Monday, 23 February 2015

Writing as a Discipline


As a writer I also do a lot of reading. This comes with the territory and includes non fiction, as well as fiction, books and articles I have recently read an excellent article called Writing Through that Hangnail by Jill Jepson. In this she compares athletes and writers and the way in which they approach their respective disciplines. Athletes practice every day of the year, without exception, regardless of what is happening in their life at the time. It is as ingrained into their psyche, and as natural as, breathing. Do we, as writers, approach our craft in the same way?

This made me think about my writing and the way in which I approach it? Do I have an overriding passion which means my writing takes priority over most everything? Do I make excuses saying that the muse has gone on holiday so I can have one too? Am I easily distracted by such things as a broken nail, the carpet needing cleaned or next doors cat mewing too loudly? Actually in the case of the broken nail my nails are short and next door don't have a cat. But you get my drift. Am I easily pulled away from what I should be, and want to be, doing? Or am I like the athlete who stays focussed, mind on the goal, and trains to make sure he or she reaches that goal? If writing were an olympic sport would I train harder? 

In the case of writing there are many excuses which we can drag out of the ether to justify why we are not writing. For example a day doing research or a day spent marketing, or a day spent on social media interacting with fans of your books. Yep, I am sure we have all been there and done that. Find time for this, but still write. This is why we are called writers. 

Jepson makes a good point that athletes train through pain. She says many writers give up at the first sign of a headache. Is that me? Over the last week I have been ill. I tried my hardest to write every day even if I didn't write much. I am trying to set a discipline that means I write every single day. One day my temperature was so high that I was almost hallucinating. What I wrote didn't make a great deal of sense but I was writing. I was following a routine which would make me a writer. I don't want to be a writer who gave up at the first sign of a struggle.

As writers we need to develop an ingrained habit of writing. They say it takes only 21 days to form a habit and practice and repetition are key to success. So I intend to set a goal for my writing day, and I am going to reach that goal each day regardless of what else is happening. I am going to make writing as much part of my daily routine as brushing my teeth. I am going to be like the athlete who wouldn't dream of taking a day off.

There are a lot of questions in this blog. You may want to answer them in terms of your own writing discipline. Can you find the discipline to form a habit?

I hope all the writers who follow Bookaholic have found this post useful. See you all back here very soon.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Genre Fan or Genre Hopper


Good evening Bookaholics. Today's blog is for both readers and writers. I have been thinking a lot about genres recently. This was sparked by a talk I was giving at a local library. One of the questions asked by the audience was what type of books do I read. Now I would have said I am an eclectic reader but it made me stop and think. What do I actually like reading?

If there is nothing else available then I will pretty much read anything, including, but not limited to, the back of a cornflakes packet. I need to add the disclaimer that other cereals are available. Or serials I suppose as we are talking about reading. However, my passion remains crime. I love crime bookstand am fortunate to be able to live, and write, in Scotland. Tartan Noir, or Scottish Crime Fiction is huge in Scotland which gives me a lot of Authors from which to choose. We have Ian Rankin, Quintin Jardine, Stuart McBride, Lin Anderson, Alex Grey and Chris Longmuir amongst many other great writers. However, I read crime books from all over the world and I love both Nordic and American crime writers. I have also read books translated from Spanish, German and French. 

As I write crime fiction it is good that I read so many crime books. However, there is an argument that reading widely across genres is better to develop your skills as a writer. With this in mind I do read other genres such as Chick Lit, Literary Fiction, Autobiographies and historical amongst others. Does this make me a better writer? I would like to think so. Do I enjoy reading other books? Yes, whilst I am reading them but I am always drawn back to crime.

Another aspect to look at is genre hopping as a writer. I haven't tried this to any great extent as yet. I have written some memoir as part of a course. I have also written a couple of comic pieces. I have a plan to develop these and turn them into a book one day. I can assure you, so far, there isn't a dead body in sight. I can't promise that will remain the case for the entire book however. 

