Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Bad Editing and Faberge Eggs: A Rant

A warning: I am about to rant. So if that’s not your thing, tune out now. The problem is I’ve been reading a few books lately (shock, horror!) and it’s made me cross.  Why? I’ll give you an example:

I nodded my head in assent.

What’s wrong with that, you say? The author has kindly specified that the nodding object was someone’s head, and that it was to be taken as a symbol of agreement. If they had just written I nodded, I would have been at a complete loss. What exactly did you nod? What for? My entire understanding of the universe is crumbling before me!

Breathe, Kat. Breathe.

I won’t name the book this came from, because I respect the huge amount of work the author went to in writing it and I know sometimes things slip through and it can’t be helped. What saddens me is that when I Googled the phrase to make sure I wasn’t negatively identifying anyone, I saw a whole page of results for books which feature it. Have these authors not heard the old writing adage, make every word count? Or have they mistaken that for count every word, times that by ten and make that your target MS length, then achieve that target by making each sentence 200% longer than necessary? (Coming from the girl who’s ranting, I know). Anyway while we’re on the subject, here’s another example, taken from a scene in which the protagonist hasn’t had a drink in who knows how long:

I gulped it down thirstily.

Oh, so you were thirsty? Right... I thought you were gulping because you wanted to look like the final shot in a Pepsi ad.

Most of you will probably identify that example, but I doubt my humble little blog will have much impact on its astronomical sales. And that’s the tragic thing – these aren’t all coming from self-published books. Take this gem:

“Please,” I say pleadingly.

I’m sorry, but…


And to think this series has sold faster than Harry Potter.  Am I the only one who just wants to cry? I have spent TWO YEARS editing my MS. Some of you reading this will have spent six/ten/seventy.  Yet we have to compete with this.

I’m not saying cut the life out of your writing, or spend so much time cooped up in your attic with Proofreading For Dummies that you go insane and start adopting all the neighbourhood cats. And I’m not forgetting that I still enjoyed the books I’ve read lately, even if they were laced with the sort of editing which makes me want to abandon my MS and spend two weeks churning out an erotic dystopian with an away-from-literary bent just so I can get published and spend the rest of my life eating solid gold caviar out of Faberge eggs.

Wow, Kat. Breathe.

I’m just saying that when it comes to selling your books, word-of-mouth is better than whine-of-mouth every time. So write the best story you can. Then call up your beta readers. Enter writing critique sessions. THINK about your feedback for a few days before you begin implementing it, and leave it a few days before checking it again. I know, as an aspiring author, how irresistible the urge to just get our work out there can be, but let’s not forget to take pride in our contribution to the English language. It’s not just our best marketing tool, it’s our responsibility. And if you’re nodding your heads in assent, please share/RT the message and help spread the reminder to us all.

Lastly, to the authors who have made it into my rant today, I admire you for realising your dreams and I wish you all the best. But please, I beg of you pleadingly… put down the thesaurus. Step away from the bleeding obvious. And for pity’s sake, leave that million-word target alone.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

And "The Butt-Cheeks Giveaway" Prize Goes To...

Before I announce the winner I just want to say thank you, as always, to everyone who participated in the contest. Between all of your RT's we managed to get Donna's interview a massive 11, 305 potential views, which I'd say definitely deserves a pat on the back behind! 

For the people who have no idea what I'm talking about, here's the original interview: On Cover Design, DIY Marketing & the Personification of Butt Cheeks... Plus Giveaway! , and here's the review of Donna's fabulous book: Hand Me A Longbow And Call Me A Wench - Review of Searching For Arthur. For more proof that it's awesome, look no further than the stunning cover and my favorite line, below. 

(Actually, you should probably look further or you'll never know if you won).

Nothing could compare to the agony of riding bareback in skinny jeans... my buttocks were threatening to disengage themselves from my body and run to a far off corner of the wood, where they would no doubt weep at the misfortune of being mine. - Donna Hosie, Searching For Arthur.

And the winner, of their very own copy of Searching For Arthur, is @shawna_7! Congratulations and thanks again, and thanks to Donna for her fantastic book!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Insert-Dramatic-Music-And-Epic-Drumroll-For... The Official, HOLLOWED, Cover Reveal!

Ahem... Ta da!

I present to you the cover for Kelley York's upcoming New Adult novel, HOLLOWED. Great, isn't it? And what's all the more impressive is that Kelley designed the cover herself. It's enough to make any wannabe author go green-eyed with envy. (Ba-dum Ch! See what I did there folks? I'm here all week).

