Ampersand Prize

Images borrowed from Hardie Grant Publishing site.

So this came up in my Twitter feed a few moments ago. Hardie Grant, the publisher behind Billy B Brown, Minecraft books, Winnie the Pooh and more. Are offering a chance for unpublished writers to make their debut.

The Ampersand Prize started in 2012 and is home of winners Erin Gough and Melissa Keil. And is for middle grade and young adult novels. ONE submission per writer.

Entries open THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 1st 2016

Entries close FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 16th 2016

So now is an excellent time to start or finish off your project.

Your submission must be in .doc or .pdf format.

You must include:

  • COVER SHEET (authors name, manuscript title, genre, word count, two sentence pitch of your story and a short author bio).
  • ONE PAGE SYNOPSIS- (key plot points, character development and tell them the ending).
  • FULL MANUSCRIPT (page numbers, font size 10 or 12 in a readable font, title in header or footer).

Submissions to be sent to: amersand@hardiegrant.com.au

For more information check out their website Ampersand Prize. Or you can find them on Facebook, Twitter.

Good luck.

Bec

I am in no way endorsed by Hardie Grant, paid to write up or advertise, or even asked to publish this competition. I saw it online and thought you all might be interested.

Writing Chapter One…

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Image sourced from Pinterest. Credit to the owners.

Writing Chapter One…

So many people say that they want to write but can’t. They don’t have the time, the imagination, the resources, skills, it’s too hard etc.

I want to say first of all, it’s not too hard. NEVER is writing too hard. What it is, is time consuming. And that in itself varies depending on your level of dedication.

Anyone can write. Anyone can draft a story, be it 500 words long or 500,000 words long. It’s not hard. Toddlers can verbally tell you a story. Something as inanimate as a tree can tell you a story, the markings in the bark, the damage to a branch. What you hear however, that is how it is told.

Writing comes in many forms, as does story telling. I have read some pretty terrible stories and some pretty great ones. But there are two things I have learned along the way:

  • Everyone gets better, rarely is your first story your best. My first fan fictions are shocking compared to my latest.
  • Everyone has their own style. This is key for me and it is the one thing I have learned during my time at TAFE studying professional writing. Each person has their own style, strengths, flaws. They all see and tell a scene differently. Some are so incredibly descriptive that you don’t know if you should keep reading or skip that section as you’ve read enough. Some barely have description and tend to leave it to the reader. Find yours and the stories will come. This isn’t just about genre it’s about the way you write as well.

You have the ability to write. Good or bad story telling is still story telling. But it won’t improve unless you start.

Time- that’s a factor many of us have issues with. I spent the first 12 months of my writing life, writing almost full time. Now it’s not as much, but if I ever get published I am happy to go back to that schedule. The more I wrote the better my mojo flowed.

Writing can take very little time, some authors only write a page or two a day, that’s about a book a year. That’s fantastic. Some write less. Some more. Can you get up half an hour earlier? Go to bed an hour later? Type it in over your lunch break?

I will be completely honest, if you want to write you’ll find the time. Writing is a passion and something that you need to want to do for yourself, for others, for your characters. It’s just a matter of putting words to paper.

So many people think you need something fancy to get your story out. You don’t. Pen and paper will do. Although publishers usually only accept typed copies now days. You can write your novel in anything from MS Word to Apple’s Pages, there is even software like Open Office that is free to download.

I tried using Scrivener but failed miserably. I found it too distracting and complicated. I like to be able to source what I need when I need and just have a basic word processing program. I have even added to my stories on my smart phone and tablet using the notes app and sent it through to myself and reformatted it to fit.

Skills, like the story telling ability, are something you learn along the way. Read other books, see how the novel is formatted, how they present it. Take note of punctuation and grammar. Even Google it. Everything is on the internet, you just have to search for it. There are even free lessons on grammar available. Most word processors come with a free spell check, it’s a great starting place, but never rely on it for everything.

When you discover something you were doing wrong or have trouble with it, write it down and stick it somewhere you can see. My wall is covered in grammar notes from when I first started. Including two brief sentences “Grasping for breath.” and “Remember to breathe.” I kept getting the two mixed up and it was just easier that way. Now I don’t need them but it was great to have that reminder. Same with the difference between then and than. While I knew them, in the midst of typing away or editing, I found I would have mental blanks and the reminder was helpful.

