Monday, 30 January 2012

Writing Diary #59 - Book Series vs Book Serial

I think I'm a fairly patient person in most aspects of my life, but one thing I really can't stand is cliffhangers. I hate watching/reading works in progress and I dislike being left in the lurch by any plot. I'm the kind of person that, if a TV show has a two-parter, I'll save up both parts to watch at the same time. That doesn't mean I don't like continuing plot arcs that go through a series of books or episodes on a TV show, even through a series of movies, but when those arcs are stronger than the plot of a book/episode, such that I feel like I've been dragged along for the pure purpose of extending an arc, not getting any payoff in that book/episode, then I get pissy and stop watching/reading.

I did this with Babylon 5, which became a slave to its overarching arcs to the point where if you missed one episode you hadn't a hope of understanding the next. I've also been bitten by book series as well, professionally published, not self-published I hasten to add, which just didn't finish, the final books in the series were never published, namely, The Power of Five Series by Anthony Horowitz. And I know he's starting releasing them again, but he's changed them so dramatically that I hated the last one I read and have no plans to carry on reading the rest, ironically, it's the one I finished on the first time I read them and then I was desperate to find the next one.

The reason this all came to mind again is that I read a book this weekend that read on the blurb like a start of a standard series of YA paranormal books about a girl discovering the demon world. Nice premise, I thought, and duly started reading. Well, after a couple of hours, I wanted to keep on reading to the end of the plot, only problem was, the book had finished, minor subplot addressed, major plot (a murder), left hanging. As a reader, I was left dissatisfied and not in the, I want to read more now way.

Now, I know I'm a bit more sensitive to being left hanging than some readers, who would probably like this book, but I was left ticked off and just peeved enough not to look for the second book, the story just wasn't good enough for me to get over my own hump. So, I then slept on it and started thinking about the structure of stories and the duty a writer has to their reader.

Tash and I both have series of books just beginning and plans for other series and I began to think on these and what we have planned for them. My main one at the moment is The Haward Mysteries, a contemporary fantasy set of books and short stories. Ignoring the short stories, which are meant to be interludes, windows on to the world of the Haward Twins, each novel is a police investigation murder mystery and has a beginning, middle and end, but there is a strong subplot arc relating to the protagonists' back story that will develop through seven books and this subplot will have a strong influence on the final book. There are also other minor arcs that pop in and out. No surprises here then, the reader can expect a complete story from each book with some, hopefully, tantalising tendrils of subplot thrown in to encourage them to read the next book. I see the delivery of a complete story, with investment, development and paypoff to be part of my contract with any person reading my book; I won't waste their time and mine with prose that just pads out an arc that gives them no resolution at all in that piece.

The planning for The Haward Mysteries is complete, Tash and I (we are writing these books as a team), have the premises and arc points worked out for each book. However, for a few months, I and my muse have been pondering over another, very different set of stories, in fact, on the surface, it could break my own rules, because I am looking at it as one long story, but to be released as a serial in a set of short stories, a la the old fashioned Penny Dreadfuls. However, unlike classic Penny Dreadfuls, which relied on cliffhangers (you only have to read Dickens to spot the cliffhangers) I want each part to have a strong story of its own as well. Unlike Haward, they would not be standalone stories that can be read ostensibly in any order (ignoring subplot), they would have to be read one after the other, but I want to make certain there is a payoff for the reader in each part, I want to obey my rule, no arc builders. Since plots don't and shouldn't develop in completely equal length chunks, that means some of my short stories will be longer than others, no 1000 word limit like Dickens had for his serial parts, and I hope my readers will forgive me for that in favour of getting a good, substantial read.

Oh and, one important thing to me, because I've just been caught out like this: when I'm publishing this serial, I'm going to make it clear what it is, the short stories will be listed as Part 1, Part 2, not Book 1, Book 2, and the description will tell them it's a serial section; I don't intend to surprise my readers, they will know exactly what they are getting.

