Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2016

The endless decisions of paperback interior design

I’ve been working on the interior design for the paperback of Tracy Hayes, Apprentice PI the past week. It’s only the third time I’m doing a print version of my book, and the reason is obvious. It’s hard work. Well, not so much hard as it’s annoying. There are about a million decisions to make, and once I’ve committed to one, it’s almost impossible to go back on it without creating a ton of extra work.
To save you some of the trouble, here’s a list of decisions I’ve had to make for the paperback interior.
1. Where to publish?
I chose CreateSpace, because I’ve used it before. They have my tax information and other details so I don’t have to worry about those. I’ve been happy with the quality of their books too, so I have no need to change.
2. What trim size to use?
CreateSpace offers a wide selection of trim sizes for a book. Again, I made the decision easier by choosing the same size I’d used previously, 5.06x7.81 inches or 12.9x19.8 centimetres, which is about the same size most of the tr…

Four ways to revive your blog

I bet most bloggers are like me: we start our blogs with great enthusiasm, write posts regularly for a while, then less regularly as the time passes until the posts dwindle to none. I’ve had this happen with two blogs already, and this one hasn’t exactly been lively either. I do have explanations – or excuses – for my absence, but it mainly comes down to prioritising. I had more important writing projects and decided not to write blog posts.
If you’ve stopped blogging because it’s not your priority anymore, there’s no need to feel bad. Many choose that option. Although, I actually feel vaguely guilty about my two dead blogs, but not so much that I’d revive them. This blog, however, still has hope. So, it’s time to rethink my priorities and find time for blogging again. You can revive your blog too. Here are four options for doing that:


1 Pick up where you left
If your blog has a theme or a topic, continue writing posts about that. You once had a reason for wanting to write about that to…

Counterfactual histories and historical fantasies

I came across a long-read in New Statesman today about The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. I haven’t actually read the book – or watched the series based on it – but the article brought up an issue that interests me both as a writer and a reader: counterfactual histories, the genre of ’what ifs’. What if an event in the past had happened differently? It also reminded me that the past, real and imagined, lends itself well for all kinds of fiction.

I don’t read much historical fiction anymore – or watch historical movies, for that matter – even though I’m a historian by education. Even the best historical fiction tends to pale in comparison with the historical reality, and the incorrect historical facts and details tend to mar my enjoyment of a good story. The exception I make is for historical romances. I don’t care that most of them not only get the details wrong but the spirit of the era they portray too; I simply enjoy the romance.
And I know I shouldn’t be too judgementa…

6 writing lessons taken from the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series

I’ve been reading Dead Ice, the latest Anita Blake novel by Laurell K. Hamilton. And by reading I mean skimming the pages, hoping to land on some plot. Of over 560 pages and 65 chapters, the plot it’s supposed to be about – illegal zombie porn – has so far taken approximately four chapters, and they are not very exciting chapters. Nothing about the book is very exciting – a far cry from what the series was originally about.

For those not familiar with the series, Anita Blake is a vampire hunter and animator, a raiser of zombies, in St. Louis, Missouri. She’s a tough as nails heroine with a supernatural ability of her own, which sets her apart from the society and has made her rather confrontational. The first book, Guilty Pleasures, was published in 1993 and Dead Ice, published in 2015, is the 24th book in the series. When the first book came out, there were no urban fantasy series like Anita Blake; it felt exciting and invigorating. The first twelve or so books were about solving pret…

Book review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

I like books with clever premises that actually deliver. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness is one. It asks the question of what if you’re not the chosen one, but just a normal person living your ordinary life next to them. It has two stories in one: a Buffy-style high school urban fantasy of special people who battle vampires and gods trying to take over the world, and a coming of age story of a group of ordinary high school students who battle more personal problems that are every bit as devastating in their own way.

The first story is told in a summary at the beginning of every chapter and is referred to only fleetingly in the actual story. The main focus of the book is on Mike, the first person narrator, and his family and friends who are preparing for graduation – provided that the gods don’t blow up the school before that. They are aware of the odd things happening around them and can’t escape from getting involved in them too, but surviving an apocalypse isn’t quite a…

Who owns ideas anyway?

