Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I'm not Grammar Jesus

Well, that's what I've been told yesterday and I had to laugh at that statement. Guess what? The person was right. This particular person -- presumably an author -- is trying to sell his book. And he seems to think no matter what it takes. People have repeatedly pointed out that the book is full of errors, so is the blurb.
He seems unwilling to correct any of them. Not even one.Now call me cynical, but I doubt this book will succeed.
After I pointed out that his one-liner had eight errors in it, he told me I'm not Grammar Jesus. Heck, I don't want to be Jesus anyway. I'd rather be a Grammar Nazi, because that would mean my grammar is impeccable, which is not the case. But I have hope.
At the moment, I'm learning the past of the past, as I call it, or probably better known as past perfect. All those names don't mean anything to me to be honest; I learn it all by heart.
My poor friend Tom is the one who suffers, as I'm sending him excerpts from the thriller, asking him to highlight anything wrong so I can fix it and he kindly helps me on my quest to learn and improve.

Speaking of the thriller: after I've finally had the breakthrough with the rough storyline, the writing flows. Sort of. My daily goal is 1000 words and so far, I've managed apart from one day, where I only wrote 500. Better than nothing, right? I hope to have the first draft complete by mid May. So pull up your knickers, it's getting hot, my dears.

Hot was it in London today and I spent the whole day on the roof, writing, chatting to people and then partaking in the workshop for us gardeners. As a result I brought home 1200 words, half a proposal written and a full blown sunburn. Oh and an aching body. Ho hum.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Characters: don't overdo it.

Yesterday, I had an exchange with a friend on Facebook. I spoke about one of my characters in the Thriller. Gary O'Neil is a 20-year-old Irish bloke, shy, fair-skinned, has red hair and freckles and works in IT. He gets red ears, either when embarrassed or excited.
My friend said he's too much of a stereotype. I agree on the stereotype, but not on the too much. My friend suggested I'd make him mixed raced, and more off the wall, but I declined. The reason being is that he's a minor character and he introduced himself being like he is. But he has an exciting and rather unexpected hobby :parachute jumping and goes to the gym to keep his neck and back fit for that.

All my main characters are normal people, like your neighbour next door, that's what I've been told I'm good at: create real and believable characters with their ticks, their angst, their thoughts and I believe that Gary is as believable as all other characters in the book. I find it not necessary to create characters as much off the wall as possible. Maybe in Sci-fi or Fantasy, but not for a Thriller. I do have Sarah, though, tattooed and pierced, a bit on the tough side and people would expect her to be a graphic designer, tattooist or piercer, but no, she's a make-up artist and also a production assistant in the porn industry.
Guess that's off the wall enough, though she's a  normal woman who gets up every day to do her job, she meets with friends, loves and lives.
Oh and as a special request of someone on the Amazon forum, who said there are never old, fat, grey-haired, stuttering guys in Thrillers, I created John. :-)

Stereotypes work if you add some sort of unexpected character trait to them. Like Gary and Sarah, but you don't need to make all characters like that. As in real life, some just fit the profile of the meek guy who has no social life, or the girl who gets drunk every weekend and sleeps around, so don't be shy and give them a well-deserved place in your book.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

You can't outrun the past

Today, I felt strong enough to post something I wrote a while back, when I had one of my ADHD lows. I've always admired song writers for their ability to pour their emotions into beautiful lyrics and there was a time, I wanted to do the same. Yet I never came up with something good enough. I'm not a poet and never will be as you probably will see confirmed by the piece below, but then it's not my goal anyway. No, I'm not fishing for compliments, I'm well aware of my limits, but nevertheless, I write things like that once in a blue moon.

The warmth of the sun on my skin;
I feel cold.
I'm running faster,
can't shake my pursuer;
too fast it is, no matter my effort.
Without turning, I look back.
Pain reaches out, attaches itself;
helpless, I scream, my cries unheard.
Thick layers of clouds swallow the light,
freezing my soul.
Stunned I watch from afar;
I want to be free;
have I ever been?
Darkness envelops me
more with every struggle.
If I stop running, 
will I be free?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What's up with Amazon?

With reviewing, that is. Well, not me, but an author friend of mine. Tony Armitt, who has presented himself as a kind nature, polite, mild mannered and helpful has been struck by Amazon's arbitrariness; he dared to be honest and as a result all his results have been deleted. But let's go back to the beginning.
Below you find what he wrote on the Amazon forum, so you have a detailed 'report'. It is a bit longer, but I thought it might be of interest. It's for sure one reason I don't review at all.
Is Amazon guilty of selective censorship? Please read the following cautionary tale and let me know what you think.

I am a part time writer, and reader of books.

