Author Spotlight – Peter Scott

I have decided to do a series of blogs promoting new authors that live in East Anglia, in particular, Suffolk. Why? Because I live and work in this beautiful part of the country and have come to know a lot of new and established authors that also live here.

I have recently been hosting a series of workshops designed specifically for authors who are either new to publishing or new to marketing and promoting their author profile online. I have had the pleasure to meet several fabulous people who have self-published their books and are in need of some support.

So, to celebrate the varied talent from Suffolk and East Anglia I am proud to present debut Indie author Peter Scott and his novel Pimple.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself Peter:

I have lived through a period of considerable change, particularly social and demographic change. Joining RAF probably saved me from the local borstal, and set me up for a career in aircraft maintenance. This would have been about the time that ‘Bill Hailey and ‘The Comets’ came over to stir up our youth – including me. A first posting to Kenya jump started me into an awareness of a wider world and fascination for wild places which I was able to satisfy via various overseas contracts.  Later, following a period of self study and in a completely different role as a careers advisor it was rewarding to help young people come to rational decisions in a complex educational and working environment.

I suppose my de-fault position is that of a lucky so and so enjoying happy personal circumstances, but with a deep underlying foreboding about the massively growing numbers of our own species, many of which are programmed to inflict horror on each other and the natural world.

ABOUT PIMPLE – THE BOOK

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Pimple is about a very ordinary lad with limited self expression but great sensitivity. Quite unknowingly he is recruited into a hopelessly optimistic scheme to make the world a happier place. The scheme was devised years before his birth, and an extraordinary tune was created to act as a ‘recruiting agent’ tailored to select just the right band capable of creating music so inspirational it would create a global climate of love and co-operation.

As the story unravels Pimple encounters some bizarre situations and characters who are not quite as they first seem. It is of course a ‘tall story’ but during a trip to the USA they make an astounding discovery which could indeed change the world.

WHAT WAS THE BACKGROUND AND INSPIRATION BEHIND THE BOOK?

I used to play traditional jazz in a Lincolnshire pub and on one occasion a lad came up with a trumpet during the first interval and asked if he could ‘sit in’ with the band. Young ‘sitters in’ usually come with loud warning signs, noisy coteries or doting mums, but this one was different. For a start he was alone and wanted to play ‘Poor Mans Blues’ – a slow tune which should really be sung, but he just liked the tune and asked for it to be in Bb because it was his ‘easy key’ and he didn’t want to make too many mistakes. There was something genuine about his approach and something very genuine about his playing. He exactly captured the feel and sadness of the tune without any attempt to show off and I sensed it had been a consoling experience for him. Thanking us for letting him sit in he wandered off some time later and we never saw him again.

He made quite an impression, but no-one asked his name so we remembered him only as ‘Pimple’ because of a prominent pimple on one of his cheeks.

Some time later a particularly nasty incident in war – torn South Sudan started me wondering if a melody could be sufficiently powerful in its emotional impact to modify general nastiness and unkindness. I doubt it, but it developed it a ‘what if?’ fictional possibility, with Pimple as a central character. His limited verbal self-expression coupled with his sensitivity made him an ideal ’sounding board’ for the various characters and happenings around him.

WHAT WERE YOUR LIKES AND DIFFICULTIES WHEN WRITING YOUR BOOK?

Perhaps the most satisfying part of writing was creating believable characters. It was also satisfying to succeed in making commonplace events seem interesting or enhancing a character by describing a simple action.  The most difficult part was producing the manuscript and cover suitable for an ‘e’ book .  Right now it’s marketing it on the web, however, Nikki McDonagh: http://wwwnicolamcdonagh.com  has been really helpful in her training sessions, so hopefully I’ll get there soon.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?

Much of Pimple was written during overseas contracts, and only recently did I think it  ‘had legs’. I didn’t change it much except to make it more succinct and more ‘grown up’. So perhaps writing a book is a maturing process – or I’m just old.

DO YOU HAVE ANY FUTURE WRITING PLANS?

I have a few short pieces and rants which I hope to compile.  I also have a monster of a concept which I cannot yet resolve, but which also refuses to go away – hopefully something will go ‘click’ and I’ll move forward soon.

Thank you, Peter for a very interesting insight into your life and your writing process.

Pimple is on offer right now for only $0.99 £0.99.