When it comes to imagination I will admit some people aren’t as imaginative as others. But that’s fine. It comes with practice. Start by trying to picture things in your head, your favourite TV episode, recall a conversation, think about what you would have said if they have of said the opposite. Then learn to question things. In primary school we were always taught research involved:

Who

What

When

Where

Why

How

Story telling has the same basis.

Who is involved in it?

What is happening?

When does it happen?

Where does it take place?

Why is it happening?

How does it happen?

Starting with these basic questions is a great way to begin to plan a novel if you need that extra help.

But most importantly you need to take the plunge and start. It doesn’t even have to be the beginning of your story. Write the ending first, the middle it doesn’t matter what order it comes together in as long as it does. If you’re worried about it all flowing nicely afterwards. Don’t. It’s why we edit.

What are your tips for starting your first story?

Bec

xx

Gathering Your Intel.

book one battle for terra

Credit to the Photographers and Image owners. All pictures gathered from Pinterest.
For the record, there is no movie. This is just who who I pictured when I wrote the book. Except Kensi and Jason’s eyes are green in my story 😀

I want to apologise for falling behind, again. I have been in a world of chaos at present, trying to juggle new schedules and deal with a tumblr glitch. We won’t go discussing that as there is not enough coffee in my house to make it come out nicely. :S

I thought today we might have a chat about researching your story. Every book will need some kind of research, even if it’s knowledge that you have previously gained elsewhere, through study, work or other books. For some, like me, I find it easier when I can visualise my character or certain aspects of my story. This can be anything from an image I find online that suits my character or a song. For those who read my other post, Busy, Busy, Busy, you will have noticed that for my new manuscript, I have somehow managed to relate a medieval fantasy story to Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars.

For my Battle for Terra series, when I had issues I often thought about the characters and people who inspired my own. Or went into my Pinterest board.

Addie car

Photo credit to the owner. Another Pinterest find.
Addie’s car from Binary. Except in blue.

Pinterest is my all time most favouritist, bestest, most wonderfullest place for research. And yes, all that counts as good English. I may have a mild obsession with the site, and it is a procrastinator’s dream. Not so much for my hubby who hears, you will never guess what I saw on Pinterst today. That’s usually a sign for him to leave before I give him another job to do.

Each of my books has its own Pinterest board (including each book in a series), all made secret as some of my pins will give away the plots. I even have a board for images or quotes, even writing prompts that have popped up and have given me ideas for a new story.

Each of my boards contains, pictures of what my main characters would look like. The clothing, weapons, landscape pictures, cars (if there is some) that kind of thing.

I also have the app on my phone, so I can look things up wherever I am. You can find anything and everything on there. It’s incredibly rare you can’t. And almost all sites have a Pin this button. If they don’t you can copy the weblink and add it to your Pinterest board for safe keeping. It is similar to a cloud drive.

kensi clothes

Credit to the owner.
The image that inspired Kensi’s fighting outfit in Battle for Terra.

 

My next favourite site it YouTube. A fabulous place for tutorials, such as combat. One of my books uses eskrima (kali stick) fighting. I used it to learn some of the techniques. I also now know how to knock a man unconscious, pressure points and all about R.I.P bullets. It is a great learning resource. But does come with the don’t try this at home warning for kids.

Wikipedia…I love the site. It’s informative, gives you a base run down on what things are. HOWEVER, the site can be updated by anyone! The information can be falsified and what you read can be a pile of rubbish. So be careful. I use it as a starting point on things I am after. Eg Stonehenge, I read the basics then use the references to go find more information. But if you are just after a basic run down, jump on it. It’s great.

I do use your standard online dictionary and I have a google translator on speed dial (I needed Latin for part of my Battle for Terra novels.)

And how can I forget Google Maps. I love Google Maps. Not only can I view the map form, I can view satellite images and find out how far it would be to drive, walk, catch a bus. It’s a great way to add that bit more realism to your work.

And last but not least, generators. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these sites. If you want a name type name generator into your search engine and it will bring up some options. These places random select names and bring them up. It’s great if you are struggling to think of one. My favourite so far is a medieval insult generator. But there si a generator for almost anything. So have a look.

These are my basic go to guides for research, at least to start with. They can provide a wealth of information, some amazing plot ideas, fabulous starting points and inspiration to get it done. But they can take time away from your writing so be careful.

What are your favourite sites?

Bec

xx

 

Mesilithia- K.D. Delgado

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Mesilithia Council final Signed (1).jpg

Illustration by Nicholas Lonprez, supplied by K.D. Delgado

Synopsis added curtesy of the author J (credit to K.D. Delgado)

Mesilithia is the first of a fantasy book series that will draw you in and take you to another world.

