Mastodon The Writing Desk: May 2011

29 May 2011

Dreaming in Darkness by Jessica Kristie

“Poetry is my heart, anchors my soul and documents my journey.” – Jessica Kristie 

Dreaming in Darkness
Darkness and light

Inspiringly different
Powerful and disturbing

A place you will return to.

24 May 2011

eBook Self publishing

Self publishing is a great way for new authors to start building a following and (we hope) to come to the attention of mainstream publishers.  Although I have been writing for years I am still working on my first novel, so have enjoyed the legitimate distraction of understanding how to publish online.

If you are interested in going on a journey of exploration for yourself, a good place to start is Mark Coker's Smashwords Style Guide.  
Mark (@markcokeris the founder of Smashwords and has set out simple step-by-step instructions to create and format an ebook to the demanding standards required for any author who wants to distribute their book via Smashwords to major eBook retailers such as the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and Diesel.  Mark regularly updates it - and it is a free download.

If you want to become an Amazon Kindle publisher there is a wealth of guidance on the Amazon site but I recommend a great little eBook by Nadia Lee (@NadiaLee
)  How to Format Your Manuscript for Kindle and Nook: 3rd Edition  as it can save you a lot of time.

Cracking the code

It is very important to understand the formatting requirements - and all too easy to unintentionally leave 'invisible' rogue code in your work.  The good news is that the tools which generate eBooks have good error trapping, so read any warnings or alerts carefully and learn from them.

Most of the online publishers have a quality review process before your eBook goes online - but your aim is of course to have met all their requirements before you upload.

Disabling Word "features"

I have experimented with tools such as Scrivener but am happy using Word for my WIP. The main lesson I have learnt is to make sure that Word is properly set up to make it easy to format your writing once it is finished.  This means understanding how to disable 'smart quotes' and NOT putting tabs or spaces at paragraph indents.

I started coding in HTML (when the Internet was first invented) and once taught Microsoft Word to advanced level but still found it took few attempts to get it right.  If you are having problems, just search online (and specify which version of Word you are using.)  It can take a while but is time well spent.

Judge a book by its cover?

Don’t underestimate how tricky it can be to design a great cover for your eBook. As you feed the formatted work into the 'grinder' you will be prompted to link to your cover, so you need to have it ready.  Although I'd like to say that I'm more interested in what's inside, there is no question that the cover makes a huge difference when browsing possible downloads. (See Joel Friedlander's great post about Joanna Penn's approach to developing her book cover)

Novel Publicity

Of course there is no point in self publishing if readers don't know about your book.  I have really enjoyed my recent experience of the Novel Publicity Blog Tour of The King Whisperers and recommend you follow writer an book publicist Emlyn Chand (@emlynchand) for some great advice and tips on how to get it right.

I am very interested in your thoughts, experiences and top tips on self publishing and happy to help, so please comment and feel free to get in touch by email on

22 May 2011

Book Review: The Story Book by David Baboulene

Anyone who wants to develop their story writing skills will want to read this book. That’s not the what author David Baboulene calls the ‘log line’ that hooks you in - it is my own view after reading The Story Book.

An interesting exploration of the roots of story making is developed through clever and detailed analysis of some unexpected works, such as character development in Toy Story and plot structure in Back to the Future.

David enjoys challenging the reader (yes I fell for most of the set ups), making you want to return to earlier sections and re-read them. If you want to be provoked into really thinking about your approach to writing stories, this is definitely the book for you.

One thing I can promise is that you will never think about subtext in quite the same way again. David’s key point is that many writers think they must write the subtext to deliver the underlying story – but they should focus on ‘knowledge gaps’. These are the different perceptions of participants in any story. Knowledge gaps are the key to delivering the subtext – without which, he suggests, ‘your story has no soul.’

David’s experience as a writer and author shines through when he goes on to consider how to present your work to agents and publishers. I was amused by the irony of the fact that he makes no mention of ebooks or social networking – yet I was only reading The Story Book because I found it through Twitter and it was a single click download from Amazon - and this is one book that will stay on my Kindle reader for a long time.

Author David Baboulene is based in Brighton and works as a story consultant with aspiring and established writers and producers. He is providing seminars on story principles throughout the UK and in Los Angeles in 2011 and has a monthly column in Writing Magazine and Writers' News.

