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Witty Sites for Writers

I like websites and blogs with clever names. One of my favourites is a knitter’s blog and it’s entitled Dances With Wools. And Le Franco Phoney, a blog by an Australian expat in France, is pretty cool too.

So when I happened across a site called multi-story then I had to have a look.

Multi-story.co.uk is for authors of short stories of all genres. It’s intention is to support them by helping break into the short story market in both traditional and ebook publishing. The links page here  is a veritable goldmine of info on where to find writing groups, books, competitions to enter, markets, associations etc.

The site features interviews and articles. So far a copy-editor and a magazine story literary agent have contributed. The copy-editor’s article is particularly good in bringing attention to the many but often overlooked tasks this crucial cog in the publishing machine performs – but then, as a copy-editor too, I’m obviously biassed!

The ‘Have Your Say’ section is for readers to voice their opinions, stand on their soapboxes etc, and there are some very interesting veiwpoints there already. Add a competition page, an entry page plus one results, and this new site is a very impressive creation. Most definitely worth a look if you’re a short story writer.

Oncewritten.com is another witty name. However, this site doesn’t appear to have been updated for several years, which is rather a shame as it clearly had a lot going for it. There are some useful articles to check out in the ‘For Authors’ section still, but elsewhere links aren’t always working.

And finally the very aptly named Procrastinating Writers blog, which describes a rather large percentage of us, caught my eye. This is a very good site created by Jennifer Blanchard, for non-procrastinators too. Lots of useful blog posts that will get you off your butt and into writing mode. Thanks, Jennifer!

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Prix Goncourt 2011 – Cheap Prize, Expensive Books

The Prix Goncourt is reckoned to be France’s most prestigious literary award. It’s not the most generous. The prize is just €10, which compares very unfavourably with other prizes such as the Man-Booker which is worth over €57,000. And only one winner has ever cashed their cheque for €10. It’s seen as symbolic. The award guarantees fame for the author, although not necessarily international fame. Not all winning novels are translated into other languages. For example, 2005 winning book Trois jours chez ma mère by François Weyergans wasn’t spread overseas.

Edmond de Goncourt got the prize going, although not till after his death. In his will in 1896 he left money to establish the Académie Goncourt to choose the best French book each year. The first award was made in 1903 to John-Antonie Nau for his book Force Ennemie.

There are a few spinoffs, namely the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens (to a book chosen by lycée students and theirs rarely matches the choice of the Académie Goncourt who tend to be much more highbrow) and the Goncourt de la Poésie.

The winner of the Prix Goncourt is chosen over lunch, of course, this being France. The jury meets every month during the year in fact to select the shortlist and the winner is chosen on the first Tuesday in November.

This year’s winner was Alexis Jenni L’Art Français de la Guerre. Now, I’ve read a couple of articles about it in French and I’m still none the wiser as to what it’s actually about. They’re all verbose and vague. One goes on about how writing is like doing a Rubik’s cube – creating harmony with words. Hmm. Somehow I don’t think this book is my cup of tea.  The book is availabe for Kindle price €16.80  paperback €19.95. This Kindle price is ludicrous and highlights that the French don’t get the Kindle yet really, at least the publishers don’t. I’ve blogged about this before. It also gives you an idea of how expensive printed books are in France.

The rest of the shortlisted books are equally pricey, both in ebook and printed format:

Des Vies d’Oiseaux by Veronique Ovalidé is €18.05 paperback only. You can get ‘fiche de lecteur’ for €3.99 on Kindle = reader’s guide, not actual book itself!

Retour à Killybegs by Sorj Chalendon is Kindle €15.99, paperback €18.95.

Tout, Tout de Suite Morgan by Sportès Kindle €15.99,paperback €19.86

Les Souvenirs by David Foenkinos Kindle €15.70 paperback €17.58

La Belle Amour Humaine by Lyonel Trouillot  €13.99 Kindle, €17 paperback.

Du Domaine des Murmures by Carole Martinez €13.50 Kindle, paperback €16.06

Rien ne s’oppose à la nuit by Delphine de Vigan €14.99 Kindle, paperback €18.05.

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Guest Post from Donna Morang, Travel Author

I recently reviewed Donna’s terrific book Big Backpack – Little Word and am thrilled to bits that she agreed to do a guest post for me. I described her book as “a travel memoir that grabs you by the scruff of your neck and gives you a good shake!” So, over to Donna.

Stephanie has asked me to be a guest on her blog, and now I feel like I’m walking down the runway to accept an Academy Award. It is such a great honor to be here among readers and writers. I promise I won’t bore you with thanking everyone from my children to the pink-haired girl in Spain, but I do want to thank Stephanie for this opportunity.

