Friday, 28 December 2012

Is the death knell ringing for long adult fiction?

Is the death knell ringing for long adult fiction?

I don't think creative fiction will die, just that the market is getting smaller whilst the number of authors is getting larger.

Those of us with children encourage them to read whilst we ourselves have almost no time to do the same. We read things in snip-its and sound bites, preferring to read a cartoon over a full page of text on a computer screen. As we get older we may have the time to enjoy a book, but maybe by then we'll be too ingrained in our habits to go back to a good book?

And what of our children, who will grow up in a world of shortened prose on facebook, twitter and leads? Will they ever pick up a novel that's longer than 1,000 words?

The way we tell stories is changing, how do novelists adapt to that?

Monday, 1 October 2012

Sir Thomas Urquhart

Inventor of over 400 words Sir Thomas was a Scottish writer and translator now has a dedicated blog and Facebook page.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The man's DIY keyboard wrist rest

I've been needing a keyboard rest recently and living in Taiwan, as I do, I was surprised to find that none of the local shops sold one (only the small mouse type) and being impatient I stomped my feet and said "I want I want I want" and instead of waiting 2-3 long days for a delivery, I thought I'd make my own.

There is another website with instructions on how to make one if you sew and whilst I may be a reasonably modern man ( changing nappies, doing laundry etc) I have neither the time nor inclination to spend more than 5 minutes on this project.

So in my nearest shop that sells everything I found the following items:

1 x pair of ladies calf length socks (white)
1 x 1kg box of assorted grains. You can use anything you like but these were on special.

Cost: NT$140 or US$4.80(ish) for 2 (yes 2) wrist rests (the other will be used at home.

I already had a plastic bag in the office .

Here's how easy it is:

  1. Turn the sock inside out
  2. Hold the sealed end of the bag at the toe of the sock and with your hand inside the sock (gripping the bag) turn the sock out again.
  3. Fill bagged sock with grain.
  4. Tie bag and tie sock.
It's as easy as that and this blog took longer to write than they took to make.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The worst opening sentences of novels for 2012

The 2012 winners of the worst opening sentance of any novel has just been announced by The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2012
 is the latest in an annual series of competitions to find the worst-possible opening sentence to a novel.
The competition has been run since 1982, and is sponsored by the English department at San Jose State University. It is named after the Victorian novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who wrote the immortal opening line "It was a dark and stormy night." All are welcome to enter.

You can read more here

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


No, I'm not channeling the thoughts of a 14 year old for a YA novel, although maybe that's not a bad idea. Writing about teenage hormones seems to be a money spinner. But I digress. Text speak maybe relatively new (circa 1994?), but abbreviations in writing have been around for long time, even if they did have to spell out the full meaning later.
Check this out from 1917.
Whilst most common abbreviations come from the late 80's and early 90's when they were first used in chat room on BBS, terms such as FRAG (used in first person shoot-em ups) have their origins as far back as 1918 before gaining traction in the 1970's and the Vietnam war.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

New Harry Patterson Adventure - Monied Waters

The new Harry Patterson novel will be available on Amazon on August 2nd, however if you want to review it in return for a free copy then leave a comment below.

As the Crow Dies audio intro

The intro to As the Crow Dies is now available on Chirbit -

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Write what you know? Really?

I was talking to a friend today, an aspiring writer (aren't we all), and he quoted the hoary old adage "write what you know". Teachers trot this out to their students without really expanding upon it.  

If we all only wrote what we know, the world of literature would be a much poorer place. There wouldn't be any sci-fi, no fantasy, a limited range of extreme pornography and so on. 

But we can use what we know, to fill in the blanks. After all that's all any of do. Fit the sound of a scraping chair into a new environment, or move the sound of silence into space or a desert. 

We can't experience everything, so add what you know into your imagined spaces.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The heat is rising

As we're sweltering away in the summer heat outside, inside we're kept cool and functioning by air conditioning. So let's give three cheers for the air conditioner as it hits 110 years old.  You can read the Economists blog here.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Monied Waters - Book Cover Preview

The new book cover for the forth coming Harry Patterson adventure. Follow Harry as he gets involved in the cutthroat world of bio-fuel and discovers the lengths that people will go to in the race for the next liquid gold.

