Category Archives: Books

Write for Yourself

Do you write for yourself or for the market? This is a question all writers must ask themselves, hopefully sooner rather than later. Well come on then; do it. Do you write for yourself or for the market?

If some of you don’t know what those actually mean, I will give you an example. Say you’re a writer who loves to write science-fiction humour for young adults – that’s fine. But what if the market (that is, what’s selling at the moment) is serious fantasy? Now you’re in a real pickle. Do you carry on with your humourous book or do you throw it in the garbage and begin a fantasy novel just like the ones that are selling? It’s a difficult choice, as it can make or break a writer if they desperately want to be published. But what’s the answer, then?

Well in a book I am currently reading, called Richard Joseph’s Bestsellers, Alan Dean Foster (writer of the Alien novelisation) said this:

“Everything I had been trying to write ‘to the market’ was going nowhere, while something I wrote out of love and personal interest sold immediately.”

Fair enough if it’s his opinion, but why should we even begin to trust his advice? Because his world-wide sales are in excess of ten million copies. Wow. That’s quite a lot, isn’t it? Yes, yes it is. But you may argue that what works for one writer may not work for another, and that’s true. So let’s a dig a little bit further into this to come up with an answer of our own.

Let’s take another example, one when you were (or still are) in school. There were certain subjects you enjoy more than others, weren’t there? Perhaps there were ones you utterly despised – like me and Physical Education! 😛 You may have tried your best at that horrible subject, or tried to write that History paper with all your heart, but in the end you weren’t as good as the best in your class, were you (not trying to bring you down here; I hated most of the subjects in my school)? You had your favourite subjects, the ones you were good at or at least did your best at. This is what writing should be like for us. We shouldn’t force ourselves to write what we aren’t good at or what we don’t enjoy – we should be writing what we do enjoy, subjects that make our bodies quiver with excitement!

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Of course, what interests you as a writer may already be what’s currently selling on our shelves, and that’s great! If that’s the case for you, then get cracking! For those of us who aren’t so great at writing what’s currently on our shelves, though, this can be a little bit of a problem, so let’s tackle this problem head-on.

What do we do when we don’t want to write what’s popular? This is difficult to answer, and probably one we won’t be able to answer fully, but we can at least try. Essentially, we as writers just need to keep writing about what we love, as that’s what motivates us to write that novel or screenplay or short story – our love for its themes, characters, and so on. That love should make us proud of the work we’ve done, even if publishers and agents don’t so much as take a whiff of it. As Oscar Wilde said:

“An idea that is not dangerous is not worthy of being called an idea at all.”

Wise words. If we’re not willing to at least try a new idea (in its broad sense, anyway) then there’s almost no point in us writing at all. In fact, you could go as far to say that the people who copy the ideas of what’s popular at the present may not actually be dangerous or original, just as Wilde said. And who knows? Maybe you’ll be that writer that breaks the mould – somebody has to be!

Thanks for reading; I hope you gathered some opinions of your own through reading my own! If you want to check out the book which I quoted from, you can get it from Amazon here – Richard Joseph’s Bestsellers. It’s a good book in which the writer interviews several writers about how they became bestsellers, from Roald Dahl to Tom Clancy.

Advertisements

Books versus E-books: Tackling the Issue, erm…again

Hello everyone, I hope you’ve had a good week so far! Today’s post is a little bit special – I received an email from a lovely woman called Allison, asking me if I could possibly look at a piece to do with books and e-books. Once I saw it, I really loved it, and I asked for permission to use it on my blog; she said yes, and here we are. I especially love the first picture, which combines book and e-book into one flowing graphic. If anyone wants to go to the original source once you have read it on here, I will include the link after the graphic. I think it’s a really good piece that reminds us that books and e-books are, in a sense, totally different mediums. Let me know your comments and what you think about the piece in the comments below. Thanks! 🙂

E-books Infographic

A very special thanks to Allison and her company for letting me use their great colourful graphic, and I hope to keep in regular contact with them! Here is the link to the original source: http://www.teachingdegree.org/2012/11/26/ebooks-vs-print-books/

Thank you all for reading; remember to leave your thoughts and feeback below! 😀

Books versus e-books: tackling the issue

Ever since the rising popularity of Amazon’s Kindle and other similar devices, the ‘book versus e-book’ debate draws ever closer to becoming a full-scale war, at least where readers and writers are concerned. But which is best, really? This post is designed to look at the pros and cons of both mediums, although my opinion will be said firmly and clearly throughout (it’s quite obvious where I stand). So, without further ado…

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Traditional publishing has been around since, well, since a long time. One of the earliest forms of printing was woodblock printing, the earliest examples originating from as early as 220 A.D. E-publishing has been around for less than a hundred years. Are people that quick to cling on to a new idea? Surely something that has been around for centuries (and is not broken) is more reliable than something that has been around for a fraction of that time?