Generally speaking I read at least one book per week, which has usually been purchased from Amazon. As a regular reader, I have a routine for selecting my next book.

Firstly, I make a choice based upon genre or author. Secondly I check the reviews offered by other readers. So far this system has worked very well for me. When I then come to review the book myself, I usually give a rating of 4 or 5 stars. In fact 90% of my reviews fall within this range. I have until now, never given a review below 3 stars. If I know the author, I also declare this in my review.

Last week my run of good fortune came to an end. About a third of the way into a 5 star rated book, I felt as though I was losing the will to live. The book, an anthology of short horror stories, was quite possibly the dullest book I have ever read.

For me, a short story should be just that. It should have a start, middle and an end. It should have only one conflict; characters and scene setting which are more broadly drawn than in novels. The story should race to conclusion before delivering a final and unexpected twist. For me, the book in question failed on almost every level. The stories were in parts, quite farcical, the text over written. After the second reflective monologue, I began to glaze over. In short, I really disliked the book. But that's the thing about writing; it's subjective. A book that I hate could be just as easily loved by someone else.

Based on my reading experience, I gave the book a 2 star review on Amazon.

Within hours, I received an email to advise me that a comment had been posted about my review; a previous reviewer of the book was questioning my motives for posting such a low rating.

Now call me cynical, but once I have written a review about a book, I rarely revisit the book to see how it is doing. This particular `reviewer' must have been a bit of a fan though, because he had not only reviewed the ebook on Amazon UK, but also on Amazon US, and he'd even reviewed the paperback version too! In spite of this, I can only assume that he is not much of a reader. The only other book he has bothered to review at the time of writing this piece is the author's other book.

I replied and explained my reasons for writing the review. If I'm totally honest, I was also a little flippant about how some authors acquire such glowing reviews.

A few days later, whilst reviewing another book, I noticed that my review had been deleted by Amazon. Not to worry, I thought. The review was probably deleted for the inappropriate comment by the `disgruntled reviewer' and my subsequent reply. I posted a second review which was far less detailed than the first and forgot all about it.

Yesterday I received an email from Amazon to advise me that my review had been deleted as it was in breach of Amazon review guidelines. Apparently an author cannot review work that their own book competes with.

I was a little miffed by this. I don't write vindictive or spiteful reviews. All of my reviews are based upon my reading experience. Also, I can very readily find many books on Amazon that have been reviewed and rated by competing authors; I have been doing it all year!

I can only assume that this is not a problem unless the review is less than favourable.

Now I'm sorry, but this strikes me as plain old fashioned censorship. You can only offer an opinion that is positive? It's like only being able to vote for one political party!

What has made this situation worse for me is the fact that after questioning Amazon's decision to remove my original review, I have discovered that ALL of my reviews had been deleted. Most of these reviews are for works of historical fiction; a genre that I do not even write in. I can only assume that Amazon believe that `authors' are not entitled to or capable of offering an objective opinion. This is frankly insulting.

I have written to Amazon to question their decision and validity for behaving is such a way. So far, all I have had back is a sterile, automated reply which directs me to Amazon's guidelines on writing reviews. It would seem that Amazon is more interested in keeping the peace than acting in the interests of its customers.

I will not be writing any more reviews on Amazon, as I now consider it a pointless exercise. I will also be looking to purchase my books elsewhere.

Tony hasn't got a blog, but if you like Horror, you can find his book here:

If you had similar experiences, I want to hear about it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Growing your own vegetables and lettuces in lofty heights

As regular visitors to my blog know, I became a gardener last year. I read about the roof-park as an event space and popped by to see what it's all about. What surprised me the most was that they actually have a garden up there. They are Bootstrap, who owns the place, and a few volunteers, community members either working or living in Hackney, or both. I had a chat with Kate - one of them - since I've always been interested in gardening, but never had a backyard since it's a tad difficult in London. So I got in touch with Bootstrap, attended my first meeting and have become an enthusiastic member since then. It's addictive, you see? Once you sow seeds, the joy of seeing the first green pushing through the soil, watching it grow and harvest it when it's time; it comes with a great deal of satisfaction. I eat a lot of salad in the summer, and I get my lettuces, spring onions and tomatoes from the roof. Unfortunately, feta-cheese doesn't grow on trees and cows would look rather odd on the roof, but hey, one can't have it all, right?

Over the winter, Kate and I popped up to the roof to look after the garlic and broad beans we've planted and harvested plenty of lettuce, kale and broccoli. We also organised ourselves and founded a garden committee, consisting of the hard core of gardeners who meet monthly - with Zak from Bootstrap - to put the plans for the new design into action. The past two years have been a bit of trial and error, but this year, we gardeners have a firm grasp on what is going to happen, fully supported by the company, which is lucky indeed. Since yesterday it's official: to join the merry digging, community gardener Alex has been appointed to  help us gain more knowledge and provide workshops, open for everyone to pop by and take a stab at gardening. (Picture: us discussing what we'd like to grow, left to right: Kate, Zak, JC, Barbara, Tess, Christine.)