Anyway, putting hilarious, bordering-on-dad-jokes aside, I can't wait to read this. Feast your eyes on the blurb below and you'll see why. 



All 18-year-old Briar Greyson wanted was to figure out this whole living-away-from-your-parents thing. Apartment, steady job, cool roommate? Check. Noah, her adorable (albeit elusive) boyfriend? Check. Everything in the life of Briar was pretty good.

Then she and her roommate are attacked on their way home one night. Briar wasn't supposed to survive.

Instead, according to the two guys who saved her, she's turning into the things that attacked her: a vampire. Totally crazy and Not Okay. Now Noah's secrets are coming to light, and he wants Briar dead. Then there are the vampires who attacked Briar to lure out her sister.

Her sister...who died years ago. 

(Didn't she?)

The city's body count is rising, and Briar wants to help put a stop to it. But first, she has to figure out who the real enemy is: the vampires, the boy she loves, or the sister she thought she'd lost.


Well, what do you think? I get the sense that there's something really unique hidden away in this story and I'm twitching to find it. If you're as keen on some pre-release stalking as I am, you can check out Kelley's website (featuring her own  cover reveal) and her Goodreads page, or follow her on twitter @elixing. Keep an eye out here too because I've got an interview lined up as part of the book tour, and with any luck there just might be a large giveaway involved. ;)

HOLLOWED will be officially released on the 15th August. Counting down the days!

Friday, 13 July 2012

On Cover Design, DIY Marketing & the Personification of Butt Cheeks... Plus Giveaway!

Nothing could compare to the agony of riding bareback in skinny jeans... my buttocks were threatening to disengage themselves from my body and run to a far off corner of the wood, where they would no doubt weep at the misfortune of being mine. - Donna Hosie, Searching For Arthur.

As many of you know (because I’m always banging on about it), I want this blog to really focus on writing, book promotion and experimenting with ways authors can generate publicity and build their author platform. So it is with a stupid amount of excitement that I’m trying something new – a blog interview. And my first guinea pig off the ranks is none other than Donna Hosie, author of the fabulous YA fantasy "Searching for Arthur", which I reviewed here last week.

Hi Donna, and thanks for agreeing to be my experiment! Your book has only recently hit the e-shelves, so you’re just beginning your promotional journey. Can you share your master plans?

-- I decided on a very strategic way of doing things. The first was to engage a professional designer for the cover - which is gorgeous! - and then market the book in stages. Stage one was obviously friends and family, stage two was family and friends of family and friends, and stage three is where I am now which is giving some free copies away to bloggers/reviewers for them to review and hopefully recommend.
    I wanted to avoid the route some debut authors go down which is to bombard social media in that first week. You just end up spamming and annoying everybody. I have always maintained that word of mouth and recommendations are a writer’s best hope for success and I am prepared to be in this for the long haul.

Wise words there, and you’re spot on about the cover – it’s stunning. How did it come about?

-- I engaged my own designer and found it to be a wonderful collaborative process - something traditionally published authors don't really get to experience. With the cover for Searching for Arthur, the designer and I went back and forth several times until the cover was a perfect match for my vision of the story.

Did you read up on book design or use the designer’s knowledge? What book design tips can you share?

-- I did read up on book design but I chose a designer who had worked with authors I knew. The important thing about the cover is to choose images carefully because most of the time it will be a thumbnail image people see. Keep it clean and clear, nothing fussy in your fonts and images.

And have you had any surprising responses for Searching for Arthur since you began to promote it?

-- I continue to be amazed when I read a tweet or review from a total stranger who has read and loved the book. When the readers are from the general public, then that is a wonderful feeling. Most of the comments centre around the originality of the tale I've told which is exactly what I think the selling point is.

Congratulations on receiving such positive feedback! One thing I personally loved throughout the book is that there were spectacular action scenes juxtaposed with moments of wonderful (and hilarious) comic relief as well as with some to-die-for romance scenes - which story arc did you enjoy writing the most?

-- There are so many story arcs in this tale, and I loved writing every one of them, but I have two joint favourites: the romance between Natasha and Bedivere (I think he is very much overlooked in Arthurian legend), and then the trio of Natasha, Arthur and Slurpy. The sibling relationship between Natasha and Arthur is very much the heart of the trilogy, but then throw in a thoroughly nasty girlfriend and it makes for fun writing.  I love writing Slurpy’s character because she is so nasty but I have to be careful not to make her one dimensional, so her redeeming feature is the fact that she truly loves Arthur. The decision to link her with Morgana came halfway through writing the novel but it fitted in effortlessly so it was clearly meant to be.

