The Top Ten Facebook Crimes – Chapter Five

facebook userBook Number Three, Chapter Five

Chapter One – An Unexpected Start to a Sunday Morning

Chapter Two – Sleeping on Your Front

Chapter Three – Destination Obal B

Chapter Four – Half a Hot Dog in a Handbag

 

Sunday morning into the afternoon, somewhere in the city.

I appear to have turned into a Facebook bore.

I know, Facebook. Like, who would bother when you’ve got Twitter, and Instagram? I just used to go on it for the occasional nose, and maybe once or twice I posted a pic of me and various other people getting drunk, or one of Corky the cat doing his cute-sy stuff. I maybe posted something once or twice a month.

I never posted up inspirational quotes about love, friendship and/or fitness, or a bet that 97 percent of my friends would never share this earnest quote about cancer, or reply to a post with one word, and preferably a word that was flattering, that described me.

But now? Now I seem to do all the above. And yet at the same time, I have ten times the number of friends on Facebook I used to have and people keep sharing my shite. Those inspirational quotes seem to be very popular indeed, and my Facebook friends appear to love all those sickly pictures and videos of cute kids I keep posting.

And not one person has made a sarcastic comment about this: Celebrating our 20th year of marriage. Can’t believe we’ve been together and so happy for so long. Love you so much baby. You’re the best which was posted a week ago.

20th year? Well, that ties in with the dodgy wedding pic on the landing I guess. Continue reading

More Adventures on Wattpad

editingIf I’d hoped to discover a whole new set of fans on Wattpad frothing for my every update, I was sadly mistaken…

Ah well! My experiences on the online storytelling community site were interesting nonetheless. My few readers – we’re talking single figures here – appear to be loyal. You can look at engagement on Wattpad, seeing how much of a chapter gets read. Those dear readers of mine read all my chapters in the main so at least I’m doing something right

I uploaded other stories and they still read on. They read everything quickly too.

As an experiment and because vampire stuff is popular on Wattpad, I thought I’d do a vampire story, Unnatural Appetites. I’m uploading it live, so to speak. I post up chapters when I do them. To do that, I needed to write a detailed synopsis first plotting out the first, second and third act. That was a useful exercise. I’ve done synopsis (synopsii?) before, but not this way. I change it as I go along. Most writers are familiar with a situation or character that seemingly pops up from nowhere when you are writing.

What am I doing wrong? I haven’t bothered following anyone else, apart from the people who follow me. Actively going after followers would help increase my readers. It’s the universal law of social media politeness. You follow me, I follow you back.

[Unless I’m on Twitter and you’re one of those self-publishing marketing companies. Or my nutter radar starts vibrating.]

One person did contact me to tell me she loved my writing and couldn’t believe I had so few followers. Some years ago, a writer friend of mine (Gordon Lawrie: Four Old Geezers and a Valkyrie) you really cherish those comments and it’s gratifying when people make an effort to tell you they enjoy what you write. Too true!

It’s early days. I have the patience of a vampire starved of blood for five days let loose in a shopping mall the day before Christmas. (Thought I’d better use a vampire metaphor there to tie in with Unnatural Appetites.) I need to stop myself logging onto Wattpad more than once a day to see what my figures are. Yes, I know. Lame.

Anyway, who knows what might happen? The Wattpad community might discover a liking for plus-size vampire X-certified romance – I went deep niche – or they might start commenting on my other stuff, helping put it up the Wattpad ranking system.

As others have commented here, I might look at Write On instead. Writers have found this more useful, as the feedback can be thoughtful and constructive. I’ll keep you updated.