Earlier this week authors around the world where bemused for learning that Sherrilyn Kenyon, the author of Dark-Hunter series, has sued Cassandra Clare, of The Mortal Instruments fame, for copyright infringement, basically for using an idea she regards as uniquely her own. Their fans obviously took sides, but authors seemed to hold the opinion that she doesn’t have a case. No one owns ideas.
We’ve all been there. We’ve written a book, thinking we’ve created a unique piece of literature unparalleled to anything else, only to realise that someone has beaten us to it. And they’ve probably done it better too. We’re gobsmacked, unable to fathom how our brilliant idea could have occurred to another person and on another side of the world even.
The answer may be simple. There are only a limited number of stories that we’ve duplicated and varied over millennia. Maybe there are only four stories, like Paul Coelho maintains, or a couple of thousand, but “the same elements used in much the same…

Authors and social media

When new (or experienced) authors look for advice on how to make social media work for them, they find two conflicting opinions: You need to have a solid social media presence in order to sell books, but also that social media doesn’t sell books. Both are true. The gist of all the advice is this: You need to be social on social media in order for it to work for you. It’s not always easy to engage people on various platforms, but some are easier than others. People often comment on blog posts or posts on Facebook, but those seldom lead to conversations that build the kinds of social relationships that would advance the author’s sales. This is mainly because the person commenting is a ’visitor’ on the author’s space; they are not ’equal’ there. Also, people having the conversation are seldom present at the same time. Moreover, it’s difficult to engage more people in one conversation, so they die quickly.



So far, Twitter has been good at making social media social. The immediacy of Twitt…

Age-inappropriate reading?

I had a good visit to the library today. I found three books that I actually want to read, not mere fillers I borrow because I don’t want to return home empty handed. They all come from the new arrivals’ shelf – always a delight when I can snatch something up first. My haul is The Rest of Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, Angel of Storms by Trudy Canavan, and Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier. What they have in common is that they’re fantasy of one kind or another – and that they’re all meant for young or young adult readers.

Having chosen, once again, exclusively from the youth department, I was inspired to revisit an old post that I wrote as a reaction to an article that appeared in Slate in 2014. The writer, Ruth Graham, was of opinion (probably still is?) that adults “should feel embarrassed” when what they’re reading is written for children. Not because the books are bad – she discards the obviously bad books and concentrates on those with literary merit. She objects to them be…

Pre-order: yea or nay?

For some time now, Amazon has offered self-publishing authors the possibility to have their books available for pre-ordering before publishing. The advantage is, for example, the potential higher ranking on the publishing day, as all the pre-sales are counted on that day. Smashwords offers the same option, too, for the books distributed through its channels. I have now tried the option twice, so it’s time to sum up my thoughts.
The first book I had available for pre-order was A Warrior for a Wolf that came out in November. It’s the fifth book in the Two-Natured London series, so I figured my readers might be interested in pre-ordering the book. Especially, since I had recently uploaded the series on Smashwords and other vendors, and the books were selling fairly well there.
You can set the publishing date as far as a year on Amazon, but as I had everything ready, the cover, and the edited and formatted manuscript, I was a tad impatient and set the date only a week from uploading. (If…

Letting a lesser character take over

Everyone who has read or written – or both – a long series knows that alongside the main characters there are lesser characters that appear every now and then, but who don’t really push the story forward. They are necessary, but they don’t require or merit much attention. They appear often enough to have names and descriptions, but they get less page time than the trusted best friends who help the main characters achieve their goals.
But occasionally these lesser characters grow larger than their original role. Maybe something interesting happens to them in the side-lines, or they show up so often that they become proper side characters. And sometimes, they grow into main characters.
That happened with a character in my Two-Natured London series. DS Adrian Moore appeared in the second book, Warrior’s Heart, and has shown up in pretty much every book since. I intended him to remain in the background. He is human in the world of vampires and wolf-shifters and his role was to reflect th…

Another point of view

I’m partial to the subjective, ‘close’ third person point of view in my novels: the reader sees what the character sees and feels, and not much else. Since I write romances, I usually show the action through the eyes of two main characters – the star-crossed lovers – although the style would allow me to use a wider range of characters too. I especially like to show the action through the eyes of the antagonist, a device I’m yet to use in my Two-Natured London series where it would fit well.
As a reader, I’m not as particular. The third person objective point of view, the omniscient narrative where the narrator knows more than the characters, is interesting to read, even if it’s seldom used in modern literature anymore, though particularly well done in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel by Susanna Clarke. And first person narrative can be fun or intense, depending on the genre. There’s something very intimate about not knowing more than the character does, which is probably why it works s…