Solved: The Book Thread

Originally posted on another site on 28 April 2010.

Once upon a time there was a book thread in a story that was washed up and going nowhere fast. It was so boring that the writer refused to work with it – horrible, I know, but it’s the truth. Yet, no matter what the writer did, she could not find a replacement. Even with proper advertising, no good candidate came forward.

What was she to do?

Days turned into months and still no joy. In desperation, she talked to anyone who would listen but that didn’t amount to many people. She knew what those glazed eyes meant or the roll of their eyes. She then turned to another avenue which offered a slim chance of solving the problem. From that source she received a few suggestions, but one sparked an image in her mind. A small solitary image.

Had she found a new candidate? Hope stirred in her belly yet she wouldn’t allow herself to get too excited because she knew how disappointed she’d be if it was another false lead.

Climbing out of the box she had found herself in, she decided to throw caution to the wind and attempt something unheard of – for her. She wrote a voice journal from the point of view of a book. Yes, you read that correctly.

It started out like this:

I am the keeper of secrets and most of my life has been spent in hiding. I am a book. When I was young, I had durable leather binding and my pages were an off white, creamy colour. They were thick to touch and held the ink quite well because I was made by an expert in the field. Now I grow old and fragile, but I still hold the secret entrusted to me many, many years ago. But no one has come to learn my secret for a very long time.

Nothing special, but from there it got quite interesting. The book told the story of its existence and the secrets it kept and the author was eager to hear it all. It told of violence leading to death and magic leading to disappearance. It told of old kings, young men and forgetful minds. It told of rebellion and magic of a different kind. It told of old haunts and new beginnings. But it didn’t tell the most important thing of all!

The weak book thread has been abolished and replaced with a storyline that the author is happy with and now the writing of the manuscript can begin. 😀

Writing Update: Doubts, Problem Threads and the Mystery Project

Originally posted on another site on 24 April 2010.

Whenever I make a public declaration about my writing, it all falls in a heap a few days/weeks later, so I’m reluctant to talk about it any more. And I’m sick and tired of reporting that “I don’t have time” or “I’m too tired” or “blah blah isn’t working out how it should”. Excuses, all excuses!

So I’m going to say it straight. I’m doubting my ability as a writer. There, I said it.

Oh, it’s not the first time I’ve found myself full of doubt and it won’t be the last time. It’s just the person I am. I’m a worrier from way back. If I haven’t got anything to worry about, I’ll worry about that. Anyway, I have doubts, but I’ve decided that I want to write so I’m going to write. What happens after that is not to be worried about. And I’m going to write when and how it suits me and stop (or try to stop) worrying about the whole bloody thing because it’s the worry that is taking the enjoyment out of it.

Project 1: Whispering Caves

This is a project I started way back in the old days – and I mean 20 years ago. I finished the manuscript, but it needed much improvement. There were holes like you wouldn’t believe but I fell in love with the characters and world, and have decided to salvage what I can and move on.

Thing is, the longer I plan, the more I’m moving away from that old story. Admittedly, I know I’ve been holding on and holding on. I’ve even written a post about it before, but I’ve finally made the decision to let go and remould the story without holding on to the past. That decision came when I realised I had to remain my characters to fit with the history I have built for the world. If I don’t rename them then I will be leaving a marker in the story that shouldn’t be there.

In essence, the only remainder will be the story title – Whispering Caves – because that is the perfect name for the story I’ve planned.

Now the problem with this story is that I can’t stop planning and that is a bad thing. The reason is because one thread is lacking something, still, and I can’t figure out what to do by myself. This morning, in fact, right now I’ve decided to approach a small group I’m a member of and ask for their help. Maybe getting this issue resolved will allow me to move from planning mode to writing mode.

Project 2: The Mystery Project

This is a project that I’ve started working on and doing research for. I will not divulge any information about it, but I will mention that the planning practically took care of itself in a 24 hour period. It will be written in three parts, which I can flit between at will. I’m ready to write.

I’ve set up the document and plan to dedicate a few hours to it today. This is an exciting step for me as I don’t feel as if I’ve actually written anything in a long time.

Software Review: Snowflake Pro

Originally posted on another site on 23 April 2010.

Some weeks ago I purchased a copy of Snowflake Pro, writing software based on the Snowflake Method of Writing a Novel technique. I use the technique, or parts of it, all the time, so I was eager to try the software and see how it compares.

The creator of the software has used the KISS method – keep it simple stupid – which I found to be perfect. However, in my opinion, I think anyone new to the technique would be looking for more thorough information at each step as not enough is included and I remember how confusing it was to begin with. To those people I suggest using the software and the creator’s website in conjunction with each other.

The software is simple to use. There are ten or so tabs (one for each step) at the top of the page, so it’s easy to move back and forth between steps as the ideas start to take shape. There are a couple of “tip” buttons, which can be used as reminders as to what you should be doing in each step. And…there’s an audio tip button too, I found this very helpful (and even inspiring in a way as it felt as if someone was interested enough in my writing to give me that little extra push).