 

 

Storyworks Monthly Issue One: A Review

Storyworks Monthly #1Storyworks Monthly #1 by Stephen J Carter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Storyworks Monthly is an ambitious work. The author states at the outset that he wants to offer a cross-section of his writing, fiction and non-fiction, in multiple genres and story lengths. He’s modelled it on Smith’s Monthly and notes with amazement (as do I) that pulp fiction writers often produced upwards of one million words a year.
Storyworks Monthly is a collection of well-written and well-crafted short stories, novellas and the first part of a science fiction novel. The novella, Ship of Remnants, was far and away my favourite. The pacing was superb and I hope the author takes this story further, developing it into a full-length novel. There’s plenty of scope for that. There was also story about a retired Roman general that I enjoyed. Again, I felt this was a story and a character I wanted to know more about.
Stephen concludes with advice about writing, which is very useful for the aspiring novelist. He concentrates on how to structure a plot, starting with what you do at the beginning and taking popular films as his examples.
All and all an interesting and informative read.
Please note: I received a review copy.

View all my reviews

Wattpad – Advice for Writers

wattpadDo any of you use Wattpad? Wattpad, if you’re not familiar with it, is an online storytelling community where people post stories, articles, fan fiction and more.

You create an account and upload stories via the website or the app. Wattpad has 16.9 million unique visitors every month and an average of 30 minutes spent reading. It’s an interesting experience for an author because Wattpad breaks down the information for you. The site will tell you how many reads you get and, crucially, the percentage of a chapter that is read.

Bracing stuff!

Wattpad success stories include Lily Carmine, whose book The Lost Boys clocked up an impressive 33 million reads. She eventually landed a deal with Random House UK thanks to an editor who’d read her book on Wattpad.

Standoutbooks offers the following advice for authors wanting to publish on Wattpad:

Upload a whole book, not a half-written one. If you get engagement, it’s best to make the most of it. You can’t upload chapters regularly if they’re not yet written.

Be prepared to give your book away for free. If there are only one or two chapters uploaded, this will irritate readers.

Remember it’s social media. Respond to comments. Follow other people. Use the comments to send messages to your readers, telling them of other books to come and suchlike.

Be aware of the audience. Most Wattpad users are teenagers and 20-somethings. The genres that do best on Wattpad are science fiction, young adult and fantasy.

I began to upload a story recently, uploading a chapter or two a day. My readership is very small, but it’s loyal. Unknown American readers are reading the book. They read every chapter, which is gratifying. I feel duty-bound to keep posting because they’ve done so. I plan to upload a YA/fantasy novel next, seeing as those genres seem to be the most successful.

Artists Town

kbtI’m trying a brand new project – Artists Town. If you’re about to read this, be warned: it contains swear words.

“It’s called the Artists’ Town.”

He used his special voice, the “family, listen carefully; I’m going to tell you interesting information” tone.

Daisy wondered how her mother put up with it. She’d only had to endure it for the last ten years (if you didn’t count ages 0-5 when presumably she didn’t take account of such things). Mum, on the other hand, must have listened to him drone on for the last 17 years.

Urgh.

She glanced out of the car window. The scenery hadn’t improved. Trees, fields, grass, water. Times 20. It had looked the same for the last two hours. Where were the Golden Arches, the glass-fronted towers, the railway tracks and the mass of traffic that made up her usual familiar and comforting views?

Toby, luckily for him, had fallen asleep at Carlisle. His head lolled, sometimes to the side, sometimes falling onto her shoulder. When it did that, she shrugged it off as quickly as possible.

Mum turned in her seat now, her expression concerned and probing. She hated that.

“Daisy, do you want to do a blood test love? We haven’t done one since this morning.”

We? What’s this we thing – I don’t see you stabbing your finger to get it to bleed.

“I’m fine,” she did her best to make her voice sound neutral. Too aggressive and her mum would insist she test, convinced she knew better than her daughter. Too flat, the same thing.

You couldn’t bloody win when it came to sodding blood tests. Forgive the over statement. Bloody was the most appropriate adverb.

The car had stopped outside a terraced house, its exterior displaying a sign; Vacancies. Enquire within.

“Inquire.”

“What’s that love?”

They had all exited the car, Toby shaken grumpily awake. They stood in the street, the four of them, looking up at the sign: Braemar Quality B&B.

Vacancies. Enquire within.

