16 March 2019

Art in Bridlington - Nick Coley

Now here's something not seen very often on this website: Art - blue in tooth and claw.


Nick Coley is a friend of long-standing who at one time wrote anarchic humorous Fantasy, which is how our paths first crossed. Like most creative people, he has never been creative in just one field, and he has always innovated. Painting on canvas and board soon gave way to glass and, more impressive, to etching on sheets of steel and aluminium. Seeing him give an outdoor demo was something to behold. Who would have thought a standard angle grinder could be used to such light-altering effects? The paints he uses merely enhances the marks, the colours magically changing in hue depending on the angle of view and the cast light. Alas, the internet does not do the artworks justice, but click the image for a larger size.

Although many of his subjects are East Yorkshire landscapes, from the hidden valleys of the Wolds to the North Sea shore, he also creates mystical images - one of which was based on our discussion about my research on British water dieties, used in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy. 

The Exhibition We Live In Hope is hosted by Gallery 49 in Bridlington. There's a preview and a 'Meet The Artist' on Saturday 30 March, noon-3pm, when Nick will be talking about his work. The gallery is open Thursday-Saturday 11am-4pm and his exhibition is on until 20 April.

If you are in the area, go do something different. You can enjoy Bridlington's famed fish & chips afterwards.

2 March 2019

Pinterest for Authors?

Infographic pin on Writing Tips
I’ve recently initiated a Pinterest account:
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/LindaAcasterAuthor/ 

I know, the site has been around long enough, but when a writer is supposed to be creating the next novel, just how many social media sites can she handle?

This was my first mistake. Pinterest is, or is akin to, a search engine. Like a lot of people, my go-to search engine is Google, and when Pinterest URLs kept appearing in its first-page results I decided to take notice.

The big difference between Google and Pinterest is that Pinterest is a visual medium. It truly believes a picture paints a thousand words. It is the image that catches the eye, but it is the embedded link that leads to… wherever you want it to lead: your novel’s Amazon or Kobo page, your blog post, your newsletter sign-up, your book launch competition…

As with Twitter, keywords and hashtags are most useful in the short blurb sitting behind each pinned image, enabling it to be found in a search on the site, or any search – see mention of Google above. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, the image and blurb stays put on a chosen Board and is not suffocated beneath an ever-increasing deluge of newer pins.

Boards act as directories for ease of organisation and can be named however you want. I currently have five public boards:
  • My Books - showing my book covers and linking to their relevant Amazon pages.
  • Book Thoughts - for memes and associated images that catch my eye (I drool over book nooks).
  • Writing Tips: I’ve written a lot of posts over the years and I now make info-graphic pins to link back to them - see one above.
  • Research:Viking – information from other sources I want to find easily for a future project.
  • Research: UK Historical Sites – a new board to consist mostly of pins leading to posts on this blog.
I also have a couple of private boards for my eyes only, including a fledgling World War 1 board for a future project. You can be very private on Pinterest and have all your boards for your eyes only, but the idea is to share via repins so that interesting information gets a wider audience. Among my boards, Writing Tips and Book Thoughts currently contain other people’s pins along with my own. My own pins show, to me only, how many people have looked at each pin, re-pinned it, clicked through to read the blurb, and clicked through the URL. All fascinating stuff.

Pins have to be visual, even if the content is totally text - an infographic such as above. Unlike other social media sites which tend to concentrate on horizontal images, vertical images work best on Pinterest, ideal for book covers.

Consideration has to be given to the aim of the pin. Whereas my book cover pins aim to send readers to a buying site, most of my own non-book pins aim to bring readers to this blog for further information. To that end I add my blog URL to every pin for visual recognition, and the Writing Tips infographics will carry my name, logo and background colouring to complement this blog as part of my brand awareness. Obvious when you think about it, and study the Pinterest site.

Might you be interested but haven’t a clue where to start? Every research project begins with Google. There’s a wealth of how-to articles waiting. It’s where I found the website belonging to Visual Marketer Louise Myers. Her site carries many useful articles and her free course Pinterest Basics For Business was very helpful in getting me going.

Finally… once you have a Pinterest account, search your own name. Oooh, that can be interesting.

16 February 2019

#99c SF&F Novels!


It's a while since I've been involved in a Book Promo so I thought I'd give it a whirl. There are over 70 titles being highlighted. The dates given are 18-24 February, but the page is already live and should remain so until mid-March. Just check the prices before hitting buy.

