Monday, October 31, 2011

WIP

Well, I've finished the edits up to chapter 10, which means I only have two chapters left to edit. Why not the whole lot? Let me explain my weekend and Monday.

Friday: Discover that my email problems are a little deeper than I thought. My website has been taken offline as I didn't renew it. My fault you would think...except I didn't receive any notification that it was due for renewal. The hosting company don't reply to my question via their support site nor do they answer the phone. Well they do reply, but send me a text message that is unreadable, from a number I don't recognise and think is spam (I realise it's from them on Monday morning after they send me a proper message from the same number). I get fed up with this and start looking for a new hosting company to transfer the domain name to, find one and start the process.

Saturday: Still no response from hosting company despite me labelling it urgent on Friday morning. However, I've had a lie in, feel good a looking forward to an afternoon with friends. The plan is to edit that evening, but am too tired. Still there's always a quiet Sunday. The only thing planned is for my youngest to come round at some point as he wants help with his History homework.

Sunday: Clocks go back an hour so I get an extra hour to do things. I start by getting the washing up done whilst my eldest is in bed. Then he gets up and informs me that his friend is coming round...the loud one. They proceed to make a lot of noiseand occupy the front room. Fat chance of getting anything done. Still no response from the hosting company, but as it's a Sunday I'll let them off. I console myself with the fact that on Monday my son will be at college...until he tells me his Asthma has returned and his inhaler has run out.

Monday Morning: 9am, planned removal of rubbish from a friend's house to the local dump and a bit of shopping as she's put her back out. Done by 10am. 10.30am at the doctors, taking my editing with me. I barely get started when we are called in. Home by 11am. In the meantime the hosting company has called me (something they couldn't be bothered to do before). Apparently, I'm at fault for not receiving the emails. When I describe this as bad communication, they won't have it. Their systems are automated and infallible. Then when I make it clear that I'm not renewing, I'm told I have to wait 21 days to get my domain name away from them. Not content with that, I use my technical know-how to find out who the domain registrar is (it's often different from the owner...me), and it's not my hosting company, but somebody else (If you want a full description of how this works, ask me in the comments section).

Monday Afternoon: Thankfully, the company with whom it is registered (Heart Internet) know what customer service means and are willing to help even though will not earn any money from me as I have already set up a hosting account elsewhere. By the end of Monday I know that it should be sorted out by next Monday and that the previous company were talking rubbish about waiting 21 days. In the meantime, I've received a phone call from a customer who wants their pc fixed as it has multiple viruses on it. I finish setting up an account with Heart Internet so I can transfer the domain name into it when 'the other company' release it. Fixing the pc is easy and earns me some money. When I return, Heart have shown how good their customer service is by updating the support ticket with useful information and respond quickly to my next question. They will do what they can, but if they cannot transfer it because of awkwardness, then they will do it next Monday anyway. Then I have some lines to learn for tonight's rehearsal.

Despite this I get up to chapter 10 of the edits, and have spare time tomorrow to finish off chapters 11 & 12...I hope. Which brings me to the book launch.

I still have to contact the local paper, our MP, a councillor and the BBC, as well as Amazon to see who wants to turn up and help us launch, which is best done tomorrow. The problems with 'the other hosting company' also means work on the website has been held up as I have no means of showing others the progress. That, however, is small beer compared the terror I'm feeling now I know my book will be published. No more hiding behind, "I can't get an agent", or "I haven't finished it yet as it's not ready". It will be out there for ALL to see.

Did I mention I have to go to work tomorrow evening?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Fun

Despite a hectic week I'm still here to provide you with some more fun. As usual, I'll start with Oddbox. This week a cute little wombat, 9 sets of twins in one class, a bungee-jumping car and one of the worst raps you will ever hear.

Remeber the 'Joy of Sex' and the hairy man? Want to know who did the illustrations? Want to know who the models were? The BBC reveals all. Not only that, the Beeb has also delved into the archives of the Royal Society and brought us information about the woman who urinated a bullet.

There are now 7 billion people on earth. If you want to know how many people are younger or older than you, the BBC has a useful little page that can show you. Apparantly I am the 76,995,035,236th person to have ever lived. Makes me feel SOOOOO special.

The final BBC video contains disturbing images...people eating insects. Sadly I couldn't find the video where the reporter ate an insect that hadn't been cooked yet.

