Bookish Articles

Published – The Time Has Come.

The Phoenix Quill Anthology titled Monsters was published yesterday.

That’s right you lovely bunch of followers, I am no longer an aspiring or trainee author, but a full blown published author.

You can find it on Amazon.co.uk here or Amazon.com here

My story – Changeling – is one of many fabulous stories exploring the question: What is a monster?

The first thoughts I had around the subject involved obvious monsters like Godzilla, The Loch Ness Monster and the Abominable Snowman, but what if monsters walked among us with ordinary faces? What if its what’s inside that makes a monster, not how they appear?

What if it’s not a living creature but an organism that invades your body and destroys you from within?

What if it doesn’t have any physical substance at all but is just that voice of self doubt in your head telling you that you will never be good enough, or a mental illness that seizes you in it’s grip and just won’t let go?

These are the themes that are explored in the short stories for the Monsters anthology but what I want to know is:

What does ‘monster’ mean to you?

Lets start a discussion in the comments.

 

Monsters Anthology Update

As I posted a short while ago, I am being published in an anthology this year. It’s called Monsters and the front cover is going to look like this:

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I signed the contract today; it’s all 100% completely official and feeling scarily real. I’m being published! Arrggghh!!!

The anthology is scheduled for release on October 25th, right in time for Halloween. Put reminders in your calendars, people!

The Clean Reader App – I Don’t Like It

I was browsing Facebook the other day as part of my pre-writing procrastination, when I came across this article from Book Riot about a Clean Reader App. For those of you who haven’t yet heard of it, it’s an App that you can download eBooks into, to remove or change certain ‘unsavoury’ words with dots, or a more palatable alternative.

Jared and Kirsten Maughan from Idaho in the USA came up with the idea because their daughter was reading at a level much higher than her peers. They wanted to continue to encourage their daughter to push herself with regards to her reading, but were concerned about the content of more adult books, after she brought home books from school with swearing in it.  They spoke with lawyers who were quick to point out that they couldn’t re-publish books that had been edited in this manner as it would infringe copyright laws. The app that was eventually developed by Page Foundry gets past this issue by editing the original book for the use of the reader only. It does not make edited versions available to other people. Once you have bought a copy of an eBook, you can do what you like to it, including editing words you don’t like, much like taking a permanent marker to a physical book, if that is what you wish to do. This is legal because the book, either in eBook form or physical form, is your own to do with as you wish.

So whilst this App is legal, doesn’t infringe on the author’s copyright laws and doesn’t fall under the scope of censorship, it is leaving a lot of people, myself included, feeling rather uncomfortable.

From the comments I have read on various articles like the ones on Book Riot, Huffington Post, LDS Media Talk and also this gem of a blog I found a link to, many people are torn between their beliefs that everyone should have the freedom of choice and some religious beliefs regarding purity etc., but also that the app has the potential to get in the way of open-mindedness and slow down progression. My own initial thought; that the replacement of certain profane words with less offensive ones could completely change the tenor of the story intended by the author; is also a widely expressed one. Think of this classic sentence from Gone with the Wind:

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Can you imagine it being changed to “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a •” Or even worse “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a monkeys.”? The dot is strange and the alternative completely changes the atmosphere and inflection behind the words spoken. One comment I read claimed that authors who use profanity are doing so to cover up their poor grasp of the english language. I completely and utterly disagree with this. As a writer of horror stories, profanity can be used in my stories to shock the mind on purpose, the psychology behind profanity and people’s reactions to them are exactly why they are used. They show you things like anger and disrespect without the writer adding things like ‘they said angrily.’ which would be quite poor as a writing technique. I’m not trying to be delicate about brutal murder and jealousy and all kinds of other things that can rear it’s ugly head in a horror story. It’s not that I don’t have a good grasp of the english language, it’s that I have a good understanding of both the language AND the psychology behind people’s reactions.

In cases where there is a lot of profanity within a book, the replacement with dots could render the passages unreadable and take away from the reader the understanding of relationships between certain characters and parts of the storyline, which can only frustrate the reader just as much as the uncomfortable sensation they might feel at reading a ‘bad’ word. It’s also unrealistic. People use profanity all the time and pretending they don’t doesn’t, to me, seem like a good way to prepare your children for the outside world.