Coming Soon

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Two Fun Lexicographical web things

It's been a good day for finding lexicographical things on the web:

  1. Google's Ngram Viewer - input any word or phrase and see how often it's been used since 1800.
  2. The excellent TED talks has a great talk by Erin McKean on redefining the dictionary. 

Monday, 2 July 2012

Perfect use for the Interrobang

The interrobang at work. Find it and use it next time you exclaim wtf?! 

Favoriite Punctuation Mark - The Interrobang

Never widely adopted, the interrobang is a great piece of punctuation that combines a question mark (?) and an exclamation mark (!) in one symbol, thereby replacing "?!" in writing.

First invented in 1962 by Martin K. Speckter, it was his belief that advertising copy would be better if one mark was used for surprised rhetorical questions. The name comes from the marks that it's created from: interrogatio is Latin for "a rhetorical question" or "cross-examination";[4] bang is printers' slang for the exclamation mark

It's hayday was certainly in the late 1960's with some Remington typewriters including it on their keyboards and even until the 1970's Smith-Corona sold replacement key-caps with the interrobang included.

If you're brave enough you can still use it today as it's been included in the Unicode format and is available in several font including Lucida Sans Unicode, Arial Unicode MS, Calibri and is in the Wingdings 2 character set.

So next time you want to shake up your punctuation add an interrobang

Friday, 15 June 2012

The Hereo's Journey

For the second time in the same day I've learnt something new and once again I've been doing it unconsciously. The Hero's Journey was first identified by American Scholar Joseph Campbell back in 1949 and contains 17 stages of plot that most books, plays and movies contain. George Lucas admitted to using it for the Star Wars Movies.

These seventeen steps can be put into the 3 Acts of a play and then broken down into the scenes of each of the acts:

Act 1  - Departure
  1. The Call to Adventure
    The call to adventure is the point in a person's life when they are first given notice that everything is going to change, whether they know it or not.
  2. Refusal of the Call
    Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his or her current circumstances.
  3. Supernatural Aid
    Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known.
  4. The Crossing of the First Threshold
    This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known.
  5. The Belly of the Whale
    The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero's known world and self. It is sometimes described as the person's lowest point, but it is actually the point when the person is between or transitioning between worlds and selves. The separation has been made, or is being made, or being fully recognized between the old world and old self and the potential for a new world/self. The experiences that will shape the new world and self will begin shortly, or may be beginning with this experience which is often symbolized by something dark, unknown and frightening. By entering this stage, the person shows their willingness to undergo a metamorphosis, to die to him or herself.
Act 2 - Initiation
  1. The Road of Trials
    The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation. Often the person fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes.
  2. The Meeting with the Goddess
    The meeting with the goddess represents the point in the adventure when the person experiences a love that has the power and significance of the all-powerful, all encompassing, unconditional love that a fortunate infant may experience with his or her mother. It is also known as the "hieros gamos", or sacred marriage, the union of opposites, and may take place entirely within the person. In other words, the person begins to see him or herself in a non-dualistic way. This is a very important step in the process and is often represented by the person finding the other person that he or she loves most completely. Although Campbell symbolizes this step as a meeting with a goddess, unconditional love and /or self unification does not have to be represented by a woman.
  3. Woman as the Temptress
    At one level, this step is about those temptations that may lead the hero to abandon or stray from his or her quest, which as with the Meeting with the Goddess does not necessarily have to be represented by a woman. For Campbell, however, this step is about the revulsion that the usually male hero may feel about his own fleshy/earthy nature, and the subsequent attachment or projection of that revulsion to women. Woman is a metaphor for the physical or material temptations of life, since the hero-knight was often tempted by lust from his spiritual journey.
  4. Atonement with the Father
    In this step the person must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in his or her life. In many myths and stories this is the father, or a father figure who has life and death power. This is the center point of the journey. All the previous steps have been moving in to this place, all that follow will move out from it. Although this step is most frequently symbolized by an encounter with a male entity, it does not have to be a male; just someone or thing with incredible power. For the transformation to take place, the person as he or she has been must be "killed" so that the new self can come into being. Sometime this killing is literal, and the earthly journey for that character is either over or moves into a different realm.
  5. Apotheosis
    To apotheosize is to deify. When someone dies a physical death, or dies to the self to live in spirit, he or she moves beyond the pairs of opposites to a state of divine knowledge, love, compassion and bliss. This is a god-like state; the person is in heaven and beyond all strife. A more mundane way of looking at this step is that it is a period of rest, peace and fulfillment before the hero begins the return.
  6. The Ultimate Boon
    The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step, since in many myths the boon is something transcendent like the elixir of life itself, or a plant that supplies immortality, or the holy grail.
Act 3 - Return
  1. Refusal of the Return
    So why, when all has been achieved, the ambrosia has been drunk, and we have conversed with the gods, why come back to normal life with all its cares and woes?
  2. The Magic Flight
    Sometimes the hero must escape with the boon, if it is something that the gods have been jealously guarding. It can be just as adventurous and dangerous returning from the journey as it was to go on it.
  3. Rescue from Without
    Just as the hero may need guides and assistants to set out on the quest, often times he or she must have powerful guides and rescuers to bring them back to everyday life, especially if the person has been wounded or weakened by the experience. Or perhaps the person doesn't realize that it is time to return, that they can return, or that others need their boon.
  4. The Crossing of the Return Threshold
    The trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into a human life, and then maybe figure out how to share the wisdom with the rest of the world. This is usually extremely difficult.
  5. Master of the Two Worlds
    In myth, this step is usually represented by a transcendental hero like Jesus or Buddha. For a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. The person has become comfortable and competent in both the inner and outer worlds.
  6. Freedom to Live
    Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live. This is sometimes referred to as living in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.