So grab your copy NOW!

Available on:

Amazon.US: https://www.amazon.com/Pimple-Peter-Scott-ebook/dp/B008CFHDPA

Amazon.UK:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pimple-Peter-Scott-ebook/dp/B008CFHDPA

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Is it really okay to write in the present tense?

 

Tenses, past and present are a vital part of any narrative. Some say you should never write in the present tense as it is a sign of amateurishness. Say that to Hilary Mantel, Charles Dickens and Ian McEwan.

Still, there  are many who dislike the use of present tense. Philip Pullman is one such author who frowns upon it because of its limitations, in his opinion.

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‘I want all the young present-tense storytellers (the old ones have won prizes and are incorrigible) to allow themselves to stand back and show me a wider temporal perspective. I want them to feel able to say what happened, what usually happened, what sometimes happened, what had happened before something else happened, what might happen later, what actually did happen later, and so on: to use the full range of English tenses.’

You can read the full article here:

http://www.theguardian.com/global/2010/sep/18/philip-pullman-author-present-tense

I have to say that on the whole I agree with him. Personally, I’m not a fan of novels in the present tense, without some past tense in the form of flashbacks or memories. That being said, I believe the present tense can be used well for short story writing. I then thought, oh no, present tense!

A horrible memory came back to me. A creative writing tutor once shamed me in front of the entire class when I submitted a present tense short story, written in the first person, by saying, ‘Never write in the present tense. Only amateurs and bad writers do that. Don’t write in the first person either, that shows a lack of imagination and arrogance. Let’s face it, no-one wants to listen to your voice, you are nobody.’ His words hurt and I vowed to never write in the first person or the present tense again.

 

Until a year later after gaining a Creative Writing Diploma and winning a short story completion with a piece written in the first person present tense.

Glimmer

 ‘The world will not end because I close my eyes. The sun will still shine, so too the stars. Yet the darkness behind my drooped lids tells me otherwise. I see a macrocosm made up of swirling silhouettes and geometric shapes that aren’t strange to me at all. This is where I live now, in x-ray blackness. There is peace in this non-colour. A stillness that demands quiet.’

This story is now part of my anthology – Glimmer and other stories – and is getting some brilliant 5* reviews.

‘A stunning collection of highly original short stories, written with verve and style. They do not glimmer they sparkle!’

‘Glimmer and other stories’ is a miniature treasure chest of jewels. I absolutely loved these short stories. As I was reading, I fell into a trance of adjectival excess… they were mesmerising, masterful, original, eloquent, lyrical, clever…’

 http://amzn.to/239YbRG

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With Mr. Pullman’s article fresh in my mind, I decided to write another short story in the present tense, with past tense mixed in. Then I thought, oh, does it work? Why not write the whole thing in the past tense and be done with it? No one will criticise me and…well, I did and I didn’t like it as much. The tone and narrative voice works better in the present tense, for me, anyway.

What do you think?

Below are two short extracts from the beginning of the story The Shivering Oak. Inspiration for the story came from a painting by Marc Chagall.marc-chagall-autumn-in-the-village

Present tense:

Coward.

To conceal yourself up a tree like a rat.

I do not hide. I am here for all to see. Lounging larger than the low roof I recline upon.

At least, that’s how it seems to me as I raise my chin to the sky and let the sun kiss it. Yes, even the heavens are on my side.

I will wait.

I do not grow tired or hungry. I am nourished by the warm May winds that gently stroke my bare arms and lips, which are red. I painted them the colour of blood. But, now that I glance at my reflection in the darkened window of the building opposite, I think they resemble the hue of the roses on my dress. Or perhaps they are nearer the shade of the berries on the bush growing below your dangling feet. I notice the soles of your shoes are worn. Is that a toe, that pink protuberance sticking out from the emerging hole? The twitching thing is making Genghis yank at his leash.

I sit up to get a better look. You struggle 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.

Past Tense:

Coward

Concealing yourself up that tree like a rat.

I did not hide. I was there for all to see. Lounging larger than the roof I reclined upon.

At least, that’s how it seemed to me when I raised my chin to the sky and let the sun kiss it.

Yes, even the heavens were on my side.

