Category Archives: Media Monday

Win a copy of The Boy Who Played Guitar – now out in paperback

It’s Media Monday where I post my views on the latest writing and publishing news: The Boy Who Played Guitar is now out in paperback…

Oh my giddy aunt! I don’t normally pop a post about my own Media Monday news, but I’m off on my holidays so what the heck! My book The Boy Who Played Guitar is now out in paperback and to celebrate – and because you’re all so nice – I  I have a free copy to give away .

To win a copy of the book, simply answer this question:

What was the title of my short story that won the Wotton Arts & literature 2012 Short Story Prize? Was it:

a) The Woman Who Had a Limp

b) The Woman Who Had Piles

c) The Woman Who Walked to School

You can find the answer (if you haven’t guessed already…) by taking a look through my blog posts. To send your answers, just use the ‘contact me’ section to my blog – that way no sneaky answers will appear in the comments section….

The competition closes Monday 6th August when I’ll pull a name from the hat to chose the lucky winner.

If you fancy ordering a copy of The Boy Who Played Guitar, if you know, you feel like it, you can on Amazon. For the UK, click on this link. For the USA, click on this link.

The book’s already received rave reviews, with review site FacE-Bookers saying: ‘It was a flowing story…that had them giggling in some places and crying in others.’

Here’s a bit more about the book…

What do you do when life hits a rut? Stuck in a failing secondary school in Cheltenham, ageing Assistant Principal, Dan McClean, is fed up. His 16-year old pupils won’t learn; the school’s changing to an Academy; his wife can’t have a baby; and his middle is growing faster than Facebook. So when one day the school Principal tells Dan to get his pupils’ grades up or they’re off the higher exam paper, Dan hits on an idea: he’ll start a school choir. But what Dan doesn’t know is that by setting up the choir, he’s starting down a road where life will never quite be the same again.

From columnist and debut novelist, Nikki Owen, a heart-warming, poignant tale of courage, loss and what it really means to find out who your friends are –even if they do like Lady Gaga.

Thanks for tolerating my shameless plug! Have a great week – and thanks so much for following my blog. It’s great us all getting to know everyone.

I’ll be taking a little blog break now, so see you after my holiday. France – here we come!

Nikki

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It’s Media Monday: Shouldn’t screenwriters be paid more?

It’s Media Monday where I post my latest views on writing & publishing news…  Writing news

Like dealing with a bad case of piles, finding a job can be tough, right? Well, news out last week was that screenwriters in Hollywood and beyond are now being hammered on the job front. As reported in the i newspaper, screenwriting jobs and wages  in Hollywood have declined for  a second consecutive year, with total earnings down 12.6%.

Okay, so I guess if writers’ wages are down, actors’ wages will be down too, right? Wrong. Take the film Hangover 3. Due out in 2013, its actors are

The Hangover – making a whole heap of money

reported to be receiving more than double the amount of pay they enjoyed for the first film. No wage cuts there then. And remember the sitcom, Friends? By the time the last series was running, the actors were receiving a huge $20m (£12.5m) a year.  And how about the writers? Well they were earning nowhere near as much, nowhere near. And that’s the main question here: why are writers  paid so much less?

Is it right for actors to still receive enormous pay increases  while the screenwriters who create the films for the actors receive less pay year-on-year? It isn’t simply wages either. Recognition for screenwriters’ work in films goes more unnoticed as time goes by. Yes there are exceptions (step forward the wonderful Diablo Cody). And of course writers as a profession do not naturally seek the limelight. But isn’t it only right to dish out recognition where it’s due? And if that means the correct wage packet that reflects the effort put in, then surely that should be done? The trouble with the movie world is that it is littered with inequality: men vs women, writers vs actors, runners vs studio execs. There is a pecking order – and writers are missing out.

So come on, Hollywood, how’s about a little more respect for your writers and a few more dollars in their pay packets? Bet it would make a great movie…

How about you? Have you been paid less than someone working on the same project? Are you an underpaid writer? Or do you think writers can’t expect to receive the same pay heights as others? Let’s start the debate…

 **Look out for Wednesday Wafflings where I post my latest entry of my Diary of a Hopeful Author**

It’s Media Monday: What would your top 100 books be?

