Month: May 2015

Serial kid-producer reveals top 10 reasons not to have kids

Anyone with children will identify with this 🙂

Barb Taub

Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.

imgresI was lying awake last night, trying to memorize the feeling of everything being right with my family. We’re all healthy, happy, and remarkably satisfied with where we are in life at this exact moment. Even Child #4 has just taken her last ever Uni final, and pronounced herself ready to go off the family payroll.

A friend asked if I ever regretted having so many kids, or the time/money/everything that it took to raise them. She said her book club (having dispensed with the required 8.5 minutes of book-related discussion) were all talking about the reasons their grown children were not producing grandchildren.

That reminded me of this blast-from-the-past I wrote a few years ago.


Top 10 reasons not to have kids

There are actually LOTS of reasons not to have kids. As a serial kid-producer, I offer a revised list:

10. Vermin =…

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#WritingANovel: Preparation for Plotters and Pantsters.

“It’s a job, not a hobby. You don’t write the way you build a model airplane. You have to sit down and work, to schedule your time and stick with it. Even if it’s just for an hour or so each day, you have to get a babysitter and make the time. If you’re going to make writing succeed, you have to approach it as a job.”
Rosellen Brown 

 So you’re ready to write your novel? You’ve got an idea burning away at the back of your mind that you can’t get rid of. Characters keep popping up, talking to you, urging you to write their story. But the notebook’s blank, the computer screen‘s white. You’re hesitating over that first line. How do you get prepared?

Spongebob blank

Well, that rather depends on whether you’re a plotter or a pantster!

If you’re a plotter, like me, you like to have that security of knowing where you’re going with your writing from the outset. I like to write a simple plan, listing my characters, and a simple timeline of what’s going to happen. I then go back over the plan, filling in more details, random thoughts and ideas, and anything that occurs to me that might be useful. This doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. Characters and situations have a funny way of evolving when you’re writing in ways you don’t expect. But a plan gives me something to turn to if I’m stuck or if a scene isn’t working. The plan sometimes acts to kickstart the writing, or allows me to jump ahead to a later scene while the tricky scene is working itself out in the back of my head.

If you’re a pantster, then you write ‘by the seat of your pants’, that is, you start writing without a plan, letting the words flow as they happen. Of course, you have an idea of what you’re going to write about, a situation, a couple of characters. You start writing and see what happens.

In reality of course, most writers are a combination of the two. When you start to pigeonhole a person, or a process, you usually find that most people don’t conform to a particular definition. And whatever works for you, works. But whether you’re a plotter or a pantster, there are some things you can do to prepare yourself for writing your novel:

  • Read as much in your chosen genre as you can. In a saturated market, think what your book can add to the genre. What could be its Unique Selling Point?
  • Even if you’re not planning your book – plan your time. If you’re writing something that requires a lot of research factor that in. Now plan when your writing time will be. First thing in the morning? A couple of hours in the evening? Plan it and stick to it. In a busy world with busy lives, writing can often be seen as unimportant, not a priority, but you need to be strong about this. Plan your time and use your time.
  • Set yourself some goals and write them down. This can be a simple as ‘I’ll have written five thousand words by the end of the month’ or ‘’I’ll have finished my research by …’ Having your goals written somewhere you can see them reinforces them all the time, keeping them to the front of your mid.
  • Prepare a space to write. It doesn’t have to be a great big desk in an office just for you. It can be a corner with a laptop. But make it a dedicated writing space. This helps you to get into the right mind set. When you’re in your writing space, you’re there to write. Incidentally, writing at the same time every day can also reinforce this – after a little while, if you sit down in your writing space at the same time (your writing time) you easily slip into writing mode (works for me anyway!).

Now you just need to get writing.

plot

#BookReview ‘Things I’ve Been Silent About’ by Azar Nafisi

nafisi

This memoir by Iranian academic and writer Azar Nafisi combines insights into the political and social upheaval of Iran with stories from the writer’s childhood, teenage years and early married life, detailing her troubled relationship with her mother in particular.

