31 October 2012

Haunted Week - Beware of Book Review!

{This Girl Reads}

Cheyenne's final challenge of Haunted Week is to review a scary book. The first one that came to mind was:

IT was a long time ago. I must have been a teenager, rapidly working my way through all Stephen King's books when I discovered this one. 

"They were just kids when they stumbled upon the horror within their hometown. Now, as adults, none of them can withstand the force that has drawn them all back to Derry, Maine, to face the nightmare without end, and the evil without a name..."

I never really liked clowns as a child. Even less so now I know they are really shape-shifters that feed off your deepest fears....

30 October 2012

Haunted Week - Written in the Tombstone

{This Girl Reads}

The epitaph: The inscription on a tombstone - you could say it's a person's last words. What is the greatest last line of any book you've ever read?

Here are five to get you started:

"He is coming, and I am here." ~ The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger

"It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both." ~ Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

"As I left China farther and farther behind, I looked out of the window and saw a great universe beyond the plane's silver wing. I took one more glance over my past life, then turned to the future. I was eager to embrace the world." ~ Wild Swans by Jung Chang

...and one for Halloween: "He was soon borne away 
by the waves and lost in darkness and distance." ~ Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

Check out the other Halloween Week bloggers here:

1. Cheyenne @ {This Girl Reads}  14. J.J. @ Word Circus  
2. Megan @ The Book Babe  15. Rionna Morgan  
3. Eliza @ A Beauty and The Book  16. Burgandy Ice @ Colorimetry  
4. Ana @ BookSpark  17. Exina @ Exina Art  
5. Sel @ Bookcase™  18. Kristin @ Shewhirler's Book Blog  
6. Audrey/Ink and Page  19. Eric @ Frodo's Blog of Randomness  
7. Krystal's Enchanting Reads  20. Amanda @ BornBookish  
8. Amanda's Writings  21. Kathy Takes on Books  
9. Grace @ Lust For Stories  22. Adriana @ She's Got Books on Her Mind  
10. Rachel's Book Reviews  23. Josie @ Josie's Haven  
11. Inky@Book Haven Extraordinaire  24. Tony @ The Writing Desk  
12. Daniela @ YA Book Season  25. Laura @ the Booksmartie  
13. Salima Korri  

29 October 2012

Haunted Week - Tricked or Treated

{This Girl Reads}

Some books aren't at all what you expected—which can be good or bad. Today's challenge is to think of some books you read that were either a 'trick' or a 'treat'.

The book I am currently reading is a real 'treat' - The Constant Princess by Phillipa Gregory. I must admit I used to avoid historical fiction, preferring well researched history - until I had a go a writing a novel set in 10th century Wales.  There will always be huge gaps in the accepted accounts, and the story of King Henry's first wife Katherine is a great example.  Phillipa Gregory uses italics for Katherine's personal reflections on events and really makes you think what it must have been like to live in Tudor times. 

I struggle to recall any books I've read recently I would describe as a 'trick' - if you can think of any let's hear about them!

28 October 2012

Haunted Week: It Came From the Web

{This Girl Reads}

Cheyenne has set a great challenge today - she says you never know what's going to creep onto the web. Sometimes, however, you get a pleasant surprise. Today I will link to five amazing book (and writing) blogs I've found:

1. {This Girl Reads}  Yes it's Cheyenne's blog, which she started because she adores talking about the books she loves. Innovative, insightful, inspiring and informative - what more could you ask?

2. The Book Designer  Joel Friedlander can always be relied on for something new and says “Writers change the world one reader at a time. But you can’t change the world with a book that’s still on your hard drive or in a box under your bed.”

3. GRRM  if  you only have time to look at one of these links, check out George R. R. Martin's site.  I have heard it called the worst author site ever (I don't agree) and it is my guilty pleasure to keep an eye on George when I am supposed to be writing.

4. BOOKTRIB  described as the 'all you can eat literary buffet' you never know whet you are going to find here but there is a lively blend  of stuff about books, writers, and readers so well worth a visit.

5. The Book Smugglers  Thea and Ana smuggle books home to add to a teetering pile that they devour in secret - or would do if it weren't for the fact that they keep mentioning them on this blog!

