Review: YUM by Nicole Antonia Carson

I’ve been meaning to write a review of this fantastic book for months and I’ve finally gotten around to it. YUM is not your normal horror; it has shades of dark comedy and plenty of suspense. George Orwell meets George Romero in this interesting novel.

 Yum

This dark comedic horror offers thrilling suspense and enough plot twists to tie you in knots!

The premise of this well-written and unique tale, set ninety years in the future, is that animals have mastered the art of speech and are equal with man. Animals are fitted with opposable thumbs and as a result they are able to fully contribute to society, hold down jobs, live in houses and socialise with other species. Consequently, in all but a few countries in the world, laws exist to protect both humans and animals alike from being eaten and if caught, the penalties are severe. The new society works well until a rash of feedings begin . . .

The two main characters, Dr James Lewis and Emily Lewis (Dr. Lewis’s great-granddaughter), are beautifully characterised. James is a champion for animal rights and spearheaded the changes to society at great personal cost and sacrifice. He is a brilliant man with a gentle soul, but at 93 years old, he needs a little help from modern science to keep his faculties intact. Carson has given this character great depth, successfully hooking the reader into liking and caring about this fragile old man. She artfully explores the different sides to his character and manages to make him jump of the page. Emily is a teenager growing up in a family of very high achievers and she feels overwhelmed and dwarfed by it. However, she has inherited her great-grandfather’s determination and love for animalkind, giving her the strength to follow her own path and not the one her high-powered mother has in mind. Again, Carson has crafted an amazing character; the reader can feel and relate to the angst Emily suffers as well as her loving nature. Emily is no pushover though and has a bit of a temper, which has been realistically portrayed.

All the supporting cast have been brought to life and each given their own personalities so you find yourself attaching to them as well.

The plot is interesting with unexpected events occurring throughout and culminates in the most unexpected twist of all. It moves along at quite a pace and the author has timed it extremely well, giving you moments of respite before the next whammy hits. The tale is very different and enjoyable. Whilst there is a little comedy, it’s subtle and in no way detracts from the serious side. The dialogue is realistic and relatable and Carson does well to make it specific for each species. I felt the description was a little underdone in places, particularly when it came to some of the more emotive scenes. However, Carson sets the scene sufficiently for the reader to imagine what’s missing.

For me, the mark of a good book is when you want the story to continue after you’ve turned the last page and that’s what I wanted with Yum. A great and entertaining read from an author to watch!

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Wading Through the Publishing River

Michelle Birbeck was my next fabulous hostess on the Heart Search Blog Tour. She wanted me to write on the subject of publishing and this is what I came up with.

You’ve spent untold hours writing your story. You’ve lovingly crafted your character and skilfully designed your plot. Having gone through editing and beta reading, your manuscript is now as perfect as you can make it and now comes the hardest decision of all – how to publish it.

As writers, most of us dream of getting an agent and being contracted to one of the ‘Big Six’ publishers, but it’s not as easy as that, is it?

Basically you have three choices; attempt to get an agent who will tout your masterpiece until you get a publishing contract, go through an Indie Publisher, or self-publish.

Traditional Publishing:

These days, it’s even harder to get an agent than ever. They are inundated by manuscripts and you can wait months for a response. The wait is agonising – I know, I’ve been there! You have to pen a killer query letter which will grab them in the first couple of sentences (no longer than one page), write a single page synopsis which will highlight the most exciting parts of your book and send in two or three chapters for them to consider. Writing a query letter which will have the desired effect is, in some ways, harder than writing the book itself. You need to research your potential agents thoroughly and adhere to their submission requirements to the letter with every ‘i’ dotted and every ‘t’ crossed. No mean feat that!

Having done all of that, you send it off with hope in your heart and wait. Several weeks or months later comes the email you’ve been dreading – the rejection. However, if this is your dream, you keep trying other agents and wait some more. It’s like a never-ending circle. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones who gets picked up by an agent, but there’s more waiting in store as your agent suggests possible changes to the book and you may have to re-write sections and then there’s the time to kill while your agent tries to get you a publishing deal. While all this is going on, you are depriving potential readers of your work of art. Still, if that’s your dream you must follow it.

Indie Publishing:

This is a similar process to traditional publishing except that you submit direct to the publisher. Again, you need to do your homework and ensure the publishers you choose want the genre your novel is based in and most of them only accept submission at certain times during the year. If you send your submission in speculatively outside of their ‘open window’, it will either be deleted or thrown away.

Again, it’s important to follow the submission guidelines to the letter, and you still have to wait and be prepared for rejections.

