Category Archives: Books

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New Poem Today – “Again.”

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How a Book is Born

Publisher Weldon Owen has released a rather entertaining “74% accurate” infographic on how a book turns from an idea into the final product in the traditional publishing model.

I’ve been in and around the publishing industry for several years now and this flowchart is amusingly accurate. Although, as with any lifecycle, there are many more divergent paths that a book can take. A rather tragic path I once witnessed (many moons and jobs ago), was where the editor of a new author had left the publishing company. Although the new author’s book was about to be published, without anyone to champion it within the company, their work completely floundered – there was a token print run and very little marketing support. I’m not sure what happened to it in the end, but if it became a success, I would be surprised – every new author’s worst nightmare. I’m sure that there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Anyhoo, on a more upbeat note, enjoy the infographic.

HowAnIdeaBecomesBook_final

Murakami: Writing a Novel Is Like Survival Training

Moshin HamidHaruki Murakami isn’t everyone’s fitness guru, but Moshin Hamid, the author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and more recently How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (great title btw) advocates Murakami as the man who inspired him to exercise first, write second.

In an interview with The Paris Review, Murakami said:

“writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.”

The Atlantic Article where this was highlighted to me informs that “Murakami… transformed himself from nicotine-stained wastrel to marathoning meganovelist, [and] urges writers to prepare for novels like contestants gearing up for the Hunger Games.” Moshin has said that it was following Murakami’s advocation that gave him the drive and energy to move forward with his writing.

This really struck a cord with me, as I find that exercise really does help my mind to work better, so Mr Murakami really does have a point. I have linked the two activities together, but perhaps I should dualise my exercise and writing routines. This reminds me that I really need to get on the case with exercising my body as well as my mind. I only have two weeks left to train for the Where’s Wally 10km fun run, and I am way behind.

Be Your Character – Literally.

RedditThey say that to write a book, you need to get into the head of your character. What better way to do that than be an online persona of your character and have people interview him/her/it.

At the IAmAFiction Sub-Reddit, you can log on as your character and interact with readers who will pose questions and help you to add flesh to your ideas.  A few of my favourite proposed characters I’ve come across are:

To be honest, I’m a complete novice with Reddit, and I don’t quite gettit (*excuse the pun* – couldn’t resist. Honestly,  you have my sincerest apologies, please don’t go…). The premise seems good. All you need to do is submit your character as an interview subject, and you can give your character a test run in the forum with avid readers. The Reddit peeps say:

If you are working on developing an invented character for creative writing, roleplay, or pure novelty, this is the place to expose your character to the world and subject them to questioning to help you flesh them out.

IAmA posts work just like a regular IAmA post, except the poster assumes the role of his/her character.

Please be a good IAmAfic citizen and comment on other people’s submissions as well as your own. Remember, they’re not real people — so no need to be shy!

my own character development

I may well make use of this in future – when I finally figure out Reddit.

My current state of affairs with Four and Twenty Blackbirds, and character development thereof, is a bit of a shambles. Embarking on my current plan of 4and20BB without a huge amount of novel- writing experience was a trifle ambitious. I have been aiming to write 3 separate and distinct storylines in a world of my own creation and weave the stories so that they all tie up nicely. The only problem was that although I have characters and a world and a few dramatic scenes inferring an over-arching storyline. The truth is, that I have been making it up as I went along. I have no story. It was all very well for a while, but I am now thoroughly lost, with a whole bunch of scenes, but no plot to speak of. Just a bunch of curious characters meadering through their strangely eventful lives.

I’ve been ill the last few days, and although it hasn’t been fun being stuck abed, it has given me ample opportunity to think and plan. The good news is – I now have a plot! The bad news is, for the moment at least, I need to cut the majority of what I’ve written. Ouch! Ah well, at least now I have a path, much better than the frustration of being completely lost and listless… into the woods I go!

Lovecraftian Longings

LovecraftShameful to say, I have never read a single work by H.P. Lovecraft – a classic  master of horror rated alongside Edgar Allan Poe.

According to Stephen King: “Now that time has given us some perspective on his work, I think it is beyond doubt that H. P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the Twentieth Century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” It is high praise indeed. I’ve only ever been mildly into the genre of horror, by why is it that I had never come across the actual works of Lovecraft until I stumbled across him in my research.  Shame on me, perchance. I had heard the name ‘Lovecraft’ bandied about, and like many unknown references, it was one I let lie. In my defence, I have never come across his books while browsing the sci-fi/fantasy/horror shelves in bookstores, or in libraries. Perhaps it was my personal oversight or a defiencies in the venues I frequented. Either way, I feel a little cheated.

