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Story structure in Harry Potter: How Rowling became a billionaire by following the rules. (Pt I)

Well worth a read…..

Write Like Rowling

Photo by Ratta Pak @ 500px / CC BY 3.0

I know I haven’t written anything specifically about Rowling or her books for a while so I decided it was time to return to my blog roots with this post.

Rowling’s Harry Potter books were considered groundbreaking in many ways – their length for YA fiction, their depth of character, their intensely intricate plots and fantastic settings – but that’s only the icing on the cake. It was essentially because Rowling understood and followed some basic novel guidelines that the unique elements of her series were able to shine through.

Before I read the book Story Engineering by Larry Brooks, I thought that published authors were somehow above us mere mortals – like they lived on clouds filled with bottomless writing ideas and jumped from one to the next on their winged unicorns . . . or something. I thought that either you…

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Before you spend money on publishing services, read this

Well worth a read.

Nail Your Novel

old ropeAs indies get ever more professional, an entire service industry is springing up to offer us services for every occasion. At this year’s London Book Fair, the Authors’ Lounge was heaving with suppliers, and no shortage of willing customers. While it’s great to have access to these, authors are ripe for rip-off.

This week David Gaughran highlighted unscrupulous companies that charge exorbitant prices, or hoodwink authors into paying for services that could be obtained for very little or no cost.

So this post is a self-publishing 101; a catch-up for those who are wondering what they need to spend money on. In some cases, knowledge is the answer; all books, authors and genres are different, and one supplier does not fit all.

It’s virtually impossible to publish a book without any expenditure, but we can make sure we use our budgets wisely – and stop writers filling the pockets of…

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Updates…

*blows cobwebs from around the place and dusts off the desk*

It’s been a while but I’m really going to try and get this thing up and running….again.  I’m going to start with some updates and then the  interview series, 5 Questions For….., will be starting again next week.

First off: A couple of weeks ago Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers closed its door after almost 5 years.  There’s a post here explaining everything.  It was a sad day but from sad news comes good news.  I’ve started a new ‘TKnC‘ magazine, THRILLS, KILLS ‘n’ CHAOS.

TKnC-Header-1

Check out the Submission Guidelines page for full details.  The 1st story went up last night – GREEN GREEN GRASS by Matt Hilton.

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On the subject of Matt Hilton, he’s currently giving away a short story collection.  ONE TWISTED VOICE is FREE here!

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My Manc’ mate, Col Bury, has got a new short story collection available.  THE COPS OF MANCHETSER is hard hitting and gritty and available here.

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Hull writer, Darren Sant has a new collection of gritty stories in his latest TALES FROM THE LONGCROFT series and is available here.

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Top writer and all-round-great-guy Paul D. Brazill, who relentlessly promotes others has numerous books out and they’re all available at his author page here.

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Good mate Graham Smith has been posting some great interviews and interesting articles just lately.  Check out his blog here, and while you’re there check out the links to his short story collections.  You’d be a fool not to.

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That’s it for now.  Next update will be aimed at my American and Canadian friends.

Thanks for stopping by.

Cheers!

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I will make it to one of these in the not too distant future.

Thomas Pluck

After reading at Noir at the Bar NYC, Firecracker and I went out for burgers with friends Paula Pahnke (a writer whose work appears in the Lost Children anthology) and her man Dennis. Paula led us through the freezing cold to Cozy Soup ‘n Burger on Broadway, a diner institution offering much more than burgers and soup. We all had burgers. But first things first… here is the greatest shirt in creation. Photo by Glenn Gray. I reviewed Giovanni’s a while back. They make-a nice sangweech, paisans.

provolones

They make a good burger but they overcook it a bit. Not competition for Krug’s, but this is a top tier diner burger.  I had the Santorini Burger- spinach and feta on an English Muffin- with purloined avocado and onion ring added.

cozy burger

Noir at the Bar was a blast again. Thanks to Glenn Gray and “Big Daddy Thug” Todd Robinson for having me…

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Short Movie Review – Jack Reacher.

 

Jack-Reacher-2012-Hollywood-Movie-Watch-OnlineHaving never read a Lee Child novel I was able to walk into the cinema and watch the movie with an open mind.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d read the hype and all the stories that Child had sold out as Jack Reacher is supposed to be a 6’5” man-mountain of pure muscle.  The thing is, Tom Cruise has that screen presence and acting ability to be able to pull the character off.  And he does.

