Monday, 14 November 2016

Picking a Christmas Winner

A Dangerous Game of Football was published in 2008. A fantasy adventure about a boy footballer (he and his pals play for Aston Villa Youth Team), it has become a great favourite in primary schools, for two reasons … it’s a real page turner and it’s most important character is a camel, called Bud. 
Until last year, Bud was definitely my favourite comic character from all of my books … and I have written twelve. He is bad tempered, sarcastic and  miserable most of the time. He is also magical and quite, quite wonderful, saving Jack Burnside’s life time after time.
Now relaunched as A Dangerous Game, of course there had to be a second book and a third, simply because the sorcerer Mendorun is still alive. And while he lives, no one is safe because he aims to become the most powerful sorcerer on earth. In the 3rd book of the trilogy, The Lions of Trafalgar, you will meet Capstick, one of the lions that Jack brings alive with magic. Of course, he doesn’t actually mean to do it. At least, he doesn’t mean to bring ALL four lions AND Nelson to life. 
Lord Nelson is super-fun and definitely my all-time favourite character from all my books and Capstick – has he replaced Bud as my all-time comic character? Maybe – but then I think of Kitty in The Amazing Brain of O C Longbotham and wonder?

With Christmas on the horizon and lists to Father Christmas, check out my website: Click the button on your favourite book and read a taster.

Visit my website Barbara Spencer.

Check out my facebook page Barbara Spencer on Facebook.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

New Writers for Ebooks

For the longest while I have been reading Ebooks on my computer and quite frankly hating ever minute. I suppose seated at my 'main frame' computer whilst writing simply compounded the problem. To be honest the only book I actually enjoyed during this exercise was by Seumas Gallagher - a thriller - Killer City. I worked out later on why I enjoyed it so much because the writing was tight, it was the perfect length and the terse style suited the electronic format.

So with the idea of conducting research into the problem I decided to buy myself a Kindle. I confess the difference was notable and reading became instantly easier, as my Kindle has a case which gives the impression of being a book, and I could read it anywhere in the house.

However, I discovered the problem remained. Cutting my teeth on children's books where the action is story driven, I presume my natural inclination is for books which are story driven and where the story is very tight.

So much of what I am reading at the moment is fantastic prose (totally drool worthy), far in advance of anything I could produce. But the story mainly consists of scenes. I sometimes get the impression that the scene is only there because the author liked the writing. And then the action moves to another scene later on with little or no connection between the two.

My other gripes are that for me ... and I stress the words, for me, because many avid Kindle-ists will disagree ... the action is too big and too loose, and the books are too wordy. And reading it on a Kindle without the delightful experience of flicking back and forth through pages, searching for the end of a chapter, the book seems endless. I am a great believer is 'less is more.' My first children's book (A Dangerous Game of Football) I was asked to cut 10,000 words.

I don't write like I used to, my aged mind no longer skips over fences and I now plod. But if I had to pass on words of wisdom to new writers:

Think our your story before putting pen to paper - don't write scenes and then look for somewhere to put them.
Cut out every word and scene that does not add value to the story.
If you are writing for Kindle, don't go on and on and on for 50 chapters, unless the story is so story/action driven, it simply cannot end earlier. Do not think you have to write a long book. Better 70,000 good words than 100,000+ that flounder
If you are writing for the Ebook market, look where the greatest number of sales originate. Apart from well-established writers whose books are avidly read in whatever format they appearl, there is a huge appetite for novellas, because they are the perfect length for a reader on Kindle. Short romances also have a vast audience.For me writing ebooks is more designing the book for the vehicle it sits on ... which is why I still love paperbacks.

Visit my website Barbara Spencer.

Check out my facebook page Barbara Spencer on Facebook.

Monday, 10 October 2016

To review or not to review ... a very difficult question

A sort of blog!
I am not doing any reviews at the moment because I am confused as to the on-line criteria for judging a book and would love some guidelines.

My background is mainstream/traditional. My children's books have followed this route, the criteria for success being paperback sales and acceptance by the establishment. Not reviews because it's rare for young children to write reviews. So my attitudes and judgements tend to be mainstream and unfortunately somewhat old-fashioned.

The rules I apply to all books, whether traditionally published or not, are broken into 4 categories: presentation, linguistic ability, (grammar and style), a credible and cohesive story line, and general enjoyment.

Should I continue in this way? Should I judge an ebook at the same level as a paperback traditionally published?
I honestly don't know.
For instance, if the typesetting is poor, do I ignore and still give 4* because the story is okay? If sentences and grammar leave a lot to be desired, what then? If the story meanders ...?

