Should Books Have Ratings?

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Should books have guidance ratings?

After comments to a recent post I started thinking more seriously about this idea. This is a touchy subject as many have firm views on censorship and democracy in our freedom of choice in art. We continue to rate our films and electronic games, therefore shouldn’t we have guides on the content of a novel.

I know there have been times when I wish I were given a warning of content. I’m not a fan of graphic violence and particularly find rape scenes very disturbing. I have read many wonderful books that have scenes that make me put it back on the shelf; unfortunately once I have read it I can’t erase it from my mind.

I think this is why there is a growing trend in adults reading YA and the material becoming more explicit. A study last year found that 55% of YA (12-17 yr. old) fiction readers were over 18 and that 28% were aged 30 -44.

I read a YA novel where the 15 year old protagonist was a casual drug user and drank alcohol to excess with her friends, there were never any consequences to her actions and I would not be comfortable let my teen reading this. Was this content added because the publishers are aware of this growing shift in their YA audience?

Beth Yoke, executive director of the Young Adult Library Services Association, an offshoot of the American Library Association says”Books can be a safe way for young people to explore edgier, sensitive, or complicated topics, and they provide parents the opportunity to help their teens grow and understand these kinds of sensitive issues,” and. “ALA’s interpretation on any rating system for books is that it’s censorship.”

There is some merit to the associations comment, yet I feel that there is a difference in the quality of the vast amount of material on offer in the YA market. The book I mentioned above is popular fiction and in no way does it have literary merit exploring in-depth teenage issues with skill and talent.

Beside the contentious issue of censorship the obvious dilemma for a book rating system is practicality. Who would be responsible for this task? In films it is an independent body, which adheres to strict guidelines. The shear volume of books produced would make this impossible, so does the responsibility fall on the publishers or the individual for self –published novels. In the U.S there is a voluntary rating system available to the author, but most fear damage to sales if they add this. Shouldn’t information over profit be more important?

As you may have guessed I’d welcome a guideline that informs me if a novel contains, Drug use, offensive language, sex scenes etc.

The choice is still the consumers; it just empowers them to make a choice more suitable to their needs.

Jane Austen Revamp

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Should a classic novel be reinvented? This question is nothing new, but neither is the concept. For centuries stories have been retold, reworked, and presented in different forms. Many of Shakespeare’s plays have origins in Greek mythology and folklore and verbal storytelling. The constantly evolving fairytale genre is another example of this.

When I heard that six of novels of Jane Austen were going to be rewritten in a contemporary format I was wary, but only in the “Don’t fix what ain’t broke “ context. The Austen Project pairs six bestselling contemporary authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works: Sense & Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park.

Sense and Sensibility has been rewritten by Joanna Trollope and was released on October 2013; Northanger Abbey was rewritten by Val McDermind and was released on March 2014. Curtis Sittenfeld is working on Pride and Prejudice, which will be released in a few months and Alexander Mccall Smith is penning Emma. No news on the other two novels, as of yet. Hint, hint, I’m available.

Jane Austen is one of the most popular writers in the English language and if she wrote today she would be labelled under the chic-lit romance genre. Her books were published between 1811 and 1815 and have been widely read ever since. So should they be tampered with?

I have heard authors talk on this subject and many are of the opinion that it keeps the stories alive. I believe the only opinion that matters, is the authors, as it is their work. This is obviously difficult, as in this case, when the author is deceased. But a good story is a good story, and I can’t form a valid opinion until I’ve actually read one.

The reviews are generally good, and I’m thinking I will dip my toes in the water. I might start with Emma, when it is released, as it is one of my favourites and Alexander Mccall Smith is such a witty, Wildean (Oscar) writer, that I’m sure he’ll capture the Austen spirit to a hilarious tee. Or maybe I’ll start with Pride and Prejudice; I feel Curtis Sittenfeld is an excellent choice for this novel. Sittenfeld really knows how to get into the mind of a young adolescent girl with all her turmoil; she displayed this in Prep (loved this novel). But…. After reading J.K Rowling’s review of Northanger Abbey maybe I should start there.

 

‘Val McDermid’s brilliant re-working of Jane Austen’s original shows that innocent, bookish girls in thrall to the supernatural have changed surprisingly little in two centuries. Witty and shrewd, full of romance and skulduggery – I loved it.’
J.K. ROWLING

 

And…..

 

‘I picked up Northanger Abbey one evening and didn’t stop reading until I’d finished it. It’s an exquisitely realised tale of the uncertainty and brutality of teenage years told with the lightness of touch and humour that Val is famous for. Utter brilliance from McDermid’ SUSAN CALMAN

 

I’m going straight to The Book Depository to order my copy. Any suggestions, besides moi, for who should write Persuasion or Mansfield Park?

