Yet Another Book Meme

I saw this over at Benjamin Solah’s Website and decided to participate. If you would like to give it a go, then go ahead.

Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback?

I’m not keen on hardback only because they are harder (and heavier) to lug around with me, but I don’t care if I’m reading either of the other two options.

Barnes & Noble or Borders?

We don’t have Barnes & Noble here and Borders is too far away for me to visit.

Bookmarks or dog-ear?

Anyone who dog-ears a book should be shot! On the spot! No exceptions! I absolutely hate seeing a dog-eared book. Bookmarks are so clean and tidy…use them.

Amazon or brick-and-mortar?

I prefer to pick books up and look at them before buying. It’s so difficult to buy online…and risky, in my opinion. When you buy anything in a shop you walk out with it in your possession. That’s how shopping should be.

Alphabetize by author, by title or randomize?

Considering I’m an organised person, who likes clean and tidy a lot, I’m going to shock you and say “randomise”. I will put sets together but that’s as far as it goes.

Keep, throw away or sell?

In the past I’ve always kept books, but since my recent move I’ve discovered that my library of books is too big and from now on I’ll be getting rid of them. I might sell them on ebay in groups or give them away. I would never throw books away. What a waste.

Keep dust jacket or remove it?

Why would anyone remove it? That makes no sense to me. Keep it.

Read with dust jacket or remove it?

Ditto, see answer to previous question.

Short story or novel?

I’ve never been keen on short stories and never buy anthologies. For me, it’s novels all the way.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?

I’ve never read Lemony Snicket so I have to say Harry Potter, but I’ve heard some good things about Lemony Snicket and intend to read them at some stage.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?

I prefer to stop at the end of a chapter or at a scene break. I’ll only stop reading in the middle of a scene if I have no other choice, such as, the phone rings or I’ve arrived at my station.

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?

Can’t I read both? If I really have to choose one, I suppose I’d go with “It was a dark and stormy night”. It’s what happens in the next few sentences that will make me continue reading or throw the book in a corner.

Buy or borrow?

I buy a lot of books, but they are expensive and in hard times I’ll borrow as many as I can. Besides, borrowing isn’t as risky and it’s the one way I’ve managed to find new, exciting authors to read. That’s always a good thing.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations or browse?

A bit of everything.

Tidy ending or cliff hanger?

I like a book to end. Books that leave me hanging are cruel and in some ways…a rip off!

Morning, afternoon or night time reading?

Anytime. Anywhere. I love reading.

Stand alone or series?

Once, in my younger days, I would have said “series”, but as I get older I prefer stand alone. Having said that, until recently I didn’t really have time to read much so maybe that will change now.

Favourite series?

It used to be the Thomas Covenant series, but now…I don’t think I have one.

Favourite children’s book?

I honestly can’t name one. I like lots of books for all different reasons.

Favorite YA book?

Again ditto. See the answer to the last question.

Favorite book of which no one else has heard of?

If no one else has heard of it, I probably haven’t either.

Favorite books read last year?

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff
Blood Ties by Pamela Freeman

Favorite books of all time?

There are a lot of books that I really like, but only three that I would consider favourites:

Illusion by Paula Volsky
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley

What are you reading right now?

Dragonfly by John Farris

What are you reading next?

Don’t know, haven’t decided yet.

Favorite book to recommend to an 11-year-old?

Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C Wrede

Favorite book to re-read?

Illusion by Paula Volsky, the only book I’ve read three times.

Do you ever smell books?

Doesn’t everyone?! I love the smell of books. That’s the reason I buy more in a bookshop than online.

Do you ever read primary source documents, like letters or diaries?

No.

I Wrote Today…on the train

At lunchtime on Monday, I left the office and took a brisk walk to purchase my new Acer Aspire One Netbook. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a blue one (I ended up with a black one which is the perfect miniature of my “normal” sized laptop) but I got a nice discount instead so I was happy (and I get a cashback which is even better).

On Monday night, I arrived home from work and, after dinner, set up my new toy. It’s amazing how time consuming this can be and I ended up going to bed a little later than I should have and paid for that on Tuesday. Anyway, as there is no disk drive on netbooks G helped me install Word 2003 and my family tree program via a flash drive then I set about transferring all my writing and family tree files.

