Wednesday, 30 April 2008

No! No! It is NOT weird and wonderful!

Gripped by the dead hand of the cliché...

I am guilty of writing ‘she woke with a start’ in a first draft. ‘She melted into his arms’ really does say it all (this doesn't mean it's a good idea to use the phrase in a novel, though).

But what about clichés that are used with no thought at all? ‘Sea change’ frequently has me yelling at the radio, ‘the sea has nothing to do with it!’ The original Shakespearean metaphor in The Tempest has a point, as THE CHANGE HAPPENED UNDERWATER! But a political party changing a policy has nothing whatever to do with the sea!!!

And as for weird and wonderful, bright and breezy, chop and change, born and bred, each and every, first and foremost, fast and furious, facts and figures, fame and fortune, kith and kin (what's kith?) hale and hearty, part and parcel, prim and proper, rack and ruin, rules and regulations, safe and sound, tried and tested, trials and tribulations, vim and vigour...

All I can say is, AVOID.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Road Rage and Ramparts Rage

My fantasy novels are set in an alternative Middle Ages, so I research the actual period for background detail. I'm currently reading The Medieval Castle by Philip Warner, who has a lively writing style and a first-hand knowledge of battle, having fought all through WWII.
He describes the feeling of superiority engendered by looking down, from a castle or a horse, on the enemy. Castle defenders would jeer at and goad the besiegers. Emotions ran so high that when castles fell, the victors often 'massacred the garrison with ill-tempered thoroughness'.
Also, "it has been said that this blend of arrogance, quick temper, risk-taking and irrationality is a thing of the past."
I knew what he was going to say next. Here it is:
"Curiously enough, the automobile has created its own species of knights. Lulled into a false sense of security by the armour around him, flattered by the speed which he controls with a touch of the foot, arrogant towards those with inferior mounts or with no mounts at all, the modern motorist will display chivalry towards an attractive woman, pay grudging deference to the owner of a vehicle which is clearly superior, but otherwise behave with stupid over-competitive hostility to every other road-user.

The clearest conviction of the modern motorist is that every other driver is in the wrong; he is driving too fast, too slowly, too timidly or too aggressively. Even the carnage of the multiple accident leaves him relatively unmoved; the massacre of a few peasants had much the same effect on a feudal baron's emotions."

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Pedants' Corner

To lay and to lie...

A lot of people have problems with when to use lay and when to use lie. I know that lay is transitive, i.e. you lay something, an egg or a table, but lie is intransitive, i.e. you lie on the bed.

But I blush to confess, I only realized recently they are two entirely different verbs, that happen to share 'lay' as the present tense of to lay, and the past tense of to lie. For more details, see here.

It's left me wondering what else I don't know...

Monday, 14 April 2008

Literary agents' websites

I've been trawling through the lists of agents in Writers' & Artists' Yearbook, crossing off all those who do not look at fantasy or consider Young Adult fiction. Then I went to look up the websites of agents on my shortlist.

But quite a few did not have a website. How is this possible in 2008? To make a relevant submission, and to find the right person to send it to, one really needs to know more than the brief facts listed in W & A Y. I do not wish to waste their time or mine.

When I looked at the websites of those agents who did have them, on the whole they were not inspiring. If I was a published author, I would want my agent to have an exciting website, where there would be a section on me, showing pictures of my book covers, with a link to where you could buy the book, plus a link to my website. Hardly any of the agents I looked at had this.

As unpublished authors, we are told we need to be extremely professional for our work to be considered at all by a literary agent. I am happy to do this. But is it such a buyers' market that the agents don't need to bother to be the best they can be?
Final thought: maybe, right now, the next soon-to-be-hugely-successful author is comparing agents' websites, deciding who to send three chapters to...

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Amazon, how could you?

Don't buy your books from Amazon while they behave like this!

Try the Book Depository instead - it's good, with free postage.

Amazon has said that all Print-On-Demand (POD) books in America will now have to be printed through Amazon's printing company BookSurge, or be discriminated against by losing the buy now button. Amazon's share of the profits will rise from 25% to 55%.

Amazon is also going to penalize mainstream publishers who sell their books direct at a discount on their publisher's websites. Amazon is taking that discounted price as the book's "cover price" and then applying their own discounts accordingly.

These are bully-boy tactics from a huge business, which will not benefit either writers or readers. Read more about it on Youwriteon.

Yesterday I ordered Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds from Amazon. It will be the last book I shall buy from them until they change their minds.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Chapter headings

Why don't most authors write chapter headings?

Some do, like Jasper Fforde, and JK Rowling; in fact, these days you're most likely to come across them in Y.A. novels. Readers often don't notice them, but they add that extra something and are a lot of fun to write; you can tease and intrigue the reader, and even lead him in the wrong direction.

I've just written them for Rising Fire and Trav Zander. My favourites:

Socks and a revelation

Journey to the edge of the map

A wolf by the ears

Girls and spies

On the run - with canary