Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year to you all :)

Over 2013, it's been very interesting developing this blog and interacting with some of you!

So, I'm just dropping you a quick note to wish you a very happy and healthy New Year. I often say we are nothing without great health...money, other people, jobs, mean a lot less when you are unwell.

So do your best to have a fit and healthy new year, as well and a happy and prosperous one!

Thank you to all of you who have interacted with me...either through comments, messages, friend adds, blog comments, ratings, reviews and so on.

I hope you continue to enjoy reading many different new books in 2014, maybe revisit some old ones, and just enjoy the rather unequalled pleasure of enjoying the world writers create.

Happy New Year !!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Currently Reading: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen


One of my several 'current reads' is this delightful story by Sarah Addison Allen, an author I'm hearing great things about on Good Reads. I feel a bit of a fraud because I am only three chapters in, but as it is a relatively short book I think it is okay to talk a little about it now.

The story, from what I am reading so far, focusses on the lives of a few 30-somethings living in Nice Town USA. This doesn't mean it is all cherries and apple pie (or indeed, peaches) but I think I was drawn to this (weirdly) by recalling a television drama in the late 1990s called Savannah, about the lives of three young women growing up in Savannah, Georgia. I was so taken by the show (plus Thelma and Louise which came out in 1991) that I resolved that the first proper holiday I would have would be in the southern United States.

I went in 1999 for this dream holiday, but admit I had been in the USA only two years earlier. I lived in Manhattan for ten months, working in a bar / restaurant / club / eaterie! That wasn't a holiday, but was a great experience. 

But I had a great fondness for the simple town setting of programmes like Little House on the Prairie...shows like that made me appreciate even more today, how innocent things seemed to me back then.

Anyway, the book. I'm liking it so far even though I'm not for sure where it is going. It seems to be a case of 'what are these thirty-somethings going to do in order to hang onto their youth, yet still be viewed as grown-ups'?

Going on my own thirties, I think I approached the big 3-Oh with fear. I didn't want to be thirty at all. You hear words like 'all grown-up', 'mature', 'ready to settle down'. Oh dear. Is life that short? Do we give into domesticity too soon? Perhaps we do. But our protoganists Willa and Paxton don't seem to be doing that.

Paxton seems a great character by the way. Right now, she doesn't seem like the main one. Do you ever read a book and think, 'well I know s / he is supposed to be the main one...but I prefer this character instead..'

I'm told that Sarah Addison Allen sprinkles magic into her stories. I love stories that do that. The first book I ever read, Rebecca's World, was sprinkled with magic from the start. I think we need stories that fire our imagination, and remove us from the real world, just a little bit, for a little while.

Whilst reading The Peach Keeper, I can feel able to do just that.

Again, I think I succumbed to a bit of cover adoration here, but it's one of the best looking book covers I have seen. Full review to come.

Happy reading and writing!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Torrents of Abuse - How Should Writers Feel About their Books appearing on Torrent sites?

In 2011, I became aware of a site called www.scribd.com which basically allows users to upload books, so that other users can download them, in part, or in full.

Now, whilst most of us dream about making untold millions from our writing, it is more that we write because we simply want to, and getting our work out there in the market has to be a good thing, right?

I was not happy about this website though. I had written the non-fiction book over a two year period. I had been made redundant in the same year I started penning the book. The book was intended to help my students but also to the wider audience who were genuinely interested in my book.

Yes...it was being sold at a cost. Yes, we have had a world-wide recession, and yes, it happens to other authors too. My first reaction (anger!), apart from '&*@#~~#@!!!!!' was confusion - 'who the hell would upload my book to a website?' along with a revolutionary standpoint - 'I want this site taken down, stat!'

I had to settle for reporting the book as 'stolen' to scribd.com and they did take it down.

I considered pulling the book from being sold as an e-book and just running the printed hardback and paperback copies. However, the trend is clearly towards e-books and I cannot discount that market, and I suppose, as writers, we should embrace any format that gets our work out there.

However, I discovered that things are much worse, two years on, in the closing days of 2013!

My newest title is now on two torrent sites. I am not listing the title here due to ease of finding things (you never really know how things are located on-line) but merely discussing why this is happening.

The torrent sites in question - well it is not easy to ask to have the files withdrawn, because you have to set up an account to contact them, and I don't wish to do that.

Unfortunately, I have heard that even if you use watermarking software, your books can still be scanned and uploaded onto such sites.

I checked on Google to find out if the url was safe to go to. Often such sites run viruses in the background and anyway, they have content which I find greatly distasteful. I'm not a prude, but really...I don't want my books listed on a site that promotes all sorts of unsavoury things.

Where does this leave me?

For my next release...I'm considering doing the print version first, and e-book later. I have no idea if this is a good idea, but it is all trial and error at the moment. I am sceptical about offering my book for review for fear again of it ending up in the wrong hands, or on dodgy sites.

I don't believe people should 'steal' things, it is something I get very angry about. I will always buy a DVD (have not used Netflix or LoveFilm to watch movies yet) and don't believe 'streaming' films on these torrent sites can ever be a good thing.

I am just surprised that a fledgling writer like myself would be targeted in this way. I know I am not alone, and if I see books by writers on scribd.com or other sites, I would let the authors know if they can be found on GoodReads.

My kindle book prices are hardly extortionate and I would think when I do freebies, giveaways and countdown deals that the need to steal somebody else's work would not happen. I see established, very rich authors have their kindle books listed for 60 or 70% of the cost of the paper book. Guess which I choose!

Well, what to do? I'm not down about it. I am just going to work on my next release. Annoyed, but not down. I will choose to let it go.

