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Book giveaway: October

September winners

Congratulations to Jane Lambert (Page After Page) and Jo Hutchinson (Mindstar Rising) – I’ll be in touch!

October giveaway

Building up to the end of the year with some tasty goodies from my overflowing shelves…

Characters and Viewpoint, by Orson Scott Card

Vivid and memorable characters aren’t born, they have to be made.

Award-winning author Orson Scott Card explains in depth the techniques of inventing, developing and presenting characters, plus handling viewpoint in novels and short stories. With specific examples, he spells out your narrative options–the choices you’ll make in creating fictional people so “real” that readers will feel they know them like members of their own families.

Jack Cloudie, by Stephen Hunt

Another of my convention freebies, I confess – Hunt’s steampunk is very popular but not particularly my cup of tea.

A tale of high adventure and derring-do set in the same Victorian-style world as the acclaimed The Court of the Air and The Secrets of the Fire Sea. Thanks to his father’s gambling debts, young Jack Keats finds himself on the streets and trying to survive as a pickpocket, desperate to graft enough coins to keep him and his two younger brothers fed. Following a daring bank robbery gone badly awry, Jack narrowly escapes the scaffold, only to be pressed into Royal Aerostatical Navy. If Jack and his shipmates can discover what Cassarabia’s aggressive new regime is trying to conceal, he might survive the most horrific of wars and clear his family’s name. If not…

Same rules as always – only UK/EU residents may enter, owing to postage. Leave a comment below, saying which book you’d like (or either, if so inclined!), before noon (UK time) on the first Saturday of November. Please use a valid email address in the comment form so I can contact you to get your snail-mail address if you win (don’t put either in your comments, for security reasons!).

Good luck!

 

Book giveaway: September

August winners

Congratulations to Reetta (Stealing Fire from the Gods) – there were no takers for The Owl Killers, so that’s off to the charity shop…

September giveaway

Page After Page, by Heather Sellers

Subtitled “Discover the confidence and passion you need to start writing & keep writing”, this is very much a book for beginners, which is why I don’t need it any more!

From the Amazon blurb: “Ninety percent of beginner writers stop practicing their craft before they have a chance to discover their talents. This essential and encouraging guide: Helps readers build a writing life, one that will help them continue to write without giving up; Approaches the writing life without using new age and self-help techniques, so writers from all walks of life will benefit from the advice; Provides engaging exercises to help readers shape their writing life and achieve their goals; Written by an author with more than twenty years of teaching and writing experience, Page After Page helps writers keep writing, page after page, day after day.”

Mindstar Rising, by Peter F Hamilton

This is another freebie I picked up recently and will probably never get around to reading, since I’m not really into military SF. It’s a reprint of Hamilton’s debut novel in the Greg Mandel series.

“It’s the 21st century and global warming is here to stay, so forget the way your country used to look. And get used to the free market, too – the companies possess all the best hardware, and they’re calling the shots now.

In a world like this, a man open to any offers can make out just fine. A man like Greg Mandel for instance, who’s psi-boosted, wired into the latest sensory equipment, carrying state-of-the-art weaponry – and late of the English Army’s Mindstar Battalion.

As the cartels battle for control of a revolutionary new power source, and corporate greed outstrips national security, tension is mounting to boiling point – and Greg Mandel is about to face the ultimate test.”

Same rules as always – only UK/EU residents may enter, owing to postage. Leave a comment below, saying which book you’d like (or either, if so inclined!), before noon (UK time) on the second Saturday of October. Please use a valid email address in the comment form so I can contact you to get your snail-mail address if you win (don’t put either in your comments, for security reasons!).

Please note the extended entry time – I will be at FantasyCon on Saturday 2nd and then on holiday the following week, so I won’t be around to pick winners and send the books out until Saturday 8th October.

Good luck!

Book Giveaway: August

July winners

Congratulations to Felicia (Creative Writer’s Workbook) and Felix (Avilion) – I’ll be in touch!

August giveaway

Stealing Fire from the Gods, by James Bonnet

Subtitled “A Dynamic New Take on Storytelling for Writers and Film-makers”, this is basically James Bonnet’s take on the hero’s journey, drawing on a wider range of mythologies and with a lot of pretty diagrams! Although “writers” are targeted in the title, I think it more relevant to screenwriters than authors of novels, judging by the reviews on Amazon.

