Let’s hear it for Audio Books and MP3 Players

Blog Image 28 OCT

One of the interesting facets of having spent many years stubbornly ignoring the blindingly obvious is the multitude of colours when seeing the light.

The particular instance I am referring to is the importance of reading more of the genre I was writing in; the challenge being over the years I have become a fidget so sitting still and reading does not come easy, but a hobby of mine is listening to Audio Books, so MP3 player and earphones are usually stuffed in one pocket or another ready for use.

Combining the two was a happy event. Over the years I had listened to a few Fantasy (and SF) works and I was consistently to tipping my hat to readers for giving the whole experience an added dimension. There is the wonderment of the number of accents or modulations they can bring to bear when highlighting who is who along with their steady pace of the narration and the clarity of annunciation.

This has now become quite a help in my writing, whereas in my usual impatient way of reading I would be flipping through pages, with an audio book I am obliged to listen at the reader’s pace and in consequence pick up on the nuances of the writer. In this way it is possible to learn some of the basics, such as Show not Tell; Awake the Reader’s Curiosity; Develop a Pace, Give the Character Depth, to name but a few. In short not only am I listening to an enjoyable tale but also attending an entertaining type of tutorial.

A good reader therefore in adding another layer of experience of the book also blows away those niggling, corrosive whiffs of jealousy and envy which an unsuccessful writer may be prey to when simply reading, in their own voice. There is little opportunity for that when transported by a skilled reader, the characters are given life and depth which if in a less than generous mood a disgruntled would-be author might not.

I recently completed a listening of an Audible Book version of Red Country by Joe Abercrombie and was enthralled by the reader Steve Pacey. He took what on a page might appear a most obnoxious and whining villain and gave him the depth of a saddened frustrated old man (still a villain though); he took what might have been ungenerously termed as a ‘standard’ vicious heartless priest and turned him into a rather nervous type of bureaucrat and thus a more readable character for someone who expects a lot from the villains apart from scene chewing sadists.

That is just one example from this discovered aid

This is getting to be fun.


Buying Reviews: The Shortcut That Isn’t

Allison Maruska

You know, I’ve rambled quite a bit on this blog lately, so maybe it’s a good time to step aside and let someoneelse have a turn.

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Dan Alatorre, and it’s a little different. It came from another blog that I reblogged, and now Dan talks about it on my blog. Blogception. Or something.

Anyway, enjoy Dan’s post, and I’ll see you at the bottom.


Dan's picI recently read that Amazon is suing a bunch of Fiverr companies that sold fake reviews. There have been a few blog posts about it, too, like this one by Fran Guenette.

I can totally see somebody trying to short cut the process of hard work by using review swaps and other things to get them where they want to go. While I don’t know how I’d go about buying reviews, I’m sure everything’s for sale on Fiverr…

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One of many adventures.

Ah-ha! That's the direction
Ah-ha! That’s the direction

Eventually I took great heart when I heard of the successful writer who had said they never knew how their books were going to turn out.

In the past my projects were littered with many notes mapping out how a book was supposed to go, insofar as how they started, what happened in the middle(ish) and how they ended; there were even these vainglorious attempts at structure chapter by chapter. Never was any plan adhered to, within the first few pages characters went veering off on their own directions, new folk appeared and locations moved with a verve you can sometimes get away in fantasy novels by leaning heavily on the rules you have created.

Initially on hearing of this successful author there was the plaintive question… (no truth be known that’s glossing….take 2- brutal truth)…whine ‘But why not mine…Not fair!!! (sulk, sulk, sulk).

On some reflection it gradually dawned on me you might not know how something is going to turn out, but the journey has to have a structure. Eventually the notion is seeping in of the urge to write itself being insufficient to reaching a goal. Charging off into the dark with a cry of ‘Huzzah!’ may appear spectacular but the likelihood of actually getting anywhere is slim. Some sort of plan is required.

So how does not knowing, square with having a plan? To each their own. For me this translates into looking for and now following the light ahead. The story has a starting point and there are several characters with their motivations. Now just how would they logically meet and react?