(Last Sunday: JC and Alex are busy working, Tess taking notes, whereas
 Anthony just made a good impression. Just kidding.)
To  make the garden as pretty as possible we have been working like maniacs over the past few weeks. Since I'm a bit more flexible with my time, I've been on the roof almost every day for two hours, weeding, preparing growbags with soil, compost and manure, replanting some of the plants that have survived the winter. On Sundays, we got together with all gardeners, including Alex and Zak, who's not afraid to get his hands dirty, and quickly we transformed the former mess into something more appealing. There will be another day to put everything in the right place, but then we'll start with planting. Just before the Roof Park will be opened to the public.

As you can see, the black boxes have been replaced with much nicer cladding. It's not finished yet; it'll look pretty when it's done, though. We also plan to use the wall; it's the sunniest place and we all agreed that it would be a shame to waste that space. Hanging baskets with either flowers or herbs would be appropriate, anything that can take sun and water from above. In the bags below, we'll have fruit bushes and small trees, as well as our grapes, which carried sweet red fruit last year. I don't know about you, but I'll spend a lot of time this summer on the roof. Not only is it a bit of a oasis for me, but I also love the idea of growing my own food. And Sundays, we all get together, gardening for a few hours, then have a massive BBQ, accompanied with our very own crop.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tip of the week: unnecessary repetition

If there's something that really makes me groan when reading, then it's repetition. Or in other words, treating a reader like he or she is retarded.
What I see often is a scene being repeated through dialogue. Not only is it unnecessary, it's also clogging up word count and slows down the pace considerably. It's probably a trap most first time writers walk into, but it's easily avoided once you know about it. I did it myself -- with a minor character -- repeating his name after I'd introduced him to the reader a few pages before.
Let's make it a bit clearer: Character A and B have a conversation. Character B meets character C the next day and tell him exactly what the conversation was about in dialogue. Now I, the reader, have been present the first time, hanging on ever word character A and B exchanged and don't need to get it retold.

Or: A scene where a woman gets mugged, described in detail, how she screamed, what he said, how she reacted, maybe even that she thought he looked far too posh, etc. Later at the police station she's interviewed and the questions of the officer as well as her answers tell me the whole scene again. Boring!

Those kinds of repetitions aren't needed. It's often the moment, when I start skipping or at least sigh loudly.

Better to let character B fill character C in. C could then give an opinion about the conversation, perhaps even make a statement about character A.

And the police could ask additional questions, you can inform the reader what will happen next, they could try to identify the posh mugger by looking into their database.

If you eliminate those, you'll have a much tighter and better book. The reader will be thankful for it.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Writing is for masochists

There wasn't a day in the past three months I didn't feel like banging my head against the wall. Hard. If you saw me complaining and whining on Facebook or Twitter, you can now click the top right corner: it's the dreaded thriller again.
For weeks I'd not come up with a decent plot line. My first idea was to have a book in a book; a character writing about it all which would have been revealed in the end, but my friend smashed it immediately saying, nope, I hate that. And I see where she's coming from. It's like the whole book being a dream. Not good. It caused me a lot of grief, because I couldn't come up with anything realistic, believable, something which would be a smooth outline or suspenseful which has the reader turning the pages. As with my short fiction, I like to keep a surprise for the end. I must admit, this was a tough one. I'm not normally a plotter, but for this book, I started with the torture scenes first, then with some other scenes and I had to think of a way to combine them to make a story. When I couldn't come up with anything decent, I was ready to give up. To me it's important that the story is neat, that I can make the reader believe it could happen, that the it's real. The editor in me is always looking over my shoulder, slapping me if I try to venture off the roads.
It's the first time I really struggle with a book and I even questioned myself: Am I really a writer. To me the answer is no. Or maybe yes, but perhaps I'm not so much a story teller. One of those who bursts with stories. I don't. Though I certainly have quite a few more stories to tell, it's not like I can't write fast enough to get them all out. But then, is it important? I write stories people enjoy, that's what writing is all about. At least to me, it is.
I love a challenge, but wondered if this one isn't a bit too much for me. People kept telling me they believed in my talent and that I will finally find a solution, but I started to get more and more frustrated. My perfectionism being a bully. So much, that I almost decided to give up on that book and continue with the next one I have in the queue. Funnily though, I quit a lot of things in my life, but when it comes to writing, I'm rather determined. And it paid off. I finally made it, I have a plot I'm happy with and will continue to write. Hope it's all worth it, but that's for the readers to decide when the book's finished.

