Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Whilst the rest of us are freezing our bahookies off, it seems that there is at least someone enjoying this white weather -

Please can we go in now?

Things I have learnt since my dad got cancer…

In October of last year, my dad was diagnosed with multiple Myeloma.  I’d never heard of it and couldn’t even spell it to be honest.  In the summer, he underwent a stem cell transplant using his own cells that had been harvested and is doing well considering.

Here are the things I have learnt since my dad was diagnosed –

Myeloma is a type of bone cancer and is incurable.  That’s not to say its terminal, just that the symptoms can be reduced with drugs.

The majority of sufferers are over the age of 65.  My dad was 57 when diagnosed.

It’s been linked with chemicals and certain occupations where chemicals are used such as farming, hairdressing and the plastic industry.  That’s not to say that if you work in these trades you will get it. 

Since my dad was diagnosed, I have binned all the air freshners I have in the house.  With the research I have done I am convinced then any needless chemicals in the house are a bad thing. 

If my dad hadn’t have got his stem cell treatment he was told he wouldn’t live past the next two years. 

It’s important to tell your parents that you love them whilst they’re still there.  I don’t come from a particularly touchy feely family, but since my Dad was diagnosed, he tells me he loves me all the time and I tell him I love him.   

For more information, visit - http://www.myeloma.org.uk/

Friday, 26 November 2010

Things that have helped my writing

Here's some of the thing I have learned so far –

When telling the story from a particular character's POV ask what would he think of characters as they are introduced and remember what they think of others  also reflects his or her own life experience.  

For example - a 40-year-old teacher at a school disco may think the girls have turned up in their underwear and not their best party gear.  Well, when he was younger girls wore more clothes, or at least that was his recollection of things.  

Giving characters a theme tune that makes you think of them when you hear it can work wonders.  For instance an elderly woman who dreams of going windsurfing could have Young At Heart.  A man who thinks he's god's gift to women could have You're So Vain.  You play the song or hear it in your head and hey presto they're there in the room with you.  

Speech tags he said and she said, may seem repetitive, but when you're reading they fade away and it’s almost like you don't see them.  If you try and vary tags and write things like 'she said angrily,' 'he said brightly' that does start to grate with the reader.  So minimise the use of these if possible.

When someone is speaking break up the dialogue with A and B.  

A is for action i.e. 'She stopped speaking to brush the hair from her eyes, and then she inspected her chipped nail polish like she'd find the answer there.'  

B is for body language.  What are her lips, mouth, hands, shoulders doing?  Is she sitting up straight or is she slumped?  Are the feet still, shuffling, tapping, moving, shoeless (she's so relaxed she's kicked off her shoes).  

It can be distracting to write when Elvis is in the next garden.  Yes really.  I live next to a pub beer garden and the impersonator is currently belting out Love Me Tender. 

Doesn't it suck when your publisher goes bust!!!

On Thursday I was informed by my publishers, Forward Press, who own the Need2Know imprint, that they had gone bust. They published Bullying – A Parent’s Guide in 2005 and were due to publish Caring for Your Dog: The Essential Guide on December 1st.  This will not be happening.

Now I have to wait to see if someone will buy the imprint and if they don’t I have the option of never seeing my dog book published or trying to get another publisher.  Sadly, it means I can probably kiss goodbye to any royalties for my bullying book, including the cheque I was due to get.  I also won’t get my small advance that was due on publication of the book. 

Unfortunately, this is going to happen more and more these days. 

Although I am very upset about the situation with my books - its hard enough to get published and a tremmendous amount of work has gone into them - I really feel for all those who have lost their jobs.  What a time to lose your job, before Christmas. 

Hell Week

This past seven days has been an absolute nightmare.  My dog was attacked and my publishers went bust. 

First to the dog attack - I’ll talk about my publisher hell in my next posting, after I’ve stopped sobbing.  I was out walking with my dog, when another dog (a German shepherd type) sprinted over and lunged at him as he was chewing away at a stick.  The dog was twice the size of my Benjy and as usual in cases like this, the dog was unaccompanied.  My Benjy managed to fight the dog off (although he was much smaller he is a muscle man, mainly because he loves diving through the air to catch his Frisbee) and I got between them and told the dog to get lost.

I thought that was it done and put Benjy on the lead and was heading home when the other dog attacked again.  This time I managed to get Benjy away.

Dogs fight, it’s a fact of life, but what shouldn’t be is dog owners like the silly bitch who owned this one and who knows her dog is violent (this is the first time in the year I have been seeing this dog that it has been off the lead), yet still thinks its perfectly okay to let her dog off the lead so he can run off an attack another dog and she’s too far away to stop it.