Quality was an optimistic description, Daisy reckoned. The place was tiny – the windows meanly small and draped with dirty looking lace curtains. One curtain twitched now and the front door (red paint, flaking) swung open.

“Aye?”

The woman crossed her arms.

“Mrs Burnett?” Her dad embarrassed her all the time. Now he was doing it again. He said Mrs Burnett like… Oooh, Missis Burrrnettt. The woman looked scornfully at him throughout.

“That’s me.” She stamped her feet on the mat, wiping them back and forth several times.

“We’re the Williamsons. We’re booked in for two nights?”

“C’mon in. You’re early.”

Daisy’s dad turned to face them and smiled widely, encouragingly. He followed Mrs Burnett into her B&B and everyone else traipsed upstairs, Mrs Burnett droning on about when they could expect breakfast and what it comprised of.

“I will do you a Scottish cooked breakfast. If you ask the night before. One sausage, one rasher of bacon, one egg, beans and toast. Otherwise, cereal and fruit.”

Daisy grimaced and then stopped abruptly. A teenage girl lounged against the wall in the hallway, her expression louche.

“Enquire/inquire?” She grinned. “You fucking snotty wee cow.”

Daisy, insulated from her own rudeness most of the time, grinned back.

“Are you the cool girl round here?”

The cool girl smirked, her mouth moving up, stopping and then tilting upwards once more.

“No.”

She leaned forward, the movement enabling her to whisper in Daisy’s ear. “You cannae be cool here. This place is a dump.”

Daisy wondered if she meant Braemar Quality B&B or the town itself.

Personally, Daisy thought “dump” could apply equally to both. The Quality B&B was no more impressive inside than it was out. It smelled of burnt toast and the hall carpet had dirty foot marks on it. Someone hadn’t wiped their feet properly. There were also lots of pictures of Scottie dogs, their cheeriness in complete contrast to their host.

And the town? Well, she’d only seen a bit of so far and none of it included a cinema, clothes shops or a McDonalds.

Cool girl said she wasn’t cool, but Daisy had an instinct for the cool girls. Mainly because she wasn’t one. How could she be – her mother hovering anxiously over her all the time? And being dragged along on family holidays at her age. Daisy wasn’t one of her school’s in-crowd.

She longed to be.

“What’s your name?”

Cool girl was back leaning against the wall, arms folded.

“What’s it tae you, posh girl?”

See, this is what cool girls did. Daisy answered questions straight, imbuing a questioner with automatic authority. And being called posh. That was the biggest insult, wasn’t it? Cool was never, ever posh.

Greatly daring, she gave cool girl the bird, pushing down on her forefinger hard to emphasise the gesture.

Cool girl grinned again.

“Katrina. Ma friends call me Kit-Kat. You can call me Katrina. And you? Lady something? Bo-peep?”

“Daisy. My friends call me Daisy. You can call me Your Royal Highness.”

Katrina laughed – the noise deep and dirty.

Mrs Burnett had reappeared at the top of the landing, her three guests peering over the banister at Katrina and Daisy.

“Kitty,” she said sharply. “You’ve no’ finished tidying up the back bedroom.”

The girl looked up and then back at Daisy, who raised her eyebrows.

“Lovely to meet you, Kitty,” emphasis on the word ‘Kitty’, the person in question responding with something only Daisy could see, a flip of the bird too,

She started up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Watching her go, Daisy admired her thin legs. She wore a printed dress, much shorter than Daisy would ever dare.

As Katrina/Kitty reached the landing, the old woman startled Daisy by ruffling the girl’s hair. “Hurry up, aye? And then you can go out.”

“Alright gran,” she responded.

So… Daisy liked building up stocks of information on people. To date – rude teenage girl, knows about inquire/enquire, name Katrina (likely), known as Kit-Kat (in her dreams), called Kitty by everyone (yup), helps at the B&B, the B&B owner is her granny.

“Come on up, Daisy!” Mum did her best not to make it sound like an order. “We’d better get all your stuff unpacked.”

