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Showing posts from January, 2011

Friday fun - "A Simples Life" by Aleksandr Orlov

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A Simples Life: The Life and Times of Aleksandr Orlov
“No, is not spelling error…” as the author of this book would no doubt say in his delightful Russian accent. For Aleksandr Orlov is a meerkat with breeding, whose ancestors made it out of the Kalahari Desert to land in Russia after being sold a dodgy boat and a map that promised to take them to Bermuda.

Once landed, Aleksandr’s granddaddy set up a successful business called comparethemeerkat.com, today run by Aleksandr and his faithful sidekick Sergei from a 22-room Russian mansion compete with Grub Pantry, Panic Room, and a genuine Faberge omelette in the (real) vault. (Muse: There’s a fake vault too, with a fake Faberge omelette... didn’t fool a unicorn for a moment, of course.)

With its blend of humour and colour illustrations, this hardcover book should appeal to young and old alike with its cute photographs of meerkats posed in human clothes. It certainly made the Muse chuckle as he read about how Aleksandr’s ancestors battled…

Kindle 4 – What do e-books mean for authors?

Since they are a new way of bringing your words out of your muse’s closet and into your reader’s hands, the answer should be quite a bit! Even if most of your current readers prefer paper format, e-books are likely to provide another income stream (or trickle) for authors as a new generation of readers discover the advantages of carrying an entire bookshelf around with them on one slim e-reader. Like it or not, ignoring e-books is no longer an option. As to how much attention you should pay them, much depends what stage you have reached in your career.

1. Highly promoted author under contract with a big publishing house.
You are one of the few people who don't need to read this series, because e-books will turn out to be just another nice income stream to join your paper royalties and audio book royalties and all the other kinds of royalties your publisher or agent handles for you. So you can happily trot off with your muse and dictate your next best-selling title from your champa…

Anne McCaffrey reading challenge – The Crystal Singer

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I grew up reading Anne McCaffrey’s stories and often dig out my favourite battered copies of her books whenever I need a bit of comfort reading, so I was delighted to discover this 2011 reading challenge set by Caroline at Portrait of a Woman .

In case you’ve not come across her work yet (Muse: She’s a big hit over in the enchanted mists!), Anne McCaffrey mixes fantasy and science fiction in a warm and personal way that makes you really care for her characters. Although her books often include spaceships and alien planets, you won’t find any geeky stories with gadgets and zappers here – her characters are real people with real emotions, who just happen to live on alien planets and use spaceships the way we might drive cars. The good news is she’s been writing for a long time, which means she has a huge backlist for you to discover.

When I was a teenager, I almost sent her a fan latter but chickened out of posting it at the last minute because I couldn’t work out what kind of stamp wou…

Kindle 3 – e-books vs. paper books.

After taking a look at the Kindle e-reader last week, I’m now going to take a look at e-books themselves.

Most people are familiar with a paper version of a book. It has a cover – maybe hard, maybe soft - with some cover art. Inside it has paper pages bound together (hopefully) strongly enough so you can open the book and read them and close the book again, and keep doing this as many times as you like. Books do not go off like milk. They might go yellow and smell a bit, but they can still be read many years after they have been published. You can fold down the corners of the pages (Muse: barbarians!) to keep your place, and even scribble in the margins if you haven’t borrowed it from the library. Or even if you have borrowed it, if you're a barbarian. Oh yes, and you can lend it, or pass it on to a friend after you’ve read it, or give it to a charity shop. The only thing you really need to read a paper book is eyes capable of seeing the print and hands to turn the pages. There ar…

Friday Favourite - THE HORSE DANCER by Jojo Moyes

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The Horse Danceris an adult novel that should appeal to all ages with its interwoven adult and teenage viewpoints. It’s part romance, part horse story, and part adventure, taking its characters on a journey of both heart and hoof, from the back streets of London to a chateau deep in the French countryside.

The story revolves around a beautiful horse called “Boo”, one of the Selle Francais breed used in an exclusive French riding school called the Cadre Noir (rather like the Spanish riding school of Vienna, only the horses are not all white). The horse belongs to Sarah, granddaughter of dedicated horseman Henri Lachapelle, who used to ride for the Cadre Noir but left the horses behind to marry an English girl and move to London. There, his life collapsed. His beloved wife died, and their daughter vanished from their lives shortly after giving birth, leaving Henri in charge of the baby girl.

