Is This Censorship?

Amazon has a put a warning on my book Whisper Gatherers. A Dystopian/sci-fi novel set some 350 years in the future.

They emailed me to say that they have received complaints that the book has an excessive amount of typos. Now, I use a slang-based language that often combines words to make one long one, much the same as George Orwell does in 1984 – Newspeak, crimestop, thoughtcrime, goodthink, oldspeak, pornosec, unperson, and so on.

I have emailed Amazon to tell them that the ‘Errors’ they showed me are in fact intentional, and add to the futuristic tone of the book. They tell me that I must make the changes they specify or they will keep the warning sign up. Now, that is censoring my writing, isn’t it? Also, since when did Amazon become editors? Because that is what they are effectively doing, editing my work.

This book, Whisper Gatherers has been for sale on Amazon since 2015 without any complaints. In fact, I have received many 4 and 5 star reviews that enjoyed and recognised the quirky use of language. Here is a snippet from one such review:

on December 6, 2016
Dystopian is one of my favorite genres and I try to stay up-to-date with the latest novels. How come I missed this one so late? I don’t know!

The author created a very complex and appealing world I traveled with Adara with great pleasure. I must say the experimental English was at first hard to understand (English is my second language) but as I got used to it, I found it stunning. It helped develop the feeling of being there with the main character who narrates the story.

You can see more here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YMSP1UA

 

Here is the email from Amazon:

Hello,
We’re writing to let you know that customers have reported some quality problems in your book. We confirmed the issues are present in your file and as a result we have temporarily posted a warning message on the book’s Amazon.com Kindle detail page until the issues are fixed.  Please make the following changes and resubmit your content to us as soon as you can:

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 281; Errored text: bordercheckpoint.; Context: We stopped just in sight of the bordercheckpoint. ; Comments: “We stopped just in sight of the bordercheckpoint.” should be “We stopped just in sight of the border checkpoint.”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 341; Errored text: clothesspace; Context: It worked a treat and I diverted my gloomy musings by searching my clothesspace for stuff to wear at the ceremony. ; Comments: ” searching my clothesspace” should be ” searching my clothes space”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 755; Errored text: dryingsheet,; Context: I would have ablushed more of my bod, except there was no dryingsheet, so I wiped my damp flesh upon my tunic before returning to the others. ; Comments: “dryingsheet, so” should be “drying sheet, so”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1362; Errored text: cleansingplace; Context: Go fetch the medikit from the cleansing area.” “Will do.” I went all quickly into the cleansingplace and opened the cupboard. ; Comments: “cleansingplace and” should be “cleansing place and”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1580; Errored text: nanorope,; Context: It was as light as a bub’s eyelash, as strong as nanorope, and as see-through as a raindrop when it came into contact with its owners heartbeat. ; Comments:  “strong as nanorope” should be  “strong as nano rope”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1581; Errored text: girlygigs; Context: The Synthbag was a thing all the girlygigs in Cityplace hankered after. ;

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1584; Errored text: cleansingroom.; Context: I grabbed some of the Medistuff that Santy used to heal my wound and went into the cleansingroom. ; Comments: “into the cleansingroom.” should be “into the cleansing room.”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1591; Errored text: cleansingarea,; Context: I sloped off into the cleansingarea, and packed my bloody bits with a reddysponge. ; Comments: “I sloped off into the cleansingarea” should be “I sloped off into the cleansing area”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1632; Errored text: comtext; Context: A whole load of comtext appeared. ; Comments: “A whole load of comtext appeared.” should be”A whole load of context appeared.”  This change does not even make sense in context to the narrative, as the character is talking about text on a computer screen, hence the word ‘comtext’.

I have received another email stating that Amazon have taken on board my intentional use of language, and that my book is now in the hands of a Quality team:

Hello,

Thanks for letting us know that your book’s reading experience was intentional.

We’ve forwarded this information to our Quality team for review and we’ll get back to you within three business days.

Now, if this Quality team is an automated programme, I’m stuffed. Putting a warning that states a book is full of typos will have a detrimental effect on the sale of that book, surely? I have added my own ‘warning’ to the book description so that any potential purchaser knows that the language is intentional.  I am very upset about the whole thing.

What do you think?

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What if your last day at school turned out to be your first day as a rebel warrior?

When Writing Is Hard

Over Christmas I broke my right wrist rather badly. Emergency surgery and a metal plate  later, I am unable to type with both hands. So, my writing has suffered a lot. I find it slow to type with my left hand and by the time I have written the word in my head, I’ve forgotten the rest of them. Yes, I tried dictation, but it’s not for me. I find my muse by staring at a blank page and letting the words fall from my fingertips.

Still, this glitch is giving me the time to do research for a new genre I wan to try out, psychological crime thriller. I’m rather enjoying discovering about how to manipulate people to get them to do your bidding for evil purposes. Also, I am editing and getting ideas together for more stories, so it’s not all doom and gloom. I just need to bide my time, let my wrist heal and get back to the job of writing when I’m better.

purple cast

sqiud hand q

Squid hand haiku

Dark hides broken bones

Of finger cephalopod

No ink to write with

In the mean time, here is a short video and Haiku in honour of my injury.

Link to video:

https://youtu.be/A6M6_aUWvqs

If you want to know more about my work, go to my website: 

https://www.oddlybooks.com

Or visit my Amazon Author page:

Author.to/BooksonAmazon

Author Spotlight – Bonnie Milani

Greetings everyone and a very Happy New Year!

