will not agree with you.  I wrote an article about this, and other aspects of getting research right, HERE

Publishing too soon
Some writers simply don't redraft enough.  It's not enough just to think of a great plot, plan it out and write it down, then do a couple of read-throughs, altering a few bits here and there.  Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, then leave it alone for a couple of weeks and rewrite some more.  Make every sentence as tight, as well phrased as you possibly can.  One of the main things that often makes me knock off a star when reviewing is simply that a book needs a couple more drafts to tidy up.  I know it's the done thing to moan about editing, but you should learn to love making your book as good as it possibly can be.  And don't forget the proofreading, by someone who knows what they're doing, not one of these cowboys who do it on the cheap - it's a false economy.  There's a good article about this HERE

Feasibility
Even if you're writing fantasy, the actions of your characters still have to be feasible within that fiction ~ a common mistake is to make them act out of character in order to push the plot along to where you want it to be.  This screams 'amateur'; I've read whole books based around an unfeasible premise.  And don't try too hard;  it's not necessary to add in an army of Columbian drug lords, a conspiracy that could bring down the government, and an erotic scene if you're not comfortable writing them.  You don't have to do a Dan Brown or E L James to write a good book that people will want to read.

Too much domestic/mundane detail
The reader doesn't need to know that Jemima got up, put on her dressing gown, cleaned her teeth, went downstairs, put the kettle on, made a cup of coffee, sat down, drank it, made some toast, ate it, then heard the phone ring.  Neither do they need to hear Howard say "Hi, how are you this morning?", or Jemima answering, "Not so bad, how are Marjorie and the kids?"  Or, indeed, Howard answering that Marjorie is feeling a bit under the weather, before he finally gets to tell Jemima the point of that part of the story, ie, that he's just discovered his brother is having a sex change.  I bet you were as bored reading that as I have been reading similar in some novels.

A sentence to summarise the scene would be enough, or even cut the whole passage and have it start with Howard's speech.  "Jem.  You're not going to believe this.  Ron's decided he wants to become Rhonda."

Information-heavy dialogue
Oh, we've all done this one: giving background information by way of dialogue.  It's dreadful if done badly, and so, so hard to do it subtly enough.  Here's a ludicrously bad example:
"How are you, Jemima?" asked Howard
"Oh, not so bad.  Life's been much calmer since Reginald started his new job at a Bridges & Houseman, Architects, and we moved out to Sussex."
"I'm so pleased for you," said Howard.  "Marjorie still can't believe her mother left us the farm in her will, and I told you that her brother, Leopold, used his connections to get Marjorie an exhibition at a new gallery in Sloane Square, didn't I?"
"Oh yes, that's the one where Gilbert, used to work, isn't it?  You remember Gilbert, our next door neighbour?"
You get the picture.  Dialogue is for realism, character illustration, plot development, suspense, humour - just about everything except supplying the reader with chunks of information.  Find another way of doing it!

Not sorting out common errors
.... and, sadly, some proofreaders don't sort them out, either.  Here my three (un)favourite offenders:
  • Using 'I' when it should be 'me' - this is so common.  I've written an article about how to make sure you get it right, HERE.
  • WAS SAT: "Claire was sat at the table eating her breakfast".  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  Should be "Claire sat at the table" or  "Claire was sitting at the table", depending on the rest of the passage.  Ditto 'was stood'.
  • Apostrophes ~ you'd think everyone would get them right all the time by now, wouldn't you?  But these are errors I see over and over again: 1970's.  CD's.  DVD's.  Yo-yo's.  Mini's.  These are just plurals and, thus, do not need apostrophes.

I hope this has been of help to some people!




Friday, 7 August 2015

The other side of sizeism....

I was just browsing Facebook, and came across this article I wrote in 2011, before I had a blog, after noticing the sizeism trend on that site ~ by which I mean so-called 'curvy' women being extremely rude about slim ones, and, more worrying, relating their comments to what men prefer.  