I'm looking forward to trying out this format, I am in the planning stages at the moment, splitting up the plot I have into cohesive sections. It has a totally different feel to developing a novel-format story, where I don't worry too much about chunking my plot up, I tend to find it just sort of flows when I'm developing a novel. This time, I'm finding that I am having to examine my plot hard to find the draw in each chunk, the thing that will keep a person reading, while still keeping the chunks to a reasonable length for a good, quick read. That's the opposite to a novel, in a novel, I find myself ripping out bits of the story that maybe interrupt the pace, sacrificing pieces to make the whole reading experience work. With short story chunks, within reason there is a bit more space for those extras, because, in some cases, they are what makes the short story a story in its own right.

I am finding that plot and subplot are much more equal in this type of format, little things are more important, because the horizon at the end of the over-all plot is further away, thus the characters, and therefore the reader are more focused on the next step, not the complete journey. Each subplot needs a beginning, a middle and an end as well as the overall plot, but neither can supersede the other. I think it is maintaining this balance between plot and subplot that will make this format succeed or fail for me: languish too long in a subplot and the reader may get bored and not care about moving on, but make it too light and the short story will break the no arc builders rule and, if the reader is like me, leave them dissatisfied.

One final point about this type of serial: I know the end before I start publishing the beginning. This is no work in progress, the subplots have to be carefully strung together to build towards the climax of the overall plot. That leaves the other type of serial, the one that has no obvious end, akin to a Soap Opera style of overlapping mini-plots. It sounds kind of fun :) and it has its own unique challenges (I personally think writers of Soap Operas are damn clever, being able to present and represent multiple plots in every episode so that any viewer, new or old, can pick up and enjoy in that episode without 20 years of back story). Maybe one day I might try it, but one challenge at a time. :)

My GoodReads Review of Demon Girl by P S Power - well it was an okay part of a story

Demon Girl (Keeley Thomson Book One)Demon Girl by K L Byron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Be warned, this is not a complete story, it leaves more plot lines hanging than it concludes in this first book of what I would term a serial, rather than a series, since it really isn't much good reading this book stand alone.

I don't mind a book with a main plot and then a continuing arc subplot, but I was left after reading this book feeling cheated that I'd read a concluding subplot, not a major theme.
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Apart from the heavy Christian bashing that goes on throughout the book, which was verging on the uncomfortable at times, I really liked the character of Keeley, she's not depressive, or ponderous, she's practical, if a little bit sociopathic. I even liked Darla, although every time she was mentioned, I kept seeing Julie Benz thanks to the demonic Catholic Schoolgirl of the same name in Buffy. Most of the other characters are thinly, but sympathetically written.

My big beef with the book is the fact that it doesn't end, there is no payoff for the reader. We spend long enough with Keeley for her life to be turned upside down, a murder to be committed and some strange, possibly dangerous background characters to be introduced and then that's it, we're left without much of a resolution to anything. The only plot line that got anywhere was the lesser demon round up, which was clearly a red herring for the murder from the outset and I was left feeling cheated out of a plot. The book goes as far as the change of direction that normally comes before the final chase/climax in a movie, the bit where the protagonist discovers they've been barking up the wrong tree and needs to refocus and then, it just stops, rather gratuitously making it very clear there's everything left to solve.

I wanted at least something to be sorted, and the lesser demon did not feel big enough, a distraction, no more. This book gets its stars for generally good writing, although I did find the plot a bit flighty at times and interesting main characters, but it lacked a satisfying conclusion.

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Friday, 27 January 2012

My GoodReads Review of Always by Pamila Daniel - not my type of book, but...

AlwaysAlways by Pamila Daniel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm going to say upfront, I didn't get to the end of this book I got to halfway through. So, why 4 out of 5 stars then? The reason, is I think this is a well written book and engaging, but for someone else, not me. If you like Barbara Taylor-Bradford, or Danielle Steele, then this book is your type of book.

When I read the summary, it suggested maybe a bit of paranormal to me, and there is some spiritualism in it, but it is definitely in the strong-woman romance category with the supernatural gift on the side. I want wonder with my supernatural talents, y'know, a bit of the unusual, and this book doesn't attack the subject that way, it is much more matter-of-fact, reminds me actually of Orson Scott-Card's Alvin the Maker in its practical style - another book that left me personally disappointed.

