Some gifts are more than just a gift

The 2018 John Lewis Christmas advert is an emotional tribute to rock legend Elton John. I’m sure you’ve seen it, the way it ends is very poignant. Elton is reflecting on his life and on the first piano he was given as a Christmas present.  It ends with the tagline 'Some gifts are more than just a gift'.
One of our authors Claire Hastie has a similar story. In her short bio in her new book ‘The Guardians of the Athame’ Claire tells the story of how when she was eleven, she asked for a typewriter as her present for Christmas. Her love of writing has stayed with her all the way through her life and now that passion has led her to write and publish her own book.

A book is a way to fire an imagination, open up new vistas and ways of learning that no other medium can.

A modern equivalent of Claire’s typewriter would be a computer or tablet, but they can be expensive. There is another way that you can inspire a child to write, first make them a reader. If you are buying for a child this Christmas why not give them a gift that can indeed be more than just a gift. A book is a way to fire an imagination, open up new vistas and ways of learning that no other medium can. That boy or girl may not become a writer but if you can make them a reader for life you are giving them a gift that is way more than something that lasts until Boxing Day. It is a pleasure that lasts far beyond the abandoned toys, a passion that will give them somewhere to escape to and a gift that you hope they will pass on to their children. A book is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
If you are looking for a book to give this Christmas then you can check out Claire’s young adult fantasy novel and all our other books on our portfolio page.
Kim and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and look forward to engaging with you about books, reading, writing and publishing in 2019.


5  Quick Tips To Help You Write A Novel

5 Quick Tips to help you write a novel

As NaNoWriMo is about to start I thought I would share some quick tips to help your creative juices to flow and get that novel written.

1. Use software that is designed for writers rather than a word processor.

Microsoft Word and other word processors such as Open Office are not designed with creative writing in mind. For a novel writer it is much better to use dedicated software. Scrivener (Mac and PC); The Novel Factory (PC only) and Storyist (Mac only) are excellent programs. They allow you to keep your research and your writing in one place, as well as keeping track of your characters and locations. When your novel is complete you can export to Word format to forward to your editor. They are also much more reasonably priced than a subscription to Microsoft Office 365.

2. Have a plan.

The plan can be as simple as a one-page synopsis or as complicated as a major project, but you need something as a guideline. I’m more of synopsis-type writer but if you want to produce a detailed plan that shows you every part of the story that is great. No matter what, your writing will take you in unexpected directions and tangents, but with a plan you’ll be able to get back on track.

3. Balance narrative with dialogue

A good novel will always balance narrative and dialogue. Too much narrative or description can distance your readers from the story and the characters. Conversely too much dialogue can mean that the reader no longer has a sense of place nor time. Like most things in life, balance is everything.

4. Who, what, where, when and how

It is a good idea to think about those five questions when you start each chapter. These can give you valuable insights and provide a way to focus on what you’re writing. The answers can be one word or short sentences, keep it brief. Examples of the questions are:
Who will be in the chapter (scene)?
What will they be doing? Or alternatively What happens to them?
Where does the action take place?
When does the action take place in relation to your timeline?
How long is the section? Or How will it affect the story? Or How does it affect the character(s)?

5. Use all five senses when writing descriptive passages

When you are describing a setting or a character think about them in terms of the five senses.
For a setting you should think about:
Sight – colour; shape; size; what items can the character see
Smell – natural or man-made; pleasant or unpleasant
Touch – texture; hot or cold
Hearing – natural or unnatural; loud or soft; pleasing or grating
Taste – is there the taste of something in the air
For characters think about them in these terms:
Sight – height; stature; hair colour; eye colour; tone of skin; signs of ageing, clothing and many more
Smell – perfume or cologne; body odour; ageing;
Touch – skin; clothing; caress or violent;
Hearing – accent; tone; volume
Taste – kissing
Obviously not all five will apply to every description and you don’t need to use them all every time, but it is worth thinking about them, that little bit extra may help your reader to imagine the scene or character much more vivdly.