I waited

I did not grow tired or hungry. I was nourished by the warm May winds that gently stroked my bare arms and legs, 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 the dress I wore. Or perhaps, they were nearer the shade of the berries on the bush that grew below your dangling feet. I noticed that the soles of your shoes were worn. Was that a toe, that pink protuberance that stuck out from the hole? The thing that twitched and made Genghis yank at his lease.

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

Thank you for reading. Any comments about which tense works better for you, would be very much appreciated.

Glimmer and other stories will be on a Kindle Countdown deal from 6th June. So, if you want a copy at a bargain price, just head over to Amazon.

 UK: http://amzn.to/1n6Hqpu

US:  http://amzn.to/239YbRG

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

Have you heard about Women in Horror Month? Author spotlight – Angeline Trevena

To celebrate Women in Horror Month

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I am hosting an author spotlight on Dystopian Horror writer – Angeline Trevena and her book The Bottle Stopper, Book 1 of The Paper Duchess Series.

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I tend to think of myself as one of the unlikeliest horror writers you’ll ever meet. I am terrified of spiders, the dark, the sight of blood. Much of my day is spent creeping round the house investigating sounds that absolutely must be either an intruder or a ghost.

AHHHH!!!  A SPIDER!!!!!sacophage-2

After all, I once had a nightmare after watching the Eddie Murphy film ‘Coming to America’. Yes, really.

Yet, fate found it funny to make me one of the biggest horror fans going. Ever since my brother introduced me to the classic horrors of the 70s and 80s when I was a teenager, I’ve been hooked.

Despite that, I was a late comer to the likes of Stephen King and Clive Barker, not picking up their books until my 20s. But once I did, I made a pretty quick shift from reading fantasy, to reading the kind of books that had me jumping at every bump in the night.

And that was when I started writing horror too.

I’ve actually been composing stories since before I could even write, and it’s, pretty much, my natural state. If I wasn’t a writer, I honestly don’t know what I’d do. And yes, being such a scaredy-cat, I do scare myself with my own writing. Frequently.

In fact, I would hate to meet my horror-self in a dark alley!

Angeline as scary self

Because, that’s how I see it; there’s me (favourite colour yellow, watches trashy dating shows, laughs at fart jokes), and then there’s horror me (filled with an uncontrollable darkness, knows several ways to kill a person, truly sadistic). Two very separate people.

But, even when they are filled with an uncontrollable darkness, women can have a very tough time in the horror genre. Sure, we’re allowed to write about romantic vampires, but when it comes to the real horror, the gory horror, the truly terrifying, many see that as a male-only domain.

Though I’ve never experienced it myself, I do know other female horror writers who have been told that ‘women shouldn’t write horror’, or even that they ‘can’t’. This leaves many women using pen names, or gender ambiguous names, knowing that their books will simply sell better if they don’t publicise the fact that they’re female. Sadly, however, the industry will never change if women keep hiding. Not that I blame them, it’s savvy business sense after all.

And that’s where initiatives like Women in Horror Month (WiHM) come in.

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Now in its 7th year, WiHM runs every February worldwide, and seeks to celebrate, promote, and support the work of women in the horror genre. It pulls together a wide variety of events, such as screenings, festivals, readings, blog hops, podcasts, and even blood drives, from all over the world.

You can get more information on WiHM on their website:

www.womeninhorrormonth.com

This year, as part of WiHM, I’m having a week-long sale of my latest book, The Bottle Stopper. This is the first book in The Paper Duchess series, set in a dark future dystopia where women are owned and controlled by the state.

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The Bottle Stopper follows the story of Maeve, a girl left in the care of her abusive uncle after the administration took away her mother. Maeve, lives in the slums, outside of the system, but it’s an existence she’s desperate to escape from. In fact, as her uncle’s violence towards her increases, it becomes a matter of life and death.

Trouble is, to save her own life, she has to sacrifice the lives of others.

The Bottle Stopper:

“Too much trouble, and you’ll end up just like your crazy mother.”

Maeve was six when they took her mother away, and left her in the care of her Uncle Lou: a drunk, a misogynist, a fraud.

For eleven years she’s lived with him in Falside’s slums, deep in the silt of the Falwere River. She bottles his miracle medicine, stocks his apothecary shop, and endures his savage temper.

But as his violence escalates, and his lies come undone, she devises a plan to escape him forever. Even if it means people have to die.

If you like stories of oppressive governments, genetic selection, mass murder, and the fight for freedom, if you look for unlikely heroes and always root for the underdog, you’ll love The Bottle Stopper.