It is a beautifully written book, accessible and interesting. Like most people, my view of Iran is influenced by negative news stories. This book brings to life the real people behind those news reports. Life in Iran has changed so much, especially for its women, and reading about these changes, through the eyes of rebellious, strong-willed and intelligent Azar, both as a child and a woman, is eye-opening, and both heart-warming and heart-breaking.

The writer’s difficult relationship with her mother is one that many women, in particular, will identify with. Nafisi struggles with her mixed emotions – she clearly loves her mother, but she also sees her faults, whilst acknowledging the ways her mother does show her feelings. When her mother accompanies her to Lancaster to settle her in before she starts school, the care and love her mother shows are touchingly drawn. Nafisi portrays her feelings honestly and retains this honesty when detailing her close, loving relationship with her father; she doesn’t shy away from revealing his faults – the affairs he had for example.

This is a touching and fascinating book – skilfully written and intelligent.

gold star

Find a copy here

#FridayFiveChallenge @rosieamber1 ‘Demons’ by Wayne Macauley

Welcome to my Friday Five Challenge

Rosie Amber’s Friday Five Challenge only takes five minutes, so grab a cuppa and join in!

biscuits

In today’s online shopping age, readers often base their buying decisions on small postage stamp size book covers (Thumb-nails), a quick glance at the book description and the review. How much time do they really spend making that buying decision?

AUTHORS – You often only have seconds to get a reader to buy your book, is your book cover and book bio up to it?

My Friday Five Challenge is this….. IN ONLY FIVE MINUTES….

1) Go to any online book supplier,

2) Randomly choose a category,

3) Speed through the book covers, choose one which has instantly appealed to your eye,

4) Read the book Bio/ Description for this book,

5) If there are reviews, check out a couple,

6) Make an instant decision, would you BUY or PASS?

I thought I’d be a bit daring this week and go for a genre that I’ve never browsed before. So, rather naively it seems, I went for contemporary fiction and clicked on ‘urban’. Well, what a strange experience. It seems that ‘urban’ covers many topics, but I really won’t ever get over seeing Salman Rushdie’s ‘Fury’ alongside such classics as ‘Cuckolded by my Boss! Office Cuckold Humiliation Erotica’ and ‘Professor MILF’ which is apparently a ‘Mature Mother Older Woman Younger Man Erotic Romance Taboo Cougar Tale’.  Needless to say, none of these were my choice (even the Rushdie) and, once I’d stopped choking on my digestive, I settled for ‘Demons’ by Wayne Macauley.

demons

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Then I saw the price: £7.12 for the Kindle edition, $9.99 in the US.

Hmmm.

Book description:

Demons is an extraordinary social satire whose ending will leave you reeling.

It is the middle of winter. Seven friends travel to a remote coastal beach house for the weekend.

Without phones, internet or television, they sit around the fireplace, telling stories, each exposing the foibles of humankind.

But as a storm rolls in and torrential rain cuts the party off from the outside world, it soon becomes clear that some secrets are best kept hidden.

Demons is an extraordinary novel by one of Australia’s great writers.

Wayne Macauley is the author of three highly acclaimed novels: Blueprints for a Barbed-Wire Canoe, Caravan Story and, most recently, The Cook, which was shortlisted for the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award, a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and the Melbourne Prize Best Writing Award. He lives in Melbourne.

Number of pages – 150. Wait, 150 pages for £7.12?

Reviews:

Two on Amazon.co.uk: 1 four star, 1 three star. Very long reviews that I didn’t have time to read thoroughly so I went over to Amazon.com. Here there are seven reviews – 2 four star, 1 three star and 4 two star. Most people just don’t seem that keen.

Would I buy or pass? PASS

Analysis

I really like the idea of this novel, but to be honest, the book description left me feeling a bit ‘meh’. It’s difficult to explain, but it just seems a little lacklustre, as if whoever wrote the blurb wasn’t that excited by it. It’s formulaic.The price is also a sticking point. Ok, so Macauley is apparently well-regarded. But does that justify more than seven pounds for 150 page book? If it had been cheaper, I‘d have given it a chance, despite the reviews, but, on balance, I’ll pass. I have over forty books on my TBR list and although I’d probably buy almost any book going if I could (although definitely not ‘Professor MILF’ or anything with ‘Cuckold’ in the title unless it was genuinely written hundreds of years ago), with a mountain of books to get through, I’ve got to say ‘no’ to this one.

