Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Amazon ABNA feedback

So... I got my Amazon ABNA feedback

From what I can tell, the main problems were a) the subject matter, as the reviewer wasn't a sucker (LOL) for vampire fiction and b) the person only had three chapters and could consequently not "get into" my shifting POV structure that is made clearer once a person is about six chapters in. (A/B/C1/A/B/C2... and so on)

Granted, I'd been heavily influenced by GRRM at the time and he does this shifting structure with not four but about 20 viewpoint characters. GRRM I am not.

So... What to do?

I'm going to sit tight for a while and continue querying agents. Failing that I'll consider revising to drop the secondary characters (Arwen and Etienne) by making them non-viewpoint and less important. I'll change the setting to an adult market as well.

Thing is, I know I'm a good writer. **sigh**

But I just have to work extra hard now to attend to these bugs. At any rate, Camdeboo Nights was written after I completed my second novel, which I shoved under my bed.

See the Amazon review thing below:

* * * *

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

I was pleased to find out that this is not an exerpt trying to compete with the Twilight series. The writing in Chapter One featuring Trystan was very suspenseful and a nice surprise ending. I liked the description of the car and the building hunger of the vampire.

Chapter Two was surprising in that it did not pick up the story after Ch 1, and yet was still interesting and the characters were likeable. It also let me know that this particular geographic location was likely in England or other European country. I liked Helen and Damon and wanted to know more about them, and what happened to their mother.

What aspect needs the most work?

While it was acceptable to have Chapters 1 and 2 seemingly not related to each other, I got totally lost in Chapter 3. There was no explanation for what occured nor did the location fit the previous chapters description. I could not relate much to the characters and found the entire story a bit bizarre. I felt a bit of empathy for the characters that were being beaten, but felt more for the characters in Chapter 2.

I also did not know yet how the title applied to this excerpt, and I did not see yet how the 3 chapters tied it all together. The characters in Chapter 3 were a bit stereotypical in their descriptions and their language/voice.

There is also some editing needed to pick up on the duplicated words, etc.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

Overall, I think this novel has potential. I have no clue what the main plot of the story is, and I think there needs to be a bit less sterotyping of characters, and some explanation of what is going on, where it is all taking place and why the reader should keep reading. I didn't have a strong desire to find out what scared the vampire, and I had a mild interest in finding out what happened to the kid's mom in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 felt unnecessary to the story.

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The prose is really well done. Nice style, fluid motion, good descriptive sentences, believable dialogue. This is not my genre at all, but I was interested in what was happening all the way through.

What aspect needs the most work?

There are some writing mistakes but a good edit and that would be cleared up. Example....Trystan gunned the engine and Rose
responded. He gave her fuel gradually,
allowing her to pick up speed without her bulk
jerking.(how can one "gun" an engine, but yet give speed gently?) This is fairly minor so don't worry too much.

I was confused what kind of school the last chapter took place in? Was this an unotherly realm school or was it a regular high school that Arwen and Etienne were attending. I was hoping it would say, but I never could figure that out. Might need to get that in earlier so the reader doesn't wonder the whole time.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

Overall this is not my type of read. I don't like supernatural vampire books. However, I can see many people sucking this right up(pun intented) and enjoying the creepiness and surreal moments.

Good job and I can see this book doing well in the marketplace. Best of luck.

The lower rating on plot hook only indicates my lack of enjoyment in this kind of fodder. I wouldn't read on as I am already pysched out. LOL

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Athol Fugard's The Train Driver

It's really embarrassing to admit this, but the last time I went to see a stage production was when I was still in high school, which was more than a decade ago. What's equally sad is that South Africa has a rich literary heritage, of which I'm missing a vital component because I've been too lazy to go to the theatre.

I've been suffering from ennui for the past few months. To put it mildly, movies bore me. I don't even bother watching telly and, in fact, we don't own an infernal box. When I do see programming on telly, the presenters annoy me. I feel like they're talking down to me as if I'm five years old and have the IQ of a carrot.

What I like about books and what I've come to really appreciate about theatre is that as a reader or viewer, I am not furnished with all the details. When reading or watching plays, I have to make a greater effort to suspend disbelief and there's that magic moment when the words on the page cease to be words but become sensual input my mind interprets. With plays there are some visual and aural stimulus, but as a member of the audience, I have to put in so much more effort to forget that I'm watching actors on stage. Books and plays make a greater impact on my intellect than most films.

Now, to get to Athol Fugard. I first encountered his work during high school, when during Standard 8 (Grade 10) we studied The Road to Mecca, Fugard's dramatisation about the life of outsider artist Helen Martins. We also watched the movie based on Fugard's play starring Kathy Bates, and I was, even as a nasty little teen, blown away by the scope of his work and the way I engaged with his characters.

A good decade and a bit later, a good friend of ours told us about a new theatre in the Cape Town CBD... The Fugard Theatre, in Caledon Street.

If you're in Cape Town, I totally recommend making an effort to rather support our local actors than some of the schlock released by Hollywood. The building itself is one of the city's historical gems and, for many years the space was just used as a warehouse. The present owners have maintained that sense of old but have renovated beautifully, with an almost rustic feel. And as far as small theatres go, this one is pretty darn big without losing that precious sense of intimacy.

I am so going back.