I tried this book out on a chance, it wasn't for me, but I think literary romance lovers, or those who just like strong women in their fiction with really go for it.

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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Hmm - maybe I ought to have been clearer!

Just got a 3 star review for the Diablo Ouija, one of the Haward Mysteries short stories, and the review said that the person wanted to see the twins actually do some proper investigating in the future. Well, my immediate reaction was, 'that's not the point of the short stories, they're interludes, not enough length to do a full investigation, that's in the novel(s)'. However, then I went back and read the blurb on the smashwords page from which it was downloaded, and I realised, from that blurb, I was probably the only person that knew that! The reason being, there is a bit at the end talking about the whole series of Haward Mysteries and it does talk about investigations and magical CSI and the like. It does specify that this is in the novels when it mentions that level of detail, but does not explicitly exclude the short stories - oops, my bad.

So the moral of this story is: make sure the blurb is accurate! I have now gone and explicitly put in the blurb that the FREE e-shorts are briefer glimpses of Haward Mystery life, so hopefully we won't disappoint again.

Monday, 23 January 2012

My GoodReads Review of The Woman In Black by Susan Hill - spooky, spooky!

The Woman In BlackThe Woman In Black by Susan Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this story: I have seen it adapted for TV and for stage and finally decided to read it.

It reads like a classic Victorian ghost story, full of description and reserved emotion, which give an eerie charm that I find some modern horror novels lack. I am truly a fan of the spooky side of horror, things that make my spine tingle, not that make me feel sick, and this book is a perfect fit for spook lovers.

Having said that, the beginning is a little long-winded as we are introduced to Arthur Kipps as an older man, looking back on his youth. I did find my eyes skipping large sections of description at this point, since it did not seem relevant to the plot at all, long descriptions of his current house, how he got his current house, all could have been done in a few lines - at times I am in favour of tell, don't show when the show would not be relevant to the plot.

However, after the slow start, Crythin Gifford looms into sight and the plot is afoot. Anyone who has read my reviews before knows that quite a few are me reading a book after having seen it on TV and I do like the contrast between media. The book has a slower pace to either of the other media I have experienced, an indulgence allowed because the book is first person POV and we are given a view on Arthur's thoughts and feelings. It is a little ponderous in places due to this, but the atmosphere that Susan Hill conjures makes up for this slow down. The drama from the book is very much in Arthur's head and his wavering emotions and determination are beautifully believable.

Every encounter with the woman in black made me nervous and I got a real sense of Arthur's isolation at these times. The only part that was truly shocking to me was the end, which is different in all three media, and, in the book, left me reeling. I won't say what happens, but it is shocking and abrupt.

Anyway, brilliant book.

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Friday, 20 January 2012

Sophie's Review of The Star Child by Stephanie Keyes - A good read

The Star ChildThe Star Child by Stephanie Keyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book, it had a mostly good pace and interesting characters. I would have liked to have given 4.5, instead of 4, because it is almost perfect, but a few things held me back from the full 5. It needs a teensie weensie bit more editing, especially towards the end (made me think the author had got a bit over excited and just typed stuff wrong :) ), there are some wrong word, to instead of too, your instead of you're.

I also felt that sometimes Kellan was not a good observer, and since this book is first person POV, just occasionally I didn't get the drama of a scene until after the fact, because Kellan didn't observe it in the other characters - the prophecy scene is one such scene, I didn't get Calienta's nerves until she actually said the place was not safe at the end of the scene.

I also felt that psycho Dad, Stephen, needed some more back story - but then this could be waiting for book 2, so I didn't cast judgement, or dock stars on that one. But I did want more info about Uncle Dillion as well, and since there was a whole part with him in it, some more background would have been nice: if there is a book 2, I can see him playing a part in it.

I kinda guessed/hoped Cabhan would not get killed which made me happy :D The ending was pretty satisfactory as far as fulfilling my expectations went. Twu Wuv was handled sincerely and without too much sappiness. I am glad Gabe came back into it, I was rather afraid at the beginning that Kellan was just going to abandon his family and friends for the solitary life in Ireland.