I thought I’d start 2017 with some author interviews. I love getting to know new writers and hearing about their work, so to start off, please welcome Sci-fi author Bonnie Milani. 

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 Who are you and what do you do? 

I’m the walking definition of a masochist:  a benefits broker specializing in micro-businesses under ObamaCare who is trying to build a professional reputation as a sci fi author.

What is your book about?

Which book?  Sorry, couldn’t resist.  My latest is ‘Cherry Pickers’, a teen girl’s light-hearted coming-of-age story – with spiders.  Very large, hopelessly romantic spiders.

 Why did you choose to write your book?

Y’know, I don’t think we choose our stories; I think our stories choose us.  In the case of ‘Cherry Pickers’ I’ve had one of the main characters, Sam, nested in a corner of my mind for more years than I’m willing to count.  Finally decided to let the poor guy out.  So, of course, now I’ve got another whole set of stories growing out of this one.

Cherry Pickers is only $0.99! You can grab a copy here:

https://www.amazon.com/Cherry-Pickers-Bonnie-Milani-ebook/dp/B01LZU1XK1

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You can read my review of Cherry Pickers at the end of this post.

What kind of research did you do?

I’ve sold other stories set on Sisyphus, the world-setting for ‘Cherry Pickers’, so I’d already done the research on the basics of the world itself: size, gravity, atmosphere, chemical composition, etc. I’d also researched arachnid characteristics & behaviors – which was a challenge, considering I’m a total arachnophobe. But the research led me to peacock spiders, & with that I had the ammunition I needed to work out how the Sissy culture would operate.  To give you an idea, here’s a link to the peacock spider’s mating dance: https://www.cnet.com/news/two-adorable-new-spiders-found-meet-sparklemuffin-and-skeletorus/  Just TRY not to think of John Travolta!

What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?

Time is always my challenge.  I have at best 1 hour a day, so progress tends to be slow.  Drives me up the creative wall. But it’s proof that determination & plain ol’ stick-to-it-ness eventually wins the day.

What was the best part of writing your book?

FINALLY getting it to where I felt it was right.  I THOUGHT I had it right on maybe the 4th rewrite, so I sent it off to my editor.  Oy, was I wrong.  Oh, OUCH was I wrong!  She sent back four single-spaced pages of just where & how severely wrong I was, along with commentary in the MS itself.  Exceedingly painful experience – but very, very necessary.  The story just would not have fulfilled itself otherwise.  I realized that after I finished reworking it.

Thought I’d slip in Bonnie’s award. Wow!

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Do you have any advice to give authors who wish to self-publish?

Oy, do I!  Perhaps the most important advice I can offer at all is to realize that posting your doc to Amazon does NOT equate to genuine self-publication, not if you want anyone to take you seriously as a writer.  Agreed, simply getting a MS up on Amazon is quite enough of a chore on its own, but it’s far & away the least, last, & most malleable item in the production chain.

If you’re serious about becoming a professional writer then you simply must learn the craft and write to a professional standard.  And that’s HARD, believe me.  I can tell you from experience that fiction writing is a thousand times more difficult than non-fiction.  I was writing NON-fiction for publication back in high school.  Waaay back in my twenties I was writing feature pieces for Science Digest, Peninsula, Mankind, The Atlantic City Press, as well as  various other newspapers.  In college I wrote an early environmental fairy tale that was picked up and used by the NJ Dept. of Education for grammar school children.  All exciting, professional work – and none of it even a fraction as challenging or just plain HARD as one fiction story.

Long story short: if you’re an aspiring author, then invest the time and money in yourself and your talent to learn how to make your stories WORK.  Learn three-act structure.  Learn character development, world-building, throughlines, the works.  Have your work edited by a professional in your chosen field.  Then swallow your tears (maybe with a glass of scotch or two) when your best efforts come back bruised and beaten.  REWRITE.  Cry or swear some more.  Then send it back to be edited again.  It’s hard, and it’s not cheap, but you’ll feel it when your story is ready to stand on its own and face the world.  Mind, then you have all the mechanical posting & proofing & such to face – but by then you’ve got something you KNOW is good enough to justify the effort.

Wow, that answer kinda got away from me!  Hope your followers find it helps!

 I’m sure they will, Bonnie, thanks.

Do you have a favourite author? If so, what is it about their work that you like?

In sci fi, it’s C.J. Cherryh, hands down.  Her tightly-plotted, women-oriented sci fi is what drew me back into writing after I’d given up for far too many years to help my husband build his business as well as starting my own insurance agency.

Outside of sci-fi, my favorites are the classic women authors: Jane Austen (‘Pride & Prejudice’ RULES!), Charlotte Bronte (‘Jane Eyre’), and of course, Harper Lee (‘To Kill a Mockingbird’)

What are your future writing plans?

I have another novella started.  After that, I plan on returning to the ‘Home World’ universe and completing the rest of the series.  Considering that universe has churned out about two generations worth of tales so far I figure that’s going to keep me busy for a lot of years to come!

Thank you Bonnie.

For more information about Bonnie and her books go to her Amazon Author page:

https://www.amazon.com/Bonnie-Milani/e/B00IPYW4HK/

 

home owrld 2.jpg

liquid gambit 2.jpg

My review of Cherry Pickers:

Starship Troopers meets Arachnophobia

 I enjoyed this book a lot. I loved the idea of giant spiders being the main characters alongside their human counterparts. Bonnie Milani successfully makes you care about these large arachnids just as much as the human ones, as all her characters are utterly believable.

It was a fast paced read full of suspense, humour and wonderful descriptions of the alien world that made the narrative come alive.

