Archive | September 2012

Atlantis And The Sphinx

I’m hoping to publish my next novel – Pagan’s Sphinx – later this year.

This one’s a little bit different, which is why I’ve decided to use the pen name William Webster.

Back in August I wrote a post about the issue of writers who ‘genre hop’ and whether it caused problems for readers who have certain expectations of their authors.

In the end I felt that while I really wanted to publish Pagan’s Sphinx the story is such a departure from my other books that I didn’t feel comfortable using the same name.

Pagan’s Sphinx is an adventure novel – with a dash of action and a splash of romance – written in the first person and just not in the same style as Thin Ice, The Vault or Findo Gask.

The idea for the book came from a TV documentary about evidence presented by historian John West which appears to overturn conventional beliefs that The Great Sphinx at Giza was the work of the same Ancient Egyptians who built The Pyramids.

My story uses this as the basis for a modern-day adventure set in North Africa, involving the search for a lost statue that might just provide a link with the lost civilisation of Atlantis.

I originally wrote Pagan’s Sphinx in the mid-90s but it was never published. Since turning to indie publishing I decided to take another look at the book – and bring it up to date.

Over the past few months the book has undergone a substantial rewrite and is now being re-edited.

For a preview, download a PDF file of the first part of the book by clicking here. I’d also love to hear from anyone willing to be a beta reader and give the book a once over before I put it out there for the anyone else to read!

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Such common sense, so clearly expressed.

Cristian Mihai

A lot of self-publishers are approaching social media with the vague hope of it being a sort of wonder solution to marketing and promoting. They’ve been told that social media sells stuff. But I think that they don’t understand how social media actually works.

Social media, social networks, in a way the Internet, can be defined as a continuous flow of INFORMATION. Also, social media enables easy access to ENTERTAINMENT. And lastly, social media is a way for people to interact with each other.

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Recommended Reading

Glancing back through the library on my Kindle the other day, I suddenly spotted a book I’d downloaded as a freebie many months ago.

It wasn’t on my ‘to review’ list but as soon as I saw Welcome To The Underworld, I knew that I had to give it a plug.

I’ve read a lot of books since I got my Kindle a year ago and this one really stands out.

It’s basically four, linked short stories. What made them special for me was the gentle, humorous style and the way that I was so quickly drawn into an imaginary version of Ancient China.

Put quite simply, I just thought this was beautiful storytelling and I really hope that Ian Rowan does one day complete the story of Dao Shi.

I’ve also reviewed two other more recent reads – one of which I really enjoyed and one that other reviewers have raved about but didn’t quite do it for me.

The reviews are on the Latest Reviews page. As well as Amazon’s US and UK sites, I’ve also started posting reviews on Goodreads.

The Secret Of Happiness

There are good things about returning home to England – yesterday I went out for a pub meal and a couple of pints of ale to celebrate my birthday!

I also got a card from my big sister with a Chinese proverb on the front:

If you want to be happy for a short time, get drunk; happy for a long time, fall in love; happy for ever, take up gardening.

Inside, my sister had written her conclusion… ‘so, a married gardener who gets drunk occasionally should have a very happy life’.

As someone who is married (to a woman I love) and enjoys plants, I think she’s not far off the truth. Although I’d probably put writing – and having people read and appreciate my books – as a key ingredient for true happiness!

Cras Amet Qui Numquam Amavit…

So, how’s your Latin? Mine was never good. Failed it at school – although I remember enough to get the gist of some bits.

Which is why I’m absolutely furious with John Fowles. I recently plodded my way through The Magus – all 656 pages.

It was a hard task; some of the book was very turgid and over-blown. It was also full of literary allusions, some of which I understood, some of which went way over my head.

Nevertheless, I kept going hoping because some of the writing was wonderful and – although frequently baffling – it was intriguing. Plus I didn’t want to admit defeat.

Then, after a pretty obscure and inconclusive seeming climax, I finally got to the last two lines: cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavet cras amet.

Make sense to you? I knew it was about love but it was otherwise pretty much all Greek to me. Particularly infuriating as I’d been really hoping for some kind of final illumination and resolution.

What made it worse was that the version I was reading had a foreword by Fowles in which he wrote: ‘…its general intent has never seemed to me as obscure as some readers have found it – perhaps because they have not given due weight to the two lines… that close the book…’

I almost threw the novel across the room at that point – only restrained by the fact it wasn’t my book.