Useful links:

Subtext – The Most Critical Tool in the Story-Teller’s Box (from David's blog)  'Mastering the Art of Story'

17 May 2011

Celtic Prayer

Deep peace of the running wave to you
As like the cool blue sea
Your true power and beauty
Is ever more revealed to me

Deep peace of the flowing air to you
As like the refreshing breeze
Your love renews my spirit
And makes me glad to be alive

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
As like the reassuring earth
Your honesty and truth
Help me grow stronger

Deep peace of the shining stars to you
As like the brightest in the sky
You bring a sparkle to my life
And I will love you for eternity

Note:  This was inspired by composer John Rutter's (@johnmrutter who composed music for the wedding of William and Kate) choral work 'Deep Peace' (A Gaelic Blessing). I have requested consent to use it and his work is hereby fully acknowledged.  I have simply expanded each line of the first verse to create the Celtic Prayer.

You may like to listen to the original here:   

10 May 2011

Book Launch Guest Post: Raven by Suzy Turner

After a year of writing, re-writing, editing, blogging, marketing and getting my name out there, this week I am finally launching my first YA fantasy novel, Raven.

It's taken me a year because a) I've been lazy and b) I've been spending so much time socialising on all these networking sites that I almost lost sight of why I was there in the first place. My novel. So here I am, a humble indie author with her first book about to go live on Amazon, Smashwords and wherever else I can find to sell it. I am, naturally, delighted and a bit scared. Okay, maybe terrified of what will happen. I hope people will buy my book by the bucketload. But more importantly, I hope they like it.

From the response so far, Raven is a real page-turner, hard to put down, and engaging. But can I really trust these wonderfully amazing people that have said such kind words? I mean, they are my friends. Would they tell me if it was bad? I hope so. Also, judging from my book trailer that I released a couple of weeks ago, the general consensus is that it's great stuff. Many people are intending to buy the book on the back of the trailer. Like I said, I'm terrified. I just hope the trailer isn't better than the book!

Regardless of my concerns, the book is out there. It's the culmination of a dream. No, it's the beginning of a dream. Raven is the first of a series about a group of not-so-normal folk in western Canada. It's aimed at young adults and anybody else that reads that kind of stuff (I do and I'm far from a 'young' adult). Raven begins with the tale of Lilly, a youngster whose parents mysteriously disappear from their home in London. She has no choice but to move to Canada to a grandfather she didn't even know existed, and once there, she learns that her family has secrets. Secrets that changes Lilly's entire view of the world around her.

Raven is now on Amazon at

Suzy Turner

Although Suzy is a Yorkshire lass at heart, she left her home town of Rotherham, UK, to move to Portugal with her family when she was ten. The Algarve continues to be her home, where she lives with her childhood sweetheart and husband Michael. 

Suzy's career began soon after completing her A levels when she was offered the position of trainee journalist for a local English newspaper. Her love of writing developed and a few years later she moved on to become assistant editor for the region's largest English language publisher. Since then she has also worked as the editor of one of the Algarve's most loved monthly lifestyle magazines. 

Early in 2010 however, Suzy began working as a freelance writer and author. She has since completed her first novel for teens, Raven, which will be the first in a series of urban fantasy. Suzy also writes within the chick lit genre and is working on a novel called Forever Fredless about a woman who continues to search for the soulmate she 'lost' when she was a child. 

8 May 2011

Poetry Guest Post: Liz Currie

Salango beach, Manabí

Revelations on a Tropical Night

Latin nights, with warm and lazy rhythms

dusky after sundown
and palms that waved in breezes
by darkening seas;
the soft throbbing beat
of salsa on the beach
calls me back to that time
and those moments sublime
where the air - scented and sweet
borne of tropical climes
and days of long heat
whispers cocktails and wine
and the sound of the sea
lullabies endlessly...

Stars in the sky mirror the sea
as sparks in the sea of phosphorous light
burst in the night as a ripple of fire
on the crests of the waves
and the deep deep sigh
as the waves retire
leave a moment’s peace.

There I lay in your arms as you breathed in sleep
and watched the celestial drama sweep
in vast dimensions overhead.
A miracle of being came clear to me
as I joined in one with Infinity
one moment, and knew with certainty
who we are and how our base humanity
had fallen so far from divinity.
I felt my spirits soar -
but the moment passed and we at last,
returned back again along the shore
whence we had come,
to the distant sounds
of Latin dance in the shanty town.