This process may be painfully basic and obvious, but as you know (sigh) there are lots of us out there creating contrived situations with all the subtly of hammering jigsaw bits into places we think they should fit while having characters lurching emotionally in all directions and making exceptionally grandiose leaps of logic or being so dense as to make the reader wonder if they can open a door without assistance.

Thus every action must have a reaction; ripples in the pond, how will this affect characters, and how will their reactions affect and so forth?

This is therefore the adventure, setting off heading for the one light, getting there and then peering ahead for the next light or maybe there will be a small series of lights. These are the reactions and the developments, which make sense in the context of the writing. So no more dashing off to include a chunk of ‘business’ just because it sounds fun, or because there are ‘issues’ I want to get off of my chest (unless of course they were the motivation at the very beginning of the tale).

Yes it is a journey in the dark, but there never is true dark, there are always shades and illuminations. Time to look out for them and follow them at a steady and sure pace.

Oh yes, and watch out for those holes

Writing in the thick-fog times

Nothing really special here folks, just one person having their say. You know how it goes, sometimes you just have to say it out loud.

Depression in The Western World…It’s a risk these days; like crossing roads in the dark, though not as dramatic, I mean it’s not like an episode is going to make in to a social media peek, gasp and gain a quick guilty thrill site.

I’ve a theory it has its origins a social aftermath of the two massive wars in short succession, which has left an impact handed down through the generations. A blighted memory of pain, suffering, terror and loss all imprinted and nuanced into an inherited emphasis on the frailty and conditionality of Life. Well that’s a summary anyhows.

The rolling in of the feeling of despair should have been easy to predict and given me time set up the emotional lamps and move into one of the safe, warm rooms; stay close there until the thick, cloying blinding fog had been breezed away. But you know how it goes, you’re working or drifting through your day fixed on the present and not calculating up accumulation of triggers which will cause The Event; tears, anger, outburst of opinion, morose mood, silly giggles, wild impractical plan, and hopefully will evaporate into forgettable or amused memory. Not so the fog, pity about that. Comes in at the end of the day, that potentially difficult time; Reflection- treat with caution.

Good thing about being used to it is at least you know when it’s there; there’s no mystery, no outrage. Important to try to keep it contained, it’s your fog, hold back as many tendrils as you can, for it’s a contagious beast, or if you don’t cut down your paradoxical emotional speed in this miasma you can knock someone down.

And the last thing I want to do is flip open a Word doc, and start writing. What have I got to say? At the end of the day there are others more eloquent in explaining this. As for fiction, the evidence is there of hundreds more talented and entertaining people with their gift for words. So much easier to just sit there and tinker away in an aimless wander through internet sites, like the browsing in shops never meaning to buy. But apparently, or so the bemused part of me says…..it doesn’t work like that.

Now where did that smile come from? Where’s the humour in being stuck in a thick emotional blind? Oh yes, of course the whimsicality of Human Nature. I mean it comes in as one of the hopeful small breezes. You’re down, but your stubborn urge to Life hasn’t been so subsumed. How so then? I’m confusing me. Good, means you’re thinking again. (Would you mind not referring to me in the second person… Ah, get used to it; Internal Conversation, it’s a writing device).

Doing something constructive, is always good. Writing then. Fingers moving across the keys, hand gripped firmly to the pen or pencil. Navigating a way out of this place, not just waiting for the fogs to clear from the mind or spirit, for you never know, they might settle.

Perspectives shifting. Did the fog come to me, or did I wander into its domain? It’s a topic worth considering. Another time and another place though. Concentrate on the navigation. Is this a land or a sea? Navigating and firm grips on pens suggesting comparisons with ships. Does it matter? I understand that light can be a wave or a particle Never mind about the mixing of metaphors or the instability of the imagery; getting out and above is the objective, is a plan.

That book of yours (mine..yeh..whatever…). Just write and write. You can go back and smooth it over afterwards, it’s what you’re supposed to do. Do you think Sculptures ever worried about the nose when they started on the task? (Well, I ever never sculptured- yes we know that, just embrace the metaphor- I heard that!) (Stupid Internalising)

Writing is the key in my case, something to confirm I am, I have a voice and I will not give up.