It’s Media Monday where I post my latest views on writing & publishing news…  Writing news

How do you know which books you should read? This is the question that I pondered the other day as I searched for some new summer reads for my holiday. In this search I stumbled across an article in The Guardian entitled “The 100 greatest novels of all time”. (You can read the list here) Great! I thought, there must be some I’ve read on here. On the list, the novels range from Clarissa by Samuel Richardson to Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. Hmmm. I’ve never heard of the first one and the only Tom Jones I know is the Welsh hairy bloke that women throw knickers at when he sings on stage – but somehow, I don’t think this list quite refers to this version.

Anyway, as my heart sank, it got me to thinking about these 100 greatest novels. I mean, what really does make a novel great? Does the fact that we can’t quite understand it make it great? Should it be a high-brow classic to be great or will a fast beach read count? Is it the theme it tackles? The way it is written? It’s complex characters or plot? I think different novels mean different things to different people – what works for one doesn’t always work for another (step forward Fifty Shades of Grey…)

So, in this quest for greatness I’ve decided to compile my own short list of best books, a top ten, if you will. Take a look and see what you think. For me, the books below are ones that I haven’t been able to put down and that have stayed in my head long after I’ve finished them – and that, to me, makes a novel great. Are these the kind of books you view as great? Or are the novels in the top 100 article more your thing? And what makes a novel great for you? Let the count down begin…

My top ten books (in no real order, sort of):

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee – An all-time classic whose themes are still so relevant today.
  2. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen – Beautiful story and insightful account of old age
  3. My Father’s Glory and My Mother’s Castle, Marcel Pagnol – not strictly a novel, but an all time favourite of mine. It’s an account of Pagnol’s childhood in Provence, France – atmospheric, magical. You can almost hear the cicadas.
  4. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt – so well written, it was a book that stayed with me for a long time afterwards.
  5. Notes on a Scandal, Zoe Heller – sharp, dark, cracking plot, amazing characterisation.
  6. 1984, George Orwell – has to be on the list. ingenious, a book way, way ahead of it’s time and one that still influences society today. Big Brother and Room 101, anyone..?
  7. Keeping up with Magda, Isla Dewer – on the list because it’s a book I re-read  when I need some calm and imagine I am by the sea. Cracking characters, great writer.
  8. Tell no one, Harlan Coben – The master of a thriller, this is his best book, bar none. Fast, intelligent – and the film’s just as good (french with subtitles)
  9. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte – ahead of it’s time, Bronte devised a novel full of humour, sharp cultural observation and poignancy. It surprised me how much I loved this book.
  10. The History Boys, Alan Bennett – alright, so it’s a play, but I have the book of it. The script of the play reads so, so well in book format – I couldn’t put it down. Relevant themes, rounded characters, lashings of wit – highly recommend.

 What makes a book great for you? Do you have your own top ten? Or do you prefer to let your preferences change as you go along?

Link: The Guardian 100 greatest novels: a list

 **Look out for Wednesday Wafflings where I post my latest entry of my Diary of a Hopeful Author**

It’s Media Monday: They’re pulping the books!

It’s Media Monday where I post my latest views on writing & publishing news…  Writing news

Book pulping. Is it a) a new a Tarintino film; b) a fist-fight at a literary festival; or is it c) the shredding of books from a library. Well, this week, Manchester Central Library has found itself in a pulping mess after – in an open letter to the Head Librarian (you can read it here) – a host of eminent literary names called for a halt to the destruction of thousands of library books from the vaults of the long-standing library. 

 

According to The Guardian, it turns out that for the past 18-months, Manchester Central Library has been culling – pulping – its stack of non-fiction books because renovations for the elegant domed building have not included enough room for, well, all the books.  You’ve got to question what on earth they were they thinking when the renovation decisions were being made. Just imagine the meeting where they discussed the library’s future. ‘Right, so, we need to renovate, yes?’ Cue murmurs of agreement. ‘It’s going to cost £170million and take three years. It will look fabulous. Any other considerations? Anyone? We’ll have enough space, right? Right? Great. Custard slice?’ Hmmm.  The thing is, I understand why libraries

Manchester Central Library
Manchester Central Library – but where are the books?

have this predicament. The more books they have, the more space to store them becomes an issue – it is a problem the New York Central Library is experiencing right now in their own renovations process.

 

But the point of a library is to have books. And those books are used by the people to learn, to expand their knowledge. Take older books away and you take away a history, a timeline of information and a generation of experience and thought. It turns out I’m not the only one who thinks this way. In their open letter, the literary figures said: “We are concerned that far too much of the irreplaceable collection is in danger of being lost forever. We demand that the current destruction of stock is halted and that a thorough investigation of the library’s disposal policy is carried out.”

