Tuesday, 31 January 2012

One Too Many

Lately it's come to my notice that I have - brace yourselves - too many books. Now if you're thinking but that's not possible, you crazy loon, I wouldn't blame you. I didn't think it was possible either. But, alas, it's a question of space. Or the lack thereof. 

Our house is the size of a matchbox and the photo is of just one of three - no, four - 'book' spaces, the latest of which is the floor next to Steve's side of the bed. I'd love to buy another bookshelf but there'd be nowhere to put it. Such is the sorry state of affairs.

I also have to admit that I own a lot of books I probably won't ever read again. In the past I've found ways to make room by getting rid of these books - I've shoved them in boxes, I've given piles to charity shops, dropped some off at libraries, and recently I've been thinking about websites like We Buy Books (which looks really fun, by the way!), where they buy the book and then sell it on. The nice thing about giving the books away instead of stashing them somewhere out of sight is I know someone will probably end up buying - and maybe loving - them.

But it's a bit of a wrench to part with them all the same.

Now if your solution to this problem is just don't buy any more books or well, just buy everything on Kindle, no. Can't. I love my Kindle but I love creased spines and turning pages more. And as for the first option, ha. Why don't you just cut off my right foot while you're at it, hey?

Help? Anybody know any creative ways to store books?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

What are they saying about you?

Earlier today, CassaStar author and ninja blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh talked about authors reading reviews of their own books. Should we do it? 

A lot of people have different opinions on this one (Alex thinks we should read them, for example) and I thought his was such a great post that I'd chime in.

Euurreaaarrrgh. That's pretty much how I feel about the topic. Should we read what people are saying about our own work? On the one hand, I think, no. We shouldn't. Reviews are written so that readers, or prospective readers, have a sense of what to expect and what other people think of the book. They're not a letter to the author. 

But on the other hand, I think, yeah. Sure we should. For the same reasons Alex talks about. Certain things highlighted in a review - praise for excellent writing, for example, or a rant about a horrendously two-dimensional villain - can help an author do as well or better next time. We may get a sense of what worked and what didn't. We can learn a lot from readers' responses to our work. 

But then on the third hand, I think, no, we shouldn't read these responses. Because the 'learning a lot' thing can backfire. Spectacularly. Dramatically. Cataclysmically. A lot of other -icallys. 

What if you start writing things because you think a reader wants it? What if it takes you away from the story you really need to be writing? I won't mention any specific books here, but there has been many a time that I've got to Book 3 or 4 of a popular series, only to find that things suddenly seem a bit... off. And it seems a little like the author's been reading too many reviews. (Yes, if you're wondering, I do have a morbid fear of this happening to me!)

So should we read reviews of our stuff? Euuuurreaagh just about sums it up.

As for the other question... will I read them anyway?

Hell yes. I won't be able to resist.

What do you think?

Friday, 20 January 2012

Page to Screen

Happy Friday, everyone! I cannot wait for the weekend. Sleeeeeep...

Is it just me or is every 'big' book becoming a movie? Books have always spawned adaptations - I'm not just realizing this or anything! - but it feels like everything is being optioned or adapted lately. And as many of us noted during Alex J. Cavanaugh's Worst Adaptations blogfest, so few movies actually live up to their original sources.

But sometimes they do. Here are a few of my favourites (not in order)-

1. Nanny McPhee and Nanny McPhee 2 (in fairness, these are very loose adaptations of the original books so maybe they don't count, but they're so good!)

2. The Godfather Part I 

3. War Horse (this is a bit of a cheat, actually, because it's really the West End play that I love - though the new movie is pretty great too. But an adaptation is an adaptation, right?)

4. The Reader

5. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (erm, better than the books, me thinks)

6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows Part I, and Part II (okay, the books were better. But I think these three films were awesome)

What are your favourite adaptations?

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Sherlock, Sherlock, Sherlock

I've always been somewhat addicted to Sherlock Holmes. The stories, I mean. The adaptations have been somewhat hit and miss. I like the TV series with Jeremy Brett, hate the Robert Downey Jr. movies with a passion, and love, love, love Sherlock, the new(ish) version with Benedict Cumberbatch. The second series just ended and I'm already suffering from serious withdrawal symptoms.

But I'm not here just to swoon over handsome detectives and profess undying love for Sir Arthur's original tales. No, I'm going to try and be useful for a change. 

Sherlock is awesome. It's also an example of great storytelling. Here's how I figure we can absorb the winning formulae-

Be funny. Sherlock may be the star, but John's exasperated expression and his doomed efforts to curb Sherlock's rudeness make for some of the best and funniest moments in the series. Everyone likes a laugh. No matter how grim or dark or tragic a story is, it needs some levity somewhere. You wouldn't call THE HUNGER GAMES light reading, but it has a few laugh-out-loud moments. We, as readers, need a respite. The odd funny line or outright dose of hilarity can turn a good book into a great one.

Make your protagonists loveable. No matter how rude, callous and cold Sherlock is, we love him anyway. Because he's clever. Because his characteristics make us laugh. Because underneath it all he so clearly cares about a few important people in his life. And John has his flaws, but he's steadfast and loyal and oddly sweet. By the time we've spent an hour and a half with them, we love them. 

There's no secret to creating a character every reader will love - and maybe that's not possible - but if you can make your readers love a character so much that he or she can make them laugh and cry, you're already on to a winner.

Be clever. This is hard. Even harder than being funny, because the only thing worse than a writer who is obviously trying and failing to be funny is a writer who is obviously trying and failing to be clever. The brilliance of Sherlock Holmes has been the character's selling point for a hundred years and Sherlock's detective is no different. But it's the cleverness in the actual storytelling that's truly brilliant. A good twist, surprise or neat puzzle can make a book sparkle.

Don't take it too seriously. I have no doubt Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have a blast every time they sit down to write an episode of Sherlock. Have fun. If you have fun writing it, people will have fun reading it.

And while you're at it, casting Benedict Cumberbatch won't hurt either.

Any other Sherlock fans out there?

Friday, 13 January 2012

Happy 2012!

Happy New Year, blogosphere! Yes, I'm back. Well. More or less. My son is something of a black hole: one minute it's 10AM and I'm changing (yet another) nappy, the next it's 3PM and I've managed to achieve absolutely nothing with my day. He eats time, I tell you. Bloggers who are also mums: why didn't you warn me?!

I know we're already halfway through the month, but it still feels like the new year's only just begun. And there are a lot of things to be excited about.

Everyone says a baby's first year is the most exciting and changeable so, exhausting as the little mite is, I'm looking forward to all the milestones (he smiles already! Yes!)

THE LOST GIRL will be out this year. Oh, yes. Finally! I hope to be able to share the cover, blurb, official release date, etc. soon.

Books. It's only January and I've already read so many amazing new things. Apparently reading is the one thing I do have time for (because you can do it anywhere, anytime, and, most importantly, you can do it one-handed) and I'm making the most of it.

And now I'm off to change another nappy. Life is glamorous.

What are you excited about this year?