But if there are ways to get these sort of sites / torrent sites taken down, I think we should do all we can to achieve that. Now that is one revolution I would sign up for!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

What's happening?! My Writing Progress and Release Schedule

I thought I would give you an update on where I am currently with my writing. With Christmas coming I have been less busy with my work, but that doesn't mean I have been less busy! There's been Christmas visits to friends and family that will continue over the holiday period.

Writing can be more difficult than ever to schedule in over the Christmas period. But I'll admit I am hacking away at my writing, and it is going well.

So, what's happening?

December 2013: The Essence of Martial Arts: Special Edition (Non-Fiction)

The original EOMA did okay....4,683 copies sold to date. Not bad for a niche book! But I knew I could write one a LOT better. So the Special Edition is not so much a re-hash but an entirely new version that I think will satisfy martial arts fans. A few interesting reviews on Barnes and Noble, no less :)

January 2014: Dark Winter #1 (Fiction)

Well, I am prepping Dark Winter for a printed release in January. I am still checking the proof at the moment which looks great but still needs a tidy here and there.

It's already had some reviews on Amazon UK and .com as well as a few ratings on GoodReads so I am happy with the differing ratings and reviews so far. I can't stress enough how much authors value reviews, so please leave me one if you get around to reading the book. I know many of you are Kindle or other e-reader users, but some like a print version too, so make your choice...personally I would go for the print edition :)

April 2014: *t**m**** (Fiction)

I know! "*t**m****" is such a catchy title, but before you start blogging it everywhere, tweeting it and wearing the tee shirt, I must tell you what I know all you very intelligent people know already  - that it is not the full title or some attempt by me to be *funny / clever / intellectual. 

In fact, there are only two people on Earth who know the title right now, and what can I tell you about it....
well, not much, except to say that I am in the 'polishing' phase of the book and debating cover ideas with Claudia @ http://phatpuppyart.com/ who did the amazing cover art for Dark Winter and I can't wait to work with her again on this and future projects!

The book is much lighter in tone than Dark Winter, but no less thrilling (I hope) and yet is much more epic in scope. I originally penned four huge story arcs for this, so expect an announcement - title, cover, synopsis, and so on, soon. Going to be pretty magical though....that's all I'm saying.

October (Halloween) 2014: Dark Winter #2 (Fiction)

It won't be a sequel, it's a definite follow-up, continuation, whatever you would like to call it. I have a three story arc for this,  so if you liked Book One, you may love Book Two. I have been working very hard to get the words in my head onto screen. But it takes time, even typing at my sluggish pace (oh, right - THAT'S why...!)

So that's me, for now. What are your projects, and how are you progressing with them?

Remember that they will only happen if you give it your all. Not your friends, not your family - YOU. I'm wishing for you that you will get your work out there. People need new stories, new things to enjoy. As writers, we have the potential to fill that need. So let's go and do it :)

Happy reading, writing, enjoying life :)


Sunday, 15 December 2013

Book Review: The Lady Always Wins by Courtney Milan


I think this is number three on my December Reading Challenge, and after a slow-ish start, it soon picks up a pace. 

This is my first Courtney Milan read and unlikely to be my last. I hear a lot of great things about this author, and she clearly knows how to entertain her readers with great characters, and heroines you can and will root for. 

Does the title give the plot away? Not really. Nothing is for certain, except to say that you get really engrossed and I found myself sweeping through this novella really quickly. 

Our heroine is naturally likeable, but I found the typical alpha male missing here - and that's a good thing, because it made our hero feel more vulnerable, more likely to have faults than other male characters that usually get drawn a certain way in this genre.

So what's the pull? Well, I like the fact that these two knew each other before, and yet, as the story grabs you, you wonder how the different paths - and predictably, their futures seem so different apart, but together, might not be a good thing after all.

So if the Lady Always Wins, is ending up with the hero, if she does at all - a good thing? You will have to try it to find out. I bought this on sale on Kindle and was not disappointed.

Four strong stars out of five. I expect Courtney's full length novels might yet sway a five out of me.

Book Review #11: Letters From A Murderer by John Matthews


I watch a lot of crime programmes. On Saturdays here in the UK, there are a batch of them on television, FBI Files, Solved, Murder Shift, Couples Who Kill, Born to Kill and so on.

Being a peaceful person, I don't have a healthy interest in killers in themselves, but I am interested in why they do what they do, and the detectives who resolve to capture them.

This book, like Chene's review said, required me to shift focus as I haven't read a book like this in a while. It was gory on a level of the horror 'Screamscapes' which I am also reading, and enjoying.

The book has gripping characters which has already been commented on. As a thriller, it works brilliantly and shows the powers of recommendations from friends of books. You can decide if it is for you or not, but the style (literally 'letters' which explain much of the plot) is engaging, different, and enjoyable.

It was a hard read at times, simply because of the gore factor. Things were happening so brutally and explosively I had to take a break sometimes to take it all in.

But any story about a 'Ripper' style killer has to be gory. It kind of reminded me - loosely - of the film 'From Hell' starring a marvellous Bilbo-free Ian Holm.

Thoroughly recommended. It's also possible if I had my 'horror' hat on, I would give it five stars instead of a strong four out of five. I just didn't adjust to the gore too well. If you can get past that, and it is worth the effort, you will love this book.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Good Reads Give Away: The Essence of Martial Arts

Enter the giveaway when it is approved!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Essence of Martial Arts by John    Hennessy

The Essence of Martial Arts

by John Hennessy

Giveaway ends December 09, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Writing Goals and How I Do It

What is the most difficult thing for you as a writer? Is it formulating ideas that flesh out a coherent plot? Maybe it is characters...after all everyone wants to read engaging characters they can love, hate, root for...maybe all three.

Is it knowing 'will this be all done and dusted in one book, or do I do a series'?

Certainly, that last point seems to be 'hot' these days, but we should not do a trilogy for trilogy's sake.

Is the most difficult thing, actually getting that first draft done? I would suggest that it is.

