Sunday, 22 July 2012

Here's a tip ... learn how to type

I've been working hard on completing the first draft of my first novel and I've done it!  Yep, 80 000 words of literary genius error-ridden plot is now saved and backed up on my mac.  So, after reading what other novelists do with their second draft, I decided to retype the whole thing so that I can deliberate upon every word, every comma.

As I sat down to do this I became aware of how slow I was as a typist.  It was taking me forever to type just one paragraph.  So I decided to learn how to touch type.

I installed a free app called 'Typist' (who'da thought) and it has been one of the best decisions I have made in my writing career so far (all six months of it).

If you're thinking that it's simply a form of procrastination cleverly disguised as writing, well you could be onto something.  But don't tell my higher consciousness that.

Seriously, my typing has improved and it is nice to look at the screen rather than the keyboard.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

What makes you choose an ebook?

I do a lot of browsing for ebooks.  This morning as I browsed at Amazon, I suddenly became aware of why I wasn't lured into buying.  So I thought I'd share my little epiphany with you.

What turns me off buying an ebook?

Sometimes I find myself shaking my head in annoyance when I browse for ebooks.  Here's why:
  • Bad cover designs - the cover design is what most attracts me, at first anyway.  The reality, for me at least, is that the vast majority of ebook designs are unattractive.  And it's not just the self published varieties.  It is rare that I find an ebook cover design that I like.  For some reason they are much less attractive than their paperback cousins that sit tantalisingly on bookshop shelves; and I don't understand why.  Do authors/publishers think that ebook readers are simply victims of quick fix self-gratification?  Just because online shopping is easy doesn't mean that products are chosen willy-nilly.  On the positive, those that put the time and effort into a quality design have a distinct advantage in a flooded market.
Chip Kidd is a book jacket designer and he is passionate about getting the cover right.  His talk on TED  provides an interesting insight into the process of coming up with the right cover design.  He is a little sceptical about ebooks, but I think authors could learn a lot about the importance of the cover from this talk.

  • Bad titles -  go check it out for yourself, there are many bad titles in the ebook universe.  I don't want to give any specific examples as I'm not interested in 'naming and shaming' but after the cover design the title is what attracts me to an ebook, and many are uninspiring.  One of my favourite titles is The War of Don Emmaunel's Nether Parts, it's a long title but interesting and reflects the humour in the novel.  Of course titles can be short too.  Dracula, is a very effective short title.  Another favourite title is The Dark is Rising.  I really enjoyed this novel as a child.  I actually 'invented' this exact title for a novel I had planned then realized (or remembered) that it was already a title!  I still wish I could use it though.
  • No blurb - some ebook authors go to all the trouble of writing and publishing their book only to leave out a blurb.  This has me lost for words.
  • Reviews - I always look at the reviews before I decide to buy, but I take them with a serious pinch of salt.  I am sceptical of ebooks that have lots of reviews that say little about what actually happens in the novel, especially if they are full of praise but give no specifics.  If I find a scattering of critical reviews that are clearly written by average readers who have actually read the book then it is usually a sure sign the book is not very good.
  • The price - Price doesn't really bother me that much.  For unknown and self published authors I have paid up to $5 for an ebook.  For authors that I know and trust I have paid up to $10, and on occasion, more.  But there are some ebooks that have an above $20 tag on them, and that's my limit.  Any more than 20 bucks and I want the real thing on my book shelf.
  • The author's page - I always click on it to read more about the author to get a feel for his/her style and genre.  But, you guessed it, many ebook authors have no or limited information.
  • Bad writing - the sample is a godsend.  I always read the sample and this will be the deal breaker for me.  Even after I have been attracted to the cover and title, read the blurb and reviews, and been happy with the price, I will often be turned off by the calibre of writing in the sample.  Yes, the story has to grab me, but most often I find I am turned off by poor writing and editing - the bane of the self published market.
So that's about it, all the things that really turn me off buying an ebook.  I had considered being more positive in this post and writing about the things that make me want to buy, but the reality for me is that it's a process of elimination and this is how I choose when I browse the ebook shelves.  

So what makes you choose or not choose an ebook?

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Blogger's Block

I awoke to the sound of wind whistling through the tall trees that line the lake.  Dark clouds painted the sky a charcoal grey.  I sat up and saw the same colour reflected in the lake's waters.

"Well, are we going riding?"  My partner asked.  