In modern day Texas, David and Katie’s lives are turned upside down by a stranger who attacks them and kidnaps Katie. David follows them, hoping to save his wife, only to find that the wife he once knew no longer exists…

Come along for the adventure of a lifetime, with Katie, David and Lord Wicket, as they battle the evil Snites to reclaim the land and try to find a way home. Will David be able to win back his wife’s heart, now that it belongs to Lord Wicket? Will they ever return home to their children? Or will they stay in Mesilithia forever?

Mesilithia

The first book in The Mesilithia series, by K.D. Delgado.

So, I was asked to do a review of Mesilithia, a young adult fantasy book written by K.D. Delgato, published by Meizius Publishing. It is the first in it’s series and is available for purchase through Amazon.

I will state now that I was given a copy of the book to read in exchange for a review. No other form of compensation was given and I will give an honest review.

The plot itself is fantastic. It has a huge amount of potential to become an amazing series, fitting right in there with the likes of The Chronicle of Narnia and Akarnae. Travelling to other worlds through portals, with a twist of the whole angels vs demons war without the religious aspect. K.D. Delgato has a vivid imagination that has included folk lore with new twists and it will capture the imagination of young teens and kids. It’s something that I could enjoy and find myself needing to know what happens next.

But personally I feel that the style of writing is off slightly. While I love that it is simple to read, she’s not used a lot of words that will cause my kids to come in search of definitions (Names that she had made up, excluded). The lack of flourish with some of it fails the text. But that said, if the book was being aimed at older teens (I’m thinking 15 and up and adults). Yes, my oldest two are only 12 and 11, but they read well beyond their age group. They probably won’t read this and enjoy it as much as they do other books in the fantasy genre.

My 8 year old, however, will love this book. He will be able to grasp the language in it well, it’s simplified enough that he won’t lose his concentration and it will allow him to enhance the areas needed with his own imagination.

I am not saying that it’s suited for children. I’m more thinking the younger end of the young adult range. My 8 year old, like my other two, reads above his age group.

Mesilithia is a book that I would happily buy for him to read. It’s novella length will give him a sense of accomplishment as he moves through it quickly. The simplicity, as I mentioned before, will have him raving on about it like his older siblings do with Firstlife, The Hunger Games etc.

I personally hate judging people on writing styles. I believe everyone has their own voice, I hate having people tell writers how they should be writing. I think each writer will have their own fan base, as what suits one reader won’t suit another.

So in doing this review, while the style of writing didn’t appeal to me as much as I had hoped. I know others out there who will love it.

This book however, would be fantastic for those want a story that is short, sharp and shiny. There’s no messing around, no distractions. It gets to the point. And moves on with it. Almost every scene is necessary, there is not a lot of “fillers” as I call it. Random bits to lighten the mood or add to the word count.

I won’t make a comment on the cover as it’s currently being redesigned.

The grammar and punctuation was a let down. I know almost all books have something here or there that the reader picks up on. A missing comma or full stop, misspelt word. The Mortal Instruments had quite a few. And no author or editor is perfect. But there was more than I would like to see in a published book, including incorrect punctuation for dialogue. That said, I only figured out how it was meant to be set out last year. So I can’t complain too much. I don’t look at this as an issue with the author, more one for their editing and publishing team.

I did find the book confusing at times and a few sections I did have to re-read. There’s a scene where two of the characters meet up after being separated. And that’s great. But the following chapter then goes on to show one of them finding out that the other is in Mesilithia, taking place chronologically before the chapter prior to it. Then the chapter after carries on after the meeting takes place. It was confusing and would read so much better if it was cut and placed further up. Or something like, earlier that day… was added to the top of the chapter.

There was also some confusion with the gestures being made, people shook their heads in agreement. Personally, I thought they were saying no; until I realised otherwise.

Overall, the book has a lot of potential and those in the younger range of the young adult group will enjoy it. Especially if a few parts are clarified a bit better. There is definitely potential for the series to go places with a bit of tweaking. And it is one that I will keep my eyes out for as the series progresses. I give it three quills.

You can check out more on K.D. Delgato on her Facebook page and Twitter. Mesilithia can be found on Facebook and  Amazon and the book trailer can be found on Youtube.

Bec
This review is my own thoughts; I am by no means endorsed  for it. The book was supplied  by the author, in exchange for the review.