The alien arachnids are both lovable and horrid. I hated the Sissies, but I adored Sam, the spider, he was funny and sensitive. I did feel sorry for Tsk, who’s fate was to become Kekh’s next mate. A thing he dreads, for obvious reasons.

The heroine Nikki is feisty and fun and she relates the story in a jaunty manner as she tries to sort out her role in the complex mating rituals and sinister schemes she has been drawn into. I shan’t spoil the plot, but I was hooked from the beginning to the unexpected end.

This is a great read for anyone who enjoys sci-fi with a difference.

 

What stops you from publishing your work?

There are many reasons an author doesn’t get around to publishing their work. I know from my own experience how scary it is to actually get your stories/novels into the real world. The dread of waiting for that first review, the agonising over the cover, blurb, and oh, the list goes on. I wonder sometimes how any of us manage to do it at all.

I have been wanting to publish my second anthology of short stories for nearly a year now. They have been sitting  in Scrivener for ten months. I have edited, re-edited, edited again, tweaked, cut, added and edited the stories until I hate the very sight of them. Then I wake up and realise there is a plot flaw, or a character’s reaction to something isn’t quite right, and I go back to the story and re-write it. Then when I’m satisfied – ish – I start looking at the contents order, change it around, change it back and when I’m sick of that,  I go onto another project.

Why?

Because I want my work to be perfect. Until I think it is, I know that I will never publish.

Then a friend told me to stop being so precious and ‘anal and just publish the thing!’ She was right, of course. My writing is never going to be perfect. Even if I think the stories are as near perfect as I can get them, I guarantee that I will want to change something at some point.

So I have decided to go ahead and finally publish my second anthology of short stories.

Crow Bones.

crowbonesv-6cfront

Due for release 5th November 2016 via my new publishing company – Oddly Books.

cowbonezsofar12-10

Now that it’s official, I will have to do the deed.

Are there any authors out there who share my dithering when it comes to publishing? If so, what are the reasons you don’t do it? I’d love to hear from you, just so I know that I’m not alone.

My first collection of short stories – Glimmer – is on offer at the moment. Only $0.99 £0.99 on a variety of sites. Just click on this link to take you to where you can purchase your copy:  https://books2read.com/u/4AgOLA

Or go to Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H89AN1M

 Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Glimmer-other-stories-Unusual-suspense-ebook/dp/B00H89AN1M/
glimmer front red 2

How should I publish my middle-grade novel?

I finished writing my middle-grade action adventure novel set in London and Duat – the land of the dead in ancient Egyptian religion. The title so far is Cleo Dalby and the curse of the Chaos Mummies. It had several other titles, but this one seems to suit the tone and genre of the book.

anubis_balance

It has been beta tested, edited quite a bit. Beta read again, edited again and again and again… I think it is ready to be let out into the big, wide world.

So, what do I next?

Should I try traditional publishing, agent etc? Or, should I self-publish?

I know the pros and cons of both kinds of publishing having been published by a small publishing house and self-published. Both have their good points and bad. I have heard that it is very difficult to sell children’s or middle-grade books if you self-publish. I don’t know how true that is, but I have heard it said by quite a few authors.

Now that I am a self-published author, I like it. I have control over all aspects of marketing and editorial decisions. A thing I did not have when under contract. I am inclined towards self-publishing this book for those reasons.

However, I may just send it out to a few well-chosen agents that have enough authority and respect within the publishing world, to possibly get me signed to a major publishing house. Why? Because I am unsure of how my book will sell. Most books written for children under the age of fourteen are bought by parents for their children. After speaking to a lot of parents, they said they hardly ever, if ever, bought a book by a self-published author. This may not be true of every adult who buys books for young people.

Am I talking myself into traditional publishing here?

I’m somewhat confused.

Photo on 20-08-2013 at 14.54 2

Any thoughts, comments, suggestions, and advice would be gratefully received.

I have posted an extract from the book.

No cover as yet. This will have to do.

2012-09-18 at 10-05-20 (1)

 

Cleo Dalby and the Curse of the Chaos Mummies

 If you were twelve-years-old and possessed by evil, what would you do?

Curses, chaos, mummies, gods and the fight to save mankind.

Chapter 1

We Are Not Alone

Darkness pushed against Cleo Dalby’s arms and legs as she struggled to make her way through the narrow chamber. Hands outstretched before her, she slid her feet forward, straining to hear something, anything. But every sound, even the skid-slap of her sandals on the stone floor, became lost in the gloom. On Cleo walked slow and tentative, deeper into the world of corpses.

A sigh, long and weary-filled drifted towards her. It seemed to gather friends as it neared, and soon the sad laments of dozens of disembodied voices surrounded her. The moans continued, drifting in and out of her ears like tired moths trapped inside a lampshade. She tried to struggle on, but the wails tugged at her ankles, forcing her to stop and listen to the muffled chatter that swirled and scuttled inside her head.

“We, the dead, abide here. Quietly resting, hands on chest, faces tilted up to catch a ray of sunlight.”

“A futile gesture. For this far below the ground, there is only blackness and the weight of stone.”

“We, the dead, lie still, poised in readiness for our resurrection.”

“What a wait we’ve had. So many years spent lying in a state of half-remembered promises and expectations, grown dull with the passing of each century.”

“We, the dead, no longer know who we are. Memories fade and melt into our hollow skulls.”

“We, the dead, sometimes whisper to each other.”

“Husks of words from dried up lips that stick to the cold walls, waiting for the living to listen.”

Cleo touched the limestone with her fingertips and thought she heard a murmuring of souls.

