Friday, 29 June 2012

Hip Hip Hurray - It's Finally on!

Hello peeps! Happy Friday!
I can't actually remember if I mentioned anywhere, but I decided that I was going to do a little bit more for readers, as a lot of my blog is writing tips and stuff.  So, I decided to launch some new features on the blog. The first of these, starting today is BOOK REVIEWS. Now, as I am currently writing The Dating Game, I don't actually have a lot of time to read and it took me three weeks to read this book, which if I could have switched off from everything else, I would have devoured in a day/day and a half.
So, who is the first author whose book I am reviewing, I hear you ask?
None other than Susan Louineau - author of The Chapel in the Woods.   NB: the Click bit doesn't work on this blog - you need to go to Amazon link at the bottom of the review)

The Chapel in the Woods
Here's the blurb first of all from Amazon:-
When Diana Lescure moves with her young family to the tiny village of Saint Gabriel in the depths of France, it is clear that not all is well amongst its inhabitants. As she settles into her country idyll she uncovers a menace that has shrouded the villagers for generations. Through a 12th century monk and a British agent in WW2 the story of a secret society unfolds.

Now, interestingly, only now, do I realise that I didn't read the blurb for this novel before buying it. I saw promotional tweets on Twitter which intrigued me and I read some of the reviews (something I don't often do)
SO, here are my thoughts.
I don't normally read historical novels and although it is a historical novel, it's also set in present-day France too.I liked the flashbacks to Helene, the war and the Resistance and further back to Clothilde and the monk. I used to live in France and can totally relate to the French 'machism', also the way villagers treat an outsider (although I won them over in the end). To find out if the same happens to Diana, you're going to have to read the book!

It was easy to imagine the contemporary locations; Diana's home in the country, the fields where she went riding, the school, the school bus picking up her son, the epicerie where she sold her wares. It was equally easy to visualise the characters, Diana herself initially annoyed me a little by taking on such a subservient role to her husband, such as is expected in France, but it was clear that she wasn't happy with that role.

Michaud struck a definite positive chord with me and I hated the mayor and Liselle with a vengeance and also Diana's husband. The chatelain and chateau scenes were also very well depicted. 
This novel is full of strong heroines and heroes. Strength of character is a theme running throughout.

Helene, another strong character, I thought was maybe a little too trusting, but she fell in love. She's fallible and it makes you realise that these brave people who were fighting for France, were at the end of the day just ordinary souls. I was also shocked by her actions, but again this showed her tremendous courage

Clothilde and the lengths she went to to help the monk, and vice versa, would restore anyone's faith in human nature and make you realise how easy we have it now!
I had guessed at Clothilde's outcome, but only because of Ms Louineau's subtle earlier clue.

There are many obstacles to be overcome, both in the two historical time periods and in the current day and the strands of these three epochs are cleverly woven together. I only caught on to some of them very close to the end and others totally shocked me.

To sum up this is a novel of suspense, intrigue, secret societies, love, belief, courage, fighting for what's right, betrayal, friendship, adapting to circumstances and finally not taking things at face value. And quite frankly I have probably missed a few things out. There is so much going on.
I was glad I spent 3 weeks reading this in the end, as it meant I could really savour it.

I dare you not to enjoy this book!  Hope to see another book from Ms Louineau soon....

You can pick up The Chapel in the Woods from Amazon here - (UK) & (US & other .com)

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Interviewed by Northern Ireland's Reading A Little Bit of Everything

Yes, interviews are like buses. You don't do one for ages and then they all come out on the same day. That's why I kept this one back until today.  This is more of a fun interview for readers, but still has some marketing tips for writers and talks a little about my writing journey.  I hate reading the same old things over and over, so whenever I do interviews, I try to ensure I give different, although not contradictory(!) info.  Enjoy!  Sooz

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

How The Amazon KDP Free Promo Worked For Me - interviewed by Monique McDonell

Yep, well, I gave a bit of feedback myself during and after the promo, via the blog, but here's what another writer, in a different continent and time zone wanted to know.
Oh and I also find a little time to talk about my books!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Hi guys
Well, I told you I had a little surprise for you and to pop by on Sunday.  An author friend of mine in the US had told me about Six Sentence Sunday - and I decided to participate this week. Here are this week's six taster sentences from Sign of the Times

Having rung the bell and heard it peal out somewhere beyond the ornate decorated panels of the oak front door, Holly took a little step back. She was just about to leave when she heard a voice call out “Arrivo.”