Tropical nights in a distant land,
making love on the midnight sand,
casting loose in the naked sea -
those were moments in eternity!
I will always remember the mood of love
as we lay enlaced with the rest of the universe above us;
but most of all, when the dark rain falls
and the northern wind brings an icy squall,
how the warmth and scent of the tropic night
yielded vision inward of a different sight
and Love of a higher nature beckoned me,
Oh moments, sweet moments in Eternity...

Author Liz Currie (@elizajcurrie) is based in York (UK) and has a passion for travel that has inspired her writing. Her poetry blog is ‘Poetry in Motion'  and her travel  writing blog is ‘Wayward Lady 

4 May 2011

Novel Publicity Blog Tour Book Review: The King Whisperers By Kerwin Swint

‘King Whisperers’ are people in a position to influence history. If your history lessons were anything like mine, you will have slowly discovered over the years that most of what you were taught was, at best, prejudiced and at worst factually incorrect.  This is why this book is so important.  We have some re-learning to do if we are going to use knowledge of the past to understand the present.

Influencing global events

Kerwin Swint is the history teacher I would have liked to have had when I was young.  Right from the start, his easy and well informed style grabs your attention and holds it for 300 pages.  We explore the how "king whisperers" changed the course of global events in every era, brilliantly using what we now call ‘power politics’, espionage and inside knowledge. Many were driven by passionate beliefs and positive values but sadly the most interesting are of course the ‘rebels’ and the evil plotters behind the throne.

The King Whisperers is one of the best researched books I have read in a long time (when was the last time you read a book with over thirty pages of end notes?)  Kerwin Swint makes good use of case study examples, from the ancient world to recent times and includes many significant historical events, as well as some that are less well known.

Good to be Machiavellian

I particularly enjoyed learning about “Old Nick” Machiavelli – surely one of the most mis-represented writers of all time?  ‘Machiavellian’ is generally understood to mean ruthless, deceitful and manipulative behaviour (and I learnt that Machiavellianism is also a psychological diagnosis for a personality disorder characterized by manipulativeness). Anyone reading The King Whisperers will never use his name in that sense again.

Kerwin Swint would have easily been able to fill the book with this captivating explanation of Machiavelli’s ideas but moves on to the more obscure (to me at least) Ibrahim Pasha, who started out as a humble slave and became ‘whisperer in chief’ to the ruler of the Ottoman Empire - Suleiman the Magnificent.  We go on to learn that Hitler wasn’t the biggest mass murderer or even in the top two of the twentieth century  (it was ‘Chairman’ Mao Zedong - with Joseph Vissarionovich not far behind).

Topical relevance of The King Whisperers

The King Whisperers is certain to stimulate renewed interest in what really happened ‘behind the scenes’ of world events. It raises some big questions about contemporary politics and leaves us wanting more. If you are wondering how relevant all this really is to current events, Kerwin Swint is asking 'was Saddam Hussein evil?' and ‘What about Osama bin Laden?’  

Dr. Kerwin Swint

Give-Away Phrase:  The Writing Desk secret word for the book give-away is THEIR. Learn more about the give-away and enter to win 1 of 3 copies on the official King Whisperers blog tour page

Your vote matters: If you like this review please vote for The Writing Desk in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blog with the most votes wins a free promotional 'twitterview' and a special winner’s badge. You can vote in the poll by visiting  The official King Whisperers blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the end - thank you!

You may like to see the Goodreads Q&A with Kerwin Swint   for a discussion of The King Whisperers, including questions from the official book club guide, the author and his previous works.

Video trailers for the King Whisperers:

1 May 2011

Guest Post: Am I an Idiot? Working with a Freelance Editor by Rebecca Forster

Rebecca Forster
Spring. We begin anew. We slough off our baggage and leave the dreary months behind. Except when we don’t.  Which brings us to the topic of freelance editors.  have dragged mine into every spring, every new project, every new puddle of angst where I wallow secure in the knowledge that I will never write a decent book again.

I have done this for 26 years. I have faced each spring insecure and uncertain though I have published 23 novels, 2 indie published novels and one script in development.