“We, the dead, can feel a presence.”

A breath of ancient brushed past her cheek. She shivered and rubbed her naked arms. The chill slapped onto her legs and spread upwards leaving pimples of stiff-haired unease on her sunburnt flesh. She gulped and said into the blackness, “Hello? Is anyone there? My name is Cleo.”

“Found out!”

“Not Yet.”

“No.”

The voices ceased.

She called again, but no answer came. There was a smell of rot so strong that Cleo nearly vomited. It disappeared and she felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She stood tall, shrugged, and said, “The dark is just an absence of light,” then shook the torch that was gripped in her hand. “Stupid, froggin’ thing. Work.” She patted it against her palm. “Work.” Something touched her shoulder and Cleo jumped.

You can read a longer extract on my website under the heading Cleo Dalby:

http://www.nicolamcdonagh.com

 

 

 

 

Editing – does it ever end?

I have been editing a short story for my next anthology. It is based on the painting ‘Autumn in the village’ by Marc Chagall.

marc-chagall-autumn-in-the-village

When I’d finished and felt pleased with the result, I thought I would post a few paragraphs on Facebook. Ah, I saw a repetition of words and a slightly clumsy sentence and…Yep, I took it down and spent another hour editing one paragraph. Was I happy with the result?

Yes and no.

So I tweaked it again.

And again.

And…well, you get the idea.

So, as a writer, do we ever think, ‘Okay, this is it. This is perfect.’

I suppose we just have to let go and allow the reader decide.

But, oh, how I twitch and itch to change it!

Anyway, here is the beginning of my story – The Shivering Oak:

Coward.

To conceal yourself up a tree like a rat.

I did not hide. I was there for all to see. Lounging larger than the low roof I reclined upon. At least that’s how it seemed to me as I raised my chin to the sky and let the sun kiss it. Yes, even the heavens were on my side.

So, I waited.

I did not grow tired or hungry. I was nourished by the warm May winds that gently stroked my bare arms and lips, which were red. I painted them the colour of blood. But, when I glanced at my reflection in the darkened window of the building opposite, I thought they resembled the hue of the roses on my dress. Or perhaps they were nearer the shade of the berries on the bush that grew below your dangling feet. I noticed how the soles of your shoes were worn. Was that a toe? That pink protuberance that stuck out from the emerging hole? The twitching thing that made Genghis yank at his leash.

I sat up to get a better look. You struggled to maintain position on the creaking branch. One hand wrapped around the frail wood, the other clutching onto your fiddle. The same violin you used to seduce me at the Christmas concert.

The village hall was crammed that night with the young, old, and those in between. Forced to stand at the back, I peered over the shoulders of the tall men. I didn’t mind, though. It was good to be in the world again after all those years cooped up with dad.

I squinted when the lights came up and saw you standing stage right next to the accordion player. The drummer had far too much facial hair for my liking and for some reason I took an instant dislike to the piano player. I think it was because he kept winking at a young woman two seats down from where I sat.

You moved away from the clarinettist, who contorted his face and body so much when he began to tune his instrument, that I was forced to lower my gaze to avoid witnessing his grimaces. I’m glad I did, for when I looked up again, my eyes rested upon you. You were staring at the ceiling, instrument tucked under your arm, paying attention to something other than the music. Standing still all statue-like, I gazed at you and wondered if you had indeed turned to stone. If so, I’d place you in my garden by the dried up pond.

When it was your turn to play, you sparked into life as though switched on by an invisible flick. I may have drooled when your fingers slid right to the top of the neck of the violin. The shrill and lilting notes you played made my backbone dance involuntarily. You made me yours that evening, by the stroke of a bow on horsehair.

Hope you enjoyed this extract. Please feel free to comment. Thank you!

If you are interested in my short stories, I have a collection on amazon called – Glimmer and other stories.

Here is the link: http://bookShow.me/B00H89AN1M

Also my author website link: http://www.nicolamcdonagh.com/

glimmer front red 2

The problems with Prequels and short story writing

I have taken a break from novel writing. I wrote a prequel to my YA Dystopian/Sci-fi/Action Adventure series – The Song of Forgetfulness – a few months ago, and to be honest, it was more difficult than writing the first two.

author banner for FB event

Why?

Well, because I needed to explain some of the backstory whilst avoiding having my heroine, Adara, know more than she does in the prequel than in the following books. It was quite gruelling. I changed it so many times that I became confused as to what version was the correct one.

Then I did a silly thing.

I uploaded the un-edited version onto Createspace and KDP. It wasn’t until I got the Proof paperback copy that I realised my mistake. Thankfully, I hadn’t started promoting it and only sold a few copies.

Note to self – don’t do this again!

Anyway, as I said, I decided to go back to short story writing and began working on Crow Bones, the title story in my next anthology. To my surprise, it was even more difficult to write than the prequel Whisper Gatherers, which is over 60,000 words. This story is a mere 9,000.

WhisperS8front cover only

Sylvia Plath once said that a writer needs to be, ‘An expert packer of suitcases.’ She was right. Choosing the right words to tell a story, especially a short one, is crucial and difficult. I’d been allowing myself the luxury of going with the story and letting it wander this way and that. A bit like I tend to do when writing a novel where I allow myself to be generous with words in the first few drafts.