His influence is wide ranging, for example the Arkham Asylum in Batman is attributed to Lovecraft. His fans include Neil Gaiman, Jorge Luis Borges and Michel Houellebecq. Not to mention, David Bowie, Metallica and Black Sabbath. An impressive fan base to be sure. So I will presently be embarking on my Lovecraftian horror adventure, I hope it will be as fulfilling as when I first stumbled across John Wyndham. The bonus is that all of Lovecraft’s works are out of copyright, so Project Gutenberg, here I come.

Buying Your Way onto the Bestseller Lists

Marketing

After all the kerfuffle last year about sock puppetry (the art of authors writing their own fake reviews on Amazon and other sites), it shouldn’t really be surprising that there are some authors out there that are actually buying their way onto bestseller lists as a quick fix way to get acclaim – as reported by the Wall Street Journal in their article: The Mystery of the Book Sales Spike. People began to twig where there were repeated patterns of an initial spike, followed by the book falling almost completely off the grid. Essentially, some marketing company figured out how to work the bestseller list system, and used it to their advantage.

It would be really tempting to make use of this. There are very few ways as a new author, especially if self-published, to get exposure for your book, and there are few ways to get great exposure for your book like being a bestseller. If it is actually a good book, perhaps it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy – the faked bestseller becomes a real bestseller. I suspect that that is what the authors buying into this marketing scheme figured. And even if not, you have had the exposure and can tout yourself as a bestselling author.

when does using marketing tools become unethical?

There are many tricks to marketing yourself and your book (and many books and website dedicated to this topic). If you look hard enough, you can find websites dedicated to mutual reviews on Amazon – an “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” approach, where if you participate, you can get hundreds of reviews for your book, rather than just your mum and best friend’s reviews sitting there looking a little sad. I am sure that there are other examples of marketing tools that are in a moral grey area, but at what point do marketing tools become unethical?

For me, although tempting, buying your way onto the bestseller list is not the way I would choose to self-promote. I’m not sure if I could live with myself if I “cheated” like that.

Read Read Read – Read Everything

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.

Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window”

William Faulkner

read%20imageIt seems like any writer worth his salt advocates the golden rule of reading, and reading widely. I do think that one of my greater failings as a writer is that I had such a narrow reading focus for quite a large portion of my life. In fact, to a great extent, until the advent of the BF, I did not really read non-fiction for pleasure at all (newspapers and magazines excluded). It’s remarkably ironic really, as before we started going out, the BF almost exclusively read non-fiction. We’ve both encouraged each other to branch out, and have done. I now have some favoured non-fiction authors, one of which is Jared Diamond, acclaimed author of Guns, Germs and Steel – a title that I recommend to everyone. It is as an amazing analysis of the scientific reasons why Europe colonised the rest of the world and not the other way around. You might not agree with all of his theories, but  it is a truly fascinating read.

The reason I mention this, is (i) to encourage everyone to expand their reading horizons as I have thoroughly enjoyed expanding my own, and (ii) more to the point, I’ve come an article on io9.com entitled 23 Science Books That Are So Exciting They Read Like Genre Fiction, and I’m proud to say that, as a novice non-fiction reader, I’ve actually read two of them (which do read like genre fiction). A few of the others will be going on my rapidly expanding reading list.

io9.com’s list includes: Darwin’s Origin of the Species, aforementioned Jared Diamond’s Collapse, The Poisoner’s Handbook, The Silent Spring, and the one presently going to the top of my reading list, Rachel Maines  The Technology of Orgasm.

Pulp Fictioning the Classics

Tess Pulp Fiction Crusoe Pulp Fiction P&P pulp fiction Gatsby Pulp Fiction

Just thought I’d share:

Indie Publisher Oldcastle Books is reissuing literary classics with awesome Pulp Fiction covers and hilarious taglines. Their first tranch of titles include Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s perenial classic The Great Gatsby, Hardy’s lamentful Tess of The D’Urbervilles, Daniel Defoe‘s Robinson Crusoe, as well as The Hound of the Baskervilles and Wuthering Heights. Perfect for the literary enthusiast with a wry sense of humour.

The illustrations are the handiwork of artist David Mann, and designed by Elsa Mathern.

Oldcastle Books are also challenging fans to try to come up with good taglines themselves. The submitted taglines might even be used in the Oldcastle versions – but be warned, even if they use your tagline, you won’t get a piece of the action, only the glory.

I’ve recently compromised the space dedicated to literary classics in my ever expanding library (read: several overstuffed shelves). I have *shock horror* sold off all my well-thumbed wordsworth editions in favour of compiling all of the out of copyright classics onto ebook format, downloaded from Project Gutenberg. Not as pretty or satisfying to look at, but available at the click of a button and saves so much on space. There  are so many great editions of classics coming out, that, between the Oldcastle versions and also the beautifully cloth bound Penguin English Library editions, I’m rethinking my electronic edition compromise.

