Friday, January 24, 2014

A Short Comparison

Just a fun blog post about print books vs ebooks from my point of view:

Which is better? Um, do I have to choose?

Lets first look at why I love ebooks so much:

1. If it weren't for the invention of ebooks I'm not sure I would be published yet. Traditional publishers were much more selective and picky in their choices.
2. Ebooks are way cheaper so you can buy more and read a more varied selection of books.
3. Ebooks take up less space. All you need is a Kindle. We are having a problem with space at home. We have over three bookshelves at home and we've had to remove so many books to sell second hand this year.
4. A Kindle is easier to hold - you don't have to hold it open.
5. So many interesting writers and genres have resurfaced since the advent of ebooks.
6. Oftentimes when you can't source a book, you can find it cheaper on Kindle.
7. Kindle always keeps your place so you don't keep on losing your bookmark down the side of the couch.

Why I love print books so much:
1. The smell. I know that sounds crazy but I love sticking my nose into a new book and taking a good whiff of the scent of fresh paper, ink and binding. Aah, that smell brings back lovely memories of happy moments reading.
2. You can look at the cover and blurb at the back whenever you want. It's much harder in an ebook.
3. The book feels like a whole package - the feel of the book is in the way it's printed, bound and designed. There always seems to be more info about the book and author in a print book or maybe because it's easier to navigate.
4. You can easily lend the ones you're crazy about to a friend.
5. You can resell them afterwards and make up for a bit of your expense.
6. You can get an autograph inside from your favourite author.
7. It's easier to go back to check on a certain part in the book.

I think it's round about a tie. What do you say? I still feel that ebooks win in my opinion but I wouldn't like print books to disappear altogether. There's something so special about getting a print version of your favourite book.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Author and Book Spotlight - Karen King

Today I have fellow Astraea Press author, Karen King talking about her YA novel, Perfect Summer. What excites me is that she writes children's books. I don't know why but that thrills me to bits. Probably because I've spent a large portion of the last fifteen years reading them to my kids and also because I originally wanted to write for children but ended up writing adult romance. I may still write a children's book one day. Now, I'm talking too much about myself and not enough about Karen. Her book looks amazing!

Here's the cover and blurb:

Perfect Summer

Growing up in a society so obsessed with perfection that the government gives people grants for plastic surgery, 15-year-old Morgan can't help being a bit envious of her best friend Summer. Summer is beautiful and rich, her father is a top plastic surgeon and her mother is a beauty consultant with a celebrity client list. Her life seems so effortlessly perfect. Whereas Morgan isn't so rich or beautiful and her little brother, Josh, has Down's syndrome - which, according to the Ministry and society in general, is a crime. Then Josh is kidnapped and the authorities aren't interested so Morgan and Summer decide to investigate. They, along with another teenager, Jamie, whose sister, Holly, has also been kidnapped, uncover a sinister plot involving the kidnapping of disabled children and find themselves in terrible danger. Can they find Josh and Holly before it's too late?

A Bit About Karen King

Karen King has had over one hundred children’s books published. She’s written for many children's magazines too including Sindy, Barbie, Winnie the Pooh and Thomas the Tank Engine. She writes for all ages and in all genres; story books, picture books, plays, joke books and non-fiction. Perfect Summer is her first YA. It was runner up in the Red Telephone books YA Novel 2011 competition.

Wow, that's awesome. And she even wrote some children's BBC shows and writes romance under a pseudonym.

She's kindly answered some questions to let us know a bit more about her writing process:

How did you get started writing?
I've always written. I had my first poem published when I was 11. I started my writing career with Jackie magazine, writing articles and photo stories.
Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?
It depends whether I'm writing to a commission or not. If I'm commissioned I have to plot as I have to send a synopsis and the first couple of chapters to my editor. If I'm not writing to a commission I plot at first so that I know the basic outline of my story but once I get going I write 'by the seat of my pants.'
Are you most productive in the morning or evening?
Morning. Often I get out of bed and start writing right away. I'm full of ideas in the morning.
What’s the most frequent question people ask you.
When I visit schools, kids always ask me if I'm rich. I usually say "No, I'm really poor so please go and buy some of my books!"

Excerpt from Perfect Summer - it's actually the Prologue

They were on their fourth game of poker. The air was tense; they played in silence, speaking only when they had to.

The burly man glanced at the five cards in his hand, his expression unreadable. “I’ll see you.” He took a drag of his cigarette and waited.

The woman sitting next to him studied her hand of cards and sighed. “I’m folding.” She placed the cards face down on the table, crossed her arms and sat back in her chair.

They both watched the bald man on the other side of the table. He looked at his cards and frowned. The burly man took another drag of his cigarette and sent a spiral of thick smoke into the air. Then a shrill ring broke through the silence, making them all jump. The burly man grabbed his nanophone and the others waited as he flicked it open. The air was electric with suspense.