I admit I was struggling with Crow Bones because I didn’t really know what it was about. I was putting words down and making interesting descriptions, blah, blah, blah, but saying nothing. So I looked at my story and asked myself, ‘What is it about?’ When I answered the question, the words changed. The story changed. The genre changed. It is now Sci-fi. I got rid of unnecessary characters, over complicated plot twists, and concentrated on my theme – guilt and grief – and the new story came alive, as did the dialogue and characterisation. Finally, after months of struggling with it (It took only six weeks to write the novel) I have arrived at a version I am happy with. I think.

Here is the beginning of Crow Bones:

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The window is dirty. Blotches of grey obscure the decaying houses and unmended pathways before me. I’ll not clean it. I prefer not to watch as bit-by-bit my community perishes. I turn my eyes upwards, away from the sad scene outside.

Squinting, I observe the pale yellow sun hanging alone in the cloudless sky. Poor thing, its fire has weakened so. Causing our once lush land to succumb to frost and stone-hard earth. Now we drape thick coats around ourselves, even in summer.

The spots of grime on the pane look like tiny birds halted in mid air, by what? The knowledge that their existence is almost up, like the rest of us. Not yet, though. Stargazers say we have many more years before that fading star expires. So why do I feel as if that time has already come?

Because we are dwindling and can no longer repair our lodgings or roads. We have lost the spark to continue and thrive. The barley blight was tough on our community. My mumum and dadad, and many other of the older generation succumbed to the lung clogging disease. We became weakened by it, dying out like most of the other creatures in this shrivelling planet. Yet we adhere to the one-child rule. That was our shame, our guilt, and our crime, to allow two to germinate inside my womb.

I listen to my babe softly breathing and watch a piece of wall from my parent’s house opposite, crumble and fall, leaving a small hole like a puncture wound.

I hope you enjoyed reading the extract.

If you would like to know more about The Song of Forgetfulness, or my short stories, here are some links:

Book series site: http://www.thesongofforgetfulness.com/

Author Website: http://www.nicolamcdonagh.com/

A Time for Change – revisited

boris on grass This new year has brought about restlessness within me. There is something about January and February that makes me want to start all over again. So, I decided I would do just that.

I have two YA Dystopian/Sci-Fi books published by an independent publisher that are languishing on Amazon. I have quite a few excellent 4* and 5* reviews, but I’m still not getting the sales that reflect the enthusiasm of the reviewers. I stopped to think why.

Maybe the blurb isn’t right?

Maybe I’m not doing enough to promote, or get myself noticed?

Perhaps it is the covers?

Well, the answer is all of the above, I guess.

My gut reaction was to re-edit both books. I wasn’t happy with the ending of the first novel in the series, The Song of Forgetfulness. Echoes from the Lost Ones had too much of a cliff-hanger finish, which meant that book two, A Silence Heard, would need to be changed to accommodate the revisions. Then I remembered I had a prequel! On re-reading it, I realised that this series could be something special – with the right marketing.

Firstly, I turned my attention to the covers.

echoes cover for email                                 A Silnce Heard cover sml

The cover for the first book in the series – The Song of Forgetfulness – is okay and does have relevance to the content, but the second one does not. In fact it is misleading. I’m not saying that the covers are hindering the sales of my books, but they aren’t helping, in my opinion.

Here are my new designs for the covers of Echoes from the Lost Ones, and A Silence Heard.

I am attempting to reflect the futuristic atmosphere and tension that is present in the narrative. Also, the images I have used are relevant to the story. They aren’t the finished product, just mock-ups, but I like them better than the old ones – so far.

echoes_new_21.01                              silence_new_21.01

It felt good to throw out the old, re-edit my books, and change the covers. Maybe I can attract the attention of readers by giving them a more rewarding reading experience. Plus, I am going to swot up on how to market and publicise for greater effect. I hope it works. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

What do you think? Feedback would be very useful. Especially any tips on marketing and promotion. Thank you:)

You can watch trailers for the books on Youtube:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQ8o_mBopYM

If you would like to know more about me and my writing, please visit these websites: http://www.nicolamcdonagh.com/ http://www.thesongofforgetfulness.com/      

Using a foreign language in children’s novels

In the book I’ve just finished – Marauders of the Missing Mummies – I have a section that takes place in a bazaar located somewhere in Egypt. Now, in order to add some credibility and interest to the dialogue, I decided that one of the stall holders, pertinent to the plot, would converse in French as it seems it is the language spoken by many Egyptians today. I’m not fluent in French. In fact, the last time I was in France and conversed in the lingo, I just about managed to make myself understood by the locals. That was nearly twenty years ago. So you can imagine how rusty my grasp of French grammar is.  I have posted the section here to ask those of you who do speak French, if what I have written makes sense. So, please, if anyone out there reads this, could you set me straight and let me know how I can improve. Thanks! new cover for marauders Here is the extract:

“Don’t go over to her. Wait, no. Erica,” Hannah said and ran after Van Clutch as she marched to where the old woman sat. “You can’t even speak Egyptian.” She tugged on Van Clutch’s sleeve. Erica pulled her arm away and gave Hannah a raised eyebrow look.

“No, but I do speak French. And I suspect, that she does to. It is by far the most commonly used language in these parts.” Erica flared her nostrils and turned to the seated woman. “Bonjour, Madam. Je m’appelle Erica Van Clutch.”

The gnarled-faced female licked her yellow chipped front teeth and spat something green onto the floor beside Erica’s feet. “Je m’appelle Ramia.”

“Prophetess. How fitting,” Van Clutch said and Ramia grinned. “I’m going to question her about the Dalby child. Dites-moi ce que vous savez de la petite fille.”

“Je ne te dirai rien. Sorcière.”

“What did she say?”