Fugard's latest play, The Train Driver worked for me from the start. Using only two characters, traumatised train driver Rudolf Visagie (Sean Taylor) and gravedigger Simon Hanabe (Owen Sejake), Fugard effortlessly presents two men who encapsulate the cultural differences present in contemporary South Africa.

“This may be the most important one I’ve ever written as far as I’m concerned for personal reasons,” says Athol.

I agree that this is a very important work, especially for those who are curious about post-apartheid South Africa. This is a harrowing story but when I walked out of the theatre I felt somehow recharged, that even in some of the darkest emotions present in our beautiful land, something precious can be found and carried out into the world to transform the people who take the message to heart.

This play is a powerful commentary on society and, if you ever have the opportunity to see this on stage, go see it. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Breathing new life into old words

Sometimes an author reaches the point in their career when they look back at their older titles and think to themselves, “Darn, I could have done that better.” And, sometimes, an author will have an opportunity to do just that, as Jordana Ryan tells us how she’s gone about this and some of her experiences.

How do you identify a novel that you'd like to rewrite?

When I write “the end” on a novel, I’m usually happy with what I’ve written and I don’t revisit it. However, there are times reviews will come in, or a reader will say something to me, and I will think, yeah I could have done that differently, or I should have done that better than I did. Of course, if the book is in publication at that point, there is not a whole lot I can do about that until or unless the book has run its course with a particular publisher, the publisher closes, or I’m willing to ask for my rights back to the book.

How do you advise an author about getting their rights back for a novel from a publisher?

Asking for your rights back is a relatively simple thing. In your contract, there is a clause that will tell you how to go about it. There is usually a waiting period of 30 to 90 days. Simply look at your contract to tell you how long you have to wait and what kind of notice your publisher needs. Is an email enough, or would certified mail be better? I personally recommend both. There are a lot of considerations in this. If a book is selling well with a publisher I would not recommend pulling a book simply because you wish to rewrite it. If the book is not selling, that is a different story. If you have found another publisher you like better, I also would not recommend pulling a book. You can write another book for the publisher. There are very few reasons I’d recommend breaking contract. But the actual approach to it is simple.

Once you’ve decided to do so, and you’ve really taken the time to think it over, simply look at your contract and find out what you need to do, certified letter or email, what the waiting period is, then write to the publisher very respectfully telling them that you have decided you no longer wish to be under contract with them. Tell them that you understand there is a waiting period of so long, and that once that period expires you wish them to remove your books from their site as well as any other venue from which they had placed your material for sale. Also, you would like it in writing that the rights for all material you had published with them have reverted to you and the date in which this has occurred. This will be important for re-publication of the material at a later date.

How do you approach a rewrite for a novel?

Rewriting a novel can be a very daunting task to say the least. You have an entire novel that you’ve written and has been published and for sale to the public. The key to it is deciding what needs to change and why. The book was obviously good on some level because it was published in the first place, but as the author I’m approaching it in terms of knowing there are things I want to be better. I know I’ve learned a lot since then, and there are many things that I wish I had done differently.

So, because I know the story so well, I have in my head the things I know will change and the things that won’t. I think the approach is to leave the characters essentially the same, but to enhance what was already written to make it more than what it was, to make it deeper and more meaningful. The thing about it is, the book is very close to my heart because it was my first. As a writer I have changed, and to see that book evolve and become closer to the writer I am now would really be a phenomenal thing. Bearing that in mind, I want to approach this as not changing the story, but changing the dynamic of it to suit the style of writer I have now become.

What are some of the dangers inherent to revising a novel?

The biggest one is that the book has a fan base. I know when I told a few people I was going to rewrite it they were like “Nooo I love that book.” There is always a danger of people saying, it’s just not the same. You’ve got to be careful of people saying that you changed too much. And it’s true, you don’t want to change too much of the story because then you change the basis of who the characters are. I think my readers will be surprised that I can change a lot but still have the same basis, because a lot of my style change has been to go into an even deeper point of view.

While emotion has always been my strong point, deep point of view has been something I’ve been working on, and it was one of the number one critics’ complaints with this book, so in rewriting it has been something I’ve been working on. But a danger would definitely be not to make the book so different it’s unrecognizable. A second danger certainly is that it’s not going to sell as well. The book has already been published, and it’s had its heyday so to speak. Audiences usually don’t buy a book twice, and revising it doesn’t mean those who already bought it are going to go out and buy it again just to see how I’ve changed it. Of course, I’m running a risk. However, knowing it wasn’t in the right market, and doing the revisions, I’m also taking a chance I can get it with a publisher that has a good market for the type of book that it is and the sales will increase. So it’s a chance an author takes.

Is it difficult to sell a revised novel to another publisher?

It can be. It’s easier to say this book has had significant revisions and rewrites done since publication, and here is the paper from my former publisher that says I have my rights back, than it is to hand a book over that has not been touched and comes immediately from another publisher. At least that would be my opinion of the situation.

What would you say are the advantages/disadvantages of revisions and republishing?

I think any time you revise and republish something, you will have curiosity seekers. Those who will buy the book to see what you have changed. You will also have those who have already bought the book and don’t feel the need to buy it again. So you might have a few takers just out of curiosity, but you also have a whole audience of people who might have bought the book, that now won’t because they have already done so. But then, to get it with the right publisher and see the book as I imagine it… It’s worth that risk because I might be gaining a whole new audience the book never would have had if I had not done this.

Keep up to speed with Jordana at her blog, or visit her website at