Thursday, 27 September 2012

Writer Therapy, Kindle Fire, & Mock Cover Update

There is a new writing blog on the block called Writer Therapy, and I am rather liking what they have to say. If you get time, pop over and have a look. Their webisodes are both informative and funny at the same time.


They are also running some exciting competitions, and I've entered the first page of my young adult WIP into their First Page Contest. Gulp. If you want to read the first 250 words of my WIP click on the link. My entry is towards the end of the comments section.

I was going to talk about the new Kindle Fire and e-readers in general today, but Ellen Brickley has already done so and covered more or less everything I wanted to say. For me, the key issue with the new Kindle Fire is that it appears to be back-lit. This is an absolute no-no for me. As a migraine sufferer the last thing I want is more time using a back-lit screen. If this is also an issue for you, read Ellen's post or let me know how you feel about back-lit readers in the comments section below.

Finally, you may have noticed that I have removed the mock covers for my science fiction and young adult works-in-progress. I made the decision to do so after reading through all the comments for my What A Difference A Cover Makes post. After some thought, I concluded the following:

  • Making a mock cover for a WIP can both inspire and motivate a writer.
  • However, it  can lead to confusion and possible disappointment amongst readers if ultimately it is not the cover used upon publication.

For those reasons I have decided to keep the mock covers private and for inspiration only (they are printed and posted on my noticeboard). I will only do a cover reveal when it is the actual cover (here's hoping they are actually published of course).

Whilst I am talking about covers, Susan Kaye Quinn did a superb post on avoiding cover art duplicates. This is of particular importance to anyone self-publishing. Definitely worth a read.

Do you think I've made the right decision by removing my mock covers? Have you come to any major conclusions about your writing this week?

Monday, 24 September 2012

Blogger Cull & Bury The Hatchet Blogfest

My friends, I get to Bury the Hatchet into one of my pet peeves later in this post. But first let me tell you what took me several hours to complete this week:

A blogger cull.

In order to make my blog reading more manageable I finally used Google Reader to divide the blogs I'm following up into groups of similar interest. For example: science fiction; fantasy; young adult; reading. However, before I started this task I was following 351 blogs. I am sure you will agree this was an unmanageable number. How can I possibly visit that number on a regular basis? The answer is of course, I can't. So, I spent several hours going through every one of those blogs to decide whether to stop following them. I used the following criteria to decide whom to cull:

  • Does the blog no longer exist? (even if the blog has been removed you will still be following it).
  • Has there been no post for more than two months and no explanation as to why (I was shocked by the number that came under this category.What has happened to these people?).
  • Is their blog of no interest to me and they do not comment on mine? (This is the only time I used comments to decide to stop following someone. I follow a lot of bloggers who do not visit me in return. However, I enjoy reading theirs and will not stop just because they do not visit me).

Using the above criteria I cut the number down to 138. Once I had divided them into groups I added them all to my Star Bloggers list on the right side of my blog. I also resolved not to follow a blog if it is of little or no interest to me. I think it is easy for new bloggers to follow everyone in an attempt to gain followers back. During my early days of blogging I followed everyone. Two years on, I simply wish to give more time to the bloggers I have formed more meaningful friendships with. And a bonus of the blog cull is I have rediscovered some superb blogs.

How do you manage your blog reading? Do you have a number you try to visit each day or have a set day per week? Are you following too many? Have you ever considered a blog cull?


Now for E.J. Wesley's Bury the Hatchet Blogfest.
 

As some of you may know, Wesley's stunning Blood Fugue was published last week, and in celebration he is hosting a blogfest and competition. The blogfest is simple: post about something you'd like to bury the hatchet in. So, what annoys me to the point of wanting to bury a razor-sharp hatchet into it? 

Con-artists who send you emails trying to gain your help with their dead relatives millions. I'm sure we've all had at least one email from someone with a foreign name, telling you a sob story, and begging you to help them give millions to charitable causes. Of course they would like to know some information about you first. Such as your full name, address, birth date, bank account number, and so on. The sad thing is that people fall for it. On a lighter note, I received an email from Colonel Gaddafi's accountant last week. I had to laugh.

Please pop over to Wesley's blog and congratulate him. Here's the lowdown on his book and competition:

Author E.J. Wesley is launching his latest title, BLOOD FUGUE, and wants you to help him celebrate! Check out his blog The Open Vein for details on how to take part, and how to enter for a chance to win some sweet prizes!

What's BLOOD FUGUE about?


Armed only with an ancient family journal, her rifle, and an Apache tomahawk, Jenny must save her grandfather’s life and embrace her dangerous heritage. Or be devoured by it. Blood Fugue, by E.J. Wesley, is the first of the Moonsongs books, a series of paranormal-action novelettes.


BLOOD FUGUE is available now via Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble and most other eBook retailers. Check out the author on Goodreads!



