Tuesday 29 October 2013

National Novel Writing Month, 2013 - Good luck!

November is nearly here, and that means NaNoWriMo - the National Novel Writing Month.
If you are giving it a go this year, then...
Good Luck!
NaNoWriMo is an annual challenge for anyone who wants to participate, and the objective is to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November. Are you planning to have a go? I am, and the more who join in, the merrier the party.
One of the wonderful features of NaNoWriMo is that everyone who takes part is so supportive of everyone else. We're all in this together and we all want each other to do as well as possible. There is a website which is packed full of fantastic resources - not least of all is the forum section where participants gather to chat, ask questions, share ideas and help each other overcome any problems along the way. If you set up a login with a user profile, you can also connect up with other writing 'buddies' and the sense of community becomes even stronger.
Talking of community, a huge number of people from all over the world take part, so wherever you are there's probably a local community of NaNoWriMo participants, and guess what - you can find out who they are, and connect with them, on the NaNoWriMo site. Could it get any better? Well yes! There are goodies to buy, motivational videos, pep talks from the organisers and loads more. Really, if you haven't been there already, go and take a look. You won't regret it.
When I first came across this in 2010 I was rather intimidated. After all, what if I failed? What if I couldn't keep the pace up? What if something came up during November and I couldn't carry on with it? If, like I was, you are worried by such things, you can relax. In fact there is no pressure whatsoever. Even if you write nothing during November, nobody will think any worse of you. We all have last minute changes to our plans, and despite the best planning we don't all manage to do what we hoped. Many people participate but don't achieve the full 50,000 words, but that's okay. There's no such thing as failing. Any words you do write are words you might not have written if you didn't participate. That's a win however you think about it.
Then again, you might complete the 50,000 word challenge. How great would that feel?
Already planning to participate? Good luck.
Still thinking about it? I really hope you join us. It'll be great fun.
My NaNoWriMo username is ambenson, come on by and add me as a buddy. We can encourage each other along the way.

Friday 25 October 2013

Guest Post by M Pax - Patience and Perseverance

I'm pleased to have author Mary Pax here today with a guest post in which she talks about patience and perseverance. Mary has a fantastic blog, and today you'll find me over there talking about what authors read. Mary is a successful author publisher, writing science fiction and fantasy for her growing and very happy audience. Over to you, Mary...
Patience and Perseverance
The author gig is tough. It’s filled with a lot of downs and a lot of ups. Don’t ride it alone. Don’t ride it without a plan to keep moving forward.
I really stink at patience. My husband and most people who know me in person will tell you that. What saves me is that I’m extremely driven, ambitious, stubborn, and tenacious.
My first foray into publishing was two and a half years ago. I published three short stories and gave them away for free. People I didn’t know read them and sometimes left great comments [sometimes not so great comments]. The good comments kept me going and onward I went.
I published the novelette, Semper Audacia two years ago. It was my first venture to earn some money. It sells maybe three copies a week. Funny thing happened over the summer. I was contacted by a publisher who wanted to put Semper in an anthology. I agreed, they paid me. Space Jockey happened and sells better than my story does on its own. It’s great exposure.
Then I readied my space opera series, The Backworlds. The first novella is perma free. It takes a beating, but keeps on ticking and keeps sales of the sequels going at a steady pace. The crap it sometimes takes used to really bother me. It wasn’t until recently I was able to let it go and make peace with it. It sells my other books. That’s all that matters. And I still think it’s a damn fine book.
Stopover at the Backworlds’ Edge came out very shortly after. A real bargain at $1.99. It was my plan to lure my audience in. The steady sales and fan mail keep me publishing the series and now has my writing supporting itself.
I noticed when I released Beyond the Edge [Book 4] earlier this month that sales of all the series books picked up. Awesome.
All is not Star Trekathons and pumpkin ale in my publishing universe. The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear, which I published a year ago, remains my problem child. It has yet to catch on like the Backworlds series did. So I decided not to write anymore in that series for the time being.
And my Husband Unit will attest to how much whining I did this summer over slow sales. They weren’t really slow. I wanted more [my impatience].
Here I am doing what I’ve dreamed to do with my life – writing books. And it’s awesome. I stuck that on my wall, and I stare at it on crappy days. I’ve published five books, a novelette, and have been in two anthologies so far. Doing what I love is far from crappy even on a day full of crapitude.
Why are you doing this?
M. Pax-- Inspiring the words she writes, she spends her summers as a star guide at Pine Mountain Observatory in stunning Central Oregon where she lives with the Husband Unit and two demanding cats. She writes science fiction and fantasy mostly. You can find out more by visiting her at:
Website / FB / Twitter / Goodreads / Pinterest / Wattpad
Beyond the Edge
Some truths are better left unfound.
For two years Craze’s dear friend, Lepsi, has been missing. The murmurings of a haunted spaceship might be a message and may mean his old pal isn’t dead. The possibility spurs Craze and Captain Talos to travel to uncharted worlds, searching. Out there, in an unfamiliar region of the galaxy beyond the Backworlds, they stumble upon a terrible truth.
Meanwhile, Rainly remains on Pardeep Station as acting planetlord, dealing with the discovery of her lover’s dark and brutal past. Alone and questioning her judgment, her introspection unlocks more than heartache. Latent protocols in her cybernetics activate, forcing her to face a sinister secret of her own.
In the far future, humanity settles the stars, bioengineering its descendents to survive in a harsh universe. This is the fourth book in the science fiction series, The Backworlds. A space opera adventure.
Amazon / AmazonUK / Nook / Smashwords / Kobo / Other Outlets