Mrs Burnett looked at her first and then back at her mum. Daisy read her mind – what stuff? She’s only got a backpack on.

She contemplated flinging the rucksack up with the instruction: you unpack it then.

Best not to.

Upstairs, the décor was terrible. There were yet more Scottie dog pictures on the walls of the room she’d been allocated and several creepy china dogs on the mantelpiece above the fireplace. The wall paper print was enough to give her a headache and it clashed with the curtains and the carpet.

And, she was sharing with Toby, who’d already bagged the bed next to the window.

On the other hand, it was bigger than her room back home and it was right next to the B&B’s bathroom. Daisy usually needed to get up once or twice during the night to go to the loo. At home, this meant traipsing all the way downstairs.

Mum opened the door now. “Right, we’d better get lunch. We’re a bit later than usual. Are you okay?”

Daisy gave her the same “I’m fine” reply she’d delivered earlier – careful to avoid aggression or lethargy in her tone.

Downstairs, Dad was already telling Mrs Burnett how much he liked what he’d seen of the town so far. She looked bored.

“Mrs Burnett?” Her mum sounded anxious. “Is there somewhere near here we can get something to eat?”

Mrs Burnett glanced at the watch on her wrist and sighed.

“Aye, well you’re a wee bit late for most places. They stop serving at 2 o’clock. Try the Gordon Arms and if no’, the chippie might still be open.”

She looked offended when Daisy’s mum grimaced at the mention of the chippie.

“Well,” Daisy’s dad clapped his hands together decisively. “I’m sure we’ll find something. Thanks so much for all your help Mrs Burnett.”

Mrs Burnett was back to staring at him scornfully. Even she knew the help she had offered so far had been shit.

“Well, see you later,” she opened the front door wide and shooed them out.

As they spilled out on the street, Daisy’s dad remembered to shout back – “Where is the Gordon Arms, Mrs Burnett?”

But the door had closed. They were obviously expected to find their own way there.

 

©Emma Baird 2016

 

Picture thanks to Artists Town.

 

The Proper Way to Squat

I’ve been writing about blokes again. See what you think…

Squat like a boss... or just like a Sumo wrestler.

Squat like a boss… or just like a Sumo wrestler*.

“Dinnae round your back like that when you squat Mrs A,” Nate Walker said the words automatically. He wasn’t paying his client full attention, mulling over what he needed to do to take his personal training business in a new direction.

“You’re still rounding, Mrs A.”

Mrs A, attempting to squat while holding onto a not insubstantial kettle bell, grimaced at him. “The weight you’ve given me is too heavy,” she panted. “That’s why my form’s gone out the window.”

Ah well, perhaps he really ought to concentrate on the woman who was paying him a hefty hourly fee. He folded his arms and shook his head. “C’mon. You can lift that nae bother. You managed it fine before Christmas.”

Mrs A – or Elizabeth Armstrong to give the woman her proper title – executed another poor form squat and put the kettle bell down. They were exercising in Nate’s Giffnock studio – the space he had just above the hairdressers in the high street. It wasn’t a massive amount of room, but then fitness didn’t need it as far as Nate was concerned. It only required imagination and judicious use of the space and equipment you had at hand.

His studio featured a sprung floor, a couple of treadmills, a rowing machine, a weights rack stacked with dumbbells, Swiss and bosu balls, and TRX suspension training bands. Ideally, he’d have liked a vibration plate as the fast vibrations intensified any exercise the user did on it, but with everything he had already, he could create inventive and effective routines.

From the way Mrs A was scowling at him now, she’d definitely agree that a lack of space didn’t mean that you got an easy time at his studio.

He supposed he’d better ask after her Christmas. She was his longest-standing client after all, and he remembered that she’d told him her husband Ronnie was planning to whisk her away somewhere for New Year.

