Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Grammatical Loopholes to Avoid

There are some structures which are perfectly legal, grammatically speaking. You could argue they make perfect sense. However, the reader may think otherwise, and no amount of reasoning will make them budge. Better to avoid them:

That’s that. That that. I love him so, so don’t get angry. – Repetition of words can still make sense, but it wins no awards for smooth writing.

The seam seemed to be – It doesn’t matter if they’re spelled differently, either.

I’m going to go get green grasshoppers gracefully – you get the point. Alliteration can be beautiful, poetic, interesting or humorous. It can also be a right pain to read. Your inner voice also gets tongue-twisted as the same processes are involved in both reading in your head and out loud.

The old man the boats. – This makes sense. Eventually. Reduced relatives are nearly always better when the appropriate ‘that’ or ‘which’ is added. These are hard to spot.

Stand before it. – Before it did what? Oh, stand before it like in front...The dominant structure uses a verb at the end, which is why this phrase can feel unfinished. It’s perfectly legal, but will trip up 50% of your readers. Worth it? Probably not.

Taking turns at random. – Having goes or literally turning left and right? Watch out for phrases with two meanings. The dominant meaning tends to win out, regardless of context (researched by my psycholinguistic project tutor at uni).

He was beginning to be hit by the butcher - Passive tense, often marked by the ‘to be’ verb, sound better written actively: The butcher hit him, okay? Click here to read more about when and when not to use passive tense.

Running back, he stumbled around, changing direction and using too many ‘ing’ verbs in a row – Try to make sentences where there’s an ‘ing’ clause only have one ‘ing’. Remember, if whilst running back they’re stumbling, then they’re not changing direction in that moment anyway. Needs a new sentence.

Hope these don't sound too familiar. The fix is easy: write around it. There's more than one way to phrase a cat, or something like that...

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Author Interview: N.M. Mac Athur

Author of The Price of Prophecy is here to tell us a little more about herself and her inspiration. Click here to find out more about the novel and where you can buy it.


How long have you had the idea for?

I’ve been wanting to do something with fairy tales for a pretty long time now—I’d say about four or five years if I had to guess. This specific idea I stared thinking about three years ago.

What inspired you to write it?

I love fantasy and folk tales, I always have. The classics really inspired me: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, The Snow Queen, etc. I was interested in twisting those fairy tales and giving those classic characters more depth, but I really didn’t know how to do it. Then I read Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. He combined fantasy with reality in a way that I really enjoyed and twisted the Greek myths in a way that was both fresh and familiar. That got me going. I finished reading the whole series and began to write Destined almost immediately after.

What is your favourite part of the book (without spoilers!)?

That’s got to be the climax (around chapter 30 and beyond). It was so much fun to write, and I definitely poured the most emotion into that part of the book. Even the people who’ve read the book tell me that the “30” chapters were the most gripping.

Who is your favourite character?

My favourite favourite characters come later on in the series, but for this book, I think my favourite character (besides Destan) is Wilhelm Grimm. He’s comic relief and breaks up a lot of the seriousness in the story. He’s a blast to write for because he’s got a very vivid imagination, like me.

As it stands, how many books do you think will be in the series?

There will be six books in the series. I’ve finished the rough drafts for 2-5 and I’m working on the sixth and final book right now.

And what about the rest of the series? Any hints to where Destan is heading?

I won’t go into too much detail, but I will tell you that Destan won’t be restricted to Grimm and Andersen’s fairy tales. He’ll be subjected to myths, legends, and even of few stories from classic literature. He’s not going to be restricted to Germany either. Destan definitely has some traveling in his future.

I think half the fun of this series is all the historical and fictional characters that Destan meets during his adventures—some of them are pretty difficult to figure out at first glance, so you’ve really got to play close attention to the little details.

The book is centred around fairytales – which is your favourite?
The Snow Queen. Definitely The Snow Queen. That’s been my favourite fairy tale since I was a little girl and it will always have a special place in my heart.

When did you start writing / first knew you wanted to be an author?

I’ve been writing since primary school—I even won an award for writing a play when I was about ten or so. I had always liked to do creative things, but the idea of being an author didn’t really appeal to me until I was about eighteen. That’s when I really began to write.

What is your favourite book?

That’s a really difficult question. I’ve read lots of books that I’ve come to adore (Peter Pan, The Book of Lost Things, Treasure Island), but I have to say that my hands-down favourite is 20,000 Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne—I’m a sucker for the classics.

Do you have any other passions in life?