 

Digital Storytelling

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Today releasing a book is no simple path, there is a labyrinth of avenues one can take, and at the rate technology is evolving, there is no doubt, in ten years the publishing world will be very different from today. This was evident when I went to a talk on Digital Storytelling. This is a rapidly growing area, and Cordelia Funke, author of the “Inkheart” series, gave us an incredible insight into her developments into this field. She told, how out of frustrations with the 90min representations of her books in the movie world, she decided to develop an app called Mirrorworld .
Funke described it as a “Jumpstart to the imagination”. It starts with a mirror that you enter and you discover the Inkheart world. Funke describes the app as a “breathing book, it’s a visual travel guide to my world. If you want to see what a plant looks like you can see through illustrations, it’s accompanied by a soundtrack or you can listen to my voice telling the story”
This app was truly amazing, and the illustrations were beautiful. It’s retailing for 5.99 which some say is pricey for an app, but this is more than a visual book and it is cheaper than most books, by bestselling authors.You can have a look at the app through this link http://www.mirrorworldnovels.com/

The other guest, was Connor O’Brien the co-director of the Digital Writers’ Festival (digitalwritersfestival.com) He recently trialed a digital festival as part of  Melbourne’s Emerging Writers Festival.This was a huge success. People who can’t physically attend a festival, for reason varying from geographical, financial or disabilities, gained the most from the experience. The view expressed from attendees was that it was as good as being there in person, they felt present and embodied. This is obviously a growing field as I saw there is a digital Romance Writers festival on the 7th and 8th of June from Harper Impulse (Harper Collins Publishing). Have a look at the link for more details.http://www.romance-festival.com/
It was a very exciting talk and I wish I had a Tardis to see what the future world of publishing will really be like.

What do you think will happen?

Liebster Award

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Yay! How exciting to have Bookgirl nominated for a Liebster award. Another blogger describe it as a “Virtual Hug”; I like that.

I wish to thank fellow blogger http://ejmcgrorey.wordpress.com for nominating me. You are wonderful! It ‘s is so nice to have people say I’ve read and liked what you’ve written.

The Liebster award is a way to spread the word about new blogs you love, so I’ve joined the list and I hope to share with you some fantastic blogs and some random facts about moi!

The Rules

 

If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, write a blog post about the Liebster award in which you:

1. thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

2. display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)

3. answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.

4. provide 11 random facts about yourself.

5. nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)

6. create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.

7. list these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:

8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

 

The answers to the 11 question provided by 90,000 wordshttp://ejmcgrorey.wordpress.com/

  1. What are you hoping to achieve with your blog?

Meet, Entertain and Inform.

  1. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given on blogging/writing?

Perseverance

  1. What was the last concert you went to?

Robbie Williams with the added support of Duran Duran -bonus!

  1. What’s your biggest dream?

That I was Buffy, slaying evil vampires – oh, you mean that type of dream.

I’m at the Academy Awards giving my much rehearsed acceptance speech for best screenplay.

  1. What’s the best TV show you’re currently watching and why?

I still love The Amazing Race. I would love to go on that show.

Except if they have a gross eating challenge then I’d have to hand that over to my partner.

  1. Why do you write?

I have a strange compulsion where my hand has its own free will and makes lots of scribbles on pieces of paper; it’s a condition really. No piece of paper can be left blank.

  1. When was the last time you wrote a letter and who was it to?

Yesterday. It was to my son’s teacher. This alone keeps stationary makers in business.

  1. On the weekend, if you’re not writing, what are you usually doing?

This is allocated family time. I’m all theirs.

9. Coke or Pepsi?

Neither, they are both evil conglomerates haha.

10. If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go and why?

Harry Potter world, I have a few spells I’d like to cast.

11. How would you describe yourself in three words?

I am stubborn.

Next 11 Random facts: Hmmm if you go to my about page I’ve already shared 7 so therefore i owe  only 4.

1. My eyes are sometimes blue, sometimes green.

2. I find the reality shows “The Housewives of… ” a fascinating anthropological study.

3. I’m obsessed with the traffic report.

4.  I’m a girl who hates shoe shopping.

Five blog I nominate are:

http://forgottenmeadows.wordpress.com

I love this blog because she post beautiful poetry that brings sunshine to my day.

http://rhondablackhurst.com

I nominate this blog because her words come from the heart and i always appreciate what she has to say.

http://catamesbury.wordpress.com

Cat is a talented and generous writer and her posts are always a highlight of my week.

http://fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

Love FictionFans blog, excellent reviews with entertaining writing and pics as well.

http://lakmi.wordpress.com

I nominate Lakmi for her meaningful words, that are both touching and beautiful.

My eleven questions I ask these bloggers are:

1. Name the superhero power you would most like to possess.

2.Which author, alive or dead, would you like to meet?