Some authors are superb at genre hopping. PD James did an excellent job with the book Death Comes to Pemberley pictured at the top of the page. She had many years as a writer under her belt when she did so. She was also a master of her craft. 

So the question to the readers on here. Do you like to read different genres, or have a passion for one? My question to the authors. Do you find yourself genre hopping or sticking to the one genre? 

I look forward to seeing you all back here soon. Until then, keep reading or writing as the case may be. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Interview with Children's Author and Publisher Adrianne Fitzpatrick

 

I am honoured to welcome children's writer, and publisher, Adrianne Fitzpatrick to the blog today. Thank you for joining us today Adrianne and for taking time out of your hectic schedule to answer some questions.

I am sure the readers would love to hear about you. Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
This is always the hardest question in an interview because I never know what other people want to know. Everyone else seems to be so much more interesting than I am!

I grew up in Australia (mostly), but I followed my dream and moved to the UK in 2003. My grandfather was English, so I was able to come here on an ancestry visa. I’ve worked freelance in the publishing industry since 1989, although I’d been writing (and published) long before that, and was able to bring that experience to this country.

I’ve had numerous short stories and articles published (for both adults and children). I’ve also had poetry, puzzles and workplace training manuals published, and several musicals produced by amateur theatre. One of my stories took first place in an international writing competition. In Australia I taught on a publishing and editing diploma course as well as running creative writing classes and workshops. I’m a bit of a jack-of-all-trades.

You have a focus on writing and publishing children’s books. Why kids books?

Because I’ve never grown up?

Seriously, though, I was a voracious reader as a child. Reading – getting lost in a fictional world – was my lifeline throughout a difficult childhood. Even as I graduated to more grown-up books, I still kept my favourite children’s books (despite my mother’s best attempts to clear my shelves because, after all, ‘what’s the point of reading a book again – you already know what’s going to happen’!). I discovered some series books – Elsie Oxenham’s Abbey books and Elinor Brent-Dyer’s Chalet School – and I desperately wanted to read more of them but access was limited. The Chalet School books were only available in paperback at the time, and then only a few titles at a time; and most of the Abbey books were out of print. I had to wait until I was old enough to have a car and could scour the second-hand bookshops before I was able to satisfy the need to know what else happened to my favourite characters. So at 17 or 18, I was officially a collector of children’s books, both old and new. I still own a number of the books I bought with my own pocket-money when I was around 12 or 13 – Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards; When Marnie was There by Joan G Robinson; The Power of Three by Diana Wynne-Jones; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – and many more that I had borrowed from the library and added to my own collection later. I had to get rid of a lot of my books when I moved to the UK, but somehow the collection has grown again …

As for writing: I started quite young, although I never really showed that much promise very early on, but I can remember writing a fairytale when I was around 15 and my English teacher being very snooty because she felt I ought to be writing something ‘more appropriate’ to my age. It didn’t matter that I wrote the story for pleasure, not as an assignment. I received the message that I was supposed to have outgrown children’s stories. Fortunately I didn’t pay attention to that teacher!

I am fascinated by the fact that you are now writing Chalet School books. How did you get involved in this venture?
As a freelance, I do production work – writing, editing, proofreading, typesetting and design – for Girls Gone By Publishers, who are republishing the books (and who own the copyright). Over the years, I’ve written articles and short stories as extra material for a number of their books (not just Chalet School). Although it has never been my intention – or even particularly my desire – to write in someone else’s world, there were times when there was need of some kind of ‘extra’ in the production of one of the reprints and so I filled the gap.