What are your amazing book or writing website discoveries? 

27 October 2012

Haunted Week - Back From The Grave

{This Girl Reads}

Cheyenne's challenge for today is to dig up your past and bring some of your old friends back to life. I've decided to go back to my earliest memories:

I wonder if so much exposure to the many film and TV versions of the Alice story  (see this list of sixteen Alice in Wonderland films on IMDb) allow new readers to approach this book as I did as a child?  I haven't read it for years, but somewhere I have a copy with the original Victorian illustrations by John Tenniel, which left a lasting memory. Tenniel's black and white line drawings were painstakingly engraved on blocks of wood  and can be seen here

Peter Pan has also been 'interpreted' so many times - it must be hard for children not to envisage the Disney characters. My copy was a present for my fifth birthday (there is an inscription inside the cover from my parents) and is the version with the colour plate illustrations by Mabel Lucie Attwell (who also illustrated a version of Alice in Wonderland).  It is the book I have owned for the longest time and still sits on my bookshelf. Interestingly, J.M. Barrie didn't say very much about Peter Pan's appearance, leaving it to the reader's imagination.

A theme is emerging here - when I think of Treasure Island I picture the excellent recent UK adaptation starring Eddie Izzard as Long John Silver. There is a great list of the many film versions here. Writers may be interested to note that Jim Hawkins narrates all but three chapters from first and third-person perspectives. Dr. Livesey narrates the rest and while Jim describes his feelings as the story unfolds, Dr. Livesey is more objective and really quite factual. My cherished copy of treasure Island was handed down to my brother and sisters, so has long since gone - but the memory of the first time I read it lives on.

What old friends would you like brought back to life?

26 October 2012

Haunted Week - Skeletons on My Bookshelf

{This Girl Reads}

Cheyenne's challenge today is everyone has a few skeletons in their closet - AND a few on their bookshelves, too,  so it's time to consider books you've owned for a long time but never read.

I moved house last summer after 25 years and found that nearly half of my boxes would be needed for books. It was time to take a really hard look at why I needed so many books. I sorted them into those I would never want to be parted from and the ones I would probably never read again.  Interestingly there were hardly any I'd never read, as I would happily read the back of the cornflakes packet if there was nothing else.

The hard bit was packing them all carefully into a box to take to my local charity shop. There is something strange about giving books away. Although it's good to think someone else will enjoy them - and they may make some money for a good cause, there is still a sense of loss and the concern that you may actually need them after all.

Of course, as soon as we moved to the new house we started missing some of the books I donated - but there is no spare space in our bookshelves already, so it was definitely necessary!

25 October 2012

Haunted Week - Bats in Your Book Pages

{This Girl Reads}

Cheyenne's theme today is even the biggest book enthusiasts have some bats in their belfries about things in books that drive them insane. Three things about books that drive me bats include historical fiction that reinforces historical misconceptions, huge holes in the plot solved by amazing coincidences - and cover blurb that is more fictional than the contents!

Here is a really nice acoustic version of Thriller by the wonderful Emily Elbert:

24 October 2012

Haunted Week - Celtic Samhain

{This Girl Reads}

Samhain… the Feast of the Dead, also known as Halloween, the ancient time of the Celtic New Year when spirits of the long dead converse. Do not be afraid. Death is not to be feared. Samhain is our time to reflect on friends we have lost… and changes in our lives. Take stock of the past and come to terms with it. Move on. Look forward to the future.

The night glows red from huge sacred bonfires and Celtic warriors with costumes of animal heads and skins drink deep from the mystical chalice and foretell each other's futures. Before the Samhain embers die new fires are lit in homes from the sacred bonfire.  Protection from evil and precious warmth through the long cold Celtic winter.