I only have two passions: reading and writing. That is what I spend my days doing and I love it—I couldn’t imagine doing anything more fulfilling. As I have told many of my friends and family, reading and writing are my “great loves”.

What are you future writing plans? Are there any other series or one off books you have planned?

Right now, I have one more series planned out—it will be a sci-fi/adventure series, and my homage to superheroes. I also plan on writing a Prince of Prophecy spin-off book about one of the characters you’ll meet in the second novel, The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed. I think that book will be a series of short stories as opposed to a full blown novel. I have a few ideas written down for future books and series, but I haven’t delved too deeply into those yet—I’ve got enough on my plate as it is.


Support this self-published book today! It really is a fantastic read, one that will remind you of your childhood whilst putting a fresh new spin on traditional tales.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Ten Signs of a Beginner Writer

We all have to start somewhere. The problem is that a lot of us tend to start in the same place, especially when we're young. If you’re new to writing or have an old piece you’re thinking of reworking, take a look at this list and see what you can avoid:

1) That bedroom scene. Alarm clocks, reflection described in a mirror, possibly a text, and nearly always a girl. Half the time it's followed by a breakfast scene... Maybe start where the story starts?

2) Character descriptions are limited to hair and eyes, hair and eyes.

3) The narrative sounds more like a peppy teenager talking to you rather than structured writing conveying character. It can be hard to find the line between a colloquial narrative and writing a transcript, but writing and speech are two separate skills.

4) Too many adjectives and adverbs. The red car went down the bumpy road and hit a defenceless cat.

5) The only senses described are visual. What about smell and taste, hearing and texture?

6) Time flies by within a sentence, constantly. One paragraph is at a friend’s house, and now we’re at the cinema. School the next day is also next paragraph... Quick transitions are good but jumping around is disorientating.

7) Nothing really happens in chapter one. Chapter one was just to introduce Stacy, the lovable character. What’s the book about? You’ll have to read on.

8) Homophones. Bad punctuation. Typos. There is so much to learn, and thus so many errors. Once you learn it, go back and fix these!

9) Repetitive sentence structure. Stacy went to the shops. Stacy was hungry. Stacy can get lost.

10) A fresh idea. Okay, so the first chapter needs redrafting and there are still writing skills to be learned, but there’s a fantastic new idea in that novel just waiting for the writer to blossom.

Feel free to add in more below!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined

If you love fairy tales, then there’s a brand new book series that you won’t want to miss. The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined by N.M. Mac Arthur is now available as an e-book, and will soon be in book form for all you paper lovers. 

As one of the editors working with the author to prepare it for publication, I can personally say she worked damn hard on this! There are no limits to her imagination, and the countless fairy tale references being turned on their heads should put a smile on your face. While it is aimed at young adults, there’s a certain quality to it which makes it both timeless and relatable to those still young at heart. I could not recommend this more:

Thirteen-year-old Prince Destan Von Diederich does not want to be king. In fact, he’s terrified of the idea. Though, being that he’s the last remaining descendant of the Von Diederich family line, it’s not like he has much of a choice. All he wants is a bit of freedom and maybe even a little adventure. However, Destan soon finds out that with adventure comes risk.

Between dodging his cruel cousin, searching for rings of power, being bothered by pesky authors, and helping a mysterious queen, Destan realizes that being a hero isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

In his quest to find the pluck to take on his impending duties and adversaries, he is swept away into a world filled with magic and fairy tales—things he thought only existed in books.

Will he find the courage he so desires, or will he remain valour-less, losing everything—including himself—in its pursuit.

Currently available as an e-book from these sellers: Barns and Noble, Amazon, Smashwords, and google play store. It can also be found in the iBookstore for apple products. If you prefer paperback and hardback, then they [are out now]!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Of Course There's a Comma

Here’s a quick tip to remember when phrases like 'of course' need a comma. Usually the wording will hint, but sometimes you can control what you are saying through punctuation alone. 

Of course, I could only guess if there’s a comma.

Of course I could only guess if there’s a comma! 

I’ve added an exclamation mark to emphasise the difference although you don’t necessarily need it. The first can be commonly found when musing, and demonstrates a side thought or an extra consideration. It’s found when you’re discussing issues or considering pros and cons. ‘Of course’ is used to break up this point from the last few. The second is more like ‘I told you so’ or ‘what did you expect’, an exclamatory phrase which is more commonly found in dialogue.

It’s not just ‘of course’ it applies to. It applied to ‘so’ and ‘sorry’ and many other similar sentence starters. If you’re unsure about a comma, just think about how it’s said.