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Sunday, 15 January 2012

Green Lantern, Rather a Good Movie in My Opinion

I'll preface this review by saying that I have never seen any Green Lantern media before, I did not know the story and am coming at this from merely having seen the movie.

Oh, and, there are spoilers in this review, so don't read past the pretty piccie if you don't wanna know.

It started fairly predictably with the slightly broken male lead and oo, he's a pilot, a maverick pilot, so no surprises there then. The beginning was average for a superhero movie, or really any action movie where our all-American hero is going to be expected to save the day. However, after all the initial, this guy's a loser, he runs away from responsibility, but he's got an edge no-one else can match stuff, what made me sit up and start watching properly was when he was faced with Abin Sur. There was a second after he had been dumped on the shore by this green glow when he stared at this alien spacecraft like he was about to leg it in the other direction and then, in another heartbeat, he was scrambling into the water to help. The timing on that moment was perfect and I was a fan of our hero from that second on, even when he did the whole, I'm going it alone to save my planet speech just before the climax, which, like all such speeches in all other superhero movies, just made me cringe.

Hal Jordan: I think Ryan Reynolds did a good job on this superhero. He wasn't goofy, or sickenly all-American, or hard-edged, he was an ordinary guy who had dealt with the loss of his hero-dad by trying to emulate him and then running away when the going got tough, and I liked that about him: an understated lead. There was the odd moment of comedy, the bit where Carol recognises him behind the mask just had me giggling and I loved the line (forgive me if I'm paraphrasing), 'I've seen you naked, you didn't think I'd recognise you just because I can't see your cheekbones?'

I thought poor old Hector had a rough ride, called in by the government, infected with Fear by accident, however, he played the hand he was dealt and with relish. This is where this movie revealed it's hard edge, there was no saving Hector, no redemption and I found that refreshing, even though I still felt sorry for the retiring nerd we had first met.

Talking about this movie's hard edge, Hal did not get to save everyone. Unlike Superman, or Spider-man, Green Lantern saved the day, but not all the innocent victims survived, and I'm not talking unnamed planet-fulls of folks, we saw innocent human beings destroyed by Paralax before Hal could stop him. This surprised me, although, I should have remembered that DC does tend to be darker than Marvel. I think this was the tricky line that the movie tried to walk, because Green Lantern is not as dark as Batman, he flies, he uses the power of Will to fight his battles, he's a much cleaner-cut character, and maybe this is why people didn't like it, because Hal was so understated, not the man with the dark alter-ego, nor an out and out Superman-type, but I liked that about the whole movie.

Okay, so the movie did have some timing problems, lines could have been cut better, the music could have been more dramatic, but I said it was a good movie, not a magnificent one. This movie didn't take me to the skies, but it did surprise me, and it left me winded at times, the confrontation between Hector and Hal in the secret lab is exquisitely done, if you ask me. Not your average fight scene at all. It was bits like that which made me like this movie: I was never bored.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Getting out of the Echo Chamber

Disclaimer: this is not a how to post, sorry, I don't have all the answers, but I'm happy to explore some ideas with anyone who wants to chat :)

Something a friend said to me on the weekend has started the little grey cells whirring. We were talking about social media and specifically about generating an internet presence as an author. We got to talking about Google+, which, as with the general view of those who aren't on it, she doesn't think is going anywhere. I then said that I found G+ was growing daily and that I have a large circle of Writers I follow. She then pointed out, that if I was aiming for an internet presence, then wasn't that like speaking into an echo chamber. Well, it's not just writers I have in my circles, but that observation did make me sit back and think about the whole self-promotion thing for an Indie Author.

I am on many social networks,Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal, GoodReads to name but a few, plus I have my own blog and, although I am on many of them to have fun, I am also on there as a professional writer, I want to publicise my work and ultimately get people to buy my books. Now, it's not to say that fellow writers don't buy books, I buy books, I read a lot, especially since I bought by Kindle, but writers are not my only market and yet, if I look at my circles, friends' lists, or whatever it's called on a particular medium, then they make up a good 50% of my social network. So, the question remains, how do I get my work out to a wider audience?

With this question, I'm not talking about the mechanisms of interest, i.e. competitions, give aways, blog posts, I'm talking about how to reach an audience to tell them about those mechanisms and that's a tricky business and is very hard work.

