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

 

 

 

 

Does changing your book cover help sales?

I have heard many authors say that your book cover is what sells your book. True, to a certain extent. The cover has to reflect the content in some way and be the branding image for your books, especially if they are a series.

These were my book covers after I changed them when my publisher closed down. I was in  a rush to get them out so as to keep my reviews. The one that really stood out for me was A Silence Heard.

my book banner

Now, I really don’t like most of the book covers I see. However, I do realise why in some genres, the images are the way they are, to attract a specific fan base. That would mean for example, that these days a YA Dystopian covers will almost always look something like this.

510FKrsZfwL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ Yeuk, as far as I’m concerned, but I am not the target reader.

Dystopian with a strong female protagonist, such as Divergent by Veronica Roth, and The hunger Games Suzanne Collins, also my genre for The song of Forgetfulness series, take a more abstract approach to their cover design. They sell a lot of books.

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After delving into the some of these books, the content is pretty much the same, so yeah, the covers reflect that.

I have noticed recently in the Dystopian genre a huge trend  in favour of the fantasy style covers with images of pretty girls on them. They all look like romance books to me.Yet they are listed as Dystopian.

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My problem is that my story is different, my narrative style is very different. If I were to choose a cover similar to the ones above, then the reader would be disappointed with the content, perhaps. At least, it would not be what they expected. That is if they bought the book solely on the merit of the cover.

With that in mind I decided to choose  covers that were very different in style from those in the same genre, yet reflected the content in some way. I want to attract readers who will like my quirky style of writing by using a cover design that would stand out from the others.

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In the words of the late, great Umberto Eco. “Eco discussed his approach to writing in an interview at a Guardian Live event in London in 2015. “I don’t know what the reader expects,” he said.

“I think that Barbara Cartland writes what the readers expect. I think an author should write what the reader does not expect. The problem is not to ask what they need, but to change them … to produce the kind of reader you want for each story.”

I have been told by a few authors that I am wrong to do this and that I should get a cover like one of  these.

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Will I sell more books if I use a design like the ones above?

I’ll never know because I will never have a cover like that.

I want to stand out.

Have I ruined my chance at selling my books because I dare to be different?

I took a chance with the narrative style of my book and it worked, so why not the covers?

To my delight, I have gotten some excellent reviews often praising my slang-based language. Echoes from the Lost Ones was even used as the basis for a graduate thesis by Mattia D’agostina. You can read the blog post here: https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/translation-can-it-work-for-every-book/

So, I think I’ll see how these new covers work when I start to re-market my books.

What do you think?

Am I right?

SOF_2016_bannerv. 1

You can purchase any of the books from The Song of Forgetfulness series on Amazon:

US: http://amzn.to/1TlwaBP

UK: http://amzn.to/1O01bZ1

For more information about The Song of Forgetfulness series, please go to the website: http://www.thesongofforgetfulness.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.

The Bottle Stopper 800

 

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.

99 WiHM Promo

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:

Website logo black dyst 400

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:

echoes b

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

author banner for FB event

 

Authors – Free Promotion and Twitter Marketing Guide

Greetings fellow authors.

This is a quick post to share some interesting FREE Book promotion and tips for marketing on Twitter.

Now, I’m not at all savvy when it comes to Twitter. In fact, I don’t have a clue how to use it properly. So, I was quite delighted when I received this email from HubSpot in association with SocialBro, earlier today, offering a FREE guide on how to use Twitter to your advantage.

HubSpot –  “Is an inbound marketing software platform that helps companies attract visitors, converts leads, and close customers.”

SocialBro – “Everything you need to optimise your Twitter strategy.” http://www.socialbro.com/

The Email from HubSpot:

“How do you construct your Tweets? Do you know if you should put the URL at the beginning, middle or end? How many characters does your #hashtag need to get engagement? Is it true what they say about images in Tweets?

HubSpot and SocialBro analysed data from over 200,000 business Tweets to uncover the science behind what makes a successful Tweet for brand building, lead generation, engagement and retention. Download our guide to find out how you can get the most out of every Tweet you send!


<< Get your copy here >> ”

I’ve just downloaded it and will be perusing it avidly as I just happen to have a FREE promotion coming up of my Dystopian/Sci-fi novelette. Part of The Song of Forgetfulness Series:

Changeling Fog will be FREE to download from Amazon on 28th-29th January!!

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US:  http://amzn.to/1ZJAVL5

UK:  http://amzn.to/1PnNPn1

The next exciting FREE thing is for the chance to get some premium newsletter features to promote your books for FREE on BookHearts.com

All you have to do is click below and enter for your chance to win.

http://bookhearts.com/giveaways/win-free-promo-spots-on-bookhearts-com/?lucky=128

I hope this information has been helpful.

Take care.

Oh, and please, could you download my book? It’s FREE.

UK:  http://amzn.to/1PnNPn1

US:   http://amzn.to/1ZJAVL5

 

Writing Tips From Neil Gaiman

I’ve just finished writing a middle-grade action adventure book, working title – Revenge upon the Mummy Snatcher – yes, I know, not a great title.

2012-09-18 at 10-05-20 (1)Anyway, I gave it to a number of Beta readers and have had some really constructive feedback. However, sometimes, one or two readers went beyond the requirements of pointing out flaws in character, plot, dialogue etc, and sent me full-on editing with occasional re-writes they have done themselves.

Whilst I appreciate their effort and thank them profusely, it left me in a quandary, because they have given me completely opposite views/pointers on my work, leaving me somewhat confused.

My head was in such a whirl that I almost gave up on the novel until I came across Neil Gaiman’s 8 rules of writing. Number 5 resonated with me immediately, as did number 8.

https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/09/28/neil-gaiman-8-rules-of-writing/

Thank you, Neil Gaiman, you have rescued my befuddled brain and set me back on course with my book.

Just need a better title.

Here are the first 500 words  from Revenge upon the Mummy Snatcher:

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-hair 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.

“I thought I’d lost you.”

“Mum, don’t creep up on me like that.”

“I can’t very well do anything else, can I? It’s darker than a black hole in here.”

“I know. I can’t see a froggin’ thing.”

“What do you expect? We are half way down a pyramid. And don’t say ‘froggin’ I know what it really means.”

Cleo mouthed the word again, and then once more, just because she could.

If you enjoyed the extract, you might like to have a look at  my YA Dystopian/Sci-fi Adventure series – The Song of Forgetfulness – here:

http://www.thesongofforgetfulness.com/

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