A few years ago, a friend and I visited Warwick Castle and on seeing the wooden floor of the dining hall, I had a vision of the Chalet School girls sliding up and down the highly polished boards. Thus was born the idea for the half-term holiday that appears in my book, Champion of the Chalet School. And again, there was a gap in the GGBP publishing schedule last year for a new full-length Chalet School title …

For all those brought up on the original Chalet School books, what does this new range add to the existing stories?
Girls Gone By have now published around 12 or 13 new Chalet School titles from a number of different authors. The original series comprises 60 books, published between 1925 and 1970. There are a number of time gaps within the series where Elinor Brent-Dyer skipped a term or two – or a year or three – and the ‘fill-in’ authors are filling in those gaps. The new books take into account what Brent-Dyer says in other parts of the series and try to extrapolate and imagine what could have happened in the chosen term. EBD was notorious for changing facts (even within the same book), so it’s no easy task for a new author to reconcile some of the inconsistencies. For Champion, for example, I had to take into account statements later in the series that some girls were caught cheating in this particular term; that there was an unsatisfactory head girl; and that another girl needed to be head girl at some point (even though, technically, there was no term in which she could have been).

Although the books are still children’s books, they do allow for the fact that many of the readers are adult collectors of the series; so even though it may possibly seem old-fashioned to younger readers, the new titles remain true to the original series in era, tone, setting, language etc – or at least as true as possible; not all readers will agree on what ‘sounds’ like EBD and what doesn’t. And all this without writing pastiche!

Given that you are writing in the past, in a different country from that in which you were raised, how do you go about developing a sense of place?

I’ve been reading (and rereading) the Chalet School books for the last 40-odd years, so I’m immersed in the culture of the books. I’ve also spent the last 40-odd years reading other traditional English boarding school books by authors such as May Wynne, Dorita Fairlie Bruce, Ethel Talbot, E L Haverfield. These books were what fuelled my desire to move to England. Interestingly, when I did come here, I had a tremendous sense of coming home – probably due in large part to the books I’d read for so long, but also partly to my English heritage.

That said, social history has always intrigued me, so I think a lot of the period detail comes naturally to me. The biggest challenge, of course, is the different use of language, but for that I depend on my editor, who transforms my occasional Australianisms into more appropriate expressions. The important thing is to get the story down first and fine-tune the details later.

As well as being a writer you are also a publisher. Could you tell us a bit about your publishing company?

Books to Treasure specialises in children’s fiction. There are two branches within that.

There’s the new fiction, which includes picture books right through to young adult novels. To date, we have four picture books in print, with further titles in various stages of production.

The other branch is a line of reprints of classic girls’ stories. These are predominantly ebooks only, but by popular request, some of the books are also available in print versions.

What made you decide to branch out into publishing?

I do like to say that this is God’s practical joke on me – I never expected or planned on becoming a publisher! – but in many ways it’s a natural extension of the work I’ve been doing for years. Initially it was fuelled by my need to generate an income around the limitations of my health (CFS/ME). Producing ebooks on an ad hoc basis could be done when I was well enough to work but not well enough to do the more demanding tasks of writing and editing etc for other clients.

Then in 2012 a friend showed me two picture books – one she’d written and illustrated, the other she’d provided the illustrations for. I felt they both deserved to be published, so I went ahead and did it. And the publishing has grown from there.

Where can people find the links to the books?

The ebooks are available on all Amazon sites. The print books can be bought directly from www.bookstotreasure.co.uk or from our official shop at www.bookdragonbooks.co.uk .

Are there currently any more books in the publishing pipeline?

Yes. We’re in the final editing stages of two YA books: Destiny’s Rebel by Philip S Davies is the first in a fantasy series about Kat, the reluctant Queen; and Eleanor Watkins’ as yet untitled book is set in the time of the Black Death. Both of these are due to be launched in September. There are also three illustrated books at different stages of production.

If you ever have a day off from writing books what do you like to do in your spare time?

Apart from sleeping? I spend a lot of time knitting or doing cross stitch, which I can do while watching DVDs, especially on days when I’m not well enough to do anything else.

When you are not writing what types of books do you read? What would you say was the best book you have ever read?

I must confess I don’t read as much now as I used to. Most of this is down to the fact that I spend so much time reading for work – proofreading, editing, appraising manuscripts etc – that I want something completely different to fill my down time. Hence the increase in watching DVDs, I think, which meets the need for story, just in a different way.

