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?

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Interview with sci-fi author -Judith Rook

Hello, and welcome to another author profile. This time I would like you to meet sci-fi writer Judith Rook.

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About Judith Rook

I am a semi-retired person, and very glad of it.  A couple of times each week I’m back in the world of gainful employment, but it’s very much on my terms now.  It was not like that not very long ago.  The alarm clock was the hated tyrant of the morning and at the end of the day, I’d be thoroughly exhausted.

I should say at this point, though, that I ended my professional life as a music teacher and found enjoyment and fulfilment in the job.  It was just all the work it entailed that did me in.

However, all that came to an end.  I closed the classroom door behind me for one last time, thinking, a little sadly, that next year another teacher would check out the guitars and drum-kits for lunchtime practices.  Then I went for a sundowner with other retiring teachers, and we raised glasses to our new lives in the “goodbye to the sirens” world. (For ‘goodbye’, you may read a short and telling word, also beginning with ‘s’).

Now I write more or less full time; I live a fully creative life and consider myself to be a very fortunate person.  Although I interact enjoyably with my family, it is not on a daily basis, and sometimes I feel annoyed when my schedule tells me it is time for some exercise, or food, or some similar trivial matter.

Where Judith began to write.

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What I write

I have written four novels, two of which are straight-out Science Fiction, while the other two belong to the Space Opera genre (“Star Wars” is a space opera concept).  I have also written a novella for young adults, in preparation for a full-scale Young Adult novel, which belongs in the field of ScienceFantasy.  Then there is a rather hot Fantasy Romance, which I wrote as a sort of bet, and which I’ve published under a different name.

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My two Space Opera books (two and a half, actually) are based in a solar system where some of the planets are sentient, particularly the one called “Circe”.  They all have human populations, but Circe’s humans are slightly different from others.  At the same time, in the same solar system and beyond (other galaxies are not out of reach—this is Space Opera we’re talking about) there are non-sentient planets.  The largest and strongest of these (a sort of ‘alpha’ planet) is “First Home”.

For hundreds of years, Circe and her humans have kept themselves to themselves, but Circe has spotted a danger coming their way from far out in the cosmos.  She decides that on her own, she cannot deal with this approaching peril, so she contacts First Home and asks for help from the humans there, humans who do not believe in sentient planets.  You can imagine what happens.

Writing Influences

I choose to write my books on the grounds that I enjoy reading books with similar storylines.  I could never have become a writer if first I had not read hundreds of books.

Although I can never hope to be the stylist that he was, the influence which led me in the direction of writing was Isaac Asimov, the incredibly prolific author of ‘hard’ science fiction writing.  For some reason, I became objectively interested in the way he used the language to express his concepts, and found that I could detect technical patterns in his works.

When I began to write, the fact that a technical understanding of writing must support the unfolding of ideas was very much with me.  In fact, it is never out of my mind now, and more often than not, recognising an author’s technical ability is part of my reading enjoyment.

Research

With Science Fiction particularly, an author has to form ideas of place and existence that are not the same as the ones we come across in our everyday lives.  However, there have to be physical laws which hold any existence together, and my main type of research is in the field of popular science, and in non-scholarly books about physics.  I find a never-failing source of possibility in the videos issued by the “World Science Festival”.  As I watch the forum discussions, ideas come into my mind, ideas about things that could be.

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Writing Challenges

The biggest challenge posed by my “Circe” series was to make the idea of a “thinking” planet plausible.  I was helped by a family member who tends to refer to the whole planet Earth as “she”, as though Earth has a human personality.  Although Earth does not have a human personality, it has something.  And when one thinks about it, the planet does communicate with us.  It reacts to us and what we do, and yet at the same time it has an individually magnificent, incredibly powerful, existence that we can’t control.

So, the author in me thought about a planet whose mind has become self-aware, and whose humans follow a rule of living which provides the very best for both planet and people—and Circe appeared.