Newsbiscuit time. Bit quiet this week (in my opinion) with only one good story, ITV working on new Viking detective series: Inspector Norse

From facebook, some little gems:

'A helpline has been set up for devastated Man Utd fans - if you wish to speak to someone about yesterdays result, you can call 0161 61 61 61'

'Alex Ferguson overslept this morning, his wife shook him and said "Alex it's seven" he replied "oh no, they haven't scored again have they?"'

The blogshpere has been interesting too. From the Inky Fool, comes a post about the true meaning of currying favour...and the worst joke of all time. There's also a cautionary tale of what happens when you use the loo as a reading room and siblings need a pee and a recipe for cooking pumpkin seeds.

Today's pictures:



Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What To Look For In Editing

What do you look for when you edit? Spelling mistakes and grammar? Good. But there are other things you should be doing too.

1. 'That'. How many times have you used the word 'that' in your sentences? If you're like me, you'll have used it many times, but it's rarely needed. Try dropping the word from a sentence and if still makes sense, leave it out all together. (I'd like to attribute that to the correct person, but I've forgotten who it was. If it was your blog, please leave a link in the comments section.)

2. '-ing' words. Do you start sentences with words ending in '-ing'? It's a structure that can cause all sorts of problems if you're not careful. "Rubbing her neck, the blinking red light on the answering machine caught Sarah's eye," makes it sound as though the answer machine is rubbing Sarah's neck. You can read the full rundown on this at 'The Blood-Red Pencil' blog.

3. Adverbs. I know this one has been done to death, but have you thought about adding them to your prose. They can be overused, but that doesn't mean we should totally exclude them.

4. Nouns. Have you capitalised the right ones?

5. Verbs. Are they in the correct tense?

6. Description. Is it too long or too short? Have you missed out information that the reader needs to know? Is it clumsy? More importantly, have you given this information before? In my current WIP I gave the same information three times.

7. Cliches. In one sense everything we write is a cliche, and though the advice is to avoid them like the plague(!), sometimes they can be useful. People speak in cliches and some people ARE cliches, expecially management-type individuals and their buzz words. There is also a hangup about a story being a cliche, but that's not necessarily a bad thing as a blog at StrangePegs points out.

8. Jargon. We all have jargon in our lives and while it's useful in certain situations, it can throw people who don't know what it means. If you're going to use Jargon, you have to explain it, remove it or make sure your audience knows it. That also applies to words you have invented, or known words that have a different meaning in your world. For ideas about words and their etymology, The Inky Fool is an excellent blog to follow.

9. Ambulance Chasing. An wonderful phrase that sums up the idea of following trends. Have you done that in your WIP? If so, Electric Spec have a few warnings about the practice.

10. Genre. Is your book REALLY in the genre you're writing for? Just a thought.

11. Are your characters experiencing problems that they have to solve? If not, have you got a story?

There's lots of help out there for us writers, mainly from other writers trying to get published, writers who are published and occasionally agents. In addition to the ones I've linked to above, here are some more.
The Literary Lab
In Medias Res
Adventures In Agentland
Pimp My Novel (Although it's no longer being updated, it's previous postings are a gold mine)

There are many more out there just waiting for you to find them, follow them and tell everyone else about them.

See you on Friday.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

WIP

Apologies for being a day late, but as you're a forgiving bunch I know you'll let it pass.

First up, the novel. I've almost finished the re-write of chapter 5 and finished the edits of chapters 6 & 7. I should have the whole lot done by next Monday, at which point I'll be looking for some critiques from my writer's group.

Talking of which, if anyone wants to 'beta-read' the novel, let me know in the comments section below. I promise you nothing but blood, sweat and tears...that's the part when Alan gets an accidental knee in the groin. What do you mean that's not enough? OK, I'll email you a free version of the book when its published as well.

While I'm on the subject of publishing (how's that for a tidy segue), we have a date for our launch: 27th November. We're holding it in a local hotel who are supplying the room free of charge on condition that we get the local press to cover it. If I have my way, we'll have local BBC radio and TV covering it too.

'Why would they do that?' you ask. 'It's never been done before' I reply. Book launches yes, but an ebook launch? How do you have a book signing event when there are no books available? Shall I tell you now, or let you find out next week? How cruel shall I be? OK, I'll tell you. But only if you stop hanging the noose from that tree.

For the first 2-3 days of the launch, all buyers will get a Special Edition of the book. This copy will have a different frontpage with a message and a digitised signature from the author. Afterwards, the normal version will go back on Amazon.

We're also going to have signed copies of the cover artwork for sale and a short reading from each book by the authors. As for who's coming, there'll be family and friends and hopefully the people staying at the hotel. We'll ask a local politician or two to join us and may even get a West End actor to put in an appearance. I'm also going to get in touch with Amazon to see if they would like to take part too.

