Monthly Archives: March 2014

It’s a business Berkoff

Steven Berkoff - Click on the image to visit his website stevenberkoff.comPhil: Sat on the M1 yesterday, I had the chance to listen to Steven Berkoff plugging his new books.

I’m no expert on celebrity and a bit light on the sort of magazines that could fill in his background but fortunately, Practical Classics tells me that he appeared in an episode of The Professionals called “A Mann Called Quinn” so I know he’s an actor.

Anyway, Berkoff has embraced the world of self-publishing and you can buy the new books on Amazon. It seems that his publishers have quite unreasonably decided that as his previous literary efforts haven’t made any money, they don’t want to publish any more of them. The great author isn’t impressed by this – writers should be treated like rare fruit and delicately nurtured. Never mind your boring business considerations, once you are on the roster, the publishers role is to gently stroke the ego of their charge like a mad old lady fuses each of her collection of pussies.

I’d love to think this is the truth and, if any potential publishers are reading, team NolanParker very happy to be on the end of this sort of cosseting, but we know that’s not how it works.

Publishing is a business. You sell books or the harsh economic winds will be blowing around your ankles as you stand outside your boarded up offices holding a box containing the contents of your desk. No matter how much we rail against Tess Daly being skipping from writing “Once upon a time” to being published to Hollywood film in 6 weeks (Grrrr), it’s a harsh fact of life that she will shift more units than a pair of brilliant but largely unknown writers.

In a way, it’s great news for the world of self publishing that “names” are dipping their toes in the water. Maybe this will reduce the stigma associated with bypassing the traditional methods of getting in to print. How long will it be before someone with a massive media profile goes for it? After all, if your phone is full of the numbers for TV people and the editors of the national press, why not take ALL the money from your work? Maybe this is what Berkoff is doing…

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

 

Candice:  As readers may remember I bought this book awhile ago (October to be exact) and havent got round starting reading it until January.  I bought the ebook version to so had to find the appropriate time to wrench the iPad back off the other half.(Stop surfing Amazon I want to read my book).  Anyway, I finally finished it a week or so ago so these are my thoughts.

First off I want to say, I really liked this book.  I havent said that about one for awhile but it was very clever and the end surprised me.  As is always the way with our reviews I wont give too much away but will add PLOT SPOILER ALERT here.

Nick and Amy are a nice, happy, well off couple living in New York with jobs they love as writers.  Then the crash happens and suddenly they are both without jobs or money.  Nick’s mum is terminally ill so they (he) decides to move back to the town his grew up in Missouri, in other words the middle of nowhere compared to NYC, to look after her and start again.  But things go from bad to worse when, on their five year anniversary, Amy goes missing and eventually Nick is arrested for her murder. But all is not as it seems…

Told from Amy’s view, Nick’s view and Amy’s diary’s view this book twists and turns around.  At first they sound like a loving couple then you start to discover that things are not rosey as we think.  Nick is a poor husband; forgetful, rude and generally a self centered man.  Amy has been brought up as an only child of parents who’s money comes from the children’s books they have written featuring her as the main character.  She is selfish and resents her parents for selling her life as a story, which is exacerbated by them taking her trust fund money back as they run out of money.

The story keeps you on your toes as initially we believe Amy to be have been kidnapped or murdered, but we are not sure if Nick is involved.  The book flips from Nick’s point of view to Amy’s diary, where she tells the story of what a bad husband Nick is.  The centre point is her annual treasure hunt, where the clues reference things in their life leading to a present, but Nick always fails miserably to get any of it right.

As the Police begin to investigate a picture starts to emerge that Nick might have killed his wife but he still protests his innocence. Things about Amy become more confusing: she’s bought a gun, she has friend’s Nick doesnt know about, she’s pregnant.  The story builds against him as they then discover her diary and becomes even stronger when it emerges he has a mistress.

But then, Amy’s real voice appears and we start to find out what is really happening.  She’s pissed off with her husband, so has set an elaborate plan to frame him for her murder to get her own back.  You come to realise that this cosetted upbringing as an only child has created a psychopath who wants everyone to love her. And if they dont, there is all hell to pay.

Amy had a staker at school, Desi, and she goes to him for help but then the tables turn as he traps her, locking her into his holiday home and making it her prison.  She escapes and goes back to Nick, now convinced he is really the only man for her.

But the book doesnt finish there.  As, for Amy to escape, she murders Desi, and she uses this fact to control Nick and make him her perfect husband.  As the book closes they are still circling each other deciding what the future will bring.

The ending was a shock to me I was waiting for Amy to get her comeuppance, but actually I realise that Flynn was trying to say that neither of these characters are nice people so they deserve each other.

The book is very clever, as even though I worked out that Amy was tricking everyone, by giving you the impression you are reading Amy’s view point versus Nick’s you think this is a conventional murder mystery story.  However, when you get the real Amy, you realise how twisted she is.