You can watch a video explaining it all here:

To save you a lot of hard work you can even follow this interactive Hero's Journey template.

So the question is can you avoid following it now you know about it or does knowing about it enable you to break the pattern? I'll let you know.

Planner or Pantser?

When it comes to writing, 99% of the stuff I read on line talks about planning. Here's a great example, It talks about the 3Act play, and having scenes and beats and that before you begin writing a single word you should have this written down and planned in quite a lot of detail.

But I say bullshit. It's not that you shouldn't have some sort of idea where you want to begin and what you vaguely want to happen but that's as far I ever go. The middle bit is made up on the fly. I know the name of the main character and what the story will involve, but that's as far as it goes.

Are there problems with this? Sure, I guess so. But whichever way you cut it, writing is hard. If you're a planner, the novel requires a great deal of thought to work things out, but pantsers just do this later or in the revisions, somewhere along the process of writing there will be points where you have no idea where the story is going or that you're near the end and it runs out of steam, But you either do this in the planning stage or in the writing.

I say do what comes naturally to you. My name is Stuart and I'm a pantser.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Judging a book by its cover Part 3

In part of an interesting post by JA Konrath he explores the use of animated covers, which, whilst not supported by online booksellers just yet, do certainly catch the eye.

Whilst there are certainly design issues with some of them, they do show what can be done to attract readers attention. He really doesn't need the little publicity this blog will give, but these are worthy of comment.

The only problem I see is that if these styles of covers become ubiquitous there'll be too much noise and we'll be back at square one, where the most noticeable covers are the static variety, In the same way that the most noticeable TV ads are the black and white variety that don't scream and shout at you.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Judging a Book by its Cover Part 2

Cover 1
Cover 2
Cover 3

Cover 4 and Final

It appears that the subject of covers of e-books is on everybody's mind recently. Not least on my because I keep redesigning my own e-book cover.

In lieu of the fact that I'm no designer, I've taken inspiration from an excellent essay on the subject of book covers from Craig Mod

Monday, 21 May 2012

Judge a book by its cover

The hoary old adage - "don't judge a book by its cover"- is a great piece of advice but one that's very hard to follow when more so than ever we have less time than ever to to make our decisions. Having a leisurely browse through the leafs of the pages in a book shop is an almost forgotten pleasure. Today's book browsing is more likely to be done from a computer screen when being distracted by incoming e-mails or Facebook conversations.

So now, we have to punch harder and come up with punchier titles and better graphics to convey the message in even less time.

As the Crow Dies can be bought here.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Where do Words Come From?

Ever wondered where the words you use come from? Etymology is a fascinating subject, but if you just have a passing interesting and not the will to go wading through  Douglas Harper’s wonderful online dictionary of etymology  its worth looking at a new project from Ideas Illustrated

Here, the author has a selection of quotes which are highlighted in different colours to indicate where they derive from.