As an author at a small indie press, I can't afford a huge marketing department, nor can I do independent deals with big online retailers, so, the tools in my basket have to be more diverse, sometimes less direct and make full use the avenues open to me.
  1. Publish and Be Damned

    Well, the first and most fundamental avenue is getting plenty of work out there in as many locations as will have it as possible. This includes both free and for profit novels, novellas and short stories. Our major locations at the moment are Amazon .com,, .fr, .de, .es and .it, and Smashwords, but there are other sites that we're looking at too.

    The principle here is as I see it is that the larger the body of (decent) work out there, the more likely someone is to:
    1. stumble over it by chance
    2. trust us as a publisher

    The second point may sound a bit strange, but having been bitten by works in progress in the fanfic reading sphere, I trust someone much more if they can demonstrate to me that they can finish something, and if they are not a one-off fic writer. The downside: how to get yourself seen amongst all the other work being published on these popular forums. Well, that leads onto the next point.

  2. Working the Systems

    Every site that is selling and/or featuring our work has different mechanism for helping people find what they are looking for and finding good stuff. Some are simpler than others. The most complex by far is Amazon, with its tags, like buttons, reviews, KDP Select and other behind the scenes tweaks. My sis, Tasha, has a whole post about this (told you it was complicated) :)! Others are much simpler, just key words and reviews, like GoodReads, Smashwords and others.

    The principle: getting as many ticks in the system as possible will move the books up the rankings getting visibility in searches and hopefully therefore, sales.

    The downside: the system on Amazon makes publishing as an author very easy, but is stacked against Indie Authors when it comes to making a mark. We're small fish in a very big pond with some other very big fish, including the pond itself. In other 'ponds' we’re just small fish!

  3. Pressing palms and kissing babies

    This may sound cynical, it is, but being a writer means we need to make connections and one of the best ways to do that is to engage with our audience on social media. That doesn't mean just posting constant promos for our books, it means really joining in, being friendly, being interested. Now this can be difficult for us retiring, shy types, friending people, jumping into conversations, making comments on other people's posts. I know I found it difficult to start with, I was always more of a lurker/reader until I wanted to sell some books. As I mentioned earlier, large numbers of my social circles are writers, and that makes me feel more comfortable, we have common ground, but I also am making connections in other areas too, some because they share common interests with my books, like being fantasy addicts, but others on a pure whim, because I liked one of their posts :).

    The principle: if people know you (and like you), they're more receptive when you do post about your new book, they might even buy it, and, even better, review it.

    The downside: keeping track of all that social media. Atomising myself means I reach a lot more people in a lot more places, however, that means I have a dozen or so places to keep up with the Jonses. Thank god for things like Tweetdeck and plain old email subscription to updates. A word of warning here: auto-posters like TweetAdder are wonderful things, we use them in publicising the books, but nothing replaces that personal touch and no-one likes a robot.

  4. Getting Noticed in the Blogsphere

    Nothing sells a few books like a good review on a popular blog. Also a good blog tour is another option. This is a new area for Tash and me. I've found it difficult in the past to find blogs and to follow them, but actually having my own blog on blogger has made me understand the mechanism and make this easier. I wish all blogs had email subscription though, it makes it easier for me to get updates.

    Of course, following a blog doesn't get me onto the blog, but there's a certain amount of research I need to do before I'd submit (I like the blogs with plain and simple submission rules, I can cope with that), and also, some of the blogs are damn interesting anyway :). As well as submitting to bloggers, supporting other people's blogs, linking to their posts, helping them build their rep is not something I see as just altruism, even if they don't review my type of books, or don't host authors on blog tours, it's still someone who might spread the word, recommend us to a friend, just like any other social networks, albeit a more closed system than the likes of Facebook.

    The principle: other people have done a lot of hard work making a reputation for themselves, getting followers, because they review books, it's a really good idea to have some interested in reviewing yours.