Tuesday morning saw me sitting on the train with “my writing” on my lap. I have to admit that I felt really strange and a bit self conscious. I don’t know why because I’ve seen heaps of people on the train with laptops so I’m just being silly; however, I found it difficult to focus on my writing. In fact, I don’t think I actually got as far as opening a file! There were only two other people in the carriage with me at the time, one sleeping and one reading (and maybe not getting enough sleep the night before didn’t help) but I felt totally out of place. I ended up putting the laptop away and reading or staring out the window, which was disappointing.

This morning I tried again and this time I did much better. I opened the Mirror Image folder and decided it was time to tackle the edit of the main character’s storyline. This story is close to my heart and I found myself holding back tears as I got involved in the story being told, which was embarrassing, but I forged through and ended up feeling less self conscious and more like a writer again. It was brilliant.

Today I wrote (or edited) for an hour and a half, which is a good start to getting this manuscript finished. And I already know that tomorrow I’ll do some more. And the next day and then again five days next week…and so on. I think I’m going to like this new writing routine. 🙂

Seaborn

Seaborn (Seaborn Trilogy #2)Seaborn by Chris Howard

These days it’s not often that I find a book that is unique. Often, when I read I think this reminds me of … another story, but that thought never crossed my mind once whilst reading Seaborn by Chris Howard. Those other books that reminded me of something else were good stories, I enjoyed them, but the uniqueness of Seaborn makes this book stand out from the rest.

Also, it was obvious to me that the author knows his world extremely well. He should, he created it, but often authors unknowingly let their readers see the cracks in their planning. This is not the case with Seaborn and the author’s knowledge shone from every page, every sentence. Knowing that made me relax and not struggle with the details. I was ready to believe! I accepted the world wholeheartedly and when a reader does that it makes the reading experience so much better. This together with realistic, strong characters and an intriguing plot makes Seaborn an interesting book.

There were two storylines for most of the book and, naturally, they converge later in the story. However, I particularly liked Corina’s thread. It was a bit gory in parts, some unthinkable things happen (well, obviously not that unthinkable because the author thought of them 🙂 ), but this side of the story was so good that I just wanted to know more. I was obsessed with what was happening and I wasn’t disappointed with how things turned out in the end either.

My only criticism is that the author over described some things. This is just a personal preference as I’m a reader who prefers the nitty gritty without the cream on top. I’m not interested in the design on the women’s dresses or how they their hair. I make up those details myself. Whilst I wouldn’t say the author went way over the top, and I’ve read plenty of books where too much detail ruins the story altogether because it distracts from the plot, I’m sure there will be a lot of readers who will enjoy the book exactly how it is. Some readers will say it enhances the world, so this isn’t a big criticism from me.

I’ve been known to skip whole chapters if they are battle scenes. I honestly find them so boring that if they go on and on I seriously consider not finishing the book. However, the battle in Seaborn was a battle with a difference and because of that it kept my interest. If you know me well, then you’ll know there is no bigger praise I could give a book!

I highly recommend this book.

The One, My New Friend

It has become apparent that now that I’m a commuter my writing time is suffering. In fact, I know that unless I take steps to change my situation I will not write again. Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Well, I might have gone a bit over-the-top with that last bit, but I can safely say that I will rarely write again!

My life has changed. My routine has changed. I now spend several hours a day travelling and when I get home I’m too tired to write.

This leaves Friday night, Saturday and Sunday. I already know that Friday night (in the past, one of my best writing times) will be no different to any other work day – the only difference is that I’ll be nodding off at the computer instead of in front of the TV, so that’s out of the question. Sunday night I’ll be heading off to bed early as I have to get up very early the next morning, but I might be able to squeeze in an hour or so during the day/evening. This leaves only Saturday as a real possibility. But what about my family? They deserve some of my time now that I’m away from home for an extended period during the week.

As I said at the beginning of this post, unless I take steps to change my situation my writing is going to suffer in a big way. Between family, work, travel and sleep when can I write?

Luckily, I have an answer to the problem and I am taking steps to rectify the situation. On Monday, I’m going to buy myself a mini-laptop (I see they are more commonly known as “netbooks”). I’ve been looking at an Acer Aspire One (I don’t really care what colour I end up with but blue is a favourite colour of mine). I already own a “normal” sized Acer laptop and it’s been great so buying a mini version doesn’t feel risky to me. The Aspire One is compact with an 8.9” screen and it weighs less than a kilo, but the keyboard is a manageable size which is important. It doesn’t have CD drives or anything fancy like that, but that isn’t a problem for me. As long as I can get my writing files on it, and possibly my family tree, then I’ll be “happy as Larry”.

