Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Inspiration through perspiration

Ask any author and they're sure to tell you that there was an original book which inspired them to become a writer. For me, it was a (then) rather obscure paperback called The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz. You'll find it on Amazon although I'm pretty sure it went out of print for a while.

The story, not that it's particularly relevant to this blog post, is of a Polish cavalry officer who was arrested by the Russians in 1939 and, after interrogation, was given 25 years imprisonment in a Siberian Gulag – effectively a death sentence. Many of his comrades died on the 3-month journey to their icy hell-hole (something that the recently-made film has skipped over) and this, along with the abuse he suffered at the camp, persuaded him and 5 companions to escape. Over the next 2 years, they walked across Siberia, the Gobi Desert and crossed the Himalayas into Tibet and then India.

A bored 14 year old, I picked up the book entirely by accident and read it in 2 days (even skipping lessons to go to the library). I just couldn’t put it down.

Seek to be inspired
The book has since been reformatted, given a new lick of paint and picked up by Hollywood to turn into a film. If you look at the book’s many reviews, you'll see that I'm far from alone in the effect it created. You'll also see a host of 1 and 2-star reviews, many angry because they claim it was all fiction. The actual truth will never be known. All records of Rawicz’s escape (or not) have been destroyed and the protagonists are long-dead.

But, in the context of inspiring writing, it doesn't matter a jelly-baby. What matters is that it was a truly gutsy and plausible tale. If it was fiction, the fantastic level of detail is of merit and this is the key. If you want to write a novel that will inspire others, you need to do your research properly and then capture the feel of the moment by using verbs and adjectives which truly relate to the action that is taking place. Always ask yourself, "What are my characters feeling?" and make sure you answer it on a regular basis.

To inspire, you don't need the lead character to be heroic, they need to be resourceful, creative, flexible and indomitable. Thus someone who stands up to a gang attack (for example) might be heroic but they don't necessarily inspire. On the other hand, someone who recovers from such an attack and then uses their experiences to set up 'drop-in' centers or counseling services for others, might be extremely inspirational.

Remember, plausibility is key. In order to be inspired, the reader must identify with and empathize with the lead character. This means that, although perhaps a bit unlikely, the story is possible. It could happen. Even if your story is paranormal or fantasy, it needs to maintain the plausibility factor within your predefined boundaries. If a character can fly, so be it.

Do your homework, check out all the key details, research the locations, think of the time period and the attitudes of the day, see through the eyes of your characters and never forget to care deeply about them. Do that and your book may well go on to inspire others.

Clive West is a director of self-publishing company Any Subject Books as well as being an author in his own right. His work includes a full-length novel called The Road, a collection of short stories with twists called Hobson's Choice and two non-fiction books.

Monday, July 29, 2013

3 Days Left to Submit to the All Things Writing Short Story Contest

Only a few days left until we close our submissions to our summer writing contest. I've had many great short stories submitted so far and I'm looking forward to reading yours. Once again, here's what we are looking for!--Mary Ann





Summer...it brings a writer all kinds of inspiration. For some, it brings back memories of childhood. For others, it reminds us that it's time to relax, maybe let our hair down a little as we sip a margarita on the beach.

Personally, it makes me think of spending quality time in amusement parks. Six Flags, Disney World, Schlitterbahn (the hottest, coolest time in Texas)--these places are always over run this time of year with people looking for fun.

But what happens when things go wrong at an amusement park? What happens when chaos breaks out? And just what kind of chaos would break out in your story?

That's your assignment for this writing contest!

The theme for our summer writing contest at All Things Writing is Mayhem and Amusement Parks. Write a 2000 word short story with this topic in mind and submit it to us here at All Things Writing. The open submissions deadline begins on July 1 and runs through July 31. There is no entry fee and all genres are welcome.

The winner will have their story posted on the All Things Writing website. In addition to that, they will also have the opportunity to guest blog and be interviewed about their writing process. If you are an indie author looking for exposure, this is a great contest to enter!

A few rules:

Your story cannot be over 2000 words.

The tale should be about mayhem in an amusement park---not at church, not at school, not at your job (unless your job is at an amusement park!).

Mayhem doesn't have to mean gratuitous violence or sex with animals. Just sayin'.

Your story should not be printed anywhere else. Original work please!

Submissions: We're keeping it pretty simple as far as how you are supposed to submit. Just be sure to follow the rules! Those that don't will not be considered in the contest.

Please submit your 2000 word short story in the body of an email to maryannloesch@hotmail.com. Do not send an attachment. It will not get opened.