Brushing back her curls, Holly tried to compose herself and prepare what she had to say. She stretched herself up to her full five feet four.  She didn’t know exactly how to explain her situation, as although her Italian was very good, it wasn’t every day you got a puncture in Italy.
The heavy door opened, to reveal a Greek God.

Sign of the Times is available through Amazon via the following links - (UK) & (US & other)

Friday, 22 June 2012

Choppity Chop - Redrafting & Editing

Look, no hands! Or rather, look 2 posts in just a few days.  Am quite impressed with myself this week, as have kind of achieved what I set out to do (albeit have barely slept as a result!) AND I have spent a little less time on Twitter (not difficult when it was previously every waking hour...)

So, I hear you ask, what have you been doing this week, Sooz?

Redrafting, Editing and Redrafting some more..

I am 18 chapters into my 43 chapter second novel The Dating Game. I nearly lost 16 chapters the other day, as my file corrupted, but I was lucky as I had emailed myself at 1am on Sat morning with all the changes I had made.  Plus I had printed off all the chapters to date, so I could edit them all.  It was lovely & satisfying to have a sheaf of over 120 pages of A4 and realise novel number two really is taking shape.  Phew! It was a close call though, so remember to back up your work!!

So, how do I redraft and what do I look for?
Well, last time I did a lot of redrafts (for Sign of the Times) and many of those were for word count.  This is not a comprehensive list and there will be many things that I do that other authors won't, but here's the wee list of things I made for myself to check for, in no particular order.
1) Show not tell -   several author friends have reiterated this on their blogs in recent weeks and I agree that to a certain extent, but not exclusively, one should try to show, rather than just describe.
2) consistency of tenses - pluperfect v simple past or imperfect. When is it ok to switch from one to the other? (grammar & other exciting rules). In many cases this is just personal taste,as my editor, Drill Sergeant Fi Broon and I had slightly different takes on this. I checked it out and well, what can I say..I was right!!
3) Repetition - as the writer, you don't realise how many times you repeat the same phrases, or how often you use similar words, eg love/lover/loved/loving in the space of a couple of sentences.
4) Cliches - apparently there is software for checking for cliches. I checked Sign of the Times  manually in about draft eight, as I had just read a How to Publish Your Novel book and it had advised not to use cliches.  Now, I write and just go with the flow, and I minimise cliches in the redraft. What I love is when you discover you've used a couple of cliches in the same paragraph.  Don't let your work be cliche heavy.  Sometimes cliches are still the best thing to use, for the context, but I reckon in about 90% of cases, it can be changed to a better phrase.
5) sentences/phrases I'm not 100% happy with.  Occasionally I know what I want to say, but it doesn't come out right. So, in writing, rather than stop my train of thought, I get the gist down in the first draft, mark it in red and move on. A few weeks or even months later, when I go to do the redraft, I generally have a Eureka moment and find the right phrase. If not, I change the surrounding phrases.
6)Pacing - I did an earlier post wholly on Pacing - is there enough action and/or momentum?  Is your novel whizzing along or is it being dragged along against its will?
7) Dialogue - I speak the dialogue aloud.  I am from Glasgow and we do tend to speak quite slang up here, so I have to ensure it's realistic.  Also, and something I read  in another author's blog recently - don't just have screeds of dialogue, with nothing else happening. It can be boring.  Ensure there is some small activity going on, whether the person is brushing their hair, fishing in their pocket, or the person they are speaking to is doing something.
8) Adverbs - are there too many?  Check if each adverb needs to be there. Is it adding anything?  If not, lose it.
9) Shorter sentences. I am notorious for writing long sentences and personally I find nothing wrong with longer sentences, as long as they are well written and well punctuated.  However, I agree that sometimes shorter, snappier sentences is the way to go, so now I check them.
10) Continuity errors - reading back through my MS, I might realise, drat (as I have done), I've called a major and very minor character the same name.... or I said they lived in the west end, but now they live in the south side, or their best friend's son, became their best friend's daughter.
11) Waffle - The Drill Sergeant will say 'Sooz, indulgent waffle...'.  Then she will berate me for all the instances where I am passing off my personal opinions as those of my characters and because she knows me well, she knows my opinions on many things (it's bloomin' annoying!!)

I have read many times that you should lose a third of your MS in the edit. I don't agree that this is strictly true, however, I do think the redraft is a good opportunity to sharpen your scythe and give the Grim Reaper-like cry of Choppity Chop!