I certainly recommend this one if you want something that will make you think.  Its more than just a ‘sunlounger book’.

 

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When Blogs Die

Blog booksPhil: I was listening to the radio a few days ago and there was a piece on biscuits. Obviously my ears pricked up as it’s one of my favourite subjects.

The surprise was that the interviewee was Stuart Payne the owner of the website “A Nice Cup Of Tea And A Sit Down“.

Years ago, I was a big fan of this site. It is, as the name suggested, all about having a nice cup of tea and a sit down – with a biscuit. Confectionary based websites are A Good Thing as far as I am concerned. I used to sit at work and electronically wander over there occasionally for light relief from whatever I was supposed to be doing.

The site gained a cult following which lead to a book based on it. As you can see, I bought a copy as soon as it was released and it is full of fascinating biscuit-based information. Sadly, this was the beginning of the end. Look at the site now and you’ll see that the left hand sidebar includes a survey on olympic biscuit choices which you might think makes it a year out of date. It doesn’t. The sidebar refers to the 2008 olympics. The Wifey’s column is even deader with a last update in 2007.

It’s not the only one. Suzi Brent’s Blog “Nee Naw“, the observations of life in an ambulance control room also produced a book and then closed in 2010. The reasons for this are mysterious. In a final post Brent says, “my fifteen minutes of fame also had its downside, and without going into detail, in the end I felt I had no alternative but to bring Nee Naw to its end”. At least the blog is archived for new readers to enjoy.

Random Acts of Reality” by Brian Kellett spawned two books (Blood, Sweat and Tea and More , Blood, Sweat and Tea) but a change of employment from the paramedic role that provided content for the blog left him with less “newsworthy” content. If keen, you can still find him raging against things on Twitter.

It’s always sad when a blog you have been following dies. The writer will have become a sort of friend. You’ll look forward to reading their writing and feel a slight connection to them. When, all of a sudden, the posts stop, it is both frustrating and worrying. Are they OK? What happened?

Interestingly, all these blogs were written under pseudonyms – Nicey, Mark Myers and Tom Reynolds respectively. Maybe there reaches a point where the real person feels they have to emerge from the shadows? Does this restrict the writing, especially on a work-based blog when your colleagues work out that they may be characters in your stories?

Rest assured that neither Candice or I have any intentions of shutting up anytime soon. The blog both keeps us plugging away at this writing dream and is an integral part of our long-term marketing strategy. As soon as we have something to announce about progress, you’ll be the first to know. In the meantime we’ll be rambling away, hopefully in an entertaining way,  even when we are massively succesful and sitting on the set of the Hollywood production of The Book.

By the way, those are our real names.

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Did you ever write a diary?

Candice : I was thinking today as I was scribbling some notes about my new addition.  She is changing on a week by week basis and the other half and I keep saying we need to record more of what is happening with her before this time is gone.  I was bought a notebook before I left work and I’ve been using it to write down things relating to her.  Today though I started to write a diary from Erin’s view point.  It was just a few scribbles but it took me back to when I used to write one at school.

There has been alot made of diary books, the ones that stick out are ‘Adrian Mole’ and ‘Bridget Jones’.  The Mole kept me amused during my teenage years, going through angst that I could relate too but with an amusing angle that made me feel not as bad about my spots and relationship issues.  Bridget Jones hit around my late 20’s, and though she was annoying, again I could relate to her personal problems.

I wrote a diary for years when I was a teenager, starting around 11 and going right up to University.  I still have them and they are hilarious reading.  My first was just a week to one page, given to me as a Christmas present, but each year my diary got bigger so I had more space to fill, and by god did I fill it with rubbish.  However, it is great to go back to that time and read what I was feeling and doing.  The detail is incredible and one day I might give them to my daughter so she understands that everyone goes through these feelings.

But I wonder if that is where my enjoyment of writing came from.  I always liked to concoct stories but this was more, it was a combination of real and dreamed world as I tried to make the boy of my dreams notice me.  (Note to self: he did years later, we dated, I found him boring, I moved on)  I have even gone back to writing one occasionally as I find writing down my issues therapeutic and a way of getting them out of my head so I can chill.  Obviously the diary was the start of this.

So I think I’ll give Erin a diary when she is 11 and see if she can fill it with ideas too.

ps while searching for a diary image I came across other aspiring author’s blog, who writes it as a diary.  Have a look 

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Happy Birthday WWW

"25"Phil: Yesterday was the World Wide Web’s 25th birthday.

Doesn’t time fly when you are having fun?

I remember working for the ministry of cows and cobbling together a laptop PC, fax modem and Compuserve CD to get on-line for the first time. I logged on in glorious black and white (the best the laptop could do) and then wondered, what do I do next?