3. What book was your favourite as a child?

4. Which book do you wish you wrote?

5. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

6. If you had to choose another occupation what would you be?

7. What’s your favourite genre?

8. What was the worst book to film conversion?

9. What was the best book to film conversion?

10. Why did you start blogging?

11. Have you enjoyed the blogging experience?

 

In Memory of Maya Angelou

I was saddened to hear the passing of one of my favourite poets today, Maya Angelou. In memory of her, I wish to share one of her poems that I love.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Maya Angelou

THE Agatha Christie Mystery

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This post is a little bit of fun. There are so many interesting author stories out there I thought I’d delve into the 11 day disappearance of crime novelist, Agatha Christie. For those of you haven’t heard this before I hope you find it as intriguing as I do and for those of you who have heard it then –sorry.

It was a cold December night in 1926 when Agatha Christie kissed her daughter goodnight and stated she was going for a drive in her Morris Cowley. The following morning the car was found abandoned, by a lake with the hood up, inside, were her fur coat and a small suitcase.

Mrs Christie’s disappearance became the hot topic around dinner tables, bus stops and even parliament. Theories where coming left and right, some pointed to foul play at the hands of her unfaithful husband others at publicity stunt. If it happened to a crime writer today I would definitely say publicity.

Her disappearance had fellow writers Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) and Dorothy L. Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey) on the hunt. Sir Conan Doyle even consulting a psychic. 15,00 volunteers and 500 police scoured the land, waterways and searched by air.

 

Mrs Christie was found 11 days later, at a spa Hotel in Harrogate, when a musician at the hotel recognized her. She had been staying there under an assumed name (more on this in a minute) since the day after her disappearance. This created more speculation as Mrs Christie claimed she had lost her memory. This may be the case, as she was under a lot of stress at the time. Her mother had recently died and her husband was leaving her for his mistress. Prior to the night of her disappearance Agatha had told friends that she was going to take a break in Yorkshire (which happens to be where the Hydropathic Hotel is located). On the night of her disappearance though Archie Christie (Agatha’s husband) had already left to go to a friend’s house to meet up with his mistress miss Nancy Neele. This is the curious part, the name Agatha used to check into the hotel was Teresa Neele.

Doctors diagnosed amnesia, but journalists (suspicious bunch they are) and police weren’t convinced. Mrs Christie had plenty of money on her person and it appears to be a highly unlikely coincidence that she would choose to register under her husband’s mistress’ last name.

Over the years expert have come forward claiming, evidence of a nervous breakdown and a stress induced condition known as “Fugue “ state (stress amnesia) in 1999 author Jared Cade interviewed Agatha’s brother- in –law who pronounced that Agatha created the hoax to spite her adulterous husband Archie.

Whatever the real reason she sure created a stir. The today the Hydropathic Hotel in Harrogate is known as The Old Swan and is now the fitting meeting place for the annual crime writing festival.

 

 

 

 

Book Cover Design 101

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Author: “Make my cover look like a bestseller”

Designer: “ No problem how’s this?”

If only it was that easy.

How do you choose a book? This question has been poised numerous times and the most common answer is “by its cover”. The cover design of a book has always had an important role in it’s marketing, and choosing the design is a complex process. With a growing number of authors self – publishing, understanding the psychology behind this choice is crucial.

Unfortunately in traditional publishing an author’s opinion isn’t always listened to, especially if the vision for their book does not match the publishers marketing strategy. There have been cases of authors leaving publishing houses due to disagreements on the cover art. This rang true to me recently when another blogger recommended the book Selection by Keira Cass; I had previously dismissed this series solely because the cover art projected an image that was ‘girly’ and ‘prissy’. I have now read the book and feel the cover has done the book an injustice.

In the traditional publishing world, there are whole departments devoted to cover design. The publishing houses give a brief to a designer, which usually stipulates that the design should articulate the contents of the book. You’d think this was obvious, but a book might be more suited to a more conceptual design.

A self- published author can be left in a quandary as in how to approach this subject. Authors can emulate the process that the publishing house use, but the main thing is to take time and consider carefully, what you want, as it is your brand.

Some suggestion to get you thinking:

 

  1. What is the image/feel you wish to project? E.g. A “Literary” novel cover is often understated, serious and elegant, withy heavy weighted paper and considered fonts.
  2. Decide on your budget. Can you afford to hire a graphic artist? If you have a large budget then Chip Kidd is the designer you want, probably no.1 in book cover designs at the moment. Have a look at his gallery www.chipkidd.com/gallery If you have a small budget approach some design schools and see if a students work catches your eye and negotiate with them.
  3. Look at current trends I personally do not like this. Remember when “Twilight” became a phenomenal success and every book following had a black cover with a single image.
  4. Do some market research, get a group of beta readers and have them read your book and give feed back on a selection of cover designs.
  5. Research psychology of colour and the emotions it creates.
  6. Research graphic/art techniques. For example the eye is drawn firstly to the top left hand corner of an image and then moves in a clockwise direction. This might affect your placement of images.
  7. Look up The Golden Mean/ Fibonacci Sequence used by artists for centuries. Many advertisers also use this technique.

 

If anyone has some suggestion on cover design please share.