We always go cycling on the weekends and I was eager yesterday (I have a new bike) but cycling in a cold head wind is not my idea of fun.  

"Can I have a cup of tea?"  I asked instead and snuggled back down under the bed covers.  The cat stretched at the foot of the bed before tucking into a tight little ball of tortoiseshell fluff.

Today is blogging day and I had no topic.
Last weekend I didn't blog either, as we spent the weekend with friends.  I do, actually, have many topics in mind.  I have to tell you about my new writing schedule which is working wonders; I've got a piece on the back burner about what makes us care about characters in fiction; and I have lots of reviews to write ...

So I drank one cup of tea and finished reading a story.  Then a second cup and a different story.  I finally made it out of bed, confronted the cold (it's autumn here) and emailed some fellow writers.

We had breakfast, scrambled egg on toast and fresh coffee.  Then I was in my little writing space, with a view of the lake, writing my novel.  

I love writing at the moment and cannot get enough of it.

Lunch was a bowl of pasta, followed by more writing.

This afternoon I made a cup of tea and read a short story called 'Snow White and the Seven Dogs' by Denise Moncrief (part of a compilation called 'Unleashed Hearts') and really enjoyed it, perfect for an afternoon read and cup of tea.  

Then I was back at the computer writing more of my novel before nap time - love weekend naps.

The sun set, not that we could see it through those dark clouds, I ran a warm bath and poured a wine.

Finally, as I lolled in the bath, I tried to think of a topic for this week's blog post.  Nothing.  I googled 'what to blog about?' (I take my iPad to the bath) this took me to a number of sites giving blogging tips.  I only read one, "Blog regularly", well I've failed there, haha!

Essentially, I think I've got blogger's block, brought on by a serious desire to write creatively.  Or, maybe I'm just lazy ;)

See you next week.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

'On Writing' by Stephen King

Ask any author the question, 'how can I improve my writing?' and you are likely to get the following response: 'Write and read ... a lot!'

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Liebster, Twitter, Fifty!


What is the Liebster Blog Award?  Well it's recognition.  Last week I was honoured when awarded it from A.K. Fotinos-Hoyer . If you haven't see her blog yet, get over there.  She's doing the A-Z Blogging challenge, and all of her posts have something interesting to say.  Quite a feat!  Thanks AK :)

I'd like to pass on the award to the following bloggers.  These are all well worth a look:

Suzanne Van Rooyen - A blogger and author.  Her novel 'Dragon's Teeth' is a great read.
Becca Harris - Another blogger doing the A-Z blogging challenge, with a focus on LOTR.
Emaginette - A writer and reviewer (she writes beautifully).
Denise Moncrief - Lots of stuff: reviews, poems, recipes, reflections ... it's great!
Ruth Lauren Steven - Another writer with loads of tips and interesting guest posts.

To Accept the award, please follow these rule:

1) Show thanks to the blogger who awarded you by linking back to their blog.
2) Pick 5 blogs with less than 200 followers and let them know about your nominations by leaving a comment on their blog.
3) Post the award on your blog!


Yes, I've joined.  But I don't really know what I'm doing, agh!

I figure the best way to learn is to follow heaps of other people and see how it's done.

So, please post your twitter details as a reply to this post and I will follow!

Also, if you have any little hints about twitter I'd love to hear them.

And here's my twitter account -!/AderynWood


"Fifty" is the number of followers I would like to have by May 1st.  It's good to have little targets. When I first started this blog I had a goal to have 10 members/followers by the end of this year.  Guess I've achieved that!  So if you want to help me out, please feel free to follow :)  I aim to blog once a week, but, well sometimes that goal isn't quite achieved.  50 - let's see if I can do it!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

A Writing Schedule

You may have noticed that I haven't posted for a couple of weeks.  And you may remember I made a commitment to post regularly without fail!  I also made a commitment to write 100 words of my novel every day.  Without fail.  Looks like I've failed.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Dragon's Teeth - A Surreal New World

Dragon's Teeth by Suzanne Van Rooyen, is a futuristic scifi that the author describes as a "cyberpunk/dystopian noir".  I have to say that it is not my usual read, but I really enjoyed this and would recommend it without hesitation to scifi fans and anyone else for that matter.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Fake book reviews ... what do you think?

I've been doing a little bit of reviewing this week, and I've been checking out other reviews.  There are a lot of quality reviews out there, but I have to say, there are thousands of dubious ones too.  I've been looking mostly on Amazon, but they are on other sites too, iTunes and smashwords are not immune.