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And for a whole week, from February 8th – 14th, you can grab the Kindle edition for just 0.99!!!

From either Amazon.com, or Amazon UK. www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01360P622

If you want to know more about Ageline and her work, please visit her website:

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www.angelinetrevena.co.uk

 

 

 

 

The Secret to Translating Books

Can any book be translated?

 To answer the above question, I am going to say  – gulp – YES.

I am basing my declaration on personal experience.

Firstly, a brief history about my novel Echoes from the Lost Ones – part of The Song of Forgetfulness series:

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In the summer of 2013, the first of my YA dystopian/Sci-fi  novels was published by an independent publisher. I was thrilled. On two levels. You see, I had written a book that used somewhat experimental language. I knew I was taking a chance and that I would probably be turning off a lot of readers because of my choice of language. However, I knew in my gut and heart that the distinctive narrative style worked perfectly for my imagined futuristic world.

I wrote about the use of distinctive language in literature in an earlier blog post:

https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/creative-use-of-language-in-novels-2/

I sent Echoes off to a few agents and was turned down. I had a lot of positive feedback about the story and characters, but all said the same thing, ‘We aren’t sure about the language you use as we feel it may disengage potential readers.’ They also went on to suggest that it could never be translated because of the unusual language, therefore, the revenues from oversea sales would be lost.

Despite that reaction, I did not waver. So decided to approach independent publishers. I had quite a few acceptances and decided to go with the one I believed would do justice to my work. Long story short – they closed down.

So I self-published.

Can of worms!!

However, I’m glad I did. Now I have three books and a novella in the series.

Then I began to wonder if I should try to attract readers in foreign lands. How would a translator be able to turn my English/Scottish slang-based narrative into believable colloquialisms in a different language?

How the heck should I know!

I decided to not even think about it.

Until…

Enter Mattia D’Agostino – the translator!

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Out of the blue, I received an email from a B.A. student of Cultural Mediation  from the Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy – wanting to use Echoes as the subject of his thesis on the difficulty of translating made-up languages. I readily agreed. At last, I could put an end to the critics and sceptics who said that my novels were untranslatable.

This is what he said when I asked him to translate all of the titles in The Song of Forgetfulness. “About the titles, I would suggest La Canzone della Dimenticanza as a translation for The Song of Forgetfulness. It’s very literal and it sounds non-standard enough: “dimenticanza” is not a word I would use in my everyday speech. A more standard alternative would be La Canzone dell’Oblio, with “oblio” as a direct translation of “oblivion”, which you did not put in your title.

A literal translation for Echoes from the Lost Ones would be Echi dai Perduti.

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A Silence Heard would be Un Silenzio Udito, where “udito” is a literary synonym for the normal translation of “hear”, which would sound ambiguous in this context.

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Whisper Gatherers has to be expanded with a preposition, since in Italian a noun cannot usually describe another noun. The most literal translation is Raccoglitori di Sussurri.

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Thanks to Mattia’s rather brilliant thesis I now believe that any book can be translated into almost any language. It all depends on the skill of the translator.

Below are answers to some questions I put to Mattia about the difficulties in translating books that use obscure/artificially created languages.

 Why did you choose Echoes for the subject of your thesis?

When my thesis was just a foggy concept, I wanted it to be about conlangs – that is languages that are artificially created from start to finish – for artistic purposes. Something like Elvish in The Lord of the Rings, or Dothraki and Valyrian in the show Game of Thrones.  But there’s only so much you can do translation-wise in such cases. Those languages are not created in order to be translated, they sort of exist precisely to stay untranslated, to convey a feeling of otherness.

So, if I wanted my thesis to be about translation, I had to look into something a bit different. Which led me to 1984 and A Clockwork Orange and the peculiar languages in which they are written. The problem with those novels is that they had already been translated into Italian. This is when I somewhat virtually stumbled upon your article “Creative use of language in novels”.

After reading it I decided I had to read Echoes from the Lost Ones (which I believe at the time was the only novel of the series to having been already released) if only for my own enjoyment. After reading it, I was completely sold. Echoes met all the requirements for my thesis. Besides, it was a novel that I really enjoyed and I wouldn’t mind reading multiple times from cover to cover (which I ended up doing).

What was the greatest difficulty in trying to translate Echoes?