In short, we've pulled in every contact we have, including some we've forgotten about, and made a few more along the way. I'll tell you more as we get nearer the date.

As I'm on the subject of actors (not such a tidy segue), play rehearsals are proceeding apace and I have learnt some of my words...and there are more than I thought there would be. We have most of the props, but I still need an early 1970s style dress suit.

All in all, it's proving to be a busy November...and I'm loving it.

See you tomorrow

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Fun

The weekends nearly here, so kick off those shoes, sit back and enjoy yourself. At least until the kids get home.

First up, oddbox. This week the Scrabble world championships (with some cheating), an intelligent horse and using mime to control the traffic...you gotta see that one.

In other news we hear that the American Declaration of Independence was illegal and a man in Devon has had himself mummified...after death of course. Finally, why do people changes names? Here's 25 people who did and their reasons.

Newsbiscuit.

First up, the scary story that health scares may be bad for you. If that wasn't bad enough the news that an MBA student has acted a bit C2 may jar.

Some good economic news come from the Homeopathic society who have suggested a great way to get the world back on track.

Headlines include, 'Firm seeking to create the perfect pair of trousers "making great strides"', 'Tragedy as mime artist falls into aquarium at Sea-world’ and 'Destitute herbalist living on borrowed thyme'.

As ever if you want to see the stories that almost made it, have a look at the writer's forum, with the usual warning that the language can get a bit fruity at times.

From the blogsphere comes a great word that you should ALL start using immediately: Esquisse. From the same blog comes information on the link between radishes and radicals.

Joke of the week: "My girlfriend said she wanted me to be more like her ex. So I dumped her."

My favourite comedy video of the week:




My favourite picture:



Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It Takes Time

About twenty years ago I started a course in public speaking. Over the course of two years, making twelve speeches on different subjects, listening to and evaluating hundreds more, I learnt how to speak in public effectively and without fear. Well, not much fear anyway.

For my first speech I was allowed 5 minutes and, like all the new people, I was wondering how on earth I was going to fill that 5 minutes without repeating myself endlessly or stumbling over my words. By the time I got to the end of the course, I was allowed 10 minutes and was wondering how I could keep within the time limit.

'What's this got to do with writing?' I hear you ask. Quite a lot.

When we first start out, we wonder how on earth we are going to write 80,000 words. How can I describe a mountain, a hill, a person? We look to other authors for help, but find that we can't replicate it, or when we do it sucks.

By the time we've been writing for a while, we wonder how we're going to keep the story under 150,000 words without missing out on vital details. It's how things go. We learn by practising our craft and by experimenting.

Today, look back at your early work and see how far you've come as a writer. Treat yourself for growing and learning and remember that in a few years time you'll be even better.

Enjoy the day.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Yeeeuurrrrgggghhhhhh!

Ever have one of those weeks when all your plans are ground to dust? I've just had one.

The WIP is still stuck on chapters 4 & 5, but WILL get some work done on it tomorrow, I promise, especially as I have a 7th November deadline for completion.

In other progress, the play rehearsals are coming on nicely and I have managed to create the video advert for it. If you're in Hertfordshire around the 17-19 November, come and watch us, you won't regret it. If you do, there's no refund of the ticket price. (Hehehehehehe)

The publishing cupboard's website is almost there now...well the design is. Content is another matter, but that should be easy for a bunch of writers, shouldn't it? We almost have a logo and the overall feel of the site and layout is just about complete. When we have it ready, I'll post the link so you can have a sneak preview.

The biggest problem we're going to have is the launch. How do you launch a book when everything is electronic? How do you sign an electronic book? I have an idea or two, but I'm not going to tell you what they are...yet.

Watch this space...every Monday.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Fun

First up, what else but Oddbox. This week, a bungie-jumping granny, a zombie proposing marriage, the American Beard Festival and killer Turkeys.

The BBC is awash with oddness this week. First up, a man in the Philippines has had plastic surgery to look like Superman. and the tale of Zombies getting hurt in Canada.

One of the strangest stories, for me anyway, was the announcement of a new literary prize to compete with the Booker Prize. Why? According to these leading literary individuals, the Booker Prize "now prioritises a notion of 'readability' over artistic achievement". Maybe I'm being dense here, but shouldn't ALL books be readable?

Finally, did you know that all bananas are Radioactive?

Newsbiscuit

How to slash unemployment figures? Remove mothers. There is also a new way to reduce overcrowing on trains and increase capacity at the same time. Cuddle a commuter.