“Yes,” he said brusquely. He was silent as he listened, then replied, “We will leave immediately.” He switched the phone off, threw his cards down and stood up. “It’s on,” he said, scooping up the handful of coins in the middle of the table and putting them, and the phone, in his pocket.“Let’s get going.”

The woman left her cards and followed him. They both hurried outside to a dark blue van. The man climbed into the driving seat, the woman sat beside him. She took a slip of paper out of her pocket and keyed an address into the E-Nav. “We’ll be there in a couple of hours,” she said.

“How old’s this one?” the man asked.

 “Three,” the woman replied.

“Shouldn’t be too difficult then.” The man started up the van and they set off.

You can buy Perfect Summer here: Amazon

You can find Karen King on her website, Facebook fan page, Twitter and Goodreads.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Excerpt from my WIP

Today, I'm going to do something totally out of the ordinary for me. I'm going to post an excerpt from the book I'm currently writing. It's unedited and totally raw but I'm going to put the first kiss in. I love the first kiss in a romance novel. There's something so sacred and so pivotal about it. It shows so much about the relationship and the chemistry between the characters.

Let me first tell you a bit about this story. In my debut novel, Wedding Gown Girl, Kienna, who works at a bridal boutique is shocked when one of her brides confesses that she's marrying a man she doesn't love. Rachelle says she's marrying Blake for stability only. Kienna has to warn Blake and thus the romance between Blake and Kienna develops. Rachelle was through and through the villain in this story. I never ever considered writing her story.

Then a book reviewer reviewed Wedding Gown Girl and said they would love to read Rachelle's story. I mulled on that idea as crazy as it was to me and I began to forgive and sympathise with Rachelle. Lol, I had to forgive her first. Rachelle has totally redeemed herself in my WIP. In fact, I love her to bits. So, here's the excerpt with a bit of setting the scene before the kiss:

The evening passed by with little conversation, a delicious supper, tame music and a couple more drinks. They had only an hour to get back to ship and he didn’t want the night to end. Rachelle was like a male friend, a companion without demanding anything.
She leant back against the chair, puffing out her chest in a forest-green sleek blouse, her hands behind her now dry, but rather frizzy hair. The generous curve of her cleavage reminded him that she wasn’t a male companion at all. Romantic she wasn’t but undiluted female she was.
“Is it still raining outside?” She asked as she rose to peer out the tiny, dusty window of the pub.
“Afraid of getting wet again?”
“Not too keen on braving the cold air.”
“You could borrow my jacket.”
“I think not. After tonight, we part ways. You’re still … um … booked.”
“Booked?” He winked at her. “Sorry to talk about it, but I would have thought she’d contact me by now. She’s been back in PE for hours now.” He looked at his watch just to confirm the time. Eleven at night. “I’d like to know how her father is doing.”
“Father?” He could see she was curious. Feeling more relaxed, he decided to let it all out. Besides, they wouldn’t see each other again.
“Her father had a massive heart attack. That’s why she left.”
“So, she didn’t end it?”
“She ended the engagement because she didn’t want to think of that and her father at the same time. What I don’t get is why she didn’t want me to go back home with her. She wants to deal with her family crisis alone. She said I would just get in the way.”
Rachelle made an ‘o’ with her mouth again but didn’t say anything.
“I’m thinking of ending the whole relationship.”
The woman walked to the fire and placed her hands near its warmth. “The air by that window is cold.”
“The weirdest thing is that I’m actually enjoying being away from her.”
“Would you like another drink?”
It was actually humorous how she avoided the conversation.
He shook his head. “I’d like to get to my ship cabin safely without toppling overboard.”
“Are you feeling relaxed?”
She shrugged.
He couldn’t bear it any longer. He rose and moved to her in a moment, placing his hands on her sagging shoulders. “What did you run away from?”
“I’m sorry?” She turned to him, her eyes haunted, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment or was it the heat of the fire?
“I can see it in your eyes – the hurt, the confusion.”
She pulled away and attempted to walk back to the window but he grabbed her hand, desperate for her to open up and release the pent-up energy, albeit negative energy. The force of their opposite movements made her spin around to face him, her soft cheeks inches from his gaze. Her lips were pursed and pale pink. No lipstick, no cracks, just smooth and plump. A warm vanilla scent wafted from her hair, mingling with the lazy smell of liqueur and wood smoke. In a moment, she was tucked up against him and he’d moved his lips onto hers. The pressure he gave her surprised him, as also the need to remain there, locked in a kiss in a smoky bar in Spain when his future wife stood vigil in a hospital back home.
He expected her to pull away and break the contact. He waited for her scathing comment to add fuel to his guilt. Instead, her whole body softened in his grasp, making him unable to pull away. He explored her mouth with simple movement which she mirrored. They were instinctively in tune and the arousal he experienced sent shock waves through him. It was so intense that he was now convinced that Desia wasn’t the only woman who stirred him to such passion. In fact, this was way deeper and more intense than …
“I have to go.” She pulled away and turned from him, grabbing her jacket in haste.
“I don’t know the way back.”