Well, that rambled on a bit more than I thought it would! Tash and I have been at this for a bit over a year now and we are building up followers and our list of books in multiple genres, but the road to getting books sold in quantity is a long one. Still, we're trying very hard not to talk into an echo chamber, or preach to the choir. Writers are also voracious readers, so they're not pure sopranos anyway, but we'll carry on struggling to reach our wider audience, begging our friends and followers to: review our books; tag us on Amazon; retweet our announcements; and any number of other mechanisms we can think of.

And finally, just a little thank you to everyone who is already giving us a helping hand, we love you :).

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Writing Diary #58 - over the hump

Well, I may have only written a paragraph yesterday, but it got me through my little block I had in my Vampire YA, so I'm over the hump :D.

I'm not home free yet, I'm still having to work the characters back through in my head to get them sorted, but I am now moving forward with the story rather than standing still. It didn't help matters that yesterday my computer slowed to an almost complete standstill to the point where the mouse took two minutes to move and I had a lot of trouble closing down cleanly. Thank god for auto-recover in MS Word, which saved my humble paragraph from extinction when the save button was ne'er to be found!

Today's writing session will hopefully finish the scene I'm on, shouldn't be much longer and then I may even *gasp* start on the next one, we'll see how the half hour pans out.

Monday, 9 January 2012

My GoodReads Review of Scottish Rite by Stephen Penner

Scottish Rite (A Maggie Devereaux Mystery, #1)Scottish Rite by Stephen Penner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmm, well, yes, I'm torn over this book.

The overall plot isn't bad, I enjoyed the fast-paced climax and I really liked the character of Maggie Deveraux, she's believable and fiesty and has just the right amount of getting-into-trouble instincts to make her a perfect accidental sleuth.

However, there were a few things that got in the way of the plot for me, hence the not quite perfect rating.

1/ There was, from time to time, a tendency to overwrite and over explain some things - as I once read somewhere, you have to sometimes leave your reader the ability to make their own mind up about the motives of your characters. This messes with the pace a lot and the book took an awfully long time to get going.

2/ Sometimes the author slipped into omnipotent info dump, usually when describing a location, e.g. when talking about the University of Aberdeen, there was a long section on the fact that it had three campuses and where they were located around the city - a brief description from Maggie's POV would have been much better than the general information list. These info dumps were unnecessary and need editing out of the manuscript, since Stephen does a perfectly good job of describing what he needs at other times.

Both of these instincts I understand well and for me as an author, they stem from trying to make sure, really make sure your reader understands what you want them to, but sometimes we just have to trust the reader and I have an editor who is very ruthless with my text.

3/ This book is set in Aberdeen, with Aberdeen police NOT American police. There are a whole bunch of terms that are totally wrong and also facts that are questionable. E.g. we don't have patrolmen, we have Uniforms (if you're in the police), or Constables if you're not. This was but one of the things that kept making me cringe in all the police scenes and kept throwing me out of the story. There were a few things non-police related as well, mainly to do with University procedures and terms, but many, many less. I wouldn't have minded so much if the police scenes had been a/ relevant and b/ convincing, but neither was the case. The whole book with a few tweaks could have been written from Maggie's POV without the lone police bits, IMHO, and it wouldn't have mattered. I did not care about the police characters, or their investigation and neither does the plot.

So, in summary, I hope I haven't been too scathing, as I said, I enjoyed the plot and I may read the next one, but this book needs a damn good edit for pace and POV and a good Brit Pick by a Scottish Beta.

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Writing Diary #57 - character voice

Originally posted to Wittegen Press LJ.

I'm currently reading a murder mystery, which I'm kind of enjoying, but if I hear one more Scot say Aye instead of Yes uniformly, I think I might just start screaming.

I am not a Scot, I'm English, but I know quite a few and Scots accents come in many, many different variations and not every Scot studying in Aberdeen will speak the same, in fact, given students' penchant for moving as far away from their families as possible while going to University, I'd say the chances are they'd have very different accents to the locals. This little bug bear did get me thinking about character voice in the literal and non-literal sense my own stories.