For me, with fiction, I went all out for a full length novel.

I created a first draft within seven months of the start. I re-drafted the first three chapters several times, and sent them to many agents. I re-drafted that first draft a further six times, totalling seven drafts in all.

I was born at 7am on the 7th July, 1973. So I take seven as a lucky number, but if the book needed an eighth draft, be sure I would have done it.

The completion of the first draft is hard won. You feel victorious, even though you know that the first draft is in no way good enough for the wider world.

But I need to tell you how I reached this goal in the first place. What writing goals did I set myself, and how did I achieve them?

Well. The starting point was....to start! Nothing revolutionary in itself, but I had the basic idea for the story down. I had a start, a middle, an end. I knew what the characters would do in the story, what their motivations were, and the world in which they operated.

However, over the course of 90,000 words, a lot happens. It needs to, in order to hold the reader's attention.

The story was a paranormal horror / fantasy, so atmosphere was key, and so a fast start wasn't necessary. But I built it in nonetheless.

I wrote the story in first person. I wanted people to feel what that character felt, when she felt it.

This doesn't work for everyone, or every book. It's a hard decision. But for this story, it was the right one.

Working for myself, I need discipline. But I would be lying if I said I got onto the computer at 7am each day and wrote for ten hours. It doesn't work like that for me.

I simply wrote when I could. Sometimes, the noise from neighbours with their constant house improvement projects threatened to derail the whole project.

Through all the annoyance, I stayed true to one thing - that this book simply had to happen.

I had a Word document in which I kept chapter notes, character details, and crucially for goal busting, a list of how many words I had written, on what date, how many achieved, and so on.

I also had an Excel document called book projects. For this story, I set the target at 80,000 words, and had all the cells formulated to show how many I had left to type. Imagine how I felt to blow the 80,000 word min away!

So you have to start, so you can begin hacking it down. Sometimes, I did a few hundred words. On other days, several thousand. When you get your groove, you can fly and you don't want to do anything else.

This can cause issues with your family life, but make it clear that you love them, want to be with them - and you will - but that this is important to you. Only another writer, indeed another reader, will know what you mean.

In short, I would:-

  • Decide what length your book is (novella or  full length)
  • Clearly map out the start, middle and end
  • Have detailed notes on each character - ask yourself what YOU would want to know about them as a reader
  • Give each character a voice (have you read books where all the characters sound alike? Make each one stand out!)
  • Build the world the characters live in, and don't skimp on the small details
  • Not force a trilogy if there is not enough story. If one book will do, make it so
  • Set a deadline for the finish of the first draft
  • Re-draft the story for at least the amount of time the first draft took you to write
  • Send out feelers to agents
  • Seek editorial advice - professional
  • Seek (but do not take to heart) - advice from friends and family
  • Always believe in yourself. You can and you will do this. For you. Not for glory! Just for you.
  • Enjoy the experience. Writing should be fun, regardless of the story content. Make it fun for you.

Happy writing!

Friday, 29 November 2013

The Writer's Dilemma: Points of View, Head Hopping, First or Third Person?

Having written two distinct works to date, I wrote for the non-fiction sector and also the fiction sector.

The former was, for most part, written in third person. The latter worked better as first person.

The decision to go with first or third person is one of the most important things you can decide as a writer. You would think this would be obvious, and perhaps it is, especially for those of you who had a creative writing course or something similar to guide you.

I did not, and I will be considering doing one in the future, although my work-home life balance may prohibit me doing that!

So how to come to this decision?

In my novel, though it had just a handful of characters, it focussed the reader's attention on the main protagonist, because I wrote her sections of the story in first person. Because of the themes of the book (paranormal fantasy, horror, ghost story) I thought it would be more claustrophobic for the reader if you were literally behind the character (or indeed, as one review on Amazon put it "You feel like you're inside her head!") and so, feel what she is going through as she was going through it. Hopefully, I conveyed the sense of dread she was feeling, and the weight of the responsibility she was under.

I have failings as a writer but as I always say, and I will continue to do so, this is a hobby for me. A project. I'm learning as I go. It is a constant, gnawing, will-sapping process. But I promise you, it is worth it.

I was very clear from the start of two things. Anything featuring the main character would be in first person.

Anything else, would be in third person.

However, there was a third option I explored, and executed.

If a chapter focussed exclusively on one character, I would sometimes use the first person perspective. This isn't as conflicting as it sounds (honestly!).

I just wanted people to be as close to the action, suspense, drama....et cetera as possible. So it wasn't a case of rooting for your hero or heroine.

I just wanted to put the reader, right the story. Only over time, when the book has been out awhile (and indeed, the print version too) will I know if I have been successful.

One reviewer wrote to me about the head hopping. Of course, I created the characters, and I created the world in which they function. So I know them well. The reader is just getting to know them. So head hopping can be problematic. I do feel, however, for this story at least, that it was the right things to do.

If you were to ask me So what if you wrote it in third person? What would it have been like? 

I think it would have been less engaging for the reader. So as the author, you make the decisions. Your book will live or die by those decisions. I made the decisions I made and I stand by them.

A print version of the book should be out by January 2014. It's possible that the written printed word will have a bigger impact. On Kindle, and its various cousins, it's easy to skip swathes of text. You may miss the dramatic elements I wished to convey. The pre-Kindle authors didn't have this issue, and it took me a while to convert to this new reading platform. I am a convert, but I still prefer and will buy a printed book that I enjoy.

My advice, would be to get personal advice on your work via editorial critique. You can read on the internet people's way of doing things, and in many cases, it will be all common-sense, very practical stuff. The problem is, it is not personal and necessarily applicable to you, or to what you are trying to achieve.

So consider how your work will best suit either format, and then go all out to make it as great as you can.

