Sunday, April 29, 2012

I love you; I love you not!

How many times have you heard people say 'The perfect man for me doesn't exist?' I'd say plenty. With the few lucky ones, who have/live with their soul mate, it's still the exception of the rule.
The beauty of writing fiction is that you can create your characters like you want them to be. Men oozing with sex appeal, humour, intellect and a voice that has you dizzy as soon as they open their mouth. You can create a plot where the most popular girl or the woman in your clique doesn't get the man, but the ugly duckling instead. You can make the arsehole go through hell, for everything people did to you in the past, even kill them if needed. The possibilities are huge.
In No Wings Attached, I created Tom, the perfect man; he's good looking, yet down to earth; he has buckets full of humour, he's smart, warm and caring, he's got a wonderful best friend, he loves cooking and eating and he lives in my dream home. (I hate him for that!)
Candlelight Sinner has Sam, and damn, I adore him! He has this aura of danger around him, tattoos and he's fit. A typical bad guy you can't help but like, despite being obnoxious he's a massive flirt.
It was a lot of fun spending time with both men, as different as they are; they made me laugh.

In my current WIP, I'm making my main characters suffer. It's wonderful and strangely enjoyable having finally the chance for pay back. But there's a pit fall: because I don't like the people the characters are based on, I am in danger of making them unlikeable. Not on purpose, though. It's the closeness to the real events that makes it more difficult. Creating characters you want to see happy in the end, is much easier. I know the characters of this book will be in pain, tortured, end up unhappy, but I need the reader to care for them to begin with. They are victims after all. While writing, I realised that I made one character look like a silly cow, though it's my opinion on her, if the reader wants to slap her, I've lost him or her. Realistic is all very well, but if one can't relate to her, I didn't do a good job.
Then again, I have a soft spot for Gary, who is a shy nerd, and has one of the supporting roles. So here's hope.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Want something different? Quick and easy meat salad

Every now and again I have a craving for meat salad. Something you don't find easily in the supermarkets, at least not the ones I crave. The only way to get my hands on them is Lidl, but they're so heavy on the mayonnaise, I'll be sick if I eat two slices of rye bread with that salad on it. So what to do? I make my own, which has two advantages: I know what goes in it and I also can do several variations.

The easy recipe:
Either cooked ham or chicken roll (finely sliced)
Gherkins finely chopped
Salt/Pepper, bit of the Gherkin water. Mix all, let it rest over night. Enjoy.

The recipe of the salad in the picture:
Chicken roll finely sliced
Gherkins finely chopped
Spring onion finely sliced
Mayonnaise mixed with quark (Morrison's sells it) or you can use low fat yogurt.
A tablespoon of English mustard
Salt/Pepper, bit of Gherkin water and finely chopped herbs. Again, mix all, let it rest over night.

I love it with rye bread or warm toast. Next time, I'll try the latter recipe with mandarins and curry powder. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Up, up, up

After the radical drop in sales two months ago, things are beginning to move in the right direction again. Up, that is. I'm talking about the short stories, not the novels here. For the past few days, I've sold at least one book per day, today as many as three (!) so far, and Excuse me, where is the exit? has even had a moment of dipping into the top 100 humour charts. Two or three days ago, I stumbled over a book which had my book in the 'Customer who bought this book, also bought' recommendation underneath, which, I assume, is a good sign. Those are the cross-references authors need. Someone asked me if I can't promote my book in another way, to which I replied that I'm tired of the constant promotion. Twitter and Facebook, I learned, don't work. I put a link on there every so often, but I'm not after other authors, I want readers. Plus, I guess, that if I'm annoyed with the spam overload, others probably will be, too.
That baby has to make it on its own again. And so it does, even if slowly, it seems to recover from the sudden drop after entering the KPD select programme. Maybe the newest 5-star review contributed to it:
Nice collection of the authors thoughts on all sorts of situations we ve all faced.. I loved the changing/ shopping episode.. how true to life that was !! I enjoyed this book,,, well worth seeking out . Can we have more ?? 