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Future Writing

I am half-way through writing the final part of the “Circe” trilogy.  It is taking longer than the first two books because I broke off to write my Young Adult novella and to begin its follow-on novel.  However, the third “Circe” story is very much on its way, and its completion will be my main writing goal .in the coming months.

Advice to Fellow Writers

I have taken on the responsibility of self-publishing.  There are a number of reasons for this, the foremost being that I would like to give other people the chance to read what I write.  This means that as well as writing, I must spend hours and hours editing and revising so that my books become polished and truly professional products which immediately engage, then keep, a reader’s attention.

Some independent-publishing authors claim to “hate” editing.  I can’t understand that position.  Editing is where a writer brings their technical skills to the fore, where they look at what they have written and, although it may be pretty good already, they set about making it better.

If there is any advice that I would offer to self-publishing authors it is: enjoy your editing hours, and be prepared to go through a book at least twice in fine detail.  If you can’t do that, then I would suggest that you either don’t publish your MS, or put it into the hands of a professional editor.  You will not regret it, and your readers will thank you for it.

Reading leads to Writing and Back

Referring again to Isaac Asimov, the scientist/writer who triggered my interest in Science Fiction, I am proud to admit that I have completely worn out the full set I had of his seven “Foundation” novels.  When they got to the stage where the paperbacks had so fallen apart that individual pages had separated from the others, I ordered a replacement set through a bookshop, some distance away from where I live.

“Get them on the internet,” I was told.  But, making the special trip to the bookshop was what I needed to do.  While I was there I browsed and came away also with other authors:  Ursula K. Le Guin,  Arthur C. Clarke,  Terry Pratchett,  C.J. Cherryh,  Julian May,  A.E. van Vogt,  Orson Scott Card.  I had ten new books to take with me, and a very special order placed.  For a Science Fiction writer, at that moment, there was little else that the world could offer.

Where Judith writes now.

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Thank you for a wonderfully in-depth interview Judith.

You can find Judith’s books  online at the links below:

“Planet Woman”     http://geni.us/p1w2

“Man of Two Planets”     http://geni.us/m1o2p

“First Steps for a Hero”     http://geni.us/Hero1

Follow and keep in touch with Judith:

On Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/JudithRookBooks/

On Twitter:     https://twitter.com/JudithRook2

Blog:     www.JudithRook.com

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.

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.

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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/

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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.

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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.

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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/      

Editing Your Work

Ah, that word so evocative of heartache and worry – EDITING!

I am currently editing the second book in a series, and it is hard. I keep putting it off and doing other things.

Making soup, taking photographs of random insects, writing Sestinas, and cutting my own hair. Anything except editing my work.

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I asked myself why, and replied, ‘Because it is hard work and because it feels like I am slicing bits of my own flesh off each time I cut a sentence or paragraph.’

But deep down I know it is necessary to prune and hone my narrative to make it the best it can be. So I got together a list of what to look for when I edit.

If I have missed anything out, please do let me know!

Editing – Some things to look out for and check:

Over long sentences that would be more dramatic or effective if they were more concise. (Did you see what I did there?)

Choose the right/appropriate word.

Get rid of unnecessary repetition of words and or ideas.

Use appropriate similes to enrich the narrative. Get rid of inappropriate or redundant similes.

Typos. Grammatical errors. Punctuation.

Tighten the language. Depending on what genre you are writing in, make sure your sentence length reflects the mood and pace of the narrative.

Are your characters believable?

Is your dialogue naturalistic?

Do you tell too much?

Does your story have a strong beginning?

Is the storyline/plot believable?

Is the ending satisfactory? Does it make sense with the rest of the story?

Does your story get stodgy around the middle?

Do incidental characters add anything to the plot? If not, erase them.

Is the setting described well enough?

Is the point of view consistent?

Are there scenes that can be cut?

Now creeps ever forward the editing bug. Image