But… to finally come to the point of what’s turned into a bit of a diatribe… why do some authors insist on using foreign languages in their books? Whether it’s Latin, French or Japanese this has always struck me as pure showing off.

The odd word, particularly if the meaning is obvious in context (or not important) is fine. But a sentence that’s crucial to the plot? Please! Have mercy.

I mean, okay, you know another language. Well done. But you’re supposed to be telling a story so why alienate that large proportion of the world out there who don’t?

Anyway, not sure if that rant has helped but at least I’ve got it off my chest. Any other pet hates out there?

Guest Post – Jessica Lave

So, as promised, the first guest post on this blog. And without further ado, I’ll hand you over:

Do You Write First, Think Later or Outline?

Jessica Lave

There is no wrong way to write a story—either you do it or you don’t. Still, some writers are most productive with a strategy in mind. Thus the debate: start with an outline or get the words down first and rework them later?

What are the merits and drawbacks of outlining and free-writing? Here is a short list:

Pros of Outlining

1) Your story has direction. An outline lays out the important plot points so if you get stuck, you know where you need to go, making it easier to work out a solution to get there.

2) You can develop your characters. With an outline, you can give your characters detailed backgrounds and personalities. It can be hard to keep track of all that in your head if you free-write.

3) You can track your good ideas. We all have those little flashes of brilliance from time to time, and an outline can help you figure out which ones really belong in your story.

Pros of Free-writing

1) You don’t have to be a perfectionist. Free-writing can be really liberating in that respect. A few typos or syntax errors won’t matter: you’ll be editing it later anyway.

2) You don’t feel obligated to stick to a plotline. Characters don’t always do what you expect—they’re funny that way. An outline might make you feel like you have to set them back on course, but free-writing means you can let them sail wherever the winds take them!

3) You can get really creative. You can go off on tangents and write those awesome scenes that may not necessarily fit. It’ll be up to you later to rewrite, cut out, or bulk up any scenes that came out a little rough around the edges.

Cons of Outlining

1) It can lead to formulaic writing. Sometimes outlines make a story sound stiff. If you‘re writing an outline six levels deep with paragraphs for each point, you may be limiting your characters with an overly detailed plot.

2) It might make you want to quit. Sometimes a story based on an outline doesn’t sound as good as the outline sounded on its own. With too many limitations, you might lose interest once you actually start writing.

Cons of Free-writing

1) You might run out of steam. Once all those great scenes and conversations are written, you may have a hard time filling in the gaps to turn it into a cohesive story.

2) You may inadvertently contradict yourself. If you’re free-writing, it’s harder to keep track of subplots and character details as you go. As a result, you may have to spend a lot of time finding and fixing inconsistencies.

There are plusses and minuses to each strategy, so it may take a few trial-and-error runs to figure out which one works for you. However, learning how to tell a story, not just write words on a page, is worth the effort.

Jessica Lave is a freelance writer with experience writing everything from sales copy to full-length novels. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys yoga, going to the movies, and reading crime and horror novels.

Her new book is a fantasy mystery novella entitled A 21st Century Fairy Tale, now available on Amazon.

Proof why proofreading matters

Oh, dear. A few days ago I was blogging about the importance of proofreading. (Yeah, yeah, you say with a yawn.)

That’s right. We all know proofreading is important. Everyone bangs on about it. But here’s a lesson in why.

My novel, The Vault,  just got a new review on Amazon. This is an extract:

In addition to the main story of crime and murder, there is teenage angst, first love, bullying, a dark and menacing side with a character preying on children. There is a broken marriage and even some little hint of racial prejudice.

Pretty good so far, eh? Well, it gets better:

On the face of it that would seem to be too much for one book to hold but Huw Thomas skilfully packs all these into an enjoyable, thrilling and enthralling read that is at times unputtdownable.

Wow. Just what an author wants to read. High praise indeed. But here’s the killer:

I would have loved to give this book five stars but it is let down slightly by editing and proof reading glitches which is a shame.

End result is reviewer Diane Dickson only gave The Vault a four-star rating. Not bad but five stars would have been so much better. I can’t blame her. As a reader, I know sloppy editing can be really annoying.

