Tag Archives: novel

It’s a brand New Year…Again

My actual white board, now no longer actually white. "Omar Serif" and "They're taking the robots to Alderaan" are jokes I haven't gotten around to yet. Be relieved about that.

My actual white board, now no longer actually white. “Omar Serif” and “They’re taking the robots to Alderaan” are jokes I haven’t gotten around to yet. Be relieved about that.

It’s nearly the end of the first week of January, and this is the first post I’ve managed in 2015, which means I ought to be talking about Resolutions.

But, as you may know from last year, I don’t do so well with resolving to change. I need a list every day just to get through the things that keep the house running, so adding grand aspirations to that list has been somewhat problematic in the past.

However, last year, I decided to just write more stuff. This was a simple enough idea that I could keep it in mind, and even put it up on my white board above my desk. “Write more stuff” translates easily into whatever project I feel like doing, and as long as there is more stuff at the end of the year, then it’s working. That’s a measurable goal, that is.

And last year I produced more plays, a new ebook and a lot of sketches. I found that the break of fifteen minutes at work is just long enough to eat a sandwich and write a page and a half of sketch, resulting in a sketch every week. That’s a sketch each week written at work, plus the stuff I can write when I’m at home. Like every published writer is fond of saying, there IS time to write, you just have to choose to use it for writing.

Like last year, most of what I plan to complete and publish won’t reach the marketplace until the later half of the year, so I’m not going to list my projects here. I will post about them when they’re complete, and then put up reminders with links when they get published. I’m hoping the Appraisal Service continues to keep me busy, and that life at the Library remains as fulfilling and entertaining as it had proven so far.

What are the big projects for YOU this 2015? Are you going to write that novel or sequel? Are you going to try writing something that’s outside your comfort zone, like a romance, or a horror story, or a poem? Are you thinking of writing for the first time? Because I have a really good feeling about this year. I think it’s YOUR year. I mean, obviously that’s bad news for everyone else, but we’ll cope, honest. Don’t feel bad for us, you just go on and make the most of it.

We’ll be over here. In the corner. Maybe crying just a little bit.

Birthday week sale!

DSCN7810Once again, it’s the week before my birthday, so I’ve reduced all my e-books to $0.99!

You can find them all on my Amazon.com author page , but if you’ve never read this blog before, here’s a run down of each one:

Coffee Time Tales – five stories perfect for your coffee break, from back in the days when I wrote for magazines.

Coffee Time Tales 2 – more of the same.

Sci-Fi Shorts – four short tales of science fiction, including the award-winning “Boglet” and the Golden Age of Sci-Fi style “Twist Stiffly and the Hounds of Zenit Emoga”

Troubled Souls – Three stories from a uniquely male perspective, and the opening chapters of “Eddie and the Kingdom”

Tribute – My YA novella about Lisa, who wants to step out of the shadow of her famous musician father, but runs into his old bandmate and begins to see things a bit differently.

The Great Canadian Adventure – The real-life account of our first year in British Columbia

Eddie and the Kingdom – My novella of the zombie apocalypse. Eddie has carved out a comfortable life in the post apocalyptic world, until Jackie arrive and tells him about the Kingdom that’s about to engulf his home.

The Poems of Edwin Plant – A short collection of odd poems.

If you’ve already bought any of these e-books, then the perfect birthday present would be for you to leave a review on Amazon. Doesn’t matter what you say, honesty is always best, and very much appreciated.

Looking forward to another year!

One-off Book Review : Surfacing

A friend asked me to take a look at this book, a collaboration between two acquaintances of hers. I had talked to her briefly about self-publishing and some of the pitfalls I have discovered (by falling straight in, naturally…) and she thought I might have some useful hints to pass on to the authors.

The first impression is that they have done this job thoroughly. For one thing, I was lent a physical book – it’s a smart paperback, with an ISBN, reviews, a summary and a well-designed cover. These things may not sound extraordinary, but remember this book is produced by a two people who started their own press to produce their books. They haven’t fallen foul of any of the mistakes that first-timers often make.

My only complaint about the cover was that it didn’t quite match the type of story being told. From the hand beneath the water and the empty canoe, I assumed I was getting into a murder mystery, and that “Surfacing” might refer to the discovery of a drowned body. However, the actual tale has more to it than that.