You start out by filling in the basics, such as story title, author name, genre, approximate word count and target audience. Then you move into an area where you give more details about the author (you) such as providing your mailing address, contact phone numbers and email address, together with a short biography. Then you get stuck into planning your story/novel.

You create a list of characters and then you write a brief description on the setting. You alternate between characters and setting in each step, so that the overall story is progressing altogether. The list of characters is built on so that you have backgrounds, reasons, motivations, goals and conflicts. The brief description of the setting becomes a fully realised world and believable plot.

By the end of the process, if you’ve put in the hard yards and seriously put a lot of thought into it, you will have created well-rounded characters, a realistic world, a strong plot and you’ll have a two page synopsis ready to use in your submissions.

But there’s more…at the very end, there’s an extra special step where you can click on “print” and it will print out a complete proposal for you to use to submit to publishers…and it’s set out exactly how it should be too. Wonderful!

Of course, you don’t need the software in order to get the same results. You could set up documents and follow the steps on the website and you’ll end up with everything mentioned above, except the proposal. But even that can be achieved if you put in some time and research.

However, I like the software because it makes the process easier and tidier. I’ve used the manual method and having to open and close documents to find the information I’m looking for is tiresome. With the software it’s all filed right there in front of me and I use one screen to get to anything I’m looking for.

I recommend this software to writers who like to plan their stories before they write. If you’re a seat-of-the-pants writer, then you’ve just wasted your time reading this post, but then again it is nice to know what other people might be doing. 😉

No matter what type of writer you are, why are you still here? Shouldn’t you be writing?!

Book Review: The Hobbit

Originally posted on another site on 22 April 2010.

The Hobbit

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although I’ve always been an avid reader, I was not introduced to Tolkien until the Lord of the Rings series was made into movies. I watched the movies in absolute awe and rushed out to buy the books. However, the books were drab and boring in comparison. It’s not often I enjoy the movie more than the book, but in this case it was 100% true.

Tolkien’s writing style put me to sleep! I didn’t finish the books and got rid of them, vowing never to read anything else by this author…and I’ve kept that vow.

Then, last year, G arrived home from the library with an audiobook version of The Hobbit. I didn’t have time to listen to it then, and wasn’t overly keen to make time either, but he kindly converted it to mp3 so that I could listen to it when I was able.

Time became available at the beginning of this week. My thought was…I’m too tired to read or do anything else on the train in the morning, so I could sit with my eyes shut and listen to the story. If it was boring – and I was certain it would be – I could let my mind wander, just like I do any other morning. No big loss.

Early on Monday morning, iPod Touch clutched in my hand, I settled back, touched “play” and closed my eyes. Two hours later, I almost missed my stop – which has never happened before. No, I didn’t fall asleep. Yes, I was engrossed in the story…and I was enjoying it.

I wish I knew the reader for this audiobook, because he was excellent. He made the experience entertaining by using different voices and accents for different characters. He used music and some sound affects to help set the mood in certain scenes and he knew how to deliver tension and pace effectively. I also wish I knew if the reading was abridged or not. At a guess, I’d say it was but that was fine by me.

I’m glad I took the time to listen to this story, or this version of the story anyway. It surpassed my expectations. Highly recommended.

eBook Review: Rowan of the Wood

Originally posted on another site on 21 April 2010.

Rowan of the Wood

Rowan of the Wood by Christine Rose

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Rowan of the Wood (Smashwords) is an enjoyable story about a young boy dealing with life as a foster child. He escapes his unloved life by reading fantasy stories, but one day he finds himself in a situation that is confusing and dangerous when all the elements of one of his stories finds him in real life.

Meanwhile, a second story is unfolding. A story of legends, myths, witches and vampires. We move through the centuries with another character, a woman who is desperate to find her lost love and will do anything to stay alive long enough to find him.

The story is written in a way that held my attention, but as a writer I could see its flaws. Firstly, there’s a lot of telling rather than showing. However, most of the time I was comfortable with this as the telling was mostly done in a storyline that covered about 1400 years and I appreciate how hard it would be to “show” all that passed during that time. Secondly, although the author has noted the intended audience as “young adult”, I felt the age of the young boy – a 12 year old – together with the book cover shown actually targets a younger audience…and the content is not suitable for the younger age group (in my opinion). This could have been easily resolved by increasing the age of young Cullen to about 15 or 16. Thirdly, there are many similarities between Cullen and Harry Potter – so many, in fact, that I found it distracting at times because I felt as if Harry was the model used when Cullen was created. Whether or not that’s true, I don’t know, but I think it’s a shame that Cullen didn’t come across as his own person.

These things aside, I enjoyed the story. The characters fit together well and their motivations were realistic. I found that the author’s writing style was easy to read for long periods of time without becoming fidgety. In fact, I finished the book in a very short period of time and have already started the second book.