“What I expected. She won’t spill. Oh and she thinks I am a witch. Do not snicker. See, now you’ve loosened your sinuses again. Wipe your nose before the mucus forms another bubble.”

Kush ran the back of her hand across her face and sniffed. Erica spoke to Ramia. She stared into the brown eyes of the old woman and said, “Si vous ne me dites pas au sujet de la fille, je jetterai un charme sur vous.”

“What?”

“Sshhhh, Kush I’m trying to intimidate her by utilising her fear of me. I’m suggesting that I will cast a spell on her if she doesn’t reveal all. Now hush and let me do my thing.” Van Clutch closed her eyes, pressed her hands together in a prayer-like pose and tilted her head to the heavens. She partly opened her lips and began to whisper meaningless words in a growly whisper. “Unmanondium. Cliventinium. Postargrindum. Dractilvarus. Plantricula. Verbotivis.’ She snapped open her eyes and glared at Ramia.

“Wow, Erica, I didn’t know you knew Latin. What have you done? What terrible spell have you cast upon that poor old lady?”

“Dammit, Kush, keep quiet. I’m trying to intimidate with made up Latin words. Now I’ve lost the flow and can’t think of any more. And cease using my first name. I need to maintain credibility here.”

“Oh, right, sorry.”

“Shhhh!” Van Clutch gasped and thrust her clenched fingers to the sky. “Revoltinum. Bletherinus. Mumbojumbis!” She clapped seven times, lowered her arms and pointed at Ramia. “Je vous maudis avec des ébullitions et le mal de tête.”

“She doesn’t look very scared. What spell did you cast?”

“I cursed her with boils and headaches.”

“Oh, poor thing. That’s terrible.”

“You do realise that I can’t actually put a spell on her. I am not a witch.”

“That’s what Sadika calls you behind your back.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Oh, nothing. Look, Van Clutch, the old woman, she’s getting up. She looks really angry.”

“Les dieux vous dévoreront,” Ramia said and stood. She waved her hands in front of Erica’s face. “Les dieux vous dévoreront.”

A strong breeze skipped and swirled through the dusty street. Cigarette butts, bits of paper and half eaten sandwiches danced and fluttered around Erica’s knees and thighs. She brushed the debris away and titled her head towards the sky. Black clouds rumbled overhead and the sun escaped behind them causing darkness to fall. The busy thoroughfare hushed and people stood still. Ramia snarled and lifted her arms high. A flash of lightning and an ear-splitting bang of thunder echoed around the wide avenue. Erica stood tall and unflinching when raindrops as big as fists splashed down causing shoppers and trades folk to scuttle for shelter. Kush put her fingers in her ears and hid behind Van Clutch. Ramia glared at Erica and said in a husky growl, “Les dieux vous dévoreront.” A savage wind whipped against the shins of Kush and Van Clutch. “Les dieux vous dévoreront.”

“Oh do stop saying that the gods will eat me, Ramia. They will not.”

“Les dieux vous dévoreront.”

“Les dieux ne me dévoreront pas. Oh this is just ridiculous. Kush, do you have any money?” she said to a trembling Hanna. “Kush!” Erica turned and took hold of Hanna’s forearms. She pulled them down from where they were pressed against her face and said, “Pull yourself together. Good. Now, do you have any money?”

Kush blinked and swallowed. “A bit.”

“How much?”

“Thirty quid.”

“Hand it over. I’ve had enough of Ramia and her rants.” Erica held out her hand and Kush rummaged around in her trouser pocket. She pulled out a bundle of notes and handed them to Van Clutch. Another thunderclap and flash of lightening burst above their heads and Erica shook hers as she watched Kush crouch on the ground and tremble with fear. She tutted, turned to Ramia, who was standing with her arms open to the heavens and said, “Ce qui vous savent la fille?” Then she waved the money in front of the woman’s wild eyes. “Ah, now I have your attention. The girl, what do you know?”

Ramia snatched the money and thrust it down the front of her blouse. The clouds rumbled away and the wind dropped. Erica folded her arms. “Ce qui vous savent?”

Ramia snorted and picked up a small woollen ibis. She turned it over and revealed a zip that ran from the toy’s bottom right up to its neck. She nodded an all-knowing nod, adding a wink and pushed it against Erica’s chest. “A l’intérieur,” she said and mimed looking into an invisible bag.

“Oh, it’s inside this. Excellent,” Erica said, took the bird and opened the zip. She pulled out a rolled up piece of paper and unravelled it. “Mentioned by name too. Well, well, it says here that the Dalby girl is the host. Marvelous.” She threw the knitted animal over her shoulder and stood over Kush. “Get up, you whimpering fool. Time to go.”

Kush rose slowly and wiped her nose on her sleeve. “Are we safe?”

“We are, Kush my dear. However, the young Dalby is not.” Erica grinned, screwed up the paper, shoved it into her mouth and swallowed. “There now, all done.”

“Why did you do that?”

“That raving old woman called upon the gods to devour me, well, I have eaten them instead. This missive scrawled in the words of the gods and written in blood, gave away a secret about the Dalby brat. These words are powerful. They could have destroyed me if I had read on, but I did not. I have turned the tables. Now I possess their power,” Van Clutch said and raised her head to the cloudless sky.

Spotlight on Fantasy author RT Worth

Doom Absolute series: What if death can be cheated?

I am very pleased to introduce to you a very talented writer and illustrator whose novels, Doom Absolute, and Heretic, I had the pleasure to read and review recently. (My reviews are at the end of this spotlight.)

 

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 We all die – it’s inevitable.