When she finally did appear (some five minutes after the first attack), despite witnessing the 2nd one she didn’t even acknowledge anything had happened.  In fact, she looked right through me.  If it hadn’t been for the fact I wanted to get Benjy to safety I would have given her an earful.  People like her shouldn’t even have remote control dogs, never mind real ones. 

This attack brought back very bad memories.  When I first moved to this island of irresponsible dog owners, (since I moved here over five years ago, two Akitas (Japanese fighting dogs have attacked their owners and had to be put down, and a neighbour’s Weimeraner crushed a little girl’s throat as she played in her garden), my old dog Vic (a mixed breed dog the size of a German shepherd) was savaged by a giant Bull Mastiff.  The beast appeared out of nowhere and didn’t so much as growl at him before it’s teeth latched onto his throat.  Predictably, the owner was nowhere to be seen.  The dog had no collar on it either. 

If a passer-by had not come and started kicking the hell out of the dog that wouldn’t let go of Vic’s throat even as my boyfriend and I pounded away at it trying to get it off, our dog would have been killed.  Afterwards we took Vic to the Vet and he needed stitches in his neck.  The vet said that had it not been for his collar the dog would have killed him.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Sometimes successful writers suck too…

Sometimes it’s so hard when you are struggling to get your first novel published to remember that even successful writers had their doubts too and weren’t always as good as they are now.

Take Harlan Coben for instance.  One of the best selling authors in the world, and the creator of the fantastic Myron Bolitar, I recently had the misfortune to read a book he wrote in his twenties and just recently had published.  Called Play Dead, it’s simply one of the worst books I have ever attempted to read.  I say attempted because after huffing and puffing through 100 pages, I decided life was way too short and put it down.

What was wrong with it?  I wouldn’t say it was badly written, but the main character the most beautiful woman in the world and her sports star husband, were too cardboard cut out for me.  I couldn’t empathise with them. 

Another book I simply could not finish, was one of Jeffery Deaver’s first.  Called Mistress of Justice, it was appalling.  This was meant to be have been ‘reworked’ some 13 years after it was published.  Yet, it was the first book of his I had to put down without finishing. 

As a writer, what have I learnt from reading bad books by good authors?

First off, you need believable characters.  They need to have a degree of likeability if they are people you want to suceed in whatever their chosen goal is.  Whether its finding a missing husband or child, running a marathon or solving a murder case.

Second of all, maybe even good authors need to get all the garbage out of their systems before they get to the good stuff.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Editing woes

Is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of writers everywhere and quite often despondancy.  These days we writers need to get our manuscripts as polished as we can before it goes in front of an agent or publisher, because if we don't we'll get that dreaded 'no' email or even worse, our hard work stuffed in an envelope and pushed through our letterbox.

I am currently at the editing process with Vile City.  It's a long process, but I know its one I have to go through if I want to stand a chance of getting it published.  In these days where everything is done on computer I have discovered one thing - if I want to get my novel to the best it can be its time to edit the old fashioned way - with a pen and paper.  It's far too easy to miss mistakes when you write and edit on the your PC or laptop.

Here are some others things I have learnt -

1- Sometimes it's better to give your writing to someone neutral to read.  I had two fantastic reviews on You Write On that highlighted typos I had made.

2- Don't keep using  'seem' and 'seemed'.  Be more specific.

3- Cut down on the use of 'only' and 'just.'  These are words you can do without.

4- Have a timeline for your book.  This will prevent main character A meeting character B when they were both somewhere different entirely.

5- If you write a piece in your novel that you love, but it doesn't fit in, then DITCH IT.  Don't get all precious or uppity.

6- If your novel takes a wrong turning, retrace your steps.  Where did it all go wrong/bad?  Fix it.  Don't sob as you delete all your lovely words. 

7- Have a document where you keep chunks of text that you have taken from your novel in case you realise you've made a mistake and need to put them back. 

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Last Window - a great game for writers

I just got Last Window The Secret of Cape West for my Nintendo DS.  It's a terrific game and a great follow up to Hotel Dusk.  It's also in my opinion a great game for writers.  The game is like a novel and the dialogue and narrative is excellent and is a good lesson in how to make your characters' words flow.  It's set in LA in 1980 and follows part time salesman and detective Kyle as he tries to solve the mysetries of Cape west Apartments, the one time hotel where a murder occurred.  Gripping stuff.

DI Duncan Waddell - Detective in a Coma Book 2

What to do when your phone is stolen

I've been lucky in that I've never had my phone stolen, at least until last weekend. At first I thought I'd droppe...