The greatest difficulty was finding out that some things that I thought were made up were actually real words in the English language. Made up words are generally easy to translate, they have few constraints. While real words have a lot of constraints.
While translating, I had a specific aim: to make the reader of the translation feel as if they were reading the original. Which means that every shade that a word may have had in the original, had to be transposed into the translation.

When I thought I was pretty much done with the thesis, I found out that in some cases the suffix –like was a substitute for the suffix –ly. What I thought up to that point, to be an approximation was actually a grammatical feature with a clear archaic shade, reminiscing of traditional English ballads and folk songs. In the end, I managed to find a solution that brought both the adverbial meaning and the archaic connotation into Italian.

Do you think that any book can be translated?

Absolutely. I’ll go so far as to say that any text can be translated into any language or dialect.  Not everybody knows that the difference between a dialect and a language is merely political and/or historical. From a structural point of view, there is no difference between the two. Any language (or dialect) can describe anything.

For example, very remote mountain dialects usually only have words that describe everyday life, because that’s what people who live in remote locations are usually concerned with. However, it would not be impossible to speak of, say, medieval philology in those dialects. It would take longer than in standard English, because you would have to explain every concept with  periphrases, or you would have to make up some words as you go.

But it would not be impossible, as every language has embedded in itself the tools to create new words that quickly describe a fragment of reality. Suffixes are one of these tools. An extremely productive suffix in English is the suffix –er. So if you know what paint is, and you want to describe «someone who paints for a living», you only need to add the suffix –er. This is much more effective than using the periphrases someone who paints.

Basically, everything can be translated into any language. The problem with literature is that any given author has his or her peculiar style, so it takes a good translator to convey that particular style into the translation.

Do you think authors should approach translators in order to publish in other countries?

I think it would be beneficial for translators to have at least a bit of correspondence with the authors. However, if an author wanted someone in particular to translate their work, it should be the author’s right to approach that translator.

Correspondence between author and translator would leave less space for random guessing and, therefore, errors. For example, the translation of Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series is completely wrong in Italian. The Italian translation was based on the dumb part of the name, which gives Silente (silent). Dumbledore is actually an ancient name for bumblebee.

The character was called that because the author imagined him as constantly humming, which is quite different from being Silent(e).
I feel that such plain errors could be avoided with a bit of correspondence with the author.

Does genre matter when translating?

Absolutely. Genres have specific rules, which may be different from one language to another. For example, English cooking recipes instructions are given in the imperative mood, while Italian and German cooking recipes use the infinitive. As a translator, besides translating meaning and words, you also have to keep the rules of the genre in mind.

The same goes for literary genres, which usually follow specific formulae. This is true for every aspect of them, from their language to their covers. If you were to translate the Italian infarto into English, the translation would be different when dealing with medical fiction (infarction) as opposed to almost any other genre (heart attack).

I was so impressed by Mattia’s paper that I think it only right and proper to give him a separate blog post.

Stay tuned for Mattia D’Agostino – The art of the Translator. Plus –  cats!

You can learn more about The Song of Forgetfulness here:

www.thesongofoforgetfulness.com

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Life-O-Suction Guest Post by Queen of Spades

It gives me great pleasure to present to you a very talented poetry and prose writer – Queen of Spades.

I could go on and on about her work and who she is, but I think Queen does a fabulous job of doing that herself.

So, take it away Queen of Spades!!!

Shoebox and Scrapbook

 

For those moments when my thoughts are at their most random, the end results can be a picture or a poem. Some are for a studio audience and others are for the bottom of a fancy shoebox.

Today I’d like to share some of my random pictures, along with a bit of backdrop surrounding them.

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If I’m not mistaken it was around July—close to the time where America celebrates its independence. I was suffering from a bit of massive cabin fever, dying to get out but wanting to feel pretty. Random my design became with the eyes and that was the end result.

A few little lines were inside my head. I jotted them down on a piece of receipt paper that was left in my car.

Funny how we are always celebrating freedom
but more often than not,
we’d rather be Free to be Dumb
that chain ourselves to Knowledge.
If those are the only choices I have,
let me be Intelligence’s slave
and my Emancipation never be paid
with acres or a mule.

There was more but I got busy. With different errands here and there. Once those were completed and I made it back home, I tried to recapture that spirit. Unfortunately, it was gone and so was the spark that began the poem.