Had to laugh when my friend said, "Gee, it's not that those people are forced to write such nice things, why doesn't the bloody book sell?'
If I knew, I would be a hell of a lot wiser. My guess is that I didn't do myself a favour rushing in the beginning and starting to sell an error-riddled book. Though, according to Big Al, it wasn't too bad -- borderline. Everything is cleaned up now; I uploaded the latest version in March before my last promo day.

I doubt the sales trickling in are subsequent sales after reading my novel, as I could imagine people would rather want to read the first book in the series. In any case, I'm glad that a few more readers are having a giggle or even laugh-out-loud-moment and, who knows, maybe I'll be able to report that I've crossed the 10k mark (very far away, though) at some point .

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tip of the week: Point of view

As much as it would surprise you, but I've seen many writers struggle with their point of view. What exactly is first person point of view? Or second person? How to do write in third person point of view or why is third person omniscient so difficult?
There are several ways to bring across the different angles of a story and today, I'd like to take a closer look at them. I hope the examples below will shed some light on the issue and help to understand the differences.

1. We have first person POV: the story is told from one person's angle. This can be one or more main characters, as long as they are separated; for example: First chapter starts with Mary, the second with John, the third with Mary again, or, if there are more characters, each chapter is told through that particular character's eyes.

Mary: I used to like John a lot. When we met, ten years ago, he was kind, good looking and made me laugh. Every time I see him now, I feel sick to the core, remembering what he did to Ellie.

Ellie: My relationship with John started slow; he would come to see my sister Mary as they were the same age. I, being a few years younger, was not considered to be good company. Too young to understand what they were talking about. Maybe it was the forbidden-fact, that made me fall for John.

John: Mary has become such a bitch. Yeah, I made a mistake, a few to be precise, but gee, she acts as if I had killed anyone.

See? Those are all written in first person POV. Most will use this POV for one main character telling the story using 'I'.

2. A lot of books with use the third person POV: I'm using Mary's example to show the difference. Imagine she tells the story of their triangle.

Mary used to like John a lot. When they met, ten years ago, he was kind, good looking and made her laugh. Every time she sees him now, she feels sick to the core, remembering what he did to Ellie.

Normally, this POV is only used for one or two characters, to let the reader see through their eyes; in this case, Mary's.We don't know what the other characters are thinking when two or more of them are in the same scene. It's only one character's perspective. If used for multiple point of views, the next chapter would be Ellie's version of what happened, but caution: this is a tricky thing to do as people tend to become repetitive unless all characters are not related and have different backgrounds and stories to tell, but one common ground. 

3. Then we have third person omniscient, the most difficult POV to pull off effectively, also known as head-hopping. The reader will be let into at least two character's heads in the same scene.

I'm using the examples of Mary and John above:

When she entered the room, Mary gasped and turned around with a disgusted look on her face.
She used to like John a lot. When they met, ten years ago, he was kind, good looking and made her laugh. Every time she sees him now, she feels sick to the core, remembering what he did to Ellie.
My goodness, Mary has become such a bitch. Yeah, he made a mistake, a few to be precise, but gee, she acts as if he had killed anyone. John stared at her back, wishing the party was over. 
Mary sighed. What if Ellie follows the invite, too?   

See the change? Two perspectives in the same scene, reacting to each other. The reader know exactly what each character is thinking. There's no limit as to how many characters' thoughts you want to reveal, but for this particular POV it has to be at least two. In my Thriller, I chose to reveal the thoughts of my three main characters, although I have eight characters in the book.  

4. And now the last point of view, which admittedly is my favourite: second person. The story is told through the eyes of 'you'. This POV works best in present tense, as it's taking the reader by the hand and make him or her the main character of the story. The present tense adds immediacy

When you enter the room, you gasp and turn around with disgust.

You used to like John a lot. When you met, ten years ago, he was kind, good looking and made you laugh. Every time you see him now, you feel sick to the core, remembering what he did to Ellie.