19 October 2012

How to convert your eBook to paperback in six simple steps

Some people will never read an ebook. People have told me they would happily read my novel Queen Sacrifice if it was ‘a proper book, not an ebook’.  I have yet to interest a conventional publisher, despite (or perhaps because of?) the relative success of the eBook on Amazon and Smashwords, so I needed an alternative. I know the advice is to use professional designers, both for the cover and the interior, but I was really interested to see what you can do for free. Here is my experience of successfully using CreateSpace:

Step 1.  Make sure your MSS is as good as it can possibly be. Your starting point needs to be the edited version of your book, ideally in Word, with all the front pages, copyright wording, dedications, foreword etc. sorted. (I looked at a range of printed books by my favourite authors and copied the layout). This is the time to make any changes.  Just as with eBooks it is easy to make any changes later - but your book will show as ‘out of stock’ while it goes through the checking and review process.

Step 2. Set up a free publishing account on CreateSpace and start a Project for your book.  This was easy, as the screens are well laid out and I simply used all the information from the eBook.  There is plenty of help and guidance if you need it, including links to articles on how to write an effective book description (recommends 150 words max – I managed to get mine down to 200) and some advice on titles.  You can also opt for CreateSpace to assign a free ISBN to your book. (This ISBN can only be used with the CreateSpace Publishing Platform, but as that includes Amazon it was OK for me).

Step 3. Upload the Interior content. Before you upload the file there are a few important decisions to make. Black and white will keep the costs down and the size is also important, as some distributors insist on stock sizes.  The default is 6 x 9 but I got the ruler out and found that most are more like 5.25 x 8 so that’s the one I chose.  (If you change your mind it means starting all over again!)  Next upload your book file and wait while they ‘process’ it into the chosen template. You can then preview it online using the special viewer. Look out for little yellow pointers that show you if any changes are needed. I saved the template and edited it in Word, adding a few page breaks and tidying the page numbering until it looked right.   If you need any help there is a detailed guide to formatting your book's interior, with full information about gutter margins and layouts.

Step 4. Use the online cover creator.  If you already have a great cover or can use Photoshop take a look at Ceri Clark’s post  on making print book cover designs for CreateSpace. If, like me, you were never really happy with your eBook cover, this is a great time to do something about it.  There at 30 templates to choose from and you can use your own photos, logos and text. The ‘cover creator’ automatically formats the cover based on your book's size and page count. The problem with templates, however, is you want control over how your book looks – and for it to stand out from the rest. Sadly, people DO judge a book by its cover. I chose the ‘Palm’ template that allows you to upload images for the front and back covers, then sorts out the rest:
You need to make sure nothing important is in the shaded area, as it may be ‘cut off’ in the publishing process. You also need to make sure your uploaded covers are at the highest resolution possible – anything less than 300 dpi will be rejected. (I decided to pay for an image from a specialist agency and used layers in Paint Shop Pro to add the title).  

Step 5. Review the Proof of your book and update.  CreateSpace recommend you buy a copy of your book to approve the proof, which I did.  The problem was that as soon as I had it in my hands I saw several things I wanted to change, such as removing the header on the chapter start pages.  My recommendation is that you download the pdf proof and study it carefully first, making any changes and going round the loop again (you can do this as many times as you like) until it is as good as you can get it, then buy a copy.

Step 6. Decide your pricing and distribution. There is plenty of advice on book pricing strategies, much of it contradictory. I decided to set my paperback price at about three times the cost of the eBook version. The way the CreateSpace distribution works is that people viewing the paperback version on Amazon are informed if an eBook version is available, so it could actually lead to more eBook sales.  As well as Amazon, you are also offered the free CreateSpace ‘estore’ and the option to pay for wider distribution. It takes a few days for CreateSpace to set up the printing and distribution after you confirm approval of the proof, then you should get an email letting you know it’s available.

Conclusions:  Good things were it was easier than I expected, it was great to actually hold my book in my hands at last - and people started buying the paperback version as soon as it was available. Not so good things were high shipping costs (I live in the UK), insistence on high resolution graphics (min 300dpi) and fiddling with the page numbering in Word using section breaks.

All things considered, this is well within the skills of anyone who has already created an eBook and doesn’t cost anything other than the cost of your one copy - which is nice to have anyway, unless you pay for graphics or design. Although it will never compete against a professionally designed book, the finished book is professionally bound, with a nice glossy cover and can easily be updated at no extra cost.

