Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Lord of the Flies SPOILERS ahoy! (Or, 7 reasons why I hated this book)

Endings are hard.
I don't know how I'm going to end this book. I know, I'll have someone rock up from the Navy and say, "I'm so disappointed in you."

Do you know how I'd end it?
I'd still have the naval bloke rock up, then the boys all get on the  . . . ship? Frigate? I dunno what they're called, but they'd be on it AND THEN THESE LOST BOYS WOULD TAKE OVER THE DAMN SHIP!

That would be a much better ending. The adults in their lives have let them down, so it's time to take revenge!!!!! A few chapters of chaos on board the ship, ratchet up the tension, sail on to a new land . . .

If I'd read this as a paperback, it would have left a dent in the wall. As it is, I read it on the ipad and so I wasn't going to throw it. But dear heavens I wanted to.

Here are the reasons why I still hate Lord of the Flies

1: There are no girls at all. Sorry, there are girls. Two female pigs (sows) that are killed. This made it really hard for me, as a girl, to identify or sympathise with any of the characters.

2: The beginning: The characters were all instantly horrible to each other. None of them do anything remotely 'nice' or 'kind' at the beginning, so I'm left wondering who's supposed to be my favourite?

3: The children are being punished for not having adults around. The entire premise of the story is 'children turn into little arseholes when Mum and Dad aren't there to keep them in line', but they never stood a chance anyway. I felt like they were being blamed for being horrible, but what else could they do? The oldest one was only 12 or something.

4: The children did not think like children. They think like adults (because it was written by an adult who'd forgotten what it's like to be a kid I s'pose) but they behave horribly to each other. Right from the get go.

5: The omniscient third person kept me at a distance from the characters, robbing me, the reader, of a chance to empathise with them.

6: The reader knew more than the kids. Golding drops in the parachute bloke, who is dead, so his parachute is caught on trees and his body sits there, swaying and rocking in the wind. The reader knows what it is, but the boys don't. They think he's 'The Beast' and their imaginations run away with them. As a reader, this robbed me of the chance to empathise with the boys and feel their terror. Because I knew what it was, I was left feeling as if I was supposed to look down on the boys, 'it's not The Beast, you're being silly, come on, be sensible' etc. Then, when the boys worked out what it really was, the element of surprise and wonder was also not there. Because I already knew.

7: The ending. It sucks big time. Sure, they were all about being rescued (it's all Ralph could think about, hence the whole 'keep the fire going so we can have smoke' delirium.) But when someone does turn up, it feels to much like Deus ex Machina. Plus, thanks for driving home your point that the boys were such a massive disappointment. And what am I supposed to feel? Damn right, I'm feeling disappointment. But not with the boys, I'm disappointed in this book.

Wow, I feel so much better getting that off my chest.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Seven Reasons Why Plagiarism is Wrong

If you know me at all, you'll know my books are full of crazy. I'm all about embracing the crazy.
But plagiarism is a whole new level of crazy and I want nothing to do with it. If you steal the work of other authors, I want nothing to do with you. We cannot be friends!
There have been a couple of outstandingly hideous examples of plagiarism just recently that have set my blood boiling. An author in Germany who, bold as brass, said she was 'Mixing', and a writer in the states whose Christian (ie, super sweet and inspirational) books were being ripped off but getting sex scenes added to them. Blurgh!

I don't know why it even needs to be said - plagiarism is wrong - but clearly some people aren't getting the message!

But in case you were wondering, here's why it's wrong.

1. At its most basic level, plagiarism is stealing.

2. Plagiarism is lazy. Bust your own chops for a while and have a go at writing your own stuff you thieving, thiefety thief! (see point 1)

3. Someone else wrote it, you copied and pasted it into your manuscript (oh, you changed a few names along the way? Wow, that must have broken you out in a sweat) And now you call yourself a writer? See point 1.

4. Have you attributed your copied phrases, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, entire novels to the person who actually wrote it? Didn't think so. See point 1.

5. You are not 'mixing'. You are not 'repurposing' you are not 'echoing', you are stealing. See point 1.

6. You cannot sustain a career from plagiarism. Because you don't have the right kind of brain to create characters and situations and scenarios and emotional depth. Because you have a thief brain, not a creative brain. Your brain takes, our brains give. See point 1.