I can't say for certain that future works of fiction I write would be first person, but it seems that the writing flow worked best in that format for me. You simply have to find the right way that works for you.

I'm wishing you all the best in this venture.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Book Review #10: Cascade (Rivers of Time, 2) by Lisa Tawn Bergren


There was a danger of Cascade being a bit of a let down after the superlative first book in the Rivers of Time series. Waterfall was my fave fantasy book of the year. Like many books, they get recommended to you, unless it's a really popular series like Twilight or the Mortal Instruments series, you may not have heard of it.

I think this is a shame because Cascade (and if the others in the series follow suit) deserves much more recognition than it gets. It may seem to some that this is written by a Cassandra Clare-lite, but Lisa Bergren has her own writing style. It was engaging from page one of Waterfall, and Cascade literally picks up from where the first book ended.

I think fantasy is a difficult genre to pull off, but this is no ordinary fantasy, but a time travelling one. For me, that's much harder to make work. 

Within the first few pages of Waterfall, our heroine Gabi was in ancient Italy. Here in Cascade, we are mainly back in present time. I'm not so fussed about Gabi and her beau, Marcello, but I do like the interplay between Gabi and Lia (Gabi's younger sister) although I think their interactions were slightly better in Waterfall.

There's some real shocks in Cascade that, for young-adult, is pretty strong stuff. To reveal it here would be to reveal too much, but I was like 'oh my God' at some of the scenes.

The energy and pacy style I would say are as good as anything Cassandra Clare has written. I only mention her because these are similar stories in size and scope, but maybe CC is better with the humour. 

Cascade is a rare thing - a brilliant 'second' book and I think will, in time, be recognised for the simply smashing adventure story that it is. I may have to re-read it, along with Waterfall, but it left me gasping for more. Bring on Torrent !!

Book Review #9: Lady in Pearls by Elizabeth Cole


Elizabeth Cole really 'drew me in' with her vivid descriptions and wonderful prose.It's a novella, so I accept it is short, but it would not have been harmed in any way to be longer.

The rather sweet cover belies a very sharply written and intelligent story where the two protaganists, Nathan  Bancroft, and the wily and beautiful Lady in Pearls herself, Vanessa Phillips, seem at the start to outdo one another before falling for each other.

I like that Nathan doesn't fawn over her like some male characters in the regency world tend to do. He's a smartly drawn character, and Vanessa has likeable and alluring traits that develop nicely when these two are thrown together.

So don't dismiss this as another smaltzy romance. Actually I like the cover a lot but it is the story that is satisfying, even through its brevity.

I was born a long time after 1821, but the descriptions are so vivid I felt I was there. You know the holodeck adventures in Star Trek? It's like you could create the perfect regency setting, and it would look like the characters fit into the world created by Miss Cole.

A short story, and in short, I loved it.

I hope Elizabeth Cole writes more like this one. I'll be happy to go back to 1821.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Be Disciplined in Writing, and You'll be Disciplined in (almost) Everything

What is the single most difficult thing I faced as a writer?

Without doubt, it was the start. So, what to do? In my case, I made extensive notes for Dark Winter, writing out, in some detail, a plot, character list, a 'world that they existed in', and  how they interacted with others in the story. What were / are their motivations? What effect was I going for? Drama, a love interest, a murder....all three?

It's a wonder any books get written at all when we consider what's involved.

Admittedly, you learn as you write, and you learn more once you've completed what you've written.

However, the notes planning was very important. So I had one file called 'Notes', the other called 'Draft One'.

I had the basics of the story in my head. But I will also say that this wasn't my first go at a full length work of fiction.

I credit that story with helping me write this one better.

I not suggesting you attempt to write two stories to achieve one good one. But it is true that the more we use our muscles, the stronger they become. In this case, our writing muscles have to be developed, and this is not as easy as it sounds.

So, how to get the discipline then? One thing I avoided was loads of websites saying 'how to do it'. Before you say 'well there's a conflict with this post then!' I am just writing this to show you what I did, and currently do. Hopefully, it will work for you. At least, I hope some elements will.

As martial arts is a big part of my life, let me explain how the discipline there, helped me, here.

I could be teaching at any time of day, literally. So writing at say, 7am through to 8am sounds great. But writing is not my main income...teaching is. So if I have a lesson then, the work goes into that. The writing project is shelved.

You want to write when you have finished in the evening, so you decide on 10pm through to say, 12 mid-night. But your other half wants you to sleep earlier, so you do that instead.

What I am saying is, writing is important, but things will always come up that you must simply give attention to. We cannot be like Jack Torrance in The Shining, who hates his wife interrupting his writing (not that he did much :).

Of course, we would like to be left alone to write our novel. Yes, the one we'll be remembered for.

Or, if I can share with you my view....the one you will be happy with.

This is not a small world, I-can't-achieve-big-things-vision.  It's more about being happy writing, whether it is non-fiction or fiction.

If you don't enjoy writing, it will become a chore, you will labour to the end, that's if you get there at all, and most likely, you will detest what you've written.

The first step, is just a small one.

Set yourself not a daily goal, or even a weekly one. Just commit to start.

Once you start, you will get it going. Yes, the road will be bumpy, even if you have done extensive notes. Even then, be guarded against those notes constraining your story. As you write, it will naturally develop.

Don't kill off a character in chapter six just because your old notes says so. Do it if it is right. Think about about it, and resolve to make the first draft workable. That is all. Because the net stage, re-drafting, is a longer, more tricky thing to do well.

I find that once I am passed 5,000 words, there is no stopping me. Soon, you will be on 10,000, and depending on the length (novella, series, epic!) you will soon have that first draft completed.

If you have to set a goal, look at it now...we are in 2013, so let's say you will have your draft done - draft One - completed, within six months. Does that sound reasonable? Let's say you don't complete it, but you have say, 80% done...isn't that better than nothing?