Big Backpack—Little World tells my stories of teaching and traveling as an older, single woman. It is the stories of meeting new people, seeing countries I never dreamed I’d visit, having fun, and discovering an amazing life as an ESL teacher. It doesn’t tell you about the other doors that opened because of my traveling.

Twelve years ago if someone told  me to write a book, I would have known they were crazy. Today, my book is real. I see it on my Kindle. I see the paper copy. It sits on my desk, and I view it daily, hourly, gazing at the most incredibly beautiful thing in the world. Writing this book was  like packing-up everything I owned and moving to a foreign country, except it was scarier. I was no longer traveling solo. I was now traveling with everyone who picked-up my book. I was showing everyone my personal story, my soul, and it was frightening. Those that have read Big Backpack—Little World can verify I’m not afraid of many things, but this thing had me shaking.

I had kept good journals, and the first several months of writing was incredible. It was  fun revisiting countries, remembering people I’d met along the way, laughing at the crazy things I’d seen and done. Then one day, I knew I needed someone other than a friend to read my manuscript. At that time, I don’t think it could qualify as a manuscript, more like a bunch of writing.

So entered my first editor, who gave me the encouragement to continue. Then she became ill, and I had to find and pay for someone new to begin the ordeal again. My next editor, whacked and chopped my writing into a manuscript. I have to say none of this was fun. I re-wrote so many times I could hardly stand the sight of one more page of red slashes. It was rather like being back in grade-school with the teacher telling you that you could do better. She was usually right, but it still wasn’t fun.

My biggest problem with my editors were they wanted my book to be a soul-searching, gut-wrenching, in search of and finding myself. They wanted me to express the loneliness, or the hardship of being alone in a strange country. This was impossible for me, because I wasn’t searching for myself or a new love. I went on this journey for fun, and I found open arms around the world. I wanted my readers to know that at any age, it is possible to pack-up and leave their country, friends, family and happily go off into the vast unknown.

Writing your own stories, or poems can open a new adventure into your life. It can grab you, shake you, and awaken you to all this wonderful life has to offer. It doesn’t have to be for the world to view, do it for yourself, and see what you find.
Happy writing, my new friends. Thanks, Stephanie!

You can jog on over to my blog and read the incredible review Stephanie wrote about Big Backpack—Little World.

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Turning a Blog into a Book – Creating a Nofiblok

I’ve done it. Best of Blog in France is up for free on Smashwords here. It took a lot of time and effort, but I’m pleased with the results and I hope it will prove to be good advertising for my upcoming Heads Above Water, the account of our first couple of years on France.

So, what gave me the idea to do a blog book? And what can I call it? We have blovels as a term for novels presented on blogs and ficlogs for fictional blogs. I’m going to call my non-fiction blog-based book a nofiblok. I expect to see it all the dictionaries soon!

Right, well, Blog in France is proving to be a very popular blog, with its mixture of expat experiences, practical advice, small delves into local and national history, occasional rants but mostly a light hearted look at all things French. I’ve written 318 posts now. Taking up the WordPress ‘blog post a day’ challenge last February really was a turning point. Viewership soared as a result of having fresh content every day, so I’d advise anyone to go that route.

So I had plenty of material to choose from, and I was keen to get a non-fiction book out there. Up to now I’ve only had children’s fiction published, both traditionally and independently in ebook form. It’s a good way to test the waters. People enjoy reading about the experience of folk like us who have taken the plunge to ‘live the dream’, however nightmarish it turns out to be occasionally! There’s an audience out there. Let’s give them something to read.

I’ve taken my pick of entries from the first couple of years of my blog. There weren’t very many to choose from at first. I was a very slack blogger in those early days! Actually, it was more like too exhausted to write since we were up to our necks in renovations at the time. I’ve included photos, generally one per two blogs. I use a lot of photos in Blog in France so I had a lovely selection to choose from. They really add that human interest element.

But how to organise the entries. Consecutively by date would have been too bitty in my opinion. By subject? I began doing that but there was a danger that I’d have two many different categories as my posts are very wide ranging. In the end I plumped for January to December, incorporating the two years together. I don’t think that’s confusing, and it gives a very good sense of the seasons. Life in rural France is governed totally by the weather. We have our summer way of life, and our winter one. We spend so much time outside round and about on our 75 acres that we’re totally in touch with the elements and weather. A calendar year layout for the blog brings this into focus. You live the year with us, from the bleak frozenness of January, to the blossoming of life in April, to the heavy heat of July and August, the colours and freshness of October, and back to the deep depths of winter.

Finally, the cover. I spent an hour or so with a glass of wine and a croissant and a camera. There was some cheese too but that didn’t look right with the others. I’m pleased with the end result. It says France, I think, without resorting to the Eiffel Tower, as happens so often with French related books.