Image care of How to spot a fake review on Amazon

So, what do I mean by fake reviews?  They are the reviews posted by people to boost the popularity, or sadly, to try to disparage a book.  I think there are more fake positive reviews than fake negative ones (I'm glad to say) but regardless they're all bad.  Amazon is aware of the issue, obviously, and a number of these fake reviews are removed on a daily basis.  According to this report Amazon is using technology to try to 'catch' fake reviews and remove them.  Hopefully they can improve the process to eliminate the majority of them.  But, given that some reviewers are making a tidy little profit from providing such reviews, it may well be impossible to eliminate all together.

I think it is pretty easy to detect a fake review though.  Here's how I do it:

  • Fake reviews have extremely general information about the book.  They might mention that it was "a great read", that the "characters were like old friends". that they "can't wait for more", lots of them say that they "laughed out loud". They are often full of superlatives, "best book ever", and they might mention something very general about the genre, usually with the word "genre" in it. The reason why they are so general of course is because they haven't read the book and know very little about it!
Here's some real examples -
"Excellent writer, not a wasted word and not a word out of place. Story grabs you from the first and never lets go. I can't wait for the next one....there IS a next one right???"
"I have been reading a bunch of books in this genre, and often the story is good, but the writing is pretty average. This is a really well-written book with great characterizations and ambiance. The characters are real, rather than idealized personas; the story is brisk but imparts a fully-realized sense of place. Can't wait for the next book!"
"This book is the best book I have read in a L-O-N-G time, possibly ever. Most books I read I usually find good and finish them with a nice feeling of satisfaction. But this one I never wanted to end!! I was dreading the end because I knew it was the end to one of the greatest books I have ever come across!!! STUNNING! AMAZING!! EXTRAORDINARY!!! PERFECT!!!!!! I cannot wait for the second installment!!!" 
  •  The above goes for negative reviews too.  General statements, nothing specific, stating why it was a bad book.  They often state something like "I can't believe this got published".  Most of these negative reviews are targeted at established authors who are with the 'big' publishers, which is intriguing.  There is an interesting article about it here.
  • When you think you have found a fake reviewer, click on their 'see all my reviews' link.  Most often you will find that they have only ever done that one review.  Or all of their reviews will seem 'fake'.
  • Most fake reviewers have not actually bought the book.
What can we do about it?  Well, there is that handy little button on Amazon where you get to vote if the review was helpful or not, I recommend clicking 'no'.  There is the option to 'report abuse' but I'm not sure that a fake review is necessarily abusive.  If you feel quite passionate about it, you could always post a thread on the Amazon review discussion forum - this has been successful in drawing attention to fake reviews before.

If you've seen them or have any ideas about what to do with them please share, I'm interested!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

'Twilight' ... why is it so damn popular?

Everyone has heard of it, many have read it and many more have seen the films.  Everyone seems to have a view on it, whether they have read it or not.  Almost all forums on the Internet have a thread that argues its merits or denounces it.  But, one thing that cannot be denied is that Twilight has been hugely popular and has made Stephanie Meyer very wealthy indeed - according to Forbes richest celebrity list Meyer comes in at number 26, in between Simon Cowell and Roger Federer.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

How goes the resolution?

I did the typical 'fresh start' thing after New Year's and I wrote a post on this blog stating how I will be more disciplined in terms of my writing.  So, how am I going with it?

Well I took a leaf out of Ernest Hemingway's book and started my own private journal on my writing.  In it I set out a long term plan for my writing along with some very clear goals.  Things like join five forums, follow five blogs, have three followers by Easter.  I haven't quite achieved all of these yet but I now have three followers - thanks :)

But the most important goal I set was to write at least 100 words everyday.  I'm not the first author to have this type of goal - Stephen King writes 10 pages every day!  My little 100 words doesn't look like much but I chose it for a reason.  Like many aspiring writers I find my 'day job' incredibly consuming.  Some days I know I will be struggling to get even 100 words done, but if I do it I'll be writing and achieving something.  So far I have written more than 100 words most days, there were a couple of days I was unable to do any writing at all, but I think we have to accept that sometimes this will happen.  I have completed the first chapter (5000 words) for one of my novels, so I feel like I have accomplished something.  Last night I gave myself a pat on the back and a glass of champagne.  Hope I don't go too crazy when I complete the thing!