The YA vampire novel I'm working on, when I first started it way back in the dim and distant past, was set in the US, California to be precise, mainly due to the influence of US TV and films on me, but I realised almost as long ago that transporting it across the water to my home country was a better bet, not just because I wanted to get the character voices right, but also because I didn't have many US friends at the time to do any US-picking for me. I don't think I'd even attempt it now, even with their help, well, possibly New England, because I've visited there quite a few times for work, or maybe up to Canada, to Vancouver, again, because I have a little feel for the place, but I'd have to have a really good reason.

Transplanting to the UK was not without the need for accent research, however, since I decided to make one of my characters Welsh. Now, I know some Welsh folks, I even visit a friend in South Wales regularly, but I decided I needed some help on his accent to get it into my head. Youtube proved to be my friend and I found several vids of a voice coach talking about the Welsh accent. Now, talking about a 'Welsh' accent is a bit like talking about an 'English' or 'American' accent, we all know there is a huge variation within one country, but, I was looking for the essence of the accent, since my book is not set in Wales, and there's only one Welsh character, so I didn't need to consider variation.

For Welsh, I wanted to capture the sing-song way the words lilt, which requires picking certain words and tweaking the way they are arranged, and I also thought about what epithets and little sayings my Welsh character would use, but not overuse. I resisted using Boyo, which I have heard many a time from Gareth Thomas' lips in many a TV show, because, although evidently used frequently by a Welshman, I cringed when I tried it in a sentence :).

Of course, character voice isn't all about accent. This guy is a main character, but I only write from one POV, my protagonist, so you never get to see the world from my Welshman's POV, but he can certainly express that POV in conversations with Tom and in his actions. He's also important to past and present, so his world view, his voice, is visible even when he isn't speaking.

I don't work through my characters ad nauseam when I write, sometimes I let scenes develop on their own and inform my characters' voices and actions and instinct, I find, often does well where too much planning can flatten a scene. However, I do need to get into the head of my characters for that instinct to work.

Today, I want to finally get to writing some of the YA vampire novel. I did do some rereading, but not much, but I'm feeling in a more writing mood today :).

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Tags on Amazon

Tags on Amazon and folks agreeing with them are essential to any author to ensure their books actually turn up in searches.

However, the painful point about tags is that tags are unique per instance of a book, per amazon site, thus, not only do you have to put tags in for each instance of your book, so if you have multiple formats, they are unique per format, but when someone agrees with one tag on one instance of a book, that doesn't help the other instances on other sites.

That said, I need folks to agree with my tags, please, so if you happen to be on amazon, any of them and fancy taking five minutes out to agree with the tags on my books, I'd be very, very grateful. :D

Sophie Duncan on
Sophie Duncan on

Friday, 6 January 2012

Writing Diary #56 - plans begun, and onwards!

Also published on Wittegen Press LJ.

Okay, so plan for next 6 months is now in progress, 4 books listed, plus regular atomising stuff!

Wow there's a lot of things to do per book when you list them out, everything from composing tweets to designing the cover. Oh yes, and of course, writing it! :P Each book has at least 33 tasks associated with it and that's only up until launch. After that are the wonders of persuading bloggers to read and review, freebie and promotional competitions. Also, I've begun working on character-based promotion on G+, since they have a fictional character page option. I only have one at the moment, Grail Muse, otherwise known as RT, who is an online Grail poetry buff psued for Theo Haward from The Haward Mysteries, but for the other Wittegen Press books that are in series, like Cat's Call I'm thinking we may want to introduce a few more.

All in all, there is a good two or three weeks work in addition to writing/editing the book before it is ready to publish - glad I wrote it out, because it shows we can't hit the hopeful deadline we were looking at for Cat's Call 2, which was end of Jan, it will be at least mid Feb and then that depends on when Tash, finishes it.

Well, I did the plan, tick - now we just have to keep to it.

Yesterday's writing slots were taken up finishing some stocking stuffers for . I didn't get as many done as I wanted, because some of them got a bit long, but I managed 4 fairly substantial pieces. I'll just have to send my other friends something later in the year! Today, I'm not sure what my slots will be used for. I'm on that cusp, moving back to work I had to put on hold last year and I always find that a challenge. Once I start writing, I'll be fine, but right now, I find myself doing displacement activities. I don't know why I have this psychological brick wall between me and restarting, or starting (for that matter) a work, but I have to psych myself up :D. I think I'll go reread some of it and that should get my head into the right place.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

My Fav Poem - The Listeners - Walter De La Mare

This is a random post, because I just followed a blog called, The Moonlit Door and the name struck a chord with me and the second line of my most favourite poem ever, The Listeners, by Walter De La Mare. I first read this in 2nd Form English at school and its atmosphere hooked me from the very first line.