OK, I’m done.

At The Character Conference

You know how it goes, struggling with your characters, just not doing it as you imagined they would. Don’t you just feel they actually exist somewhere? So let’s put them in that context (with many apologies to The Great Bob Newhart- I don’t come close sir)….

OK folks, if I hope you’ve all read the synopsis and the narrative so far. Now I know some of you are new here and have heard some depressing talk about the previous NNQP epic being a bust and stuff like ‘who cares’, ‘so what’ and ‘maybe the working title should be Titanic II’, but let’s put all that aside and hear some constructive conversations…

Yes, Crazy Girl, thought it might be you first….Well it’s only an index-name sweetie, you’ll have a proper name in time…Hmm it’s catchy but a bit anatomical don’t you think? Of course we appreciated the work you put in on some of the NNQP drafts, that’s why we bought you in for this….Yes I can assure you, you’ll be in this…This time you don’t want to be stuck with unhinged grins, you feel you can work more with the eyes….Well that’s kind of the Central Girl’s thing…I mean she’s quiet and expressive at the same time….Err Central Girl could you just……See, that’s what I mean Crazy, could you combine sardonic with innocence?….Errr you might want to save that remark for the episode prior to where your mutual antagonism turns to sisterly bonding…no that’s not after you strangle the little twit. I think you’re getting a bit too much in character….Central Girl lower than finger please, it maybe typical of your expressive but quiet character but it’s not currently contributing…. We’d best move on…..

Oh, OK, Incompetent and Corrupt Lawmen, sure if you got something to say, fire away. Yes, loved your work guys. That was straight down the line and bags of character too…Well, gee guys you had to get killed off, that was the deal. I’m sure you could have played it comic and been constant foils, but y’know NNQP’s light-weight formula didn’t seem to resonate, and so in this project we had to have a gritty start. I’m not so sure of the fake deaths, I mean you guys got burnt to death and all….Sure I’m loving the enthusiasm….errr…maybe we’ll just stick a pin in that….No I didn’t mean that literally lads…..Sure it’s funny and I’m glad you kept it within your team.

Now you guys, The Serious Dudes, I know it’s tough that we’ve not got it worked out who are the really villains, who finds redemption and who remains true to their tough but straight road, but just think of it as Life, and don’t forget it’s heading for more than one volume, so we’re in the long haul here…..Well, yes I guess we can work in a love interest for one of you….No I don’t think all of you, and….Yes I’m sure you’d all be comfortable with it, but it would kind of stray from the narrative….Not your dam’ narrative?… It’s a point I suppose. We’ll just see how that works out……. Nnnno we can’t work in ‘Hi Beloved Fluffy, I’m Home,’ I’ don’t see it….Yes I know it worked in in 1960s US sit-coms, but concentrate here guys (somebody check what’s in their coffee, please….boy these old veterans are a tough gig).

Umm…Handsome Heroic Male, now I know it’s early days, but I’m not picking up an enthusiastic vibe from you….Y’ say that’s because you didn’t get to spend enough time in bed with Mystery Lady….Mystery Lady I’d rather you didn’t exchange expressive finger gestures with Central Girl, she’d supposed to be the innocent one….Now that’s just your opinion Crazy Girl….Ok folks we’re wandering here, let’s get back to you Handsome. I mean, like, you are the action character, the swift-witted, daring man of the world, ever searching for The Truth. No, you can’t have a magic sword….well because you’re a man of reason; you don’t embrace the magic…Tragic soliloquies? Look if you’re in for the long haul you’re only going to be allowed one, I mean we can’t hold up the whole thing every so often for you to address the fourth wall or some peasants…..Yes Several Peasants you’ll get your say…So let’s concentrate here Handsome I’m expecting some feedback here, I mean I don’t want to discuss Heroic Deaths this early, but y’know I gotta do, what I gotta do.

