Gone fishing

beach and kindle

I’ll be away for the next week and a bit having a well-earned break on the south coast of England. By the time you read this I will have finished editing the second part of my sequel to Second Chance (only part 3 to go!) and I have to say, despite a little wobble a few weeks back, the process had gone well and I’m very happy with the results. Of course, this may all change once I receive my beta reader feedback.

My Kindle is loaded with books – some of which I’m hoping to feature as Recommended Reads when I return – and a friend’s manuscript where I get to turn the tables and provide constructive criticism for a change (cue maniacal laugh).

I’m sure I’ll be in contact with some of you on twitter every now and then but if not, I look forward to catching up on my return.

Now where did I put that sun cream?

Recommended Reads: The new Mrs D. by Heather Hill

new-mrs-d-cover-design-smaller

One of the best things since starting my Pay it Forward campaign has been reading new genres and styles of books that I would never have looked at previously. I’ve read literary fiction, memoirs; short-stories of every genre and some great horror and science-fiction. For my next recommended read – having met the author Heather Hill on twitter and finding her very funny – I got a chance to enter the world of chick-lit.

It’s safe to say I’m not the target demographic for The new Mrs D but that didn’t stop me from really enjoying the book. In it we follow the eponymous Mrs D. as she embarks on what she thinks is the start of her honeymoon but soon becomes a voyage of self-discovery. While I may not have been able to relate to the main character directly myself, I know a number of people that share some of her characteristics and it didn’t take long to get sucked into her adventures. While reading I smiled a lot, even laughing out loud on occasion.

The book generally has the light touch but Hill isn’t afraid to explore some tougher themes in an open and honest way. For the most part, though, it stays true to its roots – a good, light-hearted comedy. Yes, the plot is heavily signposted at times, there are one or two clichéd characters and the story occasionally strays into the area of cheese, but this is cheese in a good way, like Dirty Dancing or Abba Gold. If you enjoyed Bridget Jones or Shirley Valentine then this is the ideal holiday read for you. Highly recommended.

To buy The New Mrs D from amazon.co.uk click here
To buy The New Mrs D from amazon.com click here

I’d also recommend you follow Heather Hill on twitter @Hell4Heather

Recommended reads are independently published books that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

Leaving Reviews for Indie Authors

There is so much here to agree with. Once you have read a book, please leave a review. It will only take a couple of minutes but can make a big difference to the author.

Author S. Smith

You know that friend who’s always pleading harassing  asking you to leave them a book review on Amazon? The one whose book you read? Possibly you even got the book for free? Okay, so ME for some of you.

This is just a little tutorial/explanation of why it is so important and how to do it. One more encouragement to get you over there, leave the review, and drop the guilt. 🙂

First of all, is one more review really important? YES! Unless the book has over 100 reviews, it’s important. And the author checks every day on occasion to see if there is a new review. And it really makes the author’s day to see a new review (unless it is 2 stars or less and then they feel kind of bummed).

I. WHY REVIEWS ARE IMPORTANT

1) When a potential buyer goes to an author’s book’s Amazon…

View original post 950 more words

My Writing Process Blog Hop

Difficult-to-write_man-with-head-on-keyboard

A couple of weeks ago I was nominated to take part in a writing process blog hop by Arran Bhansal from the blog Confessions of a Published Author. I don’t normally take part in blog hops or awards, not because I’m a miserable sod (or I should say, not only because I’m a miserable sod) but because I only have so much writing time to spare. However, I liked this idea for two reasons. The first is that Arran is one of those bloggers who is always searching out great writing advice by other writers & re-blogging it to a larger audience. He is one of blogging’s good guys. The second is that it fits very nicely with some of my earlier posts about writing. So here goes:

1. What am I currently working on?

I’m currently editing the as yet unnamed sequel to Second Chance. It wasn’t what I had planned to work on next. I always knew there would be a sequel but after 18 months working on Second Chance I fancied writing something completely different. However, the characters disagreed and wouldn’t leave me alone until their story was told to the end. Unfortunately that means I have at least one book to write after this second one is finished (actually, I don’t mean the unfortunately; I love these characters and will miss those that make it to the end when it eventually comes around).

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I wanted to write a post-apocalyptic novel that wasn’t a tale of survival. My story is set in a world that has recovered from the brink of disaster, a world that isn’t a mess but in fact looks to be in good shape, at least on the surface. The big question is how did this happen and was it worth the price?

