Thursday 24 November 2011

That’s The Way The Cornbread Crumbles

One of the things about being married is that you are the automatic partner to any event that your spouse wants to go to. My husband found this out three years ago when he came to Belfast with me to Bjork. She is my favourite artist, but I know no one else in Ireland who liked her enough to accompany me.

So last Thursday it was time for me to pay the piper. I’ve spoken before about my husband’s love of country and bluegrass music, and how I shudder at the mere sight of a banjo or a harmonica. It’s the one area in which my husband and I are completely opposite. But Gillian Welch was coming to the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin, and my husband hadn’t seen them perform for seven years.  I was kind of dreading it, but didn’t want to let on to him just how much I was dreading it. Nobody wants to go to an event with someone who has a face on them and isn’t even trying to enjoy themselves.

And actually, it wasn’t that bad. Yeah, I could have done without the harmonica. And I can’t say I’m going to load up all their songs to my iPhone. But Gillian Welch and David Rawlings are really talented musicians, and a couple of songs I really liked.

Sometimes it’s good to be pushed outside your comfort zone, even if it’s only to something like Appalachian/Bluegrass fusion. It’s a reminder to myself that I need to be more open, that even though something might not be my thing, it doesn’t mean that I can’t take something from it.  

And I even came up with a plot point at the concert! Score.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

I Just Don't Want To Know

I’ve talked before about Richelle Mead. She’s the hugely talented urban fantasy author behind Vampire Academy, Bloodlines, The Georgina Kincaid series and Dark Swan.

I read her Vampire Academy books just after I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia in October 2009. Her books and her blog inspired me to write Ravensborough, which started me writing seriously for publication. At first I loved her Vampire Academy Books, but I later got hooked on the Georgina Kincaid series, which tells the trials and tribulations of a succubus who falls in love with a guy she can’t touch in case she accidentally steals his soul. It’s a six book series, and book five ended on such a cliff hanger that I was impatient to see how (if) the final book would resolve things for Georgina.

I didn’t know how I’d wait until September 2011 when it was released in the UK. But September came and went, and I didn’t buy the book. I even put the book in my Amazon shopping cart, and took it straight back out again. Despite looking forward to it for months, despite me loving the previous five books, I didn’t really want to read the last book. Why? Because then it would be over.

I know it’s kind of childish, but I want to prolong it for as long as I can. I plan to reread the first five books and then – just maybe – I might be ready to read the final instalment.

What books or series’ have you not wanted to finish?   

Tuesday 22 November 2011

She's Making A List...

I can’t believe that it’s almost four weeks until Christmas. I know my friends in the States have Thanksgiving to break the time between Halloween and Christmas, but in Ireland all we have is the 8th of December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Ireland may have a reputation as a very Catholic country, but these days it’s known as Christmas Shopping Day, when people from the country come up to Dublin to do their Christmas shopping.

My fourteen year old sister is super organised and already as all her Christmas shopping done. I, on the other hand, have one present organised. Honestly, I may be older but she beats me hands down at organisation. She finds my generally disorganised life hard to understand. I always start off with the best of intentions but have a ‘why do today what I can put off until tomorrow’ attitude to life. As does my husband. And so it continues.

That being said, I’ve a lot to do before Christmas. I need to get ready for Storms’ release on December 30 and organise a blog tour and other kinds of promotion. I’ve also got some deadlines I need to meet for my other WIP’s so I can hit the ground running in 2012. I have to get things sorted for Christmas, and I have a child development course that’s going to run for the next eight weeks. I also need to do some work on my PhD, as I don’t want to end up with an avalanche of work awaiting me in January. I also have doctor visits for Polly, and a report to write.

And with a baby on night feeds, what I want more than anything is to sleep. Possibly until Christmas. You know you’re getting older when you fantasise about finding some pretext to leave the baby with your husband, visit a dodgy hotel alone and sleep for twelve hours. Or maybe it’s just me.

I have a diary where I make lists of my tasks for everyday, but they’re always hopelessly ambitious and I end up with a large proportion of them ending up being bumped onto the next day. By the end of November I’m going to have a list longer than Santa.   

Monday 21 November 2011

Book Country: Something to Be Avoided Like A Particularly Virulent Plague

It’s no secret that there are big changes going on within the publishing industry. More and more writers are choosing to release their own material, attract their own audiences and promote their own books without the help of a publishing house. It’s too early, in my opinion, to start saying that traditional publishing is dead. Most people still buy their books in hardcopy after all. But the fact that traditional or legacy publishers are starting to develop money-making models from the surge in self-publishing tells us they’re rattled.