Be sure to included your name and email address in the email.

In the subject line, please write All Things Writing Short Story Entry. If that's not there, your email will not be opened.

Happy summer and we look forward to reading your work!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Shrouded in Ilusion by H.D. Thomson--Book Review

I love finding a great summertime read! Today's book was given to me courtesy of the fabulous folks at Innovative Online Book Tours. If you're ready for a little mystery, a little romance, and a little telekinesis with a slice of thriller on the side, then H.D. Thomson's Shrouded in Illusion is the book for you!




Here is the publisher's blurb:

Someone wants Skye Hunter’s son and they’re willing to kill her or anyone else to get to him. On the run for her life, she is forced to turn to the only person who can help her—a complete stranger with a shared past—David Bishop, a renowned illusionist.

David’s life is also an illusion, built of smoke and little else. He meets Skye, a woman filled with passion and conviction, and the pain he sees in her eyes is a mirror to his own soul. But when he realizes she has the same strange, telekinetic phenomenon inside her body that he does, he is forced to question his life, his childhood and the father who raised him. Can these two lost souls uncover the mystery behind their powers and save Skye’s son and themselves in the process?

This was a fast-paced read that I finished within a day--that's always a plus when you're looking for a great beach read. The story opens with Skye and her son caught up in convenience store robbery. I thought this first chapter was a great set up for the reader to discover exactly what is important to Skye and what kind of person she is. She's a woman on the run who will do anything to protect the child she loves.

Her journey has led her to Vegas where she hopes to run into David Bishop--a man whose name keeps popping up in her dreams of the past. David has a magic act and is a big time, good looking illusionist. When he sees Skye working her telekinesis mojo on the roulette table, he is drawn to her, though something about her also makes him apprehensive.

I loved the chemistry between these two characters. There is a lot of great, smoldering dialogue that really keeps you turning the pages as you wonder whether or not they will get together. The character development for the minor characters was strong and there were lots of turns and twists in the plot. I felt like the climax of the book where you find out what exactly is going on could have been tightened up and some description cut out, but maybe that's because I was so into the tale that I wanted to hurry up and find out if the bad guy gets what's coming to him or not.

This book is the third in a series, but I felt it was a great stand alone title. If anything, it made me want to go back and read the other two.

Click on the Amazon link to get your copy!

Shrouded in Illusion--Amazon

Shrouded in Illusion--Barnes and Noble

Author Bio:

 H.D. Thomson moved from Ontario, Canada as a teenager to the heat of Arizona where she graduated from the University of Arizona with a B.S. in Business Administration with a major in accounting. After working in the corporate world as an accountant, H.D. changed her focus to one of her passions-books. She owned and operated an online bookstore for several years and then started Bella Media Management. The company specializes in web sites, video trailers, ebook conversion and promotional resources for authors and small businesses. When she is not heading her company, she is following her first love-writing.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The top publishing company awards

Have you ever thought that there ought to be an award for the top publishing company or companies? If so, how would it work? Who would decide where the awards went to and what would be their criteria?

There's been a good deal of furore recently over standards and numerous attempts have been made by a public, unhappy with the way in which they've been treated. to part the head of many a so-called and self-proclaimed top publishing company from their corporate torso.

Don't get taken for a ride!
Without going into detail about the activities of any specific organization, these allegations have included poor standards, broken promises, money taken and then no services provided, excessive prices for services which turn out to be essential 'options' and so forth. In the eyes of the unhappy client-base, the gods of over-automation and getting-rich-quick have received substantial offerings courtesy of authors who've entrusted the deities’ earthly manifestations with as much as $5,000 or more of hard-earned savings at a time and then got little or nothing back to show for their troubles.

Get-rich-quick has always been around and it always will be but over-automation is an abuse of the service that many a major publishing company claims to provide. Programmed properly, computers can knock many hours off complex tasks such as book formatting and editing however computer programs can only go so far. Programmers aren't programmers because they're eloquent individuals and their literary abilities don't compare with those of a human editor.

Given how many millions of books now clog up a certain major book distributor's shelves, it cannot be long before the multi-billion dollar company concerned starts brutally discarding books which have not been properly edited or formatted - these being two 'mathematically definable' areas which could readily become part of their complex computer algorithm. At that point, anyone whose book's not up to scratch will get just that - scratched.