These are very simple ideas to help your creativity. I hope that it inspires you to chase that goal of completing your novel and if you can do it this November then all the better.

 

Happy writing

 

Sinclair


What impact do you want to have in the world?

Impact is what we create when we do something that leaves an impression. The ripples from the original action can travel across many miles, even years and touch a lot of people. You might not know the extent to which your actions have an impact.

We have been thinking a lot about the impact that we want to make with Indie Authors World but this week it is even more poignant for us. Friday 12thOctober marks 11 years since our son Calum died from meningitis at the age of 12years. Calum was a kind, loving, happy, caring, fun, sociable lad. He drew people to him with his big smile, easy manner and love of life.

The impact of his sudden death sent shockwaves through our family, friends and the wider community. But this is not the end of Calum’s story. You see, we can all create an impact on the world that outlives us. How you live your life, what you share, what you teach and how you love others will live on in those lives you touched.

So many friends and family continue to keep Calum close to their hearts but his influence has reached many who never knew him. From the families of the people he saved when his organs were donated, through to the readers of the books that we have helped to publish. Indie Authors World exists because Calum’s death unleashed a dream that Sinclair had to finish writing a book. That first book, The Reluctant Detective paved the way for us to help nearly one-hundred writers achieve their dreams.

The impact ripples out further to readers who have been entertained by the fiction books or been inspired to get out walking or cycling. The family tales have warmed hearts and encouraged people to share their stories. Many have found help, support and new challenges from our authors who write in the personal development field. And the ripples go on …

There are two particular books that have a direct connection to Calum. The Thirteen Stones by KT Finegan, and Diablo, The Fantastical Adventures of an Unloved Chess piece by Chris Tait were both published by us in Calum’s memory. Please watch the interviews with both authors to hear about the impact their books are having.

We are now working on plans to have an even bigger impact with Calum’s Legacy Project. This will help 12 young people lacking in opportunity to collaborate, write, publish and sell a book. We are really excited about this and will be sharing more about this soon.

So how many lives has Calum had an impact on? Thousands and most will never have known him. The positive ripples in the pond of life extend beyond what we can see. There is something wonderful and heart-warming in that legacy.

So what impact do you want to have in the world?

Your actions matter – so be kind, encourage others, share your time, your smile, your hugs. Your impact and legacy will live on beyond you – so what you do now matters.

If you have a story to tell, then do it. If you have wisdom to share, then write it. Your words matter and if you want your book to have an impact we would love to have you join our Indie Author World family. You can start with a free consultation with Kim- share your dreams with us and lets add some more ripples to the pond.


Be brave. Be bold. Be a writer

At a recent Indie Authors meeting we were discussing with a group of first time authors about publishing our books and building our audience. What surprised me was how many of them had not told their friends and family that they had even written a book.

We had several writers who were close to publishing their books and now wondering how they would find the courage to tell their nearest and dearest about their great achievement. These writers didn’t seem to worry quite so much about the general public reviewing their books, but they were scared of what reaction they would get from people who knew them.

The discussion then changed to one about vulnerability. Our writers felt vulnerable as they were opening up a side of themselves that they had kept hidden. Fear of what their friends would think about their writing had created emotional turmoil and a lot of procrastination.  Maybe you have been there too?

Our mindset creates our reality and the stories we tell ourselves can either help or hinder. This group of writers were telling themselves all sorts of scary stories – “my friends will think I’m different”; “they won’t like me when they read this”; “what if they think it’s terrible”; “they don’t know about this side of me - they’ll think I’m weird!”

Their vulnerability was so close to the surface I could see it. We can all feel vulnerable – it’s when we open up our hearts, minds and voices to others with no guarantee that it will go well. We take chances every day - to ask for help; to ask someone out on a date; to say I love you; to apply for a job; to create a business or to write a book!

