Showing posts from August, 2010

Bookshops vs. Bookstores

Last time I went to Lakeside (the second largest shopping mall in the UK) I commented that it seemed the Americans had arrived. It has Taco Bell, a gelato stand, and adverts for Mountain Dew although I still haven't found any in the shops. Well, on Saturday I discovered that the American bookstore has also arrived on these hallowed shores.

On my first visit to Florida (my honeymoon in 2006) I went into a Barnes and Noble bookstore in Orlando. It was my first visit to an American bookshop and was blown away by how wonderful it was. First off, it was far bigger than any bookshop I'd been into in the UK but that didn't surprise me, because everything in America is bigger. What amazed me was the atmosphere, and the fact that they seemed to want you to be there looking at the books. There was a wonderful colourful children's area with a cute little safety fence around it to stop your sprog wandering off, and plenty of toys and play activities for the children to enjoy as wel…

Young Adult Fiction

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a big Twilight fan. Yes, I admit it, I succumbed to the hype and read the books and now I'm completely in Vampire thrall and Team Edward and the whole kit'n'kaboodle. I'm 41 years old and totally obsessed with the love story of two American teenagers. What's wrong with me?

Last night, at the Twilight Book Club I run (told you I had succumbed) the question was raised as to whether the Young Adult classification put readers off. I may be stupid but I hadn't realised it was a young adult book.It made me wonder whether my current work in progress, Emon and the Empire, is likely to be classified as Young Adult too? We queried what it is about a book, specifically the Twilight Saga, which makes publishers market it to older teenagers rather than middle-aged mothers. These are just our theories, but it came down to three things:
The book is marketed towards the age of the main protagonists. It is about 17-year-olds, and since peop…


Most authors know all about rejection. I have a box full of rejection letters, and despite having some success I still have two complete novels languishing on my computer, in all likelihood never to see a bookstore shelf. I spent many hours on them, and it's not easy to know that they are not good enough to be published. But rejection is part of an author's lot, and something we all have to get used to. It's comforting to know that several publishing companies rejected Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

I'm usually the one being rejected, as opposed to the one doing the rejecting, but this week I got to see the other side of the coin. My day job, as you may know, is with a legal charity, and one of my tasks is preparing the regular newsletter to advise our supporters of what LawCare is up to. Occasionally people send in articles for our newsletter, usually on themes related to our work, and theirs. Most recently, for example, an inpatient treatment centre in …

Mediocre Middles

Having blogged about beginnings and endings, I suppose the obvious next subject has to be the middle. Currently I am stuck in the middle of Emon. I'm very happy with the first few chapters, but last night I typed the words "Chapter Thirteen" and realised that the quality had been drifting downhill for several chapters and I was no longer inspired by what I was churning out. If I'm not excited by it, how can I expect the reader to be?

I have my dramatic twist at the end ready to go, and I know a few things that are going to happen before I get there, but I am finding the middle a very difficult place to be. However, middles are just as important as beginnings and endings. I don't want my readers laying down the book because they lose interest halfway through. Actually, they won't get the chance. If the agent loses interest halfway through, then no publisher is ever going to get to see it. The standard has to be maintained on every single page.

So my work-in-prog…

Happy Endings and Norilsk

Following my post about Great Beginnings a couple of days ago, I find myself thinking more about the endings of books. I've just finished reading Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger and that certainly had a spectacular twist at the end but I got the feeling that some of the following chapters had been done at the insistence of her publishers to tie provide "closure" for the reader. They came across as rather a rushed afterthought and I think the author, like me, would have rather closed the book at page 442 and leave the reader reeling and guessing than throw in some happy endings.

My second book, A World Away, left a big unanswered "life or death" question at the end, and much of the fanmail I had was along the lines of "I loved your book but did they die in the crash?" People seem not to like unresolved issues or loose ends. As a result, the third book in the series (as yet unpublished) includes a small aside which suggests that the answer is …

Feeling Creative

This morning, as I was hanging out the washing, I suddenly had a scene come into my head which would be ideal to flesh out one of the characters in a manuscript I started some time ago. I rushed inside to scribble down some notes to remind me of it so that if I find a few minutes to write this evening I won't lose that flash of inspiration.

Then later this morning a short story contest with a theme which hadn't inspired me suddenly took on new meaning as I saw an interesting angle to the story. So I've just written a 1,000 word short story which I will enter into the contest.

Funny how some days the ideas come so thick and fast I don't have time to get them down, and other times I can sit uselessly at my computer for hours and only manage to force out a few measly words.

Great Beginnings

I don't have a lot of time to read (three jobs, three children, two callings) so in order to make me read it, a book really has to grab me from the first paragraph. And once it does, I become what I call a "bad mother reader" - making noodles for the children for tea because it only takes three minutes, and telling the family "I'm going upstairs to sort the washing" when I'm actually hoping to snatch five minutes to read. Generally when they catch me reading the children declare "busted!" because I'm almost certainly supposed to be doing something else. Hoovering, polishing, or putting them to bed.

If a book doesn't grab me from the very beginning then this doesn't happen. I can't make myself read something I don't want to. If I'm going to steal time like this, it needs to be worth it. So as a writer, I know that the first paragraph, the first line, is crucial. It's the hook with which you need to catch the reader, e…

Vanity Publishing

I have just listened to a very interesting debate on the radio about self-publishing.

Years ago, self publishing used to be called Vanity publishing, and it was pretty much that - someone thought so much of themselves and their book that they would part with thousands of pounds to have it printed and then try to flog it themselves by hawking it round bookshops and calling in favours from polite friends and acquaintances. Apparently in these days of print-on-demand and Amazon things are very different and it is becoming quite acceptable to self publish, as well as much easier to market your self-published book.

There was a contributor to the discussion who had self-published his book, had it fall into the hands of an influential journalist and subsequently been offered a £2.5 million deal for his next three books. Another had written a book called "The Father's Home Birth Handbook" which he had self-published; it sold very well and he was then offered royalties by a publi…

In Praise of Book Clubs

I went to a book club last night with a friend who invited me along at the last minute. I met some great people, made some new friends, and got some tips about good books to look out for.The book club seems to be a relatively new social phenomenon.

Here in the UK it is largely connected with popular TV couple Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan who added a book club spot to their daytime talk show, sending sales of the books they recommended into the stratosphere. But even before Richard and Judy picked up the baton and ran with it, book clubs were springing up all over the place.

When I was a student doing my degree in English literature book clubs didn't exist which was a pity because I'd have loved to meet up with others as enthused and eager about Vanity Fair and Tess of the D'Urbervilles as I was. Instead my appreciation of these books was tempered by dry tutorials, long lectures, and essays which analysed all the magic out of them.

The book assigned for September's me…

Music - The Muse

It was the 25th Anniversary of Live Aid last month, and I remember it well. In 1985 a friend persuaded me that if I was going to watch any of it, Queen were the band I shouldn't miss. So (because my parents hate any non-classical music) I went upstairs to my parents' bedroom and watched it on the little portable TV in their room, lying on my stomach across their bed.

I was blown away, stunned by just how good rock music could be. And from that moment I was a Queen fan. I joined their fan club (I finally neglected to renew my membership 20 years later) and went to the local Woolworth's to buy every Queen album (vinyl) I could find. I could only get one - A Night at the Opera - but I played it so many times on my scratchy little record player it's amazing there was any of it left by the time I left it in the sun five years later and it warped.

In 1986, aged 17, I went to my first ever concert and saw Queen (supported by Status Quo and INXS) at Wembley Stadium in London. It…