One of the core ideas I wanted to play around with when I started writing Second Chance was whether democracy as we know it today could deal with major issues like climate change. I’ve always been an optimist so my start point was yes, we may get to the brink but we would eventually pull together before we passed the point of no return. At the same time, I’m a realist. When I then started to think through what would need to happen for us to survive, Second Chance was born.

3. Why do I write what I write?

I like to write things that interest me. I think you have to do that. It’s very easy to spot when an author doesn’t love what they are writing. It comes across as flat, lifeless. I love technology and I love politics. While I’ve always loved science fiction I never set out to write in the genre. However, it soon became clear that if I wanted to comment about what is happening now (from a political, ecological and technological perspective) and its potential impact, I needed to set my story in that future. So while my writing is science fiction, it is most similar to the classic science fiction of George Orwell’s 1984, P D James’ Children of Men, or Philip K Dick. Hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to write like them too.

4. How does my writing process work?

If were talking on a practical level, I set aside some time, sit down at my desk and write. I don’t wait until I feel in the mood because I would never write. Some days the words flow easily, other days it’s like trying to climb a rock face only using my mouth. Stephen King had it right when he said you needed to treat writing as work. My writing days are work days.

From a pure process perspective, I tend to sketch out a loose plot before I start. I’ve tried writing without a plot in the past but couldn’t do it. I need to have an idea of where I am going, especially as I tend to write 3 or 4 story lines that run simultaneously. To make get them to gradually come together as the book progresses is really difficult to do without some forethought. At the same time, my plotting is flexible enough to allow the characters room to breathe. If they suddenly say or do something that works for them but has an impact on the plot, I’ll let them go ahead as they are usually right and my plot was usually wrong. I then have to go back into the sketched plot to work out the ramifications on the story but it usually works out fine.

I always have at least one major theme that I want to explore while writing, but it’s only at the editing stage where I’ll look to pull out this overarching theme, plus any others that have emerged during the writing process. In Second Chance, for example, I mentioned the theme of democracy dealing with the major issues, but I also realised the book was about what makes a person who they are; whether we are just a sum of our memories or if there is more to us than that? I always like to take on the easy questions 🙂

5. Nominate three other writers.

This will be interesting as I’m not sure any of these writers will take part in a blog hop, but they are all interesting in different ways and I would urge you to visit their blogs regardless.

The first person I would like to nominate is Jools from A Writer’s Notepad. I have to say there is an ulterior motive for this nomination. Jools has been very supportive of me almost ever since I started blogging and is currently looking for a publisher for her first novel, Singled Out. I’m hoping that if she takes up this Blog Hop offer, I may find out a little more about the story…

The second person I would like to nominate is Andrew Knighton from Andrew Knighton writes. Andrew is a big thinker about writing and frequently posts thought-provoking pieces about the craft of writing, of world building and the science fiction and fantasy genre. He has written a number of short stories and I know that he’s considering stepping into the world of self-publishing. He is also a big admirer of Guy Gavriel Kay, one of my favourite writers, which makes him OK by me.

The last person I would like to nominate is somebody I’ve only recently been in contact with and the author of my latest recommended read, Claire Duffy from thegrassisdancing.com. Claire is one of those multi-talented writers who can turn their hand to anything; be it script writing, historical fiction, semi-autobiographical ex-pat tales or Nordic Noir; often the same time. I recommend you pay Claire a visit on this or one of her many other blogs to find out more.

 

Recommended Reads: Identity – Part 1 by Claire Duffy

identity

 

This wonderfully dark & complex nordic thriller comes with plenty of twists and turns. Don’t be fooled by the “part 1”, this is a self-contained story with a satisfying conclusion. However, if you like your stories to follow a comfortable, predictable path where you know where you are at all times then this book is not for you. The narrative is split between a number of charter’s viewpoints and location. This can be confusing at first because other than a page break there is no indication of you moving from one scene to the next, however don’t be put off. Once you become used to the structure the story unfolds at a rapid pace and you will be rewarded by a gripping tale where your gradually built assumptions are continually pulled out from under you.

The writing style can be a little rough around the edges at times, especially early on, but one of the pleasures I gained while reading the story was to see Duffy’s confidence develop as the book progressed. All in all a really enjoyable mystery and I can’t wait to find out what she has in store for us in part 2. Recommended.