As every POV, it requires exercise and honing. Every writer has a personal favourite, just play around with them and you'll find out what suits you best. A word of advice regarding omniscient point of view: make sure you don't 'head-hop' through thoughts only. It's what makes to read the this POV unpleasant. You know the character inside out, not only his thoughts. You know the wishes, the feelings, the fears, work with them.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rainy days, writing and social networking

I haven't been to the garden in a while, mainly because I wasn't in the mood and it was rather cold and wet in London. Don't get me wrong, the wet was really necessary for the lack of rain in general. Funny, because everyone thinks it rains constantly in London. Far from that. Believe me, it doesn't. Nevertheless, as some of you might remember, I bought an Ostfriesennerz (reversible blue and yellow rain coat) and the boots to the left in October last year. They are originally sailor's boots, but do the trick just as fine on land. And, who knows, I'd love to go for a sailing trip one day. Never did it before, but it's been on my wish list for quite some time. I love the wind and the water, so I assume, it  must be fun. Exhausting, but immensely enjoyable being with a few good people out on the sea.
Okay, that's probably not going to happen anytime soon, but a girl is allowed to dream, right? In the meantime, I wear the gear every time when it rains, though, as mentioned above, they are rare occasions. Yesterday, I saw a massive black front coming up and since I needed to get some food for the iguana, I decided to go blue and yellow, take a walk through the park in order to proof that the 100% waterproof applies. Ha! Typical. I put on the boots and jacket and walked. For an hour! Without even one drop falling from the sky. Very funny, weather, the joke's on me, then. I got funny looks, though. I'm convinced it's people admiring my rain coat. Admittedly, it's rather unconventional, but I had a few comments in the past, and they were all positive. If it rains, I don't get wet, that's for sure. So, after a good walk in the dry, I came back with hopes of being able to write. Forget it! My muse has other ideas. I leaned out of the window and screamed, 'Get your arse back here, Muse!' and waited. Nothing. Odd. I get rather annoyed if I don't write every day. It's weird, after the massive headache attack, I've lost connection to the thriller�to writing in general�which is not what I expected after the good creative wave I surfed on for a while, churning out 1000 words a day. I really want to get back to that. One a positive note: around 2.30am, I wrote 150 words for another book (contemporary fiction), a scene that kept bugging me. Seems, the urge to write is coming back slowly and as the weather's not improving much, I shall make the most of it and force myself to sit down and continue with the thriller. I've also decided to take a step back from social network sites like Facebook and Twitter. It feels like it became too much to handle. Not one day passed on which I wasn't bombarded with invitations to look at a page, to like something or participate at an online book launch. There are still too many Indies who don't understand that I'm not their audience. Anyway, you'll still find me here.



Friday, April 20, 2012

And another Indie rant

Today, I did something, I shouldn't have done: I contacted an Indie author and informed her that her novel contains errors in dialogue punctuation, which disturbs my reading experience. I was only 4% in and thought she might want to know, since she praised her editor's precision skills and the polished book. Well, I found about twelve (more or less) errors in the opening, one already in the prologue.
Her writing was good, but I'm very particular with dialogue attributes. I contemplated for a while if I should get in touch with her or not. I did, anonymously, because I know many can't take this sort of criticism and will shoot back. She replied to my comment on her blog and gave me her e-mail address, asking me to point out where the errors are. I e-mailed her, saying that I was trying to help, as it would be a shame if someone would vote her writing down because of the errors.

Her response irritated me even more than the actual errors. First she said that grammar check didn't pick up on the upper case in the dialogue tags, and then she said something that made me furious: that most readers won't know or be bothered.
And a minute later, she asked for my titles. Here we go, I thought. I didn't even write a review, which I could've done, and then leave it open for others to read.
A reason I don't review anymore is exactly such a response. Doesn't matter what state my books are in, though I certainly hope they're almost perfect now, pointing out that my book might contain errors won't eliminate hers, right? Those, who have told me about my errors, know that I was most grateful for pointing them out and I went through several stages of correcting.
To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised, if she now searches for my books, just to pick out some errors.
Yeah, Indies, and you wonder why readers don't review your books anymore or silently delete them from their Kindles, not even considering giving your other books a go.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The pains of rewriting