And finally, what’s one piece of advice everyone considering self-publishing should know?

-- Writers self-publishing need to be informed and they need to take their time. BE PROFESSIONAL ALWAYS.  I despair when I see someone announce they finished a novel one day and have it for sale the next. This is your career and if you want longevity - which I do - then you need to do it properly. That means a professional cover, a good edit, and a strategy for promotion. Doing it yourself is very empowering but it is a huge responsibility.

I’m sure it is, and I wish you the best of luck. To all of you in this little blog community we’re building together, I encourage you to go out and support Donna, even if it’s just by RTing this interview or my review (tweets here  & here). To one lucky tweeter we’ll award a free Kindle copy of Searching for Arthur, so come back this time next week to see if you've won)! And as this is my first interview, feel free to comment with any questions I should have covered and I’ll chase up the answers.


Sunday, 8 July 2012

And the winner is...

Ladies and gentleman, girls and boys. The winner, of our critique contest and giveaway...

*cut to ad break*


*cut to another ad break* 

...the one and only...

*cut to ANOTHER ad break*

Please excuse my shaky, live action shot...

Stacey Trombley!!!

Congratulations Stacey! Please email me your first ten chapters and I'll forward them on to Lisa while I arrange your voucher. And to all our other participants, Lisa and I just want to thank you for getting so thoroughly involved - that bowl may not look full but due to your participation there are almost 500 individually cut and scrunched entries in there (yes I'm a hippie, so I made them all minuscule to save paper). 

It's been an honor to pull this together and I'll definitely do something similar in the future. In the meantime keep an eye out for some other awesome stuff coming up on the blog too (if I do say so myself, which I can, because it's mine and it's awesome!). I'll be talking cover design and self publishing with the fabulous Donna Hosie, author of Searching for Arthur, which I reviewed right here, (wink wink, go-and-support-her-and-check-it-out). I'll be using telesales tips to hook readers with more Beginner's Guide to Turning Boredom into Booyah, for the fledgling writers out there. And I'll be on a constant lookout for anything which could help promote your book -whether you're traditionally published or otherwise.

Basically, I'm super excited about where this blog can go. Hope you see you there!


P.S. For those of you who couldn't find the mystery mistake, here was my tweeted clue.

If you can’t find the mystery you so dearly prize, don’t feel crossed; the answer is there in your eyes.

And I was referring to this line from the original contest post.

Lisa, a journalist and newspaper editor with more than fifteen years’ experience, is offering a COMPLETE LINE EDIT for TEN CHAPTERS of your MS. So if your punctuation prowess doesn’t go further than dotting your t’s and crossing your i’s, Lisa can help fix it. 

So... who here is kicking themselves?

Friday, 6 July 2012

Hand Me A Longbow And Call Me A Wench - Review of Searching For Arthur, Plus Contest Update!

I know most of you are here for the contest update, so before I start I'll give you a minute to scroll down and see what it is. Be back here though, pronto.

*Taps foot and waits*

Back? Awesome. Because this week's review is not only all about a frankly fabulous book, but it's also a hint about a little incentive I'll be running next week. (UPDATE: The incentive, AKA a giveaway of Searching for Arthur, is live this week, along with an interview with Donna herself. So check out On Cover Design, DIY Marketing & the Personification of Butt Cheeks... and in the meantime, enjoy all this review-y goodness!)

Click the image to be transported to
the magical, far-away land of Amazon.
It is hard to make friends when you’re constantly on the move. Seventeen-year-old Natasha Roth’s father is a diplomat, and so her mother – who is paranoid about terrorists – has moved Natasha and her brother, Arthur, to their eighteenth house in seventeen years: Avalon Cottage, deep in the heart of a Welsh forest. 

Yet the terrorists are closer than they realize.

While out running, Natasha falls into a hidden tomb and awakens the legendary knights of Camelot: young warriors who have been in an enchanted sleep for a thousand years. All have been waiting patiently for the return of Arthur from the mysterious land of Avalon.

And now the knights are awake, they intend to reclaim their king.