A colleague with an X-File obsession suggested we look to see what the was on her favourite TV show and since she ruled the typing pool with a rod of iron and I needed to get export certificates through there in less than a month, I had a quick search. Downloading the pages took ages and when we saved them to a floppy disk and transferred them to a colour PC, the results were a bit rubbish, but it didn’t matter. This was the future.

A few months later, having been made redundant, I spent hours at the local library using their single web-connected computer to surf. Inspiration was provided by a Yellow Pages of web sites. Literally a printed book listing sites under different categories. Even then it was a fat publication.

Two years later, it was suggested I take over the company website because I was publishing a magazine so I knew about pictures and things. A couple of days later I had learned enough HTML from a book to finish the launch of our commercial arm’s website. Nerdy types will shrink in horror at the way we used tables and even frames to lay out content, some of which was animated GIFs, something I still thin are pretty neat even if I know them to be considered as dated as drop shadow (If you have no idea what I’m on about here, don’t worry).

The web has made a huge difference to authors. No longer do I submit articles on paper, floppy disk or CD. Everything flies around using electronic magic. On the other hand, if I wanted to waste time on the computer, I played Solitaire until I (quickly) got bored. Now there is an infinite supply of procrastination accessories.

More importantly, it has made the e-Book possible. Can you imagine this taking off if it weren’t possible to download the words? Would anyone want to carry the Kindle to the book store to pick up the latest novel?

Of course, most importantly, without the WWW, the great writing team of Nolanparker would never have met up in the first place. I wouldn’t have been employed to look after the website at a quango where I met my friend. Who knows where or what we’d have ended up doing? You wouldn’t be reading this, but then without the web, there would be no websites or WordPress either.

Yes, Tim Berners-Lee made the world a different, and I think better place. Here’s to the next quarter century.

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One for the road?

Candice: This time of year I always like to give a plug for Stratford literary festival organised by a very nice lady called Annie. (Who is actually a published author – jealous me ?)

I have been involved in the festival for two years now, this year through organising sponsorship of one of the talks and a poll.

The poll is all about what book you would take on a journey. It’s a bit like desert island discs but you can only have one book in your case. Now with this I’m in a quandary, as I can’t think of just one book.

A lot people have a book that they go back to time and time again. I’m not a re-reader. Once the book is read I move on to the next and don’t pick it up again. I’m the same with films mainly, I own about four DVDs. It’s funny because I’m not with music, I love going back to music from 10, 20 years ago.

So, I’ve been looking at my bookcase to see which books I’ve actually kept to identify which one I would choose. But then I have another issue, the books I like are all part of a series. So, can I say ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ trilogy, or ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ trilogy? With the ‘Hitchhikers’ it’s actually five books so that’s a real cheek! But they are all real short books so you’d need all five if it’s a long journey.

I think I’m going to give it a try as I think they are great books and deserve some recognition.

Why don’t you vote?

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Why can’t I click on the page?

From: Clients from Hell.net

Client: I love the flyer you sent! It’s clicky!
Me: Great! So we’re done now?
Client: No. When I print out the flyer, the links aren’t clicky. Can you make them clicky?
Me: I don’t understand.
Client: I want to be able to go to our website … when … um, when I …
Me: You do know that a piece of paper can’t be interactive, right?

WGTPhil: I read (on-line) the posting above at the same time as I was reading (on-paper) “Who Goes There – Travels through strangest Britain in search of the Doctor” by Nick Griffiths, and it struck a chord.

I enjoy travel books. Sometimes they make me want to go and see the places described. Mostly my traveling is vicarious but none the worse for that. I also love Dr Who. Put the two together and we should have a winner – right?

Wrong.

Even once you get past the stream of consciousness writing style (it calms down after the first few chapters) and the lack of capital letters in the title (Grrrr) there is a fundamental problem with the book. The author keeps referring readers to his website so they can see photos of the location he visits.  That’s lovely but I was reading on a train and so constantly being pointed at a web page was a reminder that I was missing out on a good chunk of the fun to be had from Griffiths travels.

To compound matters, he keeps referring to Who episodes that I don’t remember. I mean, I love classic Who, but I don’t have an encyclopedic memory of a TV show I watched when I was 5 or even one from before I was born. I’m nerdy, but not that nerdy. Thus, I often have no idea what the location being visited looks like ‘cos I’ve not seen it on telly or on the web.

Frustrating. Very.

But, Candice and I were chatting about this over tea and squash earlier in the week, more and more people are reading on eBooks. Travel on the tube in that there London and you’ll hardly see the traditional paperback. It’s all iPads and Kindles now.

These are perfect for a book like this. If I want to see the picture, I can click on a link and assuming I’m not in a signal-free tunnel, up the photo will pop. If licensing were possible, even a clip from the show could be included. All this makes writing a rather more involved job than traditional, but it creates a very different type of book/website hybrid that could be very exciting.

None of this works (for me) on paper but it does beg a question. If the eBook/website hybrid is the way things are going, has this book about a time traveller fallen back through a wormhole from a few years in the future?

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