One thing I have found quite inspiring to do, is to read what my favourite authors have to say about the process of writing.  I'd recommend this.  If you have a few minutes to spare, just google them and see if they have a web site or blog.  Lots of them do, and lots of them have a section on writing.

Here's some pearls of wisdom from some of my favourite authors:

Katherine Kerr - Here's the secret of any writer's success: reading. What really counts is reading a large spread of different kinds of books -- from fantasy to ancient literature to modern experimental novels to the great classics from all around the world.

Ken FollettAs an aspiring writer, you should certainly start by writing an outline... You solve a lot of problems with an outline. It is far easier to correct your mistakes if you write an outline than if you sat down and wrote, 'Chapter One' at the top of a piece of paper and started writing. 

Jean M. AuelI write for myself ... I don't write for my publisher. I don't write for critics. I don't write for my fans. I know some fans would wish I would write for them, but I don't. It's my book. It's my story. It's my characters. 

George R.R. MartinWrite every day, even if it is only a page or two. The more you write, the better you'll get. But don't write in my universe, or Tolkien's, or the Marvel universe, or the Star Trek universe, or any other borrowed background. Every writer needs to learn to create his own characters, worlds, and settings. Using someone else's world is the lazy way out. If you don't exercise those "literary muscles," you'll never develop them. 

Neil GaimanUse The Web. Use it for anything you can - writers groups, feedback, networking, finding out how things work, getting published. It exists: take advantage of it. Believe in yourself. Keep writing. 

See what I mean?  Aren't they useful tidbits?  The trick of course is to keep yourself focused on your writing and not to get sidetracked reading the wonderful insights of others.  I have sat down to write and two hours later found myself still reading the musings on various blogs and forums.  But this is a good lesson too.  I'm pretty good at tearing myself away now to write.

So off you go, stop reading this drivel and get into your bestseller ;)

I'll leave you with one more quote on writing, since I began with Hemingway why not finish with the Old Man himself?

There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.
Ernest Hemingway. 

Sunday, 22 January 2012

'Clan of the Cave Bear' ... Get around to it!

I remember during the eighties everyone was reading 'Clan of the Cave Bear' by Jean M. Auel - and they were raving about it.  I don't know why it took me so long to get around to reading it, but finally I have and now that Auel has finished the six part series, I haven't stopped reading this saga (just finished number three 'The Mammoth Hunters').

The reason why I finally picked it up to read was because of a recommendation from a friend who I regularly 'talk books' with.  She was astounded I hadn't read it and demanded that I did so pronto, and I dutifully downloaded it.  So, what is it about this book that gets people talking?  For me it is the fascination of where we have come from as a species, and how we have become the people we are today.

The novel was also made into a movie directed by Michael Chapman.  Here is a trailer for the movie -

The story is set in prehistoric times, roughly 30 000 years ago.  It follows the story of Ayla, the protagonist, who is separated from her parents at a young age and taken in by a travelling group of 'clan' people, they are Neanderthal.  

This story interests readers on a number of levels.  Firstly, Ayla's struggle to belong and fit into a vastly different group is heart wrenching.  The emotional journey she experiences is so engaging to read.  Ayla is a highly likable character.  She is intelligent and caring and we sympathies with her readily as she attempts to learn the cultural norms, taboos and language of a neanderthal society.  As she becomes interested in healing and medicine, the story interests us further and we become privy to the magic of the plants used to heal in prehistoric times.

Secondly, the life of the Neanderthal, the way they existed and their differences from humans makes for fascinating reading.  Auel's ability to bring research to life is intoxicating.  I found myself doing a little of my own research as I read this book, wanting to learn more about our evolutionary cousins.  One thing I came across is that it is likely some human beings today carry Neanderthal genes.  Fascinating!  It is so interesting to read about a human species that is now extinct.  One thing that is particularly intriguing is the differences in the brain structures.  Neanderthals had very large back brains and Auel capitalises on this by showing the clan's remarkable capacity for memory.

Another aspect that makes this an exceptional read is the detail in terms of the daily life of prehistoric people.  The clothing, food, tools and housing are all described in fascinating detail along with how they were made.  Humanity's capacity for innovation is celebrated in this series.  But at the same time we are reminded of the dire consequences if we ever lose respect for the earth and all that it provides.  Auel cleverly reminds us of this and we wonder if we have already lost it.