The era of the smaller enterprise, one which cannot afford the huge investment in software and thus has to undertake work manually, may soon be upon us. If the criterion of 'who produces books with the least errors?' is operative, it could well be that a more modest establishment would be elected as top publishing company. That's not as silly as it sounds. The human eye and attached brain can make sense of situations (garbled text, spelling mistakes etc) which no algorithm could even attempt to tackle correctly.

Just look at the complete inadequacy of your resident spell-check to correct which, witch, where, ware, wear, their, there etc.

If the award is to be made on the basis of quality of service provided, then those multi-million dollar organizations probably aren't going to get a look in. As authors have alleged over and over again, they may have the volume but they don't have the standards.

Before we begin on the path to having an actual awards ceremony to find the best publishers, it'd be an idea for there to be minimum standards introduced for the industry because, without that baseline, performance 'above and beyond' simply cannot be gauged. This may not be so far-fetched and there could well come a time not long hence when authors who've shelled out a tidy fortune to have their books produced professionally, find themselves getting summarily thrown ashore by a certain mighty river’s namesake.

That’s when the fireworks will start.

Any Subject Books publishes a wide range of e-books as well as providing a full-range of competitively-priced book publishing services to self-publishing authors.

Friday, July 19, 2013

3 Ways to Become a Guest Blogger at All Things Writing

As many of you know, Friday is guest blogger day here at All Things Writing. My guest for today had a conflict and will be joining us at a later date. I've received many emails in the last few months with authors wanting to be a guest on our site. I thought it might be a good idea to repost our guidelines to help clarify a few things!


All Things Writing is currently open to guest bloggers. As a blog that carries pieces regarding all aspects of the writing process, we are open to your suggestions on blog topics. If you are interested in becoming a guest blogger, contact Mary Ann Loesch at maryannloesch@hotmail.com. Be sure to put All Things Writing-Guest Blogger in the subject field. This is a must! I've had some clever spammers just put "guest posting" in the subject line and will no longer open anything in my mail that does not say All Things Writing-Guest Blogger in the subject line. When you email me, I would appreciate it if you would double check your message before hitting the send button. When we get emails with lots of grammar mistakes and odd spellings, we tend to ignore them. After all, if you can't write an email, how will you write a blog piece?

We do not offer financial compensation to our guest bloggers.

A few tips:

1. Be ready to submit your guest blog to us 3 days before it will go live.

2. Please check it for grammar and punctuation errors.

3. You are welcome to include a personal bio, website link, and picture of yourself or book.

4. We will promote it on Twitter and Facebook, but in order for the most amount of people to see your work, be sure to promote it on your website/blog/Twitter/Facebook page.

5. Relax and let your voice come out in your writing! We will moderate all comments.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The value of compilations

From the point of view of a publisher (as opposed to an individual self-publishing author), Amazon's Kindle program has created hosts of new problems and possibilities. Unsurprisingly, one of the major dilemmas centers around book pricing and the now notorious $2.99 price threshold above which the book publisher receives 70% royalties and below which that rate is halved.

All logic screams “Price your book at $2.99 (or above)!” but, of course, life is never that simple. The book-buying public have become spoiled with Amazon's KDP freebies (authors are allowed to offer their book for free for up to 5 days in a 90-day period) – a gesture which has allowed hundreds of thousands of readers to collect whole libraries of free books. Thus, if a book publisher actually wants to charge for their book, they have to not only contend with Amazon's $2.99 threshold, but also with the very clear need to be providing real value for money.

Weld your books together and reap the rewards
The definition of what constitutes value for money is, of course, a tricky one. For a famous author, this might mean ‘offering’ their latest novel for ‘under $10’. For the rest of us, though, the idea of charging that sort of money for a single book is a pleasant pipe-dream but we'll come back to that in a moment.

Looking at a typical book, research (reading reviews across a multitude of genres), suggests people are prepared to pay around $2 for a 20,000-word novella. If you want to charge $2.99, you'll need to increase the word count to 60,000 words or more. Surely, though, if it's $2 per 20,000 words, shouldn’t it be $3 for 30,000 words and $6 for 60,000 words or (even) $15 for 150,000 words?

The reason why not is because there are different types of book-buyer ranging from people looking for a quick and cheap read to those who want a mid-length novel which will be enough to absorb them (but not so long as to make them feel daunted about ever finishing it) and others who aren't happy unless they've got a 500-page plus blockbuster. Each customer has their own expectations regarding an appropriate price to pay per book and will generally exclude books outside of that range.

If a publisher is to take advantage of this, they need to cater for all three types for each book that they produce.