Self-Publishing:

This is, by far, the quickest and easiest way of getting your book out to the public. You can sign up to Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon and upload your manuscript. It’s a simple process and quite quick. If you want a paperback as well, CreateSpace or Lulu are the best, and again the process is simple. You can get free or cheap ISBN numbers through both (an ISBN is not needed for e-book through Kindle, but it does limit the availability – more on that in a minute). However, you may be limited to their distribution networks only.

If you purchase your own ISBN number, you have the flexibility to place your novel in so many more sales channels for either your e-book, paperback or both, and is something I would recommend. However, if you don’t have the time to place your book on Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble et al, you may be content to go with the distribution packages offered by these print on demand companies. Your choice!

One word of caution – don’t think about putting your novel out there before getting it professionally edited. Readers will be put off by typos and inconsistencies and ultimately this could be the kiss of death for your work. The money spent on getting your novel edited will pay off in the long run when weighed up against a tarnished reputation which is unrecoverable.

I’m lucky – I have the best of both worlds! I’m self-published under the banner of an Indie Publisher, Myrddin Publishing Group. This means I own the legal rights to my book and not the publisher, but I have the support of the team behind me.

Whatever you decide to do, you will still have to be prepared to market your book yourself. This takes time and dedication and where some authors fall down – they have no idea where to start. My advice is to look around on social media platforms and see which individuals or companies offer advice on marketing to authors and learn fast. Marketing is a whole different post so I’m not going to go into that now.

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At the end of the day, only you can decide what’s best for you and your book. I have one or two theories of my own which are yet to be put to the test, but ultimately you need to follow your dream. Good luck!

I hope you found this useful!

BlogFlash With A Difference 1

The next post to appear on the Heart Search Blog Tour was a little something different. The lovely Joy Keeney set me a challenge which was “Take your main
character and your favorite childhood character (book, cartoon…you pick) and
write them into a scene in Heart Search.” She was kind enough to allow me a little leeway with the word count (thank goodness)! Anyway, when I was a kid, my favourite book was Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild and the character I most related to was Pauline Fossil. So, I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to marry up Pauline Fossil with Joshua from Heart Search and here is the result:

Joshua walked at a normal human pace across the park; he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. Although he didn’t feel the cold, he had the hood of his sweatshirt pulled over his face; he wanted to be anonymous, to blend in.

The leaves on the trees were a glorious profusion of gold, red, orange and bronze. Autumn had arrived. As he strolled over the fallen leaves, he heard a faint sob from a female ahead of him. He didn’t think much of it at first until a little further on he saw the lone figure of a young girl sitting on a bench, tissues in hand, trying to stifle the sound of her misery.

He inhaled deeply. Her young blood had the sweetest fragrance and venom automatically pooled on his tongue. He’d fed before daybreak so wasn’t thirsty, yet her blood called to him. As he moved closer, there was something in her dejected demeanour which called to the human he used to be, so he went over and sat beside her.

“Why are you crying? What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice gentle and kindly.

She looked up at him, her eyes red and puffy. She seemed to be scrutinizing him as if working out whether she should trust him. After all, she’d always been told never to talk to strangers. Something she saw in Joshua’s eyes made her feel safe. “I’m lost and I’m late,” she sniveled.

He noticed the bag on the seat beside her; it was the sort dancers used. “Well, let’s see what we can do about that, shall we? What’s your name?”

She straightened her back a little, her eyes beginning to dry. “My name is Pauline Fossil,” she announced proudly, “and I’m a dancer and actress. What’s your name?”

“Joshua.”

“Joshua what?” Her eyes still on his face.

“Just Joshua, that’s all. But that’s not important is it? You said you’re lost and late – tell me where you need to go and I’ll help you,” he replied trying to change the subject.

She was much sharper than her gave her credit for. “So don’t you have a surname then? And why is your skin so white?”

“Look, I have somewhere I need to be so do you want my help or not? Where are you supposed to be going?” Joshua sidestepped her question and injected a little impatience in his voice.

“Madame Barnetta’s Theatre School,” Pauline replied automatically. She was a little taken aback by his sudden change in tone.

“Okay. Grab your bag and let’s go. The longer we sit here the later you will be.” Joshua began walking a little faster than normal human speed and even running she couldn’t keep up with him.

“Wait, please, you’re going too fast for me,” she gasped. Joshua turned around and walked back towards her.

“Jump on my back,” he commanded crouching down. She did as she was told, her arms clasped around his neck and her head rested on his shoulder. As he walked quickly, his nostrils were again assailed by the honeyed scent of her young blood. This was getting harder by the minute. He wasn’t one to feed from children, but the smell was too delicious. It took every ounce of his willpower not to bite into the flesh so close to his lips.