When Natasha's brother goes missing, she joins forces with his girlfriend, “Slurpy” Samantha, in order to look for him. Natasha believes Samantha has fewer brain cells than an amoeba; Samantha believes Natasha is a freak. Together they bicker their way into a Welsh mountain and beyond, to the realm of Logres where the Knights of the Round Table are rallying once more.

Among the knights is Sir Bedivere, the most loyal of supporters to Arthur. He may be in dire need of a 21st Century razor, but he still possesses a set of lime-green eyes that can melt the soul. Yet just as Natasha starts to find confidence in this mystical land, Samantha deserts her. People who play by the rules are of no use to “Slurpy”. Samantha will take her own path to Arthur, aided and abetted by the dark arts which she willingly absorbs from a hot young stranger called Mordred.

A race across magical yet deadly lands is on. Natasha battles dwarf-riders, dragons, and eventually “Slurpy” to reach Camelot, where Arthur is held captive by the barbarian Saxon, Balvidore. 
Natasha’s woes become numerous. What will happen to her and Arthur when the knights realise the eighteen-year-old boy they thought was their king, is in fact a math student with appalling taste in girls? Can two people with a one thousand year age gap really have a relationship? And for the love of all things holy, how is a girl supposed to ride bareback in a pair of skinny jeans?


First of all, sounds great? You bet it is. And the reason I couldnt wait to review Donna Hosie's Searching for Arthur is because it changed me. Not in a ‘grab a sword, declare yourself a knight and run off to fight wolf-riding dwarves’ kind of way, (although if that meant hooking up with any of the lead characters then hand me a longbow and call me a wench). It changed me because for a while I forgot I was an aspiring author who beats myself up if I don’t achieve a certain amount of writing each day… For a while I found that every time I opened my laptop to get some work done I would simply stare at the screen, yearning for my kindle, until I gave up and permitted myself one more chapter. (Or two. Or ten).

It’s not my fault the characters are so well done. Sure I probably laughed out loud a little too much, and swooned far more than was healthy, but I can’t be held accountable. Nor can you blame me for adoring the vivid settings and the way they constantly changed to keep the action fast and entertaining. I admit that sometimes the descriptions were told where they could have been shown, but the end result was still a rich, textured, real world and I loved every minute I was there.

The plot sucked me in and kept me captive, with just the right amount of epic external conflict and deep, relatable internal conflict.  And with an immensely satisfying ending and a lovely hint of what’s to come, I’m absolutely gagging for the next installment. My only regret (and notice I say regret instead of complaint) is that I feel that with a bit more editing it could have been superb. The fact is, however, that it didn’t interrupt from my enjoyment of the story for one second. Passive voice may normally be my mortal enemy, and my head might normally explode at the use of two adjectives where one (or none) would do, but reading this I honestly didn’t care, I just thought it was a shame they hadn’t been picked up. Overall I commend Donna for creating something so downright entertaining and I cannot wait to see what's coming next.


P.S. Contest update: If you've read the tragic tale of the world's most incompetent blogger (aka... me), you'll know I spend more of my time feeling like a poor, lost little drug-dealer than having decent internet. Fortunately I can catch the odd few minutes at the in-law's or the library, but unfortunately it means I haven't had a chance to go through all my twitter interactions, blog comments and emails from Lisa to tally up the entries for the raffle. However since Australia is in the future and it's already the weekend, I should be able to spend some time tallying everything tomorrow and be ready for a draw the next day. Huzzah!

P.P. S. Since hearing huzzah at work today I have decided it is now the best word ever. Just saying it makes me feel like donning a mustache and fist-pumping with my tobacco pipe. :-{

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Critique Contest Now Closed

Wow, the contest is officially over! I just want to take a second to thank you all for your enthusiasm and support and say how thrilled I am at what we managed to achieve together. Things took off in a way Lisa and I never could have expected – my blog hits went from tens to thousands, my inbox was flooded with twitter email notifications, and my mum genuinely thought we’d become online stars (although given that she once declared that my sister’s homemade youtube video had ‘gone viral’ after it received 300 hits, mostly from her, I didn’t exactly start practicing my autograph).

Anyway, I hope you all had as much fun as I did. And now, on to the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

Unfortunately Lisa has had to go away for a few days, and I need her statistics on entries before I can run the draw, so I’ll have to ask for your patience for a little bit longer. In the meantime there are a few entries in the critique session I didn’t get to look at and I know Lisa has some catching up to do too, so keep an eye out for more feedback and we’ll announce the winner as soon as possible.

Thanks again!