The fact that they’re rattled may be more down to the fact that we’re facing a double-dip economic crisis (I really hate that phrase – since when is it the done thing to refer to serious economic situations in the style of bad guacamole etiquette?) rather than the fact that self-publishing and digital editions are the only viable way to publish. Mass book burnings will not be taking place around the world while agents and editors are flung onto the streets by rioters, anxiously clutching their copies of The Writer & Artists Yearbook. I may be self-publishing, but I don’t see it as the only way in the future. I may be wrong though.

Book Country is Penguin’s new entry into the self-publishing sphere. It’s a website with a community section where you can have peer critiquing and take part in workshops. So far, so uncontroversial. The part that s getting people exercised is the price that Penguin are charging for their services to self-publishing authors.
Their premium package – which costs an eye watering $549 – includes no editing or cover design help. What you get for your large chunk of cash is your book formatted for digital and print editions, which they then upload for you. That’s it. If you wanted your book formatted there are independent suppliers of services such as Catherine Ryan Howard who will do this for you for significantly less money. Or you could buy her ebook Self-Printed and follow her comprehensive instructions for less than the price of two cups of coffee.

Not to be too harsh, Book Country does offer a cheaper option for those of us who have less money to throw into a large hole of pointlessness. For the meagre price of $299 they will let you use their software to format your ebook and print edition yourself which they will then upload for you. With both packages you get tips and general advice on promotion. This may be helpful in theory, but in practice you can probably get all the advice you need by following writers such as Elizabeth SpannCraig who tweets and blogs with helpful links to blogs offering writing, publishing and promoting tips.

If you’re prepared to format your own book yourself it will cost you nothing but time and a bit of frustration. This will get you distribution on most of the top online retailers such as Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble. Even the $99 dollar option from Book Country still requires you to format your book yourself, and that’s where most of the work is.

But that’s not the end of it. They also take 30% of your royalty cut on a $2.99 book. If you publish directly with Amazon KDP you are entitled to $2.05 from every book sale at that price point. If, on the other hand you go through Book Country the same book sold on Amazon will earn you $1.47. Most service providers to independent writers, such as cover artists and freelance editors, charge an up front fee OR a percentage of royalties. Penguin’s Book Country does both
The worst thing is, this venture will make money. As David Gaughran says on his blog: At BEA in July, Penguin CEO David Shanks said that he wanted to make Book Country “the most comfortable place for a new author to come.” Much like Authonomy, authors who receive the most favorable reviews rise to the top of the list, where there work will be reviewed by Penguin staff.

The carrot being dangled for new, unpublished writers is considerable – at least on paper. As David Shanks said in that same interview, “at the top of that list, we’ll start to look seriously at those people and say ‘here’s our new crop of potential bestselling authors’.” The site has been running for over six months, but no writers have been signed by Penguin. Instead, Book Country are now offering a rip-off self-publishing program, which will allow those writers to claim they are being published by Penguin. (Emphasis is mine.)

The fact is, there are a number of people out there who want to be published so badly, they’ll do anything to achieve it. You just need to look at the amount of money that phoney publishers and agents have made over the past few years to see that. This model preys on people who want to be published, haven’t done their research, and don’t realise that they’re being ripped off. Plus, the more money you spend publishing your novel, the more copies you have to sell to break even.
Book Country should be avoided like a particularly virulent plague.

What do you guys think? Am I being too harsh?

Friday 18 November 2011

Friday Fives: Things I need to write

The nice people over at Paper Hangover come up with a blog prompt every week. This week they want to know what five things we need to write (apart from the obvious).

1: Coffee. This is a common one I think. I never sit down to write without a double shot Americano.

2: My office chair.I have a lovely office chair that is possibly the comfiest thing I own. Plus, when I adjust it for my kitchen table my feet don't touch the ground making me feel like I'm about five.

3: Polly Pocket to be asleep. Newborns and creativity don't go together. Though I can now type while holding her, which I feel deserves some kind of prize.

4: Write or Die. Without this application my productivity would be even lower than it is now. Which, my friends is really saying something.

5: Wikipedia. Necessary for fact finding. It isn't without its perils, sometimes I fall down the black hole of procrastination and research crazy things like 1970s fish finger adverts. It's truly a double edged sword.