In other news David Bowie's Laughing Gnome has died...after a short illness, while in ecological news there are plans afoot to make water 'green'.

Headlines: 'Master baker's secret bread recipes kept on a knead to know basis'; 'Man with date of birth tattooed on his arm, fears he is beginning to show his age'; 'Thames flood barrier inventor dies - tributaries flood in'.

From the blogsphere, DRC has written about how NOT to name your characters using real life examples, and from the inky fool, the real meaning of 'lurch'.

To end the week, how about a couple of pictures.



Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Happy?

There are many theories about how to gain and maintain happiness, but only a few of them work. With that in mind, and remembering that trying to write can be a happiness-destroying way of life, here are some scientifically proven methods to help you gain and maintain happiness.

1 - DON'T try and force negativity out of your mind. By focusing on it, you give it more strength. If you doubt me, force yourself to NOT think of a Polar Bear. Do something that will distract you instead.

2 - Create a diary. Not one of these where you record the events of the day and who did what to whom, but an 'expressive diary'. Over a period of five days, write entries according to the following structure:

Day 1 - Thanksgiving. Think of three things in your life for which you can be thankful, no matter how small.
Day 2 - Terrific Times. Write about one of the most wonderful experiences of your life.
Day 3 - Future Fantastic. Don't write about unachievable things, but about your attainable future, one that you COULD achieve if you work hard at it.
Day 4 - Dear.... Think about someone important in your life. Write a letter to them (in the diary) telling them why they are important and how much they mean to you.
Day 5 - Review the situation. Think back over the past seven days and list three things that went well for you, no matter how trivial. It could be a parking space near to the shops, or being offered a new job.

You won't need to do this every week, but only when you feel down.

3 - Buy something. As odd as this sounds it works as long as we keep in mind that the things we remember most are not items but experiences. When buying something, make it an experience such as a back massage or a trip to somewhere you've wanted to go. (It has been shown through research that people who obsess over and buy lots of 'things' lack self-esteem. They rarely lack arrogance, but they do lack self-esteem)

You can find out more from ':59 Seconds' by Professor Richard Wiseman, from which the above have been purloined.

See you on Friday.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Change and Edit - WIP

When reviewing a piece of work, some things only become clear during the edit stage. In my case it's realising that chapter 5 needs to be rewritten.

Well, not so much rewritten as re-placed. Having a character confined to their quarters after kicking seven bells out of seven marines is fine. Having her walk down a corridor thirty minutes later to see her daughter isn't. I will need to have the daughter come to her instead and redo some of the conversations as a result.

On the bright side, I have edited the first four chapters and am currently making notes on chapters 6-8 having now decided that chapter 5 needs reworking. What has become clear is that editing the latter chapters is far easier than the earlier ones as there are fewer mistakes with the plot.

Why? I'm glad you asked.

When you start out on a story, whether you plan it or not, you're still learning about the characters and the story. By the time you've written a third of it, you know what's going on and who's going to do what...at least for the most part. At least, that's my experience.

In other news, Starfish Publishing is getting nearer its goal. Our logo and website banner are almost complete and the layout/design for the site are also nearing completion. We should have it ready for viewing by the end of October, maybe sooner.

We will have two books for the launch, which looks likely to be the end of November, and our decision to go with the Kindle is looking even better now that Amazon have announced a sub £100 Kindle reader. The £100 price point (to coin a phrase) is important as above it there is a perception that an it needs to be saved for or thought about. Under £100 it can be a normal purchase for a significant number of people. (Normal in this sense means similar to a microwave or mobile phone)

We also have the possibility of a link with a well-known west end actor. He will write a small promotion for us and all we have to do is link to his facebook page from ours and the website. The advantage for us will be a foot in the door with a group of people, theatregoers, who are more likely to buy books in general and ebooks in particular.

More on this later.

In six weeks time I shall be on stage as an American in 'In Praise of Love'. Not much time to learn lines and rehearse, but I know we'll do it. Next week, I'll show you the poster I designed for the performance.

What do you mean you want to see it now? Oh, alright then, as you asked nicely.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Friday Fun

An absolute treasure trove this week, so I'll start with Oddbox. This week an enormous lego pupmkin, 12 cute, baby pandas and the worlds longest headed goal.

From the rest of the BBC there are some peaches. Ever got lost in a city, even if you have GPS? Me neither, but here are 6 ways to work out which direction you should go. Did you know that monkeys can control virtual arms with their minds? Neither did I. It comes alongside the sad news that you cannot lose weight by thinking about it. Guess I'll have to forget the doughnuts.