Paperbacks and hardbacks are not out-of-date. Paper is not out-of-date. When a child comes home from school to bring back a drawing, he brings it home on paper. Surely peope don’t have as much control drawing with a finger on a screen as they do with a pencil in their hands. So it is with writers: they prefer their work to be published with paper, not with MegaBytes.

However, e-books can still stand their ground. So many new inventions have been created in the past hundred-or-so years, and people rely on these machines each and every day – cars, computers, washing machines. A vast amount of technology is relied upon today, so why can’t we move on in this endeavour?

Don’t sit so close to the screen

Okay, so apparently it’s not sitting too close to the T.V. that’s bad for the eyes, but rather a lack of blinking. When our eyes stare at a screen, they forget to blink. Do real books do this? No, is the simple answer. Books are ergonomic – there is little strain on the eyes, they are comfortable to hold in your hands, and it is easy to turn a page. If you know where a certain section is within a book, you simply flick to it. With e-books, however, it is a different matter. First you have to find the section you are looking for using the contents page, then you have to scroll to see the exact page you want. Ergonomically friendly? I don’t think so.

But again, e-readers have their advantages. Multiple books can be carried around easily when on an e-reader, and the prices of books are cheaper. Ereaders are also just as comfortable to hold as books, so who’s to say that e-readers aren’t ergonomic either?

Are e-books going to replace books outright? Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

But studies have shown!

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center recruited 32 pairs of parents and their 3-6 year-old children to read print books and e-books. In the data collected, it was seen that children remembered less story details on the e-book version than the printed version, and the printed book more engaging than the e-book. You can see the full research here. Basically it is seen that the parent and child is more engaged and their conversation more active and content (story) related. With parents and children reading far, far less these days, isn’t it better to boost the version which is more friendly (printed books)?

Jakob Nielsen (website: www.useit.com) published a study, his results showing that readers slow down when using electronic devices (6.2% slower for i-books, 10.7% slower for Kindle [e-books]). This means that people will read less books a year than normal, and is this a good thing? I don’t think so. Writers want to read as many books as possible, and hard-core readers are similar. However, there is a catch. This study used only 24 readers, and it didn’t calculate the fact that readers may get used to reading on a Kindle, therefore they might read faster. But still, why waste time training to read faster on a Kindle when you can already do so with a printed book?

And the winner is…

I hesitate when I write this, but the winner is…no one. Readers simply differ from one another, with one a die-hard Kindle fan, another just as stubborn with printed books. It’s safe to say that I’m firmly with the ‘printed books are better’ group, and here are my two reasons for his, although I’m sure there are more.

Firstly, there’s the sheer joy of walking around a bookstore; not so with e-books. Example: “Hey, Mum, can we have a walk around that e-book store?” “I’m afraid not, child. E-bookstores don’t exist.” Moral of the story? You can’t browse online as much as you can in a shop. When I shop online (rarely), I’m always looking for something in particular. How can you not? Walking into a random second-hand seaside town bookshop – this excitement will be lost if and when e-readers come to the fore.

Secondly, I think of the generations to come. Is it really wise to raise your children by reading bedtime stories from a screen? Artists and writers like to draw and see their work on paper. The world should just accept that. Just because everything else relies on technology, doesn’t mean that books have to give in as well.

The final verdict? Neither wins, at least not right now. But the thing is, e-books may well replace ink and paper soon, and that, my friends, will be one of the saddest events of the near future. My verdict? Paper beats Kindle!