What about you? What do you need?

Thursday 17 November 2011

Regional Dialects And Why I Apparently Write Like A Leprechaun From Central Casting

I was working on my Nanowrimo project the other day, when I noticed one of those annoying little red squiggles had come under one of my sentences.

I looked at the screen, puzzled. I could see nothing wrong with the word in question. It was 'amn't', a contraction of 'am not'. Maybe Microsoft Word had made a mistake. But I looked and the spell check was set to English UK. I decided to Google it, and I found out that while amn't is an actual word, it's mostly used in hiberno English and Scottish English. (Hibernia is the Roman word for Ireland-land of winter). Apparently the majority of the English speaking world would use 'I'm not' rather than 'I amn't' to say I am not. Who knew?

Using that word identifies the writer with a certain strand of English, and I didn't know that word was one used mostly by Scottish and Irish people.

Do you guys have any words that you use that are particular toyour region? If they're not widely known do you avoid using them? Or do you think it gives your writing an extra flavour?

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Vocabulary and Society

In between changing nappies (diapers) and longing for a full night’s sleep I’ve been doing some of the preliminary work for my PhD. I study the social and cultural history of medicine, which involves looking at medical records, movements and advancements and using them to try to reconstruct ideas about the way people thought and regarded themselves in the period in question. I look at Ireland and Britain during the late Victorian period up until Irish Independence from Britain in 1921.

The late nineteenth century saw the establishment of ‘proper medicine’ as we know it today, and it was pretty controversial. Opponents claimed that the medical profession used Latin to describe medical conditions not because it was a lingua franca (a bridging language that two people with different mother languages could use to communicate), but because it excluded those who hadn’t received a classical education i.e. the vast majority. Therefore, language was used to protect the economic interests of a small minority while preventing the masses from making their own educated decisions about their healthcare.  It essentially made people unable to understand or learn about their own medical conditions, and reliant on doctors both for interpretation and treatment.

This is probably too simplistic an explanation of opponents, but it does show the power of language to include or exclude. It doesn’t even have to be a different language such as Latin it can be as simple as the type of vernacular you use. Anyone who has read Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four remembers how the aim of Doublespeak was to reduce language to so few words that resistance to Big Brother couldn’t even be articulated, let alone carried out. Every country has a section of disadvantaged youth who are frustrated that their lives seem to have so few options available to them, yet don’t have the vocabulary available to communicate this. On the flip side, street-speak or slang can be sometimes used to exclude older generations.

I suppose it brought home just how much the vocabulary that you use, or that you have your character use tells the reader something about that character. The type of vocabulary you have, the language you speak, the accent you have, how you address people around you – it all helps give a picture of the social groups that your character belongs to, wants to belong to, or opposes.

How do you guys approach language style in your work?

P.S. That lolcat has nothing to do with the post, just thought it was cute.

Friday 11 November 2011

Storms in Teacups Release Date

I have been unbelievably flaky with this blog lately. I’m not even going to try to justify it (read: blaming it) on Polly Pocket, as I know loads of you juggle a ridiculous amount of things (two jobs, kids, charity work) and still manage to keep on top of social media, writing, editing, and social lives. I think I’ve adjusted to having a newborn in my house now, which is a good thing because I found out on Wednesday that she’ll be with us until at least February, which I’m really happy about.

I’m working on final editing for my novel that I’m self-publishing in December. One of the great things about self-publishing is that you can decide when you want to release your book, so I’m going to choose December 30 for my book, which is also my 25th birthday. Kind of like a present to myself.

My new novel is going well too, even if it’s a little bit slower than I’d like. I’m hoping to have the first draft finished by Christmas.

Hope everyone is having a productive week J

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Priorities, Priorities...

Life as been fairly crazy lately. I've been editing, designing websites and getting used to living with a baby. It's been a juggling act, but I managed to achieve my most important goal - I dressed Polly Pocket up as a miniature witch for Halloween.

Despite being twelve weeks old, she'll only have reached full-term next week. Her costume was for a bigger baby, but I altered it (read: cut of the sleeves) and it looked fairly impressive.

Anyway, I've been so busy that I'm starting Nanowrimo tomorrow, a little late but it could be worse.

So in the morning ultra strong coffee will be brewed, and I'll start my November project in earnest. Best of luck to everyone taking part!