I can write from 500 words to around 4,500 words in a day. It doesn't mean I won't delete some, or re-edit large swathes of text as I'm going along, but it's all about getting your writing muscles stronger.

In martial arts, I have that discipline...I've just transferred it to other areas off my life.

You can do it too. Ask yourself what it is that you are most disciplined at, and how you can use that energy and focus to write.

And I will be then happy to see your book out there!

Happy writing!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

My December Reading Challenge

Okay. So I would like to share with you a goal I'd actually like to achieve. I think, between teaching, writing, eating and sleeping, I can do this. Next post is regarding my Writing Challenge for December 2013.

I'm attempting to read 10 novels in the month of December. Some are novellas, so maybe it is possible.

1. Scandal of Love - Janelle Daniels

Not so much a scandal, just a lovely novella length romance....so far!


2. Letters from a Murderer - John Matthews

Recommended to me, and I love the synopsis. I think it's going to be great!


3. The Lady Always Wins - Courtney Milan

A short novella from an author recommended to me.

The Lady Always Wins

4. Susan Fe - Angelfall

Hearing GREAT things about this. Sounds like 'The Prophecy' starring Christopher Walken. Evil Angels? Oh yes...that's just got to be good!


5. Seduce Me at Sunrise - Lisa Kleypas

Full length historical romance from the writer of the superlative 'Mine Till Midnight'. Boy, can she write a good yarn.


6. Gothic Tales - Elizabeth Gaskell

Wow wow wow! Read this some thirty years ago in a library that has since been knocked down :( Cannot wait to re-read this.


7. Doctor Sleep - Stephen King

The master risks writing a sequel to one of my all time fave horrors. I have this book in my keep a month now. Still scared to read it in case it doesn't live up to expectations!


8. Ratcatcher - James McGee

Recommended.....looks different...think I'm going to like it.


9. The Peach Keeper - Sarah Addison Allen

Been on my TBR list simply because it has a nice cover, but also it is based in the American deep South, where I had my first foreign holiday. Looks dreamy. Think I'll love it.


10. Sherry Thomas - The Luckiest Lady in London

There is no doubt that 2013 is the year I fell back in love with romance novels. So long as they are intelligently written with a plot that moves...I'll love it. Another recommended author - so I hope it lives up to it!

The Luckiest Lady in London

What's YOUR reading goal for the final month of 2013?

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Why You Cannot Give Up If Writing is your Dream

If you write, be it on paper, a computer, the back of someone's head, you are a writer. Remember that.

Oh. 'Not good enough', I hear you say. I want to be a published writer.'

Alright then. Let me tell you about Malorie Blackman. She's a British author who currently holds the position of Children's Laureate for 2013-2015.

This week, she was the featured 'castaway' on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. For those of you that don't know, DID is a show where someone is interviewed about their life, and the music that influenced them at different points in their life.

Malorie Blackman always wanted to be a writer, even when she was young. But when she was asked by her careers teacher / adviser what she wanted to be, and Malorie answered 'an English teacher', she was told, 'Oh! Black women don't do that...why not become a secretary or something?'

Malorie holds no disrespect to secretaries, but it is simply not what she wanted to do.

Her husband supported her idea of writing - hard - for one year, but around that year, she was doing jobs....one of them, in computing, of all things.

A meeting with Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, changed things, and Alice asked Malorie what she wanted to be. 'A writer', she said, 'but I get so many rejections. I suppose you should tell me don't give up'....!

And so Alice Walker, author of the very famous Color Purple book, wrote 'To Malorie, don't give up. Alice Walker'.

So because Alice Walker told her not to give up, Malorie didn't, and after some 82 rejection letters, became a published writer.

Clearly, Malorie had to overcome prejudice on her career aims (though she does admit that careers advisor - who she hated at the time, spurred her on to do better), expectations of what maybe a black woman in the UK could achieve at that time (secretary when she wanted something a bit more from life). Not only that, but racism...being told to 'go back to where-ever you come from,' even though she was born in England!

Don't give up. Especially if those around you say 'this won't work.' Keep your counsel, and do what is important to you. Make it work. You won't be able to convince everyone until JK Rowling-size cheques land on the floor in your home. Even if that doesn't happen to you, don't give up.

Don't give up. Because you don't have to go the traditional route to publish. The Writers and Artists book acknowledge the trend to 'self publish' titles. It's not vanity publishing. You write because you want to. Are You Tubers narcissists? Maybe some of them are. But some genuinely publish interesting stuff, get feedback, and are happy. Others upload every few days to feed their ego, and yes...the bank balance. Fair enough. No-one criticises them, do they?

Don't give up. Even when you look at your script and think 'who in the world would want to read this.'

I'm not feeding you hollow optimism. Writers write. It's as simple as that. It is a human desire to want feedback on it, so why not use whatever medium you need to get that feedback?

Write, enjoy the experience, and who knows, you may be the one who makes your life defined by it. Or define other's future!

Wishing all writers well. We can all learn from Malorie's determination and infectious belief. Of course, a famous author pushing you in the right way isn't a bad thing!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Book Covers to Love: The One by Keira Cass

One of the reasons I bought The Selection was because of the amazing cover. (I know, that's a very very silly reason). The Elite didn't look so good, but I think it will be difficult to find a more beautiful cover than this. I just hope the story holds up. This cover is stunning.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Currently Reading: Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas

I know, I know!  It seems like I've been mired in romance novels for a while, but historical romances really are something else, and worth a dime (or more) of anyone's time.

This book was hotly recommended to me by two authors I follow, and it's great to read novels in a historical context, because it's something I wish to learn and be good at.

From the GR profile...it seems an excellent read and just the kind of thing I would like:-

"When an unexpected inheritance elevates her family to the ranks of the aristocracy, Amelia Hathaway discovers that tending to her younger sisters and wayward brother is easy compared to navigating the intricacies of the ton."