“You’ll have to follow me then.” A deep sigh followed her statement but she refused to look at him.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Smooth Move

Scene transitions.

They're such a vital part of the flow of a novel. I know because I used to be terrible at them. I don't know if I've got it mastered yet but I'm certainly working on it. Hence, this blog post.

There are two extremes when it comes to ending a scene and starting up a new one. The one is an info dump with long descriptions of the scenery, every smell and nuance, and a detailed inner monologue of the character's thoughts and feelings with plenty of past hurts, backstory, etc. The other one is like this: One minute your character experiences a heart-wrenching or stirring moment, the next they are in a totally different spot and you have no clue what they are doing, how many days later it is and what the emotions are. You go straight into a long dialogue scene and the reader is grasping for straws to know what's going on. A whole chunk of the character's life has totally blanked out like they've woken up from a coma. Now, the second one used to be my weakness. I still have to work on scene transitions purposefully because of it. Zee Monodee, my editor from Decadent Publishing, showed me this weakness. She used to say I must set the scene. I mean, don't you want your readers to enter into your character's world? How can they when you blank out huge chunks of their life? Yes, the readers are not interested in what they ate for breakfast or how long they took to brush their teeth, but we don't want to feel like something's missing, that we've lost touch with their story.

This becomes particularly difficult when you need to move the story forward several months. Eish!

Some books I read are choppy. You feel the scene breaks like the jerks on those swing rides at the amusement park. Others, you don't really notice the scene breaks as the story seems to morph from one scene to the next. Imagine you've just bought a new Mercedes Benz and have cruise control on a smooth, open road.

The transition should create a tiny pause to allow the reader to take in what's happened and think about the character's feelings. Almost like the Mercedes reaching a stop street but because of its smooth brakes and gear change, you hardly feel any jerk. You merely have a moment to take in your surroundings.

My goal is to be the Mercedes Benz, not the swing thing.

But how?

1. Skip the mundane things unless they add to the story. But don't eliminate the ones that are there to bring clarity and show who your character is as a person. Here is an example of unnecessary info:

Jane arrived home, dumped her bag by the front door and slammed the door shut. She picked up her mail on the telephone table. She opened each envelope and looked inside. Her electricity account needed to be paid and also her telephone account. She had a letter from her parents that should be replied to and some irritating advertising brochures. Besides that was a political leaflet of a candidate for the next local election. She read through them all, planning in her mind how she was going to spend her evening dealing with each one.

Okay, maybe the above example tells us a little about how Jane thinks but is it all necessary? I think this way would be better but I stand to be corrected.

Jane arrived home, dumped her bag by the front door and slammed the door shut. Mail was strewn on her telephone table. She glanced through the pile of envelopes, opening some. Argh! Mail just meant paying accounts and answering letters. Not something she had any energy for after the day she'd had.

Because I didn't go into too much detail, I could spend more time talking about how the events of her life affected her emotions and pulled the story forward. We're not really interested in what mail she received unless it's pivotal to her story. We're more interested in how the mail made her feel.

2. End a scene leaving the reader wanting more - either in the middle of difficult conflict, with a driving unknown, strong emotions (positive or negative,) or a cliffhanger. This is something that takes a lot of thought and planning. I'm working on it!

3. A good idea is to end with an action to create impact like: He brushed past her and slammed the door behind him. But if you're going to end the scene so abruptly, I would suggest creating a good setting for the next scene.

4. Choose the right spot to enter a scene. Don't come in right at the beginning if the beginning is boring. Start in the middle of a scene and cut to the chase.

5. You could create suspense between scenes by showing something that affects a character in one scene, have a totally different scene next and then the third scene, show their reaction.

6. When you start a new scene, make sure the reader knows whose point of view it's from (i.e. who is actually experiencing the moment,) where it's happening and how soon after the previous scene. You don't have to necessarily list this in a long sequence but offer clarity in the thoughts, description and dialogue. I always use a line break with asterisks to show a new scene and especially when you change the POV. There's nothing worse than being unsure of who's thoughts we're reading the book from.

7. If you do need to transition your character a large chunk of time forward, do it in a simple sentence like: Jenny stuck it out with her new job for several months and started to feel comfortable with her colleagues. When a new handsome manager come into work in early May, her comfort flew away like a butterfly out of its cocoon. We don't need to know what happened in those boring months when she was adapting to her new job. We only need to know her reaction when the new manager arrives. But you can't say that she obtained her job and then the new manager just arrives and she'd been working there a while already and knows everyone but he doesn't. The reader will wonder how she moved from newcomer to old hat in one moment.

8. You can use carefully chosen words to transition the scene well for example, Tammy handed him her letter of resignation, saying she was flying back home the next day. In the next scene, you could say, The flight back home was busy and tiring. Tammy moved her legs constantly to stop a cramp and tried to focus on a magazine the whole way but all she could think about was Myron's face when she handed him the letter of resignation.

Well, I certainly hope writing this post has helped me and you to make better scene transitions. Here's to a 2014 full of brilliant, top-class writing.