My freelance editor’s name is Jenny Jensen*. To her credit, she does not roll her eyes as she takes me by the scruff of the neck, shakes off the muck and and points me back to the computer. I work with her because she is in my corner and that is important in publishing – to have someone in your corner. I work with her because I sell more often when I do.

That fact alone should be enough for me to never question my association with Jenny, yet I do. I want to know why, after all these years, can’t I edit myself? Haven’t I learned anything from her?  I had to know.  Am I an author idiot? Thankfully, the answer is no and Jenny had a couple of good reasons why:
  • Writing is a fast and furious process when it is going well. Grammar and spelling are not top of mind when an author is ‘in the zone’; words and ideas must flow freely.  Self-editing is prone to ‘blindness’. The author often sees no difference between her intent and the typed words.  
  • A good editor understands and respects the author’s words and voice while cleaning up the grammatical flaws that set the signals – signals that allow the reader to effortlessly navigate the story. Some writers see punctuation as a bother.  A well-punctuated manuscript will catch the eye of a publisher and so will one that is not punctuated well. Only one will sell.
  • Finally, some people are writers and others are editors. Like a writer with an instinct for story, an editor has an instinct for a pause, a rolling stop and when to quit. She knows when creativity and inspiration becomes awkward and interferes with story.  Knowing why I use a freelance editor usually leads to the question…
Can Only Rich Writers Afford a Freelance Editor?

Anyone who has been writing as long as I have can tell you that writing is not the road to riches. Most of us write while holding down other jobs and dealing with families. Some write for the pure love of it; most write in the hopes of making it their profession.

So, how can the expense of a freelance editor be justified?  First an author must understand that books are business. New York publishers have bottom lines to meet, independently published authors want to sell their books, online retailers want to turn a profit. The way to determine if it is worth spending money on a freelance editor is to first define your writing objective.

If you want to attract an agent, a New York publisher or stand out in the indie market then, in my opinion, an editorial eye is a necessity. Prices range from the ridiculously cheap to the astronomically expensive.  Some projects only need grammatical assistance and others continuity or story editing. Story editing is more expensive but, in my case, is critical. I write thrillers that rely on a trail of clues and red herrings and I cannot assess the effectiveness the webs I weave on my own.

In this roiling market, those who offer the cleanest, most professional product will be noticed. In the e-book market, those who present a flawed product will be called on the carpet instantly and very publicly. That is the worst kind of publicity and hard to recover from.

How Do I Work with a Freelance Editor? 

The same way you work with a New York editor attached to a publisher. You respect one another’s expertise and perspective. You have discussions, not confrontations.  You understand that while this is your book, her work is also held out to public scrutiny.

The Author:
  • Do not forward your first draft. Make it the best it can be before offering it for critique.
  • When the editor returns her comments/changes read them, set them aside and come back to them in 24 hours
  • Look at your edited work with an objective eye. The editor is the first reader. If she questions something so will the person who buys your book.
  • Pay your bills, say your thank yous. Even if you don’t like editorial suggestions, the work has been done. This is a small community- and getting smaller all the time considering the internet - and an author’s reputation is easily damaged.
  • Ask questions. If something doesn’t make sense, talk it out. Most freelance editors offer a certain number of follow-ups. Be succinct. Be focused.
  • Do not expect continuity editing if you have paid strictly for grammar/spelling edits.
The Editor:
  • Should be respectful of your work and have no genre preferences.
  • Should exhibit that she understands your ‘voice’. 
  • Should clearly state their fees up front and be specific about what the service entails.
  • Should have an acceptable turn around time.
Bottom line, if you can afford it, freelance editing makes all the difference in your final product. If you can’t spend the money find the next best thing: a middle school English teacher to help out, a wonderful book on grammar or a friend who will be read your manuscript and be honest. Rest assured, you are not an author idiot if you can’t self-edit. You are a writer. Other (wonderful) people are (thankfully) editors. Together, we make books that people want to read.

*Jenny resides at Note the wonderful example on her home page of what a difference punctuation can make.  

Rebecca Forster (follow on twitter @Rebecca_Forster) is a USA Today best selling author and a popular public speaker to writers' groups about publishing for Kindle, Nook and other e-readers. Rebecca also teaches on the UCLA Writers Program and at middle schools with The Young Writers Conference.  Visit Rebecca at for writing tips, lots of pictures and a 'sneak peek' at her latest book.