40K publications have lively, in-your-face covers

40K began following me on Twitter. But before I returned the compliment, as I usually do I had a look to see what they are all about. 40K describes itself as an epublisher that specialises in publishing original short works. By ‘short works’ it means novelettes and essays, things that take 40 minutes to an hour to read. This has arisen because short stories and essays tend to get overlooked by traditional publishing houses, but they an equal right to be read.

I studied the short story as an undergrad at Oxford and I have to confess I never warmed to the genre. I felt such works of literature had hardly got going before they stopped. Too much was left unsaid. Now, I have as good an imagination as the next person so I was quite capable of filling the gaps, but that sort of DIY literature didn’t appeal.

But essays are a different matter. These don’t leave large holes. These are short because they’re strongly focused and concentrated. You may not agree with them, but you can admire the tight writing that has gone into them.

40K sells books in the following genres: essays for creative life including Any Fool can Write a Novel but it takes a Real Genius to Sell it, which is one I have to read; essays on authoring in the digital age, and fantasy, literary, sci-fi and steampunk short stories. Steam-what? Steampunk is a genre of sci-fi writing. It’s essentially Victorian sci-fi. The best description I’ve come across of it is here. Gibson and Sterling’s The Difference Engine is a prime example of the genre.

The publications have a very distinctive, modern look to them, as the cover at the top of this post shows.

So, this looks like an interesting publisher. I will definitely try out a few of their books. I’m open to reassessing my views of short stories. Who knows, maybe I’ll learn to love the novelette after all.

 

http://www.40kbooks.com/

 

It’s time I rolled my sleeves up and got serious about this blog. I’ve achieved a lot of success with my other blog, Blog in France, which is about the many facets of life as an expat. That success came purely and simply from putting the effort in on it and creating interesting content.

So, I’ll do the same here. I shall endeavour to post every day and settle on a definite direction for this blog. It’s a bit erratic at the moment, but it’s early days yet. So bear with me. I’ll hope you’ll see a definite improvement before too long.

And to give you something to think about today, here are five writing tips from the electronixwarehouse.com website:

It behooves the writer to avoid archaic expressions.

One should not shift from the third person to the second person when you write.

I once read that splitting modifiers was wrong in the library.

It is generally recommended that the use of the passive be minimized.

Write assertively, I think.

Now they're nice!

Nice is a maligned word. Every teacher tells kids not to use it, so you tend to grow up with a paranoid dread of ever employing it. But it’s a nice word. I’m always grateful when someone says “have a nice day” to me, or “you like nice” (it actually happens sometimes!), and I feel good if I say something nice to a friend, or a stranger, or a nice thing happens. We all want niceness in our lives.

Nice is nice.

And that looks nice ...

Nice means pleasing and agreeable, pleasant and attractive, courteous and polite, respectability. All things that make life better. And it’s a word we use a lot every day, like (I hope) please and thank you. No-one has ever complained that we say those too often!

Of course, you don’t want to overuse it in your writing, but you can use it. It’s colloquial, modern and meaningful. Leave it in your vocabulary.

But if you have nice appearing too often, here are 25 synonyms to choose from: agreeable, amiable, attractive, benign, charming, commendable, congenial, considerate, delightful, enjoyable, fair, favourable, friendly, genial, good, gracious, helpful, kind,  lovely, mega, personable, pleasant, pleasing, super, tasteful.

 

You might remember I recently had an article published in what was always my father’s favourite newspaper – The Telegraph. Well, here’s the latest one:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/expatproperty/8547266/Expat-in-France-can-I-have-permission-to-hit-the-roof.html

Enjoy!

I’ve been reading Expat Women: Confessions: 50 answers to your real-life questions about living abroad.

As an expat woman twice over, I was fascinated to find out what this book had to say. Over the last twenty years I’ve learned the hands-on way about moving and living abroad, and while there can never be any better teacher than experience, a book such as this can be an invaluable springboard to the adventure.

There are six chapters which discuss the following areas:

  1. Settling In: This is a very strong, positive chapter, which grabs culture shock by the scruff of its neck and gives it a good shake! There are lots of ideas and tips on how to help yourself settle in to your new surroundings and make the most of this new experience. It deals with minimising culture shock through good preparation; the positives and negatives of living abroad, especially when family ties are strong; managing expectations; coping with being a ‘trailing spouse’; overcoming isolation; setting up a social club; making and mistaking new friends; making yourself feel welcome in your new surroundings, even if others don’t do so immediately, and the pros and cons of hiring help around the house.
  2. Career and Money: The emphasis of this chapter is on retaining your sense of self-worth in your changed working, or non-working, situation. Specifically it looks at how to cope with giving up your job when you move abroad with a partner and how to assess the options and resources that are open to you; coping with a job abroad that turns out to be disappointing through improving your relations at work and thinking ‘big picture’; getting the work-life balance right; dealing with lack of respect at work; networking and volunteer work; starting your own business; getting financial advice and planning for contingencies; dealing with financial dependence on a partner, and sticking to a sensible budget.
  3. Raising Children: Children can be the make or break for a move abroad. I know several families who have either not taken the plunge to become ex-pats because of worries about how it would affect their children, and others whose unhappy kids have been the reason for them returning home. We ourselves moved to France from Ireland with children aged 4, 12 and 14. They each had their own minor problems at various times, but with common sense and optimism we overcame these and all three are now completely French and proud of being pioneering and bilingual! Issues discussed here include pregnancy in a foreign country and deciding whether or not to go back ‘home’ for the birth; dealing with child unfriendly temporary accommodation; international adoption; raising bilingual children with particular emphasis on the value of learning languages; special needs children, and here research and support are crucial; helping teens adapt – the older the child when you move abroad, the harder it can be for them; dealing with teen suicide; overfocussing on the children as a trailing spouse, and, in contrast, dealing with empty nest syndrome.
  4. Relationships: At first glance this chapter might seem rather catastrophic, but it’s simply preparing for the worst-case scenario. Ex-pat life is often nothing but good for a relationship, since you are drawn closer as you deal with the new experiences living abroad throws at you. Speaking for myself, I have now spent 5 years working alongside my husband in our new business, 24/7. It’s been brilliant. Actually getting to spend time with the person you wanted as your life partner has a lot going for it! The chapter contains advice on dealing with a dissatisfied trailing spouse; overcoming difficulties in intercultural couples; adjusting for different needs and aspirations where one half of a working couple is happy as an ex-pat, and the other is not; keeping communication channels open; dealing with divorce, both during and afterwards; coping with domestic violence and infidelity, including online betrayal (here ex-pat triggers play a part – culture shock, cultural differences, one partner feeling isolated etc); ending an affair.
  5. Mixed Emotions: this chapter takes a considered look at overcoming negativity; undergoing medical treatment in a foreign country and culture; adapting to different holiday traditions; dealing with alcoholism; becoming settled as a TCK – third culture kid (someone who, as a child, has spent a lot of time in cultures other than their birth one); missing friends; retiring abroad, and caring for aged parents from a distance. This last issue carries a lot of guilt with it, and is another frequent reason for ex-pats to return home. The authors talk sensitively and sensibly about coping with guilt in this respect and building the life you want away from them.
  6. Repatriation: returning home can be welcome, in which case it should be easier, but it can also be sudden and unwanted. There will inevitably be upheaval on return – reverse culture shock, emotional upheaval. There is plenty of calm advice on how to make the best of the situation and help yourself re-adapt.

The whole book takes the form of 50 questions and answers. I was sceptical of this as a suitable structure for it to start with, but it actually works out extremely well. OK, it may not mean that every single aspect of ex-pat life can get dealt with, but that wouldn’t be possible in any book. (As the authors’ disclaimer says: This book is not comprehensive … .) However, as the chapter reviews above show, this book covers a lot of ground, and in a very sensitive way. The whole book is grounded in actual experiences and this method of presentation lends a conversational, confiding tone to the book that makes it very easy to read.

The conclusion is frankly inspired. It sums up expat life succinctly and expertly:

Expatriate life can be, and almost always is, an incredibly enriching experience. It can stimulate your senses, tantalize your taste buds and introduce you to a world of wonder you might never have experienced had you not dared to pack up your belongings, journey outside your comfort zone, and immerse yourself in the culture of a foreign land.

But the most important phrase of this summary is undoubtedly … ultimately you are the greatest determinant of your own success.

If you are tempted by expat life, or are having it thrust upon you, do read this book, and, as it urges, remember that you are the crucial ingredient. It will be what you make of it.

There are plenty of resources at end of the book: information about the authors – Andrea Martin and Victoria Hepworth, two energetic, determined and go-ahead expats – their acknowledgements, information about the website www.expatwomen.com with 2 pages of testimonials, 4 pages of books for readers to refer to, and finally an exhaustive list of ex-pat-life related websites from The Adoption Guide to Zest and Zen International.

There is a lot of wisdom and information packed into this book, but even more humanity.

Bite Size Edits

I happened across Bite-Size Edits today. It’s addictive! You get points for editing little chunks of text which you’re served up randomly, although you can request to get more text from the same author. You can make changes, leave the sentence as it is, and/or attach a note with suggestions. For example, I got a sentence with a word in it that clearly should have had accented letters but instead had question marks, so I wrote a note to that effect. Obviously I didn’t know what the missing letters were meant to be so I couldn’t make the correct change myself.