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This is just outside of my house, prior to the time change—when one could still see a light sky at around 8 at night. It was the hue of the sky more than anything: varying shades of purple with the yellow here and there.

Lines from that scene … I still have not deciphered what they mean or if they will appear anywhere beyond this guest post.

These branches will never break away. How can they when the roots are in disarray? They will never let her defy gravity to run her fingers through the clouds—too slow for solace, too fast for substance.

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I wanted to zoom in on the fantastic green of the tree, making it the focal point more so than the boat. I think that was accomplished. It was one of the happenstances where my mind was empty—a peace obtained not by mediation but just existed. Those are few and far in between for me, so when they come I cherish them.

Nikki.Image.4

 

Man I can’t feel my face
not because I’ll mess up the mascara
but because I’m still not certain
this is really my face.

Yes, I am a creature of habit but the door has been opened to experimenting. Not too long ago, I went to a department store to have a professional makeover. There are so many things in the world of makeup I didn’t know existed. Brow primer? Brow wax? Lip primer? Different brushes, different techniques. My jaw would have been dropped the whole time, if I didn’t have to keep still for the makeup artist to put product on me. The end result placed a lot of emphasis on my brows and eyes while downplaying my lips. If one looks closely, there’s even a bit of blush on my cheeks which I tend not to do. When I imagine blush, I think of my grandma who would put a rouge dot on each side of her face. So you can understand why blush equaled bolt.

I have not dared to look that grand again recently but I have marked a lot of Beauty Tips 101 You Tube videos as “Watch Later”.

Nikki.Image.5

It’s so easy to put on makeup
and get many likes and shares
but Social Media drowns into whispers, then quiet
if there is something significant
or if one is bare.

A day in my life … after I’m off my day job or a day I’m not working. I do a “howdidya” do—my way of describing an updo obtained without the use of Bobbi pins. First, having long Earth locs can be quite heavy and breaks are needed from time to time to get them off my neck or away from my face. Second, I’m not a fan of Bobbi pins. I can’t sleep in them and if they are in my head for too long, I get the “itchies” and start yanking them out anyway. I’m saving the pins the rejection; they should be thanking me!

In the backdrop are images I use as a bit of a motivational collage, if you will. I take advantage of the fact that the slope of the wall is actually the roof of the house. Besides, it is challenging to hang framed pictures with a strong possibility that they would fall. Cleaning up bits of glass is not my favorite thing.

QOS-Logo copy

For all of my writes that made it to publication, you can check them out at the following retailers:

Amazon Author Page

Smashwords (where you can grab some of my freebies)

and

Feel free to network with me via

Website

Facebook Author Page

Google Author Page

Twitter @authorqspades

The First Seven ’79 Words Story’ Entrants…

This is a great opportunity to hone your writing skills. Why not give it a go?

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

79 WSC

Further to the fun 79 word challenge set byAuthor Andrew Joyce– clickHEREto check out HIS story.

I’m delighted to post the first seven entries received (to visit the writers blogs, click on their names or photos) as follows:

〜〜〜〜〜

The Scent‘ by Emily Gmitter

Emily Gmitter

She stood at the stove, wearing one of his white business shirts over her birthday suit. Maple-flavored bacon sizzled in the pan.

The scent must have awakened him; she felt his arms encircle her waist. She did not turn around. They stood in silence for a moment before he whispered in her ear.

That was a great fight last night.”

With her back still to him, she said softly, “I hate you.”

He stroked her hair gently. “I know.”

〜〜〜〜〜

Change by Gigi Sedimayer

Gigi Sedlmayer

I wandered aimlessly, as I did so many times before, around the outback of Australia…

View original post 530 more words

Five FREE Tools To Help Self-Published Authors Succeed.

It is hard being an author, whether self-published or traditionally, getting your manuscript/book looking good, free of grammatical/typo errors and noticed when it is published, is very difficult. So the more tools at your disposal that can help you do that is surely a good thing.

I have recently discovered a few neat little devices that can help to make those jobs easier.

1: Scrivener – The first and truly brilliant, especially if you are considering self-publishing, is this word processing and book formatting tool – You can download it for a Free trial to see if it is for you.

