Friday, 16 May 2014

Press Kits are Hard Work, but worth it.

Phew! Just spent the entire day with my twin sis, Tasha, creating press kits. Up till now we've always generated information about our books and ourselves as needed for particular promotions, usually from the Wittegen Press website. However, looking round during the A to Z, and after prompting by author, Chris Votey, who we're working with for some up coming blog posts (keep an eye out on all three blogs for more info), we decided it was time we created some permanent information in downloadable format. Thus followed about four hours of collating data and spinning words.

We decided to use Google Docs (Google Drive) to host our Press Kit, because it makes it really easy to share with just a link, plus we can both edit the directory as needed in order to add new books as they are released. Compared to MS Word, a Google Doc has its limitations, but the press kit isn't supposed to be a wonder in formatting, so there was plenty of functionality to compile the information we needed. Plus we have the inbuilt added security of the kit being on Google Drive and therefore in multiple locations should something happen to one of our hard drives.

When it came to the contents of the press kit, we went with the kind of kits we'd seen from other authors, both via the A to Z and before: author bios, book blurbs and pictures to go with the information, plus, since we run our own publisher, we also have information on Wittegen Press and our logo up in the pack. We decided to duplicate all pictures, a small size inside the documents with the text to keep the docs small and larger higher quality versions downloadable individually for use on websites/blogs.

The book blurbs and pictures were just a matter of cut and paste from the website, so the most difficult bits by far were the author bios and the equivalent for Wittegen Press. I find it quite hard to sum myself up in a couple of short paragraphs, which is why working with Tasha helped, because we both had insights into each other that we used in the bios. As we developed the bios, we also considered how each line would come across standalone, to allow easy editing if shortening was required.

I expect I shall be tweaking my bio ad infinitum, but the important thing is I now have something that I am happy to share quickly and easily with any interested parties, an elevator speech about myself and my publisher that I think conveys something interesting and engaging about me as a writer and as a professional in the publishing industry.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Stephanie Faris, 25 Roses Cover Reveal!

25 Roses, sneak peak, check out Stephanie Faris' blog for the full cover
Now, you may wonder, if that young lady you can see on the sneak peak above is contemplative, happy, or something else entirely... Well, author, +Stephanie Faris is revealing the cover for her book, 25 Roses, on her blog this week. for the full view and some low down on the book, head on over to this post on her blog.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Saturday Scenes - From Death In The Family by Sophie Duncan

Saturday Scenes
Today, I'm joining in #SaturdayScenes - a theme day over on Google+ started by John Ward. As part of this, I'm sharing a scene from my paranormal adventure novel, Death In The Family. This scene comes from the middle of the story,

Friday, 2 May 2014

NTLive - King Lear - Could have done without all the shouting...

Yesterday evening, I went to see the Sam Mendes' National Theatre production of King Lear via NTLive at the cinema. I'd been to see Coriolanus the said same way with my family and we'd decided the format was so good we wanted to see more. If I had seen Lear first, I don't think I would have thought the same thing, but not because of the format.

The format, apart from a couple of camera cock-ups and mic malfunctions, which I can accept for a live production, was stunning as usual. However, the production itself, I thought, although containing some brilliant individual performances, did not quite come up to scratch as a whole for me.

Simon Russell Beale is a great actor, and there were moments of genius, but only moments. He did a very good interpretation of someone suffering from dementia, but unfortunately, I don't think that is what the pace of the play called for, since it flattened out his performance to one level for most of the first half of the play. The first half, for me, was all very shouty and stampey, a lot of remonstration and not much subtlety from Lear. I could not understand how this man had once been respected/feared since I did not even see a shadow of the mighty king in his performance. Unlike Coriolanus, where the camera showed us nuances that we had missed when in the theatre itself, the camera this time, showed up there was no subtlety - well, not in the first half.

However, in the very end of the first half, where Lear has a complete breakdown, and the second half, Simon Russell Beale came into his own - his interpretation of the broken, confused old man was brilliant, and this is where I saw the moments of genius. His talk with Gloucester in the corn field where he finally recognises who he is talking to, the look on his face, the pain as the fog clears and he realises he should have known him sooner, was pure skill. Also, Lear's interaction with Cordelia, his beloved youngest daughter when he came round, still confused and vulnerable, and the moment he recognised her, that was brilliance on the part of both actors.

The out-standing overall performance for me, though, was Adrian Scarborough as The Fool - he echoed the folly and madness of what should have been Lear's descent and he drew me in. Whether his words were bawdy, or poignant, he delivered and, personally, I thought the first half should have ended about half a dozen scenes before it did, on a telling speech from The Fool who is following his broken master to safety out of a storm into a hovel. It was the perfect comment on the mistakes and loss of the first half.

That's not where the first half ended though, and that was something else that underlined the whole performance for me, missed timing. Once the Fool and Lear were following the disguised Kent to the hovel, I began to be surprised by another scene, and another, and another. Admittedly, there was still more drama to come, with the torture of Gloucester and the escape to Dover, but the quick nature of the scenes and the further descent into war, I thought, would have fitted better at the beginning of the second half. But that's just my opinion. Also, there were at least two deaths that had happened before I even noticed what was going on - The Fool's death and Regan's death both missed the beat of the scene in which they took place.