To all of you who let me whinge and howl, thank you for your encouragement. You know who you are.

In the meantime, I've also continued to write on the second book of funny shorts, stay tuned. :-)

Happy weekend, everyone.

Friday, March 16, 2012

You scared yet?

I recently posted a picture of Zorro and me on Facebook and even I must admit that he looks massive in it. He sits on my arm and is much closer to the camera than I am. To me he's still a small big boy, if that makes sense? Since I see him every day, I don't realise how much he's grown. But I'll post some pictures of him when he was three in August 2008 and to compare, I'll have some pictures I took this week.

<--August 2008, the day I got him. Ignore what I think might be a sock in the background. The wonderfully coloured animal is important!

This one is a year later (2009), you can see his love for getting a head rub. It's also the first year he bit me since he reached maturity. He also has a perfectly normal looking snout. It was not as firm as it should've been, but that's probably due to lack of calcium in his food as a baby. You can see that his big cheeks aren't developed yet. -->

<-- This is 2010 and he's unfortunately bashed his nose a couple of times too many. You can see the 'adult' features now. Colour changes to brownish, the cheeks are filled with fat, he has put on weight, too.

His head in my hand in comparison to the 2009 picture. -->

<-- Looking out of the window, probably wondering when the next iguana girl walks by. I love this picture as it shows the rather beautiful, yet painful, spikes he has on his neck. They are a defence when they get into fights. And apparently also when I want to grab him. I can't tell you how many times I've been hurt by them.

The picture that caused a few gasps on Facebook: him on my shoulder/arm 2012 and looking pretty happy.

He's now about 150cm long (50 cm the body alone) and weighs a massive 6kg. I have my troubles to hold him properly. If he really wants to get out of my grip, he'll manage by doing the dead roll. His tail is his strong weapen with its root measuring about 22cm. A whip is rather unpleasant.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Help those in need

Today I'd like to talk about a sensitive topic. I recently chatted with a friend whose daughter is rather ill and will probably need a liver transplantation. My friend's daughter is newly engaged, beautiful and has plenty of dreams, as any young woman. The one thing that hinders her is an auto immune illness called primary schlerosing cholangitis and it means it is destroying her own liver.

It looks as if she's lucky enough to actually receive an organ and if everything goes well, she can live her dreams.
Not everyone has the chance. There are still far too many people losing the battle with time, for there's a shortage of organs and the waiting lists are long -- many even up to three years. I believe it could be changed if enough people decided to be registered as a donor. You can even choose what you'd like to donate and exclude certain organs.
I can't even remember anymore when I first registered as a donor. It was back in Germany and I believe might have been about fifteen years ago. Though I probably wouldn't recommend my liver (writer = alcoholic as we all know -- just kidding), I personally couldn't care less what they re-use. My thoughts were and still are: I have no need for any organ when I'm dead -- no matter the cause -- and if I can help to keep another person alive, give them a few more years, etc., then I'm happy to do so.

Are you?

If you'd like to register you can do this here: or talk to your GP, nearest hospital, they'll be able to provide you with more information and forms.

Join me and many other donors to help those in need. It doesn't cost anything and a small card can make such a big difference.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I has a guest today :-)

And it's a wonderful fellow author: Dixon Rice. Wonderful, because he doesn't shy away from helping others. This man has the patience of a saint. I once asked for Beta readers for my literary fiction novel, which was in its first draft, full of repetition and off-syntax. He read the whole thing and gave me the most helpful feedback to get cracking. Needless to say that I took on his advise. We also share a wicked sense of humour which makes often makes conversations on Facebook a hilarious read. According to others, that is. He's a country fan, a cook, a family man and a Crime writer. He approached me, asking if I would help him and the group of twelve to promote the Shamrock N Sirens 2012 and here I proudly present an interview with my friend Dixon:

  1.  What is the main premise of this book?
I wondered, �What if a young, likable guy �accidentally� became a serial killer?� I set up a situation in THE ASSASSINS CLUB where Tyler Goode gets targeted by a redneck bully and his squad of younger, equally brutal brother in the Flathead Valley of Montana. (And don�t forget Dad.) Each time Ty kills in order to survive, he feels he�s performed a community service � and he gets one helluva rush. Before long, it�s become a habit he can�t shake.
  1. How long did it take you to write it?
 The main plot came to me, pretty much fully realized, during a 15-hour car drive after dropping off my son at college. Then it took two years to weave in some interesting subplots, flesh out the characters, and please my critique group.
  1. Who�s your favorite character in it?
 Heroes are easy to write, in my opinion � so easy that they often become cardboard cutout characters. I enjoy the unbalanced, unreliable characters. In THE ASSASSINS CLUB, there is a second serial killer who will collide with Ty in the final chapter, a 30ish man who thinks he is Jesus. His sections are written entirely in present tense, because that�s all he knows. The voices in his head raise such a ruckus that he can�t remember the past, nor can he look forward to the future. He�s walking up the West Coast, killing when the mood strikes him, going where his voices direct him. If Jesus tells you it�s Monday, you�d better check a calendar.
  1. When reading, do you prefer eBook or paperback?
I love tree-books at home, but nothing beats my Kindle when I�m on the road.
  1. What projects are you currently working on?
 I have written another Montana thriller, and puttered away with it for a decade, trying to solve plot problems caused by modern police technology. I really enjoyed writing THE ASSASSINS CLUB in the 1970s, and realized that moving my work-in-progress back to that same era would make the plot problems vanish. So I�m on my final rewrite of MONTANA IS BURNING and hope to have it published this summer.
  1. What is something that surprised you about being an author?
I am continually surprised by the unexpected actions of my characters. On my 15-hour car trip, Ty was already very real to me, but the minor characters around him were pretty vague. The book concept really caught fire when two deputy sheriffs approached the protagonis and said, �We know you�re killing people, Ty.� He thought, �Uh-oh, here come the handcuffs.� Instead, one of the deputies said, �We want to get in on it.� The addition of two law enforcement officers to Ty�s pastime creates interesting problems. In further books in this series, the �club� will continue to expand, with continual new complications.
  1. Who designed this cover?
I was fortunate to discover Suzanne Fyhrie Parrott and her business Unruly Guides. Suzanne and I talked about my story, and I gave her some general concepts. She did a marvelous job of turning my fuzzy ideas into a brilliant reality. She also formatted my novel. You can find Unruly Guides on FB at Suzanne�s website is
  1. What are your pet peeves? 
One of the things I love about the writing community is how helpful people are, even to clueless newbies. However, there is always a small number of folks in any endeavor who take job in dragging other people down. Some friends of mine have receive awful reviews from people who never even bothered to read the reviewed book.
  1.  So do you like to cook? 
I never would have survived college if I hadn�t learned how to make spaghetti sauce and barbecue chicken. My wife and I have a deal � if one of us cooks, the other one cleans up. I try to cook whenever possible. 
  1. Do you sleep in or get up early?
 We all have an internal critic in the back of our head, whispering that �this is worst crap that�s ever been written � let�s go for a jog instead.� I�ve learned that if I get up at 5 am and head down to a local coffee shop, I can get hours of work done before my critic wakes up. And if I�m on a good writing roll, I can just ignore his negative remarks.
11. If you were to attend a St. Patrick�s Day Party, which one thing would you never leave behind and why:
 I�m about three-fourths Irish, and every Irishman knows that his most precious asset is the �Luck O�the Irish.� It�s amazing the Emerald Isle survived the Potato Famine, centuries of British mistreatment, and our own fondness for fermented and distilled beverages of every kind. There must be a reservoir of good luck to account for our very existence.
12.  Where can your readers stalk you?
My daily blog on the writing life, Wredheaded Writer, can be found at I plan a second blog aimed at fervent readers such as myself, but haven�t yet gotten it off the ground. The Kindle link for my e-book is you can find me on Facebook at or search for plain old Dixon Rice. 

And a little bit more about Shamrock N Sirens: 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fresh vegetable soup -- Minestrone style

Who doesn't know the feeling? You are either on the local market or in any supermarket, trying to think about what to cook. Perhaps a friend said he'd come over and you are not really in the mood to cook up a storm. Perhaps you're even trying to lose some weight and don't want to compromise taste.
Well, here's quick, easy and rather delicious recipe for you. I cooked it tonight and I can highly recommend it.

You need (for two):
1 large carrot
2 sticks of celery
1 few slices of fresh fennel
1/2 a medium courgette
A few spring onions or 1 leek
1 red pimiento pepper
a hand full of green beans
1 teaspoon of tomato puree
1 stock cube/stock granule
Fine egg noodles if you wish.

It's dead simple: wash and chop the vegetables coarsely. In the meantime bring the water with some salt in a pan to the boil, add the vegetables. Let it cook. Add the tomato puree, salt, stock and a pinch of curry powder after about 15 minutes. If you cook for two people, add a hand full of the noodles and let it simmer for another 10 min.

Serve as it is or with bread.

How to piss me off. Instantly.