Happy Writing!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Hacked Email & Setting Up Author Pages

Before I talk about today's topic, yesterday I found out my email account had been hacked. A friend has received emails from me that I didn't send. As they used his Facebook name, which is an alias, I can only assume they may have hacked my Facebook account as well. I have taken steps to resolve this problem and hopefully no further bogus emails will be sent out. However, if anyone receives an email from me that doesn't feel right, please contact me.

Now for today's post.

 

Over the last few days I've been setting up author pages on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon, because I came across an author page for myself on Goodreads - it was automatically created when my name appeared as an author in the Tribute to the Stars anthology - and I decided I needed to have some control over what it contained. This then led me to Facebook and Amazon. However, setting up these pages has not been as straightforward as I thought and I'd like to share my experiences (so far) with you all.

Facebook was easy. All I had to do was create a page, add a few details, and publish it. After that I was free to promote it on my blog and on Facebook itself. There have been a few minor irritations, though. For some reason I keep flipping between my usual account and author page without realising. I might like a page as an author but it shows on my normal account and vice versa. There are some things I can not do on my author page, such as linking to another friend in a posting or show my Goodreads activity. I also believe there is an issue with being unable to change certain page elements once you received a certain number of likes. If anyone one knows more about this, I would appreciate some input.

Goodreads and Amazon are a different story.

For Goodreads I had to apply to become part of their Author Programme. If you already have a Goodreads account and they already have an author page for you, this is easy. Even if you do not have an account, it does not take long to set one up (for details on how to set up an author page, click here). After gaining approval, all I had to do was upload a profile picture, add a bio, link to my blog,  and my page was completed. I then turned my attention to linking all the anthologies I have appeared in. This is where my problems began.

At present the only anthology I am listed as an author for is Tribute to the Stars. None of the others list the individual authors, just the editors and maybe one or two authors. This means I cannot link them to my author page. I searched Goodreads help section but could not find any reference to this problem. I posted a question in the Authors Feedback Group and quickly found out I have to post a list of the anthologies I need my name added to in something called the Librarians Group. I will let you know if/when the problem is resolved.

Unlike Facebook and Goodreads, I wasn't able to set up an Amazon author page straightaway. After starting the process here, I found I could not get past step two, confirming my identity. I am listed as an author for The Mysterious Dr. Ramsey, yet when it gives this as the option to confirm I am an author,  it only offered me a choice of five of the contributing authors - none of them were me. Yesterday, I used the relevant help page to query this problem and also contacted them regarding the same issue I have with Goodreads - not being listed as an author for anthologies I've appeared in. They have responded with what I need to do to add my name to the anthologies and have set up an author profile for me, though it will not show for three to five days. I have to say, I was impressed at how quickly they responded.

Setting up author pages has so far been a frustrating process. However, I am sure my patience will eventually be rewarded. Do you have an author page for Facebook, Goodreads, or Amazon? Have you experienced any problems with them and if so, were you able to resolve them? As always, I would love to know your thoughts.

Happy writing.

Monday, 17 September 2012

A Quick Update & Genre Favourites Blogfest

A massive thank you to everyone who has spread the word and/or offered to take part in my upcoming speculative fiction writer guest posts. Eight writers have already signed up, taking us into January 2013. To find out who is appearing when and how to sign up yourself, visit the Speculative Fiction Writers page.

Now on to the main reason for today's blog post - Alex J. Cavanaugh's Genre Favourites Blogfest. This is my first blogfest in eight months, and what could be a better way to have some fun than a blogfest hosted by the great Ninja Captain himself, Alex?


Genre Favorites Blogfest, September 17, 2012
One blogfest, four favorites!
List your favorite genre of: 
Movie
Music
Books
And a guilty pleasure genre from any of the three categories


Movies 

I like science fiction, horror, disaster, and some comedy (think American Pie). But my favourite genre? In the end it came down to science fiction and disaster, and the winner was . . .queue movie music . . .science fiction!

 
"Look, I'm telling ya, there's somethin' movin' and it ain't us!"






Music 

Could I just list the ones I don't like? My taste really is eclectic. Nope? Okay. If I had to choose one for a desert island, it would be pop; specifically 80s pop. I was a child of the 80s you know! That's my defence and I'm sticking to it.

 
Playing air guitar with a friend on my 40th birthday earlier this year.









Books 

This constantly changes between science fiction and young adult dystopian, though I've always loved science fiction. So, science fiction has to be the winner. Do you see a pattern forming here?


Joe Hadleman's The Forever War is my all-time favourite science fiction read. If you haven't read it, do. It is a masterpiece in futuristic tales and world-building.




Guilty Pleasure

It has to be cheesy horror films. Think Sharktopus or Sand Sharks. Barely adequate acting, dodgy special effects, and preposterous plots make them somehow fun to watch.


Who wouldn't love a film with Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, and a monstrous aligator? Now where did I put my Barry Manilow LPs?












 Thanks, Alex. That was fun.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

What a difference a cover makes

Last week I posted two mock covers I have designed - one for an adult post-apocalyptic novel called Hometown and another for the young adult, dystopian novel I am currently writing, Next Life. Both books were inspired by the same idea, though are nothing alike. In my post I asked if you saw these two books in a store or online, which one would you buy and why?