I suspect this is one of those books that, if you are on the author’s wavelength, can provide real inspiration, but if you’re not, it may leave you scratching your head. I found it an interesting read but ultimately not that useful – hence the giveaway.

(Note: this is the 1st edition, not the revised and expanded 2nd edition.)

The Owl Killers, by Karen Maitland

England, 1321. Welcome to the Dark Ages.

In the heart of the countryside lies an isolated village, where pagan Owl Masters rule through fear, superstition and murder.

When a group of religious women ill-advisedly settles outside the village, they awaken dangerous jealousies. Why do their crops succeed? How do their cattle survive the plague? Are they concealing a holy relic which protects them from harm?

The Owl Masters cry ‘Witchcraft’ and sharpen their talons. As torment and hellfire rain down, the women must look to their faith to save them from the darkness spreading across the land.

This “gothic” historical novel has been on my TBR pile for way too long and always getting pushed to the bottom, so I’ve decided it’s time to let someone else enjoy it on my behalf. Note that this an uncorrected proof copy.

Same rules as always – only UK/EU residents may enter, owing to postage. Leave a comment below, saying which book you’d like (or either, if so inclined!), before noon (UK time) on the first Saturday of September. Please use a valid email address in the comment form so I can contact you to get your snail-mail address if you win (don’t put either in your comments, for security reasons!).

Good luck!

Book Giveaway: July

June winners

Congratulations to Prudence (Write Away) and Felicia (Bartimaeus) – I’ll be in touch!

July giveaway

The Creative Writer’s Workbook, by Cathy Birch

I confess I haven’t read this one, as it’s not my kind of thing (it was a sample from one of my husband’s clients) but it’s had nothing but five-star reviews on Amazon so it can’t be bad!

“If writing is one of your favourite things, but you feel you need some help in releasing the creativity that drives it, then this book is for you. It aims to get you writing, keep you writing, and enable you to enjoy your writing to the full. It will show you how to free your own unique voice, and create original, individual work.”

Cathy Birch is a writer and lecturer who has written comedy material for Bob Hope, Dave Allen and the Two Ronnies, as well as textbooks, poetry and short stories.

Avilion, by Robert Holdstock

The first direct sequel to the classic Mythago Wood, this is a review copy I picked up at FantasyCon 2009.

“At the heart of Ryhope Wood, Steven and the mythago Guiwenneth live in the ruins of a Roman villa close to a haunted fortress from the Iron Age, from which Guiwenneth’s myth arose. She is comfortable here, almost tied to the place, and Steven has long since abandoned all thought of returning to his own world.

They have animals, protection and crops. They also have two children, a combination of human and mythago. Jack is like his father, an active boy keen to know all about the outer world; Yssobel takes after her mother, even to her long auburn hair.

But this idyll cannot last. The hunters who protected Guiwenneth as a child have come to warn her she is in danger. Yssobel is dreaming increasingly of her Uncle Christian, Steven’s brother, who disappeared into Lavondyss, and Jack wants to see ‘the outer world’ more than anything. Events are about to overtake them. ”

Same rules as always – only UK/EU residents may enter, owing to postage. Leave a comment below, saying which book you’d like (or either, if so inclined!), before noon (UK time) on the first Saturday of August. Please use a valid email address in the comment form so I can contact you to get your snail-mail address if you win (don’t put either in your comments, for security reasons!).

Good luck!

Book Giveaway: June

May winners

Congratulations to Katherine A (Telling Lies for Fun and Profit) and Stephen Winter (The Poison Throne) – I’ll be in touch!

June giveaway

Write Away, by Elizabeth George

Elizabeth George is one of the most successful writers of crime fiction in the world. Her twelve novels have appeared on bestseller lists in the UK, USA and Australia, and several of them have been dramatised by BBC Television as the Inspector Lynley Mysteries. She has also written a collection of short stories and edited a crime anthology.

Now she shares this wealth of experience with would-be novelists, and with crime fiction fans. Drawing extensively on her own work, and that of other bestselling writers including Stephen King, Harper Lee, Dennis Lehane and many others, she illustrates her points about plotting, characterisation and technique with great clarity.