Having said all that, there were some other great performances: Kate Fleetwood as Goneril and Anna Maxwell Martin as Regan, the two eldest daughters of Lear, were hard, cruel and exasperated with their father, but were also very different from each other. Also, Sam Troughton as the treacherous Edmund, Gloucester's bastard son, was the villain we loved to hate. And Tom Brooke came into his own as Edgar, legitimate son of Gloucester, when he hid from pursuers as Tom, the mad beggar.

So, overall, I was a little disappointed by this version of Lear (although I do not have another to compare it to), it could have done with better timing and some more light and shade for Lear in the first half. Some stunning moments/performances, but not a totally coherent production.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts - A Summary & Resource Links from My Posts, plus Reflections

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts
This post is
suitable for all
So that's it, the A to Z April Challenge is over for another year! Congratulations to everyone who survived! :D And thank you to all those who organised this great blog hop!

I don't know about anyone else, but it's been a month that has been a mixture of a whirlwind and a marathon. I've really enjoyed visiting a huge selection of blogs this year, and I've listed some of my favourites below. And it has also been brilliant fun talking to the visitors to my blog, hearing their own ghost stories and talking about the weird happenings the length and breadth of Great Britain.

I've been recommending authors and linking to books and movies throughout my posts, and some folks were interested in going back over my posts to find those references. I've made lists below of my resource materials for anyone who wants to check them out. Plus, if you didn't get a chance to read The Burning Web, my own ghost story exclusively written for the A to Z, during the month, then I've listed out the parts below if you want to check it out now :).

Well, as I already mentioned, I think the A to Z is both a time for preparation and a time for frantic activity. April is a long month when visiting lots of blogs, so I pre-scheduled about half of my posts with the rest all planned out, I started planning in Feb. This meant I could pace myself and have a few days off of writing blog posts and just concentrate on hopping round the blogs.

The suggestion to start from under my name in the blog list and doing 5 to 10 blogs a day worked really well, although towards the end I was sometimes less than 5 as fatigue set in, but then at the beginning I sometimes hopped to more than 10, so I think it evened out. I ended up with a spreadsheet of blogs I was visiting regularly, sometimes every day, sometimes with a couple of days gap in between, but ones from both the mini supernatural hop and the main list that I really enjoyed (all of those are listed below). I would not have managed all the visits without the spreadsheet, it helped me remember the places I enjoyed the most.

I tried to leave a comment on every blog I visited, an encouraging comment about the post I had read, since I found it a little difficult to engage with comments on my blog that didn't actually mention the content of the post in some way. :)

Finally, I didn't keep my posts to 100 words, which was an A to Z suggestion, but I did split the content down into four sections, each of which, apart from the serialised fiction, I kept fairly short and I linked to each section at the top of the post, so if anyone wanted to ignore one or more sections, they could jump to the one they wanted to read. I thought this was a satisfactory compromise. :)