Sunday 13 October 2013

Genre: Stick to the Knitting?

Genre is a tricky word. Arguably it's no more than a label for something which could exist perfectly well without it. So why is genre considered so important?

There are several reasons. Firstly, libraries and bookshops – whether online or bricks and mortar – have to have some way to organise the books on their shelves, and it has to be such that the average reader, browsing the shelves, can easily find what they are looking for. That calls for a method of organisation which is pretty much universal.

Secondly, people just love to categorise things. Find me something which isn't categorised and I'll find you someone who wants to fix that. On the surface this desire seems gratuitous, but there is an underlying reason for it. Our minds naturally organise things so we have quick access to them in our memory and can better understand them.

As readers, when we find a book we like, we often want to read more of the 'same kind of thing'. Genre, at least in theory, allows the reader to choose books that are likely to be to their taste. If a reader likes stories about aliens and space travel they might be disappointed by a book which is a love story – then again they might be pleasantly surprised.

The enjoyment of a book is highly subjective, and two big factors influencing a reader's potential enjoyment are the genre and the author.

So does that mean a fiction author should stick to a chosen genre?

Most authors do. That doesn't, however, mean it's necessary. It may simply be a preference on the part of a large number of authors. Interestingly, those who do write in more than one genre frequently use different author names for the different genres. The much loved Ian Banks comes to mind. When writing science fiction he put an M in to be Ian M Banks. Many others use completely different pen-names.

The question is what goes wrong if an author writes in multiple fiction genres under the same name?

I think the biggest risk is with readers – particularly in a world in which a given author name is usually associated with a particular genre. The last thing an author wants is to let their readers have a hard time figuring out whether to read their next book. Worse still, if an author has a strong following, they could end up with disappointed readers if there's confusion over the genre of the next book. No author wants that.

Personally I like Ian Banks' approach. An Accident of Birth is dystopia, which comes under science fiction. If I write outside of the science fiction genre I shall use a variant of my name to differentiate between the two.

That's not going to be an issue in the near future, though. My plan was, until recently, to write a crime thriller next. However, that plan has changed. At the moment I'm really fired up about a science fiction space opera, so that will be next.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Dominic's Recipe – Blackcurrant Vodka

We picked our blackcurrants a few weeks ago, and those we didn't use at the time have been in the freezer ever since. That's all very well, but it's about time I put them to good use, so I'm using Dominic's recipe to make some Blackcurrant Vodka. Here it is:

Blackcurrant Vodka
1 Bottle vodka (75cl)
12 oz Blackcurrants
6 oz Sugar
Mash the blackcurrants and transfer all the juice and pulp, together with the vodka and sugar, into a closeable glass or plastic container, large enough to hold all the ingredients. A bottle, demijohn, large soda bottle, etc. is suitable. Note, the mixture won't fit in the original vodka bottle, but keep the bottle for the finished product.
Shake repeatedly until the sugar is dissolved. Place the container in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Shake every day for the first week, then leave until it has been kept for two months. At the end of two months decant the liquid and, if necessary, filter it. This is now ready and can be put back into the original vodka bottle. Drink any that won't fit.
As a bonus you now have some blackcurrant pulp that is steeped in vodka. It makes rather a nice dessert with ice cream.
Dominic loves to give Francesca little presents when he visits. He sees it as a small compensation for the oppression of her captivity. Francesca is not allowed alcohol, but she does love blackcurrant vodka, so Dominic smuggles it through the inspections on the way in.
Enjoy your blackcurrant vodka, but whatever you do, don't do what Francesca did at the Autumn Ball.
Dominic and Francesca are characters in An Accident of Birth. The recipe is real.