Anyway, you know what they say about the proof of the pudding … so please have a read and see what you think! Please let me know. And remember, Heads Above Water is coming soon!

 

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Runaways and Non-Movers – Weekly Sales Round-Up

Monday again, so time for a sales update. It’s all I’m capable of tonight anyway, having been out for 12 hours doing a hygiene course – in French! Interesting and useful, but hard work.

Anyway, to book matters.

Oh Gran: 1005 (last week 951) = 54  Nice to have crossed the 1,000 mark!

Witch’s Dog: 795 (last week 700) = 95

Escape the Volcano: 610 (last week 554) = 56

De-Witched: 252 (last wee 64) = 188. This is the week’s runaway success.

Witching Again: 88 (last week 70) = 18

Oh Auntie: 32 (last week 32) = 0

Oh Grandad: 21 (last week 21) = 0

Beat the Hackers: 17 (last week 15) = 2

Oh Santa: 12 (last week 11) = 1

And a newcomer: The Smelliest Cheese in the World: 28 this week

 

Total sales for the week: 388, which is well up from last week’s 244. I’m pleased with that. All from Smashwords this week, nothing from Kindle – again!

I’ve updated the bar chart at the side. You can see which books need a bit more pushing! I have high hopes for Oh Santa, which should be appearing in Barnes and Noble’s Nook Book Store sometime this week. I intend to do a lot of Tweeting and maybe a blog post and guest blog post or two to push it, since it will have a short selling season. Time to roll my sleeves up …

 

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Using the Kindle To Proofread – And To Be Green

I’ve saved a lot of paper since I got my Kindle. Not just in physical books that I haven’t bought, but in all the pages of MSs I haven’t printed out to proofread. I find it hard to proofread totally accurately off a computer screen. More errors tend to slip through. This is mainly because you’re so familiar with your own writing that your brain cuts in and says ‘yeah, yeah, that bit’s OK’, and stops you seeing any typos.

Previous the solution was to print the piece of writing out. This isn’t always mega practical. My first draft of Something Fishy was 180,000 words (that’s now become two books of a slightly more realistic size!) and that was a heck of a lot of paper. Even using draft print quality, it must have used a fair bit of ink. And draft is kind of hard to read so that was a false economy.

But now, instead of printing out pages and pages of MSs, I use my Kindle to proofread them. How? First I convert the work into .prc format using Mobipocket creator. This program is a free download, and it’s fantastic. Once I’ve got that file, then I email it my Kindle using my personal @free.kindle.com address. Alternatively, I could transfer it via cable. I could also read the .prc file on Kindle Previewer, another free piece of software that simulates how a book will appear when Kindle-ised.

Using Kindle to proofread gives your piece of writing a new appearance so that you’re focusing sharply on it and will pick up those annoying little mistakes that try and hide. And there is the added bonus that you can do your proofreading on the move (on the bus, at the hairdressers, waiting for the kids) and flag any typos or areas where you need to do some reworking by adding a note. Or, when you’re at home, do what I do and have Kindle next to computer and make the adjustments as you go.

I’m not alone in using my Kindle this way. Prolific and well known author Markee Anderson does the same thing.

The Kindle is already green and this extra use of it is making it even  more so. A report by Cleantech Group on the carbon footprint of the Kindle stated: “…the second-generation Kindle represents the same emissions as 15 books bought in person or 30 purchased online. That would yield a range of between 60.2 to 306 kg of CO2, or an average of 167.78 kg of CO2 during its lifespan.”  Now, other green groups have challenged this and estimate that the figures are more likely to be actually twice that i.e. around 30 physical books and 60 ebooks. (See here, for example.) However, that still makes me a lot greener. I’m getting through several books a week on my Kindle. I imagine most Kindle users are fairly heavy book consumers and so generally there’s an overall benefit to the planet in using ereaders.

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Ebook Apathy in France?

http://www.public-domain-photos.com/travel/paris

It looks the austerity measures announced in France yesterday may give ebooks a boost. Despite the fact that the founder of the fantastically successful Feedbooks is a Frenchman, Hadrien Gardeur, the French haven’t been very quick to take up ebooks. I have my own theory about this. Books from amazon.fr are more expensive than from amazon.com – which is unnecessary and offputting. Being a Kindle owner living in France, I was kindly invited to switch my account from .com to .fr since this would be better for me, apparently. Well, it isn’t. I now can’t get books that are offered free on amazon.com and all the other books cost more. A 99 US cent book costs 99 Euro cents (about $1.20) and others are even more expensive. I’m not impressed and I’m buying most of my books from the brilliant Smashwords.

The official reason for ebook apathy is that publishers aren’t being very enthusiastic about producing them. However, VAT on physical books will be rising from 5.5% to 7% in January, which might help to make ebooks more attractive, for producers and consumers alike.