 

In this age of the digital book, there is a clear argument that the use of books via such media can provide constant access to literature resources whilst saving valuable space and money. This I agree with in many ways. But to destroy old books, just like that, with no consultation with the public who use them and in many ways you could argue own them? That’s wrong. Would artifacts be destroyed from a museum? Or Royal documents or jewels be scrapped? Of course not – so why these books?

 

The Manchester Central Library was built in the Great Depression as a symbol of hope, its vast circular inscription reading “exalt wisdom and she shall promote thee”. Maybe, before they destroy any more books, the powers that be should stop and read that inscription for a second. At least it’s one set of words that can’t be pulped – I hear stone’s is hell to pick out of a shredder.

 

 

 What do you think? Should books be pulped or kept?

 **Look out for Wednesday Wafflings where I post my latest entry of my Diary of a Hopeful Author**

It’s Media Monday: Katy Perry to be in comic form – but who would you be?

It’s Media Monday where I post my latest views on writing & publishing news…  Writing news

Have you ever imagined yourself as a comic character? Batman? Catwoman? Dennis the Menace? Well now, like a massive POW! punch, the comic book Fame will be turning the multi-award winning singer Katy Perry into her very own comic book character. Take that, Catwoman! (not that Catwoman’s my comic character of choice or anything…)

Ms.Perry follows in a long line of celebrities that have had their lives turned into comic form by the popular biography comic series. Fame, owned by Blue Water Productions, has also over the years transformed the faces and bodies of pop tween, Justin Beiber, Apple’s Steve Jobs and Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins. Katy’s

Katy Perry
Katy Perry – here’s lookin’ at you, comic kid!

comic biography will hit the shelves in July 2012 via Amazon, and while it’s a natural transition for Ms.Perry whose live stage shows follow a comic theme, from her blue hair to elaborate costumes, it highlights one main point: that most of us have such ordinary lives that even a comic version of them wouldn’t make them interesting. Can you imagine it? Headline: Mum take the kids to school [picture of mum, hair like a bird’s nest, kids not even with their shoes on yet]. Yawn. Or how about: [picture: mum and dad on the sofa] dad speech bubble: “How much is it for a baby sitter? Mum: “£6 an hour”. Dad: “DVD night at home it is then.” Yup, that’s the extent of the excitement of our everyday lives. No major music shows, no appearing on TV, no celebrity parties (unless you count Barney’s On Stage Christmas Show). Instead there’s just figuring out what to make the kids for dinner and wondering how you’re going to get out of mowing the lawn at the weekend.

Still, at least when we get bored, we know have the Fame comics to brighten our average days. Because, while most of our hours and weeks are pretty humdrum, like a life painted wall to ceiling in magnolia it sometimes needs a bit of colour! And what better way to see a celebrity in a comic to jazz things up! Who needs that friday night TV dinner and a bottle of house red when you can have a celebrity life to read about! In a comic! See, things aren’t so bad, are they?

So, good luck to Fame comic, Bluewater Productions and of course the lovely Katy Perry (who does seem jolly nice). She may have kissed a girl and liked it – and now she can read about it too! Now, where’s my Catwoman mask…

So, if you were a comic character, who would you be? What would a comic say about your life? And who would publish it?

**Look out for Wednesday Wafflings where I post my latest entry of my Diary of a Hopeful Author**

It’s Media Monday: Adele’s new unofficial biography is step too far…

It’s Media Monday where I post my latest views on writing & publishing news…  Image

Pop Quiz: What is a biography? Is it a) a true account of an exceptional person’s life? B) a memoir, perhaps, coined at the end of a fruitful and colourful life lived? Or is it c) an easy way to make money. Well, once upon a time, you’d be right to assume the first two, but these days things are very, very different.

Last week it was announced that the author Marco Shapiro has penned a book all about the singer, Adele. Okay, you may think, that doesn’t sound too bad, she’s an award-winning singer and she really does have a lovely voice. Well, let me tell you that the book is to be published without Adele’s blessing. That means she has played no part in it, has not contributed to any verification of facts or indeed unfacts, so to speak.  So that blows answers A and B right out of the water.