Don’t take my word for it, though – the self-publishing legend that is Joanna Penn (you can learn more about Joanna and her books to help self-published authors here:http://www.thecreativepenn.com/) has a blog about the value of using Scrivener. http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/02/04/scrivener/

scrivener

I’m sure most of you have heard about it, but until I actually used it, I didn’t realise how fabulous it actually is. Not just for formatting – which it is brilliant for – but for lots of other useful writing implements that help to make your manuscript the best it can be. You can store valuable research, photographs and lots more that can aid you with the planning and plotting of your writing project. Don’t forget that Scrivener allows you to format not only fiction manuscripts but non-fiction, screenplays and well, you’ll have to see for yourself just how useful it is.

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

2: Grammarly – On a similar note, Grammarly, is a free spelling and grammar checker that goes beyond the capabilities of your word processor. It also helps you to choose the right word by showing ‘context-optimised synonym suggestions’ and asking you if it is the correct word to use in context with the sentence. It also claims to, ‘Grammarly corrects over 250 grammatical mistakes while also catching contextual spelling errors and poor vocabulary usage. Works wherever you write online. Grammarly helps you write mistake-free in Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and nearly anywhere else you write on the Web.’

grammarly

Great stuff really. I use it regularly and find it very useful. It is totally Free. Of course you can subscribe to a paid version, but for me, the free version is all I need.

https://app.grammarly.com/

3: Canva – Creating your ebook cover can be a nightmare. You can pay for someone to do it for you, or you can try to design it yourself. This is what I chose to do with the help of my husband who understands how to use Photoshop. Photoshop is expensive and difficult to use if you are not familiar with the programme. I recently discovered a website – Canva – that offers Free design templates and many free stock images for you to choose from to design and format your ebook cover. I have a very poor quality screen shot of a couple of ideas I had for my middle-grade action adventure book, currently titled: Vengeance of the Mummy Thief. The cover in the middle is one of their stock templates.

Canva

Some of the better images you will have to pay for, but at $1 a time, it is very affordable. You can also download your own images and use their photo editor to create great-looking designs. Even if you only use it as an example, or to try out ideas, it can be done quickly and easily. It is very simple to use and has many other useful features, such as basic photo editing, Twitter, blog page, Facebook heading designs and much more. Well worth a go in my opinion.

https://www.canva.com/

4: Bookshow.me – One little tool that I find  really useful is the URL shortening device that sends customers to your selling page for any country. So that if for example, I live in France and click on the link, It will go to the Amazon page for France and not America or the UK so that I can buy a book directly from my own country.  All you have to do is go to http://bookshow.me/ type in the URL for your book, click the button and you get a shortened URL that will direct any buyer to the right page for their particular country.

bookshow.me

http://bookshow.me/

5: Yasiv – Lastly, something that I found very useful when deciding on Keywords to use for my books when uploading them onto Amazon.  Apologies for another poor quality screen shot here.

Yasiv

This neat little free device helps authors discover categories that do well in their niche. Also works with anything that is for sale on Amazon. You can find out the keywords successful authors use. It doesn’t tell you what the keywords are as such, you have to type in words as I did for my book Whisper Gatherers: YA Dystopian Action Adventure, and up came one hundred and twenty-nine books in that category. Meaning, it is fairly popular, but not so popular that my book will get lost. Then I typed in: Sci-Fi Action Adventure Series. Only seven came up. Clearly that is not a popular category, therefore, I won’t use it in my keywords. Therefore, it is quite useful in helping to decide what keywords to use when listing them on Amazon.

http://www.yasiv.com/

There is a more in-depth keyword tool that isn’t free called Kindlespyhttp://www.kdspy.com/

This shows you lots of stats for the books in your chosen category in one click, thus saving you a lot of time and energy. You can then go to these books and look at word bubbles that show the keywords that are used to sell them, oh, and it does more, a lot more, go take a look.

I hope some of these suggestions will be of use to you in your writing ventures. If you know of any others, I would be glad to hear from you and so would many other authors too.

You can learn more about my YA Sci-Fi Action Adventure Dystopian series – The Song of Forgetfulness – here: http://thesongofforgetfulness.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

Want to Come to a Fantasy Sci-Fi Dystopian Steampunk Bargain Books Party? Then Read On – Meet the author – Nicola McDonagh

Prior to the Facebook Extravaganza – Fantasy Sci-Fi Dystopian Steampunk Bargain Books Party I am spotlighting each author taking part. Today, the day of the event, I am spotlighting – Myself!