What are the main aims of our writing to self publish? Are we just writing for fun and want to be judged on the enjoyment factor? Or are we seeking to be judged on the same platform as books from a traditional publisher?

There remains a vast level of snobbery in the book world. However, what is becoming apparent is that there are two book worlds which don't meet except occasionally. Traditional or mainstream with paperback as the main focus or self-published ebooks on line. Which one are we wanting to belong?

If we want to be accepted mainstream by the public at large, society of author, teachers, booksellers, etc. we have to comply with the four criteria I stated above.
If we only seek an on-line presence and readers en mass, are these criteria still relevant?

And this is my problem ... when reading a book, I don't know what the author is seeking to achieve with his/her writing and therefore I don't know how to judge it. 

Visit my website Barbara Spencer.

Check out my facebook page Barbara Spencer on Facebook.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

They are showing That's Entertainment on the TV and for the first time, I find it painful viewing.
Why on earth? Because it reminds me of an era of innocence that was my and many others  childhood. I know someone will leap to the defence of today and insist that advances in medicine, education, the Internet have rocketted evolution into the stratosphere. Maybe. But when I look about me, I am driven to asking, is this world really as fantastic as we are brainwashed into believing?
Fifty years ago , we experienced a dual blessing; contentment with our lot because we were igorant of anything different and a real childhood. A childhood of playing with friends out on the road, roving through parks and woodlands, our parents unafraid that anything would happen to us. I was brought up in Birmingham and remember being dug out of a snowdrift taller than me, my mother drying me off, and putting socks on my hands so I could go out again. Of course there was poverty and child cruelty - that has not changed, if anything it has worsened with time, not improved, because many of today's parents think only about enjoying their life, and never give a moment's thought, that having brought children into the world they are now responsible for them.
And the movies ... okay, so I hear the cries of, 'it was all a sham.' But, hey, it was a magical sham, that sent us home wit light hearts and beautiful dreams.For me, it was always musicals, addicted to the voice of Frank Sinatra and the dancing feet of Fred Astairs and Gene Kelly. And Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
When I went to Amsterdam with my granddaughter, we visited Anne Frank's house. On her wall were her Hollywood pinups, the pages torn from movie magazines. If I remember Ray Milland was one.
I hear cries of, what about the Internet? Really, is it such a blessing? No one disputes that it is an amazing creation. Yet because of this amazing creation, our high streets have died, banks are closing their doors, and our children are rapidly forgetting how to read. I mean how can you compare Treasure Island or Heidi to minecraft and zapping monsters with explosives, guns, knives and grenades? Already alarm bells of ringing as to their affect on the mental health of our youngers, with millions addicted to mobiles phones, which never leave their hand. I swear my granddaughter showers one-handed! And really, does it help to know about the death and destruction taking place in Syria when there is nothing we can do? All it does it corrode our happiness with guilt that we are not doing more.
Our present world has much to offer, but I still prefer the technicolour version of fifty years ago.

Visit my website Barbara Spencer.

Check out my facebook page Barbara Spencer on Facebook.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

'Stayed up all night reading.' Book 1 of the Deadly Pursuit Series, the fast paced thriller by Barbara Spencer is on Kindle Countdown for a couple of days at 99c (99p in the UK)

Visit my website Barbara Spencer.

Check out my facebook page Barbara Spencer on Facebook.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Not for the faint-hearted