There's not one book I can't fix. I'm an editor, in the end and no matter how terrible the book, I can see clearly where it needs improvement; be it on the character or plotting front, I'll have suggestions on how to make it better. Not one book! Except the one I finished writing a year ago and despite going back to it several times in an attempt to fix it, I seem to be unable to do it. It not that I'm totally clueless; I know exactly what I need to do and how I want it to be done, but somehow I can't translate it on to paper. Being the Universe's slowest reader doesn't help much either. The problem is that the book has no chapters, and deliberately so. It's also not a plot driven novel, which means everything relies on the character, to whom I'm trying to give more depth, make him more edgy and have him struggle a bit more. I'm adding a dog, a neighbour, another hobby, something that wasn't planned in the first place and they need to be added very carefully as they interrupt the flow otherwise.The book mainly lets the reader follow the main character's thoughts and life. There's hardly any dialogue in it and it's all written in second person point of view and no, I will not change any of those 'broken rules'. If people complain, sod them. It's not your average book and I never intended it to be. The feedback I had so far was overwhelmingly great. Readers said they felt like something pulled them in, they couldn't stop, had to read on, mesmerised, which, I think, is good, but I'm still not happy, because that special something is missing. To me, that is.
It's not that I have been rewriting and editing like a manic -- far from it. I gave it a proper go and got totally confused and muddled up, then left it alone. I haven't even touched the second half yet. The main character's life is so boring, repetitive and uneventful, it's hard to make heads or tails of it. I also need to make it more commercial, more general. Which means, rewriting huge parts of it, deleting minor characters. At the moment, he works, writes, reads and sleeps. Every day the same. Only the 'online-relationship' he encounters shakes up his world. A bit. It's also a story based on a true event, so I stick to what happened as closely as I can.
I deleted huge chunks that didn't work and they made space for the additions. My problem is that I can't find the ideal places on where to put the additions. Something I never had before. I'd happily add scenes to other books I wrote, but this particular one makes me want to shoot myself. I know it'll be like Marmite; people will either love or hate it, but to get it to the point that I can actually release it, seems a very far cry from what I'm standing at the moment. I'm determined to get there and if I can't fix that book, nobody can. I have an idea on how to make it easier for me, but if it works, remains to be seen. I'd like to publish this masterpiece some time this year, so I better get going, eh?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tip of the week: choose your publisher wisely

Self-publishing still has a negative reputation, and often rightly so, as many books lack good editing and proofing. More and more are dealing with the consequences: negative reviews, no sales, even after promotions. Some will stare at their sales, scratching their heads and wonder why they're low or non-existent, as not everyone, who downloads a free book and deletes it within one hour, will let the author know the why. I have lost count on the free books I've deleted due to not fulfilling my expectations. Just yesterday I deleted a book as I was told three times in the first few pages the same thing. I'm not retarded, dear author.
What's worse is that I'd recently read a book from a small publisher and found the editing inconsistencies very annoying. Maybe it's because I'm a rather strict editor myself; I choose one style and stick to it. When I see something like "What else could it be," he thought, I just want to cry. It's the little things that irritate me.
Or when a book is in first person point of view and the main character seems to have constant out of body experiences: I looked at her with a puzzled expression. Or even better, when the main character knows what the other characters think. That's editing basics and drives me against the wall when a publishing house is not able to get it right. Mind you, I've seen these 'thought'-inconsistencies in books published by one of the big six, too.
You know that I'm a keen supporter of new publishing companies. Even if they often don't have a lot or no money, they are still willing to invest time, love and energy in new writers, who they hope, will grow with them, perhaps even make them big -- it only takes one lucky strike and you might make millions -- although it's the exception to the rule. However, where there are good people, who might not have a background in publishing, but a real talent for editing or proofing, there are those who want to swim on the big wave and don't care so much about quality. Publishing is a hard, competitive business; sales is all that matters. So many will get accept your book and try to get it out as soon as possible, often with little or no editing.
Beware, before you submit to a new publisher, check if they're editing and how they're editing. If they have books published, buy one or two to see the quality. Ask them what they can do for you that you cannot do yourself and decide wisely. It's your name and reputation on the line. You wouldn't want to have it destroyed, just because their editor doesn't know what s/he's doing.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tear here --->

It has nothing to do with what I want to post about; I just opened a pack of chocolate digestives and although it asked me to 'Tear here', nothing happened when I tried to 'tear there'. Never mind, with a tiny bit of brute force I got there in the end. Happy dunking.