If you want to join in the Friday Five Challenge pop over to Rosie’s blog to find out more.

Writing a Novel: Why Bother?

jim writing

The advent of self-publishing means everyone’s doing it, it seems. Amazon has literally millions of books for sale and the number is increasing every day. Millions of people chasing a dream even though the vast majority will never make a living out of it. I’m not going to give a load of depressing figures about how little money most writers make, or how many make no money at all. If you think that you’re going to make a fortune as a novelist I suggest you take a long hard look at yourself. Yes, it is possible for some people to be full-time fiction writers, but not many are living in lovely houses and driving a Ferrari. And the hard truth is that most writers will need a second job, sizeable savings or an understanding partner.

So why do we do it then? Why bother to write a novel? Why have I written two so far and why am I getting up at the crack of dawn every day to write a third? Why am I planning a series of posts designed to help you write your novel if the chances of success are so small?

Well, there are plenty of very good reasons to write a novel, and, if you go into your writing with a level head and realistic expectations, then why not give it a go.

  • It’s great fun. Really. If you don’t find it fun, or at least really enjoyable, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it. What makes it fun? Getting stuck into the research and finding out things you would never have known. Going on lots of research trips. Crafting beautiful sentences that make you sit back and smile to yourself (even if you then cut them out because you know they’re pretentious). Getting involved in worlds and places and with people and situations that are out of reach or unrealistic in real life. Escaping.
  • It’s completely selfish. Completely for you (at the early stages at least). Make a list of all the things in your life you have to do. Cleaning the toilet. Ironing. Going to work. Filling in a tax return. Clearing up dog sick (I’ve done his four times today because someone fed the dogs roast potatoes). You get the idea. But writing your novel – that’s proper you time.
  • You can let your imagination run wild. You can say things, do things, write things that you could never say or do in real life.
  • You’ll have achieved something. Something tangible. I’ve known lots of people who say they’re going to write a book. I worked with a man once who’d had the same book going for twenty years. He’s still not got round to finishing it. If you can find the self-discipline to make time, to knuckle down and write a whole novel, that’s a real achievement. You’ll have done something pretty amazing.
  • You’ll become part of a lovely writing community full of supportive readers and writers and bloggers who will give up their time to help you and offer advice, just because they love reading and writing as much as you do.

Have I convinced you? Are you raring to go? Great, then I hope you’ll enjoy next week’s blog post – Writing a novel: Preparation for Plotters and Pantsters.

sponge bob writing happy gif

#RBRT: ‘Fallen on Good Times’ by Rewan Tremethick

Rosie's Book Review team 1

I reviewed ‘Fallen on Good Times’ for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

rewan

‘Fallen on Good Times’ successfully melds two worlds – the world of 1920s Noir with its hardboiled, smart-talking PI Laslo Kane and the urban fantasy world of ghosts, werewolves and vampires. It’s a clever idea and a clever book, full of humour, action, mystery and witty one-liners from the hero Laslo, a man whose ineptitude as a ‘normal’ PI has brought him into a world where the rules don’t necessarily apply. Add to this a case that sets him against the Mob and an ex-girlfriend he’s still in love with and Tremethick has gathered together all the elements of a fast-paced, exciting and unusual read.

The settings work really well and are as authentic as a twenties city under prohibition and awash with ghosts, trolls and vampires can be. It works because the author uses great subtlety with these supernatural elements. They are referred to and written about almost as though they are run-of-the-mill, and this makes it easier to suspend reality.

The writing is smooth, clear and sharp, perfect for the genre. Dialogue is natural and believable and the main character is well-developed and likeable. However, some of the action scenes were a little too drawn out – I lost what was happening at times. I also felt that some aspects were a little skimmed over – there were characters I wanted to know more about and I felt that the case was solved a little too quickly and too easily.