Click HERE to visit CreateSpace Publishing

18 October 2012

Book Review: A Visitor's Companion to Tudor England, by Suzannah Lipscomb

I know Dr. Suzannah Lipscombe for her unmissable television appearances, where she gently challenges preconceived ideas and really makes you think about how people lived.  It was therefore with high expectations that I started reading her new book, ‘A Visitors Companion to Tudor England’.  With an interesting format of fifty carefully selected locations across the UK, Suzannah highlights their contribution to our understanding of Tudor times.

The descriptions of the Tudor sites are sprinkled through with many often gruesome details of the time, several of which had previously escaped my notice. For example, I am currently reading ‘The Constant Princess’ (Philippa Gregory’s novel about the early life of Katherine of Aragon). In the fictional account, the Countess of Salisbury, Margaret Pole is calm and regal – but Suzannah brings her description of Tower Green to life with an account of how the unfortunate Margaret was ‘chased by her executioner, a wretched and blundering youth… who literally hacked her head and shoulders to pieces in the most pitiful manner.’

An example of how this book provokes further enquiry is that I was inspired to fulfil a long ambition and recently visited Hampton Court Palace. I took a photograph of the picture of The Family of Henry VIII in the corridor outside the Chapel Royal:

In the picture, Henry is flanked by Jane Seymour and his son Edward, but Suzannah points out that Jane died two weeks after Prince Edward’s birth.  I was intrigued by the suggestion that the woman to the far left of the picture is of a female fool called Jane.  This led me to John Southworth’s book which explains that ‘Jane the Fool’ was ‘the type of fool known as an “innocent” and wore beautiful gowns but the hose and shoes of a clown  - and had her head shaved regularly at fourpence a time’.

Some details from Suzannah’s visits are poignant, such as seeing that someone had laid pomegranates and fresh flowers at the tomb of Katherine of Aragon at Peterborough Cathedral.  Others, such as the terrible events at Glastonbury Tor and the desecration of Fountains Abbey make you think again about the wider implications of the dissolution of the monasteries.  One of my favourites is the aside that the Tudor Queen Elizabeth enjoyed the sport of bear baiting, with dogs. I’ll spare the details but it does help to underline the importance of appreciating the cultural values of the period – and how much we can still learn by visiting the Tudor sites that remain. 

A Visitor's Companion to Tudor England on Amazon UK and Amazon US  

See Suzannah Lipsomb's Website at http://suzannahlipscomb.com/
and follow her on twitter 

17 October 2012

Special Guest Post - Siren Suicides by Ksenia Anske

I fell into writing by accident, at an urging of a friend. On a sunny May day, after closing one of my biggest social media consultancy clients, I was biking home and saw him on the street. "Hey! What are you up?" He asked. "I don't know," I said, "will go look for the next client, I guess." "How about you finish your book finally?" he said. I pedaled home and thirty minutes later decided, why not, indeed. If not now, I'll probably never work up the courage to try it. This is the short story.

The long story is, I've wanted to write a book for years and most of my friends knew it. They also knew that I started on a novel, got stuck, abandoned the effort. Started again, abandoned again. Then did it again the third time. Why? Oh, the reasons were very simple. It couldn't be any good, no way. I'm not a writer, never studied it in school. How dare I write in English, it's not even my first language! Who do I think I am trying to finish a whole novel without practicing first on short stories like normal people do? And so I thought, all right, to hell with all these doubts. I'll give it another try.