Creative people share their vulnerability with the world, whether you write, paint, design, build or make music you are sharing what is inside of you. It’s your baby that you are sharing and you hope that people won’t say it’s ugly! But what if it’s beautiful? What if the world loves your book?

Fear can keep us stuck in a small place. Fear of success can be as strong as the fear of failure. Is your fear of being vulnerable stopping you from letting go of your book? Are you afraid of it not being perfect so keep changing and editing it?

In times of fear we could all do with someone to hold our hand and tell us it will be ok. To encourage us to be brave and take a leap of faith. To remind us that the other side of fear is joy. This is a role that I play with our authors as they progress along the path to publication; but maybe this group would also find that their friends would do that too.

Sharing the thoughts and feelings with the group loosened their power. The writers realised that they were not alone. They also explored that they could write another version of their mind story – “what if they love it”; “what if they have secretly wanted to write too and never had the courage to start”; “what if they are so proud of me”; “what if they want to help share my book”; “what if …”

If you are feeling fear about publishing your book, embrace your vulnerability and be brave – you could experience your own magic and help others too.


First Impressions

First impressions are vital in interviews, first dates and any number of social situations. The same is true of books. The first chapter of a book is your first (and sometimes only) chance to impress a reader and persuade them to buy your book.

I’d like to share with you some of the first chapters that had a huge effect on me and changed my reading habits.

Secret Seven Mystery

The ninth book in the Enid Blyton series, Secret Seven Mystery had a profound effect on a seven year-old boy. I had been passionate about books since my mother first took me to the local library as a tot. SSM was the first ‘chapter’ book that I borrowed from the library to read on my own. The first chapter took me to an exciting world where kids solved mysteries and had adventures. In truth, the books haven’t stood the test of time but I still think fondly of that series of books.

The Hobbit

When I was twelve a friend in the Boys’ Brigade gave me ‘The Hobbit’ to read. I had never heard of it and knew nothing about it, but he assured me I would love it. He gave me the book on a Friday night, I had finished reading it by the Saturday afternoon. The first chapter had me entranced, I bought a copy and of course I followed that up with Lord Of The Rings. They remain among my favourite books.

The Big Sleep

As I grew older, the mysteries of Enid Blyton and Franklin W. Dixon no longer satisfied me. I tried Agatha Christie but her criminals never seemed real to me. I mentioned to a teacher my search for something new that would be more adult and more genuine. She returned the following day with The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon. I took them home and before I had my dinner that night, I began Chandler’s masterpiece. Marlowe jumped from the page and smacked me across the face, he was cool and witty. I had found what I was looking for. That first chapter sparks with snappy dialogue and brilliant descriptive writing. That book gave birth to a love affair that took me all the way to writing my own first novel.

The Bourne Identity

This was another find in the library, this time when I was about sixteen. The first chapter sets the tone for a story that at times leaves you breathless, unsure whether Bourne is a hero or a villain. I became a huge Ludlum fan as a result and within two years had read voraciously everything that he had written. He was the king of the political conspiracy novel and is one of the few writers whose novels I can re-read and enjoy as much as that first time.

Dune

I was a huge fan of both Star Trek and Doctor Who from an early age but I had never read a science fiction novel. Every science fiction book I had ever looked at seemed to show dystopian future that was a long way from the positive future envisaged on my favourite TV shows.

A college mate had expressed incredulity that I could be a fan of TV sci-fi but not have read any books. He saw it as a challenge and gave me a few novels to try. The top of that pile was Frank Herbert’s Dune and it proved to be the ideal choice. The first chapter starts a saga that never lets up in complexity of plot with rich and three-dimensional characters that are a joy to read. You don't have to love science fiction to love the Dune series. It is an incredible family saga that spans planets and generations. The plotting of the various factions would not have seemed alien to Renaissance Italians and in many ways the families in the story could easily have been called Borgia or Medici. Needless to say science fiction now forms a regular part of my reading diet.