The Deadly Pursuit - Book 1 - Running


Simultaneously mobiles rang in every corner of the world, the trapped and dying reaching out for a lifeline, as if a miracle of modern technology could rescue them. Last words of love and desperation soared into the air, with radio masts quivering under a deluge of calls. Within seconds, the besieged towers were screaming no network coverage to the millions who, witnessing the disaster live on television, heedlessly keyed in the numbers of anyone that might be caught up in the quake, even now wiping out the Californian coastline.
A skyscraper, which five minutes before had been central to a vast hotel complex, nosedived into the ground. The resulting tremor catapulted the camera sideways so that, to the people staring at the screen, it was as if they were standing on their heads. Blackness followed then silence, the calm voice of the anchor man trying to reassure viewers they would be back at the scene momentarily.
In London, the cab driver, chatting amiably with his passenger and ignorant of the unfolding drama, had one eye on traffic, which appeared to be fast backing up, and one eye on his mirror, nodding in agreement to the various subjects offered up for discussion.
‘It’s a long time since I was in England,’ the man said, the faintest trace of an American accent marking his voice.
That was when the cab driver began to wonder if his fare could be a film star. Even features, excellent teeth, not an ounce of extra flesh, with a thatch of light brown hair tipped blond by the sun, and steel blue eyes of a shade that only ever belonged to Americans.
The mobile in the American’s jacket pocket rang. ‘Excuse me,’ he said. ‘Sweetheart, where are you calling from? Everything okay?’
Since mobiles were designed only to be heard by the person into whose ear they were pressed, the cab driver couldn’t hear the terrified syllables speeding across the saturated airwaves. He could only watch with astonishment as his passenger’s face turned into a mask of dangerous impotence.
‘They told us we had to work for them to stay alive,’ the whispered words flew across the Atlantic. ‘They tricked us. Can you hear it? The earthquake?’
‘What are you talking about? Who tricked you?’
‘The Styrus Project – they want it. We said no.’
‘Who, goddamn it! Who?’
There was a blur of static then the line cleared. ‘There’s no way out.’
‘Yes, there is,’ the man snapped. ‘There’s always a way out … Find it.’
‘I’m trying, that’s what you can hear – me – running. It’s hopeless. Charlie’s dead, so’s James. It’s impossible. We’re trapped.’
‘Try, goddamn it! If someone’s after you, they won’t let you be killed, you’re too valuable. And if they can get in, you can get out. Stay alive, do you hear!’ The pleasant quality of the man’s voice vanished, his tone vicious as if it could force a reaction thousands of miles away.
The mobile crackled, the words becoming staccato.
‘There’s no way. Can’t make it … Sky … keep him safe. The building … it’s toppling … Sky … safety.’
‘You’re not checking out on me. Crawl if you have to, but don’t you dare check out,’ the passenger yelled into the static.
The cab driver watched in a state of near panic. Whatever had happened? His passenger’s face was now chalk-white under its tan, his expression animal-like in its intensity, his eyes glittering as he swiftly keyed in a number, speaking briefly.
‘Get me back to Grosvenor House – fast,’ he snapped, his eyes fixed on the small screen in his mobile, where newsreaders crowded to report events.
The cabby stuck his arm straight out of the window. Heedless of the vehicle bearing down on them he swung the cab round, saluting the driver’s blast on the horn with two fingers.
Grosvenor House came into view. He headed along the apron in front of the hotel and stopped.
Wait!’ His passenger took the hotel steps in a single bound. ‘Get me on the next flight to New York,’ he snapped to the Bell Captain, scarcely hesitating in his path to the front desk.
Ten minutes later he reappeared, clutching a small valise.
The cabby, who had considered jettisoning his lucrative fare and fleeing the scene, convinced he was carrying a knife-wielding maniac, obligingly pulled back into the traffic.
There’d been no lack of volunteers in the cab rank eager to update him on the disaster taking place in California. He viewed his passenger with careful sympathy; someone belonging to the American was caught up in the earthquake, that much was evident. He fished around for something to say but found nothing. He didn’t know the bloke and sorry was an empty, meaningless word trotted out when you bumped into someone. Instead, he cursed the traffic and urged his cab forward, one eye on the crowd of onlookers who had spilled on to the roadway outside Debenhams. Ignorant of the danger, they had their gaze fixed on the television sets in the shop’s window display, where live footage of the disaster was being transmitted.
Son of a bitch!’ his passenger cursed. ‘The vacuous pleasures of the petty-minded, who derive their kicks from someone else’s misfortune.’
‘That’s not fair, guv,’ the cab driver rebuked. ‘The English don’t celebrate tragedy. Those people watching, they’ll be putting their hands in their pockets tomorrow to help.’
‘I know,’ his passenger said, his tone bleak. ‘Excuse me.’
‘Look, guv. I can’t help much but I can drop you by a tube station. You’ll reach the airport quicker that way. It’s not fair to take your money.’
He pulled in to the side of the road, opposite the entrance to the underground at Oxford Circus. ‘Good luck, sir. Who was it?’ he said, the traditional inner core of reserve, so great a part of being English, battling with his cabby’s nose for entertaining titbits to pass on to his next fare.
‘My wife!’ The man pressed a twenty-pound note into the cabby’s hand. He glanced up briefly, meeting the concern in the driver’s eyes. ‘Only my wife.’

Visit my website Barbara Spencer.

Check out my facebook page Barbara Spencer on Facebook.