5 months later, I'm in middle of Draft 4, and this time it's happening all the way (planning to finish and publish it at the end of 2012). The biggest lesson I had learned was - trusting the process. Writing a novel is like making good wine. Everything takes bloody time. Picking the grapes takes time, mashing them into juice takes time, and then the whole fermenting takes forever! You can't just walk up to a barrel and shout and yell and make it ferment faster. It takes as long as it takes, not slower, not faster.
The same goes with your first book - without previous experience it's hard to trust the process, hard not to freak out and think that tomorrow, yes, tomorrow, I will not know what to write about. But I will, it will come to me. I'm very impatient and the hardest part for me was (still is) knowing that it's ok to take one hour to come up with a perfect sentence. The important part is, every day I have to keep moving forward. And if I do, it will happen. 
Now, about the story and why I got so mesmerized with the idea.
SIREN SUICIDES is my first novel. It's a young adult urban fantasy set in Seattle about a teenage girl who lost her mother, hates her father, and decides to escape reality via suicide. Her name is Ailen Bright, and she is a dreamer and a believer in all things magic. She gobbles up stories that her friend Hunter feeds her while they hang out in the bathroom, stoned out of their minds, because the bathroom is the only room in Ailen's house that locks and has a window. Ailen is mesmerized by water, it calms her down, so she decides to go by way of drowning, because, she says, "I have to be calm to pull the plug on my life".
Instead, she turns into a siren, finds out that her friend is a siren hunter, and dives into an adventure akin to Alice in Wonderland, except it's all things water, rain, songs, and magic that's both dark and fantastic, like stories that I used to conjure up in my head. I plan on finishing the novel by the end of 2012.
Here is a little excerpt (please bear in mind, this is not the final draft yet!):
Chapter 1. Bathroom.

Photo by Marco Leone
I choose to die in the bathroom because it’s the only room in the house that locks. Besides, water calms me down, and I have to be calm to pull the plug on my life. Nothing would irritate Daddy more than finding a fully clothed corpse of his sixteen year old daughter on the morning of her birthday, floating in his beloved antique claw foot cast iron tub held up by four enamelled sirens, ruled by the Siren of Canosa, or, in plain bathroom fixture speak, the bronze goose-neck faucet. How fitting. Ailen Bright, the deceased, to be guided into the after-life by a tap.
It’s not only my birthday today. Today marks six years since Mommy jumped off the Aurora bridge, on that rainy morning on September 9th of 2008. I’m tired of the pain, and it’s all Daddy’s fault. I want to hurt him the only way I can.
Eighteen, nineteen, twenty.
You can read MORE HERE.  I'm blogging about my progress (as well as TweetFacebookGoogle+PinterestGoodreads - you name it and I'm there). Would love to hear your feedback!
Ksenia Anske is a writer at heart and a social media marketer by trade, with a passion for speaking. Her first start-up was Lilipip, a company that created animated explanation videos. She currently helps clients establish their social media presence via her consultancy Plumagram and works on her 1st novel, a young adult urban fantasy set in Seattle. 

9 October 2012

The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything by Francine LaSala

This latest novel by Francine LaSala is a fast-paced, richly layered, and darkly humorous satire filled with quirky characters and unforgettable moments of humanity.

Mina Clark is losing her mind—or maybe it’s already gone. She isn’t quite sure. Feeling displaced in her over-priced McMansion-dotted suburban world, she is grappling not only with deep debt, a mostly absent husband, and her playground-terroriser 3-year old Emma, but also with a significant amnesia she can’t shake - a “temporary” condition now going on several years, brought on by a traumatic event she cannot remember, and which everyone around her feels is best forgotten. 

When a trip to the dentist leaves Mina with a new gold crown, her whole life changes. Slowly her memory and her mojo return. But when everything begins to crash down around her, she's not sure if what's happening is real, of if she's just now fully losing her mind... especially when she realizes the only person she can trust is the one she fears the most.  What’s it all going to cost her in the end? 

Out on Amazon Now

Francine LaSala has authored and collaborated over thirty works of nonfiction and edited numerous best-selling novels through her company, Francine LaSala Productions. She lives in New York with her husband and two daughters. Visit Francine online at www.francinelasala.com and follow her on twitter.

5 October 2012

The Tube Riders by Chris Ward

Beneath the dark streets of London they played a dangerous game with trains. Now it is their only chance for survival...

Mega Britain in 2075 is a dangerous place. A man known only as the Governor rules the country with an iron hand, but within the towering perimeter walls of London Greater Urban Area anarchy spreads unchecked through the streets.

In the abandoned London Underground station of St. Cannerwells, a group of misfits calling themselves the Tube Riders seek to forget the chaos by playing a dangerous game with trains. Marta is their leader, a girl haunted by her brother's disappearance. Of the others, Paul lives only to protect his little brother Owen, while Simon is trying to hold on to his relationship with Jess, daughter of a government official. Guarding them all is Switch, a man with a flickering eye and a faster knife, who cares only about preserving the legacy of the Tube Riders. Together, they are family.