Yesterday evening, I had my pulse race through my body. Why? I was on Twitter and did ignore the one rule I'd made: look at people's time line! I thanked the person (a publishing company with at least two  offices) who had followed me and kindly retweeted one of my tweets. So, there I go, thank publishing company and follow. I have a friend who's trying to land a deal and whenever I see something fits, I'll send him the link with the words: this one maybe? He wants to be traditionally published in paperback. The following conversation happened between this 'publishing company' and me. And as you can see, I wasn't amused:

Me:  I love the Aussies and Kiwis, so you're more than welcome ;-) Do you publish paperbacks, too?
Me:  and why don't you have a website? Or if you have one, why don't you have a link to it?
(Then clicking the link in their profile, I was guided to their Amazon page. The pictures of the book, the author. Aha, I thought.)
Me:  or are you (insert name of promoted author/Amazon page).
Him:  Hi Stella. (Insert author name) here. I co-write novels with my son, (insert son's name). We both Kiwis. Our novels are in paperback & ebook
Me thinking: I knew it. Not a publishing company as advertised. Probably just an imprint to be able to be accepted by printers. Cheeky!
Him:  Will add you on Linked In also. We are various listings online for our literary and film careers, but no actual website..
Me (thinking): huh? No! I don't want to be linked to several websites, don't you dare! And a publishing company without a website, is more than suspicious to me.
Him:  Stella, if u have a Kindle reader, our historical novel (name of the book) is free until Monday night UKtime on Amazon
Me (thinking): I knew it! Fuck off, man! 
Me:  I react rather pissed off when one spams me like that. We only just met and you're trying to 'sell' me your book. Not good.
Him:  What?? You asked about where you can find more info (in serveral tweets) and I merely mentioned our book is now spam
Me (thinking): No, I didn't! Should have checked your time line and steered clear.
Me:  I asked if you do paperbacks because I thought you're a publisher and if you have a website.That's all.Hate historical fiction
Him (second attempt to 'sell' it to me):  If you do not wish to grab our book while it's free, then that's fine, take it or leave it. Otherwise, have a nice day.
Me:  Nope I don't want to grab it. I asked a few questions to clarify. Now I know you're an author who claims to be a publishing company

I still love Aussies and Kiwis, but not this one.
Looking at the time line, the author promotes the book like 24/7. Seriously. I'm not an angel when it comes to promotion and I've been all over the place, but this, I think, is the wrong way. I ask questions when I'm suspicious, and often I'm right to be so.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

It's been a year today

It's been a year since the massive earthquake hit Japan, followed by the devastating tsunami. It was a time where the world stopped moving while everyone stared at the shocking pictures of people losing their home, their income, their loved ones, their lives. It was a time where people, who didn't know each other, got together and helped those in need. It was a time that proved that humanity still exists. The amount of money that had been raised and given to the charities was amazing.
I personally won a friend because of all that mess. Ryan, who lives in Tokyo, and I had been chatting for many hours while he tried to get the grips with what happened. And I was worries about a few others I knew living in Japan. Thankfully, they were all okay. Shocked, but alive. Even though they all struggled to cope. Understandable.

Slap bang on the 10th of March, I published Excuse me, where is the exit? which went live on the 11th, and I made the spontaneous decision to give the proceeds of the first three months coming from the book's sales to the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders, two excellent organisations.
So for me it's two anniversaries, the sad and the happy one. I'm proud to have shifted sales in the four figures and the journey has been interesting, to say the least. The book has been as high as #5 in the Amazon humour charts and received excellent feedback. I'm currently writing on the second book of 'rants' as I call them and should publish it some time this year.

Again, I'd like to thank all of you who went to buy the book to support the people in Japan. Thank you for helping, thank you for forgiving me the many errors in the book, the formatting issues. Thank you for recommending the book, back then and now.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Playing in the dirt high above London

That's what I've been doing last summer and for the past week. The roof park layout will change, giving it more event space and a little less garden area. Experience has taught us that the inflatable roof is a bit of a problem as it a) blocks the sun needed for the plants to grow and b) when it comes down it squashes everything underneath. We now know which plants can take it and those that can't. My beloved herb section will stay as it is!
We have regularly met in the winter to discuss how we want the garden; luckily, Bootstrap lets us decide and go with it where they can. So we're getting planters with big growbags. This means the plants have more room.

At the moment, we are replanting and preparing, the soil. Mixing old soil with new compost and manure, and let me tell you, I have spent all week weeding, throwing away and carrying old growbags around. I planted what survived the winter: broccoli (green and purple sprouting), chard, spinach, rocket, mizuna, sorrel, cale, mint, lemon balm, coriander, broad beans... I think you get the picture. There's plenty more to do. Went today and after two hours of busying myself trying to re-organise the current mess I'm knackered. It's a pretty good work out -- combined with forty minutes cycling I don't need to do anything else.