I have two titles in the promo, a Horror and a Fantasy Romance. Alas, the promo links are not geo-sited, but go only to Kindle USA. The geo-sited Kindle links to my titles are below, and if you read via Kobo, Nook or iBooks, you'll find other links on the relevant page in the ticker above this post. Apologies: this was never supposed to be so complicated [rolls eyes].


9 February 2019

#WritingTips Index Page

The sharp-eyed among my readers may have noticed a new page has appeared beneath the header of this blog - Writing & Editing Tips. I've been creating posts for many a year, and during that period have produced four series of how-to articles. This single-page index makes the individual posts easier to find and navigate.

The choice:
  • Writing Prompts - a choice of 16, each with an explanatory note.
  • Research - a choice of 3 posts, not so much where to look but why a writer needs to.
  • Editing - a choice of 8 posts, discussing the different types of edit and what each entails.
  • Don't Mess With The Reader - a choice of 5 posts on elements which should never have made it into print.
Have a delve. You never know what the posts might ignite in your own writing.

There are also links to two useful resources:

Happy Reading! 

2 February 2019

Don't Mess With The Reader: 5 Plagiarism

This is the final post in this short series. If you’ve come to it late, I’ve been catching up on my fiction reading which, unfortunately, led to an unexpected amount of eye-rolling. The problems I’m covering should never have made it to an editor, never mind to print. They should have been noticed by the author during the writing and corrected. It is the author’s name on the cover; it is the author’s responsibility.

If you need to read my full why rant, jump to 1 Openings, otherwise let’s cut to…

Plagiarism. Don’t do it.

You mean... I came across a plagiarised novel produced by a major publisher?!? Sort of.

The novel in question was passed to me because it was thought I’d like the storyline: a claustrophobic thriller conveyed in first person viewpoint. I did. Except... by page 20 I was thinking I’d already read it, yet it was published in 2018 so I couldn’t have. By page 50 the hairs were rigid on my neck. I knew this story; I knew these characters. I went hunting on the internet.

Of course I knew it; I’d grown up with its movie (released 1954). I even found the original literary work (which I’d never read) as a downloadable pdf, a short story, first published in 1942, by a prolific writer who died in 1968. The dates are significant.

There again, so is the storyline, so are the characters, so are the motifs. Not so much a “re-working” as a minor tweaking.

The dates are significant because US copyright laws were substantially updated in 1976. Does this mean the original story is in “the public domain”? The Americans are nothing if not litigious, and it seems as late as 1990 lawyers were arguing its copyright status in the Supreme Court. I bet that was costly.

A further court case was heard between 2008-2010 when a 2007 movie was said to have violated the copyright in the original story. I bet that case was even more costly. However, it also means that the original 1942 story remained in copyright as at 2010. Whether it has lapsed since I haven’t easily been able to ascertain.

As I mentioned above, I found the original short story on the internet as a pdf, but that proves nothing; it certainly didn’t carry what I would refer to as ‘corroborating citations’. And let’s face it, some of my novels, never mind short stories, are to be found on the internet as pirated pdf files in direct contravention of my copyright.

But back to the novel in my hand. It carries more author-cited publicity puffs than a three-masted sailing ship needs to cross an ocean. Did these authors not notice the similarities to what is an acclaimed movie from 1954? It is doubtful any read the script before lending their names to it, that’s the way publicity puffs work, despite so many citing the director of that movie.

But someone did notice, because the cover image uses part of the design of the movie poster. Fun, eh? The novel’s title-page states it is ...in development as a major motion picture... It could be there is more litigious fun to come. Never mind the copyright status of the original short story, the director of the original movie died in 1980. If his works are still in copyright within his estate, it could be they don’t enter the public domain until 2050.

So the moral of this tale is…?

Reading this book did not excite me, despite it being extremely well written. It made me angry, and it left me with a very sour taste in my mouth. I’ll never read this author again. I’ll never trust the publisher, and I’ll look at all other mainstream publishers through the lens of this experience.

But that’s me. If you’re a reader you probably don’t care a jot. If you are a writer you should seriously take note. Why? Because publishers’ contracts have warranty clauses, the aim of which is to indemnify the publisher against, among the list, the risk of libel, invasion of privacy, and copyright infringement.

Besides, if you can’t write anything decent without lifting it whole (or quartered) from another writer’s hand - dead or living - you should be doing something else.

UPDATE 07 February 2019


The digital ink is barely dry on my post when I'm sent a link to The New Yorker which, on 4th February, published a long "profile" of the author of this novel. It reads like an exposé, the duplicity I highlight the merest tip of a monstrous iceberg. I wonder how those big-name authors feel now, those who lent their names, and their reputations, to the publicity puffs. There again, the publishing industry doesn't come out smelling of roses. An archetypal case of The Emperor's New Clothes. 