In June, my publishers closed down and I gained the publishing rights to my YA Dystopian/Sci-Fi series The Song of Forgetfulness. So I self-published the books with an addition of a Prequel, Whisper Gatherers.

So, this is me:

me and storm b&W

Nicola McDonagh is an author, creative writing tutor, and photographer. She lives in Suffolk, UK, with her musician husband and a plethora of rescued/feral cats. She came to writing prose late in life and is trying to make up any lost time by dabbling in more than one genre.

Nicola won the Suffolk Book League’s Short Story Competition 2011 with her story, ‘Glimmer’. The anthology of short stories – Glimmer and other stories was given a Certificate of Excellence by All Authors Publications and Promotions in June 2015.

Nicola was short-listed for the Escalator Genre Fiction Competition 2012 with an extract from Echoes from the Lost Ones; book 2 in her YA dystopian/sci-fi series, The Song of Forgetfulness.

You can contact Nicola and learn more about her work below:

 Email:                          nikki@nicolamcdonagh.com

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

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

 Facebook:                https://www.facebook.com/thesongofforgetfulness?ref=hl

Blog Page:               https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/

Twitter:                      @McDonaghNikki https://twitter.com/McDonaghNikki

Re-Launch of The Song of Forgetfulness-Dystopian/Sci-fi Series  

“A story of trust and faith…it is an adventure that takes you to a time and place like no other.”

“A brilliant and unique read for adults and young adults alike…reminded me of Patrick Ness’ Walking Chaos Trilogy.”

                    sof covers

http://www.thesongofforgetfulness.com

 The struggle to survive just got harder.

In a land disfigured by famine and disease, fear spreads throughout the scattered population of NotSoGreatBritAlbian when the Agro Empire cuts food supplies and kidnaps special children – The Meeks. But there is hope. Adara, with her secret power.

 I’m Adara. I’ve got six fingers on each hand, and a secret I cannot share.

There is a rustling in the wind. Lights beyond the boundary fence.

A sign of Agro threat.

A murmur haunts Cityplace.

Something is coming.

 Shock-faced moon

“The moon shone bright. A shock-faced ball in the black sky that looked down on the three of us as if to shout, “Prevail. Stand steady.” The wind whipped around our feet and legs, and a swirl of ash and dry earth spiralled up before us. I coughed and spat out the filthy soil that bore the taste of Agro boot.”

Synopsis of The Song of Forgetfulness:

The Song of Forgetfulness is an unsettling and mysterious vision of the future where animals are almost extinct, humans are subjugated by the sinister and secretive Agros, and gifted children know as Meeks, are going missing.

After her brother is snatched and her Santy is injured during a ruthless raid on Cityplace, Adara embarks on a dangerous quest to find Deogol. But her journey through the ravaged terrain of NotSoGreatBritAlbion is fraught with danger when her search is jeopardised by lustful Woodsmales, savage Wolfies, and sinister monks in the Monastery in the Clouds.

Yet Adara finds friends and allies who help her to realise her true potential as a Bringer and deadly weapon. When she encounters powers greater than hers, Adara must use all her courage and skill to battle against evil forces to save herself and those she loves from being slaughtered by Agro spies.

As filthy battles ensue and loved ones perish, Adara must sing The Song of Forgetfulness one last time if she is to save not only the Meeks, but all the folk of NotSoGreatBritAlbion, from a life of slavery and despair.

There is hope. The Meeks have a hidden weapon that only Adara can unlock. Outside the Agro headquarters, folk are gathering. A legion of Woodsfolk, Clonies, S.A.N.T.S, Holy ones and Ladies, are on their way.

There’s just one problem Adara’s bro – Deogol.

You can purchase your copies of the books in The Song of Forgetfulness series on Amazon.

From 18th July to 25th July, all three books will be on sale for $ 0.99 and £ 0.99 What a Bargain!

Plus! there is a short story Changeling Fog Free to Download when you purchase a copy of Whisper Gatherers.

author banner for FB event

http://amzn.to/1GSFkQQ

I hope you found my books interesting.

Don’t forget – join the other authors and me Today – 18th July for – Fantasy Sci-Fi Dystopian Steampunk Bargain Books Party

Facebook  book banner

https://www.facebook.com/events/577034945770324/