So when I do read, it tends to be back to old favourites or to new books by favourite authors, or books that have been recommended by people I trust to know what I’ll like.

That said, I do still read a lot of children’s books, both new and old. In adult books, I prefer fantasy but I do read other genres as well, including science fiction and crime/thriller. Some of my favourite authors include Anne Bishop, Lois McMaster Bujold and Sharon Bolton.

Best book I’ve ever read? I’m not sure I can answer that. I think my view changes according to where I am at any given time and how a book impacted on me. When I finished reading Lynn Flewelling’s The Bone Doll’s Twin I went straight back to the beginning and started again (book 2 wasn’t yet available). When I finished Elizabeth Moon’s The Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, I rushed out immediately to my specialist SFF store to buy the next two in the series because I couldn’t wait even one day to find out what happened next. Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards remains one of my comfort reads. Would I name any of those as the best book I’ve ever read? Probably not. But they’ve each had a significant impact on me or made a considerable contribution to my reading life.

I know you are a Christian. What part does this play in your writing? Is your book specifically Christian or aimed at a crossover market?
First and foremost I tell stories. Oftentimes there’s an obvious spiritual element, though not necessarily obviously Christian. I have a tendency to explore issues such as honour, friendship, forgiveness, justice – issues that are relevant to everyone. My faith underpins what I write and how I write it, but I don’t write to express my faith. At least not in fiction. Yet. (I’ve learned never to say never!)

As a publisher, I’m looking for books that will work for the mainstream market. That may mean books that cross over into both mainstream and Christian markets or books with no spiritual content at all. Most important is a good story, well told.

Wow. You certainly do pack a lot into your day. This is especially impressive since, as you have told us, you suffer from two quite debilitating illnesses. I am even more thankful that you have taken the time to let Bookaholic readers have a glimpse at what you do. I wish you all the best with the upcoming books. Maybe we will be able to meet the authors of these at some time on Bookaholics.

So my Bookaholic friends, if you have any children, or grandchildren, nieces nephews, in fact any children top buy presents for, it is worth taking a look at Adrianne's range of books and having a shopping spree. See you all back here soon with more books for your reading delight. Keep reading. .

Saturday, 14 February 2015

The New Rules of Sales and Service




Another one for writers, and anyone in marketing and sales, today here on Bookaholics. For all my fiction readers we will be back to normal service soon. This book is so good I need to get it out there so my writer friends can find out about it.

This is not just a how to book but an in depth look at the way markets are changing and the way in which sales and service is changing in response. It is detailed and interesting and uses case studies to good effect. The writer has a lot of experience in sales and marketing and this shows. The case studies are excellent and cover most areas of the market. There is something for everyone in here. I was particularly interested in looking at it from a writers point of view and I was not disappointed. It even shows how this can be used in the marketing and promotion of books. There is a lot of sound advice and I am sure most people who are engaged in marketing and selling a product would get something from it. I certainly intend to use some of the advice in my own business. It is not a book to dip into, but one to read cover to cover. It is also worth taking notes on the ways in which you could apply the advice to your own business.

Overall an excellent book which I would highly recommend.

         


So there we have it for another day my Bookaholic friends. See you all back here soon with another great review. Until then go find a book. It's the perfect day for reading. 

I was given a copy of this book from Amazon in return for a fair and honest review. This review is based on my reading, and enjoyment, of this book. I was not asked at any point to provide a positive review. The links above are affiliate links and I will receive a small payment if you should buy the book through these. You re under no obligation to use the links and can look for the book on Amazon.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Interview with YA Author Annie Try




Today on Bookaholic I am delighted to welcome YA writer Annie Try. Thank you for joining us Annie. I know you have a hectic schedule so I am delighted that you have taken time out to spend some time with us today. Now that you are in the hot seat I have some questions to ask.