I find it a haunting poem and I see in my mind a crumbling, castellated house surrounded by tall, overbearing branches. That atmosphere inspired the tower on the Blackwood Estate in The Haward Mysteries.

My favourite line is the second to last: And how the silence surged softly backward, it just shows how much can be evoked by so few words. OO, it gives me goosebumps :).

Anyway, I've included the poem here, care of Poetry Online. I hope you love it too.

The Listeners
by Walter De La Mare

'Is there anybody there?' said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest's ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller's head
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
'Is there anybody there?' he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller's call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:-
'Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,' he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

Writing Diary 55

Originally posted: Wittegen Press LJ Well, I got listed a lot of stuff we ought to do to promote the press and our books, but I didn't manage to get it formatted into a plan yet!

There turned out to be a lot more stuff than I had anticipated and I only got as far as the mindmap, otherwise known as an info-dump, yesterday, so today's writing sessions are focusing again on promotion and not writing, but this stuff has to be done //sigh//. Some of it is fun, like writing the freebies, but others are more drudgery, like announcing stuff in a dozen different places (the cost of the diversity of the internet, your audience is not in one place anymore).

There's so much to do to promote a new book like Tasha's Advent, searching out blogs that would be interested in a YA vampire novel, posting to our standard forums, planning competitions and give aways. Still, it'll be worth it in the end.

Now I need to go write a project plan!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Writing Diary #54

Originally posted: Wittegen Press LJ (and yes, there are 53 previous entries, but this is a new blog, and I won't bore you with those :D)

Well, it's been a while diary, but new year, new house is almost straight and so it's back to the routine.

Actually, today, I'm not planning on using my writing slots for writing, although I am determined to concentrate on the two pieces I abandoned in November in the face of house moving: my vampire YA and my sequel to my dragon warrior commission. Today is for planning. As well as a writer, I am a publisher, and hence, have to work on advertising as well as writing. Today, I am writing our marketing plan for the year. It will relate loosely to what books we are planning on writing this year, but also there are things like: how to get folks to sign up to our mailing list; what tweets are needed; plus the half dozen other atomised identities on G+, Facebook, Blogger, Book Blogs, GoodReads etc!

At least this plan gives me a chance to mix my Project Management skills with my authorial aspirations. :)

Monday, 2 January 2012

My GoodReads Review of Stalking Shadows by S A Hunter

Stalking Shadows (Scary Mary)Stalking Shadows by S.A. Hunter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, this is a first for me, a sequel that is better than the original.

This book felt much more confidently written, the pace was better, the plot developed more dramatically, no sudden gear changes that didn't feel quite right (that is not to say there are no sudden gear changes, but they worked as dramatic devices) and the plot did not rely on High School clichés nearly as much. There were some interesting developments on the loose ends from the first book too, character development I wasn't expecting.

This plot was more original than the first and had me wondering as I was reading what was going to happen. It raised suspicions, then hinted in other directions, very good feints to keep the reader interested. The characters came into their own, rounding out from the originals in book one, Scary Mary, and settling into what I thought were much more real people.

I love Mary: she is prickly and speaks her mind a little too often, but you can see the defensiveness that comes from, but she can also apologise. Rachel is also a fun character: the plucky sidekick, but with a bit more depth than that I am glad to say. Cy and Kyle were a surprise in this story, I won't say why. The only character I wasn't sure of was Gran, she was acting at extremes and I didn't quite get her justification for the way she was pushing Mary, but maybe that was just me.

All in all, a very good read. This is exactly what it says on the tin, a romping good paranormal YA. Don't expect deep sub-plots, or daring challenges to the status quo, that's not this book's aim, just a nice quick, distracting read. I eagerly await number 3.

View all my reviews