As ever, the august movie director is named but the originating author is forgotten, so let me remember him here: the late Cornell Woolrich.

Grab a coffee. The New Yorker read is long:
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/02/11/a-suspense-novelists-trail-of-deceptions/amp


This is the final post in this short series. If you wish to read the others:
 


Starting out? Reading A Writer’s Mind… covers everything from plot elements to the use of alliteration, rhythm and subliminal detailing. Paperback or ebook. Gain an insider’s view:

Amazon  ¦ iBooks ¦ Nook ¦ Kobo ¦ All e-formats
Book Depository for worldwide free shipping of the paperback



26 January 2019

Don't Mess With The Reader: 4 Seeding Information

For those coming late to this short series, I’ve been catching up on my fiction reading which, unfortunately, led to an unexpected amount of eye-rolling. The problems I’m covering should never have made it to an editor, never mind to print. They should have been noticed by the author during the writing and corrected. It is the author’s name on the cover; it is the author’s responsibility.

If you need to read my full why rant, jump to 1 Openings, otherwise let’s cut to...

Seeding information: the strategic sowing of teaser information into earlier parts of the storyline so that when a pertinent plot point later occurs it does not occur against the flow of established logic.

For instance:
    • A crack appears in the pavement; still liquid shivers in an open container; a whiff of rotten eggs emanates from a manhole cover >>> a seismic event occurs, natural or man-made depending on the storyline.
    • A young girl is taught the rudiments of boxing by her grandfather; she enjoys sports at school; she takes up karate as a teen >>> she lays out the street robber attempting to steal her bag.

So how does the reader feel when, say, on page 188 the main character is able to take the controls of a plane because ...he’d always wanted to be a pilot, and those lessons he’d had when he’d been younger…

What lessons? Since when had he wanted to become a pilot? More like since the author needed to plug a hole in the plot and couldn’t be bothered to backtrack in the storyline to set up a thread to sustain the character’s ability to take the controls of a plane.

Laughable? I’d like to say the above is an extreme example, but a couple I came across in my reading weren’t far behind.

This lack of cause to enact the effect stems from a scarcity of detail in the outline of both the character and the storyline. I write organically so have never been a fan of planning a novel down to scene level before starting on Chapter One, but there needs to be a skeleton of a storyline from which to pick the plot elements, and that is built from the characters, particularly the protagonist. Bulking out of flesh, either before starting or during the writing, comes from brainstorming the characters and the storyline simultaneously.

An infodump, no matter a page or single sentence in length, won’t plug a hole in the storyline or cover up cracks in characterisation because it takes no account of the importance of pacing in a novel. I used three information teasers in the examples at the top of this post; in a novel there would be many more and they would be seeded with subtlety. The reader should hardly notice a backstory being built, but when the conveyed information becomes pertinent to the unfolding storyline, it’s a natural fit due to cause and effect. You can’t harvest what you haven’t seeded.

Next time: 5 Plagiarism 
The series so far: 1 Openings ¦ 2 A Sense of Place  ¦ 3 Characters
 

Starting out? Reading A Writer’s Mind… covers everything from plot elements to the use of alliteration, rhythm and subliminal detailing. Paperback or ebook. Gain an insider’s view:

Amazon  ¦ iBooks ¦ Nook ¦ Kobo ¦ All e-formats
Book Depository for worldwide free shipping of the paperback

19 January 2019

Don't Mess With The Reader: 3 Characters

For those coming to this short series here, I’ve been catching up on my fiction reading which, unfortunately, led to an unexpected amount of eye-rolling. The problems I’m covering should never have made it to the publisher’s editor. They should have been noticed by the author during the writing and corrected. It is the author’s name on the cover; it is the author’s responsibility. 

If you need to read my full why rant, jump to 1 Openings, otherwise let’s cut to the chase.

Characters come in three categories: mains, subsidiaries, and walk-ons.

Mains are the novel’s lead characters: the protagonist, the antagonist, and their close buddies or sounding boards. They are named. The reader will learn something about their backgrounds and their motivations. They are part of the on-going action; one or all will have sections written from their viewpoint.

Subsidiaries are lesser characters who help support the real world environments, and/or the theme/s, and/or the subplots. They may be named, or they may only be delineated on the page by their job descriptions. They often walk onto the page early in the story and keep popping back throughout the story, but the reader learns very little about their backgrounds or their motivations. This information isn’t necessary, though it could be relevant, to the on-going action, or more likely the theme.