With “The One” my writing time will improve dramatically. In fact, it will be better than ever as I will have no distractions for a very long train trip as there will be no internet and I’ll be forced to sit and continue typing as I’ve got nowhere else to go. The mornings (on the train) are virtually people free and I envision a good hour and a half dedicated writing time, five days a week. That’s seven and a half hours a week. Woohoo! The trip home will be dedicated to reading. So this means I will write more and I will read more. What can possibly be better than that?

Roll on Monday!

Keeper of the Winds

Naturally everything we own was packed away when we moved, so upon joining my new local library I borrowed this book to bridge the gap whilst searching for Seaborn (the book I started long ago and now intend to finished).

Keeper of the Winds by Jenna Solitaire is teen fiction and I suppose I would put it into the urban fantasy genre. Other readers might slot it into the mystery/suspense genre and possibly even romance (although I feel the romance thread isn’t strong enough to do that).

The book is the first in a series called Daughter of Destiny and from a writer’s perspective there were two things that really stood out to me.

The first – a positive – is that I enjoyed the writer’s style and voice. It was easy to read and felt comfortable, which I feel is very important for any reader, especially me, as it allowed me to become absorbed in the story. I also liked the way the book was set up, i.e. at the beginning of each chapter are tiny scenes that lift the suspense and will make readers want to find out what they relate to. In my opinion, these teasers (as I call them) were well done and added to the overall story.

The second – actually there are two negatives – relates to the character building aspects of the main character. The other characters were fine, believable, but the main character is a girl who really got on my nerves because she continually moaned and groaned and fought against everything…and I mean everything! I understood that her makeup was a non-believer, but I think the author ended up making her unrealistic. As I read the story, I found myself wanting to cross out sentences that took this “non-believer” stuff too far. The second negative is that I got a bit confused about the time of the day that some of the scenes in the story took place. For instance, one scene started at about lunchtime but before I knew it the main character was exhausted and going to bed! It was supposedly 9pm by this time but the events that occurred in that time didn’t feel right to fill up that amount of time. This happens several times throughout the book.

Putting the negatives aside, the overall story was interesting enough for me to continue reading. In fact, I wanted to know where everything was heading and only felt annoyed by the main character’s refusal to accept anything that was happening to her. The other negatives were minor nit-picks on my part.

One thing that is worth mentioning is that the author of the book is also the main character in the story. I believe this was a clever decision on the part of the author and/or publisher. They are making out that the events are based on truth. The plot has been well thought out and the book is written in first person. I believe that this author/main character thing will create a bit of a buzz that will bring more sales. Good luck to them.

Anyway, overall I think readers of fantasy and young adult fiction will enjoy this book.

Carving a New Routine

I’m back from oblivion, or so it feels! The move went well and we are mostly unpacked, except for the four huge boxes of books I have nowhere to showcase so they will remain in boxes for now.

The first week was filled with heavy lifting and moving … well, everything out of one house and into another! We had young helpers and I have to give them lots of hugs and kisses (again) because they certainly took the load of us, but we were still exhausted. I didn’t get more than a few hours of sleep in that first week because of the strange surroundings and the complete lack of noise. I never realised how much noise there is in a city, but now I live in the country and it’s so quiet…all the time. Bliss!

The second week we must have felt more at home because we started sleeping well. In fact, we couldn’t stop sleeping. I haven’t enjoyed 9 to 10 hours solid sleep (every night) for such a long time that my body just craved more and more of it until I literally was sleeping 12 hours a night. Again, bliss!

But, along with the good comes the bad. I had to return to work and start commuting. Never mind. I’ve already finished one book (a review will appear shortly) and I guess I’ll be reading a lot more over coming months, so maybe the four boxes of books I mentioned at the beginning of this post will disappear afterall. 😀

Being without a phone or the internet is not nice. Having moved away from family and friends, and because we had not communications available to us, we felt a bit isolated for a while. But…we have a phone connection now (but not internet still) so that is no longer the case and we are presently trying to carve new routines out for ourselves.

Going Offline for a While

In about 36 hours my phone and internet connections will be disconnected. Then, on Saturday we move into our new house! I’m excited and apprehensive at the same time. I’m not one for change, but will embrace the coming changes with open arms because it’s time to start a new life.

That new life will mean more writing and reading time. I can’t wait for these things. It will also mean a whole new routine too, but I’m actually looking forward to that too. Heck, I intend to throw everything I normally do out the window and am willing to start again. I feel cleansed just thinking about it.