What we are witnessing with the Adele book is what has been emerging now for some time in the publishing industry, namely the money-spinning potential of the biography.  Now, look, I believe that, especially in today’s digital age, publishers need to make a profit, and biographies offer a seasonal route to do that – although in the UK sales of memoirs fell by 43%, according to The Bookseller in an article in The Telegraph. For a long time biographies have been published by the great and the good, from Tony Blair’s multi-million pound self-penned account of his time as Prime Minister, A Journey, and Barak Obama’s touching tale, Dreams of my Father, to Russell Brand’s, um, serious musings in My Booky Wooky. But what you have to remember is that these were autobiographies, penned by their authors, sanctioned, approved.

Image
Adele – she’s got a lovely voice

The thing is, when biographies are unofficial, unsanctioned, my point is this: they are like peeping  at your neighbours through a hole in the fence – it’s just wrong. Last year’s biography book sale slump was put down to a limited niche offering, with not many titles appealing to women. But is this the way to improve sales, through sheer exploitation? Shapiro has stated that his book on Adele’s life will not contain any overt sensationalism, but then isn’t it simply a musing if it does not, and of course, who will read just some musings? But wait! For Shapiro has also let slip that the biography will reveal 21 secrets about the famous singer. Hang on a minute, forgive me, but doesn’t that seem, well, a bit sensationalist? Bare in mind that Marc Shapiro was the man who also brought you the unofficial biography of that pint-sized pop singer Justin Beiber. I rest my case.

It all boils down to the fact that unofficial biographies are the publishing equivalent of eavesdropping on a conversation, a phone-hacking version, if you will of the memoir world. And as a reader, what actual value do they have? It is hard to truly believe what is written when you know that the person they are discussing has not sanctioned anything that has been said. Of course, we do, in the UK, live in a country of free press, and celebrities cannot have control over everything that is written about them. But a whole book? Revealing intimate details about them? Any journalist going to journalist school knows that they have to trust a source, believe it, be able to justify it, stand by it. Any ‘friend’ of someone who speaks to the press or a writer and gives them intimate details for a tell-all, well, you have to question their motives. It all goes right back to biographies being money makers. But at what cost? Other than Simon Cowell seeming unfettered by his recent unofficial biography, I’d say most subjects would be mortified by such a tell-all book. And as for us readers? Well, I think we’ve got better things to spend our money on. So come on publishers! Give us some official biographies we can really enjoy, ponder on and laugh with, not some tabloid fodder that takes a mucky peek through someone’s net curtains. Now, anyone know if Adele’s got a new album out yet..?

What do you think of unofficial biographies? Justified or an intrusion on privacy?

**Look out for Wednesday Wafflings where I post my latest entry of my Diary of a Hopeful Author**

Media Monday: If you’re a self-published author look away now…

Writing news

It’s “Media Monday” where I bring you my views on the latest writing and publishing news…

You might want to look away now. Or, go get yourself a drink. Especially if you’re an author looking to self-publish. Go on, well done…What’s that?A Pina Colada?  I roll my eyes. Right, now down it in one because the latest news for all you aspiring writers out there is that authors publishing their work DIY style online earn an average of $10,000 (£6,375) – and, wait for it, less than half make $500. I know. What? Another Pina Colada? Oh, go on then.

Yep, the latest news published in an article by The Guardian last week revealed that a survey of writers concluded that only the smallest percentage of authors were raking in more that $100,000 in 2011. In this less than 10% were earning approximately 75% of this revenue and, that’s right the rest – that’s more than half of all those exhausted writers surveyed – scraped in just enough to cover the service of their car. If they have one.

Once I pick myself up from the floor, along with my broken laptop and spilled pens, I have to admit that this news comes as no surprise. Like with any industry that has headline success stories, such as music, art, banking – oh wait, no, the lasts one’s a disaster story, sorry – for every high-fiving, cash-generating sensation, you’ll find thousands of bleary-eyed, overdraft-inducing wannabees. And, as I peer at my sorry bank balance and peel open my eyes, I speak from experience here. But hey! We are writers! We are a hardy bunch, single-minded in the pursuit of our craft, nothing but nothing can stop us from plowing forth! So, I shall whisper then that the survey found that  yes, you’d do well if you were female, with a college degree and in your early 40s. Never, ever so much before have I wanted to be older than right now. On top of this, it turns out our paper-published cousins are muscling in on the act, with big names such as Jackie Collins announcing that she is to bypass the traditional paperback route and put her novel The Bitch (sorry, bad language…) as a self-published piece. Have we nothing left for ourselves, I hear you cry? Even if it does earn us peanuts?

