Tuesday 30 May 2017

Authors' Newsletters: Private Facebook Groups

This post is a revisit of one I wrote a few months ago, Authors' Newsletters: What Makes You Sign Up?

In that article, I spoke about how difficult it was to persuade potential readers to sign up to my e-mail list, and how even the offer of a free book doesn't seem to be enough.

The topic came up a few weeks ago in an author's group, and someone said they'd had success with offering people the chance to be part of a private Facebook group.

I thought, "hey, that's not a bad idea!" and immediately set about creating one. So now, dear reader, I'd like to offer you the chance to get exclusive access to our private Facebook group, when you sign up for my newsletter.

I hope to turn it into a community where we discuss books, books, and more books. Let us know what your favourite genres are to read, ask for book recommendations, share reviews of books you've read, and just generally have a wonderful time.

If it does well, I may even consider contacting some indie authors I know to come and do Q&A sessions for us.

Does that sound like something you'd be interested in?

To join, all you have to do is head on over to https://www.grahamdowns.co.za/get-free-stuff.html, and fill out the form.

To close off, I'm going to ask the same question I asked in my original post: Do you, as a reader, subscribe to the e-mail lists of any authors? If so, what was it that made you sign up? Did you give them your e-mail address freely, or did they have to woo you with something?

Please let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

The Word-Loss Diet, by Rayne Hall (Book Review)

Rayne Hall's writing books are always right on point. This one's no exception. It's filled with no-nonsense things you can do, right now, to make your writing really sizzle and pop.

Throughout this book, there's this analogy of obesity, as if the very inclusion of certain words bloats your book. From "filler words" to advice on adjectives and adverbs, to dialogue attribution tags, there are things you can cut, often without any change to the surrounding sentence, which will make your prose leaner and meaner. Too much fat, Ms Hall says, and your readers lose interest. Stop saying "very", shorten your dialogues, cut introspection and descriptions of travel. Hall claims that, depending on how much of this stuff you're doing wrong, you could cut your manuscript length by as much as 20%.

And for the most part, it's good advice. I happen to have the opposite problem at this moment, with my work-in-progress: I'm trying to bulk it up. But at least, armed with this book, I know what NOT to do to try and make it longer. I'm definitely keeping all this in mind, now.

At the end of the book, Rayne Hall includes two sample stories, in the hopes that you'll see just how much better this new style of writing is. I more-or-less see her point, but I did find that there were a bit TOO few attribution tags in her dialogue sometimes. See, I read for five-minute stretches, and I sometimes have to stop in the middle of a dialogue. When I pick it up again an hour later, I've forgotten who's involved in the conversation, and when I have to go through two pages or more without an attribution tag, I tend to lose interest.

But hey, that's my particular reading style. Everyone's different, and besides, one of the over-arching themes of Rayne Hall's books is that you should find your own unique voice. I still think this book is useful, and I'd recommend any writer read it. There's no doubt it'll make you better at your craft.

(My Review: 4 / 5 stars)

About the Book

Tighten and tone your writing style, and use simple revision tricks to slim down your manuscript. Shed thousands of words without changing the plot.

Strip away the word fat and reveal the muscle of your unique author voice.

This book is short, but potent.

It is perfect for

- self-editing before you submit your book to agents and publishers, or before self-publishing

- understanding why your stories get rejected, or why so few readers buy your book after downloading the sample chapters

- taking your writing craft skills to the next level

- polishing your writing style for the move from amateur to professional

The book is based on Rayne Hall's popular class of the same title which has helped many writers shed word weight and develop a leaner, stronger writing style. Some authors say the class was the best investment they ever made. Now you can study the techniques in book form at your own pace.

Click here to find out where you can buy the book.

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Stingers: Questions for High School Pupils

For some time now, I've been raving about how Stingers is set to be taught to Grade 9 English pupils at Bracken High School in South Africa. Just recently, I blogged that it is happening.

And boy, is it happening fast! The teacher just sent me a list of questions that she's set for the class. She's even set up a presentation that will be used to introduce the kids to the story (view it on Slideshare here).

Reading through the questions, I wasn't quite sure how to feel. On the one hand, I'm really humbled and awe-inspired. On the other, I'm amazed that anyone can get so much out of my simple story. There's stuff about the themes of friendship, courage, parenting, and fear, which I never consciously intended when I wrote it (although, of course, bullying is there, which is something I did intend).

With her permission, I'm sharing the questions for you below. What do you think?