The movie starts with the killing of 5 random victims.  The crime is (a bit too easily) quickly solved and during interrogation the shooter asks for Jack Reacher.   Enter Cruise/Reacher.

Reacher quickly gets involved in a case full of twists and becomes investigator/assistant to the defence lawyer, played by the beautiful Rosamund Pike, and it soon becomes obvious that there are problems that go further than one gunman.

What follows is a great, YES GREAT, movie.  The action and fight scenes are well executed and filmed and there are a couple of exciting car chases.  The dialogue is excellent and Reacher gives the movie a bit of comedy with some witty one liners.

There are a few plot holes and a couple of incidents where you think, “What was the point of that?” but aren’t there a lot of them in most movies and most of novels carry “filler” to bulk a story out?

All in all it was a great movie.  I think fans of the novels may have a different opinion as they already know (in their own minds) what Reacher looks like and how he acts.  Brain conflict may over-ride enjoyment.  I’d say throw those thoughts out and watch it as an action thriller – if you can’t you’ll miss a great movie.

Jack Reacher Trailers.

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5 Questions For….

 

With a bit of background, who is Allen Miles?

I am thirty-one years old and I come from a place called Hull which died tragically in 1985. I’ve spent the last fifteen years doing menial jobs which have included barman, cook, record shop assistant and hospital orderly. I am married with a baby daughter. I spend far too much time watching football and betting on it, I am permanently skint and I exist on coffee and wine. Yes, I am a walking cliche.

What/who inspired you to pick up a pen and start writing?

I started when I was about eight or nine writing match reports for my primary school football team, then I started writing stories but I never showed them to anyone. I don’t know why but I always felt ashamed that I had aspirations of being a writer. As a child I loved Roald Dahl, and read Henry Sugar until I knew it off by heart. Once I was old enough I got into Irvine Welsh, George Orwell, Jack Kerouac, Camus, Sartre, Raymond Chandler… the songs of Nick Cave and Tom Waits…  I also read loads of biographies… My two favourite authors are Charles Bukowski and Cormac McCarthy, but the one book that made me sit down and tell my own story was Ask The Dust by John Fante, I would say that’s probably my favourite book ever. Actually a massive influence on me was my old high school teacher Mr Birkenshaw, I think he realised that I wasn’t cut out for a normal career and he encouraged my creative side.

For anyone who hasn’t read your writing before, tell them what they can expect to read.  

I’m told its very dark but I’m not trying to be dark, I’m just a bit of a miserable sod. Everything I write is narrative-based, very descriptive and emotionally heavy. The few people who have read my forthcoming novella 18 Days have told me its really upsetting and deep, and my friend who looks after my literary career, fellow writer Darren Sant, has told me to be prepared that it may be too intense for some people. I think people who stick with it will find it rewarding though.

Tell us about your writing process. Do you write an outline before every story or are you an impulsive writer and just sit down and let the story pour out?

I’ll have a spontaneous idea and write frantically until I’ve completed it. I have no formal education in writing or literature past sixth form so I don’t know how to storyboard, structure or any of that. 18 Days was originally intended to be a short story of about 2500 words. I ended up writing 30000 words in five days. Actually, it was five nights, I can’t write during the day. Sadly these freakish levels of creativity result in periods of weeks where I can’t string a sentence together.

What is next for Allen Miles?

My private detective novel, provisionally titled Dick, is about a quarter finished and hopefully it should be complete this time next year. I wouldn’t mind crack at writing for the stage or screen. I have a drafted screenplay called “Paradise” that I should really go back to and polish up. It’s about the shambolic failure of a comically awkward rock n roll band. My favourite things to write are short stories and prose pieces and I’d love to release a collection at some point. In the short term, I’m going to the kitchen to pour myself a glass of wine.

So here’s where I cheat a bit and get some more info out of you.

Bonus question:  You are stranded on a desert island.  You can have 3 ‘luxury’ items and one person with you.  What and who would they be and why?

I would take my i-Pod, because it contains a frankly ludicrous 27090 songs, although without an internet connection I’d miss my twice weekly dose of the Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast; I’d take a crate of 2006 Calloway Crossing, the finest Shiraz I’ve ever had; and I’d take my new mobile phone. Its unbelievable. Admittedly its the size of a baking tray but its got a kindle on it so I’d never be short of books, I’ve got loads of films and video games on it, and loads of episodes of Peppa Pig for my daughter Gabbers, who would be the person I would take because she makes me very happy and she is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And I suppose with a mobile on us we’d probably get rescued after a while.