Within minutes they had arrived at the old building with the faded sign declaring the name of the school. He crouched again so she could climb off. “Good luck, Pauline Fossil”

“Thank you very much, Joshua,” she replied. She took half a dozen steps towards the school then turned around to say something more, but he had vanished. She shrugged her shoulders and ran up the steps. She had an audition to attend.

I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as I did writing it!

Avoiding the Drama Queens

This post appeared on day 2 of the Heart Search Blog Tour and was hosted by the amazing Kathleen M Barker, author of Ednor Scardens and The Body Wars. She gave me a subject she wanted me to write about and this was the result.

I’m sure we’ve all been there; we’re engrossed in a book, we get to an emotional scene and the dialogue is so over the top it’s either like eating a whole jar of syrup or drinking a bottle of vinegar. At that point, it leaves you wondering whether it’s worth carrying on to the end or chucking it in the pile to go to the charity shop.

When we’re writing emotional scenes, it’s very easy to get carried away in the moment and swept up in the heartache or declarations of love, especially if you are a romantic at heart. Even some films have dialogue which is over-mushy so you can’t always rely on them to be realistic.

So how do we do it right? How do we keep our dialogue realistic and not over-blown in emotional scenes?

Primarily I would say drawing on your real life experiences. Have you ever had a friend cry on your shoulder over the break-up of a relationship? Have you ever had a friend jilted at the altar? Has a friend ever come to you describing, with excitement over the moment his/her partner first professed their love or proposed? Do you remember a friend coming to you for advice on how to break off a relationship? I’m sure 99% of you can say yes to at least one of those questions.

Think back and try to replay the conversation(s) in your head. Write down what you remember. Even if she was the biggest drama queen going or he was theatrical to the nth degree, it still happened which makes it real. I’m sure some of us can recall more than one discussion, so write down everything you can recall and what the situation was at the time. Now you have something to draw on when writing your own emotional scenes.

Another thing to think about is your own personal experiences. I’m pretty confident when I say the vast majority of us had more than one boyfriend/girlfriend before getting married. So cast your mind back to some of the times when you and your partner parted company or exchanged the ‘I love you’. Think about what you felt, but also what you said to your friends and family about it. Write it down, even if its fragments of dialogue here and there, every little helps.

Put yourself in the minds of your characters (after all, you created them, you know what they’re like and how they think) and write what you think they’d be likely to say. If your character is a toughie who normally rolls with the punches and tells it like it is, they are obviously less likely to be over-emotional and gushy when someone tells them they love them, but then again even the toughest nut can crack. But even if your character is a soft as marshmallow it doesn’t necessarily mean they will pull out an Oscar-winning dramatic performance. This is where knowing your character is key.

When you’ve written an emotional scene, bookmark it and carry on writing. Once you are well past the dramatics, after a couple of days, go back and read the bookmarked section and ask yourself, is this realistic? Would this character talk like this? Refer back to your notes if need be (remembering the age you were when the incident occurred as teens tend to be more melodramatic than adults as a general rule). If it’s over-done, you can scale it back. A good editor will look carefully at these types of sections and will be the first to tell you if there’s not enough or too much emotion and suggest ways to improve it.

In conclusion, if your dialogue isn’t realistic and relatable, your character won’t be either. And if readers can’t connect with your characters, it makes it very difficult for them to enjoy your work.

I hope you found this useful. What are your thoughts on this subject (either as a reader or a writer)? Let me know in the comment form below.

Books #BlogFlash2012

Hi. It’s Day 15 and the #BlogFlash prompt today is Books. I could wax lyrical about books from sun up to sun down as I’ve loved books ever since I learned to read &*? years ago. I originally wrote a piece about what books mean to me, but I cast it aside and rewrote something more entertaining for you. I hope you like it.

 

Books

 

I picked up the book lovingly, examining it. The shininess of the cover, the uncreased spine, the feel of each new page, even the smell impacted on my senses.

I got comfortable and began to read, absorbing myself in the wonderful world and getting to know the characters intimately. I travelled with them, shared their laughter and tears and helped them with their chores. They were my friends now.

I turned another page, engrossed and there was my name. The author had chosen my name for a character. I read on and the world appeared even more real; I could feel the soft breeze, smell the scents and hear my new friends talking to me. I looked around and all I could see was this strange yet wonderful world created by the writer’s imagination.

Girl trapped in a strange world

Gone was my lounge, my furniture, my ornaments and photographs. I peeped through a small window and there it was only I wasn’t curled up on the sofa. A plain black book, all the shininess gone from the jacket lay where I had sat.