The current mess. Click picture to enlarge.

I can't wait for the summer to come, when everything is flowering and new planted stuff growing. It's mainly an event space, but normally we gardeners get together at the weekends for a session followed by a massive BBQ. I think it'll look fabulous and it'll be worth all the effort we're putting in now.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Big Al has spoken

and I'm having another wine right now. I sent them my short stories shortly after I published them last year in March. They had warned me that they're busy, but gee, I had no idea how busy. But gut Ding will Weile haben as the Germans say.

Today I had visitors from their blog and checked  out the 'why'. My heart beat accelerated because they had posted a review. I was prepared for the worst because they are well known for their straight out reviews. No holding back. One of the most respected review blogs. So, with my throat a little tighter, I read it and breathed. In and out. In and out.

Here's what they said (courtesy Big Al's Books and Pals):

Murphy rules in this collection, which has fun with the minor miscues and mishaps that happen in everyday life. While it sometimes seems that everything that can go wrong, does , they are all normal kinds of problems. Some are unique to women (either one of those things that wouldn�t bother most men, or that a man would never encounter). If you haven�t experienced most of these things, you�ll know someone who has.

Humor requires a tough balancing act. A typical approach is to exaggerate in some way. Depict the stupid or clumsy as stupider or clumsier. Make everything bigger than life (just a little over-the-top), yet recognizable as true to life. Deleuze�s exaggeration comes, not in the events that go wrong, but in the sheer number of tiny mishaps that accumulate. It�s a more subtle humor than the over-the-top bigger, badder, or sillier. You might not have many laugh-out-loud guffaws, but you�ll still find the stories funny (as long as they aren�t happening to you), as those numerous chuckles accumulate. 

They also mention a small amount of issues with spelling and proofing, which I knew, but they have been sorted since I sent it over to them. I assume that's the four out of five stars, nevertheless, I'm very happy indeed.

Thank you, guys from Big Al. You rock!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bullies, stalkers and the Amazon forum

I've been around fora and chats for while and know it can get rather heated. People who live in the computer instead of having real, living and breathing friends are an odd breed. At least those who think the anonymity of the Internet gives them a free pass for bullying. Those are the ones, who wouldn't be able to say a word to someone in person, but hey, in the safety of their home, perhaps some drinks involved and they turn into real monsters.

Heated discussions are good; they are healthy, they are necessary for us to see other point of views, but not everyone can discuss on a neutral level. There's attacks like, 'You're full of shit!'
I wonder why someone feels the need to resolve to such matters? Especially authors, who should have a way with words.
Yesterday, I've been called a stupid author of a poorly written book who's into animal cruelty and been advised to go back to where I come from and that quickly.
Made me laugh, because two posts later, the poster admitted to not  have downloaded said book, hence not read it. She's a friend of said author telling people they are full of shit and she didn't like it when I raised my concerns. Said author also told me I should get a sense of humour. I guess he also didn't read my book. Oh well.

Personally, I don't interact with people like that. I do swear like a sailor, sure and I have called people arsehole in my life, yes, but I wouldn't dare doing that just because I disagree with them. It's normal to disagree and I think we humans should be smart enough to discuss on a civilised level. I also don't react to stalkers. I will let people know when I've got enough of their escapades and ignore them -- no losses there.

If I have a heated debate about something with my friends, I won't stand up and shout at them they are idiots or they have issues or don't know what they're talking about. I'll explain my viewpoint and hope they'll understand. I think I've never seen so many bullies than they are online. It's a bit like weed, they just spread and spread and if don't thin them out regularly, they'll take over. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tip of the week: editing, do it yourself

Time for another Tip of the week and today, I want to hand out a few tips on self-editing, on the how to tighten your writing and find overused phrases, as well as editing for logic.
Every writer has them, those tendencies to overuse a particular phrase; and every writer will put some small inconsistencies they will only catch with a bit of distance or when a reader points them out.
As an editor it's my job to point out those issues mentioned below. They are small things making a big difference if tackled.

Overused phrasing: 
It's one of the most difficult tasks to avoid repetition. I recently was more than annoyed with a book that contained so many latches I was dizzy. The challenge is trying to find other ways of describing the action.
He grabbed, he held on to her, closed his fingers around her wrist/arm, reached for her wrist, she tried to shake him off, but he wouldn't let go, etc.
I am guilty of overusing grins in No Wings Attached. After a friend told me about it, I cut them down severely.
A useful tool to find out if you're overusing a word/phrase is to search for it with the Find & Replace tool in Word. You'd be surprised what you'll find.