As you will have noticed, I haven't posted for a week. Really sorry, or, hey, I gave you some time to breathe; depending on how you see it. The reason being is that I think I had my first ever migraine. That's nothing to be proud of as it's hardly an achievement you'd want; unless you're weird and like to have pounding headaches and hourly vomiting with said headache, only interrupted by sleeping. I lived on Paracetamol for three whole days. Oh and three bananas; okay, two, the other one didn't even get to be digested. If I go and lie down and lose my appetite, boy, it's serious. I haven't been to see the GP yet, but I will, in hope to find out it was just a bug. I never had a serious headache in my life; not even when I banged my head hard against whatever jumped in my way, and I banged my head a lot. Me getting a migraine is just ridiculous... Migraine! Better be a bug!
The head's still not back to normal, but then speaking of normal in relation to me is a little odd itself.

So with me bed and housebound, with my Internet not working (my neighbours had theirs fixed on Monday and the guy who did that, obviously thought I could do without it and fiddled with the wrong cables), I resorted to three things: giving my body back some much needed calories by eating four chocolate croissants (yes, you read right), planting the runners of the spider plant in several pots, and read. The Kindle is perfect for that; I'm still a bit sensitive to the bright screen on my laptop and squint from time to time. Laughing, they say, is the best medicine. And I did laugh, not so good for my head, but immensely wonderful for my soul. The book is a true account of a man being fed up with his job and boring life and goes to open an delicatessen. Without any knowledge at all. It's hilarious, it's charming, it's refreshingly honest and I really want to go for a drink with that author. I think we'd never stop laughing. If I ever stop in his neck of woods, I'll pop by his delicatessen and ask for some chips, that'll probably not warm him to me, but give me great satisfaction. The book is called I'd sooner starve, if you like my weird sense of humour, you'll most probably love his. I'm only 51% in and have already cried tears of laughter.

Edit: I now finished the book and am a bit disappointed; the book starts to go downhill after the first half. At least to me. But it's a good book to read for everyone who dreams of attempting something similar. Customers are a pain in the arse; I know that from my own experience in hospitality as well as customer service.

Speaking of food: the iguana got fed and my neighbour across the hall kindly bought some food for him. Poor Zorro was rather confused -- or perhaps it was relief I saw in his eyes -- as he didn't see much of me those days, but no matter how ill I am, I'll feed him, and if I have to crawl out of bed on my nipples. I do not envy those with children...

As soon as I'll be back to my normal self, I'll start writing again. The thriller has been terribly neglected, so has the second book of rants. Wish you all a great weekend.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Don't press replay; shoot this week!

Do you know the feeling of 'gee, I really want this shite week to be over and crossed off the calender'? Yes? Good, because that's how I felt this week. It started with an e-mail that had me fuming for three days, followed by a flat tyre, brakes that need fixing after the guy, who repaired my bike, somehow loosened them so they don't grip properly, leaving me no choice but to cycle slowly; an absolutely hardcore ADHD day on Wednesday and as if that wasn't enough, it pissed down on us while we did our gardening session and I froze like hell. I missed (forgot) my appointment with my GP and have terrible back pain. Oh and my laptop either has a virus or a worm. I get a pop up, apparently from Windows, telling me I have to click continue if I started the programme, so I click cancel and it won't disappear but stay there, flashing. Ran my anti-virus programme twice and removed the threats. Still coming up and I also can't access my e-mails (gmail) properly. Yay! I had such a great week, I could jump. What's worse is that I didn't write since Monday and it annoys me. I've thrown my deadline of mid May out of the window, because I will never be able to make it. Not even end of May. I still have 60k words to go.

However, there were a few small things that lifted my mood temporarily: someone thought I was ten years younger than I am; a lovely guy flirted with me (no idea how that happened with my grumpiness); I met up with a lovely woman for a coffee, I made wonderful quick jam (recipe below) and I pinched (courtesy Finsbury Park Cafe) a few runners from a spider plant to get some more green for my flat.