A last quick word about Feedbooks. This company distributes 3,000,000 ebooks per month. That is mindboggling. And it also offers indie authors the chance to publish their ebooks to be offered free to clients, an offer I shall be enthusiastically embracing as soon as I can.

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Monday Sales Figures Update

Week 3 of montoring my sales.

A bit slower this week, with a total of 244 books downloaded via Smashwords and 2 on Kindle, namely 53 x Oh Gran, 73 x The Witch’s Dog, 65 x Escape the Volcano, 13 x DeWitched, 7 x Witching Again, 2 x Oh Auntie,  2 x Oh Grandad, 2 x Oh Santa! and 3 x Beat the Hackers. (Last week I had 422 sales.) But by no means shameful. I haven’t done any publicity on them during the week, so maybe I should. I’m hoping that Oh Santa! will be distributed to Barnes and Noble by Smashwords very soon  now. That should make a big difference to sales. Also, in a couple more weeks’ time, I can shamelessly promote it as a Christmas book. It’s still too early for that I think. I know I’m not feeling very Christmassy just yet

I hope to have another free ebook out during the week – Best of Blog in France. This is a selection of my best blog posts from my other website and I think it’s going to work very well. Watch this space!

 

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Chinese Freemium Publishing Set to Spread

Following very nicely on from my last post on serialising fiction, I came across an article from The Guardian about the love of the Chinese people for serialised fiction. Apparently 195 million of them are hooked on this ‘original fiction’. Authors post up their stories in instalments on various self-publishing websites. When a particular author gets a certain critical mass of readers, he or she becomes a VIP and from there on, readers must start paying a small fee to carry on reading their work. They pay 2-3 yuan per 100,000 words, roughly 23 cents (Euro). With millions of readers, this is adding up to very respectable earnings. Some of these stories have become video games and TV programmes.

This freemium publishing model is coming to the States. Shanda Literature, the biggest of the Chinese online publishers, is going to set up a subsidiary in San Francisco to test out what it calls its ‘unique business model’ on the American market. It will be attracting American authors as well as offering translations from its Chinese authors.

I suspect that Shanda is on to a winner. I think serialising and charging what are known as ‘micropayments’ is a very interesting idea indeed.

 

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Blovels, Twitter Fiction and Serialised Novels on Kindle

I mentioned blovels in a previous post. These are novels that are being serialised on people’s blogs. Stu Noss’s was the first I came across, and I’ve since discovered another great one here. Misty Provencher is presenting her blovel Cornerstone on her website a chapter at a time.

I love Misty’s attitude. She explains she decided to become a blovellist after losing her literary agent, failing to find another one who had the same vision as she did, and generally becoming frustrated at not being read. She says:  “But I have a million books in me and I’m tired of having so many barriers between us. I’m just looking for those folks who are my people and who will get into the book and find some joy in it. I hope it brings you that. If it does, please let me know. Tell others I’m here.”

It’s all about the writing for Misty and I totally agree with her point of view. I’ve hit my head against brick walls enough times during my authoring career and I just want my books to be read too. That’s partly why I’m putting so many up for free on Smashwords at the moment. And Misty, my house is never clean either!

A third blovel, very new, is here. I shall be following this one too. And am I tempted to do a blovel? Yes, I am, so watch this space.

Almost blovels are ficlogs, or fictional blogs. I’ve heard about these but haven’t found a good example of one. Whenever I do a search on the Net, the search engine is convinced I want clogs and isn’t terribly helpful!

Now, as well as novels on blogs, there are novels on Twitter. Seriously. Here’s a nice article about it. Writing such a story is really a lesson in learning what to leave out. It would certainly be a very valuable exercise in writing concisely to produce such a novel – Twovel, perhaps? A Twovelist writing in this way is Aden Moss. And there’s a book out there called The History of Rock and Roll in 99 tweets  Ebook By Andy Szpuk  but isn’t in Kindle format at the moment. I’m ignoring epub for a while since Barnes and Noble wouldn’t sell me a Nook Book the other day because I don’t live in the US. Crazy.

Books are serialised on Kindle too. The most famous example is Sean Platt and David Wright’s Yesterday’s Gone. As Platt says, “serialized fiction has been around since Dickens. It just means taking a single storyline and breaking it into several parts to fuel anticipation between episodes.” Other authors are doing this too, notably Roz Morris. But there are pros and cons. We’re the instant gratification generation and don’t want to be kept waiting. A lot of readers want all the content at the same time and don’t want to have to wait a week or a month till the next episode. However, there are plenty of fans of serialised works out there too.

So, the modern inventions of blogs and Twitter might be leading to a return of serialisation in fiction. It will be interesting to see how this all develops.