She also includes extracts from her own Journals – the diaries she keeps as writes each of her novels – and these give us an unprecedented insight into the creative mind, with all its highs and lows.

Bartimaeus: the Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

This month’s fiction giveaway is a YA fantasy, the first volume of a trilogy.

Bartimaeus is a wisecracking Djinni (pronounced “Jinnee” we’re reliably informed) unlike no other. Summoned from some otherworldly place to do the bidding of a pipsqueak trainee magician called Nathanial, he sets about his given task reluctantly but with aplomb.

Stroud’s fantasy world is familiar, yet fascinatingly different. It’s almost Victorian London, yet Magicians hold overall power and inhabit parliament. The writing is captivating, the story intelligent and mesmerising. It’s difficult to imagine a more scintillating collection of characters and situations. Unmissable. (Amazon review)

Same rules as always – only UK/EU residents may enter, owing to postage. Leave a comment below, saying which book you’d like (or either, if so inclined!), before noon (UK time) on the first Saturday of July. Please use a valid email address in the comment form so I can contact you to get your snail-mail address if you win (don’t put either in your comments, for security reasons!).

Good luck!

 

Book Giveaway: May

April winners

Congratulations to Alex, who won “Write for Children” – there were no takers for the Neal Asher short story collection, so that’s going to the charity shop.

May giveaway

Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, by Laurence Block

Characters refusing to talk? Plot plodding along? Where do good ideas come from anyway? In this wonderfully practical volume, two-time Edgar Award-winning novelist Lawrence Block takes an inside look at writing as a craft and as a career.

From studying the market, to mastering self-discipline and “creative procrastination,” through coping with rejections, Telling Lies for Fun & Profit is an invaluable sourcebook of information. It is a must read for anyone serious about writing or understanding how the process works.

A compilation of Block’s columns written for Writer’s Digest in the 1970s, these bite-sized essays are (mostly) as relevant to today’s writers as when they were first published.

The Poison Throne (Book 1 of the Moorehawke trilogy), by Celine Kiernan

Atmospheric, complex, and intense, Kiernan’s debut fantasy, set in a sort of alternate 15th-century Europe, mixes vengeful ghosts and talking cats into political intrigue. Fifteen-year-old Wynter Moorehawke’s return to court after five years away should be joyous, but she fears for her dearest friends, the children of insane, tyrannical King Jonathan. Crown prince Alberon is nowhere to be found, and bastard son Razi is being unwillingly groomed to replace him. The king will go to any lengths to secure his throne, even unlocking the mysteries of a horrible killing device long thought destroyed. Wynter must keep her friends and family alive as she slowly pieces together the king’s secrets. The beginning of what promises to be a powerful trilogy with YA crossover appeal, this epic starts strong and doesn’t falter one iota, ending with a cliffhanger that will leave readers demanding more. (Publisher’s Weekly)

Same rules as always – only UK/EU residents may enter, owing to postage. Leave a comment below, saying which book you’d like (or either, if so inclined!), before noon (UK time) on the first Saturday of June. Please use a valid email address in the comment form so I can contact you to get your snail-mail address if you win (don’t put either in your comments, for security reasons!).

Good luck!

Book Giveaway: April

March winners

Congratulations to Stella and John – your free books will be on their way soon!

April giveaway

Write for Children, by Andrew Melrose

I bought this book after an agent at the Winchester Writers’ Conference commented that my query and synopsis made the book sound a bit YA-ish. I wanted to know what was involved in writing for a younger audience, and this slim but informative volume by the head of an MA course in Writing for Children didn’t disappoint. However it also solidified my opinion that I definitely wasn’t writing for children, so it’s now surplus to requirements.

The Gabble and other stories, by Neal Asher

Appropriately enough for the month in which the British Science Fiction Association meets for its annual knees-up, this month’s fiction offering is a collection of SF short stories by British writer Neal Asher. Set in the same universe (the Polity) as most of his novels, this is a great introduction to Asher’s work, getting lots of 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon.

If only I had time to read all the books that come my way…

 

Same rules as always – you have to live in the UK/EU only to enter, owing to postage. Leave a comment below, saying which book you’d like (or either, if so inclined!), before noon (UK time) on the first Saturday of May. Please use a valid email address in the comment form so I can contact you to get your snail-mail address if you win (don’t put either in your comments, for security reasons!).