7. You will be caught. In order to not get caught, you'd have to remain completely anonymous. But that doesn't work because you want to sell your (stolen) words, which means you have to raise your profile, and once you do that, you will soon be found out for the thieving thief that you are.

I bust my chops making something I hope will resonate with readers. I hire editors, I workshop and brainstorm with other writers, I bitch and moan to my husband when plots don't work. Writing for me is a long term commitment. My books are the beginning of what I hope will be our pension fund. Because there won't be pensions when we 'retire' and anyway, I love writing so much, I love creating characters, that I won't stop until I have to.

Back when I started writing, I had 'fraud syndrome'. There had been very sad cases of plagiarism that struck fear in my heart. The writers of suspected plagiarism offered excuses along a similar theme: "I must have loved the writing (of other author) so much I unconsciously channelled them into my book."

So I lived in fear that I could do the same. Because I read so much, loved so many authors, how could I possibly avoid doing something similar?

But then, as more and more cases came to light (Black Footed Ferrets anyone?) I began to realise that this 'unconscious channeling' wasn't really a thing. Not when I struggled to get lyrics of a song right at the best of times and yet some books contained word for word, comma for comma cut and pastes from other books. Or a scientific thesis on the life cycle of the black footed ferret.

These days I don't fear that I have plagiarised someone else. Which is a relief. But that doesn't mean someone else won't try and rip me off. All I can do is hope that nobody does.

Friday, 21 November 2014

New Project. Do I still hate Lord of the Flies?

We had to read Lord of the Flies by William Golding in high school and I hated it.
I was 15, I was (and still am) female. There were no characters in this book with whom I could identify, and the story itself was hideous. People were doing such horrid things to each other!
So my memories are of a horrible time, and not enjoying it at all. In fact, this is the sort of book that can turn students away from reading completely.

But have I been fair?
In my 40s, do I still hate it, or do I just hate the memories of those years of being told what to read and what is 'good for me'? My year 9 English teacher told the class that an indicator of quality was one with an orange spine. (ie published by Penguin). Seriously. It's a wonder I ever read anything again. I'm not having a go at Penguin, but to tell a room full of 15-year-old girls to only read books from one kind of publisher? Come on!

It's possible I may still hate Lord of the Flies, but I can't keep hating on it (hate is a powerful word) without at least giving it another chance, right? I'm all about second chances.

I shall be tweeting and blogging this do over as I go along.
Who knows. It could do me in or I could gain a whole new appreciation for it.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Up all night reading

I am not a morning person.
Oh don't pretend you haven't done it either.
Stayed up all night reading something you simply can't stop.
"Just one more chapter" you tell your tired, frazzled brain.


Then the morning comes and all you want to do is sleep. But the morning cannot be ignored, and so you drag your tired self into the world of the everyday. Meanwhile, your brain is telling you to get back to the book. NOW!

Michael Grant's Gone series has done this to me. They've wiped my brain and all I could think was "This is so good, I wish there was more," and also, "Why couldn't we have read this in high school instead of Lord of the Flies?"

So I gobbled the first three books in the six-part Gone series (Gone, Hunger, Lies) as they came out. But of course, they came out a year apart and I'd get to the end of each one and scream 'noooooooooooooo' and be desperate for the next.

So what I've done for the final three (Plague, Fear, Light) is buy them and have them sitting on my shelf so I can read them all in one marathon of non-sleeping insanity.

I'm gonna love it.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

If I admit how much I love Taylor Swift, will it make her uncool?

Because she is made of awesome. I love how she's driving her career, how she's handling fame, how she's writing songs making fun of herself. How she handled John Cleese's sexist faux pas while on The Graham Norton Show.

Her earlier stuff killed me. No, seriously. The number of times I died trying to sing Love Story. How does she sing non stop through the chorus without getting a collapsed lung?

Now her fifth album is out and she's only 24!

I think it's fair to say she's found out early what she's good at and she's nailing it!

Today, I found this, and she blew me away all over again. She's in a car with Greg James, a DJ from BBC1 radio, lip synching Blank Space, air drumming, acting, overacting, shoulder dancing and having fun.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Dance like nobody's watching . . .

Dance like nobody's watching . . . and blog like nobody's reading it.

I just read a terrific and succinct article giving 10 reasons to persist with a blog even if it seems like nobody is reading it.