The feedback I received prior to my post was anyone who had seen the Hometown cover said they would buy it because of the cover alone. They were not so sure about Next Life, and this threw me into a temporary period of self-doubt.


I love the mock cover for Hometown.
I think it fits the tone of the novel perfectly. It is visually striking and the taglines give just enough away to draw the reader in. Yet Hometown is nothing more than an idea. There is a rudimentary plot; nothing more. Furthermore, which genre would it fit into - science fiction? Horror? Thriller? On what bookshelf would it sit in a book store?






Next Life is the first in a trilogy. It is fully plotted. I know where it will end, where the seconds novel begins, and how the trilogy will end. I know its genre - young adult dystopian. I know where I would find it in a book store. Yet I have struggled to find any image that could serve as a cover. The best I could find is the one I ended up with, and I'm not at all happy with it.






I was seriously considering scrapping Next Life and starting on Hometown because of the cover alone, and had to give myself a reality check. I asked myself which one I was more passionate about? Which one I knew the plot of inside and out? Which book I can not stop thinking about? The answer was Next Life. But this brief moment of uncertainty did start me thinking about just how important a cover is for drawing the readers attention.

The feedback I received from my question - if you saw these two books in a store or online, which one would you buy and why? - was more or less what I expected. More people were drawn to Hometown because of its striking cover. The taglines hooked the reader. Next Life was not so attention grabbing. It didn't shout science fiction. However, more people liked the cover than I thought would. They seemed intrigued by the premise and tagline. Of course it is worth pointing out that a lot of these opinions would have been based on the individual's reading preferences - given a choice between a period drama or horror novel, I'd choose horror no matter how good the period drama's cover.

Nevertheless, I gained a lot of insight from the comments. What I have learned is this:

  • The cover image must fit within the chosen genre to hook your reader or be so good it will even appeal to a reader outside of your chosen genre.
  • A tagline can be as important as the cover image.
  • Even a mock cover can turn readers away.

Given everything I've said and experienced over the last week, do you think aspiring writers should create mock covers? Can they do more damage than they are worth? Is it better to wait until they are revealing the cover? Is there anything I've said you don't agree with? As always, I would love to read your thoughts.

Happy writing.

Monday, 10 September 2012

New Weekly Writer Feature


I would like to start a weekly guest post for writers of speculative fiction. If you write science fiction, fantasy, horror, or anything speculative, and would like to write a guest post promoting your website, blog, book, or anything related to writing, then email me at elliemgarratt@hotmail.co.uk for further details. 

I am hoping to start this feature from November. If you can tweet, Facebook, or post a link back to this post, I would appreciate the mention. Please feel free to use the web button I have created. 

Happy writing.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

A Question & Ninja News

I have a question for you all today, and I'm hoping you won't mind taking a few moments of your time to answer it.

If you saw these two books in a store or online, which one would you buy and why?


Thank you for taking the time to answer - I will post my reasons for asking this question in a later post.

The mighty Ninja himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, is hosting the Genre Favourites Blogfest on September 17th. Alex's blogfests are always fun, so pop over to his blog and take a peek.


That's all for now. Happy writing.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Be Inspired Blog Tag

I've been tagged by the gorgeous and talented writer, Madeleine Maddocks. The theme of the tag and the questions it asks could not be more perfect - it will give me a chance to update you on my current work-in-progress.


What is the name of your book?
Next Life (book one of The Next Life Trilogy).
Where did the idea for your book come from?

It was inspired by a piece I had published in 2013 The Aftermath (Pill Hill Press). In it, post-apocalyptic survivors must choose to enter an automated replica of their hometown, which offers a chance of survival, or to fend for themselves outside. Of course entering a hometown comes at a price, and their children will pay the greatest.

In what genre would you classify your book?

Young Adult Dystopian Fiction

If you had to pick actors to play your characters in a movie rendition who would you choose?
I’m not going to answer this one. As a reader I like to form my own image of what characters look like and I want my readers to do the same.
Give us a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Esme Ward has lived her whole life in Hometown, a post-apocalyptic survival facility, and she wants out even if it means sacrificing her next life.
Is your book already published?
No. I’m still writing the first draft.
How long did it take you to write your book?
I started late last year, but due to unforeseen circumstances I am only now returning to it.
What other books within your genre would you compare it to? Or readers of which books would enjoy yours?
I hope it can one day be compared to Divergent by Veronica Roth, Matched by Ali Condie, The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.
Which authors inspired you to write this book?
Ali Condie, Bev Revis, Partick Ness, Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, and many other young adult authors. And of course the master himself, Stephen King.
Tell us anything that might pique our interest in your book?

Not all the characters are human.

So, there you have it. I hope some of my answers and my mock cover have piqued your interest. I have to say a special thank you to Madeleine - it was due to her placing The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness in my hand, and insisting I buy it, that my love of young adult fiction began. Thank you, Madeleine.