Wouldn't we love to have that problem? Anyway, my main problem is, it is nearly 1am in the morning and I am still reading this!

Book Review: The Infernal Devices ~ Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare


Book One. Great. Book Two. Just as good? Book Three wouldn't let me down, right?

Tessa. She seemed stronger in the earlier books. Is it a Book Three thing (read Hunger Games for this!) that it seems we have to make the main character weaker for some reason....shouldn't that be in Book One, and by Book Three she has grown from her experiences?

I admit this was a fast read and pacy novel. 500 pages flew by with ease....until the last few. Let me explain why. 

Tessa. Again. Tessa. My oh my. I got more frustrated with her as the book wore on....and I think some heroines have to show why they do (or don't do) the things they do.

I regret to say that having read the first two in this series, I was a bit disappointed by this book. 

I expected MUCH more from this book, not just from the love triangle but in general. I didn't get what I wanted. I think this book could have been a lot shorter if some of the things were cut off but that's not what I want. I wanted more....and after nearly 600 pages, I was wondering why the series ended the way it did.

Will, was a cool character and I liked his interactions with Jem and Tessa but some of the ending of the story arcs seemed a bit rushed...especially with Will. All seemed a bit forced to me.

Jem hung this together for me. A great character from the start and like an annoying younger brother type. I rated him a lot.

I know this is a lead in into the Mortal Instruments, so maybe that's where the book's story arcs will pick up. I found the win win love triangle resolution a bit 'off' for me. 

Even in fantasy, there has to be some logic, and I struggled with the whole three of them thing. 

Still. Maybe that's my closed eye view of things.

I'm...kind of numb after finishing the book. I haven't read all the MI stories but were less likely to like them, having really liked Clockwork Angel and a Clockwork Prince.

Clockwork Princess is the weakest of the three, but if you take the story as a whole, it's a super super fantasy. The story telling was so good, I can kind of forgive Cassandra Clare for where it was lacking.

Cracking trilogy, all things told. Recommended.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Book Review: The Cinderella Debutante by Elizabeth Hanbury

This has been on my 'to read' list for a while, and regency romances are a delightful way to de-stress from the trials of life.

So it was one that I put off for a while, given I had already read Miss Hanbury's A Bright Particular Star and A Midsummer Eve at Rookery End.

I can honestly say that I don't know anyone who wouldn't like these stories. Comparisons are made to Georgette Heyer, who admittedly I have not read, but I think you have to get into the writer's mind - as a reader - in order to fully appreciate things.

This tale is told with Miss Hanbury's trademark wit and style. Given that I really loved the first two books of the author, how would this stand up?

The story centres around two sisters, Lucy and Belinda. Belinda is the gorgeous one who all men fawn after, whilst Lucy, no slouch herself, appears to play second fiddle to her sister all too often. Here's where, for me, the stories are sometimes better than Jane Austen (who I adore but she introduces too many sisters on occasion). That may seem a big ask...but there's nothing wrong being compared to the great authors.

Lord Sneyd is a particular great villian, and sometimes lacking in other stories of their ilk. So it was great to see him take up a lot of the story. That is not to say it lagged when he was not around. You kind of still root for Belinda even though she clearly loves herself. It's easy to get behind Lucy and wish only the best for her, and although I kind of predicted how things might end, it did not stop me enjoying this thoroughly entertaining read.

As for the original Cinderella story, and Disney's interpretation, who didn't love that? This is an enjoyable read, especially in these wintry days. Loved it, and made me want to take off to the home counties today....except I don't have to, and you won't...read this and you'll simply be transported to another world.

I have longed to go horse riding. With this, and A Bright Particular Star as motivation, I might just do that.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

R.I.P. Doris Lessing

File:Doris lessing 20060312 (jha).jpg

22nd October 1919 - 17th November 2013

Doris Lessing authored more than 50 works, crossing both non-fiction and fiction books.

It is always a great pain to me when someone of stature in his or her chosen art passes away. I realise such things are part of life, but I think it is even more important in today's 'must have it now' world that we remember someone who acted very different to many of today's authors.

How will today's authors be remembered, when it is their time? And what legacy will they leave?

Do we, those of us who write, want to leave a legacy through our writing? Or is it all about fame and money making?

One of the things most wonderful about Doris Lessing was that she was completely self taught, and wrote, simply because she wanted to.

No doubt her later writing improved much on those early works, but I think every writer can testify to that experience.

Some other people I know insisted on doing a creative writing course, before attempting their first book.
The trouble was, and is, in my view, is that they suck the creativity out of you, and you become just like everyone else. Am I wrong on this?

When Harry Potter was at its height, I think everyone wanted to write 'the next' Harry Potter. Same with The Hunger Games.

You have to find your own way. If you book doesn't have the latest hot topic, say, a dystopian world, or a love triangle, or both (!) then you should find your own way when you write.

That was what Doris Lessing did in each of her works. I'll be seeking out what made her so special, as I regret to say I have not read anything she has written.

Rest in peace, Doris.

Friday, 15 November 2013

How Many Words Should You Write Each Day?

I have heard some writers be so disciplined that they would plan to write for an hour, each day, from 7am to 8am, without fail.

Others will write with caffeine enhanced super abilities, and will go on an eight hour marathon from 11pm to 7am the next day.

Other notable writers, like Stephen King, have been quoted as saying 'I used to write 3,000 words a day', now it is more like 1,800.'

You know what? All methods are fine, because they work for that particular writer.

There is no one best fit, only the one that is most suitable for you.

For my part, I write when I can. If I am really 'in the zone', nothing and no-one can shift me.

But generally, I will write as much as I can. Even if it is a single paragraph, so long as it is worthy of the the manuscript as a whole, then I have had a successful writing day.