Here's my take home:
1. People do still read blogs.
2. People don't have as much time to comment any more.
3. People would rather 'retweet' and pass on information than comment.
4. The empty space in the comment box is too confronting. People don't want to be the only one commenting. (Whereas lots of comments makes it look like more of a community.)
5. I can't build a community unless I have something for people to read or a reason for people to come here.

In the mean time, here is a book I have absolutely adored.

If you have read Courtney Milan's novels, you'll know how awesome they are. If you haven't, then hurry up. She's an amazing writer.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Active, Reactive & Reflective

In my continuing proselytising of all things structural, I come to this.

A hero (I use the term in the gender neutral sense) must always be in one (or more) of the following states:


Grab yourself a cuppa and I'll explain.

As the story begins, it's highly likely that they are simply 'reactive', in that the story begins, we see a little of the 'normal world' they are in and not much is happening. They don't have to do much either, just show the reader around their home/work/play areas.

Do not make them reflective this early on. Reflect is where you look back. Your story hasn't even started to move forward yet, don't drag it backwards!

Then there is a 'disturbance' in the normal world and it's time to move forward through the 'Plot Catalyst' (without which, there will be no story). At this point the hero can be reactive or active. Either is fine, as long as they move forward.

The Plot Catalyst, and the 'accepting of the challenge' actively propels them into ACT 2.

There is no time for being reflective here either, as they start building allies and earning enemies. This is a very active time, and the hero must be active during this time, actively pushing the story forward rather than merely reacting to their world and being carried along.

Whaddya know? There's no time for reflection here either!

Did you realise we're half way into act two and there hasn't been any reflection?


The hero then has a big challenge, and it all falls to bits. This is what many call The Midpoint. The Midpoint comes in the middle of the story, and it's usually where everything blows up in the hero's face, it all seems too hard and they think  they're going to fail and fail badly.

NOW you're allowed to be reflective. O'kay? Yeah, you go be your reflective bad self, little hero, you've earned it. It's the middle of the book and you're looking death (physical, spiritual, metaphorical etc) in the face. Here is where you say, 'OK, I have to keep going, and it might kill me, but I can't go back'. The Midpoint is where your hero is past the point of no return, so he/she has to go forward. They might 'die' (actually or figuratively) and they're OK with that.

Your hero pushes on.

The 'bad guys close in' (Thank you Blake Snyder) and things go from bad to worse. The hero becomes more desperate. (Think about how desperate Scarlett O'Hara became when she was trying to get the $300 to pay the taxes on Tara).

THE CLOCK IS TICKING - (Hurry, there's no time!)
This tightens up the section from the Midpoint to the next big structural turning point, which is The Black Moment. It's all action all the way. The ticking clock is a handy device giving your hero a deadline in which they must achieve success. (Again, Scarlett needed $300 right now to pay the taxes on Tara. She couldn't wait for Rhett to remember her in his will.)

The Black Moment:
You thought the Midpoint was bad? This is as black as black can be. All is lost and love is not enough.
You're allowed to have some reflection here as well, because it's all you have. No action or reaction will save you, you've done it all, tried it all and you're as miserable as a snake with a sore tummy.

Well suck it up, because we're on our way out of Act Two with . .


Time to push on into Act 3, where it will all lead to one last big showdown as we 'Storm the Castle'.
There will be a win, followed swiftly by a BIG SCARY FRIGHT THAT MAKES YOUR HERO THINK (for just a second of reflection) THEY WON'T WIN then they will reach deep inside themselves and win the day. Because they're the hero.

There is a big party.

The hero is allowed to have a little rest and reflection, and perhaps have a think about the future . . .

In a nutshell, make your hero as active as possible, for as much of the story as possible.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Breaking All The Rules

I'm a huge fan of structure, as you may have noticed.

I'm also a fan of 'show, don't tell', where the reader gets to see things happen, rather than be told about them having happened.

Show is: Balancing her weight on the branch, Beverley reached out to the hissing kitten and grabbed it by the scruff. Eyes wide with fear, the kitten bristled and lashed out with the teeniest little 'mew'. Beverley laughed at its pathetic defence and bedraggled state, then screamed as the branch gave way and she crashed to the ground with a sickening crunch.

Tell is: She'd always been a sucker for strays, even if they didn't want her help. Even if she hurt herself in the process.

The second one kind of sucks, doesn't it?

Yet some of my favourite books break this 'Show not Tell' rule and, infuriatingly, get away with it!