Taking the case of a 30,000-word novella priced at $2.00, this would net the book publisher $0.70 per copy sold. Now, put two of these books together and retail the compilation for $3.00, and it will generate $2.10 per book sold or $1.05 per each of the 30,000-word component books.

Finally, if four books are put together in a bumper compilation and $5.00 charged for all four, this would earn $3.50 in royalties, working out at $0.875 per book.

Thus by using compilations, the same book has been sold in three different ways to three different types of reader. There's nothing wrong with doing this as long as it's made clear to book-buyers what the compilation consists of.

Any Subject Books publishes a wide range of e-books as well as providing a full-range of competitively-priced book publishing services to self-publishing authors.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Excuse me, garcon!

Ask that in a French café (note the e-acute accent at the end without which the word would be pronounced 'caff') and you're likely to get ignored, 'pahhed' (as only a French waiter can) or (possibly) a bunch of fives in the sneck (a punch in the nose to those unfamiliar with British slang).


Definitely NOT a garçon
Why am I bringing this up? What has a sniffy French waiter got to do with writing? We're rapidly becoming a multi-lingual society and this is naturally being reflected in the dialogue appearing in novels. Unfortunately the linguistic skills of most authors I've come across in the last few months hasn’t come close to fluency and the interchanges done in Spanish, French, German, Italian etc frequently include quite basic errors. The attitude seems to be that because the mistakes aren't in the English, they don't count – well, they do!

Going back to the title of this article, the grammatically correct French would have been “Excusez-moi, garçon” (note that the c-cedilla indicates an 's' type sound, turning the harsh 'garkon' into the softer 'garsson'). Having said this, you no longer call a waiter 'garçon' (which means 'boy'), you'd be more likely to hold your hand up and say “S'il vous plaît, monsieur” which means (non-sarcastically) “If it pleases you, sir” or “Un moment, monsieur” (One moment, sir).” You get the picture.

In Spanish, the tilde 'ñ' which adds a y-type sound to words like Señor, is often totally ignored. Likewise, German has its Eszett ß (an old form of double-s) and its umlauts that can appear over 'a', 'o' and 'u', changing the sound significantly (written ä, ö, and ü). Italian also has its accents which modify the way a word is pronounced. Not only that, each of these languages has its own colloquialisms and, while the free translation services offered by Google, Babel, Bing etc are improving by leaps and bounds, entrusting your work to a computer is not, and never has been, a good idea.

If you are going to have characters speak in a non-English language, you have 3 choices:
  1. Have it all in English and just say that they're speaking in Spanish, French etc.
  2. Start off in the other language and gradually phase in English with the emphasis on ‘gradual’ – that doesn’t mean within a sentence.
  3. Use the other language in full and only revert to English when you’re providing a translation or where your characters are actually speaking in English.
The last option is heavily problematic in that it may mean big chunks of text are utterly confusing to readers even though you've given a translation alongside. Unless you really know both your market and what you’re doing, it's best to stick with 1 or 2.

Whichever you go for, don't do what I've seen recently. That's where a sentence starts off in one language and then (because the author didn't know how to translate it) gradually drifts into English. Our French waiter isn't going to say:

“Certainement, monsieur. Que désirez-vous? Par exemple, nous avons fish and chips, beefburgers and pizzas on the menu.”

He's either going to do the whole speech in French or (having established your non-Gallic background) in English. He isn't going to switch chevaux in mid-stream.

With the rise in the number of immigrant workers, the improvements to transport and communications, and the comparatively low price of travel, it's quite likely that your novel’s characters are going to encounter some such situation. If you want to get top marks for coping with the interchanges in a manner as befits a professional writer, here's my suggestion.


Let's get this straight.
Firstly, decide how you are going to deal with the language (option 1 or 2 above). If you choose the first option, you don't need to read any further.

Secondly, assuming you aren't going to 'cop out', write the exchanges in English but bookmark them so that you can find them again quickly.

Thirdly, create a single file of all the dialogues and run this through Google's translation device (or whatever program you prefer).

Fourthly, having got a translation, put its checking up for tender on one of the many 'find a freelancer' sites. You'll probably get the whole lot looked over for $25 or less.

Having done this, you know your book is now 'anatomically' correct and that you aren't offering yourself up as troll-bait. Not only that, your completeness will shine through and enhance the professional look of your work.

Right, now where's that waiter? I want a cup of tea.