Don was a firefighter, but an accident at work put him into a coma. For three years his wife Debbie has struggled to cope with raising their two children, maintain her house and job and she has gradually stopped visiting Don altogether. Then one day her son Jeremy finds his father’s ring in the waters of the lake where they have a cabin. Jeremy is determined that they should visit Don. The visit seems to be enough to bring Don to the brink of consciousness, and suddenly there is hope for the family that he will recover. The doctors are aided by Jeremy’s uncanny ability to “hear” what his father is feeling or thinking, and Don’s recovery goes from unlikely to inevitable.

On the surface, that sounds like a medical drama, or perhaps a romance, as Debbie has to learn to live with the man she lost, and Don has to come to terms with his family spending three years without him. This aspect of the story is tough to read but was rendered realistically – my wife worked for a while with members of the armed forces who had been on detachment – away from home for three to six months. Time and again their families would arrange big parties, or celebrations for their return, and within days the couples would be separating, unable to live together. When there is a prolonged absence, both sides come to adapt to the new life, and coming back together takes time and understanding on both sides.

However, there’s another string to the story – a worker at the hospital where Don is recovering decides he won’t stand by and allow the happy reunion of Don and his family. Using various methods, he causes suspicion and mistrust to flower between Don and Debbie, doing all he can to damage the family.

The book has a decidedly spiritual aspect, and though I wouldn’t classify it as “Christian Fiction”, the characters certainly ascribe certain events to celestial help – Jeremy receives messages from his dead Grandfather that help him save his father. In a world that makes a bestseller of a book about a love triangle between a human, a vampire and werewolf, I don’t think this is such a stretch.

Although it wasn’t a book I would have picked for myself (my reading tastes, as you may have seen from my monthly round-ups, are more lightweight in general) I enjoyed the story. I was particularly pleased that all the threads of the story came together in time for the conclusion.

I’ve heard that the authors may be working on individual projects next, before returning to work together on another book. I wish them all the best, and recommend taking a look at this book if you get the chance. Find it on Amazon HERE

The Biggest question of all – WHY?

Why do you want to be a writer

Why? Why do you want to be a writer?

It’s the biggest question for anyone who says that’s what they want to do, and it’s bigger than ever right now.

In the past, you could’ve gotten away with saying you wanted to see your name in print, to have the pleasure of putting your book out there for the world to see. Getting it there would be a real labour of love: you’d need to be at the top of your craft to attract the attention of an agent or publisher who could make your dream come true. Doing that would mean writing every spare minute, editing with dedication and cold, unfeeling efficiency – Murder your Darlings! – and rewriting. Being a writer would go beyond a mere job description.

But now? Now you can be a published author, with your words available for the world’s perusal only minutes after your story is complete. It doesn’t need to be original, well-written, correctly spelled, formatted or even have a decent cover. All these things matter, and they are all essential if you want readers to love what you have done and recommend it to their friends, but they are no longer barriers to publication.

So, there’s no barrier to being published, congratulations. Is that what you want? Or do you want to take the story that’s been rattling around your head for weeks, pin it to the page and produce something wonderful, a novel to be proud of, with flawless text and a riveting cover? Something that people will enjoy owning? Well, that’ll take time and work again, I’m afraid.

Oh, but that won’t make you rich.

Sorry, but whatever the guru says, having a good story and a nice package still isn’t enough to take you from “I’ve written a book!” to “Tell Spielberg I’ll call him back later.” If you want to move from published author to bestseller, then the work continues, because most authors don’t make their money from their first book. Or their second. The people who are succeeding in the modern realm of publishing are the ones who have built a following by producing good quality books time and time again, and they continue to write, keeping the standards high and communicating with their readers. As their backlist grows, so does their readership, and the chances of new readers buying the older stories increases too.

Welcome to the new world of publishing. The gatekeepers have gone, which means anyone and everyone can come inside. How will you stand out in that mass of writers? What will lift YOUR work over the heads of everyone else?

Hey Nostradamus! An unexpected book review


My local library copy. Supoort your local library, folks!

This blog isn’t a book review site, and I can’t even claim that this is a brand new or yet-to-be-released title. I’m not even using the author’s name to drag in unwary Googlers. (Heh heh heh…googlers!)

No, I’m writing this review for what I think are the purest reasons – I just read this book myself and I really, really, liked it.

In the pre-internet days I would have just banged on about it to friends and work colleagues for a week or two until they told me to shut up or my goldfish brain found a new best thing to love. But now…Now I get to spread the love around the whole worldwide internetty web thing. Lucky you!

WARNING: This is NOT a cheerful book. This in itself is an odd thing, because I usually hate gloomy books. Today’s secret: I believe downbeat endings are a terrible idea, and if I think a book is heading that way, I’ll flip to the end and see if the main character is still alive on the last page. If not, I ditch the book.