Well now look, let’s not get hysterical. No one said this was going to be easy. We must wish good luck to everyone! And the good news is that there is something we can do. The survey also revealed that the high-earners it identified dedicated more of their time to writing, banging out an average of 2,047 words a day compared to 1,557 from those lower down the pay scale. So come on! Write! Also, making your book sound professional is another earmarked area by the survey, with it highlighting the need for writers to perhaps get their work professionally edited and proofread – this alone can help you earn 13% more than average (and, I for one shall be doing this…). Yes, that’s right, readers have been waiting our new writing voices, but, understandably, not one full of spelling errors.

Of course, as the Jessie J song goes, it’s not all about the money. What counts for success in one writer’s eyes, may not in another’s. For some, simply finishing the first draft of a novel is achievement enough, for others, the stars, my dear, the stars! Whether you pick yourself up from the floor or the ceiling, the trick is knowing what your goal is and then doing everything you can to get there. And in that, I wish you all the luck in the world. But perhaps first, just step away from the Pina Coladas, hmmm?

What are your experiences as a self-published author? Do you want to make money from your writing? Or are you content with the art of writing itself? Let me know.

 **Look out on  for Wednesday: Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry from my Diary of a Hopeful Author…**

Media Monday: Has Waterstones sold its soul to Amazon?

Writing news

It’s “Media Monday” where I bring you my views on the latest writing and publishing news…

Isn’t it funny how things change? This morning, I was all set to write this post about the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron’s new biography reveals how he likes to ‘chillax’ (his words, not mine) by singing some karaoke, calling his tennis machine the “Clegger” (I kid you not) and kicking back to watch a DVD box set. After I’d sewed my sides back up from laughing, making yet another mental note to ALWAYS WORK HARDER, I was greeted with the bizarre news via The Guardian that the UK bookstore chain, Waterstones, is hooking up with its arch nemesis Amazon to sell Kindles in all its Waterstones stores.

Now, look, call me a fool here, but isn’t Waterstones flogging Amazon gear a bit like Tesco selling Sainsbury’s own brand? Or, to put it in book terms, like Harry Potter asking Voldemort to give him a foot rub whilst reading a copy of The Worst Witch? Either way, aside from looking strange, it’s just not going to work. At this juncture, I have to point out that I am not normally one for the negative,Waterstones Logo and like Obama himself, I like to think, ‘Yes we can! ‘when approaching most issues (for example, ‘Can we eat this chocolate? Yes we can!’ ‘Can we finish this novel? Yes we can!’ ‘Can we ignore the icky feeling we get when David Cameron says Chillax? Yes we…Actually, no, we can’t.’)  I can see what Waterstones are trying to do by linking with Amazon, hoping, as I am sure they are, that it will help sales and drive footfall. But the thing is, climb into bed with a lion and, sooner or later, you’re going to get bitten.

If Waterstones was looking at this with more rational, unfettered minds (have you seen the slump in paper book sales lately?) they would admit that they were late  to react to the emergence of the e-reader and were similarly uninspired to proactively adapt and develop as the market rapidly changed. But wait, I hear some say. The Kindle is popular, speedy! Won’t that help poor old Waterstones? Well, to be honest, I don’t think it will. You see, one of the great advantages about a Kindle is that you can have instant access to books, where ever you are, what ever the time and what ever your attire (shops don’t like you turning up in your PJs. So I hear.) And so, if you do chose to make a specific trip to Waterstones, surely that negates the need for a Kindle, because you are in a shop! Ready to buy! Wearing clothes! A book, you think, I just want a paper book! I want to browse, feel the page, soak up the atmosphere. That’s what you are there for. If you wanted an e-book, you’d get one from your sofa with your feet up and the TV on.

To be honest, I think what Waterstones have done here is fail to recognise that consumers – us readers out here – like paper and digital book formats, but, just as you might like your boss and your betrothed, say,  that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to hang out with both of them at the same time. Yes, book stores need to adapt. Yes, it means the likes of Waterstones having to change their business models to survive. But that’s just the thing: we want them to survive and be themselves. By letting Amazon in through the front door and selling Amazon’s merchandise for them, haven’t Waterstones just banged the first nail in their own coffin? I hope not.  Or perhaps we are witnessing the beginning of Amazon’s entrance into their own-brand high street bricks and mortar store? Who knows what’s going to happen next. But either way, I’m just going to have to make like David Cameron and jolly well chillax about it…

 **Look out on  for Wednesday: Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry from my Diary of a Hopeful Author…**