Mastodon The Writing Desk: December 2012

31 December 2012

Novel Publicity Blog Tour: Cephrael's Hand by Melissa McPhail

‘The mysteries of a woman’s heart cannot be measured; they are as the expanse of time and space, endless and unknowable.’
- The Espial Franco Rohre, while posing
as a minstrel in the Veneisean court

Cephrael's Hand: A Pattern of Shadow and Light is full of mysteries and hints at worlds we will never completely explore or ever hope to fully understand. Cephrael's Hand is also the first book of a series and has a serious amount of scene-setting to deliver. Melissa has usefully added a detailed glossary and cast at the start of the book. I found I had to refer back to if often, as there is an amazing cast of eighty characters to remember - as well as the Gods of the Akkad.   

Melissa says she would love readers of her ebook version to experience a fully searchable map, that would fly up in three dimensions any time they clicked on a place name. One day we will take this for granted but in 2013 you will need to keep referring back to the beautifully drawn two-dimensional  maps to understand  the where and the what of her characters’ journeys through the realm of Alorin.  (Melissa's amazing maps were drawn by UK artist Andy 'Ramah' Palmer and Oregon  photographer and graphic designer Brandon Lidgard). 

For me, the most enchanting aspect of Cephrael's Hand is how Melissa has drawn on her love of Eastern philosophies. The subtitle of the book is A Pattern of Shadow and Light and the balance between the light and the dark provide a unifying thread through this work. It also offers a rich vein of tension when the realm of Alorin is out of balance. Lives are in the gravest of danger if balance is not restored, for in its waning rises a most terrible threat...

Melissa McPhail lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats. A classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, Melissa is also a Vinyasa yoga instructor and an avid fantasy reader. A long-time student of philosophy, she is passionate about the fantasy genre because of its philosophical explorations. Visit Melissa's website:  and follow her on twitter at @melissagmcphail

Preview Cephrael's Hand on Amazon US or Amazon UK

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28 December 2012

The Art of Writing by Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Lois Stevenson
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer, Robert Louis Stevenson died a hundred and eighteen years ago on the 3rd of December 1894.

Best known for Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde he was also very interested in the craft of writing. In The Art of Writing Stevenson sets out a series of essays, offering advice on subjects ranging from finding inspiration to the technical methods of writing. He considers the choice of words, plotting and style and discusses the potential for good that literature has - and the responsibility of the writer to use that power wisely.

The full text  is available online through The Literature Project, a collection of free classic books, poems, speeches, and plays. Click HERE to read The Art of Writing.

19 December 2012

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was born on February 7th, 1812, so as his centenary year draws to a close it seemed fitting to look at 'A Christmas Carol'. The book has never been out of print since it was first published 169 years ago in December 1843. Here are some things you may not know about it:

In the preface, Dickens wrote: 'I have endeavoured in this ghostly little book, to raise the ghost of an idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.'

He finished the book in six weeks, writing most of it in November (a familiar idea to some of us) and it is just under 35,000 words. (If he had lived today he may have tried for 50,000 and written it in four weeks for NaNoWriMo)

Dickens decided to self-publish the work at his own expense. (It sold out by Christmas Eve.) He originally priced his book at five shillings (equivalent to £20 or $33 today) but high costs meant low profits. (I think he would have identified with today's Indie Publishers - see David Perdue's blog for the details HERE)

Keen on active book promotion, Dickens had a specially shortened version he used for public readings. There are records of about 150 readings by Dickens of 'A Christmas Carol', despite the fact that, at the time, public readings of fiction or poetry were considered 'a desecration of one's art and a lowering of one's dignity.' (He would definitely have made a YouTube promo video.)

In the first draft manuscript, the character of 'Tiny Tim' was called 'Little Fred'. This could have been a reference to his brother Alfred who died at a young age. Dickens changed his mind and used the name Fred for Scrooge’s nephew.

We can have some insight into how Dickens wrote from the original manuscript, which has a lot of deleted words replaced with more active verbs. (We can all learn from that.)