Chapter One

1. What game did they start to play?

2. What was the Phys. Ed. teachers’ name?

3. Why did James prefer to have his head buried in a book?

4. Who was the English teacher?

5. How did James react when he was hit with the ball? Please refer to both times.

6. Who was the school bully?

Chapter Two

7. Explain why Emily Evans thinks her husband is mean. Provide evidence for your answer.

8. Do you agree or disagree with the statement below? Provide a reason and evidence for your


“A little humiliation is good for anyone…”

9. Name the job Emily Evans had when she first met Jack Evans.

Chapter Three

10. Describe how James’ mother saw his bruises?

11. Why do you think James started to cry?

12. Explain why Mr Evans is irresponsible.

13. How did James’ mom try to fix the situation?

Chapter Four

14. Give two reasons why James was having a difficult year.

Chapter Five

15. Summarise chapter 5. You must focus on the plot, setting and the characters (description

and behaviour).

16. Discuss the reader’s first impression of James’ mother and Harry Taylor’s father.

17. Why did Harry give his father money?

18. What advice did Bill Taylor give Harry?

Chapter Six

19. Why was James angry with his mother?

20. Is his anger justified? Substantiate your answer.

21. Explain why James was proud of his dad.

22. Who gave James a lift home?

Chapter Seven

23. Where does this chapter start?

24. Why was James in the hall studying?

25. Do you think Mrs Cox made the right decision by excluding James from Phys. Ed.?

Chapter Eight

26. Why did James not leave the hall during break?

27. What forced James to eventually leave the hall?

28. Why was Harry angry with James?

29. Explain how Harry “taught James a lesson”?

Chapter Nine

30. What reason did Harry give Bill for stabbing James?

31. Describe Bill Taylor’s response to what his son had done?

32. Why did this make Bill angry?

Chapter Ten

33. Who was waiting for James to come out of his operation?

34. Explain how Olivia found James.

35. How many times was James stabbed?

36. Who wants to talk to Olivia?

Chapter Eleven

37. What were the two reasons for the emergency staff meeting?

38. Who loses their temper in the meeting? Why?

39. Who attacks Jack Evans?

Chapter Twelve

40. Summarise chapter 12.

Chapter Thirteen

41. Who was the first person James saw?

42. Describe James’ emotions when he first woke up.

43. Who came to see James?

44. How long will James be off school?

Chapter Fourteen

45. Why was Mrs Evans not at home?

46. Who came to visit him?

47. What did Ted Wilson’s dad do to him when he was a child?

48. What will Ted never allow?

49. What did Ted Wilson do to Mr Evans?

Chapter Fifteen

50. What was Bill Taylor worried about?

51. What was Bill Taylor drinking and how does this affect his driving?

52. Explain how Bill crashed his car.

53. How does Bill Taylor die?

Chapter Sixteen

54. Summarise this chapter.

Chapter Seventeen

55. Why did James decline sitting on a chair?

56. Have they found Harry Taylor?

To see where you can buy the book, click the image below:

Tuesday 9 May 2017

How Do Authors Pay the Bills?

Somebody posted recently in a writers group I belong to on Facebook. She wanted to know what everyone in the group did for a living, besides writing. Now, I've always known that for an author to write full-time is an incredibly rare thing, and that even some of the most famous authors in history supported themselves with full-time careers right up until they died - some of which had nothing whatsoever to do with writing.

Still, the responses to that post surprised me. We've got some pretty big names on our group, people whom I felt sure would be writing full-time by now. Alas, not even them.

I was also amazed at the sheer diversity of jobs that authors are doing. We've got software developers (like me), psychologists, farmers, watchmakers, social media managers... even a bull semen salesman!

Of course, most authors hate their day jobs and would love to write full-time one day. But there are more than a few (also like me) who actually love our day jobs. We love writing too, of course, but we couldn't really see ourselves giving our jobs up to write all day. It's very conflicting - for me, I guess my ultimate goal would be to cut the hours spent at my job by half, and spend the rest of the time writing.

Who's your favourite author, and what do (or did) they do to pay the bills?

Tuesday 2 May 2017

Sally Cronin is a Wonderful Lady. You Should Check Her Out.

Today, I'd like to introduce you to a wonderful woman. Her name is Sally Cronin, she's from the UK, and she loves independent authors.

On her website, which she appropriately dubs The Smorgasbord, she features books from authors all over the world, which she deems worthy of promotion. And on Thursday, she promoted my book, Heritage of Deceit.

Please go take a look at her feature, and while you're there, click around. If you love reading, you're sure to find something that interests you.

And she's an author in her own right, too, so if you like what she's doing, consider buying her books too, and supporting her as much as you can.

In particular, I really like the look of "Sam: A Shaggy Dog Story". As a dog-lover, it looks like a great read.