To buy Identity Part 1 from amazon.co.uk click here
To buy Identity Part 1 from amazon.com click here
If you are interested in finding out more about Claire Duffy you can visit her blog identitytheseries.com

Recommended reads are independently published books that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

5 Reasons why the British should celebrate 4th July – Redux

Come on, let's celebrate together

Come on, let’s celebrate together

I love America. I have close family living in Colorado and California, many old work friends in the Pittsburgh area and whenever I have visited the US I have never been treated with anything other than complete kindness and respect. As you may know, tomorrow is Independence Day in the USA, a day in which our cousins across the pond celebrate the founding of their nation by drinking beer, letting off fireworks, having barbecues and watching sports. It is a time where people think of family, freedom and the american way.

It is also a day of some awkwardness for us Brits. You see, we don’t know what to do. We try to remain unfailingly polite but in the back of our minds we know that what is being celebrated is the humiliation of our forebears. It doesn’t help that whenever I have a conversation with American friends about Independence day, it usually goes one of two ways:

Conversation no.1: We kicked your ass!

Conversation no.2: Do the British celebrate Independence Day too?

Of course, the answers to these points should be 1: You did, and 2: Have a little think about that (see conversation no.1). The thing is, I believe the British should celebrate Independence Day. Not because of the potential for an extra day off work but because there are strong reasons why losing the american war of independence was good for us too.

English: Thomas Paine statue, Thetford, UK

English: Thomas Paine statue, Thetford, UK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1: It was our idea

This will come as some surprise to many people (especially in the UK), but one of the strongest advocates for an independent USA was Thomas Paine, born in Thetford, England. In 1776, Thomas Paine had only been in the US two years when he wrote the book, “Common Sense”. It was one of the first books advocating colonial America’s independence from the UK and became a best-seller. The book was so influential that John Adams said “Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.”  So technically we lost but we also won. Sort of.

2: We got to keep Canada

Well, when I say we got to keep Canada, I mean the Queen is their head of state, and when I say Canada is ours, it is ours in the same way that Jaguar is ours (owned by Tata of India), Land Rover (Tata), Rolls Royce & Bentley (VW of Germany), Harrods (Qatar Investment Company). But you get the point. Canada remained part of the British Empire and then the Commonwealth.

It is unlikely the British would have been able to retain control of the American colonies and fight off the French in Canada at the same time. If it hadn’t have been for the war of Independence,  William Shatner, Neil Young, Jim Carrey and Terence and Phillip from South Park among many others would all have spoken French as their mother tongue. Could you imagine “Beam me up, Scotty” in Quebecois?

3: Curry

By allowing the USA to declare Independence*, we were able to concentrate on our other colonies, including the jewel in the crown, India. It can be argued that without the wealth generated from our colonies in India, there would be no Great in Great Britain, but for me the most important point is that if the old imperialists hadn’t been able to focus on India, there would be no Chicken Tikka Masala, the UK’s favourite dish**, so thank you, you American militias!

4: It’s the only date in the calendar year Americans pronounce correctly

It was recently pointed out to me by a friend that it is only on Independence Day that Americans pronounce the date correctly. For 364 days in the year, our American cousins say April Sixth, or February Eleventh. It is only on this special day that the date is pronounced correctly: the fourth of July. Now if only  we could only persuade our cousins to honour our standardised way of spelling.

5: We retain some shred of dignity with our most important sport

In the early american colonies, cricket was by far the most popular sport. Following the War of Independence, Baseball increased in popularity. Participation in cricket diminished and eventually slowly died out, much to the relief of millions of British cricket fans. Why? Well it’s bad enough being beaten by Australia, India, The West Indies and South Africa at cricket on a regular basis. Can you imagine how dominant the US would be if all 400 plus million people loved the game? It’s not like they take football (soccer) seriously yet they still did better than England this World Cup.

So, rather than ignoring the 4th July in the UK, we should embrace it. We should ignore the rain, start up our BBQ’s; pour a nice warm pint of bitter and light the fireworks to give thanks to our forefathers for screwing things up so badly that they turned a happy, contented colony into a hotbed of revolutionary zeal. Despite everything, it was one of the best things they ever did.

OK, this is a lie (see conversation no.1)

** Chicken Tikka Masala was created in Glasgow and is as Indian as Spaghetti Bolognese is Italian

 

This original of this piece was posted 4th July 2013. It has since been re-edited to add more jokes and bring it up to date.