The only real criticism I have is that perhaps Ayla is too perfect.  Surprise, surprise, as we read on in the series, not only is she altruistic, intelligent and innovative, she is drop dead gorgeous!  Sometimes her perfection and her innocence about it, "I am not beautiful" gets a little irritating ... but only a little.

I am up to the fourth novel, 'The Plains of Passage', but for me, so far, 'The Clan of the Cave Bear' has been a favourite.  I highly recommend it for those who particularly enjoy historical fiction.

My Rating:

Sunday, 15 January 2012

My writing projects: The Viscount's Son

I call myself a writer, but you may be wondering what exactly it is that I am writing.  Currently, I have three major projects on the go.  One is a fantasy novel for young people, which I hope to have ready for publication at the end of this year.  The second is a large work that will be a series of novels.  It is a fantasy saga.  The third project is my blogfic serial called 'The Viscount's Son', and this is what I'd like to discuss to some degree in this update.

If you have read 'The Viscount's Son' you may have noticed that it hasn't been updated in a while.  A couple of blogs ago I wrote about needing to be more disciplined in my writing and this project is certainly one that I have been a little negligent about.

I have written another chapter, which will be released shortly.  But, I have also worked on a trailer for it.  Lots of authors are releasing book trailers for their novels, and I thought it would be a good idea to try it for my blogfic.  Well, it's an experiment, so I'll evaluate it later.  It was a lot of fun to make though!

Here it is -

The trailer features a number of comments from a review of my story at the Web Fiction Guide.  You can read the review, by Jaquelyn Waters, here.  If you have any comments about the trailer please let me know :)

So, in my new quest to be more disciplined I would like to release a new chapter of 'The Viscount's Son' every two weeks (roughly), feel free to remind me if I'm not keeping up to this promise.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Demon Lord, worth a read ... just!

 I have an interest in reading the work of some of those relatively unknown authors on Amazon kindle - you know, the ones whose books are very cheap or free.  I'm interested because I will probably be listed as one of them eventually (when I get around to finishing one of my novels).  So, recently I scanned the wide range of such ebooks and I came across Demon Lord by TC Southwell.

Demon Lord is the first book of a fantasy series that follows the quest of son of the underworld Bane to overthrow the overworld; and the healer, Mirra's attempts to do, well, good.

Essentially, Bane, the human Dark Lord of the evil God Arkonen, embarks on a campaign to destroy the wards that keep the dark god trapped in the underworld.  An elder Seeress foresaw the trouble and set in motion a plan to bring into the world a girl with powerful healing and goodness.  Bane kidnaps the girl, Mirra, who is then dragged along, often literally, with Bane and his army as they journey through the overworld.  Mirra tries to help Bane with his many excruciating headaches a result of the evil rituals he must perform in order to maintain his magical power.  However Bane is cruel and abusive and beats Mirra relentlessly.

As a story it is interesting.  It has all the typical elements of the fantasy genre particularly a world that Southwell has clearly put a lot of thought into.  There is a dramatic and tense divide between evil and good, and it includes a range of supernatural entities including gods, seers, vampires, demon steeds, grims and weirds.  Some of the descriptions and imagery reads very well and puts a clear picture in a readers mind. 

While the story is a bit of a page-turner, there is much in this book that needs improving.  To me it read like more of a draft than a novel ready for publication.  On a very basic level there were many spelling errors and typos.  But, more importantly the characters needed much reworking.  Mirra was most unbelievable as a character. She is the protagonist but she is painted as so innocent and naïve that she seems, quite simply, stupid.  Bane is angry, aggressive and hostile, and we are not really convinced as to why he is so consistently in this state and why he needs to incessantly beat and torture Mirra.  The whole physical abuse was quite unsettling.  Like a victim of domestic violence Mirra suffered great abuse from Bane but kept going back for more there was something very strange about it.  The other aspect that needed more attention, before publication, was the ending, it is one of the most unsatisfying endings I have come across.  I read the novel, with all its flaws, looking forward to see what would happen, but was sorely disappointed.

So should you bother?  Well one of the things Southwell did quite well was to develop a subtle promise of romance between Bane and Mirra (yup, believe it or not).  This was interesting and kept me turning the pages.  I havent as yet read the other books in this series so maybe it will get better and answer many things that remain unanswered in this first book.  I guess if you have nothing better to read, you enjoy fantasy fiction and you dont want to pay for a book (this one is free) then go ahead and read it.  I can guarantee you will enjoy some elements, but you will, most likely, detest others.