This is the picture mentioned at the beginning of the article - I just looked for it on google images


The link is HERE if you would like to read it; I've just made it public so that you can read it if you're not a Facebook friend (my profile is set to private).  Please let me know if you can't access it, it should be okay.  Thanks!

ps, I've just found the Marilyn Monroe - thin girl one, too, though looking at it now I would imagine she is obsessive about working out rather than anorexic.  Oh, and incidentally ~ a Twitter friend told me that she went to an exhibition of Marilyn's clothes once, and they were tiny.  She was only ever a size 16 occasionally; I read once that all her costumes had to be made in sizes 10-16 because her eating was so erratic.  Let us not forget that a size 10 in the 1950s would probably be a size 6 or 8 now.



Would you BUY or PASS (11)?

My weekly contribution to Rosie Amber's Friday Five Challenge ~ if you know what it's all about, please go down to the line of purple stars to see my choice for this week.  If not, please read on!

The Friday Five Challenge is an interesting exercise for writers ~ it shows the little things that can put potential readers off that click-buy.  We click on a book because the cover appeals to us, but can be put off a purchase by the blurb, the price, or the reviews.

Anyone with a blog can join in ~ here's what you do:

IN ONLY FIVE MINUTES….

1) Go to any online book supplier
2) Randomly choose a category
3) Speed through the book covers, choose one which instantly appeals
4) Read the book bio/description, and any other details
5) If there are reviews, check out a couple
6) Make an instant decision: would you BUY or PASS?

 
You can check out others' contributions on the #FridayFiveChallenge hashtag on Twitter, or see links at the end of this page.


********* 
It's my birthday this week, which got me thinking about my age.... so I put Over Fifties in the Amazon search!  I whizzed past lots of cookery books and tomes about dieting and yoga (which I never bother to read because I don't stick to any of it), before I came to the first one that tempted me to have a look.  I stopped reading beauty articles in magazines in the hope that they would turn me into a beautiful lady many, many moons ago, but maybe I haven't totally given up yet ~ so, here's the first book that made me want to look past the cover: 



Analysis

Cover
It was the title rather than the cover that made me want to look at it, I have to admit ~ I think the cover's pretty average.
Price
£2.22 for.... 46 pages???  On the other hand, it might be a well packed 46 pages.  And it's available on Kindle Unlimited, so would cost me nowt.
Blurb
There are many tips that women should know so they can retain their beauty as they age. Some people believe as you get older you will lose your beauty. This is not so and there are many things you can do to stay beautiful for years to come.

Underwhelming, or what?  Not exactly selling the book, is it?  Certainly hasn't sold it to me, anyway. 

Reviews
Two on UK, both 5*.  A long, detailed one that looks genuine, and a one liner by someone who has never reviewed anything else (ie, most likely the author's chum).  On Amazon.com, however, there are twenty-nine, a fairly mixed bag.  From the negative ones I gleaned the information that there is little in this book that you're not likely to know already, much of it is about making your own skin preparations, and the book is not very well presented.  The positive reviews think the overall message is a good one, and found it inspiring.  I suspect it might be useful for people who have never been interested in this sort of thing so haven't read it all before, but not for tired old hands like me who have been there, done that and bought the Estee Lauder.

Would I BUY or PASS?
PASS.  I wouldn't even bother to download on Kindle Unlimited.  Guess I'll just carry on relying on eating lots of fruit, using Boots cleanser and not looking in the mirror too much.  Or maybe it's just that I've got more interesting things to read about....

Friday Five Challenge posts by others:
Doggy stuff for Barb Taub
Rosie Amber chooses an Oirish comedy with plenty of fockin' swearing, by accident
Historic France for Alison Williams
Mystery in the Algarve for Lost In A Book 
Shelley Wilson is on holiday so has provided a recap of previous posts
Cathy Ry does Christmas