But, what if you were offered the chance to come back?  Change your ways, live life to the full, do all the things you wanted to do?

Alma is gifted that chance, and she takes it without question.  Barely in her teens, her life cruelly cut short in a world even more cruel.  She seizes that opportunity with both hands, jumps in with reckless youthful abandon, waves away the small print. Thank you very much.

Now, trapped between the world of the dead and the living she races against the clock, stalked by supernatural forces and even the enemies responsible for her demise – to fulfil her contract before it’s too late and is dragged kicking and screaming to a place with no way out; for the rest of time.

And now for the sequel Heretic:

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The smoke and dust settle, and the fires go out.

Alma leads a normal life; it’s what she’d always wanted.  Blending in with others her age, she could be just a regular girl: phoning her friends, tormenting boys, not caring about the little things.  A far cry from the girl that helped bring down the skyscraper of a mega-conglomerate, that wriggled out the world of the dead by the skin of her teeth and defy Algor Mortis.

Now it’s a different kind of problem.  Her new school, rife with bullies, picking on her and her friends because they’re different.  Intent on causing misery.  But she won’t have it; they’re messing with the wrong girl.  All this to worry about and still her powers won’t leave her alone, still the freak in her itching to get out, no matter how hard she tries to forget.

Those she defied haven’t forgotten the name Alma.  She might have defeated them, vanished somehow with her companions from right under their noses, but they can’t forget. Won’t forget.

The smoke and dust have settled, and the fires may have gone out.  But revenge was always a dish best served cold.

You’ve read the blurb, you’ve seen the book covers – now, please give a warm welcome to RT Worth!

Born 5/3/1980 London UK. RT attended Wolverhampton University for BA illustration.

Doom Absolute is his first novel and RT has plans to run the series for six volumes. I can’t wait!

Let’s get to know RT a little better:

I see you started out as an illustrator, when did you decide to become a writer?

My early twenties were the turning point for me; that’s when I decided to give a novel a real go. If not just to get some of those ideas cluttering up my head down on paper.

Have you ever considered penning a graphic novel?

 I penned a graphic novel during college; various adventures involving me and my mates. But now? I don’t think so. The closest I get is mocking up storyboards to play out certain scenes in my books. I have a lot of respect though for the guys who produce graphic novels. A lot of those guys work in pairs: the writer and the artist. I think working with another person would be quite hard. You’d really have to trust that person to deliver your ideas across the way you intended.

 You don’t give much away in your bio, could you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

 I’ve always enjoyed writing, from as early as junior school. I used to hand in extra homework to my English teacher to mark, but really it was me trying to see what he made of my creative writing. I received the highest mark in my SATs for the creative writing exercise, and I’m pretty certain my creative writing got me through my GCSEs. When I left school I still didn’t know what a noun or verb was. I went to Wolverhampton Uni to study Illustration, but became ‘disenchanted’ by the whole setup and left to find a job a year and half into the course. I don’t regret leaving. Since then I have been in full-time employment and writing furiously in my spare time.

Where did you get the idea from to write the Doom Absolute series?

My sister was working as a rep in Scotland and was badgering me for some penmail, so I decided to write a series of short stories for her. I’d send an episode or two away to her and then give her a choice which direction she’d like to take the story. Many of the characters that are in Doom Absolute were in this penmail! The whole cast took me about an hour to mock up: I looked around my room, noted my cactus plant, the cat on my bed, dog on my floor. I was eating a banana with my left hand and my sister’s middle name…? Alma.

 Alma

Did you do any research into myths and legends before writing the books?

 I’ve always been drawn to the supernatural, and have a healthy knowledge of Greek and Norse mythology. If that’s transferred itself into my stories then it was subconsciously. I always try to be original. For creatures I use that aren’t original I’ll take an unusual stance with them and surprise the reader. I’m itching to get some giant hairy spiders into my story. I think they get a bad rep.

I really like the character, Pepsi, do you have a favourite character, if so what is it about them that you like?

I’ve always liked Fantastic Cactus; I’m a big fan of the anti-hero character. As a writer you can do pretty much whatever you like with them. The reader knows deep down they’re good –just don’t be surprised if they say/do something you don’t like.

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cactus

 

 

What is your favourite genre to write in and why?

Fantasy. It’s always about fantasy. I fly that flag high and proud.

Do you have a favourite author/s?

I quite like Paulo Coelho. His words are inspiring.

 Do you prefer drawing to writing prose?

Absolutely not. I’ve never really truly enjoyed painting/drawing. Writing on the other hand makes my heart sing. I guess that’s how you know what you’re meant to be.

Has anyone inspired you in regards to how you write?

I think Elmore Leonard is a fantastic writer. Reading his novels taught me a lot in regards dialogue. I recommend any aspiring writer to read one or two of his novels; the man is a master.

 When you are not writing, what do you do?

 Listen to music; go for long walks with the pooch.

Where do you write and what time of the day do you prefer to work?

I’m flexible. I’ll write whenever I can. I always carry a notebook around with me at work however. If I get an idea I’ll jot it down quickly before I lose it. I’ve got pages and pages of ideas and conversations waiting to go down.

What do you find the most difficult thing about writing? Editing, thinking of a title, starting, ending, you know that kind of thing.

For me it’s getting that main plot together. Once I’m happy with the proposed plot arc I’ll let the characters take the story along and let the twists and turns happen as I get to them. It’s quite a natural easy process.

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If your book were to be made into a film, who would play your lead characters?

 Alma – Chloe Grace Moretz

Moto – Palm –Not sure on this one.