I am sure the readers would love to hear about you. Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Where do I start? I am married to Ken, have five children and many wonderful grandchildren. I live in a large old house in rural Norfolk, which is rather shabbier than shabby chic. I have a rich spiritual life, being on the leadership team for a community church. I work from home, not only writing but also as a clinical psychologist, my main clients being children and young people. Once we had a wonderful peacock called Tarquin strolling around our untidy garden, but alas he left one spring to find love and did not return. We still have my parents’ geriatric bossy cat and our Old English Sheepdog, Maisie, who thinks she’s still a puppy.

I have been writing psychological articles and books (as Angela Hobday) for many years, but only recently turned to fiction.



Your book is about two young adults and how they cope with tragedy. Is the book simply aimed at the YA market or could it be enjoyed by other age groups?

I was inspired to write Losing Face, after attending a seminar on working with children and young adults of unusual appearance. There was very little YA fiction on display – only Benjamin Zephaniah’s book which is about a boy who is hurt in a fire. By the time I arrived home I had the plot all worked out for a girl who has to cope with life after an accident that changes her appearance. When it came to being published, the novel was accepted as general fiction. I’m delighted that adults seem to enjoy it enough to buy it for teens they know.

Characterisation is a strong part of your novel. How do you go about developing the novels?

With Losing Face, I started with the characters and an outline story. I drew huge mind maps working out each main characters likes, dislikes, attitudes, etc. Much of this I didn’t use, but it built the foundation for creating realistic people who almost took the story along on their own. They became so alive for me, that I would say “I must go to see to my girls,” when writing or editing.

As well as characters, many books also give a sense of place. Is place an important part of your book? If so, could you give us a taste of the place in which you are writing. If not what led you to omit this aspect of the story?

Losing Face is set in Ely, but I have been careful to not to highlight the place and only focus on the parts of the City which are important to the story. This keeps the emphasis on the central issues in the book. I worked out a fictional street plan for the girls to reach each other’s houses and the centre of Ely. When the action moves to Cambridge, real shop names are used along with an imagined dress shop similar to one I once visited.

Your book deals very heavily with emotions and friendship. How difficult was it to write about this?

Therapy is all about emotions, so I felt I had a wealth of information to use from working with this age group. The trickiest part was to keep the feelings of the main two characters separate, so that each girl experienced and responded to what was happening in a unique way.

When you are not writing what types of books do you read? What would you say was the best book you have ever read?

I read anything in my search for beautifully constructed sentences, exceptional description or an extraordinary tale. I have just started The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide, I learned a huge amount from F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and enjoy YA fiction writers such as Mark Haddon, Louis Sachar and Stephen May. The ‘best book’ contest has joint winners; The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger) and The Book Thief (Markus Zusak).

Have you got any more books planned? If so could you give Bookaholic readers a taste of these?

Yes I have three nearing completion:

Dancing in the Dark is the sequel to Losing Face, covering Em’s search to find out about her father. What she discovers has huge implications for her own life.

Out of Silence follows psychologist Mike as he struggles with his own issues whilst working to help an elective mute disclose his traumatic past.

Trying to Fly contains both a mystery and psychology as a recovering agoraphobic endeavours to find the truth about an incident in her childhood, when she witnessed a man die.

I plan a third Cass and Em novel and probably a series of novels about interesting people with extraordinary stories who just happen to see a psychologist named Mike.

Now we are getting personal. What is your favourite food?

That’s easy. My daughter-in-law’s home-made icecream. Rich, creamy and utterly scrummy.

If you ever have a day off from writing books what do you like to do in your spare time?
Dancing, theraping, praying, keeping in touch with family and friends, church activities, playing the cello, encouraging writing groups, planning a holiday (Italy probably). May I have a few more days off than one, please?

I know you are a Christian. What part does this play in your writing? Is your book specifically Christian or aimed at a crossover market?

I would say there is a light Christian thread that runs through the books just because of my faith. I am incredibly aware of the spiritual dimension in people’s lives. That affects my character portrayals although not in an obvious way. I have had Losing Face positively reviewed by non-Christians, so it appears to have met my aim of being accessible to all my readers.