Walk-ons are just that, they walk on, or in to the story to provide a specific service within the real world environment – to sell the protagonist a sandwich and/or comment on... the weather, the protagonist’s demeanour, whatever... thus giving the protagonist a “breather” moment in which to take stock within the unfolding storyline. The specific service the walk-on provides might be very specific – a talkative taxi driver asking if the protagonist has “heard the news” and, in ignorance of its significance, conveys sparse details which are pertinent to the unfolding storyline. Walk-ons tend to walk-on just the once and are very rarely named.

The more subtle the writing, the more there will be levels of importance within each set. These character sets are not ring-fenced, either, and a walk-on might rise in importance to become a subsidiary, but the writer is treading a fine line and there may need to be earlier seeding so this doesn’t come as an unintentional surprise to the reader.

A subsidiary, on the other hand, rarely promotes him/herself to main character status; it’s just too much of a leap, and having this new main character explain, in a paragraph, how it reached this stage is simply bullshit exposition by a lazy writer. It also has a habit of dragging the reader out of the fictional reality to stare at the page and utter What?! The suspension of disbelief, which the reader so willingly entered into on opening the book, has been fractured and the reading experience never regains the same intensity. Basically, the reader no longer trusts the writer.

Creating a novel is an organic enterprise, even when a detailed outline and synopsis are used. Storylines and character motivations can and do change in the writing. Fine, accept it as a gift from whichever muse you happen to cherish. It does not, however, mean that these changes should be bolted on as an extra. They need to be seeded beforehand, their intention dripped into the forward momentum before they become, or attempt to become, a pertinent reality.

Next time: 4 Seeding Information

The series so far: 1 Openings ¦ 2 A Sense of Place



Starting out? Reading A Writer’s Mind… covers everything from plot elements to the use of alliteration, rhythm and subliminal detailing. Paperback or ebook. Gain an insider’s view:

Amazon  ¦ iBooks ¦ Nook ¦ Kobo ¦ All e-formats
Book Depository for worldwide free shipping of the paperback

12 January 2019

Don't Mess With The Reader: 2 A Sense of Place

The festive break saw me catching up on my fiction reading, which led to an unexpected amount of eye-rolling and some muttering beneath my breath. The titles were a mix of mainstream, small press and indie, but it was the mainstream which made me stare. Were these novels signed off while the editors were on leave?

The problems I focus on in this short series should never have made it as far as a publisher’s editor; they should have been picked up by the agent lauded in the Acknowledgements, better still the author’s beta reader/s before it reached the agent’s desk.

The bottom line is, though, they should have been noticed by the author during the writing and corrected. It is the author’s name on the cover; it is the author’s responsibility.

Last week I started with Openings, this time it is A Sense of Place.

He trudged up the road and crossed the canal.
Trudged is good, it gives a sense of the character’s mindset: he’s reluctantly going to a destination. Or he’s tired and making himself find the energy to continue. Or… The reason he’s trudging will be contained within the preceding paragraphs. One set of words imbues a sub-text on another set, if they are chosen with care. Think of the difference had the line been... He walked up the road and crossed the canal. As is the original, it is an authorial statement, but its tone is flat; it give nothing away. There is no subtext.

Except… except the novel in question is a Historical set in the late 1920s.

He trudged up the road and crossed the canal.
Was he totally alone, or did he share the road with motor vehicles, horse-drawn carters, cyclists? Or was there a separate pavement? Was the road’s surface smooth or cobbled; did it carry tram-lines? What noises did he hear? What smells drifted his way? Was the road fronted by houses: rundown tenement or cared-for single-family homes? Was the road fronted by shops: were the windows crammed with goods, or were goods hanging outside, or stacked in boxes for show? Was the upper storey covered in painted advertisements? Did anyone step aside for him, speak to him, try to tempt him inside a shop or give him a desultory look? How did he cross the canal: metal bridge, humped stone bridge, or the narrow, boarded walkway above lock-gates spilling water? Was there a narrowboat: coal-filthy or brightly painted proclaiming its cargo of china? Was it engine-driven or horse-drawn? Were children playing on the towpath? Was the…? You get the idea.

No reader wants an ultra-detailed description, it slows the story and can easily wander into infodump territory, but readers do want snippets, teasers from which to build their own mental pictures so the glimpsed setting can be enhanced into a 3D experience. Far too often all I got from my reading were named voices moving from one whiteout vacuum to another. It was as if the writers had little idea of what constituted the setting in which their characters lived and how it was impinging on them.