That said, this is an extremely well-written, enjoyable book and I’ll definitely be looking out for more from this author.

4 stars

Find a copy here

What’s my genre?#fantasy, #mystery, #scifi, #romance…or?

Writers – what exactly is your genre? You’ll probably find it here in this very funny and very perceptive blog post from the very funny and very perceptive Barb Taub 🙂

Barb Taub

One thing that constantly surprises me about the books sent to me for review is how many people get the genre of their own books wrong. I’ve had sword-and-sorcery epics described as thrillers, urban fantasies where almost every character —including the love interest—ends up dead (some several times) and the author tells me it’s a romance.

So as a public service, I thought I might post a few examples of various genres. Well, that and the fact that I stumbled across the incredibly fun and addictive plot generator at the eponymously titled http://www.plot-generator.org.uk/. All you have to do is put in some adjectives, nouns, verbs, and nom de plume, and out comes your plot. It even generates a cover!

Thanks to the Plot Generator, here are the adventures of my two characters, Penelope Marysue and Guy Hero, with the help of my random word choices and pen name genregirl:

1. A Mystery

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#FridayFiveChallenge: ‘The Half-Hanged Man’ by David Pilling

Welcome to my Friday Five Challenge

Rosie Amber’s Friday Five Challenge only takes five minutes, so grab a cuppa and join in!

biscuits

In today’s online shopping age, readers often base their buying decisions from small postage stamp size book covers (Thumb-nails), a quick glance at the book description and the review. How much time do they really spend making that buying decision?

AUTHORS – You often only have seconds to get a reader to buy your book, is your book cover and book bio up to it?

My Friday Five Challenge is this….. IN ONLY FIVE MINUTES….

1) Go to any online book supplier,

2) Randomly choose a category,

3) Speed through the book covers, choose one which has instantly appealed to your eye,

4) Read the book Bio/ Description for this book,

5) If there are reviews, check out a couple,

6) Make an instant decision, would you BUY or PASS?

This week I went straight for historical and then chose medieval as that’s not a time I often choose to read about. After flicking through a few pages I saw this:

half-hanged

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

To be honest the cover of ‘The Half Hanged Man’ by David Pilling isn’t that eye-catching as a thumbnail, and the white block with the title across it looks rather amateur but the title really grabbed me.

The kindle edition is only 99p, $0.99 in the US – bargain!

Book description:

In the year 1395 the famous French chronicler, Jean Froissart, comes to England in search of tales of chivalry and warfare to complete his life’s work, the Great Chronicle of England, France, Spain and Adjoining Countries. Disappointed by the decayed state of England under Richard II, he visits a tavern inside Eastcheap, where a beggar comes to his table and claims to be Thomas Page, the famous soldier of fortune. Thought to be long-dead, Page was otherwise known as the Half-Hanged Man or The Wolf of Burgundy.

Froissart challenges the beggar to recite a convincing version of Page’s life, with money and food as a reward if his tale rings true. So begins a tale that encompasses the Hundred Years War in England and France, the Free Companies as they rampaged throughout Western Christendom, and the deeds and sins of the great mercenary captains of the late 14th century…

Number of pages – 326.

Reviews:

Nine on Amazon.co.uk: 5 five star, 2 four star, 1 three star and 1 two star. On further investigation – the people who like this really like it and the one who doesn’t, really doesn’t.

Twenty-eight on Amazon.com: mostly positive. Those who don’t like it all mainly seem to have a problem with the second half, but the consensus is that the writing itself is good.

Would I buy or pass? This is a tricky one, but the clock’s ticking and I need to make a decision so – BUY

Analysis

Although the cover left me a bit cold, the title is great – really intriguing. I’m not 100% convinced by the book description, so I had a quick look at the ‘Look Inside’ feature and was impressed by the quality of the writing. I like it when a book arouses passion, either for or against, so I think I’ll give this one a go – at only 99p it’s worth the risk.

If you want to join in the Friday Five Challenge pop over to Rosie’s blog to find out more.