So, fellow authors, the moral is don’t be slack. Skimping on the proofreading will come back and bite you. (Funny isn’t it, I mentioned the dangers of people in glass houses throwing stones when I was writing about this last time. Now it looks as if I’m going to have to sort out a revised edition of The Vault!)

Different Perspectives

Over the last couple of months I’ve been trying to build this blog up into being more than just a platform for my books – I’d also like it to be a forum for musings and thoughts on writing, indie publishing and the creative process in general.

I know some of you have enjoyed my posts. Thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to read them – I’m delighted every time I get a ‘like’!

So far, though, you’ve only had my take on things. But from now, I’m going to open the blog up to guests. No particular timescale or routine – just whenever the mood takes me and someone contacts me with something they want to say. (I may also flit off occasionally to post on other people’s blogs.)

Hopefully, having guests here on the blog will provide some different perspectives on what it means to be a writer, how others have gone about it etc.

Later this week I’m going to open the blog up to my first guest, Colorado-based author Jessica Lave.

If anyone else out there has something to contribute then do get in touch – email me on hdthomas@hotmail.co.uk

I don’t mind if you’ve got a book to plug but I will be asking for more than that – whether it’s what makes you tick as a writer, how you get inspired or why you think you should be the next world president. Any suggestions?

Bear Fur On A Bare Fir

English is such a wonderful language. And such a hodge-podge of words. It’s made up of some Latin, a large dose of Anglo Saxon, bits of Norse, smatterings of Hindi etc.

So, no wonder we have all kinds of strange spellings. Which is why writers must be extremely careful not to make stupid mistakes.

There are sum really basic errors – like using there, or their when we mean they’re. It’s easy two do. Our fingers are flying across the keybored but can’t quite keep up with the story that’s pouring out. Then we read it back and  see what we expect to sea.

I’m sure most of us proofread. At least a couple of times. Many also click on Word’s spelling and grammar check. Trouble is, that won’t pick up on mistakes like the ones above.

I was prompted to write this post by a couple of books I read recently (the guilty to remain nameless). One talked about that famous Mediterranean island of Cypress, the other mentioned children in an orchestra crashing their symbols together.

Both of these made me smile but they also interrupted the flow of the story and made me think ‘doh’!

Being an author myself, I realise I’m on dodgy ground here. People in glass houses and all that. But my message is: do proofread – at least five times. And even if you can’t afford a professional proofreader, do get someone else (with a reasonable level of literacy) to check your work.

Because if we don’t then our published work risks looking shoddy and unprofessional – not to mention semi-literate. The result then is bad reviews and fewer buyers individually. Even worse, we’ll drive readers away from the world of indie publishing.

So, take care – and if you do spot any errors in my books, please let me know. At least it means you’ll have read the novel!

It just ain’t natural

I hated being the centre of attention when I was a teenager. Any time I had to stand up in public, my knees went to jelly and I felt sick with nerves.

By the time I was in my 20s and working as a journalist I had no problem conducting one-to-one interviews but would get ridiculously nervous asking questions in front of an audience.

Writers: shy and retiring by nature.

Luckily, various jobs forced me to overcome my fear. As spokesman for a disaster relief charity I had to do live TV and radio interviews. As a teacher I found that willingness to make an idiot of myself in front of a class generally helped make lessons more fun and more effective.

But, being an essentially private person, I don’t relish the spotlight. Some people love it. They’ve got the gift of the gab, can sing and dance, know how to work a crowd and adore the limelight – all very handy if you’re an independent author and have to get out there and ‘market’ yourself.

For me, though, self-promotion doesn’t come naturally. When I meet people, I rarely tell them I’m an author and I suspect many writers have the same issue.

That’s because writing is by its nature a solo, contemplative performance. We create in private over a long period of time. We bond with our characters, live in their world, discover their motivations, loves, hates…

Eventually though, when the book’s finished, it’s time to emerge from our little bubble and engage with the real world. There might be a few people who write just for the pleasure of the process. Most of us though write because we have something to say, a story to tell or a point to make.

So, unless we’re supremely talented, very lucky or both, that means we have to talk to our potential audience and say ‘hey, I’ve written this, what do you think?’ 

Come on, show yourself

Blogging is one way of talking about yourself and your work. Then there’s blog tours, Facebook, Twitter and all that other stuff.

I know that being my own publicist is essential but it just don’t feel natural.