I think the other key thing is not to beat yourself up on missing writing targets. Why? Because writing should be a joy, not a chore. I don't deny it is hard sometimes, but if writing ever becomes a chore I would give it up and do something else with my time.

I've always stated that writing was very much a side project for me, and it is possible my writing is more amateur as a result. I have no doubt others write with better prose, style and depth than I ever could.

But through practise, I am learning, and will continue to learn.

Another point of note is the type of writing you are doing, If it is non-fiction, actually I find that harder, even though you tend to have done your research and have the facts in front of you.

Fiction can often flow much easier and you can always delete the 'what the hell did I write there' stuff at a later date.

Write. Enjoy it. Never let it be a chore.

With that, I'll wish you a great week of happy and successful writing!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Cover Reveal and Launch Date - The Essence of Martial Arts: Special Edition

In 2009, I had already started penning notes for a book that was to be entitled The Essence of Martial Arts. I called it that because it's not really possible for one book to contain everything about martial arts.

So I focussed on what I had trained in, and still train in - Kung Fu, Jeet Kune Do, Tai Chi and Karate.

In 2011 it was published.

So why the new edition? :-

Well. The publisher was concerned about some of the content. Who knows? Maybe they are / were right and the bits I was advised not to include last time, I should not do on this occasion either.

However, I really don't think what I wanted to include last time should upset anybody, and in any case, the new edition features an expansion on some of the chapters, plus new chapters too.

This edition also pre-empts a much bigger non-fiction book that will really drill down and explain in a lot more detail on the individual moves and why they are important.

Who should buy this edition:-
  • People who bought the first edition, liked it, and want to know more.
  • People who are interested in martial arts and didn't buy the first edition
  • People who may not like strict martial arts programs but want to know how to defend themselves in today's (sometimes violent) society

To date the book, across its various editions (hardback, paperback and e-book) have sold over 4,500 copies. That's pretty awesome for a rather niche subject and I'm thankful to everyone who bought it.

So I really hope you will give the new edition (e-book only for now) a go. It will be available from Monday 9th December 2013. Originally was going to be 25th November, but I have to tweak it a bit further!

The photo above is me, but I'm much less scary in real life!

Interviewed in 2011 on a local radio station, you can tell I am right out of my comfort zone! Still, you can listen to part one here and part two here if you want a laugh. I don't think I can cut a living on a radio station so I had best keep on teaching!

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Book Review #8: A Year in Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins


This was my review of Catching Fire from a year ago. I'm about to read it once again, just ahead of the UK movie release. I think it was a brave decision to follow up the amazing Book One, but from what I recall, Suzanne Collins did it, and then some.

I just hope I will still agree with what I wrote a year ago.

2012 review:-

After the truly superlative 'Hunger Games', I hoped 'Catching Fire' could be at least half as good, then I would be happy. It starts off and sets quite a pace, in line with the first book. Katniss is still super cool without being too into herself, and I really love how she is written. 

The book itself does feel like a 'middle story' though, and when it ended, I was 'hmm - so where do we go now?' - obviously, onto 'Mockingjay' the third in the series, but Catching Fire, and the other two books, will have to be seen as a whole, so until I read Mockingjay, I can't be for certain where this all fits.

Where Catching Fire excels over so many other books is how gripping it is written, and just keeps you turning the pages. It lacks the pow pow pow of the first book, so why the five stars? It deserves five - it is gripping, great character development, and shocks aplenty, but not just for the sake of shock value. 

I am reading Mockingjay right now, and I hope for an amazing end to this trilogy. Suzanne Collins certainly created a great story for teens to adults. It's gory, but great!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Editorial Critique and How It Helped Me Write A Better Story

On my blog I tend to talk about other books, and apart from some self promo which I hope you can live with. But I 'd like in this post, to share with you some thoughts about the last six months, in which I sought and received professional feedback on my book. If you are a writer, I cannot stress how important it is to get good critique.

Many things have happened. Many things have not happened, or will happen. So  let's break it down.

What is for certain though, is that once I hit the 'publish' button, I was like 'is that it?' Will no-one buy it / read it / download it (even on a free)?

What right would I expect to make a splash with this story?

What happened.

26th September 2012. I started writing Dark Winter, which was actually my second go at a full length story. I already had the characters and story arcs pretty much mapped out in my head, and I was enjoying writing it that much that it didn't seem to be a chore, and I never had writer's block, at least, not for this story.

I also had a lot more time to myself so although I knew I was a novice at writing, by doing so I would improve my skills, surely? I also continued to read, widely, but also at books aimed at YA / NA, which is where I felt this story would sit most happily. In truth, it is probably for young adults of 13+. Maybe a bit gory for the very young. Of course, us fully grown adults should be able to read it too!

By April 2013, at the end of the UK's very own long dark winter, I had completed the first draft. I resolved to work obsessively on it, but knew I could not do this own my own. I would need help, much like the main protagonist in the book.

I had previously purchased The Writer's & Artists book which has a lot of helpful things in it. I also knew that I would have to get editorial help, and researched some costs, before electing to go to the Writers Workshop, who were certainly brutal in their critique. But that is a good thing, friends, because as writers sometimes we may get too protective of our 'work' and we just have to get over ourselves.

I certainly could not call myself a writer, or an author. If people see me like that, well, great! That's just fine.

A bit like in my main profession...I do not expect to be called Sifu, or Sensei...I'm a martial arts teacher, and I just want to impart my knowledge to those I am lucky enough to teach. It is a privilege to teach, and it is a joy to know that someone, somewhere, is interested in my little book.

After editorial's critique, I felt a bit deflated. I couldn't see the light in the things they were saying, but some friends said to me...'they want more of this...less of this...give it to them and you will have a great story!'