Pepsi – (voice of Bill Murray)

Maxi – (voice of Elizabeth Dawn)

Ellis – John Mahoney

The Cardinal – Daniel Day-Lewis

FC – (voice of Vin Diesel)

Ed – Elle Fanning

Styard – Jason Gordon-Levitt

Batisma – Ben Kingsley

The Count – Hmmm another tricky one, this.

 If you could spend a day in a book as your favourite character, who would you be, what book would it be, and why?

 I’d be General Marc (Heretic). I’d love to have that army at my command, and all that tradition and magic to guard her homeland. Not for the day Alma turned up though.

 One last question: what are you working on now?

Right now I’m creating an illustrated book of wild-lore for the website. The third book is still in the initial stages. Books are like stews to me. When it’s ready it’s ready.

Thank you RT for some wonderful answers.

If you want to know more about RT Worth and his novels, then check out the links below. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. I for one will be keeping my eyes open and my breath baited in anticipation of this talented authors’ next installment of the Doom Absolute series.

Here is the official website (for more illustrations), links and blog.

http://doomabsolute.com/

Facebook:

Twitter:https://twitter.com/rtworth

Contact: rtworth@hotmail.co.uk

Purchasing ebooks.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Doom-Absolute-R-T-Worth-ebook/dp/B0093QMA1O

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/doom-absolute

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/doom-absolute-richard-worth/1118944757?ean=2940149596348

 

 My reviews for Doom Absolute and Heretic:

 

Doom Absolute Weird and Wonderful

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I wasn’t sure what to say about this book at first, not because it is bad, but because it is so odd – in a good way. I loved the concept of writing about a place almost Purgatory like, where the dead abide, but have the opportunity to escape. In this strange world, some are given the chance to live again. A young girl, Alma, is offered this opportunity and we are transported into a dream-like universe where plants are people, people are plants, gnomes are evil, insects are huge and some even friendly, and everything is not what it seems. For Alma to return to the land of the living, she must honour the contract she made, but time is running out for our confused heroine and she must battle against other-worldly forces and those responsible for her untimely death, before it is too late.

I really enjoyed reading this odd book. The author, RT Worth, has a vivid imagination. I loved his ideas and the strange occupants of this dead/alive world are truly original. Alma has many odd creatures that help her with her quest to become one of the living again. One of my favourites is The Fantastic Cactus character, or Greenman. He not only speaks, but also helps Alma to escape her death prison and pops up now and then when she is in peril. My other favourite is the cat, Black Knight that Alma saves from Shindy’s Arena. This animal becomes her bodyguard and has some very useful supernatural powers that aid Alma in finishing her quest.

The only thing that bothered me and kept my rating from being a 5 (4.7) is that there weren’t enough detailed physical descriptions of these weird locations. There were times when I couldn’t visualise the setting, which is important in a narrative like this, where places are alien to the reader. Other than that, a great book! The ending does not disappoint either and I was happy to see that there will be more escapades for this unusual heroine. I look forward to reading more from this fine writer.

 

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Heretic: Weirder and weirder.

I loved Doom Absolute and its weird world and creatures, so was excited to read Heretic. In the second book our heroine, Alma, is alive and back in school, coping with all the stuff that teens go through. Except that she is different. She has been dead and is now finding being alive again hard. But she soon meets up with others not too dissimilar to herself. Her transition and those of her friends, is not easy, as they need to be medicated in order to stay alive. Their bodies seem to be their enemies now and strange poisons and life threatening weaknesses are hampering their difficult existence in the normal world.

Although it is well written and believable, I was getting a bit fed up with theses initial chapters, thinking that this was going to be just another teen book, but to my joy, the weirdness kicked in again and the author let loose his marvellous creations. For me, RT Worth excels when he writes about the quirky and surreal in his books. More myths and magic unfolds and our heroine discovers that she has a secret inside that she doesn’t want at all. She battles with enemies that are truly bizarre in a struggle to understand who or what, she really is. There are some wonderful characters in this story, but a particular favourite of mine was Pepsi, the cat guardian. I was heartbroken when he disappeared, presumed dead.

There were a few too many POV changes throughout, but not enough to detract from a great narrative, once the supernatural side of things kicked in and the talking cactus arrived, and The Powers that Be took control again. Dream worlds mix with reality and our heroine struggles to live a normal life surrounded as she is by creatures from another world. These crossings from reality to otherworldly settings are often jarring and confusing, but they do add to the overall feel of strangeness and disquiet that heightens the sense of alienation. I assume this is to reinforce the fact that Alma feels uncomfortable in her reanimated body.

The novel seems to be in two parts, and the second part – Marc v Alma – had me quite confused. As always I enjoyed the narrative and its quirkiness, but the jumps from POV had my head spinning. Heretic is packed with detail, miss a sentence or two and well, you’ve lost the plot. I did find parts of it a little repetitious and I think the novel could be improved with some pruning and editing to make it snappier and less overstocked with storyline, which is a bit complex.

Sometimes it got a bit confusing going between the real and dream/imagination, and I had to stop and think what was what several times before continuing. Maybe RT Worth could have let the POV stay with the main character throughout the narrative. I was often tempted to flick past the school passages and onto the more strange episodes that are truly readable, but I persevered with them in case I missed something.

Having said all that, I did really enjoy this book and truly believe that RT Worth is a talented storyteller with an amazing imagination. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a quirky and darkly humorous fiction. There are some wonderful descriptions that bring the narrative alive and keep the reader on the edge of their seat. I eagerly await the next instalment.

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