This is a surprisingly complex Monty Python quote where the colors represent Old English (pink), Middle English (red), Anglo-French (orange), Old French (light orange), Middle French (pale orange), and Classical and Medieval Latin (both yellow). I suspect that both the complexity and variety of word sources is intentional — standing in humorous contrast to the appearance of the speaker.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Found in translation | SF Bay Guardian

I'm a big fan of Haruki Murakami and am constantly surprised by his work. But I read his work in English, a far cry from the original Japanese and I'm amazed at how well the surreal nature of his work comes across. I'd known for a while that he only used two translators, to preserve the quality of the original and now here's an interview with them from the SF Bay Guardian

Found in translation | SF Bay Guardian

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

You SHALL be green!

Personally I'm sick of being told to be environmentally friendly by everyone from my kids (who have been brainwashed at school) to governments (who don't seem to do much to reduce corporate energy wastage). But, one of the more interesting green arguments is how much more environmentally friendly are e-books over printed books? Obviously e-books don't need to be printed and then shipped but the devices they're read on do. So are they really any more environmentally friendly than paper?

To answer this the national geographic has an interesting piece:
The amount of paper used for books in one year was estimated at 1.5 million metric tons, and each book produced gave off an estimated 8.85 pounds of carbon dioxide. Study groups have found that the carbon released from eBooks is offset after people read more than 14 eBooks. For the life cycle of a device for reading books, the carbon emitted is offset after the first year. The savings in carbon emitted into the air is around 168 kilograms for the following years after the first year of use.
It concludes with this bit of advice:
An avid reader, who will read more than 10 books a year, should consider buying a device anddownload ebooks to benefit our environment. 
You can read the full article here.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

When is a book not a book?

The interesting thing about Amazon is that everything that is sold in their books section is classed as a book. No matter whether it's a single sheet of A5 with one word on it or the complete works of Tolstoy.

So, should there be a separate nomenclature for shorter works of fiction? I appreciate we have terms like: short story, micro fiction, nanofiction and so but they are still clumped together under the term 'Novel' or 'Novella'.

When I buy a novel I expect about 80,000 words or in laymans terms 'a good long read', when I buy a 'novella' I expect a 'good short but punchy read'. Short stories, microfiction and nanofiction are often collected into a single work and called 'a collection of...' therefore I expect another 'good long read of different stories.'

But what if what I'm writing doesn't fit neatly into those categories? I don't have enough words to call it a novel or a short story and I don't have a collection of them to bundle together. The buyer then feels short changed when they are buying my story and may not return to buy my work again.

I now want to publish the e-booklet. A single work of fiction that leaves the purchaser under no illusion that what they are getting is a very very short story. But then do we have further subcategories such as e-pamphlet, which would be smaller than a booklet?

Friday, 24 February 2012

What lessons I've learnt from publishing my first book?

What lessons have you learnt from publishing your first book?

I've learnt a couple of things recently and it's a good job you can republish your book electronically really quickly.
1. Carefully select the friends who can and will edit your work efficiently and honestly.
I have many fiends who are writers of various disciplines but some are better than others.Someone who I'd previously not thought of for editing has just provided really valuable advice and criticism that will take a while to fix and another who I thought would be ideal just didn't want to help in enough detail. Lesson learnt - don't discount anyone until they've done you one favor.

2. Provide all editors with the best draft you can have not a crap first copy. In my haste to get a book out there I irritated some friends by giving them a first draft that wasn't really worthy of name. Make sure it's at least readable and all your tenses are in order.

3. Don't be too hasty to get the book out. Slow down and step back from it for a while.

So what have you done that you won't do again?

Friday, 10 February 2012

I've just been interviewed by Kris Wampler, author of Lovetrain.

You can read my interview on Kris's blog.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Goodreads: Book reviews, recommendations, and discussion

I'm now on Goodreads check out my profile at

In the mean time a sequel to As the Crow Dies is in the works. Watch this space for more details.

Friday, 20 January 2012

My book is on Amazon - A short novella about Harry Patterson getting caught up with a Chinese tech co and the Chinese secret service. There's sex, there's violence, there's computers what more could a geek want? 

What's more for a limited time you can download it for free from Amazon. But please review it.