I’ve included a lovely little video on the Penguin English Library (non-cloth bound) editions below… a little trippy but way cute… ahhh how I love books…

Retired Leprechaun and Curious Observer: Jupp Quegley Treatise

I’ve been getting down to a wee bit of writing as of late. Sadly, the actual novel is not moving, but the backstory and framework for Four and Twenty Blackbirds is coming on apace.

character biography: Jupp quegley

Jupp QuegleyOne of the ways I’m putting the backstory together is by writing character biographies. In the case of Jupp Quegley, who is a minor (but important) character and a sometimes scribbler himself, I am writing his treatise. This exercise has been really helpful in getting me to focus on the parameters on my world and how it operates.

The artwork on the right is from The Alchemist by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, a renaissance grotesque painter. His work is very dark, and I find it both inspiring and applicable to 4and20BB. I see Jupp in this picture.

By way of a very brief taster, the opening few lines of Jupp’s journal is as follows (depending on how much I reveal about the plot points in 4&20BB, there may be more of Jupp’s treatise to come):

From the Early Treatise of Jupp Quegley (age – old enough to know better, young enough not to care), curious observer, and retired Leprechaun. By way of a record for all who would stop long enough to listen.

Magic. It’s everywhere now. It used to be only ever wielded by the Fae, as the humanfolk call us, and the rare pursuit of those few who were wealthy enough or ruthless enough to pay the cost of entry. But where does magic really come from? Any street rat would tell you that it’s from dust. Fairy shite, they call it, HA! Ignorant urchins, who probably have never been more than half a mile from where they were spawned, let alone ventured beyond the borders of the city. And yet, they still know of dust, harvested from the thorn tree orchards that extend beyond the Tanglewood. There, at dusk, the hundred thousand fairies ducking between the trees create dancing constellations across the evening’s landscape. It is a sight that will never cease to stir my soul.

Not So Fairy Tale Romances

Stupid cupid“Happy Hallmark Day!” My dry humoured BF greeted me this morning. “And next month on 14 March we can celebrate [the much lauded] Steak and BJ Day.” Colour me romanced.

Fairytale Romance?

With the commonly covered folklore-ish topics in this blog, I find myself wondering when the term “Fairytale Romance” first originated. The term really does seem like a misnomer. The first fairytale-esk romances that pop into my head:

  • Little Mermaid becomes human for the man she loves, but he doesn’t return her feelings so she turns into foam [dies] – romance failed 
  • Snow White and Sleeping Beauty both appeared as if dead, and get kissed by necropheliac princes.  In fact,  in one of the earlier Sleeping Beauty stories, the prince sleeps with [rapes] Sleeping Beauty, and through Sleeping Beauty’s resultant children she awakens – romance failed
  • the so-called Frog Princess hated the frog and threw him against a wall breaking the spell, returning him to a prince. The [masochistic] prince then asks the petulant girl to marry him (no kissing the frog in the original story) – romance failed

There are some tales that have some of the ingredients of a great love story, but would you really want to be taken captive by a hideous beast and who asked you to marry him every day from the first day you meet (Stockholm syndrome anyone?), or want a prince charming who only wanted you for your great dress sense, and wouldn’t recognise you without it (Cinderella). None of this really fits the picture of the so-called fairytale romance.

*Late addition 15.Feb.13* Also, on Beauty and the Beast, it’s occurred to me that Belle (aka Beauty) only accepts the Beast’s marriage proposal after he turns into a prince (before that she only loves him as a friend) Now, as the prince, would you really want a woman who could only accept you for your looks?

Anti-Valentine Reads

In any case, on this very fine [alleged] day of love, We Love this Book has come up with 5 anti-Valentines reads. Their list is a little morose, so I’ve compiled my own (adding these to my expansive reading list, re-reading the bunny suicides is never a chore…):

Sophus’ 5 Anti-Valentine Reads:

  1.  American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis: an exploration of the incomprehensible depths of madness and the physical and sexual violence in our time or any other.
  2. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (and *ahem* Jane Austen): It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains. Nom Nom Nom.
  3. Wedlock by Wendy Moore: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match – a tale of divorce, violence, madness and scandal (see also How to Create the Perfect Wife)
  4. The Book of Bunny Suicides by Andy Riley: This is dark humour at its best – does what it says on the tin.
  5. The Road by Cormac McCarthy:  a post-apocolyptic tale of a journey across a landscape blasted by an unspecified cataclysm that has destroyed most of civilization and, in the intervening years, almost all life on Earth. Cheery.

Any other suggestions?