My Favourite Blogs from A To Z 2014
So, I followed the advice from the A to Z team, which was to start from my own link in the A to Z list and work my way down five to ten blogs a day, and I found some great blogs that way, ones which I would not have thought about reading. Plus a bunch of us during the theme reveal this year, also discovered we were all doing supernatural themes, so we got together and made a mini list of our own to keep track of each other. The list below is made up of all the folks I found myself going back to over the month, who were engaging, interesting and just generally great to talk to :). (this list is in no particular order, just folks I made note of as I found them and I'm sorry if I missed you out, I visited so many great blogs this month that I couldn't keep track of them all)
  • Patricia Lynne, Independent YA Author, introduced me to a swathe of new words by embedding them in some fun, spicy short fic.
  • Author, Lexa Cain, has been entertaining us with the tales from haunted locations, something, naturally, I really enjoyed!
  • The eclectic mixture of content over at Herding Cats & Burning Soup has kept me laughing, or going 'oo, yum', all month :).
  • D Biswas at Amloki Blogs has been sharing useful tips on writing, with quotes from famous authors.
  • My Baffling Brain, written by Laura Clipson, has been posting about a subject I've long been interested in, Egyptology.
  • I couldn't make this list without mentioning my sis. Tasha, who has been entertaining me with info about vampires (another subject close to my heart), and a great vampire fiction over on her blog,  Tasha's Thinkings
  • It was Timothy Brannan and Tasha who came up with the idea of the mini Supernatural A to Z, and Tim's been talking about witches this month, I learnt quite a lot - this is a useful resource for writers and gamers alike. His blog is called, The Other Side
  • Dianne Riggins over at A Creative Mind shared some supernatural monsters with us.
  • Anna Tan has had me hooked all month with her fey-based part-work fiction of humans venturing into the fairy kingdom.
  • Making Believe is author and illustrator, Dianne Lynne Gardner's blog, and she's been introducing folks from fairytales and literature.
  • Sara C Snider has also regaled us this month with fairytale characters and their stories, I hadn't heard of them all.
  • Mina Burrows picked a subject close to my heart, monsters, talking about them in movies from the golden age of cinema.
  • Julia Matthews has been talking about all things occult, from the Tree of Life to the magical properties of numbers.
  • Who doesn't love zombies? Well, author, Jolie du Pre has been sharing her special love for them over at her blog, Precious Monsters
  • Stacy Claflin has been introducing us to different aspects of her Transformed series, vampires, witches and intrigue :) 
  • The Multicolored Diary blog belongs to Zalka Csenge Virág and has been great his month as I learned all about lots of different folktales related to different colours.
  • Tracy Lynn Tobin over on No Page Left Blank has been talking about her favourite characters from page and screen, some I'd heard of, others not.
  • It has been brilliant fun over at the Spirit Called blog all month, because we've been trying to guess the film from particular quotes. I haven't been very good at it, I have to say ;P
  • Lady Jai over at Write Backwards has been inspiring me this month by writing about the positives in herself.
  • The Shellshank Redemption is a blog belonging to Madeline Mora-Summonte and she's been writing us short, sharp little fics.
  • Author, S D Neeve, has been talking about the Mysterious Islands of Alphabet Cove, where creatures and children are matched together for adventures and learning.
  • If you want some useful hints and tips about world building, check out Rebekah Loper' blog
  • Another story that has kept me reading all month is from Katie Doyle in her blog, Writing, Reading & Life - a story of a young witch who will risk everything to save her brother.
  • Laura Marcella over at Wavy Lines has had another fun guessing game all month, this time books and authors - the hints have been really tricky sometimes :)
  • Tara Tyler Talks has been sharing some writerly tips and some fun stuff too!
  • Ida Chiavaro on her blog, Reflex Reactions, has been talking frankly about the greatest loves of her life, some personified, some more abstract :)
  • Michelle Stanley has been doing some delightful spinoffs to classic fairytales this month. 
  • Charlotte Comley on her blog, Aiming For A Publishing Deal, has some great checklists for writers when both creating and editing their work.
  • Chris Votey made my brain ache some days, since he's being teaching us about literary terms and concepts and, yes, I learnt something :)
  • Mee-eep has been writing some wonderful cute and feel good fics over her journal this month.
  • Carrie Anne Brownian has been taking us on a tour of locations she uses in her books and she has some beautiful photos of different cities in her posts.
  • Charis has also been entertaining with her spicy flash fics and drabbles.
  • Inger over at Desery Canyon Living has been talking about good things, inspirational and friendly :)
  • Elizabeth Darkley has been giving some writerly advice on her blog.
  • Author, L G Keltner, has been impressing me with her drabbles this month as well.
  • Karen Jones Gowen over at Coming Down the Mountain: Expat Writer Living Abroad has been talking about her life in Guatemala, fascinating!
  • Fairytales are the order of the day over at Pensuasion and author S L Hennessy
  • Write With Fey, where author, Chrys Fey, talks about writing.
  • Shelley Munro has been telling me about New Zealand, its wildlife, landmarks and folk lore as well.
  • Hilary Melton-Butcher over at Positive Letters has been talking about the coast and I've learnt some stuff about my country's own coastline I didn't know.
  • I came late to Stephanie Faris' blog during the challenge, but her posts are well worth a read too.
As I said above, this is a list of the blogs I went back to regularly this month, if I missed you off, I'm sorry, but if I commented on your blog, it was because I liked what you have to say :).

The Burning Web
So I wrote a story especially for my theme and serialised in each post. If anyone is interested, I'm turning it into a full eBook at the moment, editing, tweaking since it doesn't need to fit into 26 parts now, and developing a front cover. :) The links for each part are below if you want to read it.

Tris, an ex-police officer, is haunted by the moment he shot an Asian boy, Abdi, during a night of terrible rioting in London. He has been tried and found innocent of the boy's manslaughter, but that is not the only life-changing event he undergoes. Recovering from a stroke caused by the stress of his situation, Tris and his husband, Xander, have chosen to take Tris' settlement from the police and create a new life in the country at Berwick House, a Victorian Gothic mansion. Only Tris begins to discover that they are not alone in the old house and his illness has given him eyes to see their companions.

Part 01    Part 02    Part 03    Part 04    Part 05    Part 06    Part 07    Part 08
Part 09    Part 10    Part 11    Part 12    Part 13    Part 14    Part 15    Part 16
Part 17    Part 18    Part 19    Part 20    Part 21    Part 22    Part 23    Part 24
           Part 25    Part 26           

Books & Other Reference Material From My Posts
I recommended a lot of authors this month and also I used a lot of reference books to collect the information about the haunted places I talked about, plus there's plenty of information out of the web and I've recommended some movies as well, so here is a list of all those sources:

Reference Books
Fiction (eBooks and online reading)

Reference Sites

A few of us discovered that we all had supernatural themes for the AtoZ so we got together and did a mini list. If you also have a supernatural theme (ghosts, monsters, witches, spells etc), please feel free to add yourself to the list.

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