In my opinion, books are many things rolled into one. They can be an escape from the world as well as a window into it. They can re-affirm your opinions and ideas, or they can challenge them. They can be educational, or purely for fun. They can be uncomfortable. They can bring to your attention the horrors of the world that should not be ignored. I can’t help but feel that a lot of people who want to avoid such content is doing nothing more than attempting to protect the little bubble they have put around their life so that they can pretend everything is rosy. Life isn’t like that.

I understand that some content can trigger people. People who have survived rape, for example, might not want to read books with a rape scene involved. That is completely understandable to me. Maybe books would be better off with a rating like movies have? Then people can choose the books they want to read without the writing of the author being physically changed. I have seen a lot of comments from people who think that rating books is just as bad as using a clean reader app. Personally, as a compromise, I think it would be a good idea.

What do you think about the clean reader app? Would you use it? Do you think a book rating system, similar to movies, would be a good alternative? Let me know in the comments below.

Female Characters Who Chose The Wrong Guy

Spoiler Alert! There are details in the following post about the plotlines in Hunger Games, Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey. If you haven’t read these books and would quite like to, you probably shouldn’t read any further.

Have you ever read a book and thought…. ‘Why the hell did she end up with him?’

I have a few times, so I thought I would write about them here.

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CampNaNoWriMo…..I WON!

2014-Winner-Facebook-Cover

It’s the first of August and the first day of ‘Post-CampNaNoWriMo’.

This was my first venture into the world of National Novel Writing Month and I have to say, it was quite an adventure! The late nights, the disobedient characters, the sections of storyline that I definitely had NOT planned… It all mixed together to make this last month a fantastic experience.

I don’t think I am ready for the full NaNoWriMo in November, I only had a target of 25k this time and completed at 23:32 on the very last day of writing, but in a year or two I expect to be tearing my hair out and making my friends think I am terrible boring whilst writing full 50k first drafts of my novels.

I’m delighted to have finished the draft of my novella and I can’t wait to go back and read it all. The editing fun starts now!

Why Everyone Should Belong To A Book Club

Rules Of Book Club

At my completely non-bookish day job, my colleagues and I were talking about books, reading and how fabulous the printed word could be. One of my colleagues, J, told us that she belonged to a book club. Now the first thought that popped into my head was pretty much “Desperate Housewives read a book and talk about it over Martinis for the 5 minutes that they aren’t gossiping about their neighbours/friends/colleagues/celebrities. Unfortunately for J, that’s near enough what it is like in her club. She’s really not that kind of girl, she doesn’t really like the genre of the books they suggest, but she reads them anyway because she is the dedicated bookish type and because you never know when a book will come along that you absolutely love, but don’t know why. (J loves Wuthering Heights. I’ll never understand that. As far as I could tell, nobody is ever happy in that story, ever!) Of course when it is J’s turn to choose a book, they all complain about her choices because it isn’t their ‘thing’. Expand your mind ladies, J does it for you!

Another colleague, K, and I suggested that J form a book club with people who at least like similar stuff. If you like horror and paranormal thrillers, a book club full of chick lit/romance lovers is probably going to be hard work. This idea was pounced upon and became a bit of a work thing. J, K, and I have similar taste in books. J sent out an email to the rest of our team, looking to see if anyone else was interested in joining our freshly made Book Club. For some reason, J’s email was assumed to be a joke. None of us can work out why; Book Club is a very serious matter, don’t you know? After repeating many times that Book Club is real, we gave up trying to convincing the others and started looking for books. J and I started looking up the Top 100 books etc., compiling lists, making spreadsheets… K brought us back to earth with “There’s a lot of stuff on your lists we probably won’t enjoy reading. We all like Paranormal, Sci-Fi and Fantasy, why don’t we read more of those kinds of books instead?”

Oops! In all the excitement, J and I had forgotten that we were making a book club based on our bookish tastes. Thank you K for bringing us back down to earth. I’m glad one of us didn’t get carried away with ‘Top 100’ and ‘Books you must read before you die’ lists. Of course then we reached the ‘fun’ part. How do you pick a book that we would all want to read, but none of us have read already?