Great answers, Allen.  Thanks for taking part in 5 Questions For…..
18 Days is now on my Kindle.
Good luck for the future!

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5 Questions For…..

 

 

With a bit of background, who is James Oswald?

Start with the easy one, why don’t you? I was born and grew up, I went to school and then university. I have worked and travelled. Somewhere along the line I started writing things down…

More seriously, I had a slightly peripatetic upbringing, being sent off to boarding school in England when I was seven. I went to Aberdeen University where I read Psychology, ended up staying there for a few years after graduation, working part time as a Wine Merchant whilst I tried to forge a career in comics. I moved down to Edinburgh for five years, ending up working in a mortgage call centre, then spent ten years in Wales as an agricultural researcher and consultant – one of my more memorable jobs involved collecting samples of sheep faeces for analysis to determine parasite resistance to various treatments. I moved back up to Fife in 2010 to take over the running of the family farm, following my father’s death in 2008. Through all of this to-ing and fro-ing, writing has been the only constant – I am currently working on my thirteenth full-length manuscript and have written innumerable short stories and comic scripts. The less-awful of these languish at the website of my publishing company –www.devildog.co.uk.

 

 

What/who inspired you to pick up a pen and start writing?

I started off trying to write comics. I even had a Tharg’s Future Shock published by 2000AD back in the early 90s. As a young boy my parents used to buy me Look & Learn magazine, but the only bit I ever read was The Trigan Empire. When 2000AD came out, I was hooked, and have been reading it ever since. I still love comics, but I find it increasingly difficult (and expensive) to keep up with the multiple-crossover titles the Americans love putting out.

I lived in Aberdeen for a while, and whilst there contributed to a SF, Fantasy and RPG fanzine called From The Sublime… (those three dots are very important). I collaborated with a young, unknown artist by the name of Stuart MacBride on a comic strip calles As if by Magic, which wasn’t a piss-take of Mr Benn at all, really. Stuart and I became good friends and exchanged short stories and manuscripts for many a year, giving each other ego massages and editorial input. When he hit the big time with Cold Granite, Stuart suggested I stop wasting my time with comics and fantasy and try writing some crime instead. The DI McLean books are the result of that suggestion, so it’s all his fault really.

 

For anyone who hasn’t read your work, tell them what they can expect to read.

That depends. If you pick up one of my fantasy series, you can expect epic world-building, dragons and magic, with a smattering of sheep references and perhaps too much Welsh. If instead you opt for my DI McLean books, then you can expect police procedurals mixed with a hint of the supernatural. Either way I hope you’ll be entertained.

 

You have had huge success with self publishing.  Downloads for both your novels have been excellent, as you explained to me at Bloody Scotland.  Do you have any advice for other writers, especially in the self publishing area?

Write the best book you possibly can. Find the best cover designer you can sensibly afford. Employ the services of a professional editor if you can possibly afford to, but be aware that very few self-published authors will make that money back. Make every effort to ensure your ebook is free from formatting and typographical errors. Write the best book you possibly can. And if it doesn’t set the world alight, then roll up your sleeves and write another one.

And if you’re going to use social media, use it to sell yourself, not your book.

 

What is next for James Oswald?

I’m currently about 1/5th of the way into the third DI McLean book, with a hope it might be out in the early new year. After that I need to wrap up the fantasy series and a couple of other projects I’m working on. I’m hoping to sign up with an agent soon, and who knows, some publishers might start to take notice too. Oh, and I have a 350 acre livestock farm to run.

 

So here’s where I cheat a bit and get some more info out of you.

Bonus question:   You are stranded on a desert island.  You can have 3 ‘luxury’ items and one person with you.  What and who would they be and why?

Three luxury items would have to be something to write with, something to write on and something to make music with. So a magic self-sharpening pencil, a huge stock of paper and a penny whistle (because if I had a guitar its strings would break).

If I had to share my desert island with just one person, I’d end up killing them. Best if I just took an imaginary friend.

 

Ha!  I can understand that sometimes, James.  It was a pleasure to meet you at Bloody Scotland and thank you for taking part in 5 Questions For…..

Best of luck with the third DI McLean book.

James Oswald Books

DevilDog Publishing

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