“Did you get away for Hogmanay then?” he asked. Mrs A was married to one of the wealthiest men in Glasgow. Ronnie Armstrong owned property, as well as the majority shares in a huge building firm that had somehow come through the recession unscathed. The two of them enjoyed a lavish lifestyle that included a huge house nearby, regular trips abroad, race horse ownership, large cars, boats and all the other trappings of the wealthy. Nate supposed he was one of those other trappings. Mrs A was part of the rich Glasgow set who were on the boards or fundraising committees of various charities. Such membership meant lunches, dinners, balls and fashion shows where you booked a table and then spent the night bidding outrageous sums of money on tat such as signed Old Firm football shirts – or a block of sessions with the likes of Nate. Mrs A liked to be able to squeeze into her size 10 dresses for those events.

Relieved that he didn’t seem inclined to make her do any more torturous squats, she nodded. “Yes we did, and Christmas! We went ski-ing. Bloody marvellous. The McCluskeys joined us, and Avril and her husband of course.”

She said “Avril” casually, but Nate wasn’t fooled. Mrs A was a ferocious name-dropper. Avril was Avril Taylor, beloved daughter of Glasgow and now successful film actor married to an equally well-known Hollywood star.

“Avril’s going to be in town for a while actually,” Mrs A continued, watching him carefully. “She starts filming in this country in the next few months, would you believe. I s’pose she’ll need to get in shape for that.”

He knew what she was up to. She wanted him to beg, or be suitably grateful. “Oh god Mrs A – could you get me an introduction to her? Could you do that for me, please? Oh that would be so good.” Continue reading

The Story of Her Name – an Author Unmasked

Layout 1Here’s a thought… Let’s say you publish a book that becomes a best-seller – if only! – selling in its millions and bringing you in plenty of money. Would that be enough, or would you also want the world to know who you were?

Elena Ferrrante, the Italian author of the Neopolitan novels, didn’t want people to know who she was. For those of you who haven’t heard of them, the Neopolitan novels are a series of four books, My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay and The Story of a Lost Child. They were widely assumed to be at least semi auto-biographical, and beloved of book groups up and down the country.

Elena Ferrante herself remained a mystery. She had kept her identity secret since the publication of her first novel in 1992.

And then along came journalist Claudio Gatti, who searched for financial records related to real estate and royalty payments. He published an article this month, which drew the conclusion that the real author was a woman in Rome.

Writing in Stylist magazine this week, the fabulous Lucy Mangan said Ferrante had stated numerous times that she writes under a pseudonym so that her books could be read for themselves, and so her time and creative energy isn’t depleted through publicity activities.

Gatti’s reasoning was that her success made the search for her identity “virtually inevitable”.

In her piece for Stylist, Mangan asked: “‘Why did Claudio feel Ferrante owed him more than her books? Is unmasking someone (non-criminal) any kind of public good or a violation of privacy or consent? Why might a man feel able to go against a female author’s wishes on the very weakest of pretexts? Who did he feel she was hurting? Was it only his perceived right to know everything? When’s he going to dox Thomas Pynchon or A.N. Other reclusive male author?

“Discuss, animatedly, with reference to female agency, male entitlement and self-serving boll**cks.”

Hear, hear!

An Alternative Argument – Friday Flash Fiction

junkieIt’s been a while since I’ve written any flash fiction but this piece came to me when I was in the supermarket the other week. (Supermarkets – as you wander the aisles, your mind soars freely.)

An Alternative Argument

“You look alright for a junkie…”

Over the years, many people tried to persuade Chris to give up. They used a variety of arguments – ones that cited what it did to his health (his demise the ultimate threat), to the impact it had on his finances.

Nothing worked.

She regarded him scientifically. “Those cheek bones are something else. And your eyes look haunted… that vulnerability makes you sexy.”

She stroked his cheek, regretfully. “You’d be devastating if you were in peak health.”

As she got up to leave, he felt his stomach lurch. “Please stay.”

No response.

This time, maybe.

Beta Readers – How To Give Specific Instructions

person-readingEver asked someone to read your book as a beta reader? I’d never heard the term up until a few years ago. It has been adapted from the software industry and, according to Wikipedia, the definition is a “non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting”.