Wow, you really are a busy lady with all those books planned. My mouth is now drooling at the thought of that Ice Cream. I hope you enjoy that holiday to Italy if you ever manage to get some time off. Thank you once again for joining us today and answering the Bookaholic readers questions.

You can buy the book via the following links. Please note Bookaholic will receive a small affiliate payment if you buy the book through these links

      

You can find out more about Annie and her writing in the following links

Website

Blog

Twitter

That's it for another Bookaholic day. I will see you all back here very soon. Until we meet again, keep reading. 

Monday, 2 February 2015

Game changers by Peter Fisk



It is rare that a book comes along which will help you radically change the way you do business. The book I bring to you today does just that. Why am I writing about a business book on a reading and writing blog. Well I believe that this book would be extremely insightful for authors in whichever genre they write. The subtitle of the book is Creating Innovative Strategies for Business and Brands, which may give you a hint as to why I find it worthy of inclusion in the blog.

This is a book which all those starting out in business, or looking to improve their business strategy, should read. As well as being imminently practical it is also inspirational. The book is beautifully laid out with clear chapters each of which covers a different topic. It is essentially about branding but it is about so much more than this. It is about thinking outside the box and rebranding in a different way. It is also about passion and a belief in your self and your product. Each chapter takes you through different steps in your branding and marketing strategy. These include:

Think - Change your future

Explore - Change your market

Disrupt - Change your strategy

Design - Change your business

There are several more. At the end of each chapter is an application section that you can apply to your business.


In addition Fisk gives numerous real life examples to back up the text. The second half of the book is about these very companies. It takes areas, such as health, retail, finance, media etc. It then gives 10 examples of companies in each area, who have changed the way in which we do business and are setting the world on fire. These examples from real life if the book above the ordinary. It makes the book, not only helpful, but interesting

This is a superb book which I would highly recommend for all those who are developing or changing their brand. I am certainly going to use several of the strategies in my own branding.

        


That bring us to the end of another Bookaholic day. I look forward to seeing you all back here soon. Until then grab the nearest book and get reading.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Are You Making the Most of Your Opening Chapter?


Good morning to all my bookaholic friends. Lovely to see you all here on this dreary winters morning. However, we all know that reading, and writing, can cheer up the bleakest of days. Today on the post we are going to be talking writing, opening chapters in particular.

I have been reading K.M. Weiland's excellent post on the perfect ingredient for Opening Chapter. This got me thinking about what I and others think about what should be in the opening chapter of a book. I am sure we all know the importance of a cover in attracting readers, but once they open the words on the page need to speak for themselves.

I was fortunate to attend a workshop, on creating a killer first line, led by highly talented crime author Alex Gray. If you are not familiar with Alex, or her works, you can find out more here. Following this I am always conscious of the importance of the first line in drawing readers in to the story. I examine the first line from every angle and try it out on the lovely authors in my writers group. This would be my first definite must have for my chapter. A killer first line. Nothing to do with crime writing, this is the same for all writers.

Secondly, as I write crime, I will always make sure that the first murder is seen in the opening chapter. I combine this with ensuring that there is a level of tension which will keep readers wanting more. 

In the article above, it is suggested that the protagonist is always introduced in the first chapter. This is excellent advice and should always be followed. Or should it? The difficulty with lists is that one can often follow them slavishly to the exclusion of creativity and original thought. I have read some exceptional books where the killer is introduced in a very short first chapter. This has me hooked and wanting to find out more. However, I will add, that the reader will get bored if the protagonist, in my case the detective, doesn't tip up fairly quickly.

So what do others think? What are your tips, or go to's for the perfect first chapter? 

So it is farewell from Scotland. Have a great day wherever you are in the world. Always remember, whatever the weather may be like outside your window, it is always a perfect day to keep reading and/or writing. The picture at the top of the mage is to remind us all that even though we are in the grip of winter, summer is just around the corner.