This book is recommended to readers who have a mature mind, a young heart and enjoy books about never ending love and adventure.

DVD Review: The Lovely Bones

Originally posted on another site on 20 April 2010.

lovely-bonesApart from knowing this movie was taken from a book, I knew nothing about it when I pressed the “start” button on the DVD, so I was in for a pleasant surprise. The story is told by a fourteen year old girl who has been murdered – don’t worry this isn’t a spoiler, as the viewer is told this piece of information within the first minute of the movie starting. What followed is different and unusual, and quite captivating. By the time the movie had finished, I had wished I’d read the book instead as they are always so much better and if the movie was good, then I could only imagine how great the book would be. Maybe I’ll get the opportunity to find out in the future.

Anyway, back to the movie. The thing I found captivating was how life and death ran parallel with each other, neither side fully aware of the other, both sides suffering from grief and confusion. (I guess the concept spoke to me because of my own situation.) Mingled with this were the murder details and investigation. For a while, I thought the girl would help solve her murder, but that wasn’t the case. The movie shows the family moving through their grief and the girl refusing to “cross over”. It’s a movie of strong love which spans the unknown…and that is what drew me in and held me the most.

Yet…being a mother of someone who took his own life, I believe this movie can also be dangerous. If my son had seen the movie before his death, I know that it would have fed his belief that life after death is better. It would have given him even more courage to do what he did. And, I believe, that is a bad thing. Yes, I know it’s just a movie, but sometimes concepts feed our needs. Sometimes we are consumed by our needs so much that we can’t see what is plainly set before us – in this case, just a movie. It will be wonderful to discover, at the right time, that death is all rainbows, flowers and chocolate cake, but what if dead is really dead or what if it’s something worse?! If we knew that, would we be willing to give up life? I think we need to be cautious about what is put into people’s minds, especially those easily influenced.

Having said that, to me it was just a movie…and a good one at that.

eBook Review: MageSign

Originally posted on another site on 11 April 2010.

MageSign

MageSign by Alan Baxter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

MageSign (Smashwords) is the sequel to RealmShift (Smashwords), both written by Alan Baxter. You can read my review on Realmshift here.

Being the second book in a set, I expect more from the story and the author…and I got both.

We return to Isiah three years later. Nothing much is happening in his life, so he decides to check out something that had been bothering him since the death of his old enemy, Samuel Harrigan. What starts out as a simple errand type job, becomes a nightmare filled with gods, sorcerers, demons, witches and a ninja type figure that proves quite a distraction.

I was pleased to revisit the setting and find familiar faces, I was even more pleased to discover that the author’s writing style has improved tenfold. MageSign isn’t a “shoot ’em up” storyline like the first book (which, I should add, was fast paced and kept the pages turning), but a more realistic storyline with more suspense and tension (even a touch of sexual tension, which was unexpected). And…where Realmshift had a complicated religious thread which slowed the story down, MageSign doesn’t have that problem. I found the flow to be almost seamless, which means I could get into the story and stand right beside the characters and stay there. I find this experience improves everything about reading – my enjoyment triples and my reading time becomes more involved and less fidgety too.

MageSign is slower paced, but that doesn’t mean the story is lacking, because it isn’t. The suspense builds to such a degree that you can almost feel the pressure accumulating within Isiah when he finally faces the antagonists of the story. This tension is what forces the reader to keep turning the pages. It’s not only essential to find out what’s going to happen next, it is of the utmost importance to witness the final battle between good and evil — because, as I saw on a TV show recently, “Evil triumphs, when good men do nothing”. When I saw that phrase, it made me think of MageSign.

Truly a good story, written with a strong voice. Highly recommended.

Helping Authors Get Recognised

Updated on 11 January 2018: I never made any money on this incentive to buy even one book, so I officially announce this idea to be over. I have removed all amazon links from the site (as far as I’m aware). 😀

For years, I’ve felt that well known authors are the only writers who get any attention. Of course I understand the reasoning behind this, and I’m all for caution, but I know there are plenty of unknown authors who deserve recognition too.

With this in mind, I have come up with another idea to help out. Actually, to be truthful, this isn’t my idea at all. I’m going to steal it from Jim C. Hines, who has been using this method on his website for some time.

This is how it will work here:

  • Every time I mention a book, I will include links (if they exist) to the printed version either at Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble, followed by links to the epub version at the Kindle Store and/or Smashwords.
  • The links are affiliate links and I will gain a small fee every time you use a link to go to a site to purchase a book.
  • With the credit I promise that for every book I purchase for myself, I will purchase another to give away as a prize on this website; be that a printed book or an ebook, it doesn’t matter.

There will be books of many genres, covering all ages – some of them will be classed as classics and best sellers, while others will be written by indie authors and not known at all.

Help me help you discover new authors and everyone wins. Happy reading!