The site says it’s a way to discover new writers, and that’s true. You can also upload your own texts for other people to polish. I’ve added 1000 or so words of Something Fishy to see what reaction I get. At least I think it went up OK. I got an error message first time round saying ‘we broke the Internet’ but the text seemed to be there. We’ll see!

So if you like tinkering with other people’s texts, give it a try!

 

Two Kindle quickies for you.

1. Did you know you can lend and borrow Kindle books? I didn’t until earlier this evening. To find out more, go to this site.

This section of the book details shows you if a Kindle book is lending enabled.

I’ve signed up to the site. I’ll let you know how I get on.

2. And go here for a chance to win a Kindle Tablet. Good luck!

 

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell. He decided to check out each place first. As he went down into the fiery pits of hell, he saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped.

“Not good,” said the writer. “May I see heaven now please?”

Up in heaven, he saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped.

“Hang on,” said the writer. “This is the same as hell!”

“No, it’s not,” came a voice. “Here, your work gets published!”

 

A panda walks into a bar. He orders a drink and a meal. When he’s finished, he pulls out a gun and shoots a waiter, then turns to go. The barman shouts: “Hey, why did you do that?”

“I’m a panda,” replies the panda. “Look it up.” Then he goes.

The barman pulls out a dictionary and looks up ‘panda’. He reads: Asiatic mammal. Eats shoots and leaves.

 

A woman went to a bookstore and asked the salesman, “Where’s the self-help section?”

He answered, “If I tell you, it will defeat the purpose.”

 

What’s the difference between publishers and terrorists?

You can negotiate with terrorists.

 

Some good books:
French Overpopulation by Francis Crowded

Fallen Underwear by Lucy Lastic

The French Chef by Sue Flay

Look Younger by Fay Slift

Neither a Borrower Nora Lender Bee

Three things that caught my eye this weekend. The first two are good morale boosters for all authors like me thinking of self-publishing on Kindle.

A recent Pollack book

1. Neil Pollack in a New York Times interview says: “My self-published product may not be the easiest proposition for mainstream publishers. It will be short, it’s about Jews and basketball and bumbling fascists, doesn’t involve teenage vampire sex or the Knights Templars, and wouldn’t be likely to sustain a $9.99 download price, which is the low end of what publishers are charging now for new e-books. Here are the economics: I’m going to charge five bucks, or $4.99 a download. For every book sold, my online vendor will send me 70 percent of the revenue. In raw dollar amounts, that’s more than three times what I’d get from a mainstream publisher for each paperback sale. If I manage to score a thousand downloads, which I almost certainly will at that price point (I have a large family), I’ll make 3,500 bucks, and if I get 5,000 downloads, I’m looking at $17,500. Quickly, I’ll have earned the equivalent of a pleasant advance for this book.”

2. From: Kindle Self-Publishing. John Locke, author of Saving Rachel says: “The first time I saw the business model for selling eBooks on Kindle, my eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas,” says John, “because Kindle doesn’t just level the playing field for self-published authors, it actually slants it in our favour. For the first time in history there’s an advantage to being an independent author!”

His advice: Write the types of books you like to read and are good at writing. In John’s case that’s light entertainment. “I offer my readers a fun, breezy read,” says John. “If I can give them some chuckles and hold their interest for a few hours, I feel I’ve earned my 99 cents.”

3. And here’s a cool free e-book of poetry by Christopher L Jones. I can honestly say this is the best poetry I’ve read in a long time.

 

Book reviewing seems to be cropping up on various blogs at the moment (e.g. the Blood Red Pencil, Self-Publishing Advisor, Carolyn Howard Johnson’s Sharing with Writers – and that’s just in the last day or so. Authors are prepared to pay a lot of money for book reviews. The sort of sums mentioned seem scary and might swallow up a lot of royalties. But it shows the importance people place on an objective, or better still, a good review.

The reviewer misquoted me - I was mad!

I enjoy reviewing books. I did English at University and I don’t seem to have got out of the habit of critically appraising everything I read, from cereal packets upwards! You get more out of a book if you think about it as you read it, I find.

Here are my 5 tips for book reviewers.

  1. Read the book – every word. You owe it to the author. It’s not enough to read the blurb, the first chapter or so and then the last one. You can spot reviews that cheat. They’re vague and clichéd. I repeat, read every word. I once got a rotten review for my book Scooter Gang: Mobile Madness, but I wouldn’t have minded it half so much if the guy hadn’t misquoted me!
  2. Check out the publisher’s and author’s websites to get some background info about the person.
  3. Be interesting. Don’t kill a good book with a dull review.
  4. Be fair. Not many books are all bad. Even if you find you can’t stand it, there will be something good about it somewhere. OK the plot’s awful, but the author used good imagery. The characters suck but the dialogue is lively.
  5. Be professional. Write well, structure your review, do your research. The author put a lot of work into the book. Put a lot of work into your review.