The most obvious is Douglas Adams's The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. Well, it was a trilogy, then it was four books . . . then five. The fifth being published after he died, I think.

Using 'Tell' is handy when an author needs to sum things up quickly, or to mark a change of time, or to simply give information, which you need to do in many nonfiction titles.

Adams broke the cardinal rule of 'show don't tell' many times in his half novel, half travel guide, half dire warning about the human race being too reliant on digital clocks. His technique of slipping into nonfiction for the travel guide part of HHGTTG broke the rules for a really good reason. It was hilarious. Having a galactic travel guide talking directly to the reader added to absurdity.

My take-home from this is it's ok to break the Show don't Tell rules providing:
1: You know what the rules are.
2: You're doing it deliberately (rather than lazily).
3: You are pathologically hilarious.

Have you read some books that break the rules and get away with it? Show and tell here.

Friday, 7 November 2014

In Other News . . .

My divorce came through.
No, not the marriage one (love the hubbs!) but my publishing divorce with Egmont UK.

It was completely amicable (because Egmont are professionals and staffed with decent human beings) and now the paperwork is through. I get full custody of the kids, they keep the pretty clothes they bought for them.

My first two Ondine novels, which were published with Egmont, had begun with such amazing promise. The editing was encouraging, sympathetic and solid, the covers were gorgeous the distribution  throughout the UK was comprehensive. They came out in 2010 and 2011.

The reviews, wow, the reviews were so awesome I cried. I cried early and often. They were so lovely and effusive and bursting with praise. Loads of five stars from total strangers, dozens and dozens of four stars from people who laughed their heads off, a smattering of three stars from reviewers who appreciated my efforts but the book wasn't for them. And hardly any two and one stars, which is unheard of, right?

But for whatever reasons (mostly the collapse of the bookstore industry (Borders in the UK and Australia, along with Angus and Robertson in Australia) the books didn't get traction.

In the mean time, I brought out new ebook versions for the USA and other territories (hello Russia, Moldova, China, Japan) which were not covered by the original Egmont contract. I fell in love with the new covers and was so happy with the results. Ondine had a new life in 'The Rest of the World' and was getting lovely reviews all over again. Ahhhhhhhh. It made all the effort worth it, to know that I'd written books that entertained people, gave them a break from the everyday and made them laugh and swoon.

I had control of the distribution, covers, price and promotions for the ebook, except in the UK where it all began. It made co-ordinating things difficult, and the different covers created confusion. The answer was to get a reversion of my book rights from Egmont, which they agreed to in a timely and professional manner. I am one of the very lucky authors to get my rights back. I know a great many who have a difficult time when they want their book back. Either the publisher ignores them completely, outright refuses, or publishes a 'new issue' in some small territory which fulfils the definition of 'published' but doesn't give the writer much in royalties.

As I said earlier, I was very lucky. This is, as I also said earlier, because Egmont are professional and staffed with decent human beings. I loved working with them and they publish magnificent books.

As of last week, all my ONDINE are available in all territories, as ebooks, with the new matching covers.

Which means, I think, if you click on this groovy widget, it will take you to The Summer of Shambles (Ondine #1) in whatever part of the world you're in, and you can get it and start reading it in just a few seconds.

Happy reading, and thank you again, Egmont, for being so brilliant.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Brave New World

How cool was my high school eh? Well, my year 11 English Teacher at any rate. He gave us Aldous Huxley's Brave New World to read that year and it totally rocked my world.

I loved the idea of compartmentalising people into tribes, so they knew what was expected of them and everyone had a place. And of course, the story kicks off because several people feel out of place, like they don't fit in. Hehehehe. I read it in high school, then again about 10 years later and it held up really well. I wonder if I read it again, will I feel the same? I hope so!

I developed a taste for science fiction early on (I may have mentioned Dr Who once or twice in these posts) and I still love it. I may read far more romances these days, but I love a rocking good sci-fi series, like Hunger Games and Michael Grant's Gone series. Oh, sorry, Hunger Games is speculative fiction? Call it what you want, it's ain't reality, right?

I have a few science fiction manuscripts in the 'bottom drawer' . . . perhaps never to see the light of day.
Every now and then I think about getting them out and giving them a good shake, to see if I can get them into shape. That could be fun.

Do you have some science fiction favourites? HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy maybe? Red Dwarf? Dune (maybe the first two, before they got a bit soggy.)