K and I have read The Name Of The Wind but J has not. J and K have read Enders Game, but I have not. We very quickly had new individual lists for reading (Lets call that Reason 1) but couldn’t think of a book to read that none of us had already just gone and read. In the end, I googled “top ten fantasy authors”. Amazon came back with a top 10 most popular authors list, and lists of their books. Number 3 on that list is Brandon Sanderson. We have picked his novel The Way of Kings as our first book club book.

So, from my story about making a book club, we have Reason 1: You get a great list of books recommended to you by other bookish types before you even start looking at books to read with the others. This is great for me because I read pretty fast. Our book club meets every 2 months at the moment because J can’t bring herself to leave her other club. I could read most books within a week so my shiny new list of books to read will help to occupy me between times.

Onwards now to Reason 2: You get to know people better and/or meet new people. I already know J and K as they are colleagues, but I don’t know them well. Until a week or so ago, I worked on a different team. Talking about book club (Rule 1 of Book Club, never talk about Book Club. Shhh don’t tell anyone!) has helped me to settle into my new team because it gives me something to talk about with J and K besides work. For you, it might be that you’ve moved to a new town and you are looking to meet some people. It could just be that your friends and family aren’t as bookish as you and you just want to meet some people that you can talk to about books.

Book clubs generally work by each member choosing a book that everyone reads, then the next time they meet, they talk about it. This leads me on to Reason 3: You will read different kinds of books. Now, going back to J’s experiences, it’s not always fun to read loads of books in a genre that you don’t like, so I would recommend finding or creating a club with people with a similar taste in literature, but even then, you will find yourself reading and, most probably, enjoying books you may not have even considered reading otherwise. I’m a lover of all things paranormal and mythological but usually the books I favour are based on earth. I have just finished reading The Shining by Stephen King. I should have read that a long time ago, but that is a classic example of what I enjoy. J and K are more Sci-Fi and fantasy lovers. I have read a fair few Trudi Canavan Novels in my time, I love them, so fantasy is great for me too, but I will no doubt end up reading more novels based in fictional places, on fictional planets or other planes of existence. I am looking forward to that. My personal reading list is full of the classics because of the creative writing course I am studying, so some fantasy will balance me off nicely.

Bringing me nicely on to Reason 4: If you are a writer, reading can only help you get better at your craft. When I was very new to the writing scene, I have read up lots of tips on how to improve your writing. One of the most prolific pieces of advice out there, is to read. Read your genre, Read outside your genre. Read something. Read it again. Basically read everything you can get your grubby paws on. Even the milk carton. With a book club, you not only get a plethora of different books to read and share, but you also get feedback on the story from other people’s perspective. This is invaluable to a writer. You are giving and hearing other feedback as readers, to someone’s piece of writing. This will help you to understand your own readers and how different people will interpret your writing in different ways, like you and your Book Club buddies will with the books you read. You will also notice the building blocks for a story, the techniques writers use in storytelling, how every author has their own unique ‘voice’. Do you remember English Lit classes at school? Pulling apart a book and looking at all the different aspects of a story, it’s composition, and how it all fit together to reach the conclusion at the end? Book Clubs encourage you to do this. I will often read books and not notice any of that, because I was lost in the great storytelling. Discussing the books and the storyline with others encourages your to see past the story to find all those little building blocks, all those things that will make your writing even more ‘amaze-balls’ than it already is.

And finally, on to Reason 5: Its fun! Everyone has stressful elements in their lives. Be it work, family, writers block; its a natural part of life to deal with these things, but sometimes you just need to relax and unwind. Often I do that by myself with a good book, but now, once every couple of months, I get to go to the pub at lunch (I tried for happy hour after work but was out-voted) and have a chat and a giggle about a subject that I am passionate about. Sure, it will help my writing, but for me that is more of a fantastic side affect of spending some time with some like-minded readers having a chat and a giggle about a book (possibly amongst other things). The only thing I would recommend is to be aware that it is, first and foremost, a book club, so keep the gossiping to a minimum/save it till after you’ve talked about the book. If you want to spend more time with your Book Club people talking non bookish things, you could always suggest a few drinks in a pub somewhere after, or arrange a book club night out. It doesn’t have to be serious, but Book Club should be about the books.