Thanks for reading. If you disagree or agree with this post, then please, leave a comment below, and don’t forget to like and follow me if you want similar posts to this. Thank you! 😀

‘A Song of Ice and Fire Book 1’ Review (Game of Thrones)

Game of Thrones

By George R.R. Martin (Fantasy, Drama)

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

The book begins with a simple prologue – three men walk through a forest, talking and arguing with one another. They are cold, irritable, and simply want to turn back. The wind whistles in the trees; the sound of wolves are filling the air…in the first chapter, one of these men is executed, and that’s the nature of Game of Thrones. The first chapter immediately brings you out of the classic ‘magic and fairies’ land and into George Martin’s well-crafted one instead: depressing, cold, harsh, and bleak. Only a few spots of hope are seen throughout, and they are spread sparsely. Perhaps you were expecting more of a plot synopsis from this review, but you’re not going to get it: if you want to read this book, believe me, you won’t want any spoilers.

The cover of this book (see picture, below) suggests a gritty medieval fantasy drama revolving around a battle of the throne, and that is exactly what you are going to get. Whilst other sub-plots come into play at certain times in the novel, George Martin really makes a clichéd plot exciting and gripping again, and that’s exactly what readers want. However, don’t expect an easy read. It may not be full of words that you don’t understand, but the book is large, and the paragraphs long. Even the dialogue is interspersed with lots of description. Of course, this is great for a fantasy series, but this is merely a warning that for slow readers like me, it won’t be a walk in the park.

This is the cover that is on my copy.

Martin manages to engage the reader by writing his novel without using magic or dragons (although he hints a few times at these, suggesting something more to come), and he does so quite successfully. His bleak land is stunning, and several times unexpected things happen, clearly showing that the author is not afraid to shape his world the way he wants it to be. Scenes involving the council and the king are no less than superb, and every sentence the characters say has meaning and weight, and anything they say could drastically change the course of events.And speaking of characters, they further add to the bleakness of the world; each one is fleshed out (except Sansa) and their motivations seem real. Personally, my favourite charcters are Tyrion and Bran, and I will give an extract of both to show why I like them so much. First, then, is Tyrion:“Some of us may,” Tyrion told him. “I am not fond of eating horse. Particularly my horse.”

“Meat is meat,” Bronn said with a shrug. “The Dothraki like horse more than beef or pork.”

“Do you take me for a Dothraki?” Tyrion asked sourly.

As you can see, Tyrion is a witty fellow, considering he is a dwarf who does not have any say in most matters. Many characters laugh at him, but he always comes back around with a snappy remark. I would say that he is my favourite character so far.

Bran thought about it. “Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?”

“That is the only time a man can be brave,” his father told him. “Do you understand why I did it?”

“He was a wildling,” Bran said. “They carry off women and sell them to the Others.”

Bran is a lot like me: young and innocent, with no idea what life is really like, and this helps me to empathise with the character. Though these are my favourite charcters, there are many others – another six, to be precise, and this is one of the negatives of this series. Eight characters is too much for one book, and it was hard to remember what certain characters did three or four chapters before. This makes it hard to understand what’s going on, and it can pull you out of the experience somtimes. Another aspect I didn’t care for was the amount of sex in the book – it was too much, and most of the time it was described in gratuitous detail. Whilst this is more of an opinion than a negative point, it does need to be said if there are people out there who do not like sex in novels (including me).

Overall, though, George R.R. Martin has created a world that is truly excellent, with characters brimming with secrets and dark pasts. It isn’t easy to write a good fantasy series these days, but Martin has managed it almost seamlessly. The way it is written intruiged me, and I look forward to reading the next title in the series and watching the first season on DVD. Bravo!

4/5 stars (a well written novel that has a truly excellent world and shady characters; pick this one up when you can!).

‘The Road’ Review

The Road

By Cormac McCarthy (Post apocalyptic fiction, drama)

Rating: 2.5 stars

This book, by Cormac McCarthy, takes you into a post-apocalyptic world, although it is not made clear as to how or why this happened. You follow a man and a boy, kept nameless throughout the novel, as they endure through the stark times to try and get to the coast. All they have is a cart with a few supplies, and little food and water. Welcome to The Road. Has it grabbed your attention? It certainly did with me. But unfotunately, although interesting, it is an unsatisfying read. Read on to find out why.