Fortunately, this doesn’t have a downbeat ending. Sort of.

“Hey Nostradamus” opens with a High School massacre. A scene we’re all too familiar with, the outsider losers on the rampage with guns and bombs. But don’t be put off. This is not a gratuitous scene, not an opportunity to revel in the bloodshed and horror. The themes of this book are many, but they revolve around life, God, purpose, forgiveness and change. Yeah, that’s a little vague, but there’s so much in this story that I feel it’s unfair to try and pin it down too closely.

The approach is novel. Each section of the book is narrated by one of the characters. The first segment is Cheryl, a student at the High School who is the last to be killed on that terrible day. That’s a not a spoiler, folks, Cheryl lets you know what’s coming quite early on. She’s the only one speaking from the position of omniscient author – she’s dead, after all. The others that follow are all writing down their stories for others to read, deliberately chronicling or confessing in a way that makes the events they relate or the ideas they pass on much more personal.

The second section is related by Jason, who was Cheryl’s boyfriend. He survived the massacre, playing a significant role in it, but suffered a great deal as a consequence. His story is about how that day still resonates years later, how his struggle to get though life is complicated by those around him as much as the ghosts of yesterday.

The third section belongs to Heather, who befriends Jason after the events he relates in his segment. I won’t say much about her section, because it would spoil the story. The final section is Jason’s father, writing a letter to his son after years of not communicating. This section was fascinating, as Jason’s father was demonised throughout the early half of the book, then appeared to be making some redemptive moves late in life.

This book succeeds in the aim of every novellist: I have thought about it many times since I finished it, and someday in the not too distant future, I will pick it up again. I thoroughly recommend it.

Which books have you read that were so good you had to tell someone?

Don’t tell me about it….

Firstly, an apology. This entry will sound arrogant and dismissive. Sorry.

Nearly two years ago I started writing this blog because I wanted to have a record of the emigration I was making with my family. Don’t tell me I should’ve kept a diary, because I know I wouldn’t have. Tried that, didn’t work. Blogging involves the computer (score!) and the chance to regularly appeal for other people’s attention (score!) as well as the opportunity to check statistics and combine endless hope with depressing reality (score!).

Along the way, it’s naturally evolved to take into account my writing efforts. I’ve talked about the production of my e-book, my occasional frustration with projects that haven’t worked out well, and of course, having to give up full-time writing to go and get a proper job. I like to think that these are as much part of the emigration process as buying a house and learning about the school system – a change of life we’ve made as a result of coming to Canada. But, because I blog about writing, I’ve been reading OTHER blogs about writing. Many, like the previously mentioned Mr James Moran, or Jane Espenson, or Lucy V Hay, are fantastically good. Not just because they are ‘proper’ writers, but because they write their blogs well. They are interesting. The ones that make me groan are the ones that say “I am writing my first novel, and am going to use this blog to chronicle my progress.”

Now, by all means, write your first novel. Please. Writing is wonderful, and your first novel may turn out to be THE book of the decade. By all means, write a blog. It’s useful to have a place to vent your feelings, and an idea is never fully realised until it is expressed. But before you combine the two, please think carefully. What is it, exactly, that you will be chronicling? If you are not careful, you’ll end up sounding like Ernie Macmillan from “Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix”, boring everyone with his recitation of how many hours of revision he has done each day. When you’re writing a novel, word count per day is important to you, obviously. You want to feel you’re making progress, that the number of pages to go are getting fewer. But would you want to read a blog that goes “Wrote another fifteen thousand words today! Started just after breakfast, had a break around ten thirty when I walked the dog, but then got straight back into it and reached a real cliffhanger moment just as I broke off for lunch!” Who, honestly, will care?

What your readers would like to know is what’s going on in the story. Yes, if you’re writing your novel, it would be more interesting to tell us about the developments in the plot as you go along, but you know what? No one ever will because then by the time the blog is complete, who needs to read the novel? We’ve been spoon-fed the whole thing! And what about re-writes? Assuming you get someone reading your blog, aren’t they going to use the comments section to tell you exactly where you’re going wrong?

I think these are the reasons that the blogs I’ve read seem to peter out shortly after they begin. Writing doesn’t seem to be something you can blog about. A writer’s life may be, but only if you have something to say about that: Being a single mum who’s working on a novel – if you have time to blog about that and still be writing the novel then I not only take off my hat to you, but I’ll comb my hair and bow too.