Sarah lives with her grandfather in a tiny flat in the east end and keeps Boo under a railway ar…

Writing Wednesday – The 2011 Book Drum Tournament

In my early writing days, I enjoyed entering competitions. There are a lot of them around if you look, many with free entry (Muse: young writers check out the list on the right of this blog!) Some competitions are obviously for stories or poetry, but others use your writing in a creative way, so don’t ignore them. Even if you don’t win, entering can be fun and might encourage you to have a go at something that’s not your usual sort of thing, which helps keeps your writing fresh. Also, a deadline gets you into the habit of actually finishing something and sending it off to be judged, which is all good practice for finishing your novel and sending it off to an editor.

The prizes can be interesting. For example, my first “win” was a large box of Mars Bars in return for creating a fantasy creature and writing a short piece about it. (Muse: If you’re curious, Katherine’s creature was a “cock-a-hissle-doo”, a cross between a snake and a cockerel, and she had a lot of fun drawing the noisy, …

Kindle 2 – So what exactly IS a Kindle?

It’s like a book you read on a screen, right? Well, yes and no…

First of all, the Kindle is not a book in itself. It’s an electronic reading device that can store thousands of books you download onto it from amazon’s website over its wi-fi connection or the worldwide 3G whispernet. These can be e-books or audio books, since it also has neat little speakers on the back and a headphone socket.

Second, it doesn’t contain books like the ones on your shelf, with the pages all neatly laid out for you. Instead it displays the content you might otherwise find in a book (i.e. the author’s words and illustrator’s pictures), which have been converted into digital format so that you can read them displayed in special “e-ink” on its screen. Pictures show up as greyscale (like a black and white TV, if you’re old enough to remember such things!), though if you download a Kindle app for your ipad or computer etc. any coloured pictures will of course show up in colour. This is because the Kindle e-ink…

Backlist Books

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For my first Thursday Truth post, I’m going to talk about backlist titles, by which I mean books that came out more than a year ago. Since I had no new book out last year all of my titles now count as backlist, which means I’m in the unusual position of being able to focus my full attention on them.

Such books fall into three categories:
Those that remain on the original publisher’s list and are still selling (good).
Those that remain with the publisher but are out of print, or selling one or two copies a year (bad).
Those for which the publisher has reverted rights back to the author (also quite good – see below).

Muse note: The question of when, how, and under what circumstances, rights revert is a complex one that depends on the contract you signed with your publisher so I won’t go into that here, except to say that giving you your rights back does not seem to be high on many publishers’ priorities. So if you are an author under contract and do not feel confident that your publisher…

Kindle 1 - A Gift from Santa

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I have finally tracked down my unicorn (he was over at amazon buying an e-book, of all things) and spoken to him about the way this blog is going to develop in 2011. Naturally, the Muse favours a misty spiral path filled with magic whereas I, being merely human, am more inclined to structure like the Bookette. So we’ve compromised and come up with a basic outline to follow for the days we have something to post about. It’ll work like this:

Muse Mondays – Guest posts where other authors introduce their muses. (If you would like to volunteer your muse for one of these please get in touch!)

Kindle Tuesdays – e-books and my first ever Kindle publishing project.

Writing Wednesdays – ideas and fun challenges from the Muse to get the creative juices flowing.

Thursday Truths – I will post an honest truth about books and publishing and life as an author, along the lines of my earnings post. (Probably a lot of these will have something to do with money, because that’s what authors have the most nig…

The Unicorn’s First Birthday!

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Like all thoroughbred horses, the Muse has his birthday on January 1st. So now that this blog has been going for a year, it’s time to take a look at where we are, where we have been, and where the muse might be found in 2011.

One of the interesting things about writing a blog is its organic nature. A blog is not a carefully crafted book written maybe more than a year ago, redrafted several times, and edited by professionals before publication. Katherine does her best to edit each post, of course, to make sure they are not – hopefully not! – littered with typos and bad grammar, but this is only the most basic level of editing done on a real book before publication.

The bigger questions:
Should all the posts be there?
Should they be in a different order?
Should they be longer, or shorter?
Should they be written in a different way entirely?
do not become obvious until it’s too late to answer them.

For an author, used to having a whole army of gatekeepers and editors working on their pros…