The Road is McCarthy’s tenth novel, so it’s definitely safe to say that this man is an experienced published writer. I can’t speak for his other works, as I have not read them, but the way his book is written is slightly strange e.g. there are no quotation marks when characters are speaking; certain words like ‘shouldn’t’ and ‘couldn’t’ do not include apostrophes; very few commas are used. While I accept that people such as e e cummings did things such as this, I found the experience quite jarring. For example, “He cut his own hair but it didnt come out so good…He turned to the boy. How do I look? The boy cocked his head. I dont know, he said. Will you be cold?” For me, I spent more time getting frustrated at these minor things rather than enjoying the book, and even though that’s all they are, i.e. minor things, I still felt like they sprang from the page, and almost immediately after I began reading, the first thought that entered my mind was, “Is this writer trying to break all the rules because he can, just so he stands out from the crowd and attempts to create a bestseller or classic?”

His writing style is also a bit dreary. Although the way he describes things is excellent (as it is not too much and intelligently allows you to paint a picture in your head), about half way through the book, the plot begins to flow like treacle and I started to feel a little sleepy, especially as the writing is not broken up very much with the use of commas. Instead, McCarthy prefers to use ‘ands’, making it seem more dull than it truly is. This seems a little unnecessary.

There are, however, positives (besides the ones mentioned previously). McCarthy certainly does hit the nail on the head when it comes to the book’s bleakness, simple conversations, and emotional drama, but it’s the conversations I like the most:

“You think we’re going to die, dont you?

I dont know.

We’re not going to die.

Okay.

But you dont believe me.

I dont know.”

It’s these simple conversations that I took from this book – no ‘he saids’, ‘she saids’, no really long sentences. It makes the book very atmospheric, showing both the boy’s innocence amongst other things, and for this, I applaude Cormac McCarthy. His emotional scenes truly are emotional, and at certain points I felt myself rooting for the characters, even if their only goal was to reach the coast.

But overall, it just does not add up to being a good book. I am sure that I do not stand with the vast majority on this one, but something about this book didn’t grab me. I am glad that I read it, though, even if it was just to widen my reading and learn how other writers write. However, I had a high expectation for this book, but it did not deliver. A terrible shame.

2.5 stars (has some merits that makes it worth reading, but be cautious before buying).

Books! (Part three)

Hello everyone, and I hope everything is going well. In case you’re new here, or if you don’t remember, I’m on holiday in France at the moment, and I set this message to be sent whilst I’m away (it’s a bit of a strange thought, really :/) Anyway, this post will be concluding the ‘Books!’ series, although I may do something similar in the future. Let’s begin then, shall we?

_

The Colour of Magic– I read this book either two or three years ago, and to be honest, I didn’t find it that great. However, I expect this is because I was still a bit young and didn’t really understand the humour – so I’m reading it again 🙂 I pretty much know what happens, but maybe I’ll appreciate it more this time around.

Giving it another go.

The Man who Broke into Auschwitz – Non-fiction books are definitely not my favourite thing (except when I’m doing research for my writing – I get a thrill from doing that :P) but I received this book from a friend as a gift a few months go, and now I’m deciding to read it. Mainly it’s just to broaden my horizons, but it may lead to some new ideas or something similar for my writing. Not really sure what to expect, but I presume it’ll be a nice short break from reading fiction.

_

So those are all the books I’m going to read on holiday – one or two I may have already read! Hopefully though I’ll be able to have a bunch of reviews to post on here over the course of a few weeks when I get back. I was going to dedicate a part of this post to books that I want to buy, but I think I’ll leave it for another time (it won’t be one of the posts whilst I’m away, either). Nevertheless, relish the summer sun, if indeed you have any at this time; Friday’s post will be about writing. See you then! 🙂

Books! (Part two)

Well helloooo! I’m both sad and happy today – sad to be leaving the blog, happy to go on holiday. 🙂 As I said yesterday, this post will be looking at what books I will be reading next.

So obviously I’m going on holiday tomorrow and basically doing nothing over the course of two weeks; ( 😀 ) I have PLENTY of new books to be getting on with. Whilst I highly doubt I’ll finish them all, I prefer to have a choice of what to read next – yes, even on holiday. 😛 The books which will be of most interest to all of you (I am a Christian and therefore I will have a few Christian books as well) are The Road (by Cormac McCarthy), Shadow of the Scorpion (Neal Asher), The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum), The Colour of Magic (Terry Pratchett), and finally The Man who Broke into Auschwitz (by Denis Avey and Rob Broomby). Now that you know them all, I will try to go through each one individually to say why I am excited to read the book, and also what I expect from it.