The above is not an exhaustive list, just some random things I check for. I hear other authors say, do you edit for plot or character first. I don't edit for either of those things per se, maybe subconsciously,apart from in the ways described above. Any edits to characters/plot happen in my head, as I go along. I don't wait for the redraft to make those changes & if I have to go back and change earlier chapters at that point, to avoid continuity errors, I do.

Lastly typos. Obviously I check these as I go along. I don't notice them and go 'Yeah, I'll fix that later', but after 10 drafts of Sign of the Times, I worked out there are so many changes that can occur in the earlier redrafts, it makes no sense to kill yourself to spot every misplaced comma, until you are right at the final proofreading stage. 

Right chaps, hope that was some use to you and if you are in the editing stage, let's hope not all of it was a surprise to you!!

On that note, it's back to the chopping board for me. Have a great weekend, Sooz x

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Maximising your Social Networking Time, so you can do what you love best - write!

Hi folks
Well, let's face it, many of you know I am always struggling with balancing the marketing of my first book, Sign of the Times, and concentrating on writing, rewriting & editing the new one, The Dating Game.  Many, if not all indie authors, find themselves in similar positions and some traditional published authors too. Personally, I am open to trying everything possible (well, almost - there are limits after all!) to ensure Sign of the Times reaches as large an audience as possible.

I am now 3 months into using Twitter and FB (confess not to doing FB as much as should & need to).  So much has changed. I have gone from never using Twitter, not even having an account, to spending almost every waking moment I am not writing, eating, sleeping or in the shower, using it.  Thank God I don't have kids - I would have had social services at the door.  My poor Other Half is just thankful to have more control over our TV viewing of an evening.

There are so many blog posts about 'building a platform' and 'a brand'. I know this is true, but am I the only one who is sick hearing this?  But, doing this takes a lot of time. One way of building your brand and following is through Twitter.  It doesn't happen overnight and whilst I realise that the tools I am about to mention, are known to many, I am pretty confident that many will discover a new tool they didn't know about, which will help them save time.  Some of these tools are also relevant to Facebook.

Just when I thought I had got to grips with Twitter, an author friend sent me my Klout score. I hadn't a clue what she was talking about.  It's a social media ranking of how much of an influence you are. At the moment, I am 40 out of 100. Mean much to you? Neither to me. I am sure it could be higher if I used FB more and engaged other mediums, but, and don't gasp in shock, can I really be bothered?!

In the past few weeks people have been sending me links to Tumblr (the only useful thing was a collage of Rupert Penry Jones in Silk - I had a feeling he would make his way into my blog at some point!) I have no interest (and that's another confession) in yet another social networking medium to give me headaches! I asked someone and they said it was for teenagers. Great, I can forget about it, unless I have a teenager in a future book who uses Tumblr.

Then, Pinterest. Again, what? Still with no desire to investigate, I asked someone who had sent me a Pinterest link, about it. It was a fellow author, in the US, who said she and many authors surf Pinterest and the web for ideas for novels/stories and then store them on Pinterest. Well, I suppose I could see how that could be useful.  I am lucky, I have more ideas than I know what do with and I like as much as possible in my books to come directly from my imagination.  But everyone works differently.

So, those are the things I haven't embraced. Now to what has helped me in the past few weeks. I am only going to cite a few here, because there are many similar applications. Originally I wouldn't sign up to any of these, as they use your Twitter account, but I've thrown caution to the wind now, in an attempt to maximise my time and write more! Plus, I genuinely don't think there's anything untoward with them & have had no problems so far - touch wood.

During my free promo a month ago, I hit a following limit on Twitter of 2000.  Well, I wasn't having that!  Someone told me of  So, I have been weeding, just like you do when you are gardening. There are many people who just collect followers for the sake of it and who never have any intention of interacting, or retweeting or well, anything! So, time to get ruthless. Ditch them.  Tick!   Then, what I also realised was, I myself wasn't interacting with certain people who I was following, so, I made a point of then interacting with them. Then there were those followers , who I hadn't interacted with simply because they had come on board during my free promo and had got lost in the fray. I addressed that.

But my favourite discovery, due to a new follower last week, was Tweepi.  I've already said elsewhere that one of the ways I look for followers, is to see who is reading other authors in the genre I write in and follow them. But doing this in regular Twitter is seriously laborious. Tweepi shows you in pages the users, no. of tweets, last tweet, klout score. Saves me loads of time.  I like interacting with people, but there are only 24 hours in a day & so it makes sense to interact with like-minded individuals.