 

Indie Authors World competition seeks to find a book with a first chapter that will captivate readers. Have you got it in you to write a first chapter that will change reading habits? Find out by entering the Calum Macleod Memorial Publishing Prize competition. As well as the chance to win a publishing package worth £2000, you will be helping the charity Meningitis Now to continue to support families, and educate everyone about the disease.

For more information visit the competition page.


Would a broken computer lead to a broken heart?

Imagine the scene; you’ve worked for months on your book, it’s been edited, refined and honed to perfection. You are pleased with it and feel it’s ready to be launched into the world. You click save and sit back with a satisfied smile and your computer goes phut!, a puff of blue smoke rises from it and then nothing. It’s as dead as a Norwegian Blue parrot. No problem, you’ve got a backup. Oh wait…

Like everything else, computers are prone to the entropy of the universe and will fail eventually. The question is are you ready to cope with that failure? Are your documents, photos and music files safe? In this blog we’re going to offer some suggestions on how you can make sure that months of work don’t end in tears of frustration.

Local backup

By far the easiest way to perform a backup is to plug in an external hard drive or to use a USB data stick. There is a utility that allows scheduled backups on Windows PCs, and as long as you leave both the computer and the external drive powered up, the backup will progress according to whatever schedule you have set. If you have a Mac, you can set up a Time Machine backup to run constantly in the background and you will be able to retrieve deleted files quickly. A USB stick will require you to remember to save a copy of the file to it on a regular basis but it is a simple way to ensure you have a copy of your book.

Although a local backup is very convenient, external hard drives and USB sticks are vulnerable to many of the problems that plague computers. Hard disks can fail and over time flash memory degrades. Due to their size, it's easy to misplace a data stick. The biggest risk is from a fire, flood or theft that takes out both the computer and your backup.

If you wish to use an external drive, it would be better if you had two. Keep one in your office or at a friend’s house and swap the drives weekly. Although you wouldn't have the most recent copy of a file, storing a copy remotely would prevent data loss from something going catastrophically wrong in your house.

The Cloud

The cloud has the advantage of allowing you to store the files at a very remote location. Services such as Dropbox, iCloud, Skydrive and Google Drive offer a convenient way of keeping your files somewhere other than on your computer. With these services a folder on your machine is mirrored on a remote server and you simply save the file to that folder which will then be copied to the server. It’s a reliable and safe way to maintain a backup.

One problem with cloud storage is if you accidentally delete a file on your computer while you are connected to the service, the file will also be deleted on the server. It’s easy to do and it's something you should be aware of.

Dedicated backup services

There are a number of dedicated backup services popping up on the Internet. They offer a remote backup to data centres of all the files on your computer and provide tools that allow you to restore them simply. Backblaze, Carbonite, SOS Online Backup and Crashplan are just a few of the services you can find online. We are using Crashplan as it allows us to backup all the computers we have, at a very reasonable price. You sign up for the service, download a piece of software, tell it what you want backed up and let it do its stuff. The great thing is that you can set it to backup your whole machine, including settings and applications, not just your data. Crashplan may not be ideal for you, so check out the other services to find the one that suits your needs,

There are a few services that are available for free but you should avoid those. There is a risk that a paid service will go out of business, but I think the risk becomes greater for businesses that don’t rely on subscriptions.

Check your backup

There is no point in backing up your files if you can't retrieve them when you need to. No matter what system or service you use, it is vital that you test the backup by doing a restore on a regular basis. You can do this simply by deleting an unimportant file from the disk, and then restore it using the software or copying it from your local disk.

Recommendations

So how do we do our backups? There is a copy of our books on the computer hard drive, on an external hard disk, on iCloud and backed up through Crashplan. As you can see it’s a two belts and three braces kind of strategy.

You might not want to go to those extremes but you definitely need to have a backup strategy. Friends of ours recently had their laptop stolen. The machine itself wasn’t as important as the hundreds of photographs of their daughters that went with it as there was no backup. Don’t let a computer crash destroy your work or precious memories.