Why should I blog about the failures of other blogs? Well, because this week has seen me wrestling with my rock musical screenplay again, and I’m conscious that the writing projects I talk about tend to be the ones that work, or the ones that fall flat. I don’t, as Felicia Day says so sweetly in “Commentary”, discuss my process. The reason I don’t is that it would be at best dull, at worst, incomprehensible. I talked about the mechanics of writing in the entry on collaboration, and even I struggled to stay awake during that one. So, today’s moral is this: Forge ahead with your writing, but forge a more interesting subject for your blog.

Why didn’t someone tell me?

This is NOT me

A character called "The Author" in "Work in Progress"

Writing magazines are an important source of comfort and inspiration for the emerging author. Sometimes, however, I wonder about the focus they place on success.

When I became serious about being a writer, about a decade ago, I naturally turned to writing magazines to help me achieve my goals. I wanted good, solid advice on the path I was going to take. What I found, along with helpful articles on the nuts and bolts of story, was that there are only two types of writers that are featured in writing magazines.

Type 1: The Established Author. We hear a lot about Type 1 authors. We are invited to read about their typical writing day (“Get up, walk dog, drink coffee, retire to study, write 5,000 words, have lunch, walk on the beach, write another 5,000 words….”), or get a glimpse of their writing area. We’re asked to marvel at the details of their latest book deal, or commiserate with them that their brilliant novel has been savaged by Hollywood and turned into a dreadful (but lucrative) movie version.

Type 2: The Rising Star. These authors appear regularly too: the first deal neophytes, who break the big time with their first novel (“Cynthia Mulligan scored a $100,000 three-book deal after ***** bought her first novel ‘The housewife with a wooden leg’…”) Whether or not we’ll ever hear about Cynthia ever again is anyone’s guess. The important thing is that she penned an instant hit, and therefore YOU COULD TOO!

The problem I found with constantly being assailed with these two author types was not sour grapes (though you’d be forgiven for thinking so.) I know those at the top of the profession, those type 1’s,  had either a massive stroke of luck or clawed their way up by sheer effort. It takes tenacity and dedication to get a manuscript finished, let alone send it away again and again until it gets accepted. Even if you make it that far, odds are someone’s going to ask you to write another one… The same is true of the Type 2’s. No one is minding the kids and doing the housework for them while they retire to their writing area. They have to fit in the work around the work, as it were.

No, the problem is that this gives new writers the idea that these are the only two career paths for writers – successful superstars, or ‘Just made the big time’ authors. I wish – oh, how I wish! – that back then someone had told me you could be a jobbing writer.

Type 3: The jobbing writer. The jobbing writer still lives in the real world. They don’t attend big book signing events. They don’t sell film rights and buy a yacht. They probably don’t even call themselves “Writers” because they’ve found something specific, some niche that pays a steady wage and still allows them to stretch their creative muscles. They may be Columnists for newspapers or magazines, local paper reporters, speciality magazine editors or contributors, serial letter-writers, or, like me, playwrights. All of these people are Writers, all need the same skillsets as the Type 1’s and 2’s, they need to write in an engaging manner, keep tracking down and eliminating adjectives, spellchecking, fact checking, rewriting… But they don’t get interviewed for the Writing magazines, they don’t get the kudos for doing what they do. Yes, I’m sure you could find exceptions, famous columnists or playwrights, but I would argue that they have not become famous for that – Tom Stoppard may have been a famous playwright, but he became better known for writing the screenplay for “Shakespeare in Love”. “Bridget Jones’ Diary” was a popular column, but Helen Fielding didn’t hit the big time until it became a novel and then a movie.

In the last ten years I have beavered away, writing and working and waiting for the big break. It wasn’t until around five years ago that I realised I was actually earning a reasonable sum – say the equivalent of a part-time job. Not from one big score, but from the accumulation of lots of small pieces selling well. I had diversified, adding Script Reader to my Playwright title. Now I could review new scripts for my publisher. Then we launched a Script Appraisal service, where new writers could get to read the script reports I wrote, as well as having their script proof-read and marked up for errors.

Of course I’m still dreaming of the day when I find myself being interviewed as a Type 1. I’m still working on my screenplay and occasionally I dust off a manuscript and begin yet another re-write. But I know that by plugging away at my niche I’ve built a reliable income and been able to write the things I wanted to write – still do, in fact. If I’m only a little further on ten years from now, I’m sure Mrs Dim will be disappointed (She wants to go to the Hollywood parties…) but I think I will be content. As long as I don’t read too many Type 1 articles.