_

The Road – This one hasn’t really intruiged me until very recently, when I decided to plan/write a post-apocalyptic novel soon (more on this in a later post). However, now that I’ve picked it up and glanced at the layout and writing, I have to say I am eager to review this book; its small scenes and snappy (I mean it) dialogue make it out to be an easy read, but even if it is, it looks to be enjoyable.

Shadow of the Scorpion – I must confess: part of me picked this science-fiction novel up because of the colourful, interesting cover. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, (after all, that’s why they make covers) I tend to buy a book either because it’s been recommended to me, or because I liked the sound of the blurb at the back of the book – this is why most people read books, in’t it? Anyway, the blurb of this book also looked quite good. I’m not expecting anything groundbreaking, but I’m at least expecting a good, solid read.

The Bourne Identity – This one I picked up from Amazon because of the upcoming release of the film, The Bourne Legacy. Now I’m not a huge fan of thrillers and fast-paced movies, which is why I’ve never watched any of the Bourne films as yet. But after a bit of digging, I discovered that the films were in fact indebted to a series of books originating from the 80s and still continuing today. So I’m giving it a shot – I’m not really expecting much, but who knows?

_

Even though there are two more books to talk about, I will instead cut this into two parts (therefore being a three-part series) and post the final one next week, although the computer will be doing that for me – I’ll already be enjoying the sun in southern France! So here is the thought for while I am away: I will be posting twice a week, starting from next week; one on Tuesday and one on Friday. This makes a total of four posts by the time I’m back, but on the 7th of August blogging will continue daily, as usual! I’m not going to tell you what I’m going to be posting, but I will tell you that the four posts are more focused on writing and reading, rather than films. Thanks for reading, see you in two weeks. 😀

P.S. I will be a little bit sad unil I get back, but mainly I’ll just be happy to be away. 😛

Books!

Today I will be talking about the current books I am reading, and then on Saturday I will be continuing with what I would like to read, and what I will be reading in the future. Basically, I’m going to talk about books. 🙂 I hope you don’t mind.

My preferred genres of books are twofold – Science-fiction and Fantasy. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, he’s just a typical boy, only reading those types of books.” Well, I guess I am a typical boy (although I hate sports) but I find these two genres the most exciting – building imaginary worlds and universes from scratch, creating epic series that span a vast amount of books; learning and reading about new creatures that exist only in that certain world/universe; a place that is completely different from this earth, yet similar enough in our problems and crises? YES PLEASE!

And that’s why I write these genres, too. I’ve tried to write thrillers, tried to think of plots that would rival the likes of To Kill a Mockingbird and Hamlet. But it’s just not me. I’m still trying to accept that, but it is getting easier.

I leave this type of stuff to the pros. *Winks*

 

I am currently reading two books at the moment: Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, and The Ghost Brigades, written by John Scalzi (yes, I can read more than one book at once, and no, it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of them). GoT is quite an interesting read at the moment. I won’t go into detail, but basically it’s a fantasy which isn’t quite so crazy as witches, wizards, orcs, and elves (at least not yet – if there are, please don’t tell me!). Instead it focuses more on the harsh, cruel, less pleasant things in life, and is more of a medieval book with fantasy bits put in. There are things which I am not fond of in it (too many points of view and too much sex/swearing for my liking) but right now I can see myself finishing it and there is a likelihood that I will be buying the next book in the series.

The Ghost Brigades has me hooked. This novel is a sci-fi book, and is the second in the series. I presumed that the main character from the first book would also be included in the second book, but presently that is not the case. Instead it has focused on different characters and plot points, although I am sure that it will all come together in the end (again, don’t tell me). There is, however, a flaw – in my opinion there ar far too many ‘saids’, which for me detracts from the experience. But there are plenty of things that grab me: John Scalzi has crafted his universe perfectly, and it feels like a real place; culture, history, weapons, technology. Everything seems genuine.

Unfortunately, that is the end of this post. I’ll be continuing it on Saturday, however, talking about what I want to read and the books I will be reading next. I hope you enjoyed my blabbering, and I’ll write tomorrow!