Good luck!

Book Giveaway: March

February winners

The winner of “Becoming a Writer” is Lizzie – congratulations! No-one claimed “The Stormcaller”, so it’s going to the charity shop.

March giveaways

The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life by Noah Lukeman

The follow-up to “The First Five Pages”, this bestseller from literary agent Noah Lukeman helps the aspiring author to boost the plot of their novel. Chapters focus on topics including characterisation, conflict and suspense. Like its predecessor, this book is aimed at helping to improve your novel so that it transcends the run-of-the-slushpile manuscripts that get rejected.

 


The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt

This is a book I bought but couldn’t really get into, perhaps because I don’t have a lot of reading time and so a book has work really hard to hook me. The scenario is promising – two orphans caught up in political intrigue in a pseudo-Victorian steampunk world – but ultimately I didn’t really connect with the characters; again, this might be the book or it might be me, as I’m not that interested in child protagonists. A shame, as the world-building is rich and inventive, particularly the mechanical people, but this seems to be one of those books that readers either love or hate!

 

Same rules as last month – UK/EU only, owing to postage. Leave a comment below, saying which book you’d like (or either, if so inclined!), before the first Saturday of April. Please use a valid email address in the comment form so I can contact you to get your snail-mail address if you win (don’t put either in your comments, for security reasons!).

Good luck!

Free Short Story: Hopeful Monsters

Back in the summer of 2009 I started an online writing course, and one of the earliest exercises was to come up with story ideas. To kickstart my imagination I went over to ralan.com and picked out some themed anthologies that looked interesting. One was “The Tangled Bank“, a project celebrating the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. I decided that if I, a biologist, couldn’t write a saleable short story for this semi-pro market, I might as well hang up my laptop! So, I set to work and soon came up with an idea. The first draft (about 400-odd words) was written on my iPhone, then I polished and expanded it to fit the anthology’s 1000-word minimum.

What I ended up with was a Kipling-esque fairytale that’s nothing like my usual writing, but I was pleased with the result and so I sent it off. To my delight the editor was on the lookout for short, light pieces to balance the long, serious SF he’d received, so he snapped it up! And so it was that I got my first ever fiction sale.

The anthology came out in February 2010, with exclusive electronic publishing rights for one year only, so I thought I’d celebrate the first anniversary by sharing this story for free:

Hopeful Monsters: A Darwinian Fairytale

For the record, the story gets its title (and its original inspiration) from an early and now-discredited theory of evolution whose name had stuck in my mind from my undergraduate days.

Book Giveaway – February

January winners

Well, I’ve run the random number generator, and the lucky winners of the January giveaway are Tanja (“The First Five Pages”) and Em (“Slights”). Congratulations, and if you don’t get a confirmation email from me, do let me know! Commiseration to the losers, but there are plenty more books up for grabs!

February giveaways

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

This month’s “how to write” book  is the inspirational classic by Dorothea Brande. With chapter titles such as “What Writers are Like”, “Harnessing the Unconscious” and “Writing on Schedule”, this slim but eloquent volume covers all the fundamental aspects of unleashing the writer within. Although written way back in 1934, the advice is just as relevant in the 21st century (well, apart from the bits about owning two typewriters!).

The Stormcaller (Book One of The Twilight Reign) by Tom Lloyd

Another convention freebie, this time from Gollancz, The Stormcaller is medieval epic fantasy. With dragons, apparently.

“Isak is a white-eye, born bigger, more charismatic and more powerful than normal men…but with that power comes an unpredictable temper and an inner rage. Feared and despised by those around him, he dreams of a place in the army and a chance to live his own life, but the Gods have other plans for the intemperate teenager. Isak has been Chosen as heir elect to the brooding Lord Bahl, the white-eye Lord of the Farlan.”

Same rules as last month – UK/EU only, owing to postage. Leave a comment below, saying which book you’d like (or either, if so inclined!), before the first Saturday of March. Please use a valid email address in the comment form so I can contact you to get your snail-mail address if you win (don’t put either in your comments, for security reasons!).

Good luck!