Tweetdeck, which I wish I had known about before the free promo, as I could have slept some, means I can schedule my tweets.  I set my morning promotional tweets before I go to bed, so the breakfast club Kindle buyers can see them. It also means you can reach people in other time zones during their waking hours.  TD also shows you your DMs in one place. I was getting so lost in my emails. I even had to open a new email account just for Twitter. Tweetdeck has many functions, too many to list here, but look into it. There is also Social Oomph,but this is a payable service. 

Twitcleaner - wow! I haven't yet understood how I am going to use it, but gee whizz does it give a lot of info. It tells you for your followers: who doesn't follow,  who tweets little & lots, also who doesn't RT, who RTs the same stuff, who is self-obsessed (that was quite fun!) It also tells you your own rating, so that you can modify your behaviour if you wish, so that you don't appear on lists suggesting to followers they remove you.  Ever wonder why you lost 20 followers overnight? Tweetclean might be why!  Tip 1: Vary your tweet content

And the last one is Friday Follow Helper. It doesn't need to be a Friday to use it, but it shows you at a glance who RTs you and then you can nominate them for #MM. #FF and other & also simply thank for RTs. No more forgetting anyone and slighting them!!

Now you won't & don't need to use them every day, but try them, mix them up & see the difference.

So, the moral of the story is, when you get to grips with all of that, you should have more time, more followers, more visibility, a better Klout score, and you should be reaching your larger audience more easily.

Cliche alert - the proof is in the pudding. Last week I wrote more than 10K words of my new novel The Dating Game.

In a few days time, I will be talking about What I Look For In Rewrites (because I will have rewritten another 13 chapters by then hopefully!).  Stay tuned, Sooz
PS and after all that, if your heading is spinning and you want some light entertainment . Sign of the Times is available here: (UK) & (US & other)

Friday, 15 June 2012

The Lucky Seven Author Challenge

The Challenge

To post seven lines from an unpublished work of fiction. My seven lines are taken from The Dating Game, due out later this year. The Dating Game is contemporary fiction - or, if you will, chick-lit without fluff!!  Although I like to read chick lit, I simply can't write it.
So the rules -
  • Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript (fiction or non-fiction).
  • Go to line 7.
  • Post on your blog the next 7 lines, or sentences, as they are–no cheating.
  • Tag 7 other authors to do the same–and have fun.
Here are the 7 sentences from page 7 of The Dating Game.

'Thank goodness the day was over. Now that Gill had made up her mind, she was determined to pay a visit to Happy Ever After’s offices in Park Circus.   Fortunately, it turned out to be walking distance from the office, just.  She set off at a brisk pace on the twenty minute walk.

Checking her reflection in the wing mirror of a handily positioned BMW, she satisfied herself she had nothing stuck between her teeth.  Ok, she was ready.  Looking left and right, to double-check no-one she knew was passing, Gill sped up the stairs of the Georgian townhouse, headquarters of  Happy Ever After’s dating agency.'

My nominations for those I would like to display their 7 sentences for the world to see, go to:
Terry Tyler
Seumas Gallacher
Joanne G Phillips
Leigh Parker
Tracie Banister
Stuart Peel
Ron Culley

Post it on your blog or failing that on Facebook or Goodreads. Will you accept the challenge?!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Interview with Joanna Mazurkiewicz

Hello all
Well, it's been a week since my last post and a busy one writing, but more on that tomorrow. For now, I just wanted to share this little interview I did with Joanna . She's a big supporter of indie writers and has book reviews and author interviews on her site, as well as excellent marketing tips for indies.
bfn, Sooz

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Pacing your Novel

Hi folks
Well, I was going to post yesterday, but remembered it was the Jubilee and figured you were all busy at street parties and the like.
The idea for today's post came from two key things: 1) I was asked to consider the pace of a Canadian YA author's novel, which I was beta reading. and 2) as I was writing a section of The Dating Game, I realised that a section wasn't as fast paced as I would like it to be.

Coincidentally, I went for a run on Sunday for the first time in 5 months.  As I ran, I told myself to be careful not to overdo it (I am a hell for leather kinda person, so I really have to keep myself in check - when I get an idea in my head there is no stopping me!).  I realised that I could draw a comparison between running and pacing and writing and pacing.
You want to hook your readers in at the start, keep the momentum going all the way through and build up towards the end, delivering your best, or punchline/ultimate twist at the very last possible moment.
But you can't allow yourself to get weak or lazy in that middle section. 
I suppose what I'm trying to say, is, although I am a great proponent of 'just write - just get it down', afterwards, if you're not happy with it, leave it.  But then go back to it, a day or so later and review and potentially edit it.   I know some writers edit the previous day's work, before starting that day's chapter. There's no point moving your story forward with a section you are not happy with, as if your gut feeling is it's not right, or it's not good enough, you're probably right. Plus, if you don't like it much, then how are your readers supposed to?