Everything changes the day they are attacked by a rival gang. While escaping, they witness an event that could bring war down on Mega Britain. Suddenly they are fleeing for their lives, pursued not only by their rivals, but by the brutal Department of Civil Affairs, government killing machines known as Huntsmen, and finally by the inhuman Governor himself.

The Tube Riders is part one of a trilogy.  Part two, The Tube Riders : Exile, is scheduled for publication in summer 2013. 

Preview Now on Amazon US or Amazon UK

1 October 2012

Book Launch Guest Post: S. G. Rogers - Tournament of Chance

Writing as Improv

I love writing fantasy because it gives me the freedom to make the rules.  As a reader, however, fantasy works best for me when I can easily relate to what unfolds on the page.  As an author, then, I like to craft my worlds with what I call the –ish.  For example, in Tournament of Chance, the world is Earth-ish, and the era is Medieval-ish.  My historical accuracy is relaxed and fun, with a cinematic view toward composition. 

Tournament of Chance began its life as a short story of about 8,000 words.  At that time, I was looking to place stories in magazines as a way to get some credits.  To keep the length manageable, I concluded the narrative a few scenes past the actual archery tournament itself. One might say, I cut it off just when the story became the most interesting!  Despite good feedback, I was unable to find a home for the short story.  I put it aside for a while to work on other projects.  Eventually, I brought it out and started nibbling away at a full-length novel. 

Unlike other more disciplined writers, I don’t plot.  That’s not to say I careen down a dark alley like a drooling, blind zombie, but admit I often don’t know what’s going to happen next.  This sort of work ethic doesn’t serve well on a deadline, but it can be a great deal of fun if you can trust yourself to pull a rabbit out of a hat.  In Tournament, I did not plan to write about shape-shifters, time travel, trolls or fairies, but write about them I did.

It’s just a guess, but I suspect this method of writing stems from my improvisation work in my acting days.  The teacher would put two or more of us on stage, give us a setting and an intention, and let the action play out.  Over time, I learned what worked, what was boring, and what was funny. 

The late actor/dancer Gregory Hines used “tap improvography” when he was filming some of his dance scenes in the movie White Nights (1985) (see film clip HERE). In other words, he made it up as he went along… and it works. Perhaps what I do can be called “write improvography.”  Hopefully, it has the right stuff.

~ S.G. Rogers

In Tournament of Chance, a hunter’s daughter becomes the spark that ignites a revolution—in time.

When a beautiful commoner enters the Tournament of Chance archery competition, her thwarted victory sparks a revolution in the oppressive kingdom of Destiny. Although Heather never believed the legends about the restoration of Ormaria, after three shape-shifting Ormarian wizards awaken from a long magical slumber, she joins their perilous quest to regain the throne. Heather battles vicious predators and angry trolls to free the wizards’ magic, but at a horrendous cost. She is unexpectedly torn from the arms of the man she loves and hurled back in time to fulfill a prophecy not yet written. The ensuing maelstrom tests Heather’s survival skills, wits, and endurance. Will she become an unwritten footnote in history, or can she trust the magic to lead her back to her one true love?

Available in all e-formats from Musa Publishing HERE. Also available at Amazon for the Kindle. Coming soon to BN.com and wherever fine e-books are sold.

Originally from Southern California, S.G. Rogers has lived in Asheville, North Carolina and Laurel, Mississippi. She earned her first black belt in taekwondo from martial arts champion Billy Blanks.  Later on, she earned black belts in taekwondo and hapkido from Master Myung Kim. Currently residing in beautiful Savannah, Georgia, S.G. Rogers writes fantasy and romantic fantasy stories.  She’s owned by two hairless cats, Houdini and Nikita, and lives on an island populated by exotic birds, deer and the occasional gator. Although she’s most often drawn to speculative fiction, she’s been known to break away to write other genres.  Tab is her beverage of choice, but when she imbibes, a cranberry vodka martini doesn’t go amiss.

To learn more about S.G. Rogers, visit her blog at www.childofyden.wordpress.com and follow her on twitter