A Website That Tells All…

Books HD
Books HD sourced from Flicker

So I am meant to be editing Compliant, or writing one of the two books I am working on. Or probably better yet making a start on pancakes for the kids lunch or the brownies for footy tomorrow.

But I made a huge mistake (Aside from finally letting myself watch the promo episode of the Walking Dead. But that’s a whole other post) I jumped on Twitter.

Currently Pantera Press is having an open house with the NSW Writer’s Center. It’s absolutely fabulous and if you’re on Twitter Check it out under the hash tag #PPOpenHouse, or either of the other two’s twitter pages. It’s been incredibly informative.

Among the suggestions and talk was another hashtag #mswl. I was curious as it’s something I had seen been used before but was clueless as to what it meant.

It’s a hashtag used by publishers, literary agents, editors, etc in order to promote the manuscripts they are currently seeking. Can I say ‘Oh My God!? This is a fantastic resource for anyone looking to get published and are not sure if your manuscript is ready to face the world.

Be sure to check out the website Manuscript Wishlist. Hopefully it can help bring together writers and publishers and fill our shelves with some more pretty amazing adventures.

Bec
xx

Firstlife – Gena Showalter

Firstlife – Gena Showalter

Book One in The Everlife Novels

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Firstlife

Please note, the synopsis below is from Harlequin’s website. My review is below.

Firstlife – Gena Showalter

Step one…you die.

ONE CHOICE.
TWO REALMS.
NO SECOND CHANCE.

Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live — after she dies. There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, long-time enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms that will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t where the boy she’s falling for lives? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

 

REVEIW

Oh my God! I am going to quit reading. I just can’t handle the emotions right now.

Firstlife, was a book that popped up constantly in my newsfeed in all my social media. I have to say her publisher Harlequin Teen did well with the advertising. The images and snippets that they posted intrigued me and I added it to my, will buy later when I’ve finished my to read pile.

Last week, I saw it in my lovely local bookshop (A HUGE shout out to Meg’s Bookstore. I couldn’t ask for a better bookshop or people to run it) and bought it early on a whim. That dreaded stand by counter. And well the colours were pretty.

My plan was to read it over the next week, in between working on my new novel. That didn’t happen. I started yesterday afternoon and finished today. I had issues putting it down.

The book was action packed from start to finish and where there wasn’t action, there was sarcasm, banter and wit. Yes, I do realise I have an issue with my enjoyment of that kind of stuff. I won’t deny it. It makes for good reading. It can also lighten the mood considerably. And given what Gena put me through emotionally, especially as the book progressed I’m glad it was there. (FYI this is a good thing. I love a story that pulls at the heart strings, leaves you crying and yelling at the author through the front cover about what they have done. Not so much in a room full of people.)

The plot was fantastic, I loved the way in which it has been put together. It reminded me a lot of the heaven vs hell type stories but with a twist. It was so refreshing to read something different.

I enjoyed how she used people’s perspectives on life and how things happen. Eg fate vs for your actions there are consequences.

My biggest gripe would be that I managed to foresee the ending and what side she ultimately chooses from early on. I have no issues with how and who she chose, just that for me it was obvious.

The first few pages were not as captivating as I had hoped, but they did establish a good foundation about the personalities of two of the feature characters, Killian and Archer. That said, I feel that while it wasn’t something that would normally grab my attention in a book. It really did help as the story progressed.

The book itself bothered me, for my own personal reasons. I couldn’t figure out what was so different about it, it took me a good third of the book to realise that it was written in first person, present tense. Not something I see a lot of or even write. I have to say it made for a great read. Once I figured that part out I was fine J

Tenley, just amazed me at how strong she was. But something about her seemed to scream through the book, especially with her number obsession. I could almost picture her doing her numerology thing. And while it was great, it did throw me at times, the way that random number facts popped up. You would be reading, and getting into the scene and then ‘oh wow, look at that.’

Killian and Archer have their own little side story that I would love to hear and they really did help add to the story line. They reminded me a lot of the devil and the angel on your shoulder. Except the devil’s still wearing a halo.

I can’t wait for book two, Lifeblood.

Without giving away the storyline, it was great. Intense and well worth the read. It had a lot of action and a nice sideline. If you enjoy The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner series, you will enjoy this. I give it 4 and a half quills.

You can find out more about Gena Showalter through the Harlequin website, on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and her official website.

Bec
This review is my own thoughts; I am by no means endorsed nor was I requested to write it up. Synopsis credit to Harlequin. I got the picture off their website.