Newsbiscuit time.

The main stories have had a dig at American justice, Greece has discovered the penalty clauses in it's bailout by Germany and how NOT to be a father.

Shorter stories include 'Thinnest material known to man discovered in TV sitcoms' and one for the older generation, 'Milk Tray man finally caught after stalking women and leaving tawdry chocolate'.

Headlines: 'Greece receives Nobel prize for Economics', 'Steve Jobs jokes condemned as Un-PC' and 'Fake Steve Jobs seen in China'.

Do you like poking fun at religion? So do the christians at 'Ship of Fools'. The highlights of their site for lovers of comedy are the church signs and gadgets for god. Under 'general foolishness' you can find the fruitcake zone, full of people who are being serious, but shouldn't be taken that way.

Lastly, Steve Jobs RIP, picture courtesy of newsbiscuit.


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

March of the Ebooks

I've written before about ebooks, but now, in the UK, they are about to take another leap forward as Amazon have launched a Kindle that costs less than £100.

For me, this is the watershed. I've believed for some time that once we get a sub £100 Kindle, then ebooks will take off, not because it's a Kindle, but because you can get the reader and the books in the same popular, widely known place. Watch this space.

On the subject of ebooks, one of the criticisms laid at their door is that they can be disposed of more easily and lost for future generations. This is, in the thinking of these people the polar opposite of what has happened to the paper and parchment works of Socrates and the penny dreadfuls...oh...they have disappeared. Works by Donne and other enlightenment authors have also been lost despite being written and printed. And this is just in the western world.

How many great works were destroyed in the fifteenth century when the Chinese turned inwards? What marvels never survived from the ancient empires of Africa, such as Egypt, Ghana and Zimbabwe? Works from Babylonia, the Moghul empire and many others from around the globe have also been lost, their authors not even remembered.

No doubt those who suggested writing things on papyrus and parchment were told that there works would be ephemeral by those who carved their tales into rock and clay. In short, literature has always disappeared and rarely by deliberate destruction.

The people who dismiss ebooks as a bad way to keep literature safe also neglect to mention that the British Library, amongst others, store ebooks, but I think there is another reason: Ego.

Some of those that dismiss ebooks are not worried about literature in general, but their books in particular. They fear that their grand works will be lost to future generations and their names will not even be footnotes in the history yet to be written. They fear mortality.

This is not true of everyone who worries over the future of literature, as they do have the good of the written word at heart. But for a significant number of those who 'worry', it is the future of their own reputations that lie at the heart of their dismissive attitude. They are similar to those politicians who see the teaching of history as a record of great events so that one day their names will be remembered. They fear history as a record of life instead of dates and 'great people'.

Ebooks have their problems, they can be deleted when someone has finished with them and lost, but so can novels when they are remaindered, given away or even put in the bin. It is a technological step forward and may end with more people reading more books in the same way that printing opened up reading to many more people. No one knows where this will lead yet, nor can we tell what the consquences will be.

The digitising of music may have hurt the music industry, but live music has been given a shot in the arm and bands can now sell direct to their fanbase. Will the same happen with literature? Will we see the rise of book readings by authors? The growth of local authors over international ones? Is JK Rowling the last of the international big sellers?

Who knows.

It is worth considering a quote: 'Nothing produced by any human is so important that it has to be kept for all eternity, no matter what we may think of our own greatness.'

Monday, October 03, 2011

The WIP Report

I have started the next phase of the novel, which is getting the plotholes removed and adding/removing description.

It has taken me a day to finish chapter one, so I should finish all of them within two weeks as this is one of the long chapters. I have still to make notes on chapters 5 to 12, but I'll wait until I'm finished with the notes I've made on the first four until I do. That way I won't introduce any errors.

If you're desperate to read some of my work in the meantime, feel free to buy my short story collection, It Can Be Done It Should Be Done, which I've advertised on the right. No comedy in there, but some excellent writing nonetheless (come on you didn't think I was going to trash it did you?). Go on, you know you want to.

KATS have started to rehearse their latest production, In Praise of Love by Terrence Rattigan, and I am playing an American called Marcus. If you have any hints on doing an American accent, let me know as I end up sounding Australian.

We've had a false start already not being able to cast Habeus Corpus, so we're a month behind on rehearsals. As we're performing in 7 weeks time this is going to be tough, but I know I can do it, even if I end up in a dark corner whimpering after the final night.

Still, I'm looking forward to cutting bits out of it as the director has decided it's too long and I have my red pen at the ready. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.