Logic & tightening:
What I see a lot in beginners' writing is the following:
Walking into the kitchen, she opened a fridge. She took out the milk and poured it into her coffee. Taking a sip, she mumbled, 'I simple can't believe that.'
Not only is it really annoying to read, it's also impossible, unless the kitchen is a fridge or so tiny that she could do both at the same time. Neither is talking that complete sentence while taking a sip. She can either talk or take a sip, or take a sip, then talk.
One of the most hilarious examples was: Running down the stairs she pulled on her jeans. 
Seriously? I'd like to see that stunt.
Check your manuscript for those often rather funny sentences.

The next example is perfectly fine:
Cleaning the kitchen, she listened to the radio. 

A few years ago, I read something like this:
It was completely dark, the backyard only lit by a dim light.
Then it wasn't completely dark, because it would mean no light at all. The first part isn't necessary to describe the scene. The backyard was only lit by a dim light.

Another example on tightening:
'As if that is necessary,' she grumbled. She wasn't in a good mood.
The second part becomes redundant as she's grumbling, so it's clear to the reader she's not chirpy.

I'm currently reading a book where I witnessed some action that'll be repeated later. A person dies, an investigation takes place, they search the house, interview the people who live in the house, etc.
Later on, I'm being retold through a dialogue the MC has with another character. Totally unnecessary. I was there, I saw the investigation, I heard them being interviewed, hell, I even witnessed the person die.
A simple: He filled her in, he told her what has happened, he described the event to her, etc. would be enough.
Okay, hope that'll give you some food for thoughts.
As usual, if you have anything else to add, feel free to comment; I'm sure others will be grateful.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

And now it's time for a beer

After a night with little sleep, I had a rather grumpy morning. You know, one of those days you just don't want to get up; the sun didn't shine and I was tired. What's not to hate? Well, since the volunteers of the Dalston Roof Park agreed to meet today and start re-organising the whole garden, I had to get my arse into gear. Plus, I was really looking forward to some exercise: cycling and shoving soil from one bag into another. My early grumpiness dissolved later, although it started to rain as soon as my backside connected with the saddle. How very convenient, I thought, but nothing would've kept me from doing what I had planned, or more the committee.
I've waited for the 'spring' to come with great anticipation. All this sitting around with a laptop for company isn't good. I love my writing, but I'll be glad to do it from the roof again, in the sun. Winter's just not my favourite time of the year.
However, after plenty of digging and shovelling, organising and harvesting, we finished our session, happy with the results and plans for more. Even the sun had made an appearance. I arrived home with at least one grow bag of soil under my short (!) fingernails and after a shower I was ready for a beer. The Germans have a saying: Kein Bier vor vier! (No beer before four.) Afternoon, that is.

So I'll have a Beck's as I'm writing this. By the way: did you know that Beck's is from Bremen? My hometown? So does Kellogg's for that matter. Oh and Werder Bremen. Yes, I'm a football fan and I used to have a season ticket, standing in between the hardcore fans. Just saying. Not that it's any important to you, but I thought I'd tell you anyway.

Before I forget: if you didn't get a chance to grab my short story collection for free: if you click on the picture with the iguana in a sock to the left, you'll be guided to Amazon and it'll cost you nothing. The download, I mean.

Friday, March 2, 2012

I'm up to something

With the days visibly getting longer and recently many sunny days in London, my activity returns. After locking myself away behind my laptop, making up new stories, fixing old ones, I'm out and about daily, cycling walking, meeting with friends. I even started my morning exercises again -- time to really get rid of the flab. This time I mean business.
Anyway, as I cycled today, paying a quick visit to the market to get some fruit, and then briefly check out the roof park, I felt it coming: mischief. You know the kind of feeling when you just want to irritate people by doing something totally unexpected, like licking your friend's face or just tickling him.

I've been known to do really odd stuff, like walking over to someone who has an ice cream and just licking at it; or biting from someone's sausage in a bun.
When I worked in a pub (decades ago) I had a group of tourists come in. They all ordered a shot. I poured them and one complained that a guy had too much in his glass, so I took the glass, drank what was too much and put it down on the table with a grin, asking, 'That better?' Needless to say, they loved me. Oh and I met them later on the Christmas market, where I asked a random person if I could try his mulled wine. Funny enough, he handed it over to me without even considering a 'no'.

My friend's words were: No, way, you didn't just do that! I grinned at him and shrugged. He said only I could get away with that without being slapped. But, he said, in my defence, I can charm someone's socks off if I really want to. That's why people forgive me those 'attacks'.
I didn't do that for ages as I believe it'll look silly if I did it today, but I feel this sort of mischief brewing in me. So, watch out if you bump into me, you might be in for a treat :-)

Happy weekend, everyone.