The original manuscript was bound in red Morocco leather by Dickens and changed hands many times before ending up in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York where it is put on public display every Christmas.

The phrase 'Merry Christmas' appears twenty-one times in 'A Christmas Carol' and although not invented by Dickens, this went a long way to making it a popular greeting - particularly on Christmas cards.

The full text of A Christmas Carol is on Project Gutenberg HERE

(Image credits Wikimedia Commons and Nvadertim)

4 December 2012

Book Launch: Gown of Shadow and Flame by A.E. Marling

"Sometimes evil has to be the hero."

Her brother throws the first stone. Her family tries to kill her, but Celaise chooses to live, even if it means leaving humanity behind.

She weaves a gown from strands of night and despair. The forbidden magic protects her. It isolates her, and it binds her to a three-headed overlord.

Her lord commands Celaise to save lives, on pain of death. She rescues Jerani, a warrior adorned by a sunburst of scars from a tribal ritual. Jerani fights to defend his family and their sacred cows from crystal-eyed monsters roaming the savanna. He learns to rely on Celaise's magic, she on his strength.

Jerani thinks her divine, a volcano goddess. Celaise dares not confide in him. Engulfing the throngs of beasts in the inferno of her dress will loose her magic's hunger. Then the greatest threat to Jerani and everyone else she has come to care for will be herself.

Discover Gown of Shadow and Flame on Amazon  

Alan Marling says his best writing ideas pounce on him when he would rather be sleeping, thanks to insomnia. His current lair is in the shadow of San Francisco, and his thoughts touch ground there between flights.

Learn more about his other work at his blog, The Importance of the Impossible and find him on twitter @AEMarling  

2 December 2012

How To Write Good

1. Avoid alliteration always.

2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3. The passive voice is to be avoided.

4. Avoid clichés like the plague. They're old hat.

5. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

6. Writers should never generalise.

Seven - be consistent

8. Don't ever use more words than necessary. It's superfluous.

9. Be more or less specific.

10. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement. 

I saw this doing the rounds on Facebook with no clue about who originally wrote it, so did a quick search and found THIS much longer version on a Plain Language website, Apparently, The first set of rules were written by Frank L. Visco and originally published in the June 1986 issue of Writers' digest.  The second set of rules are derived from the late Pulitzer Prize winning William Safire's Rules for Writers.  I like the simplicity of the ten set out above. Happy writing!

1 December 2012

Book Review: Marketing Your Book on Amazon by Shelley Hitz

Author Shellley Hitz spends so much time supporting other writers at her Self Publishing Coach site it's good to see she has found time to publish this new one. The full title is Marketing Your Book On Amazon: 21 Things You Can Easily Do For Free To Get More Exposure and Sales (Book Marketing on a Shoestring Budget)   Yes that's an amazing 25 words just in the title!

I've always been surprised at how much you can do as an author for free - the problem is the amount of valuable writing time you can waste trying to work put what to do and how. I've also been doing this long enough  to realise there are two BIG problems with marketing your book on Amazon. First the obvious one - if you don't do the right marketing of your book there is a good chance nobody will know it exists. The second problem is more complex and relates to the total lack of useful marketing information to link anything to do to that sudden surge in sales.  

Shelley assumes no specific knowledge and manages to pack in enough great advice to satisfy even the most experienced marketing specialist. I very much agree with her view that authors need to see book marketing as a 'marathon, not a sprint' and to follow the principle of doing some small thing every day to market each of your books for three years. 

Preview Marketing Your Book On Amazon

Amazon US or Amazon UK 

Shelley Hitz is an entrepreneur, speaker, author and consultant to writers who want to multiply their impact through self publishing.   She teaches from personal experience, as over two years while working full-time, she published five books, multiple audio CDs, authored two websites that attract thousands of visitors each month. Her website, also offers free book templates, articles, newsletter, tele-classes, special reports, e-books, webinars, podcasts, videos and other resources to help you get self published!

Follow Shelley on twitter @Self_Publish