The beta reader generally reads a story before it’s unleashed on the public.

Most writers, I reckon, aren’t looking for improvements on grammar and spelling – that’s for a professional proof-reader to do – but feedback that tells them if a story works or not. And if they can suggest ways that the story might be improved, that’s even better.

Anyway, recently I was asked to read a book for an acquaintance, Eric J. Smith, author of Not a Bad Ride: Stories from a Boomer’s Life on the Edge. Eric pulled together a detailed brief for his beta readers and has given me permission to share the gist of it. It’s terribly useful as his request tells you exactly what he wants.

Here are some of the instructions:

“I ask you to focus on the MS as a reader rather than an editor. I intend to hire a professional editor after I incorporate your suggestions. You can certainly mention needed edits or even use ‘track changes’ to enter them in the document, but I’m looking to you primarily for general comments on areas such as:

  • Organisation – what works now and does anything need to be changed to improve the structure?
  • Do you like what’s included? Do you think some material should be excluded?
  • Does the pace and the flow of the book work?
  • Are the themes clear?
  • Was it a worthy read?

“After you have read the book in its entirety, please tell me where it’s strong and where it’s weak.”

Eric also asked his beta readers to look at other areas.

  • Does the title work and if not, is there a better title?
  • Is there a way the manuscript could be reorganised and if so, what are the reasons for this?
  • Should some stories or chapters be expanded and if so, why?
  • And vice versa, should some stories or chapters be shortened or deleted?
  • Are there places where the pace is too slow or boring? Are there parts that need more detail or description?
  • Are there awkward sentences or paragraphs?
  • Are there characters that aren’t believable?
  • Are there words or phrases that are repeated too often?
  • Is there dialogue that isn’t authentic?

Eric asks that beta readers return their feedback in a word document and for us to be as specific as possible – identifying the issue and the page number.

He finishes by saying: “I’m looking for honest feedback. I promise I won’t be offended. If something bothers you, it is likely to bother other readers as well. I cannot promise to use all your suggestions, but I will take them seriously. This part of the process is critical. Your honest input will make this a better book.”

The last paragraph is an excellent example of managing expectations. If you have ever read book reviews on GoodReads, you’ll know how diverse opinions on books are. One man’s meat etc… A lot of people suggesting a change is something the writer should take notice of. One person making a brilliant suggestion is another, but it’s the writer’s call at the end of the day.

I’m looking forward to the exercise.

 

The Source – A Review

The SourceThe Source by James A. Michener
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set aside plenty of time for this read – it’s a lengthy tome. But you’ll be glad you did put in the effort.

I love this book. I use the present tense because I’ve just read it for the third time and I anticipate I’ll read it again and again. My first reading was when my grandmother bought it for me not long after I returned from a stint on a kibbutz. The second time was when someone bought the book for me after I lost the original – I gave it to someone and they never gave it back, don’t you just hate that?. And now I’ve re-read it for the third time.

The Source is a hugely ambitious novel, taking in the history of civilisation and religion. It starts with a fictional archaeological dig and it takes the form of a series of short stories related to each layer of the dig interspersed with what is going on in the present day. Primarily, it’s about Judaism, but it also includes the birth of Christianity and Islam (and all the schisms in between).

If you love history and you find religion fascinating, you’ll love this book. I’m an atheist, but the explanations at the beginning for why a group of people might have started to believe in some kind of greater being were wonderful. All through the book, you see the various religious, political, cultural and societal issues emerge, and their contribution to what happens next.

It’s also darn good story-telling. Each of the short stories that take place years apart (in some cases thousands of years) is actually quite a long short story, but I found myself wanting to read on every time, even though I knew what was going to happen because I was reading the book for the third time.

At times, the archaeological dig pieces feel a little heavy-handed, two of the main characters basically serve as mouthpieces for two different peoples. But the extended end piece pulls everything together terrifically. The book was published in the mid-1960s, and there are several predictions in it about what will happen in the future. See if you agree with what Michener’s characters predict…

View all my reviews