Fine folks, I think we all have something to work with here and a lot to think about, sorry if you didn’t all get to say something, but it’s time to work. Work, work people!!….Now that’s just crude Crazy Girl!!

(Man, someone get me the headache pills, which ones I just don’t care)

Getting Prepared for The Journey

Starting a book and suddenly there is this image of being on the plane, looking up at the looming mountain, its peak concealed clouds and into my mind seeps “Are you really gonna climb that thing?” and the reply snaps out “Yep! It’s there to be climbed!”

Well defiance and determination are quite useful tools but sticking with analogy; any climber will tell you you don’t just get a firm pair of boots, a thick sweater, a good solid walking stick, two packs of sandwiches and a flask of coffee and set off whistling a happy tune. Preparation is way beyond just important; it’s vital.

So having, inadvertently set myself into a heroic mould which might be useful considering I am working on a fantasy novel, it’s time to check what will be needed.

Certainly will need a Style Sheet, of the simple sort. Just to make sure the spellings are correct, the locations don’t shift hundred miles (unless there is a very good reason applicable to a fantasy novel) and all those made-up words are spelt consistently.

Must make sure there’s a memory stick to hand at all times to be used regularly at least once a day. As we all know from the Terminator franchise computers cannot be trusted, and it is likely to be the wish of any hard-drive to take a 300 page novel down with its last death rattle making sure that particular doc. is beyond recovery.

Will need inspirational music.- Definitely charge up a new play list on the media player, needs to be at least 4 hours’ worth of all sorts of music, one style tends to set me off down one road and too much frenetic action or morbid heroic reflecting will only work with the very best of writers. And this time, no sneaking off to YouTube to see something being performed ‘live’, that’ll only lead to ‘just one more’, and ‘ooooh more cute fluffy pets’

Have print-outs of memorable quotes to stick to the computer. Ones like Shaw’s “A Life spent making mistakes is not only more honourable but more worthwhile than doing nothing”- tailor made for a writer.

Must make sure a notebook and pen are in pocket or in back-pack to record those sudden flashes of inspiration which with shooting star certainty will fade from the memory.

Oh, yes. Take it seriously from now on, with a sense of proportion of course; snarling at anyone who comes close and disturbs you will only lead to bowl of cold washing-up water in the face at some stage in the day. By serious I mean putting time aside to write and not ‘only when the mood’ takes me.

That’ll do for starters.

Now for the writing

Writing????….Hmmm… That mountain looks higher than before.

Oh no you don’t! No YouTube tonight! (Structure….structure)

Starting Out…. Yet again….Journeys, Triumphs and Mishaps

So, here we go a variation of a theme…No that doesn’t read right….Just give me a moment…..

If anyone has read the older blogs, as stated in the previous blog… a change of direction….(I suppose that’s one way of putting it, reads like a bit like I’m re-launching a public company, but it will have to suffice for the present)

My fantasy world…..Pardon?…..No! Not that sort of fantasy world! I meant the one I created for my novels! It seemed to be quite a solid platform to work with, leastways some folk have said. Thus shame to let it go to waste, time to see if it works in a serious novel.

This will be about the sort of challenges a writer of little or no success gets into when they face up to the fact that a new road needs to be taken. You’ll read something about the book I’m working on, but hopefully I will be able to concentrate more on those problems such as character development, structure of the narrative, continuity, spilling….err…spelling (c’mon work with me Spell Checker!) and other facets I’ve not yet thought of but are bound to surface.

Just to clarify this work is a Fantasy Novel but if you don’t care for the genre stick with the blog because, to confirm it will be about writing and being a writer.

Being singularly unsuccessful can sometimes be an advantage; after all if you are in the same position, then it’s nice to know you are not alone, isn’t it? One other quirk of an advantage here is that if  as you are reading you begin to think ‘That doesn’t make sense’, then that’s fine, someone else’s mistakes are better than your own. If you experience that sensation then feel free to take a look at someone else’s more successful blog, make comparisons and take note (literally- memory can be fickle)

Ok, good place to end this post.

Best wishes to all. Keep on keeping on.