I also rewrote my chapter plan yesterday for The Dating Game. I realised that although I had stuck to 'the plan' for the first 7 chapters (by the way, this is a plan I wrote 3 years ago when I wrote the first 3 chapters of this novel), I had deviated quite massively in the next 7 chapters.  Now this wasn't a bad thing, as the book will be better for the change in storyline and far less predictable. However, what it did mean was I had to re-do the chapter plan, understand exactly how many chapters I am going for and how many words I need approximately in those chapters, to arrive at my expected word count. 
The welcome thing I discovered is that word count -wise, I am completely on track, which should help with less editing needing done later.

There are some excellent novels and series I have read, where the pacing is way off and spoils the novel slightly. No-one wants to fall asleep in the middle.  I can think of one particular series where book 2 is so sleep-inducing in parts, that the movie was a welcome relief, yet the other books in the series were much punchier. Don't over-explain or drag things out. It's boring!

The other good thing I realised when out running the other day (this is maybe not rocket science, but has kept me tied to this laptop for the last few months) is that I can work, as I run - well, until I get too out of breath anyway. I was thinking about my characters and how the next chapter should be fleshed out, as I was trying to breathe - which was becoming more difficult by the second. But, I had moments of clarity and even though I had no pen with me (remiss I know), running or exercise generally is a great way to clear the mind and focus you. 
So, I was thinking we should have a WritersGetFit challenge. Who's with me?!

Oh by the way, I also wrote about 2200 words yesterday, after fixing that chapter plan, so it was a productive day.
bye for now, Sooz

Saturday, 2 June 2012

My no holds barred interview with Books by Banister

Check out my interview with Georgia's very own Tracie Banister at Books by Banister.  Find out a few things that I don't usually share unless grilled!

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Versatile Blogger Awards

Happy Friday everyone!  I was nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award yesterday by Kate from Me, MyBooks and I.  I am going to apologise in advance, as having spent over an hour trying to figure out how to get your links to display on my blog and failing miserably, I'd rather just send you the award, even with the long link, as otherwise I might have to go and jump off a skyscraper!

The HTML has defeated me!

Anyway, here first of all is the Versatile Blogger Award -

Thanks go first of all to Kate from MeMyBooksandI - for giving me the award. Me, My Books and I is a great book review site for contemporary and chick-lit books mainly and one of my favourites.

The rules of this award are:
Thank the person who gave you this award, and include a link to their blog.
Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. If it’s a bit of a task to list 15, and I don’t want you to feel being nominated is a burden, but mention as many as you can – 8 or 10 is fine. List them, and you might like to include a link to the sites, and let them know that you’ve nominated them.
And tell the person who nominated you seven things about yourself

Ok, 7 things about me
1) I speak 5 languages and keep trying to learn new ones, but have never gotten to grips with German
2) I love elephants, pandas, sea horses and beluga whales
3) I have a major crush on Rupert Penry Jones - only discovered in the past 2 weeks! I have a lot of Spooks and Persuasion to catch up on.
4) I have visited 45 countries at last count
5) The first record I have ever bought was The Smurf Song
6) I ran with the Queens Relay Baton for the Commonwealth Games (kinda like the Olympic Torch) , when I was a teenage athlete
7) I am really clumsy and am constantly covered in little bruises and say 'Ow!' a lot

I would like to pass this award on to the following people, whose blogs I read as regularly as I can

 Dizzy C's Little Book Blog -
Me, My Books and I -
Terry Tyler (author) -
Seumas Gallacher (author)
Rachel Abbott (author) -
Ashley Barron (author) -
Paul Dorset (author) -
Joanne Phillips (author)
Rebecca Scarberry (writer) -
Edward G Gordon at Gamblers Game -
Tracie Banister at Books by Banister -
Jeras Jamboree -

I'm sure I will have missed some people out, but my brain is now mush from all the attempted HTML nonsense.
Well done on great blogs and hope you have an excellent weekend - sun is coming out in Glasgow! Sooz
PS for those of you who are not technically minded, use the long links - don't fight with the HTML. You will be fizzing mad by the end of it!