Book Club rules borrowed from here

Do you belong to a book club? If you do, what are the good and bad parts of your book club? If you don’t, have you ever considered joining or creating one? Do you actively avoid joining one? If so, why? I’d love to hear from you.

Dear Google, You Should Have Talked to Me First

I agree with this. We had levels of books when I was learning to read. I have no idea how many levels I skipped, but I know I skipped a lot! I had to read certain books (silver and gold level) before I could go on to ‘free reading’ and it was a chore. Fortunately I’m a fast reader and was 7 when I was finally allowed to do at school what I was already doing at home. Reading whatever I want.

teach from the heart

Dear Google,

I wish you’d talked to teachers like me before you made that $40 million investment in Renaissance Learning.

I’ve seen the damage Accelerated Reader can do.

I witnessed it for the first time when I tutored a struggling 5th grader…eighteen years ago.

He hated to read.

He hated being locked into a level.

He hated the points associated with the books.

But more importantly, he was humiliated when he didn’t earn enough points to join in the monthly party or get to ‘buy’ things with those points at a school store full of junky prizes.

I’ve seen kids run their fingers along the binding of a book, a book they REALLY wanted read, but then hear them say, “But it’s not an AR book,” or “It’s not my level.”

I’ve watched them scramble to read the backs of books or beg a friend for answers so they can get…

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International English

When I am not working, reading or writing, I like to waste away a little time with online multiplayer games. I think it’s a great way to meet people all over the world and you can learn a lot about other cultures just by talking to people from other countries. A lot of the people I have met are American. Talking to them has taught me a lot about how the English language differs on the other side of the pond.

I decided to write about this after one of my American friends messaged me asking “If I said I wanted to snog you, would that be a compliment or an insult?” He had found a British programme on YouTube called Snog, Marry, Avoid and didn’t know what snog meant. (For all you readers who may not know either, it’s a British term for french kissing.) That got me thinking about, and talking to my friends about, how English and American English differs.

In 1806, 30 years after The Declaration of Indepedence, Noah Webster published America’s first Dictionary. Webster introduced American spelling of words like customise (customize), colour (color) defence (defense) and centre (center). The idea was that they were no longer British, they were American. They wanted an American language.

As the two countries developed they created their own words to describe things. For example:

Sidewalk – Pavement
Trunk – Boot (of a car)
Hood – Bonnet (of a car)
Sneakers – Trainers
Fall – Autumn
Traffic Circle – Roundabout
Diaper – Nappy (interestingly, the word diaper originates in England. It’s use died out in Britain but continues to be used in America).

Then there are the words which are the same, but have different meanings.

Jello/Jelly/Jam
This is an example of English and American English just confusing everything. Jello in England is known as jelly. The wobbly stuff you have with ice cream at parties. Jelly in England is known as jam. That’s the fruity stuff you put on toast. America then has a jam all of it’s own which is like English jam only more runny.

Pants
Pants in America are what British people called Trousers. Pants in England are underwear. It’s what the Americans call panties; only in Britain pants works for male underwear too.

Bangs
In America bangs is the term used to describe the hair covering your forehead. In England we call it a fringe. Bangs are loud noises/the sound of explosions.

A lot of American slang has made it’s way into the British language and vice versa over the decades. Sometimes these words are introduced through literature. Take Harry Potter for example. Now these books were translated into American English which is how ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ came to be released in the US as ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’. Some British words slipped through however. More and more Americans are now using the term ‘ginger’ to describe redheads. A term largely introduced by the Harry Potter books to describe the hair colour of the Weasleys. Another British word left in the Harry Potter books; bringing me full circle; is snog. It would appear that it is not so popular as a new slang word though as it hasn’t really been taken up in America.

I hope this post has been interesting to read. I just want to leave you all with this. Stick with your writing and maybe someday you will have an effect on the language of a country in a small way with one of your stories.