Decisions will have to be made. One of those decisions is whether or not we will reconnect to the internet after we’ve settled. Seriously, we may decide not to. A month or so ago, the prospect worried me, but now I feel differently about it. Now, I think I could cope easily without the internet and perhaps, without the distraction, I would do more productive things – and I’m not only thinking that the benefits will be good for my writing either.

Of course, in a month or two I might do a complete about turn on this matter, but decisions can always be changed. I’m not worried about that at all.

In the meantime, I’m going offline from 3 April 2009 for at least two weeks. I’ll have no internet access at all, so don’t expect any activity from me…anywhere on the world wide web…during that time frame. From 20 April I will have limited access during work hours, depending on how busy I am.

While I’m gone, I’ll ask you to leave a comment and tell me what you would do with yourself if you had no internet, no TV, no telephone and you had 24 hours to fill in. What would you do with that time?

Author Interview: Justin Elliott

This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Elliott, author of The Lord of Beasts.

Welcome to Scribe’s writing desk, Justin. Was there a moment in your life that clearly sparked your desire to write?

I think like most people who write I have always had the desire to do so. For as far back as I can remember I have always enjoyed creating worlds, characters, and stories. For years I ploughed my creative energies into role playing games – you know, Dungeons and Dragons and the like – that all changed when I was reading something, I can’t remember exactly what it was now, and I had that thought I’m sure all readers have at one stage or another… ‘I can do better than that.’

So, in 2001 I think it was, I buckled down and wrote a short story called “The Soul Gem” and sent it off to a webzine called ‘The Harrow’ that accepts stories from unpublished authors and they accepted it! That was it, I have been writing seriously (more or less) since then.

It’s impressive that the short story was accepted by the first publisher you sent it too. Well done! Tell us about your latest publication?

Scholastic, New Zealand, published my first novel in July 2008 – and I’m still grinning about it now! It’s a young adult fantasy adventure called “The Lord of Beasts”. It’s about a group of friends who are being hunted by a monstrous faery called a Barghest. The story follows their quest into Faery as they hunt for the one artefact that might give them a chance to survive.

I read The Lord of Beasts several months ago and highly recommend it. Now I’m eager to learn more about the sequel. What project are you working on at the moment?

I’m working, slowly, on the third and last book of the series. I didn’t intend writing a trilogy, honest! But you just have to go where the story takes you. Scholastic have had the second, provisionally called, ‘A Dark Future’ for a while now, but due to staffing changes there have not given me answer, one way or the other yet. I’m expecting to hear from them in the next couple of weeks – so keep your fingers crossed!

I’m also planning a new work, but that’s in the earliest of stages.

I sincerely wish you the best of luck with the trilogy. Do you know how a story will end when you first start writing it?

Ok, I admit it! I’m an outliner. I find that without one my writing gets bogged down and stalls. So, yes, I do know how things are going to end before I start.

For me, my outlines are like a road map used so I don’t get lost as I’m trying to get to the end. The outline is flexible and I have yet to stick to one without changing it more than once. My stories still seem to generate lives of their own and veer off in unexpected directions, but with the outline, I never loose track of where the story is heading… or should be heading.

I’m interested to know how you balance writing with the rest of your life?

I’m not sure balance is the right word, but I do my best not to let either side – real life or writing – take over from the other.

The only real concrete rule I have is that weekends are for family. The other five days a week I try and hit a minimum word count. This is a flexible number I set depending on how busy things are – it usually ranges between 500 – 1000 words a day. I fit writing in when I can – lunch at work, after my son has gone to bed, if my wife, Allison, is working in the evenings – but do at least the limit I have set myself.

I totally agree with that. What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

I’m really just a newcomer myself and I’m not really sure how much my advice is worth… the one thing I would say though, through my own experience, is persevere.

If you’ve done all that work to write your story, taken the big and difficult step to submit it, don’t give up at the first rejection. Send the story back out there again, and keep doing that until someone accepts it, or you run out of markets.

I submitted to a number of overseas publishers and agents before Scholastic made their offer, ‘The Lord of Beasts’ would never have been published if I had given up after that first rejection.

What are your writing goals for the future?

I would love to be able to give up the day job and write full time – wouldn’t we all! But more realistically, my goal is to get the ‘Lord of the Beasts’ sequel published. Then I’ll worry about the next one. So that’s it I guess, create a writing career one work at a time!

I like that goal and I look forward to seeing the sequel to The Lord of Beasts on the shelves soon. Thank you for giving me your time and sharing your thoughts.