A Sense of Place is needed for every genre and time period. It often comes from the five senses of the viewpoint character: sight, hearing, smell, taste, feel. Be it a busy office, a space station, an empty prairie or the inside of a car, there needs to be A Sense of Place for the reader to believe in the characters and their dilemmas. And think what subtext lies waiting there.

Next time: 3 Characters
 

Starting out? Reading A Writer’s Mind… covers everything from plot elements to the use of alliteration, rhythm and subliminal detailing. Paperback or ebook. Gain an insider’s view:

Amazon  ¦ iBooks ¦ Nook ¦ Kobo ¦ All e-formats
Book Depository for worldwide free shipping of the paperback

5 January 2019

Don't Mess With The Reader: 1 Openings

Oh, Horror! And for all the wrong reasons.
The turn of any year sees me catching up on my reading. Usually I am deep into researching a new project, therefore the content tends to be factual. This year, however, I’ve been reading fiction. Against expectations, this has led to an unreasonable amount of eye-rolling and a fair bit of muttering beneath my breath.

Has my reading been indie fiction? Normally it's my biggest percentage, but this bunch was a mix of mainstream, small press, and indie, and it was the mainstream which made me stare. Were these novels signed off while the editors were on sick leave?

The point, of course, is that the problems I shall focus on in the coming weeks should never have made it as far as a publisher’s editor; they should have been picked up by the agent lauded in the Acknowledgements, better still the author’s beta reader/s before it reached the agent’s desk.

The bottom line is that these problems should have been noticed by the author during the writing, and corrected. It is the author’s name on the cover; it is the author’s responsibility.

To kick off, let’s start at the very beginning, with openings.

The normal system of choosing a novel by a writer unknown to the reader is:
– to be enticed by the cover
– to be intrigued by the back blurb on a paperback or the product description on an ebook
– to decide if the conveying of the fiction suits, to read a few pages

It’s those few pages which make or break a sale. The decision isn’t so much dependent on price, as on the amount of time to be invested reading and whether the reading experience is going to be worth it.

An opening has to achieve four main aims, and near enough in this order:
– set the time
– set the place
– introduce the lead character
– indicate a problem pertinent to the lead character

The first two are about releasing readers from their normal reality and re-anchoring them in the fictional reality. Usually the cover image, and nearly always the blurb, have already pointed the way. How often have you seen an SF novel with a spaceship and planets on the cover? A Historical with people wearing period clothing and using horses for transport?

The lead character might be introduced alone or in a group, in an ambience of calm or of threat, but the writing has to mark him/her/it as the lead. Often this is by making the lead the point of view character, meaning readers are party to the lead’s internal thoughts and no one else’s. 

Make it easy. The reader is settling in to a new reality, picking up from the words used and the structure of the sentences the tone of the story, the atmosphere of the scene, whether the conveyance of the entire novel is going to be told to them and from what distance or shown so as to become an immersive experience. An occasional mismatch can be glossed over later in the book, but not during the opening when the reader can unintentionally be sent in a wrong direction.

So when I read that the named character looks out of a window and sees a car in a street I expect that character to be in my time looking at a modern vehicle in a modern street. Why? Because I’ve not been advised otherwise and it’s what I’m expecting from the cover image. My anchors are in place and I’m investing emotionally in the story. I do not expect to be cast adrift twelve pages later when I find that the time is the 1950s, and the character a mid-teen and not the adult I’d envisaged from the language used. It made me re-scan the opening to find where I’d miss-stepped. When I realised I hadn’t…

Novels have been dumped for less.  As it was, I wished I had dumped it. Certainly, I’ll not be reading another by the author. Make sure that author isn’t you.
 
Next time: 2 - A Sense of Place

Starting out? Reading A Writer’s Mind… covers everything from plot elements to the use of alliteration, rhythm and subliminal detailing. Paperback or ebook. Gain an insider’s view:

Amazon  ¦ iBooks ¦ Nook ¦ Kobo ¦ All e-formats
Book Depository for worldwide free shipping of the paperback


1 January 2019

Happy New Year!

As we embrace a New Year, let us be grateful for what we have, for the people who bring encouragement and smiles into our lives, and for the promise of what might be achieved if we put our minds to a goal. As Charles Dickens wrote:

No one is useless in this world 
who lightens the burdens of another.

I think that an excellent goal for 2019. 

With many thanks to my readers on whichever continent you reside. May you all live a happy and healthy year ahead.