So I didn't respond to editorial straight away. I let things lie, tried to consider what I could take from it, but also, the things I would absolutely not compromise on.

Check that again....does it seem arrogant to say that I wouldn't compromise on something? Didn't I say earlier in the post that we had to 'get over ourselves'? Well, allow me to explain!

I had previously indie published a book on martial arts, and whilst I 'border-line' enjoyed the experience, I have to say that I let editorial (a different house) batter me into submission. The reason was because I had no experience of the writing / publishing industry, and I felt I should defer to their better judgement.

Editorial evaluation is just that, though. You don't have to edit it if you don't want to. As the creator of the work, you should have the right to do that.

As time passed, I began re-drafting again, and the editorial was starting to look less harsh. I could see what they were saying. I accepted in large part what they said, and several re-drafts later, I believed I had a story that maybe people would enjoy.

Still, I stuck to my guns on certain aspects, and again, I think my cold evaluation of that made for a better story.

Imagine you are in a relationship where the other person tells you to change this part of yourself, or this and that, and you feel a whole range of emotions.

Do you concede ground entirely, or do you put down a marker and refuse to budge? Or maybe you choose a third option and move a little their way, and improve your own position by doing so. I think it is this 'middle ground' that we should strive for.

For future stories, I don't think I'm 'quite there' in terms of being sharp enough to critique my own work. So I will still need editorial advice.

However, in Dark Winter's case, there is a beginning, a middle, an end. There's a lot of scope in the initial story, and I would not dare stretch it out without there being a reason (I dislike 'filler' chapters myself!).

A month on and the story has two reviews on Amazon, and two on Goodreads. That's very heartening to me and whilst I accept some will not like what I have written, that is life!

What is happening.

I've made extensive notes for book two, and I'm reworking the earlier draft of (name decided but to be revealed later!) the fantasy adventure yarn that is really big in scope and scale. I will have to work like demon to get a 2014 release, but as it is not 'timely' (i.e. Dark Winter is best timed for Halloween, but 'can be read at any time', as one review said) I think that is okay.

I haven't mentioned the cover art but it's likely to be with Claudia again if she can cope with me!

My thanks to those of you who featured the book on your blogs, some of which I include here:-







...and many more of you.

What might happen.

Some of you already let me know your thoughts on the story, and the martial arts book has been out for two years now, and despite being very niche, has garnered four reviews on Amazon.

I haven't mentioned the cover art for book two or for the fantasy novel, but it's likely to be with Claudia again if she can cope with me!

What will happen.

November 2013:-

The revised 'Essence of Martial Arts' book will be out.

As for 2014:-

  • Look out for a print release of Dark Winter, some time in January 
  • Dark Winter, Book Two will be done in time for Halloween 2014 - it has to...otherwise Dana will get me
  • The fantasy novel will be done in time for April, I hope. So bear with me for news sprinkling through the blog-o-sphere on that one!

I hope you'll go along the journey with me. I need your support and you can be sure you'll get mine.

If you've read, will read, are 'to-read' my book (s), thank you so much and I hope you get something from it, and let me know what you think. Amazon, Goodreads, email, blog...I don't mind...just let me know, I'll appreciate all feedback!

Lots of love to all the readers and writers out there, see you again soon.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Currently Reading: Screamscapes by Evans Light


How fantastic is it when you come across really gripping horror yarns? In the first two stories, which I have completed, Crawlspace and What Ever Possessed You? are picture perfect horror tales, and I seriously loved them both.

Evans Light is clearly an excellent writer and understands his genre well. What I particularly like from these first two stories is how the gore is kept to a relative minimum, but the creep factor is high throughout.

I suppose comparisons to Stephen King are obvious, in that perhaps all horror writers wish to emulate him. But I suspect readers of Evans Lights will find he has his own distinct voice - and it will be heard!

The first two stories are great, and I hope the remainder are too. I'm very impressed!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Book Review #7: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Some of my friends had read The Hunger Games trilogy by the time I had caught on in early 2012. Not wanting to give into fandom, I hesitated to buy the book. But when I finally did, it blew me away.

This was the book that got back back into reviewing books and generally being more active in cyberspace. There's a lot been made of comparisons with the Japanese version of this tale called Battle Royale, but honestly, I'm happy to accept the world which Suzanne Collins has created.

This first book was utterly engrossing, super compelling, to the point that all I wanted to do was stop the world, get off, and read this book to its conclusion. I haven't read such a gripping novel in years. The second and third books in the story are all worthy of praise, and I will review them here in due course.

First off, I must say that this book is not for young children. It's quite graphic in parts, without being gross. The Hunger Games is simply one of the best books I have ever read, and I have read many books over the course of my 40 years. It's not a twee romance, although there is a love story, it's well written, and doesn't detract from the story.

That's why we read - to find good stories, and I was engrossed from the first page to the last. The last book to affect me that was was Stephen King's Desperation, and yet, while that was one of King's best, this is even better.

I'm happy to say I missed the film in the cinema, because reading the book was such a joy, I'm now looking forward to the film on DVD. Suzanne Collins has wrote believable characters in a world we can understand. I would describe the story as a mix between Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four, King's (writing as Bachman) The Running Man, and TV's the Crystal Maze.

Much has been said about the rather grisly theme of children killing children - true, although the story is so good, you almost forget about it.

The twists and turns are magnificently paced and introduced, creating a non stop tension throughout the book. My heart beat quickened at some scenes, such was the quality of the writing here.

Bravo to Suzanne Collins. This slots into my top ten books ever.

Last of the Halloween plugs

You don't want her to get you, do you?


Thursday, 31 October 2013

Halloween is not the only time you might see her....

“There’s always a plan. A design. Nothing ever just happens, and you can’t escape your fate. Two will die. Don’t forget that.”

Dana Cullen (Dark Winter)

Buy the book:-