Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Final decision! (Possibly...)

Right. This is the title, and this is the cover.

Almost certainly.

I think.

*clears throat*

Actually, no, it's REMIX.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Name my book

As suggested by Norm, I'm asking my trusty blog readers to come up with a better title for my book than Heart of Rock.

The original title was Catch a Falling Star, then Jade Goody used it, so I had to find a new one. Although there is no copyright on titles, it's an advantage to have a unique one so people can find it on Amazon.

Left is the cover, and here is a brief synopsis:

Ric Kealey is the charismatic lead singer of ├╝ber-successful band, The Voices in my Head – and he died three years ago. Caz Tallis restores rocking horses in her Hoxton studio. When Ric turns up, shabby and alive, on Caz’s roof terrace, she is drawn into investigating the murder that led him to fake his own death.

The prize for a title I use? I will name a character in my next book after you, or give your pet a walk-on part.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Fretting over the cover

Book covers are important; people really do judge a book by its cover.

Vital for sales, they will attract a reader to pick up the book or click on the image - or not. Publishers decide what you get, because they are the best judge of what will sell. It must be nail-biting for an author, waiting to see how his book will look, when he has little or no say in the final decision.

A recent favourite of mine is the beautiful and witty cover of Gary Corby's soon-to-be-released The Pericles Commission; browsing yesterday in Waterstones I thought that the images and lettering on books has never been better - even though they are subject to fashion, and are now more genre-specific than they've ever been.

It's a bit daunting for anyone like me who plans to self-publish - but at least I won't get lumbered with something I hate. I've resumed my tempestuous love affair with Adobe Photoshop 7.0, and the image here is my best effort so far.

The purpose of this post is to get a reaction from readers of my blog. If you click on the picture it comes up larger. What do you think? Would you pick this up in a bookshop? Should I have the boasty quote on the front? And what would you expect the novel to be like going by this cover?

Honest opinions, please, don't spare my feelings.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Endings and beginnings

We are constantly told the first page of our novel is vital in grabbing the attention of a reader. Ray Rhamey in his blog Flogging the Quill analyses what works and what doesn't for readers who send him their first chapter. He often suggests that the writer is starting in the wrong place, and gets his readers to vote on an alternative beginning. My friend Alan Hutcheson told me to start Trav Zander a couple of pages in, and everyone preferred his first line: "I wish to acquire a dragon."

I think endings are as important as beginnings - after all, it's the last thing your reader reads, and you want her to put the book down with a satisfied sigh, not hurl it across the room.
Jane Austen knew what happened to her characters after the novel ended, and would sometimes disclose a tantalizing detail in her letters, for example that Jane Fairfax died early. But she doesn't tell the reader that.

Do all novelists know what happens after the last page? I do. I know what Trav and Isolda do next, and who Caz marries. I'm not prepared to reveal anything after THE END, though, even supposing anyone was interested, because the point at which your story stops is important. With Jane Austen, it was invariably the marriage of hero and heroine, and a couple getting together remains a popular happy ending to this day. After the ceremony, they subside into domesticity, children and contentment - and who wants to read about that? Poor Jo in Jo's Boys, married to a dreary middle-aged German and fostering lots of children makes one grind one's teeth, after her feisty start in Little Women.

Much as I like a happy ending, I prefer to leave the ends of my books a little open, so that the reader is left speculating on what will happen next, rather than tying up every loose end too neatly. Just as long as they don't get it wrong...

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Tell me about your baddie

I realized the other day I like virtually all my characters, even the unpleasant ones, with very few exceptions. Can this be because they all represent a facet, however minor and repressed, of my own personality? They let me explore my undesirable traits I strive to control in real life. Perhaps my villains and baddies are like the Queen's corgis, who being dogs and not royal get to misbehave in a way Her Majesty would never allow herself to.

In Heart of Rock one of my favourite characters is Jeff Pike, The Voices' drummer, rich, impulsive, rude, foul-mouthed, a sexual predator; but also mixed-up, needy, with an abusive childhood and an undeclared love for the hero, lead singer Ric Kealey. He was fun to write.

So what I want the writers reading this to do today is tell me about one of your less agreeable characters: book title, character's name, what is horrible about him and why you like him - if you do. A brief quote, if you can find one that sums him up, would be good.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Speech marks - double or single?

Which do you like? And which do you use?

I prefer double, but I've always used single in my novels, for the simple reason that the key is right there, conveniently to the right of the semi colon, not requiring the Shift key. For double, it's Shift and 2. I believe on USA keyboards it's more accessible, which may be why they've stuck to double while in the UK these days we use either.

Now I am cursing myself for taking the line of least resistance. In order to accommodate American readers when I e-publish, I made the change in Heart of Rock, and it's been far from straightforward. Find and Replace changes all the apostrophes, too, and it takes hours to track each one down and correct it. And I care about apostrophes.

I'm not sure I've succeeded, either; I think I'll have to print the book out and read it through, possibly with a ruler under each line. Which is really annoying, as the typescript was, as far as one can ever say, typo-free.

Instead of an appropriate image, here is a nicer one of the blackbird who makes himself at home in my workshop. He's sunbathing.