Any Subject Books publishes a variety of quality books with new writers welcome to submit their scripts. They also provide the full range of book publishing services to the self-publisher or independent author such as editing, formatting, cover design, marketing, book tours, book trailers etc. Visit the website for more information and a full price list.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A miss is as good as a mile

It's an old proverb but as true now as it was the day that it was coined. From the perspective of a book publisher, it means missing the market - a case of not understanding demand or missing out on a fickle fad or trend. Explaining it is also a problem the aforesaid publisher can have with authors whose egos bizarrely stand between them and literary success.

The problem lies with the definition of what constitutes 'well written'. A contract may be well-written in that it is clear, covers all eventualities and is fair to both parties, a wedding speech may be well-written in that it embarrasses the bride or groom by just the right amount without its cringe factor exceeding the socially acceptable norm, and a song can contain lyrics which are truly meaningful to its listeners. Being well-written doesn't make any of these three examples worth turning into a book - this is the message that publishers frequently finds themselves having to communicate to authors who've convinced themselves (or allowed themselves to be convinced) that their novel is 'hot stuff' and destined for great things.

Aim carefully!
The thing is that it might be - but often not in its presented condition. A canny publisher will be au fait with the latest trends in the market and fully aware of what the public is buying en masse. A new book may tap into this demand but then deviate to such a degree that the publisher knows full well that the novel's publication would be a frustrating and fruitless experience. For obvious reasons, that's not a decision which some authors find easy to accept.

While originality is not to be discouraged in author submissions, in most cases an excess of it is counter-productive. This is the point - the book may be extremely well written but, through being 'weird and wonderful' (in the eyes of the average reader), it renders itself non-commercial and against the primary raison d'être of the publisher which, like any business, is simply to be a profitable enterprise.

Another reason for authors missing the target occurs when they decide to mix genres. An erotic space opera family saga or a western romantic crime story may sound original but they’re also highly confused. Each theme will, in principle, appeal to three discrete markets yet each of these three markets will be 'turned off' by the other two genres represented in the book. For example, someone who wants a crime story is unlikely to be keen on reading pages of cow-poking and bodice-ripping. While a book publisher can see this from their more remote and 'universal' perspective, the average author, having invested months of hard effort in producing their book, will not want to hear that what they have written just won't sell.

It's so, so easy to go off on a tangent and anyone can do it - even the most experienced and famous of authors. That's why the lasting advice has to be to listen to the words of your friendly publisher because they know the market best. After all, you want a hit, not a miss.

Any Subject Books is both a publisher and provider of self-publishing services. New authors are welcome to submit their books for inclusion or independent authors may be interested in the range of publishing packages which are on offer - everything from brainstorming and ghost-writing to editing, cover design, blog tour arranging, distribution, book trailers and autograph hosting.

Monday, July 1, 2013

All Things Writing: Short Story Contest Opens Today!

Summer...it brings a writer all kinds of inspiration. For some, it brings back memories of childhood. For others, it reminds us that it's time to relax, maybe let our hair down a little as we sip a margarita on the beach.

Personally, it makes me think of spending quality time in amusement parks. Six Flags, Disney World, Schlitterbahn (the hottest, coolest time in Texas)--these places are always over run this time of year with people looking for fun.

But what happens when things go wrong at an amusement park? What happens when chaos breaks out? And just what kind of chaos would break out in your story?

That's your assignment for this writing contest!

The theme for our summer writing contest at All Things Writing is Mayhem and Amusement Parks. Write a 2000 word short story with this topic in mind and submit it to us here at All Things Writing. The open submissions deadline begins on July 1 and runs through July 31. There is no entry fee and all genres are welcome.

The winner will have their story posted on the All Things Writing website. In addition to that, they will also have the opportunity to guest blog and be interviewed about their writing process. If you are an indie author looking for exposure, this is a great contest to enter!

A few rules:

Your story cannot be over 2000 words.

The tale should be about mayhem in an amusement park---not at church, not at school, not at your job (unless your job is at an amusement park!).

Mayhem doesn't have to mean gratuitous violence or sex with animals. Just sayin'.

Your story should not be printed anywhere else. Original work please!

Submissions: We're keeping it pretty simple as far as how you are supposed to submit. Just be sure to follow the rules! Those that don't will not be considered in the contest.

Please submit your 2000 word short story in the body of an email to maryannloesch@hotmail.com. Do not send an attachment. It will not get opened.

Be sure to included your name and email address in the email.

In the subject line, please write All Things Writing Short Story Entry. If that's not there, your email will not be opened.

Happy summer and we look forward to reading your work!