Here the recipe for the quick jam:
I'm not a fan of throwing away food, so I try to use as much as I can:
Strawberries and pears (when they go all soft)/ or orange juice/segments
Wash and chop after discarding the core, then bring to the boil (straight into the pan).
Mash them a little so the liquid can reduce. When it's almost gone, blend and add sugar to your liking. I use fruit sugar instead of caster sugar. Fill into glasses.
Keep in the fridge when cooled down, use within a week.
I have it with yogurt and muesli or scones.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Over here, doctor, this patient is dying!

Zero, zilch, nada: 0

This is how how many books I've sold in the past few days. I enrolled two of my books, Excuse me, where is the exit? and Candlelight Sinner, in the KPD select programme in hope to boost up the sales,  particularly of my two novels and maybe the short stories, but the result is disappointing. I gave away about 5k in total (both books) and believe me I'm glad for it; it would hurt me even more had I given away 40k or more, like others. In the beginning it looked all fine; the short stories climbed rapidly to the top, as high as #3 of the humour charts and #7 (if I remember correctly) in the overall free charts, which was rather exciting to watch. When the three days were over, they didn't sell any for a few days, then sold about 100 more than usual (between 150-170 a month).
This is for my short stories only. The novels still sat on the shelves like blocks of concrete.
The second time was beginning of March to use up the remaining days for the short stories. The novels got a small boost, but still not worth a mention. That month, one year after publishing them, sales were at their lowest and then stopped completely. The KPD programme and free promotion has, in fact, killed my sales. Not really what I was expecting.

I was wary, but curious. Now I'm wiser. Though I have another day left for the novel, I will not use it. My fazit is that it's not worth it. 

Of course it all can turn around again, once those, who downloaded Candlelight Sinner, read and like it, then proceed to buying Excuse me, where is the exit? and vice versa. Which may be a small percentage as people tend to download and stock up their Kindles faster than they can read, then delete most of the novels again without even reading them.

Although there are a few who are doing really well after the promotion, there are still more who, I guess, didn't benefit from it, or worse, as in my case, actually are counting dead bodies. I know that Talli Roland reported a decrease in sales, too. See her blog post here:
Have you experienced an increase or decrease in sales weeks after the promotion ended?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Romantic dinner for three

Not so much romantic, yet still a dinner -- indoor barbecue to be precise. My friend Bobby had the idea of doing a BBQ on the roof and my other friend John had time, too, so we were all rather excited to do the first BBQ of the year. Ours, that is, as I know others already did theirs. It was a little too cold to sit outside, especially on a windy roof (very good timing, Weather! Thanks a bunch for that!).
Friday evening I prepared the marinades, one tomato based and the other one oil and herbs (from the garden), cut the chicken into thin slices and smothered them thoroughly with the marinades. I did Tzaziki, a Greek yogurt sauce with heaps of garlic and went to bed later, a big smile on my face.
I love a barbecue, me. And I'll freely admit that I'm a sausage girl. I know my sausages and am rather picky with them.

So Saturday evening arrived, I had also bought some bread, had prepared a salad and cleaned my flat (if you are as lazy as I am regarding that, just invite your friends regularly. Always a reason to tidy up and clean.)
The iguana lay in a corner on the top shelf, probably wondering what's going on when I moved the dining table to get us three seated. When John arrived, we had a glass of wine and began with the BBQ. Cold weather would not defeat us and luckily I have an electric one.
Bobby, on the other hand, had a little trouble finding my house, despite having been here a few times, he took a few long rounds around the block and through back streets, with me on the phone, before he finally arrived, a lot later to say the least, having worked up a great appetite. I know the feeling of getting lost, but yesterday, I handed him the biscuit -- he clearly deserved it.

The food was delicious, the chicken succulent and had absorbed the marinades, the Bratwurst, was okay (never tried this brand and probably won't do that again) and we ate everything with much gusto. Ros� and much laughter accompanied the meal, oddly enough we spoke about sex, from being loud to with whom and how. One gay guy, one hetero guy and I. We howled. A lot.

Bobby and I already agreed on doing a BBQ on the roof next Sunday. Sadly, John can't be there, but I'm sure, since the summer's just beginning, that we'll have plenty of 'romantic' dinners for three this year.